Penny Pinchers

Page 21 of 26

Home Decorating For Less…But Was it Really?

By Julie Norman
Monday, February 17, 2014

Changing the look of a room can often be an expensive process.  We've seen it time and time again on shows like "Trading Spaces" (which ended in 2008) and others.   Each team or designer will get a set amount of money to re-do a room in someone's home.  Usually these people have a budget of $1000 for ONE room!  That's crazy!  I can't imagine spending that much to renovate a room.  Let's face it, paint is cheap and can have a dramatic effect on the look of a place.

This weekend though I was working on a much simpler project.  I needed "doors" for our guest bedroom closet.  It houses sleeping bags, ski stuff, etc and, while it's not messy, it's certainly not a space that you want to show off to your guests. The BF offered to put doors on the closet. I didn't want him to go to that much trouble or expense.  We'd have needed 2 sets of bifold closet doors and those are about $44 a piece or MORE.  So that would have been $88 plus an additional hardware we needed.  No, I was looking for a cheaper option.

I thought I could use a spring tension rod and some curtain panels.  This way it would soften the look of the room while also hiding our junk. Still, we all know curtains can be break-the-bank expensive.  So how could I save money that way?  Two words: BIG LOTS. Big Lots always has inexpensive yet durable curtains. The biggest problem with curtains is that they're all sold separately.  At department stores and places like Bed, Bath and Beyond ONE panel is usually $14 or more.  I looked online and did find some for as cheap as $10 for EACH panel. 

The difference at Big Lots is that you can often find TWO panels for the price of one.  So instead of paying $40 for four panels, I was able to pay only $28 for four panels.  Then I got a spring tension rod for $9.  That seems to be the basic price for those anywhere.  So what would have cost me between $49 and $57 at a department store or Bed, Bath and Beyond cost me $37 at Big Lots.  It's not a huge savings, but every time you save $12 well, you save $12!

Here's the final product.  One final tip:  Always take the time to iron curtains or steam comforters ( you can use your iron to do that).


More inexpensive ways to show you care

By Julie Norman
Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!  Here at Penny Pinchers we believe in celebrating in the best way possible - by not spending much money.  There are plenty of ways to show someone you care that aren't going to break the bank.


photo from

Brittany's link for today is from 

This list is filled with thoughtful things to say and do to show someone that you appreciate them.  None of them require spending hundreds of dollars!

For more ideas on how others frugally celebrate the holiday of love, visit this link from The Frugal Girl.  Small gifts often mean more than a big giant teddy bear!

Whatever you do today we hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day filled with love and happiness!


Make Your Own Takeout - Pizza

By Brittany Dale
Thursday, February 13, 2014

Welcome to another rendition of Make Your Own Takeout.

This week we had pizza on our meal list. We have pizza every couple of weeks and really like to load it up with a bunch of veggies which I can only assume is horribly expensive to get on take out. For Christmas, my parents got us a pizza stone, peel (the flat wooden shovel looking thing) a fancy pizza cutter and a couple of cook books. We were really excited to branch out from our normal routine. I decided to be brave and make my own pizza dough.

Typically we buy pre-made pizza dough. We love the flavor and they are easy to use but after making my own, I won't ever buy them again.

Those pre-made pizzas cost $3.99 each. We buy two so that we have enough for lunches the next day.
Ingredients needed for the specific dough we made:
Yeast (3 packets of 1 tsp each) - $1.99
Bread flour (5lb bag) - $3.99
Regular Flour (5lb bag) - $2.99

I already had salt, and the regular flour. I used 2 cups of the bread flour and ½ tsp of the yeast. I will have all of the ingredients I need to make my own dough for at least a month. THAT is a great deal!

Those of you who cook understand that it's gratifying to make something with your own hands. Making my own pizza dough was the epitome of feeling accomplished. My excitement about it sounds a tad excessive. Go ahead, call me crazy.

We were both pleasantly surprised with the taste. I also really liked that I would be able to change the amount of dough and the flavor depending on what we like.

The price was really what won me over. I am looking forward to what else we can create and our next step to make pizzas even cheaper will be to buy the big block of mozzarella cheese instead of smaller portions.


Valetine’s on the cheap (mostly)

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Let me start this by saying I am a big ol dork when it comes to the grocery store.  I love it.  I love the cheese aisle, the produce section, the vareties of salsas...I love finding digital coupons and watching the total drop and drop and drop once all my "card savings" and digital coupons are applied.  It's a sickness, really.  This week City Market tried to lure me back (I'm a Safeway shopper) by sending me a bunch of personalized coupons.  There were coupons for free Kraft mayonnaise, free peanut butter, free grape tomatoes, etc. So I said FINE City Market.  I'll go and I'll use your coupons.  But you will not win me over! 

It just so happened to be the shopping trip during which I was buying everything for our Valentine's Day dinner. Yes, we celebrate Valentine's Day.  We buy each other cards and we have a nice dinner.  Honestly I just like excuses to have nice dinners once in a while. Valentine's is a good excuse. Still, I didn't go into this without a plan. I thought about what I already had at home, the coupons from City Market, and some requests I'd gotten from the BF. Here's the menu I came up with:

Appetizer: Shrimp cocktail

Salad: Boston lettuce "cups" filled with artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, fresh mozarella (really I was going for any on-sale fancy cheese) and cucumber and topped with a viniagrette.

