Switch Up Your Wardrobe Without Spending a Penny

20140109-093127.jpg

Being a homemaker doesn’t mean that you always have to sacrifice your wants and needs for those of the members in your household; for your family. It’s a common misperception that, when you have a family, you no longer can put yourself first and do any of the things that make you happy. Well, I think that’s a load of bull. If you want something, then make it happen.

In these tough economic times, and at all times for my fellow thrifty folk, most people are stretched thin, as far as what they are and are not willing to spend money on. Or, worse, many times people don’t have a choice; they simply can’t afford certain things. When it comes to their wardrobe, I’ve noticed that people are a lot more likely to cut back in this area than in other areas in their lives. With this in mind, I want to share 5 ways that I have found to switch up your wardrobe without spending a penny. I’m serious. It can be done and here’s how:

1) Get inspired.

The reality is that we all need a little inspiration sometimes; you know, that kick start, that oomph, that push that we all need every now and again. Have you sorted through your clothes, separating them into piles of what you wear and what you never wear, and thought now what? Well, my friends, it is 2014 and we have this lovely tool at our fingertips, called the internet! So use it. Search the web. See how others wear the items in their wardrobe. Or, if you’re a magazine reader, scan through some issues. This will help to spark your creativity and give you ideas which you can implement in your own life. If you can do this, then you are well on your way to reviving your wardrobe.

2) Learn to sew.

Taking sewing in high school (thank you, Mrs. Fogg!) was one of the best things that I could’ve done to benefit my wardrobe… and homemaking in general. Having less going on in my life then allowed me to focus on ensuring that I was learning and retaining everything that I was taught. I instantly fell in love. The types of stitch patterns, the importance of accurate measurements, and the finished products – I was mesmerized. With my newfound knowledge, I started to make clothes for myself. I made purses, quilts, throw pillows, potholders and more. It was like I finally had the key that unlocked the door to endless possibilities.

You can feel this way too! I see sewing machines on sites like Craigslist all the time, and many times they’re free. So, even if you don’t have the money to spend on a sewing machine, you can still get one. Keep checking back and be patient. Your time will come and make sure to act fast because free items go like hotcakes. Once you acquire a sewing machine (borrow one from a friend if you need to), look into free courses and seminars at your local craft and fabric stores, or in your community. Almost all craft stores offer some type of basic 101 courses on sewing and they’re usually free. Learn the basics of sewing and you’ll have more power than you know.

3) Revitalize the items you never wear.

Here’s where the sewing will come in very handy. Once you get some inspiration for those pieces of your wardrobe that you never wear, and you know how to sew, you can get to creating! I’m a huge fan of finding an article of clothing that needs revamping, finding another one that I never wear and am okay with using for material, and then meshing the two together to make something uniquely me. This is super useful in fixing clothes that don’t fit anymore too! Take those pieces that you never wear and add some lace, some trim, some sequins – your imagination is the limit. I recently posted about turning a shrunken sweater into a new and improved sweater that actually fit me. There are also ways to reinvent certain pieces that don’t involve sewing, like dyeing and cutting/tying, so consider those options as well.

4) Sell the items you never wear.

How many times have you thrown clothes out? We might all have been guilty of it at some point in our lives. Luckily, people are getting involved more and more in donating the clothes they never wear to charity. This is a great way to do some good for those less fortunate. While I think it’s very important that everyone donates old clothes, I don’t feel that this needs to be the case every time the closet is reorganized. If you’re like me, you can’t remember the last time that you bought a new article of clothing for yourself. So if you want to be able to buy new clothes, but don’t have the funds, consider selling the clothes you never wear. Consignment shops and boutiques will almost always buy your gently-used clothes from you for a decent price. Referred to nowadays as “neutral shopping”, you can splurge and buy some new duds with all of the money you make from selling your unwanted clothes.

5) Have a swap with friends.

This option is one of my personal favorites. Growing up, I was always getting hand-me-downs, which is actually ironic because I was the oldest sibling (living in the house, at the time). But I had a lot of older neighbors and cousins. Even now, my future sister-in-law will give me a trash bag or two filled with the clothes she never wears and I’ll sort through, usually find some pieces with potential, and then donate the rest. This tool can be priceless. Call up your friends, plan a time when you can all get together and swap away! And you don’t need to feel embarrassed. Embrace it. You’ll be surprised just how much you can improve and refresh your wardrobe without even spending a penny!

