December 21, 2008

Make Your Own Jewelry Tree!

I am updating the instructions to this project, as I found out that it is not best to use a LIVE tree branch, because it will die and shrink, leaving it loose in the base (and the leaves will fall off). So even though it looks better using a live tree branch in the beginning, it will look worse in the end :) Sorry if any of you have already tried this using the live tree branch. You can also try to buy a tree branch from a local crafting store if they sell them (already dried).

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT crafty. Far from it. I have tried for many years to cultivate any specimen of a craft gene that may be in my body, but have failed. So if I can do this, anyone can! I have been thinking of cheap gifts to make people for Christmas, and my sister mentioned in passing that she wanted a jewelry tree (and jokingly said "maybe you can make me one!") So I sought out to do just that. Here are two pictures of the jewelry trees I made just yesterday (not the best quality photos, but hopefully you get the idea):

One in Silver:

One in Gold:

Here are the supplies you will need for one jewelry tree:
-1 glass votive holder (or any container) as a base
-1 tree branch with many offshoots (mine were from a lemon tree, and I chose one about a foot high), dried for about a week before the project.
-Scotch tape
-Plaster of Paris (from your crafting store)
-Mixing tool (to stir the plaster with water)
-Spray Paint (any color you want)

-Put adequate amount of plaster of paris into base and mix with water (2 parts water to 1 part plaster).
-Immediately put tree branch into base
-Hold in place with one hand use the tape to form a "net" around the tree branch bottom, secured to the base so that you can take your hand away without the branch falling over.
-Let dry for about an hour
-Spray paint when dry, and let dry for another hour or two.

On one base I just sprayed it silver, while on the other one I took some ribbon and glued it to the base to make it prettier (the gold tree). I left the leaves on for effect.

The most expensive part of the project is the Plaster of Paris (about $8 a box, and the spray paint for about $8 a can). However, once you have these, you can easily make dozens of trees. I bought my votive holders at IKEA - 4 for $1.50.

Enjoy, and if you have any questions, please let me know!

December 15, 2008

More Closeout Sales

Yesterday a friend shared with me that Steve & Barry's clothing store is going out of business now too!  If you have not been there yet, let me tell you, they have CUTE clothes for CHEAP.  They carry Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten clothing line, Venus Williams Eleven clothing line and Amanda Bynes Dear clothing line (those are just the women's lines that they carry).  All clothes in the store are under $25, most being around $10.  Last Christmas we got a men's black winter coat for only $10.  I am sad that they're going out of business, but this means that everything there is now 50% off.  I would recommend going soon because I'm not sure how much longer they'll be open!  Check their site for the store nearest you.

Also, Linens N Things continues to slash prices, although I was just there and noticed that they had marked items way up just to liquidate.  I bought a comforter set last year there for about $50 and they are selling it 50% off right now for $85.  Our nearest store is selling everything at 50-70% off, but things will go lower in the next few weeks.  I am waiting until then to buy anything.  You can also shop their store online and get many of the same great discounts.

Mervyn's is continuing to liquidate, and our nearest stores are also at 50-70% off.  Again, wait another two weeks or so because that's when you'll start to get the best deals.  Circuit City is liquidating as well, so head over if you need some electronics, but just remember that you cannot return anything at all.  All sales during liquidations are final.  Circuit City's liquidation is especially being targeted by bloggers everywhere as a scam.  Liquidation companies notoriously hike up prices just so you think you're getting a good deal.  Be careful when shopping, and wait until the very end for the best deals.

If you want to read more about liquidating company scams see:

November 30, 2008

More Free Christmas Gift Ideas

One idea for free Christmas gifts (or any other occasion) is to make gift certificates either by hand or on Microsoft Word (there are a few templates on there). Here are some services you can offer to do for someone for free:

-One night of free babysitting (I have received this twice this year and it was one of my favorite gifts!)
-One free manicure or pedicure (Hand and arm massage included)
-Three hours of housework (cleaning, laundry, ironing, etc)
-Mow your front and back yard one time :)
-One free car wash and detail
-One free errand
-One homecooked meal delivered to your door (including dessert!) any night of your choosing
-Girls Night Out (board games, movie and popcorn at my place)

Do you have a special skill? Cutting hair? Photography? Scrapbooking? So many skills can be made into gift certificates.

Here's one more idea: Do you own a fruit tree? Make a fruit basket for someone using fruit from your tree.

If you have any other ideas please leave a comment here!

Another Great Gift Idea (for Cheap!)

A friend of mine had one of these on her counter and I thought it was so beautiful. She is giving them away this year as Christmas gifts and said they only cost about $3-4 each (if you already have a bottle of wine). This is a pretty bad picture, but it is an empty wine bottle that she put a string of lights in (about 50 lights). She then ran the end of the cord out of the top of the bottle, put the cap back on it (or a cork), a strand of plastic grapes (she picked up at the Dollar Tree) and she is going to tie the top with ribbon. You can buy bottles of wine at the .99 cent store if you don't drink wine (or even if you do, some people I know have bought $40 bottles of wine there before). Look for one with a pretty or unique label to make it even more special. Here is the finished product:

Here is all you need for this project:


November 27, 2008

Free Christmas Gifts!

Today I was checking out Bargain Hunting Mom's website and found her Black Friday deals.  One of my favorites was the 10 free holiday offers over at VistaPrint.  I have used VistaPrint for my own business and have loved their products.  Since my family is not buying gifts this year, my goal is to either make them or obtain little gifts for free.  This is a GREAT place to get some free gifts for family or co-workers.  All you have to pay is shipping!  Here is what you can get for free:

-250 Free Business cards (know someone starting a business or that has a side business but may need some cards to go along with it?)
-1 Free Photo or Wall Calendar (perfect gift for a family member or someone that has a pet who they love!)
-1 Free T-Shirt (perfect for the guy in your life!)
-Caricature Return Address Labels (I love creating these caricatures for friends and then surprising them with labels!)
-Notepads (Personalize it with their name for a great gift!)

I am not sure when this offer expires, so be sure to visit their site soon!

Think Before Over-Spending...

November 21, 2008

Free Dr. Pepper!

Apparently Dr. Pepper made a promise back in March that if Guns N Roses album "Chinese Democracy" came out in 2008, they would give everyone in America a free Dr. Pepper. SO, grab your coupon for a free 20-ounce soda beginning on Sunday, November 23rd at 12:01am. Visit Dr. Pepper to get your free soda!

November 13, 2008

Free Photobook!!!

Get your FREE photobook through Snapfish, courtesy of Oprah!  Just click on this link and go down to "get your free book".  You can only get your coupon until midnight on Friday night (as in tomorrow, Nov. 14th), and you have to use it by Sunday, Nov. 16th.  Act quick because this is a GREAT deal!!!

Here is the fine print:

This offer is only good for one standard 20-page 8" x 11" custom-cover photo book per household. Coupon dispersal ends at 11:59 p.m. PST Friday, November 14, 2008. Free photo book must be redeemed by 11:59 p.m. PST Sunday, November 16, 2008. Offer does not include customary shipping and handling changes or additional pages. Offer applies only to mail-order delivery to U.S. customers. Offer cannot be combined with other coupon codes. Coupon cannot be resold or otherwise transferred and is void on the earlier of redemption or the offer end date.

