Just Between Friends Sale: Puyallup

Just Between Friends Fall Sale – Puyallup (Oct 20-23)

Just Between Friends Sale: Puyallup

Just Between Friends Sale: Puyallup

I know many of you enjoy shopping consignment sales, so I wanted to remind you that the Just Between Friends Sale (Tacoma) is happening this weekend! The Just Between Friends event is the largest consignment sale in the Puget Sound. This sale is geared for parents and children and will feature clothing, toys, equipment, and more.

Here are some tips I’ve received previously from the Tacoma sale Coordinator:

  • Bring reusable shopping bags!
  • Bring a laundry basket, storage bin, wagon or stroller to carry items (there is a hold area for large items).
  • Bring a friend or family member so that you can “divide and conquer” the huge sales floor.
  • Wear comfortable shoes so that you can get to the good deals quickly.
  • Shopping for Shoes: Trace your child’s foot (without socks) onto paper, cut out, and bring along!
  • Bring your child’s measurements and a tape measure to check the items you are buying.
  • Get a sitter for the kiddos so that you can shop with both hands free!

JBF Sale Schedule

Here is the schedule for the upcoming October event so you can plan ahead!

  • Wednesday, October 19: 7-9pm (Prime Time Shopping, $15 – limited to 100)
  • Thursday, October 20: 8am Early Bird Shopping ($6 – limited to 100), 9am Early Entrance for First Time Parents, Foster/Adoptive Families & Military Families, 12pm – 8pm Open to the General Public
  • Friday, October 21: 11am-7pm Open to the General Public
  • Saturday, October 22: 9am-5pm Open to the General Public
  • Sunday, October 23: 8am-2pm (most items will be 50% off on Sunday!)

There are some early shopping hours available for first-time parents, military, and foster/adoptive parents. Please see this link for details.

Tip: Print off a FREE ADMISSION PASS so you don’t have to pay a cent to get into the sale on any of the general admission days! Also, you can enjoy FREE PARKING when you park in the Gold Lot at the fairgrounds. Sweet!

PS Did you know we keep a running list of Consignment Events for the Puget Sound? Check out the blog post below:

Consignment Events in the Puget Sound


Camp Google: FREE Online Camp for Kids


Google Camp: FREE Online 4-Week Summer camp for Kids

Here’s a fun freebie for kids: Google is offering a free online camp full of science activities!

The camp is designed for kids aged 7-10 and will cover for four weeks: Ocean Week, Space Week, and Music Week. The camp is open for everyone, and you can jump in at any time.

To get started, head on over to Camp Google, where you’ll find Ocean Week is now in progress. You may also wish to watch this short online video to learn more what Camp Google is all about.

Looking for more fun for the kids this summer?


Frugal Summer Fun: Carnival-Style Ball Toss


Make a Carnival-Style Ball Toss

A couple months ago, I shared with you about a fun, local business called Tinkertopia. If you’re local, I sincerely hope you’ll check this place out. It’s called a “Creative Reuse Center” and it’s one part lesson in recycling and one part awesome place for crafting! For $7, your child (or you!) can craft for an hour and a half. This includes use of anything you find in their “tinker” area – ribbons, paper, bits of carpeting, beads, tubing, cardboard, old frames – you name it – plus, use of their tools.

TinkertopiaYesterday, my daughter and I paid a visit and I love what we ended up creating together and thought I’d share it with you! Maybe it would spark an idea for something you or your child could make – either at Tinkertopia or just by using items you already have at home!

Ball Toss at TinkertopiaShe decided to make a ball toss game! We found a giant cardboard circle, which we used for the base. Then, we covered it with construction paper and fun duct tape to “pretty” it up. Next, I helped her hot glue down some old canning rings.

We left Tinkertopia with the ball toss mat, tennis balls, and…

Making a Ball Toss GameA great little sign she made!

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6 Things I Splurge On


6 Things I Splurge On

Did you know that today (June 18th) is National Splurge Day? While mine is a frugal living site, I thought it would be fun to share some of the things that I do splurge on. My philosophy can be pretty much boiled down to this: “Save on the things that don’t really matter, so you can spend on the things that do.”

Here are a few of those items that I like to splurge on:

#1 Disney Vacations

Disney California Adventure at Sunset

I’ve said it before, but the best way to save money on a Disney vacation is to simply not go at all! Disney is not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination. But, Disney is one of those places that is just magical for me and I’ve built so many fond memories there. We’ve learned to do some things for less (for instance, leveraging air miles to fly for free/cheap), but other things we’ve decided we’d like to save and splurge on (such as the Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon that I did in 2015 and just signed up to do again in 2016)!

While I appreciate all the posts on “how to do Disney for stupid cheap” out there, this is not how I like to do Disney. I like to enjoy myself there, visiting the parks as much as I can, building in down days, eating at Disney dining establishments and yes, even occasionally staying on property when everyone knows darn well it’s cheaper to stay off.

#2 Running Shoes

While running can be a cheap sport, the one non-negotiable for me is running shoes. My goal as an avid runner is to run injury-free for years to come. I’ve been running in the same Asics GT-2000 shoes (or a similar version of them) for years now. As in, over 10 years! They’ve seen me cross the finish lines of many races, 5Ks through full marathons.

Asics GT 2000

I usually end up paying over $100 per pair and go through 2-3 pairs per year. However, I was tickled to find them on Amazon for about $70. Still a lot of money to pay for a pair of shoes, I know, but I figure, a good investment in the long-term success of my running!

#3 My Son’s Soccer Club

My son only plays one sport: soccer. He started in Micros at age 5 and continued up through U9 at a rec league. My husband had been coaching, but we both started to sense that my son was in need of a place that could continue to grow him as a soccer player. After some research, we ended up putting him in at a competitive league at the U10 level in our area.

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The fees, uniforms, costs, and commitment are all higher (it’s a year-round program), but we feel it’s a good place for my son to grow in his ability. If he were interested in playing additional sports, I’d probably say “skip it!” However, his years of playing at the rec league lead us to believe this would be a good step for him. On the upside, he’s getting a lot of exercise and learning how to dedicate himself to something that requires a higher level of commitment.

#4 Tide Detergent


Kind of a weird segue, I know… but I do love Tide detergent. (And no, they aren’t paying me to say that!) As a couponer, I discovered it was really easy to get detergent for super cheap. But I wasn’t often wowed by the results of the cheaper detergent. After finding a sale once on Tide, I was hooked. I just feel like it gets my clothes cleaner and smelling better. (Which isn’t to say you can never find a good deal on Tide – you can! – it’s just not often as cheap of a deal as other brands. Keep an eye on our Amazon Subscribe and Save list updated each Thursday. We often report on Tide deals there.)

Can you relate to preferring a particular name-brand product over cheaper or generic counterparts?

#5 Dining Out (Occasionally)

Oh man, I love me a good dinner out! If given the choice, I’d prefer one nice dinner out than several fast food or chain restaurant meals. We don’t eat out at nice restaurants often, but when we do, we tend to get the works: drinks, appetizers, maybe even dessert.

Gordon Ramsay Beef Wellington

The picture here is of a particularly memorable meal I had: Gordon Ramsay’s signature Beef Wellington at the Paris hotel, Las Vegas. It was about $56, so not something you’d eat every day! I like to call such meals “bittersweet meals:” sweet because they are simply amazing, bitter because who knows when I’ll be able to enjoy that meal again!

#6 Book Club Books

This last one might totally surprise you, but hear me out. As some of you know, I’ve been a part of an amazing book club (we call ourselves Bibliotherapy) for over 7 years now. I often just buy our monthly book selections (sometimes in paperbook format, but usually on my Kindle). “Why would you do that, Angela, when you can just check them out at the library?” Good question. My answer: “Convenience.”


The thing is I often forget to check the library until mid-month, and by then, time’s a-tickin’. Often, the selections will have waitlists and I can’t even be certain I’ll get the book in time. Sometimes, I’ll look into checking out the e-book form, but this doesn’t always work out either. My feeling is this: $5-10 is a small price to pay to participate in a monthly girls’ night that brings me joy. It’s also a small price to pay for the convenience of having my book now versus waiting to get it at the library and then trying to cram reading hundreds of pages the day of the book club.

(Interestingly enough, I did remember to place a hold in time this month and just checked – my library has the book ready as of today! So for at least this month, I’ll pocket that $5-10!)

Maybe my example here doesn’t resonate with you, but perhaps you can think of a time that convenience won over getting the best deal? For instance, paying to park in a lot close to an event as opposed to finding street parking blocks away? Or paying to have someone give your kid a haircut when you could technically do it yourself? Maybe you could think of some others.

Now it’s your turn: Do you share some of the same items on my list? Have others? Sound off in the comments below!


Yelp! Save Me Money! {Series Introduction}


Yelp! Save me Money! {A How-to Series}

When you think of Yelp, what comes to mind? A social site you occasionally use to find a place to eat? A place you go to vent about bad customer service you received at a business? Or maybe. nothing comes to mind at all?

Chuckwagon Show - Jackson

We found this chuckwagon show in Jackson thanks to Yelp!

If that’s the case, let’s clear up what Yelp is. Here’s the description, from the website: “Yelp is the best way to find great local businesses.” Users can create free accounts and leave ratings and reviews about businesses in their area. You can search the site to locate places near you and read what others have said (an account is not required for this part!).

Over the past few years, I’ve used Yelp in many different ways that have helped me save time and money. Here are some examples:

  • I used Yelp to locate a dog groomer in my area.
  • I used Yelp to find my dermatologist.
  • I used Yelp to decide between a couple chuckwagon-style dinner shows in Jackson, Wyoming.
  • I used Yelp to find a Southern-style restaurant in Tennessee (and adhered to the tips to make reservations!).
  • I used Yelp to find a car rental company near LAX that would provide the fastest service possible.
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Miss Mary Bobo’s in Lynchburg, TN: Worth a stop!

It recently occurred to me that many people may not have considered how Yelp can be best used to help them save money. As I mulled this over, I decided I wanted to do a series just on Yelp! The purpose of this series is twofold:

  1. To illustrate how versatile Yelp can be to help you identify all kinds of businesses and services that will save you time and money.
  2. To highlight specific businesses in my area that I have discovered using Yelp (and what search criteria I used to find them).

Each Monday and Friday for the month of May, I’ll be sharing a fun, new-to-me place I uncovered in my neighborhood thanks to Yelp. I’ll start next Monday (May 4th) by sharing my best tips for maximizing your Yelp searches (and expanding your idea of exactly what you can search for on Yelp to begin with).

