Recently I saw a deal for a reduced annual subscription to one of my favorite magazines, ShopSmart, which is issued by Consumer Reports. I always find some great tips in that magazine and truly enjoy reading it. I was tempted to purchase the subscription when I stopped myself – I can read this magazine for free at the library; I don’t need to spend $15 on a subscription to something that will be quickly thrown into the recycle bin when I’m finished. It’s just going to create more clutter and waste not to mention cost me money.

I think this is how people get themselves in trouble financially as little purchases over time do add up, particularly subscriptions which tend to stick around far past their usefulness because it’s so easy to allow the company to keep deducting that amount from your account. This is why as tempting as it is I’ve been able to stop myself from buying a premium subscription to the streaming music services I like to listen to at work – Digitally Imported and Pandora. Sure, the semi-frequent commercial interruptions can get a little annoying, but is it really so bad I need to add an unnecessary expense to my budget? I don’t think so.

I think it’s worth it to evaluate what you’re spending your money on monthly that isn’t a necessity. This is particularly true if you’re struggling to make ends meet, but even if you’re comfortable. There’s no use in throwing money away that could be better saved.


We’ve all heard of the Latte Effect as it relates to personal finance, right? You know, cut out the cost of your daily high priced drink and save $5. Do that for a month and viola, $100 or so. Not sure I’d cut them out entirely. I mean, you’re entitled to a vice every now and then eh? And I love a vanilla latte every now and then.

No Pop

But the same pertains to regular pop and calories too. I love pop, especially Pepsi. If you’re a daily drinker the amount of sugar (calories) can add up quickly. Let’s do some math.

150 Calories in a can
365 Days a year
54,750 Calories in a year

54,750! That equals 15.6 lbs. Just by doing nothing more than cutting one can of pop a day out of your intake could save you nearly 16 lbs a year. Besides all that extra weight, you’re saving some money too with not purchasing the pop, or as much of it at least. Maybe that’s a little exaggerated with assuming a can a day. But maybe not. I can think of several people who I know are drinking a can or more a day or pop, every day.

Which takes us to weight control. Am I some expert in nutrition and weight loss? Nope. But I have years of experience learning how my body reacts to food and exercise. We should all be working to keep weight in check. We all need to control our weight and be careful what fuel we’re putting inside. Want to know what I think is the secret to weight loss? There is no secret. Seriously, no magic pill, no special exercise, no juice fast (although it may be healthy once in a while). Weight loss is as simple as if you burn more calories in a day than your daily allowance, you’ll drop weight over time. That’s it. Have an allowance of 2000 calories per day, eat 1500 and you save 500 for that day. Add up all the saved calories and once they reach 3500, you just lost a pound. It’s just math, and simple math. I didn’t even have to take my socks off for that one.

The hard part is the will power. That’s tough, so much so I’m not even going to get into it. 🙂

As I get older, I’ve come to understand how important health is. Both for my longevity and even for my pocketbook. Here’s a stat that most don’t include when retirement planning. The ERBI estimates that it will cost the average 65 year old couple over $150k to cover just HALF the medical expenses incurred in retirement. My thought is, the healthier I am the less chance I’ll need that much medical help. Of course, there are some things that may just happen. But if I can help influence that number, I’m going to!

BTW – Here are two great apps to use for tracking your exercise and food intake if you’re interested in taking it to that level. Both are available on iPhone, Android, and Window devices.

My Fitness Pal


Alternate title: How I got a $79 purse for free

I’ve been drooling over this particular purse (the Kipling Callie Crossbody in Pearlized Grey) since I spotted it at Macy’s weeks ago when we were shopping for towels for our master bathroom. I love Kipling’s products and own an awesome backpack I use all the time when we go on vacations or nearby excursions. They are made very well, but they are pricey.

Kipling Callie Pearlized Grey

Usually I’m pretty good about forgetting about the stuff I see that I “want” because I see a lot of stuff I wouldn’t mind having. I almost never buy anything over $20 immediately because more than half the time I completely forget about it in short order, meaning I really didn’t want it that bad. Honestly, friends have commented on my incredible patience waiting to buy something I want. The last point-and-shoot camera I bought was researched heavily and I waited a couple of months for a good price before purchasing it. Sometimes the hunt is half the fun!