November 9, 2008

More 99 Cent Store Bargains!

Okay, I know I have raved many times about my love for the .99 cent store. But this is why! Check out what I got tonight:

Ben & Jerry's cherry chocolate chip ice cream cones, Bertolli pasta sauce, and Coca-Cola Bottles!

Individual packets of Kraft Light Ranch dressing, Chewy Granola Bars (18 of them!) and Health Valley Organic Split Pea Soup.  (Did you know they have a whole organic section?!)

And here's what I picked up a few weeks ago - Dinner for 4 for only 99 cents!

A friend of mine found out that our local 99 cent store gets weekly deliveries on Thursdays. Just ask your local store manager when they deliver, and go a few hours later. Then you will get first pick to all of the best fresh and frozen items!

Eddie Bauer SALE!

Right now (the week of November 9th), Eddie Bauer is having a huge clearance sale - save 50% off of clearance!  I just picked up some cute sweaters for only $14.99 that are regularly over $60 each.  

If you can't make it to the store, visit their clearance center online.  This store has a ton of great gift ideas, including this purse for only $19.99!

More Great Restaurant Deals

If you like a certain restaurant and frequent there often, you should visit their website to see if they allow you to sign up to receive their online promotions. Pick Up Stix's Dragon Club will send you coupons almost every month, and you receive a coupon for a FREE combo meal just for signing up! Other restaurants, like Marie Calendars, will send you a postcard for your birthday and anniversary where you can get 50% off your meal along with a free slice of pie. There are too many to mention here, but just do a search for your favorite restaurant and see if they have an e-club to sign up for.

This is also a great time to buy your 2009 Entertainment Book. Right now you can get $5 off the 2009 edition and free shipping when you go to this link. Hurry, because this offer expires on November 30, 2008. If you do not already know, the Entertainment Book has editions all over the U.S., with hundreds and hundreds of coupons good for "Buy One, Get One Free" meals at restaurants, as well as huge discounts on attractions, rental cars, hotels, theme parks, and even grocery stores (There is a $5 coupon good at Ralphs for every month of the year). In addition, if you create an account online at their website (with your entertainment book card number), you can print even more coupons.

Another great website to save big on meals is at Here you can buy gift certificates to restaurants in the amount of $25 for only $10 each. Some of them are even cheaper! I found one restaurant in my area selling $10 gift certificates for only $3 each. The only catch was that you could only use one gift certificate per visit. Check it out first next time you're about to go on a date. You might be able to save BIG!

October 30, 2008

Stores Liquidating

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to post a new update to this blog!! Life has been busy, but here we are again!

If you have not already heard, both Linens N Things and Mervyns are closing their doors and have already started to liquidate all of their stores. These are two great stores to pick up all your Christmas gifts from (If you aren't already done!) :) Prices will continue to be cut lower and lower each week. Currently, Linens N Things online is offering 30% off of all items, and you can save an additional 10% on the "Deal of the Day." Keep checking online for further discounts as we get closer to Christmas.

Mervyn's will also be slashing prices soon - some stores have already started, and some will start liquidating as we get closer to Christmas. They do not sell anything online, so you will just have to keep checking your local store (or call them) to find out when they are officially closing their doors. You can read more about Mervyn's bankruptcy here.

Another store that is closing its doors is The Sharper Image, due to a lawsuit lost to Consumer Reports. Check your local mall for the most recent discounts, but currently many stores are offering 20-40% off all merchandise. This store promises to live on through a strong online presence, although currently their website just says "stay tuned."

If you know of any more chain stores that are closing their doors, please let us know!! Happy Shopping!

October 4, 2008

More Food Savings

A friend of mine just told me about this great ministry called "Angel Food Ministries", where you can purchase greatly discounted boxes of food for your family.  Every month they have a menu that shows what food is available, and the boxes are $30 each.  For example, their October box includes:

1.5 lb. Ribeye Steaks (4 x 6 oz.)
4.5 lb. (Avg) Split Chicken Breast Family Tray Pack
26 oz. Heat and Serve Meatloaf and Brown Gravy
1 lb. Chicken Breast Fajita Strips
1 lb. Boneless Center-Cut Pork Chops (4 x 4 oz.)
1 lb. Fully Cooked Meatballs
1 lb. All Meat Hot Dogs
1 lb. Frozen Sliced Carrots
1 lb. California Blend Vegetables
1 lb. Pasta
28 oz. Marinara Sauce
48 oz. Hawaiian Punch
32 oz. Borden 2% Reduced Fat Shelf Stable Milk
12 ct. Corn Tortillas
One Dozen Eggs
One Dessert Item

In addition, they have a Senior Box with prepared meals, for those loved ones in your life who may live alone or need help preparing dinner. If you purchase one of the boxes of food, you also qualify to buy one their "specialty boxes" such as a "Meat and Chicken Combo" or "T-Bone Box" or a "Fruit and Veggie Box" for only $21.

You can read more about it on their website, but all of their food is restaurant grade, not factory seconds or day-old. You do not have to meet a certain income requirement, either.

There are "host sites" in almost every state; just go to this link to find the one nearest you!

September 19, 2008

Max Factor Makeup

Right now there is a great promotion online for MaxFactor makeup - if you visit this site, you can get 50% off four of "Gisele's Favorites for Fall" makeup items, plus free shipping and a free makeup bag!

I was recently given some samples of MaxFactor makeup to try (through BzzAgent) and received mascara, lipstick, blush, and a blush brush. I can truly say that I love the mascara and the lipstick. The mascara makes my lashes fuller than any other mascara I have tried, and the lipstick stays on for HOURS (like 12 hours!) through eating meals and everything! The blush is great, too, but just a little too light for me - I would have picked a darker shade to show more (although it is very natural looking).

Enjoy these savings!

September 17, 2008

Appliance Parts

Last week I ordered new drip pans for my Kenmore oven. I had contacted Sears parts online, and found out they were going to be about $50 to replace. Since that sounded like a rip-off, I got the part number and searched online for a better deal. I came across this great website where I was able to get the same drip pans, including shipping for about $30. If you need any replacement parts for any appliances you own, check here first! We got a great deal and they have great customer service.

A-1 Appliance Parts

September 13, 2008

Trading Toys!

A great new website I recently heard about is This is a site that allows you to search for toys your kids may want, as well as list toys you would like to trade out. It works similar to a library - you "borrow" a toy and allow others to borrow the toys that you list. The best part? It is FREE! Currently they are waiving their $1 charge per item. You can also buy toys on this site if you choose.

A second site that has the same idea is This site includes sections such as "kids room decor" and is more geared towards educational toys, games and videos.

This is a great way to save money, help the environment, and help others who might not have the money for new toys. Great idea!

August 30, 2008

Kids Eat Free!

