Sunday, August 30, 2009

Save Time Getting Kids Ready for Church

Every Sunday morning, my DH leaves at 7 am for church leadership meetings. That leaves me -alone- to get our three DDs ready for church. Keep in mind we have to leave by 8:30 am to be there on time. This is no small task.

Yesterday (Saturday) I figured out a way to cut down on the getting ready time. I put DD3 to sleep in her church dress and this saved me 20 minutes. I was amazed! Now keep in mind, her church dress was a cute, and comfy knit dress. So it didn't wrinkle and was comfy to sleep in.

If you have little boys, dress them in wrinkle free slacks, and a nice knit polo and you are set. Or you can keep the shirt on and put the pants next to their bed. Then you don't have to hunt around looking for the clothes (and getting the kids to agree with them.) It is all done the night before.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Furniture Markup - 300%

I have a friend that sells furniture at retail, which means that she buys at wholesale. She told me that the markup on furniture is 300%. I couldn't believe it when she told me, but she was adamant, and an authority in the field.

So the next time you are shopping for brand new furniture, NEGOTIATE! Do not let them rip you off!! Start your beginning price around 50% less than their listed price and only go up a little. If they won't work with you walk away. With the economy this bad, furniture stores are hurting right now.

If you want to get great furniture at a great price, go to There is so much furniture that people are trying to sell, and it is much easier to negotiate prices. Plus most of it is in pretty good condition.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Baby Steps

I was thinking about my frugal transformation today. Often I have mentioned that it came on out of necessity and a bit of work. So I decided to help many of you take the same journey, tell you how to do it step, by step.

I am hoping that this will help transform your attitude and thinking into a more frugal one. Then, you won't have to rely on other people to tell you where the good deals are, but you will be able to do it yourself (This reminds me of the DH's Musing post :).

The first challenge this week is to visit a Thrift Store. The mission, to buy a really great Christmas present for cheap. Many times Thrift Stores get a bad rap. I know, I used to swear them off or laugh when people talked about them. But I can tell you that now, most of my DH's professional wardrobe comes from the Thrift Store - and he gets compliments all the time.

You will be surprised at what you find. If you don't find something at one, visit another. Hit this link to find a list of thrift stores near you. I can't wait to hear what you find.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DH's Musings

We all know the quote, "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."

DH came up with, "Teach a man to fish, and maybe he'll invite you to dinner." Wow, I was impressed :). Actually I really was.

There is a lot of truth to this. I have taught many people in my area how to coupon shop. One of the things I do when I shop is leave coupons with matching items in the grocery store. I have encouraged others to do the same thing.

It has been fun to see more coupons being left on the store shelves. A few times they have come in handy for me. If we create a spirit of caring for one another it will be easier to get through these tough times.

If you help others, you will be surprised at how much help you will get back in return. The Golden Rule works!

Trading Post

The last three generations in America have been the first that you don't have to trade a good or service, for the same thing. We do trade money, and that is a good, however I am talking about trading wheat for potatoes, or auto work for home repairs. There is a lot to be gained in doing this right now.

I do this with my consulting services. For example, I wanted to learn about makeup. What type/colors to buy for myself, how to apply it, etc. I knew that knowledge in this area would save me time and money. It so happens that one of my friends is a professional makeup artist and has a bridal makeup business. She also has six kids that she has to feed - big grocery bill.

I asked her for a trade. She teaches me about makeup, I teach her about coupon shopping/frugal living. It has been great! She has been saving big on her grocery bill, and I am looking fab (if I do say so myself :). She has given me free makeup and can get me a 40% discount on professional makeup.

I have done this for other things as well. It is a great way to build friendships, help each other out, and save money.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quick Chicken

This is one of my favorite recipes because it is so EASY and CHEAP.

1 whole chicken (can get on sale for between $0.69 - $1.00 per pound)
1 bottle marinade ($0.50 with coupons)

Take chicken, place in 5 to 6 quart Crock-pot. Pour marinade over it. Let cook on low temp. for about 8-10 hours or until internal temp is between 170-180 degrees F.

