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Sunday, May 31, 2009

In-Flight Dining - To Bring or Not to Bring Your Food



And why, you might ask, is this a timely topic? Well, today I'm am enroute to the East Coast to start my new job! The flight is approximately 4 and 1/2 hours, so at least one mealtime will hit while I'm onboard. As I seldom fly First or Business Class these days, this is by no means meant as a review of airline cuisine. Rather it is intended for those of us resigned to traveling Coach (and by the way, given the cuts in amenities overall, it's really not that much worse than flying in one of the elite seats)!

I watch so many passengers juggle luggage and briefcases along with a lunch hastily purchased before boarding the plane. I used to think this indicated amazing foresight on their part, but think about it. If the food is hot, by the time you are seated, in the air and able to actually eat it, it is lukewarm at best. If it was cold, again, it is now lukewarm. If it had dressing on it, it's soggy. If it had dressing on the side, it probably spilled while you were jockeying for overhead space. And anything purchased near the gate is likely to cost between $7-$10 once you figure in tax and the higher cost of everything in an airport.

I have become a fan of the snack boxes that many of the airlines now sell on flights that would normally serve meals. They typically cost about $5 and contain some form of crackers, cheese, fruit (i.e. applesauce) and a dessert item. There are usually a couple of varieties to select from and as they are packaged items, they are generally fairly fresh. It's enough food to keep me going without having to juggle a sack along with me (and it's served at the same time as the drinks). To be honest, these snacks are better than just a mini-bag of pretzels or even the old coach meals of pasta with bland tomato sauce. That said, by the time you read this, I will no doubt be ordering my snack box!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for Ice Cream!!!!




Here's a "freebie alert"!!!!

Today, Wal-Mart is handing out approximately 1,000,000 free pre-packaged ice cream treats in 2,000 Wal-Mart Super Centers across the US!

Just show up between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., where the frozen treats will include Ben and Jerry's Flipped Out Cup ice cream, Blue Bunny Aspen Frozen Yogurt Granola Bars and Dibs Snack Bags.

No promises that it will be an easy venture - Wal-Marts are typically busy on Saturdays anyway and this no doubt will cause more traffic. But if you are daring, enjoy the spoils of your search!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Donations on a dime!


Another short entry, but powerful information! Awhile ago, I wrote about charitable giving when you are short on cash yourself. Well, I've thought of a few other opportunities to do just that!

* When you buy specially-marked boxes of Cheerios, you can get a code to enter on
www.cheerioshelpinghearts.com - this makes a donation of $1.00 to help low-income women get cholesterol tests.

* During certain campaigns, Yoplait Yogurt sells it's yogurt cups with pink foil tops - those tops, when cleaned and mailed to the address indicated, are worth $ to women's breast cancer research.

* And check out http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/clickToGive/home.faces?siteId=3
This site allows you to click daily (you'll see the big purple button to click!) - for each click the site's sponsors pay for food and care of animals. And 100% of the sponsor money goes to charities related to animals. At the top of the site's home page there are tabs for other charities as well related to hunger, child health, breast cancer, literacy and the rainforest.

These are all simple ways to give when you least can afford it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

DIY Tips and Lessons


Eric Stromer - GMC Trade Secrets - AOL Living

I have never been very handy on major home projects. I can hang a picture (usually so that it is somewhat even), I can strip off wallpaper (putting it on is doubtful) and I can paint a wall. But when it comes to bigger projects, I'm a bit of a coward!
So for those of you that want to do it yourself and save money, this blog entry is for you! The link above will connect you to a series of Eric Stromer's DIY projects as shown on AOL's home improvement page! What better way to spend a summer weekend!

If you have any good (or bad!) stories about a DIY project, please share!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Budget Birthdays


Yes, today is my birthday...and no, we are not doing anything extravagant! It's a tight economy and I've literally asked my kids to make cards or do chores in lieu of an actual present this year. We are opting for this for all of our relatives this year...face it, we have been fortunate and now times are tough. We don't need more "stuff" so why pay more on postage than we have to pay for the gifts we are shipping? I won't readily give up Christmas gifts for my family and friends, but Mother's Day, Father's Day and birthdays belong to Hallmark!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Little Free Reading Material



(And yes, the pun in the title is intentional!) You may or may not be a frequent flyer, but if you earn miles on any of the major airlines (either through flying, car rentals, hotels or even shopping), then you may be surprised that even a small number of miles is worth something! At the end of each year, those airlines that I have few miles on (even less than 500), usually send me a list of magazines that I can subscribe to by paying with my miles. There is no catch and they don't come back to haunt you by renewing your subscription automatically the next time around. Rather than lose the miles when I am not likely to earn a ticket in the near future, this is a nice way to get some free reading material of my choice!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Scent of Summer



I (gracefully of course!) spilled some vanilla on my hand while pretending I know how to cook the other day. The scent of vanilla reminded me of reading about someone using it as a natural perfume...hmmm...seems like there should be lots of easy ways to make perfumes at home without spending a bundle on the advertised "perfume-making kits" so I decided to check into it. (And, yes, I am probably selling myself out of my Avon perfume sales by doing this...though we have good prices if you don't want to concoct your own perfumes!)

My favorites (mainly because they were simple scents and easy to make)I found on the site www.pioneeerthinking.com/basicperfume.html

Their most basic perfume recipe is as follows:

"Ingredients: 2 cups of water and 1 cup fresh chopped flower blossoms.

Directions:

In a bowl, place a cheesecloth where the edges are hanging over the bowl. Fill with 1 cup of flower blossoms of your choice. Pour water over the flowers until they are completely covered. Cover and let sit overnight. The next day, using the edges of the cheesecloth, pull it out of the bowl and gently squeeze the scented water into a small pot. Simmer the water until about 1 teaspoon is left. Cool and place into a small bottle. Making perfume this way has a shelf life of about 1 month."

They suggested using flowers that are highly fragrant such as lavender, lilac, honeysuckle or orange blossoms.

This same site gives a variety of perfume, cologne, aftershave and body spray recipes; all simple to make. I personally would think about using these as gifts though given the short shelf life (though might be a nice romantic gift for your significant other!).

