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Planning a Budget Family Vacation
Save Money & The Environment By Reusing Ink Cartridges
Save Money by Winterizing Your Home
Inexpensive Easter Basket Ideas
Saving on Healthcare

Mothers Day Gift Ideas
Valentine's Day on a Dime
Save Money on Haircuts 
DIY Baby Shower
Have Fun with the Snow!
Saving on Meals With a Chronic Illness
How To Save on Holiday Shipping Costs
Quick and Easy Ornament Ideas
Is the Price of Relaxation Stressing You Out?
Acres of Apples, Frugal to the Core
How to Make a Coffee Table
Popsicle Paradise!
Bathroom Décor: Quick Bathroom Decorating on a Budget
Unique Ways to Decorate a Little Boy's Bedroom on a Budget
Decorating a Little Girl's Bedroom on a Budget
The Budget Decorator’s Top 10 Tips
Easy, Cheap and Elegant Decorating for Valentines!
Money Tips for Newlyweds
Investing for Retirement
Muffin Basics

 Planning a Budget family Vacation

Traveling with a family is always beset by unforeseen expenses; it is all part of that
invisible contract you sign up for when you start a family. But there are always ways and Dollar in Piggy Bank
means to minimise costs and they needn’t take the joy out of your annual vacation. Here
are a few tips for frugal families in search of the perfect getaway.

1) Shop around
It may seem glaringly obvious, but many people are creatures of habit. It is all too easy
to go back to the same place you did last year, take the same transport or book through
the same travel company. The internet is awash with price comparison sites and low-
cost deal pages
where you can find great options for a cheap holiday in 2013 that you
may never have thought of yourself. These are natural places to begin your search whilst
some sites even allow you to bid for hotels according to your set budget.
Whenever you find a deal, be sure to call up the hotel and check all the extras
(breakfasts, pool use, ironing boards…) and be sure you’re paying for things you will
actually use. If your travel dates are flexible, try to find out the cheapest times of year in
your destination, as this can depend greatly on weather and other factors.
a family at the car park
2) Cut out hotels
If step 1 yields no results, why not try cutting out the hotels all together? Trailer
vacations and camping trips are time-honored budget options. Orienteering, climbing,
fishing and foraging are popular ways to bond with your children whilst teaching them
more about the world.
If hours cooped up in a car and huddled around a campfire are likely to send your sullen
teenagers insane, then perhaps try a homeswap or short term rental. Plenty of sites
list properties at a fraction of hotel prices; you can choose anything from a room in a
host family house to renting a rural cabin. Home exchange sites also offer the chance to
temporarily change lives with another family at almost no cost.

3) Eat like a local
If you are going abroad choose wisely. Save the Europe trip for another time and head
to South America where the living costs are a fraction of what they are at home. And
when you’re there go shopping with a local. Seek out new tastes and experiences based
on what frugal locals eat - if it is cheap for them, it’s definitely cheap for you.
These are just a few things to bear in mind when planning your vacation. Try and find
out how people celebrate their time off in other nations, particularly those where wages
are lower - it may yield some surprising results.

Images by Images of Money and Holiday Extras, used under Creative Comms license
===============

Easter Basket Ideas
by Tawra Kellam

Easter is a great time of the year to celebrate. Here are some ideas for Easter gifts. Try some of them and if the creative juices start flowing, make up some of your own!

Easter Baskets:

You can find inexpensive Easter baskets at garage sales and thrift stores. I never spend more than .25 for one.If you don't have Easter baskets, you can also use:

  • Plain wicker baskets
  • Baskets spray painted an Easter color
  • A cute straw hat
  • A pail for the sandbox
  • A bowl wrapped in tissue paper
  • Paper sacks that the kids decorate. Cut out pictures from magazines or use stickers. Glue or stick them on and then paint or color around them.
  • Any sort of plastic storage container. These often can be used later for storage.
  • For a "family" Easter basket, set a nice plate on the table with Easter grass and goodies arranged on the plate or platter. This is great when you have older kids.

Fillers for Easter Baskets:

  • Buy candy after Valentine's Day at half price and keep to fill Easter baskets.
  • Make Easter cookies in the shapes of bunnies, eggs, crosses or any other Easter shape that comes to mind and decorate.
  • Popcorn Balls or Rice Krispie Treats colored in pastel colors.
  • String Froot Loops onto yarn and tie to make a necklace.
  • Don't fill baskets. Instead put jelly beans and candy in plastic eggs so the kids can fill their own baskets. You can also put nickels, dimes, toy soldiers, bugs, stickers, barrettes or hair ribbons in the eggs. Hide them outside or in the house if you live in a climate where it's usually cold on Easter.
  • Make coupons for getting out of chores, staying up late one night, having a friend over for a sleep over or a special dinner that they like.
  • Include like new books purchased at garage sales or thrift stores.
  • Homemade slimeplay doughsidewalk chalkbubbles or the ingredients for crystal gardens.
  • Wacky crayons- Crayon pieces melted together in a muffin tin to make a "big" crayon.
  • Flower seeds that the kids can grow
  • Mini-stuffed animals purchased at garage sales or on clearance the year before.
  • Paper dolls or coloring books. There are many available on the Internet that you can print yourself.
  • For teenagers, put these items in baskets: lotions, soaps, suntan lotions, fingernail polish, movie tickets, tickets for getting out of a chore, ticket for $5 worth of car gas, clothes purchased on clearance and of course lots of candy!
  • Leave a trail of jelly beans or candy kisses from their rooms to their Easter baskets.
  • Easter Kisses. Put some Hershey Kisses or chocolate chips in a plastic bag and attach the following poem:

    This cute little bunny has hopped all day
    Been delivering baskets for the holiday.
    His paws are so tired and his little nose itches.
    He left you something special-something to fill all your wishes.
    These cute little hugs and Easter kisses.

  • Put 1 Pound Jelly Beans into a bag and attach this poem:

    RED is for the blood He gave.
    GREEN is for the grass He made.
    YELLOW is for the sun so bright.
    ORANGE is for the edge of night.
    BLACK is for the sins we made.
    WHITE is for the grace he gave.
    PURPLE is for His hour of sorrow.
    PINK is for our new tomorrow.
    A bag full of jelly beans colorful and sweet,
    Is a prayer, is a promise, is a special treat.

  • Easter Carrot Treats - Buy disposable plastic decorating bags and fill them with orange jellybeans or cheese balls. Then stick some green Easter grass in the top of the bag (leave some hanging out) and secure the bag with a rubber band and then ribbon so that it resembles a carrot.

Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook.  http://www.LivingOnADime.com


 

from a frugal family physician
 
Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

You might think as a physician I have no concern for frugality.  However, as the mother of four, I’ve worked my career around my children, taking them to school every day and picking them up afterward.  When school was over, I’d be home with them.  Doctors don’t get rich this way.  But it has worked great as far as my family is concerned, and I feel a kinship with mothers who sacrifice their careers to care for their children. 

Every mother I know would love to save money on health care without sacrificing quality.  The three most common concerns moms encounter arAre you limited to certain pharmacies?ur formulary?

st you have an office visit with your physician in order for your child toe the cost of:  1) doctor visits; 2) prescription medications; and 3) immunizations.  Happily, it’s possible for anyone to save on all three.