*Time and Money saving tips:

~But a few whole chickens when they are on sale. Leave them in the heavy duty plastic they come wrapped in. Put each chicken individually into grocery store bags to catch leaks if necessary. Freeze. You can prepare the same as above, you don't need to take the innards out. But do make sure to take it out of the plastic.

~After your meal is over, take all remaining meat off the bones, place in quart-sized freezer Ziplock, freeze and use again for sauces, stirfry, or in meal kits.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Double Dutch

I picked up this info from "Speed Cleaning", by Jeff Campbell.

Making the bed is four times faster when two people make it as compared with one. WOW!

Crushing Crayon Marks

Do you have a little budding Picasso, and your walls are his canvas? No need to repaint or scream. (However a time out might be in order.) The tool for this project is right in your bathroom -and you can get if for free with coupons. TOOTHPASTE.

Dampen a clean, white cloth, put a little toothpaste on it, and scrub. I find that using my index finger works the best. The abrasives in the toothpaste scrub the crayon off the wall and leave it looking good as new.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sleeping on Dirt (Cheap)

If you are in the market for a new matress, now is the time to do your shopping and negotiating. It is the time that the matress stores are changing out their floor models for new ones. At least it was at the Sleepy's by us. Here is the story of how we got an expensive mattress set for dirt cheap.

Last year, this time, we were in the market for a new matress set. We had around $500 and didn't want to go higher than that. We set off to see what we could find.

First we went to Matress Giant to get a feel for prices, bed quality, and negotiating opportunities. We know that to get the best deals you need to then go to another store. The two stores start slashing prices, trying to win your business. (However, you need to be willing to negotiate and to walk away).

The next stop was Sleepy's. This particular store was new, and wasn't doing well. We knew that (in fact both stores weren't doing well). We told him our price range $500. He started showing us bottom tier matresses trying to make them look great. I started asking about quality and how they were made. (Info I learned from Matress Giant.)

It didn't take long for him to know we also wanted quality. He offered to show us the high end beds, hoping that we would buy these. We agreed to LOOK. (There is no harm in looking.) We liked the beds much better, but they were way too expensive $2,400 for the set.

After about 20 minutes of us humming and hawing, we said that we needed to keep looking around. This was his breaking point. The following conversation ensued:

guy: "Are you in a hurry to get these?"
us: "No, we can wait."
guy: "The new model season is coming in two weeks and we need to clear out our floor models. Our store hasn't had much business so these beds have hardly been laid on."
us: "What price could you give us for this bed?"
guy: "$1,000, plus delivery and old bed removal. So about $1,300 total."
us: "Mattress Giant offered delivery and old be removal for free."
guy: "We can match that."
us: "What about the price."
guy: "$1,000 is as low as we can go."
us: "We can't pay that."
guy: "Okay, let me work the numbers. (Goes to his desk and comes back) $860."
us: "Well we have to think about it, we will get back to you. (get up to leave and take written quote with us.)"
guy: "Hey, where are you going? I am in the business of selling mattresses, not just giving quotes. If you want that price you need to buy it today."
us: "Oh, okay, let us take a minute to talk it over and test out the bed again."

We go over lay on it. Decide we want it. I say to DH, "Let's offer $800. We are willing to pay the $860, but it doesn't hurt to try for something lower." We go back over to the guy.

us: "We will buy it right now for $800 including tax."
guy: "I don't know if I can do that. I would have to ask."
us: "Okay, we can wait."

At this point the guy starts telling his boss how we had been to the other store, we had other quotes (however for lower quality mattresses - he didn't add that info), and that they could justify giving us this low price because of their company price beat policy.

End of story. We got a $2,400 mattress pre-tax, pre-delivery, pre-old bed removal, for $800 including tax, delivery, and old bed removed.

The mattress guy even told us that he was amazed at the price we got. It was actually lower than even the outlet prices.

Bottom line: Timing and negotiating are key to getting HUGE deals!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Home Flooring and Granite Counter Top Deals

My friend posted this to the email list for our ladies church group. I thought you all might be interested, or have some suggestions to add. Here it goes.....

