Simple Savings: Start a gift closet.

Simple Savings Tip 30 - Start a gift closet.

After discussing how to save by shopping after the holidays yesterday, that leads to another savings point. Start a gift closet. It can be a bin or a box or an actual closet. It doesn’t matter where. It simply matters that you do so.

The concept is simple. Start a list of the people whom you give gifts to over the course of the year. Consider birthdays and Christmas – and including any other occasions that you know are coming like graduations or baptisms.

Next up, start shopping! When you see a good deal for someone that you know, pick it up and add it to your gift closet. Shop the holiday clearance section. Watch for deals on Amazon. Shop the weekly sale flyers. By shopping year round for good deals, you’ll be able to stretch a limited budget even further. I do recommend keeping a notebook of gifts purchased and for whom so you can remember if you’ve already purchased a gift for your sister’s Christmas present (or another like occasion).

I add to my gift closet on a regular basis. If I find a particularly good deal, I’ve been known to add it my gift collection without knowing whom it is for. Children’s birthdays come around yearly as does Christmas. I like knowing that I have gifts at the ready. Plus, it is so nice to know that when a birthday comes around, I don’t have to go to the store for last minute shopping. I simply have to go upstairs and get the gifts out of my closet.

By keeping a gift closet and shopping year round for gifts, I save myself money and time. Both of which are a great source of savings! Do you have a gift closet?

To read the previous tips in this series, you can do so here.

31 Days of Simple Savings - A series of simple tips & tricks to help you save because every little bit counts

Simple Savings: Holiday shop after the holidays.

Savings Tip 29 - Holiday shop after the holidays.

Oh! I’m so excited that we’ve made it this far to what might be one of my favorite savings tip of this series. Here it is. Holiday shop after the holidays. Yes, you read that right. I want you to plan ahead – and shop for the next holiday after the current one is over.

Most people get excited about shopping the deals on the day after Thanksgiving. As for me, I get excited about shopping the deals the day after Christmas! The crowds are much less and I get to start planning ahead for the next Christmas already.

Not only do I begin shopping for Christmas gifts when things are marked down, but I stock up on wrapping paper and Christmas decorations – for the upcoming year. It’s also a great time to buy more Christmas lights, although these are often the first things to go at the after Christmas sales.

My husband and I have been known to make a date of it. We use a gift card to go out to eat and browse the different after Christmas sales. Sometimes we leave empty handed but sometimes we find amazing deals and gifts! For example, at one post-Christmas sale two years ago, I was able to purchase the Little People Christmas Nativity for only $15! I bought several of them that year to give as gifts. I have one remaining – which Nathan will be unwrapping next Christmas! How’s that for planning ahead? :-)

While it seems like this might only apply to Christmas, you can find great bargains after many of the holidays. I buy chocolate candy after Halloween and stick it in my freezer for later use. My husband buys candy then to use in his classroom as treats for his students. After Thanksgiving, I watch for deals on all things pumpkin and baking supplies. Would you believe some baking supplies are actually clearanced after holidays? It’s like they don’t think people bake year round! I certainly do. You can stock up on more chocolate after Valentine’s Day. Plus, if you like to decorate for the holidays, buy your seasonal decorations when they are marked down and wait to use them until next year. You will save so much money decorating this way! If you like to give ornaments to your children for Christmas, buy them at the beginning of January for 75% off. Not only will you save substantially, but you will be 12 months ahead of schedule!

Do you shop the sales after the holidays? If not, commit to giving it a try – as your budget allows. If you already do, what was the best deal you’ve picked up after Christmas?

To read the previous tips in this series, you can do so here.

31 Days of Simple Savings - A series of simple tips & tricks to help you save because every little bit counts

Simple Savings: Reuse gift bags and tissue paper.

Savings Tip 28 - Reuse gift bags and tissue paper.

How many of you already do this? Did you grow up with this frugal practice, too? To save money in the gift area, I am encouraging you to reuse gift bags and tissue paper. 