Check out www.mountainroseherbs.com for organic supplies (essential oils and herbs and spices) as well as perfume bottles. You, can also find essential oils at your local natural food store or a grocery store with a well-stocked organic food section.

One final recipe for you (from www.ehow.com) given that this all came about from my vanilla "accident"!

Perfume made with vanilla extract:

Necessary items:
* Vanilla extract
* Fresh lemons
* Saucepan
* Stovetop burner (well, duh!)
* perfume bottle
* glass container
* refrigerator (ok...so they may have pulled this from "Perfume-Making for Idiots"!)

STEPS:

1) Squeeze enough lemons to get 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. Add 6 drops of vanilla extract to the cup of lemon juice and stir until both ingredients mix thoroughly.

2) Add 1 cup of water to saucepan. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract mixture to the water.

3) Heat the solution on stove at high setting. Cover the pan with a lid when it reaches a boil and let boil for 2 minutes.

4) Place saucepan in the refrigerator - leave there for 5 minute to cool. [OK - I personally have always heard NOT to place hot items directly in the fridge - this is probably ok, but put it on something (hot pad, towel, etc.) instead of directly on the shelf...just to be on the safe side and to prevent harming the shelves!]

5) Remove saucepan from refrigerator. Boil the solution again by following step 3.

6) Transfer the mixture to clean glass container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

7) Pour perfume into new perfume bottle.

Notes:
* Artificial vanilla extract smells stronger than pure vanilla extract.
* Keep perfume refrigerated to keep it fresh.

Let us know if you try any of these...I may have to give it a shot over Memorial Day weekend (yes, I do need a life!).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Free travel spots in the US


Having just posted an entry based on the 5/17/09 issue of USA Weekend, I may as well continue with another item from the same issue, "America, Land of the Freebie!" This article provides a number of free "must-see" vacation destinations in the US:

* American Falls, Niagara Falls, NY
* Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, MN
* William Faulkner's home, Oxford, MS
* Celestial Seasonings factory tour, Boulder, CO
* Whale-watching, Big Sur, CA
* Rose Gardens, Portland OR
* National Museum of the US Air Force, Dayton, OH
* New Deal Art Legacy Tour, Santa Fe, NM
* The bats at Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin, TX
* Old Orchard Beach, ME

Check the details out at www.usaweekend.com! Any other suggestions? Post them for us!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Family Reunions (are you brave enough?!)


My purpose here is to provide you with cost-cutting ideas from my experience but also from a variety of other resources that you may have missed. Whenever the info is available, I will provide the author and source of anything I have not written personally!

This particular post is re: saving money on family reunions (ok,admittedly not something I plan on hosting in the near future :) My source for this blog post is USA Weekend (see usaweekend.com) for 5/15-17, 2009, article entitled "Save on your family reunion" by Walecia Konrad.

Walecia provides some very useful advice as follows:

* Trim food costs - i.e. holding a potluck (MY suggestion - use cherished family recipes from your childhood...how fun would that be - mine a carrot/pineapple jello mold - yeah, sounds vile, but it's really quite tasty!)

* Communicate online - use online invitations or even create a Facebook or other webpage designed for the event! MY note: great for posting pics of the event later too!

* Raise money to offset costs - Ms. Konrad suggests auctioning of a family heirloom or holding a raffle or putting favorite recipes into a cookbook and selling copies...MY thoughts: a bit tacky - who would want to support your reunion when they could support a worthy charity...but, hey, whatever works if you are comfortable with it, I suppose!

* Make use of free stuff: "Canvass family members to see who may be able to donate items for goodie bags. Also, go to reunionsmag.com and click on 'free stuff' for ideas."

I would also suggest the following ideas that can be done with minimal expense:

* Donate mileage points to get tickets for family members who may have difficulties getting to the event (same for hotel points, car rental coupons, etc.)

* Hold a raffle to offset expenses - family members can each bring something they've made or have access too (i.e. gift cards from work, etc.) - family members can buy raffle tickets at the event...costs will be offset by earnings.

* Depending on the season, hold the event at a local park where you can rent a covered picnic area for minimal expense.

Any past life experiences you'd like to share on this topic? Waiting to hear...!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Free Tunes and a Digital Book for the Holiday Weekend!



This is an offer worth a few minutes of your time before the Memorial Day weekend officially starts!

CHECK OUT: www.emusic.com/freemusic70

You get 25 FREE song downloads and 1 free audiobook download for absolutely no money down! It requires you to sign-up for a trial account for 7 days with no obligation and if you cancel, you get to keep your downloads. You will have to give a credit or debit card number in case you: (a) go over the allotted number of free downloads and/or (b) decide to stick with the program (their songs are only 25 cents each BUT you will be asked to select from a number of monthly programs, i.e. pay for "x" number of downloads/month).

Their prices are reasonable but despite the "choose from over 5 million songs" tagline, you may have a lot of difficulty (I sure did!) finding anything current or popular in their library (and no, I am not a music snob but it is tough...they often don't have contracts with the labels or artists you may want because they are trying to keep their prices low...admirable, but a bit limiting in my opinion). The audiobook selection is a bit more current and well worth a second look! And, also to their credit, their selection is not only compatible with most MP3 players, it also will download into iTunes if you have an account.

What a fun way to start a 3-day holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reality Check!


OK...so to date I have 2 "followers" on my blog...I know for a fact that others read it. I am looking for suggestions; what would make it worthwhile for you to follow this on a regular basis? Are there topics not being covered? Do you want specific links for coupons? Do you want the links set up so you can "click and go?" (I can figure that out...just haven't gotten that far yet!)

I have allowed this to be a mix of daily deals and ideas that can fit any lifestyle in the current economy. I am, however, happy to address related topics that interest my readers. Please post a comment to this effect or e-mail me directly at HBEdm@aol.com with your suggestions.

Thanks for your inputs and advice!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'm Thinkin' Arby's!


