Archive for the ‘Money-Saving Tips’ Category

5 Reasons to Complete Your Holiday Shopping Early This Year

October 15, 2011
Christmas Tree (1)

Image via Wikipedia

I have a small gift list, so this is easy for me, but each year, I try to get most of my shopping done before Thanksgiving.  The benefits of shopping early are many!

  1. Shopping is easier.  The merchandise selection is definitely best in October and November.  If you are buying things like stocking stuffers, CDs, decorations, lights, gift wrap, cards, special toys, or holiday novelty items, you definitely want to shop early, because these items are not always restocked.  And it saves wear and tear on you, because you don’t have to drive around from store to store, looking for items.
  2. You save money.  If you are shopping when you have plenty of time and are relaxed, you will be less likely to make those impulse choices that cause you to go over your budget.
  3. You enjoy the magic of the holidays more.  Not having to worry about shopping means a lot less stress.  Our holidays are about cooking, decorating, celebrating, movies, window shopping, reading special Christmas stories, and going to special events, like concerts and Christmas tree lightings.  Shopping doesn’t really come into it.  So I feel like my holiday experiences are more meaningful now that they are not so focused on gift-giving.
  4. There are fewer crowds.  Not only is shopping a more pleasant experience, but the sales people are more likely to help you and it’s easier to find a parking space.
  5. It helps keep you from getting sick during the holidays.  You know respiratory illnesses increase and you are more likely to catch a flu or cold, and plenty of people shop while sick.  Nothing is worse than being sick at Christmas, so after Thanksgiving, I try to avoid indoor crowds.

Of course, it is fun to shop during the holidays.  I have a few strategies for feeling the excitement without feeling the stress and remorse associated with needless spending…

Window shopping after the stores close.  I like to walk through Old Town Alexandria and look at the display windows after dark. They’re beautiful and it feels like shopping without buying anything.

Mall walking before the stores open.  I like pretty clothes as much as anyone, but shopping for new clothes is not always in my budget.  Mall walking lets me look at the great holiday displays and get a little exercise at the same time — and I can’t be tempted!

Going to a Christmas store to buy a special ornament.  Another way I get my holiday shopping fix during the holidays is to visit a Christmas themed store — like the Christmas Mouse in Williamsburg, Merrifield Garden Center in Merrifield,  or The Christmas Attic in Alexandria.  It feels special and exciting to shop in these places, and if I buy one or two ornaments for family, I’m not breaking my budget.


How to Avoid Compulsive Holiday Spending

October 4, 2011

How to Avoid Compulsive Holiday Spending.

This video has great tips for keeping your finances under control during the holidays.

My favorite tips include making a list and sticking to it and shopping early.  I also shop at a few stores, which reduces any tendency to shop on impulse.

One of my favorite ways to shop during the holidays is to buy most gifts at one location, such as the National Gallery gift shop or the gift shop at Claude Moore Colonial Farm.  Both gift shops offer a variety of unique gifts at good prices.

I do like shopping at the malls during Christmas — a little bit — but I go mostly to soak up the atmosphere and look at the decorations, not to buy anything.  The best way I find to do this recreational shopping is to go at off-peak hours when the crowds are less — such as afternoons after lunch but before 5 p.m. (naptime for most toddlers and babies) or Tuesday evenings.

Cool Yule Bargain Alert: 1/2 Price Colorful Trees at Sam’s Farm

December 8, 2010

My new pink Christmas tree

I dropped by Sam’s Farm in Falls Church, Virginia on Leesburg Pike (address at the end of this post) and was impressed by the beautiful decorations and trees they had there, at very good prices, too.

Half-off all artificial Christmas trees and artificial garlands

Even though I have a lot of Christmas decorations, I could not resist this pink tree for my bedroom. My bedspread has pink dots on it (imagine a Barbie bedroom and you would not be far off) and this tree will be perfect. The price was perfect, too. All the artificial trees are marked down half-price. So I got to take home this $25 tree for only $12.50, plus tax. They had some beautiful shades, including silver, gold, platinum, white, pear and lime green, purple, and soft blue.

Poinsettias a very good value

Not on sale but a very good value were the most beautiful and healthy looking poinsettia plants I have ever seen. I have my eye on one that is a soft rose coral color. It was immense and only $19.99. They had a range of prices for the poinsettias (some larger, some smaller).

Wreaths, Greenery, and Real Trees

I was also impressed with the artistry of the decorated wreaths, garlands, and centerpieces. They were exquisite, with fresh greens bedecked with magnolia leaves, floral picks and ornanments, lights in some cases, and lots of ribbons. Gorgeous! They were not on sale, but for the work and detail in these items, I thought they were quite a good value. They would be just the thing if you are entertaining, or if you have an office or restaurant and want to really impress your visitors.

