Black Friday/ Cyber Monday

>> 11.30.2009

Anyone snag an OMG/ to-die-for steal of a deal in the post-Thanksgiving sales days? Please share!

Oh, and while you have shopping on the brain... be sure to check out my 15 under $15 gift guide.


Enjoy Thanksgiving!

>> 11.25.2009

I'm signing off for the holiday. I hope you all enjoy Thanksgiving in whatever way you choose: standing by the oven waiting for that perfectly cooked turkey, watching football on the couch, or strategizing over doorbuster ads for Black Friday...

Me? I'll wake up bright and early to do our local Turkey Trot 5 mile race then spend the remainder of the day stuffing myself with pie (and other Thanksgiving goodies) at my family's home. On Friday, I'll fly to North Carolina to celebrate with Nate's family until Tuesday. Yep, the Friday to Tuesday plan was all a part of the thrifty airline ticket strategy :). Stay safe everyone; I'll see you next week!


15 Thrifty Gifts Under $15

>> 11.24.2009

***See my 2010 Gift Guide here.***

The holidays are here!!! Yep, I’m three-exclamations-excited. I love being around family, stuffing myself with sweets, walking down streets lined with twinkle lights, and taking a little time off of work. If there’s one thing I won’t let get me down at this time of year, it’s money. I might be tight on cash after working on my new house, but that’s not going to stop me from making every penny I spend count!

It seems like most of the “low cost” gift ideas in magazines or on talk shows bottom out at $30-50, but I don’t think those type of prices are realistic for buying a long list of gifts. That’s why I decided to brainstorm my own list of gifts for under $15. For my 15 under $15, I went for gifts that offer the most bang for my buck plus allow me to shop locally or through a small business (example images are taken off of Etsy).

1. Calendar- Desk, laundry room, refrigerator, family room… Everyone needs at least one this time of the year. This is a can’t miss!

Right in budget, I'd love to have this $12 calendar hanging above my desk. Find it here.

2. Picture with frame- Many might suggest buying a frame as a gift, but I think that like most décor, this is too personal of a gift. I believe it would be more thoughtful to carefully chose a photograph then print and frame it (in a classic white or black frame) for the recipient. Think about images other than the standard group shot (maybe use an image of the sunset on a vacation you took with the recipient). Really make this gift standout by printing a 8x10 photograph rather than the standard 5x7 (thrifty tip- you can find great quality prints at the lowest prices by going through a photography store).

3. Plant- Go for an evergreen that can last all year or a houseplant that’s hard to kill. If your climate permits, give some seedlings that plant in January.

This $9 terrarium would a perfect Secret Santa gift for the coworker stuck in the cubicle next to me. Find it here.

4. Lesson or class pass- Private lesson prices are way out of the $15 budget, but jump in with a group and save big time. Think: yoga, dance, art, etc. This would be a great gift for an adventurous friend or a newlywed’s date night.

5. Charitable contribution- This is the perfect gift for the person who has everything! After realizing that my dad always went out and bought things when he really wanted or needed them, I began making donations to an organization that provides running shoes to disadvantaged youth in my dad’s honor instead (he’s a runner). The gift was a big hit and I've tried to surprise him by upping the donation each year since. *Remember, charities are taking an especially hard hit with this economy.
6. Food- Instead of wine, bring something equally enjoyable as a holiday hostess gift like expensive cheese or oil (expensive meaning more than they would normally spend). Add a serving piece or dish with the gift and the result will be a real treat.
Find it here.
The perfect hostess gift- a unique melted wine bottle platter for $13. Find it here.

7. Family game- Not only are board games and puzzles affordable for those on a tight budget, but can end up being great entertainment if opened at a family event. I always look forward to struggling through the 1000 piece puzzle that my sister receives each year :).

8. Jewelry- Like clothing, jewelry can be a really personal gift, but by choosing classic elements like silver and pearls you’ll please just about anyone. Go for earrings to really get the most bang for your buck.
These earrings are a steal at $8! Find them here.

9. Ornament- I love decorating Christmas trees, especially when I get to ornaments that have special meaning or history. Who wouldn’t love a carefully selected and symbolic gift?
Nate and I are starting a new (thrifty) tradition by exchanging ornaments this year and I think this $7 cycling themed gift would be perfect for him! Find it here.

10. Event tickets- Sure, front row tickets to see Britney will demand big bucks, but planning an event for your friends or loved one doesn’t have to cost a lot. Think: live music at a local club, tickets to a documentary at a film festival, admission to a bridal showcase… what’s going on in your community?

11. Artistic print- This print would be the perfect reminder of home for my younger sister who just graduated and moved out of state:
Find it here.

12. Book- buy new or go with a gently used copy that looks like it hasn’t been touched. Look out for book signings in your area. Not only are they fun to go to, but really make the gifts that much more special!

