Saving Money While Shopping…And a $500 Giveaway!

How to Save Money While Shopping As someone who has taken careful steps to change my bad financial habits of the past, I make sure to save as much money as possible when spending my hard-earned cash. As far as shopping is concerned, it’s still a bit of a sport to me; but for very different reasons…

I used to be the girl who would shop for sport in terms of making mindless purchases all in the name of having the latest gadgets or fashions. I used to shop when I was bored, with friends as a social outing, when I was stressed, etc, etc, etc.

Now, I’m the girl who makes a sport out of saving money while shopping. I still do shop, but I’m now purchasing necessities and/or items I’ve saved and budgeted for.

Ways I Save Money While Shopping:

Shop Sales & Clearance Racks

I’m not too proud to sift through clearance bins during the semi-annual sale, nor am I too concerned with labels to pass up a well-structured, no-name item that is marked down to pennies on the dollar. Where most may see trash, I’m usually able to find treasure–with a bit of creativity, I’ve been able to style some very cute, unique outfits that have cost me less than $5 for everything I’m wearing.

My biggest haul from a savings rack? Combined with some coupons as I’ll talk about below, I once purchased an entire wardrobe for $483. If I had paid original prices for everything I bought? My total would have been over $3,700!

Coupons

I love coupons, to an extent. You’ll never see me toting around a binder of neatly organized coupons through the grocery store, but you will see me using coupons in clever ways (speaking of grocery shopping, have you read my post about 19 easy changes you can make to cut your grocery bill?). For instance, I once piggy-backed expired coupons at Bed, Bath and Beyond to save an additional $17 off a $25 purchase. I still can’t figure out how that worked so well, but I’m not complaining about paying $8 for something that originally would have cost over $35 had it not been on sale as well!

To find my coupons, I usually look through the weekend circulars (when I have time; this happens maybe once every other month..haha!), read my junk mail (including emails!), and find mobile coupons to load onto my iPhone. I save all coupons I find because I’ve learned, more often than not if you’re polite in your request to a manager, they will usually honor expired coupons.

Staying Realistic

Shopping can still be a challenge for me because I can easily get caught up in the ‘buy, buy, buy’ mentality. Luckily, I’ve created some rules for myself that curb virtually all mindless spending and superfluous purchases.

First, I resolve to only buy what I need rather than what I want. To keep myself on the straight & narrow, I shop with a list and give myself a set amount of time during which I can shop. If the two hours is up, I’m headed home. This may sound extreme, but I’ve found that reducing the amount of time spent in a store is exactly what I need to do to help myself avoid impulse purchases (duh!).

Second, I remind myself of the lies we tell ourselves to rationalize spending. You’ve heard them before or perhaps have said them yourself: “I have no food”–when you’re standing in front of a packed refrigerator or “I have nothing to wear”–when you’re standing in front of your over-stuffed closet. Keeping these tendencies in mind is a great way to keep yourself focused on your goals while shopping or spending in general.

Top PF Blog

Before I get to the giveaway portion of this post, I want to take a minute to ask your help with voting for The Happy Homeowner. I’ve been nominated as one of the Top Personal Finance Blogs of 2012, and I’m thrilled! Please vote for me today–I’d be so happy if you did (just a few clicks; no entries, etc!). :)

$500 Giveaway

Last but not least, I’m excited to be part of another giveaway. Today’s giveaway is for a $500 PayPal cash prize! It is brought to you by Rather-Be-Shopping.com, helping consumers save money with online coupons since 2000.
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Photo credit: andrewarchy

Creative Valentine’s Day Gifts on a Budget….and a Giveaway!

Cheap Valentines Day Gifts and Dates With Valentine’s Day just over a week away, I have some work to do in the gift-giving department. Being the budget-loving, money-saving gal I am, I will definitely be utilizing a hefty dose of creativity to ensure I don’t break the bank for my “favorite” Hallmark Holiday. :)

The thing is, I love giving gifts. Whether it’s for strangers during any rendition of my Operation Giving Back missions or holiday gifts for just about anyone on the list, I’m usually trying to figure out a way to stretch my gift dollars as far as possible. But I draw the line at giving something that’s completely thoughtless or bought last-minute just to buy something. More often than not, I find a way to give something meaningful that also fits in the budget.

