Friday, January 31, 2014

DIY Baby Gate

When our little one was born, we sought out to buy all the safety supplies we would need to baby proof our house. We landed in quite the predicament when we learned that the standard baby gates did NOT fit our stairway! 

After trying 3 different gates with no success, we started looking for a gate that would work with our set up. These custom made gates were $400 and up! We decided we had to go the do-it-yourself route!

We spent a few weeks browsing the internet and coming up with a plan. We found this example to be THE ONE design for us!

Off to the lumber store we went. For us, that meant Menard's. We picked out the oak (already treated and stained so we could skip that step) for us to use and then set to work. Well, at least my hubby did. I mostly kept him company while he worked. Good thing he finds the babe and me pretty entertaining! 

This was a weekend project, started on Saturday and completed on Sunday! Not bad for $75, eh?!?!
She loves it already! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Saving Money by USING Credit Card Reward Points

Awhile back I wrote this post on saving money with credit cards by using their reward points. The catch to this is once you rack your points up, you have to remember to actually use them!

I had forgotten about an American Express card and when I went to close the card (wasn't used for over a year) I learned I had reward points! Talk about a nice surprise!

So, how do I typically use my rewards? I am glad you asked. The cashback is the easiest option but I have found that route doesn't always get you the best bang for your buck! 

You want to compare all your options and see where the best reward options are. For instance, with 20,000 points I may be able to get $20 cash or a $25 gift card. Look at products, too. Sometimes you can get a free trip, and/or household accessories. 

If I can get a household item for free that I am in need of, that is my first priority! When I got the news of the reward points that needed to be used, my mind instantly thought of our most recent need: bedding sheets! I dislike buying bed sheets because my husband and I keep buying ones that don't last very long! 

Bedding was not part of the rewards program but I could get a Macy's $100 gift card. So I did! With that gift card I purchased 2 sheet sets and a faucet cover (had to get something for little miss,too) for a whopping total of:  $1.15. Here's my proof:

Please take note that I still shopped for the best deals! I found a coupon code online, utilized free shipping with purchases over $89, and bought bed sheets that were already on sale!

For the future, I plan to make a list of all my cards that offer rewards, then I plan to check on my rewards and use one time per year.

How do you use your credit card rewards?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saving Money on Appliances

At our house, we have very nice, high-end appliances. You would never believe we paid next to nothing for them. As long as you don't get yourself in a bind where you have to buy an appliance immediately (like when your microwave suddenly kicks the bucket) you can take your time to get the best bargain. Here are ways you can save:

1. Ask for the item as a gift.

This may or may not be feasible. For Christmas a few years ago, my husband's parents bought us a deep freezer. I also went with my siblings and purchased a used fridge for my parents as a gift. For our wedding, my parents bought us our stove as our present. There may be opportunities where you can ask for an appliance as a gift. Nothing beats free!

2. Buy used.

If you have a local Facebook group in your area that buys, sells, and/or trades, join this group. On my local page today, I have seen a dishwasher and a microwave go for less than $50 each. Craigslist is another site that can offer steals. Garage sales also tend to have occasional appliances for sale at a cheap price.

3. Buy the store model.

Most stores sell the model on the floor for much less than the original price. Be sure to ask if that is a possibility at the store you are browsing.

4. Take the risk on a fix-it project.

This one could be the cheapest route, besides getting the item as a gift! Sometimes, you will find someone that has a broken appliance and doesn't want to fix. Instead of throwing away, they will sell for cheap or give the item away.  That is how we landed this item:

Yes, this microwave was free! The person we got from had used for 2 years and then it stopped working. They were given an estimate of $250 to fix (they bought for $600). My husband took this project on! For $100 in parts, the microwave was fixed!

5. Look for discounted, returned items. 

You want to ask the store about this. Not all stores keep these items in plain site. For instance, in our area, Menard's keeps returned items outside by their lumber. The stove our parents purchased for us was a return for a slight blemish on the top corner of the stove. We never notice it, but love the clearanced price!

6. Sell your appliances.
Selling the appliances you currently have can help to pay for your new items! Just be honest, if the appliance isn't working well, let potential buyers know.

