How to Coupon

Frugal Ideas for Graduation Gifts

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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National Coffee DayHow many graduation ceremonies, or parties, have you been invited to? It can be difficult to think up a good gift for the new graduate. You want to give something meaningful, or useful, without breaking your budget. Here are a few frugal ideas for graduation gifts.

Gift Cards
Many new graduates are broke. Those that have graduated high school will be starting college soon (and college is expensive). College graduates, on the other hand, are about to begin paying off their student loans. Give the graduate some gift cards. They will absolutely appreciate it! You are giving them the gift of a “freebie” that they can use at any time. Good choices for gift cards include: Starbucks, Denny’s, iTunes, or a gift card to their local grocery store. Put the gift card into a nice Graduation card.

Coffee Maker
Coffee that one makes at home is always going to be less expensive than coffee that is purchased from a coffee shop. Give the graduate a coffee maker. It doesn’t have to be a fancy one. Small coffee makers that make one or two cups of coffee at a time are useful. You could also put together a gift bag of samples of pre-ground coffee for them to try out.

Kitchen Starter Kit
Graduates who will be living in their own apartment for the first time are going to need a lot of household items. Create a kitchen starter kit for them. Make a bouquet of cooking utensils (spatulas, slotted spoons, barbecue tongs, pizza cutter, etc.) Tie the bouquet together with a large dishtowel. Tuck it into an oven mitt. You can find some very nice kitchen items at the dollar stores.

Advice Books
Is there a book that you have read that gave you really helpful advice? Pick up a copy for a new graduate. Financial advice books, that are geared for young adults, can be very useful. Beginner cookbooks are also a good choice for graduates who need to learn how to cook simple meals. There are plenty of cookbooks that are intended for college students to use.

First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is one of those things that you don’t think you need …. until the moment that you do! You can purchase a pre-made first aid kit as a gift. Or, you could put together a basket of stuff that would be found in one. Get boxes of band-aids (of different sizes). Include some gauze, antibiotic ointment packets, and flashlight (with batteries). The American Red Cross has more details about what should be in a first aid kit.

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All Natural Insect Repellents

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Bug SprayNobody likes mosquitoes! One of the most frustrating aspects of enjoying the “great outdoors” is the potential to end up with bug bites. Some people are hesitant to use bug spray that contains DEET. There are other alternatives! Try some of these all natural insect repellents instead.

Minimize exposed skin.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people cover their exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats. Doing so makes it more difficult for mosquitoes and other bugs to bite you. They also advise sleeping in screened or air-conditioned rooms (instead of outside in the open air).

Remove bug attractors.
Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. Before you spend time in your backyard, take a few minutes to look for places where water has gathered. Check flowerpots, buckets, gutters, planters, bird baths, and even the “kiddy pool”. Dump out the water. This makes your backyard less attractive to mosquitoes. It also helps prevent the mosquito larva that may already be in the standing water from surviving.
Use Citronella Candles.
The National Pesticide Information Center has a lot of information about citronella. Oil of citronella is is a naturally occurring insect and animal repellent that is distilled from two different varieties of grass.

Burning a citronella candle (or many of them) helps to mask the scents that are attractive to insects. This makes it a lot harder for them to find humans to bite. Of course, you need to be in range of the citronella candle in order for it to be effective.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)
Oil of lemon eucalyptus is an ingredient in Repel and Off! Botanicals. The CDC recommends that people use EPA registered repellent products that contain the active ingredient OLE. In other words, “pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus, in essential oil that is not formulated to be an insect repellent, is not recommended by the CDC. This is because it has not undergone validated testing for safety and efficiency.

Burt’s Bees All Natural Insect Repellent.
Burt’s Bees makes an all natural insect repellent that includes a blend of “rosemary, Lemongrass, Citronella Oil and other essential oils”. Their description makes it sound as though it works by masking the scents that insects are attracted to (much like citronella candles do). The reviews on the Burt’s Bees website seem to say that it works well as a repellent of mosquitoes and gnats. However, a few reviewers noted that it appears to attract bees!

