Monday, January 30, 2012

DIY Valentine's Day Cards (frugally, of course!)

I think I am suffering from wedding-craft withdrawal. Friday I decided to start making Valentine's Day cards... a full 2 weeks ahead of time. I knew I didn't want to spend a single cent buying any new supplies, so here is what I made with what I had on hand.  I used leftover blank white cards that I bought super-cheap in bulk for wedding stuff. I have used these blank bulk cards so many times for so many card-giving occasions. They come in lots of colors at craft stores, great to have on hand. (If you don't have blank cards & envelopes on hand, you can easily make your own from whatever paper you have around.)

I made more than a dozen, but these are my two favorites:

This was so easy but I think it looks really cute- imagine getting a white envelope in the mail and pulling this out!  I used Elmer's glue (blue gel type) to write out the word, dumped glitter on it, and voila! 

This one is for my grandma (Grandma if you see this, please pretend to be surprised when you get it!)- I used my single-hole punch to make the holes, then threaded pink and lavender ribbon through them to make the border. (If you don't have pink ribbon on hand, perhaps you have red & white leftover from Christmas. You could also use strips of fabric, shoelaces, twine, yarn, etc. ) Then I tied two more pieces into a bow and glued on with my trusty Elmer's. 

You could do a lot of variations on these cards- your creativity is your only limit there. Use whatever you already have on hand!

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Electricty = $$$, but how much?

When I was a kid, I didn't understand that every time I left a light on, left the TV on, or left my stereo on it was costing my parents money. I do know now that electricity costs money, because I pay the bill! But just how much does one lightbulb cost to run? How about the microwave, or a space heater? Electric blanket? I found this really cool calculator that tells you how much different electric gadgets cost you to run.

One fact that is interesting to me is that drying one load of clothes in an electric dryer costs about $0.30! That adds up really quickly when you are doing a lot of laundry. We do probably 3 loads a week, so we spend about $4.00 a month  just to dry our clothes. I thought about this today because the weather here in Lawrence is AMAZING, and the perfect opportunity to use my clothesline instead of the dryer!  If you don't have a clothesline, try this article about air-drying your clothes indoors. 

Try out this tool for yourself, you will be surprised: Electrical Energy Cost Calculator.

UPDATE: For information on the energy rates from Westar for N.E. KS: Click here for rates.

photo from

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Grocery Deals Round-Up: Fresh & Healthy

Here are the extra-great deals I noticed in the grocery stores this week, with a focus on fresh & healthy.

Prices good Jan 25- Jan 31

Avocados- $0.29/ea @ Aldi
Baby Carrots- $0.49/16 oz bag @ Aldi
Broccoli Crowns- $0.88/ea @ Checkers
Celery- $0.69/bunch @ Aldi
Grapefruit- $2.48/ 6lb bag @ Checkers
Peppers (Red)- 2/$3 @ HyVee
Pineapple (whole)- $0.99/ea @ Aldi
Radishes $1/ 2 bunches @ HyVee
Roma Tomatoes- $0.58/lb @ Checkers

Chicken Breasts (boneless)- $1.69/lb @ Aldi
Chicken Breasts (bone-in)- $0.98/lb @ Checkers
Chicken Drumsticks or Thighs- $0.97/lb @ HyVee
Hummus - $1.69/ea @ Aldi
Peanuts (In-shell, salted)- $1.69/16oz @ Aldi
Soy Milk (Silk)- 2/$5 @ Checkers
V8 Juice (Weekly pack)- $2.69/ea @ Aldi
Yogurt (Weight Watchers) 10/$5 @ HyVee

Also remember to check the January: Month by Month Guide to Sales before doing your shopping.

I looked at Aldi, Checkers, Dillons, and Hy-Vee. If you see great deals elsewhere, please comment! Also note these prices are all without coupons. I only rarely use coupons because I am specific about what I want, and there are infrequently coupons for those items that make them a better deal than store-brand or sale prices. Though I do always look at them to double-check.

Stay tuned for the next Grocery Deals Round-Up, typically posted on Wednesdays.

photo from

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thank you!

Hello friends! Today our blog hit 3000 page views! This is so great, I never thought so many would want to read it. Thanks for visiting and keep spreading the word- this will be a great Frugal Year!

With much love,

(This is how I imagine my 3000 viewers- tiny, adorable, smiling cats...)

Have I mentioned how much I love stock.xchng for their amazing free stock photos?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January: Month-by-Month Guide to Sales

January is nearing it's end- just a reminder to catch these deals while they last.

National Oatmeal Month: Quaker
Diet Foods: Healthy Choice, South Beach, Lean Cuisine, Special K, Kashi, Smart Start, 100 Calorie Packs, Yogurt
Super Bowl Sunday: Pepsi, Coke, Chips, Dips, Cheese, Sandwich Items, Crackers, Snacks, Wings and TVs!
Seasonal Produce: Oranges, Pears, Grapefruit, Tangerines, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collards, Kale, Kiwi, Avocado, Cabbage, Spinach

Clearance: Christmas Decorations, Toys, Wrapping Papers,
Winter Health: Cold Medicines and Vitamins- also Exercise Equipment
Super Bowl Sunday- TVs and other home entertaining stuff usually goes on sale around this time!

