16 Frugal Christmas Gifts: Give the gift of savings

As per readers requests, here is a roundup of a bunch of good money saving gifts.  What makes a better gift than one that saves money? This is a collection of very useful frugal items that would make great “pay it forward” Christmas presents… give the gift of frugality.

Frugal Laundry Drying Racks: I built a large indoor rack for drying our laundry, but these are cheap, simple and easy ways to get started… perfect for apartments!

Frugal Must Reads: (The tightwadd gazette is like a bible for frugal living and Dave Ramsey is right up there with it in terms of usefulness and importance).

Lastly, Here is a useful stocking stuffer:

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Frugal storage solutions

Frugal storage solutions: With the holiday season officially here, I’m sure we will all be accumulating more “stuff” (especially clothes and toys!) again this year. And the real challenge is how to organize it all after the holidays are over, without spending a ton of money. One of our readers, MaryAnne, recently sent us her ideas on how to be frugal while organizing! Here are some of her great ideas for you:

Hi! I’m MaryAnne, the crafting-addicted mother of three from ! I spend my days creating fun with my three young children (nearly 4, nearly 2, and 3 months old). My blog is a mix of crafting, activities for young children, sewing, parenting, and frugal living, and I’d love for you to drop by and say hi!

I appreciate a well-organized home, but most commercial storage options are expensive. Here are a couple of low-to-no-cost solutions I’ve come up with that use items most people already have in their homes:

  • Shoe boxes to create compartments in drawers. This works especially well for children’s small clothing, as well as socks and underwear. Since they are hidden away in drawers, it doesn’t really matter what the boxes look like. Of course, you can decorate them if you want – it’s a good way to keep the kids busy on a rainy day.
  • Take and toss food containers to store toys and other small items. The food-grade plastic makes it especially safe for storing children’s toys, and the clear sides make it easy to see what is inside. The lids fit snugly, and they usually stack nicely if you pick one brand and stick with it.

Other tips:

  • Go through belongings frequently and donate things you don’t need.
  • Look past marketing labels. In my experience, prices jump as soon as something is labeled as craft or toy storage. I use a computer hutch as my , and shoe racks as .
  • Cardboard boxes make great storage bins for items that don’t need a secure lid. You can even to make them look pretty.

What are your favorite frugal storage solutions?

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Frugal Homemade Gift Idea: Etching Glass

Frugal Homemade Gift Idea: Etching Glass. We are dedicated to bringing you this holiday season, and I am excited to share a great guest post with you, describing an awesome homemade gift idea. Thanks to – More than just coupons – for sharing this idea!

Kerrie says, I did this for four presents last year. They were a big hit and now I love making Christmas gifts. I etched some casserole dishes for my family. I bought a four pack of dishes for around $30 at Walmart. The cream, I bought () at Hobby Lobby. It is $20, so make sure you bring a 40% coupon. You can get them in the paper or you can and get them sent to your email. [Money Savin’ Momma here – looks like you can also get a good deal on the Armour Etch at .]

So basically I got 4 gifts for $42 (that’s with the 40% Hobby Lobby coupon). And I have a lot left over for other gifts. My friend that told me about this says that she etches her name on all her casserole dishes so when she makes a meal for someone or brings a dish to a potluck, she knows she will get her dish back! This year I might monogram a vase for a gift.

Etched Glass

Here are the directions from the bottle:

1. Cover the glass or mirror with Contact brand vinyl. Next, trace your design through carbon paper onto the vinyl [or you can use stencils to trace in on]. Cut out the design with a hobby knife and peel off pieces of the vinyl to create a stencil. Where the vinyl is removed will become the etched design when you are finished.

2. Overlap the outside edges of the stencil with masking tape to protect he surrounding glass from the etching cream.

3. Apply a thick layer of Armour Etch Cream brushing up and down, then left and right to spread the cream over the entire stenciled area. Allow etching cream to remain on glass 5 minutes.

4. Wash off all traces of Armour Etch Cream with ordinary tap water. Remove the vinyl and thoroughly clean the glass using window cleaner.

Money Savin’ Momma here: If you have more questions about how to do this or want more information, be sure to contact . Check out her great site for other deals too!
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Disney Rewards VISA: Earn a Free Disney Vacation

Disney Rewards VISA: Earn a Free Disney Vacation (or at least a cheap Disney vacation!)– We love to share how to get hot freebies and with our readers! Angela from Savvy Mom Finds recently shared with us how her family earned a CHEAP Disney vacation! It just may help you get a free or cheap Disney vacation too!