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How to Make your own Barbecue Sauce

Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Barbecued Hot DogsHaving a backyard barbecue this summer? You’re going to need plenty of barbecue sauce. One way to save money on it is to find coupons for your favorite brand. Another, possibly more frugal, alternative is to make you own barbecue sauce. There are many different types of barbecue sauce. Here are three different recipes for barbecue sauce that you can try.

Basic Barbecue Sauce
Serious Eats has a recipe for a basic barbecue sauce. It goes with just about anything that you want to toss on the grill. You will need:

* 2 cups of ketchup
* 1/4 cup cider vinegar
* 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
* 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons molasses
* 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
* 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
* 1 tablespoon of your favorite barbecue rub
* 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring them slowly to a boil over medium-high heat. Next, reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer the barbecue sauce until it is dark, thick, and richly flavored. This takes 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the finished barbecue sauce to a clean jar. Store it the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Serious Eats says it will keep for “several months”.

Honey Barbecue Sauce
AllRecipes has a barbecue sauce recipe for those who like their sauce a little bit sweet. It makes about 2 cups. You will need:

* 1 cup honey
* 1/4 cup molasses
* 3 tablespoons ketchup
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
* 1 tablespoon meat tenderizer
* 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/4 cup steak sauce
* 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
* 1 1/2 cups brown sugar

Get a medium bowl. Put all the ingredients into it. Stir them together until they are well blended. After that, cover the bowl and refrigerate it until it is ready to be used.

Quick Barbecue Sauce
Real Simple has a barbecue sauce recipe that takes a very short amount of time to make. You can whip some up if you run out of store-bought barbecue sauce during a party. It serves 16. You will need:

* 1 cup ketchup
* 1/4 cup cider vinegar
* 2 tablespoons molasses
* 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
* 1 tablespoon water
* 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1/3 teaspoons black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat for about 3 to 5 minutes. Baste the meat, chicken, or seafood that you plan on barbecuing with the sauce during the last 10 minutes of grilling.

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Three Different Ways to Make Potato Salad

Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Klondike PotatoesBefore you buy a pre-made potato salad from the grocery store, you should consider giving one of these great potato salad recipes a try. Use coupons for the ingredients, and make it fresh at home. May is National Salad Month, so potato salad fits right in. Which of these recipes is your favorite?

The Original Potato Salad
Hellmann’s has a potato salad recipe that they say is the original one. It serves 8 people. You will need:

* 2 pounds of potatoes (5 or 6 medium) (peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks)
* 1 cup Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise
* 2 tablespoons vinegar
* 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 cup celery (thinly sliced)
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 2 hard-boiled eggs (chopped) (The eggs are optional).

You will need a 4-quart saucepan. Put the potatoes inside and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer until potatoes are tender. Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the potatoes, celery, onion, and eggs. Toss gently. Serve chilled.

Authentic German Potato Salad Recipe
AllRecipes has a German potato salad recipe that will serve 4 people. You will need:

* 3 cups of potatoes (diced and peeled)
* 4 slices of bacon
* 1 small onion (diced)
* 1/4 cup white vinegar
* 2 tablespoons water
* 3 tablespoons white sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon parsley (fresh and chopped)

First, boil the potatoes. Drain them when finished and set them aside to cool. Fry the bacon in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat until browned. Remove when done and set aside. Add onion to the bacon grease and cook over medium heat until browned. Add the vinegar, water, salt, and pepper to the pan. Bring it to a boil and then add the potatoes and parsley. Crumble in the bacon. Heat it through, and then transfer to a serving dish. Serve warm.

