By Julie Norman
Monday, December 8, 2014
So we've seen thrifty gifts for Mom and the BF, but what about DAD??? We can't leave him out! Dad is actually the easiest one to plan a thrifty Christmas gift for because he loves homemade gifts. Every year he gets a loaf of homemade bread as one of his presents and this year is no different. I switched recipes and used the King Arthur Back of the Bag Oatmeal bread recipe. By my rough calculations of how much each cup of flour in a 5lb bag costs, etc this loaf of bread cost $3.58. Of course I could buy a loaf of bread for the same price, but you don't just hand someone a loaf of store bought bread for Christmas! Homemade bread means I mixed it up, kneaded it, watched it rise, etc. And I really did. There was no breadmaker involved in the making of that bread!
For his second gift this year I made Whiskey Vanilla Nut Brittle based on this recipe: http://www.ivillage.com/vanilla-bourbon-peanut-brittle/3-r-447998
I rarely follow recipes exactly (including that bread recipe because I don't add raisins), so for this one I used what I had on hand: whiskey. I also happened to be at the drug store the other night and saw that they had large cans of mixed nuts on sale for $4. I didn't even have to use the whole can for the recipe, so that's a bonus! I'd say the brittle ended up costing me around $5.50 to make. So my dad's gifts cost me $10! He'll love them both and will be happy I didn't buy him something useless that he doesn't need.
This was absolutely delicious!
By Julie Norman
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
In continuing to keep myself honest about my thrifty Christmas gifts, I present to you two more completed presents:
The Happy Hour Basket
The Happy Hour basket is suitable for your sister, your best friend, your husband, your dad, or anyone who enjoys a good after-work cocktail. This basket includes a bag of Popcorn Factory caramel popcorn, 3 cosmopolitan/martini mixers (raspberry, pomegranite and cranberry) and 3 flavored mini bottles of vodka (peach, coconut and cranberry). It also includes a Photoshopped note which describes how to mix the cocktails. Let's breakdown the costs:
Basket: $1.50 (50% off at a craft store)
Popcorn: $2.99 (in the "gourmet foods section" of one of those "buy everything for less here" stores)
Mixers: Part of a set that was $5.99. I'm only using half of the mixers here, so the cost gets knocked down to $2.99
Vodkas: .99/each on sale at my favorite liquor store. (so, $3 for the ones in the basket)
Total cost of the Happy Hour basket: $10.48
The Inspiration Basket (can you see I'm going with a theme here?)
The Inspiration Basket is for someone who enjoys a quiet cup of coffee and a journal, or who likes those "Most Brilliant Thoughts" or "Quotes for Women" type books. This one includes: A book of blessings/quotes, a blank journal with the recipient's initial on the front, 2 angels (this person likes angels), a packet of salted caramel hot cocoa mix, bookmarks, tissues with "faith" "hope", etc on them and eventually it'll include a box of Taster's Choice coffee singles (a favorite of the recipient's).
Basket: $2.50 (50% off)
Angels: $3 each
Book: $7.98 (on clearance)
Journal: Part of a set of 2 that was $3, so $1.50.
Tissues: Part of a much larger pack that I got for $2. So approximately .60 cents total.
Hot chocolate: Free (someone was giving them away at work)
Coffee: (not pictured) $1
Total cost of the inspiration basket: $16.58.
That's still pretty good I think. So there you have it. Two really fun gifts for under $20 each. Places to find great gifts like bags of Ghiradelli chocolate, interesting spices, salts, etc for close out costs are Big Lots and Ross. You'd be amazed at the interesting food items you can find there! Put together a great "Italian night" basket with a mediterranean sea salt, fancy olive oil, and gourmet pasta sauce/pasta or a choco-holic basket with a few types of Ghiradelli or Lindor chocolates, hot chocolate mix and something crazy like chocolate covered popcorn or grasshoppers (I have no idea where you'd find those).
What are your ideas? Find more on my Homemade Christmas Pinterest Board: http://www.pinterest.com/jewelsingjco/homemade-christmas/
By Julie Norman
Thursday, November 20, 2014
This is one of my thrifty Christmas gifts for this year. I bought the frame at Michael's for $12.99 (40% off) and created the image using Photoshop. You could also create a similar image using Wordle.net. Because I needed this to be on high quality photo paper, and because it was an odd size (11x11 square), I enlisted the help of the people at Copy Copy (corner of 4th and North). They're a little pricey, but I was able to just email the image over and tell them what I needed done. They emailed back when it was ready. Cost for the picture: $8.50.
Total cost of the Christmas gift: $21.50. You can find ski canvas art, ski photos, etc online for around the same price or a little more, but then you have to factor in shipping too. Some of those are $22 without a frame, so then you've got to add in that cost. More importantly, none of those are personalized with ski resorts and runs that we've been to and skied. I can guarantee most of them also don't have a quote by Warren Miller at the bottom either.
So was it the most thrifty gift I could create? Probably not. But it's going to look great hanging in our house and it's a great representation of our love of skiing.
