Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wedding Chaos

As I'm helping my sister getting ready for her wedding, I am amazed at how cheap you can do a wedding for and have it still be nice. The budget for my wedding was $2,800 and I, believe it or not, came in on budget. This included everything except the luncheon and honeymoon (paid by my husband's family). It was pretty much exactly what I wanted and I couldn't have asked for a better day. :) My sister will spend around a $1,000 for everything but the honeymoon. (They're going to Paris, so that's where all their money went).

It does take a little bit of elbow grease and pre-planning, but it is doable. I'm excited to see how the reception turns out. Just today we put together the table and general decorations and they came in just around $200 for everything. They're going to be gorgeous!

So, since I'm drenched in weddingness, I'll be giving you all tips on inexpensive (but still beautiful!) weddings for the next week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vacation and Free Flights

I will be gone on vacation for about one and a half weeks, so I won't guarantee a post a day. But, I will try. I WANT TO HEAR FROM ALL OF YOU!!!! E-mail me at with your ideas (have them ready to post) and I'll post those. I know you all have fabulous ideas and thoughts on saving money!

I do have a tip on getting free flights before I leave. Once I fly back home from this trip, I will have earned a free round-trip flight from Southwest Airlines. All I did was sign up for their rapid rewards program (which is free) and made sure to use my RR number for every flight I booked. That's it. Easy as pie. Another way to get free flights is to have a credit card that earns you points toward free flights. I've gotten $100 off a flight that way. (But, make sure you are paying your balance every month, it's not worth it if you have to pay interest charges!) Most every airline has a free rewards program, so sign up for which ever one you use. I'll save $250 by using my free round-trip airfare from Southwest.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Barter, Barter, Barter

I am not the queen of bartering, but have started to dip my toes into it's water. My latest barter was a hair cut. I got a trim from a friend and in return I will be doing something for her. She hasn't decided what she wants, but I gave her some options (cleaning, weeding, a lesson in canning, etc.).

Even though it costs me time, it's so worth it! I don't have to have a job to get the things that I want. I just need to find someone willing to trade me for something I already have for something I want. I know of a couple that got a boat from a guy who just wanted the trim done in his house. They took two days, put in trim in his house and walked away with a boat. Then there's that guy who started with a paperclip and got a house.......I'll have to interview him someday for his bartering tips. :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tip #13: Embrace "Free" Items

When someone says they are giving something away for free you usually think "why?" It has to be old, dirty, gross, mucky, filled with germs, and/or broken to be free. But, you would be surprised what people give away for free.

My Story: I often think the same thing when I hear free, but there are many treasures that can be found. One example is I got a window sun shade for my car by glancing at the free bin outside my local thrift store. It doesn't roll up anymore because the metal at the top is slightly bent, but it works for what it was meant for. That's all I care about! It saved me $10.

Another example is that I got a free training toilet and a life jacket from someone who just wanted them out of her house. Her kids were done with them. They are both in excellent condition!

Resource: One nationwide organization that is a great free exchange is The Freecycle Network ( There are chapters all over the nation and there's one simple rule, everything exchanged between members must be free. No trading or bartering is allowed. You simply post things you want or are giving away. I once posted that I needed containers for gardening and I had three people respond and I got way more pots than I ever needed. I then passed the extras on to someone else. The only downside is that you have to be fairly quick about responding. Craigslist also has a free section, but you have to be even quicker on that one. Let me know if anyone knows of any others.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grow your own's so yummy!

As I sit here working on my bills, I'm also enjoying my garden view. Even though I live in a condo and have no land, I decided to try a little container gardening. My entire balcony is lined with pots filled with oh so yummy fruits and vegis. So far we've enjoyed herbs, lettuce, and peas. My tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, squash, and brussel sprouts all look happy and I'm excited to start harvesting soon.

I've always enjoyed gardening and I find it therapeutic after a hard day to eat what I have cared for. However, there is also money saving possibilities in it as well. I have used all organic potting soil, seeds, and fertilizer. Though I am not seeking a USDA organic certification, I would probably qualify. We all know organic produce can cost up to twice as much as non-organic. The $0.25-0.50 worth of seeds, $0.50 worth of fertilizer, and $1 worth of water gives me on average $20 worth of produce per pot. Some are higher and some are less with many different factors. This year I did invest about $50 in getting it set up, but I will definitely get my money back with how well the plants are doing! :) Even my husband admitted this year that the garden was worth it. Usually, I have to drag him to weed, water, or anything else to do with the garden.