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After his first grooming. We found the groomer? On Yelp!

I hope that this series will give you one more tool in your toolkit to finding deals in your next of the woods. I hope you’ll have fun exploring my city with me this month, too!

Now it’s your turn: do you use Yelp regularly? Has it ever helped you save money? I’d love to hear some of your stories.  

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with or sponsored by Yelp in any way. In other words, no one from Yelp reached out to me and offered to pay me to come up with this series. I just really like the site and thought it would make a cool series. 


5 Things We Did to Save Money on My Son’s Birthday Party


5 Tips for Saving Money on Kids' Birthday Parties

We celebrated my son’s 9th birthday last weekend (seriously – where does the time go?) and invited a few of his friends over for a party. Not only was the party a huge success, I was rather pleased with some of the ways I was able to do it on a budget. Of course, I wanted to share some of these ideas with you today!

Here are 5 tips for saving money on your next birthday party.

Tip #1: Scour the Dollar Store!

Birthday Party Supplies at the Dollar Store

My son was the one to suggest we hit up the Dollar Store for party supplies. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?!

We found a LOT of items you’d pay much more for at a specialty party store including plates, cups, napkins, small treats, goodies, and more. I was tickled to find the sports-themed plates pictured above.

Happy Birthday Banner - Dollar Store

Check out this “Happy Birthday” banner I found at the Dollar Store!

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5 Things We Did on Spring Break (most were free!)


5 Things We did on Spring Break

Last week was my kids’ Spring Break. My husband and I asked them if they wanted to do a small trip, maybe to the Oregon Coast or Ocean Shores…. but they said, no, we really just want to be at home. I was kind of impressed by their attitude and thought it was a great idea – a much needed week of rest at home.

For fun, I thought I’d share some of the free and fun things we did last week. I know some of you are on Spring Break now and may enjoy the inspiration.

Gardening with Kids

#1: We worked in the garden. 

On our first weekend together, the kids and I started prepping the garden. We bought some new flowers and container plants, and planted arugula, two kinds of lettuce, two kinds of kale, carrots, chard, collard, and peas. (You can read more over at my Container Gardening post.) Total cost: about $40 out of pocket.

Nature Walk

#2: We went for a Nature Walk. 

We were lucky to have such nice weather for our spring break! We took the opportunity to get outside and enjoy it. We took a nature walk near our house. Total cost: FREE.

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Fiverr: Purchase a Variety of Helpful (and sometimes bizarre!) Services all for $5!


Have you ever heard of Fiverr? It’s a site where people offer a variety of services all for $5. What kind of services, you ask? Here are a few examples I found on a quick search:

fiverr1See this lady? She’ll edit your cover letter for just $5. If it seems to good to be true, notice that 10 people have provided reviews, giving her a 100% positive rating. She has a college degree and is a writer by trade.

Here’s one review she received:

Amazing! You pointed out things I hadn’t even thought of; my cover letter now looks completely different! Great formatting and content suggestions. My letter really stuck out, made my prospective employer laugh, and got me an interview this week already! Thanks so much Delaney.

Seems to me it definitely could not hurt to have her review your cover letter for $5!

fiverr2Fiverr seems like a really good option if you need some graphic design work done such as a simple web banner, business cards, or promotional mailer. I found one service provider who received a 100% positive rating after 30 reviews. This particular guy has been a professional designer since 2002 and has an average 3-day turnaround.

fiverr3Even though you’re only spending $5, I love the reassurance you get from the service providers’ descriptions as well as the reviews from other people.

fiver4While you can get services that are useful for your business or home, you can also find folks that are willing to do some… bizarre things for $5. The guy above? Hire him to prank your friend and he’ll be the secret admirer they never wanted! He was actually seen on Tosh.O… and yup, he’ll only charge you $5 for this service!

fiver5Here’s an idea for your boss’ birthday. Skip the greeting card and instead spend about the same amount and have this dude give them a singing telegram with his accordion!

Of course, these are just a few of the thousands of people you’ll find Fiverr willing to do practical, helpful, bizarre, and funny things all for just $5! Make sure to check out Fiverr the next time you need someone to look over your resume, some graphic or SEO work for your website, or a great prank for your coworker.

If you’ve used Fiverr before, I’d love to hear what you used it for and what your experience was!

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Frugal Gardening: 19 Things for the Garden I found at the Dollar Store

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Dollar Store Finds for your Garden | The Coupon Project

In April, I launched a spring series called Frugal Gardening. You can watch for new posts in this series each Monday and Friday and an update on my own garden each Tuesday. In case you missed them, you can go back and read previous posts and updates on my Frugal Gardening page.

Garden Tools Need Not be Expensive

It’s really, really easy to sink a lot of money into gardening. While I love a cute and pretty garden, I do have to pay close attention…. a few containers here, a few new tools there…. and it can add up before you know it.

For fun, I decided to pop into my local Dollar Tree to see what I could find throughout the store that might serve a purpose in my garden. For each item, I’m going to share my thoughts on ways to use it (if it’s not readily apparent!). And before we get started, let me remind you this is a dollar store. So yes, EVERYTHING pictured is just $1!

Ready to see what I found? Let’s do it!

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#1: Kids buckets & shovels! Perfect for letting them “help” (or just play, as the case may be). I try to keep a few of the kids gardening toys out in the greenhouse for easy access.

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#2: Kids’ aprons. This could be a nice way to keep their clothes looking nice while digging in the dirt and mud.
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#3: Butterfly nets. This is another “just for fun” idea. I bought my daughter one, but sadly, she’s yet to catch a butterfly. It keeps her quite occupied though. (And my husband too – he claims he caught one and it flew out, but none of us actually saw this happen.) I also think these would make neat party favors!
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#4 – Small plates. This 8-pack of small plastic plates would make perfect saucers under your pots!

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#5 – Clear wrap. I used some wrap like this to insulate my tomato cages when I first planted them outside (you can see how it looks in this garden update from last week). This kind of is like an inexpensive, make-shift greenhouse to protect young plants from transplant shock or to extend the season.

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#6: Gardening gloves. All kinds! I’ve learned it’s a good idea to keep several handy as I’m always losing them. (Get it…”handy?” Get it?! Never miss an opportunity for a bad pun!)


#7: Small gardening tools and accessories. I found hand trowels, rakes, small plant hangers, and the like.

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#8 & 9: Watering cans and pots. For some reason, my picture of the many pots and containers I found didn’t take, but you can kind of see them surrounding this watering can. I swear I’ve seen ones that look like this for a LOT more than $1!

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#10: Bubble wrap. You can use this similar to the cling wrap mentioned above to surround caged plants to protect against chilly nights. If you have a portable greenhouse similar to the one I have, you could also conceivably use some to insulate the inside and provide extra warmth as needed.

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#11: Bundled utensils. These make very “Pinteresty” plant markers. (You can see my spoon marker tutorial or look into metal stamping for an alternate idea.)

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#12: Splatter screen. I think these would be excellent for drying your own seeds! In fact, I liked this idea so much, I bought one myself for that very purpose. I am thinking you could also lay out herbs or flowers to dry on a screen like this.

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#13: Baskets. I’m thinking these plastic baskets would be perfect for harvesting your veggies and bringing to the kitchen! They had a wide assortment of sizes and colors.

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#14: Spray bottles. These are one of my favorite dollar store finds because there are SO many possibilities…. fill with water to mist tender young seedlings. Prepare and fill with your own pest or weed solutions. Add organic fertilizer solution and spray the leaves of your plants. These are also fantastic for making your own cleaners. I found these on an end cap near the cleaning section, but also found some smaller varieties in the beauty/travel section. 
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#15: Big floppy hat. Perfect for keeping the sun out of your eyes! I also found bandannas and sunscreen.

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#16: Wood clothespins. I picked some of these up and I honestly am not sure how I will use them exactly. Perhaps to clip things inside my greenhouse or to clip bird netting down. If all else fails, I will use some to organize my coupons while shopping! You could also use to clip seed packets together… or maybe garden gloves so they stay together! There were 36 in this pack.

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#17: Small watering can. I found this on an aisle with cleaning supplies, not in gardening as you might suspect. A can this size would be perfect for children, or to keep near indoor seedlings or plants. (Incidentally, I’ve also found a neti pot works well for this purpose too!)

100_8530 (800x600)#18: Craft sticks. These would make excellent plant markers, and you really can’t beat 100 of them for $1. For fun, you could let the kiddos decorate them with markers or paint.

100_8227 (800x599)#19: Magnifying glass. The one pictured above is definitely a toy version we picked up a couple weeks ago, but I also spied a regular old magnifying glass down the stationery aisle. This would be a useful tool for keeping out in the shed or greenhouse when you’re dealing with tiny pest problems and need to inspect further.

I hope this post has got you thinking about less-expensive alternatives for your garden! Like most things in life, there are always opportunities to spend more than you need.  But there are also opportunities of spending less if you are willing to seek them out!

What other dollar store items do you think may serve a use in a garden? Do any of the ones I shared above strike your fancy? I’d love to hear from you!


12 Frugal, Fun, and FREE Winter Break Ideas


Pictured above: we won’t be repeating this “fun” idea this winter break

This morning I slept until 9am. I don’t feel bad or guilty in the least bit. I really needed it!

While I hope it was helpful to see an uptick of deal posts on the blog the last month or so, I’m just feeling this need to pull back a bit now. A reader last week mentioned to me candidly in an email that she’s had to stop reading many deal blogs as they’ve encouraged her to spend more, not less. (Thankfully, I made the cut.) I really appreciated her honesty and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. While I do want to help you score a deal, I also want to make sure I’m doing what I can to encourage a frugal lifestyle, too.

Today is my kids’ first day of winter break and I thought I’d share a list of fun ideas to keep the boredom away.

#1. Visit indoor play places at malls. In my neck of the woods, you can’t really go to parks this time of the year, but my kids love playing on the indoor versions at malls. In many cases, these are geared for kids 6 and under. Our favorite is the Super Mall in Auburn.

#2. Visit the library and stock up. How about a movie night? Grab some movies for free at the library! Our libraries also have tons of Christmas books out this time of year, and we’ve picked up a few of those too. Sometimes, we’ve been known to just hang out at the library – many have play areas, computers with kids’ games, cozy reading corners, and more. You could also pick up books on crafting, a country your kids want to learn about more, or some other theme.

#3. Make Christmas cards. When my sister and I were little, my grandma would bring out Christmas cards from previous years and let us cut them up and glue them onto construction paper and make our own. See what materials you already have in your house that would work: glitter, wrapping paper, construction paper, Christmas cookie cutters you could use as stencils, etc.

