admin / December 28, 2008

The Blog-What’s Ahead for The Budget Smart Girl

I’m taking this week off to organize and yes, tidy up my office. I thought I’d use this blog to tell you about what I’m working on for The Budget Smart Girl in 2009. I’m excited that the site is picking up more traffic each day and if you’re one of the people who stopped by for the very first time; that you’ll be back again and again.

I’ve got lots of good stuff lined up for the New Year. Next week will kick off with some ways to make and keep your money saving resolutions. They’ll also be some tips on finding alternatives to those expensive health club memberships.

January will see the launch of the Budget Smart Girl Newsletter. I’ve also lined up a great team of experts who will be dropping by to offer you advice on everything from boosting your savings to ways to make your house more attractive to potential buyers. And some entrepreneurs who are going to offer us tips on starting and running a business and making extra income. Some guest bloggers will be stopping by too. And I’ve got a whole bunch of nice folks who are going to offer your some free offers and deals.

And you’ll follow my journey as I attempt to give my kitchen a makeover on a budget and using as many green products as I can.

They’ll also be lots of recipes, book reviews, products reviews and as I’ve been hearing from lots of Budget Smart Girls in the UK, once a month, the site will feature a UK Budget Smart Girl’s Guide post. The first post will include some great money saving recipes, so you won’t want to miss it.

And as requested, you’ll be seeing lots more photos and images.

I’d like to thank everyone who dropped by this site in 2008. Happy New Year.

admin / December 28, 2008

Ring in the New Year Right…and on a Budget

This Budget Smart Girl is taking this week off but Penny Warner with Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kits (www.balloontime.com) sent me this great article about throwing a New Year’s Eve party and I thought I’d share it with you. If you’ve spent all your money on holiday shopping and food, try some of these ideas instead of hitting the town. And you’ll also find some drink recipes courtesy of Reed’s Original Ginger Brew (www.reedsgingerbrew.com).

Theme

Consider choosing a theme for your New Year’s Eve party, such as a Black and White Ball, a Pajama Sleepover, a Costume Party or an all-night Movie Marathon. Or, make it a Nostalgia Night and go back to the crazy 80s, the swinging 60s, or the fabulous 40s.

Invitations

Match your invitations to the theme, with black and white cards, toothbrushes, costume suggestions or request guests bring their favorite videos. Or, send out invitations that resemble newspaper headlines touting “The End of the Year is Near,” and add a sub headline: “So Bring The Chips and Cheer!” Note the date, time and location of the party in the text of the article, along with other details. Tape it to the front of a real newspaper, photocopy it and then mail to guests. Fill the envelope with confetti for an added festive touch.

Costumes

Ask the guests to dress according to the theme, in black and white, pajamas, or as their favorite movie stars. Or, have them flash back to a particular decade or timeframe, with costumes representing hippies, gangsters or even flappers. Or, assign a month to each guest and ask them to dress to match – such as a snow suit for January or a bathing suit for August. You could also encourage guests to reflect a major highlight from the year – an election, a birth, a wedding – and have the other guests try to guess the event. Like charades, but with costumes!

Decorations

Choose a color scheme – black and white, red, white and blue, or silver and gold – and fill the room with streamers, paper hats, noisemakers and colorful helium balloons using a Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kit. Fill some of the balloons with confetti for an end-of-the-night activity. Sprinkle confetti on the tables and hang colorful streamers from the ceiling. Add lots of sparkly accents and glow-in-the-dark décor.

Write time-related phrases such as “Time Waits for No One” and “There’s No Time Like the Present,” and tape them to the walls. Write down memorable quotes from the year and hang them on the walls. Create funny predictions for each guest, such as “You will marry a prince” or “You will win the lottery,” and write the phrases on the backs of paper placemats. Have guests turn the placemats over once they’re seated for a witty surprise.

Games & Activities

Any Excuse for a Party Day
Write down names of obscure holidays, such as Mother-in-Law Day, Groundhog Day, National Secretary Day (you can find them by searching the Internet), and have players guess the correct dates or months. Be sure to include one unique holiday from each month.