For insured patients, you really need to know your benefit coverage.  Does insurance cover well-child visits the same as sick visits?  Do you have a co-pay for illnesses but not for preventive health care?  Are immunizations covered? For both adults and children?  Must you have an office visit with your physician in order for your child to receive these vaccines?  Do you know your formulary?  Are you limited to certain pharmacies?

Odds are, you’re not sure of every answer.  Read your policy carefully to get the proper care most affordably. 

Regarding co-pays, although doctors charge more for longer visits than shorter ones, your co-pay will be the same, unless your insurance works on a percentage basis.  If your child sprains his ankle this week but needs an asthma check next month, call ahead and ask whether these two visits can be combined into a single longer visit.  If you try to squeeze in an extra problem without asking beforehand, your doctor may not be pleased.  Why?  This inevitably throws him or her off schedule, and makes the doctor feel pressured to get more done than is possible in the time allotted.  Or, he may simply refuse, and then you’re dissatisfied.  Planning ahead is the key to successful partnering. 

For uninsured patients, organize your thoughts before your office visit so your time with your doctor is used efficiently.  It’s surprising how few patients understand that doctors must charge more for longer visits.  Essentially, you’re paying for your doctor’s time (as well as her staff and other overhead).  Ask the receptionist how much office visits of varying lengths cost.  If you pay in full at the time of the visit, consider asking for a billing discount (at least $5 to $10).  Sometimes it’s more cost effective to cover additional ground at a single visit, since one longer visit usually costs less than two shorter visits (not to mention the inconvenience of two visits).  Or ask if you can pay by the hour or even by the minute.  Then you’ll be the one trying to focus your time efficiently.

When ill, both insured and uninsured patients should think about asking first before automatically scheduling an appointment.  Maybe you don’t really need to be seen.  Perhaps allowing your body to heal a day or two is a reasonable approach.  It could be your doctor will advise an over-the-counter remedy, or call in a prescription.  If all your children are sick, maybe she’ll see one and treat the others accordingly.  Each of these ideas presupposes you’ve established a good relationship with your physician, truly one of the best ways to save money on health care.

To get the best value for prescription medication, insured patients should bring their formulary (list of covered drugs) to every office visit.  All patients should bring their local discount pharmacy’s $4 list of prescription drugs.  Don’t assume your doctor knows the cost of medicines.  Having these lists handy will save time, limit aggravation and call-backs, and help your physician find something affordable the first time around.  If your doctor does prescribe a medication you cannot afford, do call back and inquire about alternatives.  Prices change frequently, and pharmacies do not inform physicians when this occurs.  Speaking up and advocating for yourself is one of the best ways to reduce your medical expenses. 

Regarding immunizations, many doctors no longer offer this service because payment is often inadequate, sometimes less than the doctor’s procurement cost for the vaccine.  If this is the case (or even if it’s not), check with your health department.  Government facilities pay about 1/3 less than doctors do to acquire these vaccines, and pass the savings on to you.  (No wonder private docs can’t compete!)  Some clinics limit vaccine availability to children only, or carry only the less expensive immunizations, so call ahead.  Also, any time you visit a doctor or an ER is an opportunity to update a tetanus vaccine, which may well be included in the cost and/or co-pay.

Doctors often insist on office visits in order to administer a vaccine, again partly because there is little profit on immunizations (and sometimes a loss).  Unlike drug stores which advertise flu shots, doctors don’t get the opportunity to sell you potato chips, or deodorant, or school supplies.  However, if you make your doctor aware of your financial situation, he or she may be willing to work with you to minimize your expense. 

Again, speak up.  In medicine as in much of life, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

* * *

More free tips are available at http://101waystosavemoneyonhealthcare.blogspot.com

Copyright ©2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD   -    www.cynthiakoelker.com



Mother’s Day Ideas

by Sara Combest

Everyone knows that paying retail is for suckers.  For the last couple years now, I have become quite thrifty with my spending, especially with the holidays. And what makes the holiday gift-giving ordeal so difficult for many people is that their family often lives out of state.  In this new electronic age, shopping online has helped to alleviate some of the pain points when giving gifts to recipients who live far away.  One of the best ways to pinch pennies when gift giving is to locate promo codes and coupons, but this takes time and a little know-how.  Below are some insider’s secrets on the best online stores who give the best deals.

Valued customer programs:

For Mother’s Day, there are a bevy of choices in terms of types of gifts and retailers who sell the merchandise.  Usually flowers are the mainstay of gift-giving during this holiday, and this year I received flowers from my husband.  The mother’s day flowers came in an environmentally-friendly box, all wrapped up, with a vase and even flower food.  A week later the bouquet was still going strong too. He told me the name of the company he went through, ProFlowers, which sends its flowers from farms to customer vs. sending through a florist, which helps to keep the flowers fresher for longer.  I started browsing their online store and then signed up to have promotions emailed to me. Since then I have used the company to send a $19.99 grower’s choice bouquet to my mom for her birthday, which she enjoyed and appreciated.  As a valued customer, I now eligible to receive a free upgraded vase, two-for-one deals, or even up to 25% off my total order.

Rebate Programs:

Use all the rebate programs because they really do help you save. If you sign up for any free trials, make sure you mark the end of the trial on a calendar.   If you are saving for your kid’s college and want to put some extra bucks toward that fund, then using Upromise is a no-brainer.  This company partners with hundreds of retailers and when you shop with Upromise, a percentage of the dollars used for your purchases is put into a college fund - automatically.  It’s FREE and is a great way to save money as you spend on holiday gifts, top notch merchandise, everyday products and more.

Seek out free shipping opportunities:

Usually when people think of online shopping they think high shipping charges. And since I use the internet for most of my gift shopping, I had to find a way around those pesky charges. If you shop online frequently and use Amazon, then joining Amazon Prime program to get free shipping and other deals may make sense.  I also found FreeShipping.com to be a money-saving answer. This company offers a membership program with free shipping rebates. Now since it is a membership program, there is a membership fee. However, I found that for all the shipping charges I encounter, the annual membership fee is no big deal and they can even break it down into small monthly payments. For people who want to give it a try before signing up for the program, ask them about their 30-day free trial. I love this company because they are partners with all the major online companies.

Google search for available coupons:

When typing the name of an online store into Google’s search engine, put the term “coupons” or “promotions” after the store’s name and see what comes up.  Generally you can find a lot of deals that aren’t necessarily being advertised in-store.  A good deal that I found on Google recently was for a store called Personal Creations, which sells apparel, jewelry, keepsakes, home décor that can be personalized.  Several coupons were advertised including 15% off everything on the site and a $30 off coupon.   Most retail sites are now starting to offer similar deals, but you need to dig around a little bit to find them.

Final word - Be sure to test out the link or promotion code before buying, as sometimes the codes may not work or might be expired.  If that is the case, then don’t fret.  Just try a couple of the other sites listed in the search engine results until you get a valid code that works. This might take a few extra minutes, but it is worth it because you’ll save a great deal of money.

Shop the Sales, Discounts, and Clearance pages on websites

Most websites will advertise a sale or clearance items.  Usually you can find pretty extraordinary deals which helps you stay frugal, but not compromise on value.  If you go to upscale, retailer RedEnvelope has a tab at the top of the page that advertises sales. If you click on it, it takes you to their clearance page has awesome gifts with up to 80% off!  Sephora had many top brands marked down as much as 60%.  Banana Republic, Williams-Sonoma, and Macy’s all had good sales being advertised when I visited their sites. 

