10 Tips for Dry Skin and Eczema

March 23, 2014 by  
Filed under health, money saving tips

During the winter months, the indoor heat and outside cold air can dry out your skin. Although spring is officially here, many of us suffer with dry skin and eczema all year long.  I have suffered with eczema and dry skin for over 20 years and have learned some tips along the way. Some of these may help you.

10 Tips for Dry Skin and Eczema from TheThriftyMommy.com @thriftymommy

1.  Moisturize frequently. It’s best to moisturize your skin within a few minutes of taking a shower or bath. This is because your pores are open and absorb the lotion. Moisturize troubled places throughout the day.

2.  Use a humidifier. Heating systems blow hot dry air throughout our homes and work. Humidifiers help replace some of the moisture in the air, which will prevent your skin from drying out. Remember to clean your humidifier each week with vinegar.

3. Use fragrance free laundry detergent and fabric softener. This includes for your clothes, sheets, towels, or anything that touches your skin. Fragrances and chemicals can irritate sensitive skin and cause eczema to flare. Many times I will use vinegar for my fabric softener.

4. Carefully choose hand soaps. Many soaps today are antibacterial and harsh on sensitive skin. Dial, Softsoap, and many others cause my hands to crack and bleed. I do not use antibacterial hand soaps and I have not seen a difference in how often I get sick. The key is to wash your hands properly. Many times I will buy Ivory, Dove, Softsoap Cashmere, or something mild and dilute it into a foaming hand wash container. Undiluted soaps are thick and difficult to remove from your hands, which will dry them out further.

5.  Do not hand wash dishes. I put as many dishes in the dishwasher as possible and the other items I wash by hand. Try to use a mild dish detergent for dishes that you must wash by hand. I like to use Ivory or Dawn with Olay. I have tried two bottles of Seventh Generation and both bottles caused a bad break out on my hands. Green products are not always better for skin.

6.  Avoid super hot showers and baths. I’ve always enjoyed a really hot shower. The intense heat breaks down the lipid barriers in the skin. Instead, try a warm shower and try to limit time in the water. This one is the most difficult for me to follow.

7.  Use mild cleaners. When I had children, I decided to let go of the harsh cleaning chemicals in my home. I couldn’t bear the thought of my little ones crawling around on floors cleaned in chemicals that could be harmful to them. I decided that for most of my cleaning I would use vinegar and water. After making the switch I noticed that my skin started to look better. The chemicals I was using to clean my home were causing eczema flare ups.

8. Consider herbal or natural remedies. Several years ago, I have a terrible break out on my hands. I had blisters on my hands and couldn’t figure out what was causing it. (I later found out that my husband had refilled the bathroom soap and it was a soap that I was allergic to.) I went to the health and herb store and the owner recommended that I take sulfur tablets. After just a few doses of sulfur, I noticed a dramatic difference in my skin. I don’t take it everyday, but it is something that I use whenever my skin gets out of control. Some folks like to take Vitamin E or Cod Liver Oil for their skin. Consult your doctor or local health store.

9.  Know your triggers. For some people, it is chemicals. For others, it is animal hair. As you live with dry skin and eczema, you will learn the things that aggravate your skin. Do you best to avoid those triggers.

10.  Seek professional help. For the most part, I have learned to keep my eczema under control. There have been times when I needed extra help from my doctor. Sometimes a prescription is necessary to keep skin calm. I keep prescription medication at home for bad flare ups.

These are just a few ways to help severe dry skin and eczema. Stay tuned for a list of my favorite products.

How do you deal with dry skin and eczema?

image (c) Karen Weideman


Karen

20 Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons

Since returning to full-time teaching a few years ago, I am not the couponer that I used to be. I enjoy using coupons and saving money, but I don’t have much time to match up coupons and sales.  I am still saving a lot of money though and I’m definitely getting my groceries for less money than I would if I shopped primarily at a discount store such as Wal-Mart.

Today’s shopping trip is a perfect example of such grocery savings. My grocery bill before deductions was $251.86. After the sales and savings my bill was $121.43. That’s way more than I normally spend, but I did stock up on some great deals including fish, six bags of Carribou coffee, four jars of peanut butter, and lunch meat. The coffee alone would have cost over $60.

harris teeter feb 17

We could all use some help in cutting our grocery bill so here are some ways to save without coupons:

1.  Use the buy ahead principle.  I am a firm believer in the stockpile shopping method. When things that I regularly use go to rock bottom prices, I buy extra and save it to use for later when the prices are not as low.  Many food items are at their best prices during specific times of the year. For instance, I know that in November and December, I need to stock up on cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and chicken broth.  In January, I usually stock up on soup supplies and canned beans.

Each week, I scan over the sales flyer for Harris Teeter and I plan to only purchase the sales. Of course, I have to buy a few items each week that are not on sale, but those items are few and far between.

