23 07 2011

femmefrugality has moved!

Same site, new home. 🙂 Click the link above to see new posts!  Sorry for any confusion!


Baby and Kids Clothes and Gear-Resale

9 07 2011

I’m quickly realizing that baby and kid’s stuff is expensive.  Ridiculously expensive.  So I’m happy resale stores exist.  You can go in and buy gently used items (some are even brand new) for something ridiculous like 70% or more off their original sale value.  On top of this…if you’re looking for a way to find some quick cash, resale stores are a great way to go.

Now, there is resale, and then there is consignment.  With consignment you take your gently used items in, they will price them, and then when they sell you split the profit with the store.  Often if the item doesn’t sell within a certain time period it will automatically be donated.  Which is wonderful, but leaves you with nothing.  Many times you will have to be on top of your stuff, calling into the store to check and see if your items sold.  Otherwise they will not contact you and keep your profits, hoping you will forget about them.  (Not true for all stores, but it does happen.)  I prefer resale.  You take your items in.  They review them and offer you a bid.  You can either accept or reject.  If you accept, you’re walking out with that money in your pocket regardless of if the store can sell it or not.

A great resale store is Once Upon a Child.  They are very selective in what they will purchase from you (must be clean, relatively new, and meet current safety standards.)  The flip side of this is the reassurance you get when you go in to purchase from them.  They’re nationwide and have a store locator on their website.

If you’re in Pittsburgh, I’ve heard good things about a place called Pennystix in the South Hills.  Never been there myself, but they are also resale as opposed to consignment.

Have fun saving or selling!

How to find treasure in the woods with a dork machine

8 07 2011

An amazing sculpture garden I never would have known existed if there had not been a cache nearby.

Yeah, that’s pretty much what geocaching is. And its fantastic. The “dork machine” is a GPS (Global Positioning System) device that, after you type in some coordinates, will tell you which way to go to find your “treasure,” which is the cache (or container holding a log book for those who found it at the least, and full of goodies ranging from a McDonald’s toy to a Gameboy Color my brother once found at the most.)

This activity is FREE. It gets you outside. You can choose to do incredibly easy or incredibly difficult caches, making it great to do with kids or a group of intensely active adults. You might not have a GPS device. The one I have is incredibly basic. Pretty much I can type in the coordinates for the cache and set a marker for my car so I can find my way back. If I really wanted to, I could probably figure out the two other functions that it has. But it works. Have a GPS system in your car for directions or a cell phone where you can download apps? Odds are you can use them to geocache, as well. While most car GPS systems are not so great for off-road hiking, there are a few models that can do both like the Magellan Crossover and Garmin Quest (and Quest 2.) Or, if you have a cell phone, odds are it has a GPS chip in it already. All you need to do is download the Geocaching Live App. So while initial investment can be extravagant, it probably doesn’t have to be.

You go to the official geocaching website and create a FREE account with your email address to find caches in your area. By typing in your zip code, it will find a ton of caches (treasures) close to you. You find one that fits your desired difficulty and goals (there are historical caches, eco caches, themed caches, the list goes on…) and plug the coordinates on the website into your GPS device (if you’re using the app, it’s a different but nonetheless easy process.) A lot of caches will also have parking coordinates so you’re ready to go.

Showing our travel bug some classic Pittsburgh at Primanti's.

Geocaching is a very new and green sport. When you’re visiting the site, leaving nature better than you found it is more than encouraged. When you find the cache (which will be hidden under a rock, inside a stump, inside a crack in the cement, another endless list…) you will undoubtedly find a log to sign. You may also find treasures. When you take sometime out, you MUST put something back in! Trade a pack of cards for a bracelet, a pokemon toy for a batman figurine, whatever. Just try to keep your item equal to what you’re taking. I’ve used McDonald’s toys, cheap little things from tourist shops I’ve picked up while on vacation, and dollar store items to keep my caching cheap. Once you’ve started, you can also recycle items you’ve found but don’t necessarily need to keep.