Send Restaurant.com gift cards:

When my parent’s anniversary comes around in March, I send them the only gift you can give the people who already have everything, a nice dinner on us. I use Restaurant.com to search for restaurants in my parent’s zip code and then select one of the results. I usually go for a $50 restaurant gift card, but here’s the best part… I only pay half of that. You don’t need any promotions codes or coupons to receive the discounted price because they always offer the half-off prices. Now my parents are not very techie, so I opt for having a physical gift card delivered to them through the mail. But Restaurant.com also gives you the option of sending an eGift card that can be emailed instantly, which I have thankfully used as a last-minute gift.

Other great online shopping tools:

  • Sign up for promotion emails, which will keep you updated on the best prices out there. You may want to create a different email address than your personal one to have them sent to.
  • When a holiday is coming around the corner, get together with family and friends and sign up for Groupons that you all are interested in purchasing.
  • If the online store has a customer service line, give them a call and ask if there are any promotions or specials.


Valentine's On A Dime
by Tawra Kellam

Using a little imagination, you can make your Valentine's day a little more fun and a lot less expensive.
If you want to add a little personalized romance or if you don't have the time or money to buy all the pre-made things in the store, here are some ideas to help you make the day special.
 
For The Kids:
  • My mom always made a great but inexpensive Valentine's Day treat for us. She would take construction paper and cut a big heart out of it. (About 8x10 inches). She would staple the edges together and write our names and an I love you on the outside. Then she would fill the heart with candy, purchased on clearance after Christmas. It was very inexpensive but we loved it!
  • Have a Valentine's treasure hunt. Leave little notes around with the last one leading back to the kitchen table with a heart full of candy.
  • Leave sticks of red gum in their Valentine's Day cards.
For The Lunches
  • Make heart shaped Valentine's cookies, cut the kids (or hubby's) sandwiches with a heart shaped cookie cutter. Add a few Valentine's chocolates and put a note in red with a big heart on their napkin.
  • Serve anything red for the day. Serve red Jello, red pudding, red apples, toast with strawberry jelly, tomato soup, red applesauce, red Kool-aid, strawberry milk, or red frosted cookies. Use powered food coloring from the cake store to get the deepest shade of red. Serving all red things at a meal will really have wow factor even if it is something as inexpensive as red jello and tomato soup.
  • Make red heart shaped cupcakes. Make cupcakes as usual but place a marble down the side of the muffin tin between the muffin tin and each cupcake cup. This will make heart shaped cupcakes.
  • Make hearts out of chocolate chips in each of your pancakes.
Things To Do With Or For Your Honey
  • Mail your pre-addressed and stamped Valentines to Loveland, Colorado and they will postmark them and mail them for you. Send them to: Postmaster, Attn: Valentines, Loveland, CO 80537

    Make a treasure hunt for your spouse. Start by mailing or e-mailing him the first clue. Then leave clues all over the house, yard, car or his office telling him where to find the next clue. End the hunt by making a picnic in the back yard or going to a park for a picnic. Use your imagination and have fun. The simple things are the ones people remember.

    Go to a bookstore and enjoy the silence and browse. Get a cup of coffee and make a date of it.

    Celebrate Valentine's day AFTER Valentine's day. Everything is half off.

  • Mail a love letter to your hubby's work.

    Send your spouse a sexy email message.
  • Leave "Why I love you" message all over the house. Buy a package of the cheap Valentines. Leave a message on each one and hide them all over the house for your honey. They will get to enjoy the gift for months!
  • Use lipstick to make hearts and love notes on the rear view mirror, car windows, bathroom mirror or windows of the house. Leave a kiss on his napkin for lunch or dinner.

    Make a bunch of hearts out of construction paper. Put a love note on each one. Paste them all over the front door or car before your hubby or kids come home from work.

    If you don't have money to go out, have a picnic on the floor. Use some candles and lay a soft blanket on the floor. Put on some soft music and have a romantic Valentine's dinner on the floor. Use some white Christmas lights for additional romantic lighting!
Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt, by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit http://www.LivingOnADime.com

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Looking Good Between Haircuts

By: Steve Woodham 

 

     With tight budgets a concern these days, getting a professional haircut is not always practical says Steve Woodham propietor of www.homehaircuts.com. You can save time and money by giving yourself and family members those touch-up haircuts between visits to the real hairdresser.

     Did you ever make paper dolls or cut patterns in paper? It is as easy this to trim hair. A trim is simply cutting off the ends of small lengths of hair. Anyone can trim bangs or hair between hair salon visits. There are just three things you need to know in order to do a professional looking touch-up between cuts.

     First, always use extremely sharp scissors. The type of shears you use is not that important as long as they are razor sharp. To test the sharpness of the shear, hold a piece of thread in one hand and let it dangle in the air. If your scissors can cut through this with ease without pulling the other end to make it taut, then they are probably sharp enough to trim hair.

 

     Second, prepare the hair first by thoroughly combing or brushing out all the snarls and tangles.  Thick hair and long hair may need to be wet first. Make sure no hairs are hidden behind the ears or nape of the neck.

 

     Lastly, always remember to cut off less hair than what you want the finished length to be.  Hair will shrink after being trimmed, especially if it is wet when you trim it. Curly hair, "cowlicks" (erratic hair growth), and bangs will shrink the most.

      If you are trimming short hair, don't be afraid to bend the ears while cutting. Ears are flexible. If you are trimming your own hair, be sure you have a mirror for the front and another for the back. When finished trimming the hair, shave the remaining hair off the back of the neck with a razor or small clippers. Sometimes this simple step is all that is necessary to maintain a well groomed appearance between haircuts.

 

 

(Steve Woodham is a licensed Master Barber and Hairstylist and the proprietor of homehaircuts.com and Haircut King Barber Shop and Princess Cuts Salon in Prescott Valley).


DIY Baby Shower

Yesterday I had the honor of co-hosting a shower for my good friend Natalie, who is expecting her first child in April. We were so happy to be able to help her celebrate with her loved ones, and had a great time preparing for the shower! Here are some of our best ideas from the shower, some of which could be applied to any shower, not just a baby shower.
Invitations
Always scour the internet for the best of invitation deals! If youre lucky, youll hit VistaPrint on the right day and get invitations for free + shipping! We actually didnt use VistaPrint for this shower, but I use them for almost every one I do (as well as for my own stationary needs!) and have always been pleased with the quality of the invitations. Here are my favorite ones for baby showers:
image
Decorations
My decorations for showers are always ones that double-task as crafts or something useful for the mommy to be. My new favorite craft is painting onesies, which double as decorations once they are hung and are perfect for the new baby. Plus, it is a good substitute for a game, which as it happens is one of my least favorite things about showers.
image
onesies
I was able to get these onesies on clearance thanks to a tip from another savvy deal blog, and borrowed the paints from my wonderful friend Anna. It made for a great frugal craft that the mommy-to-be loved!