2.  Get rainchecks for out of stock sale items. As I mentioned above, my grocery bill today before savings was $251.86. After sales and rainchecks, my total was only $121.43. Rainchecks were a big contributor of the savings. Most rainchecks don’t expire and they allow you to purchase sale items when you need them. This saves room in your cabinets. Rainchecks also give you some extra time to plan ahead and look for a coupon.

3.  Compare prices. Sometimes the generic isn’t cheaper. Pay attention and take a few extra seconds to compare prices on name brands and generics.

4.  Compare price per unit. The larger quantity may not be the best deal. It’s best to compare price per unit.

5. Make a plan. Look through the sales flyer and begin to make a plan of the things you need and the things you want to purchase while they are on sale. Making meal plans saves time and money. I’m guilty of not making meal plans. My pantry and freezer are usually pretty well stocked though, so meal planning does get easier as you build a stockpile.

6. Use what you have. Take a look in your cabinets, freezer, and refrigerator. Make a plan to use the things that are going out of date. If you have a lot of beans and tomatoes, consider putting chili on the menu. If you have hamburger and noodles, put spaghetti on the menu. Then you will just need to pick up a few extra things to complete the meal.

7. Use your leftovers. My hubby and I are known for getting creative with leftovers. One night I made a tenderloin and we had some meat leftover. We took the leftover tenderloin and added it to some scrambled eggs and cheese for breakfast burritos. We froze the breakfast burritos to make mornings easier with the kids. I also like to freeze lunch size portions of spaghetti, chili, and soups to use for my lunches at work.

8.  Look for food mark downs.  I always check for produce and meat mark downs. About a month ago, I scored a $15 fruit, veggie, and cheese tray for only $1! I was so excited! The tray was going out of date that day but trust me, it was good for several more days. Today we bought some lunch meat that was marked down half price and also got a few packs that had store coupons attached.  Sandwiches and homemade lunchables are definitely on this week’s lunch menu.

9.  Buy in bulk. This tip may not apply for everyone, but for families this tip is usually a great idea. My pantry and fridge are running low on lunch items so it is definitely time for a trip to Sam’s Club. When I see kids at school purchasing chips for 75 cents per bag, I want to say, “That costs 25 cents at Sam’s.” I’ve had more than one conversation with my children about why they aren’t buying snacks at school.

10.  Cook in bulk.  It’s almost as easy to prepare two lasagnas as it is one. Just make an extra, don’t bake it, and freeze it for later. I also do this with chicken pot pie. Another favorite is to cook some Mexican style pork or chicken in the crock pot, shred it, and freeze dinner portions to use later for burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.  I wait to do this when I find meat at a stockpile price.

11.  Avoid convenience foods.  It might be nice to save some time, but those prepackaged and pre-cut foods can really add up. Take a few minutes to bag up a bunch of snacks for the week and you can save big.

12. Don’t be brand loyal. I have tried many different brands over the years and I can say that there are very few that I am loyal to. You can find savings in trying other brands that are on sale.

13.  Eat before you shop. If you are super hungry when you shop then you might find yourself spending too much money. Thankfully, Harris Teeter has a few samples in the store so it keeps me from feeling so hungry when I’m shopping.  ;)

14. Skip a week of shopping. If you have been using the stockpile shopping method, your cabinets are probably looking great. As difficult as it is to pass up a good sale, sometimes I skip a week of shopping to save money. We use what we have at home and avoid the grocery store.

15.  Give foods more than one purpose. If you are going to have cole slaw with your barbeque sandwiches, plan to have cole slaw the same week with another meal. That way you aren’t wasting ingredients. It also saves prep time in the kitchen.

16.  Keep a list of target prices. You can keep this on your phone or in a small notebook in your purse. Keep a list of items that you regularly purchase and the target price for stockpiling. In an old post about grocery shopping, I wrote about keeping mental notes of these things. Someone teased about it and said there was no way to remember target prices. I honestly don’t keep a notebook of prices. I know that $2 per lb is my target price for boneless chicken breasts. I know that 50 cents per can is my target price for canned beans.  If you need to write it down then do so. Knowing your target prices will help you to know when to buy extra.

17.  Check your receipt before you leave the store. We get overcharged so many times and most people don’t even notice. I was overcharged today. Thankfully I checked my receipt before leaving the store and I was refunded $2.

18.  Avoid sodas, juices, and boxed drinks. We drink a lot of water at our house. We have a water softener and a water filter so we drink it straight from the tap. I have seen people spend half of my grocery budget on drinks. Those drinks add up very quickly. If you don’t want to cut out pricey drinks, budget how much you will spend on them and look for sales. I did buy one 12 pack of sodas today but they were on sale and the 12 pack will last me a few weeks.

19.  Sign up for store sales and emails. Many stores have some sort of extra savings available for customers that hold a special card or for those that sign up for their store emails. I have signed up for Harris Teeter’s eVIC and each week they send me an email with sales that are loaded to my card. Many times (but not always) these are items that I regularly purchase that are offered at discounted prices. Sometimes it might be a sale on milk or bread. Other times it might be yogurt, ice cream, or cat food.

