Frugal Beautiful

Posts Tagged ‘Saving Money

Strawberry Vanilla Votive CandlesBuilding a small gift inventory is one of my favorite frugal tips.  When you have the time and money to get a really personal, thoughtful gift.  When you don’t have the time or money, having something in-hand for an last minute event or celebration could be a lifesaver!

I always have a few gifts on hand (usually purchased on clearance or saved as a re-gift)  for last minute housewarming and dinner parties, birthdays or when I can’t afford to run out and buy something.   Having a hassle-free gift with the right wrapping can make a great statement for a small price!

-Candles of all sizes:  Pillar candles wrapped in a wine bag are great for nicer gifts.  Votives in a cute holders are great small gifts- many come pre-wrapped to throw in a gift bag.  To complete the gift, add a book of matches or lighter if you have one on hand (which can be bought in bulk).  I’ve given small votives and tealights to people that “light up my life,” as a very small/affordable gift of gratitude.  Target has tealights in bulk and great candles on clearance.

-Stationary: I have several sets of stationary to gift, several of which are from the dollar section or I got on clearance.  For a nicer gift, take the stationary out of the cello and wrap it with a fabric ribbon and add a pen, postage stamps or an address book/photo frame.  Gifting thank you notes with stamps is great for a graduation party or for a young adult.  When I was moving, I stupidly packed my stationary.  Someone gave me a set with a gorgeous pen, I kept that in my suitcase so I could get my thank you cards in my mail sooner- what a help!

-Spa Supplies: I am a notorious regifter!  Often we receive bubble bath when we don’t have a tub, or a scent that we just won’t get around to using, there is no shame in regifting to someone who might!  Pairing bath supplies with a hand knit/crochet face cloth or a loofah, tied on with a fabric ribbon makes for a fabulous gift.

-Coffee Mugs: Throw a single serving coffee/tea bags in a mug  and wrap in the cellobag for a quick gift.  I have found like-new mugs at thrift stores, but I usually shy away from dollar-store mugs since I’ve heard of questionable lead content at some of these stores.

ETC.:

-Small bottle of dish detergent in a fun color with a sponge  (Cost:  $2.50)

-Blank printable labels and instructions so someone who is relocating can print their own return address labels (Cost:  $4)  Paired with other office supplies.

-Photo frames can be a great gift, especially if you promise the recipient a flashdrive of event pictures so they don’t have to worry about photography while hosting!

-Magnetic Notepad or Post-its from the dollar bin can be thrown in to any gift to make it more substantial (Cost: $1)

-Hershey kisses/clearance candy is great to keep on hand (if you can stop yourself from eating it) can be thrown in a cello bag and paired with another small gift or stand on its own.

Always Keep Gift Wrap On Hand-  This is key to saving time and money!

Cello Bags:  These can be found in the dollar or party section of Target, etc.  Throw a small gift in a cello bag, tied with wire garland or fabric ribbon and it will look great and is typically cheaper than a paper gift bag.  To conceal the gift, just wrap in tissue paper first!  Using cello bags is also a great way to make small gifts look more substantial.

Paper Gift Bags and Tissue:  I always save my gift bags to reuse, but have picked them up for cheap on clearance.

Having small gifts on hand- whether it be a tea light or a nice bar of chocolate can make a profound impression when it’s unexpected.  Being prepared, to reciprocate for a  friend’s help or an invitation to an event is a great way to foster an “attitude of gratitude,” without having to break the bank!

Heart Sympathy FlowersRelationships can be changed or strained in times of stress-  being responsive and supportive in times of grief, illness or personal troubles is probably the most important time to foster your relationships, and it doesn’t have to cost anything.


Illness and death are two facts of life that usually come at unexpected times.  It’s vital to promptly show  your support as fastidiously as possible, but also to do a follow-up weeks after.  We often think of sympathy cards and flower arrangements, but as we know, the best things in life are free- or at least, inexpensive!

 

-Have Sympathy, Thinking Of You and Get Well Notes on Hand: Promptness is key and sometimes it’s impossible to get to a store to buy cards and get it in the mail quickly.  Sadly, sometimes the hassle of getting to a card store might prevent us from taking steps to express our condolences.  Purchase a pack of cards ahead of time, so that if you’re in a pinch and cannot go hand-pick one out, you can at least get something in the mail with a heartfelt note promptly.  Cards can be picked up 2/1.00 at a Dollar Store, or in a 10 pack at Hallmark or other card stores.  The card doesn’t have to be expensive, but getting it out quickly and with the right sentiment is what counts to make a statement.

-Realize You Don’t Have to Send Expensive Flowers: It’s easy to feel intimidated when someone you know is going through a rough time, especially if you aren’t sure how to express yourself to them- having a bouquet or plant sent can be an easy way to show you care without having to verbalize your sentiments, but sending flowers will easily cost $40-$100, and purchasing them remotely might yield less than great results.  A house plant, hand-delivered will be cheaper and quite possibly, more meaningful.