Stop by Sam’s Farm, and tell them “Cool Yule” sent you 🙂 From Route 7/Leesburg Pike (east bound from Tysons), it’s a quick right turn right before Shreve Road (where the McDonald’s is). It’s directly across the street from George Mason High School. Here is the address

Sam’s Farm

7129 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043

phone (703) 534-5292

Bargain Fashion Finds for Holiday 2010 (women’s apparel and accessories)

November 29, 2010

Only $24!! Dots Red Sequin Dress (S, M, L, XL) stores only

What to wear…what to wear?  The One Party — evening event, lounge location, cold, damp night.  Christmas IPRA luncheon — mid-day, lots of Italian food.  And then there are the office parties, Christmas concerts, the Nutcracker ballet, afternoons of skating, and nights strolling around Old Town Alexandria…

Like you, I want to look festive (and feel comfortable) during the holidays, and probably like you 🙂 I’m on a budget. A TIGHT budget! Many times, it makes sense to invest in quality pieces.  But for the holidays,  you may only wear these items once or a few times.  So, I think it’s worthwhile saving some money.

I fell in love with lots of the festive “Glisten Up” items at Talbots and other chic items I saw at stores this year, but all were too expensive for me.  I did find some great alternatives, however…

  • For that chic holiday party after 5: Instead of Talbots black velveteen ankle pants ($79.50), buy Walmart’s flat front, fitted black velveteen leggings: $12. These fit like ankle pants, not skin tight.  You save: $67.50.  Pretty good, considering how often you will actually wear them!
  • I also saw a fabulous sequin scarf in the accessories section at Wal-Mart in silver, black, or rose, and it was about $10.  Sorry, Talbots, it looks and wears almost like your $69 sequin scarf Save $59 smackers right there… I almost bought it.  Wish I had!
  • Need to dress up your suit for the office Christmas party?  Instead of Talbots sequined tank top ($69.50), choose Target’s Xhiliaration sequin tank top in colors like blush, black, or gold, in stores, $12-$17.  You save:  up to $57.50. I think I’d top this with one of the many soft cardigans they had in matching colors for under $20.  With a longer fine-gauge cardigan, that top would also be a great look with jeans and heels.
  • There was a fantastic lace pencil skirt offered by Talbots for $159.  Loved it.  Black lace over copper silk.  So gorgeous.  But it’s a dream.  Now the lace Covington skirt at Sears? That’s a reality.  Black lace over white satin.  On sale for $20.  You save $139.
  • White coat (Wal-Mart $20), mittens ($3) and hat ($3)

    You need a warm coat for going to see the National Christmas Tree downtown. Wouldn’t winter white be so chic instead of predictable black?  Yes, it would!  Instead of Lands End lightweight down jacket in white ($59), choose Walmart’s white, quilted junior parka, $18 (in plus sizes for $20).  You save: $41. This is a great looking coat that is actually nice and warm for most DC days.  I added a cute seasonal hat for just $3!

  • For me, New Year’s Eve is all about shine, and it’s the one night you can pull off a sequined dress.  It’s hard to beat the glam of Talbot’s tank-style sequin dress, but let’s face it — that’s a one-time only dress.  You will look fabulous for one night for $299, and then you can’t really wear it again.  I loved it, I really did, but opted for sleeves, and an A-Line cut and got a red version that kind of looks like sequins online from Dress Barn.  Hey, it fits!  It’s down to $25, now, online, if you happen to wear a size 14W.   I’m wearing mine to the One Party with a black jet necklace.  Dress Barn’s also got a great sleeveless black sequin dress with a really fabulous cut (I tried it on) for $49, online and in stores.  And, if you’ve got the figure for it, all eyes will be on you in this red sleeveless sequin, v-necked tank dress from Dots for just $24! (sizes S, M, and L).  There’s a Dot’s store in Alexandria, VA.  Buy one of these glittery numbers and save between $225 and $274!

    Red "sequin-effect" dress (Dress Barn, $25), necklace (Target, $1), holiday headband (Target, $1)

  • Accessories can add up, unless you know where to look.  The dollar section at Target is a great place to buy little seasonal accessories.  I bought a black jet necklace there for $1 last year that I’m wearing to a party.  This year, I bought a pair of sequined headbands — you get 2 for a dollar — one in dark red and one in black.  Or go for green tinsels and red “lights” for a dollar.  Again, since these aren’t everyday pieces, quality is not really an issue, but price is!

The fashions at Talbots and other stores are incredibly lovely, but if you haven’t got the moolah, use those looks for inspiration and find bargains elsewhere (like Target, Sears, and Wal-Mart).  I don’t think hardly anyone will notice the difference…it seems like most holiday party settings are pretty dark, anyway.