20.  Look over your cart before checking out. Did you make too many impulse purchases? Do you have too many snack items? Sometimes it’s easy to put something in the cart but we don’t realize how many unnecessary items we have.

I know that there are many other tips for saving money on groceries such as gardening, canning foods, eating simpler, etc. Please leave your money saving tips in the comments.

Image by Karen Weideman. The image shown above is not from today’s shopping trip.


Karen

Ways That We Save Money Each Year

Sometimes when I see the way the rest of the world lives I wonder how they afford it. Sometimes I wonder what they think of me. I don’t drive a nice car. I don’t have fancy clothes. I try not to think about it much. I’m not living my life for them anyway.  It is very apparent though that there are some things my family does to cut back on expenses.  Sometimes we do these things just because we can and because we like to save money.  Right now though, many of these are necessities to getting by every month.

Some things on this list may seem crazy to you.  That’s ok.  I was considering a few titles for this post.  One had the word “crazy” and another had the word “extreme”.  I don’t think these are extreme or crazy so those didn’t seem to fit in the title.  Perhaps these items will make you think and wonder if you could do one or two of these to help save your family some money.

ways our family saves money

We don’t make coffee runs. I enjoy my coffee just as much as anyone but I just can’t justify spending that kind of money on an indulgence.  Coffee can cost $2-5 per cup. I can make a lot of coffee at home for that price. I know of some folks whose coffee habit cost them over $100 per month. That’s a lot of money!  I don’t mind getting a coffee treat every now and again, but these treats might be once a month. They are certainly not a daily habit.

We don’t have a car payment. You may be wondering how in the world I can have three cars in my driveway and no car payment.  I have always been a frugal gal, but about 7 years ago my hubby and I took Financial Peace University classes at our church.  We sold our van.  Actually we paid the dealership $1,000 to take it back. Yes, that hurt.  Since then we have been buying used vehicles. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $700 car to get us by for a year until we can afford something better or a $3000 vehicle that we can drive for a while, we pay cash.  Some people say that they want a car that they don’t have to worry about or they say they can’t afford to make repairs.  If I’m not paying $350-500 per month in a payment, I can easily justify making some repairs from time to time.

We limit hair appointments.  When my hubby was in the Marines, he got plenty of experience cutting hair while on ship.  He cuts his hair and my son’s hair.  That alone saves us about $200 or more per year.  I also limit my hair appointments.  To be honest, I don’t go to the salon as much as I would like.  It makes me cringe to spend that much money on my hair.  I have longer hair so I can get by without making frequent visits to the salon.  If you have a regular appointment scheduled for every six weeks, maybe try to go seven or eight weeks and see how it goes.  You might be able to go another week or two which will save you money over time.

We don’t get manicures and pedicures.  While nails look attractive, I can’t really spare an extra $40 for my nails to look good.

We don’t smoke.  Smoking is an extremely expensive habit. Enough said.

We haul off our own trash.  When we lived in the city, it was nice to roll our trash out to the curb every week and not worry with it.  Of course, we paid for trash removal in our city taxes.  Now that we have moved to another part of the state, they do things differently around here.  In some areas you pay per bag.  We just decided to make trips to the landfill.  Every two or three weeks my hubby and son haul off all of the trash and recycling.  I’m guessing that this saves us about $50 per month.

We do our own yard work.  Well, actually, my hubby does the yard work.  :)  He mows the grass, uses the weed eater, puts out grass feed, and whatever else needs to be done.

We drink water. When we go out to eat we always order water. The exception is if the kids’ meals come with a drink.  Think about it — If your family of four goes out to eat and orders four drinks, that will cost you around $8. There’s quite a bit of savings for choosing water.  Even at home we drink water. Sodas and sugary drinks aren’t good for us anyway.  We have a water system in our house and another filter on our refrigerator so we just drink it from the tap.

We pack our lunch. When I was in college and worked at a restaurant, I would see people that came in to eat lunch every day.  Every day!  Eating out every day is so expensive. I’m not saying I don’t like to eat out. Trust me, we like to eat out.  When we do, it is using coupons, sharing meals, or as a treat. It is not an every day thing. I have also seen people eat in the school cafeteria every day.   Those $3, $5 or more each day add up quickly.  I try to pack leftovers, a sandwich, and I try to keep things like peanut butter and hummus at school for those days when I’m extra hungry or I don’t have time to prepare something.  You know what?  I’ve heard Dave Ramsey say he also packs his lunch.  He can afford to go out to eat and chooses not to because it’s not a frugal option.

We limit costly entertainment options.  I can’t even tell you the last time I went to the movies.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy going to the movies. I just can’t see paying such high prices just to watch a movie.  We have learned to look for free and cheap events in our area.  Whether it be a trip to the beach, a museum, state park, parade, or a festival, we find things to do.  I look online for happenings in our area.  There are also free pamphlets and papers listing events. Do a google search and see what you can find.  These kinds of events are more memorable for our children and are certainly better for our budget.