Another example of my incredible patience is how badly I want to upgrade my phone. I currently have an iPhone 4S that I bought in October 2011 which means I’m eligible for an upgrade. I’m not sold on the iPhone 5, however, so I’ve been biding my time to see what the iPhone 6 will bring to the table. I definitely want something with a larger screen, so if Apple fails to deliver I might get a Samsung Galaxy phone instead. But I don’t want to jump the gun even though my current phone is starting to drive me crazy with it’s increasingly poor battery life and how much slower it’s gotten with each iOS update. That means waiting until October before being rid of my current phone but it will be worth it because I will be getting something I know I will love and use for years.

Getting back to the purse…

When I first spotted it I was willing to break my don’t buy it immediately rule because it appeared to be on sale (20% off the $79 tag price), but when I asked an associate they said it was ringing up full price. Back to the display it went. I didn’t care to drop that kind of money on a purse when I was making more money than I do now so there was no way I was going to buy it for $79 plus tax.

When I got home I started researching it online to see if I could find it elsewhere cheaper, but Macy’s was the only game in town so I figured it must be exclusive to them (it wasn’t even on the manufacturer’s website in that particular color). I tried to put it out of my mind but I kept thinking about it (a sure sign that I really wanted it).

Fast forward to this past weekend. I was browsing Groupon‘s coupons (say that 3 times quickly) and found a Macy’s 25% off coupon. After discussing it with my husband, I decided to apply for a Macy’s credit card to get an additional 20% off so the purse would only be $51.19 (including tax). Now, I don’t recommend this approach and have pretty much never opened a store card just to get a discount. However, we have excellent credit and no large planned purchases on the horizon so it wouldn’t be a big deal for us.

We were on our way to Macy’s when something told me to check Amazon again and wouldn’t you know it, suddenly they had it (I confirmed on that it was a new item which is why I hadn’t found it before). Not only that but it was only $50.82! Obviously, I was all over that!

I almost opened an Amazon Rewards card (via Chase) as they were offering me a $50 instant discount, but the application was confusing as it asks for your annual income and it didn’t seem like I could add our total household income since the card would be in my name and they only wanted my employer’s name and phone number. So I logged in as my husband and was going to apply as him but they were only offering him a $30 credit, probably because we purchase more from Amazon on my account. Then I started reading the comments about how Chase rarely approves people instantly and sometimes they have to wait weeks to get the credit. At that point I was completely turned off to applying for a card and decided to forgot that route.

I logged back into my account and realized I could use my Discover card cashback bonus to pay, and since it was over $100, I ended up doing that and not having to pay one cent out of pocket. I opted for free super-saver shipping but the delivery period was when we plan to be out of town so I ended up signing up for an Amazon Prime trial so I could get the 2-day free shipping. The purse was out of stock, however, so the two-day shipping is based on when it will be back in stock. However, that will still get me the purse before we leave on vacation so there isn’t a package sitting outside my house for days.

So I gave into the want this time but I came out no poorer. I guess that only works, however, if you keep it to a minimum. Obviously my cashback bonus can only grow if I’m not constantly spending it. But I hope my story above demonstrates that you can still get things you want and stay frugal as long as you’re willing to be patient and keep your wants to a minimum.

Incidentally, I’m trying to see whether the Amazon Prime membership is worth the $99 annual fee. We don’t order from Amazon too often, so I worry that having the membership will just encourage us to spend more. However, I like that they have a lot of streaming video content, allow you to borrow one free Kindle book per month, and just started offering free streaming music with the membership. If anyone has an opinion on Prime, I’d love to hear it.


Sometimes trying to save money ends up backfiring. Let this tale be a lesson to all so you can learn from my mistakes!

I’ve been wanting to replace everything (rugs, towels, shower curtain) in our master bathroom for years now, but it was more a want than a need. It recently became a need, however, when I noticed the rubber backing on the rugs started coming apart. We had been using the rugs for over ten years so I felt like we had gotten excellent use from them. Now it was time to find something different. Our current color scheme had been mismatched for awhile – blue rugs and bath mat, white curtain with matching blue, as well as pink and purple, flowers, and faded purple-ish towels. It wasn’t sophisticated, but it worked.