If you find an item inside with a tag on it, it’s a trackable. These items should be logged into the geocaching website and be moved on to a new cache. My favorites are the travel bugs, which are little toys that you can take pictures with to upload onto the site. Then when they’ve passed on, you can continue to follow them and see where they’ve traveled after you’ve let them back out into the wild. Geocaches are hidden WORLDWIDE so I’ve seen some of the ones I’ve found make it to Australia, Guam, and all over Europe. It reminds me of Flat Stanley from Kindergarten.

Starfish at the Ovens

The best part of geocaching is the adventures. One time we rescued a starfish and saw a seal on a cache. Another time we found a teepee someone had made in the woods. It can also force you to be a tourist in your own town. I’ve been so many places in Pittsburgh that I never would have even known existed without geocaching. One time we were visiting family in Maine, and found a cache in a place called the Ovens, which is a series of amazing rock formations that is covered by the tide during certain times of the day. Our family was amazed that they had lived in the area for 10 years without knowing this place existed.

Example of what a cache container may look like.

I’d love to hear about your adventures and do my best to field your questions or help you get started!

For more information:
Geocaching Website
More Info on GPS Devices

Cheaper Care Packages

5 07 2011

For the soldier, missionary, or college student in your life:  care packages can be cost-effective, too.  When you ship Media Mail with the post office, you save 40-50%.  For example, a 10 pound package parcel post will cost you $11.35 whereas media mail it only costs you $6.04 (about 47% savings.)  How do you get the media mail rate?  Edit the contents of your package.  Media mail can include books, film, manuscripts, recordings, video tapes, and computer readable media.  At first glance you may be thinking, “Um…okay, so how am I supposed to send them a package with things they’ll like?”  Obviously sometimes its worth the splurge to be able to send your college student ramen noodles or send someone overseas their favorite American candy bar.  But here’s some ideas for media mail care packages that your loved one will appreciate and look forward to while keeping some cash in your pocket:

1. Soldiers

I’ve been in a military family during the current conflicts.  And the biggest thing I’ve heard soldiers saying is that they want things to keep their mind off the fact that they’re in a warzone during their off time.  Media mail is perfect.

Books!  There’s this great organization called Operation Paperback that collects gently used, paperback books to send to soldiers for this exact purpose.  I’ve organized a few book drives through churches and local libraries the past couple of years.  To see what they need most and figure out how to send a shipment through them, click on their link.  Obviously, you can send your own soldier books that fit their individual tastes.

CDs  Who doesn’t like music?  Most soldiers I’ve known have had access to computers and walkmans while deployed, but you know your soldier’s situation best.  Don’t send them things they can’t use :p

DVDs Whether from the $3 bin or a new release they can’t believe they’ve missed in theaters, movies provide a few hours of distraction.

Magazines Like books, a magazine targeted at your soldier’s interests can be enjoyed regardless of access to technology.

Letters Don’t underestimate how much words from a loved one can mean.  Little ones can draw pictures, more mature friends/family members can send words of encouragement, appreciation and uplifting news from home.

Video Letters!  You can use a burned DVD or a flash drive to send your loved one messages from home WITH YOUR FACE!  Flash drives can be cheap or expensive, but here’s an idea to make the cost worth it.  Record your message, and then have your soldier record a message to send back home on the same drive.  Repeat!  If you’re not video capable with your computer, you can use these same media devices to send pictures.

2. Missionaries

For all my Mormon friends out there, I know missionaries love care packages and you love sending them.  Remember when you’re sending items that they must meet mission standards.  Keep things clean and spiritual while sending fun and smiles.

Books!  To keep the costs of this area down, check out the clearance section at Deseret or Seagull.  Fun, spiritual, whatever.  You know your missionary best.  And clearance does not always mean crap.  It may just mean out of season.  And with them gone for two years, chances are they won’t notice.  Or really even care.

Magazines  Ensign, New Era, the norm 🙂

CDs  Like the soldiers, not every missionary has access to technology.  Be sensitive in sending things that your missionary can use.  In this case, also be sensitive to mission rules.  Send spiritual and/or clean music.  My favorite is Variations on a Sacred Theme by Lex de Azevedo.

