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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Why Purchasing Retail is a Last Resort for Me

A great jacket at a great price!

Whenever I need something, a retail store is not the first place I turn to fill my need. For one reason, shopping retail is the most expensive way to acquire goods. Retail purchases use a significant portion of my hard earned income and don't provide a bigger enjoyment of the purchase over a similar item purchased at a thrift store, garage sale, or traded between friends. In fact, I would have to say that for me, finding what I need in a less conventional way is actually way more enjoyable and satisfying.

Here is a concrete example of my philosophy to turn to retail shopping as a last resort. My little boy needed a winter jacket this year. He is four-years-old, so it is unlikely that anything I buy him this year will be worn again next year.

I was shopping at a favorite thrift store for Halloween costumes, when I noticed a rack of very nice, good condition boys' winter jackets. I moseyed on over and began to look at the jackets. I found several in size four and examined each one carefully for condition. I chose one in a camouflage pattern that was priced at $3.99. Now I only need to add a hat and mittens to be ready for winter, if we actually have cold enough days to wear a winter jacket in central Texas this year!

 Just after I bought Liam's jacket, I had to go to Target to buy ink for my printer. This is an example of an item that I generally purchase retail (though I did have a $5.00 off storewide Target coupon to use that day). As I walked through the store I noticed boys' winter jackets on display and curious about what they cost, I moved closer to get a look at the price tag. Imagine my surprise to find that these jackets, which were not substantially different in construction or quality to the thrift store jacket I had just bought, were ten times more than what I paid at the thrift store!
Nice jacket, but not ten times nicer than my thrift store jacket!
This price is easy to absorb for
my limited budget. 
If I spend $39.99 on a winter jacket when I could spend $3.99, that removes $36.00 from my budget that I could use elsewhere. I could almost fill my gas tank twice for that amount of money. My family and I live on a small income and one of the primary reasons we can do so is that we look for the most inexpensive way to get what we need. The thrift store, clearance sales, and markdowns are my allies in my war on excess spending. Every dollar I don't spend on discretionary spending is released to my mandatory spending categories such as mortgage, electricity, water, insurance, and the like.

Can you say sticker shock? ;)
One of the reasons we live on a small budget is due to choice. My husband and I value lifestyle and time to enjoy our lives over the rat race of working a forty-hour week. We chose instead to build businesses that allow us to work for ourselves mainly from home and to spend time with our family.  We are working at earning a full-time income from our part-time efforts and are creating multiple streams of income that will allow us to work wherever we go, so long as we have our computers and a decent Internet connection.

If you have a good income and can afford to buy retail, I encourage you to give thrifting a try. The money you don't spend can go towards paying off your home or car early, saving for college, giving to charitable causes, or investing.

Buying secondhand also helps the environment by reusing and recycling items that would otherwise have ended up in the landfill. No matter what our income, we all need to be aware of how our purchases impact the world in which we all live.

Do you have a tight budget or live on a fixed income? How do you cover all your bases without exceeding your spending? Do you barter, shop garage sales, or thrift stores? Tell me all about it in the comments section!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Five Thrift Store Christmas Present Ideas for Preschoolers

Yep, this is a post about buying thrift store Christmas presents . . . posted at the beginning of October. If you want to have an affordable Christmas, you absolutely cannot wait until December to start buying gifts! There are lots of really nice new and nearly new items to be had for young children at thrift stores. You'll save a lot of money while still being able to get your child/children lovely items they will be thrilled to have.

Five Thrift Store Christmas Present Ideas for Preschoolers

1. Create a dress up box.        
My little guy in all his glory as Spiderman!
(Notice that he is standing in front of the markdown
shelf at our favorite grocery store, which is my first
stop on every shopping trip)

Recently I was in a thrift store looking for a Halloween costume for myself to wear on Halloween, when I noticed most of the little kid costumes were priced at $2.99 each! Bells went off in this gal's head  and I started snapping up costumes for my little guy. I am making him a costume box for Christmas. I purchased a Buzz Lightyear costume (splurged $7.99 on this one), an Iron Man costume, a Transformers costume, and a Captain America costume, each of which cost $2.99. I am going to spend $10.00 more to add an Iron Man mask, and hopefully a Transformers mask to round out the costumes. I wouldn't be able to create this super hero dress up box as inexpensively at any other time of the year, so this is why I am sharing this gem of an idea now. You can easily create any type of themed dress up box during the Halloween season sales.