Advertisements

5 Easy Tips for Saving Money at Home

20140106-150509.jpg

Most of us try to save money and most of us do a decent job of it. We face a lot of external factors (like which store is having a deal, the state of the economy, etc.) on a daily basis. So much so that, often times, we forget about the actions that we can take right in our own homes to save some extra money.

Hurry, hurry, step right up, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – my 5 easy tricks for saving money in the home, that you might not have thought of before:

1) Freeze candles.

There’s no need to clean your ears, you heard me right. Before you plan to use your candles, put them in the freezer for a couple of hours. This will help them to drip less and last longer, while saving you some dough because you won’t have to buy as many or as often!

2) Use the (underestimated) back side of papers.

I am a paper magnet. No, seriously, my apartment is the heaven of trees. Between work, school, mail, writing and my inclination toward reading from actual paper versus a computer screen, I have acquired a ton of paper. Just when I feel proud of one of my recent paper purges, I turn around and there’s more paper stacking up!

Over the years, one way that I’ve found that helps to combat this mess is using the back side of papers. Naturally, it’s not the first thing you’d think to do with that used piece of scrap paper or that newsletter from your child’s school. But, when it comes time for you to make a grocery list (as any thrifty gal should do), leave a note for your husband or print your online coupons, this back side of the paper will come in really handy. Take a moment and think about how many times a day you scribble on a new piece of paper. Now multiply that number by 365. That’s how many pieces of paper you could be saving per year if you just started embracing the long-snubbed back side. And think of how many trees you’ll be saving too!

3) Pry open (get creative) flattened tubes and bottles before throwing them away.

I understand that some of you might find it “cheap” or “below” you to do this, but you’re just missing out! A great way to save money on usually-expensive cosmetics and toiletries is by making sure you’re using them “till the last drop”. If you pay $10 for a bottle of conditioner, then gosh darn it, you should get $10 worth of that smooth and silky hair-gold! By slicing open your used tubes and bottles, you can get several more days – even WEEKS – out of them. What’s that noise, you ask? Oh, that’s music to your ears!

4) Wear clothes twice before washing.

You might be cringing right now. That’s okay – let it out. I mean, this tip goes beyond the borders of what we perceive as “normal”. To most people, my suggestion is unheard-of and precedent-free. But I ask this in all seriousness: if you wear an outfit once, and deem it stain-free and not covered in dirt, why not wear it one more time before you wash it? This will help you save money on laundry detergent, electricity and the cost of water – cha-ching! Even better? Your clothes will last longer this way, with less wear and tear. Go one step further and, if realistic, opt to use the clothesline instead of the dryer and you will save even more mula!

5) Use Freecycle and Craigslist.

Believe it or not, these sites are not only saturated with crazy people and hoodlums, scouring the internet for the most gullible people on the planet. Yes, you need to be careful and mindful when using these sites, but they are truly great tools for anyone trying to stick to a budget. If you haven’t looked at Craigslist lately, please do it. Pay special attention to the section that says “free” – that’s “free”, as in free stuff!

People that don’t need an item anymore will post a listing on these sites and, most times, if you have the means to go pick it up, it’s yours. No questions asked. The best way to get the most out of this tip is to look for items that you need. That being said, if you don’t necessarily need something, but you’re a DIYer (like I am), THIS IS YOUR CAMELOT. You can get all sorts of goodies to inspire your upcycling dreams, and best of all, they’re super cheap (or free)!

Declutter Your Home: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

declutter2With a new year upon us, many of us find ourselves struggling to come up with ways to do things a little differently this year, to beautify and simplify our homes, relationships and lives. Though we should not let the stress of a forced New Year’s resolution get us all flustered, we should take a minute to evaluate each aspect of our lives; what is wonderful as-is and what we can improve upon. The improvements don’t need to be anything huge. I’m not saying that you need to move mountains to prove your strength or ride a bull to prove your bravery – I’m simply saying that there are little ways that we all can make changes and benefit ourselves and our families in the year ahead.

One of the greatest, most effective, and easiest ways to breathe new life into any home is by decluttering. After all, it’s a new year with new memories and new items to fill that space up! So read on to find out what 4 questions you should ask yourself each time you consider whether to keep or toss an item:

1) Does it have sentimental value?

I’m a pack-rat at heart and I’ve always been this way. So, admittedly, I struggle with decluttering. It is a source of major stress for me because I somehow always seem to find a reason why I should hang on to something, or why something is simply too good to get rid of. Since moving in with my (now) husband 5 years ago, I have made a conscious effort to become better at the art (it really is!) of “in with the old, out with the new”.