DVDs Same rules as CDS.  Make sure they can use them and that they are mission appropriate.  Check out all the Mormon stores for Mormon movies (they have comedies, dramas, stuff that isn’t just stuff they’re showing investigators anyways.)  Keep everything else rated G and in compliance with mission rules.

Letters  Words of encouragement!  Uplifting news from home!  Gather letters from the whole ward if you want!

Journals Help them keep a record of these two unique years with anything from a blank notebook to a specialized Mormon missionary journal (again, check Deseret, Seagull etc.)  (For a blank notebook, check out your local dollar store.)

Video Letters!  Check out this idea under the “Soldiers” section.

3. College Students

With most college students downloading music and movies onto their iPods, iPads, or whatever the latest gadget is, this list is going to be a little different.  Your scholar has access to most things that our other two categories did not, but they still don’t have access to the most important thing in their life:  you.

Blanks CDs and DVDs  They can use these to burn music, homework assignments, pictures, videos, WHATEVER.  They’re not too expensive, but on a students budget, they’ll be much appreciated.

Magazines  Again, while they may have access to these, they may not be able to convince themselves to splurge on them.  Then again, maybe they like spending your money.  Spend here at your discretion.  🙂

Blank Flashdrives  These may be more practical than CDs and DVDs, especially when it comes to schoolwork.

Notebooks  Undoubtedly overpriced at their college bookstore, picking these up will be much more cost-efficient for you at home.  And they’re still used, even with that fancy new laptop.

Video Letters!  Again, same idea as listed under “Soldiers.”  Your college student will undoubtedly be able to use this with you, and hopefully will keep homesickness at bay.

Any other ideas from soldiers, missionaries, scholars, or those who love them??!!  Let us know!

How to be a not-so-extreme couponer

3 07 2011

As you may have guessed from the title, I am not an extreme couponer. But the show did inspire me to try. So I did a little research. And from everything I read, it’s more advantageous to take the realistic approach if you want to spend less than 40 hours a week at it. So in the past two months, I’ve spent a couple of hours a week at it and managed to save an average of 40-50%. And maintain my sanity.

First, you need coupons. Who would’ve thought? I started with a small amount, just using what I got in the mail. Which isn’t a lot. I’m lucky if my mailman comes every other day. But they build up. Another way I’ve gotten them is exchanging the ones I’ve already gone through with the ones my mom’s already gone through. She does the same with some of her friends, so not only does this lead to duplicates I can use on the things I already need, but it also gives me access to coupons and ads I wouldn’t otherwise receive. I’ve tried internet coupons, but haven’t had much luck. I’m pretty good at using google, but so far my searches end with more frustration than its worth. So if you run or know of a good blog that has printable coupons, please let me and everyone else know!

I try to only clip for things I need (or may need in the next two months, depending on when the expiration date is.) Sometimes a $4.00 coupon will find its way into my stash…I figure…what’s the harm in seeing if I can get something for free? Or for $.50? But I don’t go crazy. If I end up spending $3.50 on a product that was originally $8.00 that I’m not going to end up using or wouldn’t have “needed” originally, I haven’t saved $4.50; I’ve actually been lured into spending and losing $3.50. That can add up.

After I’ve got my stash in order (I’m still at an envelope sorted by expiration date, although you can go crazy and make a binder sorted by aisle or whatever works for you,) I look at my stores weekly ads. I do the ones that I can search through online first. Like Giant Eagle. Not only is their weekly ad on their website, but I can type in each coupon item and see if a sale lines up with my stash. I wish every store did this. But once I’ve searched and recorded all the savings for that store, I can move on to the paper ads and online non-searchable weekly sale ads with a bit of confidence that I’ll be able to identify an item I have a coupon for. Just because you find one sale that lines up, don’t stop! Stores will often put the same item on sale at the same time (competition!) so look for the best deal.

My current stash.

