Monday, November 29, 2010

Some thrifty Christmas shopping tips

Well, the official holiday shopping season is upon us. Black Friday is long gone and Cyber Monday is almost over. How are you doing on your holiday shopping? Have you made a budget and are you sticking to it? Here's an article from this month's Good Housekeeping magazine that gives some thrifty tips to save money this holiday shopping season.

Save Money on Christmas Shopping- Good Housekeeping Magazine

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Thankful and Thrifty Break

In honor of Thanksgiving week, I will be taking a break from writing for a bit. I'll be taking the time to think about all of the things I'm thankful for. I urge you to take some time this week to do the same. Back in college, I kept a gratitude journal for a year and really got a lot out of doing so. Maybe something to start again in 2011?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thrifty Recipe- Apricot-Sauced Chicken

Another favorite from the Five in Ten Cookbook. It's great over white or brown rice and with broccoli or another green veggie. When you plan your meals for the week, try to include another one that uses heavy cream so the rest of the container doesn't go to waste.

Apricot-Sauced Chicken
From The 5 in 10 Cookbook

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to uniform thickness
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
One 8.5 ounce can apricot halves (around 12 halves)

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in frying pan, add chicken breasts and cook until white throughout but still moist, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan.
2. Add the wine to the pan, scrape any drippings off bottom of pan, and boil over high heat until reduced by half, about one minute. Pour in the cream and boil until slightly reduced and thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to tasts. Add apricots (drained) and warm through. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thrifty Travel Strategy- Airport Parking

From Kare11
Every time we have to fly, the question comes up: How will we get to the airport? If we have to drive the next question is: Where do we park? Of course the simple answer is to just park at the airport, a short walk away from the security gate. However, that is the far from thrifty answer. There are also offsite parking lots such as Park N Fly, but those aren't that much less. Minneapolis has a light rail line that serves the airport, but the problem is that most light rail parking lots don't allow overnight parking.

The article I linked to below caught my eye this week. There is a little-used program offered by a parking ramp in downtown Minneapolis. They let you park in their ramp (Ramp C for those of you familiar with Minneapolis), and from there you can take the light rail to the airport. Sounds like a great choice for those times we have little luggage and also have a little extra time to get to the airport.

Cheapest MSP Airport Parking- Kare11

For those of you who don't fly out of MSP, I encourage you to take a look at options in your city. Maybe there's an offsite parking lot that has specials or coupons, or a mass transit option that someone could drop you off at. In any case, it pays to plan ahead for a thrifty parking spot!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shutterfly- a thrifty lifesaver!

Go to the Shutterfly home page.

Have I told you of my love affair with Shutterfly? It's such a fun, useful site and can be thrifty. Let me count the ways:
  • Beautiful, creative photo cards for the holidays and any other occasion. I've used them for Christmas for seven years now and for our daughter's birth announcements. You can have them printed at your local Target instead of paying for shipping too. Even better, the cards come with envelopes, one less thing you need to buy.
  • There always seem to be deals going on, with codes you enter at checkout to get free shipping or a percentage off of your order. (Never order a photo book or larger order without a discount, if one isn't offered, just wait a few days and one usually comes up on their site)
  • Their photobook making tools are very robust and easy to use. There are tons of backgrounds, layouts, and book types. They make great gifts, too. You can design a book once and then have copies shipped to everyone on your list.
  • Again, you can order and have photos printed at Target in an hour, including larger prints like 5 x 7's. Couple that with a nice picture frame and you can give a gift of a photo the same day that the picture was taken! This works well for weddings and family events. Also great for loved ones who live far away, you can send photos to their local store to pick up.
Do you use a digital photo website other than Shutterfly? Which one and why do you love it?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Baby Food Stories

Still making all of our daughter's baby food. Some recent purees include carrots, yams, and a mix of peas/carrots/corn. However, since she's nine months now she is eating more and more "real food." Some interesting things she's eaten lately:

- Vegetable curry from an Indian restaurant. I ordered it mild and mashed the peas, carrots, and chickpeas with my fork, then mixed with some rice and some yogurt. She loves it!
- Meatloaf. I made it from scratch and again, mushed some up with my fork and she ate it right up.
- Pulled pork. We were staying with friends who made an amazing pulled pork shoulder in the crock pot. I gave her some small pieces. The meat was so tender she was able to eat it with no problems.
- Pumpkin pancakes. We were out to breakfast and had to try this seasonal special. They were very tasty and our daughter agreed.

Have you fed your baby anything interesting lately? Experts say it's important to have them try many different flavors. Of course I still try to abide by the rule of not introducing more than one new ingredient at at time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thrifty Recipe- Hawaiian Chicken Drumsticks

Made this earlier this week and it turned out really well. I had bought a huge family pack of drumsticks a couple weeks ago and froze them small zip-top bags in groups of four. To make this recipe, I thawed two bags-worth overnight before putting them in the crock pot in the morning.