(image credit: itspaulkelly)

#4. Make snowflakes. Why not make some snowflakes and send them to the children of Newtown? The Connecticut PSTA is requesting that folks send snowflakes so when they relocate the children to their new school in January, it will be a winter wonderland. For details and the address, go HERE.

#5. Free coloring pages. There are sooo many coloring pages you can find for free online. Many of them are peppered with ads, unfortunately – but we do like the ones at Disney Junior and Crayola. You can also print free paper dolls. Doing a search for these will produce many results.

#6. Pretend play. A lot of times, my kids will ask me what to play? I try to come up with stuff that they’ll both find appealing. I don’t always win, not gonna lie, but these ideas have sometimes been a hit:

  • Restaurant. Make your own menus using images from magazines or newspapers. Glue them onto cardstock or thick paper. Add prices. Use dolls or soft toys as “customers” and play food. Older children may want play money or coins to practice money skills as well. (I actually wrote a post on making menus once before.)
  • School. Probably my kids’ favorite activity at the moment. You can do this with dolls, action figures, or any other toys that seem to be interested in learning. 😉 My son likes to write out “rules” and follows the routine of his day at school. Sister is often the music teacher and helps the students with lunch.
  • Store. This is another easy one to do and can be adapted many ways. It can be a grocery store, toy store, apparel store, etc., and any toys you have on hand can be the customers. I gave my kids some coins and had my son write up “pricetags” for the items so he could work on his math skills, too.

#7. Visit Santa. I mentioned this before, but you can always take your kids to see the Santa in the mall and just ask for them to chat with him – no photos (or hey, take your own). I would say if you want to do this, try to get to the mall early or during a less-busy time so you’re not holding up the line of paying folks.

#8. Sing carols at an Assisted Living home. Kind of an unconventional activity, I know – but I grew up visiting nursing homes and singing or playing the piano. Trust me, they do not see a lot of child visitors willing to spread Christmas cheer! All you should do is phone the center ahead of time and ask if your kid(s) can come and sing or play the piano, violin, etc. You’ll be very likely to get a quick “yes, sure, when can you come?” If you’ve never done this before, and are so inclined, do it.

#9. Have a baking day. Nothing says Christmas like a day of baking! You can bake the traditional pies, breads, and cookies – or you could get a little crazy in the kitchen and make a Boar’s Head out of Rice Krispie treats, decorate a Yule Log with woodland animals, or individual mince pies. Many of your treats can be frozen, or share them with the neighbors, family, or friends.

#10. Have fun with free transportation. Now this is going to vary from where you live, but here in Tacoma we have this thing called the Link. It’s free. Even better, parking at the Tacoma Dome Station where it ends, is also free. So you can park and ride this little thing for free downtown and my kids think it’s a total kick in the pants. Ride it to the Convention Center stop and walk down two blocks to the Children’s Museum. The Museum is pay-as-you-can thanks to a grant from Key Bank. (So if you can’t pay a thing, you can still take your kids.)

#11. Make ornaments with flour and salt. Here’s an inexpensive idea! Use plain old flour and salt to make your own ornaments. There are directions in my post from last year.

#12. Do a science experiment with stuff you have at home. I’ve previously blogged about making your own volcano or bouncy ball. These would be fun ideas using stuff you likely already have at home.

PS I have no idea what is all over my son’s face in this picture.

I know I have some frugal, creative souls out there – so what other ideas would you add to my list? 

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Five misconceptions I had about canning

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One of my goals this year was to turn my gardening hobby into something more. While it’s definitely fun to grow your own edibles, it’s even more fun to find ways to store those edibles to last you well past summer.

Last year, I bought a couple canning books on Amazon with good intentions, but was quickly overwhelmed and intimidated by all the steps and warnings. Maybe canning just wasn’t for me, I thought, so I tucked the books in the back of my cookbook shelf. In the spring, I ran a series called Adventures in Homesteading and I decided I simply could not run the series without a post on canning. It was time to get over my fears. Not only have I conquered my fear of canning this year, I’ve found I enjoy it. REALLY enjoy it.

Today I wanted to share with you what some of my misconceptions of canning were in hopes that if you’ve been on the fence, you’ll get off and join me!

Misconception #1: It’s too Expensive to Get Started.

I had this notion in my head that canning equipment was really, really expensive. The truth is, some canning equipment may be expensive, but what you need to get started is surprisingly inexpensive!

If you plan on canning items like jams, jellies, and fruits (think high acid products), a boiling-water canner like the one pictured above is suitable. I paid about $20 for mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond. If you already have a big pot like this? Great! All you need is a metal rack you can insert into the pot. (Here’s one on Amazon for about $13.)

I did buy the above utensil kit for about $10 as well, and am glad I did. I regularly use each of the four items included: a jar lifter, spatula for removing air bubbles, magnetic lid lifter and funnel. You could perhaps make due with similar items you already have in your kitchen or home.

All told, I spent about $30 on my canning equipment! Now there are ways you can save on the pressure canners, too, which are necessary for canning low-acid foods such as beans, corn, and meat. Fred Meyer, for instance, has these on clearance right now for 50%, plus you can use extra bonus coupons they have in their ad. This is a good time to watch for additional clearance sales as many stores are looking to move out canning supplies to make way for holiday displays.

As far as jars go, you will end up spending a bit more if you buy new, but you can also look for used jars on sites such as Craiglist or at garage sales and just buy the lids (which are just a couple bucks at the grocery store – and NOTE, you CANNOT reuse lids, so you will need these). I started small, just buying a case of quart-sized and a case of pint-sized jars. This is another way you can help watch your costs. (Refer to my post on Saving on Canning Supplies & Jars for more thoughts on this topic.)

If you’re not sure canning is for you? Chances are you have a friend or family member who has a boiling-water canner you could borrow and give it a try!

Misconception #2: Canning is too tricky

The truth is if you can follow a recipe, you can can!

It’s important to follow each of the steps in a trusty recipe (such as found in this Ball Book of Preserving) to the “t.” However, none of the steps are that tricky. It’s just making sure to do each of them! I’ve found I like to read a recipe, then read it a second time, then start.

The first few times it took me awhile to work through each step, but after you’ve gotten used to the process of prepping your canner and jars and you know how to heat the lids and remove the air bubbles, you’ll find these extra steps to the recipe aren’t very difficult or time consuming.

Misconception #3: Canning is only for people with very large gardens

Another idea I had is that canning was really only for people who had acres and acres of stuff growing or orchards of fruit trees. Guess what? Here again I was wrong!

Canning is an excellent way to preserve produce that may be found at a good sale at the store. Here are some $1 pineapples I canned a couple weeks ago:

I also canned plenty of blackberry jam from FREE wild blackberries I found in my neighborhood over the summer!

I was also surprised that my ONE garden tomato plant made up a batch of 5 quarts of tomatoes recently, too!

Cooking in small batches like this has helped me get the hang of the process involved. There’s no need to start by buying 200 pounds of tomatoes or 12 boxes of apples. Starting small has also helped me determine what we’ll actually use and like to eat – a good thing before you make tons of pear sauce only to discover no one likes it.

Misconception #4: Canning will take a lot of time

Sure, it could take a lot of time! But I’ve preferred to work in small batches (as mentioned above) on simple recipes that I can easily accomplish in the space of an evening or Saturday morning.

Canning tomatoes probably took me about a couple hours, and about the same for most of my jams. A good portion of this time was spent processing the jars in the water bath, too.

I do think it would be fun once I’ve really got this down to spend a weekend with girlfriends canning quarts and quarts of good food, but for right now, I really just enjoy spending a couple hours here and there on a single recipe. It does not have to be a huge time zapper.

Misconception #5: Canning doesn’t offer much benefit over buying at the store

From a cost standpoint, you could probably save money by buying cans of veggies and fruits in the store on sale and with coupons. But what took me completely by surprise?

The pride I feel when I look at all the lovely food I’ve canned this year! My husband got this awesome sturdy, storage unit for FREE recently and let me use it out in the garage to keep some of my stockpile. I decided it would be perfect to store (and display!) my canned food as well as keep some of my produce cold. (I keep my garden-grown onions out in a box on top, too.)

I love knowing the quality of the produce that’s in these jars. See those tomatoes? I bought that plant, cared for it all summer, didn’t use any chemicals, let the tomatoes ripen on the vine, and canned them within hours of being picked. I don’t have to worry about BPA, either, which I know is a growing concern for some. There’s value to that.

If you’re looking to get started? Here are a few items I’d recommend (please note these are Amazon links and prices & selection there may change at any time):

And here are a few related posts you might want to read:

I’d love to hear your thoughts whether you’re an old pro at canning or a newbie like myself! What excites you about canning your own food? Or, do you think this activity is not worth the time and effort involved? Sound off.  


Frugal Living among Friends: a fun approach to saving money!


(Image credit: QuestionandPlanters)

The other day I was reflecting on how blessed I’ve been over the years by a community of families (mostly women) in my church. I began thinking of all the ways we’ve swapped items and services and cared for one another and I wanted to share some of these ideas with you, too. When we work as a community to share and help one another, we all win!

After thinking of all the different ways I could structure this post, I decided it might be simplest to just share some of the things we’ve done in bullet form. Here are the ones I could think of, and undoubtedly there have been others:

  • Taught each other skills (couponing, gardening, etc.)
  • Swapped coupons and stockpile items
  • Swapped garden seeds, plants and produce
  • Gone in together for bulk food purchases (meat, farm produce)
  • Provided free childcare for one another from time to time
  • Swapped lawn equipment and tools
  • Shared less commonly used kitchen appliances such as canning equipment
  • Swapped freezer meals
  • Swapped clothing and accessories
  • Swapped professional services (for instance I’ve swapped ad space before)
  • Brought one another meals when someone had a baby or has been ill
  • Shared a maternity wardrobe (I’m not kidding – some ladies in our church have been basically sharing the same set of maternity clothes!)
  • Carpooled
One of the growing challenges about couponing today is that there are new limits on quantities and how many coupons you can use. At the same time, we’re finding emptier shelves as competition for those deals intensifies. I know if I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to think of getting what I need, with little regard for others. This is why I feel truly blessed to have the friends in my life that I do! I feel we’ve had so many opportunities over the years to share – whether it’s our time, money, talents, or just one another’s company. It gets you past that ugly “me” mindset. Not only that, I feel that my friendships have deepened because there has been real action to help one another out, and not just words.