Share some ways you save on appliances.

Keeping the Marriage Alive: Snack Dates

As I was wrapping up a long work week on Friday, I realized that the sheer exhaustion from my hectic schedule made me feel like I had ZERO energy to survive Friday night. Before child, Friday nights meant doing whatever I pleased and I would have relaxed and gone to bed early! With child, think again. 

As I prepared to face my evening, I still had dinner to make, eat, feed, bathe, and get my child to bed. My husband admitted to being as wiped as I was. Uh-oh. The last thing any marriage needs is both partners exhausted and trying to manage baby duties and run a household.

Nervous that exhaustion could potentially lead to fighting during the course of the evening, an impromptu snack date ensued to lift our moods and unite us together as we conquered the night!

I made a mad dash to the grocery store and picked up Oreos (on sale), which are a real treat and rarity in our house. I also found some mini cupcakes (clearance out). Nothing like a sugar high to help us conquer the night, eh?!?! 
I brought these items home and lit a few candles I had hidden away and ta-da:

I knew my hubby would want milk with his Oreos so I prepared for him to ask. Of course, I took it up a notch and served the milk in a wine glass. This is our new cocktail hour!

We took a seat together with our child and talked about our day! This gave us the calm before the storm we desperately needed. We also were able to reconnect before taking on our nightly chores.

I encourage you to have a snack date today! Let me know how it goes!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saving Money on Haircuts

For those of you who can cut your own hair or have someone who will cut your hair for free, you don't need to read this! Just keep doing what you are doing! I envy you and your great money saving trick!

For the rest of us who aren't so good with hair that we trust ourselves to whip out the scissors and manage our own mane, there are still ways to save money!

1. Extend your time between cuts.

The general rule of thumb is to get your hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Try to hold out until the 8 weeks or longer if you can. I go until my hair starts to look a bit drab, typically between 10 and 12 weeks.

2. Find a place where you get the most bang for your buck.

I am the first to admit that I was very reluctant to try places like Cost Cutters and Super Cuts. They are known for cheap costs, which made me wonder about quality of cut. You know the saying, " you get what you pay for."

After my first visit to Cost Cutters, I was hooked! You can still request a stylist, so if you find one you like you can stay with them. They are also super fast and have done a great job on my hair! 

Before Cost Cutters, I was going to a very popular, very classy salon. I paid about $32 for a haircut (with tip) and now pay closer to $15 (with tip). Keep reading for how that cost is so low.

3. Take advantage of coupons and specials offered

One of the reasons I stay with Cost Cutters is that they offer coupons and run weekly specials. I signed up for their appointment reminder and with each email notification, I get a coupon for my haircut. Our local store also runs a Tuesday special with a haircut for $9.95. That gives me plenty of room for a nice tip!

At our house, we spend about $70 a year on haircuts. My husband cuts his own hair, so this money spent is basically my cost alone. He keeps offering to cut mine, but I am not ready for that yet!

How do you save money on haircuts?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Use My Budget

 I make a budget each and every month. Yes, each and EVERY month. It is important to know where your money is coming and going.

Click here and you can use the same budget that I use. I keep it as simple as possible. This item is an Excel spreadsheet that you can customize to fit you. It is very basic and easy to use. The best part? Everything is automatically added together for you as you enter in amounts. So easy!

Saving Money by Preparing for Next Year NOW

I mentioned here that after the holiday season you can get awesome deals on wrapping paper, ornaments, and decor! Well, the holidays are officially over now that we are at January 1, 2014! Time to save big by preparing for next year!

 I am still building on my outdoor decorations (see what we did this year here), so I took a trip to Shopko yesterday! I also needed wrapping paper for next year. Boy, did I score BIG on both items!
I got 2 LED battery operated wreaths ($49.99 regular priced each) for $9.99 each. These will go on our garage next year. I also plan to spruce it up for the daytime by adding some ball ornaments I already have!
I also got wrapping paper! Rolls originally marked at $5.99 were now $1.19. That is  a bargain! I also threw in a set of 125 gifts tags for $.99 (originally $5).

I am really impressed with the deals I scored and am ready for Christmas 2014 decorating!

What post holiday deals did you score?

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