As we approach Valentine’s Day it occurs to me I went a little overboard – it looks like cupid threw up in our place! I’ve never had many Valentine’s Day decorations in the past, but between subscribing to some new YouTube channels where I was absorbing nothing but decor ideas, and Target really upping their game in the One Spot this year, I went a little nuts. Plus, if you like Dollar Tree like I do, well, it’s a recipe for disaster. You think “well, it’s only $1” until you find yourself buying 25 items in one trip, whoops! Also, I shot myself in the foot in terms of picking up any cute pieces next year, or for many years to come, since I already have too much. Lesson learned!

My problem is I struggle between wanting to live a more minimalist lifestyle (not to any extreme, mind you, as I just cannot do it) and enjoying switching up our home decor for holidays or as the seasons change. The issue with the latter is that you need to find places to store the stuff you’re not currently using. Luckily, I think I can still fit everything into the single storage bin I’ve designated for the holiday since there isn’t much room left in the garage to park both cars if we add any more bins. We’re pretty proud of the fact that, unlike a vast majority of our neighbors, we’re able to fit both cars in our garage even while maximizing our storage area along the perimeter. I will admit, however, it was tough during Christmas to get everything back into their original totes since we had purchased some new decor. Once it warms up I plan to pull everything out and reorganize it better since instead of keeping to a theme I just started shoving stuff wherever it would fit. It was just too cold in the garage to care at that point.

In any case, I realized that Christmas kicked off this spend fest in me and I need to reign it in. While I wasn’t spending much each trip, I was going out every Monday to check out the thrift store, Dollar Tree, etc. I love buying second hand clothes and have no plans to stop entirely, but I need to reduce how often I go. Not only do small amounts still add up, but I was coming across the same clothing I saw a week before. Clearly that means I’m visiting far too often!

Another clue I was shopping too much/often – every weekend I had something I was returning to one store or another. Sometimes I wasn’t in the mood to try it on right then so I took it home knowing I could return it later. On the plus side, at least I wasn’t keeping stuff I knew I’d never wear. But still, I shouldn’t always have something in the home that needs to be returned either.

One of the changes I made to combat this spending problem is that I’ve stopped watching as many “shop with me” or “decorate with me” videos on YouTube. I thought I was living vicariously through others, but what I was doing was being influenced to shop more often when I saw a cute idea. Apparently I’m more impressionable than I thought. I think we all are, whether we care to admit it or not.

Another change I made was not visiting departments I think I just want to browse in since there’s a chance I’ll spot something I want to buy. That means skipping the One Spot and seasonal sections in Target and the clothing section in every store.

My final change? Staying home today instead of going out to shop. This ties into reducing what I watch on YouTube since that was the catalyst for my desire to shop. There are plenty of other things I can do to occupy my time instead, like play with the dog, read a library book, or finally get around to checking out the adult coloring book and gel pens my thoughtful husband gave me for Christmas. Oh, and I almost forgot – watching The Puppy Bowl which I recorded yesterday!

While I only just implemented this change a few days ago, I’m proud to say we only bought groceries this weekend and nothing more. Here’s to sticking with this change. It’s easy to keep up the status quo and much more challenging to change things.

How do you stop yourself from over-shopping?


Have you heard of Flipp? It’s the best way I’ve found to check all the sales ads without having to manually flip (get it?) through them or visit each retailer’s website. You can do this directly on the Flipp website, or even better, through the app on your phone or tablet.

The feature I like the most is being able to search for a particular item and seeing which store has the best price. For instance, if I put in avocado, I can see that Aldi currently has the best price at 49 cents each. I also scored my favorite deli cheese, Lorraine Swiss, for only $4.99/lb at our local grocery store. You can certainly get swiss cheese for cheaper, but this particular one is some of the creamiest I’ve found. It’s normally $6.99/lb so I don’t purchase it often. I’ll wait for a sale but I’d always seem to miss it until I discovered the Flipp app. It’s really help cut our food costs down without sacrificing eating what we like.