Angela says: Exactly a year ago, we took our first real family vacation — to Walt Disney World. We had traveled with the kids before, but it was always to visit family out of state; we had never gone somewhere just for ourselves as a family. We had been looking forward to our Disney vacation for quite some time — in fact, it was five years in the planning. The best part about our vacation? It was almost free.

When our son was born six years ago, we applied for a card. There are lots of rewards programs out there, but we settled on the Disney Card when we had children and realized that the Disney vacations were coming. With the Disney Rewards VISA, you earn 1% in Disney Dream Reward Dollars on every purchase made with your credit card. For every $100 you charge, you earn one (1) Disney Dream Reward Dollar, and one (1) Disney Dream Reward Dollar is worth $1 when you redeem it at Disney.

For five years, we used that card for nearly every purchase we made: groceries, gas, household items, baby stuff, utilities, doctor’s bills — everything went on that VISA. In return, we amassed enough Disney Rewards to pay for most of our vacation. I scoured the web for the best vacation deal possible ( is a great start) and redeemed all of our rewards to pay for it. We opted for an all-inclusive package — seven days at a Disney resort, seven days of tickets, and a dining plan that included all of our meals. It was like a dream vacation for the kids, and we were so happy that we could give them a week of magic. We would not have taken such an extravagant vacation if it had not been for the rewards points. Our Disney Rewards covered about 80% of the total cost. We could have gone for completely free if we had opted for a value package, but we figured after five years of waiting for a vacation, we could afford a little splurge. And five years is the magic number for maximizing your Disney Rewards — they begin to expire after five years. When we hit the five-year mark, we cashed them in — we didn’t want to lose a single one.

Now, I understand that there are those who have problems with credit cards. If you don’t pay off your balance every single month, then the rewards cards just are not worth it. The interest charges will negate any rewards you accrue, and you aren’t being a savvy consumer. In the fifteen years we’ve been married, my husband and I have always been very diligent about paying off our credit cards and not carrying a balance, so they work for us. We’ve had several different kinds of rewards cards in the past, but now that we have kids, it’s the Disney Card for us. After taking one vacation on rewards points, we’re already saving up rewards for another Disney trip we’re planning a few years in the future.

There are more benefits to our Disney Card than just earning rewards:

  • We can redeem our rewards to pay for most anything Disney — not just a vacation, but merchandise, too. Rewards can be used at our local Disney Store or at the Disney Store online, but I prefer to save them all up for vacation.
  • As cardholders, we’re entitled to special Disney discounts and offers. For example, the vacation package we chose was a special deal offered to Disney Rewards VISA cardholders only. Also, right now, Disney cardholders can earn $30 in free gas from Texaco and Chevron when they pay for gas at the pump with their Disney VISA.
  • We receive special cardmember benefits in the Disney Parks (we got a free 5×7 family photo with Mickey and Minnie).
  • Cardholders always receive a 10% discount at the Disney Store with qualified purchases of $50 or more.

There’s NO ANNUAL FEE, and new cardmembers get a bonus of 25 FREE Disney Dream Reward Dollars after their first use of the card (that’s like 25 dollars — FREE). If you want to learn more, please check out the for complete details.

Angela is the author of Savvy Mom Finds, where she shares her favorite tips, tricks and fabulous finds to help you save money.

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Free Fun for the Holidays: Tree Trimming Night

Free Fun for the Holidays: Tree Trimming Night. One of the challenges during the holidays is trying to save money, while still creating meaningful family traditions. Heather at recently shared with us a wonderfully creative, and inexpensive, way to do just that during the holiday season:

Heather says: Tree Trimming Night is a fairly recent, but sacred tradition in our home. It is the one night every December that we set aside for just our immediate family. The evening is not about the gifts. In fact, they often completely forget that they do get a present that night – a new ornament to add to the freshly trimmed tree.

Each year, we spend December doing the World Tour of Christmas – visiting one family group one night, another on a Sunday afternoon, even more family for the weekend. We have had as many as 7 Christmas celebrations in one season. Between the family celebrations, the school plays and the holiday parties, we were exhausted and never had an evening to spend alone as a family.