So, what could possibly be better than a coupon or great sale? How about a FREE meal! (And no, I am not referring to cruising the supermarkets on sample day!).
Arby's is featuring "Arby's Freebies Wednesdays" all summer long! Check the menu of freebies at:

www.centsiblesavings.com/2009/05/freebies-at-arbys-every-wednesday.html

Today get a FREE chocolate malt swirl shake with any sandwich purchase...yum! (so much for my exercise deal blog...will have to make that really long to make up for this and the Hershey's free chocolate Fridays!). Personally, I am waiting for
July 1st: a free Beef 'n Cheddar sandwich with any soft drink purchase! Not sure if there is a limit on the deal, i.e. one per customer, but, heck, give each member of your family $2 and go in line one at a time! (I have no pride on these deals!)

Eat hearty (exercise post to follow soon!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How to be a Cheapskate?!


This will be my last reference to "cheapskates" for awhile, I promise!

But in line with the idiots we've looked at over the past couple of days, I couldn't resist mentioning a book that seems fitting (all kidding aside, it appears to offer some good information, but it was the title that seemed fitting!).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Frugal to the Max


Well, I tried to post this video, but it wouldn't work for some reason. But, yesterday, having talked about extreme examples of cheapskates, I thought this might be interesting. Again, I have my own personal limits, but you have to give this woman credit! Check it out!


http://www.foxnews.com/search-results/m/21979846/frugal-living.htm

Admittedly, when my daughter decided she liked Arizona Tea's "Arnold Palmer" beverage, we began making lemonade/iced tea at home. We bake cookies for lunches and when strawberries go on sale, I buy lots and freeze most of them. But except when I run out, I don't recall ever resorting to paper towels instead of coffee filters...go figure! But, it's whatever works, right?!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

How low can you go?


OK, even I have my limits as to penny-pinching! Some of these are just plain wacko! These are some cheapskate profiles I found on AOL's "WalletPop" link.


Buy One, Get One Free:

"One day, three of us at work went to lunch at a pizza joint. We were in line ordering. The first co-worker in line ordered, paid and went to sit down. Next was my cheap friend. He presented a buy-one-get-one-free coupon. He said, 'My friend that just ordered is with me, so I guess I'm the free one.' He never offered to go half with the other co-worker."


Flowers From the Grave:

"I know someone who would go to the cemetery, get the flowers off the graves and make a bouquet of flowers for his wife at different occasions. This went on for a couple of years until she found out."


Loving the Lost and Found:

"For the four years he worked at a national park, my stepson dressed from the park's lost and found pile."


Never Pays for Anything:

"I have a single friend who eats at all the happy hour places she can find for free and just orders water with a lemon slice. She gets the iced tea 50 cent refill at Starbucks until the plastic cup falls apart, takes her own food into the movie theater, and insists on splitting a meal every time we go out. For presents she either buys them at the Dollar Tree or takes the kiddie menus and crayons at restaurants, soaps and shampoos at hotels, free goodies at the banks in her town and gives them as gifts. She thinks nothing of giving you a gently used item as a gift."


Reused Salad Dressing:

"I used to have friends who were so cheap that after you finished having salad at their house, they would funnel the leftover salad dressing in the bottom of everyone's salad bowl back into the bottle to be used again. Gross, needless to say. I brought my own salad dressing after that and just told them I like mine better."


And, along these same lines, about a month ago, the Arizona Republic had an article on ways to dine out for free. The writer goes to Costco and the supermarkets on days when samples are out and goes table to table...He orders water at happy hour and eats the free appetizers (or at a Mexican restaurant, the chips and salsa)...granted you can get away with it, but a bit tacky for my taste!

Any funny stories along these lines you'd like to share? Add a comment and let us know!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sites worth a visit!


I spend a lot of time giving you my take on how to save money, economize and still enjoy life. But (big surprise!)I am not the only source of this information and I too search the Web for extra pointers! Today I want to share a few of the sites where I have found helpful ideas, information and coupons...the more sources you have available, the better!

Check these out!

http://www.walletpop.com/ (This one is the absolute best!)

http://www.couponcravings.com/

http://www.freebies.com/

A word of warning though! Beware the "your new laptop is waiting" type ads that you may find on these sites...just for kicks, I looked through what is involved and for the amount you have to spend to get enough offers to "qualify" for the "free" laptop, you'd be better off going out an buying that laptop!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Online Finds!




So I found some good deals from a recent magazine (sorry, can't remember which one...but I saved the clipping!). Check out these sites for some interesting $ savers!

SwapADvd.com
Post 10 DVD titles and you start receiving credit...check the site for details!

RecycleBank.com
Allows you to get an ID tag for your recylcing bin. When it's scanned and contents are weighed, you earn points for coupons and gift certificates to participating retailers (not available in all markets, but it does give info on how to get your community up and running in the program)!

Proquo.com
Register your name and home address to remove yourself from mailing lists for credit card offers, coupon circulars and catalogs (OK...kind of hate to see the coupons disappear...wonder if you can keep those?!)...

Freecycle.org
Join your local Yahoo! group to search for free items (old furniture, clothing, toys, etc.) Items are all free and you can clear your own clutter by giving it away on the site as well!

Let us know if you try any of these sites...TGIF!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Free (that's right...FREE!) samples




This entry will be short and sweet! Check out www.pgbrandsampler.com to find free P&G brand samples, coupons and info about P&G products. Once you register on the site, you can revisit it to get even more savings!

This offer runs through June 30th, 2009 so don't wait too long!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Made in the USA ...or not?


I admittedly don't open every "isn't this cool" or "check this out" email from friends and family. There seldom is time to read everything that comes in (hey, I've got a blog to write, a job to find, Avon to sell...you get the picture), but every now and then one hits home. This is not intended as a political statement on my part, but it does bring up some good points and (a) helps us with lower prices and (b) helps build the US economy at least a bit. I thought this one might be blog-worthy...though, sorry, don't know the actual author!

"My grandson likes Hershey's candy. It is marked made in Mexico now. So I do
not buy it any more. My favorite toothpaste Colgate is made in Mexico now.
I have switched to Crest. You have to read the labels on everything.

