Archive for the ‘Money Saving Monday’ Category

Christmas Cards - Adorable, Affordable, Homemade

Monday, November 24th, 2008

 I know, you may be saying it’s time to be thinking Thanksgiving food not Christmas cards.  But, it never fails that I get at least one Christmas card the first couple of days of December and then I start actually thinking about Christmas cards and then I think about them and think about them some more and then get them started the week before Christmas.  A week before doesn’t sound too bad, except that as busy as things are the week before Christmas I actually don’t get the cards addressed and mailed till after Christmas, and as anyone on our Christmas card list can attest to, the cards arrive sometime around New Years.  In fact last year I just ended up referring to them as New Years cards because they were too far beyond Christmas, which isn’t all bad, I mean who doesn’t like a happy surprise piece of snail mail once all the holiday mail has ceased.


So after last year’s record lateness of our Christmas cards I have made a commitment this year to get all our cards to everyone before December 25th.  I can do this.  I know I can.

Now of course, we don’t just buy cards, not even photo ones, we make cards because it keeps the kids busy, they’re unique, and it saves us some money.


I spent some time this past weekend searching for some interesting cards to make since this year and narrowed it down to three choices.


I really like these homemade pop up cards by Robert Sabuda.  The Christmas tree design seems especially ‘do-able’ for the kids, although there are other neat things like an angel, a snowman and a pointsettia.  And how impressed would people be that the kids made these themselves.


I also like our old ‘stand by’ cards that we have made when the twins were younger.  Cards made from wrapping paper designs.  Get out your Christmas wrapping paper and have the kids cut out one of the designs like a tree or santa or a reindeer.  Then glue the design on and embellish it.  There’s a video and more directions of these at kidoozy, under Wrapping Paper Cards.


My final choice is these really neat spinning snowflake cards I found at chico and jo.   I’ve never seen any like these and they are really adorable. I think everyone would enjoy opening a card and watching a cute little snowflake spin around.  Cats would love it.  They’d probably destroy it, trying to bat at the little snowflake, but how great is a Christmas card that doubles as a cat toy?  And I’m thinking if we do this one we could use a star instead of a snowflake and insert a little excerpt about the wise men following the star.


Not sure which we’ll do yet this year, but I suppose I’ll have to decide soon to make my December 25th deadline.


Oh, and since it’s a Monday. 

Our Money Saving Monday tips for Christmas cards.


I’ve already covered making your own cards.  It saves a few bucks.


The other thing we do is tuck 2 or 3  extra photos that we have from throughout the year in with the cards.

Think of the money you can save skipping the photo cards and instead sending  really cute extra pictures of your kids you have laying around.  Wouldn’t someone love to see a photo of the kids at the zoo this fall, or on a camping trip, or riding the carousel at the fair.  Kids love going through old photos and deciding who to send which pictures to for Christmas, and friends and relatives will love seeing photos of what the kids did throughout the year. 

Money Saving Monday - Snacks and Drinks

Monday, November 10th, 2008

I was out with a friend this weekend and we got to sharing different ways we strive to be frugal in our households.  I know in today’s economy everyone is trying to find little ways to save extra money, so I thought I’d list out a few different ways we try to save money on those little extras.