Hi gals!
I am wondering if anyone out there has a recommendation for where to go for granite, wood floors and carpet. Just in case we decide to make a purchase I want to get a good deal! Jennie, do you have any tips while I shop for these things??? Any suggestions would be appreciated!

My first suggestion is to NEGOTIATE on every one of these things - even in the big box stores. Do your homework on what you want and then start calling around, telling the different shops the cheapest price you have been quoted, and see if they can beat it. This also means that if you are seriously thinking about it, start now. Negotiating killer deals takes time and patience. Then you POUNCE quickly when you get the right price.

Granite - the cheapest (I should say least expensive) option I have seen so far, actually comes from Aubrey. For her kitchen remodel she put in granite tiles instead of solid granite. You would never notice unless she either told you, or you used the counters a lot. They look fab.

Formica also has granite look-a-like options. Home Depot has prefabbed formica counters that cost $13 per LINEAR foot, which works out to $6.50 per square foot, uninstalled. It is their second tier quality. For your island you would need something custom, but you can get the same formica custom fitted as well. Craig and Margie have something like this in their kitchen and it looks great! We are actually thinking about this for our kitchen upgrade.

Wood Floors - My first question is how much wood floor are we talking about? Are you thinking of redoing your entire kitchen and entry? My first line of defense for anything is You would be absolutely amazed at what people get rid of. My neighbor put down brand new wood floors, didn't like them, tore them up 2 months later, and put in something else. She tried to give the old/new flooring away!

The home where I scored my dream oven was gutting their kitchen to the studs - including the flooring. They were getting rid of brand new cabinets - with granite attached, and many other high end things for dirt cheap. You can also post on craigslist that you want wood floors, include sq. footage you need, and then maybe someone will contact you.

Now is a great time to check the clearance areas at the stores. They may have bought so much wood flooring, then weren't able to sell it with the poor economy. Home improvement season is winding down and they will be trying to dump this stuff to free up space for next year's/season's items. This goes for any other item as well.

Carpets - again it depends on how much you want. If you only need to do one room, check carpet stores for remenants, or clearance pieces. If you want to redo your whole house in the same peice, negotiate, netgotiate, negotiate. You will be buying more, thus making them more $$. They should be willing to cut you a deal. If they won't - walk away. In this economy EVERYTHING is negotiable.

Other than that, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Get recommendations from friends, then see if the company will give you a referral discount. It never hurts to ask and usually saves you tons!

Hope this helps!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

It has been a crazy day doing business stuff, my mind if feeling like blubber, and the kids are playing well. So I wanted to do something light. Think light microwave popcorn.

I learned that you can pop popcorn in the microwave. Simply put it in a brown paper sandwich sack, turn the microwave, pop, pop, pop, and there you go. Now, the thrift inside of me wondered how well it would really work and what the cost is compared to professional products. Keep reading for the findings.

1. Do not use Ziplocks. I get freezer Ziplocks (yes brand name) for around $0.25 per box thanks to my coupon binder. So I thought I would start with this since I get these so cheap. One problem, they melt, so don't try this. See the pics.

2. Use brown paper sandwich bag. It won't melt, in fact you can use it over and over. The one in the picture had just been used for the second time. It still came out like a champ. If you want to be technical these come out to around $0.02 per bag (I added this into the costs below). Also they are a more reasonable size of you are popping corn for yourself. I hate feeling like I have to eat a big bag of microwave popcorn. But with the mini bags it's more per oz. Another bonus for the bag is it is recyclable, reusable, and compostable (if you don't add any toppings). Love that (and so do my compost worms).

3. Price breakdown.
Orville RB smart pop 1.2 oz. mini bags
price per bag $0.40
price per ounce $0.33

Generic smart pop 1.4 oz. mini bag
price per bag $0.36
price per ounce $0.26

Generic kernel popcorn 1.8 oz. in brown paper bag
cost per bag $0.16
price per ounce $0.09

I was surprised by these findings. The brown paper bag popcorn blew (or should I say popped) the others out of the water! It was almost 75% cheaper than the name brand popcorn and almost 66% cheaper than the generic microwave popcorn. Plus you get 18 popped bags per one bag of kernels.

