Thursday, November 11, 2010

DIY on the Fly: Easy Fixes for Household Problems

Everyone's got problems. It's a fact of life. Some problems are big, others are small, and when they are all put together they could drive you plum crazy. Fixing some of those annoying little things that have been irritating you might just take the edge off. Maybe you've heard of some of the household fixes maybe you haven't. But I swear by every one of them.

Stinky fridge: Put a small bowl of dry coffee grounds in the back of the refrigerator and it will neutralize that pesky mystery smell.

Clumpy salt shaker: Add a tablespoon of rice to the shaker. The rice will absorb excess moisture, making for smooth shaking.

Dirty dishwasher leaving spots: Add a packet of lemonade koolaid (no sugar) to the detergent cup and run an empty cycle. (No dishes.) This will remove buildup and fend off those spots for a while.

Stubborn zippers: Rub the zipper teeth with a bar of soap or a candle. It will allow the zipper to glide.

Scuffs on White sneakers or shoes: Rub of scuffs with a Mr. Clean magic eraser.

Small Bleach Spots: Find a matching color prismacolor marker (the come in every color). Dab the spot with the marker let set at least 5 minutes. Launder item. Repeat it necessary.

Musty Vintage Books: Slip a few used dryer sheets between the pages. Leave in for a week.

Small scratches and nicks on wood: Matching wood markers rubbed onto the scratch and then buffed with a cloth. Matching crayons, heat up the scratch with a blow dryer on low, rub the scratch with matching crayon and buff with a cloth.

Bored, whiny children: According to this advertisement, this pesky problem can be solved with a couple of paper bags.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Learning to Sew is Smart

Remove home economics classes from school? Heck no! They are teaching valuable skills that our youngsters can use through out their lives. Still today, friends of mine who attended the same school as I did talk about that funny old duffel bag we made in Home EC. Every kid used that bag to tote their gym clothes to class. I still use techniques I learned in that class today.
But besides oddly shaped duffels, there are countless reasons that sewing is an essential skill for a thrifty gal. The most obvious reason is it saves you money!
The list of how goes on and on... You can hem your own pants. You can repair and save damaged clothing, housewares, and toys. You can make gifts, Halloween Costumes, or even party favors! You could save tons of loot on medical bills by doing you own surgery! (hehe just kidding) Here are some serious ways that learning to sew can help you save.
Skip the Tailor.
At least sometimes. If you are altering your wedding gown or if you've ripped a hole in a Chanel bag it is time to seek professional help. But for everyday issues, tailoring can be surprisingly simple. Hem your own skirts and pants. Change buttons on your clothes. Give a fitted shirt a little tuck, all with a little know how.
Repair and Care.
Avoid tossing clothes by extending their life. There are many simple sewing techniques that can be used to repair or reinforce your clothing. Replace buttons that have fallen off. Repair ripped seams. Fix frayed hems. Reattach belt loops that have popped off.
Gift Giving
There are so many charming gifts that you can make if you have basic sewing skills. Blankets, bags, head scarves, toys and more. Everyone loves getting a handmade gift. It's so personal and thoughtful. Check out the following resources for tutorials on simple hand sewn gifts.
Couture Galore
Making your own clothes is both rewarding and fun. You can make your own trendy, quality clothes once you really get into sewing. In the meantime, practice your sewing skills on your kids! Making kids clothing is a great way to become familiar with garment construction. The small projects go quickly and use up less material. When you feel ready, try tackling a simple skirt or dress for yourself. Before you know it, you'll be whipping up an entire handmade wardrobe! But take care, sewing your own clothes is not always cheaper than buying them pre-made. Fabric can get expensive, but the quality of the clothes you make may be better than what you grab off the rack at Walmart. Consider the price of each project as you go, and be a savvy shopper. Most fabric stores have mailing lists which can get you special coupons and discounts. For example, Joann Fabrics regularly send out 40% off coupons, good for any single cut of fabric. Their circulars and emails also let you know when things like notions, thread, and equipment go on sale. These savings add up, especially when you are making a big project. Also be sure to scope out the clearance and remnant sections of your fabric store regularly. Another tip: if you buy the end of a bolt of fabric, you can usually ask for a huge discount on the last yard of fabric. Use remnants and extra fabric to make kids clothes, toys, bags, and accessories.
How to Get Started
Start by picking up a needle and thread and learning to sew by hand. This method is slow, but essential for fine details, and for understanding the fundamentals of all types of sewing. After you have the hang of hand sewing, get on a machine! If you want help, check your local craft workshops, classifieds, or fabric stores for beginner's sewing classes. You can also be brave and try to teach yourself. The internet is a great source for information. There are countless videos, guides, and tutorials on basic sewing. Here are a few resources that may help:
If you prefer to learn from a book, the following titles are great for beginners. Check your local library for these or other titles on sewing. You may be surprised at what is available for free!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Looking Fabulous on the Cheap (Ways to save on your favorite Cosmetics)