Creative Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas that Can be Adapted to Fit Any Budget…

 

Edible Valentine’s Day Gifts

One of my favorite gift-giving categories is something edible. Whether it’s cooked or baked, I’ve always had a lot of fun creating something yummy for a neighbor or loved one. This year, I’ll be making homemade fortune cookies for my BF (I certainly hope he’s not reading this!!!), complete with personalized fortunes. If I have time, I’ll also make some homemade cupcakes and candy for a few of my friends and co-workers to enjoy. Check out my Eats & Treats Pinterest board for loads of fun, easy recipes–including the one I’ll be using for the fortune cookies!

Sentimental Valentine’s Day Gifts

Another favorite gift category of mine, no matter the occasion, is something sentimental. I won’t be divulging the details of this gift for BF just in case he’s reading this post, but I like to create gifts based on shared experiences, interests and/or dreams and goals. Some inexpensive ideas are scrapbooks, framed photos in DIYed frames and personalized magnets or other office/desk accessories. Also, never, ever underestimate the power of a hand-written card or note!

Inexpensive Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

The last category, dates, is a must-have for me because I’m all about giving the means for fun and memorable life experiences instead of material objects. After all, the memory of the experience you had while taking the photo lasts far beyond the dust accumulating on that frame. Some of my favorite, inexpensive Valentine’s Day date ideas include:

  • Star gazing. Depending on where you live and the weather that day, you might only need a blanket and a clear sky to create a memorable Valentine’s Day
  • Indoor picnics. This can also be done outdoors obviously, but if you’re like me and live somewhere that actually has winter weather in February, you can set up a cozy picnic area in your house. Combine this with your cooked or baked goodies, some bubbly and spend your V-day talking long into the wee hours of the night
  • Scavenger hunts. I haven’t personally done this before, but I’ve always wanted to set up a date that revolved entirely around a scavenger hunt. Seriously, how fun would that be?!

 

Giveaway Time–Enter to Win $100!

If you’re still shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts, don’t forget to check out coupon offers from sites such as CouponFollow.com. If you are going to buy something, you might as well try to save some money on your purchase!

Speaking of money, enter now for your chance to win $100….

 

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Will you be giving any Valentine’s Day gifts this year? If so, what are you planning to give and how will you save money doing so?

 

Photo credit: epSos.de

Do No Spend Days Really Work? (and a CASH GIVEAWAY!)

No Spend Day I’ve always been a fan of no spend days. In fact, this blog has its roots in a No Spend Challenge back in 2011. For me, there’s something quite satisfying about knowing I  haven’t spent a single dime extra in a given day.

Notice in that sentence how I typed the word ‘extra?’ That’s because I am a firm believer that no spend days and no spend challenges need to be about the extra, miscellaneous purchases that can wreak havoc on our budget–they’re not about the fixed expenses we must pay such as mortgage and rent payments, utilities, debt payments, etc.

How Does a No Spend Day Work?

For me, a no spend day means that I haven’t mindlessly thrown my money away. That means no meals out, no frivolous purchases of tea (not a coffee drinker–have actually never had it!), gum, magazines or any other small impulse purchase that’s easy to rationalize when it’s just a few dollars. It also means that I’m not shopping for clothes, spending money on entertainment or even filling my gas tank.

Isn’t That Cheating?

The argument with no spend days is that if you don’t spend the money one day on something you need (case in point, filling the gas tank), won’t you just spend it the next?

It’s true that in the case of the gas tank, I’d absolutely be filling it eventually. But the point of a no spend day is to get your miscellaneous spending under control AND to become more aware of your spending habits. By forcing yourself to not spend a single dime on a given day, you’re inherently learning more about yourself and your financial habits.

Benefits of a No Spend Day or No Spend Challenge

In addition to learning more about your spending habits, a no spend day can help you identify the leaks in your budget–those pesky nuances that, left undetected or changed, can send the best of intentions and budgets spiraling out of control.

By becoming more aware of your habits, you can seek alternatives that cost less. You can also develop strategies to help overcome impulse shopping and mindless spending. Remember, free costs you nothing but time and energy–something that is free usually has a positive impact on your budget!

Giveaway Time–Free Money!

I’m excited to be taking part in another giveaway–for even MORE cash! Enter now for your chance to win $100. And if you haven’t already entered, don’t forget about my other giveaway for $25.

 

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What do you think about No Spend Days?

120 Holiday Gifts Under $20

120 Holiday gifts under $20 Christmas is just around the corner–Have you started your shopping yet?

If you’re like me most years, you have a lot of work to do (and a lot of gifts to make or purchase!).

