Saturday, December 7, 2013

Last Minute Do It Yourself (DIY) Christmas Gift- Inexpensive and Well Received!

Need to save some cash this holiday season? Well, who doesn't? They are mostly quick and easy, definitely inexpensive. But, also they are gifts that are wonderful to receive!

The first gift item is aimed at women and children-
Candy Cane Bath Salts- These not only smell great, but will also energize the senses while soothing tired muscles.
2 Cups Epsom Salts
1/2 Cup Sea Salt
4-6 drops of  pepermint oil
2-3 drops of red food coloring
Place one cup of Epsom salts in a bowl with 1/4 cup sea salt and add 2-3 drops of peppermint oil. Mix well. Place the remaining ingredients in a second bowl. You will have red and white mixtures. Layer the two in a decorative glass bottle and tie with ribbon.
Creative Frames - These are great for anyone! Especially if you put in a favored photo.
Plain wooden frame
Acrylic paints
Wood Glue
Various Embellishments
Take the frame and paint it according to your theme. Then affix your embellishments with the wood glue. Some examples could be a beach theme using seashells, a cooking theme using labels, a sports theme with tickets. Get creative!
Coffee Lover's Basket -  Make your own flavored coffee blend, place in a decorated mason jar, and add a few more items
Coffee Recipe (Cafe' Vienna)
1 Cup Instant Coffee
1 Cup sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 1/2 non dairy creamer (powdered)
1 1/2 dry milk
4 Tbs Cocoa
Now add a couple coffee mugs and a few candies and Viola! What a great gift.....
Last project:
Perfect for a whole household!
Make a tile Message Center
You will need:
  •  a white tile (4X4)
  • a 6X6 block of wood
  • Black Marker
  • Rub on decals
  • dry erase marker
  • acrylic paint
  • epoxy glue
Glue the tile onto the piece of wood, paint the exposed wood edges, and let dry. Use the decals you have chosen to decorate the wooden frame around the tile. Using your permanent marker, write "Notes" or "Phone Messages" across the top of the tile. When it is finished, wrap it with the dry esase marker for your gift.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Start Coupon Shopping With These Great Basic Tips

I know this is not a new topic, but I thought I would share some tips I have learned through trial and error when it comes to grocery shopping.

First the subject of using coupons:
  • Clip coupons for items you would normally use and/or are for items you would really love to try!
  •  Keep your coupons organized! Get a ready made Coupon Organizer or make your own.
                  -To make your own, simply buy a check organizer at any stationary store and place
                    dividers according to food categories
                - I use a ton of coupons, so mine are kept in a binder. A standard 3 ring binder works great, but a zippered one is best.
  • Keep in mind most grocery stores will Double your coupons provided the face value is .99 or less
  • Weed out old coupons weekly. You don't want to get "caught" trying to use an expired coupon!
  • Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT always cheaper to use a coupon!
What? Not always cheaper to use a coupon?
That leads us to part two - Grocery Store circulars;
  • Do not throw them away!
  • Compare prices if you have more than one in your area.
  • Keep a list as you are going through the circular. Write down the bargains at each store. Mark with a "C" those you also have a coupon for!
  • Plan your week's menus around this circular.
Sounds like a ton of work, doesn't it? At first it really can be! But as you get to know your store's sales habits (yes most do offer sales on items in cycles), it gets a bit easier. My nearest grocery store has a fantastic sale on Deli cheese once a month. We buy a month's worth at that time.
I mentioned a list before. This is vital! You should keep a master list at all times. This master list will have the items you need to purchase every week, such as milk on it. Then another list posted on the fridge is a great idea. Jot down items you are running low on. When you are going through your circulars you can transfer these items along with the great sale items onto one list you will bring with you to the store.
For help with lists, there are many websites that feature free printable grocery lists and blank menus.
My last tip for today- Reduced and Generic items........
Reduced for Quick Sale-
  •  I will buy many items here. Bakery items such as rolls and bagels can be frozen until used.
  •  Also some veggies and fruit can be a great deal, if you will use them quickly, bake with them, or can freeze them
  • Meats can be a great deal too. I recently found boneless, skinless chicken breast for about1.19/lb. I bought 4 packages and promptly froze them.
Generic Items
Some will scoff at the idea of this, I know. However, do you take generic prescriptions? Of course you do-when you can! Because you trust this is the same medication as the major brand, right? Same with food. Actually some generics are even better. There is a store brand of Raisin Bran I buy that has twice as many Raisins as any major brand.
A great many times a generic product will actually cost LESS than a major brand when using a doubled coupon for that brand name.
As proof to this way of shopping, when we bought our house I had a major shopping to do. Three people and we needed everything down to salt! I bought enough groceries for a week and a half, all pantry staples, 2 24 pack rolls of toilet tissue, garbage bags (6 boxes) , 9 rolls of Paper Towels, and cleaning supplies, as well as all those condiments for under $100.00!
Give it a try! Other than a little bit of time, what have you got to lose?