Every gal wants to look her best, even frugal gals. There is just something so exciting about opening up a new tube of lipstick, or a new bottle of perfume. Well, at least for me there is. I know personally that you DO NOT have to spend hundreds of dollars to have a collection worthy of a makeup artist. I like some drugstore makeup, and I like some department store makeup, but I get both for next to nothing. Want to know how? Well, listen up.

Drugstores and Grocery Stores
Annoyed that a tube of Revlon lipstick you want cost 9.99? Don't be. I would never pay that much. Just wait for it to go on sale at one of your favorite drugstores. Then throw in a manufacturer's coupon, and maybe even stack it with a store coupon. Presto! That 9.99 lipstick now costs you a 1.99. You can collect valuable manufacturer's coupons on everything from lipstick to hair dye in your Sunday paper. Browse the best drugstore/ grocery store deals at my favorite coupon websites, then match them up!
Outlet Shopping
Once or twice a year I make a pilgrimage to the outlet mall. It just fits into my whole shopping and saving scheme. When I go to the outlets, a must stop for me is The Cosmetics Company Store. This store is a chain at many outlet malls. Click here for a list of Outlet Malls where you can find The Cosmetics Company. What do they sell? They sell discounted department store cosmetics, lotions, creams and perfume. Some brands include Estee lauder, Prescriptives, MAC, Origins, Clinique, and Bobbi Brown! Although there are many deals to be had in The Cosmetics Store, the best bang for your buck are Sample Bags. You know those free gifts with purchase that department stores regularly offer? They sell those. They cost around 10.00 to 25.00, and are filled with full and travel size makeup, creams, cleansers, perfumes and other treats. I buy 2 or 3 of these bags every time I go. So for the price of around two department store items I get 15 or more products! That's enough to satisfy my champagne tastes for a whole year. The only drawback is that these sample bags don't often include the newest, trendiest products. Frugal girls must be patient. But don't fret, the products you are drooling over in this month's glossy magazine ads are likely to be available in sample bags or at the outlet shops next year!
Another great stop to make while you are at an outlet mall is Perfumania, or any other perfume shops available. Come prepared with a list of perfumes that you are after, and how much they would cost you locally and online. You may just find a great deal hidden away in one of these shops, especially if you can find a sample pack or promo item. At the smaller perfume shops, you may even be able to haggle the price down.

Before hitting any outlet mall, do your research. Look the mall up online, find out what stores you are most likely to shop, then do a google search for printable coupons. If you're lucky, a few minutes of searching, and a little ink & paper could save you a bundle!

We all love Sephora. It's like a gals wonderland! All of those tiny little packages of shimmering, sparkling goodness! Unfortunately, it can also be "It's-Too-Expensive-Land" or "Oops-I-Over-Spent-On-Cosmetics-Land". But savvy gals take heart! Even the most tight waisted ladies can shop at Sephora now and then.
Start by signing up for their Beauty Insider Rewards program. You earn points with every purchase that can be used to receive free gifts and top notch product samples. You also get a FREE birthday gift every year! The gift is usually pretty good too. In addition to freebies, beauty insiders are privy to special discounted items online, such as mega sized cosmetic palettes, samplers, and preview products.
P.S. Sephora likes to give out samples. It doesn't hurt to ask if they have any extras when you visit the store.
It goes without saying, but definitely browse their clearance section. But if you REALLY want to stock up at Sephora shop sale/ clearance just before and after Christmas. The prices rock! They have made many "special edition" holiday sets of your favorite cosmetics and now they want to get rid of them. Do you really care if your favorite eye shadow's case has a picture of a snowflake on it, if you got 50- 75% off?? I don't.
One more tip about Sephora. They will give a sample of a perfume of your choice. Just ask. The sample lasts about 4 uses. Get some Chanel and save it for a special occasion.