I make a point to ask myself if an item has any sentimental value to me – a.k.a. will I freak out in a few days once I remember it’s gone. If you ask yourself this question and the answer is no, then toss it. Don’t wait, don’t question it, don’t second-guess yourself – just toss it. Trust me, you won’t miss it and you’ll have something to replace that item in no time at all, as is life.

2) Does it serve a purpose?

If an item provides absolutely no benefits to you or your family and you realize that you rarely ever use it, here’s your chance to give it a proper send-off. Say goodbye, give your hugs, do whatever you need to. As long as it serves you no purpose, then it is time for the item in question to hit the road.

3) Do I have the space needed to store it?

Now, if you’re like me, you battle on a daily business with trying to find storage space. My husband and I currently live in an apartment, so space is seriously limited. Even if an item has no sentimental value, but serves a purpose, I still take into consideration whether or not we have the room to store the item. If it is an item that we use, but only sparingly or seasonally, and it would take away much-needed space from more useful and important items, then it only makes sense to get rid of it.

Don’t worry – if all of this “tossing” of still-useful-to-someone household items is making you queasy, make sure to read the fourth, and last, question you should ask yourself!

4) Would someone else benefit more from it than I?

So, you’ve answered all of the questions up to this point and you’ve found that an item is worth keeping. Before you store it, consider this: is there someone out there that could benefit from this product more than you (within reason, of course)? Obviously it’s not realistic for you to give every perfectly good and useful item in your home to every homeless person in your area. However, if there is an item that you have found that you do indeed use and that you have the space for, but it’s realistic for you to donate it to a homeless shelter, the Salvation Army, or other programs like that, then I ask that you at least think about it. Maybe you’ve been hanging on “just in case” to that old baby crib, those baby clothes or those boxes of wedding decorations (like our attic – eeek!). The fact of the matter is that there’s probably someone out there that needs a crib or baby clothes or wedding décor right now, a lot more than you do. This is clearly not an option for every family, but, if you have the power to help others, I ask that you at least consider it.

Decluttering allows you to have better knowledge of what items are in your home, which prevents things like item duplication (we’ve all been there!), giving you a thrifty start to the year ahead. Bonus – you’ll have a kickass, organized living space to boot!

My Budget, DIY Wedding: 6 Ways I Saved a Bunch of Money

I am going to join everyone else in doing a bit of reflecting today, on this past year and all that it has blessed me with. One thing stands out (quite obviously) and that is my wedding. Being admittedly obsessive-compulsive, the fact that I can look back on that day without any worries, anxiety or regrets is truly an amazing feeling.

Beacon-9415

*Credit: All photos in this post were taken by John Munson at Beacon Photography.

With that in mind, I want to share a post that I’ve wanted to write for a while now. As I mentioned previously, planning my wedding is what reignited my creativity and inspired the creation of this blog. Since weddings are super expensive and only getting more so, and planning one can be extremely stressful, I want to share the 6 ways that I was able to save a boatload of money in planning my wedding:

1) Discounted and DIY Stationery.

Save the Dates: When it came time to make the save the dates, I was still very new to the whole wedding planning process (or strategy, if you will). I knew we had a very tight budget (I’m talking incredibly tight to the point most would find it unattainable) and large families. So I waited until there was a 50% promo code for save the dates at Minted and I ordered them. Easy enough – and I saved about $150 with the promo code!

Invitations: As the wedding got closer, I started pondering what on earth we were going to do for invitations. Knowing how expensive they are, I panicked a little. Once I got back on my one-minded, budget-planning track, I weighed my options. We could either order really crappy invitations because it would be all we could afford, OR… wait for it… we could make our own! If you can’t already tell by my enthusiasm, we went for the latter.

I had a bunch of leftover envelopes from a friend’s baby shower that I planned a few months earlier, so I decided to use those and then get more of the same. My husband (bless his soul) and I bought the extra envelopes at Staples. I ordered cardstock paper online from The Paper Mill Store in the texture and color I wanted, using a promo code to save me 40% on my order.

Once I had the materials, I used Microsoft Publisher to design the invitations which consisted of a main invitation, guest information card, ceremony info card (for our immediate family, as we had a very intimate ceremony), a silly “celebration rules” card and an RSVP instruction card. We had everyone RSVP online through our wedding website, so we saved money on an entire set of envelopes and stamps! We tied all of the pieces together with some twine and called it a day. *There will be a tutorial on DIY wedding invitations coming soon. In the mean time, check out this printable stationery checklist from DIY Bride. I used this and just adjusted it to fit my own vision.