I found myself trying to work in family time with my girls by hitting Christmas at the Zoo or Children’s Museum, spending more than we wanted in a desperate attempt to create memories for my girls that didn’t involve presents or the chaos of a loud, boisterous family. It finally occurred to me that we were allowing the perfect opportunity to slip by year after year.

We have always decorated a Christmas tree, but it was usually thrown up one evening after dinner or attended to in the midst of a busy day of laundry, dishes and shopping. Now, we set aside one evening in early December for Tree Trimming Night. I fix an appetizer buffet so we can munch while we decorate, and the girls go to town placing their favorite ornaments on the family tree.

Our only expense is a 6-pack of Santa Coke bottles that I just couldn’t resist working into our new tradition. When the sodas are empty, the food is consumed and the tree is sparkling, I take the girls’ picture in front of their handiwork. I have even used the Tree Trimming Night photo for our holiday cards rather than expensive holiday portraits (keeping it frugal, yo).

The girls are already asking when this year’s Tree Trimming Night will be. I’ll have to pick a night that works into our schedule and add it to the calendar soon. We have a variety of annual traditions, but this is probably my favorite! and I will be sharing even more of our ideas for frugal fun around the holidays at as we countdown to Christmas.

Heather Sokol is the married mother of three beautiful, active girls who have created in her a Montessori Mom, Scout Mom, Allergy Mom and avid coupon clipper. She shares deals and advice for living life and reports progress on learning to be a grown up at .

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How To Save $600+ per Year with Internet TV

We love to share lots of great ideas about . Angela from Savvy Mom Finds recently shared with us how her family saves over $600 a year! We hope her post below will inspire you to do the same!

Photo Credit: stock.xchng

Angela says: Even though we’re a thrifty family by nature, I’ve found that it’s always a good idea to regularly review our budget to see if there’s something else that can be trimmed. Situations change, expenses creep in, and if we don’t stay on top of things, our savings rate isn’t what it used to be. It happens to the best of us.

So this summer, we decided to take a long, hard look at our satellite television bill. Aside from the occasional dinner out, it was probably our most extravagant regular expense. It was hardly a budget-breaker, but we had to re-evaluate whether it was really worth the money. We don’t watch that much TV, probably about an hour a night after the kids go to bed, and it’s usually regular network television. So the $60-per-month satellite/TiVo programming we’d been buying had really become a waste of money.

The only reason we had satellite was for the kids’ channels and our beloved TiVo service. The kids already watch too much television — now they’re content with over-the-air programming: Dinosaur Train and The Electric Company on PBS or Dora and Diego in Spanish on our local Univision affiliate (reinforcement for the Spanish they’re learning in school!). As for the TiVo, our love affair was with the ability to record and watch our favorite shows at our leisure, but Internet TV has advanced so much, that for us, it’s a viable replacement for the TiVo.

We happened to have a computer at the house that would do the job, so there wasn’t a significant investment for us. But for about $400, you can buy a computer (no monitor) with the video requirements to send a quality, high-definition picture to the TV.

For our internet connection, DSL Lite just wouldn’t do. High-speed access is a necessity in order to get quality video without interruptions. A 3 Mbps connection costs about $40 per month. Since my husband is a techie, and to him, internet access ranks up there with necessities such as food and shelter, we were already making room for the upgraded connection in our budget. So, there was no additional expense for us.

We did have to buy a wireless mini-keyboard and mouse. There are lots of models available in every price range, but for my techie husband (he really doesn’t ask for much), we opted for a fancier model, the , and tracked the online deals to score the best price ($120 at the time). It’s so small, it’s almost like a hand-held remote control for the computer.

So now that the equipment is hooked up, where do we find the shows? All the major networks offer programming online, and there are aggregator sites that consolidate some of the content. Unfortunately, not every show is available, and some networks offer more programming than others; but here are some of our favorites:

In order to watch Internet TV, we had to download special players, but it wasn’t a major inconvenience. We do miss the TiVo’s 30-second skip through commercials, but for a savings of $720 per year, I’ll suffer through the occasional advertisement. Of course, we could always upgrade the computer to record over-the-air programming like a DVR (and regain our ability to skip commercials), but we aren’t ready to shell out money for that yet.

