Penny Pinchers

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Saving on Travel

By Julie Norman
Friday, January 2, 2015

Good article from the NYTimes Frugal Traveler on saving while traveling this year.  Some of it is tried and true info, but other bits may be things you hadn't thought of yet.  Click here to read it!


Save the comics!

By Julie Norman
Monday, December 29, 2014

Looking for cheap wrapping paper for birthdays and the holidays? Look no further than your Sunday Daily Sentinel. For the past few years we've been saving our Sunday comics and we then use them to wrap gifts.  They're fun, look great with curling ribbon of all colors, and don't cost any extra money!  I hope you're also remembering to save gift bags, tissue paper, and cute boxes to reuse next year too.  Wrapping paper is one thing I hope to never have to buy again...and if I run out of comics I'll just start using the actual newspaper.  I bet if you positioned cool pictures strategically that could look really good too!


Don’t throw out the inserts: Finding coupons you can use

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I've finally told the BF to just leave all of the Sunday inserts in a stack on the kitchen table. I like to look through the grocery coupon inserts, like Smart Source, and I also like to check out the grocery sale papers. This past Sunday though, I had an additional reason for wanting to look through all of the inserts. It was Julie and Richie's Shopping Extravaganza day and I thought there might be a valuable coupon hidden in one of those inserts that Richie and I could use.  If you don't know what Julie and Richie's Shopping Extravaganza day is, it's the day each year (for the past 4) that Richie over at Haute Mamas and I go shopping for her boys' Christmas presents.  It gives her hubby a chance to have a Sunday afternoon with the kids and it gives us a chance for some chat / shopping time! 

So back to the story: I clipped out a coupon for Michael's for 50% off one item. I knew we'd hav to go there for this one particular present that one of the kids wanted.  Sure enough, there we were in Michael's staring at a $60 rock tumbler.  But hey! We had a 50% off coupon! So in the end we got the rock tumbler for $30 plus tax! It was a sweet sweet day to be able to walk out of there knowing we'd just saved (ok, Richie had just saved) $30 on that one gift!

The moral of the story is, this time of year, clip those coupons! You never know when you might need one.


Thrifty Christmas, the Dad Edition

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: 

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!


Thrifty Christmas Gifts continued

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:

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