We don’t have a dog. I know that dogs are like a part of the family and if I had a dog, I certainly wouldn’t get rid of it just to save money. But I don’t have a dog and right now another animal is not on my list of priorities.  Dogs are expensive — the shots, deworming, medicines, vet bills . . . whew I am seeing visions of dollar signs.  I love animals and I have two cats. This is just one of the things my husband and I have agreed not to spend money on right now.

We constantly look for good deals.  My husband and I tend to be conservative on our purchases. Rather than going out and spending $200 on a camera we see in store, we’ll spend two or three hours at home reading about the camera and looking for reviews. Instead of buying our clothes full price we shop the clearance racks or look for great sales.  I just shopped a back to school sale on a tax free weekend and used a $10 coupon and bought myself some shirts for work.  I try to know the cycles for when items are at their lowest prices. For example, I know that Target has deeply discounted toys twice each year.  I know that November and December are the months when cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups will be the cheapest.  We try to be good stewards of our money and make it go the farthest that we can.

We don’t have the latest in technology.  In fact, I don’t even have a smart phone. I just can’t see spending $30 or more each month. This equals almost $400 per year!  We don’t have iPads or iPhones. My son just recently got a used DS. haha. Contrary to what many people think, technology is not a necessity.  It’s not air and water.  If your job requires you to have a smart phone, then so be it. Checking facebook, twitter, and email on the go is not essential.

When possible, we buy used.  This can include toys, furniture, bicycles, etc. (The exception is used mattresses.)  Some of my favorite pieces in my home are used.  I like the thrill of finding a unique item.  I am also teaching my children the value of buying used.  A few years ago my daughter wanted some Polly Pocket toys.  She went to Target with her birthday money and came home with one small toy for $14.  She was sad at how little she got for the money.  I told her I would look online to see what I could find.  We ended up finding a big box of Polly Pocket stuff – mall, pool, clothes, dolls, etc for $40.  The cost of these things would have been over $200 new.  My children have learned that they get more for their money this way.

We pay cash. This is probably the biggest way that we save money.  We just moved into our new home seven months ago. I would love to have new blinds and curtains throughout my home. New wall hangings, shower curtains, rugs, I could go on. If I just swipe that credit card I can have it all now.  The problem with that is, there comes a day to pay our debts and with interest.  I choose not to be in bondage of debt.  Sure, I would really like to have those things but for now, I am trying to be thankful for all of the other wonderful things I have and know that in time I will furnish my home.

I know that these tips may not work for everyone but they help my family out tremendously.  I’m estimating that these things alone keep my family from spending over $10,000 each year!  In what ways does your family save money?

image source: kwod from sxc.hu


Karen

How to Save Money on Laundry

We all have laundry to do. Some of us have more laundry than others. Regardless of how many loads you wash each week, there are some simple ways to save money while doing laundry.

 

save money on laundry

 

1.  Wash in cold water. Most all of your clothes can be washed in cold water.  I do wash my sheets in hot water since this helps to kill dust mites and germs. Unless your clothes are really dirty or greasy, usually cold water will do just fine.  Save money by not heating up the water. 

2.  Don’t buy “dry clean only”. I used to have some dry clean only clothes. I found that I wasn’t wearing them because I didn’t want to pay the money to have them dry cleaned. I tried hand washing some of them but they shrank. It is becoming easier to find nice clothing that is user friendly. Just pay attention to the tags.

3.  Treat stains properly and quickly.  I have a few go-to stain removers at my house. They work for just about any kind of stain.  Every now and then we encounter something unexpected. I just use google to see what others are saying works on the stain. This was especially helpful when one of my children, who was a toddler at the time, drew on our couch.  Be sure to treat stains quickly and don’t put stained clothing in the dryer. It is easier to treat and release the stain if it is not set in with heat. 

4.  Use white vinegar for your laundry softener. I wrote about using white vinegar a few years ago in my post 30 Ways to Clean with Vinegar.  I rarely use laundry softener but I like to use vinegar because it doesn’t leave a waxy finish on clothes.  Plus, it is inexpensive.  You can pick up two gallons at Sam’s Club for less than $4. 

5.  Line dry your clothing. When I was growing up we didn’t have a clothes dryer. My mom hung everything on the clothes line. I’m not willing to give up my dryer but I do try to air dry some of my clothing. Avoid line drying when the pollen count is high. 

6.  Adjust the water level.  Many newer washers adjust the amount of water to the size of the load.  If your washing machine doesn’t do this automatically, be sure to use the water level knob to adjust the water.

7.  Make your own detergent or shop wisely.  I confess that I have never made my own laundry detergent.  A quick internet search is sure to find you at least 10 different recipes.  I usually buy my detergent on sale and with coupons. Sometimes I am lucky enough to get the detergent for less than $1 per bottle.  I keep saying I’m going to make my own detergent. Perhaps some day I will. Until then, I’ll keep finding deals.

8.  Clean the dryer’s lint filter. Keep the lint filter clean so that it doesn’t take longer to dry your clothes.  Also, every few months it’s a good idea to clean the lint from inside the dryer. Some people run a vacuum hose down inside the dryer. I have seen special kits at home improvement stores. Also, check the outside vent. One day my dryer wasn’t drying my clothes. The outside vent was completely clogged. 