This past weekend I was at Kroger. I needed 60W light bulbs and Bounce dryer sheets. I was in the light bulb aisle and right next to the GE brand I normally buy was an off brand labeled, "Everyday Value." I picked up both types of bulbs and compared the stats - they were the same except for the price. The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand but the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in - get ready for this - the USA in a company in Cleveland , Ohio .

So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day that are made right here.

So on to another aisle - Bounce Dryer Sheets....yep, you guessed it, Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada . The Everyday Value brand was less money and MADE IN THE USA! I did laundry yesterday and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been using for years and at almost half the price!

So my challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for everyday things and see what you can find that is made in the USA - the job you save may be your own or your neighbors!

If you accept the challenge, pass this on to others in your address book so we can all start buying American, one light bulb at a time! Stop buying from China ..........

(We should have awakened a decade ago......)

Let's get with the program.... help our fellow Americans keep their jobs and create more jobs here in the U.S.A."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Booking it




I've mentioned finding good deals on books in a few of my posts; sifting through boxes of books at garage sales and library booksales as well as putting the new arrivals on hold for a quick read. But for the avid reader (yep, that would be me!), there are lots of other good sources for a free read or at least a cheap one!

For years, I would buy new books at Barnes & Noble and, though it is still one of my favorite "hang-outs," it is not always realistic on a budget. I do, however, occasionally go in and search the bargain shelves and tables. The less than new releases often make great gifts (particularly the large coffeetable books) for a fraction of their original price.

I have found, however, that I don't really ever reread a book whether I buy it new or used. It typically gets donated to my library, passed to friends or becomes fodder for my own garage sales. That being the case, if I can't get a free read, I like to go to the used bookstores. We have two in our general area that I am familiar with (and there may be more) that are eclectic and offer a huge variety. My favorite is called Changing Hands and while it also offers new books, it has a great selection of used books and they are checked so they are in good condition. They also are attached to a coffee shop and often sponsor events that are widely publicized in the East Valley of Phoenix (book-signings, speakers, activities for kids, etc.).

The other bookstore has a number of AZ locations in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff and is a particularly popular college hangout. They offer music performances, activities and several have coffeeshops. They have a huge selection of books, movies, music, old toys and the list goes on...it's all used and you could wander one of their stores for days just as an outing (no joke, you might wander for days without a map...wild layouts!). They also buy your old books, etc. The cool thing for those of you not near one of their stores or even in another state is that they have a website and soon will have an online store! Check them out at:

www.bookmans.com

Finally, I also believe in exchanging books with my family and friends, all of whom read as much as time allows. Just be sure you all label your own books if you want them back and make sure you know what you borrowed from where!

Monday, May 11, 2009

...And the spa is where the "ahhh" is!



Yesterday I wrote about making and doing your own spa treatments at home. Now, this is without a doubt a money-saver, but if your patience is short like mine (what can I say?), if you have to make the treatments, set up the room with the right ambiance, and so on...well, right there you've killed some of the potential relaxation effects you are trying to create! So in fairness to the crazy type-A personalities among us, myself included, here are a few other suggestions.

First, the at-home spa idea may seem more relaxing and manageable, if you buy the treatments ahead of time instead of making them. Watch for sales - these things keep pretty well if you check the labels for recommended storage. A few ideas about where to get good deals:

* (Yep, I'm shameless, but serious about this!) - Avon offers amazing spa type products in a variety of sizes and scents - check my website at www.youravon.com/hedmunds

*One of my favorites (not sure where they are located around you) but ULTA Beauty shops offer amazing deals - and usually with weekly coupons of $3.50 or more off OR great free gifts with purchases.See www.ulta.com to locate a store near you or shop online!

*An unexpected spa product source is Cost Plus World Market. This past week they offered the following deals (varies week to week):
- a large Balinese Jasmine Spa set with soap, body lotion and shower gel
- handcrafted soaps from Portugal
- red tea bath set (combining antioxidant-rich red tea and fresh pear scent)
The prices are reasonable and you can buy individual products vs. a full set as well.


If you are still not sold on "DIY Spa Treatments," then consider some options outside your home to give you a bit more service (ok at a slightly higher price, but not too bad for an occasional rejuvenation session!).

Check out Massage Envy (www.massageenvy.com) for inexpensive massage services. Typically, your initial (non-contract) session costs about $39. If you like what you experience, you are able to sign up for a membership (they have a variety of reasonably-priced programs) and have regular massages. Bear in mind that these locations are franchised, so if you aren't thrilled with your first experience, you may want to consider trying a different massage therapist or even another location.

FYI - helps to know what type of massage you want (easier than ordering correctly at a Starbuck's - trust me!):

Swedish: uses oil and gentle but firm strokes
Deep Tissue: uses oil, but the strokes are much more firm, going deep in and between the muscles
Aromatherapy: a Swedish or deep tissue massage using aromatherapy oils
Prenatal: a very gentle massage for pregnant women
Sports: a deep tissue massage but focusing on specific sore or overworked muscles
Hot Stone: hot stones are placed on the back at certain points. Heat helps work out tight areas. (This is more expensive)
Shiatsu: pressure point massage and no oil is used
Thai: usually more expensive and uses a lot of stretching
Watsu: done in the water and gentle movements are used for total relaxation
Reflexology: points of the foot are massaged that correspond with parts of the body (believed to relieve pain or soreness in other parts of the body - beats me...sounds strange, but I'm just providing info!)

Finally, consider asking for a "SpaFinder" gift card for a special occasion. These are good at lots of different spas (some even internationally). The card allows you to pick your own spa from their member list! Check out www.spafinder.com

Relax and enjoy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Home is where the spa is...



All right, enough taking it easy with short blogs...time I posted something of essence (ha, get it? Spa? essence?...thank God it's the weekend!) One of my favorite things to do (when I could afford it) has always been a spa treatment...not a full day - I was never one to sit still that long! But I do enjoy a facial OR a pedicure OR a massage...With the changes in financial situations for so many these days, I'd like to address ways to get these relaxing "fixes" at home but without too much time or money being spent! (It's not relaxing if it breaks the bank or you have to prep for 2 hours to get to the relaxation part!).