We all get gift bags – and tissue paper – on a regular basis. Instead of throwing them in the trash (or recycling), take a moment to flatten the gift bag and refold the tissue paper. It doesn’t take long at all. Soon, you will realize that you have plenty of gift wrapping materials – without buying much of it yourself! I actually have so many used gift bags that I recently went through and pared down my gift bag collection. The tissue paper is still nicely folded in the bin, waiting to be used.

If you would like, you can even save and reuse wrapping paper. My Dad always tells how his Mom (my Grandma) would save and iron the wrapping paper to be reused from year to year. I don’t save my wrapping paper. Instead, I buy it after Christmas when it is discounted at least 50% – and as much as 90%, if I’m patient enough. When I shop those after Christmas sales, I try to buy wrapping paper that can be used for other occasions. Gold works nicely for wedding gifts and solid colors are perfect for birthdays. No one will be the wiser that you purchased your wrapping paper at a deep discount, except for you. And you can smile when wrapping your gifts, thinking how frugally you are wrapping them all!

To read the previous tips in this series, you can do so here.

31 Days of Simple Savings - A series of simple tips & tricks to help you save because every little bit counts

Simple Savings: Open windows and bundle up.

Simple Savings Tip 27 - Open the windows and bundle up.

Where you live depends upon how you will implement today’s tip. To save, I encourage you to open the windows and bundle up. Not at the same time, mind you, but depending on the time of year, you can save by doing one or the other.

When it is pleasant outside with a nice breeze, open the windows instead of running the air conditioner. Is it going to warm up in the afternoon? Open the windows in the morning and during the night to save yourself some time from running the ac.

When it is cold outside, put on cozy slippers and a warm sweatshirt before adjusting the heat. Climb under a blanket as you are reading on the couch and sleep with the air a bit cooler at night. I always sleep better when I’m just a bit cool and cozy under blankets.

The savings tip is simple. We’re often told how much we can save if we raise the air conditioner a degree or two higher, or lower the heat by a couple of degrees. While that is certainly true (and I do encourage you to try that), we can save even more when we don’t use the heat or ac at all.

Like I said at the beginning, I grew up in Texas where opening the windows, even in the morning hours of summer, was not a possibility. Living up North in Indiana, I can now go days – and weeks – without running the air conditioner in the summer. On the flip side, our heat is a necessity during Indiana winters but an occasional need in south Texas.

Do what you can. As with all these saving tips throughout the series, choose what you can do – and do it! Which one is easier for you? Opening windows or bundling up?

To read the previous tips in this series, you can do so here.

31 Days of Simple Savings - A series of simple tips & tricks to help you save because every little bit counts

Top 5 Deals (10/26 – 10/29)

Top 5 Deals of the Week

It’s been awhile since I shared the top 5 deals of the week. My apologies! We’ve had company the past two weekends, and my 31 Days of Simple Savings series has been keeping me busy online, too. There are too many good deals to miss at Kroger this week so I’m back! I highly encourage you to shop and stock up at Kroger this week. I will be! If they are out of Craisins (as this price comes around only once a year), ask for a rain check. It’s time to stock up on dried fruit for the year!

1. Ocean Spray Craisins at $1
Final price: $1

2. Kroger cream cheese at $1
Final price: $1

3. All detergent at $2.99
Use $1/1 Kroger digital coupon (May be used 5 times in 1 transaction)
Final price: $1.99

4. Tide Simply Clean & Fresh detergent at $2.99
Use $1/1 Kroger digital coupon (May be used 5 times in 1 transaction)
Final price: $1.99

5. Snuggle liquid fabric softener at $2.99
Use $1/1 Kroger digital coupon (May be used 5 times in 1 transaction)
Final price: $1.99

Gymboree: 40% Off Everything – Even Clearance

Here’s a deal that is rarely seen! Right now, Gymboree is offering 40% off EVERYTHING online, including clearance! You can shop online to score 40% off everything, including markdowns, for savings up to 80% at Gymboree. I’m shopping ahead for Nathan, so am always on the lookout for cute clothes at a great price!

Simple Savings: Sign up for and use samples.