2. Make a Lego, Duplo, or other building block set

In just about every thrift store I visit, I notice small bags of building blocks- Lego, Duplo, etc. Start now to pull together a nice set of building blocks for your preschooler. Many thrift stores have sales on certain items or certain color tagged items and these sales often change daily. Check your favorite store's Facebook page or website for info on what is on special. If toys are half price, you better plan on going to that thrift store that day! In the past, I have made a Marbleworks set, an oversized "Lego" set for a toddler, and other building sets, simply by knowing what my kids really liked and going to the various thrift stores frequently. I also purchase a large plastic tub to use as the container for the thrifted building sets, again, at the thrift store if at all possible!

3. Give books

I paid $3.00 for this set of eight board books! 
Books are usually plentiful at thrift stores and many are in new or excellent condition. If your child likes a certain character (Spiderman, Barbie, Harry Potter), it is relatively easy to gather a good sized bunch of books in great condition from your favorite thrift store. One of my daughters liked the Babysitter Club books and one son liked the Animorphs. I buy books when they are on sale at half price and can give my kids a huge collection of their desired series of books.

4. Give puzzles and games

Every thrift store I visit has puzzles and games. I watch for sales on these items and stock up on high quality wooden puzzles, floor puzzles, and games of all kinds. I focus on wooden puzzles and floor puzzles because these two types are a bit more special than a simple cardboard tray puzzle and at retail price these are also quite expensive. Little kids love games but can lose interest in them quickly, so I would much rather buy them as inexpensively as possible. If the games or puzzles have beat up boxes, simply purchase a plastic box from the dollar store and print a photo of the game or puzzle to decorate the box.

5.  Give art supplies
You can't go wrong with these popular children's character
coloring books priced at only 25 cents each! 

Thrift stores often have construction paper, stickers, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, paint sets, sidewalk chalk, stencils, etc. When I can purchase coloring books for 25 cents each or 12 cents during a half price book sale at my favorite thrift store, this is a fantastic gift item to be able to give. I look for new or nearly new coloring books and carefully remove used pages to create a pristine book.

These coloring books were new and unused throughout!
I encourage you to think thrift store when doing your
Christmas shopping for young kids this year. Your  money will go so much farther and you won't be paying for Christmas gifts long after the holiday season has passed.

I would love to hear how your shopping goes and what you found! Please share in the comments section!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ten Tips for Working from Home with Toddlers

In April 2014, my husband and I became parents to our eighteen month-old grandson. We had a lot to figure out, but one thing we knew was that we wanted to have him at home and not in daycare at such a young age. So, I began to pursue opportunities to create income from home. I started doing virtual assisting and I also went back to college in August 2014 to open opportunities for myself at a later date. I am kind of crazy like that-one challenge isn't enough for me, no sir!

I began to comb the Internet for tips on dealing with toddlers while working from home. Some ideas had merit, such as work when the child is napping or asleep. Other ideas weren't so helpful for my situation, such as put them in daycare, or wait to start a business until they are older and in school. I mean, really? That was not helpful in the least.

Here are ten tips that worked for me and hopefully they will be helpful to you too.

  1. Spend time with your child prior to trying to do any work. If I spend a good twenty minutes with my little guy, then I can count on just about the same amount of time to do some work, maybe even longer. Before I start my work, I make sure he has eaten, we have read books and played, and I have some special toys ready for him that he doesn't see often. I repeat this cycle of play and work all throughout the day. 
  2. Teach your child that when you work, he/she gets to do something that he/she really enjoys. My grandson likes to watch Daniel Tiger. When I go to my computer to do some work, he gets to watch an episode of his favorite show. I also reserve special toys for work time that will keep his interest for an extended period of time and I rotate them so they are fresh and fun when he does get to play with them.
  3. Offer a lot of praise for good behavior while you are working. I tell my grandson what a good job he did being quiet while I worked or while I was on a phone call. I thank him for making good choices so I can get my work done.
  4. Keep a consistent schedule of meals, naps (if they take naps), and activities. Children are much more compliant when they know what to expect and when. Ever changing schedules are hard on kiddos and in turn, hard on parents.
  5. Don't try to take care of your child, work from home, and do housework. If I were out of the house from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., I wouldn't be washing dishes and laundry, so I don't while working from home. You need to view your work time as work time. Don't visit Facebook, clean the house, or babysit for friends while you are working. 
  6. Take a lunch hour. Making sure you and your child are nourished is very important to getting through the day well versus just surviving. Plan the week's lunch on the weekend and have the lunches you need ready for the work week.
  7. Get dressed and dress your child. You will feel more productive and your child will realize that the day has started if you both get dressed instead of wearing your pajamas or exercise clothes.
  8. In the summer, if you can, adjust your work schedule to take advantage of summer events like free summer movies, free bowling, participating in library summer reading programs, or going swimming. These activities are enriching for your child and will give you both a sense of having had a nice summer.
  9. Don't work on the weekends unless you can't avoid it. It is important to have normal family time. If work is always intruding, your child will be resentful of your work and not as cooperative.
  10. Point out to your child how your work benefits the family. Even small children can learn to appreciate that your work provides juice boxes, toys, and other niceties. When they understand the correlation of work to things they like in their life, they deal with the fact of a parent working a lot better. 