9.  Don’t iron. I’m not a fan of ironing so this one is good for me.  As soon as my clothes are done drying I take them out, shake/snap them out to be straight and lay them out flat on my bed and then put them away. I don’t want any wrinkles to set in. You can also pick out your clothes and hang them in the bathroom while you are showering. This will help to remove some wrinkles. 

10.  Use less detergent. Many folks use too much detergent. I have seen people fill the cap all the way to the top.  Look at the back of the bottle to see how much you need. Generally, you can use less than is recommended on the bottle. I usually use 25% less than recommended and have never had a problem. I have even washed some clothes without detergent. They say that the clothes agitating in the washer is what cleans the clothes. You might want to give it a try.

These are just a few ways to save. How do you save money on laundry?

 


Karen

Inexpensive Tips for Treating Sunburn

July 14, 2013 by  
Filed under health, money saving tips

Although I am an avid sunscreen wearer, some how each year I end up with a sunburn.  Whether it is due to an unexpected outing or underestimating exposure to the sun, sometimes sunburns happen.  Although home remedies will not undo sun damage, they will help to relieve some of the pain and help the skin to heal more quickly. 

Here are some inexpensive methods to try at home. 

 sunburn

 

Take a bath 

Take a bath in oatmeal.  Put some oatmeal in a cheesecloth or sock and tie it shut.  While in the bath, squeeze the oatmeal milk on your skin.  (I also use this remedy during the winter months with my eczema.) Or instead of using oatmeal, try a bath with baking soda. Add a few heaping tablespoons to the bath water. Be sure to use warm or cool (not cold) water so that you don’t send your body into shock.  Also, try to air dry so that you don’t wipe off the oatmeal or baking soda. 

While a cool bath may feel great to your skin, avoid soaking for too long which can further dry out your skin. 

Apply a cool compress

Apply apple cider vinegar to the burn with a cottonball, or make a cool compress.  Keep the skin moistened.  This remedy will help prevent blistering and peeling. Or soak a washcloth in baking soda and water or oatmeal and water and apply as a compress.

If you don’t have vinegar, oatmeal, or baking soda, use cool water to help relieve discomfort.

Moisturize

Your skin is already dry from the sunburn and the baths and compresses are causing it to dry out more.  Help prevent dryness by applying moisturizer after baths and compresses.  You might even try cooling the lotion in the refrigerator.  You might want to wait a day or two to stay applying moisturizer so that the lotion doesn’t trap the heat against the skin.

Apply aloe vera

Aloe is effective in relieving pain and inflammation. Cut open the leaves and apply the gel directly to the skin. Check your local grocery store or nursery for aloe plants. Apply the aloe several times per day.

Drink water

Drink water to replenish fluids and help skin heal. 

Take an over the counter pain medicine 

Try ibuprofen or aspirin to help with the pain. Be sure to take it with food so that you don’t get an upset stomach. 

Apply milk

Some people find that applying milk or yogurt to a sunburn helps ease the pain.  You could apply it with gauze or a cloth.  I have never tried this method but am curious to know if it works. The tannin in strawberries is also helpful so perhaps you could try using strawberry yogurt.

Brew black or green tea

Brew some tea and let it cool.  Put it in a spray bottle and spray on the sunburn, apply it as a cool compress, or apply wet tea bags.  You can also take a bath in brewed tea once it has cooled.  The tannic acid in the tea helps relieve the burn. 

Apply Vitamin E

Break open Vitamin E capsules and squeeze onto your skin to promote healing.

Apply potato slices

Apply sliced or grated potatoes directly to the skin. The starch helps draw the heat out of your skin.

I’m sure there are many other home remedies. Which methods have you tried? Which are your favorite?

This post is for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for a doctor’s care. If your sunburn is accompanied by fever or chills, you may need to see a medical professional.

image sxc.hu/zulema011


Karen

Inexpensive Girls’ Night Out Ideas

Laughter is a fantastic stress reliever. Having a girls’ night out is a great way to laugh, relieve stress, and feel refreshed again. As tired mommies, we all could use a little outing with our girlfriends from time to time. Getting coffee, going to the movies, and eating out with our friends can be very costly. Here are some inexpensive girls’ night out ideas that won’t break your budget.

inexpensive girls night out ideas

Host a movie night. Rent a dvd, watch a chick flick or something funny. I have tons of romantic comedies in my house. Perhaps everyone could bring their favorite movie from home and you could vote on which one(s) to watch. Pop some popcorn and have a few other snacks. This is much cheaper than going to the movies and you can pause for more snacks or potty breaks.

Plan a theme night. Perhaps someone in the group has a fondue fountain. Each person in the group could bring something that they like to dip. These items are usually inexpensive. Some ideas are bananas, strawberries, oreos, marshmallows, gummy bears, pretzels, rice krispy treats, and pickles. Or you could have an ethnic food night such as Mexican food night or Indian food night and everyone could bring their favorite dish for the theme.