Another thing that my hubby will like is that it doesn't have the butter on it that the other microwave popcorns have on them. Studies have found that the butter put in these causes cancer, so he is against them.

The other benefit is that the brown paper bag popcorn is 100% Fat Free. A great bonus for those on Weight Watchers. If you want to add topping try this idea. Spray butter flavor cooking spray, then add salt.

The How to:
Pour 1/4 cup popcorn kernels into the brown paper bag. Fold the top down twice, making sure to crease it tightly with your nails. Place in microwave for 2 min. 30 sec. I popped mine for 2 min. 15 sec. My microwave is 1.6KW power rating. You might have to experiment to see what is best for your microwave.


*Time saving tip. Prepare multiple bags at once to save the time of getting out the materials over and over.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good Old Ben

I came across this fantastic quote from Benjamin Franklin. "Beware of small expenses: Small leaks sink great vessels." So true, so true!

*Here is a little tidbit, Benjamin Franklin is the ONLY person I know of that is still given money even though he is dead. When people visit his grave in Philadelphia they throw pennies on it. This is because he coined the phrase, "A penny saved, is a penny earned." My questions is, where do all those pennies end up?

The Little Sheet that Never Stops

A few posts ago, I shared some great tips for using Dryer Sheets. This week I learned another one (of course it has to be AFTER our camping trip :).

My neighbor swears that dryer sheets keep bugs away. When she goes camping she hangs one in the door way of her tent and no bugs come in. I wish I would have known this last week! Oh well, live and learn.

Free Shipping from

As you are all aware, I LOVE to use coupons to shop. I LOVE to save money, and I LOVE to help you do the same. This week I am doing a Complete Coupon Binder system giveaway on Along with this I am offering FREE shipping when you buy a Complete Coupon Binder system. Use promo code "VALUEDCUST" when checking out. Offer good until 8/31/09 so visit and get one of my most valuable tools for saving money!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our Budget Vacation

We went on vacation this week - YEAH! DH took a whole week off of work (can't remember the last time that happened :) and we went away. However we were determined not to break the bank. For a vacation that lasted Monday through Friday I think we did pretty well.

Many of my friends have been interested in what we did. So I am going to tell you here and break it down into what we spent. We already had the equipment and borrowed what else we needed.

Camping at a State Park for 4 days 3 nights $57
motor boat rental 1 hour $30
swim pool entrance fee + swimmy diaper $24
Fishing + worms FREE (We brought our own compost worms)
Wendy's on the way home $24

Zoo + rides all day FREE (we have a membership)

DH and I go see Harry Potter $10 (we used a gift card to help pay)
Babysitter $35
(the girls had their own sleepover this night and got to stay up until 11 pm. They LOVED it.)

Ice cream at zoo $16 (we packed a lunch, snacks, and water)
Food for the week $150

GAS to get to all these places $30 (both camping and the zoo are close)

GRAND TOTAL for 5 days of vacation fun $331

We went camping not only because it was inexpensive, but it also gives an entire experience. It is something that once you are there you don't feel like you need to go and find something else to do.

At the campsite, the kids are content finding bugs, playing in the tent, throwing things into the fire, playing at the playground, etc. When we stay at hotels we usually feel like we need to go find something to do. That "something" usually costs more $$, and takes us away from the place that we spent a lot of money to rent.

I also have to say that we chose this particular State Park because it was 1)cheap, 2) had a nice pool, and 3) we could go fishing. We also found out that State Parks are cheaper than privately owned campgounds. One night at a private campground would have cost $50/night.

Now, I am not going to try to sugar coat this into sounding like it was the perfect vacation. It wasn't. Camping takes a lot of work in gathering the stuff, packing it, getting there, unpacking, setting up, cooking over a fire, fighting off monster insects, etc. By Thursday I was ready to come home.

However, it is a process that you all contribute to. It is something that the whole family has to work at together and that is a beautiful thing. It also teaches the kids that getting dirty, doing without, forgetting something and making due are all great things.