Are you a parent who works from home? What tips and tricks have helped you to manage your days with little ones while trying to earn a living? Please share in the comments section below.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ten Low-Cost or No-Cost Ways to Enjoy Summer

Summer is here! Kids are out of school, wildflowers are abloom, and folks all over Facebook are excited about vacations.
Pink Evening Primroses

Summer is a little different for me and my husband. It isn't a big income time for us. I run an enrichment academy for homeschool students and my husband installs raised bed gardens in the spring and fall. No school means no paycheck for me and there aren't many garden installations in the summer for my Master Gardener hubby, so his income is lower too.

Less income means we get more creative in the summer. We have learned how to have lots of fun for little to no cost out of pocket.

Ten Low-Cost or No-Cost Ways to Enjoy Summer

1. Eat meals outside. Breakfast outside in the morning is a favorite with me and my crew.
2. Make your own bubble solution and blow bubbles with your children.
3. Garden! A hobby that offers nutrition, exercise, and vitamin D.
We love our garden!

4. Pop your own popcorn and watch favorite movies together.
5. Go to summer reading club activities at the local library. Ours hosts many free activities and rewards for reading.
6. Save your leftover coffee from the morning to enjoy as iced coffee in the afternoon.
7. Find a playground or park in your area with a splash pad or free swimming.
8. Go outside in the evening and stargaze.
9. Take advantage of summer movie days at your local movie theater. It does cost a bit of money but it is fairly affordable.
10. Go bowling! Go to  to see if there is a bowling alley in your area participating.

What are you doing to have fun this summer while keeping spending to a minimum? Please share your summer activities by commenting below so we can all benefit!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas is coming- Ready or Not!

Tomorrow is December 1. Let that sink in a minute, folks. Yep, only 24 days until Christmas according to Christmas Clock. Are you feeling a bit frantic? Last year I wrote a post about this topic called Are You Ready for Christmas? where I explored ideas to pay for Christmas without cutting into one's regular budget.

So, here we are again and I am getting together my Christmas funds. Here is what I have done to earn Christmas money this year.

1. Swagbucks- by using the Swagbucks search engine, watching videos, and taking the daily polls, I have earned enough points to get $45.00 in Amazon e-gift cards. You can do this too. It is easy!  Sign up under my link  and help us both to keep earning Swagbucks.

2. Writing opportunities- I wrote a review of a product recently for THSC Review and earned $100.00 that I earmarked for my Christmas fund. ; )

3. The aluminum cans I have been saving up are about to get smashed and redeemed. I think I have at least $20.00 worth amassed. I am hoping it ends up being more and I will have to update y'all on the total once I get them turned in to the recycling center.

4. I have a big bank full of change that I have collected for at least a year that I am going to put towards Christmas. I will have to report on that total once it is counted.

5. I will be receiving a stipend from my college for providing notes to a person in my English class. I think I will be receiving $50.00.

So, there you have it. Without doing anything too drastic, I will have at least $250.00 for Christmas.

We are very frugal shoppers and that little amount will go a long way. My husband has been doing Listia and has accumulated a lot of points there which we will also be using to purchase Christmas gifts. I also do Listia (click to sign up) and if you join under me, you and I both get credits to use to shop there AND clear out our homes of no longer needed items.

How do you fund your Christmas purchases each year? Let me know in the comments. All respondents will be entered in a drawing for a Pampered Chef Season's Best Fall/Winter 2002 cookbook. I will draw for the winner on December 7 and announce the winner right here on my blog!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Recent Victories in Thrifty Living

I like to encourage and entertain myself by turning necessary activities like bargain shopping into a game. When I do well at my self-imposed game, I feel quite victorious and smart.

Here are some of my recent little victories in the money saving game I enjoy playing:


Just a few weeks ago, I declared to my husband that I was badly in need of some new pants. Kohl's was nice enough to send me a postcard good for $10.00 savings on a purchase so off I went to paw through their clearance racks in hopes of scoring something to fill the gap in my wardrobe. Not only did I find a cute pair of petite sized Capri jeans for myself, I also found a gift for someone in my family for Christmas (I cannot reveal what exactly I found because that person sometimes reads this blog).

I ended up spending a total of $5.94 and saving $61.50! I make sure that I go to Kohl's every time I get one of those $10.00 Kohl's cards in the mail. I have gotten all kinds of amazing deals for my family, home, and myself this way. As I write this, I have another $10.00 card in my purse that has to be used by August 31 and since my grandson has a birthday coming up, I may be able to snag him a cool present using nothing more than my time and a bit of cash out of pocket.