Main course: Grilled top sirloin steaks with a side of creamed spinach

Dessert: A parfait of vanilla ice cream and peach sorbet topped with a berry compote

The peach sorbet was already made and in the freezer.  I'd made it a few days ago with peaches I froze back in the summer.  The sirloins I'd purchased from the clearance bin at Safeway a few weeks ago. To determine pricing, I did think about how much of each product we'd use.  Here's the break-down:


1/2 bag shrimp (that's a lot, but we like shrimp...)  = $5

Cocktail sauce (1/4 bottle)                                      = .50


Cucumber (I counted the whole thing even though we probably won't use that much ) = .89

Tomatoes - FREE (with coupon)

Fresh Mozarella - I lucked out and found a "manager's special" container                    = $2.29

Can of artichoke hearts (this was a splurge)                                                                  = $3.49

Boston/Bibb lettuce - 1 head (I probably won't use all that)                                           = $1.50

Newman's Own Dressing (with .75 off coupon, assuming 1/4 bottle which is still a lot)  = .88

Main Course:

Top Sirloin Steaks (on clearance - Grass Fed Open Nature 1.5 lb)                              = $6.59

Any marinade we use will be from on-hand ingredients so I didn't count that.

Fresh spinach                                                                                                               = $1.29

Frozen spinach                                                                                                             = $1.39

Roux (milk price is correct, butter/flour is guesstimated)                                              = $1.60 (Lactose Free 2% milk is .60/cup)


Milk - 3 cups (again, Lactose Free 2%)                                                                          = $1.80

Sugar and vanillia (guesstimates)                                                                                  = .75

Berries (a mix of blueberries and blackberries on sale)                                                = $4


Total cost for 2: $31.97!  That's right at $16 a person.  Not bad for appetizer thru dessert!

Obviously that doesn't include alcohol, but I'm not in charge of that ;)  The real question though, is how much would something similar cost at a restaurant?

I checked out the menu for a common chain restaurant serving seafood and steaks. 

1 shrimp cocktail - $8.79

One order of sirloin steak with mashed potatoes and a side item - $14.99

One dessert (I went with the cheapest) - $4.99

So, without alcohol, ONE meal at a restaurant would be $28.77  That's almost double what my at-home meal will cost.  Plus we'll be able to relax, wear comfy clothes and honestly probably enjoy a better tasting, and definitely better for us, meal than we would at that chain restaurant.

This was definitely a budget WIN!


The Budgeting Carousel

By Brittany Dale
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Today, my friends, I'm being honest.

Sometimes budgeting sucks. There, I said it. Penny pinching can be very tedious and constricting. At times I feel like a nag to both myself and my boyfriend. I think we all love to see results immediately and saving money doesn’t necessarily have a tangible reward right away. Being fairly strict with our budget sometimes requires saying no, and dangit, saying no just isn't as fun.

We received our tax returns this week and I am split in two. I want to make myself apply each penny to appropriate places to maximize the funds while I also want to go to a nice dinner with my guy or buy something just for fun. The wish list my boyfriend has and the one I keep silent rises front a center when it feels like we have extra money. It is fun and energizing to feel like we aren't controlled by money and having extra feels like freedom. I want to run wild and free, dollar bills blowing behind me, because I have so many. Except life isn't a Geico commercial. Boo.


Before I go back to reminding myself that my sacrifices now will make a more solid foundation later, apparently I would rather whine a little first. I find difficulty in balancing what feels like unnecessary spending and sending every penny we get to our debt or savings account. I wish I had a little financial person sitting on my shoulder giving me constant advice. I have heard people say “pay yourself first” but I think those people are referring to my savings account and not a trip to the clothing store (even if it would be the second hand clothing store).

Money controls everything and I despise it.

We are at the mercy of our credit scores, our debt to income ratio and the size of our paychecks. Sure, I could move off the grid somewhere far away, farm my own food, use dirt and slug juice for shampoo and rebel against commercial control. Can we be realistic though? I really like my flushing toilet and running water. I love the solid roof over my head and I'm grateful that we can buy groceries and gas and truly afford the things we need and most of the time the things we want. Yet, my want is often greater than my ability to afford it. Does this dilemma become a matter of retraining ourselves to live on less? The things that I understand as a luxury like that new Hummer X5LT Gas Guzzler, diamond studded clothes for my dogs or a jumpy castle are all easy for me to resist because I understand they are over the top. What about the other stuff that doesn't seem so luxurious like the shampoo I like that makes my hair really soft, or hiking boots or exactly 1,000 containers and wall to wall shelving to delicately organize all of our odds and ends? My organizing “problem” is beside the point here. Those things don't feel over the top but if I am being honest with myself - truly honest - should I be spending money on things like that, even if my bills are already paid? If we ever want to be debt free, purchase a home or have extra spending money each month then the answer is no, I shouldn't be spending money on things that we don't absolutely need. And we are back to being helpless to money.

Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows.” Photo:

Is there a balance? Do we find a magic number that allows us to pay our bills, save for the future and purchase the things we want or is it true that the magic number increases, continually growing just ahead of our income. Sometimes I feel like we live in a constant race where “just a couple hundred dollars more” will get us across the finish line. Each time my income increases (although it hasn't increased much) my finish line moves. My want is always greater than my have.

Is there a way out of the race? How can we find a balance and live in peace with the money battle?

Page 21 of 26


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