For those of you who have never gardened before, start out small with one or two different items. Figure out what works in the areas that you have and know that there are a ton of different ways to garden. A good start is getting a basic book from the library or ask someone you know what has worked for them. Even neighbors can have different soil/micro climates, so don't be discouraged if your garden doesn't look like your neighbors. Just keep trying.

Free Orange Julius Day!

Don't forget about free Orange Julius' today!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Free Staples $

If you recycle your old printer cartridges at Staples, they'll give you $3 back per cartridge in Staples Reward Money. I think it's at the end of every month, they send you a gift certificate with the amount you earned for the previous month. You don't even have to buy anything!

Last month I got a certificate for $9 and bought nifty paperclips for my scrapbooking. They added up to $9 exactly, so I didn't have to pay them anything. Not even sales tax. :) It made me happy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reuse Vacuum Cleaner Bags

I ran across this tip in the Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn (a very good book). If you use vacuum cleaner bags, you can actually reuse them a couple of times by opening up the bottom, discarding the dirt, rolling the bottom back up, and stapling it shut. I did it the other day and it works like a charm.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Photo Prints

Clark Colorlabs is giving 20 free photo prints to any new customers. Just go to to sign up.

There are other online photo print stores that do promotionals similar to this. I used one for and I'm sure you can find more! Sometimes you have to pay shippihng, but it's still cheaper than paying $0.15-0.20 for each print.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tip #12: Good credit can do wonders

You've all heard it, but having good credit can really save you a ton of money. You get better interest rates, you can qualify for better loans, and you never have to stress about whether or not your credit score is going to limit you in any way. It's worth working on, believe me.

My Story: When I first got married, I never really worried about my credit score. I had worked for a mortgage bank for several years and knew it was important, but did not think it would effect me anytime soon. As we started to apply for things like car and student loans we quickly figured out how important it can be. Luckily, our scores have both been really good. We always got good rates and really started to see how our score saved us.

I'm going to lay out a scenario for you now. It comes from Suze Orman's The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, & Broke. "On a four-year, $20,000 car loan, we're talking about paying an extra $103 a month if your FICO score is in the 500-589 range rather than the top range of 720+. That's $1,236 a year, which comes to $4,944 over the four years of the loan."

$4,944 is a lot of money in an average 5-year car loan, but check out this site that gives a scenario for a mortgage loan. You could save $150,000 over the life of your home loan!

To help with your score, make sure your credit reports are error-free. Go to to see your credit report (not your score). To request your score, you'll need to contact the three different credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, & TrasUnion). There is a fee for your score, but not your report. Even if you don't want to pay to see your score, AT LEAST make sure there's nothing on your report that does not belong there or is incorrect.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Free Movies at Regal Theaters

This summer, Regal Theaters are showing free family movies. It's first come first serve and you can't get tickets until that day. But hey, it's a free movie! Go to their website for information on what movies your local Regal Theater is showing:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Success Story

My friend mentioned to me the other day that she went onto the Fistful of Coupons blog (listed under my blogs) and saved up to $40 at the grocery store. I'm not much of a coupon clipper myself, but I know it can and does work for a lot of people. The writer of Fistful makes it really easy to get started and lists a lot of good resources. Go check it out!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

KCLS Teen Zone

We all know libraries are great for getting free information and entertainment, but for those of us who live in King County the King County Library System (KCLS) has a lot of free (and fun) activities for kids and teens. For instance, the Bothell Library has nights where kids can come and play video games for free. The KCLS is even giving away free books to teens who read and review books. Go check out the KCLS Teen Zone web page at Or, go to to see information for adults and younger kids.