13. Gift card- Sometimes gift cards can be the thriftiest gifts of all! You’re allowing the recipient to choose something they will actually use and give them the ability to take advantage of post-holiday deals. For under $15, my favorite gift cards are to coffee shops, iTunes, movie theaters, and nail salons- all places where $15 goes far!

14. Magazine subscription- It’s one of those gifts that keeps on giving! Why not prevent another magazine death by ordering a subscription for a friend? Elle Décor or Glamour anyone?

15. Sweets- My holiday motto is: You can't go wrong with sugar. Still, chances are that your recipient will receive many sugary gifts this season, so instead of gifting an entire plate of cookies, put the extra effort into adding embellished packaging or decoration.
For $12, this Etsy seller will do all of the decorating for you. Just bake cupcakes and add these fun Santa fondant toppers.

Have more than $15 to spend? I think it would be fun to grab a few off of the above list rather than buying a more expensive item. I mean, isn’t ripping open the present the best part?

Don’t have any money to spend? Never underestimate the value of
time expensive gifts! I cannot tell you how much I would appreciate one of my friends to step in and help with the painting or hang up Christmas lights with me.

What are your favorite thrifty gifts?

I'm linking this post up with the 10th Penny Pinching Party over at The Thrifty Home.
Head over to join in with the fun!


Meet My Thrifty Boyfriend...

>> 11.23.2009

You've seen him pop up on some of my blog posts...

Remember this classic shower before pic (don't forget to check out the afters)?

Or when he helped sand the ceilings after I scraped the popcorn?

Well, I think it's about time for a formal introduction! Meet Nate:
We've been dating since January 2009 and couldn't be happier! He's actually moving into the construction zone (aka my house) in December (and yes, he's contributing rent). We have a lot in common: we love keeping active (running and triathlons are our favorites), can't miss NBC's Thursday nights, and have a shared obsession for self-serve yogurt.

Gotta love a guy that will take pictures with a giant sandwich when asked :).
Oh, but did I mention he's thrifty? After saving up for the past year, Nate was posed to buy the tri bike of his dreams this past weekend. Not one to blindly throw money into a big purchase, he did his research and found a way to strike the deal of his dreams. By buying last season's model at a shop that was in the process of liquidating their merchandise, he saved almost $800 off of the list price and stayed way under his $2,500 budget (tri bikes aren't cheap!).

For you cycling buffs out there, here's a pic of his new love (I promise, I'm not jealous...):
Are you the thrifty one in the relationship or does you SO take that role? Any other cyclists out there?


A Mario Update... Plus Some Random Facts

>> 11.20.2009

May I just say that you all are awesome? I really appreciated all of the helpful comments and suggestions about my painting dilemma from yesterday's post! I was really worried about losing my 'thrifty cred' by hiring out some of the painting work to Mario. It's such a relief to know that I have your support in doing so :). As I mentioned in the comments, I think I'm going to try my boyfriend's suggestion of doing one more big push this weekend and then hiring out the rest of the work (oh, and he offered to help!).

In other news, I'm happy to have been awarded two new blog awards this week from my friends at Bromeliad (don't miss her DIY Wednesday posts!) and Chicago Girl Gone Mild (I'm beyond jealous of that awesome city she lives in).

Let's get random:
*My biggest fear? Swimming with whales. I know, I live in Central Texas and probably won’t come across any whales in the near future… but that doesn’t stop them from haunting me in my dreams. Seriously, I'd rather swim with sharks. This really makes zero sense.
*I run a couple of hours each Saturday morning then I follow that up with extreme exhaustion and sore muscles for the rest of the day.... and I do it for fun.
*I live within a few miles of my parents. Our dogs have playdates.
*Speaking of living, my boyfriend will be moving in within the next month. This will be my first time to live with someone that I'm in a relationship with! And yes, I will be collecting rent from him ;).
*Officially, the farthest I've been out of town this year was on a day trip to Waxahachie, Texas (2.5 hours away).
*While this year was somewhat uneventful travel-wise, I was actually a pretty cultured kid. I like to say that I "studied abroad" in Kindergarten when I lived in England while my dad was on a business assignment.
*The boyfriend and I are pretty Lady Gaga obsessed. We were singing Bad Romance at the tops of our lungs last night in the car.
*My average bedtime is 9:45. I'd take a sunrise over a sunset any day.
If you're really into random facts (or me) here's my last random list.

I should be linking to the blogs, but with a brand new blogroll, I can't just pick a few to showcase! Please check out all (or at least some) of the bloggers I've added ! For friends that missed out, the comments on this post are still open...