At Target I spotted some eye-catching bright green (guacamole, according to the tag) towels and matching rugs. They also had a cute shower curtain that matched perfectly. We ended up buying everything one weekend and took advantage of a coupon where you received a $5 discount. After washing the towels I immediately regretted buying them. They were cheap ($5 for each bath towel and $4 for each hand towel) and it showed. Not only was there far too much dryer lint to come from such thin towels, they were fraying after the very first wash! Not only that, but they shed all over the place. A week later when I was cleaning the bathroom I swept up a thin layer of towel pieces. Ridiculous!

As for the rugs, when I finally got around to switching them, I was disappointed in how thin they were compared to the current rugs. There was no cushion to them, so we decided to return them and keep looking.

Unfortunately we had an extremely difficult time finding suitable rugs. We looked at many stores – Macy’s, Carson’s, Sears, Kohl’s, Meijer, Walmart, IKEA, and even Bed Bath & Beyond. While each store had many towel colors to choose from, their selection of rugs was paltry. Sears really had nothing at all and I’m pretty sure that’s where we got our original blue rugs that we loved so much.

We ended up going back to Target and re-purchasing the rugs. For the one in front of the sink I put a memory foam rug, purchased from Kohl’s on sale, underneath for cushioning. It’s not the greatest solution, because it’s smaller than the rug, plus because our bathroom is so small, I have to flip the rug over in order to close the door, but whatever.

This, my friends, is what happens when you try to spend the least amount of money on things. I have no doubt that these towels aren’t long for the wear, nor are the rugs. Had I just conceded to spend a little more upfront, perhaps I would have chosen a different color scheme that had better quality towels and matching rugs to begin with. On top of that, I had forgotten that I could have gotten a free gift card through my Discover card cash back for Kohl’s or Bed Bath and Beyond and not spent anything out of pocket! Lesson learned!

Oh, and on top of that we never found a matching bath mat so we’re still using the blue one that doesn’t match anything. We’ll probably have to get a white one.
In the future I’m considering getting white towels instead of any colored ones because I noticed that there’s a lot of products containing chemicals that damage the color anyway. That’s why our purple towels were nearly pink and had weird orange streaking in them, and one of the new green hand towels already has yellow streak marks on it. So frustrating!

Where do you buy your bathroom decor?


I went through a phase several years ago where I often bought candles whenever we’d go to the mall; mostly tea lights from Yankee Candle. For some reason, however, I didn’t burn a lot of the candles I purchased, so they sat in our hall closet for years untouched. In my mind I was saving them for… what exactly? I’m not sure, so recently I decided I should make a concerted effort to use and enjoy them before they get so old the scent fades away. Not only that, but they are taking up unnecessary space and lately the amount of stuff we have in the house is starting to get under my skin. Clutter is my kryptonite, so most of it is organized (due to my tendency to every so often completely reorganize the hall closet, bathroom cabinets, or what have you) and largely out of site, but just knowing it’s there is enough to trigger a bit of anxiety.

This same reason is why I recently decided to pay less attention to deal sites. I love a good deal (who doesn’t?) but I’ve stocked up on so many non-perishables that the garage is starting to look a bit ridiculous. We have a bunch of big packs of toilet paper and paper towels in there, not to mention countless bottles of shampoo and conditioner, among other toiletries, stashed away in the bathroom. We could go a good six months to a year on our current stockpile.

Taking advantage of stocking up when these things are on sale has definitely saved us money, but it’s starting to take a toll on my sanity. Therefore I have decided to make sure our stockpile is nearly depleted before taking advantage of any further sales. This is tough for me, because every time a sale comes along I want to jump on it, so I have to keep reminding myself that another sale will come along well before I’ve run out of whatever it is. Plus, once things look less crowded I will feel less like the things are taking over every inch of space.

Can you relate to this at all? How do you take advantage of sales, and do you find yourself stockpiling a bit too much?


Spreadable Butter

We go through a lot of spreadable butter in our house because we love it. What we don’t love is the price. A large container from Land O’ Lakes, like the one pictured above, costs over $3.00 (usually closer to $4.00) for what amounts to about 3 sticks of butter and some oil. When butter is on sale you can get 4 sticks for $2. So I’ve been on a mission to make my own spreadable butter to save money.

