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Tuesday
Jan272015

10 Budget Purchases That Look Expensive

Whether it's a purchase for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, or simply sprucing up your home or wardrobe, these 10 products will shine — without eating a hole in your savings account.

1. PEARL JEWELRY

Unlike diamonds, which are controlled by a cartel, pearls are relatively affordable. The ability to grow real pearls on oyster farms gives the jewelry business a resource for inexpensive, but genuine, cultured pearls. It's no longer a game of hit and miss for divers, who once trawled the oceans in the hopes of finding an oyster with a pearl. You can find beautiful cultured pearl necklaces and earrings for as little as $10. They will have the luster and weight of natural pearl jewelry that costs thousands — and only a real expert can tell the difference.

2. MOST PRODUCTS FROM IKEA

Let's face it, Ikea is insanely popular for a reason. One look through the Ikea catalog and you'll see an awful lot of great design at a price that even Walmart would find hard to beat. Designers from around the world have put forward stunning products and furniture for a fraction of the price they would usually charge, including Matali Crasset and Scholten & Baijings.

3. INVICTA WATCHES

The name Invicta conjures up images of expensive timepieces and wads of cash, but that's not actually the case. While you can find Invicta watches that cost over $1,400, you can also buy models for around $50 to $100. They're heavy, well-made (usually in the USA), and water resistant to hundreds of feet. You get a fantastic presentation case, too. ThisInvicta watch at Amazon looks like it could set you back a grand, but it's only $70. Invicta watches make great gifts, and can often be found on discount sites at massively reduced prices.

4. H&M CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES

When you look at what H&M has on offer, you might think it's high fashion. But the great thing about H&M is that you get incredible style for a steal. It's not unusual to walk into H&M with $100 and come out with five or six items of clothing, including shirts, jeans, sweaters, and even jackets. Take a look at the current H&M sale and give yourself a little test. Put the things you really find stylish and attractive in your cart without looking at the prices. Then, guess how much you've spent. The chances are, you'll be way over — probably by three to four times more the actual cost.

5. LEATHER GOODS

There's something about leather — maybe it's the smell, or the fact that so many shoes and jackets are made from faux leather. However, real leather can be as affordable as the fake stuff, and on occasion, even cheaper. What you have to do is shop selectively, and shop when the sales are at their peak. Right now, places like Wilsons Leather are dumping their winter stock, and you can find leather jackets for 75% off. Stroll into work wearing a $500 jacket — no one has to know it only cost you $125.

6. MUJI PRODUCTS

When products get really expensive, you have to search high and low for the brand name. It's one of those "people who know, will know" deals. Now imagine products that have that sense of style and simplicity, but don't come with the ludicrous price tags. That's what it's like to shop at Muji. From clothing, clocks, and furniture, to bags, storage items, and electronics, Muji is sophisticated style on a modest budget. Not everything at Muji is really cheap either, which means it's really hard to know what your Muji item cost. Maybe it was a few bucks, maybe a few hundred.

7. SCRATCH AND DENT APPLIANCES

We live in a society obsessed with getting everything brand spanking new, and absolutely perfect. The very idea that someone would sell you a stainless steel fridge with a scratch or dent in it appalls some people. If you're smart, you'll take advantage of that. Scratch and dent (aka "dent and ding") appliances are perfectly functional, and have just a few superficial flaws. Perhaps it was on a showroom floor and got a tiny scratch, or a dent in the bottom of the door from a careless delivery. These tiny flaws, however, come with massive savings. If you don't mind a few dings, you can take hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars off the price of a brand new, name brand appliance.

8. USED HIGH-END CARS

If someone asks you what you drive and you reply "a BMW," they don't usually say "oh yeah, is that one of those high-mileage used ones?" A BMW is a BMW, and a Mercedes is a Mercedes. You would be astonished at the prices some of these cars are going for, right now. A quick look in my area of Colorado brought back results for BMWs with less than 60k miles for under $7,000. And these are not old junkers, they're 2002 – 2007 models. You can get financing, and for less than $150 a month, you can be driving around a top of the range BMW. A word of warning though… get it thoroughly checked out first, and make sure you know a garage that services BMWs for affordable prices.

