Sunday, December 1, 2013

Green and Frugal: Some Frugal Ideas for Holiday Gifts

With that, here's another great guest post from our friends at The Greenest Dollar:

It’s hard to believe the holidays are here again. And, like most of you, I’m trying to plan out some green and frugal holiday gifts for my friends and family. For me, going to the mall any time of year is a personal form of torture. But going around the holidays? Forget about it.

Same goes for pretty much any other retail outlet. Parking lots are jammed with people, traffic is bad, lines are long and most sales clerks are grumpy and overworked.

Who needs it?

Instead, all my gifts will either come from my computer, or from my kitchen.

Here are some ideas I’m considering:

1. A Groupon

Buying someone a cool Groupon can be a wonderful, frugal gift.

For instance, today’s offer in Detroit is $25 for $50 at American Apparel. If you have a friend or family member who’s nuts about American Apparel clothing, this would be a cheap way to let them get something they like at the store. And it only costs you $25.

You can buy Groupons to restaurants, pilates classes, spa treatments, teeth whitening…it really runs the gamut. And, most deals are 50%-80% off what you’d normally pay (which is why I love Groupon). But, you never know what’s going to come up, which is why you need to stay on the look out.

If you haven’t heard of Groupon, or don’t quite understand how it works, you can see my analysis of the site here.

2. A Certificate is another place to score some deep discounts on eating out. I’ve bought several gift certificates through this site and all have worked out well.

Here’s how it works. Like Groupon, you “buy” a restaurant gift certificate through For instance, you might pay $3 for a $25 gift certificate to your favorite restaurant. You’re saving $22!

The only catch with is that you have to read the fine print. Most restaurants have a caveat that says you have to spend a set amount of money, like $40, for the gift certificate to work. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully for each restaurant, as they’re all different.

I think this gift would work best as an experience. Instead of just giving your friend or family the gift certificate, tell them you’re taking them out to dinner with the certificate. This way you can enjoy each others’ company, and they won’t have to pay a dime. And, you’re still getting a bargain.

Tip: Do NOT just go to and buy a gift certificate for $10. This site always has coupon codes going. Do a search on Google for “ coupon code”. Most of the time, you’ll score a code that will give you an additional 70%-80%. This means that you might pay $2 for a $25 gift certificate. If you sign up for their email list you’ll also receive notices when their gift certificates go on sale (which is practically weekly).

3. A Pandora Membership

Do you have a friend, family member or close co-worker who loves Pandora? Why not get them a year-long membership to the site for $35?

Yes, Pandora is free. But you can only listen for 40 hours per month (sounds like a lot, but if you listen at work it’s easy to top this), and you have to listen to the ads, which can be highly annoying at times.

When you’re a member, you have unlimited listening time. You don’t have to hear any ads. And you’re supporting a worthy endeavor, since Pandora rocks.

4. Homemade Yummies

Several of my friends and family members are going to get boxes or baskets of handmade yummies this year. And if you have the time, giving handmade goods is one of the most frugal (and perhaps rewarding) gifts you can give.

Need some ideas?

If you like canning, Raspberry Wine Jelly is a great choice because it’s really simple, you can use frozen raspberries, and it tastes like a million bucks. You could also make Habanero Jam (which is the most delicious jam I made all summer). It doesn’t require seasonal ingredients, and it tastes incredible when paired with pears or a hard cheese.

If you want to bake some unique cookies, why not try Earl Grey Tea Cookies. They taste amazing, and they’re really unique.

Have a coffee lover in your life (I’m raising my hand here…). Why not make them some homemade biscotti? If you do this, contact me and I’ll send you my mailing address. Check out this great list of 20 Best Biscotti recipes from Another cool idea? Put the biscotti in an old coffee can and tie with a vintage ribbon.

Making someone a freezable dinner is also a unique and thoughtful gift. After all, most of us are super busy during the holidays. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pull out a delicious dinner we didn’t have to cook ourselves? Real Simple has a great list of freezable dinners here.

5. A Reusable Shopping Bag

If you know anyone who hasn’t gotten on the reusable shopping bag bandwagon, now’s the time to get them on board? Find a cool one you think they’d love and gift away. Reusable shopping bags also make an awesome gift bag, as well.

Some of my favorite bags come from BlueQ Bags.

Last Word…

I’d love to hear back from you on this. What frugal holiday gifts are you planning? Also, if you have some ideas for homemade yummies, I’d love to hear them! I’m mostly doing homemade this year and would love some inspiration.

Get 10% off sitewide when you shop at Valid until December 31, 2013.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

How Colorful Outdoor Lights Can Help Set the Right Mood

Lighting is one of the best and easiest ways to create different atmospheres for your garden. Sometimes you want it to be lively and bright, maybe for a party, while at other times you want it to be more intimate and dim. If you have the right kind of lights, it is always easy for you to set the right mood.