It also forces you to talk because there are no phones, t.v.s, or computers. We played a lot of card games, read "Lord of the Ring" books out loud, and ate a lot of junk food (DD2 LOVED that aspect. We rarely get junk food.) I learned that our girls pick up really fast on card games and LOVE ganging up on dear old mom. (All the times we played card games I lost, and not on purpose, they really whooped me.)

We came home with a car full of mud, hearts full of memories, and money still in our pockets. LOVE IT!

I would love to hear about your fun, frugal vacation ideas. You can either leave a comment at the end of this post or email it to me at

p.s. If you are wondering what we did on Saturday, I am going to potty train DD3 today. It is a one day process that requires DH to take the other girls away. I have no idea what they are going to do. It is his job to figure that out.

Cash Only Experiment

Next month I am doing an experiment on myself - CASH ONLY for one month. My hypothesis is that I will spend even less money than I currently do if I have only cash.

I have wondered about this quite a lot lately. The tipping factor was an article I read on CNN about shopping. (Look at my "Must Read Article" post for the link if you are interested.) In one study they found that people that used credit cards payed 300% more for an item than those who had only cash to spend. WOW!

Now, I am really good at keeping a budget, even with credit cards. However, if I am under budget I do find myself "indulging" more in little expenditures. So next month I am going plasticless. It will be interesting to see how my spending habits change. It will also be interesting to find out how it feels to see the green backs actually exchange hands.

I am devising a TOOL to keep my categories straight. So far it includes envelopes and a small baggie for change. If any of you have a whiz bang way of keeping a budget with cash only I would love to hear about it.

Make sure you stay tuned in for the results of my "highly scientific" self-research :)

A Must Read Article

As I was cruising the news this morning I came across a fantastic article about shopping. It detailed the findings from studies done by Stanford professors. (I loved that part too. My DH spent over five years there and my DD1 took part in their children's studies.)

I won't go into the details of it, but it gives a lot of good scientific details about how the brain reacts to spending, what factors drive spending, how credit cards are dangerous and how we justify spending more when we use them, etc., etc.

Here is the link

Happy reading!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Online Coupons

A frugal friend of mine, Ellen, suggested I blog about online coupon sites. I am not talking printable grocery coupons. I am talking about discount codes for online retailers.

There are several websites out there. Ellen suggested and She used these while planning her daughter's wedding. There are other ones too like or you can Google "discount code for _____" and insert the store you are looking for.

Many retailers (especially in this economy) are running promotional deals to generate business. It is well worth the time to look for codes to use during your check-out process. It only takes about five minutes, but you can find great deals.

Thank you Ellen for this blog idea and the links! You are fab!

If any of you have frugal ideas or tips, please email them to me at

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Deadly Vinegar - for some

If the garden abundance, is also bringing on an abundance of fruit flies, try this trick. In a tea cup pour about 1" of apple cider vinegar. Then put two drops of liquid dish soap in the vinegar. This breaks up the water bonds on the top of the vinegar. The fruit flies will be attracted to it, go to land on it, and then fall in and drown. It works like a charm.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Goldfish Party Pinata

This was so cute I just had to blog about it. My five, almost six, year old is stretching her frugal wings and it makes me smile.

I recently bought a big package of Goldfish. (You parents out there know the size I am talking about, the one that opens like the school lunch milk cartons.) When we were done I put it by the garbage can to throw it out.

DD2 (Dear Daughter 2) saw potential in it and snagged it from the garbage. She wanted to make something from it. I was against the idea. In my mind I saw this big package kicking around the house driving me crazy. However, DD2 quickly came up with the idea of turning it into a pinata for her upcoming birthday party.

She glued printer paper to the outside then colored pictures of mermaids on all four sides. We will fill it from the spout, close it up, punch a couple of holes in the top to hang it, and presto a FREE pinata that she absolutely LOVES, and I do too :).

