20 Minutes + Boxes

>> 1.29.2010

I'm loving the boxes.

Unimpressed? Check out the before:
Yes, seriously. I told you Nate brought in a major amount of stuff (see all of those spirals from his college courses that he just had to keep). It's crazy how much smaller piles get when you organize them into boxes (one other box of stuff moved to another room).

I can't decide which layout I like the best...

What do you think... 1, 2, 3, or 4?

Oh, and I can't forget to give a shout-out to Lauren of Life Uncluttered for giving me the Sugardoll Award earlier this week! Go checkout her blog; it's too cute!!


And the search is officially ON!

>> 1.28.2010

Well, the search for an awesome set of NEW KITCHEN APPLIANCES (for cheap) will be on once I get a bit of your advice.

Remember, we hate this...

But I was struggling with the idea of getting a new refrigerator after spending on my bathroom and countertops... and having to save money up for grad school.... that was until my company offered to pay for my tuition and books! So, with an emergency fund already in place, money automatically going into a retirement account, and no other big looming debts to pay in the future, I can easily afford to buy new appliances. Yes, a self-cleaning oven is on the list as well!

So with kitchen plans that look a little like this:

I'm thinking: white uppers and black lowers (and white subway backsplash)

Do you think I should go with....



Black, stainless, or white? I'm planning on moving in about five years so resale is important to me. I think a kichen with a black and white theme might look good with any of the above and going with black or white might make it easier to find a great deal on a scratch and dent or Craigslist option.


Coupon Conundrum... solved!

>> 1.27.2010

Remember my embarrassing mess-O-coupons I called my wallet... and my resolution to get those things organized and under control?? Well, thanks to a little weekend shopping excursion (I told you it was a good one!), I've found a solution!

After reading everyone's suggestions, scouring Google for ideas, and analyzing my coupon keeping habits, I decided the accordion method would be the best one for me!

I know, why didn't I try this idea before? Well, you see... I did try it with this little neon green Dollar Spot (Target) purchase a few years back. The problem was that the "try" really only consisted of me taking the thing home and letting it collect dust.

I needed something better... something prettier... something with a little added motivation...

That's why I snatched this baby up at Marshalls as soon as I laid my eyes upon it. Although the price tag was significantly higher ($5) than my $1 neon accordion, I knew that the mini-splurge would be worth the added motivation to take action on my resolution. It's like buying a new outfit to go workout in or springing for the sweet smelling soap to do the dishes with.

I used my label maker to create a spot for each type of coupon I collect:

*use ASAP!... for the deals that are about to expire
*weekly grocery... the coupons that I know I'll need at the store that week
*grocery etc... the coupons for things like toothpaste that I might want in the future
*retail... for the fun stuff :)
*restaurants & services... for the BOGO dinner deals or $10 off oil change
*receipts... safekeeping for the receipts on things I might return

The little attached notepad was what really sold me. I knew it would be a perfect place to keep my lists...

The "No Buy" list always keeps me in check. It's where I write down all of the "even if it's on sale for 90% off, YOU DON'T NEED IT" things that aren't going home with me. (and yes, it rhymes with "No Fly" for a reason)

The "Looking For" list reminds me to check the sale section for the things that I do need. These are usually the things that I could use, but don't go on specific shopping trips to get. Keeping the "Looking For" list in mind helps me find great deals on things before buying them becomes a necessity.

I'm really excited about finally coming up with a (fun) solution! Anyone else have any ways to make boring tasks seem a little more fun?

I'm linking this post up with two of my favorite parties...
The Penny Pinching Party at The Thrifty Home

and Victory of the Week over at Design-aholic (on Friday).

You should really think about joining in! I really enjoy these two because I feel like the attendance isn't too overwhelming and you actually get a chance to read what everyone else shares.



>> 1.26.2010

I’m not sure I could have had a better weekend… we sold two giant pieces of furniture that were crowding the garage, I finished up some grouting work that was haunting me in the kitchen, Nate added two shelves to our closet project, we both set PR’s (personal records) in a half marathon, and I bought a TON of boxes on clearance at Home Depot.

Seriously, I bought a crazy number of boxes.

Then I went back and bought more boxes.

But they were marked down so much... even better than IKEA's prices! I mean, you would have made two trips too, right? (Okay, I made three trips... but they were sold out by the last one.)

…and they have classy metal rims.

For $38, I bought $198 worth of boxes.

… and we could really use some organization around here!

Check out what $5 of boxes did for my cluttered shelves:

Oh and while I'm on the topic of organization, I have to mention one of my new instant favorite blogs! THE ORDER OBSESSED. Seriously, I'm obsessed. Have you seen her closets?!

Anyone else addicted to pretty storage?


Sign me up... (or not)!

