Your Money: Rising Costs for Fall

20 Aug

If it seems like everything on your shopping list is getting more expensive, you’re probably right! At the beginning of barbecue season (cruel timing), beef and pork prices were at all-time highs. Now, chicken is rising in cost as are breakfast staples like coffee and bacon. And if that’s not painful enough, chocolate now costs more now than it did earlier this year. I chat about the reasons behind these price hikes plus ways to reduce their sting with Good Day Colorado’s Kirk Yuhnke. PS: Enjoy my eyelids. You see a lot of them in this segment. You’re welcome!

Money, Manners & Wedding Gifts

11 Aug

Photo by Caitlin Regan via Flickr

Photo by Caitlin Regan via Flickr

 

I saw a media request today asking for expert advice on how much people should spend on wedding gifts. For some reason, it set off a bit of a rant inside my head about how ridiculous it is to ask someone else how much you should spend on a wedding gift.

In fact, I’m weary of any “etiquette rules” that involve money, since finances are so personal and the amount someone can spend on anything depends on his or her circumstances. The idea that some outside source determines what amount is okay for you to spend based on societal expectations is absolutely ludicrous in my opinion. If Miss Manners is truly concerned about this, she’d be aghast to learn I bargain shopped for wedding gifts this weekend and actually told the recipient how much I saved.

My second cousin eloped in April but is still planning on a wedding-like celebration in September. I’ll be beachside at that time and won’t be attending, so I looked up her registry to see what gifts fit my budget. Typically, I try to keep wedding and baby gifts under $50. Exceptions are made when I feel like making them, and aren’t based on any predetermined list of factors, like how closely related I am to the recipient, or how much the recipient recently spent on me.

With this budget in mind, I found a knife block set for $55.99 on her Target registry. I searched for the exact set online and found it on Amazon…for a little over $32. That’s $23 I don’t need to spend on something she wants. Plus, getting this rate enabled me to gift her with a set of stainless steel measuring spoons that are a staple in my kitchen. Together, my total cost was $45.

Since I bought off-registry, I contacted my cousin immediately and told her to remove the items I’d purchased from her list so she wouldn’t end up with duplicates. She was impressed by my savings and pleased to be receiving her gifts soon.

As the brilliant Erin Lowry once said (in a US News & World Report article about weddings, no less), Miss Manners may disagree with my approach, but she’s not the one footing the bill.

What do you think? Do you consider etiquette when budgeting for a gift?

Save on Airfare: Book Separately

31 Jul

"Window Seat" by Kevin Gong via Flickr

“Window Seat” by Kevin Gong via Flickr

 

I’m a big fan of travel. I love exploring new places and trying local cuisine. Naturally, my budding affair with travel begins right when the airline industry is nickel-and-diming passengers for every service. Since I’m not a travel hacker (though you people get mad props from me), I take more traditional routes to save money.

For example, I’ve learned to suck it up and take the first or last flight of the day to score the lowest fare. I diligently book my flight around 1pm on Tuesday, the rumored best time to buy tickets. I’ve also learned to pack like a pro to avoid checked bag fees, and I skip the markup on airport snacks and drinks by bringing my own.

Despite my knowledge and experience in this area, I’m continually learning new tricks to save money. Recently, my husband and I were presented with the opportunity to visit Kauai for relatively cheap in September. We jumped at the chance and started researching flight prices this past week. Initially, I searched for two tickets to Kauai, and shared the per-person rate with my husband. He told me the rate was significantly less per ticket if you search for the fares independently.

Whaaaa???

Sure enough, the per-person rate was over $100 less when I searched for separate flights. I ran a few tests on other airlines with other flights, but I didn’t find the same phenomenon. Regardless, this represents one more step I’ll take on all forthcoming trips to ensure I’m getting the absolute best rate.

Originally, we planned to book the same flight out as our friends, but then decided to go with the first flight of the day since it represents a $130 savings. Hanging out in airports isn’t my favorite thing, but we basically covered the cost of our rental car by flying out early and booking separately. I call that a win in my book.

What tips or tricks do you use to save on airfare?

Your Money: Save on July 4th BBQs

2 Jul

July 4th is one of my favorite holidays because I always spend it with my extended family in Southern California. My grandma is 92 years old and still going strong, and one of her biggest pleasures is hosting a family reunion over the 4th. Before hopping on a place, I had to share my tips for saving on July 4th essentials with the awesome Good Day Colorado team!

You better believe I’m bringing those cute printables with me to Cali! Click here for a link to the roundup I talked about — http://www.inkjetwilly.com/blog/4th-of-july-printables/

How are you spending the July 4th weekend?