A few suggestions first for setting the mood:

*Turn your phone and cell phone off if at all possible for the duration of your spa "treatment."

* Put on some mood music - light and relaxing (i.e. jazz, classical, nature sounds...you know the drill!)

* Light some candles and/or dim the lights in the room you are using for the treatment (typically this will be your bathroom if room allows.)

* Do some initial breathing exercises to relax and get in the right frame of mind for this - inhale, hold your breath a few seconds and then breathe out...sounds silly but think happy thoughts while you do this.

* Make sure you have several fluffy towels and a few washcloths set out.

* Set out your spa treatments - bath salts, mask, lotions, oils, etc...(if you are making them, do so the day before!)


Which treatments you choose to indulge in and for how long is totally up to you...Even a half hour stolen from the daily craziness will help you feel refreshed.

To save you the searching, I've found what look like easy to concoct homemade spa treatments. I haven't tried them yet, but plan to! Please let me know if you try any that are great (or that aren't)!

YOGURT CUCUMBER PARSLEY FACIAL MASK
Ingredients: 1 Tbsp plain yogurt, 1 Tbsp cucumber, 1 Tbsp parsley
Directions: Puree the cucumber and parsley finely and mix with the yogurt until smooth. Clean your face with a gentle cleanser and cover your face with the mixture. Leave the mask on for approximately 15-20 minutes for best results. Rinse with water.

PEPPERMINT FOOT SPRAY
Ingredients: 1 Cup distilled water, 1/4 Cup vodka, 1/4 tsp Essential Oil of Peppermint, 1/4 tsp Tee Tree Oil (nope - I don't know either!)
Directions: Combine all ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. This tingly spray will revive tired feet!

HONEY LEMON SUGAR SCRUB
Ingredients: 2 and 1/2 Cups sugar, 1/2 Cup sweet almond oil, 4 tsps lemon juice, 4 Tblspns honey and 4 drops lemon essential oil.
Directions: Combine the sugar and sweet almond oil in a large bowl and stir well to combine. Add the lemon juice and stire again. Finally add the honey and lemon essential oil and stir again to mix. Use this scrub to gently exfoliate your skin!

LEMON TONER
Ingredients: 1/2 Cup lemon juice, 1 Cup distilled water and 2/3 Cup witch hazel
Directions: Combine all ingredients in glass measuring cup and mix well. Pour into a clean bottle and shake well before each use. Apply with a cotton ball or soft cloth.

PEACH TIGHTENING FACIAL MASK
Ingredients: 1 ripe peach (peeled and pitted), 1 egg white.
Directions: Whip peach and egg white together in a blender until smooth. Gently pat mixture over face. Leave on for 30 minutes. Rinse off with cool water.

EFFERVESCENT AROMATIC BATH POWDER
Ingredients: 1 Cup baking soda, 1/2 Cup citric acid, 1/2 Cup cornstarch, 2 tsp. fragrance or essential oil, 3-4 drops food coloring (optional)
Directions: Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. Store in an air tight canister. To use, sprinkle 2 Tblspns into warm bath water to dissolve and active the "fizzy" aromatherapy.

If you really don't have the patience (believe me, I understand!) to make all of these yourself, tomorrow I will be addressing where to (a) buy inexpensive versions of pre-made spa treatment goodies and (b) where to go to have someone give you that treatment or massage but at a fraction of the usual cost. So...take a deep breath.........now exhale...more tomorrow!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Picture Perfect!



Mother's Day seems a logical time to discuss inexpensive and easy ways to scrapbook and create professional-looking photo albums. I have boxes and shelves of scrapbooking paraphernalia but never have enough time to work on all of the photos collected over the years. I have the past few years covered pretty well and both kids' births...that leaves a lot of time (oh, say about 15 years in total) in between!

Given my general lack of creative ideas for these projects, I tend to stop after doing one or two pages...so I was pleased to find I could do these projects online with my digital photos and my finished product looked great! The cost involved isn't really prohibitive when you consider that you don't have to buy the "doo-dads" and paper and put all the time into it...yet you still get to add your personal touches!

My favorite so far is Shutterfly - they run frequent deals to those who sign up on the site (no membership fee required) and offer photo gift items as well as photo books. Other sites include Snapfish (they have a special background for books that if you order a book with it, 50% of the proceeds go to fight women's cancers), Kodak (there's a big surprise!), American Greetings PhotoWorks, Walgreens (cheapest by far pricewise and quickest delivery!).

Check these out at the following websites:

www.shutterfly.com
www.snapfish.com
www.kodakgallery.com
www.photoworks.com
www.photo1.walgreens.com

Let me know what you think...if you have any great pages we can post send them to me at HBEdm@aol.com and I will show them off for you!

Friday, May 8, 2009

CHOCOLATE!!! (Now that I have your attention...)





Here is a great offer for free chocolate...you have to be quick; believe it or not the coupons go quickly...Let's hear it for chocolate (and the weekend!)


www.Realchocolate.com is a website created by Mars Snackfood US, where you can get a free* Real Chocolate coupon for your favorite Mars product. This program is called Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act, which is dedicated to bringing sweet smiles to millions of Americans via free samples of Mars candy products, including M&M'S, SNICKERS, TWIX, 3 MUSKETEERS, MILKY WAY and DOVE!

Limit: 250,000 Coupons per Friday through September (9:00:00AM ET to 11:59:59PM ET).

A side of savings with that debit please!



Ah, TGIF! I have reached the end of a rather light week of blogging...my apologies, but I hope you still got some valuable insights from my rantings regardless! This is a very brief entry, but something I sadly neglected to include in my saving change in banks commentary a couple of weeks ago!

While it is great to put coins in a bank, the real banks obviously offer quick saving solutions as well. One option if you have a direct deposit of you paycheck to your checking is to split that direct deposit and automatically deposit a percentage of each check into a savings account. It's still available if you need it but set aside for the most part!