Another great decoration idea is a blessing tree (thanks, Caroline for this great idea!). You basically use scrapbooking paper and ribbon to make little individual blessing papers for guests to fill out and hang on a tree for the new baby- these can later be compiled into a book to keep in the nursery. Some people also choose to make a blessing book out of these so that they are already in one place. You can also use branches in a vase to hang the papers on.

blessing tree
Flowers
Flowers are another important part of shower decorations, and boy did we get lucky for this shower! Here are my best tips for flowers at showers:

Make your own arrangements- dont have the florist make them for you, or buy them ready made! Flowers are much less expensive if you buy them in groups- a bundle of spray roses, a bundle of tulips, etc and arrange them yourself. Above are the three bouquets I made for the shower- one for the table, one for by the drinks, and one to go by the favors on the table.

Keep an eye out for promotions or internet deals- like I said earlier, I was able to get all of these flowers for nearly free just from using the deal we posted here on our website. I usually dont purchase flowers from the internet (Publix or Whole Foods work better for me locally as far as prices) but this was a deal I couldnt pass up!

Food:
Get creative, and make most of the food yourself. Pick foods that can be made 2-3 days in advance to spare yourself the stress of preparing items the day of the shower.

Our menu: chicken salad with croissants, fruit salad, petit-fors, layered sundried tomato and basil pesto torta, cheesecake tartlets, and fresh strawberry-raspberry lemonade. All of these with the exception of the punch can be prepared 1-3 days in advance, meaning that you can simply place them on the table the day of the shower!


Favors:

I usually prefer hand-made favors over purchased ones- theyre much cheaper, and can be yummy as well. Heres a picture of the baby carriage cookie favors I made for this shower:
Theyre tasty, adorable, and go along perfectly with our pink and green shower theme. They also come with a total price of about $5 for two dozen (basically, the cost of the bags and the ribbon! If you have sugar, butter, and flour, youre in business!)
These were our best ideas for the baby shower we threw yesterday; we hope you enjoyed them! As an added bonus, here is the recipe for my moms fresh Strawberry-raspberry lemonade. Its simple and incredibly delicious!
Moms Strawberry-Raspberry Lemonade
4 packages frozen stawberries in syrup
4 containers frozen Minute Maid raspberry lemonade

1. Thaw and puree the frozen strawberries
2. Prepare frozen lemonade per package directions
3. Mix, and serve!
(Add Sprite if a more punch-like taste is desired)


How To Save on Holiday Shipping Costs

Ever wondered which was cheapest...Post Office, UPS or FedEx? Consumer reports did a study on a 5-pound package going from New York to California. They found that the Post Office was overall the cheapest and was as reliable as FedEx. To see the whole story, read here.


Quick and Easy Ornament Ideas

By Kathy Wilson
The Budget Decorator

Some quick, easy and inexpensive ideas on how you can create holiday ornaments using items easily found around the home!

Use sentimental items that will touch your heart, or share a story. Favorite ideas of The Budget Decorator? Baby booties, dried flowers from a special bouquet or even your Grandmothers silverware!

Ordinary items that make you smile can be found in cupboards and drawers. Just tie on a ribbon, and enjoy! Cookie cutters, costume jewelry or even hot wheel toy cars are great starter ideas.

Use a little felt or craft foam from the craft store, and create simple shapes such as stockings or stars. Use a glitter glue pen to add names or inspirational words, such as “Wish” or “Believe”.

You can order really affordable kits to create adorable ornaments. I use OrientalTrading.com, as they are really affordable, and have a great selection! This is also a great way to get the kids involved, as the only skill that is required is a little glue.
Utilize your local dollar shop. I use packs of small colored ball ornaments not only on my tree, but also piled on display shelves or in bowls. Pretty hard to tell that they aren’t expensive glass balls.

Finally, stock up on some wire edge ribbon, and create bows to decorate the tree, the bedposts or even to tie the guest towels.

Remember, its; not how much you spend on holiday decorating...its’ the care you put into it!

Kathy Wilson is a home and garden writer, author and consultant and is the home decorating expert for LifetimeTV.com. Visit her for more home and garden ideas at http://www.TheBudgetDecorator.com.

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Is the Price of Relaxation Stressing You Out?

By Tawra Kellam

Do you usually find yourself stressed during the holiday season? Is trying to find inexpensive but nice gifts making you ache all over? Save your hard earned money and don’t spend it trying to pamper yourself for the holidays. Instead, use these ideas from my frugal bath and beauty guide Pretty for Pennies to ease your holiday stress.

Before your bath, make a batch of Hot Oil Treatment and take it to the bathroom with you. Lock yourself in the bathroom, put on some soothing music and light a candle. Put the Hot Oil on your hair and wrap.

For a milk bath, mix 3 cups dry milk and 5-6 drops essential or fragrance oil. Mix ingredients and add ½ cup to your bath water. If you don’t have dry milk try adding 2-3 tablespoons baby oil for a relaxing bath!

Eyes looking a little rough around the edges? Try cucumber slices or tea bags on the eyes to help reduce puffiness. Try it for half an hour while soaking in the tub.

To save money on manicures, don’t get them so often. Instead, use a nail buffer to shine nails between manicures.

An easy way to remove cuticles is to rub them with oil. Then gently push back the cuticles.

For aching feet, make yourself an Herbal Foot Bath or rub a peppermint lotion or salve on your feet. Wrap a warm towel around your feet and enjoy.

Go to the local beauty school to have manicures, pedicures and facials. You can feel pampered without spending a fortune. Five bucks is a great deal for a facial!

After Christmas sales can offer many great deals on bath and beauty products. Purchase nail care kits after Christmas at half price. You can get several polishes and tools for $2-$4. If you family loves to receive perfume, cologne or aftershave, stock up after Christmas when gift sets are on clearance. Give for Mother’s Day, Father’s day, Birthday’s, etc.

Hot Oil Treatment

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Heat ingredients just until warm. Spread on wet hair, especially the ends. (Place only on the ends if you have oily hair.) Wrap a warm, wet towel around hair for 30 minutes to one hour. Shampoo and rinse.

Alternatively, put this on before a shower and then put on a shower cap. Let the hot water from the shower run on your head to warm the oil.
You may also use a blow dryer instead of the shower. Be careful not to make it too hot.

Herbal Foot Bath

Use any of the following dried herbs*:
lavender
rosemary
sage

Mix herbs and place in a small cheesecloth. Fill a bucket full with warm water for your feet and add herbs. Soak away all the pains of the day! Make several at a time and keep on hand after a long day.
*A few drops of scented oil may be used instead.

Tawra Kellam is the editor of www.LivingOnADime.com/

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Acres of Apples, Frugal to the Core
By Jill Cooper

I've always dreamed of having an apple tree in my back yard. You know the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for?" Now that I actually have my own apple tree, I stand in my yard watching the apples piling up around me thinking, "Oh no -- What do I do with this mess now?" If I could make gasoline out of apples, I could retire, but since that is not an option and my frugal mind will not allow me to waste one apple, I have had to come up with some yummier "apple disposal" methods. If you find that you have a few dozen more apples than you know what to do with, these recipes from LivingOnADime.com will help settle your frugal dilemma.

Other Uses:
~When you have a partially eaten apple, save the good part and chop into pieces. Place in a microwave safe dish. Blend together 1 tsp. each brown sugar, flour, oatmeal and margarine and a dash of cinnamon. Top the apple with the topping and microwave until tender.
~Core and slice apples very thin. Dehydrate and use in granolas, eat alone or soften in warm water to use in recipes.
~Slice and use in Pancakes or waffles.
~Freeze. Peel, slice and core and then store in 2 cups portions in freezer bags.
~Use soft apples in cooking.
~Cut into small pieces and add to salads with a fruit based dressing.
~When you have a partially eaten apple, save the good part and chop into pieces. Place in a microwave-safe dish. Blend together 1 tsp. each brown sugar, flour, oatmeal and margarine and a dash of cinnamon. Top the apple with the topping and microwave until tender.