Since we canceled the satellite service, we decided we could splurge for a subscription. For less than $10 a month, we can watch unlimited movies and TV shows on demand with the Netflix WATCH INSTANTLY feature. We can also check out one DVD at a time. It’s been nice to see the new releases on DVD — we hadn’t really rented a movie in years because we couldn’t justify the expense (almost $5 for one movie — no way!). Not to mention, we don’t go to the movies, either, because movie theaters, likewise, don’t fit our budget.

Bottom line: our annual savings by canceling the satellite and subscribing to is just over $600 a year. How much could you save if you canceled your pay TV service?

Want more information about ditching the dish and making the switch? Check out these two articles for more insight:

Angela is the author of Savvy Mom Finds, where she shares her favorite tips, tricks and fabulous finds to help you save money.

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Teach your child to read for free in 3 months

Teach your child to read for free in 3 months – Did you know it is possible to teach your child to read in about 3 months, and for free? Being a Money Savin’ Momma, I was excited to read what one of our readers, Kerrie, had to say about this topic! Kerrie recently shared her experience with us. I hope some of you will be able to incorporate these techniques with your children too!

Guest Post by : I bought the system for Pre-K and I just didn’t like it. A friend of mine posted a picture of her four year old daughter (who is only a few months older than my daughter) reading a 3rd grade level book. She recommended . They claim it only takes 20-30 minutes, but as we got further along in the book, sometimes it would take an hour to get through a lesson. I think I struggled with it because I’m a horrible teacher. I tell people, “It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Maybe not blood, but almost!” But everything is scripted out (no guessing!) and once I figured out how to tweak it to my daughter, we got through it.

I was amazed what she was reading in about lesson 20. The book guarantees that your child will be reading on a 2nd grade level, but I think it’s when you finish the recommended reading list. My daughter started Kindergarten this year and she tested on a 1st grade reading level! We finished the lessons in May, but had to put a hold on the reading list because we ended up moving. If I had more time, I might have finished the list. But she’s reading! I love that the book shows children how to sound out. She will see a word that she has never seen before and she’ll try and sound it out. It uses the SRA system that is taught in some schools. It is the same system that is being taught in my daughter’s school. The best part about this book is that I only paid $18 for it. All I had to buy after that is a dry erase board and marker for writing. Yes, they also teach your child how to write the letters. And now I have everything I need to teach my other two. They claim you can teach a very bright 3 1/2 year old and any average 4 and 5 year old. I recommend this book to all my friends.

  • You can get it at new for less than $15 new and much LESS if you buy used. (MSM here: If you use the you get from searching online with Swagbucks and rating websites with iRazoo, this book can be totally FREE!) Amazon also has a scanned page of a lesson so you can see for yourself before you buy.
  • Barnes & Noble has it for around $15 and you can have it shipped to a store for free. (If you go through a cash back shopping site like , , , or you can get cash back on your purchase, plus you get $5 free to sign up for any of these sites.)

About : At the beginning of 2009 my husband and I started looking for ways to save money. I don’t claim to know everything about being frugal or couponing, but I’m learning. I originally started my own blog to post my showoffs for my cousin and sister in-law, but was quickly inspired by and their goal for a debt free life which has been one of my goals since March of this year. You can read my complete story at my blog, .

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New Swiffer wetjet – coupons, $10 rebate, & money back guarantee

Did you know there is a new Swiffer wetjet? I didn’t know it, but MyBlogSpark & Swiffer sent us the new Swiffer wetjet to try out, along with a product CD & information kit! And, even if the Swiffer wetjet is sometimes out of your budget, this is also a great time to buy Swiffer products because Swiffer is offering a $10 or $5 rebate through 9/15/09, in the form of a $10 or $5 rewards card. You can get more info on these Swiffer rebates here. (Thanks !)

You can also get some Swiffer coupons for various products (including $7 off Swiffer Wetjet) here:

Also, if you buy a Swiffer product and are not completely satisfied, you can take advantage of Swiffer’s full money back guarantee. Read more about the . We did buy another Swiffer product in the past that we were simply not satisfied with, so we did take advantage of the money back guarantee, so I can verify that this money back guarantee is truly legitimate.

I must say I love the new Swiffer wetjet! One of my favorite features is that the little white scrubber pad on the top is BIGGER and removable. Also, the dual nozzles that spray the cleaning fluid are also an improvement. It seems like the product sprays farther than before, so one spray covers a larger area than it used to. As usual, I love the fresh clean smell of the Swiffer cleaning fluid. You can find out more about the .

