That Time My Husband Had A Heart Attack.

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Get ready for a long post. If you’re here just for the deals (I TOTALLY, really do get that), scroll waaayyyyy on down.  UPDATE ~ I tried responding to all your sweet comments tonight and realized I was just exhausted and you all would understand. THANK YOU MORE THAN YOU’LL KNOW for taking the time to be such blessings to me – I am so so thankful for you!

 

13 days ago my husband had a heart attack. 

 

My 45-year-old-mostly-healthy husband had a heart attack. (For the record I’m 40 ~ no reason for you to think I’m quite 45 yet, right?) 🙂

 

My heart still hurts.

 

He’d had some chest pain about six months ago and had done a stress test to make sure everything was okay. The stress test came back negative, and we assumed everything was fine and went on about our lives.

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Our bunch just 4 weeks ago, on our way to ski for a week in CanadaWhile he’s always been a little overweight, James has stayed the same weight since we were married twenty years ago, and is as strong as an ox. He plays sports hard with our kids, and is in general a pretty healthy guy. He doesn’t smoke or drink, but did have slightly elevated cholesterol and some family history of heart issues at an early age.

On Wednesday almost two weeks ago, he started having pain in his arm while driving all over Ohio for work. He called home around 3 and said he really wasn’t feeling well, then finally made it in at 5 that night.

 

Because I’m a horrible (read – awful, terrible, pitiful) not-ever-meant-to-be-a-nurse-wife, I told him I didn’t know what he should do, but if his chest hurt he should go to the ER. (Honestly, I wasn’t all that compassionate about it ~ we had 3 kids going 3 directions and I had no time for this craziness. Like I said, I’m an awful, terrible, pitiful wife!)

 

A few minutes later though I looked at him the way I should have looked at him the minute he came home, and realized he looked awful. He headed to the ER, and I headed out for evening carpool duty.

 

An hour later he called and told me that while his EKG was fine, his blood work came back with some issues and they were transporting him to a nearby hospital for testing the next morning. Remember we’d just moved here two years ago, so while we definitely have a few people we could call on in a pinch, our kids weren’t all that comfortable with folks they didn’t know so well (my oldest is 16).  I left the kids at home around 7:30 PM and headed to the ER to see what was next.

 

I don’t know anything medically, but by the time I got there the second EKG had changed, and the ER doctor seemed pretty concerned. He let us know that a cardiologist would meet us immediately at the hospital, and when the ambulance came to transport James (they said he wasn’t stable enough for me to drive him even though he looked pretty good), I ran home to get a few things and then planned to meet him in the hospital.

 

It didn’t happen like that. 

 

I arrived at the larger hospital’s Emergency Room and was immediately taken past dozens of people in the waiting room to a small waiting room with a night chaplain. She wasn’t allowed to tell me anything, just sat with me as I waited. (I couldn’t figure what on earth had happened ~ just a few minutes ago we’d been laughing together in the original ER?)

 

About 20 minutes went by, and the cardiologist came out to tell me that my husband (yes, the 45 year old seemingly healthy one), had a mild heart attack. He had 100% blockage in one artery (thankfully only 20-30% blockage in other arteries), and they’d put in a stent to fix the blockage. He was doing well, but his life would change.

 

He wasn’t kidding.

 

Thankfully, because he was basically healthy his heart had used “collateral arteries” to repair the problem as much as they could on their own (which masked the heart issues in his initial stress test.) We found out a few days later that despite everything he had absolutely no heart muscle damage, and I’m guessing it’s partly due to those collateral arteries taking on the extra load.

 

(Isn’t it crazy that God makes your body to DO things like that?) 

 

I was allowed to see James who honestly looked great considering everything he’d gone through. I think we were both just in shock ~ and totally unaware of what this meant for our life. (Two weeks later, we’re still pretty unaware.)

 

Around 1:30 in the morning I left him in the ICU to come be with our kids and try to sleep, and his sister (she’s a doctor and was completely a lifesaver through this!) headed up to be with us just to get us through the first through days. (His other sister also came up for the weekend ~ I can’t even begin to tell you what a gift they were to me those first few days!)

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Us out on a short hike last week while playing hooky 🙂 

So here I sit, almost two weeks later, still just in a small state of shock over all this. James wasn’t allowed to work last week, so we kind of played hooky all week. We visited every plant nursery in a 30 mile radius, ate meals at fancy restaurants (he’s supposed to eat salmon and I haven’t yet learned to cook it), and even went to see a movie at 10 o-clock in the morning just because we could. (We were the only people there besides an older couple in their 70’s. I’ve never ever seen a movie at 10 o’clock in the morning!)

 

You know what though? I’m still kind of terrified.

 

I’m afraid of how I’d do life without him.

 

I’m afraid of what we would do if our finances really changed because of an illness. (We are so so blessed financially thanks to years of penny pinching, but fear of the unknown still scares the crud of me.)

 

I’m afraid of my kids not having grandparents for *their* kids. (Y’all, I am seriously jumping the gun on this worry thing. I know. I’m nuts.) 

 

I’m afraid of what my life would look like if he wasn’t right here next to me.

 

He’s always been my one. 

 

I don’t know that I believe that people have just one person out there made just for them, but, for me, he’s been my one.

 

He’s the one I just feel safe and cozy with. The one who likes me even though I’m a mess. And more than anything he’s the one who completely cheers me on each and every day. 

 

The thought of something happening to him terrifies me beyond what I can even express. 

 

And honestly, the thought that’s filling my head right now is that something could happen to him, and in just a few short years my cute kids will be gone. And this awful crushing fear of just being without them kind of terrifies me.

 

But as I was muddling through all that in my head today, I remembered that long before I was James’s wife, I was chosen by Him.

 

And way before I ever dreamed of being Jackson & Caroline & Reagan’s momma . . . I was His child.

 

And I was reminded that the same God who has held me through so many difficult things along the way, loves me enough to hold me through this not-so-easy time too. 

 

Whatever may come.

 

Whatever it takes.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, right now things look good for my sweet husband. (Thank. heavens.) He’s doing an amazing job working to change his diet, is on a mountain of medication to keep this from happening again, and is already heading to physical therapy. His prognosis really is good (in fact, his heart is working perfectly), but my fear still is there.

 

But just this experience has rocked my not-as-firm-as-I-want-it-to-be foundation, so I needed to be reminded that ultimately the One who loved me first holds me no matter what comes my way.

 

 

I have no idea what mountain is in your world right now. I don’t know if your world has maybe been shattered by something so crazy-ridiculous-you-feel-like-you-can’t-even-breathe too.

 

But I do know that the same God who’s holding me? He’s holding you right next to me too.

 

He loves each of us, and desires peace for us, no matter what comes our way.

 

Know that I’m praying for you today. And I’d so love your prayers too as our hearts adjust to this new season too. God’s plan is bigger and better than ours ever is, and I’m so crazy-ridiculously-overwhelmingly thankful for peace that comes when we choose to find rest in Him today.

 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

 

(On a quick side note ~ thank goodness I have some amazing workers here on PPP who totally have kept things up and running while I’ve been way more frazzled than normal. I don’t *think* any of this should have any long term impact on PPP except that I need to spend a little more time preparing meals and a little more focused on my family (I so appreciate you  understanding!) Right now we’re trying out the Mediterranean diet, so those are the recipes I imagine you’ll see here for a bit while we figure things out. Thanks so much for your kindness and support ~ so so thankful for you.)

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Orange Bird Feeder

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Looking for a fun and frugal project to make with your kids this weekend? I love this!

 

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large oranges
  • Bird seed
  • Skinny ribbon
  • Sharpened pencil
  • Scissors
  • Spoon

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Directions
1. Cut your orange in half

 

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2. Scoop out (and eat) the inside of the orange

 

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3. Poke four holes opposite each other, towards the top of the orange like so

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4. Cut two 8″ pieces of ribbon, tie one end in one hole and the other in the opposite hole
5. Repeat step 4 with your other ribbon

 

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6. Fill your orange up with bird seed
7. Now cut a 5″ piece of ribbon and use to tie the top of the ribbons together, then onto a tree branch

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Looking for more spring projects?  Here you go . . .

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

Interact with 480,000+ Penny Pinchers on Facebook and Twitter or Subscribe to Passionate Penny Pincher by email to keep up with all the penny pinchin’ deals!

 

 

 

 

 

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Ikea Shopping Secrets: 15 Secrets You Need To Know Before Shopping IKEA

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You know love IKEA.

 

Like, L.O.V.E. IKEA.

 

So much so that I brought home an entire bedroom worth of furniture for my daughter’s room home in my minivan not too long ago. 🙂

 

(Um, while we loved the furniture we did sell it not too long ago in a local buy-sell group because that bed was nearly impossible to make. But, I got back almost everything I spent!)

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So, whenever the opportunity arises, I race into IKEA to hunt down a few tips to share with you. (Check these out here too.) 

 

(My poor family ~ we were in the middle of Seattle, Washington on Spring Break when I saw an IKEA sign and I totally had to make them pull off the road to see what was there. Thankfully, they love their ice cream and it was kids eat free day, so we all survived.) 

 

Did you know there really are extra ways to save at IKEA though beyond their fantastic prices? Here are a few things you need to know before your next IKEA shopping trip . . .

 

 

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1. Join IKEA family ~ it’s free. 🙂

Just by joining the Ikea Family (totally free to join ~ I love that!), you get a ton of great benefits. Here’s what to expect:

  • free coffee or hot tea at the IKEA restaurant
  • an extra 30 minutes of time in “Smaland” for your child
  • 90 day price protection guarantee – if something goes on sale after you bought it you have 90 days to get that price when you bring in your receipt
  • chance to win a $100 IKEA gift card
  • special “bonus” IKEA family pricing offers only available to IKEA members

 

Go HERE to sign up.

 

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2. Start at the finish line. 

If you’ve ever been to an IKEA before, you know that going in the front doors you’ll be led down hours of hallways throughout IKEA’s massive store.

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However, if you go in through IKEA’s exit, you’ll go right in to their most deeply discounted “as-is” sales. Watch for a ton of savings in this area, including couches marked down as much as 75% off. For example, the couch above with the stains on it was $700 regularly, marked down to $175. It looks to me like a sofa that was made to be slipcovered, so that’s a crazy good price if you can stand the stain!

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In this area you’ll also find dressers, knick knacks, rugs and more ~ the store we visited even had a chair marked down to $6.50. If you don’t mind doing a little work, you can save a bundle in this area!

 

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3. Take advantage of free childcare.