Have a tea party. Get out the tea cups and china. Everyone can bring a finger food or you can provide some inexpensive homemade treats such as brownie bites, cucumber salad, pasta salad, pimento cheese sandwiches, etc.

Have a cookie/dessert swap. Everyone can bring their favorite dessert. It’s important to bring enough to share at the get together and enough to swap, along with a recipe for each person. Be sure to have goodie bags or boxes so that everyone can take home some samples.

Host a coffee night. My hubby and I read recipes and practiced making our own coffee drinks at home.  His favorite drink is a caramel frappuccino and mine is a caramel macchiato.  Set up a coffee station, play some relaxing music, and serve some yummy desserts such as coffee cake.  

Search for free and cheap local activities. During the summer, many communities offer movies and music in the park. It’s a good idea to bookmark your city’s webpage or like them on facebook. This will help you to stay up to date on local happenings.  Find something interesting, talk to your girlfriends about it, and agree to attend a free local event together.

Have a nail party. Give each other manicures and pedicures. Soak your feet in a foot spa. Enjoy a paraffin wax treatment. Each person can bring something to the party.  Everyone will leave feeling great.

Technically many of these are girls’ night in activities, but I call them girls’ night out because it involves getting together with your friends and getting away for just a little while.  ;)

 

What inexpensive girls’ night out ideas can you share?

image courtesy of Artizan007


Karen

July’s Favorite Reads

I enjoy looking over the stats each month. It is neat to see the things that interest people the most. Some of these articles have been around for a while and yet every month they are the top reads. There are some oldie but goodies here. I hope you’ll enjoy checking these out.

Easy Do-It-Yourself Luau/Beach Cupcakes

30 Ways to Clean with Vinegar

Do-It-Yourself Baby Shower Favors

20 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Gifts

Fake Email Alert for Paypal Users

Tomato Casserole Recipe  (Yumm!)

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Car Insurance

A Thrifty Way to Stuff Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child (Samaritan’s Purse)

Which article is your favorite?


Karen

20+ Ways to Save Money on Christmas Gifts

For many people, Christmas is a favorite time of year. Unfortunately, it can also be the most stressful. The costs of Christmas cards, Christmas trees, decorations, and gifts can really burden one’s finances.

You might be wondering why I am talking about Christmas today when it is only July.  Both of my children’s birthdays fall in July.  Once their birthdays have passed I begin thinking about the next big event, which is Christmas.  Giving myself  some time to think, plan, and prepare helps to save money.  Hopefully, this post will encourage you to think ahead and plan too so that you can also save money.

Here are some ways to save money on Christmas gifts. Another day we can discuss ways to save money on the other parts of Christmas.

1.  Get help from friends and family.  Let them know what you’re shopping for.  When I do this, other people let me know when they spot a good deal on something I need.  It goes both ways.  I have been known to text pictures to people at midnight on Black Friday with deals they might be interested in.  It helps to have others watching out for what you need.

2.  Ask friends and family what they want.  Hopefully, this will avoid countless hours shopping, racking your brain, wasted gas, extra unwanted products in the environment, and the hassle of returns.

3.  Try gift cards.  Some people may think this is inappropriate, but I think it’s a great solution.  Gift cards save time, wrapping paper, shipping expenses, and help avoid unwanted gifts.  Let the person buy what they want.

4.  Save your receipts.  Get an envelope for your purse or have a special file folder in your filing cabinet.  You never know when you’ll have bought the wrong size or something didn’t work.  It’s really upsetting to return something without a receipt and not get the full value of the item.

5.  See if your store offers a gift receipt.  I think it’s nice when someone includes a gift receipt in the box.  This avoids the uncomfortable situation of asking where they bought it or if they still have the receipt.  I’ll admit that many times I’ve been left with things I couldn’t use or return.  Gift receipts are great!

6.  Be specific in your requests.  If someone asks what to get your child, try to be as specific as possible.  Tell them the exact name of the toy or their specific pants size.  Before Christmas and birthdays, I have my kids write a list of the things they really like and want.  Then when family asks for gift ideas, I have something to tell them.  I like to have a variety of lower priced items on the list too (such as hair bows, stickers, etc.) so that people don’t feel like they have to spend a lot.  This also helps with people looking for filler items.

7.  Consider drawing names with co-workers or family.  We did this with my husband’s family for several years.  To make it more fun, we kept the names we drew a secret and were surprised when we exchanged gifts.

8.  Buy just for the children.  This is becoming a common practice in our families.  We buy for our parents and the children.  This has really cut down on spending and getting unusable gifts. It also makes for a more relaxed Christmas.

9.  Consider playing a game instead of swapping gifts.  Try a white elephant or dirty Santa game.  Some games involve bringing a nice gift that someone would want.  Other games involve bringing a funny or prank type gift.  There is usually a gift maximum price suggested, such as $10-20.  With the games, each person brings one gift and each person leaves with one gift.  Be prepared for lots of laughter and fun.

