Hacks for Coupon Slackers

Couponing is a time consuming task.  For some people it’s so time consuming that they just don’t do it.  If you have more time than money, you may realize that time IS money and so couponing is definitely worth it to you. So much so, that there are people who become extreme couponers, who go grocery shopping and get money back from the store (don’t ask me how they do it) or buy tons of stuff for a couple of dollars. I am kind of in awe of those people really.  I, on the other hand, am kind of in the middle as far as couponing goes. I do LOVE when I go grocery shopping, use a couple of coupons and save $10 (over and above what I’m already saving by shopping the sales).  But, I HATE when I go through all the trouble of clipping coupons only to forget to use them, have them expire right before I try to use them OR not be able to find them while I’m at the store only to find them later. Does anybody know what I’m talking about?

Organizing is half the battle- I have seen people who are so uber-organized they keep their coupons categorized, in a binder with clear plastic sheets – the kind used to protect trading cards.  That is admirable but I don’t think I’m ready for that. So, I carry with me a handy little wallet sized accordion file (I got it at the dollar store) with tabs labeled – Food, Cleaning, Hygiene (couldn’t fit “Health and Beauty”) & Misc.  Honestly, this helps a little, so I always have my coupons with me AND I don’t have to search through all my coupons when I am looking for any one particular category (trust me, I learned that the hard way).  But it is just a beginning…

Do Your Homework- Carrying your coupons with you organized by category is a good start to saving money (honestly, to me a $1 coupon is equal to having another dollar because it increases my buying power by a dollar). SO, when a $1 coupon expires on me without having used it it’s as if a dollar expired on me – not good 🙁  By the same token, I am not going to buy something – A) that I don’t need, or B) above my normal price point for that type of item – just so I can use my coupon.

Couponing 101 – If you want step by step lessons – http://thekrazycouponlady.com/beginners/

Attitude: The Little Thing that Makes a BIG Difference

Living creatively is all about making the most of what you have to create a better life for you and your family. It’s about looking around you with eyes of love and seeing beyond what is to what could be. It’s a positive and resourceful frame of mind that sees abundant potential all around..
Creating abundance begins with changing your mindset – creating abundance begins with an attitude of gratitude. It’s about seeing the glass as half full, appreciating what you have and counting your blessings.  Don’t compare yourself to those who have more than you, instead think about those who have nothing and recognize how blessed you really are.  Sharing is important because you reap what you sow. How can you reap, if you don’t sow?
Also, live within your means. Live by faith, not by hope. Don’t act impulsively, hoping things will turn out okay. There’s a difference, though at first it seems the same. There are times when all you have is faith. At those times, hope intermingles with faith because you are hoping for something more, something better.
Be intentional. Remember that everything ever made began as an idea, whether it came from the mind of God or the mind of man. Don’t be afraid to dream. You have the power to transform what is into something more. So, look around you with eyes of love and LIVE CREATIVELY!

Maintaining Your Fashionista Status on Next to Nothing

My love affair with fashion started at an early age, probably influenced by the fact my mom always designed and created my outfits for special occasions. She would show me the pattern and the materials she was going to use and then she would start cutting and sewing. (Fittings were the worst because I was fidgety and TOTALLY uncooperative – sorry Mom 😉  By the time I was a teen, I was hooked. I even wanted to be a fashion designer and dreamed of going to F.I.T.  (my dad talked me out of it).  Anyways, it’s still in my blood (budgetary constraints notwithstanding).  So what is a broke fashionista to do?  I know – become a FRUGALISTA! 😉  I did it, and you can too.  Just follow my tips for frugalistas and you will cease to be a frustrated fashionista.