The Tabloid Game!
Buy some supermarket tabloids and cut out the bizarre headlines, such as “George Clooney Gives Birth to Alien!” or “Oprah Buys Florida!” Black out the celebrity names, and take Polaroid or digital photographs of the guests as they arrive and tape them to a sheet of paper. Gather the group around the table, mix up the pictures, and pass them out. Spread the headlines on the table and let the guests match them with the pictures to create personalized tabloid headlines for each other.

It’s Been A Crazy Year
Buy a magazine that offers a pictorial review of the year. Cut out the funniest, most bizarre pictures, such as the “World’s Biggest Pumpkin” or “President Faints in his Soup.” Pass them out to the guests and have them write a funny caption for each photo.

Balloon Blast
At midnight, give each guest a balloon filled with confetti and a pin. Have them pop the balloon over the head of another guest at the stroke of midnight – and watch the confetti fly!

Refreshments

Have guests bring food from a favorite time period, such as tuna casserole or fondue. Or, have them bring a dish with special meaning for the New Year, such as black-eyed peas for good luck (a southern custom) or hard-boiled eggs which symbolize fertility. Serve champagne or apple cider with a cherry at the bottom.

For dessert, offer elegant crème brûlée or cream puffs, or serve an egg custard – eggs are also a symbol of rebirth and the New Year. Or, make a cake that looks like a round clock or a square calendar and fill in the details.

Favors

Give the guests a party souvenir, such as a diet book to assist with those holiday resolutions, a coffee mug filled with aspirin tablets, funny fortune cookies, or a bottle of champagne. Make your New Year’s Eve bash one your guests will remember – at least until next year.

Tropical Drinks (Non-Alcoholic)

Jungle Juice
Ingredients:
1 dash Reed’s Original Ginger Brew
1 banana, broken into chunks
2 cups orange juice

Directions:
Place all ingredients in the blender – cover and blend at medium speed until well blended. Pour in 1 tall, 2 medium or 3 small glasses and drink up.

Starry, Starry Night
Ingredients:
4 oz. Reed’s Original Ginger Brew
4 oz. papaya juice
2 oz. pineapple juice
Lemon and lime peel
1 or 2 slices of star fruit
Ice (optional)

Directions:
In a tall glass, mix the papaya and pineapple juices and the Reed’s Ginger Brew. For the garnish, use a small, star-shaped cookie cutter to cut star shapes from the lemon and lime peels. Slide the slices of star fruit onto the glass rim.

Shanghai Twist
Serves two
Ingredients:
8 ounces near-boiling water
1 bag Chinese white tea
1 tablespoon aloe vera juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
6 ounces Reed’s Original Ginger Brew

Directions:
Steep the tea bag, aloe vera juice, and agave nectar in a mug of hot water for about 5 minutes, stirring gently. Remove the tea bag and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Fill two tall glasses with ice and pour in tea mixture, lemon juice, and ginger brew. Stir; garnish with a lemon slice.

Punches/Non-alcoholic Party Beverages

Lemon Strawberry Punch

Ingredients:
3 bottles of Original Reed’s Original Ginger Brew (36 oz.)
3 cans (6 oz. each) frozen lemonade concentrate
1 package (10 oz.) frozen strawberries, thawed

Directions:
In a large punch bowl, prepare lemonade concentrate as directed on can; stir in strawberries with syrup. Stir in Reed’s Ginger Brew and, if you wish, add small scoops of strawberry ice cream or ice cubes.

Apricot Appealer
Ingredients:
2 oz. Reed’s Original Ginger Brew
6 oz. apricot nectar
1 t lemon juice
1 t sugar

Directions:
Mix all ingredients into shaker; shake well and strain into large cocktail glass. Add crushed ice.

admin / December 22, 2008

Ideal Foods for the Budget Savvy Cook

Just the other day I was talking to a friend and we got onto the topic of the ever increasing price of food and it got me thinking. Are there still bargains to be had at the supermarket? There are and here are my top picks-