2) Free Ceremony Venue and Discounted Reception Venue.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. We had an intimate ceremony with just our immediate family, and we had it in our backyard, overlooking the ocean with a view of the Boston skyline. And just like that we had the beauty of nature (free décor!) and a budget-friendly venue (free!). Aside from décor and attire, all we shelled out for the ceremony, other than the champagne and beers purchased by my new in-laws (I can’t thank them enough), was the $100 officiant fee.

For our reception, we chose the yacht club down the street from our house, at which my (now) husband is a member. Not only do local function halls tend to be less expensive than the bigger, more popular venues, but, with his member discount, my husband was able to save us over 50% on the fee for the hall! I knew that I would just have to create decorations that would give us the most bang for our buck, so to speak. The amazing views also helped, as they drew a lot of attention away from the hall itself.

3) DIY everything… no, really… everything.

My husband and I made our own photobooth and saved over $600. We also made our own centerpieces, arbor, bouquets, boutonnieres, guestbook, card box and the rest of the décor for both the ceremony and reception. A major way that I found to save money was by not having any real flowers. Yes, you heard me right. We did not have any real flowers at our wedding!

  Beacon-8146 Beacon-8189Beacon-8020 Beacon-8345 Beacon-8348 Beacon-8353 Beacon-8398

4) Open Seating Plan and Delicious BBQ.

The key to keeping most any wedding guest happy is good food. It was really important to my husband and me that we choose yummy food options that would keep our guests full and satisfied. If you’ve ever planned a wedding, then you know how terrifyingly expensive catering can be. That being said, we chose a BBQ joint in our area (Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q… yummmmm) to cater our reception. We saved some money by having them drop the food off and having the staff at the reception venue serve it. We also opted to have an open seating plan and let our guests choose where they sat. By doing this, we saved money on place cards. We also decided not to have a cake. Instead, we had a dessert table; I baked a lot of dessert breads and froze them ahead of time, while various friends and family members brought desserts to add to the table.

Beacon-8357

5) No Professional Band or DJ.

We paid a friend to be our DJ. This allowed us to create the entire playlist ourselves, so we could ensure that the music being played would be something we liked. This did provide for a bit of a challenge because, as it turns out, we underestimated the length of our playlist, but it was just a minor hiccup in the day and really didn’t make much of a difference. In fact, I’m not sure if anyone else noticed. Since DJs can run upwards of $1,000+, we saved oodles of money in this area.

6) Thrifty and Fun Attire.

The total cost of both my attire and my husband’s, including the boutonniere and bouquet materials, was under $500. And $150 of that was for my cowboy boots (splurge!). Being shy and, I think, sometimes socially inept, I knew I wanted to buy my dress online. This might not be the best option for everyone, but it worked for me. After months of searching, I found my dress at Macy’s for $70 (and I got a promo code for free shipping). My husband and his groomsmen wore jeans and I ordered my birdcage veil and flower clip from Etsy. I chose to do my own nails and my future sister-in-law did my hair and makeup (she’s amazing). All in all, it worked out better and we saved more money than I could have ever hoped!

Beacon-7934Beacon-9178Beacon-9151

5 Practical New Year’s Resolutions to Help You Save Money

20131230-235147.jpg
It’s that time of year again! The crisp air, the winter fairytale snow, the holidays; it’s all so beautiful. But this time of year is also the time when most people take a step back, reflect on the past year and decide what changes they want to make in the coming year – gulp – it’s time for the dreaded New Year’s resolution. Call it depressing. Call it horrifying. Yet, the reality is that it is something that we all must face.

But don’t fret! I’m here to help you out. The future is most always uncertain, but there are ways to make things easier. Still feeling overwhelmed and unsure? Well, here is a list of 5 super practical New Year’s resolutions that will undoubtedly help you save money in the new year.

1) Opt for water.

We all know the benefits of drinking our good ol’ friend, H2O. They’ve been touted at us for decades. Roll your eyes all you want, but the truth of the matter is that drinking water is one of the best decisions you can make for your health, both mental and physical. But if you can replace even one of your drinks (soda, iced tea, etc.) each day with water, you will reap the monetary benefits as well! Since water is often cheaper than other sugary drinks, by opting for it, you can keep some extra cash in your wallet and maybe even an extra inch or two off your waist.

2) Brew your own coffee.