I would encourage you to meet up with some of your friends or neighbors to see what you might do to help one another in this regard. If there’s someone struggling with paying childcare, might there be a potential swap of services? If someone needs help getting a garden started, maybe they could make some freezer meals and organize a work party? If you’ve been needing to use a pressure washer and your friend has one, maybe you could ask to do something in return as opposed to buying one yourself? With a little creativity, you might find that money can be saved in new ways among friends.

What things have you done as part of a group to save money? I’d love to hear what you’ve done too!

Ball Canning Jars Printable Coupon

Saving on Canning Jars and Canning Supplies

Ball Canning Jars Printable Coupon


It’s that time of year when people are looking to do some canning – maybe from their own garden bounty, or from discounts at local produce stands, farms, and stores.

Some of you have been asking about finding canning supplies on sale, so here are a few thoughts I have for you. Remember some of the stores I’m mentioning below are relative to my neck of the woods. If you don’t live in the PNW, you might check a variety of local stores to see what you can find, too!

Fred Meyer: Discounts on Canning Supplies

(Please note that this post was written in 2012. Prices and coupons may or may not be currently available. Heads up!)

Fred Meyer seems to be moving their canning supplies on deeper discount as we approach fall. This week, I found water-bath canners, pressure cookers, and canning accessories for 30% off. You can use the 10% off Extra Bonus home coupon found in the ad on top of the sale too. It’s possible they’ll go on deeper discount even still because these items are not offered at all times of the year.

Here are a couple specific prices I noted at my Fred Meyer store this past Monday:

Water-Bath Canner $22.99
Less 30%
Use the 10% off Home coupon (found in this week’s ad)
Bottom line: $14.48

Pressure Canner $99.99
Less 30%
Use the 10% off Home coupon (found in this week’s ad)
Bottom line: $62.99

Albertsons: Double Coupons for Canning Items

There are a few Ball coupons and printable coupons you want to be aware about:

$1/1 Ball or Kerr Accessories or Case of Jars coupon from 8/26 SmartSource (exp 9/30)

$1/1 Ball or Kerr Lids coupon from 8/26 SmartSource (exp 9/30)

Buy 2, get 1 free Ball or Kerr Lids printable coupon (SmartSource.com)

During a recent Albertsons Twice the Value event, I was able to match the above 8/26 coupons to in-store deals:

Ball Lids $2.29+
$1/1 Ball or Kerr Jars or Accessories coupon from 8/26 SmartSource
Use a doubler
Bottom line: as low as $0.29

Ball Dissolvable Labels, 60-ct $3.99
$1/1 Ball or Kerr Jars or Accessories coupon from 8/26 SmartSource
Use a doubler
Bottom line: as low as $1.99
(These are pictured above, on my Blackberry Vodka jars

Ball Liquid Pectin $3.59
$1/1 Ball or Kerr Jars or Accessories coupon from 8/26 SmartSource
Use a doubler
Bottom line: as low as $1.59
(“Accessories” seems to be a pretty vague term. I asked my cashier about it, and she scanned it, and it worked just fine.) 

Of course, these kinds of deals will only work if we get Twice the Value coupons, and I have a sense we’re due for them soon….stay tuned.

Bed, Bath & Beyond: Use your coupons!

If you have any 20% off mailer coupons sitting around for Bed, Bath & Beyond, you might try them, too!

I picked up this water-bath canner back in the spring. They didn’t have it out on the shelves, but I asked and they pulled it out for me! I didn’t notice if they had canning jars, does anyone know?

WinCo: Good Source for Canning Jars

Many of you have vouched for WinCo as a good place to buy canning jars. Their prices certainly do seem reasonable – and make sure to bring those coupons I mentioned above with you! They are only good through the end of this month!

Ball Canning Jars Printable Coupon



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UPDATED for 2013: this one took me by surprise last year and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out! In early October 2012, Lowe’s (yes, Lowe’s!) had a huge canning clearance. The quart size were $4.69 for a 12-pack and the pint size were $4.49!!! This was by far the best deal on canning jars I found in 2012. Read my post about my trip for more on this sale.

Other Sources for Cheap Canning Jars

A few last quick thoughts about where to buy canning jars:

  • Craigslist, garage sales, and thrift stores. Some of you have mentioned finding FREE canning jars on Craigslist or a box of them for cheap at a garage sale. This may be a smart route to take, particularly if you’re on a tight budget and/or you have a lot to can. Remember to discard any jars that are chipped or cracked, and remember you’ll need to buy new lids every time you can. (The Albertsons doubler deal above would be a cheap route to replace the lids!) A quick note, from what I’ve read you should NOT use old jars from food you’ve bought at the store that has been commercially canned before (such as old pasta bottles, baby food bottles, etc.).
  • Amazon? I ask and not state, because I’ve not personally kept an eye on Amazon, but would were I need of canning supplies, particularly so if you earn FREE Amazon credit using Swagbucks.
  • Zulily. I’ve recently shared a few canning sales on Zulily. These aren’t as cheap as what I’ve shared above, but they offer unique and beautiful jars suitable for gifts for less. If you adore “pretty” jars, keep your eye on Zulily.

Bormioli Quattro Jars set of 4 for $9.99: recently sold at Zulily

Additional Canning Resources

Here are a few of my favorite resources for canning – whether you’re just getting into it or an old pro:

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This beautiful, informative cookbook will help you safely can a variety of foods for your family! I personally own this cookbook, so let me know if I can answer any questions about it.

Food in Jars. If you think canning is outdated or old-fashioned, check out this eye-popping blog that makes canning food – dare I say it? – sexy. Start by browsing the site’s extensive recipe collection which includes such colorful creations as Yellow Tomato and Basil Jam, Peach-Plum Ginger Jam, and Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup.

Ball’s Official Website. This site is a good one, particularly for newbies. There is an entire “Getting Started” section complete with easy-to-follow video tutorials. You can also find a class near you.

You might also wish to read about my first canning experience as well as a few fun canning recipes I shared over the summer.

If you’ve been canning for awhile, I’d love to know any other tips you might share for saving on canning jars and canning supplies?


When frugality is not the main objective

Canning applesauce

If you’re reading this blog, chances are saving money and living beneath your means matter to you. They matter tremendously to me, too! Working to this end has helped me stay at home with my two children, helped our family pay off debt, and put food on the table.

But as of late, I’ve been contemplating pursuits that may seem “frugal-ish,” for lack of a better word, but may not really be the cheapest option available. Or maybe just hobbies you’ve taken up that seemingly don’t gel with a money-saving lifestyle. Today, I wanted to expand on this topic and then provide an opportunity to hear from you.

The Simple Life

Consider if you only learned how to use a calculator – that you had no concept of how math worked. Sure, you could bring that calculator with you everywhere you went, but isn’t there a bigger freedom in having that calculator and also being able to quickly add, subtract, multiply, and divide on the fly?

When was the last time you did laundry like this?

This is exactly why I’ve taken considerable time in my own life and here on the blog to write about things such as: making your own bread, canning applesauce, dehydrating fruit, and making your own laundry soap. There’s something inspiring about making something from scratch that you just buy at the store every week. It’s empowering, isn’t it?

Many of these pursuits will save you money either short- or long-term. But let’s not kid ourselves, sometimes they don’t save you money. And if that’s the case, why bother?

Value Beyond Frugality

The other day I shared a photo on my Facebook profile of a cooking project I just completed. One of my friends shared that she used to cook that way, but couldn’t do so any more due to the cost involved. (If you’re really curious about what I cooked up now, patience…promise, I’ll be sharing it here soon!)

There are times when saving money trumps everything. Job loss, income loss, unexpected expenses, emergencies. In these situations, you are operating from “how can we live for the least amount of money possible?” I get that, because that’s been us at different points in our family.

Other times, you might find different goals that sometimes compete with saving money. Here are a few examples of hobbies and pursuits I’ve taken on and the value they’ve provided beyond saving a buck:

Gardening. Lots of people will tell you it’s cheaper to grow your own food, but I’m going to argue “not necessarily”. Particularly when you are getting started. No doubt, there are ways you can save (check out Erica’s Urban Gardening posts for some ideas), but chances are you’re going to need dirt, seeds, supplies, and possibly lumber, compost, tools, and other related items. Let me fill you in on a secret: when we started our garden three years ago, saving money wasn’t our primary goal. Our goals were: 1) to turn our yard into more usable space, 2) to fulfill a desire I had to start this hobby, and 3) to appreciate the work and reward of growing your own food and work to eat a better diet. We’ve been relandscaping for the past four years now, paying cash and doing it ourselves to save on costs. The past few weeks I’ve enjoyed not buying salad or smoothie greens and just picking them out of my garden, but we’re a long ways yet from breaking even on our investment.


Traveling. When you’re on a budget, traveling is probably the first thing to nix, right? Well, when my husband and I got married 10 years ago, we decided that traveling was a priority for us. It’s how we make memories as a family, and how conversations have the time to open up. Last fall, we splurged on a trip that screams anything but frugal – a trip to Disneyland. Now before you begin to think we up and go to Cabo or Bora Bora on a monthly basis, let me clarify a bit. Traveling for us can be as simple as getting in the car for a day trip or an overnight stay (usually bought with a Groupon) to a nearby town. To some this might feel like a wasted gas of tank, but I wouldn’t trade those day trips for anything. They’ve helped shape our family into the fun-loving, tight knit unit that it is.

Our favorite family trip to-date!

Cooking (some forms, anyways). When I was in high school, my parents had me take this test to gauge where my strengths and interests lie to help me figure out a future career. (I apologize, I forget the name of said test.) The results indicated I should do something culinary. While I’m feeling fulfilled in a career that uses my love of writing, I have to agree with the test that yes, I LOVE cooking. I love creating new dishes in the kitchen, trying new foods, exploring different ingredients – it’s a form of play for me. While the large stock of recipes I make are budget-friendly, there are times I bust out the Grand Mariner for a decadent dish, or splurge on good quality balsamic from Pike Place, or bake something from scratch that would’ve been infinitely cheaper to buy pre-made. What am I doing? I’m playing, honing a skill, cultivating a hobby.

This yule log was NOT cheap to make!

I’m sure if you thought about it, there are areas in your own life you can relate to the examples I shared above.

It’s all About Balance

In Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey explains that budgeting is a lot like choosing what to eat from a menu. You can’t have the steak and the prawns and the appetizer and the soup and still have money for cheesecake and a 40-year old port. You pick and choose.

Ramsey has real wisdom here, it’s simple truth, but good to remember. While we may like to getaway here and there, we don’t often buy fancy clothes (or really, go clothes shopping much at all). While I like to garden and cook, I don’t have other crafting hobbies. While I like to make fancy and complicated dishes on occasion, I often am doing probably exactly what you all are – clipping coupons and shopping with sales most of of the time.