I now have 2 toddlers (ages 1 and 3), and our eating out bill has increased by at least $10 each time.  Both boys eat full meals and now need their own kids' meal when we go to restaurants. Today I was pleased to read an article in our daily paper about local restaurants that have "Kids Eat Free" menus on certain nights of the week.  (If you live in the South Bay, check out the list here).   The following chain restaurants may have a "Kids Eat Free" night in your area. (Granted, these aren't normally places I'd LOVE to go to, but if we need to save some money, then these are the places to choose from).  I've included the "typical" night that they offer this deal, although you may want to call the location nearest you just to double check:

Carrows - Monday & Tuesday nights
IHOP- Every night
Norms -  Monday night
Texas Loosey's - Every night
Tony Roma's - Monday & Tuesday nights
Denny's - Tuesdays (and some Saturdays)
Rocky Cola Cafe- Tuesdays
Rubys- Tuesdays

Another great resource to check out the deals in your neighborhood is

August 28, 2008

Mervyn's Closing Stores

If you are a fan of Mervyn's, you may be interested in visiting one of their 26 stores that will be closing soon.  They have filed for bankruptcy, and some stores began liquidating as early as today, August 28th (scheduled to officially close in October or November).  Stores closing are: Phoenix (3) and Scottsdale (1), AZ; Antioch, Canoga Park, Fairfield, Foothill Ranch, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Livermore, Napa, Palm Desert, and Thousand Oaks, CA; Boise, ID; Carson City, Reno, Las Vegas and Sparks, NV; Lubbock, Midland, Odessa, and San Antonio (3), TX. 

If you live in Orange County, here are the addresses of the stores that are closing there:
7651 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach
3960 Barranca Pkwy., Irvine
27200 Alicia Pkwy., Laguna Niguel
26732 Portola Pkwy., Foothill Ranch

Happy Early Christmas Shopping!

August 17, 2008

Free Products

About two years ago I became a BzzAgent, which basically means that I became a "test marketer" for various products, and I earn points to promote them. All I had to do was go to their website, sign up, and wait for them to email me about a marketing campaign. When I receive an email, I read about it and decide whether or not to participate. If I say "yes", they send me a product in the mail to try out (and KEEP), and my job is to promote that product through word-of-mouth. As I write (simple) reports about my efforts to promote the product, I earn points through So far I have received enough points to almost get a $50 gift card to any store I want!

Some of the things I have received through being a BzzAgent include:
-A Sonicare Toothbrush
-A Sonicare UV Sanitizer
-A Frozen Jennie-O Turkey delivered right to my door
-LypSyl lip balm (about 10 of them)
-Four coupons to try Chili's Bacon Smokehouse Burgers for free
-Listerine Whitestrips

It really is so easy and fun to get free things like these in the mail! If you would like to try it, sign up today - just please be sure to tell them I referred you (if they ask)! :)

August 13, 2008

Habitat for Humanity Store

We have been needing to repair some things around the house lately, and I recently heard about the Habitat for Humanity Home Improvement Store, so tonight we decided to check it out. This is a little like a giant Goodwill for home goods. There are new items from stores brought in, as well as used items that were donated. They have aisles of doors, windows, furniture, appliances, cabinets, knobs, lights, flooring, tile, lumber and much more. It was really a great selection of assorted items, many of which have character - not your typical Home Depot stock. They are also inexpensive, comparable to a thrift store. My favorite thing about this store was a whole aisle of brand new Shabby Chic sheets (in the original packaging) for only $10 each. These aren't the Target "Simply Shabby Chic" brand, but the original, real Shabby Chic label. They had more sheet sets than I could count, along with other Shabby Chic accessories (lamp shades, for one). It appeared that a store who carried this brand must have gone out of business and donated it all to this store. I can't guarantee these would be at any other location.

So, if you need some new knobs for your cabinets, outdoor furniture, or even wood for a project, this is the place to go. For a store directory of locations within the US, visit this site.


August 11, 2008

Free Cable?!

Well, maybe that's kindof misleading. But if you are anything like us, we have never paid for cable. So last night when we installed our new DTV Converter Box, we were pleasantly surprised to find that suddenly we had about 50 new channels! Okay, about 20 of them are in other languages, but there are still about 30 good channels we never had before! ABC alone now gives us 4 different ABC's to choose from! No more bad reception, either. We now have reception that is good on every single channel, without having to get up and adjust the "bunny ears" on top of our television! All without the hefty cable bill every month!

If you haven't yet gotten your converter box coupon, be sure to get one soon (although if you have certain types of cable you might not need a converter box). Then, you can go to either a store to purchase your box, or online, like I did. (I looked at some of the stores listed on their site for months but they were always out of stock, especially at Wal-Mart). We settled on the Artec model, which we are really happy with. Some of the remotes that come with these boxes don't have volume control on them, but ours does. The box was only $9.99 plus shipping (also between $5-10), but we still paid less than we would have at some of the in-store retailers, plus I didn't have to drive anywhere to buy it. We got it within a week.

If you don't have cable, this is definitely the way to go!

August 9, 2008

Overstock Deals

If you haven't already discovered the great bargains on, I highly recommend you head over to that site.  Shipping is only $2.95 per item, and if you need anything for your home, this is the place to get it.  I just found that I can get a  brand new dining room set for under $400 (including shipping!!!).  Need curtains?  Blinds?  Sheets? A new shower curtain?  A new couch set?  Seriously - before going to any furniture store from now on, this is where I will shop.  The bonus is that others who have bought the items have rated them so you can know the true quality.  

They also sell electronics (IPods), computers, jewelry, and tons of other stuff  (even sewing machines!).  Two years ago I did about 75% of my Christmas shopping on here and was absolutely amazed.   Get a head start this Christmas and head over to Overstock!

July 26, 2008

Goodwill Online

If you like to make things for people, have I found the Jackpot for you!  Goodwill is now online, and they have 2 full pages online of craft kits for around $2.25 each.  You can make a Baby Memory Frame, a Lamp Kit, necklaces, bracelets, keychains, scarves, totes, etc... These would be great for church groups or retreats!  They have a LOT of other great things as well.  Shipping is a flat fee of $7.99 but you still might be able to find a deal here you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else.  Visit Goodwill Online.

I found out about this on one of my new favorite websites (I have a link to it on the left and below).  Check this webpage out weekly for the best internet deals (including Dooney & Bourke purses from Macy's!).  Visit Bargain Hunting Moms.

July 24, 2008

Greeting Cards!

Every year, I estimate that I give and send about 30 greeting cards: birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, sympathy, thank-you's, etc... It just pains me that to get a nice card I usually have to spend at least $4.00 each at Hallmark. This equals about $120 a year just on greeting cards! I am not crafty, so making them is out of the question for me. BUT, I have found ways to save on greeting cards:

1) Costco. Every year Costco sells this huge pack of assorted greeting cards. These are quality cards. There are 41 handmade cards in the box, which retails for $119. Amazon sells this box for $54.95. However, Costco sells the same box for only $15. I use these all year long.

2) The Dollar Tree. I know, not the place you'd think of buying a greeting card. But they actually have some cute ones here! I bought a few recently and couldn't even tell the difference between these ones and some Hallmark ones I had purchased. (I wouldn't buy the ones at the 99cent store, though - they look like you bought them there).

3) Friends- if you have friends who do Stampin' Up, you may want to ask if they make and sell their own cards. I have a friend who has a whole box of homemade cute cards and sells them for only $1-3 each. I usually look through her box and purchase a few at a time.