1. Kerosene lanterns
These are great for a private setting where the lighting is meant to provide a romantic atmosphere. They don’t give out much light – similar to a candle. However, unlike a candle, they will not go out. The best part is that it is extremely easy to turn them off or move them to another location so you can bring the atmosphere with you wherever you go.

2. Origami lanterns

If you want your garden to have a distinctive and exotic look to it, you can set the right atmosphere with the help of origami lanterns. These have become very popular all over the world and immediately make us think of far away locations in Asia. This also means that they are very easy to find and are relatively inexpensive.

3. Tiki torches
If you are getting ready for a party and want to set the mood, there is no better lighting alternative than the tiki torch. It does not create a lot of light which is ideal for a party at night and it conjures up images of luaus and other exotic-themed parties.

If you are looking to make some improvements to your garden or patio, then is the place to go. When you visit, you'll find a large collection of products that come in all shapes and sizes. Browse at your leisure until you find exactly what you were looking for.

Note: This blog post is sponsored by YesCom.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Product Review: Mini Chocolate Fountain from

As you know, from time to time I get requests to review products and/or websites. So I'd like to introduce you to a site called

The site design is very clean and they offer a variety of products, everything from party gear (disco balls, cotton candy machine) to home outdoor furniture. The LA Shop prices are very competitive and they offer free shipping within the U.S. and Canada. If you need assistance, there's an online chat and toll-free number.

Product: Mini Chocolate Fountain
My mini fountain arrived quickly and in pristine condition. It's a great little table-top chocolate fountain that would be ideal for holidays, small parties...or when the kids just want a chocolate fix.

The manual was easy to follow and there weren't many pieces, so set-up was a breeze. I was all ready to start melting chocolate until I realized you need 4 pounds of chocolate for the fountain to work properly. You also need special fondue chocolate, but the manual does provide guidance on how to make any chocolate work (add vegetable oil to make it a thinner consistency).

Unless you want to wait two hours, your best bet is to melt the chocolate in the microwave vs. letting the fountain do it. Once we had the chocolate melted, we poured it in and voila! We had a beautiful stream of glorious chocolate. The kids proceeded to put every morsel of food they could find in it. From marshmellows, to bananas, chocolate makes everything taste better.

Clean-up was pretty easy. The manual suggests throwing out the leftover chocolate in the garbage vs. clogging the plumbing. Considering how much chocolate was left, I put it in a container and stored it in the fridge for another day.

If you're looking for a fun way for you and the family to get a chocolate fix, this mini table-top chocolate fountain is it.

Disclaimer: Please note that this product was sent to me free of charge. That said, I always provide my honest feedback on any site or product I review -- good or bad.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Healthy Couponing for Families

Green and frugal also means healthy and frugal, which is why I think you'll enjoy this guest post from extreme couponer Jessica Hacker.

People sometimes associate coupons with processed, junky foods. But by using coupons creatively and planning, you can feed your family healthy meals on a frugal budget.

Buying organic means you are buying fresh, preservative-free food, which means the shelf life is minimal. This is okay, though. You can still stock up when you find a great deal and just freeze it! By doing this, I save money on gas and groceries. It also ensures that we make healthy food choices because I always have the products on hand.

Here are a few resources to help you find great deals on healthy products:

  • Newspaper – The Sunday newspaper is your number one resource for coupons. Be selective in the coupons you clip. I choose to clip coupons for staples like breads, hot sauce, mustard, soy sauce, milk, eggs, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, soy milk, frozen vegetables, coffee, whole grain pasta, peanut butter, jelly and bagged salad.

  • Online Coupons – Web-based coupon databases seem to have more health-based coupons than do Sunday newspapers. Safe and free databases I like to use are, and These are great resources for printable coupons on products such as Muir Glen tomatoes, Birds Eye frozen vegetables and Organic Valley Dairy Products.

  • Manufacturers – If you want a coupon for a specific product, the manufacture's website is the spot to find it. Almost every brand has a website and often has great coupons for their products that can only be printed from their website. Write or call the manufacture and ask for coupons. You will be amazed at what they send you.

  • Online Shopping – Did you know you can buy “healthy” foods from the internet? I like to buy organic non-refrigerated products from or is like a Whole Foods market on the internet. The site gives new members a $10 store credit and guarantees you will save 50 percent. has very competitive prices on bulk items. It offers a free program called Subscribe & Save that allows you to set up regular deliveries of products you want and get additional savings.
To maximize your savings with coupons, you need to use them at the right time. If you are not in need at the moment, wait for a sale price and then stock up!