First and foremost, keep up with the trends. Don’t be afraid to scan fashion magazines and the websites for your favorite brands, for ideas. Like I always say, keep a positive attitude.  Don’t let yourself get frustrated by the fact you can’t actually buy the stuff you’re seeing.  Just let it fuel you to be creative and get the same look for less. I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying it is to wear something you know costs way more than what you paid for it. (I’m probably preaching to the choir on that point 😉  I’m sure everyone has enjoyed the thrill of scoring a total deal regardless of their budget).  The thing is, the lower your budget, the more creative you’ll need to be to pull it off. And, probably, the greater the satisfaction when you do – so stay with me here, ok?
Because fashion is cyclical, your first stop should be the thrift store.  (Thrift store shopping deserves a post to itself, so click here for that).  There is a chance you can find something very similar to this season’s Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, etc. styles because high quality brands tend to turn out classic staples year after year, as well as classics with a trendy twist.  Scan the racks for the color and textures you are looking for. Pull from the racks each piece that catches your eye and decide whether it delivers the look you’re going for, or if it can do so with a tweak or two. On the flip side, be realistic about whether you are going to put the work in or not – if, after thinking about it, you can admit you’ll probably never get to it, DON’T BOTHER (I can’t stress this enough!)!  You do not need to waste money and fill your space with stuff that is USELESS (positive thinking is not going to be enough here).  Either way, to thine own self be true, feel me?
Okay, so here’s an example of creative thinking in effect. This year for the holidays I wanted a pair of black satin wide legged pants, so I headed to one of the biggest Goodwill stores in my town and found just what I was looking for (it’s not always this easy, so, boy was I thrilled ;-)!  They are FABULOUS and cost me like $3.50. The thing is, they are not exactly a perfect fit (boo – a tad tight L).  Now for a while, I have wanted a pair of tuxedo pants but I wasn’t sure the tuxedo (stripe going down side of each leg) look would work on wide-legged pants. So, I did a search for “tuxedo stripe wide leg pants” and found some really lovely examples which cost between $125 and $645. Ok, so it’s a thing. Now, what I am going to do is get a wide (over  1” wide) velvet or velveteen ribbon to extend the legs on the outside (fingers crossed ya’ll ;-).  I just think it would be really clever (& festive) for the pants to be satin and the stripe to be velvet since usually the stripe is in satin, see how that works?  What do you think?  PS – I’ll let you know how it goes…
Another way to be fashionably frugal is to shop only from the clearance rack (even better, if there is a coupon or a percentage off clearance).  Be very strict with yourself on this – if it’s not on clearance, you don’t need to see it.  If you are on a really tight budget and you cannot follow this rule, I suggest you NOT go to the stores (otherwise your budget will be in grave danger)!  Just don’t go!  Set a ridiculously low price point, too. For tops I say, “3 is a magic number.”  For bottoms and shoes I try to go no higher than $10. But most of all – the cheaper the better!! I got a Calvin Klein dress for .33, a long sleeve top for. 65 and a short sleeve top for .39. Where? Got the dress at one of my favorite local thrift stores when they had a 3/$1 rack they used to get rid of stuff that took too long to sell. Got the 2 tops at Beall’s Outlet (one of my top shops) on a Friday (that’s when you get an additional 15% on any item – including clearance).   No matter if it’s at a thrift store or a retail store of any kind, stick to your price point – no higher.  Also, don’t buy it if you know you’re never going to wear it, no matter how cute it is (unless it’s $1 or less – if it’s THAT cheap I’ll get it even if it is to give it away or to use for craft materials).
Has it ever occurred to you to shop your own closet? Like I mentioned earlier, fashion is cyclical, so, you may have some gems at the bottom of your closet whose time has come.  Sometimes, we have a tendency to wear the same thing because we don’t know what we have and don’t have time to search when we need to get dressed. Take stock, experiment, have your own fashion show and get rid of anything you don’t see yourself in.  This way, you’ll know what you need to get to make your wardrobe work plus you’ll have an easier time getting dressed. Once you know what you need, your shopping will become way more targeted, saving you both time & money.  Hope this helps 😉  Let me know what you think!