9. CUSTOM, HANDMADE GIFTS

With the rise of stores like Etsy and eBay, homemade gifts are becoming much more prominent. Not made by you, but someone skilled and willing to charge a lot less than retail stores. You can find people on Etsy ready to make a personalized hat or scarf for next to nothing. They often do this as a hobby to earn extra cash, and the hourly investment is less than minimum wage on their part. But for some reason, they enjoy selling their wares. Justcheck out some of these ideas on Pinterest.

10. PERSONALIZED PHOTOBOOKS

In the past, getting a custom made, hardbound book of photos, poetry, or stories would have been an expensive proposition. But now, on demand printing means you can have a site assemble a book of photos for as little as $13. Of course, you can put in all the bells and whistles and make something really extravagant, but even then the cost is going to be much less than you think. When you hand over a book, you are also showing people how much effort you have put into the gift. And if you really want to go all out, visit a store likeLulu. Here you can have someone's novel (a friend's or family member's, perhaps?) printed and published, and ready to purchase.

Source: Wisebread.com

Tuesday
Jan202015

10 Ways to Spruce Up An Unfinished Basement

Check out these 10 simple ways to spruce up your unfinished basement for under $100.

1. CHUCK THE JUNK

Decluttering is the first step in any successful project and it's critical when sprucing up common catch-all spaces like basements and garages. If you struggle with the process, learn how to get rid of your junk and declutter with less drama.

2. LIGHT IT UP

Since basements don't get a lot of natural light, brighten things up with higher wattage bulbs. It'll make the space less spooky, more functional, and help show off the rest of the projects we'll cover.

3. ADD CLIP-ON SHADES

A lightweight plastic shade designed to clip directly on overhead bulbs is a simple, quick, and inexpensive way to dress up a ceiling light. For some reason, the shades are difficult to find at most retailers, but you can usually score them used for $10 or less on eBay or similar resale sites.

4. GET A GRIP

Safety first. Since most unfinished basement stairs are crafted of simple two-by-fours, adding treads make them safer and improves their aesthetics. Paint stairs a neutral color first, add a railing if you haven't already, and install vinyl or rubber treads.

5. HANG HOMEMADE CURTAINS

Sewing simple channel or tabbed curtains is the perfect weekend project to dress up all the windows in your basement. Depending on the size of the windows, consider repurposing matching tea towels or large cloth dinner napkins for this project (no hemming!). Create tabs from nylon ribbon or vintage neckties. Since natural light is at a premium in basements, make sure your rods are wide enough that when the curtains are open, no portion of the window is covered.

6. DRY IT OUT

Many times what keeps us out of our unfinished basements is the chronic dampness and resulting dank smell. If this is a problem in your basement, make solving it a high-priority project. Add a dehumidifier to combat the moisture and run it regularly, especially during summer months. Though dehumidifiers cost around $180 new, I just picked up a gently used one on Craigslist for $25 and it works like a charm.

7. SEAL AND PAINT WALLS

As with most projects, painting is a relatively simple way to make a dramatic change. If you have a large basement, control costs by focusing your efforts on those areas used most often by you and your family.

Before painting concrete walls, clean them thoroughly and scrub away any mildew stains, repair cracks with fast-setting hydraulic cement, and then prime with a concrete primer. Use a quality masonry paint for best results.

8. ADD A LARGE RUG OR FLOOR MAT

If your basement is well sealed and stays dry during large rains, add a large area rug in key areas like the laundry, pantry, or crafting room. Though each space may not be finished in the traditional sense, inexpensive rugs, carpet remnants with finished edges, or interlocking floor mats can add a level of comfort that encourages expanded use for the whole family.

9. ADD SHELVING

Durable plastic shelves are perfect for the basement. They get items off of potentially damp floors, make use of vertical space, and encourage new levels of organization. A five foot shelf with four tiers retails for about $30.

10. TRY SIMPLE DECORATING PROJECTS

Once you have a clean, dry, safe, and well-organized basement, there's a lot you can do to incrementally improve the aesthetics. Consider differentiating work areas with paint colors and designs, adding pegboard to workshop areas, making a skirt for that old laundry sink, sanding and painting rusty pipes, or using salvaged vintage doors to create a unique folding room divider.

Remember, there's a lot of wiggle room between unfinished and perfectly finished. If you're not ready to make a huge investment in your basement, find a happy medium. With some clever ideas, sweat equity, and patience, you can create a much more comfortable and functional space ― without burying your budget.