What are you wearing for the holidays?  What trends have you seen?  Have you found any bargains?  Feel free to share them in the comments.

Great Christmas Presents for Kids

December 18, 2009

How much is too much?

If your children are very young, you might consider giving them three presents.  Kathie Lee Gifford mentioned on her show last month that if three presents were good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for her children.  Not a bad argument.  Teach your children to ask for only three toys or gifts from Santa.  If a child gets one large or expensive gift, such as a bike, he or she might expect the remaining two to be small gifts.  You could add a small gift from the parents, such as costume jewelry bracelet or wallet, and of course, there is also the Christmas stocking.  With the other gifts children are likely to receive from relatives, isn’t that plenty of presents?

Five Christmas Present Ideas

The best present is the gift of time with you. I am not a fan of coupon books offering the promise of special times together.  I just feel no one really follows through on them.  When you give the gift of time, make it concrete.  But buying a child who loves dance or theater tickets to a ballet or show, or booking arrangements for a special trip for the two (or three) of you, or a craft class you take together, shortly after the holidays would be a wonderful gift.

Flip cameras run about $125.

Digital cameras let them capture their life experiences. Teaching a child how to take and upload digital images (photographs) gives them a form of creative expression that is easy and relevant to their lives.  It puts the child in control of how he/she chooses to record her personal experiences.  I particularly like the digital cameras that also have video capability.  My favorite is my Canon Elph.   Flip video cameras are fun and easy for kids, but the video quality of video on digital cameras is often better.  Still you can’t beat Flips for simplicity.  When you give a child a present like this, making time for special opportunities to take pictures, even if it’s just filming winter birds in the back yard, will make the present meaningful for the child.

Snow tubes are available in Target stores and online.

Presents that get children moving outdoors. We’re talking big, over-sized exercise balls, ice skates, jump ropes, inner tube sleds, basket balls,  roller blades, tennis racquets, skateboards, bicycles (with appropriate safety gear, included).  One favorite toy we have (you can get these at Target in the toy section) is an inflatable inner tube designed to sled on snow. They are GREAT for sledding.
Gifts that help them learn. Doodlehopper toy store in Falls Church, VA has lots of science kits from Ein-o-Science. I recommend them!  Consider the $15 telescope set, as well as prisms, globes, tiny skeletons, and other kits from this fun manufacturer.

This Emerson Telescope is $14.99 at CVS

Show them the stars for Christmas with a telescope or set of binoculars. What could be better than looking at the stars?  And the Christmas story associated with stars makes a telescope a perfect Christmas gift.   There are very inexpensive telescopes at CVS for $15 right now (in-store only).  I haven’t tested it yet, but that is a good price, and I got one and just put it together.   It looks just like this photo.

You could supplement it with one of the many affordable children’s books about stars available right now at Borders bookstore (check the bargain section).

You can also find lots of good deals on binoculars and field glasses right now, some among the boxed gifts that you’ll find in the men’s section of department stores, like JCPenney.

For a better view of “stars” on the stage…what a bargain on opera glasses ($5)  that would be nice stocking stuffer for a child (or adult) who goes to plays, concerts, or dance programs.  You can find it at the Kennedy Center gift shop (lower level shop).

    5 Cool Yule Tips for Saving Money on Beauty this Holiday

    December 1, 2009

    Dress from Dress Barn; necklace from Claire's.

    The recession changed the way I spend money.  I thought I would share some money-saving beauty tips with you.