Budgeting Outside the Box

Before I begin this post, I want to state the following disclaimer: This may be the craziest post I will ever write (hopefully).  I encourage you to bear with me and think outside the box. My way, may or may not work for you, but it sure does work for me ;-).
I understand that the job of a budget is to set limits. When you shop on a budget you are supposed to spend only whatever you have set in your budget for that item or category.  The amount you set is supposed to be based on what things are (realistically) going to cost you, right? Well, my system of doing things works a little differently. Yes, I have a budget that I should not (or cannot) exceed for whatever – this much for food, that much for toiletries, etc.  The amounts will vary from month to month because, if I stock up this month on certain items, I will probably not have to buy these items for the next couple of months, so (sometimes) I borrow from one category to supplement another.
The thing is, I am not so realistic as far as what I am willing to pay for stuff – I generally want to pay as little as possible.  Actually, I really prefer to get things for a dollar or less and I always say 3 is a magic number.  Don’t get me wrong, I like quality, style and new things. How do I do it? I’m going to try my best to explain…
First of all, it starts in your mind – if you can dream it, you can achieve it!  I set out with the goal to pay as little as possible for whatever I need (or want) to get. Just as it is a good rule of thumb not to go food shopping when you are hungry, it is a good rule of thumb (whenever possible) not to shop for something when you have a pressing need for it.  That way you can pass up on the opportunity to buy something when it is priced higher than what you want to pay for it, or gamble that you can get it for less.  I am constantly turning up my nose at things that are above my price point.
Secondly, shop where you are likely to find what you are looking for at the price you are looking to pay – I’m talking the clearance section at your favorite stores, thrift shops, outlets, garage sales, eBay, etc. Quick Tip: When you shop at a place that is SUPPOSED to have rock-bottom prices, do not ASSUME that EVERYTHING you find there is super cheap, either. Always keep in mind your price point or budget – you have mouths to feed and stuff to get, so the better you get at this, the better life you will be able to provide for those counting on you (just saying ;-)!
Lastly, take advantage of opportunities. Again, what I am going to say next probably runs counter to the rules of frugality. If I see something I want priced for a dollar or less I will jump on it, even if that’s not what I am shopping for at the moment.  What I mean is, there are opportunities that will never come again and you can usually spare a dollar.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you may not be able to.  You have to cover all the bases first. If all the money you have is earmarked for absolute necessities then, you will just have to let it go. The rules of frugality may say if its a want, rather than a need, just don’t get it. My rules say, getting my wants super cheap gives me the satisfaction of affording a luxury. Still, you should not indulge too often. Nine times out of ten you should put whatever it is right back on the shelf.  An occasional indulgence can make you feel good but if you do it too often it will affect your budget and bring you down. If you feel guilt about a purchase, chances are you should not have made it. In the end, living a life of abundance on a budget is a balancing act. In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, know when to run..”


How to Get an 18” Doll For Less

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would share how to get an 18” doll for less, so here you have it – everything I know on the subject. The American Girl doll is the top of the line. If your daughter’s little heart is set on one, a new one will set you back over $100 (ouch!). The only way I know to get an American Girl Doll for less than $100 is to buy a used one on Craigslist, at a thrift store, garage sale or flea market (if you get LUCKY!) or on auction at eBay. To get one of these at the price you want, you have to be persistent, patient & diligent. If your price point is between $50 and $60 dollars you have a better chance of finding an American Girl on Craigslist for that price than on eBay. On eBay, if you do a search for an American girl doll, you will find a whole slew of accessories in addition to just dolls. If you choose to view your search by price (low to high) you will have to go through tons of pages of cheap accessories before hitting on any dolls (NOT RECOMMENDED).