4) Hallmark - You just can't beat a Hallmark card. So, if it's a really good one, I will shell out the $4-5 for the card. But be sure you get a Hallmark Crown card. That way you rack up points every time you buy a card, and you get coupons in the mail towards more cards, or even gift certificates. Their dollar cards are okay, but you can usually tell if someone bought you one. I would stick with the Dollar Tree cards if I am going to only pay $1.

5) Trader Joe's - Trader Joe's actually sells greeting cards for only .99! They are good quality and cute. Stock up next time you're there!

Good Idea!

My friend Melanie has a great idea to help save money. You can read about it on her blog here. Basically, she bought this soap dispenser that you put on your shower wall, and it helps you to use less product (which, in turn, saves you money!)

Melanie also inspired me recently to do more to save on gas money. Her husband, who was commuting to work, decided to start taking the bus instead. He found it only added 20 minutes per day to his commute time, and cost only $1 a day. They are saving around $8 every day he rides the bus instead of driving. Amazing! You can read her blog about this here. Go Melanie!!!

July 22, 2008

Coupon Codes

A recent visitor to this site, Lana, reminded me about Coupon Codes! Coupon Codes are online codes that you can use for discounts or free shipping for online purchases. Many times you can find items cheaper online than in the stores, especially if you use a coupon code. There are entire websites devoted to updating these codes weekly and even daily. So, next time you want to make an online purchase, if you know the site you want to order from, simply type in your search bar "Coupon Code for _________" (and insert item or store name).

For example, say I want to order some clothing from Eddie Bauer online. I would simply type in "Eddie Bauer Coupon Code", and immediately I would find a code to use that will give me either $10 off or 20% off my online purchase. I would type in the code at the end of my transaction on their website. It's that easy!

Discounted Dental Work

I come from a family with a LONG line of bad teeth. I have spent more money on my mouth than I have on either of my cars. Here are three ways to save on dental work if you need it.

#1) Shop Around. Dentists charge different fees for the same work. If you need a particular procedure done, it may help to call 3 dentists to see what they charge baseline for, say, a crown, a filling, a cleaning, etc. Many times dentists in large practices (groups) encourage more work done to your mouth than is necessary, as this is how they make most of their money. I had a dentist who recommended 4 cerac crowns, and said I had no other option as he did not do any other cheaper types of crowns. These are $800 each and insurance does not cover them. When I found a new dentist, she told me I only needed one crown, and the rest were small fillings. She "filled" me in on what other dentists do - that sometimes they recommend unnecessary work that insurance will not cover. I am so glad I found a new dentist.

#2) See if there is a "school of dentistry" in your area. These schools provide dental treatments for much less than a typical dentist. The downside is that the appointments usually take longer, because they are done by students being overseen by teachers. Before you balk at this idea, remember that many procedures done in doctors offices and hospitals are also done by "residents" who are being taught and overseen by their doctors. Two schools of dentistry in the Southern California area are the USC School of Dentistry and the Loma Linda School of Dentistry. (On a side note, I would not really recommend taking a small child to these schools as the environment can be a little scary for them, especially if it takes 3x longer for a procedure than it would at a regular children's dentist).

#3) If you don't have dental insurance, you may want to check out AmeriPlan. This is not dental insurance, but is a discounted program for dental services. You simply join AmeriPlan for a small fee and then choose one of their providers for your dental service. This is similar to an HMO. I have compared the rates with my own insurance plan and they are similar.

If you have any other tips, please let me know!

July 9, 2008

Student Loan Forgiveness Program

While this program may not help those of us who graduated 10 years ago, if you graduated from college within the last few years (or especially in 2007), this program may be of tremendous help to you. In October of 2007, The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 was passed, which forgives any remaining balance of your student loans after 10 years of full-time employment in public service or in a non-profit agency. The catch? Only payments made on or after October 1, 2007 count toward the required 120 monthly payments. Some of the jobs that make people eligible for this program include:
Government employees, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, public school teachers, employees of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations (i.e. churches?!), public child-care workers, public healthcare workers, public social workers, and librarians.

So, if you are like me, and have TONS of student loan debt, this program may help you. Especially if you re-consolidate your loans through the federal government, which often times stretches out your new loan balance over a new 15 or 20 year term. Unfortunately, our loans will be paid off before 10 more years is over. Bummer.

Anyway, to read more about this to see if it might work for you, visit or read this very informative article from the LA Times.

July 8, 2008

"Cheap" Jewelry

I don't spend a lot of money on jewelry. In fact, right now every necklace that I own is tied up in a big knot in my bathroom. Why? I have nowhere to hang my necklaces! I do appreciate earrings, though. So I have been on the hunt for places that sell nice, but inexpensive, jewelry. Here are some places I have found:

-Kohls. They always seem to have jewelry on clearance. You just have to look for the racks in the jewelry department. I can regularly find jewelry that is 70% off here, so I don't even shop anymore from the regular priced racks there.

-Claire's Boutiques. Yeah, it is not the greatest quality, but if you just want some cute options, they do have some good sales. I love their 10 for $5 sale.

-Forever 21. While nothing in this store would actually fit my body, they have a great jewelry section where everything fits! :) Their prices on jewelry are fantastic, probably because they know that teeny-boppers are usually strapped for cash. Their normal price on earrings, necklaces, etc. is around $6-12 each.

Where have you found the best jewelry deals?

July 6, 2008

Video Rentals

While I have been a loyal Blockbuster customer for many years, I have not subscribed to their monthly service, nor have I joined Netflix, for the simple reason of not wanting a new monthly bill to have to pay. Yeah, I know it's only $10 a month, but we don't rent very many movies. And still, it's another commitment, and another bill.

Well, I just discovered a rental service at my local Albertson's the other night, and I'm a big fan of it now. It is a vending machine for DVD's called "Red Box DVD". They had a ton of new releases, and it's only $1 a night. I rented a movie on a Friday night, watched it, and had it back by Saturday at 9pm, and only spent $1!! If I remember correctly, I pay $4.32 every time I rent a video from Blockbuster. Yeah, I get to keep it for a few days, but I usually end up watching it the night I rent it anyway.

It may not be as fun as perusing the aisles looking for something interesting, but if you know what you want already, then give Red Box a try. You can save a few bucks!

Red Box DVD (locate one near you).

Aquarium of the Pacific

If you live near the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, you may want to consider getting an annual pass. For only $110 a year, an entire family can get unlimited admission. This includes 2 adults and any dependent children in the same household. You can also get 5 parking passes for only $15 (parking is normally $7 each trip). In addition, they often have a promotion which includes 1-2 free guest passes when you purchase an annual membership.

However, you can also get FREE admission once a year if you work for a non-profit organization. The only catch? Your HR office has to fill out the form and send it in, and then the admission is good during the month of September. In order to qualify, your application has to be received by August 8, 2008. For more information, visit this site.

We have passes to the Aquarium and can tell you from first-hand experience that our kids love it, and it is great to be able to go for 2-3 hours at a time. It's not Sea World, but it's sure a lot closer to us! :)

Emotional Shopping

Recently I was feeling really overwhelmed at home, and decided that I needed to get out of the house. I got in the car and headed down the street, feeling the urge to go shopping, which is fun and relaxing for me. I realized that I was getting excited about the prospect of finding some good deals, and I felt my stress and anxiety turn to happiness and excitement as I drove towards the shopping center. I also thought that maybe after I went shopping, I could go pick up a cupcake at the bakery on the way home. "That will make me feel better!" I thought. But this time was different. I felt really strongly that I needed to turn around and go the other way; I needed to go park the car in front of a park by my house. Normally I would just ignore this "sense" and keep driving, but I couldn't do that this time. I felt like I really needed to go park at the park.