Now I have to find more coupons. Some stores’ websites (like Giant Eagle’s…I know I’m pimping them a lot, but I’m new at this and they’re the only ones that have made this easy on me,) have these things called e-coupons. You can use them in conjunction with the paper coupons you already have. You load them onto your store card via the website, and then compare them with the sales the same way you did with the paper ones.

So then I make a list. Of what I’ll be saving on this week and of the things I absolutely can’t make it until next shopping trip without. I have my coupons ready: organized by which store I’ll be using them in and in which order I’ll look for them in. I do not stray from my list. Unless my boyfriend comes with me. He likes to enjoy life a little more than I do. (Thank God.)

Maybe we should cover some cardinal rules before we go to the store:

1. In general, you can use one store coupon and one manufacturer coupon per item.

2. Always check your store’s coupon policy before you go shopping. Most stores will double (twice the savings!) of coupons up to $.99, but this is not always true. I was very disappointed when I learned this the hard way on a recent trip to Target.

3. Being organized will save you a lot of time and potential embarrassment when you’re in the store. It only takes me about 20 minutes tops to get things all in order after I’m done with all the clipping and sale sleuthing. Well worth it.

So I’m in the store. I’m shopping. And I have this awesome coupon for fancy brand name cereal that brings the cost down to $2.50 for a box. Word. But then I see a bag of even more cereal that tastes exactly the same except it’s made by a parrot instead of a toucan. And it’s $2.00. I’m going with the parrot. A coupon is no good if it’s not saving you money. It’s up to you which things you HAVE to have brand name (because sometimes, it really does matter,) but don’t be afraid to at least try generics.

So I have everything I need. I go to check out. I give them my store card. I make sure all the sales come up. They ring up all my groceries. Then I give them my coupons. I make sure all of those ring up (and ring up properly.) And then I’m out.

This may be super dorky and over the top of me, but when I get home I look at all my receipts to review how I did. Remember that $4.00 coupon? It got me once. And I need to take the time to let that beat me up inside so I won’t do it again. Sometimes I get the toucan instead of the parrot. And I do it way too many times on one trip. The innocent $.50 splurge made ten times has cost me $5. Anti-productive. But then I look at all the stuff I did well. Like getting free pasta because I bought that parmesan cheese I was going to get anyways. Or getting my favorite shampoo for $.50 when it’s normally $3.50. And it makes me happy again. This way, I learn from my mistakes but still stay motivated for next time.

Kudos to all you extreme couponers out there. I’d love to learn from you. But right now, I’m 100% happy saving 50% for only a couple of hours of my time.

Kennywood, Sand Castle, and Idlewild Ticket Discounts

2 07 2011

CCAC has some discount tickets this summer for students!  Bring your student ID to the student accounts office (student life office for North Campus) to get Kennywood, Sand Castle and Idlewild tickets cheap for the rest of the season (through September.)

Kennywood- $24 (Retail-$37)
SandCastle-$22 (Retail-$31)
IdleWild-$26 (Retail-$32)


How to get what’s yours!

1 07 2011

So I’ve heard about this a couple of times over the years.  But I didn’t know the specifics or exactly how to access it.  Apparently state treasuries have a database of unclaimed payments to individuals just waiting for these people to come in and claim them.  You just go to their website, type in your name, and see if anyone owes you anything.  Unfortunately my name didn’t turn anything up, but I decided to check for some of my close family as well and found a check for over $100 for a family member.  After you find it, you print out some paperwork to verify you are, indeed, that person, file the claim, and receive the check.  Pretty amazing.

The great thing about this one…it’s not just for Pittsburghers.  Every single state treasury offers this service.  To check and see if you have an unclaimed paycheck, insurance payment, security deposit, long-lost bank account, or WHATEVER, you go to and click on your state. It will bring you to your state treasury’s website where you can start your search. I love that there’s a central website, too, as I’ve lived in a number of states over the years and it made it way easy to check all my different locales. It’s free and takes a couple of minutes.  With Pennsylvania alone holding $1.5 billion just waiting to be found, it certainly can’t hurt to take a look.

Question of the Day
What would you do with an extra $100?