Most stores have store coupons in their sale ads that can be stacked with a printable manufacture's coupon. This allows you to use two coupons on a single product. Also, some stores have double or triple coupon days which can make your savings huge!

Focus on couponing for toiletry items. Toiletries are among the most expensive things we buy, yet with coupons we are always getting them free or even making money! This saves money I can use to buy healthy foods for my family.

Eating healthy comes with a price. By getting toiletry and paper products free, making my own cleaning supplies and making my menu plan a priority, I save a fortune that balances out the cost of organic healthy foods!

NOTE: I'm an avid Vitacost fan. Another way to add to your savings is to sign up at Currently, they're giving 12% cashback when you enter Vitacast from their site. Cha-ching!

About the Author: Jessica Hacker, 26, is a frugal lifestyle expert and mother of four who cut monthly shopping bills for her family of six from as much as $2,000 to $160 using coupons and penny-pinching prowess. Featured on TLC's Extreme Couponing and in other media, Jessica has inspired a following of people seeking practical ways to live on a tight budget. Her website shares free information and resources to help people save money, plan menus and feed their families healthy meals, as well as webinars on how to live frugally available to anyone, anytime for $25. An avid hunter and angler, Jessica loves planning birthday parties, wearing high heels and cross country running. She and her family live in her hometown of Caldwell, Idaho.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Some Great Blog Posts Just for You!

I didn't realize what a slacker I've been lately. No posts since January? What's up with that? It's been a busy year (what year hasn't been busy?) Plus, I also maintain,, and Needless to say, it takes some time to keep up with all of them.

With that, I do have some interesting posts for you to check out:
 From coupons and tweets, to saving money on your cable bill and kids clothes, you'll find it all in this list.

I promise to try and post more when I can. If there are certain topics you'd like to learn more about, let me know!

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Top Blog Posts of the Week

How are we more than halfway through January already?!! It's been awhile since I shared the Top Blog Posts of the Week:
  • 10 Tips for Teaching Children Financial Responsibility Great tips on what kids need to know
Did I miss any great posts??
In the coming weeks, I'm hoping to post some great info about household items, such as detergent, that you can easily made at home.
Stay tuned...
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year from Green & Frugal Living: Fun Projects for 2013

The New Year can be the time to think about projects that can be beneficial to the environment and also help you to save money by repurposing items that can, with a little imagination, be found almost anywhere. Thrift stores, yard sales, rummage sales and even the junk pile can produce items that can be repainted, and reused. Get the children involved and see what kind of imagination they can display. You will not only be helping to save resources but developing the creativity of kids, our most valuable resource. 

Here are some common items that can be turned into useful and attractive items for your home or office:

* Office Paper Holders – I’m a frequent reader of Aunt Peaches – marvelous blog with lots of craft ideas. Those upright racks can be painted any color and used for dish drying, plate storage, shopping bag holders, periodical rack and so much more.

* Plastic Bottle Squirrel Guards – eHow has this amazing solution. Hang your bird feeders on a line from one point to another as with a clothes line. On either side thread the pre-drilled bottles and add a clothes pin to keep them from sliding away. When tightrope walking squirrel reach them they spin causing the invaders to fall. They will eventually give up.

* Glass Bottle Light Fixtures – I recently found this on the Oregon Live website. All you need is an interesting bottle and a way to cut off the bottom. You can get a tool for it or try this. Tie a piece of waxed dental floss tightly around the place you want to cut. Light it on fire. Let it burn as long as possible then tap the spot with a metal object like the back of a knife. The bottom should fall right off. Then all you need is to thread a socket and S cord through the bottle and add a canopy. Be sure to use an LED or compact fluorescent lamp to go greener. You can also create ice buckets from larger glass bottles from vodka or other beverages this way by cutting around the upper portion just below the taper.

* Personalized Recyclable iPhone Cases –Tiny Prints, a leading online printing company, offers custom iPhone cases that are made from recyclable material. You and the children can select from countless personal designs, colors, and patterns and even add your own photographs to these environmentally friendly products. I have a case with a photo collage of my two, adorable little girls that they helped create.

* Other Bottle and Jar Uses – Another phenomenal idea from Aunt Peaches. Glass containers that are unusual of antique have more reuse possibilities than any other household item. A jar mason jar can be filled with coarse salt and used to hold a candle. It can also make an interesting and fun way to serve a drink. Old decorative bottles make interesting soap dispensers for the bath. The possibilities are endless try to get the kids to come up with new ideas. There are countless ways to both recycle and save that are available to anyone who looks online. Pinterest members are pinning new possibilities everyday. I recently saw a wine rack made by cutting the end off of a freight pallet and hanging on the wall. In this writers kitchen there is a basket from the handlebar of an old bicycle that is now used to hold fruit on a farm table. With a little thought and the desire to be green anyone can create a new use for an old items.

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