Free Babysitting

After watching my friends kids the other day, I realized that I save a lot of money, and gain sanity, by swapping babysitting with other moms. They watch my girl one time and I watch their kid(s) one time. I am lucky to have family near by that will watch her for free, but not everyone gets that. It's expensive to get a babysitter ($30-60/evening). And then imagine throwing another $50 on top of that for a date with your spouse. We all love our children, but time away is a necessity. :)

If you have kids, next time you plan an evening out see if your friend or neighbor will swap with you. Or, if they don't have kids see if they'll swap something else with you (dinner, cleaning, fixing something, etc.). You'd be surprised how many people out their are willing to barter for things.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How a $20 part saved me $180

Today's post comes from an experience I had yesterday. Though it was a frustrating experience (see for more details), I ended up saving money.

I have been borrowing my sister-in-laws bike for almost 3 years now and have always had problems with the gears slipping. I have been putting up with it, but now I have to pull a trailer for my girl and I live up hill. Not fun. So, I have been fiddling with the idea of buying a nice bike off of Craigslist and have found a few that looked good. Before I did anything I visited my local bike shop and talked with someone a little more knowledgeable about bikes to talk options. Turns out my bike only needed a $20 part. (The ride home was filled with amazing shifting.) The bikes on Craigslist were in the $200 range. I just saved $180! :)

I'm still stuck with a old, kind of beat up bike (sorry Emily), but I consider it repayment for her letting me use it all this time (thanks Emily). Even if I had bought a bike 3 years ago, it still would have cost me more than $20.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tip #11: Shop Around

I know this contradicts Tip #2, but I promise it will be worth it if you keep reading!

We all know that prices differ from store to store and from area to area, so you can always save money by comparing prices and shopping around. It might just pay to stop by just one more store to get a better price. (For skeptics, please read below...)

I hate to do this, but I have found a way to kind of get around this time sucking tip. I find a store that is really good at informing me about a type of product and decide there what I want to purchase. Then I can go home, look up prices online or call other stores, and find out who has the better price. Also, a lot of stores match or beat prices. My husband and I bought some front-loading washer and dryer set a couple of years and used this method. We ended up saving $500 by having the store beat a competitors price. It's so worth it!

Problems: It can be time consuming and gas guzzling to do this since you will have to take at least two trips out to the store. However, think about how much money you could possibly save. For the 2 hours of work I did for the washer and dryer, we saved $500. Which at the time was an entire weeks worth of pay. Even if you only did this for big purchases, it would pay off.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Happy Donut Day!!!

I was informed that today is National Donut Day! This holiday is celebrated on the first Friday of every June. In honor of this monumental day, both Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kremes are running specials. Krispy Kreme is giving away one free donut to each person that visits one of their stores ( and Dunkin' Donuts is giving away a free donut with drink purchase ( Enjoy your donut!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Yeah for Craigslist

My husband and I have been looking to buy a baby gate to keep our little girl out of the fireplace, but have been resistant at spending $140 for one. I randomly checked craigslist the other day and found the exact one we wanted for $65! I went today to pick it up and it's in amazing condition and she even printed off an instruction manual for me. Side note: she was super nice. It was a bit of a drive, but ended up only being 15 minutes out of my way while I was running errands today.
If you haven't bought second-hand before, I would encourage you to give it a try. It's not all that disgusting as some people think. Most things clean up well if you have the right tool (ex. some good bleach works on a lot of things) and others you can find from people who have the same cleanliness standard as you. Plus, it saves you money, especially if you know how to barter and deal.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Popsicle Dreams

Since it was a blistering 85 degrees yesterday (I live in Seattle, 75 is hot....), I decided to make some popsicles. I had a little bit of vanilla yogurt left over and mixed it with some frozen rasberries I had. I added a little bit of sugar and froze them in popsicle molds. It yielded about 8 popsicles and took 5 minutes of my time.
Now to put a price on that. It was about 25 cents worth of yogurt, 2 cents worth of sugar, and I got the rasberries for free. 8 popsicles for 27 cents! If you were to go to the store and buy good fruit popsicles (I'm not talking about the flavored/colored water popsicles) they would cost you $5 for a box of 6. Even if you added the price for buying fruit to the batch I made, the total cost would only be around $2 or $3. Depending on how much you, or your kids, eat popsicles you could end up saving quite a bit and they taste better! Plus, you don't have to run to the store everytime you run out and your kid is whinning for more.
I'm eating one right now, and it's yummy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

For those of you who don't read comments....