Simple Southern Potato Salad
Southern Food has a Southern potato salad recipe that will serve 10 people. You will need:

* 8 or 9 large potatoes (peeled and cubed)
* 1 cup pickle (chopped)
* 2 medium onions (chopped)
* 5 large hard-boiled eggs (chopped)
* Salt and pepper
* 2 cups of mayonnaise
* 3 to 4 tablespoons of mustard

First, peel and dice the potatoes. Put them in a large pot with water to boil until tender. When the potatoes are done, drain them. Put the potatoes back in the pot and add the pickles, onions, eggs, and mayonnaise. Mix until it has the desired consistency. Next, mix in the mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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How to Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Posted on Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Woman BakingWhat goes great with salad? Your favorite salad dressing is an important addition to a delicious salad. May is National Salad Month so you might be having more salads right now than usual. One way to save some money would be to make your own salad dressing. Here are a few recipes to try.

Classic Vinaigrette
Cooking Light has a lot of recipes for salad dressing. A great one to start with would be their Classic Vinaigrette. It makes 6 tablespoons of dressing, and the serving size is 1 1/2 tablespoons. You will need:

* 1 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
* 1 tablespoon of shallots (chopped)
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Start by combining the vinegar, shallots, salt, Dijon mustard, and pepper. Gradually add the olive oil. Stir the ingredients until they have been well incorporated.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
Mr. Food has an easy recipe for a balsamic vinaigrette. It makes about 1 – 1/2 cups of salad dressing. You will need:

* 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
* 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 cup olive oil

Get a medium bowl. Whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Next, add the salt and pepper. Pour in the olive oil very slowly. Keep whisking until everything is well combined.

Thousand Island Salad Dressing
Martha Stewart has a great recipe for Thousand Island Salad dressing. You can turn it into a low-fat dressing if you replace the sour cream with low-fat plain Greek yogurt. You will need:

* 1 cup buttermilk
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 1/3 cup ketchup
* 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
* Coarse salt and ground pepper

Get a medium bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and mayonnaise until it is smooth. Next, whisk in the ketchup and relish. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

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Last Minute Mother’s Day Gifts

Posted on Thursday, May 8th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Gift CardsYou only have a couple of days before Mother’s Day. It is probably too late for you to order something online and have it shipped to your mother. What are you going to do for a gift now? Have no fear procrastinators (or people who are extremely busy)! Here are some last minute Mother’s Day gifts that you can still pick up for your mom.

Get a Gift Card
You can’t go wrong with a gift card. Pick one out. Tell the cashier how much money you want to put on it. In just a few minutes, you have an easy Mother’s Day gift. Choose a gift card from her favorite store, restaurant, or salon. Many places will have gift cards that have special Mother’s Day designs on them. Ask the cashier for one of those fancy, small, envelopes that gift cards fit into. Another option is to put the gift card inside a Mother’s Day card.

Gift Bag of Candy
Remember those “goodie bags” that you would take home from birthday parties when you were a child? They typically contain candy. Put a smile on your mother’s face by creating her very own, customized, gift bag of candy. Stop by the section of the grocery store or pharmacy that has cards. There should be some small gift bags somewhere nearby. Fill the bag with mom’s favorite type of candy bars. It will be like a bouquet of chocolate instead of flowers.

Fill a Coffee Mug
You can find your mother a cute coffee mug just about anywhere. Department stores will have them in the kitchen section. Grocery stores might have some in the holiday section. Go get one. Next, you are going to fill that mug with her favorite coffee, tea, or a little of both.

If your mom prefers tea, buy her a box of her favorite kind. Open the box and carefully place each individually sealed tea bag into the mug. Does your mom like coffee? Starbucks makes an instant coffee called VIA that comes in individual servings. If your mom has a Keurig, you can buy her some K-cups of either coffee or tea. Fill the coffee mug. It makes a cute gift.

Assortment of Samples
Is your mom someone who loves little bars of soap and other scented products? Stop by the grocery store or pharmacy and see what kinds of scented lotions or shampoos they have in “travel” sizes. Check out the soap aisle to see if there are any cute little soaps there. Another option is to stop by Bath and Body Works and pick up a bunch of scented lotions, soaps, sprays, and more.

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How to Make Your Own Sidewalk Chalk

Posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Sidewalk ChalkLooking for something fun for your children to do outdoors? Give them an activity to do that will let them use their imaginations. All you need is some sidewalk chalk and a sidewalk to use it on. Those of you who are crafty can try this recipe to make your own sidewalk chalk. Or, you could just use some of these suggestions about where to find inexpensive, pre-made, sidewalk chalk.