If you have young children, take advantage of IKEA’s free Smaland childcare available as you enter the main entrance of the store. IKEA offers free childcare for an hour and don’t forget that by joining IKEA Family you’ll get an additional 30 minutes of childcare.

 

Kids must be between 4-10 years old and potty trained, and availability is limited based on the number of kids playing (meaning weekends and holidays are busy.) Go HERE to learn more.

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4. Watch for weekly specials.

Each week, IKEA offers weekly “specials” throughout the store. These are crazy good deals that won’t last, so keep your eye out for them!

 

For example, the lovely pink sofa 🙂 above was on sale for just $179 (regularly $399) the week that we shopped. If you happen to be decorating a room for a girl (and have some space) that would make for some serious savings!

 

If your curious what the special offers are in your area, here’s how to start:

  • Go HERE
  • Change your store’s location to the one you’re visiting
  • Click on “IKEA Seattle (or whichever store you’re visiting) Special Offers”
  • Watch the list to see their special deals for the month.

 

Note: the information on the “special offers” tab varies a LOT by location. I noticed the West Chester, Ohio store shares their “last chance” deals, as well as new items in the store. The Long Island, New York special offers page showed only a few deals but offered discounted tickets to the New York Aquarium, Centra Park and Bronx Zoos. Be sure to do your research on the store your visiting’s website before heading out

 

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5. Don’t miss IKEA’s last chance deals.

In addition to IKEA’s weekly specials, they offer “last chance deals.” These will vary some by store, but you can snag some incredible savings with these! I was absolutely obsessed with the star lamp above but my hubby said we absolutely didn’t have room for it on the airplane ~ I’m still a little sad about missing that one . . .

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I tried to find a way for you to check out last chance deals online, and this *may* help (I’d love your feedback on this?) I noticed that the IKEA Portland website is lists their last chance deals online, so check these out and *possibly* they’ll match up with your local store.

 

(If anyone happens to be near an IKEA and wants to do some deal checking, I’d love to hear if the Portland’s Last Chance deals match up ~ I know a few of these items were on sale when I checked them this week in Seattle ~ knowing those ahead of time would be fantastic!) 

 

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6. Watch for Member Only offers. 

Since you’re already signed up for IKEA Family (refer to secret #1) be sure to watch for IKEA member only offers throughout the store. Our store had the table and chairs shown in the above left picture for $149 (regularly $179), so keep your eyes peeled for extra savings.

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7. Watch for specials on fabric remnants.

If you sew (or are just a wee bit crafty), watch for discounted prices at IKEA on their fabric remnants. Their regular prices on fabric are pretty reasonable as well, so be sure to check out the fabric section while you’re there.

 

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8. Don’t miss price drops on all things random at IKEA.

While shopping IKEA you never know what item will be dropped ridiculously low. For example we noticed soccer balls for $4.99 as a price drop, which was such a weird deal to notice in the middle of everything else at IKEA!

 

Also be sure to look for fleece throws, pillows and even wrapping paper when you’re there. Their fleece throws are almost always under $5 (they were $2.29 at our store), and are perfect to grab for yourself, as well as one to donate to your local homeless shelter in the winter.

 

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9. Buy kids playroom furniture at IKEA.

The prices on kids playroom furniture (think easels, small tables and chairs, etc.) are incredible.

 

(That easel above? Just $14.99, compared to $40+ on Amazon.)

 

If you have small children or even homeschool, there is no other place to get everything you need at crazy good prices, so be sure to watch for those while you’re there. (Especially since kids tend to abuse these pretty quickly, there’s no reason to pay more!)

 

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10. If you’re shopping with kids, go on Tuesdays.

Kids eat free on Tuesdays at Ikea. And, some stores offer special promotions as well (for example, this week Seattle’s IKEA had kids eat free all week), so be sure to check the special offers area at your store for any additional savings in the IKEA restaurant before you shop.

 

11. Get free baby food every day of the week. 

With any purchase at IKEA, you’ll get FREE baby food in the IKEA restaurant with any purchase. They also have high chairs to use while you’re there.

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12. Get $25 off your $250 purchase if you’re moving.

Especially if you’re a student starting college (or have just moved), this is a great way to save. Go HERE to sign up.

 

 

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13. Don’t miss the 50¢ hot dogs.

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Pick up 50¢ hot dogs and $1 ice cream cones at Ikea, and you may want to grab a 6 pack of cinnamon rolls for the road priced at just $4.

 

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14. Be on the lookout for incredible prices in the bathroom and curtain sections at IKEA.

While I love the entire store, I always notice the very best prices on curtains and just about everything you need for the bathroom at IKEA. (99¢ toilet brushes? You can’t beat that!)

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Curtain panels are as low as $4.99 when on sale, and a great way to quickly save while you’re there.

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15. Check out the IKEA catalog before you shop.

Go HERE to view the IKEA catalog before you shop, and sign up for email updates which may include local savings as well. 

 

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Be sure to check out my top 22 items to watch for when shopping IKEA, and leave a comment if you’ve found other ways to save when you shop. I love hearing from you! 

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Looking for other ways to save at your favorite stores this spring?

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What Kind Of Saver Are You?

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I’ve been thinking lately that there are three different types of savers and spenders out there.  Here are the types I’ve seen . . .

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1.  Folks who save 70-90% on their grocery bill by using coupons at the grocery store. 

I would include my buddy Shannon in this group, and while I’ve been that girl before (and kind of miss her many days!), I wouldn’t put myself in that category right now. These are the people that never (ever) buy anything without a coupon or serious sale, spend a few hours each week reading frugal blogs, clipping coupons and organizing their grocery trips, and menu plan well so that they can use what’s in their pantry to maximize their savings. 

 

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2.  People who are a little more subtle about their savings and save probably 50-70% on their grocery bill. 

 

This is where I’m at right now, and where I’ve been for the last few years. People like me always (always) shop the sales ad, look over their store coupon matchups before shopping (sometimes using their mobile phone), and primarily print coupons from their computer without stressing over a coupon binder. Savings for them won’t be over 90%, but they do save quite a bit without too much effort. (And, if you’re one of those folks like me, you probably order many of your household products on sale at Amazon ~ have I mentioned grace lately? This is the grace I’m giving myself right now.) 😉

 

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3.  Others who really don’t pay attention to how much they save. 

These people go to the store because their pantry is empty, grab what they need (without considering the cost), and might feel pretty discouraged when they get home. (I tried just shopping this way at Walmart at the end of last year hoping to make life a little easier, but I was sick when I got home each week and realized how much money I was throwing away each time I shopped ~ I just can’t do that!)

 

So, what kind of saver are you, and how do you want your budget to look in 2014? As I’ve shared before (over and over!), there is no other area in your family’s budget that you have so much control over as you do grocery shopping, so this is a fantastic place to start.  I encourage you to decide TODAY how much you want to spend on groceries this month, and can’t wait to see how we do this year together!  Leave a comment to share your goals too.

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And one more thing ~ if you haven’t gotten my free stock up price list I highly recommend checking it out so you can determine what your basic prices should look like before picking up groceries each week. That alone should help you get started!

 

 

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Trinket Tray

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I love this cute trinket tray, and it would make such a simple Mother’s Day or teacher appreciation gift!

 

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Here’s what you’ll need to get started: 

  • Terracotta tray – I used the 4″ inch size
  • White paint – I used the acrylic kind sold at craft stores
  • Foam brush
  • Stencil of choice – purchased mine at Hobby Lobby
  • Gold paint pen or gold paint – found at craft stores

 

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Start by painting your terracotta tray white.

 

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Be sure to paint the bottom side too to finish the look.

 

 

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When the paint is completely dry, center your stencil on the tray.

 

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I used my gold paint pen and went right over the stencil.  (some paint pens bleed so you could trace the stencil with pencil then use your pen to fill in if you prefer)

 

 

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Remove stencil carefully.

 

 

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Allow to dry completely and you’re done. So fun!

 

Looking for more spring projects?  Here you go . . .

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

Interact with 470,000+ Penny Pinchers on Facebook and Twitter or Subscribe to Passionate Penny Pincher by email to keep up with all the penny pinchin’ deals!

 

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How Much To Budget For Car Repairs?

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A few years ago, my husband was out of town and I’d taken my youngest to run some errands while my other kiddos were at extracurricular activities.

 

We stopped at several different places, and sure enough at our very last stop my car completely stalled.

 

Now, I know nothing about cars, and of course (really?) I left my phone at home while hurrying out the door.

 

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So I was completely stuck, and ever so thankful for the sweet man who helped jump start my car. When I got home, I called my husband and he suggested I take it to get a new battery ~ thankfully they fixed everything right up and the car was just fine.

 

So why on earth am I telling you all this? 😉

 

While it really wasn’t a big deal at all, for a few minutes I was stranded, with no phone, no one really to call to come save me, and I was pretty worried.

 

However, I wasn’t worried at all about the cost of the repairs, because I knew we had saved for exactly this situation.  

 

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We had enough set aside in our car expense budget, and even though the situation was stressful, I could at least check that one off my worry list.

 

Wanna talk real numbers?  

 

Each month, my husband has a spreadsheet including all of our expenses (all based on the Dave Ramsey plan), so we budget $75 monthly for oil changes and car repairs per car.

 

We’ve been fortunate and haven’t needed much work on our minivan, so whatever additional money is put in that account now goes towards a new car fund when we need one. (Our car now has 189,000 miles on it, and it won’t be too long before we’re needing it!)

 

It’s worth keeping a minimum $700-$1000 in that account because I know just how quickly those car repair bills can add up, but you may decide on a different number, especially if you already have an emergency fund.

 

I really can’t tell you how much peace comes from having money set aside for specific items in our budget. Right now the big ticket items we save for monthly include home repairs, gifts, yard projects, a vacation fund (our favorite!), clothing and even our kids activities. If you don’t have a written budget, schedule a few minutes this week to get started.  (It will give you so much freedom!) And while I know it’s not always fun to put away some of your hard-earned money for not-so-fun expenses that pop up, I promise it’s so worth it.

 

 

Do you save towards car repairs or other specific items that you know can bust your budget? I’d love to hear how you determine what to save . . . leave a comment to share!

 

New to budgeting and don’t know where to begin? Here are a few posts to you get started:

 

 

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The Greatest Coupon

This is a guest post that I’ve shared before from a friend of mine (who knows the value of a coupon!)  May you know the love and peace of Our Manufacturer all year long. 🙂

 

No deal is perfect. Everything has a cost. Many things come at a high price, yet thankfully most can be discounted. Some things can even be free with a great coupon!

 

The greatest coupons still have problems. Most will eventually expire. They are “void where prohibited.” There is a limit on how many people can use.