I can't speak for other banks, but I conduct most of my banking at Bank of America and the have a "save the change" program. For each debit card purchase I make, they round the amount to the next dollar and put the difference into my savings account. Provided you remember to mark these slight differentiations out of your check register, it is a quick and nearly painless means of adding to your savings...check it out (again, no pun really intended...but it works doesn't it?!).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Library Resources Provide Endless Opportunities!



I have always been a reader...I love to read everything from history to science fiction to light romantic comedy to biographies to true crime...well, you get the idea! Pretty much anything I can get my hands on. So it is not surprising that I've always gravitated to our local library wherever we have lived. Through the years though, I've found that our public libraries offer so much more and all of it free!

Some of the resources that we have (and many of which I use):

* Free internet (and separate terminals for kids to play educational games on and access sites such as Playhouse Disney, Sesame Street, NationalGeographic.comKids and PBS)

* A huge selection of DVDs - I seldom need to pay for movie rentals as I can get a wide variety for free and can keep them for 7 days (sometimes can even renew them!) And our branch seems to get the newest releases almost as quickly as the video rental stores.

* Also a large collection of CDs - I am loving this with my iPod!

* Another section provides shelf after shelf of books on tape and/or CD - great for taking on long walks or drives.

* We have a used book sale corner where you can purchase for $1 or less books, DVDs, CDs and books on tape/CD...the selection changes daily as other donations are received and the money all goes to support the library programs.

* There is a Teen Club at our branch (and many others in the metro area). They have speakers, tutoring for SAT exams, movie nights, Guitar Hero and DDR (dance game for those not familiar with it) tournaments and lots of other activities. They also have a teen blog/website.


* The library offers college scholarships for high school seniors (who have volunteered at the libary) pay for their books freshman year in college. I am proud
that my son earned one of these a couple of years ago!

* Twice a year, the Friends of the Library group holds a much larger used book sale - prices are amazing and it's a great way to stock up for vacations (I like to buy cheap paperbacks to take on flights - then I don't feel bad about leaving them behind so I don't have to cart them back with me on the return trip!)

* Free Wi-Fi access

* Programs to teach seniors computer skills

* Databases for anything and everything such as
- Free tutorials for English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian and German
- Free practice exams for a wide variety of career training and academic testing
- Free "how to" info and manuals for vehicle and electronics repairs
- (my favorite!) Free access to Hoovers.com to get information on businesses

* Homework help for kids onlne

* Downloadable media - eBooks, videos and audiobooks!

And my 2 absolute favorite resources...

* You can create an online personal library account using your library card number. Once on the website, you can create "bookshelves" and track books you want to read, what you have read, and so on...I love this! It also allows you to place up to three holds on items you want to check out and tells you how far out in the queue you are to get those items. I used to buy bestsellers because I wanted to read them right away...but now I keep a close eye on upcoming releases on the Borders.com and BarnesandNoble.com websites. I put the ones I want on hold right away with the library and often get them within a week or two of their release dates!

* Our library has started something new within the past couple of months...it's called the Culture Pass and it is a great benefit in the current economy! Up to 2 times per month you can check out one of these passes at your branch (a set number for each cultural pastime is put on the rack at each branch every morning). You pick one and check it out at the desk where you receive a receipt good for 7 days from the date of checkout. This receipt allows a group of four to have free admission to that location. The options include the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Art Museum , the Children's Museum of Phoenix, the Arizona Museum of Natural History, the Arizona Science Center and 6 other museums in the Phoenix metro area. What an amazing deal!

And Phoenix is by no means alone in these amazing library offers. The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System provides a great selection of resources under the heading on its website of "Coping With Hard Times." The related resources include career information, entrepreneur information, foreclosure information, financial assistance contact information as well as nearly a dozen job search links plus one link to a site entitled "Damn Good Resumes"!

Likewise, the Seattle Public Library has some interesting resources including a resume builder online, 24/7 librarian assistance by phone or e-mail and even more language tutorials such as Russian, Vietnamese and Chinese.

And, I repeat, these are free resources, so use them! For additional information, check out: www.ilovelibraries.org

Did I miss any that you have in your area? Let us know!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's all Greek to me, but it fit the budget!




Ah, the joy of finding an inexpensive pastime on a partly sunny yet not scorching day in Arizona! I wanted to give you a taste of the types of entertainment that can be found for little or no money...so today I am giving you a review of the Greek Festival at Tempe Town Lake. My sister cajoled me into going (ok...it didn't take a lot of arm-twisting...I have cabin-fever with no job and a very strict budget!).

The festival opened Fri. May 1st, and we were correct in assuming that it wouldn't be crowded around noon on the opening day...that, in fact, is a gross understatement...there were people there but hardly anything close to a crowd. The actual entertainment wasn't scheduled to begin until 5:30 that evening; but there was a fairly steady stream of Greek music over the speaker system.

We were pleased to find that the $2/adult entry fee was not being collected in the early hours of the festival...apparently too much setting up going on and they hadn't gotten to that yet! Free always makes everything seem better!

The food selection was definitely Greek - lamb (legs and all!) roasting on a spit on the grill, pastries and breads, gyros and my favorite, spanakopita (Greek spinach pie). We sampled the lamb and the spanakopita as well as Greek beer and wine. To our dismay, the sponsor being Budweiser, most of the beverage selections were American, German or Australian (in the case of the wine)...oh well...

We wandered through the vendors' tents in search of amazing finds. There were some beautiful jewelry pieces and some lovely clothing, but also the touristy sort of "Kiss me, I'm Greek" t-shirts and souvenir types of gifts. And don't forget the ever-popular foam visors with "Greek" or "I love Greece" spelled out on them in foam stick-on letters! To each their own...!

Overall, though, the price was right and it was something different to do on a lazy day off (oops...that's right...all of my days are "days off"! - hoping to remedy that as you read this as I am off to interview!).

Any exciting events in your area?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

eCommerce: The Downside




So, having discussed price issues on Sunday, I ran across some humorous video clips at http://www.getelastic.com/crazy-ecommerce/

We have yet to discuss the pros and cons of shopping online, but these clips are very funny; what if purchasing in-person had the same downsides as buying online (i.e. too much information)? While I pack my bags to go "on the road again", check the one, I've included here (and go to the site if you crave more).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Charity starts at home...(and in school!)





