How to Build Up a Gift Closet

By contributing writer Laura

Gift giving doesn’t just happen around the holidays. It catches us by surprise all year round as the need for presents on birthdays, housewarmings, graduations, baby showers, bridal showers, and other little occasions pop up. If you feel like you’re constantly running out to buy full price items at the last-minute, then I have some tips to help you save money and avoid procrastinating.

How to Build Up a Gift Closet at The Happy Housewife

Here are my top tips for how to build up a gift closet:

Compile a List of Gift Recipients

Make a list of family and friends whom you know you will need to buy presents for throughout the year. Make sure to include the dates of birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions that prompt gift giving. List the names of gift recipients as well as some of their likes, latest interests or hobbies, favorite restaurants or food, etc., to help you keep them in mind when running across deals throughout the year.

Ask for Wish Lists

If you have friends or relatives who are hard to shop for, simply ask them what type of gifts that they’d like. I usually ask my sister and friends what they’d like as gifts, when approaching Christmas or birthdays. There will sometimes be an item on their wish list that is new or an act of service that I wouldn’t have thought of, such as babysitting, lending assistance with decorating, lending help with organizing a room, a meal planning/prep party, etc.

Set Up Price Alerts

If there are specific gifts you have in mind for your loved ones, be sure to set up price alerts for those products online. Sites like Camel Camel Camel will notify you when an item is for sale at its lowest price. If you have some flexibility in timing, you should look at the pricing history of that product and wait for it to drop before purchasing.

Check the Clearance Section

When shopping in store or online, I love looking for clearance items. Whether it is out-of-season products, markdowns, or discontinued products/styles, there are great deals to be found. Think strategically and swoop up post-holiday clearance items that will remain good until next year, particularly for stocking stuffers, gift exchanges, and holiday decor.

Use these tips to stock up your gift drawer or gift closet gradually throughout the year, so that you spend less money and are prepared for those last-minute parties or gift givings.

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5 Ways to Pamper Yourself on a Budget

By contributing writer Laura

Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to be frumpy. As a busy, multi-tasking mom, I’m finally starting to appreciate the importance of not only caring for my family and household, but taking care of myself. Often times, self-sacrificing moms like us have our time filled caring for our loved ones and home, but we can easily neglect taking time to recharge and pamper ourselves.

After all, going to the spa or salon isn’t cheap, and sometimes just planning a DIY pampering session can seem like more work than it’s worth. However, depending on your tastes and time, it is easy to find a little room in your budget for small indulgences to refresh and pamper yourself. To keep costs down, here are my top ways to pamper yourself on a budget.

5 Ways to Pamper Yourself on a Budget at The Happy Housewife

1. Paint Your Nails

Sometimes a fresh coat of nail polish is all I need for a quick pampering and to feel a little more glamorous. Taking the time to pretty up my oft-neglected finger nails or toe nails can be a treat, even during the cold winter months when my feet stay hidden and bundled up. Nail polish, nail wraps, or other nail art, can be a simple way to make your nails look stylish and get some pampering.

2. Get a Free Makeover

Head on over to the beauty counter of a local department store to sample some makeup and get a complimentary makeover. This can be a fun way to try out some new products and shades under the guidance of a skilled beautician. Typically, no purchase is necessary for a free makeup application. However, the sales person works on commission and will likely be working hard to get you to purchase all the products, so keep that in mind before approaching the counter.

3. At Home Spa or Bubble Bath

A simple way to pamper yourself is to simply enjoy a soothing at-home spa treatment or bubble bath. Consider a DIY project like homemade sugar scrub or homemade bubble bath to create the perfect bath and shower formulas. Also look for beauty supplies and product deals online or at discount and dollar stores. Be sure to check out more of my tips to score beauty products on a budget.

4. New Haircut

Something as simple as an appointment at the hair salon for a fresh haircut or new hairdo is all the pampering I need for my long locks. It seems easier for men to maintain their own hair with the barber and grooming sets available, but for women, it really is tricky going the DIY route. If you’re like me, I’d much rather leave my hair in the hands of a professional hairdresser, even if I do space out my haircuts longer than most people. Check out my post on 7 ways to save on haircuts for some ideas on how to save when going to the hairdresser.

5. Book or Movie Night

This may sound silly, but another way to pamper yourself is to allow yourself time to read that book you’ve been meaning to read for the longest time, or watch your favorite movie or TV show. Allowing time to veg out and relax your mind by immersing yourself in a good book, planting yourself on the couch to catch up on Netflix, or renting a movie from your local Redox, can help recharge a worn-out mind.

What other ways do you like to treat yourself on the cheap? Be sure to share your frugal pampering ideas in the comments below.

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8 Ways to Save on Eating Out

By contributing writer Laura

When it comes to food costs, regularly dining out at restaurants can put a big dent in your wallet. However, if you’re like most people, you prefer eating out and letting someone else slave away in the kitchen. If you end up eating out more often than your budget permits, this can create a huge increase in your food costs. To help you lower costs when you do eat out, here are my tips for ways to save on eating out.

8 Ways to Save on Eating Out at The Happy Housewife

Coupons

Before going out to eat, I always check online and browse through my email inbox to look for printable coupons. I will also physically thumb through any local mailings or flyers with restaurant coupons. I tend to keep a small coupon clutch for retail and restaurant coupons, so that when I get my Valpak blue envelope in the mail, I can remove the coupons I may use and toss the rest.