 

Some people don’t take advantage of great coupons though. Why? Maybe some don’t even know about them. Even if they do, they might defiantly refuse to use them. Some people don’t believe they are really worth anything. But every coupon has worth in our eyes, right? Maybe non-couponers would cash in on the offers if they were just taught how. We couponers should share the good news!

 

So here’s the gist of how to reap the benefits: 1) Seek out something you love. 2) Find a coupon, maybe from the manufacturer. 3) Pay the price for the item. 4) Once the coupon has been redeemed, celebrate how much you saved! 5) Tell everyone you know about your great deal. Happy shopping!

 

 

 

No one is perfect. Our sins have a cost. Many sins come at a high price, yet thankfully they can be discounted. We can even be free with the “Greatest Coupon.”

 

The Greatest Coupon has no problems. It will never expire. It is never void or prohibited. There is no limit on how many people can use it.

 

Some people don’t take advantage of the Greatest Coupon though. Why? Maybe some don’t even know about it. Even if they do, they might defiantly refuse to use it. Some people don’t believe they are really worth anything, but every person has worth in God’s eyes. Maybe non-Christians would cash in on the offer if they were just taught how. We have the opportunity to share the Good News!

 

So here’s the gist of how to reap the benefits: 1) God sought out someone he loves—you. 2) We have a coupon from our Manufacturer. 3) Jesus paid the price for our sins. 4) Since our sins have been redeemed, we can celebrate as we have new life. 5) Tell everyone you know about the Greatest Coupon. Happy Easter!

 

 

My prayer for you this Easter is that you mayt know salvation from the One who values you so greatly that He willingly gave His life for you. It truly is the greatest gift we’ll each receive, and allows us freedom that comes only from Him. As my son reminds me each Easter morning, “Christ is risen!” He is risen indeed.

 

Photo courtesy of billaday on Flickr.

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How Real Budgeting Looks In Our House

 

How Real Budgeting Works In Our House

 

Download your free copy of a Monthly Budget Spreadsheet HERE to get started.

 

I get tons of questions for more information on exactly how we handle budgeting around here, so here’s a quick overview of our monthly budget planning.

 

We by no means have it all figured out, but this is what’s worked for us for almost twenty years . . . maybe it will help you too!

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We started years ago using the Financial Peace envelope system, however, at least for our family, keeping up with cash for every single item was just difficult to manage. So, here’s how we’ve tweaked it to work for us:

  • Every two weeks (on Friday), we withdraw cash for groceries, dining out, and entertainment
  • Once a month, we have an automatic withdrawal taken out of our checking account and deposited into savings for other specific items (keep reading)
  • When we need one of those specific items, we transfer money back into checking from savings to cover those expenses.

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So, what kind of things do we budget for beyond food? Here’s an idea . . .
  • Kids sports and extracurricular activities
  • Vacations
  • Christmas gifts (we start saving every January)
  • Birthday gifts
  • Car expenses
  • Car replacement
  • Life insurance
  • Home Owners Association dues
  • Real Estate Taxes
  • Yard Maintenance
  • Furniture Replacement (I don’t think my husband puts much in this one, but I forced him to add it in the spreadsheet) 😉
  • Clothing
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Hair Care
  • School Supplies
  • College Fund
  • “Blow” money
Then, within our monthly budget we have a separate tab (we use a simple Excel spreadsheet) that includes our savings account totals. I just looked at it this morning and the one that we currently are using has been around since 2007 ~ it was interesting that we now have well over ten times what we started with in that little savings account, and I can’t tell you just how much freedom comes with that!

 

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If you’re new to budgeting, here are several free budget spreadsheets you can use to get you started :

 

I’d love to know how your family handles monthly budget expenses, and what other suggestions you have. Leave a comment to share ~ I love hearing from you!

 

 

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7 Items You Should Always Look for at the Dollar Tree {Before Paying Full Price}

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I soooo love a trip to the Dollar Tree when it comes to gathering supplies for DIY projects and crafts ~ it’s amazing all they have to offer!  You can find some really cute stuff there, as well as crafting basics to have on hand when the Pinterest bug bites. 🙂

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A DIY project shouldn’t cost you more than buying the real deal at a home decor store, and a trip to the Dollar Tree before paying retail can save you a bundle. Check out these 7 items you should always look for at the Dollar Tree {BEFORE paying full price!}

 

 

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1 . Floral Picks & Berries

These come in handy for making inexpensive wreaths or front door arrangements as the seasons change, or a fresh centerpiece for the table.

 

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While there definitely are a few tacky flowers in the bunch, watch for a few that may work perfectly for your project. (Look for flowers or berries that look as close to real as possible.)  The smaller flowers and berry picks tend look to be a little more upscale than the big blooms.  (And what about those ADORABLE little faux succulents in pots?! I love those!)

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2 . Mason Jars, Glass Vases & Glass Jars

One of the things I use most often in changing up the mantle or table decor are small glass jars. In fact, every time I walk in the Dollar Tree I make a beeline for the glassware aisle (I’m like a kid in a candy store when I’m there!)

 

How to Decorate for Fall at the Dollar Tree

 

Place a tall candle in the center of the vase or jar (you can even sneak a can under your candle to beef up a $1 Dollar Tree candle) and on the outside, layer with whatever seasonal decor you like (like corn for fall, Valentine candy in February, peppermint sticks at Christmas) ~ the possibilities are endless.

 

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Tie on some Dollar Tree ribbon and Dollar Tree decor, and you’ve got a super cute centerpiece for just a few bucks. 🙂

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Mason Jars are handy for all kinds of stuff . . . especially gifting goodies, like this simple Dollar Tree Easter Craft.

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Or add a little spray paint for Spring vases too. 

And they make expensive-looking containers for birthday party favors too. (I love those!)

 

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3 . Pots & Tins

Use pots and tins to organize a desk area and cut down clutter.  Do you have a silhouette cutter? (I love mine!)  Customize a pot or tin with a monogram  ~ chalkboard stickers work great too.  These candy-colored guys will add a little splash of color to a shelf display, or make them match your decor with spray paint.

Flower pots with a plant inside make great gifts too.  Let the kids paint a flower pot for Grandparent’s day and plant some seeds in it for an inexpensive gift.

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4 . Frames

Inexpensive plastic frames are easy to transform with spray paint to coordinate with your wall collage – and no one will be able to tell those frames are just a buck.

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You can also place a cute piece of fabric behind the glass to make a simple dry erase frame.  Use it to display your weekly menu plan or to-do list.

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5 . Project Boards

This is my favorite thing to buy at the Dollar Tree. 🙂 

I’m always shocked at how much some stores charge for project boards or foam boards – definitely stock up on these for $1 when you get a chance!  They’re great for making signs and kids craft projects, and you can’t beat snatching them up for a buck.

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6 . Craft Foam Wreaths & Balls

I could only find the floral foam wreaths this trip, but watch for craft foam and even small grapevine wreaths too.  (In a pinch – a pool noodle can work as a wreath base as well!)

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Build on them by adding your favorite floral or berry picks, spray painted Easter eggs, or  a monogram in the middle.

 

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7 . Ribbons, Twine, Glue Guns & Washi Tape

A pretty ribbon or twine bow can make the perfect finishing touch – but craft stores can charge $3 or $4 for a spool of ribbon.

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Gather a few colors you like to have on hand at the Dollar Tree – you might even get lucky and find some burlap ribbon (woot!) which is useful for all sorts of crafts.

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Bonus tip . . .

Watch the Dollar Tree for aluminum containers ~ while these are great for baking and taking meals in, I love them for easy clean up when working on a crafting project. Fun!

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Do you love shopping the Dollar Tree as much as I do? 🙂 Check out these extra saving secrets (they even take coupons ~ love that!), and leave a comment to share your favorite Dollar Tree finds.

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Crafting {from the Target One Spot} + Free Printable!

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Note from Laurie: My friend Cheryl made this AMAZINGly adorable Easter bunting and bags using items from the Target One Spot, and even created a free printable so you can make them too! Hurry to the Target One Spot because the burlap pre-cut flags and bags are selling FAST, and go HERE to print your free printable so you can make them too. 

 

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We host an Easter brunch every year, so when I saw that Target had some great crafting supplies I knew I had to come up with something fun to make. I created this free printable that you can use as well, and am in love with this fun Easter project!

 

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Here’s what I used (I had almost everything at home, so spent just a few dollars at the Target One Spot bins)  . . . 

 

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  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Fabric (any fabric will do)
  • Burlap Bags (Target One Spot) $1.00 each
  • Burlap Flags (Target One Spot) $3.00 package (includes 8 flags)
  • Twine (Target One Spot) $1.00
  • Gift Tags (Target One Spot) $1.00 (includes 8 tags)
  • Bunny Shapes (PPP is so excited for you to have the free printable in just the right sizes!)
  • Wonder Under
  • Pencil

 

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Print your free printable here – then cut out your shape to use as a guide.

 

 

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Perfect fit!

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Trace your bunnies on the paper side of the wonder under (is this stuff amazing or what?!)  Then iron the wonder under to your fabric until it adheres.

 

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Cut bunnies out for gift bags . . .

 

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After you cut out the bunny, remove the paper portion of the wonder under and iron your bunny to your bag.

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Seriously … how cute are these?

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Follow the same instructions when making your bunny bunting – using the smaller bunny shape.
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I filled these cute bags up with candy and added on gift tags I found in the Target bins too.

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Such fun gift bags for Easter morning!

 

 

 

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Have you found any spring crafts to make this Spring? I’d love to hear what you’re making! Leave a comment to share. 

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

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Looking for more penny pinched projects? Here you go . . .

 

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Easter DIY: No Sew Burlap Bunny Pillow

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I’m feeling so crafty this week! I saw an idea over here a few days ago (I love everything I see at On Sutton Place) and realized I had all the supplies right at home.

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So, I spent about 30 minutes yesterday making this simple pillow cover, and am so pleased with how it turned out. 

Here’s what I used (I had everything at home so didn’t spend  a penny!)

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And, don’t forget to swing by the Target One Spot. . . 

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Spring decorating done! 🙂 

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Have you found any spring crafts to make this Spring? I’d love to hear what you’re making! Leave a comment to share. 

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

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Looking for more penny pinched projects? Here you go . . .

 

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Dollar Tree Easter Craft

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Note from Laurie: My friend Cheryl made this Easter craft all using items from the Dollar Tree, and I just love it as a way to fluff up for Spring!  Thank you so much Cheryl for sharing ~ it’s perfect!