Frozen and Canned Vegetables
The other week I bought a couple of bunches of spinach for a recipe I was making. Fresh spinach was on special, but after I’d spent 15 minutes trying to wash all the dirt and sand from the leaves, and after it cooked down to practically nothing, I vowed never to buy fresh spinach again. Frozen spinach is probably one of the best buys in the freezer section. Just think how many bunches of spinach you’d have to buy to equal that one box. You don’t have to clean it and it’s packed with good for your vitamins. The same goes for veggies like broccoli, no waste, no tough stalks. And right now, canned vegetables are on sale for the holidays. For the last month, my local supermarket’s been selling canned veggies, 3 cans for 99 cents. No washing, no peeling and no waste. I couldn’t beat that price in the produce department. And if you’re worried that frozen and canned vegetables aren’t as good as their fresh counterparts, don’t be. Most are packed at their peak of freshness and retain all their vitamins and minerals.

Eggs and Cheese
The price of most dairy products has gone up in the last year or so, but the word is in 2009 will start to see those prices decrease. Think about how many great dishes you can put together using eggs, cheese and yes, even milk. With meat and poultry prices set to increase next year, find some recipes using eggs and cheese instead.

Beans, Legumes…When it comes to the biggest bang for your buck, I don’t think you can beat beans and legumes. They aren’t that expensive to buy in cans, but if you buy them in bags and cook them in a slow cooker, you’ve shaved off even more pennies from the budget. And you can even add them to meat dishes to make the meal go even further. Beef and barley soup or casserole. Split pea or lentil soup. These dishes aren’t only inexpensive to make, they’re good for you too. They’re free of fat, or low fat, depending on what other ingredients you add to them. They’re full of fiber, something most of us don’t get enough of these days. The fiber feels you up faster so you don’t eat as much, which means your wallet gets fatter, but your waistline gets thinner.

Pizza
I’m not talking about the ones you have delivered to your home, but the type you find in your supermarket freezer. I can’t remember a week that goes by when one brand of pizza isn’t on sale at the supermarket. Okay, they don’t always have a sale on the really fancy pizzas, but I often find the plain cheese pizzas are 3 for $9.99 so I’ll buy them, store them in the freezer and then add my own toppings.

Pasta
Just like pizza, pasta and at least one brand of pasta sauce is always on sale. Both pasta and pasta sauce have long shelf lives so it pays to stock up. And just think how many dishes use some type of pasta. And just like beans and legumes, you can add it to meat dishes to help stretch your budget. Soups are great with some pasta added to them too. And pasta sauces also make ideal bases for homemade pizza.

admin / December 22, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Five Things To Do List

The holidays aren’t all about spending money; they can be about saving it too. Here are my top five things that every Budget Smart Girl should be doing right now-

Stocking Up
Hopefully, your budget isn’t stretched to the max because the last two weeks of the year are perfect for stocking up. Check your local supermarket and you’ll find things like flour, canned veggies, spices and chocolate are all heavily discounted. And the good news is all many of these items have a long shelf life, so now’s the time to grab the bargains.

Thinking Ahead
Okay, you’ve just got over one celebration and you don’t want to start thinking about the next one just yet, but the Budget Smart Girl always plans ahead. Valentine’s Day isn’t that far away so why not buy some red wrapping paper, some chocolates and other baking supplies and get a head straight…and yes, save some money.

Thinking About Next Year’s Holiday Season
And while you’re buying the red wrapping paper, leap way ahead and think about next holiday season. Grab the wrapping paper, the bags, the cards, even the holiday decorations. When November rolls around, you’re going to be so happy that you saved a ton of money and checked off one thing on your must buy list.

Thinking about Birthdays
When you’ve spent all your money on holiday gifts, the last thing you need to do is buy a birthday gift. But if you’re smart and have some cash left, why not head to the stores and pick out a few gifts to keep on the shelf for later use. Visit stores like K-Mart, Target, TJ Maxx who always seem to have bath and body gift sets marked down by at least 75%. I’ve picked up a few of these every year, and also some great cocoa and tea gift sets, complete with a teapot and mugs for under $10. But be warned, these get picked up early, usually the day after Christmas, so it pays to shop on December 26th.