This resolution might seem like common sense, but, in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, it’s quite possible that it might not even cross your mind: brewing your own coffee instead of buying it from a coffee shop will undoubtedly save you money. Say you buy a cup of coffee each day for around $2. By brewing your own coffee, even just 5 of the 7 days per week, that’s $40 per month that you could be putting toward other things! When you really break it down, it seems like a no-brainer.

3) Use your crockpot.

The cooking gods blessed us with this incredibly useful and time-saving appliance, so we might as well use it! Whether you wake up late and don’t have time to prepare dinner to cook upon your return home from a long day at work or you need a dish to bring to a party, the ever-awesome, lazy man’s crockpot is the answer to your prayers. Just throw all of the ingredients into the crockpot, turn it on and – abracadabra – your dinner will be waiting for you when you get home! And, since crockpot meals are often made in bulk, not only will you have dinner for the night, but you can have lunch and/or dinner for the rest of the week too.

4) Set a limit on social expenses.

Need a resolution that, not only saves you oodles of money, but also helps you get into the habit of making smart, thrifty choices? Well then, my friends, this might just be the one for you. Limits are a necessary part of life, but that doesn’t mean that all New Year’s resolutions need to be robotic promises to ourselves that restrict us from doing something or eating something that we love. Start with smaller limits. My husband and I live a tight-budget lifestyle (and we rock it, might I add). So, being in charge of our finances, I set mental limits on how many times per week we can go out to eat or grab some takeout. This resolution involves some thinking ahead, however – it might not be a smart idea to go out to that Mexican restaurant tonight if you have dinner plans with friends at that nice Italian restaurant in a couple of days. See where I’m going with this? Healthy limits promote thrifty habits. You will save money this way.

5) Research, research, research.

Let me say that again: research, research, research! I saved this one for last because I find this to be the most practical resolution you can make, but it also provides the most benefits if you truly want to live thriftily within your means. Research everything. And don’t take this lightly – we’re talking real money being saved here, and often, a lot of it! I do my research before I do anything. No, I’m not kidding. Ask my husband and my mother, I literally research everything (and sometimes annoy the life out of everyone in the process). This research can be as simples as taking a gander at Groupon or Living Social before making a purchase, in case they might have a sweet deal on what you need. Or this research can be a little more complex, like scanning your local grocery store’s flyer and then scouring the internet for any available coupons before making your shopping list. As I touched upon in a previous post, a little foresight goes a long way, and researching will help you to ensure that you are only buying what you need (and not just because it’s on sale), and that you’re buying it at the best possible price.

Cheap? I Prefer Thrifty and Fabulous!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been called cheap by those who know me. Being a huge believer in research, I will admit that it does take me a little longer than most to make a decision. Whether it’s choosing a vacation destination or how to decorate my living space, I just can’t get enough of research! It’s not that I don’t want to spend any money ever (let’s be realistic here), but I am so confident in my ability to not pay full price for (almost) anything, that it pains me to think of the alternative. But that does not make me cheap. Rather, it makes me thrifty!

Cheap, to me, implies not giving two hoots about the quality of a product or service, as long as it’s the least expensive option. I feel that thrifty, on the other hand, implies being economically smart and frugal. In the grand scheme of things, I believe that there are two financial lifestyle extremes: cheap and generous. Thrifty falls somewhere in the middle (albeit closer to the cheap side). I consider myself thrifty because I don’t just buy the least expensive product or service that I see. I weigh my options, compare their value and hunt down the best prices available for what I’m looking for.

For instance, when I am planning a vacation, I visit different travel sites, both direct and third-party. I scour the web for anything of interest to my wants and needs at the time. If I know where my husband and I want to go, then I engage in more specific research. If we decide that we don’t really care where we go, then I will conduct a more general search of web travel deals. I create spreadsheets and I make pros/cons lists to ensure that I have analyzed every aspect of the decision that’s just waiting to be made (and I’m dying to make!).

When it comes to home décor, and everyday household items, I tend to lean more toward the DIY side of things, if it’s within reason of course. My logic behind this is that a) I like to make stuff and feel the pride associated with the finished product, b) recycling old things into new wonders ROCKS!, and c) I thoroughly enjoy saving money. In fact, I’m pretty much obsessed.

Whether it’s travel, shopping, décor, cooking or just plain living, I approach all of the financial challenges that I face with my main objective in mind: to get quality products and services at a steal, while gaining knowledge that can be utilized in the future. Does this make me cheap? I guess it depends on who is judging. Regardless, I’m going to continue on my current path, gaining savings sensibility while always – ALWAYS – remaining thrifty and fabulous!

Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on the specifics of my money-saving strategies and how you can save too!