Healthy Breakfast for Pennies a Serving

Whenever I shop, I make it a practice to check the clearance items in each department of the grocery store. I stroll through the produce section, meat department, and the miscellaneous clearance rack in the back of the store. Recently I found a dented box of oatmeal with added oat bran marked to just $1.00 from its normal price of $1.69.

My grandson loves oatmeal and we used to buy the pre-made packets of oatmeal. Each box has 10 servings at $1.69 per box. So, 17 cents per serving. Not bad, except he eats two packets each breakfast, so the cost is actually 34 cents per breakfast. I decided to just buy rolled oats and flavor it myself with various ingredients we have on hand. Some days, Liam gets apple brown sugar cinnamon oatmeal (if I have unsweetened applesauce on hand), other days he gets strawberries and cream oatmeal if I have strawberry jam on hand.
I'd say he enjoyed his oatmeal!

The oatmeal I purchased on markdown has 11 servings so it cost 9 cents per bowl of oatmeal.  The cost of the add-ins is negligible because those items were all purchased for other  purposes and the amount added to flavor his oatmeal is fairly small. Creating flavored oatmeal at  home doesn't take much time at all. It is just a moment or two to measure out a spoonful of strawberry jam or to sprinkle cinnamon on the oatmeal before popping it into the microwave.

Once the oatmeal is gone, we may switch to some other breakfast item that I purchased on a clearance or coupon deal. We stay flexible on what we eat so that we are always spending the least we have to spend. When I find a great deal, I buy as much as I can afford to lock in that deal for as long as possible.

 Going Bananas

When I go to the produce section looking for good deals, I always look for a big bag of marked down bananas. The bananas are still fresh enough to eat out of hand for a couple days and I have a lot of uses for them as they ripen. I happened upon a large paper sack of bananas recently weighing about 20 pounds that was marked down to $1.50 for the whole bag! That is 7 cents a pound folks!
 This go-round I made grain-free banana pancakes and dairy-free banana ice cream. The beauty of these recipes is how they can be customized for the consumer. I spent some time cutting up bananas for our "ice cream" and freezing them so they would be ready when the desire for a cold, creamy dessert hit.

My grandson and I are both dairy-free so regular ice cream is out of the question. We love our banana "ice cream" and so do the dairy eaters in our home. Another plus on this tasty treat is that it is friendly to those of us watching our waistlines. And, finally, it is very inexpensive!

The grain-free banana pancakes were amazing. With nothing more than mashed banana, eggs, and some seasonings, I made pancakes! They were tasty, gluten-free, dairy-free, inexpensive, and easy! I encourage you to give them a try! Everyone in the house who tried them, liked them.
Here they are just about ready to flip. 

I have found that being willing to try different foods and recipes is one of the keys to the biggest savings in a grocery budget.

Well, it has been a very busy week. School began for me and my youngest son on Tuesday. I have a bunch of homework and since I want to make A's, I will sign off now and get to studying.

If you decide to try the banana "ice cream" or banana pancakes, please let me know what you think of them.

I will be back soon with more tips, tricks, and encouragement to help you to thrive instead of just survive on a tight budget. And please, share your tips and tricks with me!

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Crazy Life Gets Crazier...on Purpose!

You may remember that my grandson came to live with me on  April 1 of this year. My then 19-month-old grandson. To a home of adults who weren't expecting a little child to be in residence 24/7. We were all a little shell shocked to say the least.
Liam hugs our trees every day
during our evening playtime. 

Talk about a major life changing event for that sweet little boy and all of us, which includes my husband and two young adult sons in their early twenties. The dogs also were taken off guard by this tiny human who thinks that they are little horseys for his riding pleasure.

Here we are just about in mid-August and we all have settled in to a routine that includes locking every door in the house, always having company in the bathroom, and hoping for a good nap time.

Not content to leave things static, I have decided to complicate my life further by going back to college.

Yep, this grandmother (Gigi to be exact) is a college freshman (because my previous college was on semesters and the credits weren't acceptable to my new school). I took the assessment tests and passed all but the math with flying colors! Take that assessment tests!

I will be taking English Composition I and Intro to Speech this semester. I will also be working while going to school because we  have this habit of enjoying food, shelter, and clothing. ; )

I am working on a liberal arts degree, mainly because I am too much of a dilettante to buckle down to just one discipline. I will get to study English, history, French, and art and at the end I will be the proud owner of a Bachelor's Degree!

I am also working on moving my blog at some point to a self-hosted site. As I said, my crazy life is getting crazier on purpose.

I am striving to get back on a blog posting schedule but I am not making any promises. You may have to come see me on Facebook (Holly Williams Urbach) or Pinterest (whollyholly) to keep up with me.