Treating Yourself
Okay, you’ve been good this year, you’ve kept to your budget…well, I hope you have, so why not reward yourself. Now don’t go overboard, but right after the holidays, retailers are most likely to slash their prices to get rid of old stock ready for spring merchandise. And just the other day, I was watching the CBS Saturday show and they had a segment on last minute gifts. The guest said this year we’re going to see retailers slashing prices even more after January 1st. I guess there is a plus to all this doom and gloom. If you get some cash for the holidays, hang on to it, and by the middle of January you should be able to find yourself some top notch bargains.

admin / December 21, 2008

The Blog-Let Me Speak to the Supervisor

Owning a defective product and dealing with a company that doesn’t want to acknowledge it, can not only be frustrating, it can cost you money too.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading an article about ways to successfully get results when you have a complaint about products and services. One of the tips was to request to speak with a supervisor if you find a custom service agent unresponsive. My late father always used that tactic and it worked every single time. I didn’t give the article much more thought, but last week this little kernel of knowledge came to my rescue.

Two years ago we had new windows installed. They’ve been great but when the weather turned chilly, I noticed the casement window in the family room seemed to be letting in lots of cold air and ice was forming on the inside of the glass. As the windows have a lifetime guarantee, I decided to call the service department to make an appointment for someone to take a look at it.

So on Monday, a window technician stopped by, made a few adjustments and was swiftly on his way. The window still continued to let in cold air and I was worried that the drafty window as wasting energy and yes, money. Once again I called the company and got the usual response, ‘there’s nothing wrong with the window and there’s nothing more we can do’. After a few minutes of me starting to get peeved with the customer service agent’s bad attitude, I decided to try the ‘let me speak to your supervisor, please’ tip. I was put on hold for about 15 minutes and was starting to think this neat little trick wasn’t going to work for me. However, I was wrong. While the supervisor didn’t materialize, the customer service agent told me the supervisor for window installation would be out to my house the following day to see what he could do.

Just as promised, he stopped by, didn’t argue, didn’t deny there was a problem, he just said the window was obviously defective and has ordered a new one. It might not work every single time, but asking for the supervisor, can’t hurt. Try it next time you meet with an unresponsive customer service agent.

Happy Holidays.

admin / December 16, 2008

A Budget Smart Cook Always Loves the Holidays

Most of us spend more money during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean we have to break the bank. By following a few simple rules you can have enough money over to start the New Year in the black. Oh, and did I happen to mention this is a great time to stock up and save even more?

Keep it Simple
When you’re throwing a holiday party or even the Christmas dinner, stay within your comfort zone. You’re less likely to have a cooking disaster and be forced to toss food if you stick with your favorite stand bys.

Look to Leftovers
When I’m planning a special meal or party, I think about leftovers. No matter how good the food and how hungry the guests are, leftovers are inevitable. Choose foods that can be turned into new meals or added to other ingredients to create a new dish. For example, dips can be substituted for mayo or butter in sandwiches and wraps. Leftover cheese and crackers are perfect for making macaroni and cheese. And as pesto sauce is one of my favorite must haves for appetizers, I always have some leftover. So what do with it? I use it to make the quickest meal you can put together.
Cooked spaghetti or other pasta you have on hand. Toss it with pesto sauce, just enough to coat each strand of spaghetti, add some chopped sun dried tomatoes, even some chopped black olives (also a common ingredient leftover from parties) and plenty of Parmesan cheese.

Bring Out the Party Food
I don’t know about you, but for some reason I have recipes that I only use at holiday time. The following is one of those. This makes a great snack to place in dishes around the house for guests to eat while they’re waiting for the big meal to be served. I should make this recipe more often because in my house, these goodies are gone before you can turn you back. And they make a great last minute gift for someone too!