A couple of weeks ago I met up with a friend for dinner at the mall food court. After dinner we decided to walk around the mall for a bit and found ourselves in a Bath & Body Works. I’ve always liked their products even though I feel they are overpriced. I only purchase them occasionally when I can get a hefty discount. The last time I bought anything was in December 2015 when I placed a fairly large order online for several foaming hand soaps and other assorted items and received a $20 discount. The soaps came out to under $2 each, which to me, while still not cheap, were reasonable compared to the $6.50 sticker price. I’m one of those people who finds pleasure in even the smallest of things so these soaps bring me joy every time I wash my hands. Luckily, I still haven’t gone through all the soaps because I add water to them to make them last longer. That didn’t stop me from wanting some new ones, however, especially when I came across a new scent I really liked (Sparkling Mint Blossom in case you’re curious). I didn’t buy anything, however, because I don’t need any new soaps, I just wanted some. But with Joe still out of work (and our Marketplace insurance doubling in price for 2017 – more on that in another post) I really don’t want to spend any money since we’re short every month as it is (thank goodness for savings).

Psychologically speaking it’s been really tough dealing with curbing our non-essential purchases even though when we were both working and could have easily blown money on whatever we wanted I still wouldn’t have purchased that soap anyway just because $3.50 (the current sale price) is still too much for a small bottle of soap. It’s simply the fact that I “can’t” buy what I want verses choosing not to that is starting to get to me. It’s funny how that works. I’m struggling to keep things in perspective but I’m not gonna lie – I will be so much more relaxed when we have enough money coming in again.


Sometimes all you need to do to save money is just ask. I’ll give you a few recent examples:

1) I purchased some Christmas gifts at in late November and a few days later two of them dropped in price. I started a chat with Amazon customer service and pointed this out and they promptly refunded me the difference.

2) A friend alerted to me to a deal a particular site was having where if you purchased a certain value of e-gift cards you’d get bonus e-gift cards for free. After I placed my order and didn’t get my free cards I contacted customer service who told me the promotion had ended (even though the website indicated otherwise). I pointed this out, had to talk to a different clueless rep, and then email someone from another company who was handling the promotion for for this company, but I did end up getting my bonus e-gift cards!

3) I ordered something from a website and a day later they sent me an email about how the item I had just ordered was now 20% off for a limited time. I started a chat with customer service expressing my disappointment and explaining how Amazon will refund the difference if the price drops within a week. While they wouldn’t do that, they did place the difference on my account as a credit for the next time I place an order.

Had I not inquired I would have been out more money in all these examples. So it does in fact pay to ask.


You know how they say that planning a trip is sometimes just as good, if not better, than actually taking said trip? I feel that way about purchases for things I want too. I like to contemplate the purchase for awhile, particularly if the item is $25 or more. I go online and do my research by reading reviews and checking prices. Sometimes I just add the item to my wish list, or flag it via to notify me when it hits a price point I’d be happy with. For me, window-showing can be just as fun as owning the item.

There are things I see every day, whether online or in person, that I like, but when I start to contemplate actually owning them I tend to ask myself, “Do I really want this? Am I going to use it, or will I regret the purchase later?” And more often than not, I decide against purchasing the item.

When I do make the decision to buy something, though, I still don’t necessarily make the purchase right away. I sit on it for a bit looking for deals so I feel good that I got a fair price.

Recently I decided to start shopping for an oil diffuser so I could use the jasmine essential oil my husband had given to me for Christmas. I went through my normal research process and had finally come to the conclusion that I was willing to spend up to $50 to get a highly rated diffuser. As as I was on a website perusing their selection, something about one of the diffusers triggered a memory and I quickly ran upstairs to check our master bedroom closet. In it I found a long-forgotten mini humidifier I had used years ago at a former job.


I wasn’t sure if there was necessarily anything special about oil diffusers compared to a humidifier in terms of results, but figured I had nothing to lose since I hadn’t used the humidifier in years. I added water and a couple of drops of the oil and turned it on. Sweet scents of jasmine quickly filled the air and I got pretty excited! Not just because I finally got to use my essential oil, but because I had just saved myself $25-$50.

Had I rushed to make my purchase I would have wasted money and kicked myself later when it dawned on me that I could have used my old humidifier.

Is there anything in your home you ended up re-purposing to save money?