Also, bear in mind, if you find an American Girl doll that needs fixing, you can send her to the American Girl doll hospital to get her looking good as new, but it’s going to cost you. They attach a new head or reattach the head you have, new bodies, reattach limbs – the cost is going to depend on what the doll needs done and it will add to your final cost for the doll. Otherwise, you can just get her a different kind of 18″ doll. There are so many different kinds of 18 inch dolls available for much less if your kid doesn’t mind.
When my daughter Faith asked for an American Girl for Christmas 2011, Santa Claus got her a beautiful Best Friend’s Club, Ink. Addison doll, instead. Unfortunately, they stopped making these lovely dolls that same year – fortunately for me, prices for them were low then and I used coupons and discount codes to get Addison some friends (Britt, Gianna and CJ) for $20 or less each, for Faith’s birthday in 2012. If you want to get a new one of these now, it will run you $100 or more. You can still get a used one on eBay for $25 or more, but most likely, it will need some TLC. BFC, Ink. dolls are different from most 18” dolls available today in that they have moveable joints, their bodies are completely made of plastic and they have a slim body – so they are not really made for younger little girls. Also, their eyes do not close.
The lowest priced option I know of in 18″ dolls is the Springfield Collection dolls. Like the American Girl dolls, they have a stuffed cloth body and vinyl arms & legs. The price for one of these dolls is $21.99 with a simple dress and shoes. They also have the B*Utiful COLLECTION which is priced higher ($29.99) and come with a nicer outfit and accessories. They also offer clothing and accessories that fit most eighteen inch dolls for less (very good deals, especially on clearance). You can buy these dolls online at: http://www.springfielddolls.com/ or in-store at Michael’s. (You can use a Michael’s coupon for 40% off one item to get these for EVEN LESS!!)
The “My Life As” doll are pose-able dolls with a soft torso (like American Girl) which you can get at Walmart for $27.97. These dolls come dressed as whatever they are supposed to be: gardener, hair stylist, schoolgirl, etc. “My Life As” dolls are made of cotton, PVC and poly-blended fabric. They have eyes that open and close, and rooted hair. A similar doll, “What a Doll, is available at Kmart for $29.99. Another slightly pricier 18 inch doll with sleep eyes, rooted hair, soft body, and joints at neck, shoulder, and hip are the Dollie & Me dolls. One nice feature of this doll, similar to American Girl, is that they make matching outfits for child and doll. However, the Dollie & Me child outfits are sized 4-14, while AG’s go from size 6 to 16. D&M girls’ outfits are also more economical because, not only do they have a lower price point, but, the doll dress comes with the child’s while AG sells the matching dresses separately. These dolls are made exclusively for Dollie & Me by the Madame Alexander Doll Company. They are available online at https://www.dollieme.com/dollies-dollie-outfits?size=75 for $39.95 + $9.64 for shipping & handling. Sign up at the site and get 20% off your first purchase (the site also holds sales on national holidays from 20% to 40% off – the more you spend the more you save kind of deal). Doll outfits have velcro closures for easy dressing and undressing. They are made for 3 years and up and are marketed as “a perfect starter doll for younger girls.”
Our Generation Dolls by Battat, are available from Target either in-store or online. For 24.99 you get just the doll in a pretty outfit, or get the deluxe set – doll, 2 outfits + accessories – for 34.99. (You can get one of these beauties from Target for as low as $20.99 on sale). These dolls are also available online at Amazon and at other online retailers for a lot more – $33 and up for just the doll (from what I could see). Unlike American Girl and most of the dolls I’ve mentioned so far, this doll’s body is all plastic/vinyl. It also has eyes that open and close. In addition, there are tons of reasonably-priced accessories for these dolls available at Target.
There are more dolls out there but the last I’ll mention is the Toys r Us exclusive, Journey Girls doll (a personal favorite). The regular price for these gorgeous dolls is $39.99 at Toys r Us in-store and online. Toys r Us also has an Amazon store and an eBay store where you can find these dolls, as well. They occasionally go on sale for $34.99. Every year they issue a limited edition holiday doll dressed in a beautiful long gown, which usually sell for $39.99. These limited edition dolls eventually end up being sold on eBay for $100.00 or more.
Journey Girls dolls are also different from American Girl dolls in that, although they have cloth bodies, their upper torso is vinyl, they are slightly slimmer, and their eyes do not close. The great thing about all these dolls is that they come in different hair and eye color combinations and different ethnicities, so you are bound to find one who matches your child if you so desire. All these dolls also have clothing and accessories made for them that can be used for other 18″ dolls (except the Journey Girl dolls – their bodies and feet are slimmer than the others). These accessories tend to be way cheaper than what you would be able to get at the American Girl Store, which helps the budget.
Take it from a pro: Joanie Demer of TheKrazyCouponLady.com says she got her daughter an American Girl for $115 one Christmas but then got all the accessories for way less from the Our Generation line at Target. So there you have it, hope this helps you get your daughter the 18″ doll of her dreams for less 😉