10.  Be realistic.  While you’re out there shopping, you’ll probably find loads of great deals and things you want for yourself.  Be sure to budget in some money for things that you want.

11. Make a budget and stick with it. NO CHARGING! If you can only afford a $20 gift then make those dollars stretch. There are deals all around so that you can make your purchase special.

12.  Take those credit cards out of your wallet.  It’s much more tempting to charge something and purchase something out of your price range when the credit cards are in your wallet.  You don’t need a debt hangover in January.

13.  Try making homemade gifts.  With the new craft items, DIY tv shows, and Pinterest, hand crafted items have made a comeback and are more desirable.  Do you have a nitch?  You can make note cards, pillows, crocheted hats, wreaths, and many other different things that are nice.  A gift doesn’t have to be store bought.

14.  Instead of individual gifts, consider a family gift.  You could purchase a popcorn bowl and fill it with microwave popcorn, candy bars, and a new DVD.  Perhaps you could purchase the family a season pass to the aquarium or something else they would like.  The key is to think about the family and what their interests are.

15.  Keep a gift closet or special place for gifts.  Years ago, I used to have a gift closet.  I would purchase things throughout the year and put them away for later use.  Now that I no longer have a gift closet, I have gift totes. It’s not as convenient but the concept is the same.  I find things throughout the year that I think people will like (on clearance or not) and put them away for Christmas. Honestly, I think it is a more thoughtful process because I am able to think ahead and consider the person that I am buying for.  I am also able to pick up a few extra things for teachers, co-workers, and extended family.

16.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Shopping the week before Christmas means that things will be picked over and you’ll have to choose from what’s left. You may not end up with a nice gift like you had planned, or you may have to pay more for something.

17.  Find discount codes.  Never buy anything online without looking for a discount code first.  Try sites such as RetailMeNot.com and FreeShipping.org.

18.  Give the gift of service.  Instead of you and your friend exchanging gifts, consider giving a gift of service.  Everyone wants to go out on a date with their husband.  Many of us don’t go out though because we can’t afford to go out and to pay a sitter.  Give your friend babysitting services.  You could also give other services such as housecleaning, gardening, raking, etc. Perhaps you could pick a chore that she doesn’t like to do.  Use your computer or art skills to make a certificate for the services you are giving.

19.  Consider giving something used. I remember just a few years ago my son kept asking for Rescue Heroes. Each of the figurines were around $10 each. Finally I did some searching online and found two huge lots on ebay. I got the two lots for around $50, including shipping. Something similar happened with Polly Pockets for my daughter. She soon realized that she could only get a few Polly Pocket pieces for $15 but we found a big box with buildings, figurines, clothes, and more on Craigslist for $40. Consider the person you are buying for and decide if they would mind something used.

20.  Consider regifting.  Regifting doesn’t have to be tacky or thoughtless.  We all get gifts we don’t need.  Hang onto those gifts and try to thoughtfully give them to someone else.  Perhaps you could give them to your neighbor, mail carrier, your child’s teacher, the person that picks up your recycling, or your favorite bank teller.  Regifting doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Just make sure what you are giving is considerate of what that person likes and that the gift is in good condition.  Here is a post with regifting tips.

21. Look for early sales. Loads of people shop on Black Friday but now stores are doing something different — Some are offering a week of online savings where specific items are offered each day during the sale.  Some stores are also offering big savings before Black Friday. They want your business and your money so they are looking for competitive and creative ways to get your attention.

This is certainly not a complete list of ways to save on Christmas gifts.  Which ways do you save?

image credit

This article was originally written by me in 2007. It has been revised and edited.


Karen

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Car Insurance

Just recently, I received a bill to renew my car insurance. I glanced at the bill and was getting ready to make a payment when I noticed something — this time there was a pay in full discount amount.  I began to look over my bill more closely.  Normally I pay a $3 monthly installment fee so that I can make payments for my auto insurance.  Considering I don’t have to plunk out $450-600 at a time, I didn’t think the $3 per month was too bad.  But when I factored in the pay in full discount, it makes a big difference.

 

By paying the full amount up front, I was able to get a discount of $39.90.  Also, by making the full payment I avoided paying an extra $18 in monthly installment fees. This made my savings a whopping $57.90.  Quite a bit a difference, don’t you think?

Here’s a few ways to save on your car insurance:

1.  Ask for a pay in full discount such as the discount I received. If you can’t afford to pay the full six months, perhaps you could afford to make two payments – half up front and half later. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

2.  Ask for other discounts.  Some insurance companies offer discounts for military or students with good grades.  Periodically we call our insurance company and ask for discounts.  We have been with them for about nine years. When I call them I ask for a good driver discount. We’ve had no tickets or wrecks so we are considered safe drivers.  Or you could ask them for a loyalty discount.  There are all sorts of discounts available. You just need to ask.

3. Compare prices.  It pays to shop around and compare prices of different companies.  Be sure you’re comparing similar coverage though. It wouldn’t be a good deal to save $25 and not receive the coverage you need.