So, this time I listened. I drove to the park and sat in the car. It was silent. I wondered "What am I doing here?!" As I sat in the silence in the warmth of my car, my emotions swept over me and I started to cry. I allowed myself to feel what I had been trying to push away. I felt overwhelmed. I felt sad. I felt angry. I felt tired. So I just sat in the car and cried. Definitely not what I had been planning to do. Then I prayed. I prayed for a long time. I prayed through all of my emotions, I asked God my tough questions, and I sat in the silence. After awhile, for the first time in a long time, I felt peace.

God spoke to my heart that day in the car. He reminded me that I was seeking pleasure and fulfillment through my "shopping spree" instead of going to Him. I realized that I do that a lot. Many times when I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed, right when my husband gets home, I will jet out of the house for some "alone" time and go shopping. I spend money on things I don't really need, including food that I think will help me feel better, and try to cover my emotions with temporary pleasure.

Just like there are emotional eaters, there are also emotional shoppers. Many people do both (including me - note the reference to CUPCAKES?!) :) Next time you feel the "need" to go shopping, just stop. Ask yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed or tired. Is that why you are going shopping? If so, turn that car around and find a park. You may find more peace and joy than you ever would at the store. You will also save your pocketbook! :)

July 5, 2008

Coupon Clipping

If you are a coupon-clipper, you probably already heard that Ralphs is no longer doubling coupons that are $1.00 or more. This is sad news to those of us who have religiously planned out our shopping adventures so that we can fill our carts with numerous free items every week. Vons stopped doubling coupons about two years ago and then did an about-face shortly after they lost thousands of customers (including myself) for doing so. So, I guess it is back to Vons for me.

Clipping coupons is not fun for some people, but for those who take the time to do it for about 10 minutes once a week, it is well worth it. Some people don't clip because they feel they will end up with a bunch of items they don't need, but I only clip coupons for things I do need, unless I will get it for free (if I know it is about $2 and I have a $1 off coupon that can be doubled).

If you would like to get the MOST out of your coupon clipping, you might want to try visiting The Grocery Game website. This is a site where you pay for a monthly subscription to the store of your choice (Ralphs, Vons, etc...) and they do the work for you. They tell you what coupons are coming out each week, where your best savings will be, and what you can stock up on. I have done a trial subscription to this site and it was pretty amazing. However, I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe's (where they don't take coupons), so I don't really need a subscription. My shopping at Ralph's has been mostly supplemental. Check it out! It pays to use coupons! When I do shop at Ralph's I regularly save 40-50% on my total bill by using coupons.

June 22, 2008

Need a Drink?

This Tuesday, June 24th from 4-5pm, the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf will be giving away free Yogurt Ice Blended drinks (size small).  They are available in mango, original and strawberry.  YUM!

June 18, 2008

Saving on MAKEUP!

Tonight a friend of mine told me about a website where they sell all makeup for only $1!  I checked it out and it looks great.  There is even a coupon code floating around online that lets you save $7.50 so you can get free shipping ("carolina" - not sure when this expires).  E.L.F. has been featured in O magazine, Real Simple, Marie Claire, and many other magazines.  It has also been featured on many TV programs like the Style Network and CNN.  I am placing my first order this week!  

June 17, 2008

Buying the "Unmentionables"

I just read an article in Consumer Reports magazine about purchasing bras (see article here). Basically it says that when they ran tests on expensive bras, they found that the BEST bra was actually one for $11 from Target.  Even a lingerie designer with more than 50 years of experience wore a $14 bra herself.  

Lesson?  Victoria's Secret is just a brand.  It doesn't mean quality.  (So I guess this just confirmed what I already thought.)   Go Target!!

If you are looking for great prices on bras, underwear and lingerie (besides going to Target), try going to TJ Maxx or Ross.  These stores have name brand bras for so cheap.  I just bought two name-brand bras, both normally between $30-40, for $7.50 and $9.99.  

Cheap Children's Clothes!

I am finding that as my boys get older, the hand-me-downs come less. That's probably because older kids (boys especially) run down their clothes so fast! My oldest son is now in size 3T and so I have been on the hunt for cheap (but quality) children's clothes. Here are my top 5 picks for cheap children's clothing stores:

1) Children's Orchard - the clothes here are quality, clean, ironed, and cheap. Shirts run about $1.99 each and shorts are about $2.99 each. This is even cheaper than Goodwill sometimes! But the BEST part is - you can sell clothes here too and get store credit. You have to make an appointment, which I did for last Friday, and they bought $32 worth of clothes from me. I had a lot of unused clothes that had been given to me for my youngest, who has outgrown those sizes. I took my $32 of store credit (or they would have given me $24 cash), and I bought my 3 year old's entire summer wardrobe (well, almost!). I got 3 shirts, 4 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of pants, and one pair of shoes. Some of the items were brand new with the tags on them! I went over by .12 cents, so I I got ALL of that for .12 cents! Here is a picture of everything I got:

2) Mervyn's - sometimes they have the greatest sales. I have been there twice when they had these $1 and $3 sales, and I got fanstastic deals on clothes. Those sales are usually at the end of the season.

3) Kmart - while I generally don't like shopping at Kmart (for oh, about 100 reasons), they have great sales on kid's clothing. One time I saw shirts on a clearance rack for .25 cents! They also frequently sell kids shirts and shorts for under $3.

4) Walmart - same reasons as Kmart. Check the clearance racks in the children's section.

5) The 99Cent Store - Okay, I know what you're thinking: Either "What?!" or "Ew!", right? :) Well, I was there last week and they had collared polo shirts for boys for only .99 cents each! They were from a chain store - I couldn't tell which one - but I know I have seen clothing there before from Kmart and Walmart. You can either check the baby section or the aisle where the underwear and socks are - they sometimes have a rack of kid's clothes there. Surprised?! I was!!

June 14, 2008

Hurry In!

If you are looking for some CHEAP presents for birthdays or even Christmas, hurry in to Bath & Body Works because they are having an amazing 75% off sale. You can get some great lotions, shampoos, soaps, body scrubs, gift baskets, and candles for around $2-3 each. I don't know when the sale ends, so hurry in now!!

June 11, 2008

The Best AAA Discounts

Most people I know have AAA service, but did you know that your card can get you discounts at some great places? Here are a few of my favorites:

El Torito - Save 10% on your bill
Chart House- Save 10% on your bill
(They no longer give discounts for Soup Plantation- bummer!)

Linens N Things - Save 10% or $10 on a purchase of $50 or more
Visit to download coupon.
New York & Company (one of my favorite clothing stores) - Save 15% on your total purchase
Payless Shoes - Save 10% on regularly priced merchandise Save 10% on purchases online, by shopping at
The UPS Store - Save 15% on purchases or 5% on shipping

Knotts Berry Farm - Save 20% on tickets
LegoLand - Save $10 on each admission (until August 31, 2008)
SeaWorld - Save $5 on each admission
"Special Offer valid May 24 – September 1, 2008: Adults at Kid’s Price with Kids 1/2 Price! Show your AAA membership card at the SeaWorld San Diego ticket window and ask for the special Adults at Kid’s Price with Kids 1/2 Price offer or call 800-25-SHAMU and press 14."