OK...I am just a shameless bum this week, but hey, I have a really big job interview so bear with me. I can't save money if I don't earn any! When I wrote my blog on charitable giving when you really can't afford it, I inadvertently left out another great organization! Check out www.DonorsChoose.org to make donations to educational projects of your choice in your school district or even another one.

And, why you ask, did I suddenly remember this site? Well, I've donated on it in the past, but as I am on their email list, I also received an early birthday card with the following write-up (also had a cute birthday cake on it, but didn't know how to move it from e-mail into my blog...oh well!):


"IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY!

Okay, maybe it's not just yet. No matter the date, we hope you'll ask for the best gift of all from your friends and family: help for public school kids.

To join The "Give-Back" Birthday Party:

Create your very own Giving Page, filled with classroom projects you love. Takes 1 minute.


Share your page with friends and family. They can then donate to it as your birthday gift.


Celebrate! You've used your special day to give back, and that's a great reason to party.

Please consider donating your birthday today, even if it's a few months away. It's your birthday and you'll start celebrating if you want to!"

So please check out this great site...there's a lot of kids and teachers that will be glad you did!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Grocery Shopping and the Price Patrol


OK, it's Sunday...and I am taking advantage of every second of relaxation today. That includes having a conspicuously short blog today!

Back on April 19th, I wrote about using the grocery store's weekly circulars to plan my shopping to get the best deals. I will address coupon clipping and bulk shopping (i.e. at Costco, etc.) on another day, but have one note to keep in the back of your mind when you are shopping. I would also like to hear your experiences with this if you have any to share.

In many (not sure if all) states, there are laws related to grocery store pricing. If a store mismarks a price, they must honor the price marked if it is lower than what the price is supposed to be. If the price is higher than what it is supposed to be (and you can tell by other packages of the same product), then they need to put the correct price on the package and give it to you at that price.

I shopped at our local Safeway about a week ago - I find their meat and produce to be better than other stores in the area so I will look there first unless a sale pulls me into another chain! This particular trip I was shopping for London Broil - good grilling season here in AZ! To my surprise, I found that every single London Broil in the case was priced at $0.00! I have my ethical limits...I did report it to the Meat Dept. Manager so he could reprice most of them, except the 2 I held tightly clutched in my clammy, price-sensitive little hands! He agreed I should be able to get them both for free when I checked out.

I took my prizes along with a cart of groceries straight to the checkout (I didn't just go for free meat...I actually did some other shopping and I am a "regular" there too). The checker was confused and said she needed to check with a manager because she didn't know how to ring the meat up to keep inventory straight. OK, I'm a sporting sort...free meat is certainly worth a delay of this sort. The manager, however, informed me I had to pay full price for the meat and that he would relabel them. I questioned the legality of this (ok, so I didn't have a law book on me, but geez...I shop there a LOT!). No such luck...in fact, he went so far as to loudly suggest that Safeway is not in the business of giving food away! Rude and unfair...so, ever gracious (not!)I suggested he could also keep the basket of groceries I had not yet paid for and I would go shop across the street at Fry's. Oh well, win some, lose some. I will still shop Safeway for a publicized good deal or when I need just a few more United Frequent Flyer miles that I earn on purchases there. But as for meat...I'm out of there!

In writing this, I decided to do a little research and see what others had to offer on the subject (both types of mispricing - too high or too low). If you are interested, here are a few to cut & paste into your browser!

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2006/08/31/chat_with_freebie_shopper_alana_lipkin
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/565020

http://archive.tivocommunity.com/tivo.vb/history/topic/134672-1.html

Maybe I should add this to the blog as a survey...hmmm! How would you handle these situations? Now...off to relax!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Shop 'N Save



Since I covered shopping at garage sales yesterday, now is probably an appropriate time to cover other inexpensive shopping options. We will start from the cheapest and move on up the scale (get it? upscale? yeah, never mind! That's why I don't have a comedy blog!)

GOODWILL

Goodwill is sort of like one huge garage sale under one really big roof! Merchandise runs the gamut from furniture to books and movies to jewelry to clothing...the list is endless because it simply depends on what people donate. We are in a yuppie-type neighborhood (ok, aging yuppies with kids and minivans), so our one-year old Goodwill store is set up to attract this market; a coffee area, fairly nice dressing rooms, a playroom for kids to wait for their parents in, and several checkout lines (you can even purchase Goodwill gift cards - no kidding!).

You need to be selective when shopping at Goodwill. Since garage sales are so popular in our area, a lot of the merchandise consists of items donated that didn't sell the first or second time around at those sales! On the other hand, there are lots of people who don't want to bother with garage sales and have their items picked up or drop them off to get the tax writeoff. That's the really good stuff! :)

I use Goodwill intermittently, usually when I am looking for something specific. I have found some good DVD deals (check for obvious scratches first) and frames (particularly large frames even if the paintings are awful!). Occasionally I find jeans that are perfect for me, though admittedly the clothing there often tends to be out-of-date (if it isn't, it disappears quickly or isn't my size). It is also a great place to get items to pull together as a Halloween costume...and remember that casino party from my earlier summer party blog? Well that's where I found bags of poker chips for next to nothing.

Finally, Goodwill often will have 50% off sales - ours is the first Saturday of every month. Those are even better times to catch a deal, BUT it gets really crowded so it's not much fun - only recommend that if you have a definite item you are looking for!

There are also a variety of other thrift stores you should take a look at. SAVERS is a popular chain - similar to Goodwill though there tends to be less stock from what I've seen (though I may have hit on "off" days).

CONSIGNMENT SHOPS

Consignment shops are a great deal if you can find one that carries the type of merchandise you (a) would want to buy yourself and (b) you have loads of at home that you want to get rid of! You sign up with a shop and at specific times (usually on a preset dropoff schedule) you can put your items on consignment there. You can earn money or store credit (typically store credit issued is more than the actual cash you would walk away with).