Pantyhose Power

So you are getting ready for a very important event. One that calls for your little black dress. You have taken great care to get ready BEFORE you put the dress on, to avoid getting the LBD dirty. However, you put it on and even though you were so careful you still get the dreaded antiperspirant white marks - AAAAGGGHHH!

Don't worry, take a pair of pantyhose and rub them over the mark and it will disappear. (I learned this tip from the man who actually invented pantyhose. He was my textiles teacher in college. You will hear about him periodically because I learned a TON from him.)

*Did you know that during the testing phase of pantyhose about 1,000 women were asked to wear them to work. By the end of the day the pantyhose had disintegrated while the women were wearing them. So back to the drawing board. If you don't succeed try, try again.

Goggle over Google

Google is amazing to me. They not only help you search on the computer, but they also have an information phone number. Not only that, but it is FREE. If you are using your cell, you just pay for the minutes you use.

So here it is... 1-800-GOOG-411 or 1-800-4664-411. I LOVE this number. It makes it so much easier to make appointments or to call a store for info before I drive out there. It is a lifesaver when I am out with the kids and need a number quickly. I don't have to take the time to look up a number.

They have also included a search feature. Let's say you want to find a pizza parlor in Mountain View, California. You tell them the category and the town, then they give you the top eight results.

Then to top this all off, they will automatically connect you. You don't have to worry about finding a piece of paper and pen while you are driving, just tell them which one you want, and they will connect you. LOVE IT!!

One thing though, it is all automated and the computer does voice recognition. Sometimes it doesn't understand you so it may take a few tries, but hey I'll be patient. A FREE service that is super handy, I'll take that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Piping Pizza

Here is a way to reheat your pizza to avoid the soggy crust that comes with the microwave. Place the pizza piece on a hot skillet to reheat it. This will make the crust crispy again, and you don't have to reheat your whole oven to do it. Gotta love that!

Ripening your Romas

Tomato season in on - YEAH!!! However, if you have some tomatoes that have fallen off and are green, I have a trick for you. Put them in an empty egg carton that has the lid still attached. Close the lid and let them sit on the counter.

The tomatoes (along with other fruits) releases a gas that helps them ripen. This is why leaving the lid closed is so important. This is also why grape bags have holes in them to let the gas escape.

If you need other fruit to ripen. You can place them in a bag with no holes and let them sit out on the counter as well. (My mom used to use brown paper bags so that the fruit wouldn't stay moist on the outside and rot).

Happy Gardening!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shave $ off shaving cream

Here's a quick tip for saving money on shaving creams for the ladies. Instead of buying the expensive shaving creams, use cheap hair conditioner instead (like suave - free with coupons and sales).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Buy Used and Save a Bundled!

I have been so excited about my latest find, I just have to write about it. (This has to be quick I only have 10 min. :) To delay any suspense this is about how I got a killer deal on a killer range/oven.

For a while I have been wanting/some what needing a new oven. The one we had was a cheap one from 17 years ago, and so today was starting to wear out. I have been mulling over this purchase over in my mind for two and a half years now, but not wanting to pay full price for a new one. So I have been keeping my eye out for a good deal - remember for two years now.

One day on a whim I decided to check to see what they had. I found this BEAUTIFUL Kenmore Convection oven that retails for $1,500 before taxes. This particular oven was two years old and barely used. The asking price was $500.

Now keep in mind I never pay full asking price for ANYTHING used (even on already deeply discounted items). Through some negotiating I got the price down to $450! Less than 2/3rds off the original price!

When I went to pick up the range, the lady asked me if I wanted anything else (they were doing a total kitchen remodel). She had two chandeliers that would retail for around $500 -$600 for the both of them. I ended up getting them for $48 for both. Less then 10% of retail!

I wish I had time to write about the negotiating (my hubby is sitting right here waiting to go to sleep). However, the bottom line of this post is: BUYING SECOND HAND SAVES YOU BUNDLES OF $$$. I think of it this way, letting other people use your stuff for a few years/months saves you a ton of money!

Some websites to try: - for FREE stuff
also check out the Internet classifieds on the local news station/paper website. For instance in Utah is a huge one as well.

Happy Hunting!