I've Hit the Wall

>> 11.19.2009

Literally, my walls are dragging me down. I headed into my home renovations full steam ahead (removing the popcorn, working on the bathroom, and ripping things down in the kitchen), but now I’m getting overwhelmed with all of the little details that need to be finished… I’m just stuck. I really wanted to have a clean and livable home for the holidays, but I’m not sure if that’s happening now.

It's all of the cutting in...
and the nearly impossible to reach two story stairwell...

and don't even get me started on how I feel about going back and doing all of the trim!

It's really hard having to do all of the work alone! I’m really tempted to call Mario, the painter, to do my dirty work for me (and shell out a couple hundred dollars to do so).

How did you get over the wall during your renovations? Do you think I should go ahead and spend the money on Mario or push through it myself?


Coupon Conundrum

>> 11.18.2009

I have a little secret.

It was when a coupon question came up from The Brick Cottage (here), that the embarrassment of my situation really sunk in and I knew it was time for a little self-intervention. That's right, I'm a coupon crammer.

You see, I know how to use coupons (remember that amazing deal I scored at Restoration Hardware or how I stacked up the savings at Gap? ) and I’m usually really organized (I give my budget spreadsheet an A+)… I just can’t find an easy way to keep those little papers under control! As of now, my strategy is to hold on to the coupons that I believe that I’ll actually use and keep them (crammed) in my wallet until it’s time to whip one out. Usually, I’ll stick with this until I can no longer close the clasp and then purge the ones that are expired.

Do you have any secret tricks for organizing coupons? Please share (I’m drowning in paper over here)!!


How I Saved by Speaking Up...

>> 11.17.2009

As I mentioned here, I decided to go with a Lowe's granite countertops for my kitchen. Then after doing a quick poll on whether or not I should do a bar step-up, I decided it was time to go in and make the big purchase.

As we were going through the paperwork for the countertops, I came across a little cost discrepancy (always read before signing). Although I first began working with the Lowe's salesperson under a price promotion, the salesperson told me that the granite company was no longer honoring the promotion as it had expired. That $230 difference would go a long way towards the other projects I had planned so I wasn't willing to let it go easily! In my most calm and matter-of-fact voice I replied:

"Well, I know that you run these types of promotions all the time, so I guess I'll just cancel my order and wait for the next one to come along... that is, unless you can call them again and ask what they can do for me..."

Did the salesperson want to lose his commission? No. Did the granite company want to lose a customer? No. Did I end up getting the promotion past its expiration date? You know it.

Bonus tip: Friday is the best day for haggling. In my case, the manager of the granite company wanted to get off of work for the weekend and ended up caving in.

In case you're wondering... I ended up going with 'Absolute Black' (I like that it has minimal color variations). Here's an example of a beautiful kitchen that went with the same material (found on this blog):

Have you ever saved money by speaking up or haggling?

I'm linking this post up with the Penny Pinching Party over at The Thrifty Home.

Head over to join in with the fun!


Avoid the Friends and Family Trap

>> 11.16.2009

It's that time of the year- holiday shopping season is about to hit full swing and retail stores are having their big 'Friends and Family' events. Did you know that these sales were once actually exclusively for the friends or family of store employees? I remember my friends begging me to give them one of my (few) coupon cards back when I worked in retail. Now, getting the discount is as easy as grabbing a code off of a website (go here for a list)... and the stores know this.

In most cases, this promotion is held to increase holiday shopping traffic and secure sales. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, prices will continue to drop and even better promotions will pop up.
So, if I knew that the discount wasn't anything special, why did I walk away with a bag full of clothes?
Because I shopped strategically! I know that I can do better than 30% off of a regularly-priced sweater, but when I find a top or dress that fits me perfectly and is marked ‘final sale,’ I know that it’s time to swipe it up!

Next time you come across one of these F&F events, remember to use the guidelines you would use with any other coupon:
-As yourself if you would have bought the item without a coupon.
-When possible, try to layer on the savings.
-If you love the item and there's a chance it's going to sell out, go for it!
-Feel free to think things out (use the coupon while it's there and make returns later if you need to)

What a surprise! An even better deal has already come along... ;)

Anyone score great F&F deals this weekend? I *finally* grabbed a summer dress I've had my eye on for $10 (originally $70).
Waiting for me to share more of my thrifty holiday shopping tips and ideas? They're coming up soon!


A promise is a promise!

>> 11.13.2009

A couple days ago I put up a poll asking for some more countertop decision-making help. I needed to know whether to keep a step-up (bar-like) area in my kitchen or knock it down to create one solid, open space. The results are in…
…and the majority of you suggested ripping down the step-up. I promised that I would listen to you all and I’m keeping that promise… I’m heading over to Lowe’s to make the purchase today!

In other promise-making news….
Remember my big blog-love 100th post celebration of last week? As promised, I’ve created a ‘blogroll’ (which I so intelligently referred to as a blog roll (yum?) in the last post) including all of my blog friends who commented. If you find that I’ve made a mistake in the name or link just send me an email: kasey(at)thriftylittleblog(dot)com or let me know in the comments. These aren’t all of the blogs I read so look out for new links to be added soon :).