Source: Wisebread.com

Sunday
Dec282014

Grandma Knew the Secret of Contentment

This post is written as part of Ruth Soukup’s Secret 13 Blog Tour, which I am excited to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers. To find out more about the Secret 13 Essay Contest and your chance to win a weeklong Carnival Cruise for 4, click HERE.

When I first started reading Ruth's book, something sparked in me to remember who my inspiration was for contentment and frugal living. My Grandma Esther was born in 1921 and started out her life during the Depression. Her family didn't have much and they lived in the country. It was a hard life but they somehow managed.

I sometimes wonder if this is why she was always so frugal or maybe it was just her nature. She got married during WWII to Grandpa Sonny (Aaron).

They bought 30+ acres in upstate New York, where my family had lived for generations.

My grandparents had 3 children- Karen (my mom), Aaron and Jo Anne.

I always felt that they must have been the luckiest children in the world, to grow up with the forest to run around, swim in the pond, and have a wonderful childhood. They learned a lot about responsibility, helping my grandparents with gardening and taking care of the property. My grandpa worked in construction, while my grandma stayed at home, raising the kids and taking care of the home.

By the 70's and 80's, my grandparents had 4 new grandchildren, myself, cousins Lisa and Mark and my sister Emily. They were definitely doting grandparents and always treated us like their children.

I spent a lot of time there and learned a lot about responsibility. Here are some of the ways my grandma inspired me.

Inspiration 1: Baking, Cooking and Canning

Grandma loved to bake and cook and did things out of not only necessity, but out of love. Because they lived in the country, she was used to making three square meals a day. They did go to the grocery store for necessities they couldn’t grow or hunt themselves.

She learned from her mom how to survive in the country, especially during the bitter cold upstate New York winters. Grandpa and Grandma, up until their 80s, kept gardens, growing corn, giant pumpkins, peas, raspberries, carrots, potatoes and more. They were always canning and freezing food for the fall and winter. I remember helping her shuck corn and peas for canning. It was tedious work, but looking back now, I am so happy I had that experience to help her.

Inspiration 2: Sewing, decorating, knitting

My grandmother was an expert seamstress, which was how she paid for her college tuition in the 1940s. She made clothes for her children and grandchildren, knitted blankets, pieced together patchwork quilts, decorated her home and cooked meals every day for years. She found knitting and crocheting not only practical, but relaxing.

Inspiration 3: Frugal Fun

I remember going to the library with Grandma Esther and picking out a few books. She loved to read and was always reserving the next great book on her list. She also loved reading the New Yorker magazine, and when I got a subscription for her, she was thrilled. She also enjoyed taking walks outside, visiting family and friends, and listening to music. She rarely watched TV as they didn’t have cable. Though I do remember watching Wheel of Fortune and Dukes of Hazzard with her as a child! Those were the good old days!

Inspiration 4: A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

My grandmother’s generation didn’t believe in debt, and therefore, she never got into debt or even had her own credit card. For whatever she needed, she paid cash. She saved her change and dollar bills and only bought things when she had the money. She saved up for what was important to her. She also used coupons when she went shopping, which wasn’t very often.

More ideas from Grandma that I have implemented into my life:

1. Use cloth instead of paper.  My grandma had a bucket of clean rags, that she used to wipe down everything. She rarely used paper towels. Microfiber cloths are also a great option, washable, durable and reusable.

2.  Buy and use green cleaning products, or make them yourself! Just search on Pinterest for eco-friendly green cleaner recipes. Plus, shop for eco-friendly beauty products,  eco-friendly fashion lines and eco-friendly home decor. I really like Green Works and Method.

3.  Laundry.  Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot.  Line-dry when you can. There is nothing like line-dried clothing, that has dried in the sun! You will never forget that clean air smell.

4.  Conserve Energy - Turn off the lights when you leave the room, or open the curtains and blinds and rely on the sunlight to cut down on electricity use. Only run the dishwasher when you have a full load.  Shut down and turn off your computer completely at night.

5.  Change your light bulbs.  Switch a few of your light bulbs to CFLs , which use about 75 percent less energy and last seven to 10 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs, until eventually you have all of your house switched over. This was a hard one for me because I love my old-school bulbs. Now that they are phased out of most stores, I have had to bite the bullet and buy the new bulbs. Six years ago, my 90 year old grandfather, was light years ahead of me because he used CFLs and preferred them!