Day 26 of Simple Savings Series - Sign up for and use samples.

I love getting something for free! Really, who doesn’t? It makes checking the mail a fun daily activity. Over the years, I have learned to request whatever freebies I can and am always well stocked in shampoo & conditioner as a result. There are many freebies available online on a daily basis. I share many of them here, as do sites like Money Saving Mom.

To save money today, I encourage you to start signing up for samples – and use them! Those packets of shampoo and conditioner are perfect for traveling or to save yourself from opening a new bottle of shampoo quite so soon. I love laundry detergent samples because we all have to do laundry. I do encourage you to use a junk email account when requesting free samples but start requesting them and enjoy checking the mail! Samples and free offers are a good way to make what you have last longer while trying something new for free!

In addition to requesting free samples, start collecting free reward points. Some of my favorite reward programs are Recyclebank, Pampers, Disney Movie Rewards and My Coke Rewards. All of these programs regularly offer free points that you can add to your account. Recyclebank has the most offers and these points can be redeemed for high value coupons, free magazine subscriptions or even gift cards! Pampers points add up for free Shutterfly products or baby things. Disney Movie Rewards accumulate for more free Disney movies. My Coke Rewards can be redeemed for many things including more free Shutterfly things.

One more thing that you can do to save (and earn) is to sign up for Bing and Swagbucks. Both of these are online search engines that, when used quickly each day, can accumulate into free points which I redeem for free gift cards. I earn enough to redeem at least one $5 Amazon gift card from each site every month. That adds up to $120 in free Amazon money each year! That is definitely worth a minute or two of my time every morning. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give Bing and Swagbucks a try. Bing is simpler to use, but there is no limit to your earning potential with Swagbucks.

Also, be sure to read my list of 5 Simple Ways to Be Ready for Whatever Freebies Come Your Way. If you do these simple things, you will rarely miss out on a freebie offer! What are your favorite freebies and / or samples?

To read the previous tips in this series, you can do so here.

31 Days of Simple Savings - A series of simple tips & tricks to help you save because every little bit counts

Simple Savings: Use the last drops.

Day 25 of Simple Savings Series - Use the last drops.

We’re nearing the end of our monthly series! It’s hard to believe there is less than one week left in October – and therefore, less than one week  left to share ideas of how to save simply. Today’s tip is really a reminder to use the last drops.

I was reminded of how important this was recently when I realized my foundation was running low. When I picked it up one morning, I had to shake it to get enough out for the day. I did get enough out for the day and put foundation on my shopping list. Even though I picked up a new tube of foundation that week, I continued to use my old bottle and shake it each morning to get the last drops out. Would you believe that was a month ago when I thought I was almost out – and I’m still using the old bottle? This just goes to prove that there is often more left than you expect when you are determined to use the last drops. 

I found this an important reminder. So many times in our society today, we know we have more shampoo on the shelf, so we don’t concern ourselves with using every last drop. If we knew this was the very last bottle of shampoo (or anything for that matter), we would be careful to conserve it and use every drop wisely. In our affluent society, we often forget to use every bit of what we have.

Let’s all recommit to using the last drops. Squeeze your toothpaste until it is truly out. Store your foundation upside down so the last bit drips down. Add your sliver of soap to a new bar of soap rather than throwing it out. Shake out your condiments until every last bit is gone. Add water to your shampoo and conditioner to rinse out the bottle – and get another use or two out of the last drops.

The water tip is a good way to use the last drops. When I think my laundry detergent is all gone, I add a cap full of water and get 1 or 2 more loads out of the bottle. The same is true of my shampoo and conditioner. I add water to my ketchup bottle and shake it up to get another serving out of it. You can add water to many things to make your last drops go even further. Have you tried that before? Be creative and use your last drops to save!

To read the previous tips in this series, you can do so here.