Hawaiian Chicken Drumsticks

12 chicken drumsticks (I used 8 and it turned out fine)
1 cup ketchup
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Splash sesame seed oil

1. Place chicken in the crockpot (I left skin on but could also be done skinless)
2. Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over the chicken
3. Cook on low for about eight hours, moving chicken around every few hours if some aren't covered by the liquid.

I served this with white rice and also made up a quick stir-fry to go with it.

Veggie stir-fry

1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1/3 of an onion, cut into strips
1 small can chunk pineapple (undrained)

1. Cook bell pepper and onion in olive oil until just tender
2. Add pineapple and juice and cook until pineapple is warm
3. Serve with rice

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Three Financial Terms Kids Need to Know


Now that we have a baby, my husband and I talk about what we want to teach her about money. Some of the important lessons, in our eyes, include being a "saver" rather than a "spender" and starting to save early in life, not trading individual stocks (using index funds instead), taking advantage of company matching dollars, and paying off your credit card every month. A recent column in the Wall Street Journal illustrated what one dad wants to teach his kids- Direct deposit, dollar-cost averaging, and index mutual funds. Some important topics.

Three Financial Terms Kids Need to Know

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fun Coupon Facts

There was a good article in the Star Tribune this weekend about coupon use. Some interesting factoids from the article:

2.9 billion coupons were redeemed in 2008 and
3.3 billion coupons were redeemed in 2009, marking the first increase since 1992

367 billion coupons were issued by brands in 2009

38% of "super heavy" coupon users and 41% of coupon "enthusiasts" have household incomes of more than $70,000

While Internet coupon use is growing quickly, 89% of coupons come from newspaper inserts

Source: Coupon Craze

Do any of these facts surprise you? I personally have been using more online coupons but the majority are still from the Sunday paper.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Post-Holiday Shopping

I hit up my local Target today for some 90% off Halloween items. Yes, that's right, 90%. Whatever is left will probably be gone tomorrow to make room for even more Christmas stuff. Here are the deals I got:

- A hooded sweatshirt for my daughter with a cat on it and cat ears on the hood. $9.99 marked down to $0.99
- Two picture frames. $4.99 each marked down to $0.49 each
- 2 plastic kids' cups with floating glitter and spooky shapes in the sides. $1.99 each marked down to $0.19 each
- A package of 24 foil muffin tin liners in the shape of ghosts. $2.49 marked down to $0.24

That makes a grand total of $2.59 spent for all of the above.

We have used this strategy for most of our Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Easter, etc home decorations. We buy when the discount hits 75% off or so and save for next year. The key is to put it away in the right, labeled, storage tote so we remember it the next year.

Have you ever tried this strategy?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

DIY Rule #1: Multiple trips to the hardware store

We are visiting some friends this weekend and my husband is helping them with a home improvement project- installing a new toilet. Sounds simple, right? Well, they are on their third trip to the hardware store in two hours! No matter how much you plan, make lists, and measure during a home improvement project, there is always just one more thing you need, one part that is the wrong size, or one more tool that would make the job easier.  And that's OK. Even with the cost of gas and your time, most DIY projects are still thrifty, plus you get the satisfaction of doing it yourself and the knowledge teach others.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rebates: good if you remember to send them in!

Have you ever bought something because it was "such a good deal after the rebate" but then not actually sent in the rebate form and receipt? Or maybe sent it in but had it rejected for some reason? Rebates really can help you be thrifty but can also have less then impressive results. A recent article outlines why and the title says it all:

Stores like rebates because shoppers are lazy

Some rebate tips:
- Make sure you read the fine print and follow all of the guidelines
- If you need to mail in the original copy of a receipt, make a photocopy for your records
- Send in the rebate or go online and fill out the paperwork the minute you get home, before you use the item

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Open Enrollment Season

As I discussed here in a previous post, it's important to take advantage of all of the benefits your employer offers. This time of year is open enrollment for many companies, where you have the opportunity to change your benefits- either sign up for newly-offered plans, change the number of dependents, drop coverage, etc. Even though it might be boring, you owe it to yourself to read all of the literature your employer provides. Try the online tools and resources they might provide to make sure you select the right plans for you and your family. Make sure to pay attention to the flexible spending account choices- they are a great way to lower the amount of taxes you need to pay.

So don't wait until the last day of your open enrollment period to think about your benefits, take a look at those brochures that are buried on your desk today.

Monday, November 1, 2010


I'm not posting a new thrifty topic today in order to make a public service announcement.

Make sure you do your civic duty and vote tomorrow!