And now, I’d love to hear from you. What pursuits have you taken on that don’t save money, but provide value in other ways? When does frugality take second seat? When does it trump everything else?

Currently deader than a doornail. Where's my charger again?

I don’t own a Smartphone.

Currently deader than a doornail. Where's my charger again?

Currently deader than a doornail. Where's my charger again?

I don’t own a Smartphone.

What I have is an old school flip-style phone that is usually not charged, that I’ve forgotten how to access the voice mail for (my apologies if you’ve left me a message there…oh…ever), and that is adorned by jewel stickers courtesy of my daughter. I also rarely text (we’re talking maybe 1-2 texts per month, total). If you’re looking for a savvy phone user, I am not your girl.

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s true. You’d think that since I’m a busy blogger on the go, well, that’d I’d NEED one. That I couldn’t manage life without one. Funny, but here are just a few of the things I’ve done in spite of my lack of a fancy phone:

  • Had a conversation over the phone. (Yes, we’re talking landline, baby.)
  • Found directions to a new address. (Thank you very much, Mapquest.)
  • Kept up to date on my friends’ doings.
  • Managed and grown my blog and social media pages.
  • Taken pictures.

Admittedly, there are times I feel like an odd duck. For instance, last week I was at a lunch with several other bloggers. There was this distinct moment after we’d eaten when I look up and no one is talking – everyone is on their phones. Everyone, that is, except me. Because I’m sitting there, watching everyone on their phones. There was also the time last month when I had to explain to the kind folks at Safeway that I couldn’t add their new Just4U app to my phone, and that I’d need to print a hard copy of my shopping list instead. (Thank goodness they have that functionality!)

It’s so easy when we don’t have something to make its absence our focus. I don’t have this, I don’t have that,…. But here’s the funny thing. I am content to NOT have a fancy phone. When I’m off the computer, I’m fully there for my kids, for my husband. They don’t have to talk to the side of my face when we’re at a restaurant, they get my eyes. I have enough of an Internet addiction that I fear I would never “unplug” if I had 24/7 access in my purse. I’m not sure how I could handle that temptation. I’m also not so sure I like the idea of being so easily accessible – my time is my most precious commodity these days. That’s not to say that I will never ever get a Smartphone; I suppose there is always a possibility things could change. (My husband does have an iPhone and has threatened to gift it to me when they come out with the new one – I’m trying to convince him to find a different owner!) I just don’t have the need, desire, or want. I kind of like living my life without one…in spite of the occasional awkward moment. I can deal with that. Maybe one day people with uncharged flip phones will be “cool” again. It could happen.

I’m sure if you thought about it, there’s something you don’t have, either. I’d like to encourage you with this tonight: try to find something positive about not having that item! Yes, that might sound entirely counter-intuitive, but consider. With more stuff, comes more responsibility, and sometimes more money and time involved.

Is there something you’ve made a purposeful decision to do without? Why? I’d love to hear stories too!

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My Grandma’s Guest Books

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Last weekend, my mom showed me these old books she’d pulled out of her closet. She told me she’d nearly thrown them away before she realized what they were.

Guest books.

My Grandmother’s guest books, specifically. The first book starts in 1942 – 70 years ago – when she would’ve been in her twenties.

These days, it seems guest books are only kept at weddings – if at all. But back in my grandma’s day? They were often kept meticulously, to record the comings and goings of guests in one’s home. Looking at my grandmother’s books, what struck me most was the sheer volume of entries. She was often referred to as “the hostess with the mostest” and it’s clear why.

What also moved me where the small snippets of details – like this 6 year old’s scrawling signature dated 1945 –

Or the notes left by guests indicating what my grandma had served that day –

But something else touched me, thumbing through these books. I realized what I was holding was my family’s recorded history, as told through dates, details, and signatures. Here is my grandpa (Reuben) coming for dinner with his sister and mother, before he’d married my grandma. They’d marry later that same year (1948).

One book was a housewarming gift in 1960, the year my grandparents had purchased the home they would live in through my own childhood.

Attached inside the cover is a color-faded photograph of my mom with her younger sister and brother, outside of their new home. I love my mom’s saddle shoes in this photo.

What might surprise you is that my grandma had every reason in the book to not be much of a hostess. See that house pictured above? It was a small home with only a single bathroom and a couple bedrooms. Not only would my grandparents and their three children live there, but my grandma’s mother had also lived with them. My grandma never drove either, she relied on others to take her places or made use of the bus system.

And in the early ’60s, my grandpa would become very ill, both physically and mentally. His experience in WWII may have contributed, plus there was a grave medical error that left him with frequent seizures. Then there was a failed brain surgery. My mom tells me he was never the same after that. He had to relearn how to do simple things, and sometimes forgot the names of his own family members.

As a child, I only knew my grandpa as a sullen, quiet man. I never heard him say my name and he would spend hours doing mundane tasks like cutting catalog pages into strips or sweeping the sidewalk. I don’t know that he ever knew who I was. He required an extraordinary amount of care. My grandma provided that care. And I never – not once ever – heard her complain about it. She cared for him with good humor, grace, patience, and love. She also didn’t let it stop her from being generous to others, and opening her home and life to them. My grandma was a social butterfly.

The guest books also cover the time my parents were dating, and then married. You see many “Rick and Marilyn” entries, including the farewell dinner in August 1976, the day before they left for LA.

And the first “Rick, Marilyn and Angie” entry was left in March 1979, in my mom’s beautiful cursive. The celebration was on my grandma’s own birthday. The woman hosted her own birthday party, and that makes me smile. I would’ve been two months old.

And then a couple years later, my sister’s name joins the entries.

My grandma, mom, me, and baby sister in 1982

Sometimes we feel guilty we don’t keep thorough journals or build beautiful scrapbooks. We grow discouraged at the talents of our crafty friends and feel inadequate to document our family’s stories. We’re afraid that our efforts will never frame the memories “just right,” or we get too busy and we don’t try at all. But something as simple as this – signatures of people coming and going, the important and unimportant events that would fill up a year, a decade – begin to craft a story bigger than the sum of their parts.

The final entries are in 1998, fully 56 YEARS after the first book was started. My mom reminds me this was about the time my grandma got sick, and needed to move into assisted care living. In November, we will remember the 10th anniversary of her passing. I am so grateful she made her guests sign all those entries. (Although knowing her, it may have been more like polite badgering at times.) I’m so glad she left these books behind for us to peruse on a quiet Saturday afternoon decades later.

I wanted to share this with you today for two reasons. First, to reflect that being generous is more about an attitude of a heart than the resources we may or may not have. My grandma’s life is testament to this. Second, to show how important memory preservation is to later generations. I’m so glad my grandma did something simple rather than nothing at all.

In the end, it may matter less how well you tell the story than that you had the courage to tell the story at all. May you all have that courage.

Just don't tear a page you may actually need.

Who needs wrapping paper? Not this girl.

Just don't tear a page you may actually need.

I hate paying for stuff you’re going to throw away anyhow. So last night I made a challenge for myself. How many household alternatives could I find for gift wrap in 30 minutes? Here’s what I came up with.

Just don't tear a page you may actually need.

I never use my yellow pages anyways. This is upcycling as far as I’m concerned.

Because this is transparent, it won't work for all gifts.

With all the online shopping I’d been doing, I have an abundance of packing materials. Reuse ’em, baby.

Party streamers.

Check it out: I had BOTH red and green streamers on hand!

Tinfoil with a bow from last year.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who saves old bows and bags. I also thought the foil was a pretty, shiny alternative to wrapping paper. Plus it’s easy to apply.

This is a great choice for a gag gift.

I must say that this was the best paper to wrap with! The comic section has a bit more substance to it than the regular newspaper. This meant crisp lines when folded – a very clean look.

Reuse kids' art projects.

Perfect if you’re wondering how to declutter kids’ craft/art projects.

Saint Nick himself, cut from a Little Debbie cake box.

Want to know something weirder? When I turned the box over there were free gift tags to cut out! See? I almost missed that entirely! Good thing I decided to cut up that box last night to make gift wrap!

Magazine pages.

If you have Christmas issues, even better.

This is when I realized I needed to be done.

I’m not sure what I was going for with these coffee filters and streamers, but the result looks like a tissue box.

What other ideas do you have?


Getting rid of pesky fruit flies


How to get Rid of Fruit Flies | The Coupon Project

Have you ever walked into your kitchen one day and realize something smells “off?”

That was me yesterday and I decided to get to the bottom of it. Turns out I had a rotten pear in the bottom of my fruit basket. So, so gross.

I immediately removed it and bleached the living daylights out of my counter. However, I now had a new problem…Drosophila melanogaster.

(Also known as the common fruit fly.)

So I turned to some of the best experts I know on Facebook – YOU for advice. And I’m pleased to report that most of my fruit flies are now gone! Yes, in less than one day!

I mixed red wine vinegar and dish soap and a little water. At first I tried adding saran wrap and poking holes, but I found it wasn’t working fast enough. So I removed the wrap and guess what? Still worked.

Other, less successful methods that we attempted:

  • Swatting at them. (I only got one after about 10 swats.)
  • Vacuuming them. (Hubby did this with the vacuum attachment, and while it did get a few of them, it was rather time consuming.)
  • Spraying them with water. (I got about 4 this way.)
  • A bowl of vinegar. (Didn’t get any – you NEED to add the soap.)

Apparently they are drawn to the sweetness in the red wine vinegar (and many of you recommended red wine or apple cider vinegar over plain), and somehow they get “stuck” in the soap. Again, I found the saran wrap a pretty unnecessary step – but your results may vary.

So if I double doggy dared you, would you drink this?


Guest Post: How to make perfect Amish White Bread


As some of you know, I have an interesting relationship with baking with yeast. Sometimes I even turn French Bread into paddles. Not good.

Recently reader Amanda approached me and asked if she could share how she makes bread easily. Um, yes, Amanda…PLEASE do!!

What encouraged me most of all? Amanda sent some photos of how she improved her bread-making technique.

Here’s her first attempt:

And after a little practice:

And after lots of practice. Can’t you totally see how she’s improved? I am totally impressed!

And these are the tools she uses:

And here’s Amanda’s notes and recipe:

I use a stand mixer and knead my dough by hand. If you do not have a stand mixer (and they are quite expensive), you can use a handheld mixer with whisk and dough hook attachments and a large bowl (and some patience, as it is a little more difficult that way-I invested in my mixer last month when our Permanent Fund Dividends came and it’s been worth every penny).