Apple Butter
9 to 10 apples, cored, peeled and chopped
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. salt
Place everything into a crockpot. Stir, cover and cook on high 1 hour. Cook on low for 9-11 hours or until thick and dark brown. Stir occasionally. Uncover and cook on low 1 hour longer. Stir with whisk until smooth. Refrigerate or Freeze. Makes 2 pints.

Apple Pie Filling
9 cups baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
5 cups water
2 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Toss apples with lemon juice and set aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients in Dutch oven and bring to a boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add apples and return to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are tender (6-10 minutes). Cool for 30 minutes. Then ladle into freezer containers or bake immediately. Makes two 9-inch pies.

Fried Apples
4 large apples, cored and sliced
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Cut apples into 1/4 inch slices. Heat butter in a large skillet. Put the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon in the skillet and cover. Over medium-low heat, cook apple slices 7-10 minutes or until they begin to soften and the syrup thickens. Serve coated with excess syrup on top. Serves 4.

Baked Apples
apples, cored
raisins (optional)
1 tsp. margarine
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1 Tbsp. honey or brown sugar
(These amounts are per apple.)

For each person use 1 apple. Fill the center of the apple with all the ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees until tender or put in a Dutch oven on top of stove and simmer on very low until tender.

Apple Snack
2 qts. apples, peeled, cored and halved

Coarsely grate apples. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 225 degrees until dry. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Apple Crisp
6 apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon and/or nutmeg
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange apples in well-greased baking dish. Blend all remaining ingredients except water. Spread evenly over top of apples. Pour water over the topping. Bake 45 minutes until apples are tender and top is crisp. Serves 6.

Peach Crisp
Use peaches in place of apples.

Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. To read more of Jill's articles and for free tips and recipes visit www.LivingOnADime.com.

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How to Make a Coffee Table
By Kathy Wilson

Recently I decided I wanted to update my family room with a new coffee table. However, rather than spend hundreds of dollars, I chose to make a coffee table from inexpensive items I picked up from a home improvement store. The same coffee table could also be made from recycled items. Here's how to make a coffee table!

Step One: Choose the top of your table. I picked up an unfinished pine round at the home improvement store for $30. You could also use old shutters or a small antique door, or even an old ladder topped with glass. Use your imagination for a creative coffee table!

Step Two: Choose legs for the table and the appropriate hardware to attach them. Again, I just picked up screw in turned legs you can buy at the home improvement store, and attached them with simple and inexpensive brackets sold right next to the legs. The brackets are attached to the bottom of the table top with screws, and then just screw the legs into the brackets. Make sure you measure and mark where you want each leg to go before you attach the brackets. Also, take care to screw the legs in straight.

Step Three: Finish the table as desired. I painted my coffee table black enamel, and then finished with several coats of water based polyurethane for durability.

Designer look coffee table at a fraction of the price! No power tools required. If you wanted to use a precut wood round from the home improvement store like I did, but would like to cut costs, here's an idea. Instead of the finished piece I bought, pick up a pressboard round and then decoupage it with pretty paper to cover. Paint the legs, and then seal the entire piece with polyurethane to protect.

There you go, great directions on how to make a coffee table easily, quickly and cheaply! Remember, no matter how tight your budget, you can decorate your home with The Budget Decorator!

A photo of this project can be found at www.thebudgetdecorator.com.

Kathy Wilson is a home and garden writer, author and consultant and is the home decorating expert for LifetimeTV.com. Visit her for more home and garden ideas at www.TheBudgetDecorator.com and
www.TheGardenGlove.com. Also visit her at www.Women-on-the-Net.com where any woman can learn to make
money on the internet!

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Popsicle Paradise!
By Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam

Remember when you used to sit on your front steps on a hot summer day eating a popsicle? It was usually red or purple and on special occasions you got a fudgesicle. Remember how you tried to lick the drips faster than the sun could melt them? Sometimes the drips would roll down your fingers, forcing you to make the mind numbing decision whether to lick your fingers or the new drips forming on your popsicle.

Every once in a while a few drips would get out of control and fall on your bare toes. Remember how your dog’s tongue felt like sandpaper when he licked the sweet gooeyness off of them?

It’s funny how we try to make drama and expensive memories for our children when it’s the simple everyday things we remember the most.

Try some of these ideas to keep the kids entertained this summer:

* To find popsicle molds, look at discount and mail order stores or garage sales. If you don’t have any molds, use small paper or plastic cups. Put a wooden stick or plastic spoon in the center.
* For mini popsicles, pour orange, apple or grape juice or flavored drink mix into ice cube trays. Partially freeze and then place toothpicks in the center of each cube (or place plastic wrap over the top, secure and insert toothpicks through plastic wrap).

Making your own popsicles can give great variety and keep your kids cool this summer!

For non-traditional popsicles:

* Freeze applesauce in popsicle molds.
* Mix fruit or jam into yogurt. Freeze in small, snack sized Ziploc bags for frozen yogurt on the go. Cut a hole in the end of the bag for easy access/eating.
* Mix gelatin and freeze. Add gummie fish or worms before freezing for added fun.
* Freeze syrup from canned fruit.
* Add food coloring or sprinkles to yogurt or softened ice cream for added pizzazz. Then freeze in popsicle molds.
* When you have leftover jam or jelly, put ¼ cup of hot water in the jar and shake well. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
* If jelly or jam doesn't set up well, use for popsicles or add more water, boil and make syrup.
* Make a batch of pudding. Add coconut, nuts, marshmallows, crushed cookies or sprinkles if desired. Pour into molds. Freeze several hours until firm.
* Stick a toothpick in the center of blackberries, strawberries, raspberries or sliced bananas. Dip in chocolate if desired. Freeze on a tray. Once frozen, store in freezer bags.
* For easy snow cones, freeze orange juice (or any other flavored juice) in ice cube trays. Store frozen juice cubes in a plastic bag. Blend 5 cubes in the blender until they have a shaved ice consistency. The shaved ice will keep its consistency if kept frozen in a container.
* For watermelon popsicles, blend one cup each watermelon chunks (seeds removed), orange juice and water. Blend well. Then pour and freeze into molds.
* For strawberry popsicles, blend 2 cups strawberries, 1 cup vanilla ice cream or yogurt, 4 cups orange juice and 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend smooth. Pour into molds and freeze.
* For banana popsicles, dissolve one 3 oz. package strawberry gelatin with one cup boiling water. In a blender, mix gelatin, 1 banana and 1 cup yogurt or ice cream. Blend well and pour into molds.

Pudding Pops
1 pkg. pudding (not instant*)
3 cups milk

Combine 1 large package of pudding with 3 cups of milk. Mix only enough to blend well. Quickly pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Chocolate and vanilla pudding may be layered for a fun treat. Makes 8-10 popsicles.
*Regular homemade pudding may be used instead of store-bought pudding mix.

Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are the editors of www.LivingOnADime.com.

