Penny Pinchers

Page 21 of 26

POPping up some cheap snacks

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mmm...popcorn.  Popcorn is a great snack for midday or evenings.  We often eat popcorn while watching "House of Cards" or random Wednesday night sitcoms.  But buying a 3-count box of microwave popcorn can get expensive.  Most of the time those boxes are $3-$4 dollars.  So what's the alternative?  Make it yourself!  For much less than $4 I can buy a container of white or yellow popcorn kernels.  You can find these right over with the microwave popcorn, usually hidden down on a bottom shelf somewhere.  AND you get way more than 3 bags of popcorn out of a whole container of kernels!

This is what's left of 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels that I popped in the microwave the other day.  I simply put 1/4 cup of kernels in a brown paper bag, folded down the top and set the microwave for 2 minutes.  It took a little longer than that, but when it was done I had great, homemade popcorn!  You can buy an air popper - probably at Goodwill or the Habitat REstore, use the microwave method or the stove top method.  The stove top is my favorite:

Pour a small amount of canola oil in the bottom of a heavy, 4qt pot (I use my soup/pasta pot).  Make sure you have a lid for it!  You just need about 1 tbsp of oil.  Heat the oil over medium heat (4 or 5 on my electric stove) and drop in 3 popcorn kernels.  When these pop, add in 1/4 cup of kernels and put the lid on.  As soon as the kernels start to pop, shake the pot.  Give a shake every 30 seconds or so while it's popping.  Keep one hand on the lid!  Soon you'll have so much popcorn that it will start pushing the lid off the pot! When the popping slows to once every 2-3 seconds, you can take it off the heat and let it set for a minute or two.

We like to add salt and, if we have it, some grated parmesan cheese to our popcorn.  This will easily make 4 servings.

For more information on why you should make popcorn at home, check out this post by the Parsimonious Princess.


On the Hunt for a Home

By Brittany Dale
Tuesday, February 18, 2014


The battle between renting and buying a home seems like a no brainer to me. Yet, if you asked me if I wanted to buy a house 2 years ago I would have said “heck no”. My circumstances have changed and given our fondness of the valley, the stability of having a committed relationship and the idea of growing roots by establishing equity in a home, we are looking to buy a home rather than continue renting.

There are hundreds of calculators online that help you determine whether renting or buying is right for your wallet. We are new to the home buying process so there are a multitude of learning opportunities for us. Whether or not you can afford the mortgage seems to be just the tip of a very large iceburg. We are qualified to buy a home but there are so many other factors that determine if buying a home versus renting is truly worth it, and not just financially.

I believe financial security is measured in additional factors unrelated to money. This blog is about saving money but for me the motivation to save money is to live with less stress. As I discussed last week, budgeting can be stressful but does having more money make it any less stressful? While the saying is true that money doesn't buy happiness, I believe the ability to purchase things you need without too much effort reduces stress.

If reducing stress is the goal, there are also tests to determine how high your stress level is based on your current life circumstances. Determining how a particular financial decision will affect you can be a tricky task. While the thought of buying a house is exciting, I have started to have stress dreams as the process progresses. Keep in mind, I tend to be high strung and stressed out anyway but change is particularly hard on me, no matter how exciting.

A simple google search is enough material to read for months about the pros and cons of both renting and buying. The disjointed rambling of this post is clear evidence that there may be no right answer for you and your family. Even from a purely financial aspect, the weighing of options is not black and white.

While there are options for a smaller down payment and we qualify for an extremely low interest rate there are other factors that affect our financial future. Weighing all of our options is a tricky game and we are lucky to have a great team of people helping us along the way. The financial commitment and challenges are daunting and exhilarating at the same time.

This is the beginning of our journey to home ownership. Wish us luck!

What do you wish you would have known when you bought your first home?


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.

Page 21 of 26


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