Finding Makeup Deals Here and There
The are always makeup deals lurking out there, too many to count. Check Ebay and Amazon for particular items you have your eye on. Sometimes, these products become available at great prices. Check out the The Christmas Tree Shop, Big Lots, or other bargain stores too. They buy leftover cosmetics from various stores and sell it at rock bottom prices. Just be careful to inspect the products as carefully as you can before buying. Sometimes, these items can be expired or even counterfeit.
Buy your fragrances around Christmas time. They often come in gift sets and bonus packs or have free gifts. You get more bang for your buck. They also go on clearance quickly after the holidays.
I hope these tips help. I want you to get the stuff you love with out paying too much for it. :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dying Clothes and Household Linens

In these times of economic uncertainty, it's time we rethink buying new clothing and linens every time something has become faded, stained, or in need of repair. This is why I dye my things to give them new life. A few weeks ago I was very tempted to go buy a new fall coat. My coat had become more than a little dinghy. It had taken a ride with a crayon in the dryer, and to top things off, I was just plain bored with it. So instead of going and dropping a bunch of cash on a new coat, I dyed it a nice cocoa brown. I am also considering replacing the buttons on the coat to punch it up a bit more. Now I am happy with my coat. It looks fresh and all the stains are covered up.

My sister, Christine, also did something similar with her couch cushion covers. They were white canvas cotton covers and were inevitably getting dirty. She dyed them purple to match her living room, and is now a big fan of dyeing fabrics.

Dyeing for some Tips?

The Dye
Dyeing fabrics is a lot easier than you think. Anyone can buy a package of Rit Dye in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores. Walmart, Target and craft stores also tend to carry Rit products. Rit is cheap too! A box costs about $1.99 and a bottle costs about $3.99. There are many colors and washing aids available, all of which you can see on the color chart at While you are there, check out their dyeing tips!

The Technique
Many items can be dyed. As long as an item is made from natural fibers,( ie. cotton, wool, and silk) it should be suitable for dyeing. My coat, for example, was made of 100% cotton, so it dyed well.

There are several ways you can dye fabrics. All of the options are on the back of the Rit box. My personal favorite is the washing machine technique. It's fast, the results are great, and you can dye more than one item at a time.

A Project
About twice a year I do the following project to revive my denim. I gather up all my dark denim, make any necessary repairs, then grab my handy bottle of Rit Blue Denim.

I follow all the directions on the back of the bottle for washing machine dyeing, then add a 1/2 cup of table salt (the salt makes the denim buttery soft) and a cup of vinegar (helps set the dye). The results are fantastic! My denim is crisp and new looking and in a few moths I will dye them again. After your clothes are dyed you'll need to wash them with special care. Wash them in cold water for at least 4 washes to help keep the fabric from bleeding.

Some Items to Dye:

  • Denim
  • T-Shirts
  • Canvas Bags
  • Socks
  • Pillow Cases
  • Bedspreads
  • Sheets
  • Small Cotton Rugs
  • Towels
  • Table Cloths
  • Curtains

So you see, with some dye and a little love and care you can use you clothes and linens for a long time, keeping more items out of the landfill, and keeping more cash in your pocket!

Pinch Every Penny!

A few tips from a Penny Pinching Professional.

As the economy goes into the crapper, everyone is looking for new ways to save some money. Fortunately for myself, I have been saving money everywhere I can for years. So it's nothing new for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good deal. Some of these tips you can only save a little bit of money, but every little bit adds up. By pinching every penny you can save pounds!

1. Don't waste food! Store all of your groceries properly. Invest in some plastic storage tubs, glass jars and resealable bags. Many food items come in re-usable containers from the store. Rewash, and relabel these containers to score free storage containers! Put everything in it's proper containers right after grocery shopping. That way you don't run the risk of forgetting about them and having them go to waste. Seal meats properly to prevent freezer burn. If you don't think you are going to be able to use up produce before it goes bad, freeze it! For some good tips on freezing your food check out this article. Next time you throw out rotten produce or moldy bread, stop and think to yourself, "$3.00 in the garbage", "$2.00 in the garbage", etc.

2. Care for your clothing properly. Read the label and follow it every time. By taking proper care of your clothes they will last much longer, and look newer. Even if they go out of style, they will be in good enough shape to donate. Hint: Goodwill gives out tax deductible receipts when donations are made!

3. Be a grocery master! Write great grocery lists, and collect coupons. Read all sales fliers and shop in several places. This can save you hundreds of dollars. Also try and keep grocery shopping trips to a minimum, this can keep you from buying unnecessary impulse items, plus save you money on gas, and wear on your vehicle. If clipping coupons intimidates you, or you feel that you just don't have the time, check out This website offers a service that keeps track of your coupons and local sales online, eliminating almost all of the work that goes into couponing.