My friend commented on my "Who needs a gym membership" post and told me about a website that has free workout video downloads. It's a TV program that lets you watch the episodes for free after they air. We like free, right? Here it is:
Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth!

Who needs a gym membership?

As I was walking with my daughter to the park yesterday, I realized how ridiculous a gym membership can be. I'll get to the reasons why it's nice, but for now bear with me. Since my husband and I only have one car, I end up walking a lot. I walk to the park, the library, the store, the doctor's, you name it. I get a great work out just by not having a car. (In fact I was able to shed all that pregnancy weight in 9 months by walking so much.) So, since I don't have a car, or a gym membership, I save around $200 a month ($150 for loan/gas/wear & tear for the car & $50 for gym membership). I know this amount can drastically vary, but you get my point. I do yoga once a week and get my strength training every day picking up and carrying my daughter.

Ok, so now you're thinking in your head all the reasons why it's nice to have a membership. Well, I probably agree with some of them.
-If you have more than 2 kids (max capacity in a double stroller) it's nice to be able to drop them off at daycare and have an hour to yourself.
-In the winter when it's cold and rainy, I don't want to take my daughter out in it. And honestly I don't want to be out their either.
-Sometimes it's not safe or possible to walk out on to the street where you live. There are condos just down the way from me that don't have a sidewalk in front of their complex and it's on a major highway with no stoplight nearby.

There are probably more, but just ask yourself this: does your drive to the gym save you time or money? That 15 minute drive each way could have been spent jogging in your neighborhood, doing yard work, mowing your lawn, playing frisbee with your kids, riding your bike to work, walking to the grocery store, or doing an exercise video at home.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Compensation makes it happen!

After telling you how wonderful $1 movies are, I feel awkward posting this. However, it illustrates tip#9 so well! My husband was trying to return a $1 movie today and the machine was broken. After asking the store's management about it and being on hold with the company for about 10 minutes, that quick 2 minute stop turned into 15 minutes. After he received instruction on how to return the movie differently, he asked the company to compensated him for his time. They gave him a free rental code. :) No hassle or issues, it was as simple as a question.

Tip #10: Take the Bus

Ever since I went to college I have been a savvy bus rider. I took the bus onto campus while at school (my bus pass was free) and have commuted into Seattle for years. Even now that I have a kid, I still take the bus! Now, my husband and I only have one car so it is a motivator to take the bus when that's one of my few options (biking or walking are options as well). However, I did some calculations to see how much I saved by taking the bus to work when I worked into Seattle.

Price of one-way, peak, 2 zone fare = $2.50
Monthly Pass = $72
(Work #1) Parking in Seattle = $8/day or $168/month
(Work #2) Parking in Seattle = $12/day or $252/month
Gas = $4/day or $84/month (30 mpg, $3/gallon, 20 miles one-way)

Work #1
My first job in Seattle paid for 1/2 of my monthly bus pass, so I ended up paying $36/month for a pass. If I had driven it would have cost me $252/month. That's a savings of $216/month or $2,592/year!

Work #2
My second job in Seattle paid for even more of my pass and it was a flex pass, so I could use it on whatever or whenever. I had to pay $20/month for that. If I had driven it would have cost me $336/month. That's a savings of $316/month or $3,792/year!

If that's not a motivator to at least look at the bus route, I don't know what is! These calculations don't even count wear and tear on a car or extra gas due to traffic.

Problems: The only down-side is having to rely on the bus schedule and routes. When I was commuting into Seattle it wasn't really a problem because there are lots of routes into the city; I had options. For those who don't work or live in a bigger city, there might not be close routes or, in my husbands case, it could drastically increase your commute time (his 15 minute commute turns into a 60 minute commute). However, my commute time was shortened when I rode the bus, and I got lots of reading/sleeping/homework done!

For Western Washington residents: Just google one of the following to get to their website: Community Transit (Snohomish County)
Everett Transit
King County Metro Transit (
Kitsap Transit
Pierce Transit
Sound Transit (Regional Co-Op for Central Puget Sound area)