Amish White Bread

  • 2 cups warm water (110 deg F, I use a meat thermometer to check the temp)
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast (Fleischmanns jar, just make sure it isn’t the instant-rise kind)
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4-5 cups of bread flour (I use all purpose flour and it works well also; I start with all 5 cups because I haven’t really measured the exact amount that goes into the dough; see step 3)


1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water, then stir in yeast. Allow the yeast to proof for about 5-6 minutes (it will resemble a creamy foam).

2. Mix salt and oil into the yeast mixture.

3. Mix in flour, one cup at a time. (I start with the whisk attachment because it will mix the flour in better. Once the mixture gets thick, I switch to the dough hook. Trust me when I say trying to mix all the way with the whisk will cause you nothing but headache!) When the dough hook “catches” the dough and forms a ball that doesn’t stick much to the side of the bowl, that’s a sign that you’ve added enough flour. It’s usually roughly 4.5 cups for me and I use the left over 1/2 cup to flour my kneading surface.

4. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and form into a large ball (when you are done mixing, the dough will be a little sticky, so it’ll be a good idea to just flour your hands as well. When done with this step, leave the floury surface if you can, you’ll need it again.)

5. Place in a well oiled bowl (coat the bottom, doesnt take much), turn to coat dough. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in bulk. (The recipe says for an hour, but I’ve found it takes about an hour and a half to get a good rise at room temperature.)

6. After it has risen, punch dough down. Knead again on your floured surface, adding a bit more flour if needed because you will need to soak up the oil. (I split my dough in half at this point because this recipe yields 2 loaves, and smaller balls of dough are easier to work with.)

7. Shape into loaves and place into 2 well greased 9×5 inch loaf pans. (The best way to grease the pans is to take a dab of shortening to each inside surface and rub into the pan until it’s a light coating on the inside and top handles/rim of pan that bread might touch-found that one out the hard way too lol.)

8. Allow to rise for about 45 min, or until the dough has risen to about 1 inch above pans-metal meatloaf pans work best (this is also a great time to heat the oven, and set the pans on the stove top, as the heat will allow for a slightly quicker rise time. Be sure to check on it every now and then, otherwise you might end up with gargantuan bread that has lots of air pockets!)

9. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 min.

10. Cool on a wire rack or cookie sheet for about 2-3 hours (if you can resist slicing right into it *I highly advise waiting for it to cool if you don’t want it to fall apart), then cut into slices with a serrated knife. I use Fred Meyer’s brand Food & Bread storage bags (perfect size) and leftover twist ties from hot dog bun bags (I have not attempted hot dog buns yet because quite frankly, I’m a little scared to try!)

This recipe courtesy of www.allrecipes.com, but I have tweaked the original a bit! This bread freezes well, if you like to store things for future use like I do! I have also made this dough into rolls (by shaping into balls about the size of a golf ball and baking in a couple casserole dishes) and hamburger buns by brushing butter on top and sprinkling with sesame seeds (bulk spice that is not very expensive for a regular spice jar’s worth!). It will beat out any hamburger bun you’ve ever bought.

This process takes about 3.5 hours from start to finish, and can seem very tedious at first. If you have the time (or on a weekend off, day off, etc) I encourage you to try it. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really not as hard as it sounds. My kids love their special “Mom Bread” in their school lunches. I love to cook and experiment with food, especially if there is a way that it’ll help me save money!

Happy Baking,

Amanda Davis


Amanda, thank you so very much for the time and effort you took to share this with me and my readers! I plan on trying your recipe very soon, and you’ve encouraged me to not give up on the pursuit of breadmaking. Thank you!

PS – readers, I would love to feature some of your guest posts on frugal living – perhaps on DIY, cooking/baking, home decor, etc! Please email me at angela @ thecouponproject dot com if you have an idea. 

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Kids crafting hour: Make a Bouncy Ball

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Lately my kids have been on a craft kick. So I was glad to have I found today’s Bouncy Ball craft (which comes from The Idea Room) on Pinterest. 

The ingredients are basic enough:

  • Borax (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Warm Water (2 tablespoons)
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Glue (1 tablespoon)
  • Cornstarch (1 tablespoon)

You will also need:

  • Two cups
  • One stirring stick (such as a plastic spoon)

Now, a quick word of warning before we get started with today’s craft. Follow the instructions. Exactly. Do NOT wing it. I’m speaking from experience as I thought I could pull a Rachael Ray and “eyeball it.” Um, no. Don’t do that. (It only took me three tries to realize this.)

You will use one cup for your borax solution and the other for your ball mixture. I labeled mine per the blogger’s instructions, but this is probably an optional step.

In the cup labeled “Borax” you are going to mix the borax and warm water until dissolved. At this point, you could stir in a little food color if you wish to make your bouncy ball a cheery color.

In the second cup, you will put the tablespoon of glue, the tablespoon of cornstarch, and then 1/2 teaspoon of the Borax mixture you just made from the other cup.

You let these ingredients sit for 10-15 minutes BEFORE stirring. I’m guessing this is where some fancy chemical reaction occurs. (I probably should’be paid more attention in science class.)

Then you will stir, stir, stir, until you can’t stir anymore because you basically have a big glob. Take it out and work it with your fingers, kneading it.

It will be pretty messy at first, but if you keep at it, it will come together quickly. (If you have really little ones, you might want to handle this part yourself.) Soon, you’ll be able to roll it into a little ball. This recipe makes one bouncy ball, so note that if you have more than one craft helper.

So did this thing actually bounce? Well, yes, it did! As the blogger suggested, it bounced slightly better on a carpeted surface than my kitchen floor. I found this interesting. I will mention that while it bounces, it’s not like one of those ridiculously bouncy bouncy balls you get at the toy store or Old Navy (seriously – WHY do they have a bouncy ball machine in the middle of Old Navy?!)

These balls will also dry out and flatten. Ours didn’t last more than a couple days, but it was definitely a fun one to try. It was also messy – a plus in my daughter’s book.

Want more craft ideas? Try these. You probably have all the items sitting in your pantry right now:

Have you ever made anything like this before?

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On the fly cleaning: the Dreaded Bathroom

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A couple weeks ago, I decided to start sharing with you new and fun ways of tackling the same old chores. In case you missed them, you can go back and read my method for 20 Minute Clutter Clearing and Angela’s Amazing Fat Busting Laundry Workout.

One chore most of you said you hated: cleaning the bathroom. And I was bound and determined to find some way to make it more enjoyable.

When I approached this task, I started by asking, “well, what is there to love about a bathroom?” And I knew instantly. I love relaxing in my bathroom. Case in point: my bathtub is actually one of my favorite reading spots. Here are some of the books and magazines I’m currently enjoying. I’ve read books on leadership, books on theology, autobiographies, classic fiction, cookbooks, and Marie Claire magazines in my tub. Try it sometime. It’s the best. It’s even better with a nice bit of chocolate.

So I thought: why not clean the bathroom in that same mood? Of relaxation?

This would be quite the task, given the state of my bathroom…it hardly screams Gene Juarez…but it sure screams something, no?

I started by lighting a candle to create some sort of atmosphere.

Next, something to drink. Thankfully, my husband brought me this…

Today’s drink of choice?

I also thought to myself, “hmmmm….I need something else to make this feel like a true spa experience.” I was fresh out of mud masks, but thought I’d make due with this free Biore nose strip (thanks, Rite Aid stockpile!). You may want to omit the cucumber eye circles unless you can somehow strap them to your face and poke out little holes to see through.

Then I opened the windows and popped in some music. I decided on Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool. I highly recommend it. You’ll feel like you’re in some sort of swanky spa. Except you’ll actually be getting ready to scrub away the ring around the toilet. Another thought here would be a spin on my reading in the tub idea: listen to a book on tape (or er, CD?).

Now in this frame of mind, begin to clean. Don’t race through it, enjoy it. Savor the moment.

The lesson here? Sometimes it’s all about perspective. If we tell ourselves that we hate scouring the shower, well then, we’ll hate it. Instead, try telling yourself you’re on a visit to the day spa and pamper yourself a bit.

And in about 15-20 minutes, you’ll have a beautifully cleaned bathroom. (And in my case, some blackheads got removed, too.)

Do you have any other ideas for how to make cleaning the bathroom a less-dreaded task? 

Any other household chores you’d like to see me tackle here at the blog?

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The Frugal Misadventures of the Russell Family: The Puyallup Fair Edition

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It all started when we decided to go to the Puyallup Fair.

I had a Groupon for 2 adult admission tickets, plus our kids were free (they are 5 and under). Given that, I thought spending $10 on parking was well justified! Little did I know…

Pitfall #1: The Rides

We just so happened to head to the fair on bracelet day. Buy a bracelet for $25 and guess what? You can go on all the rides you want. This is perfect for my son who loves rides. But my daughter? Well, she’s always been scared of lots of rides. So we opted to buy one bracelet for my son and then $20 worth of tickets for my daughter and also so we could go on a few.

Guess what…

My daughter decided on that day of all days, she loves rides.

So back we went, for another $25 bracelet.

Total hit: $70 for rides. EGADS.

What’s worse? At some point my kids convinced me that riding the Tilt-a-Whirl with them would be a Good Idea. I think I’d like to lovingly rename this ride the Tilt-a-Hurl. It whipped me around and around for what felt like a small eternity. Each time we spun by the ride attendant, I quietly begged him to “please stop the ride.” He did…after I’d counted to well over 200….

Pitfall #2: Fair Food

I decided to pack some snacks. After all, you can easily bring your own food and drink into the fairgrounds. But…can you resist…?

Mr. Scone says: YOU MUST EAT ME. And so I did.

And then once we had our fill of scones, my husband found his favorite fair treat….

And my daughter found hers…

And then, of course, it was time for lunch. Guess how much the meal below cost us…

A. $20
B. $12
C. $43

If you guessed C – $43, you’re right!!! Ding, ding, ding! And no, that burger did not have sautéed black truffles on it. Hubby told me the gal at the counter had him verify the charge because many people end up coming back later, thinking they’d been overcharged. I wonder why?

Pitfall #3: The Expo Hall

Every year we go through the same blasted expo hall….and then I always end up asking “why do we feel the need to go through this same blasted expo hall each year?”

Also, you may be apt to see some rather confusing ads. Um…say WHAT?!

I’ve decided that walking through the aisles of the Fair expo hall is pretty much like running the gauntlet. I do have a few tips to come out unharmed (AKA without buying a sewing machine, life insurance, and leaf gutters):

  1. Do NOT make eye contact with any of the salesman.
  2. Keep walking. The moment you stop, you’re a sitting duck.
  3. If someone calls out to you while you walk past, pretend that you didn’t hear. (Again, refer to #1.)