Specials

When I go out to eat, I try to schedule my dining around a discount day or special promotion. Whether it’s arriving for an early dinner and ordering off the happy hour appetizers menu, a mid-week offer shared that day on the restaurant’s Facebook page, or even a weekly fast food offer at Chick-fil-A, I’ve realized that there are many discounted times of the day, week or month, that can save you a chunk of change.

Kids Eat Free

Speaking of specials, the following is one of my favorite specials of all time: kids eat free! For families with children, eating out can really add up to a large bill. Taking advantage of kids eat free night or kid free promotions can be a great savings. In my area, there are quite a few restaurants that have a weekly kids eat free night in which kids meals are free, with purchase of an adult entrée.

If you have a large family, be sure to check the limits or restrictions on free kids night promotions. Some establishments may allow up to two free kids meals per one adult entrée ordered.

E-mail Subscription

Before visiting a new restaurant, I am always sure to go to their website and sign up for their email subscription or free e-newsletter. I often receive the first notification of special offers or discount days in my email inbox. A perk of signing up to be on their e-mail list is that many restaurants offer new subscribers some sort of coupon or special offer when they first sign up.

Loyalty Cards

If I’m going to a restaurant for the first time, I want to check online to find out if they have a loyalty program or member card that can earn me discounts or special offers. It seems like every store and retail place has their own card, so I try to keep all of my restaurant and dining member cards in one place. I currently keep them in one mini wallet and purse clutch.

Gift Cards

If you love to eat out, be sure to hint to friends and family that you’d enjoy specific restaurant gift cards for holidays and special occasions. Without really asking for them, I’ve amassed a variety of restaurant gift cards from birthdays and Christmas. I keep these organized in a drawer in my kitchen, so I can easily review my current gift cards and then put what I need in my purse before heading out to eat.

I also have one very important tip for gift card recipients that will help you avoid losing value from your gift cards: keep your receipts, especially if you have a gift card with a large value that you use more than once over a span of time.

Online Discount Vouchers

Daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social are constantly offering restaurant deals for more than half off. I love trying out new restaurants that I’ve discovered with a daily deal offer. Also, sites like Restaurant.com can be a great place to purchase a discount restaurant voucher. As with any online deals or vouchers, be sure to read the fine print to find out if there are any restrictions.

Winning with Water

One way I like to save money when eating out is sticking to plain ice water. Instead of ordering expensive beverages, your table can save a lot of dough by cutting out drinks. The markup on beverages is huge, and it’s hard for me to order even a glass of juice when I know the cost I’ll be paying at the restaurant is about what I would pay for a full quart of juice on sale with coupons at my grocery store. Water is so much healthier than sodas or sugary drinks, plus it is refreshing and free!

What additional strategies do you use to save money while eating out? Be sure to leave a comment and share your favorite tips with your fellow frugal friends!

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5 Winter Entertainment Ideas on a Budget

By contributing writer Laura

The weather outside may be frightful, but that doesn’t mean the atmosphere indoors has to be the same. Let’s admit it, when you’re stuck indoors during a cold winter, finding ways to keep the kids entertained and fostering a content and joyful attitude in your home can be difficult. When finances are tight and you’re pinching your pennies, it can be even more challenging.

Winter_Entertainment_on_a_Budget

Thankfully, a little creativity can go a long way to break the winter blues. Here are 5 ideas to enjoy winter entertainment on a budget.

1. Make snow-cream.

If you have an abundance of snow, be sure to make a sweet, frosty treat: snow-cream! My kids love to make and eat this. There are various recipes you can find online, but our favorite is made from fresh, clean snow with evaporated milk, sugar, and vanilla extract.

2. Have a bake-off.

When it’s cold outside, it’s nice to warm things up in the kitchen. Form 2 teams and have a contest to see who can create the most delicious cupcake or other baked good. Have a parent judge the final products and award points for creativity, design, and taste. You could even set time limits and make your own spin-off of Cupcake Wars.

3. Enjoy the snow outdoors.

Embrace the snow and partake in some outdoor activities and sports than can only be done this season. Go sledding down a hill. Take advantage of the snow by hitting the slopes, but be sure to look for ways to save on ski trips. Also be sure to engage in Physical Education During The Winter; no couch potatoes needed!

4. Plan a family talent show.

Show off your talents by having each family member participate in an informal family talent show. Singing, dancing, acting, playing musical instruments, or showing off other skills can be a fun source of entertainment. This is also a great way to encourage your children in developing their talents and “performing” for a familiar audience.

5. Create a family art collaboration.

Roll out some butcher paper or buy a canvas from your local craft store to create your own unique collaborative artwork. Have each family member draw or paint, to contribute to this family piece.

It’s fun to use paint and have each person create hand prints on a canvas. Another fun idea that we’ve done is to have each person lie down on a large sheet of butcher paper, then outline them to create a life-size drawing. Then color and decorate together, plus write encouraging messages on each family members drawing letting them know what attributes you like best about them.

How do you like to stay entertained during winter?

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photo credit: IMG_9938-WM via photopin (license)

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