5 Uses for Leftover Paint Samples

1 Jul

Photo by John Loo via Flickr

Photo by John Loo via Flickr

 

Inspired by L. Bee’s beautiful living room and dining room, I purchased six samples of paint this past weekend to test out on my own living quarters. I’ve been living with Classic Taupe for several  years now, and while it works well with my chocolate and burnt orange accent walls, I confess I’m over the year-round autumn look of my abode and am ready for something fresh and modern. Having just installed wood floors, I think a warm gray will make for a great neutral. I’m a very visual person and seeing Lauren’s paint job really inspired me to get moving.

After bringing everything home, I realized I may have gone a little overboard. I spent $20 on six samples of paint, all of which were very close in color. (I guess six shades of gray isn’t as bad as 50? Sorry, had to go there.) The Valspar and Benjamin Moore samples come in pints, and I seem to be gravitating toward the Behr samples which are much smaller. So what to do with all this leftover paint? Here are some ideas I discovered on the Interwebs.

Home Decor
Naturally, Martha Stewart has lots of fun ideas for using up sample paint. I think numbers 1, 3 and 7 are my favorites in this slideshow of 9 ideas.

Doors & Shutters
More inspiration from L. Bee’s Starter Home Diaries (now part of her awesome blog L. Bee & the Money Tree). She enhanced her home’s curb appeal by painting her door with unused Benjamin Moore sample paint. She plans to paint the shutters, too, which I think will really make her darling home pop!

Furniture
This roundup of ideas from HomeRehabOnline got me thinking about a wooden chair I once tried to paint when I was pretty young and still living with my parents. I got as far as the primer or sealant and it’s had a washed-out look ever since (and not in a good way). Perhaps it will look better in gray…

Abstract Art
I’ll definitely have to be “in a mood” to do this one, but creating abstract art is an interesting idea. There’s a piece of art in the yoga studio I used to attend that I really loved — just horizontal lines of color in soothing tones that reminded me of the beach. Methinks some of the bluer-toned grays would do well in a piece like this.

Base Coat
Big thanks to DIY Life for this practical application of sample paint (and likely one I can do immediately). In addition to the main living area, I’d also like to pick new paint colors for my accent walls. I’ll have to cover up the rich chocolate and burnt orange with a base coat before I apply the new color, and my light-colored gray samples will work well for this purpose. They won’t go very far but at least I can use them up!

What are some of your ideas for using leftover paint samples?

8 Things You Should Avoid Paying Money For

26 Jun

Photo by Ryan Harvey via Flickr

Photo by Ryan Harvey via Flickr

 

The economy is recovering, but probably not at the rate you’d like. If you’ve got outstanding debts, anemic investments, and difficulties getting your monthly bills paid, your personal finances could likely benefit from a few freebies. We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch – unless it’s your birthday, of course – but there are definitely more than a few ways to get the things you need without having to pay for them.

1. Printer Paper
Office supply retailers with rewards programs sometimes run specials on computer paper. If you pay the full purchase price up front, you can get that money back in the form of a rewards certificate. Much of the time these deals only apply to a pack of paper, but occasionally you can get an entire case for free. Just be sure to use your certificate before it expires.

2. Batteries
If you have kids, you probably spend a lot on batteries, especially around the holidays. The same retailers mentioned above also offer batteries for free at select times throughout the year. Keep your eye out for specials and stock up – just note that the majority of programs limit you to two packs of either AA or AAA batteries per promotion.

3. Back to School and Office Supplies
Right around back-to-school time, office supply retailers also offer a wide variety of free supplies under the same program – just purchase the items you need and get that amount back (minus sales tax) in the form of a rewards certificate. Last fall, I got over $600 worth of school supplies for free, including Scotch tape, staplers, file folders, address labels, storage boxes, pens, pencils, and Post-it Notes during that promotion. And if there’s an item featured for free that you already have, snag it and store it for future use.

4. Select Computer Software Titles
Computer software can be pricey. If you need some programs but don’t want to pay out the nose to get them, check out the websites FileHippo and FreewareFiles and look for free computer software downloads. Generally, you can find programs for anti-virus protection, video conversion, and CD and DVD creation.

5. House Cleaning
Still paying for a housekeeping service? Keep that money in your wallet and clean your house yourself instead. If you don’t think you have the time, try cutting back on your social media surfing and clicking off the TV once a week. You’d be surprised how much you can get done.