In my frugal holiday gift-giving guide, I discussed my plan to ensure the holiday season is filled more with thoughtful gifts and good times with friends and family and less with stress and over-commercialized “it” gifts that drain my bank account and spirits.

Today’s post is focused on gifts you can purchase or make that are guaranteed to fit any budget!

From ornaments to gift baskets and beyond, hopefully you’ll find something for the special people on your list.

Here is a list of 120 holiday gifts that can be purchased for $20 or less, broken down by category:

 

Edible Gifts

  • Baked goods
  • 6-pack of craft beers
  • Homemade salsa, sauces, etc
  • Nips of your favorite top-shelf liquors
  • Chocolate-covered ANYTHING
  • Dinner or another meal
  • A collection of spices, oils, etc.
  • Homemade fortune cookies
  • Mason jars with various mixes
  • Wine
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Candy/fudge
  • Cocktail Garnishes

 

Written/Crafted Gifts

  • Hand-written letter
  • Journals or notebooks
  • Framed photo(s)
  • Magazines–buy a bunch from the newsstand and wrap with a bow
  • Personalized rubber stamp
  • Scrapbooks
  • Framed children’s artwork
  • Stationery /pens/stamps
  • Personalized calendar
  • Gift card collection
  • Collection of family memories–have your children write or illustrate their favorite memories and give the collected works to your family members.
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Books–travel books for a vacation that’s been planned, cookbooks, hobby books, puzzle books , your favorite novel; the list is endless. Just make sure to include a personal, hand-written note in the front of the book for your recipient!
  • Frame a favorite quote, poem, etc.
  • Craft supplies
  • Create gift vouchers–write out or print “vouchers” for a massage, a car wash, a date night, etc.
  • Scrapbook embellishments
  • Blogs–create a blog for a budding writer and give them the login information; share the blogging love!

 

Gifts for Pet Lovers

  • Collars /leashes
  • New toys
  • Pet place mats–save your floors from the mess your pets make while eating!
  • Fancy treats.
  • The Doggie Door Stop–so cute!
  • Animal prints–Just like those silhouettes of children, you can create these for pets.
  • Pet-shaped Post-its

 

Entertainment Gifts

  • Movie tickets
  • Small collection of discount DVDs
  • Board games
  • Monogrammed/personalized iPhone case
  • iTunes gift card
  • Singing lessons for kids
  • Art supplies
  • A collection of $5 gift cards–for where it makes sense (Starbucks, Amazon, McDonald’s, etc.)
  • Puzzles
  • Gaming controllers–Wii, Xbox, etc.
  • Lottery tickets
  • Magazine subscription
  • Create a dress-up trunk–gather some old dresses, suits, hats, heels, etc. and give your child the gift of endless, imaginative fun!
  • Event tickets
  • Reading accessories–clip-on lamp, bookmarks, etc.
  • Playing cards
  • 3-D Doodle Book & Kit –why didn’t they have these when I was growing up?!
  • Gift scavenger hunt–anything that involves a scavenger hunt to find it is a fantastic gift for children of all ages

 

Wearable Gifts

  • Jewelry–costume or handmade
  • Winter accessories–scarves, hats, mittens, etc.
  • Slippers
  • Belt
  • Wristlet
  • Personalized onesies, receiving blanket, etc.
  • Pedometer
  • Favorite sports team wear (ball cap, tie, etc.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Pajamas
  • Socks!

 

Personal Care Gifts

  • Makeup
  • First-aid kit–include bandages, ointments, etc. Perhaps not the sexiest gift but is extremely useful and would be very timely for that person who’s headed off on an adventure vacation or camping trip!
  • Hair care items
  • Winter skin Rx–lip balm, lotion, etc; Burt’s Bees has great options that are less than $15
  • Manicure kit
  • Foot care collection
  • Shaving kit
  • Bath salts, etc.
  • Cold kit–Like the first-aid kit, not sexy. Useful and appreciated when that fluke cold hits? Absolutely! Pair this with something more exciting :)
  • Child bath-time items

 

Gifts for the Home

 

Travel Gifts

 

Personal Finance Gifts

  • Piggy bank with coins
  • Personal finance book
  • Financial tracking App(s)
  • Wallet/money clip
  • Charitable donation(s) in their name

 

What are some things you’d add to this list?

 

Photo credit: docbaty

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