JCPenney Portraits: Save 50% on your entire portrait purchase including sitting fees

June 6, 2008

Time for Updates!!!

First of all, I'm so sorry to you, my loyal readers, who have been checking in over the last few weeks and have seen no new posts! Don't fear, though, today I sat outside and thought of about 20 new topics to blog about! So starting next week I am going to be more consistent and get some new posts up.

To start, I want to post what my friend Corrina blogged about last week, because it is really helpful information. Here are her tips in a nutshell (to read her full post, go to her blog):

A few things Corrina does to save money:

-Shop at Dollar Tree and discount stores
"Today at Dollar Tree (all at $1) I found Puffs Kleenex, bleach, mozarella cheese, popsicles, pretzels, Rubbermaid reusable tupperware and a Fitness magazine."

-Skip the paper products. "We used to go through a ton of paper plates in a month. It was just easier. But I realized--although I would buy them inexpensively, it adds up and isn't too green either. It's been 2 or 3 months since I last bought paper plates. We just use the dishawasher more! And rags work just as well as paper towels."

-Buy in bulk at places like Henry's.

-Shop at children's resale stores and craigslist.

-Split food items at Costco with a friend.

-Shop at little (local) markets

Thanks for all the tips, Corrina!! If any of you have any tips, please let me know!

May 19, 2008

It's The Little Things

This week I have been really inspired to try to save more money at home. In our home, we are really noticing the effects of the gas prices as well as the increasing cost of food. We feel like we are not buying any more than usual, yet we are spending so much more. It is really frustrating. So, for the past two days, I decided to not use our dryer and actually hang out our loads of laundry to dry. "WHAT?!" You are probably asking yourself! :) Yes, I have decided to go back to the Little House on the Prairie days :) Really, the motivation was more about not making my house any hotter than it already was, but I also felt like maybe we could save just a few dollars by line-drying our clothes. It's actually been pretty fun! I don't know how much we are saving, and hope to try to figure that out, but every little bit helps.

Singing the Praises of Freecycle!!

I have written about Freecycle once or twice before, but I just have to stop and write about how great this Yahoo Group is. Last week Martin's cell phone broke, and we did not want to spend $200 on a new one. I went on Freecycle and asked if anyone had an old cell phone that took a SIM card, and immediately 3 people replied. One even offered us a Blackberry, but we ended up receiving a phone that was in perfect working condition and was BETTER than my husband's old model! He just put his own SIM card in and it rang immediately because someone was calling him.

In the past few months we've also received:
-A brand new umbrella base for our patio umbrella
-2 Redwood benches for our back yard
-A brand new bottle of Shaklee cleaner (safe for children) that is concentrated and makes over 100 bottles from the one!
-A perfect looking bassinette for my friend who is having a baby

I also might receive this week a kid's soccer net and a kid's patio set for outside.

If you haven't joined this group yet, there are Freecycles for each area. Just go to You have to have a Yahoo user name and password, then every day just go to your "yahoo groups" when you log in, and see what people have posted. You have to act quick to get things you really want, but it's worth it! They also require you to post something for free first, before you get something for free (you only have to do that once).

I have given away a lot of great items on there as well, and it is really a great feeling knowing you are giving something to someone who really needs it, versus donating to a thrift shop where someone will eventually have to pay for your item. It is very rewarding!

April 24, 2008

Buying Baby Formula for Less

Last month I transitioned Jaden from breastfeeding to formula. He is almost a year old (next month), but I had no idea how much formula I would go through in two months - WOW. It has really made me appreciate the money I saved by breastfeeding! I have been on a mission to find the best-priced formula, since we are going through about a can a week. I have used different brands and Jaden has never known when I've switched them. He seems to like them all. The research I did on this said it is fine to switch brands as long as they are both milk-based and he is not on a specialized formula. The government regulates what goes in them, so I'm really not concerned about one being less nutritious for him (other than a few minor things here and there).

Right now he is on Enfamil Lipil, and a 12.9 oz can costs about $15. The bigger can costs between $20-$30. I have found that not only is it cheaper to buy the bigger can, but Wal-Mart has the best prices on formula that I have found anywhere. They are consistently as much as $10 cheaper than anywhere else. Here are some tips I have found for getting cheap formula:

- Shop at Wal-Mart. Not only are the prices the best, but they have an Organic brand of formula which I love, that is $10 cheaper than the already discounted Enfamil and Similac. That means I get a giant 24 oz. can for $15. The non-organic (regular) Wal-Mart brand is only $11 for this same size (and it has the exact same ingredients as Enfamil Lipil, with DHA & ARA).
-Check Craigslist. I know this might sound risky at first, but I have been on there every day seeing people selling brand new, unopened cans of formula because their baby switched brands. Some of them are cases still shrink-wrapped from Costco. People sell them as low as $8 a can if you're willing to go pick it up and take if off their hands. I also got 2 FREE cans of Enfamil from a lady on there who received the cans as samples from her doctor. They were unopened and saved me about $20.
-Ask your Pediatrician. They have tons of samples of formula to give away. I asked mine for a sample last week and she gave me three containers full.
-Sign up online for coupons and samples at formula websites. and both send free cans when you sign up and tell them when your baby is due (or was due). I got a few cans this way as well.
-Lastly, check your grocery store's discount bins. Usually these are located in the back of the store. One time I went to Ralph's and they were trying to get rid of about 100 cans of Similac Organic, because the label had changed or something like that. They didn't expire for almost a year, and they were only $5 each for 24 oz. (and larger) cans. I stocked up and bought so many that I ended up giving some away (they were expiring before Jaden was on formula).

I hope this helps some of you!!!

FREE (or nearly free) ICE CREAM!!!

I just read in the paper today that you can get ice cream for free next week at the following places:

-Ben & Jerry's - Free Cone Day
12-8pm, on Tuesday April 29th

-Baskin-Robbins - .31 cent scoop night
5-10pm on Wednesday, April 30th

Can anyone say, "Cheap Date?!"

March 23, 2008

The Cruciality of Tithing

Okay, okay, I know "cruciality" is not a word, but I made it up because I think it should be a word :) Growing up in the church, I have actually been surprised at how many people I have met that do not tithe. However, tithing is one of the ONLY instructions given to us in Scripture that is tied with a PROMISE - Malachi 3:10 (New International Version) "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

Many people believe that because tithing was an instruction given by God under the old covenant, that we no longer need to do it today. However, tithing was a regular New Testament practice. Without getting into all of the theological arguments for this case, I just want to encourage anyone reading this to really pray and search your heart about this issue. Most of the people I know who have financial problems are in trouble because of one or both of these reasons: 1) They have gotten into too much debt and/or 2) They are not honoring God through tithing. I personally believe both of these are sinful behaviors.

Getting into too much debt (crown ministries distinguishes between good debt - i.e. college loans, etc.- and bad debt - i.e. credit cards for purchases we don't really need) means that we are "borrowing" money from a company when we do not have (and many times, do not plan to have) the money to pay it back on time. Romans 13:7 says "Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." Not tithing means that we are holding onto our money as if it was our own (when it is all God's money), and we are not respecting or honoring him by choosing to pay our cable bill instead of tithing.