Make Every Penny Count

I believe in doing everything (including things people in my income bracket aren’t supposed to do) on a budget. Yes, I’m responsible and aware of my income limitations, BUT, I also feel like I’m rich and the sky’s the limit. “Rich?” you ask.  Well, yeah. It’s really all relative. It’s just a matter of valuing what you have, rather than pining after what you don’t.  A wise man once said, “If you think you can’t or you think you can, you’re right.”  That’s how I feel about prosperity or success, “If you think you’re rich or you think you’re poor, you’re right.” To me, it isn’t all about money, it’s about your state of mind.
So, I live a life of gratitude and abundance and set out to get the things I need, and even those I want, at a price I can afford. I have a running list of needs and wants that I go through in my head whenever I shop anywhere.  The key question whenever I run into something on my list is the price. The answer to this question will determine whether it comes home with me that day or not.  I’ll be honest, I am ridiculously cheap. I wasn’t always this way but have become so out of necessity. Like a kid with her nose pressed up against the glass of a candy store, many people in my financial situation feel deprived. I do NOT. You know why? Because by staying positive and being creative I get my family’s needs met for very, very little money, or free.
For example, the other day I walked into a thrift store with $5.00 and came out with a brand new (not used), large handbag (just how I like’em) and a Calvin Klein blouse – and got back CHANGE to boot! It was ½ price day so the bag came out to $2.50 and the top was $1.00 (AND I was only in the store like 5 minutes because they were closing). THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!  Some people give away their change, throw out their pennies because of their low worth. Not me, you know why?  Because I know how to make EVERY. PENNY. COUNT.  (I am SO not kidding).  And that’s what I want to share with you. I can teach you “how to make a dollar out of fifteen cents” without making a job out of it.  Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!

How to be a Doll-Lover on a Budget: Accessories

I love the Krazy Coupon Lady!  If you want to save money and you haven’t checked it out yet, google it.  They hunt down deals and coupons every day and post it all on their site, or you can just sign up and get it all delivered directly to your inbox.  That, by the way, is just a side note to what I am going to share today. On a YouTube video I saw, the Krazy Coupon ladies shared that the one thing people requested most from them was a way to save money on 18″ dolls and their accessories (particularly American Girl dolls). These lovely dolls are a big investment and are just not within the budget if you are financially limited. What they had to say about it is that, unfortunately, there are no offers, deals or coupons to be found for them. If you have an interest in this matter, then you have definitely come to the right place. Just like everything, there is a way to get the 18″ dolls YOU need and the accessories THEY need for peanuts or for the price you can afford.  I have so many suggestions on this topic it will take many posts to cover it, but today I will share how to get doll accessories for less.
If your timing is right, you can get doll accessories on clearance at any store that sells the dolls (more on this in another post).  You just have to go in wearing blinders and go straight to the clearance section.  You can also buy  “doll accessories” for a dollar at the dollar store or Target, and even cheaper (many times) at the thrift store. Bear in mind, these items are not being marketed and sold as “doll accessories.” I am talking about things that have a different use, i.e. air fresheners, pencil holders, etc.  (Check out my YouTube video to get a better idea of what I’m talking about).  My advice is, always be on the lookout, keeping in mind the proportion of the doll you’re shopping for.  For years I’ve been finding miniatures for fifty cents or a quarter even, at my local thrift stores. There are just a ton of accessories to be found for 18 inch dolls because folks love miniatures (I think it’s in our DNA). Collectors usually display these cute little miniatures in curios and china closets but for a doll lover they are pure gold!  They are just so realistic and perfectly sized and (did I mention?) CHEAP!!
There is yet another (EVEN CHEAPER) way to get accessories for dolls and that is to MAKE THEM.  There are plenty of YouTubers making doll accessories, many of them by up-cycling packaging materials, so they come out SUPER cheap or FREE – myfroggystuff is one such YouTube channel (one of our favorites 🙂 .
Stay tuned for more ideas and video tutorials on how to get your dolls what they need for less!