  1. Drive Past the Drive Thru - Take snacks in the car when you’re going out with the kids for errands.  You may think you won’t be shopping over lunch or that it won’t take you long to get a haircut and run to the bank, but when the kids get hungry (and whiny) you’ll save yourself a trip to the fast food place by having munchies.  Take pretzels, apple slices, dried fruit, and some juice boxes or water bottles to appease their hunger.  If you know you’ll be gone over mealtime then take peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bananas.  Think healthy, fun and not too messy foods.  You can easily save $10 to $20 per trip.
  2. Don’t waste money on Munchies - Make your own snacks.  Granola Bars,   Snack Mixes  and rice krispy treats are simple to make and healthy too.
  3. Sip Smarter - Save money on drinks at home.  Watch for sales on powdered drink mixes.  They’re less expensive than soda.  Make your own iced tea with 2 quarts water, 5 tea bags (buy flavorful herbal ones on sale and add in 2 or 3 for extra flavor) and some sugar or honey.  When buying juices such as grape or cranberry that are very strong, you can often add water and still have great fruit flavor.   Feel like you deserve a treat?  Make some flavored hot cocoa
  4. Water’s good for you and your wallet - When you eat at restaurants skip the sodas, mixed drinks or juices and just order water.  You’ll save $2 to $10 per person depending on what you order and how many you get.  Average just $4 per person ,with three people eating out once a month you’ll save yourself $144 per year…plus if you add a 20% tip onto that price and you’d save over $170 a year.
  5. Cool it with the dessert spending - Ice cream keeps getting more and more expensive, and they keep making the container smaller.  Try making some Easy and Healthy Freezer Pops.  Buy yogurt in the tubes and freeze.  Make pudding and freeze in small cups with a popsicle stick.  Peel and cut bananas in half and put on a popsicle stick and freeze.   They’re a great creamy snack.  If you want them a little more decadent, dip in chocolate or butterscotch.

What are some ways you save a little extra money on food and drinks in your house?

Money Saving Monday - Calendars

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Happy November, also known as the month to start thinking about Christmas, or you’ll never have everything ready in time.  That would be me, never be ready in time.  But, I’ll try once again (and never yet successfully) to thwart the usual week before Christmas madness of trying to make all of gifts at once.  With that in mind, we have started our first gifts this year, our yearly personalized calendars.  

Calendars, who needs a calendar for a gift, right?   Well ours are very special calendars…..really. 

When we started giving them the idea was to give a useful gift to some of our older family members who can’t keep track of all the birthdays and anniversaries of all the kids and grandkids.  We planned to buy a nice calendar and for each month write in any birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions.  Then a brainstorm struck as I was wading through a sea of paper, crayons, and markers on our sunroom floor while the twins were in the midst of a drawing session one day.  We’d add our own artwork for each page!  That way the kids artwork isn’t just getting piled up to eventually be (shhh don’t tell them) thrown out.  What a mean mommy I know, but in my defense, I would always save the best pictures. 

Now each year we buy our cheap $1 calendars (some are even free from local businesses) and then glue a drawing on each page overtop of the existing picture.  Sometimes we add some photos or cute sayings, and then we write in all the birthdays and add special stickers on those days. 

In summary, 

Great Personal and Useful gift for only $1.

A way to get rid of. . . .I mean share. . . .all of the kids artwork you have piled around the house (or hanging on the fridge).   And a subtle way to remind people when your birthday is. 

For more detailed instructions and ideas for making your own homemade calendars visit our Masterpiece Calendar Project on






Money Saving Monday - Halloween Costumes

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Oh boy, it’s almost Halloween and you know what that means….time for the yearly ‘what can I be for Halloween?’ dilemma.  For all the angst we go through deciding on, and making a costume each year I ought to make them wear their costumes every day for a week instead of just one night for an hour or two.  And just to get a bunch of candy that we mostly give away since they don’t ever get more than one piece a day….and usually not even that much.  Sugar is not their friend….and therefore not mine.

So, needless to say we don’t believe in spending a lot of money on costumes, and we try to use stuff that we can use afterwards like sweatpants and sweatshirts.  In fact three out of the last four years their costumes were a base of sweats with embellishments.


Puppy Costumes

Our inexpensive but adorable puppies. The costumes are inexpensive...not the kids.

 Four years ago they were puppies.  We bought sweatpants and sweatshirts then cut white spots out of an old sheet and used an iron-on adhesive paper to put them on the shirts and pants.  Then we cut out felt ears and pinned them on knit hats (it is usually chilly here in Pennsylvania for trick or treat).  We painted noses and whiskers on them and tied a bone with some yarn and strung it around their necks.  Everyone lovec them and they got to wear the clothes (minus the spots) the rest of the winter.