Christmas is nearly here and I’m reminded of a discussion I had with a family member last year. We got into a bit of a heated argument over why I put a stop to gift exchanges years ago, which I won’t get into here.

However, one thing that came up was how on one Christmas many years ago I gave them a CD which I had gotten via an old (now defunct) site that would reward purchases with points that could be saved up to cash in for free merchandise. I shared with them how I had racked up the points to “pay” for their gift. Mistake, I know. But since they are a close family member, and younger than me to boot, I felt that sharing this knowledge might help them see that Christmas doesn’t have to break the bank and there are other ways to be generous without feeling the financial pinch. Instead I find out that they were offended that I didn’t pay for their gift. I guess they didn’t stop to think that even though I didn’t pay for that gift, I did give up the option to get a free item for myself when I spent my points on them. So is there really any difference?

The point of this story? Don’t overshare! Haha, no really, the point is that you can choose to look at something in a negative light or a positive one. Trust me, this is not always easy. It takes a lot of effort to change one’s mindset.

I’ve personally not been feeling the best the past few months, but I have consciously made the decision to get into the holiday spirit and be generous even though I know the sentiment will not necessarily be appreciated nor reciprocated. I’m the type of person whose feelings get hurt easily, so the challenge for me is to find enjoyment in the act of giving and not expecting anything in return. Wish me luck!

And Happy holidays to our readers!


It’s that time of the year again where companies offer bonuses for buying gift cards; you might want to consider grabbing some for yourself if your budget allows it as you’ll save money in the long run if you stick to the places you visit frequently throughout the year anyway.

Here’s just a few examples I’ve come across:

Classic Cinemas – Free movie ticket when you purchase a $50 gift card (this is available to Classic Reward members, so sign up now and you might get an email as you need to bring that in to get the deal).

Half Price Books – $5 bonus when you buy a $25 gift card.

Jamba Juice – Free small smoothie or 12 oz juice when you purchase a gift card for $25 or more.

Lou Malnatis – Free $10 certificate when you purchase a $50 gift card or a free $25 certificate when you purchase a $100 gift card.

Red Robin – $5 Bonus Buck reward when you purchase a $25-$45 gift card

SmashBurger – $5 Smashbucks when you purchase a $25 gift card

We personally take advantage of the movie theatre and pizza deals to get a little extra bang for our buck as we know we’re going to spend the money anyway. Might as well get something extra out of it!


There are tons of articles out there about how you’ll be happier spending your money on experiences verses material items, and I couldn’t agree more. But… I also see the benefit of buying items that will enhance your experiences. For instance, I own a nice digital SLR camera and a few lenses as well as some other accessories. These were acquired over time and were not cheap. But I love capturing moments and being able to look at them later. I love having a physical (or digital, if you want to be technical) representation of the experiences I’ve enjoyed over the years. There’s just nothing like it in the world and to me that is priceless. Feel free to visit my photography website, Perfect Pixels.

This is why I can completely understand why someone who is barely making ends meet still owns a smartphone. Sure, it may be because their priorities are out of whack, but perhaps it’s because they are a parent, or pet owner, and they use that phone to capture moments with their loved ones. Smartphones these days not only take great photos but video too. Who can resist and all-in-device that can enhance their experiences?

Another example is games. I prefer board games, but this could apply to video games too (assuming you’re playing them with others and not alone). I love discovering and trying new board games. I don’t go overboard by any means, and almost always buy when there’s a sale, but I still end up picking up 1-2 “new” board games a year to add to our collection. As for video games, we try borrowing most games from the library first to try, and if it’s a game we really like and know we would like to play frequently, we’ll buy it once the price drops or there’s a good deal online.

Side note: Half Price Books sells used board games, many of which are in excellent condition. Even though they are technically used, I recently purchased a game where all the pieces were still in their original packaging. You could tell it had never been played. And they carry video games too, not to mention CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records.

I could go on and on but I think you get the message. So while I agree that if you have the choice between a new “toy” and going on a trip, you should choose the trip, that doesn’t mean buying that toy is necessarily a bad thing. I guess it just depends on whether that new toy will enhance your future experiences or not.