We have a number of these near us. TRANSTYLE specializes in high-end and designer fashions (with some jewelry, shoes and, yes, even a little furniture and artwork thrown in). It is well-arranged by season, size and so on...fun to shop at though not as cheap as Goodwill or a garage sale. But the items are clean and high-quality - that's a big plus!

There are also consignment stores that offer primarily furniture and others that specialize in children's clothing and accessories. I frequented the kids' consignment stores when mine were little - great option given how quickly they outgrow the really cute stuff!

ROSS

My sister is probably the best customer Ross has! She swears by that store and it's not hard to see why! They have a great selection for everyone (my daughter loves the purses!) in both designer and non-designer labels. They carry perfume, toys, frames and knick-knacks, home goods (towels and sheet sets, dishes, etc.) and even some occasional specialty food items (olive oil, biscotti, things along that line). The selection varies by day and, not unlike Goodwill or consignment shops, you still need to take a good long look at what you are buying. The prices are great and the names are familiar, but there are reasons this stock ends up at Ross instead of Nordstrom or Forever21! Look at merchandise for stains, rips, broken zippers/clasps, missing buttons, broken pieces, etc...Generally you will get a great deal but take the time to ensure that you are getting what you want and that the quality is acceptable!

TARGET

OK - even on a budget, I can usually afford Target. They offer a wide selection of anything I would need - clothes, jewelry, certain grocery items, craft supplies (but that's another article!), electronics, some basic furniture, cleaning supplies and the list stretches on (as do my dollars!). I also love their dollar bin selections -great for prizes, Easter baskets, Christmas stockings and frequently for scrapbook accessories. The service is great and I walk out feeling like I got a great deal plus an actual shopping experience (I don't get that "experience" feeling when I have to check my clothing purchases for stains, ok?)


So those are four of my favorite places to shop for deals (in order of pricing lowest to highest - ultimately, Target is my favorite from this list). There are others that we love too...IKEA is great, but didn't fall into the clothing topic so I didn't put it on the list. And, NO, I refuse to include Walmart on my list...can't stand the shopping experience and dislike the vast majority of their clothing lines...but if you can deal with that part, admittedly their price is right).

Any others to recommend? Post your comments and let us know!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Let's Make a Deal: Garage Sale Shopping



So about 2 weeks ago, I gave you guidelines to running a successful garage sale. Tomorrow, being a Saturday and a perfect day to test your skills, I am giving you some ideas for shopping at garage (or yard or tag) sales. There are whole sites out in the "blogosphere" devoted to just this so look for other advice too (and please post your own suggestions here)!

Here is a list of some of the things I've picked up on over the years:

* Plan where you will be going to garage sales - I don't always remember to check the local paper for pending sales; rather I generally pick a middle to upper middle class neighborhood (yeah, harder to define that these days!)and look for garage sale signs. These are areas where they will have clothing, furniture, etc. that is what I might select myself at a store so my finds are already more likely to be a good deal for me.

* If you are looking for a specific item, i.e. a dresser, go out early - be at the sales at 7AM which is when most of them will be set up and open. (In these cases, it is also good to check the ads to see who is going to be selling those items.) I am not one of those garage sale junkies that is waiting on your driveway when you stumble out in a robe and pre-coffee to set up! But being there at the published opening time is fair game!

* When just cruising around looking for good sales, I am a sucker for the really good signs...those that are bright and with clear directions toward the sale (good arrows, not necessarily a map :) These people have taken it seriously and probably spent time setting up the sale...a piece of paper tacked to a tree - nope, maybe I will check it out but AFTER I check out the ones with the "real" signs!

* Don't be shy about negotiating on prices. First, those that DO know how to price items are smart enough to price higher than what they really expect to sell them for. Those that DON'T know how to price the items are generally happy to take whatever someone suggests (as long as it is reasonable). A few notes: (a) On large-ticket items -- furniture, gym equipment, artwork -- offer about 25% - 33% less than what they are asking. Be willing to go up a bit if they go down a bit. If you don't want to pay their "final" offer, be willing to walk away; often they will give in at that point! (b) Don't be stingy - if books are priced at 50 cents, don't push it...save the effort for the big stuff. But if you are buying a LOT of the small stuff, it isn't tacky to ask for a bulk discount - i.e. if you are buying 20 books, ask if they will give you a little off the total. (c) Remember that these are items you have managed to live without and that are second-hand; if you don't get the price you are willing to pay, then go to the next sale and don't look back! This is supposed to be a fun way to get a great deal. When it stops being fun or inexpensive, it's not worth it!

* Be careful when buying electronics at garage sales. You can't just ask "does it work?" because it may work, but may be missing the remote. Or it may work "most of the time." Always ask to test these items while at the sale. This is also true for battery-operated items; if the seller says they work, but "just need batteries," then ask him/her to show you with their own batteries. If they can't do this, unless the deal is amazing and worth taking a chance on, continue shopping (elsewhere)!

* Before you get too excited over the perfect dining set you find, be aware that you most likely will have to transport it home. Do you have a way to get this from the sale to your home? If not, think again! You potentially can pay in advance (or at least a deposit) for them to hold it for you while you go get your best friend (the one with the big truck!) out of bed at 7:30AM to lug the thing home. But if you don't know the seller, don't know if you will be able to get it home for sure, etc...reconsider your need for the item.

* Clothing purchases at a garage sale can be a deal, but a few recommendations: (a) know the sizes you are looking for - you can't try them on and even if you can, you don't really want to go in a stranger's house to try on clothes! (b) always wash or dryclean the items before you use them (same with quilts, draperies, etc.) (c) check them carefully for rips, holes, broken zippers, missing buttons, stains, etc...it's not like there is a return policy on used clothing!

* Cash is the best way to make purchases at garage sales. Carry it in smaller bills and change and take one $20 along to place as a deposit on a large item (you can always go to an ATM to get the rest quickly). Most sellers are reluctant to take checks, and honestly, I don't like them having any of my personal information off of my checks!

Any great suggestions of your own? Go get 'em!