If you feel the need to give a gift, know a small donation to a charity in honor of someone in any amount can be a very heartfelt gesture.  You don’t have disclose how much was donated, but knowing that a charitable gift was made in their honor, or for someone they’re grieving could let someone know you care.

-Know That Even When You Don’t Know What To Say, You Need To Say It: Everyone deals with bad news and loss differently- I admit, even though I have lost dear loved ones and know what it can “feel like,” it sometimes is hard to reach out and articulate my sadness for someone going through that process on their own.  Step out of your comfort zone (we all have to in these situations) and make a phone call, send a card, stop in and bring food.

-Offer A Helping Hand: When someone falls ill or passes away, often their family has a hard time taking care of themselves.  Offering to walk their dog, babysit their children, bringing a meal or bringing in their mail and other small gestures are often what’s overlooked.  If you’re good friends with someone who just lost a loved one, stopping by for a visit or getting them out of the house for a bit of distraction or a heart-to-heart talk might be the best course of action.

-Forgive One Another: Nobody is an expert at grieving or healing.  An unexpected diagnosis or the loss of a family member can unearth an array of unanticipated feelings in both the people directly affected, and their circle of friends.  Some people shy away from confronting their feelings, other simply shy away from reaching out because they don’t know how.  Do you best, offer your help- and if it isn’t accepted or you see other people not offering to help, realize they are just dealing with the stress the best they can.

-Know There Isn’t A Set Timetable For Coping or Supporting: Whether or not you expressed your support initially after hearing of someone’s sad news- it is not too late to show it now.  Additionally, if you were able to reach out promptly after an event happened, it’s probably a good idea to call, email or write to follow up with that person.  Small gestures, even weeks after can mean the world to someone.

 

I understand, as both a person who has gone through it, and one who hasn’t reached out when I should have, that it’s difficult to navigate times of loss and illness.  Two years ago, I lost my Gram (who I took care of and loved like a mother) and my dear friend/ mentor in the same weekend.  In the wake of that loss, I became closer with some and alienated with others- I realize now, some folks just didn’t know how to reach out or didn’t know they should.  During that time, small gestures made a world of difference to me, and every day was different- some days I needed to be alone, others, friends knew “being alone,” was a cop-out and dragged my butt out of the house or simply stayed in to visit, to which I am so grateful.  Events like this leave all of us feeling lost- we don’t know how we “should” act, but the truth is, either as the bereaved or a friend of the bereaved, it’s not as important to stress over you “should” do, but simply that you do it.

I get totally giddy over this site.  There is just something fabulous about needing an item, finding it cheaper than amazon, having a coupon for 10%-30% off, free shipping and getting cash back for whatever I purchase.  I introduce you to: CouponCactus.

Couponcactus is a free service that works in two ways:  It provides awesome coupons for discounts, cashback and free gifts with purchase  for hundreds of stores.  Also, it provides varied rates of cashback for your purchases through those merchants- and again, it is absolutely FREE.  Cashback is generated in your account to be dispersed through paypal or check automatically every few months.  It could be likened to a rewards credit card, except there are no fees or strings attached- it’s really that simple.

Last week I needed a pair of yoga gloves to help me retain my grip during downward dog.  (I can’t make this crap up).  I looked on amazon- the pair I wanted was going to cost me $14 with shipping.  I went to CouponCactus and found the gloves on Gaiam.com for $8, with 10% off, free shipping and 7% cash back.

What’s also great is that you can refer friends and get credit for it.  On February 15th I have $24.57 that will be deposited into my PayPal account from cashback and referrals and I didn’t have to do anything for it!

I love CouponCactus because it’s stupidly simple- just log in to their site and choose your merchant to see what offers/cashback are available.  After your purchase (as long as you have logged in and clicked the merchant through CouponCactus) your cashback will be automatically generated.  All coupons open up in a window to be copied or directly applied to your order.

The site is great because they don’t hassle you through email or annoying pop-ups.  They sustain themselves by generating traffic for merchants by advertising great sales and providing you with discounts, so there are no hidden fees or hoops to jump through.

That’s why I totally ❤ Couponcactus.com- it’s simple to sign up.  Simple to save money.  Simple to generate cash back through my spending and referrals, and simple to find my favorite sites- ThinkGeek.com, Express, American Eagle,  Eharmony,  ProFlowers (hint hint people).

Oh yes, and you can *totally* sign up with my referral number!        124740

For those of you who know me personally, you know I’ve been pursuing a dog for quite some time.  Shouldn’t be that hard to find an adoptable dog that meets my specifications, right?  Well let’s start with some pointers so you don’t have to endure the ordeal I have:

-Decide what you want in a dog. Are you going for looks, where a mutt/mix would do just fine, or do you want more measurable traits that are typically found in a purebred?  Are you fine with the “luck of the draw” or do you want a cute puppy you can get from a breeder that has predictability?

-Decide if you really want a puppy. Many dogs are given up for adoption or resold while they are still really young.  Adopting a dog over a year old might be a better bet if want a companion but not the energy and destructive tendencies of a pup.