I also want to say how much I appreciate those of you who wrote in suggestions! The blog is definitely due for a little organization (thanks, Jamie Lee!)... so one of the things on my weekend to-do list is to work on making things easier to find.

I’d also like to give a special shout-out to Micah at The Yellow Front Door for presenting me with the Sugar Doll award this week. Be sure to check out her awesome blog (and kitchen makeover)!

Have a great weekend!


How much does your pet cost you?

>> 11.12.2009

Meet my doggy-daughter:
I could tell you what her formal name is, but I don’t even call her by it (Cecilia Cody). Really, I’ve never named anything before so I took advantage of the opportunity and paired together a couple of my favorites. She most often goes by: C.C., Cici Lola, Missy, and Missy Moo (because she sounds like a cow).

I’ve broken down the costs of my hair and face, but before I begin pricing her out, I just want to mention that her love is priceless blah, blah… Anyways, let’s look at the costs of owning my 44.3-pound bundle of joy:
Checkup: $120/ year
I always make sure to bring her in on the shot discount days that my vet’s office offers.

Food: $12/ month
My vet recommended Purina when C.C. was a puppy and I’ve kept her on it since. For treats, I usually give her vet-approved people food like carrots, peanut butter, and slices of banana. So far, she's received an 'ideal' body rating from the vet each year.

Medication: $17
She uses Heartguard ($7/ month) for heartworm prevention and a prescription medicine ($10) for urinary incontinence.

Flea/ tick prevention: $18.50/ month
She uses Frontline. I tried one other product and wasn’t happy with it, but this works really well.

Those costs don’t even account for all of the unexpected expenses that come up during the year like emergency vet trips when she cuts her ear ($300) or new Halloween costumes that she just has to have. Plus, I must have spent over $900 during the year I adopted her… with the adoption fee, first year shots, collars, bedding, and numerous trips to the vet when she became sick from chewing on everything. Not to mention all of my shoes that were ruined…

So, I think it’s fair to say that my pet costs start at $57.50 per month. Obviously, she’s worth every penny!
Do you have any pets? How much do you think they cost you?

While you're here, will you please let me know what you think about this? Thanks!


A little (more) help?

>> 11.11.2009

A few weeks ago I begged you all to help me make the decision as to where I should put the last big chunk of my house-improvement fund. After reading the comments you made and seeing the poll results, I decided to update my kitchen countertops. Well, I’ve already made a commitment with the granite company, but back with another big countertop decision and I need your help!

Please let me know....
1. If I should keep a step-up(like the current breakfast bar) in the opening between the kitchen and the dining area…
2. OR if I should create a mega open feel by knocking out the step-up for a solid workspace
The price would be exactly the same for both options. I like the look of option #2 the most, but I am worried about having dirty dishes that everyone in the room could see. I don’t plan on actually using a bar as a seating area because I don’t want to take away space from the dining area. Please vote in the poll (on the top right of the blog) or leave me a comment letting me know what I should do. Just like the first time, I’ll actually listen to you guys! Thanks!!

Remember, this is what the kitchen opening looks like (sorry about the construction mess):
*first two images from Apartment Therapy


More IKEA Closet Action

>> 11.10.2009

A while back I shared my experiences with making IKEA even cheaper by buying the PAX closet system off of Craigslist. Now, a month later, I'm (finally) ready to share my next money saving move!

You might remember that I mentioned the ten-foot system that I wanted for my room cost a whopping $2,000 new (including the interior fittings), but I snagged a deal on a used one for $500. The set came with all of the fun drawers and organizers that I wanted, but the sliding doors were a serious mess! Not only was the style the complete opposite of the relaxing and airy look I wanted for my bedroom, but also one of the six glass panels that went with the set was shattered. I was able to use this as a negotiating tool in the first place to get the seller down from $750 to $500 (he essentially gave me the doors for free).

Wanting to save the $750 it would cost to go out and buy a new set of sliding doors, I knew I had to get my IKEA hack on! Check out how I completed the transformation:

Spray primer and a flat white erased all evidence of the ugly oak veneer.

Covering the panels was as easy as cutting the fabric to size and ripping some duck tape.

We followed the regular assembly instructions to construct the doors...

...and once they were up, it was a total transformation!

With the cost of the paint ($7), a sheet of plywood to replace a glass panel ($10), and clearance fabric ($30) taken out, that brings my total savings on the sliding doors to $663. I'll take it! Now I'm on to tackle the insides of that baby...

Have you used fabric to transform anything lately?
Anyone else have an IKEA closet?
I'm linking this post up to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land 's new site. Go check it out!


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