    1. Do your own nails. You know, the look is for shorter nails, which is great because they are low-maintenance and easy to shape and lacquer yourself.  Thanks to the recession, I have saved a small fortune since I gave up salon manicures and pedicures.  Polish your nails with a trendy shade from Sephora for less than $5 a bottle (look for the small bottles), like a sophisticated silvery grey, or try a sexy Christmas red glistened with gold lustre; like my favorite Revlon shade, “Frankly Scarlet” (just under $5 bottle).
    2. Shop smart for holiday dresses. If you absolutely must have something new this season for your holiday parties, and you usually shop at Ann Taylor or Macy’s for dresses, consider budget-friendly shopping alternatives.  I purchased one of the prettiest cocktail dresses I own, a teal satin number, from Wal-Mart! I also found a great sleeveless top. The dress was — brand new, not on sale — $18, I kid you not.  The top was $15.   So, if you’re on a recession budget, keep an open mind about discount stores. Dress Barn has some of the prettiest dresses I have seen anywhere this season.  That’s just my personal taste, perhaps, but they really are nice, and they also have plus size versions.  The dresses at Dress Barn top off, when they’re not on sale, at about $79, which is about half what you’d pay at a higher-end department store.  But there are also plenty of great dresses at Dress Barn for $39 and $49.  There is no reason to buy more when you might only wear the dress a few times.
    3. Shop smart for jewelry, accessories and evening bags. Costume jewelry can get pretty pricey.  Because I don’t have pierced ears, I have long been a fan of Claire’s for their clip earrings.  It’s really not just for kids!  I have received many compliments on the jewelry I have purchased there.  I once saw the identical scarf sold elsewhere for more than $20 in department stores for less than $15 at Claire’s.  And everyone was wearing that style scarf this fall. Target should be your destination for unique and gorgeous evening handbags for fantastic prices.  The look this year is not too matchy-matchy; go for a contrasting bright color, or skip matching your bag and shoes.
    4. Festive shoes for less. The most comfortable pair of black satin evening heels I wear that everybody goes crazy for was bought at Payless on sale for less than $20.  I also have a pair of silver flats I bought there that really kick up jeans that I snagged for less than $15.
    5. Scent and sparkle. Bath and Body Works often has a terrific deals on lightly scented, sparkly moisturizers; $5 a tube.  My favorite is Warm Vanilla Sugar.  I think a little lustre on your shouders, cheeks, and decolletage is really delightful during the holidays.  I also like the their scented body sprays (3 for $10), which I find less cloying than expensive perfumes.  The man in your life will love how you smell like a fresh-baked cookie!

    5 Cool Yule Tips for Saving Money: Shopping Savings

    November 23, 2009

    How to Save Money on Shopping

    1. Shop early, before Thanksgiving if you can manage it. There are lots of reasons for this.  First of all, the selection is best and you can find plenty of sales.  For example, this year I found great Hallmark Christmas cards at $5 a box, which is the lowest I have ever seen.  Also there are fewer crowds, which means the shopping experience will be less fatiguing and you will make smarter decisions.  Nothing beat the feeling this year when I found a whole cache of beautiful Christmas candle sets and knocked out 14 people in one fell swoop!  Not having the pressure of deadlines will also help curb impulse purchases.  It also gives you time to put some thoughtfulness into your gifting.  I have worked plenty of Christmas Eves and always felt sorry for the poor people who would buy anything, at any price, just to get off the hook for Christmas.

    2. After Thanksgiving, just don’t go to the mall (or Target, etc.). If you get your shopping done in advance, you can spend all that time you would have spent looking for parking spaces and standing in line at the cash register doing really fun stuff — like ice skating, baking, or going to tree lightings or Christmas concerts.  And you may be very glad you planned ahead this year.  One very good reason is to stay well.  Ever notice how the poor salespeople get sick in December?  I hate being sick around Christmas, so I avoid elevators and any crowded places when I can manage it.  But I also like to shop, just to look around.  So, my advice is when you get a shopping bug, go on a Tuesday night, or other low-volume night, and buy yourself one small present, such as a piece of costume jewelry from Claire’s or a nice scented candle.  Or check out the wonderful museum shops in our area.

    3. Lose (or unplug) your television. Do you know, I have not had a television for nine years?  Not only do I save loads on cable bills, but I am not exposed to all those commercials.  If I watched TV, I am sure I would buy a lot more stuff, probably stuff I didn’t need in the first place.  A TV-free life is awesome.  We spend so much time doing fun things that we would have ordinarily wasted in front of the TV.  I get my news from the Internet, and I also download shows for free, and rent movies from iTunes, so when I need a TV fix, I can always do that.  But on balance, I spend a lot less time in front of the computer watching those shows than if I had a TV.  If you’re brave, just try unplugging your TV for the holidays.  The empty space is PERFECT for a Christmas tree 🙂

    4. Buy the same thing for everyone on  your list. The reason why this saves money is because you can often find bargains this way and you don’t spend a lot of time trying to find presents and then spending more than you intended in frustration.  For example, I have to buy more presents for more than a dozen people who work with my son at his school.  It can get very expensive buying fourteen or more presents.  When you buy gift bags in bulk, or you find a nice deal on candles on ornaments, snap them up.  I also have three women in my life: my mom, my sister, and her girlfriend.  It is pretty easy to get them all the same thing (such as shower gel, but in different scents).

    5. Buy small presents that you supplement with home-baked cookies. Most years, I am on a budget.  If the present is really small, I try to throw in a small cellophane bag of homemade cookies and candy.  Make up a cellophane bag (or a dozen) with some Tollhouse cookies, sugar cookies, little chocolate candies, and a candy cane.   If you like to bake, this is a nice solution to consider.  Very sweet gift for neighbors, the mailman, etc.  It really is the thought that counts.

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