-Decide what the dog is for. Do you want a show dog?  Do you just want someone to take to the park? Do you want a mellow mutt that will just hang out while you work on the computer?  Do you want a dog that’s great for jogging?  Do your research beyond just looks and see what kinds of personality you’d like.  Go beyond looks- a Pug and a Boston Terrier are both similarly adorable, but Boston’s are notorious for being high energy.  Know the traits before you decide.

Knowing these questions will help you decide if you want to buy from a breeder or shelter adopt.  Even if you’re adopting, you CAN find purebreds at a shelter- it just takes more patience.

What to know about breeders:

-Know Where to Look. You can look on Ebay Classifieds, do a quick net search or go to a pet store.   But buyer beware! Just because a person has a litter of puppies doesn’t mean they are REAL breeders! Nor does it ensure they are healthy dogs, or they are “worth” the sometimes exorbitant prices faux-“breeders” charge.  I spoke to a man in the city who was breeding pugs to pay his tuition…ya, that sounds legit.

-Decide what you want the dog for, and how much you’re willing to pay. Unless you’re breeding or showing, you don’t HAVE to pay hundreds or thousands for a dog.  For the average person who wants an animal companion, you can find a dog that is healthy, bred ethically and is affordable.

-Your puppy will have more expenses on top of the purchase price. Veterinary care may/may not be included in the purhcase price.  Tack on at least $300-400  to the price of your puppy for vet care, training, supplies and carpet spray.

Decide if you have the time (and patience) for a puppy. Breeders may or may not have trained or socialized the puppy.  The younger they are, the more time you’ll need with them.  If you get grossed out by poo or pissed off by pee on the carpet, you CANNOT handle a puppy.  Know there will be accidents, be prepared with lots of paper towels.

What to know about shelters:

Shelters are amazing!  Even if you want a purebred, (or an adorable mixed breed) you can find whatever you’re looking for.  Here are some of the perks:

-You can find puppies at shelters. Many people give up young puppies because they can’t afford it or didn’t anticipate the time and cost of a young dog and weren’t well informed by the person who sold it to them.

-You can save a LOT of money on a dog if you go the shelter route. All rescue dogs will already have had their shots, been fixed and

-You can save a LOT of time if you go the shelter route. Many dogs at shelters have had at least some basic training and socialization depending on their age. You can avoid some behavioral problems if the dogs are already well acquainted with people and other dogs, and potty training can sometimes be just a matter of “fine tuning” instead of starting from scratch.

-You can feel darn good about adopting a shelter dog. These volunteers aren’t in it for the money and fame- they just want to help and aren’t going to charge you a boatload to do so.

Searching for a specific breed to adopt?

-Google local rescues for your breed or do a search on Petfinder.com.

-When you find a dog, put the application in IMMEDIATELY.  Certain dogs go FAST.  Most shelters choose homes on a first-come-first-served basis, not necessarily your love or familiarity with the breed, or the offer of “bribe money.”

-Each shelter is going to be different in the application process and what it charges.  Depending on the breed, age of the dog and any special medical attention it has needed could affect the price.  You can get an older dog (fully vetted and past that annoying chew-on-everything puppy phase) for $50-150, on up to $350-600.   A french bulldog rescue in my area charges $350-600 for their dogs, but you might find a similar frenchie  on petfinder.com for $250!

-Diligence will pay off.  If you don’t end up with the first dog you apply for, keep trying!  You will find the right one, and I hope I do!

I’m going to be posting several small articles that will help you tackle your finances and be your most powerful self in quick, do-able steps. Today’s step?

Take 5 minutes to look through your wallet, bank statement and credit card bills.  Taking stock of what’s going on with your spending habits will give you powerful insight to take control of your life!

It is time to get real with your finances, because you know you aren’t doing what you should!  Take a good hard look at what’s going on in your wallet (or how many swipes away you are from wearing a hole in your credit card) and evaluate what’s happening in your life.

Your finance habits correlate with your thinking and living habits.  I can tell you when I relocated to Chicago, my spending was out of control!  While I bought a lot of things I needed for the new place and new weather conditions, I was so desperate to get “settled,” that I didn’t think my purchases through.  Needless to say, I ended up with two pairs of boots purchased online I don’t use, and three very high credit bills.  I was so stressed about feeling secure in my personal life, I was doing the opposite in my financial life!  Take stock (and a good hard look at  where your money is going) and spend just 5 minutes quickly spotting any red flags or things to simply be aware of.

It’s that simple.


Check out some of my favorite sites that will make this goal a breeze and give you ideas!

www. Mint.com – (MY FAVORITE TOOL)- online or on my phone!   In 10 minutes you can see every penny you have saved or spent in savings, CD, investments and credit cards.  PLUS they generate great tips and leads for better ways to save money on purchases and gain more for your savings!

http://www.dailyworth.com/ -their daily emails are fabulous!

http://lifehacker.com/

http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/ -they so totally are!

http://www.Wisebread.com

http://www.frugalvillage.com/ -I love the forums, any question you want answered from a variety of perspectives!

Up next? Two simple things you need to be doing to live a healthy financial lifestyle- and it doesn’t have to be painful!


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