Sweet BBQ Nuts

•2 cups of nuts cashews, peanuts, pecans, or walnuts work well for this recipe and you can even mix and match.
•Two tablespoons honey
•Two tablespoons BBQ sauce
•One tablespoon ketchup…if you like some heat, replace the ketchup with some Frontera Chipotle Hot sauce.
•½ teaspoon paprika
•½ teaspoon garlic powder

1.Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.In the meantime, take a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients, except the nuts, and mix together.
3.Place the nuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven to warm through. About five minutes should do it, watch them carefully because they can burn very quickly. Add the nuts to the mixing bowl and toss in the honey/BBQ mix. Make sure they’re all covered.
4.Cover the baking sheet with some parchment paper and place the coated nuts on top and spread out evenly.
5.Bake for about 10-15 minutes, stir occasionally and keep your eye on them as they can get too hot and burn.

Sales are Everywhere
One thing I love about shopping during the holidays is lots of items go on sale at only this time of the year. Just today, I stocked up on vanilla extract and packages of yeast that were both 50% off. Stuffing and flour also go on sale and have long shelf lives or freeze well. Yes, I’ve even put bags of flour in the freezer. And don’t overlook boxes of chocolates too. Valentine’s Day isn’t that far away. Chocolate makes a perfect gift or you can use it for toppings on cookies and cupcakes, etc.

admin / December 15, 2008

Last Minute Gifts

Just one week left until the big day. And if it’s not just time you’re running out of but money too, I’ve put together a list of last minute gifts under $30.

Send a Greeting
If you’ve really run out of time and cash…and not to mention forgot to mail those holiday cards, you might want to check out www.Animoto.com. Here you can create your own holiday video to send anywhere for just $3.

Fommy
I don’t own an iPod or a Blackberry, but if you know someone who does, check out www.fommy.com for covers for just about any gadget and starting at $8.95.

Comfort and Joy
If I’m in a bind sometimes I’ll put together my own gift basket. Here’s an idea for filling a basket I call Comfort and Joy. You can find inexpensive gift baskets at the dollar store and you’ll need to line it with a blanket. I really like the Polarvide ones from IKEA, they’re low cost and cozy. Fill the basket with a container of gourmet dark hot chocolate mix, try the World Market brand. While you’re at the dollar store, you might even find a mug or two to put into the basket. And how about adding some reading material too…a paperback book, maybe a magazine or two, or even a book of crossword puzzles.

Just In Case
If you or someone you know is anything like me, you have flashlights sitting around the house and only realize they have dead batteries when the lights go out. Worry no more because www.llbean.com is selling their wide up flashlight for $16 (3 for $36). And while you’re shopping there, check out their Faux- Sherling Ear Warmers for $9.95 MQ51664. And for the young ones, the Snow Tread Boots, MQ51508 for just $19.95.

Peanut Butter
Who doesn’t love peanut butter and chocolate? Check out www.pbloco.com and their Eat Your Heart Out Custom Gift Box containing 3 jars of pb of your choice, or the Eat Your Heart Out Chocolate Lovers Gift Box containing 3 jars of pb, both $24.95. And be sure to check out the ‘sign up for free stuff’ on the site.

A Flashlight and More
It’s $29.95 called the Flashlight-er, and it’s a less than 1” size rechargeable car flashlight that allows users to charge any electronic device that uses a USB port or standard 12 Volt Charger. Leave it in your car power port to charge your phone (from SmartPhones to iPhone), GPS Systems, other mobile devices, iPods and more…and when you need a flashlight, just remove it. The 3 LED lights automatically switch on to give you enough light, whether you are looking for change, or changing a tire. www.theflashlighter.com.

A Little R and R
I don’t know about you but one of my favorite and inexpensive ways to get away from it all is to listen to some relaxing music. Check out www.greatrelaxationmusic.com for some relaxing sounds for $14.99 and also www.serenitysupply.com for $8.98. And why not slip on an eye mask while you’re relaxing. Visit www.dreamessentials.com where they have the solitude eye mask for $9.95.

Oh, Those Happy Toes
I’m guessing the recipient of this gift will love you forever, well, maybe not that long, but at least the winter months ahead. Slippers that you can heat in your microwave. Check out www.solutions.com and their Happy Toes Slippers #66451 for $19.95.