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Bathroom Décor: Quick Bathroom Decorating on a Budget

By Kathy Wilson

When seasons change, one of the most overlooked rooms in the house for updated decorating is the bathroom. Whether you want to add some oomph to your guest bath, or want to bring a spa quality to decorating a master bath, here are some quick and easy decorating tips to get your bathroom in tip top shape!

*You actually don't spend a lot of time in the bathroom, so do something special with it. Try a daring color combination or a theme room you love but wouldn't use in another space. Name your theme bathroom, then get to the paint store! Try rich jewel tones or cheery pastels, whatever fits your theme. Just make it a color you love that you've always wanted to try!

*Bump up the excitement level of your boring bath towels, and stitch an easy and quick edging to them with pretty fabric. It takes just a small amount and some simple hemming to add pretty custom details to your bath. You can also create custom bath rugs this same way, by sewing edging to all four sides of a bath towel. Be sure to sue a non skid pad underneath.

*Use pretty everyday things in a practical way in your bathroom. Creamers make great toothbrush holders, pretty sea shells make a soap dish, or roll up extra towels in a large pottery piece. Just because it's the bathroom, don't overlook small details and opportunities to bring beauty into your life.

*Afraid to hang pictures in a bathroom? Pick up inexpensive frames from the dollar shop, and fill them with pages from garden catalogs. Hang them in groupings in the bath for a gorgeous accent. If water eventually damages the pictures, just remove them and insert new ones. After all, they were free!

*In a guest bath, make your visitors feel pampered by adding a pretty tray full of bath items such as lotions, tissue, and perfumed soaps. Create a tray on a budget by taking an old picture frame, giving it a good coat of paint to blend with your baths décor, then instead of a picture, add a piece of fabric to the frame for elegance. Instant pretty tray, and you probably had everything your need already!

*Use glass paints and faux leading strips to create a stained glass look on that ugly and plain bathroom mirror. You can even add wood trim around the edges of the mirror to give a framed mirror effect. No more ugly builders mirrors!

Take a weekend and create pretty bathroom décor for yourself or your visitors. Its quick and easy to make small changes that make a huge difference in decorating a bathroom!

Kathy Wilson is an author, columnist, and editor of The Budget Decorator. For thousands of free budget home decorating ideas, visit her at www.TheBudgetDecorator.com.

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Unique Ways to Decorate a Little Boy's Bedroom on a Budget

By Jessica Ackerman

Girls are not the only ones who want stylish bedrooms that make them feel special in their own private space. Little boys want colorful decorated bedrooms too, and you will find many unique and easy ways to decorate a boy's bedroom while sticking to a budget. With color, texture, and unique designs, your little boy's bedroom will be a place where he will want to spend time. You can turn your boy's bedroom into a well decorated room for playing and relaxing, and with the following budget ideas you can completely change the entire look of his room for less than you ever thought possible.

Start with Color
Kids love colorful bedrooms, and the walls are the ideal place to start. If walls can use a fresh coat of paint, take your son along when choosing a color. The application of paint is one of the least expensive ways to completely change the look of a room, but keep in mind that darker or bolder colors will make the room appear smaller, and lighter crisp colors will open it up. If your son prefers a color that really is too dark or too bright for the size of the space, give him what he wants, but choose a much lighter shade of the same hue. You can always accessorize the bedroom with the color he prefers using bedding and accessories.

Also, when sticking to a decorating budget, do not forget to ask store personnel if they have paint colors that were mixed by mistake. In the oops section of most paint stores you can find top-quality paint in designers colors, and when saving money on the single most effective way to change the entire appearance of a room, you will find it easier to stick to your decorating budget. Saving money on paint will allow you to spend a little more on bedroom accessories that will help turn your boy's bedroom into the room of his dreams.

Unique Shelving
Bedroom shelving does not have to be the typical variety when decorating a boy's bedroom or any other room for that matter. Do not be afraid to try something completely new and different when decorating the home. Step outside of the box and consider making unique and decorative shelving using new or old skateboard decks. If your son has old skateboards he no longer wants or needs, with or without the wheels, turn them into handy and decorative shelves. Install wall brackets of the correct width, and make unique skateboard shelving that boys absolutely love - especially those who are diehard skateboard enthusiasts.

Bedding and Accessories for Boys
Instead of choosing character bedding that is overpriced and sure to become outdated long before it wears out, choose solid colored bedding that will remain stylish and interchangeable. Little boys love specific characters, and solid-colored bedding and character pillows are an ideal combination. Along with character pillows, choose a few other soft and comfy pillows of various shapes and sizes to match the colors and theme of the room. Boys of all ages appreciate extra pillows and decorative bedding just as much as girls. Best of all, pillows can be hand sewn using a variety of materials, and the addition of pillows is a great way to add pizzazz to a boy's bedroom while sticking to a decorating budget.

Pet Net for Sports Décor
Another fantastic way to decorate a boy's bedroom while adhering to a budget is with the help of an extra large pet net. Pet nets are usually designed to hold plush animals in an empty corner of a bedroom, but they are also perfect for holding sports balls. Consider decorating a boy's bedroom with a pet net filled with colorful soccer balls, softballs, basketballs, and lightweight foam balls and other sports equipment of various shapes and sizes. More than likely you will be able to decorate your little boy's bedroom with sports balls and other items he already owns, and decorating with items that do not have to be purchased is ideal for anyone trying to stick to a budget.

Be sure to ask your son for his input when decorating his bedroom. Kids have fantastic ideas, and their creativity and imagination is a great source for unique new ways of decorating. Without spending a considerable amount of extra money a boy's bedroom can be transformed into a very special place for fun and relaxation, and it can be done while sticking to a budget. Many of the best decorating techniques are low in cost and exceptionally high in creativity and imagination.

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Decorating a Little Girl's Bedroom on a Budget
By Jessica Ackerman

Every little girl should feel like a princess in her own private space, and it is possible to transform an ordinary bedroom into an abode fit for a little princess without spending hundreds of dollars on decorating. With a few inexpensive updates you can turn your little girl's bedroom into a magical room for playing, relaxing, and sleeping, and you can do it for less than one hundred dollars. Decorating with a new coat of paint, budget bedding, window treatments, and wall appliques will enable you to completely change the look of your little girl's bedroom while adhering to your specific budget.

Begin with Paint
Painting a room is one of the least expensive decorating options, and it has the potential to change the entire appearance and ambiance of the room. If your little girl's bedroom could use a fresh coat of paint, choose a soft pastel shade to make it feel relaxing and cheerful. Keep in mind that pink is not the only color to consider when decorating a little girl's bedroom. Soft yellow, sea foam green, lavish lavender, or a rich creamy shade of blue are all wonderful choices.

If the room does not need a fresh coat of paint, liven up the current color by painting an accent wall. Consider a matching shade that is a bit brighter in color, or paint the accent wall a natural shade of green. Blooms of all colors go well with green foliage, and bedroom walls are no exception. A single green wall in a room painted pink, lavender, or a soft shade of blue looks absolutely stunning, and for the cost of paint, the entire room will have an entirely new look.

Wall Appliques
Those on a budget will find peel and stick wall appliques an affordable option to wallpapering or hiring an artist to paint a mural. When decorating a little girl's bedroom you will find wall appliques in a wide variety of subjects and sizes. Whether you are decorating your little girl's bedroom in a princess theme, garden theme, or any other theme, you will find peel and stick appliques that are perfect for decorating on a budget. They are easy to remove and reapply again and again, and they are perfect for adding color, design, and interest to walls, doors, and even furniture.