>> 1.25.2010

The email list.. almost every store offers one up with promises of insider information such as sale alerts and new deals. I've found that these lists can be hit or miss, but there are a few ways of ensuring that you don't just get an inbox-O-spam:

*Create a shopping email account. Before I created a separate email account for these lists, I found myself clicking through and forgetting about the shopping emails that were in my regular mail inbox. Having a special account to login to will allow you to avoid the flooding of seasonal sale alerts and give you a one-stop spot to check before heading out for a shopping trip.

*Stick to the stores you love. I think this is a pretty obvious trick, but it's a great way to get started on signing up for lists.

*Beware of the lists that only promise ideas and inspiration. When they tell you that they'll share great ideas on how to use their products, they probably mean that they'll flood your inbox with the newest and latest (and most expensive) "must-buys." Want some inspiration? Subscribe to some new blogs (they won't try to shove any products down your throat).

Not all lists are created equal! I've followed my own tips, but have still come up with some disappointments in the mailing list department. Check out how some of the list I'm on matchup:

Anthro, you'll always have a place in my heart... just not my inbox.

Anthropologie~ As one of my all-time favorite stores, I thought they would have an email list to match. Boy, was I wrong! The thrifty shopper in me wasn't impressed as I was "alerted" to 10% off of select kitchen aprons and the arrival of new shipments of navy sweaters. I seriously love the place, but do not need 2-3 emails a week to remind me why! Grade: F

Michaels~ I might not be interested in the shirt embellishment project ideas they send or the yarn sales I'm alerted to, but I'll always love them for the 50% off coupons that I can expect in my inbox. Grade: B+

IKEA~ They promise to give notice on special deals, news, and events and, for the most part, deliver on that promise.  I get advanced notice on the start dates of the summer and winter sales plus a rare alert on a weekend special worth checking out. Knowing that IKEA isn't a reliable spot for finding sales, I like that they send me little warnings on specials that will be happening in the store. Grade: B

Crate & Barrel~ I'll give them props for being more choosy with their sale alerts, but I feel like this list is more for the less experienced shopper. It doesn't take me an email alert to know that all of the holiday merchandise will be knocked down the day after Christmas or that those furniture discounts will become deeper and deeper as the stock remains in-store. Grade: C+

The delicious lists (Souper Salad/ Dairy Queen)~ These are the only two non-local restaurant lists that I follow because they're the ones I eat at often (I'm a sucker for DQ Blizzards!). I'll happily receive their emails in my inbox because they always contain coupons (bogo Blizzards!). Grade: B+

So does anyone deserve an A? Yes! Most of my favorite local stores and restaurants deserve top scores because they: a. don't have the advertising power to get the word on sales b. remain really loyal to their big shoppers and fans through discount day offers and coupons.

Do you have any favorite email lists? Please let me know what I'm missing out on! I'm also in the market for some new Twitter/ Facebook fan pages to follow... who gives out alerts on the best deals? Oh and speaking of Twitter... find me here!


Party #2 Brainstorm

>> 1.22.2010

With one party down, I think it's time to move to the next. I've been thinking about what kind of party would help inject a little fun into winter and it hit me (via several NBC commercials)... why not do something for the Olympics?! I'm usually not much of a Winter Olympics fan, but I think I'm going to try and get into the spirit this time around! With so many countries of the world coming together for this event, I thought it might be fun to do this party potluck style and ask each guest to bring a dish, dessert, or side from their country of choice.

I could make some yummy German chocolate cake and provide drinks.

I could inject some USA spirit into the event with some flag banners and decor (that will be reused for July 4th). Maybe I could find a way to bring in the Olympic rings or torch in some way?

source                                                                   source

As the guests bring their dishes, I could  add country specific flags and write up food labels.

I'm thinking of having the party during the opening ceremonies (from what I've read, they'll also show clips of some downhill skiing events). Airing this would provide a clear beginning and end to the party (but I'm not sure if it would be exciting enough for everyone).

I've never hosted a potluck before, but I feel like this could be a pretty thrifty party considering that I mostly need to provide drinks and a dish or two. Tell me about your experience hosting a potluck! How many drinks should I buy per guest? What do you think about my opening ceremony plans~ should I go for a more competitive night instead? Is there any themed decor that you think I should add in?


Why can't it just die?

>> 1.21.2010

Ugh. From the beginning I’ve hated my refrigerator. The color is light enough to register in the white family, but off-white enough to seem to be constantly dirty. In addition, the top refrigerator setup isn’t working for us. Nate is over 6-foot and bending down to reach into the corner of the crisper is always a pain for him. Sadly, replacing this big bisque-colored monster is nowhere in my current budget.

Doesn't it just look dirty compared to the white subway backsplash?

Lately, to add to my frustrations with it, a leak started in the ice machine that trickles down into the top shelf of the refrigerator. We actually have to keep bowls in it to catch the water drips. I know that refrigerator repairs are some of the most expensive out there so I’m avoiding calling for help. I almost feel like the money I would have to spend on the repairman would justify going for a new appliance. Part of me wishes it would just completely shut down. If it died, I would have to dip into my emergency house funds to get a new one, right?