How to Make Sidewalk Chalk
Martha Stewart has a recipe that you can use to make sidewalk chalk in any color you want. You will need:

* Cardboard tubes (from the center of paper towels or toilet paper)
* Scissors
* Duct tape
* Freezer paper
* 32 ounce plastic containers (used yogurt containers)
* Tempera paint (in a variety of colors)
* 1 cup of water
* Mixing spoon
* 1 1/2 cups of Plaster of Paris
* Rubber spatula
* Cooling rack

She suggests that you start by cutting the cardboard tubes to about 5 1/2 inches. Use duct tape to seal one side of each tube. Insert a sheet of freezer paper inside each tube. It helps if you cut it to the right size first.

Get a plastic container. Mix 2 to 4 tablespoons of paint into the cup of water. Mix while slowly adding the Plaster of Paris to the water until completely combined. The mixture should be the same texture as frosting.

Fill each cardboard tube (that has been prepared as described above) with the Plaster of Paris mixture. Use the rubber spatula to make that a bit easier. Tap the tube on a work surface to release air bubbles.

The Plaster of Paris will set in about 30 minutes. You can remove the chalk from the tube after it has sat for about an hour. Squeeze the tube gently to check to see how hard it has become. After removing the chalk from the tube, set it on a cooling rack and let it dry for 24 hours before use.

Not interested in being crafty? You can still save money on sidewalk chalk. Start by looking for it in the nearest dollar store. Target might have some in their $1.00 racks. Educational stores may have some on sale just in time for summer.

Another idea is to see if you can track down where your children put the sidewalk chalk that they were using last year. See if it got mixed in with other art supplies.

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Save Money with Cinco de Mayo Deals!

Posted on Thursday, May 1st, 2014 at 7:00 am
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TacosCinco de Mayo is celebrated every year on May 5th. You can have a good time without going too far over your budget. Take advantage of the deals and specials that restaurants and bars are offering on Cinco de Mayo Here are some to get started with. There may be some local deals in your area, too. Check with the website of your favorite Mexican restaurant to see how they will be celebrating.

Chevy’s is celebrating “5 Days of Cinco” from May 1, 2014 through May 5, 2014. According to their Facebook page, specials include $4.00 – $7.50 Dos XX Lager, Tecate and Tecate Light, $6.00 Doble Margs and Doble shots, and more. (These deals may not be happening at all Chevy’s locations – so call ahead and check).

Taco Time is celebrating Cinco de Mayo by offering $0.69 tacos all day long on May 5, 2014. There are no coupons associated with this deal. Just go in and enjoy the inexpensive tacos.

Carlos O’Kelly’s is holding their Cinco de Mayo celebration from May 2, 2014 through May 5, 2014. They are offering $5.00 Jumbo Margaritas, $1.50 small chili con queso, and 1/2 price Kid’s Meals. They also have a few deals that will only be offered on May 5, 2014. They will have $2.00 drafts, $3.00 Big Beers, and $3.00 Mex Bottles.

Green Burrito at Carl’s Jr has a coupon for $1.00 off any 2 piece or 4 piece grilled flautas with charbroiled chicken. This coupon will expire on June 8, 2014.

Chipotle has a catering deal that they are calling “Graduatering”. Obviously, it is geared for graduation parties. However, you could use it to get a good deal on catering for your Cinco de Mayo party. Place a catering order for 30 or more people between May 1, 2014, and June 30, 2014 and get a card for four free burritos.

Costa Vida will be giving away a free sweet pork burrito to each guest that arrives at their store in Lehi, Utah, between 11:00 in the morning and 1:00 in the afternoon on May 5, 2014.

Dos Equis will let you send a free eCard to a friend. Choose an image from their selection. Next, select a “line” from their collection. Most of them are in celebration of “Dos de Mayo” (because the brand is Dos Equis). You must be 21 or older to send the free eCard.