Bedding
When decorating a little girl's bedroom on a budget, avoid character bedding. Character bedding is generally far more costly than solid colored bedding, and inexpensive bedding in a single color or two can be embellished with budget throw pillows of various shapes, sizes, and textures. Stuffed animals or dolls can also be used when decorating a little girl's bedroom, especially when sticking to a budget. Decorating with toys and other character themed items already in the room can save a considerable amount of money and make the room look more decorative and inviting.

Window Treatments
Bedroom window treatments do not have to be expensive to look impressive when decorating a little girl's bedroom on a budget. A simple scarf valance over blinds or shades is an inexpensive way to dress up windows without spending a lot of money. You will find scarf valances in all colors and lengths, or you can make an easy scarf valance with a few yards of sheer lightweight fabric. Even a color-coordinating sheet can be used to make scarf valances that will enhance the windows when decorating your little girl's bedroom.

Involve your little girl when decorating her bedroom. Kids often provide some of the best ideas, especially when decorating on a budget. Have her choose her favorite dolls and stuffed animals to decorate her bed, and take her along when choosing bedding, accessories, and paint. For much less than you ever thought possible, you can give your little girl the bedroom of her dreams without going over your budget.

Jessica Ackerman is a senior staff writer for Wall Decor and Home Accents, and she has extensive experience in interior design. www.walldecorandhomeaccents.com

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The Budget Decorator’s Top 10 Tips

By Kathy Wilson

1.PAINT! I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true, paint is the cheapest, fastest way to dramatically change a room in just hours!

2.Use a theme…even if it’s just a favorite color scheme or one you found in a magazine, it’s a place to start and plan.

3.Rearrange…move things around until you find a pleasing arrangement that works for you, whether it’s your furniture or your bookshelves!

4.Use what you have! There are so many items around the home that can be repurposed…learn to look at things in creative ways and see if they might meet a decorating need.

5.Start Big! Tackle the larger areas of the room first, such as walls, windows, and floors. That will make the fastest impact on the room.

6.Disguise! If you can’t afford to replace, disguise! Cover a sofa, lay a rag rug over that stained carpet, or use fabric to screen an unpleasant view.

7.Find materials in creative places. Use fabric from sheets and quilts, use yard sales to locate furniture to be painted to match your décor, and visit your dollar shop on a regular basis for picture frames and candles.

8.Add personality! Inject yourself and your family in to your home with personal items…photos, vacation finds, or ball game tickets in a frame all bring interest and life to your rooms.

9.Look for inspiration. There is no shame is scouring books and magazines for the look you desire, then adapting their scheme to a budget decorator’s plan! Let the pictures inspire your creativity, and borrow ideas you love!

10.Start now! Today, make a plan, pick a paint color, sew a pillow. Your home won’t change if you don’t start something, so don’t put it off another minute, and little by little, the Budget Decorator in you will transform your house to a home!

Kathy Wilson is an author, columnist, and editor of The Budget Decorator. For thousands of free budget home decorating ideas, visit her at www.TheBudgetDecorator.com. Don’t forget to sign up for her free newsletter!

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Easy, Cheap and Elegant Decorating for Valentines!
By Kathy Wilson

So you just got all the holiday decorations put away (or maybe you didn't!) and here comes another holiday… Valentines! Never fear, I have some great budget friendly ideas for quick and easy decorations you can use to dress up any room of your home and show all your loved ones how much you care!

Dress up your everyday dining area with heart shaped placemats. Pick up some large red or pink craft foam sheets from your craft store and trace and cut a large heart shape from each one with a pair of sharp scissors. Use a gold paint pen and write a one word romantic sentiment in the center of each one, just like the "message heart" candies of our youth! Edge the hearts with squiggles and swirls, or perhaps personalize each placemat with a name of a family member. These will wipe clean with a damp cloth, and add loving style to each meal!

Pick up four or six silk flowers and a small roll of wire edged ribbon (white, red, or pink) from your discount store and tie one flower each to the back of each of your dining chairs. Make the bow larger than you normally would for drama. The wire edge will allow you to shape the bow into a full, romantic style. Use leftover ribbon to add some romance to your front door wreath, your mailbox, or a big bow on the headboard of your bed!

Buy an inexpensive floral bouquet from the supermarket and spilt it into two or three smaller bunches. Add some evergreen cuttings from the yard, and display it in pretty creamers, teacups, and bud vases. Flowers speak of love and family, but it doesn't need to be a $50 bouquet of roses to add romance to the room!

Take some time to set a romantic table for that special Valentines Day dinner, not only for that special someone, but for all the loved ones in your life! You can do this with things you already own! Layer the table coverings with quilts, tablecloths and placemats. Layer your dishware as well, with a large plate, saucer, and bowl, and tuck napkins into your drinking glasses. Don't be afraid to mix and match your dinnerware, it adds style! Pick up a pack of paper doilies from the dollar shop, and scatter them across the table. Get the kids in on the day by giving them some red or pink giftwrap, tissue paper, or construction paper and a couple of paper punches, and allow them to make confetti to sprinkle over the table!

Lastly, don't forget to add candles to your Valentines home. They are inexpensive at any discount store or dollar shop, and can be displayed in groups on old picture frames as trays, or in front of mirrors to double your romantic style! Drop tealights into teacups or mason jars, and tie a ribbon around the outside.

Remember, romance is good for the soul, and it's easy to bring a little of it into our homes to show our love for those around us!

Kathy Wilson is an author, columnist, and editor of The Budget Decorator. For thousands of free budget home decorating ideas, visit her at www.TheBudgetDecorator.com. Don't forget to sign up for her free newsletter!
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Financial Tips for Newlyweds

June is the traditional "wedding season" and many newlyweds are dreaming
of a happy life together. Agreement over finances and paying off debt are
important preparations for a long-lasting union.

According to the study, "Bank On It: Thrifty Couples are the Happiest,"
conflict about money predicts divorce better than any other type of
disagreement. Couples who disagree about finances once a week were
over 30% more likely to divorce over time than couples who only
disagree about finances a few times per month.

The study also says that perception about how well one's spouse handles
money is also a factor in shaping family life. If an individual feels the
spouse spends money foolishly, they report lower levels of marital
happiness. It increased the likelihood of divorce 45% for both men and
women. Only alcohol/drug abuse and extramarital affairs were stronger
predictors of divorce.

"Conflicts over money and the burdens of debt put a heavy strain on
marriage and can spread into other issues. It can erode your relationship
and even causes the marriage to collapse," says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of
LowCards.com and author of The Credit Card Guidebook. "Committing to a
family budget and savings plan is making a commitment to your marriage."

Before you get married, know how your future spouse will treat money. Don't
assume that your spouse shares your beliefs about money. Even if your future
spouse is kind and respectful to you, he/she may treat money differently.
The spending and saving habits may surprise you. A free spender before
marriage will probably be a free spender after marriage.

To avoid surprises, have an honest discussion about money before the wedding
day. This talk may be difficult to do, but it is necessary before joining
life and finances together. If one partner has large debt or difficulties
managing money, address these issues before the marriage. Debt can not only
affect your financial future together, it can also severely damage your
credit score.