31 Days of Simple Savings - A series of simple tips & tricks to help you save because every little bit counts

One Shopping Trip to Kroger

This week, I headed up to school on a Wednesday morning, which is something I no longer do. Several students saw me and asked, “Do we have music today?” Nope. I was just there to quickly take a school picture (on make-up day) for the yearbook. Since Nathan and I were up and out, I decided we’d do our weekly grocery shopping at Kroger. I thought we could shop and be home before Nathan’s naptime. Well, he fell asleep in the car on the way from school to Kroger – and it’s only a 5 minute drive! Car rides tend to do that to him, lately. So, I decided to leisurely stroll the aisles of Kroger as Nathan napped in his car seat in the cart. I didn’t buy a lot but it was nice to look at the deals without rushing. Here’s what I bought.

Kroger - 10/22/14 - $13.51

The Psst brand of Kroger sugar was on sale for $1.25 for 4 pounds. I bought the limit of 4 bags. Sugar is sugar and at this price, I’ll start stocking up for my holiday baking! Now, I just need to find a great deal on flour. I’m hoping the 5 pound bags go on sale for $0.99 like they did last holiday season.

I used a couple free product coupons this trip. I picked up the Lands of Lake Saute Express to try. This free product coupon has been sitting in my coupon binder for months now as I could never find it on the shelf! I happened to stumble across it by the margarine and picked up the southwest variety. I had won two free Mars candy coupons in a sweepstakes months back, so I chose a free Snickers bar and free Twix bar with those coupons. Yum! I also got a free bottle of Suave 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner because it was on sale for $1.49 and I had a coupon for $1.50/1.

Milk was on sale for $2.79. Laughing cow cheese was on sale for $2.69 and I had $1.50/1 digital coupon on my Kroger card. That was my $1.19 splurge of the trip! I couldn’t find peaches in stock to feed Nathan and all the cans of peaches were in syrup, so I bought two jars of baby food at $0.62 each. (Side note: Target is the only brand that I’ve found to carry canned peaches in actual juice rather than syrup. Do you know of any other brands? That’s what Nathan will be eating from now on. I used a gift card to buy a can of peaches at Target.)

Finally, I did well with the close-outs at Kroger. Kroger always has much better close-outs than Meijer! I found a package of pita bread marked down from $2.49 to $0.49. Plus, it was made in my old town of Cincinnati on Galbraith Road! For some reason, pantyhose were marked down, so I picked up knee highs and a pair of regular pantyhose because those were great prices not to be missed.

At Kroger, I spent $13.51 and saved exactly 50%. I also got a dozen farm fresh eggs for $1.75 this week, which brings my total to $15.26 this week. For October, I have now spent $139.70. That leaves me with $40 for the final week of October. That was more than I expected to have remaining so I will be able to restock my fridge again. Andy has been gone at Teacher’s Conference in Indy these past two days so I was able to eat eclectically from the pantry while he was away. That’s another reason why I purchased so little this week! Another benefit of having a stock-pile, too!

Simple Savings: Wash plastic bags.

24 - Wash plastic bags.

Today’s tip is short and yes, simple. Have I lived up to the name of this series? Are you learning different simple ways to save? I certainly hope so! In keeping on topic, I’m presenting another option that I learned from my Mom. Wash (and reuse) your plastic bags.

To be perfectly clear, I am talking about the Ziploc food bags here – not grocery bags. When you are washing your dinner dishes, wash out your ziploc bags and let them air dry so you can reuse them. Some would argue this is not worth their time, but I am always happy to save a little extra!

I have put a couple stipulations on this over the years. I try to buy my sandwich bags at less than $0.02 a bag so I don’t wash those. If I’m packing a sandwich from day to day in my lunch, I occasionally shake out the crumbs and reuse the sandwich bag. I do usually wash the quart bags and almost always wash the gallon size bags. There are only two times when I don’t wash and reuse my ziploc bags. I don’t reuse them if they have stored raw meat or if they got really sticky. Otherwise, I wash (and reuse) my plastic bags.

Time to confess. Does anyone else wash and reuse their plastic bags? I hope there are others (beside my family members) who do so!

To read the previous tips in this series, you can do so here.

31 Days of Simple Savings - A series of simple tips & tricks to help you save because every little bit counts

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