Except for a minor snafu where my husband ended up sitting in a sauna display and didn’t get out before the salesman found him in there, we came out unscathed.

Show me the Bargains!

I bet at this point you’re saying, “surely, Angela – someone like you must have found some deals at the Fair!”

Oh, but I did.

First, this delightful drum toy in Sillyville. They so awesomely provide drumsticks so your kids can go to town on it. (Aspirin not included.)

The Expo Hall also did have a freebie I found of interest…

Now my kids will be able to identify local noxious weeds! Score!

In all sincerity I did find something I thought was pretty cool. With the kids’ bracelets was a free game ticket. My daughter chose this fishing game (in Sillyville, next to the Silly Slide) where you play until you win. Every player is a winner! Yahoo! Both my kids won ducks, like these.

When I was little I never won those ridiculous fair games. So if you are planning on playing any? I highly recommend the kiddie fishing game.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, I was exhausted. Case in point: we’re heading through the 4-H Dog Hall and I seriously ask my Hubby if this is a real dog…

I also kind of felt like how this gator did. (While I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure he’s praying to stop the ride. He wants off.)

So you might ask…”Angela, if this costs you a ton of money each year, you eat too much, you get annoyed with shady salespeople and you end up exhausted, why on Earth do you do it?”

One word. Memories.

You can do it a trot, you can do it at a gallop, you can do it real slow so your heart won’t palpitate…just don’t be late.

Do the Puyallup.

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On the fly cleaning: clearing clutter in 20 minutes

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I am no FlyLady. I am an average gal – a busy mom of two who likes a clean house, but struggles to keep up.

This afternoon, I had a few spots in my house that were stressing me out.

#1. The Entry. I recently shared my uber messy entryway with my Facebook pals. Yes, it was still messy as of today. You know what stresses me about a messy entryway? It’s the first thing you see when you come home or come down the stairs. It sets me in a foul mood to have to forge a path through a sea of toys, papers, and shoes.

#2. The Coffee Counter. This little space of counter is where I like to make my pot of coffee each morning. It is also where everything gets set – tools, mail, broken toys in need of repair…

#3. The Island. It’s great having an island in the kitchen – it’s where we eat meals and I frequently sit and work (as I’m doing now). It can also be the worst spot for clutter collection.

If you ever have one of those moments when you are sooo frustrated by clutter or your home’s mess, trust me, I get it. I was there myself. I thought I’d show you my method of tackling clutter. It’s not FlyLady style, it’s more “on the fly.”

Get rid of clutter fast!

Here are two things I’ve learned about myself:

With that in mind, here is the two-step “on the fly” method of tackling clutter I applied today.

Step One: Quarantine the clutter.

With a sweeping arm, I gathered all the clutter from the three spots above and deposited it in ONE pile. This served two purposes: 1) it gave me instant gratification (look! clean counters!) and 2) it helped me see what I really had to deal with.

Step Two: Set the timer.

Here’s the part where I usually lose focus. I’ll start sifting through the pile and get distracted, bored, or decide it’s a good time to phone an old friend. To keep myself on task, I turned it into a game called Beat the Timer.

Now this was rather ambitious. I think 15 or 20 minutes might have been better because the last couple minutes I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. However…I got the job done.

Entryway: the after

Coffee Counter: the after

The Island: the after

After completing this speed clean, I had an idea. What if I were to come up with easy ways of doing household chores/cleaning tasks for those of us that like clean houses but have a less-than-Martha-Stewart outlook on it all?

So I have an idea to propose: tell me your most dreaded household chores and I will do my best to tackle them with a new and improved approach. Plus, you can all weigh in and help come up with new, interesting, and even FUN ways of tackling the same ol’ chores. So go for it – give me your worst chores – just leave a comment!!

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Six uses for Distilled White Vinegar

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Last week, I decided to explore uses for vinegar. Seems that the stuff is extremely versatile. And, it’s thrifty too.

I started by picking up this gallon size of distilled white vinegar at my local Fred Meyer. It cost $2.39. I also picked up an empty spray bottle (you’ll see why later).

Here are just a few of the ways I used vinegar in the last week.

Use #1: As a Garbage Disposal Cleaner.

Pour one cup of vinegar down your garbage disposal. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Then, rinse with cold water. Alternately, make vinegar ice cubes. The ice will also work to sharpen your blades.

Use #2: As a Coffee Maker Cleaner.

Run a cup of vinegar through your coffee maker. Then, run two cycles of cold water through. After that, I washed off the inside of my glass carafe and dried with a paper towel.

Use #3: As Fabric Softener.

I poured a little vinegar right into my HE washer in the place of fabric softener. It seemed to have worked just fine, and no vinegar-y smell.

Use #4: As bathroom cleaner.

Here’s where that spray bottle comes in handy! To make pouring easier, I used a funnel.

Reader Heidi left a great use for vinegar on my Facebook post last week about frugal household tips. She said to spray down the shower with vinegar and then scrub baking soda on top with a sponge. I did this and it sure foamed up right away!

Here I am spraying the germs away.

Use #5: As Floor Cleaner.

So my pal Keri said she uses vinegar in her steam cleaner. Well, I tried adding some to the Shark I use for my hardwoods and it made some really scary noises. So, I’m sticking to water for that. I’m guessing Keri meant more of a carpet cleaner.

At any rate, I did steam my hardwoods with just water (I own this Shark and love it by the way – unlike Swiffer, there are no batteries, cleaner, or pads to replace!). Then, I did a little scrubbing with 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water. I ended up by going over it all one more time with the steamer. My floors are completely devoid of that nasty “grime” now.

Use #6: As a Worthless Science Expirement

I read that you could turn a chicken bone into rubber by soaking it for a few days in vinegar. Yes, this is true.

What other uses have you found for white distilled vinegar?

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Luxury vacation hack (in eight steps)

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Are you feeling down because you don’t have money to travel? If so, I’m here to show you how you can have a luxury vacation for less. A lot less.

Step one: Skip the cruise, take the ferry.

(It’s a lot less money and I promise the kids will still be delighted.)

Step two: Skip the spendy, high tech gadgets for entertaining the kids on the journey there. They’ll come up with some way to amuse themselves.

Step three: Nix the zoo and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife.

Step four: Forget buying those over-priced souvenirs and see what you can snag for free instead.

Step five: Pretend you own a yacht by walking onto the dock and acting like you know exactly where you’re going/what you’re doing.

Step six: Remember that a million dollar view doesn’t always have to cost a million dollars.

Step seven: Save money on entertainment by entertaining yourself. (In this photo, hubby Terry dons a $2.50 pair of candy teeth. Money well spent.)

Step eight: skip the hotel and instead take the last ferry out and drive straight home, arriving at 2 am, and flopping into bed.

How do you save money on a vacation?

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Today’s my anniversary, so I’ll share frugal wedding ideas

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It’s hard to believe I’ve been married 9 years already! Yes that’s me and my super handsome hubby on our special day.

I thought this would be good cause to share a little bit about my own wedding, and some ideas on planning a wedding on a budget.

A wedding is not worth going into debt for. Did you know that the average wedding is now estimated to cost over $24,000? Yeeks. And apparently, that doesn’t include the engagement ring or honeymoon. Double yeeks. Look. I’m not going to go all Ramsay on you and say that getting a loan for your wedding is the Devil, but I am saying, think long and hard if you want to saddle your new marital adventure with a stressful amount of debt. Not. worth. it. 

It doesn’t have to all be perfect. One of the things we realized is we couldn’t have everything top of the line. Particularly when you’re planning a wedding on a budget, pick what matters most to you and put your dollars there. If you MUST have the fancy torte, can you go easy on the flowers? If you MUST have the string quartet playing Pachelbel’s Cannon in D as you walk down the aisle, can you do a more informal rehearsal dinner? If you MUST have a Vera Wang gown, can you pretty much nix the rest of the whole event?

With apologies to my bridesmaids. In hindsight, I should have let my bridesmaids pick their own dress. I know not everyone will agree with me on this one, but why did I insist on having my bridesmaids all wear the same blue dress? True, they all looked beautiful next to each other, standing in height order next to me on that stage…but still. They all spent $100 plus tax for a dress they probably never wore again. When my sister got married a couple years ago she just requested that we all wear a formal black dress. That was the only requirement! This was really fantastic, especially since I had had a baby less than 2 months prior (’nuff said). I chose a dress that was flattering for me. And it cost a lot less than $100.

A reception doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles. Our reception had some pretty simple touches. For flowers, some of my mom’s friends went to Safeway and bought a few bouquets. They cut them up and put them in vases on the table. Perfectly lovely. We also opted to just keep it simple and have cake. Now I do think there is absolutely value in having a bigger reception, if you can afford it or creatively find ways to feed all your guests. It’s a great way to acknowledge those who have come to celebrate your special day. Again, it may go back to choosing what matters most to you, and what you can let go of. Since it seems that the reception is often the most expensive aspect of a wedding, it makes good sense to me to figure out how to save money here first.

How I would redo my registry. This is a little off topic, but it’s one of the things I wish I could change the most, so I’ll share it. When my soon-to-be-hubby and I went to register at Macy’s, we were given this advice from another shopper (probably a newly engaged dude himself): “register for everything!” Seemed like good enough advice at the time, right? Why not? No one has to buy us any of this stuff, and it’s fun to dream a little, right? And those little scanner guns made it all too easy…scan, scan, scan… This was terrible advice, actually, and I wish we hadn’t followed it.

If you put a zillion things on your registry, you stand a good chance that 1) you won’t get what you really need most and 2) people might assume you’re not actually about to get married, but about to set up an eBay business instead. At the end of it, we received a pretty random collection of items (such as three copies of MIB on DVD – why did we register for that anyways?), but very few plates or cookware (which we desparately needed). It was a lot of work sorting and returning the gifts. Fortunately, we learned our lesson and did a much better job of our son’s baby registry.

Final, Deep Thoughts and Marital Advice from Angela

While I think a wedding should be a wonderfully memorable day, remember that it is just that: a day. I sometimes wonder what would happen if the same amount of time, energy, and care were put into preparing for what will be happening after the wedding (no, I’m not talking about the wedding night…I’m talking about that “till death do us part” part. Get your mind out of the gutter!). If you’re planning on getting married, I’d encourage you to take the time to really get to know who this person is you’re going to be spending the rest of your life with. Some important questions to ask:

  • Does the toilet paper roll hang in the front, or back?
  • Are you claiming the right side of the bed, or left?
  • Do you want kids?
  • Do you use coupons?