Editor’s note: A friend of mine taught me a trick to keeping the house clean — do one thing every night. Whether it’s cleaning the bathrooms, straightening your bedroom or dusting the community living areas, doing one task a night is more manageable than doing it all at once.

6. Minor Car Maintenance
You can complete plenty of minor car maintenance tasks on your own, even if you’re not mechanically inclined. For things like spark plug replacement, installing a new air filter, or replacing windshield wipers, visit the professionals at your local auto parts store and pick up some free how-to tips. Or, check out YouTube videos – just about every car maintenance task you can think of is covered.

7. Food On Your Birthday
Tons of restaurants offer free food on your birthday. Investigate the websites of your favorite eateries for more information – if you sign up for email newsletters you generally get a coupon for free grub when your birthday rolls around. Subway, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and Perkin’s all have these programs.

Editor’s note: I love birthday freebies! My personal favorite is the Starbucks drink freebie, but I’ve also received free dessert at restaurants and discounts of $5 to $15 off items at my favorite stores. For a comprehensive list of birthday freebies, as well as links to sign up for newsletters and e-clubs, check out Coupon Sherpa’s birthday coupons page.

8. eBooks
Got an e-reader? There are plenty of websites out there offering free ebook downloads, including Project Gutenberg and KoboBooks. Take advantage of them. Also, if you’re an Amazon Prime member you can rent many ebooks for free.

For anything else you might need in life – whether it’s a computer printer, sofa, refrigerator, or any other item – check out Craigslist and the Freecycle website. Freecycle offers just about anything under the sun and Craigslist has a “Free” tab that can lead you to great finds, as well. You have to make arrangements to pick up these items yourself, but it’s well worth the effort.

What items do you know of that you shouldn’t be paying money for?

This is a guest post from MoneyCrashers written by Jason Moran, a frugal saver who shares his tips for saving more and getting the most value out of everyday purchases.  

Your Money: Cheap Date Ideas

18 Jun

I think dating is far more accessible during the summer, not to mention much cheaper. While the cold, gray days of winter keep dating activities restricted to indoor venues like restaurants and movie theaters, warm weather opens up a host of opportunities for canoodling on the cheap. I came up with several frugal summer date ideas which I shared with anchor Kirk Yuhnke during this morning’s Good Day Colorado broadcast.

What’s your favorite frugal summer date activity?

Decluttering for Sanity & Savings

11 Jun

Photo by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Photo by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

 

I have a love-hate relationship with decluttering. For the most part, I find it cathartic and rewarding since cleaning out my space helps me breathe better and think more clearly. On the other hand, it seems to be a never-ending process due in part to my shameless consumerism. For every item I get rid of, another one seems to take its place within a few months.

It’s for this reason that J. Money’s recent post highlighting his decluttering trick really resonates with me. Asking “Would I buy this again?” removes all other considerations and elicits an immediate “yes” or “no,” making the decision to keep or donate much easier. As a serial declutterer (not a word, I know), I’m always looking for new ways to amp up my cleaning routine. In addition to J’s sound advice, I discovered another strategy earlier this week.

Ultimately, my husband would like to own a bit of land and have a small home on the property. This is a BHAG and definitely not something we’re seriously considering right now, but it did get me thinking about the process of selling a home. It’s a big pain to be sure, but it’s a pretty awesome exercise in decluttering. Faced with the prospect of moving, items are suddenly stripped of their sentimental value and evaluated purely on the ease in which they can be transported and setup in a new space. This discerning eye doesn’t extend to the truly meaningful stuff like family photos and heirlooms, but that weird oil painting you purchased a lifetime ago (looking at you, J!)? Yeah, that one’s not making the cut.

So, another question might be, would you bring it with you if you moved? The more stuff you move, the more money it costs, and the more time it takes to get unloaded and moved into your new place. Knowing this, many of us host epic yard sales and sell or donate as much unnecessary crap as possible just to avoid the expense and hardship of having to move it.

After making this revelation, I looked at my space with fresh eyes. If I were to move today, what would I bring with me? Better yet, if I were to show my home today to prospective buyers, what items might they perceive as clutter? This gets complicated since most experts suggest you de-personalize your space so home buyers can see themselves in your house. However, I was amazed by how quickly my perception of my home changed using this approach. Suddenly, certain things stood out as just taking up space, and the desire to purge my home of them was overwhelming. I’ll have to do it in steps, otherwise my husband will come home to an empty space and a crazed, clutter-slaying wife.

How do you approach decluttering?