By Julie Norman
Monday, November 17, 2014
This was a weekend of savings! I think every week or at least once a month I'm going to try to post a wrap up of a weekend of savings...we'll see if I stick to that! For now, let's get to the bargains:
1. My turkey keeps getting cheaper. On Saturday I had "get Thanksgiving turkey" on the grocery list. There are only 2 of us, but we like leftovers, have a large freezer, and aren't willing to pay exorbitant prices for a turkey breast when we can get allllllll the good stuff with a whole turkey. Still, we don't need a 15lb one. It's so difficult to find 10lb or smaller turkeys, even though they SAY they exist right there in the bin with the 15lb ones. So in the .69/lb turkey bin I couldn't find anything smaller than like 14 or 15 lbs. Really that's just a ridiculous amount of turkey for 2 people. So I thought I'd splurge on a Butterball. I found a nice 9.8 lb Butterball for what appeared to be $24. Justifying it with the, "It's once a year and this one will be better..." statement to myself, I loaded it up and headed for the checkout. When I got home I looked at the receipt and realized the turkey had only been $19.50! It was on super sale! THEN on Sunday I found this coupon/rebate in the coupon insert:
And yes, I'm absolutely using it. I already sent off my UPC label and the receipt (minus any personal info) and will await my coupons. Then, just after Christmas when the turkeys go on sale, I can go get another one! Bargain #1.
2. Never be afraid to call and ask. Because people I'm giving gifts to might read this, I have to be a little cryptic. I bought a kit at Michael's that included some scents. I had no intention of using those scents, but realized after I used other stuff from the kit that the scents had spilled all over everything. (Yes, you'd think I would have realized this sooner but I didn't ok? I just didn't. Maybe it's because I was using the kit while drinking wine?) Anyway, I called Michael's to explain that even though I'd already used some of the stuff from this kit, making it completely unsellable, I wanted to return it because the stuff I was making wasn't supposed to reek of lavender. The manager was very nice and told me to bring it in and return it! I did and ended up saving money because after using it one time I knew that I didn't need all that was in the kit and that buying a few things a la carte would be cheaper. Bargain #2!
3. Really need to start paying attention to sale pricing...My wonderful mom told me that if I found a new pair of brown boots that I wanted (I've been on the hunt ever since I accidentally donated a favorite pair to Goodwill...at least, I think that's what happened), she could reimburse me and they could be my Christmas present. I'd already looked at Old Navy, Ross, TJ Maxx (Excuse me TJ Maxx...$60 for boots? At TJ MAXX???) and JCPenny. Nothing. Nothing that I wanted that was in a price range I was willing to pay. Finally on Sunday after my awesome Michael's trip, I headed for Herberger's where I found these:
The "clearance" tag said $55.99. I thought that was the final price. At the checkout the cashier said, "That'll be $27.99" or whatever and I said, "WHAT???? WOW!" I had NO IDEA they were 50% off! I may have to go back and get another pair of shoes. I mean...that's still a bargain right? Bargain #3.
4. Gourmet chocolates from Ross Dress for Less That's right. Yes. You read that correctly. Have you ever wandered to the back of Ross to that weird food section they have? There are all kinds of things back there! I can't spill the beans on everything I got yet, but I can tell you that I got a bag of Ghiradelli Double Fudge chocolate squares for less than half of what they cost in another store in the same complex. If you're looking for neat little gourmet spices, salts, drink mixers, popcorn, etc check it out! You can make a really fun "Movie Night snack bag" or "Chocoholic Basket" for pretty cheap. Bargain #4
5. Those grocery store register coupons! I've been playing a game with Safeway lately. Last week, for example, I bought Tazo Chai concentrate mix because I'd gotten a "Just for U" savings coupon for it. At the register that week I got a $1 off Oregon Chai concentrate. So this week I bought Oregon chai for like $2.99. What do you want to bet that I'll get a Tazo Just for U coupon now? Ha! I feel so devious. Heh heh. Bargain #5!
It was a great weekend for bargains for me. If you're looking for more ways to save, don't forget to check out that coupon book you got in the mail from us, or browse coupons online: www.gjsentinel.com/coupons/
By Julie Norman
Friday, November 14, 2014
Recently my question at the end of each month has been, "Where the heck is my money going?" Yes, there have been a few medical bills, and September/October is always a crappy time because of birthdays, car registration renewal and quarterly taxes for the freelance work I do...OH and car insurance...So maybe I just answered the question! But in any case, I decided to do a better job of seeing, visually, where my money is going.
I looked around online for some free budgeting sites. Mint.com is very highly reviewed, but I didn't like the thought of sharing my bank username and password, so I kept looking. Eventually I found Budget Simple.
Budget Simple has a free version and of course a "premium" version, but the free one does exactly what I wanted. It allows me to put in what I spend money on each month. I start by putting in the budgeted amount (for example, $415 for groceries). Then, as I spend money from each category, I can go in and update the "actual" column. This shows what I've spent of my budgeted amount. Finally, there's a "what's left" column that shows the remaining amount for each of my budget categories.
Budget Simple also tells me if I have extra money around that I might want to put in savings. I can track my credit card balance and see how long it will take to pay off certain amounts and even set savings goals. My favorite part, though is this:
I LOVE graphs and I love seeing exactly where my money is going. Most of it clearly is for groceries and the mortgage/utilities (that gets split with my better half), but it's also good to see a big chunk going into my savings account. If you've been looking for a free tool to help you track your money, I really recommend checking this one out. It truly is simple!
*Budget Simple did not me to review their products or site.