No More Aching Feet
And while we’re on the subject of feet and relaxing, if you know someone who likes to be pampered with at home pedicures, check out the Just in Time Inflatable Foot Tub and towel, item #12007 from www.collectionsetc.com for just $9.99. At that price, you can inflate it and fill it with a bottle of bubble bath and/or body lotion and a pair of cozy socks.

Slippers
Slippers and the holidays seem to go hand in hand and here’s a sweet deal from www.carolwrightgifts.com item #68522 $14.99 Ladies Memory Foam Slippers, buy one pair, get the second pair free.

Some Shameless Self Promotion
Okay, I know I shouldn’t, but as a former book publicist, I just can’t help myself. If you know someone who loves reading romances, check out A Sterling Affair written by…yes, me. Right now it’s available in e-book format for just $6. www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1076

admin / December 15, 2008

The Blog-Always Blame the Budget Smart Girl

Okay, I always look for bargains, the best prices, and I use coupons when I can, so I suppose it’s only natural that sometimes I get blamed for substandard products finding their way into my house.

Sometimes…but not always. The other week I was shopping for toilet paper and yes, I did find some on sale, but that wasn’t what made me buy it. The words ‘extra soft’ won me over. However, when the extra soft TP turned out to be not so extra soft or even a little bit soft and guess who got blamed, yes, me.

Luckily, I still had some rolls stored in the original packaging with the words Extra Soft stamped on there not once, but twice.

It just goes to prove that it isn’t just bargain brand TP that should be avoided.

Businesses are struggling now and if you’re a Budget Smart Girl who runs her or a guy who runs his, own business, how about partnering up with another business owner to cross promote and attract customers.

When I was at the check out at the supermarket, the clerk asked me if I knew about their latest promotion. I didn’t but it seems they’ve teamed with Best Buy. Buy a $50 Best Buy gift card from the supermarket and they give you $10 off your next grocery bill.
So, if you’re looking for some cross promotion, how about teaming up with another business and offering both sets of customers a special deal for using one another’s products or services. Seems like everyone’s struggling now so we might as well team up and weather out this slump together.

Update on the Newsletter
You might have noticed on the front page of this site that there’s now a sign up link. The company I was hoping to use for sending out the upcoming Budget Smart Girl newsletter went out of business so someone suggested using Feedburner. If you sign up, you’ll not only get the newsletter delivered straight to your e-mail box, but articles and blogs as they’re posted.

admin / December 15, 2008

Last Minute Deals

I received this and thought I’d pass it along to you-
www.dealnews.com/lastminute is a comprehensive round-up of shipping deadlines as they become available – including standard and overnight – for over 70 leading stores including Amazon, Apple, BestBuy.com, Overstock, and Walmart.

According Dan de Grandpre, founder and editor in chief of dealnews.com, the bad economy will be good news for last-minute shoppers as desperate retailers slash prices to drive sales as Christmas nears. de Grandpre says shoppers can expect deals as good or better than Black Friday on some of the season’s hottest gifts, including flat screen TV’s, GPS systems, and many of the toys on Toys R Us’ “Best Of” list.

The site is dubbing Tuesday, December 23rd as “Last-Minute Tuesday” since it is the last day to shop online at most retailers and still have gifts shipped in time for Christmas. In addition, some sites like BestBuy.com, Target.com, and OfficeDepot.com will take online orders as late as Christmas Eve for in-store pickup. dealnews says many online retailers will offer shipping discounts, including free shipping, right up until December 23rd.

“Anxious retailers are going to offer the best sales of the season in the two weeks leading up to Christmas,” said de Grandpre. “Shoppers who are willing to wait can expect unbelievable deals and still rest assured that their gifts will arrive in time for Christmas Day.”

admin / December 11, 2008

Special Holiday Offer

If you’re now taking your own lunch to work or thinking about it, here’s a deal you might like. Laptop Lunches has a holiday sale going on. They sell lunchboxes and a whole lot more and are perfect for carrying your homemade lunch and yes, saving money. They also make the pefect gift.
Between December 7 and December 16th they’re offering 20% off all their items, just enter coupon code Holiday2008 at check out. www.laptoplunches.com

Check out the new Budget Smart Girl Store Dismiss