How to Get Fit Like Fido

3 Jun

According to the nice folks at DogVacay, this week is Pet Appreciation Week. DogVacay helps you find other pet owners willing to care for your dog(s) in their home while you’re away, representing a great alternative to kenneling. My parents are built-in dog sitters but I’ve always been a big fan of DogVacay, both from the user and the sitter perspective! It’s hugely comforting to know your dog is in good hands, plus what better way to make extra cash than hanging out with a cool canine for a few days?

In addition to alerting me to this week’s significance, DogVacay shared this infographic offering ways to mix up your workout routine with moves inspired by your dog. As an avid yoga practitioner, I’m familiar with my dogs’ intrinsic ability to rock upward and downward dog postures. They like to help me do yoga in the mornings by sitting on my legs, obstructing my mat, licking my face and otherwise distracting the zen out of me. But I love it!

Check out this fun routine created by Julia Chan, a Certified Fitness Trainer and Registered Yoga Instructor.

 Get_Fit_Like_Fido-big

Disclaimer: DogVacay did not compensate me for this post. They just gave me some writing inspiration!

How to Smell Pretty for Less

29 May

Photo by Dottie Mae via Flickr

Photo by Dottie Mae via Flickr

My idea of a splurge is typically food-oriented. Every time my BFF visits from Vegas, I pick her up from the airport and we head to a fine-dining establishment for three hours of culinary bliss. When I’m out shopping with my mom, we typically visit our favorite froyo joint (Groupon or coupon in hand, of course) and enjoy several spoonfuls of fruit-topped goodness. And when my husband and I go on dates, we typically opt for lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant.

Given this theme of gastronomical indulgence, I surprised myself recently when I splurged on something non-food related. It’s also something I thought I’d never purchase again: designer fragrance.

I’m not much of a perfume girl. I dabbled in Clinique Happy when I was younger and until recently was satisfied with cheap Bath & Body Works fragrance mists. Despite a few attempts, I never found the right fragrance and was always looking for one by Yves St. Laurent that I thought was discontinued. It was given to me by my BFF in high school and since then, it’s been my standard against which all other scents are judged.

After a coworker walked by wearing a yummy scent, I decided to do a quick search to see if I could find my beloved fragrance. In less than 10 minutes, a 3.3 oz. bottle of Paris Babydoll was en route. I was stoked to find it on FragranceX for less than $40. While it’s still ripoff, it’s a worthy one: I smile when I see its diamond-shaped container on my counter and inhale deeply when I apply it to my skin. Totally worth the $39 in my opinion.

Since I know I’m not alone in my obsession with a favorite fragrance, I thought I’d round up a few tips for saving on this pricey indulgence.

Get Free Samples
Money expert Andrea Woroch laughed when I told her about my impulse buy. She told me she never pays for fragrance since you can get deluxe samples free when you order from Sephora. Since she gets much of her cosmetics there, she hasn’t paid for fragrance in years. These samples last forever and allow you the opportunity to mix things up when you feel so inclined. Well played, Andrea.

Avoid Holidays
The worst times to buy fragrance are when women apparently expect to receive them as gifts: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas. Since they’re an easy gift, retailers don’t put them on sale but instead offload less desirable products in sets to make you feel like you’re getting a good deal. In fact, most “gift sets” feature smaller eau de toilette containers along with lotions or body washes in the same scent.

Shop the Warehouse
In addition to economy-sized olive oil and toilet paper, you can find perfume at warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club for much less than retail. For example, a 3.3 oz bottle of Elizabeth Arden Red Door for women is priced at $68 at Macy’s, while you can pick up the same bottle from Sam’s Club for $35. The savings varies by brand: a 3.4 oz bottle of DKNY Pure is sold at Sephora for $85, while Sam’s Club offers it for $69.

Go Online
There are a ton of discount fragrance websites out there and I certainly haven’t explored them all. However, my latest purchase was from FragranceX and I enjoyed my experience with them. Checkout via Paypal made my impulse buy all the more seamless (not sure if that’s a good thing), plus they offered free two-day shipping. After reading reviews on my fragrance to ensure it was legit, I learned from several commenters that the site offers other scents currently unavailable in stores.

Shop Discounts
Ross, TJMaxx and Marshall’s all sell heavily-discounted designer fragrance. You’ll still pay $25 to $40 for a few ounces of product, but that’s half of what you’ll shell out over-the-counter at Macy’s. I’ve restocked my husband’s Calvin Klein Eternity from TJMaxx and always look for his mom’s fave: Beautiful by Estee Lauder.

Alright ladies, what other ways do you save on fragrance? (Cologne-loving gents are more than welcome to share their tips, too!)