 

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I saw an idea over here to use Dollar Tree items for Easter decor, and knew I had to try and make it on my own!

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Here’s what I used:

  • wreath mold
  • plastic eggs
  • spray paint
  • floral bunches
  • ribbon (any will do, I had plenty laying around)
  • moss
  • hot glue gun

 

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First I spray painted the eggs. It was a rainy day so I used a shipping box we had laying around so the spray paint didn’t get everywhere. These needed a few coats.

 

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I put the moss on the wreath mold, then glued on the mini eggs to create the wreath and glued in green moss in between the eggs.

 

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I love the way they turned out!

 

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Next, I worked on the topiaries.  Since I couldn’t find a topiary mold, I thought these vases would work out just fine.

 

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I glued on the moss and then started adding the eggs with just a little green moss in between to really pull it together.

 

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Then I snipped up the floral bunches to place around the topiaries, and for a few dollars they make great Easter centerpieces.

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So fun! 🙂

 

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Have you found any spring crafts to make this Spring? I’d love to hear what you’re making! Leave a comment to share. 

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

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Looking for more penny pinched projects? Here you go . . .

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30 Deals You Need to Buy at the Dollar Tree {the Easter Edition}

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Okie dokie folks, y’all know I love shopping The Dollar Tree for just about anything!  There are a ton of things you need to look for at Dollar Tree before paying more elsewhere, so here’s a quick list of things to consider before heading out!

 

Easter baskets can get pricey fast, so swinging by the Dollar Tree for the basics is a great way to pinch a penny and stock up. Since Dollar Tree typically sells out of their holiday selection, I’d recommend going soon to get the best selection!

 

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Here’s what to watch for . . . 

1. Easter Baskets

2. Fillable Easter Eggs (regular and bunny, duck, carrot shapes)

3. Eraser Basket Stuffers

4. Bubble Basket Stuffers

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5.  Jump Rope Basket Stuffers

6.  Stuffed Animal Basket Stuffers

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7.  Easter Candy to Fill the Eggs

8.  Puzzle Basket Stuffers

9.  Painting Basket Stuffers

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10.  Easter Front Door Displays

11.  Easter Front Yard Signs

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12. Easter Crafting Supplies

13.  Easter Garland

14.  Easter Ribbon

15. Easter Paper Plates

16. Easter Plastic Knifes, Forks, Spoons

17. Easter Napkins

18. Easter Platters

19.  Easter Tablecloths

20. Easter Florals of All Kinds

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21.   Bunny Ears

22.  Bunny Sunglasses

23.  Easter cards priced either 2/$1 or $1

24.  Easter Chair Covers

25.  Easter Window Stickies

26.  Easter Dish Towels

27.  Easter Candles

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28.  Wrapping paper

29.  Tape

 

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30. Aluminum storage containers (these are great for taking to parties and come 3 to a pack for the smaller containers)

 

Love decorating at the Dollar Tree? See a few ways I’ve used Dollar Tree finds in our home:

 

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Simple Spray Paint Project

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You guys. 

 

Save your cans.

 

Your soup cans. And your bean cans. And your veggie cans. 

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Save them all.

 

Because.

 

Then.

 

You can do this. 🙂 

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I saw this super cute idea to spray paint tin cans over HERE, (hers our gorgeous) and while I didn’t quite follow the idea it got me thinking.

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Once the tulips have worn out, I’ll replace them with either grass seeds or herbs to use as centerpieces for Easter.

 

Gen. ius.

 

I know you’re impressed. 🙂

 

Here’s what I used:

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All I did was spray paint the cans after we’d emptied them this week when making soup (I accidentally deleted the pictures of my cans without labels – but just pull the labels off and let give them a good soak in water before painting.) 

 

Then found a small piece of ribbon that had been attached to a gift, hot glued the ends around the middle, added a few tulips and done.

 

Perfect!

 

While I was at it I remembered this fun little craft we’d made when I did MOPS with my kids years ago. 

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Use green onions cut the same length all around a can (we used a glass jar when I made them, but the can is even cheaper!)

 

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Stuff them in in rows with a rubber band around them,

 

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Cover the rubber band with some rope . . .

 

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And fill with flowers too.

 

Done!

 

 

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Now, while we’re in the kitchen I wanted to go ahead and show you that we finally updated our light fixture and I am so in love with our breakfast space finally (seriously, in love.)

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Remember this was it when we moved in? (Gosh, see the dirt backyard out there? So glad it’s gone!)

 

And here it is now . . .
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The fixture is from Lowe’s and is fits the room so much better than our last one, although I’ve got to see if my husband  hung onto the chain because it’s a little too high.

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We’ve got family coming in for Easter (I’m so excited!), and have been working to really save the last few months to finish up a few projects in our home before they get here. 

 

I’d so rather save on my groceries and small decorations (no reason to ever pay for vases now!), so we can save for the “bigger” ticket items we’re really dreaming of. And remember, we’ve been at this penny pinching for almost twenty years ~ our years of living frugally have been so worth it!

 

Have you found any spring crafts to make this Spring? I’d love to hear what you’re making! Leave a comment to share. 

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

 

Looking for more penny pinched projects? Here you go . . .

 

 

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Painted Pinecones

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Note from Laurie: My friend Cheryl made this amazing craft with her daughter, and I’m so-so-so in love with it! I also love that this is a great craft to do with your kids (and now I can’t wait to try it with my girls.) Thank you so much Cheryl for sharing ~ it’s perfect!

 

I fell in love with this idea when I saw it HERE and knew we had to try it!  

 

I showed my 9 year old daughter and she couldn’t wait to get started.  We had the best time finding pinecones … and choosing colors … and painting … and talking.  I just love the way they turned out and how they bring a little spring to our cold February days.

 

Bonus? Easter centerpiece is done. 🙂

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First I found the perfect bowl in Hobby Lobby’s 80% off section.

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Then gathered up the rest of my supplies.

Supplies:

  • Pinecones
  • Paints (we used acrylics but any paint will do)
  • Paintbrush

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I used bunched up paper towels in the bottom of the bowl to help the pinecones sit up right.

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And we added our extra pine cones in a clear glass bowl.

 

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Done!

 

Have you found any spring crafts to make this Spring? I’d love to hear what you’re making! Leave a comment to share. 

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

Looking for more penny pinched projects? Here you go . . .

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Dollar Tree Valentines

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Need a quick idea for your child’s Valentine party at school? Head to the Dollar Tree fast! 🙂

 

My friend Cheryl shared these Dollar Tree Valentine’s that she made for her daughter’s class, which came out to just 27¢ per child for a class of 18. Easy way to let your kids have treats for the whole class and stick to a penny pinched budget. 🙂

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Supplies:

  • Happy Valentines Day Bags – $1.00
  • 1 set Valentine Sticker Boxes (box of 18) – $1.00
  • 1 bag Sixlets – $1.00
  • 2 bags Sweet Tart Hearts – $2.00
  • Total = $5 or 27¢ per child

 

 

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Looking for more penny pinched projects? Here you go . . .

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{Healthy} Valentine Robots

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Super fun (easy!) Valentine treat! I loved this idea when I saw it over HERE and tweaked it with what we had on hand.

 

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Grab these supplies: 

  • fruit cups (applesauce are best but I ran out when I took the picture)
  • ribbon
  • raisins
  • juice boxes
  • valentine stickers
  • hot glue gone

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And make these . . .  (my 8 year old did the faces herself ~ I thought she did a great job!) 🙂

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Done! 🙂 
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I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

Looking for more penny pinched projects? Here you go . . .

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Dollar Tree Valentine Project

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Looking for an easy Valentine’s craft to tackle with your kids? We loved this one!

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We don’t have tons (ummm . . . any?) decorations for holidays really besides Christmas, so this was an inexpensive quick centerpiece that took less than an hour and brightened things up at our house in the middle of winter.

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I’d seen several cute ideas over on Pinterest for mason jar Valentine treats, and knew this would be an easy one to tackle ~ love that!

Here’s what we used: 

  • mason jars ($1 at Dollar Tree)
  • spray paint (I had blue and white spray paint at home, picked up the pink at Michael’s with a 40% off coupon)
  • heart stickers (found those at Michael’s as well, could also make them using a Silhouette or Cricut cutter if you have one, and I noticed heart stickers at the Dollar Tree as well!)
  • ribbon

 

 

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Have your kids make “valentine” designs on the front. (Honestly? I wanted just plain hearts on all but they wanted hearts everywhere. I didn’t have the heart ~ ahem 🙂  ~ to tell them they wouldn’t look quite as pretty, but for a dollar it was worth letting them choose!)

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After sticking on the hearts just spray the mason jars . . .

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Then peel the hearts off once the spray paint is dry.

 

We used styrofoam stickers which were a little difficult to remove ~ if you can find vellum stickers it should go a little more smoothly.

 

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Like I said, the ones they did weren’t perfectly Pinterested, but they had fun for $1!

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And, if you’re smart like me you know you can just turn them around and add some flowers ($3.99, courtesy of Aldi. . . ) 🙂

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I also found this cute little tag from my crafting stash to add on to our lamp jar from last week  . . . 

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All done! 

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Looking for more penny pinched projects? Here you go . . .

 

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Foyer Lighting Updates (And 3 Options When You Think You’ve Messed It Up.)

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You know how sometimes you do something in your home and love it, and know-right-then-and-there-it’s-perfect, and other times you just don’t?

 

Yup, I’m there right now.

 

After almost finishing our foyer last week, I was itching to have it done. 

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I had some free credit at Amazon courtesy of Ibotta (y’all, I love Ibotta), so when I came across these star pendant lights I decided they would fix up those lighting fixtures perfectly.

 

So I ordered.

 

Over the last twenty years we’ve slowly updated four homes (this house really was beautiful when we moved in, just kind of plain and builder grade.)

 

And in all those years of home updates, only once (maybe twice), have I splurged and gotten exactly what I wanted. 

 

I’m not so sure today was that day.

 

love what my husband did on the walls in the foyer by adding trim work.

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I am in love with my $3 updated blue front door.

 

And I even love the small blue table I found at Home Goods.

 

But.

 

I’m a little on the fence about these lights.

 

I found the ones I wanted over here and decided these at Amazon would work even though the color and weight of the fixture wasn’t quite right. (Although in all honesty I expect them to be more chrome/pewter color which would match the other fixtures in our home better from the pic ~ however I should have seen “rubbed bronze” and know that wasn’t chrome. I’m really no decorator though and hardly ever take time to read fine print ~ oops.)

 

After looking at light fixtures I know they cost a ton (seriously, a LOT), and I easily could have spent several hundred dollars per fixture, which just isn’t in our budget right now. 