The next year we all needed to dress up as the same thing since we were in a parade together.  We chose painters, and the kids had a blast painting their inexpensive white button down shirts.  They simply wore jeans for pants, had a paintbrush in their pocket, and used empty, cleaned out paint cans for their treat bags.  The dogs even got into the act.  Tasha wore a shirt, and Nipper, since she was already white with spots just had a few colored spots added with food coloring.  The white painted shirts were big enough that they used them as smocks for our messy craft projects for the next two years

Painter Costumes

Painters costumes for all including the not so happy dogs. Tasha refused to be on the picture citing doggie humiliation.

 The kids haven’t even chosen what they’d like to be yet this year, but Makenna is leaning toward a butterfly again, since that was her birthday theme.  They were butterflies two years ago and it was a popular costume because they loved painting the wings. 

Butterfly Costumes

Black Sweatpants and sweatshirts teamed with poster board made for pretty and uh, handsome butterfly costumes

We used black sweatpants and a black hooded, zipper sweatshirt.   Poster board in the color of their choice was used for the wings which they decorated with paint and glitter.  Then we cut two vertical holes about 1 inche wide by 4 inches long in the center of the wings (about 4 inches apart) and strung through two 2 inch wide pieces of black fabric that we cut from an old shirt.  We wrapped the one set of ties over their shoulders and the other around their chests and then knotted them together in front.  This kept the wings on securely and the tie wasn’t noticeable since they were all black.  We found feelers for their heads at the dollar store, and their costumes were complete.  Again they had the clothes to wear all winter.


Maybe you have been inspired by one of our thrifty costumes, or if you have any great inexpensive costume ideas you have done in the past please let us know….we are still pretty undecided on this year yet.



Money Saving Monday - Stickers

Monday, October 13th, 2008
Stack of Stickers 




Stickers from address labels.

As the twins were happily plastering stickers all over a notebook today I got to thinking what a little miracle those things are, not my kids, the stickers.   Really, give the twins a bunch of stickers and suddenly things are quiet and peaceful for at least 30 minutes, oftentimes longer.   It’s amazing, and this phenomenon has continued since they were 2 years old. 

In the past seven years, they must have gone through at least 10,000 stickers.  About 3000 of them on chairs, tables and furniture that had to be peeled and washed off.  Another 3000 on walls.  Oh, walls are a popular canvas.  Be it crayons, markers, stickers or finger paints, there’s nothing better than walls.   Then there were about 2000 placed all around the interior of the car, because it was worth it to give them a sheet of little stickers to keep them quiet while I was driving.  Toilet seats, oddly enough were a popular sticker destination.  Which actually works wonders now for keeping Alexandra (our 16 month old) sitting on the potty while she inspects all the stickers on her little seat.  Then sometimes you just have to put stickers on your plain clothing, mirrors or those pesky clear windows. 

Luckily now stickers are confined to paper for drawing pictures around them….although little Alexandra is just starting to get interested in them.


But on to the money saving aspect here….I know I’m getting to it somewhere, it’s been a long day. 

Two tips for saving money on stickers. 

1.  Either you or someone you know must get those free address labels in the mail that have little pictures on the left side and the address on the right.  Those are great!  Just cut off the address and you get sheets of little stickers of all different designs.  If you don’t get any in the mail, just ask around.  We have the kids grandparents and great-grandparents save them up and they give them to us once in a while and the kids are thrilled.  So check with relatives, neighbors and friends and ask them to save them for your kids.

2.  The blank 1 inch X 2 5/8 inch address labels you can buy for printing out from your computer work great for kids who want to make their own stickers.  We often did alphabet letters on them and then would cut 90 square stickers from a sheet of 30 labels.

 Have any other great sticker ideas?  Please share them with us.Sticker Collage