Save Some Money This Holiday Season With DIY Gifts

So, if you're anything like me, you've already begun your shopping for this year's holiday gifts. AND you'd like to be able to save some cash too. BUT, you don't want to come off as cheap, do you?

Well, there are some steps to giving a great gift with very little out of pocket expense.
The very first step is to make a list! Sounds simple doesn't it? For some it really is. But if you are like me, you get the "rebound" list. What's THAT? Oh, where you start the thinking of "If I buy for this one, then I have to give this one a gift too". If this is the case, then you MUST start early!
So, you have your list- great! Here's the hard part. What to get everyone! Through trial and error, I have found MOST people do appreciate a gift that is handmade. Now do not panic if you aren't exactly crafty! I do not mean you must go crazy here. Just put yourself into the gift is all, while considering the recipient. I will list some ideas that are simple and won't break the bank!
  1. Family Movie Night Basket - This one is so easy and everyone I have given it to loves it! Find a medium sized basket and fill it with these items (or similar)
  • Family themed movie
  • Old fashioned popcorn (bag costs under $1)
  • Popcorn Bowl (even better-use this as your basket! Buy at a Dollar Store)
  • Flavored Popcorn Salts
  • Various Candy
               This gift is great because you have shopped for an entire family! Instead of 3, 4, or 5 individual gifts at 10.00 each, for under 20.00 you have it covered!
2. On the same thought buy a  Family Game Night package
  • An inexpensive Board Game
  • Snacks
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Mugs
3. For the Ladies
  • Spa Gift Set - include small toiletries in an exotic scent along with a bath pouf in a basket. Add a few votive candles with holder and it'll look fantastic!
  • Recipes in a Jar - Your favorite recipes dry ingredients layered in a large mason jar, along with a handwritten copy of instructions. Wrap it up in a cute kitchen towel for a great presentation!
  • Gratitude Journal - For just $1 you can purchase a blank journal. Add embellishments to suit the recipient. Fill in the first page as to why you are grateful for them!
  • A Trip Down Memory Lane - Several ways to do this:
                1. Buy a photo album and create a simple scrapbook. Add extra items such as postcards,   pictures, and other things you have shared with the recipient.
                 2. Buy a wooden frame at the craft store. Paint it and decorate it with a theme that corresponds to a picture of you with the recipient. Ex. glue shells on it for a beach photo.
                  3. A treasure chest! For about $5 you can purchase an unfinished wooden chest. Glue on photos and adhere them with Mod Podge.  They can fill it with their favorite momentos.
4. For the Guys- Yes, guys like handmade too!
  • Fisherman, hunter, outdoorsman? Get a small plastic tackle box at any hardware store. Fill it up with emergency staples geared towards their passion! Ideas include a flashlight, power bars, compass, disposable camera(for the one's that get away!), and a certificate printed off the computer stating "World's Best Fisherman, etc".
  • Techie? - Decorate a T-Shirt with Computer slang (This Bytes for example). Or make a Password Journal for them to keep. Just decorate a blank journal with a computer theme. Make a Mouse Pad for them. You can purchase Blank Ones and decorate them yourself!
  • Handyman? - Again you could fill up that "Tool Chest". Fill it with candy or even handwritten notes. Find a great picture of him "in action" and frame it in an unfinished wooden frame that you have embellished with the phrase "Tool Time" and pictures of various tools etc....
5. The Kids (Little Ones)
  • Create a Board game - Decorate a blank piece of cardboard after a model of "Chutes and Ladders", "Candyland", etc. You create the theme! Do they love Pokemon, Yugioh, Barbie? Each space can relate to their interest. You will need a large piece of cardboard, paper relating to the theme (maybe from a book, magazine, or even off the computer), game pieces (gumball machine?), and "cards". For the cards you can use index cards. They will love it!
  • Bubble Bath Heaven - In a basket combine bubble bath, bath crayons, and small bath toys. My son loves those Grow a Towels and the Sponge Capsules. Again go with a theme! Have fun with this one!
  • Gift Certificate Books - Make your own coupon book. Include items such as - stay up 1/2 hour later, trip to the zoo, make cookies with mom or dad, family movie night. You name it! Cost? Nothing except the quality time you get later.
6. Tweens and Teens -
  • Here the coupon book could work again. Trip to mall, extra 1/2 curfew for one night, lunch date with mom or dad. You get the picture.
  • Give them a their baby book and include a letter with it. My mom did this and I loved it!
  • Books related to their hobby
  • Make a decoration for their room. Lamps are easy ! Buy a fairly blank one and embellish the shade to match their room (Sports, Dragons, Pop culture, etc). Or a bulletin Board. Cover blank cork with fabric related to their interest. Wrap some coordinated ribbon and adhere with push pins for a French style memo-board. Click here for an idea of the finished product.
Now, of course, not everyone on your list will appreciate the handmade. You know who they are! Be prepared. Shop early, check out clearance shelves, buy off season. Have a drawer set aside for gifts. That way you'll always have some on hand.