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So now I’m left with three options:

  1. Get rid of them (eek.)
  2. Love them for now.
  3. Love them for now and get courageous one day to spray paint them chrome to more fit the rest of our home.

Getting rid of them is not going to happen. (My husband might get rid of me. ahem.)

 

So I’m going with option 2 for now, and may opt for option 3 later.

 

(My super smart decorator friend also recommended adding a little more black throughout the space. I’m going to start looking!)

 

My sweet friend Mara reminded me though this morning of Young House Love’s amazing foyer update, and made me feel like the black (rubbed bronze?) may not be all bad? (But, why-oh-why though did our builder place three light fixtures in such a small area ~ goodness that’s half the problem because three of any fixture is a bundle! Similar ones cost $455 A PIECE. YIKES.)

 

And y’all.

 

For real.

 

I didn’t get exactly the lights I’ve always dreamed of.

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But I have a crazy beautiful space to call home each day, a husband who loves me, and three pretty fun kids most of the time.

 

I am crazy-amazingly-blessed-overwhelmingly-so-much-that-it-really-does-hurt-some-days.

 

These lights are just fine, and so much better than what we started out with ~ don’t you think?

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Now, if you’re doing a major re-modeling and have money to spend, I really encourage you to have a little more patience than I showed today and wait for what you really want.

 

But sometimes (I think?), settling for something that’s second best really can be okay, and it might just grow on you.

 

And if not, there’s always a can of spray paint, right? 🙂 

 

***However. Do NOT be like me and always in so much of a hurry that you pick the only think you can find. I searched and searched Amazon for “star pendant lights” and found very few, which is why I ended up with these. Had I done a little more research I would have learned the correct name for these is “Moravian pendant lights” and I would have had dozens of other options which were a little more pricey, but I could have held out for. (Who knew?) Patience and taking time to really research things has never been my strong suit (clearly), but maybe I can at least encourage you!***

 

 

If you’d like to see more pictures of our home as we’ve been updating it, here you go . . .

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

 

See previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!

 

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Penny Pinched Way To Fill A Large Jar

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While I was at the Dollar Tree today I picked up some Valentine hearts to change our foyer lamp from winter to Valentine’s Day. 🙂

 

(I found this lamp and thought it was kind of fun – I love displaying seasonal stuff a little more subtly, and my kids love seeing what’s in there too!)

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But it’s a big jar at the bottom of that lamp. So I popped in some canned veggies. . .

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And filled all the way around it.


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No one will ever know! 🙂

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(And I know those poor Aldi roses have seen better days, but I’m not quite ready to let them go.) 🙂

 

Watch for updates on our foyer coming soon! 

 

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What $3 & A Little Courage Can Do

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See updated pics after new light fixtures over HERE.


I’m so excited about a tiny fluffin’ I did this week in about 30 minutes (that only cost $3!) 

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(with new light fixtures – I’m still on the fence about these!)

As I shared a few weeks ago my husband’s been adding oodles of trimwork in our foyer (it’s not quite finished yet ~ more painting to do while we’re still doing it ourselves to save $2000.)

This week though I finally got up my courage though to paint our front door after seeing a few ideas on Pinterest that I just loved.

 

The foyer has kind of been an area that I’ve just been so unhappy with since moving (even after the trim work, which I know is so weird?) But just $3 of paint (I used a sample from Menard’s that they mixed up for me), and 30 minutes of work had it done.

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Success! 

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I really wanted to share all the updates after we had the new light fixtures and painting completed, but I’m just so excited and couldn’t wait. (Check out the light fixtures I got over HERE ~ I’m a little nervous about them but going for this look . . . we’ll see.)

 

I COULD NOT BELIEVE that 7 ounces of paint would make that much difference, but good gravy, it did. 

 

 

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I also just moved things around in our home a bit. Although I’ve loved the picture of the horses that hung in our foyer, for some reason it never felt just right. I swapped it out with the teal-medallion-thingy from our breakfast nook, and I’m so much happier (and really like the horse picture in the breakfast room so much more too!)

 

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(See more pictures of our breakfast room HERE – it’s amazing what such a small change can make! Still dreaming of a new light fixture one day but for now this one works.) 

If your home needs a little fluffing, you don’t need to spend a bundle. Look at inexpensive ways to make an update (paint helps so much), shop your own home, and just give your home a good look-around with a fresh set of eyes.

 

And, HAVE COURAGE. 

 

I almost talked myself out of this one, until it dawned on me that it was only paint. If it turned out horribly I could easily re-paint it white ~ so I really only had $3 and 30 more minutes to lose!

 

So worth it. 

 

If you have a project that you’ve been fearful of, maybe decide to tackle it this weekend. 🙂 You might just be glad you did! 

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Okay ~ here’s a bit of how the progress has gone in the foyer . . .  ffu9

Before ffu8

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hanging trim at ceiling and chair rail

 

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that boy is going to make a great husband one day 🙂 
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 trim work starting up the stairs
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trim panels added inside and painted
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you can see there are still a few spots where we’re going to need to touch up paint, and everything white still needs one more coat, but we’re closer!



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If you’d like to see more pictures of our home as we’ve been updating it, here you go . . .

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

 

See previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!

 

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The Best Calendar Ever (And My Crazy Ridiculous Desk.)

 

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It’s time to switch out those calendars again!  I *just* got my new 2017 Seize the Year Calendar put up in its frame (~ so excited! ~)  Plus if you use this link you’ll get 10% OFF these amazing calendars!

Y’all may think I’m a dork, but I am so stinkin’ excited about this little addition to my office! I am the world’s worst calendar keeper (really, SO. BAD.), but so far I’m thinking this thing’s actually going to work.

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A few weeks ago I saw Jon Acuff mention his amazing calendar, and thought I should at least check it out. Because it was pricey ($24~ yikes?) and so big, I really hesitated.

 

But goodness, I might just be hooked. 

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The only problem was that it was so big, and not especially pretty, so I struggled with how to make it fit my cute office. (Folks, I’ve waited a long time for this pretty office, so putting up something ugly just wasn’t going to work!)

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But then it dawned on me that Hobby Lobby might have a poster size frame that wasn’t so ugly, and having glass on it would make it easily dry-erase-able. Here’s one that’s very similar to mine!

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I love that. 

 

The giant poster frame wasn’t quite big enough, but I was able to shave off a tiny bit on the side and it works just fine.

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What I’m loving so far is that I can easily scribble on notes that I don’t need all year and have everything in one place, and I can see the whole year at once. 

 

It’s lovely. 🙂

 

If you’re looking for a fantastic calendar to keep everything in one spot for the year, I’d highly recommend this one! 

NOTE: NeuYear’s site is selling out of these calendars like crazy so here’s the slightly-more-expensive link to get them on Amazon as well!

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And now, on to my ridiculous (seriously, ridiculous) last purchase from 2015. 

 

I’ve heard for awhile crazy reviews on these amazing standing desks, which I was so curious about since I sit at the computer way too much of the day. My posture is awful (I work hard to sit up straight, but it’s so easy to slouch!) so I finally decided to try this crazy Varidesk out. 

 

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Guys, this baby’s a monster. 

 

I’m really not sure if I’m going to keep it or not, but I’ve only had it two days so am giving myself a week to really make a good decision.

 

It is SO NICE to work on (really, super hefty, handles my big computer, pops up and down easily, and really is just amazing.) But I hate that it kinda messes up my cute little space. 🙂

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So, the verdict’s still out on this one.

 

If I was at a regular desk and didn’t have this amazing view I’m pretty sure it would be my favorite purchase ever, but the jury’s still out. (And it’s so heavy that it would be really hard to move, so just moving it when not in use really won’t work!)

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I know I should be completely practical and do what’s best for my back and neck, but y’all, I just like a pretty room. And covering up that window just makes me a wee bit sad! 🙂 

 

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(office space before the desk. See? perfection.)

Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? I’d sure love to hear what you think (I’m debating asking my husband to build me something similar out of pretty wood. Not sure he’ll likely go for it, but worth a shot!) 🙂

 

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(this was that some office space when we moved in 18 months ago. wow.)

Curious how we designed this office space? Go HERE to check out the before and after pics (I really do just love this space and feel so thankful each day for it!) Leave a comment to share any ideas on the desk (or other calendar tips ~ I’d love to hear!)

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

 

See previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!

 

 

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How To Get Rid Of Stinky Mildew Smells: Just 2 Ingredients

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My husband asked for bath towels for Christmas. 

 

What man in his right mind ever asks for bath towels as a Christmas gift? 

 

Ummmmm . . . the one who has a house full of stinky-slightly-mildew-smelling towels. 

 

Bleck.

 

Because I’m a recovering leave-it-in-the-washer-way-too-long-before-swapping-to-the-dryer-user, a few of our towels (ahem, all of our towels?) had gotten taken over by a slightly stinky mildew smell. Add in a new HE washer (which I love, but doesn’t use as much water so those things get stinky faster), and it was just bad.

 

But, many of our towels were in decent shape, and the thought of just throwing them out nearly killed me, so I did some research and found this way to get rid of stinky mildew smells, and it worked. 

 

Here’s what I did:

  • Added towels to washing machine along with 1 cup of vinegar in my detergent dispenser. (I actually used 1 1/2 cups because my washer’s huge ~ if you have a large capacity machine I’d recommend using 1 1/2 cups as well.)
  • Did NOT use any laundry detergent, just washed on hot for one cycle.
  • Then added 1/2 cup baking soda to the load and washed again on hot cycle.
  • Dried as usual
  • Voila!

 

Even the stinky dish towels we have (which are the worst) came out smelling fresh and clean ~ I was shocked. 

 

I’ve heard before that certain dish soaps tend to make dish towels smell stinkier faster (I’ve even read that my favorite Dawn could be the culprit?) and am trying to find a better alternative, but in the mean time this helps.

 

I’d love to hear your tips on getting rid of stinky mildew smells if you’ve struggled with this one too ~ I definitely think moving things over from the washer quickly to the dryer helps, but I’m up for any extra suggestions too (so my poor husband can get better gifts for Christmas!) 🙂 

 

Looking for more penny pinched cleaning ideas? Here are my favorites:

 

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Upcoming Penny Pinching Coupon Class In North Alabama (1/2/16)

Hoping to start off 2016 on a budget? We’re here to help! Come join us Saturday, January 2nd from 9:30am – 11:30 AM to learn how to use coupons strategically, and save over 70% on your grocery bill every week!