6.  Repurpose glass jars as leftover containers, bulk storage or even pretty vases. I love mason jars for this.

7.  Buy used and donate.   Shop thrift stores and craigslist for clothing, home items and more.  Grandma was a thrift shopper, she loved a good deal. She also loved to knit, sew and crochet. While I'm not much of a thrift shopper, I donate a lot to Goodwill.

8.  Stop using disposable bags.   Purchase reusable bags. They are more durable and don't clog up land-fills! I love, love, love my Target reusable bag. I keep one in my car and one in the kitchen.

9. Quilting/reusing material/reusing old clothes and sheets for material. Grandma was an expert seamstress and could make all kinds of clothing, Halloween costumes and more.

10. Gardening. Grandma was known for her beautiful gardens. She grew not only flowers but rows of corn and raspberries, potatoes, green beans and much more.

11. Canning food. I remember every fall growing up, Grandma would can food. This was a long procedure, from picking the food, preparing it, and then canning it. It paid off- all winter, they had fresh, homegrown food on their table.

12. Baking your own bread-- Really, is there anything better than homemade bread? Grandma didn't think so either. Homemade bread, with a bit of homemade jelly or butter was always a special treat at Grandma's house.

One snowy night in November of 2003, my Grandma Esther passed away at age 83 in her bed. Grandpa passed away 4 years later, working outside on his tractor. Up until the end, they both had lived the life they wanted to, one of love, contentment, happiness and peace.

Discover your own secret of the Good Life in Ruth Soukup’s new book, Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life. Through personal stories and practical action plans, she will inspire you to make real and lasting changes to your personal goals, homes, and finance. It is real, honest, and speaks to the heart of the matter—how can you live the life you’ve always wanted? (And be sure to preorder now to take advantage of Ruth’s AWESOME preorder bonuses!!) 

#LWSLbook #secret13

Thursday
Nov202014

Disney Movie Preview: Cinderella 2015

I can't wait for this movie!

The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her.

And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods.

Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden). Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham Carter) steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice, changes Cinderella’s life forever.

 

See the trailer: http://youtu.be/20DF6U1HcGQ

 

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Friday
Nov142014

18 Easy Home DIY Projects

Do you find lots of DIY home projects online that look absolutely amazing, but when you get to the instructions, well, your jaw drops at the difficulty? Me too. (See also: 15 Home Decorating Ideas for Under $5)

The good news is that there are plenty of straightforward projects out there that can make your home look fantastic (and give you the satisfaction of doing it yourself). Here are some of my favorites for every area of your home.

1. PAINTED TABLECLOTH

This Polka Dot Tablecloth is so simple, a kid could make it. Cut out a dot shape using a potato, dip it in some textile paint, and stamp. Of course, if you have other ideas for designs, just use a brush or stamp and the same textile paint.

2. PAINTED FURNITURE

If you have an index finger, you can spray paint a variety of furniture pieces. I've given a bright coat to chairs, side tables, and even a dresser for design on a dime. There are definitely some best practices here, including cleaning and lightly sanding, spraying outdoors in a well ventilated area, priming and painting with thin coats, and sealing with a clear finisher if your piece will be heavily used.

3. FUN TILE

Refresh that outdated backsplash by painting over it! You'll need a shellac-based primer, acrylic house paint, and a polyurethane top coat. I took this project a step farther by using metallic craft paint to create an artistic mixed-tile look in my kitchen.

4. STONE TUB

That old bathtub can get a spa-worthy makeover using AirStone — a lightweight veneer you can buy at Lowes — and adhesive. You'll want to clean your tub well before beginning for optimum sticking power. From there, just apply the adhesive to the stone and stick. You can cut different sizes using a hacksaw.

5. SERENE FIREPLACE

I've given new life to an old fireplace in three homes now. Old red brick doesn't go with all decors, so paint those suckers by using a regular paintbrush and a foam brush (will help get in all the crevices) and good quality flat, semi-gloss, or gloss latex, depending on your tastes. Note: I've skipped the priming the last two times, and my results have been just as stellar. (See also: Boost Your Home's Value With These 5 Projects)

6. BASKET PENDANT

Updating an old light fixture doesn't have to be expensive. I love this Basket Pendant Lightidea — which features a cool $10 thrift store basket and cheap pendant light. Just remove the pendant's original cover, snake it through the basket, hang, and you're done (similar fixtures cost over $300!).