Here are some financial tips for newlyweds:

* Before the wedding, show all of your cards. Be honest about your income,
debts, and money problems. Bring out your bank statements from the past
twelve months to show what you did with your money. Explain how your
parents raised you to handle money and your strengths and weaknesses with
money. Admit if you are a spender or a saver.

* Each of you should get a copy of your credit reports from the three credit
bureaus. This will give you a clear picture of credit accounts, debts, and
how creditors will judge you. Aim to get your scores over 750 to receive the
lowest interest rates for your first mortgage and other loans.

* Have a wedding that you can afford. Do not start a life together by using
a credit card to pay for a wedding that is out of your budget.

* Avoid credit card debt. The best rule of thumb is simply, "if you can't
pay for something with cash, you can't afford it."

* Get one or two credit cards and stick with them. Use them for several
purchase each month and pay them off immediately. Building a long-term
payment history with one or two credit cards is an important factor in your
credit score.

* Each spouse should have a credit card in his or her own name to build an
individual credit score.

* If you have a credit card balance, pay as much as you can over the
minimum each month. If you receive gift money, a bonus, a second job or
a tax refund, use this to pay off your debt. The faster you pay it off, the
quicker you can focus on saving and getting ahead. You can even make
micropayments multiple times during the month to pay off your balance
faster. Eat a meal at home and immediately apply the money you saved
to your credit card balance.

* Before the first bills come in, make a plan for paying them and who will
pay them. If you have separate accounts, know which account pays each bill.

* Reduce your debt-to-credit limit ratio. This will help improve your credit
score. Your monthly debt, including your mortgage, should not exceed
35% of your gross income.

* Differentiate between your wants and your needs. Then simplify your wants.

"It is easy to get caught in the trap of wanting more than what you have,
keeping up with the Joneses, and looking to 'stuff' for happiness. But this
will put you on the fast track to increasing your debt," says Hardekopf.
"Savings and assets help build financial security and increase the odds of a
strong, happy marriage that lasts."

The study: "Bank On It: Thrifty Couples are the Happiest":
http://www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/pdfs/Unions_dew.pdf

LowCards.com ( http://www.lowcards.com ) simplifies the confusion of
shopping for credit cards. It is a free, independent website that helps
consumers easily compare credit cards in a variety of categories such as
lowest rates, rewards, rebates, balance transfers and lowest introductory
rates. It also gives an unbiased ranking and review for each card. The
LowCards.com Complete Credit Card Index
( http://www.lowcards.com/CreditCardIndex.aspx ) is the most objective
and comprehensive resource on the Internet which allows consumers to
compare rates for over 1000 credit cards offered in this country. Created by
Hampton & Associates, the company has been analyzing the credit card
industry and supplying objective websites on various consumer expenses
for ten years.

For more information, contact Bill Hardekopf at 1-800-388-1910 or
billh@LowCards.com.

+++++++++++++++++

Investing For Retirement

Many American have hit the age where retirement starts to creep in to their daily thought process. Do I have enough saved? and, When can I afford to stop working?  are some of the most common question that many ask themselves. The answer to these questions are entirely your decision, and it will revolve around your current income and savings level. It is understandable that many Americans do not earn enough money to put large sums away each paycheck to provide a cache to live off of later in life. This is where making sure that what you chose to buy on a daily basis is a wise decision. Throwing money away by purchasing unnecessary items can be costly in the long run.

   
 Investing for your retirement on a tight budget is possible. It begins with examining your daily spending and stopping the habit of spending money on unnecessary items. It is also important to review your current spending and search for
money saving tips to reduce your spending and deposit it in a regular savings account. Even if it is not earning interest, the old saying, a penny saved is a penny earned applies to this situation. Making sure you do not eat out more than a few times a month will also save money that you can put aside as a retirement fund. It is up to you to discipline yourself and make these simple sacrifices for a better life in your later years.

Money market funds and brokerage accounts are also places where you can put small sums of money that will sit in an account for safe keeping. The money market account is similar to the basic saving account, except it generally earns the investor more interest. Your local bank will gladly help you set up this type of fund with a small starting balance. As you continue to save by not buying discretionary items, your money market fund will grow. The same is true if you wish for a professional stock broker to help with your retirement money. Even if you are on a tight budget, it doesn't mean you can't put aside a few dollars here and there in an investment account.


   After a few years pass, your addition of a few dollars a week will continue to be compounded. Over time, your small initial sum will give you a sufficient nest egg to retire on. Start as early as possible, whether it involves reducing your spending or even getting a summer job to get the ball rolling. Once you see how you savings account starts to gradually increase, you will feel better about your future knowing there is a cushion of money waiting in an account for you.
   
   There are other investment options such as stocks, exchange traded funds, and currency exchanging that have the potential to earn more interest on your deposit. However, these investment plans will run the risk of losing money as well, so it is important that any money invested in these plans be extra income not essential to your budget, and seperate from your savings account. Be well educated in how an investment works before depositing any money into it, ask lots of questions, and always do a third party back ground check on your broker before setting out to invest.

  
   Knowing your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to investing will help you make the right decisions. If you do not feel comfortable in trying to invest in the stock market as a retirement option, it is perfectly acceptable to leave it in a savings account. After all, it feels better to earn small amounts of money risk-free than to see your hard earned money lost on a more risky investment.

Provided by Forex Traders

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Muffin Basics
by Jill Cooper

Muffins are very easy to make. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and hand stir lightly. Usually, you only need to stir them about 12-15 times. The batter will be very lumpy but that is the way it should be. Muffins are one thing you don't want to over-mix. Pour them into greased muffin cups about 2/3 full. If you don't have enough batter to fill all of the cups in the pan, you can fill the empty ones with water if you like. I do this sometimes but not always.

  • If you are adding nuts or fruit, mix them in with the dry ingredients before you add the liquids. This prevents them from all falling to the bottom of the muffin. 
  • Your muffins should come out with rounded tops and a light fluffy texture. If they don't, there could be a couple of things you are doing wrong:
    • Flat heavy muffins with tunnels may mean your oven temperature is too low.

    • If the muffin has a lopsided or misshapen peak, the oven temperature could be too hig

    • Knobs and peaks on top and long tunnels can also be caused by over-mixing.

Here is a basic muffin mix recipe from Dining on A Dime:

Basic Muffins

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil

Mix ingredients together. Spoon into greased muffin cups, 2/3 full. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes. Makes about 12-15 muffins.

Add these ingredients to a basic muffin mix to liven up your muffins:

  • Bacon or Ham - Reduce sugar to 2 Tbsp. and add 1/2 cup chopped bacon or ham
  • Blueberries - 1 cup
  • Cherries or cranberries - 2/3 cup of cherries or cranberries, mixed with 2 Tbsp. of sugar first
  • Dried fruit - 1/2 cup apricots, currants, peaches, figs, prunes, raisins or dates
  • Nuts - 1/3 cup chopped
  • Cheese - 1/2 cup grated cheese and 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • Cornmeal - 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup flour
  • Whole wheat - 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup flour. This is especially good with crumbled bacon.

    The sky is the limit with what you can add to a muffin if you only have a hand full of many different things. For example a little leftover corn would be good in a cornmeal muffin, a few chocolate chips would spruce up lots of different muffins, etc.

      Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook  http://www.LivingOnADime.com

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