See that waterline?! This is not what my Fiesta dishes were made to do!

Has anyone found any great deals on freezer-bottom refrigerators lately? Have you ever had any luck going to a scratch and dent store?

Oh, and for all of you who gave me opinions on the cabinet paint color… I’m going with black bottoms! I plan on painting them before the next party in my ten party project (come back tomorrow to find out what I'm planning for next).


A shout-out to the new circular saw...

>> 1.20.2010

I never created one of those "what we got for Christmas posts" so here's a little post dedicated to one of my favorite presents the gifts I gave to Nate.  I can't remember what cost what, but it was about $100 for the circular saw and hand sander~ definitely a great price for such handy tools! Having the saw has already saved us time in cutting down demoed pieces of wood, helped Nate create supports for the bed, and (as of last weekend) an amazing custom tv shelf (seriously, I'm in love).

As you might remember, part of the master bedroom's closet needed to go when it was time for the big shower to tub switch during the bathroom reno. I bought a used IKEA PAX wardrobe to put along one wall as a closet solution so the 3-foot closet remaining in the room was of little use to us. Rather than having an unneeded closet space, I decided the nook would be a great spot for the tv and other storage. That's when the idea to build shelves into the space came up and the new circular saw came into play...

We started out with a small, mostly useless closet:

After a little measuring, stud finding, leveling, and cutting... the supports were in:

Hmm, can you tell that these last two pictures were taken several hours later? Sorry about the quality!

A couple of perfectly cut pieces of wood later and we had a new built-in to hold the tv!

I love how the tv is at the perfect bed-watching angle!

It was easy as 1-2-3! Okay, so beginner's issues arose and this one shelf ended up taking half of a Saturday, but believe me when I say that the shelf is solidly built! We plan on adding even more functionality to the space by adding a couple more shelves for things like linens (oh, and making the space pretty... I promise it will be pretty!).  Stay tuned!

I don't know about you, but I'm seeing diy building projects all over blogland! For months, I've enjoyed seeing Benita add pieces to her home and this couple always seems to have some project to share... then, of course, there's also the blog that everyone is buzzing about. I might be a little biased but I think creating closet built-ins is one of the best projects out there~ easy, cheap, and so space savvy! Just check out the added storage created here and here.

Have you been busy doing any building in your own home? I'd love to see what you've been working on!

I'm linking up to Remodelaholics Anonymous Meeting over at Remodelaholic. I know that you all have great projects to share, so head over and link up!


How much does your transportation cost?

>> 1.19.2010

My "How Much?" series is back for 2010! I've picked apart the costs of my hair, face, and pet among other things (check out "The Budgets" tab in the upper right of the blog to get the lowdown on all of these), but with my car on my brain (seriously, I don't know why my car insurance payment has to come right after Chrismas!), it's time to get the lowdown on its costs:

Monthly Payments~ $0
I’m not like most people in that I don’t have monthly car payments to make. In my opinion, it’s worth making sacrifices to find a car that you can either afford to pay off quickly or completely at the time of purchase.

Insurance~ $647.50 twice a year
As tough as it is, I always pay my six month policy in a lump sum for a savings of $58. In addition, I keep the payment totals low by opting for large deductibles. I’d rather have that money in my emergency account than in the insurance company’s funds. EDIT: It's probably important to note that: 1. I have a newer car 2. I was in an at-fault accident last year. I wish I was eligible for some of the super-low rates you all have!

*Thrifty tip: Have a talk with your insurance representative about what policy discounts you qualify for. I was able to get an additional $36 knocked off of my policy for having earned a college degree and owning a home.

State Registration~ $73.30/ year

State Inspection~ $14.50/ year

Oil Change~ $35 twice a year
My car needs an oil change every 5-6,000 miles. As surprising as it might sound, I usually drive a little less than 10,000 miles a year… which works out to a grand total of two oil changes.

*Thrifty tip: check your owner’s manual for recommended oil change mileage. The old standard was 3,000 miles (and that’s what Jiffy Lube will tell you to go by), but most modern motors have a 5,000 mile standard.

Gas~ $48/ tank
Although I love my car, I don’t love the fact that it requires premium gasoline. Although I do pay an average of $.25 more per gallon, my gas bills are more than made up for by the cheaper Texas gas prices and the fact that I only use a couple of tanks a month.

Grand total: $3,948.80 or $329.07 per month (ouch!)

I was stunned after adding up all of the costs associated with driving my car for a year…and I didn’t even account for other minor maintenance costs such as tire rotations or filter replacements! How do your costs compare? Do you spend half as much on insurance or three times as much on gas? Are you a city bus or subway taker?


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