Thanks to Grocery Sale Cycles- When Do Things Go on Sale? from Living Richly on a Budget for this info! Check out their blog for lots of great frugal tips.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Frugal blog round-up

It could be winter talking, but I've been feeling pretty low-energy lately, and when that happens, I want to shop! I've been pretty good, but I did buy a dress and boots online last week (I really didn't need them.)  They were delivered yesterday... and neither fit! Ha! Laughing at myself now- that's what I get for spending money on a dress and boots I couldn't try on. So, planning to either return or sell them- we'll see which will get me more of my money back.

ANYWAY... that is neither here nor there. The point, here, people, is that when I feel my "frugal vigor" slipping, it always helps me to read some really good frugal blogs I follow. And of course, it is always helpful to revisit the book that inspired it all, The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. (pictured) I follow dozens (perhaps... hundreds?) of blogs on various frugal topics: personal finance, DIY projects, couponing, cooking and so forth. (Full disclosure: None of these blogs know I'm "promoting" them, so no worries, they didn't buy my love!)

Here are a few of my very most favorite frugal blogs, in no particular order:

Give Me Back My Five Bucks: "A quest for financial independence through the eyes of a 20-something Candian blogger" by Krystal. I love that she posts her actual weekly spending totals!

Budget Bytes: "On a mission to save money and eat well!" by Beth.  Really great healthy and tasty recipes here, and she posts very detailed accounts of what each ingredient costs.

Get Rich Slowly: "Personal Finance That Makes Cents" Give them a pass on the dorky subtitle- I have learned a lot of valuable information from this blog, and it's fun to read, too.

Mr. Money Moustache: "Financial Freedom Through Badassity" I LOVE THIS BLOG. Love the quirky attitude, and even more, I love that this man retired before he was 40 and he tells us how he did it.

Tip Junkie: "15,000+ tutorials on Crafts, DIY Decor, Food, Holidays, Gifts, Parties, Printables and more!" by Laurie.  This site was like Pinterest before there was Pinterest. She's got it separated by category, and I find a zillion great projects on here.

I'll keep the rest of my favorites for next time. What are you favorite "frugal blogs"?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

DIY Cleaning Solvents and Laundry Tips

Make a New Year's resolution to get your home in shape? Vow to save money on household expenses? Or maybe like me you can't stand the chemical smell of commercial cleaners? Perhaps you're interested in environmentally-friendly products? Then this list is for you! A good source for spray-bottles and other containers for your cleaners is a dollar store (Dollar Tree is the only one in Lawrence, I believe.)

  • Hand Sanitizer, Yoga mat cleaner, Produce Wash from Fit Sugar -- I particularly love the idea of making your own produce wash. 
  • To clean grills, oven racks, etc.- "On a hot, sunny day place them in a dark plastic bag. Pour a cup of ammonia into the bag, seal with a twist tie, and leave out to cook in the sun. At the end of the day take out the grills and wash under hose water. Most of the crud will wipe off. - Marian Hukle Tonganoxie, KS" (from The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn)
  • Bathtub Scrub "Wet the surface, sprinkle it with cream of tartar, and rub this with the cut surface of a lemon. Then, with some elbow grease, the tub will be as white as new within 20-30 minutes. I use two lemons and about 1/2 can of cream of tartar on my tub, and it does not have to be done very often. -Sally Weitlauf Dayton, OH." (from The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn)
  • Pots, Pans, Burner Plates "Here's a tip for pots with burned-on gook: Put enough water in the pot  to cover the stain. Add 2 tablespoon of any brand of powdered dishwashing detergent. Boil for 15 to 30 minutes. This also works for dirty burner plates if boiled in a pot of water.-Anna Johnson Kingfield, ME" (from The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn)
  • Drain Cleaner "When drains get sluggish, use this tested, inexpensive remedy: 1. Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the drain. 2. Follow the soda with 1 cup of vinegar. 3. Pour a pot of boiling water down the drain and follow through with the plunger. -Jan Mitchell Salinas, CA" (from The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn)
  • All Purpose Cleaner  1/2 cup ammonia, 1 pint rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon blue Dawn dish soap, add water to make a gallon. From my Great Aunt Daisy Atteberry! (She says blue Dawn specifically- but perhaps another soap would work.)
  • Hardwood Floor Cleaner "Mix 1 cup of distilled vinegar with 1 cup of vegetable oil, says the Michigan State University Extension Service. Apply a thin film of it to your floor. Rub it thoroughly. The N.Y. Consumer Site says that even without the oil, vinegar is a great hardwood floor cleaner. Simply add 1 cup of it to a pail of hot water, and damp mop your floors. The vinegar's odor will evaporate with the water. This cleaner is suitable for other floor surfaces as well." from
  • Swiffer mop refill alternative:  use old socks, towels, or rags cut to size and dampened with your DIY all-purpose cleaner or hardwood floor cleaner. When it gets too dirty, just drop it in the washing machine with whatever else you're washing. 

  • Static Eliminator "Mix 1 part fabric softener and 20 parts water. Put in a spritzer bottle and spray just the amount that is needed. -Elaine Hodgman Ludlow, MA" (from The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn) Note: I am trying this SOON- I hate the smell of StaticGuard! -jgb
  • Laundry Pretreatment "1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup Wisk, 1/2 cup water. Spray on grease or food spots, or dirty collars and cuffs. Wash garment as usual." (from The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn)