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7 Old Fashioned Money-Saving Skills


Have you paid attention to the prices in the bread aisle recently? No, really. Store bought bread is expensive and contains all sorts of strange ingredients. I've started baking most of our bread at home to save money and keep our food simple. Some of the best recipes I make require nothing more than flour, yeast, and water. The rest is in the mixing, rise time, and actual baking. Start with this ubiquitous No-Knead Bread recipe by master baker Jim Lahey. You'll let it rise overnight and then bake in a dutch oven for an amazingly crisp crust. (See also: A Beginner's Guide to Homemade Bread)


In the past, most people actually made their pantry items from scratch. For example, oat flour is nothing more than rolled oats pulsed in your food processor. Same goes with almond meal. With some practice, you can blend together an amazing batch of hummus that costs half as much as its store-bought counterpart. The list goes on. And after a while, making wholesome foods in your own kitchen becomes automatic. (See also: 35 Grocery Items You Should Make at Home)


Eating local, seasonal produce is usually the cheapest, healthiest option for feeding your family. But what about in the off season? Instead of forking over extra cash to eat tomatoes from who-knows-where in January, consider learning the re-emerging art of canning. You'll need a few tools and some know-how (I love the Food In Jars book, which breaks down the method of small batch canning into bits and pieces). I have yet to master it fully, so I choose to prep and freeze a lot of my ingredients to enjoy year round — most produce lasts a year this way. You can also pickle and dehydrate foods for unique taste and texture. (See also: How to Preserve In-Season Foods for Off-Season Feasts)


Better yet, learn how to grow your own food in your backyard (or, for those of you with small outdoor spaces, on your patio). There are a number of hearty plants even beginners can cultivate and harvest with much success. Start with easy-to-grow beets, snap peas, carrots, radishes, squash, peppers, lettuce, and a variety of herbs, like dill, cilantro, and basil. Just be sure to pay attention to the soil, light, and watering suggestions on your seeds' or plant's guide. (See also: Get a Great Container Garden Started With This Guide)


There was a time not so long ago when a hole in a shirt didn't mean it was fated for the donation or garbage pile. Instead, a quick stitch would fix it right up like new. By learning how to sew, you can also customize your wardrobe and even add new wearables for very little cash. Get started by picking up an inexpensive sewing kit or a needle and thread. Then learn some beginner mending techniques, like how to sew on a button, repair small holes, and fix torn seams. It's a lot of under-over-under-over and tying off to finish. (See also: 20 Cute and Frugal Clothes You Can Sew For Your Kids)


There weren't a lot of brightly packaged cleaning products back in the day. Instead, people made their own cleaners and solutions at home. Here are five laundry detergent recipes to get you started. I've saved a bundle of money (and plastic) by making laundry soap at home, and my clothes are just as fresh and clean. All-purpose cleaning is also made simple with a mixture of 1:1 vinegar and water solution. Pour them together in a spray bottle and get busy cleaning. Add some alcohol to the bottle (a couple tablespoons) to make a streak-free window and mirror cleaner. (See also: How to Clean Everything With 3 All-Natural Cleaners)


Even the whole bath and body DIY phenomenon has its roots in the past. After all, the general store didn't carry limitless products and solutions. Of course, you can get fancy by mixing together bath bombs and sunscreens. I like to stick with the basics and use coconut oil as a moisturizer. Melting together olive oil, beeswax, and essential oils makes a quick and useful Vapor Rub. Once you acquire the core ingredients, you can make most anything yourself. (See also: 50 Amazing DIY Bath and Body Products)



Ikea Emoticons

Ikea had to go and get even more clever. They have developed their own emoticon language, download the app here, it's free!

How to Throw a Grilled Cheese Party


21 Pottery Barn-Inspired DIY

Find out how to make these Pottery Barn-inspired DIY here.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



10 Ways to Spruce Up An Unfinished Basement

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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. For Grandma, contentment wasn't found in a trip to Target or buying a new purse. 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


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:



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