Apparently the 3rd attempt is the charm as my most recent batch came out excellent – it spreads evenly and tastes great!

The first time I made it the oil taste was overwhelming. The second time I made it I used evaporated milk instead, as someone online had suggested, and not only did it look weird (although it tasted fine), it spoiled too quickly (within two weeks). It literally grew mold which was gross.

So here’s my guide on how to make spreadable butter the right way.

Note: The oil to butter ratio you want to use is 1/3 cup oil for every stick of butter.

1) Use a good canola oil. I always thought that all canola oils are made the same but on my first attempt I used Market Pantry canola oil and I was disappointed with the flavor. This time I used Wesson. BIG difference in taste. I love generic foods but in this case the name brand was better. It must be how it’s processed because I noticed the Wesson canola oil is much lighter in color than Market Pantry’s.

2) Use your favorite salted butter. In this case Target brand butter – Market Pantry – wins for me. It has a perfect creamy texture and the right amount of salt.

3) Remove your desired amount of butter from the refrigerator and let it soften.

4) Put the butter in a food processor and mix it up until smooth.

5) Add your oil slowly, while continuing to mix, making sure everything is mixed thoroughly.

6) Transfer to your desired container and store in the refrigerator.

The butter should keep good for three months which is more than enough time to eat it all, at least in this household!

Since I like to reuse containers, I found that 3 sticks of butter is the perfect amount to fill up the large Land O’ Lakes spreadable butter container. Just make sure to clean it out real good between batches.


When it comes to shaving, I’ve been down most roads: disposable, electric, hair trimmer (beard days), and DE blades (safety razors). Disposable razors are easy but not cheap when you figure in how much they cost per shave, especially if you use those high end Mach blades. Yikes! Electric does a pretty good job, but I’ve found it irritates your face. And considering the cost of the replacement blades you may be better off buying a new razor. If you have a beard, the hair trimmer (shears) work great and are decent priced.

Last year I discovered safety razors after reading an article over at I decided to give it a try and the Mrs. was nice enough to indulge my Amazon wish list. I didn’t go high end right off the bat. I picked out an inexpensive $6 shaver along with a Van Der Hagen shave set for another $10. I had to start out small just in case I didn’t care for it. After reading the AskMen article, I realized there were countless styles and manufactures of blades. Upon a recommendation, I picked out a sample pack of 100 blades for $25. All in, around $41. Up front a little more than disposables, but this trial wasn’t over.

When I was little I used to watch my dad shave using a safety razor. As I got older, I just figured that was the old fashioned way of shaving. I used to think the same of my moms leftover meatloaf too, but my dad knew different, and now I understand that too. From the first shave with a safety razor, I was hooked. It did take me a little bit of time trying the different blades before I found the right one, but the overall shave experience is worth the effort. Yes, I said “experience”. It takes a little preparation to get a really good shave. Not some wine and candle preparation, but setting up your face for a good shave. Following my online guide suggestions, I was ready. I soaked my brush and razor in hot water while I showered. I cleaned my face really well and made sure to not completely dry my face (you get a much smoother shave if your beard has some moisture). With the right blade (Astra platinum for me), I end up with no red marks and a nice smooth face. Again, well worth the effort.

Now down to brass tacks; I can get 100 of these blades for $9.89. That’s .10 each rounding up. I can shave 3 times before changing to a new one. So I can shave for only 3.3 cents each time. Even with the up front cost, you just can’t beat that. Sure, I could also get a $50 Merkur razor, but the one I have works just fine. Oh, and don’t forget the moisturizer!


I hear printer ink is really expensive, but I don’t have much experience with that because we own a laser printer. Best purchase we ever made! For $200 we can print all the coupons we want (that’s mostly what we use it for) and rarely have to buy toner. In the time we’ve owned the printer, which is going on approximately ten years, we’ve purchased 3 toner cartridges (which cost $30 each). This is no exaggeration and we print stuff daily!

So unless you have a compelling reason to own a “regular” printer, I highly suggest opting for a laser printer instead. Heck, I’d recommend getting one in addition to your fancy color printer and only using the fancy one for printing photos or items that require full-color and use the laser for everything else. It will quickly pay for itself with all the savings on ink.