I have heard many stories of people who say "I can't pay my tithe! I don't have enough money!" yet turn around and pay bills for a new flat screen television, a cable bill, a brand new car payment, a designer purse, etc... These items are not "needs"; they are "wants" and we have confused the two terms until we have convinced ourselves that we truly do not have money left to honor God. However, when we honor God FIRST by paying our tithe before anything else, He will always provide for our needs. I have never, ever known anyone who is tithing to not have food on their table or to be homeless.

If you are struggling financially today, I encourage you, I plead with you, to test God and see if He will not bless your desire to honor Him. Give to him first, before going shopping, before paying your cell phone bill. Ask Him to help you prioritize what your true needs are so that you can put Him back in first place in your life. Because if you are not tithing, I would really encourage you to examine if He really is first in your life. Do you trust him enough to try it?

This is an excellent article on the topic of tithing while you are in debt:

February 16, 2008

Crown Ministries

I want to tell everyone about a dynamic financial ministry that Martin and I were a part of a few years ago. When we got married (8 years ago), we had a considerable amount of personal debt that we brought into our marriage. Not only did we each have over $30k in school loans, but we both had credit card debt, which combined equaled more than $10,000. Our marriage counselors (more than one) actually encouraged us to pay off our debt before we got married because it seemed so insurmountable. Instead, we got married and decided to make it our first priority to work as hard as we could to get out of debt together.

First we had to re-train our thinking. We had both grown up without money, so credit cards, to us, were how we survived in college. We didn't have parents who sent us money every month; we both basically put ourselves through school and took out large loans to do so. So, we had to agree that we had used credit cards too liberally and needed to cut them up and trust God to provide for our needs. We would pay cash (or debit), or do without. We also had to put all of our money towards getting rid of our debt, which meant no new furniture for awhile, and no new - well, anything at all.

Thankfully God intervened and some friends of ours began a Bible study through Crown Ministries. We learned how to handle our money, we memorized Scriptures together, and walked with about 8 other couples through the process of all getting rid of our debt together. Within 2 years, we had paid off our credit card debt of over $10,000 - and Martin didn't even have a regular job (he was temping at the time). AMAZING. I still tell people that story today to encourage them and let them know that they can do it too.

To find a Crown seminar or study near you, all you have to do is go to this website and find one in your area. (Go to the left side under "Find an Event") Their workshops and seminars will change your life. They even have FREE financial counselors that will meet with you to help you get out of debt.

We have stayed virtually debt free now our entire marriage. We currently have no credit card debt, our cars are paid off, and the only debt we still currently carry are our student loans, which are going down every month. As the old saying goes, "If we can do it, you can do it."

Don't wait - Do it TODAY!!!

January 28, 2008

Free Money!!!

Most women I know have a diamond wedding ring of some sort. If you do, and it was purchased after 1994, you get FREE money back! As part of a class-action suit against De Beers diamond company, you can get up to 59% of your money back. Here is a news article about this lawsuit:

To file your claim and get your refund, go to:

Saving on Prescriptions

Did you know that both Target and Wal-Mart have $4 prescription programs? They are amazing! I personally use my local Target pharmacy, and have personally used this program. I usually say "Is this prescription covered by your $4 program?" and they will look it up for me. My insurance co-pay is $25 for generic prescriptions, so already I have saved so much money by getting them cheaper this way. Not all prescriptions are covered, but all of the antibiotics for my kids have been. Yippee! Here is the link for what prescriptions are covered at Target:

January 8, 2008

Saving on Airfare!

I am amazed at how many people pay full price for airline tickets, not knowing how many great deals are out there. One person can pay up to $500 for a flight, while the person sitting next to them on the same flight paid only $79. It helps to know where to look for these deals, so here are some tips for you:

1) I always check the major travel websites first, to see what's out there and what the going rate is. These sites will quote the lowest available fare that they know of on the web. Great sites to start with are: and

2) If you prefer a certain airline or know that an airline services the area you are going to, check that airlines website yourself. Practically every airline I know of offers "internet only specials" that you can easily find by going to their web page. Southwest Airlines frequently offers internet only specials of only $39 each way to various places across the country. These may not show up on the sites listed in tip #1.

3) It helps to fly out of a larger airport than a smaller one if you want to save money. For instance, try LAX for cheaper flights instead of John Wayne (Orange County) or Long Beach.

4) Flying on "off" days are also cheaper. For instance, Tuesday or Wednesday instead of a Friday or a weekend. On the travel sites listed in #1, you can also enter in different dates and times to see which would be cheaper options.

4) You can always try sites like or if you want a really low ticket price. Just be aware that any discount tickets do not allow changes or refunds.

5) If you want to buy a very cheap ticket but need the assurance that you could get your money back should something happen, you may want to look into getting travel insurance which might only be about $30 a person, versus an expensive plane ticket where you are allowed to make changes.

Overall, I would personally never buy from a travel agent, as they will not get you a rock bottom price, and they make money off of the tickets you buy. It does take more work to do the research yourself, but it is worth it if you want to save money!

January 5, 2008

Where to Find the Best Deals on FOOD!

I admit, grocery shopping on a budget can be a daunting task.  To save the most money, I have been known to go to about 5 stores in one day to get different items at the cheapest price.  If I don't have time, typically I'll just head to Trader Joe's and then a regular grocery store to pick up the extras.  But here are where I have found the best deals:

1)  The 99 Cent Store:  I know what you're thinking, "Ewww!  Aren't all their products old or expired?"  The answer is thankfully "No!"  More and more, the 99 cent store is stocking Organic produce and items that you would find at your local grocery store.  In fact, many times I go to both stores in one day and find the exact same items.  I always check the expiration date first, but have never gotten an expired item from there.   It is almost always cheapest to buy the following items here:  Napkins, Paper Towels, Soap, Soups and other canned food items, and items from their freezer section and refrigerated section. 

I am fortunate to have a brand new 99 cent store down the street, and it is the nicest one in the area.  But if you have an old smelly one by you, it might be worth the drive to find a better one! :)

2)  Costco:  I wrote a previous blog about the pros and cons of Costco, but they do have cheaper dairy, bread and meat.

3)  Target:  Have you checked out Target's food section lately?  WOW!  They have the same great products that are at Ralph's but for half the price, not even on sale!  This is the best place to buy cereal, canned food items, drinks, and household items (cleaners, detergents, etc.)  Their cereal is so much cheaper than a regular grocery store, as well as shredded cheese (only $2 a bag vs. $4 at Ralph's!)

4)  Trader Joe's:  Some people think Trader Joe's is more expensive, but I have found the opposite to be true in many cases.  Their cheese and meat is more expensive here, but canned food items are comparable, and they have great cheap snack items.

5)  Ralph's:  Ralph's is one of the more expensive grocery stores out there, BUT if you are a coupon clipper, this can be the best store for you!  I can't even count how many free items I have gotten by using double-coupons (esp. toothpaste).  However, if you don't use coupons, it is probably best to stick with Albertsons.