4. Be patient. Everything goes on sale sooner or later. If you can wait, do your research and wait for the item you want to go on sale. Especially when it comes to electronics and appliances, never ever pay pull price!

5. Always, always always, run a full load. Whether it's in the dishwasher, the washing machine or the dryer, you should never run an appliance if it isn't full. Washing two pairs of jeans is so wasteful. Think about how much money it costs you to do a load of laundry every time. Now think about how often you do a load of laundry. Now add it up. What if you could cut that in half by doing full loads of laundry every time? How much money would you save? I know I save about 24 dollars a month, which works out to about 288 dollars a year. That doesn't even include what I am saving on detergent and fabric softener. The full load rule is a no-brainer in most households, as there is always plenty of dirty stuff to get washed!

6. Share the cheap! A network of family and friends to trade coupons, hand me downs and other items is a GREAT thing to have. It saves you all tons of money, and is a good excuse to stay in touch or plan a visit with loved ones. No one to swap with? Join an online coupon swap or check out your local freecycle. There is no shortage of free stuff to be had!

7. Be crafty. Learn how to make your own things, repair things, and re-purpose things. It will not only save you tons of money, it can be fun and fulfilling. It's good to be handy. On the other hand, if you are totally DIY inept it is easy to find crafty people to make good use of what you've already got. Check the local paper for handymen when you are in need of repair. It is often cheaper to have an item fixed (provided it is a simple task) than it is to replace it. Plus, you'll be employing someone in your community.

8. Use a little less of everything. It adds up. I know we all can have tendencies to use to much of everything. To much toothpaste, too much laundry detergent, too much shampoo, even too much food. Follow the back of the package, it will tell you exactly how much you need to use. You'd be surprised how often you may be doubling or tripling the intended serving.

9. Try not to eat out. Make it a luxury. Eating out is such a waste of money and it's not good for you. If you are bored, have friends over for dinner, or try making your home cooked meals a little more interesting. You can make almost anything at home, and have fun while you do it. Even your most challenging favorites, such as Margherita Pizza, California Rolls, or Chicken Tikka Masala can be created at home. Another way to keep yourself from eating out too often is to stock your pantry with a few reasonable luxuries. Little things, like a special snack, or a gourmet ingredient can help keep you satisfied enough to avoid take-out cravings.

10. Be aware! Don't buy things mindlessly. Always be thinking, "Do I need this?", "Will I wear this?", "Will I use this?" Be honest with yourself. If it's a big purchase, sleep on it. It will probably be there tomorrow. If it's not, than maybe it was not meant to be. This way of thinking can also be applied to household bills and utilities. For example, unlimited long distance for $25 a month may sound like a great deal, but if you know that you won't make more than one or two long distance calls in a month, paying upwards of $12 for each call makes very little sense. Buy a pre-paid phone card instead, and only use it when you need it.

I hope these tips help. I live by these tips and I swear they save me a lot of money.

Small Appliance Saves Big Bucks!

I have recently fallen in LOVE with Crock Pot cooking. There are just so many reasons why using a slow cooker is great for me. The first thing that caught my attention, of course, is how economic it is. On a low setting a Crock Pot runs at about 75 Watts per hour. That costs me less than 7 cents an hour!!! "Holy Crap", I thought. So I brought my old crock-pot, (which I had cleverly obtained for the smart price of one dollar at a tag sale) down from its lonely perch above my cabinets. I made room on the counter top for it, giving it a special place among my "go-to" appliances.

I am delighted to say that since I have started using the Crock Pot, it has opened up a world of convenience for me. For starters, I can begin dinner in the Crock Pot at 12:00 am! Perfect, because my daughter is taking her nap and my son is away at pre-school. No kids to bother me while I cook! Sweet relief! Another wonderful thing is that I use so few dishes while preparing a Crock Pot meal. Everything goes right into the Pot, eliminating the need to dirty multiple pots and pans. I have less dishes to wash, which means less time in the kitchen, freeing up a hefty portion of precious nap time.

The Crock Pot also allows me to use up all my odd ball ingredients. I can save leftover veggies, cheeses, and other tidbits from the week's meals, and combine them into delicious Crock Pot creations! I can also put a new spin on lower grade cuts of meat using the Crock Pot. These cuts may be chewy when cooked regularly, but when slow cooked in the Crock Pot they come out tender and delicious.