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I’m so excited about our upcoming coupon class that Shannon and I will be teaching  Saturday, January 2nd at Southside Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama from 9:30 – 11:30 AMWe’ll discuss how to save money at Aldi, Publix, Kroger & Target, as well as share basic information on drug store coupon policies. We’ll also talk about how to organize your coupons, what all those crazy abbreviations mean, and where to begin if you’re a new couponer.

 

Here’s a link to the registration form that I’ll leave up on the right side of the site.  If you’re a new couponer (or even have been at this penny-pinching stuff for awhile . . . ) we’ll hopefully teach you a few new tricks, and promise to answer all your questions.

Eventbrite - Penny Pinching Coupon Class
Thanks so much for registering ~ we can’t wait to meet you there!

Not in the North Alabama area?  Check out the list of beginners tips and videos, and as always, feel free to ask questions in the comment section or on the PPP Facebook page.  We’re always happy to help!

 

 

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3 Dollar Tree {non-Pinterested} Gifts to Give

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If you’re like me you may have teachers or school bus drivers or UPS workers (~ahem~) who you’d love to give a small thank you to at Christmas but don’t want to bust your budget. And while we typically give gift cards to my children’s teachers, my kids love having a gift  to actually hand them, so of course I always head to the Dollar Tree.

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FYI, the Dollar Tree doesn’t pay me to write these posts, but they should. 🙂 I just really do love them!

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If you’re looking for an inexpensive way though to “fluff up” a gift card or just a simple way to say thank you, here are three easy, not-at-all-pinterested gifts you can give that look a little bit nicer than a Dollar Tree gift. Here we go  . . .

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Dollar Tree Mug with ribbon, hot chocolate, candy and ornament ~ total cost $3

  • Mug – $1
  • Andes Mints – $1
  • Ornaments 2/$1
  • Swiss Miss Hot chocolate packs 6 packs/$1 (probably could get these a little cheaper at your local grocery store with a sale)

IMG_3880Or, Dollar Tree Mug with ribbon, hot chocolate, peppermints and ornament ~ total cost $3

  • Mug – $1
  • Peppermint sticks – $1
  • Ornaments 2/$1
  • Swiss Miss Hot chocolate packs 6 packs/$1 (probably could get these a little cheaper at your local grocery store with a sale)

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Super cute Christmas tins – $1, fill with homemade treats

 

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Reindeer Candy Containers – $1, fill with red & green M&Ms and attach a gift card if you’d like

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Looking for more Christmas fun at the Dollar Tree? 

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I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

 

See previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!

 

Interact with 353K+ Penny Pinchers on Facebook and Twitter or Subscribe to Passionate Penny Pincher by email to keep up with all the penny pinchin’ deals!

 

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Friday Fluff Up: Christmas Decorating at the Dollar Tree

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Quickest Friday Fluff Up ever. 

 

Ready?

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I bought these . . .

  • Dollar Tree glass candle holders & candles
  • Dollar Tree ornaments
  • Dollar Tree peppermints and candy cane sticks
  • Ribbon from Michael’s (look for their adhesive trim for $1 in their $1.50 bins)
  • Lots of glue sticks

 

And did this . . .

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More Dollar Tree ideas coming next week! 🙂 

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Looking for more Christmas fun at the Dollar Tree? 

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I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

 

See more previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!

 

Interact with 353K+ Penny Pinchers on Facebook and Twitter or Subscribe to Passionate Penny Pincher by email to keep up with all the penny pinchin’ deals!
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The Ultimate Black Friday Cheat Sheet 2015

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Be sure to take advantage of this free list to help make your Black Friday shopping easier! To print the list, you’ll need to use either Safari or Internet Explorer as your internet browser. (I wasn’t able to print it in Chrome.) Hope that helps!

I am so (sooooooo) excited to share this with you! If you’re like me and overwhelmed trying to keep up with who has the best prices on what this Black Friday, this is for you.

 

In one quick and easy document, here is a huge list (HUGE, folks I’m telling you ~ HUGE) with all the best prices on top selling Black Friday items including tablets, televisions, video gaming systems, video games, printers, appliances, housewares and so. much. more. The list is still being updated as more stores Black Friday ads come out, so keep checking back over the next few weeks to plan your trip well.

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Because Amazon doesn’t offer a traditional sales ad, I’ll continually update those like I normally do, as well as highlight any awesome deals that I see as well. But, I wanted to give you this guide to keep you on top of things! Bookmark this page, print it (although it will be a lot to print?), or keep it handy on your phone so you know exactly where to find those best prices.

 

 

Go HERE to access it, and let me know what you think. I hope this makes surviving the Holiday season a little simpler in your home, so you can enjoy the things that matter most this Christmas!

 

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And don’t miss all the great deals going on at Kohl’s Black Friday deals that have already started online: 

 

 

blackfridayshoppingLooking for more Black Friday Shopping tips? Go HERE to check out these 10 Secrets You Need to Know about Black Friday Shopping 

 

 

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10 Easy Ways To Save On Christmas Decorating

10 easy ways to save on Christmas decorating

Can you believe it’s nearly time to start decorating for Christmas? My husband refuses to let me go full out until after Thanksgiving, but I’m already planning ideas to start working on. Here are a few easy ways to save on Christmas decorations that are worth trying out . . .

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1. Shop Goodwill or your local thrift store.

You never know what you’ll find at Goodwill or your local thrift store, and you can often find items for your home that either are in perfect condition or that you can update with some spray paint. They also sometimes have trees that people donate as well as greenery, so watch for those because you just might find a deal.

Last Spring I found this pinecone wreath from Crate & Barrel still in the box at Goodwill. You just never know what treasure you may find when you’re there!

 

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2. Don’t miss the Dollar Tree.

Goodness knows I love the Dollar Tree for Christmas shopping. They have so many cute ornaments, and in the last few years I’ve found fun Christmas signs, placemats and more. Be sure to swing by and see what they have before paying full price at another store.

 

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3. Trade in your old lights.

I shared this a few weeks ago on PPP, but if you have worn out lights you can trade them in at Home Depot to get up to $5 back. This offer just ended for 2015 yesterday (sorry guys!), but keep it in mind if you find worn out lights as you dig through your Christmas boxes this year!

 

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4. Use fresh greenery from your yard.

I. love. this. 

If you have any evergreen bushes anywhere in your yard, you can easily use them to decorate your home during the holidays. A few of my favorite bushes to use include nandina (I love their berries!), holly bushes, arborvitae, magnolia and box wood.

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5. Take advantage of free printables.

There are a ton of super cute free printables Christmas banners on Pinterest, and you can easily add them to a frame for just the cost of your printer ink. Go HERE to see dozens of great ideas.

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6. Do it yourself.

If you can make it yourself, doYou can easily make burlap garland for a fraction of the cost you’ll pay at a crafting store, and so many cute ideas are out there on Pinterest to make homemade decor without spending a fortune.

 

That being said, you can easily spend a bundle on homemade DIY projects too, so be sure to include that in your Christmas budget.

7. Shop after Christmas.

You can save a bundle if you’re willing to wait until after Christmas to stock up on Christmas decor. Every year my husband watches for Christmas lights to go on sale 90% off at Walmart and Lowe’s, and spends next to nothing.

 

I’ve purchased Christmas trees on December 26th, as well as garlands, ornaments, and just about everything, than boxed it up for the next year.

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8. Ask for a deal.

Especially when shopping for fresh Christmas trees, local suppliers will often give you a discount if you just ask. My husband has always haggled a bit when we’ve gotten our trees, and if you wait until just before Christmas to put a fresh tree up you can save even more.

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9. Pull out those vintage items.

We have a small set of Mr. & Mrs. Claus mugs from my grandmother, and honestly if all I had at Christmas was those and a small tree I think I’d be plenty happy. Look for those special items in your boxes and forego tons of bling this year.

 

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10. Keep it simple.

Do not ruin your finances to decorate for Christmas. Instead keep things really simple, add some fresh greenery, and make the spirit of Christmas in your home by listening to Christmas music, baking up a yummy treat, and remembering what the season is all about.

 

While I love Christmas, I don’t want my home to feel so taken over by the season that I can’t enjoy it, so simplicity is huge for me. Remember that the Christmas season really isn’t about a bajillion decorations all over our homes, but rather the Spirit that lives in our homes each day.

 

What other tips do you have for decorating for Christmas on a budget? I’d love to hear ~ leave a comment to share!

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33 Deals You Need to Buy at the Dollar Tree {the Christmas Edition}

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Okie dokie folks, y’all know I love shopping The Dollar Tree for just about anything, but shopping there at Christmastime is my favorite time of the year to saveThere are a ton of things you need to look for at Dollar Tree before paying more elsewhere, so here’s a quick list of things to consider before heading out!

 

1. Christmas Felt Placemats (these are 4/$15.99 at World Market ~ crazy!)

2. Christmas Cookie Tins (so cute this year)

3. Christmas Stockings

4. Tape

5. Wrapping paper

6. Ornaments (see my Dollar Tree Christmas Trees HERE and HERE – and the ornaments are so cute this year!

7. Disney Frozen stocking stuffers

8. Extension cords

9. Plastic candy containers

10. Christmas crafting supplies

11. Cellophane treat bags

12. Christmas paper plates and tags

13. Christmas classroom treats

14. Christmas platters

15. Puzzle stocking stuffers

16. Floral berries

17. Christmas cards priced either 2/$1 or $1

18. Christmas mugs

19. Christmas bags

20. Pet treats

21. Giant candy canes for outdoor displays

22. Movie candy to attach to movie theater gift certificates for teachers

23. Yard signs

24. Cardboard boxes for wrapping

25. Santa hats

26. Boxed cards

27. Christmas dish towels

28. Christmas candles

29. Christmas gift tags

30. Christmas tree skirts (use to make one of these)

31. Christmas Muffin cups

 

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32. Aluminum storage containers (these are great for taking to parties and come 3 to a pack for the smaller containers)

33. Brown packing paper

Love decorating at the Dollar Tree? See a few ways I’ve used Dollar Tree finds in our home at Christmas:

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10 Secrets You Need To Know About Black Friday Shopping

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Good gracious folks, Black Friday is just 3 weeks away from today (crazy!) So, to get you ready I thought I’d put together my most important tips for shopping Black Friday well.

 

Ready? 

 

(Nope, me neither, but we’re going to tackle it anyways.) 🙂 Let’s get started.

 

1. Many stores offer a few “Black Friday deals” all month long . . . 

. . . and honestly, they go in full force on many online sites the Sunday and Monday before Black Friday. Kohl’s came out with their big door busters last year Sunday night, so my bet is that will happen again this year, and online retailers everywhere will start offering great prices.