6)  Your Local Farmer's Market:  Almost every week I head to our Farmer's Market for fresh produce.  It tends to be cheaper and fresher than at the stores, and you don't pay extra typically for organic items.  I have a rule that for fruit, I won't pay more than $1.50 a pound.  If a fruit is more than that, I'll choose a cheaper item instead.  It also helps to go an hour before closing, because many vendors start cutting their prices to sell what is left.  Sometimes, if I know that Ralph's is selling apples for .99 cents a pound, I will buy them at Ralph's instead of the Farmer's Market (since it might be cheaper), but the FM often sells at very low prices.

Costco & Sam's Club: Are We Really Saving Money?

I am actually one of those people that loves going to Costco, even during the rush hour.  The prospect of finding some good  bargains, along with food samples to keep my tummy full - what more could I ask for?  :)  I don't know if you saw the expose' of Big-Box Stores on 20/20 a year or so ago, but it talked about this subject exactly.  Do we really save money by shopping at these stores? 

Well, if you are buying name-brand products like shampoo, many food items, toiletries, etc... then the answer is NO.  I have comparison-shopped numerous times and found the prices to be exactly the same as if I bought 40 rolls of toilet paper at the regular store.  However, if you buy the Kirkland or Sam's Choice brand, sometimes you will find them to be cheaper.

Where CAN you save at these stores?  

1) Dairy - For instance, a 2-lb. block of cheese is $5.35.  At the grocery store, a 1-lb. block of cheese is $4.99 or higher.  Milk and eggs are also cheaper.

2) Bread and Tortillas - You can get 2 loaves of whole-wheat bread for $3.99, whereas you might pay $2.99 for one loaf at the store.  You can also get 36 tortillas for $2.65.

3)  Meat - If you need to buy meat in bulk, this is the place to go.  I love Foster Farms chicken, but it is $5.99 a lb. for chicken breast at Ralphs or Albertsons.  It is only $2.99 a lb. here, with the breasts packaged separately, which I love!

4) Laundry Detergent and other household items (store brand).  It is nice to have a 3-month supply of laundry detergent, but you'll probably only save money if you use the store brand.

I know there are many other great deals at these stores on books, clothes, electronics, etc.... so I'm mainly talking about Food Shopping.  

The bottom line, though, is that if you don't have the money in your budget to spend $10 on 8 rolls of paper towels, then don't do it.  Go to the .99 cent store and buy what you need for 2 weeks, and spend only $2.  Don't go over your budget because you *think* you are saving money.  You don't need to buy 5 months worth of shampoo if you don't have the money right now.  Stay within your budget and don't get lured into the temptation of  thinking"if I buy it at Costco, I am saving money!"  

Saving on Eating Out

If you are anything like me, eating out is a hobby.  I enjoy it immensely.  Not only do I not have to cook and do the dishes, but I love getting out of the house, trying new things, and getting great meals for cheap!  

So, how can we save money on eating out?

1) Cut coupons!  I actually do go through my junk mail just to find coupons for local eateries.  I also cut coupons out of our paper on Sunday.  In my coupon book that I use for groceries, I have a section titled "Restaurants" where I put coupons for eating out.  When we decide we want to go out to eat, we make our decisions (many times) based on what coupons we have available.  For instance, Acapulco Restaurant has a regular coupon in the Sunday paper for "Buy one meal, get one for $3.99".  We eat out a lot at this restaurant because we love mexican food and it is cheap!  SoupPlantation also has regular coupons in the paper.  

2)  Get an Entertainment Book.  At the beginning of each year, these sell for about $20.  The book is packed full of "Buy one, get one free" coupons at various restaurants.  Saving money on one meal out can pay for the whole book!  

3)  Find out what nights or times restaurants offer food cheaper.  For instance, The Cheesecake Factory offers all of their appetizers for at least 50% off Monday-Friday from 4-6pm.  Some Mexican restaurants have "Taco Tuesdays" where you can buy tacos for $1 and appetizers for 1/2 price.  You will probably have to sit in the bar area, but most restaurants have booths available in these sections, and the earlier you go, the better.  

4)  Split a meal if the selections are big (we do this often at Lucille's BBQ).  Instead of ordering a kid's meal (if your kids are young enough), share your food with them and order an extra side salad instead.  

5) Skip the drinks.  These alone can save you over $5 each meal.

We eat out about 3x a month at restaurants, and each time is special because we don't do it all the time.  You CAN have a great, full meal and save money at the same time!

FREE Stuff?!!!!

Many people have asked me how my husband and I have gotten so many things for free.  Honestly, the #1 reason is God's blessing.  When we need something, we rarely go out and  buy it immediately.  We almost always wait until we can at least find it at a price we can afford. Sometimes that means we wait a long time.  But in the waiting, occasionally someone will find out about our need and just give it to us!  By waiting, we have received a computer, three vehicles (at different times), a piano, two guitars, baby furniture, a television, a stereo, and many more items.  So, my first tip for you would be - WAIT.  Keep a running list of "needs" and "wants" for your household.  We keep ours in a notebook.  We also check it off and date it when we obtain the item, and are always sure to thank God and pass a blessing on to someone else.

I want to share with you two websites you may not know about where you can find free things:

1)  - Find your local city, and there is an entire FREE section (under "For Sale")!  You can type in what you are looking for in the "search" box.

2) - Find your local city, again, and check this site daily for things you need.  Just last week I got a free umbrella stroller for our baby that we needed for a trip we were taking.  The woman who gave it to me also gave me a bag of clothes for my oldest son.  What a blessing!

Be sure to post items on these sites that you no longer need, as well, because we have definitely found that God blesses us when we give!

Saving Money on Books, DVD's, and Videos

Whenever I need to buy a book, DVD or video, I almost never buy it from a store.  I always go online FIRST.  My favorite site to buy these items from is  This is a site connected to EBay, where individuals or stores can sell books or videos to you for dirt cheap.  They are required to put the condition that the item is in:  Excellent (Brand New), Good or Fair.  Shipping is usually a standard price, around $3.99 for media mail, or you can upgrade to expedited shipping for $5.99.  While this may deter some people, keep in mind that you can easily find brand new books for as low as .99 cents, so you can get a brand new book, with shipping included, for under $5.00.  WOW!  

Just this week I ordered three brand new  books, and got all three for less than $25 which included shipping.  I received them all within one week.  This is also a great site for college students who need to buy new or used textbooks.  Just be sure you have the right ISBN number and volume number before you purchase it, to make sure you are getting the correct edition.

If you absolutely cannot wait for a book to arrive in the mail and need it immediately, only then would I suggest going to Barnes & Nobles or Borders.  To me, these stores are expensive and I would only go there if I was desperate.  However, it is fun to peruse through their books if you're not sure exactly what book you need on a certain subject yet.   For DVD's, I would choose either Wal-Mart or Target, or Blockbuster if you are okay getting a used copy.  These stores usually carry them cheaper than other major retailers.  Good Luck!

PocketWise is Up and Running!!!

In the spirit of 2008 and New Year's Resolutions, along with the encouragement of family and friends, I have decided to start a blog on how to save some money!  Many of my friends have encouraged me to start this blog so that I can share some tips I have learned on how to find the BEST deals on things they want to buy.  Please give me your feedback and let me know what topics you would like me to cover.  I am still learning, but will pass on anything new I come across!