I would love to hear from you. How did you save for your wedding – or not? Are you planning a wedding on a budget right now? How’s it going?


Minimalist Couponing: an introduction


I’ve gotten a fair amount of comments like these lately:

I really want to learn to use coupons, but I have no time. How can I save money too?

The truth is it does take time to gather coupons, organize them, plan trips, and shop. And if you read blogs like mine long enough, your head may start to spin with all the deals. So what can be done?

This month, I’d like to embark on a series I’ve not yet seen elsewhere: Minimalist Couponing. Each Wednesday in May, I’ll tackle another component of this method that places an emphasis on time over money.

Approaches to Couponing: a continuum

In thinking about the different ways people use coupons, I thought I’d put a visual together.

At the far left of the spectrum, you’re not doing anything. You’re going to the store, buying whatever you need and not paying attention to sales or coupons. As you move down the spectrum, your savings will increase, but so will your time output to get there.

Minimalist Couponing. This is the method I’ll be focusing on for May. My goal is to teach you how to save money using coupons with the least time involved. This means that your savings rate might not be as high as someone who devotes much more time to it, but you will still be saving substantially over the “not doing anything” category. The goal is to equally value your time and money.

Common Sense Couponing. This is the method I generally teach and advocate on the blog. With this approach, you’ll probably spend a couple hours a week or so clipping and organizing coupons and doing your shopping. You may shop at 2-3 stores during the week, and maybe more if there is a really good sale to be had. The goal is a well-rounded stockpile.

Extreme Couponing. At the far end of the spectrum, is the sensational sort of couponing you’re apt to see on TV and that very few people truly practice on a regular basis. This approach to couponing involves many hours of planning, often buying coupons on eBay or from a clipping service, and acquiring a very large stockpile. While the savings rate may be high, the time involved is also high.

Minimalist Couponing: Who is this for?

This series won’t be for everyone, so let me state that up front. But I believe it will be for an often overlooked group of people that want to save money.

You might want to follow this series if:

  • You believe your time is as important as your money, but you still want to follow a budget.
  • You want to eliminate middle-of-the-week shopping trips.
  • You aren’t very concerned about getting the highest savings possible.
  • You are frustrated with the time involved in using coupons or feel something isn’t working for you.
  • You are tired about feeling bad about not “saving as much” as someone else.

I want you to know that whether you save 90% on your shopping trips or 5%, you are WELCOME here. I believe we all save for different reasons, and I believe every $1 saved is a good thing. I hope that this series will resonate with some of you and help you make a meaningful difference in your grocery budget!

What’s next for this series? I plan on discussing coupon gathering, organization, trip planning/shopping strategies, and deal finding. If there are specific questions/topics related to this series you’d like to see, please leave a comment.

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Organizing your important paperwork & upcoming webcast!

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Have you ever had one of those moments when you say, “that’s it! I’m doing something about this!?”

Well, that was me last week. I decided I had had it with out of control paperwork. My files were overflowing, papers were stacked in bits all over my house, and I just felt disorganized. Here are the steps I took to get things under control.

1. I went through everything. Before I made new files, I went through the ones I had. I found I had utility statements from years ago (at residences we no longer reside at) mixed in with really important papers. I ended up with a sizeable amount of papers that can be shredded or recycled (here are some free shred events in WA, by the way). Check it out:

2. Next, I came up with several high level categories that my papers fell into. I came up with finances, family, home ownership, professional, and older records. For each category, I decided a unique color of label would be used.

3. I determined which files I needed, and in which category they’d fall. In finances, for instance, I have budget, bills to pay, bills paid (I’ll keep one year’s records here), car records, retirement, and so forth. In family, I have birth certificates, marriage records, travel, a file for each child, etc.

4. I had some super cute labels printed. I called my friend Kelly for help with the labels. Here’s how they turned out.

Financial folders:

Family records:

Professional records:

Cute and organized, huh?

How I did this for less

The tendency when it comes to projects like these is to run out and spend money on a new filing cabinet or folders. I am pleased to say I spent nothing out of pocket to do this! I ended up buying the folders for free on Amazon using Swagbucks I’d earned (please see this post if I’m speaking another language). I actually need one more set, but am out of Amazon credit, so I’ll just wait so I can get them for free. I also made use with the filing racks and small cabinet I already had.

What I have left to do

There are a couple things on my mind that I still need to do:

1. Kids paperwork. After doing some reading, I’ve decided to implement this kids’ paperwork system as suggested on i heart organizing. Check it out!

2. Important paperwork scanned to disc. I would like to scan all the uber important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc) and save to a disc. Or just save to a file on my computer and then back up online (to something like carbonite). The idea is to have a second copy available should I need it. (I’ll be talking more about this as I conclude the series on emergency readiness.)

Webcast for 4/18 Monday

Because this topic is near and dear to my heart, and given that tax season will finally be over, I decided that this Monday it’s all about organizing your important papers!

Join me and guest Kelly from personalrecipecards as we chat about how to keep your important papers in place. Kelly will also be sharing about her latest and greatest creation: that Life notebook that a few of you helped her review a few months ago!

To participate:

:: Head to my LIVE page on Monday, April 18th at 8pm PST.
:: If you wish to chat (optional), create a free Ustream account. You’ll be able to chat via the text box.
:: Please note you may have to watch a 20-30 second ad before seeing me. Sorry, but this is one of the ways I can afford to continue to webcast for free at this point.

If you can’t watch it? Have no fear. Each webcast is recorded and available on my site for viewing generally within 24 hours. To see past webcasts, check out my new webcast page!

So, is this an area you struggle in? Any particular question you’d like us to chat about? Or, if you’re one cool organizing fool, what kind of tips could you share?


Recycling your papers: landscaping!


Reader and friend Laura shared a great tip with how she’s recycled her newspapers in her landscaping!

She writes:

Here is a picture of part of my yard where I used newspaper under the bark.  This section was done in the fall.  It turns darker than my old bark when wet.  It is easy to see the “before” section on the right & the “after” section on the left.  I am not planting anything the area, it is just a border, so I lay it down pretty thick.  You can lay 1-ply layers on areas where you are expecting bulbs to pop up.  The best thing about this technique?  No weeding!  Amen, sister! 

Another option for using newspaper in your landscape? Use it as a non-toxic mulch for your garden! I am thinking I may personally try this with my garden this spring.

For those of you that get multiple subscriptions of the paper, can you share any other fun ideas for recycling?


Getting the clutter under control: Part 1 of 2


I got the following question sent to me from a reader J. last night:

Several weeks ago you did a little post on organization and storage furniture you bought at Fred Meyer and spiffing up your kids’ playroom.  I need help with organization!  We have 4 kids and I feel like the “stuff truck” has run me over!!  I am a Queen Consignment Mama to boot, which seems to only add to the “stuff” quotient in this home!  I have a goal to simplify (it would radically bless my husband), but was hoping you could soon (before Christmas) post on BEST DEALS for canvas bins, shelving, storage containers, cabinets, dressers… anything to put things away with!  We have a romantic, old home with great big rooms and NO STORAGE!  HELP!

J, I feel it necessary to first disclose that if you were at my house at this very moment, I doubt you would’ve asked me this question! Presently, my office desk is littered with toys, a phone, dirty dishes, and coupons (of course). That being said, I’ve been learning and growing in this area and think there are a few things I can share. I also know many of my readers are incredibly skilled with homemaking abilities, and I’m hoping they can lend to this conversation too.

But before I talk about my ideas for deals on bins and containers, I feel we need to do a little housecleaning first. Ready to bear with me?

Stop the Bleeding!

First things first. I need to be honest with you, I think until you get your current house under control, you need to STOP BRINGING MORE STUFF IN.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that little item of business out of the way…

Get Rid of Stuff First

One of the biggest ways you can save money on storage containers and bins? Don’t buy them. Now I’m being a little sarcastic here because yes, storage is important.

But if you have less stuff to store in the first place? You’ll reduce the number of containers, shelves, and bins you’ll need to buy.

Let me share with you a real life example. Or should I say, struggle. My kids’ toys.

They completely take over my downstairs if I let them! And there’s nothing worse than stepping on a toy rocketship in socked feet first thing in the morning. I want my kids to feel this is their house, but I also needed to feel like my living room was “grown up.” So here’s what I did…

1. I got rid of a TON of the toys. The broken ones, mismatched ones, the ones they’d outgrown.
2. I moved many of them up to their rooms. I also passed some on to their little cousins.
3. I opted for a stylish storage solution. A leather ottoman.

Here’s how it looks in my living room:

You’d never be any the wiser it contains all my muchkins’ toys, eh?

(Incidentally this ottoman sells for about $79.99 at Target. I got mine free with Target credit I had, but that’s another story for another day! There are additional ottomans at Amazon to give you an idea.)

Less is More

I want to give a final illustration of how less stuff can bring more meaning (and less headache, too!).

At Christmastime, I usually clutter up the top of my piano with Christmas items. Well guess what? This year my husband couldn’t find one of our boxes. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

It caused me to keep the space clean, minimal.

I opted to display the simple wooden Nativity Set that my husband had brought back from his medical mission trip to Sierra Leone a couple years back. (Reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas anyways!) The picture was in another room of the house, so I just moved it above the piano. Viola!

Additional Reading

I hinted that I’m no expert on this topic. I’m really not! But did you know that there are some excellent, excellent resources out there that devote themselves entirely to this topic?

The Nester. I LOVE this blog. Her philosophy is all about making the most with what you have. She has a strong “decluttering” ephasis.

Unclutterer. This blog, as the name suggests, is all about uncluttering! There are many, many practical tips (as well as some whimsical ones, too).

FlyLady. I’ve also mentioned this blog before, but this is a great place to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Every day you’ll receive a task list for keeping a clean and uncluttered home.

Unclutter Your Life in One Week. This is the book written by the author of Unclutterer.

Organizing from the Inside Out. Written by Julie Morgenstern, this New York Times bestseller provides very practical step-by-step instruction on how to organize every room in your house. Her approach also includes organizing your space to help you meet your goals. I own this book and love it!

Next, the Bargains!

Tomorrow I’ll share with you some thoughts on how to find bargains on those organizational items. But until then, I hope I’ve inspired you to start purging items and stop bringing new ones in until you’ve gotten everything under control.

Readers: if you keep a ship-shape house, would you mind sharing some of your secrets? How do you keep clutter at bay? How often do you go through items to get rid of? What tips do you have for J (and hey – me too!)