Also, if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to refill your Swiffer wetjet and save money on the refill fluid, check out our post here:

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Want more ways to save money? Check out these freebies!

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And the verdict is… a big hit to the emergency fund… *OUCH*

Last Wednesday Momma was in a town 40 miles away and had her suv break down, leaving her stranded. Great, especially since I was at home with a twisted ankle trying to get some bedrest. So I arranged a repair shop, arranged a tow truck and drove down to pick her and my son up and brought them home. I started hunting and pecking to see where we had any extra cash sitting around that could be used in addition to the emergency fund knowing things could be bad. The SUV in question is a 2000 chevy blazer with almost 100k on the odometer. So far it has been a great little SUV, very utilitarian, decent MPG, reliable and best of all, for several years now… owned free and clear.

I grew up around cars and worked on them for years, my gut is telling me based on the symptoms that it is either a bad torque converter (bad, expensive) or a blow tranny (really bad, horribly expensive).

I am really happy we set up the emergency fund (Learn how we make money online to help build our emergency fund here). In the beginning, I thought it was a waste of time, that the cash would be better spent paying down debts. Now because we socked some cash away for this kind of thing we at least have a healthy majority of the repair cost saved up. In the past we just would have slapped it on Amex and paid the minimums.

So the estimates have come in and the verdict is that we need to replace the transmission. A rebuilt unit with 3 year warranty and all the labor and fluids comes to a grand total of $2400. OUCH. I called around to 3 separate shops for quotes and they are all within about 100 dollars of each other. So it looks like the emergency fund is going to be drained and then some. I guess that’s life… manure happens.

Guess the extra principal payments/snowflaking to the mortgage is just going to have to wait a couple months until we build the E-Fund back up again.

Have you entered our $100 giveaway yet? Enter here
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Does it really save electricity to turn off the lights when you know you are coming back shortly? An age old question. Here is the proof!
Warning: My inner geek may bore you, LOL. I’ll try not to be overly technical.

As many of you know I am an engineer by trade, my disciplines are in both mechanical and electronics. I spend most of my days knee deep designing, developing and troubleshooting electrical systems, specifically in the lighting industry. One thing that I have seen many people talk about (and have had many emails about this myself) is whether it really saves electricity to turn off the lights when you leave the room, especially if you know you are coming back in a minute or even a couple minutes. Read: many people talk about it and speculate… but how many of them can prove it?

When I am cleaning house, I bounce around room to room like a chicken with my head cut off trying to pick things up, sometimes I leave the lights on merely for convenience… but still one has to wonder about the old wives tale that it uses less electricity to leave the lights on.

The train of thought that most people have is that when a light bulb (incandescent, florescent, CFL, neon, LED) is turned on, it draws more current when first powered up.

Is this true? Yes and no.

Allow me to explain. Some light sources do indeed draw more current when first powered on, this is technically known as inrush current. Incandescents are probably the worst for this. From experimenting, most modern CFL’s, florescents with electronic ballasts, neon and LED lighting does not have an inrush current (at least not measurable). Most modern CFL’s and electronic ballasts (florescent and neon) have a bit of a soft start involved, meaning in order to illuminate and complete the circuit it must ignite the gas into plasma. This is not an instantaneous process, so it is inherently slower starting.

So even in the worst case scenario, using incandescent lamps, we know that there is indeed an inrush current involved. But does this inrush current make it cheaper to leave the lights on for a minute while you grab the phone?


Here’s proof: I took a 60W incandescent light bulb and monitored the current on my oscilloscope (an instrument that takes measurements vs time), here is the results. Notice the large spike of current when first powered on? This is the inrush current. Nominally this inrush current is about twice the steady state current.

But notice how short the inrush current is? If we zoom in and measure this time you will understand. See that time on the side (delta t) 48.00ms. That’s 0.048 seconds. That means as long as you are out of the room for for more than about a 1/10 of a second, it does indeed save money to turn the lights OFF!

I don’t know about you guys, but I usually leave the room for more than .1 seconds at a time… Usually… LOL.

This is worst case scenario. What about best case? Best case, the most efficient lighting is LED’s. Here is the overshoot in LED lighting. NONE. Period.

This means that it always saves money to turn them off when leaving the room, even when it is for 0.10 seconds.

Hope you found this informational. As a science dork, I just thought it would be fun to prove this myth either way.

Don’t forget to turn out the lights!!!

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