Taco Cabana is offering some relief for those who are hungover after celebrating Cinco de Mayo. They will be posting a coupon for a free taco from Taco Cabana on their Facebook page on May 6, 2014.

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Where to Find Free Mother’s Day Coloring Sheets

Posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Crayola CrayonsWant a really fun way to get little kids involved in Mother’s Day? Have them color a Mother’s Day themed picture! Put their adorable, unique, artwork into a “store bought” card. The mom who receives this type of Mother’s Day card cannot help but smile! Here is where to find several free, printable, Mother’s Day coloring sheets.

* Mother’s Day is a coloring sheet that shows a little boy giving his mother a bouquet of flowers and a “Best Mom Ever” balloon.

* Celebrating Mom is a coloring sheet that shows a mom holding a baby. She is also holding a bouquet of flowers and three Mother’s Day balloons.

* Turtle Mommy is a coloring page that shows a young turtle who has a flower in his mouth and a cupcake balanced on his back. He has walked it over to his turtle mommy.

* Mother’s Love is a coloring page that shows a mother deer snuggling with her two baby deer. One of them is giving her a leaf that is filled with berries.

At Coloring Castle
* Mother’s Day Roses is a coloring sheet that shows a bouquet of roses in a vase. Above the roses, it says “Happy Mother’s Day”. This drawing has some very small areas to color. It is more ideal for older kids who have developed their fine motor skills more than most little kids have.

* Mother’s Day Concentric Hearts is a coloring sheet that shows several hearts that are one inside the other. Each heart is made up of small designs. The border is made of hearts and circles. This is another coloring sheet that has small spaces and would be good for older kids to color.

* Mommy Heart is a coloring sheet that is simple, and to the point. It shows a large heart with the word “Mommy” inside it. Kids of all ages can color this one!

At Disney Family Go
* Bambi Mother’s Day Card is an entire, foldable, Mother’s Day Card. It shows a very young Bambi snuggling with his mother next to some wild flowers.

* Peter’s Happy Mother’s Day Card is a printable Mother’s Day card that shows a drawing of Peter Rabbit. He is holding a wrapped present that his is giving to Mother Rabbit.

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Tips for Getting the Best Deals and Thrift and Consignment Stores

Posted on Thursday, April 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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big laughIt’s always nice to get some great “new to you” clothing at an affordable price. Shopping at thrift stores, or consignment stores, is good for the environment. Here are some tips that will help you get the best deals while you are shopping “green”.

When you purchase an item from a thrift store or consignment store, you are keeping it out of a landfill. It is estimated that 85% of used clothing ends up in a landfill every year. One way to live “green” is to find ways to re-use things (instead of throwing them away). These are the kinds of shopping trips that make you feel good and are good for the Earth, too!

Consignment shops often have a “system” in place that designates when items will be marked down in price. Ask the consignment shop owner for details. Typically, the longer a piece of clothing has been in the store, the more it will get marked down. You might get a really great deal if you are willing to wait for something to go on sale.

Some of the items at consignment stores could be brand new. It isn’t unheard of for shop owners to buy clothing from boutiques that are going out of business. In other words, you could be buying brand new clothes for a lower price than if you bought it from the boutique it originally came from.

Choose thrift stores and consignment shops that are in an upper-income neighborhood. The people who live near the store have a lot of disposable income. The items they donate to a thrift store, or send to a consignment shop, could be newer, more “gently used”, and of a higher quality than you might see in similar stores in lower-income neighborhoods.

Ask for the store’s calendar when you visit a thrift store. They typically will put certain items on sale on particular days. For example, Sunday could be when sweaters go on sale. Thursdays could be when dresses are on sale. You can get a great deal if you shop on the right day. Most of the time, those sales are weekly. If you missed the sale, come back on the same day next week.

Bring your photo ID to the thrift store. They often give extra discounts to students, teachers, and people who are in the military. The clerks at the register are not allowed to simply take your word for it. You must show them your student ID, military ID, or a name badge that has a photo and shows what school you teach in.

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