4.  Ask about a higher deductible.  Some financial advisers will tell you to always get a higher deductible.  I would have to disagree with that one.  Compare, compare, compare.  We have a zero deductible and there wasn’t much difference in price.  Don’t assume that it will be way cheaper to get a higher deductible, but then again, it could be.  I would recommend making a list of companies you want to call and writing notes on prices for different types of coverage and deductibles and then comparing rates.  An hour of your time could save you hundreds of dollars.

5.  Check into a company’s reputation.  With all of the online rants and reviews, it is fairly easy to research a company.  Also, ask around to your friends and locals.  Find out who they use and if they are pleased.  It’s not a good deal if you are with a company that won’t answer your calls or help you when you need it.

6.  Carry multiple policies with the same insurance company.  Many companies offer a discount if you hold more than one policy with them.  You could have your homeowners, renters, or life insurance policy with that company. Ask if they have a multiple policy discount.

7.  Drive a low profile car. Some cars have a reputation for speeding tickets and trouble and therefore the premium for them is higher. Annual reports are available that  list the most stolen cars in the country.

8.  Keep your credit in good standing. Until recently, I didn’t realize that insurance companies check your credit regularly. A few months ago we received a letter from our insurance company stating that our rate would be higher because of an issue on our credit report. We did some investigating and found an incorrect claim that we had to dispute and get corrected. Without the insurance credit check, we wouldn’t have known about the error or that insurance companies check on people.

9.  Maintain a safe driving record. This one seems like common sense, but a ticket or accident could really raise your insurance rates.  Pay attention to speed limits and school zones.  If you do get a ticket, see if you could take a safe driver course to reduce the points and insurance premium.

10.  Drive less.  Some insurance companies offer low mileage discounts for those that carpool or drive a low amount of miles each year. I once received the discount because I worked less than five miles from my house.

Making calls, comparing rates, and asking for discounts can save you hundreds each year.  Make sure you have enough coverage and be safe.

What other tips do you have to add?

image (c) Karen Weideman


Karen

How to Save Water While Watering Your Lawn and Garden

It’s almost July and it’s really hot outside! Some areas are lacking rain which can kill your lawn and garden. So how is a person supposed to keep their lawn and garden alive during times of summer heat and water restrictions?  There are ways to use less water, save money, and not break those restrictions.

1.  Use grey water to water your plants.

Grey water is simply the water that comes from washing your clothes, dishes, and taking a bath.

It is hot here in the south. There have been several summers that we have had water restrictions. During one of those times we had just planted some bushes in our flower beds. I didn’t want my bushes to die so whenever I gave my kids a bath, I wouldn’t drain the tub.  I would scoop the water with buckets and carry it outside.  Each bush got a full bucket of water each night which soaked the plant.  It wasn’t as convenient as turning on the hose, but it kept my plants from dying.  You might want to avoid using water with harsh detergents on fruit and vegetable plants.

2.  Get a rain barrel. 

You might be skeptical and think that you won’t get enough rain to fill up a rain barrel, but rain barrels can collect hundreds of gallons from one rain shower.

One year I had planted a new tree and along came another drought with water restrictions. I didn’t want my new expensive tree to die.  Sometimes hot summers bring storms.  I didn’t have a rain barrel, but I did have a big 55 gallon trash can. When I knew the storm was coming, I took the end spout off of my gutter and put my big trash can under the spout. I filled up the trash can, some buckets, and other trash cans I had around the house.  I kept those barrels and cans under my carport to use for watering.  (As always, use caution. You should not go outside and do this when it is lightning.)

A rain barrel continuously collects rain. You can attach a water hose to your rain barrel so that you can easily water your plants.  If you are handy, you might consider watching Youtube videos or reading tutorials online for information on making your own rain barrel.

3.  Place mulch, compost, or grass clippings around plants to keep the soil moist. 

Don’t throw away your grass clippings.  Use a bagger on your lawn mower and put those clippings in your garden.  Mulch, compost, pine needles, and grass clippings keep the soil from drying out.  It’s probably too late to make compost for this year’s garden, but you can begin this now for future use.

4.  Water your plants and lawn in the evenings.

If you water your lawn and garden during the hottest times of the day the water will evaporate from the ground too quickly.  To be more efficient with your watering, water during cooler times of the day.  Watering at night will allow the water to soak into the ground and be useful to the plants before it evaporates.

5.  Think of other nonconventional ways to collect water.

Several drought situations have caused me to really think about the liquid I was tossing down the sink.

Each day when I came home from work I would save the water I didn’t drink from my water jug.  Save those few ounces of coffee from the coffee pot rather than pouring them out. Plants actually like coffee.  Save the water from where you have boiled potatoes or pasta.  Put a bucket in your shower while you are waiting for your shower water to warm up.  Keep the water from your dehumidifier tank. If you stop and think about for a few minutes, we waste a lot of water each day.

This is a good start but certainly doesn’t cover all of the ways to save water on your lawn and garden. Please add your tips in the comments section below. Thanks!

image by lespowell


Karen

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