 

For most deals though, you really don’t need to leave your home at all, so be sure to watch PPP for the very best deals each day. (You can even sign up for once daily updates, delivered to your inbox over HERE.)

 

Do know that many of these deals go quickly, so you’ll want to visit a few times throughout the day and follow on Facebook as well to keep up.

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To take advantage of Amazon deals, sign up for a free month of Amazon Prime if you haven’t tried them out before ~ you’ll get free shipping on everything you order for the entire month! 

 

2. Newer Apple products don’t often go on sale at deeply discounted prices.

You may see a few discounts on iPads and iPhones, but don’t expect seriously deeply discounted prices (if you find savings of $50 – $100 off you’ve done pretty well.)

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However, Walmart already has their iPad Mini2 on sale for $199 right now, which is a pretty incredible price. Because it’s not the newest model you’re getting some significant savings, so watch for discounts on older model Apple products is definitely a great way to save Black Friday.

 

(Amazon does usually offer incredible deals on Kindle products though this month, and have already started discounting their Kindles for Amazon Prime Members!)

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3. Televisions are great to buy on Black Friday.

One of the best times of year to buy televisions is Black Friday, but if you’re not in a hurry you may want to wait until the Super Bowl to purchase one in January.  If you’re looking for a higher end television you probably want to wait for January, however the Black Friday deals on smaller TVs usually can’t be beat.

 

. . . and video game savings are huge on Black Friday as well.

There are a ton of video game and video game console deals that come out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well. However, those deals are already starting on some sites now, so watch the price of the game and console you’re looking for to guarantee the best price.

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A peek at last year’s Kohl’s Black Friday deals

4. Buy all your kitchen gadgets on Black Friday.

Kitchen gadget savings will be huge on Black Friday and really throughout Black Friday “week” and Cyber week too. 

 

So what kind of items to watch for? Usually we’ll see the best prices of the year on Kitchenaid Mixers, Ninja Blenders, Cookware, Pyrex Sets, and just about anything else you’ll need in the kitchen. These are usually my favorite deals of the Holidays, so I’ll be watching right with you!

5. These stores are just a few that offer price matching.
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Best Buy
  • Lowe’s
  • Staples
  • The Home Depot
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Sears
  • Toys R Us

Take advantage of price matching at several stores to get a great price, in case the item you’re looking for isn’t in stock at your store. If you can bring proof of the price in a physical ad to show to your cashier. (Although most will accept these ads from your Smartphone, having the real ad in hand may make price matching even easier.)

Remember that on some special Black Friday deals retailers may not price match all the deeply discounted deals stores have to offer. To find out if another store is price matching a specific Black Friday ad, call ahead and ask your store management.

6. Don’t forget that many stores also offer price adjustments.

If you purchase an item in a store within a few weeks of a better price during Black Friday sales, check to see if your store offers a price adjustment. While all stores won’t offer that (especially if they have deeply discounted items on Black Friday), it never hurts to (nicely!) ask. Make a quick call to your store to see what they offer.

 

7. Stores offer huge loss leaders to get you in the door on Black Friday.

Most stores offer a limited number of “loss leaders” which really are your best deals. Stores like Amazon and Walmart tend to also offer these deals in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday, so keep up with PPP as we’ll be here bright and early working to get you the very best deals.

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Shannon’s CVS Trip: Black Friday Early Sale

8. Don’t forget the drug stores.

Y’all, my favorite Black Friday shopping ever happens at the drug stores, and what I love is that they typically are best on Thanksgiving morning. Now, I am not one who likes the idea of stores being open on Thanksgiving at all, but because the drug stores supply their customers with needed medications they really do need to be open to serve those in need.

CVS actually offers their new Black Friday ad at 6PM the night before Thanksgiving at any stores that AREN’T open 24 hours, so if you want to sneak in early you can save big and beat the crowds. I go first thing on Thanksgiving morning before my family is awake, then and home and ready to help with Thanksgiving cooking by 9AM. To see what Black Friday looked like at CVS in 2014, go HERE.

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9. Some “doorbusters” just aren’t worth it.

Some deals are fantastic on Black Friday, however some tend to be lower quality items that really aren’t worth it. Make sure that what you purchase is really what you want, and you’re not just picking up something quickly to get a deal that you didn’t really need in the first place. (Read more HERE.)

 

 

10. Keep up with PPP for all the very best deals this Christmas season.

Sign up for PPP daily emails to get the best deals, not just on Black Friday but throughout the Christmas season. We’ve got a big surprise that’s going to help you out a ton this year at Christmas, and the whole PPP team is working hard to make sure you never miss a deal.

 

 

So there you have it, my top 10 tips! I’d love to hear what other thoughts you have on Black Friday shopping too. I’ll be right here behind my computer bright and early on Black Friday (and the days prior to Thanksgiving as well), so be ready to save big this year!

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Looking for more tips on how to save at your favorite retail stores? Here you go:

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$7 No Sew Burlap Table Runner

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Remember how we bought this gigantic table not too long ago for our breakfast roomWell the sucker is big, and finding a table runner long enough to cover it without spending a fortune just wasn’t happening.

 

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So when I saw this DIY Easy No Sew Burlap Table Runner post over at On Sutton Place I knew I had to try it out.

 

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I grabbed the burlap at Michael’s using a 40% off coupon (making my cost $7), read through her instructions, and headed outside to work.

 

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(I mean really, when it looks like this outside, why would you ever work inside?) 🙂 

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15 minutes later (and a good shaking to get rid of all the burlap shedding) it was done ~ success!

 

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Have you made any fun burlap projects lately? I’d love to hear what you’ve made – leave a comment to share! Here are a few more projects you may want to try . . .

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$7 Reversible No Sew Penant Banner

 

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How to Make Burlap Garland (on a Penny Pinched Budget) 

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$15 Burlap Wreath 

$5 Burlap Monogram

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$5 Monogrammed Burlap Table Runner 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

 

See more previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!

 

Interact with 312,000+ Penny Pinchers on Facebook and Twitter or Subscribe to Passionate Penny Pincher by email to keep up with all the penny pinchin’ deals!

 

 

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5 Reasons You Need to Use Your Slow Cooker Every Single Week

5 reasons to use your slow cooker

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Update: Today (8/26/16), Amazon has this Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker on sale for $39.99, which is the lowest price I’ve seen it at! Go HERE to check it out. 

I was just dumping dinner in Mrs. Potts (I love her . . . ) and was reminded once again of all the reasons I love slow cooking. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it completely limits your options to go over your budget.

 

Of course, because it seems like everything online has to start with a list these days (I’ll never understand why, but since it works I’m sticking with it. . .), here are my top 5 reasons to use my slow cooker every single week. (And why you should too!)

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1. It’s easy.

Most slow cooker recipes require 5-10 minutes of prep work, so you can get dinner started early in the day with just a few minutes of planning. I rarely (ever?) pre-cook my meat ahead of time, and it always turns out well!

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(Um, that may not be true. I sometimes cook ground beef ahead of time, unless I remember to use this slow cooker ground beef recipe the day before to cook the meat. It just depends on how much of a hurry I’m in!)

2. It’s cheap.

Most slow cooker recipes use inexpensive meats, and because you’re cooking them over the course of a day they have plenty of time to tenderize. My slow cooker recipes cost so much less than just about anything else I make, and we eat better than if we headed out to a restaurant.

 

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3. It forces me to plan ahead.

Using my slow cooker once a week forces me to plan my meals ahead so that I know what to dump in Mrs. Potts at least once a week. Because we have 3 or 4 favorite slow cooker recipes that require 5 or fewer ingredients, I always have the ingredient list for those items tucked away in my head and can easily run into the store and grab them. (In case I don’t already have them on hand in my kitchen . . . usually I try to keep those recipes stocked though!)

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4. It ensures that we skip the drive thru.

This is probably my absolute favorite reason to use the slow cooker, and I can’t stress to you the importance of this one enough. When 6 o’clock rolls around and my family is all begging for dinner, having a meal already cooking in Mrs. Potts easily keeps my budget in tact.

If dinnertime comes and I don’t have anything planned, the temptation to eat dinner out (or eat pb&j sandwiches for dinner . . . again . . . ) often takes over. But if my kitchen smells yummy and dinner’s already done, eating at home just becomes the easy choice.

 

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5. It’s forgiving.

Probably more than any other method of cooking, slow cooker recipes are just forgiving. If I’m out of a certain seasoning or spice I can usually swap it out with something else or skip it entirely, and no one will ever know the difference.

 

UPDATE: Reason #6 🙂 It makes your home smell good, which makes you feel good too.

I love this. 🙂 Coming home to my home smelling yummy and dinner being done just makes me feel ahead of the game. In so many other areas I’m so not on top of things, that it just feels good to know I have it together in one small area of my life (and my family appreciates it too.)

 

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Curious what our family’s favorite slow cooker recipes are? Here you go:

  1. Slow Cooked Italian Beef Sliders
  2. Slow Cooked Chicken & Dumplings
  3. Slow Cooked Italian Beef
  4. Slow Cooked French Dip Sliders
  5. Slow Cooked Chicken Tortilla Soup
  6. Slow Cooked Creamy Italian Chicken
  7. Ranch House Slow Cooked Pork Chops
  8. Slow Cooked Chicken & Dressing
  9. Rotisserie Style Chicken
  10. Open Faced Sirloin Sandwich
  11. Perfect Slow Cooked Pot Roast
  12. Slow Cooker Chicken Minestrone Soup
  13. Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken Tacos
  14. Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
  15. Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup
  16. Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili 
  17. Taco Meat in the Slow Cooker
  18. JUST ADDED: 6 Can 21 Day Fix Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

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And in case you’re wondering what slow cooker I use, I have this one (which honestly I wouldn’t recommend – it cooks very quickly and there are better prices on higher quality slow cookers out there.) Here are a few great slow cookers though that are priced reasonably right now:

 

Do you love using your slow cooker too? I’d love to hear your favorite slow cooker recipes in the comments – leave a comment to share!
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Painting Pumpkins (Easiest Fluff Up Ever.)

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Super duper simple fun weekend project.

 

Perfect if you’re kinda lazy like me. And even more perfect if your home doesn’t match orang-eeey pumpkin colors like mine.

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Pick your pumpkin.

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Pick some paint.

(We used crafting paint I’d picked up at  Michael’s for $1 a few weeks ago.) 

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Let your kids have at it. 🙂

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Done. 

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I’d love to hear what you’re crafting this week! 🙂

 

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By the way, did you know painting a pumpkin teals lets kids with allergies know that your home will have a candy free treat for them? I had no idea until someone shared that with me over on Instagram – we’ll have to hunt down a few treats to hang onto at our house!