7. HAUTE HEADBOARD

Head to your local lumber supply or box hardware store and get a large piece of plywood cut to size for this DIY Headboard. Once you have your board cut, cover it with batting and fabric, then embellish with nailhead trim. The cost was just $67 for a queen bed, and the time required was only an afternoon.

8. TOWEL HOOKS

Tame all those bathroom towels with this beautiful rack that assembles in only minutes. Cut (or have someone cut) your desired length from a 1x10 board, then sand it lightly and stain. Once it dries, mark where your hooks will go, hang, and then screw in your hooks. Bonus: The entire cost is less than $15 from start to finish.

9. TERRIFIC THROW

Even if you've never once touched a sewing machine, you can still make a throw blanket for your couch to ward off chills. The classic is a warm fleece blanket, where you take two pieces of fleece fabric, cut all along the edges, and then tie off to bind. If you live in a warmer climate, it's the same process for this throw, just using jersey knit fabric.

10. ABSTRACT ART

I recently went out looking for some art to cozy up our family room, and I was shocked at the price tags. This DIY Abstract Art project looks a ton like a lot of the options I was considering, but at a fraction of the price. You'll need a large canvas, acrylic paints, a couple brushes, and about an hour of creative time.

11. QUOTE PILLOW

Pillows with sayings scrawled on them are all the rage these days (that sounds like something my grandmother would say!). Fittingly, they can be quite expensive at the store. Make your own using this easy tutorial, a linen pillowcase, stencils, and fabric marker. I'd paint words on both sides and flip to change things up every now and again.

12. CUSTOM CHALKBOARD

Turn trash into treasure by taking an old picture frame and painting the glass on the inside with a couple coats of chalkboard paint. You can paint the frame with colorful spray paint, too! It's the easiest way to get a chalkboard in your house without painting the walls black. (See also: 15 Fantastic Chalkboard Paint Projects)

13. NO SEW CURTAINS

I made these No Sew Curtains for my daughter's nursery a couple of years ago. The hardest part was picking out the fabric design I wanted. Iron your yards until they are smooth, then cut to your desired size. Instead of sewing, use hemming tape to create clean edges. You hang using curtain clip rings. Done!

14. TABLE RUNNER

The same idea applies with this No-Sew Table Runner, just on a smaller scale. You could make one for every month of the year or the change of seasons. Pick out your fabric, cut it to fit your dining table, hem using the iron-on tape, and enjoy.

15. COPYCAT SHELVES

Skip the Restoration Hardware order and make your own Industrial Shelves. As with many other projects on this list, you can get your 2x10 board cut down to the size you want (in this case, the author chose 30 inches for three shelves total) at the store for little or no charge. After staining them, hang with spray painted pipes and floor flanges.

16. KITCHEN CART

My eyes nearly popped out of my head with this DIY Kitchen Cart. And here's why: You just use three boards cut to the size you want, stain them, then fasten together using metal angles, and then screw on some caster wheels. (See also: 10 Ways To Make Your Apartment Awesome Without Losing Your Deposit)

17. WRAP WREATH

Liven up your front door by making a Wrap Wreath using a foam wreath form and some recycled paper bags. Cut strips of the paper, twist, and then wrap around your form and hot glue to secure. You can make a more colorful wreath by using thick yarn instead of paper. Embellish however your mood strikes you. (See also: 10 Useful Items You Should Never Throw Out)

18. HAND-PAINTED RUG

Upcycle an boring old rug into an amazing West Elm Copycat. You'll want to create a stencil of sorts using whatever design you think will match your home's decor. From there, draw the outlines using a Sharpie marker and paint over it using acrylic or latex. You can seal the rug using fabric protector to finish.

Source: Wisebread.com

Monday
Nov102014

37 Ways to Organize with Ikea

Here are 37 clever ways to organize with stuff from Ikea! From Buzzfeed.com.
Sunday
Nov092014

Into the Woods- Can't Wait for This Movie!

If you love the Brothers Grimm stories, TV show Once Upon a Time, this is something you may want to see! Not to mention all these big name actors, (like my fave Johnny Depp!)!

 

“Into the Woods” is a modern twist on several of the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), all tied together by an original story involving a Baker and his Wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt), their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the Witch (Meryl Streep), who has put a curse on them.

 

Trailer here.

Wednesday
Oct082014

23 DIY Projects for Kids

Here are 23 really fun DIY projects for the kiddos! From Buzzfeed.com.