So I say to everyone, "break out your Crock Pots!!" They are just fantastic. There are so many dishes you can make, so it really is for everyone. There are side dishes, appetizers, soups, even desserts! I've found a treasure trove of Crock Pot Recipes here, on Check it out, and let us know your favorite Crock Pot recipes by sharing them with us in the comments below!

Cold Water Washing is HOT!

Yes, the cold water setting on your washing machine is the way to go. But if you don't do it right your laundry will become stained and unsightly! Why is washing your laundry on the cold water setting such a great idea? For one thing, it's easier on the environment (washing your clothes in cold water will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 100LBS a year). It's also easier on your clothes, and easier on your wallet (you could save $64 a year on your energy bills). What more could you ask for? Washing with cold water is booming with benefits, but it takes special techniques to keep your clothes looking fab without using hot water. Follow my laundry tips, and wash in the cold like a pro!

Items Handy in the Laundry Room

  • Cold water detergent (This specially formulated detergent is made for washing clothes in cold water.)

  • Shout or other Pre-treater

  • Bar Ivory Soap (This simple soap is great for getting out stubborn stains.)

  • Bottle of Regular Aspirin (Not only does it help relieve sore muscles, it helps keep whites bright!)

  • Soaking Bucket

  • Tooth Brush

  • Bottle of Peroxide (This handy ingredient is effective at removing blood and other protein stains, but use it with caution, as it can also lighten fabrics.)

  • Oxy Clean (A fantastic laundry booster.)

  • Baking Soda (Another super laundry booster.)

Sorting is Key

I would say that sorting your laundry is the most important step when it comes to laundry. Not only is this an important step with cold water washing, it is essential to your entire laundry routine! Always sort your laundry. It's the best way to keep whites white and keep colors from bleeding. When I sort laundry at home I always sort as follows; Delicates, whites, towels, light kids clothes, dark kids clothes, jeans, darks, lights and household items. It seems like a lot of sorting, but it really helps keep everything clean and preserved. It's also handy when putting the laundry away as everything is already organized. Did you know that washing towels with your clothes can cause your garments to accrue lint and fuzz? Did you know that jeans can continue to bleed blue dye for their entire life?! Simply sorting your laundry prior to washing can help extend the life of your garments and linens considerably.

Attacking Stains

If you are going to wash laundry in cold water it's really important to treat all stains before washing. If you don't treat the stain prior to washing and drying, the stain can become permanently set in. Depending on the stain I like to either use Shout pre-treater and let it set in for minutes, or Ivroy Soap. I really love to use a bar of Ivory soap for the very tough stains. First, I wet the stain with water, then I rub the stain with the bar of soap. I repeat the process until the stain is mostly gone. Then I toss it into the laundry as usual.

The Big Soak

Soaking heavily soiled items will help them to fully recover from nasty stains. Luckily, I have a soak setting on my washing machine, but anyone can use a bucket or an empty sink. Because whites and baby clothes are so prone to becoming extra dirty, I always pre-soak them as a rule of thumb. To soak, I add a small amount of detergent or Oxy Clean to cold water and soak for 30 minutes.

Some Exceptions

Unfortunately, not everything should be washed in cold water. I always wash my bedding in hot water, the reason being dust mites! Dust mites are microscopic critters that live on bed sheets, feeding off of dead skin cells. An abundance of them can make you susceptible to allergies, and can even make you more prone to catching colds and viruses. If you wash your sheets in cold water you are just giving the little critters a bath. The water temperature in the wash must be at least 120 degrees to snuff them out.

Grease stains are another culprit that doesn't come out in cold water. If I have a table cloth with grease stains all over it, for example, I will pre-treat the stains then wash it in warm or hot water.

Funky smelling towels are another item that always make it into a hot water wash. This helps to kill the bacteria on the towels which can give them a dank, musty smell.

B.O. and deodorant stains don't seem to come out well in cold water either. When it comes to arm pit problems, I just soak in some warm water to get out the funk.


  • I get my whites their whitest with aspirin, not bleach. Bleach can actually yellow garments! I throw about 2-4 regular aspirin to the wash water, let them dissolve, then add the laundry. To be honest, I have no idea why this works, it just does. I actually learned this tip from Lucky Magazine, believe it or not. Aspirin is also great for soaking yellow pit stains.
  • On a heavy wash, such as towels, I will run the spin cycle twice to get out excess water. This reduces dryer time, which is the real energy hoarder.
  • Use less detergent if you have soft water. You don't need as much, and I swear your clothes will come out cleaner.