Here are a few more of my favorite frugal (easy) fall decorating projects (click the images to see the posts . . . ) 

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Frugal Thanksgiving Centerpiece


 Decorate for cheap with help from The Dollar Tree! I made this seasonal centerpiece for only $6. Frugal decorating can be done!

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

See previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!

 

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50 Best Items to Pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox

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UPDATE: my friend Cydil is a missionary in Albania and delivered boxes there last year. Take a minute to see pictures of kids in her community opening boxes last year (I love this!) Also, I spoke with my contact at Operation Christmas Child and they said candy IS allowed in American boxes, however Canadian boxes are now allowing candy this year (they ship to different countries and some of the countries who receive Canadian boxes will not accept candy.) Hope that helps!

 

 

I’m so excited because we just filled our Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes! This is one of those ministries that’s just near and dear to our hearts, and I love that it allows my kids to help learn about ways to bless kids in other parts of the world.

Like I shared in the video, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch some of the Operation Christmas Child videos both on your own and with your kids. It will give you an idea of who you’re serving, and get you a wee bit more excited for the children who receive your boxes this Christmas.

A huge (huge, HUGE!) thanks to Hobby Lobby for sending us a $100 Hobby Lobby Gift card to fill our boxes with. We were able to fill 8 boxes with t-shirts, flip flops, bandanas, craft kits, yarn and so much more thanks to their generosity.

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Curious what to pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox for  younger kids? Here you go . . .

  1. crayons
  2. coloring books
  3. flip flops
  4. t-shirts
  5. ball
  6. bar soap
  7. bracelet
  8. bandana
  9. pencils & pens
  10. pencil sharpener
  11. duct tape
  12. travel size games – checkers
  13. deck of cards
  14. hacky sack
  15. harmonica
  16. yo yo
  17. hat
  18. glue sticks
  19. scissors
  20. small stuffed animal
  21. pom poms
  22. glitter
  23. small crafting kit
  24. post it notes
  25. highlighters
  26. small notebook
  27. chalk
  28. watercolor paint sets
  29. play doh
  30. small etch a sketch
  31. socks
  32. back pack
  33. plastic cup
  34. straws
  35. scarf
  36. jump rope
  37. glowsticks
  38. leftover halloween candy that’s not chocolate (be sure to place in plastic bags) no longer allowed in 2017 boxes, thanks Rhonda!
  39. matchbox cars
  40. finger puppets
  41. silly putty
  42. toothbrush
  43. toothpaste (no longer allowed in 2017 boxes, thanks Rhonda!
  44. washcloth
  45. wet wipe
  46. travel pack of tissues
  47. lip gloss
  48. hair ties
  49. band aids
  50. hair brush

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For Older Boys:

  • Tools – hammer, screwdriver, wrench or pliers, duct tape, measuring tape
  • Fishing supplies – add in a small fishing kit, fishing line, hooks
  • Binoculars
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Plastic Magnifying Glass
  • Watch
  • Handkerchief
  • Collapsible water bottle
  • Harmonica

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For Older Girls:

  • Small sewing kit
  • Clip on earrings
  • Bracelets
  • Barettes
  • Coin purse
  • Sticky notes
  • Watercolor paint set
  • Yarn
  • Colored Sharpies, highlighters or markers
  • A friendship bracelet with extra string so they can make more
  • Ink pad and stamp set

Also, here are a few ideas that Operation Christmas Child shared on their site as far as suggestions for all ages (as well as some items not to include):

  • TOYS: Include items that children will immediately embrace such as dolls, toy cars, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls, toys that light up and make noise (with extra batteries), etc.
  • SCHOOL SUPPLIES: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons, markers, notebooks, paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.
  • NON-LIQUID HYGIENE ITEMS: toothbrushes, bar soap, combs, washcloths, etc.
  • ACCESSORIES: t-shirts, socks, hats, sunglasses, hair clips, jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc.
  • A PERSONAL NOTE: You may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. If you include your name and address, the child may be able to write back.
  • DO NOT INCLUDE: Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

 

National Collection Week for Shoeboxes this year is November 16-23, and if you’re not sure where to drop off a box in your area you can go HERE to find a local collection site. They do ask that you also give a donation of $7 per box to cover the cost of shipping – learn more about that over HERE and donate online as well.

 

Additional tips that may help:

  • Pack toothpaste and soap in a plastic bag to keep the scent from taking over the whole box and so that nothing leaks.
  • Remove packaging from your items so that you allow for more room in your box and so that they don’t have much trash to throw away.
  • Don’t send anything that has directions/writing in English (i.e. toys with instructions, games that require kids to read English.) Since these boxes go to non-English speaking country it’s worth only including things that are understood internationally.
  • Read more great tips and suggestions from a missionary in the field over HERE.
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How to Turn Amazon Into Your Online Garage Sale: 7 Items You Can Sell Today (& Make $100 Or More!)

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Love shopping Amazon? Well there are a few ways you can make money from Amazon too! With a little work you can do some serious de-cluttering in your home, and turn Amazon into your online garage sale. Here are a few things you can easily sell on Amazon . . .

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1. Sell books.

You can easily sell books you have at home directly to Amazon, which is a great way to earn extra cash on books you may no longer need. To sell books, start HERE, type in the name of the book you’re interested in selling, and see what Amazon will offer you. You’ll immediately be able to print a return label, and as soon as they’ve verified the condition of your books you’ll receive credit in your Amazon account. Don’t forget to look for used textbooks to sell while you’re at it.

I just checked, and two books that we’ve ordered over the last year added up to $27.44 in credit – not too shabby for just adding a few books to a box!

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2. Sell used cookbooks too.

Don’t forget to also check your cookbooks if you’re like me and no longer use them all that often. A few of the cookbooks I have in my kitchen are worth $7-$10 – definitely worth making a little extra moo-lah since I’m not using them anyways.

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3. Sell DVDs or video games.

If you have DVDs or video games that are no longer being used, see what Amazon will pay for them. I just checked and the Disney movie Frozen is only going for $.75 as a trade in right now, but Just Dance 2015 is selling for $7.99. Not too shabby if you’ve got some old video games at home that are no longer being used!

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5. Sell gaming systems.

Have a gaming system like an Xbox or Wii you no longer use? They sell for as much as $200 (for several Xboxes) on Amazon – go HERE to see what yours would sell for.

6. Sell old CDs.

If you have a stash of old CDs in a box, see what they’ll sell for on Amazon! My husband has dozens of CDs from years ago, and I just checked and they pay anywhere from $.50-$99 each. More current CDs pay up to $3 ~ such a great way to make some money and clean out old boxes too.

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5. Sell your gadgets.

Have an old Kindle at home that no one’s using? Or even a pair of earbuds that for whatever reason are just sitting in a drawer? Used Kindles earn up to $70, and even a pair of used earbuds will sell for $4. Look around your house and see what items you need to get rid of – we have a calculator that we purchased from Amazon for my son’s math class that is worth $70 on Amazon (crazy!) so definitely check out what things you have at home to see if they’ll sell!

 

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Looking for a way to get paid by Amazon that may take a little more work? 

  • Don’t forget that Amazon is looking for employees at their Amazon Virtual Contact Center in 13 states. Go HERE to learn more.
  • If you have a lot of stuff to sell, try out Amazon’s FBA program. This allows you to sell just about anything on Amazon, and is great if you have your own product or if you have access to larger quantities of inventory. (For example, if you’re an incredible bargain shopper and can find huge sales on clearanced items, it may be worth trying to re-sell them on Amazon at a higher price. I don’t know much about this program, but if you’re willing to do some research and work I think you could turn a decent profit through FBA!)
  • If you have a blog or website, sign up for Amazon’s affiliate program. I’ve been an affiliate with Amazon for years and love working with them.

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Love Amazon? Don’t miss my list of 16 items you should be buying on Amazon

See more Amazon Deals, and remember when you subscribe and save to 5 or more items in one month, you’ll also save an additional 15% on all of your subscribe and save purchases.

 

This post contains affiliate links.  See my disclosure policy to learn more.

Join Amazon Prime for one month free – Watch Over 40,000 Movies for free plus get free shipping on thousands of items

 

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$13 Goodwill Transformation: Tin Buckets

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I know I say this every week, but this is my favorite Friday Fluff Up Project.

 

For real. 

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(Okay, I really do like my $2.50 Goodwill chair too. But you get the idea.) 🙂

 

I was struggling with something clever to do this week, so swung by Goodwill yesterday for a little inspiration. My husband and I had a date night (woohoo!) earlier in the week and visited our local parade of homes, and while the homes were beautiful, we realized so much of it was just in the decorating.

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As we talked about it, even my penny-pinching husband agreed that we’ve always put money into our actual home ~ things like landscaping, painting, trim work, etc., because we know that’s how to sell your home for the highest price. And while that’s been a really smart way to earn equity towards newer homes, we don’t have a lot of fancy “stuff.”

 

A few of the homes wa walked through had beautiful outdoor spaces, but they were no nicer than the one my smart husband just put in. However, even he could see that there was just a difference in the “staging” – where we have a few old pieces of furniture on our patio, they had some serious money invested in furniture and decor.


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So, when I walked into Goodwill and saw a few plain old tins, I wondered if I could make them into something oh-so-slightly designer-ish on a penny-pinched budget. 

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I already had grey spray paint at home from my last project, and noticed some cute wooden signs at Michael’s that were pre-made when I swung by yesterday.

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So I snatched up those tin buckets ($13 for all three after my 10% off coupon for dropping off a donation), and headed home. My plan initially was to actually stencil some cute wording on to the bucket, but after 3 failed attempts (meaning 3 extra coats of spray paint), I decided just the wooden sign attached would do.

 

The big bucket is for our “s’more fixin’s.” I also need them to go hunt down some sticks to put in the taller tin for roasting (although honestly we’ve been using metal hangers around here!), and we’re good to go.

 

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Success! (By the way, the wreath is from Goodwill too ~ it was still in the box from Crate & Barrel and was priced at $20 ~ I paid $15 because I had a coupon for $5 off that day.) 

 

If you have a Goodwill or favorite thrift store nearby, it’s worth stepping in to see what’s in store. I absolutely love that place, and it’s amazing what you can find if you’re willing to hunt just a wee bit! I’d love to hear if you’ve found anything fun while thrifting too ~ leave a comment to share.

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Love shopping Goodwill? Here are a few more posts you might enjoy:

 

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)

 

See previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!

 

 

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