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Money Saving Tips

A reminder to pay attention to what you fill your mind with

A reminder to pay attention to what you fill your mind with

A few weeks ago — actually, now that I think about it, it was right around the time that every blogger ever was posting about the Nordstrom anniversary sale — I had a revelation that I had allowed too many negative influences into my life.


In my case, I had gotten lax in my aversion to marketing; I was willingly clicking on post titles from blogs that I KNEW were just one big marketing post. I wasn’t being as ruthless and self-disciplined as I normally am.


And I think that’s normal for everyone, including myself. There’s a lot going on in our lives, and it’s easy to start running on autopilot in regards to spending habits. And running on autopilot means it’s easy to let little things slip through the cracks (an extra purchase here... and extra purchase there...) and before we realize it, our spending starts to get out of control. 


For example, I enjoy reading The Skinny Confidential’s blog but many of her posts are like “5 things you need right now” and it’s just a list of products she really likes with a link to buy the stuff on Amazon. I know myself, and I know that those posts always make me want to buy things.


So why was I clicking on those post titles? Why was I willingly exposing myself to that form of advertisement? It’s because I had started to run on autopilot. I was letting little things slip through the cracks without realizing it. I just needed to remind myself of my good financial habits. I needed to snap out of the autopilot and pay attention to what I’m allowing into my mind.


So let this post be a reminder to YOU! Pay attention this week to what you’re allowing in your mind and in your life. 


Are you getting a bunch of emails from retailers that make you want to spend money because they’re having a “one day sale!!!"? 


Do you subscribe to blogs that make you want to buy things? 


Do you hang out with people who have questionable spending habits?


Are you watching TV shows (ahem, reality tv) that give you an unrealistic view of adulthood? (looking at you, Vanderpump… I love you but omgggg your lives and spending habits are SO not normal)


Oh, and for bonus points- fill your mind with GOOD stuff.

Instead of taking in things that hurt your good financial habits, how about you swap in some things that will help give you BETTER financial habits?  For example:

  • Read more blogs from personal finance writers (you're already reading this, so that's good! Also check out my favorite blogger :) )
  • Read books about consumerism (here are a few on my reading list: The High Price of Materialism, Ad Nauseam, Affluenza)
  • Download podcasts about personal finance, happiness, stoicism, etc. (this post includes some of my favorites)
  • Take time to look at your budget, track your spending in Mint, or calculate your net worth




Leave me a comment and let me know what you're going to cut out, and what you're going to start filling your mind with instead!


For me, I realized that I need to be much more mindful when I go through my Bloglovin list. I carefully read the post title before clicking. If it sounds like one of those “5 things you need right now” posts, I hit ‘mark as read’ and skip that one. No need to tempt myself!

One Way to Decrease your Grocery Spending

One Way to Decrease your Grocery Spending

I had a realization the other day: I almost never eat snacks*, and I think that's a big part of how I save money on groceries and stay healthy.


I've found that just eating 3 normal meals throughout the day fills me up enough so that I don't actually need snacks. Just an observation about my life and maybe a place where you can look at cutting your spending. If you find that you're spending a lot of money on your grocery bill, and you find that a big chunk of it is pre-made/pre-packaged snacks (granola bars, individual sized yogurt, nuts, crackers, etc), pay attention to WHY you're getting those foods and see if you can change your habits to cut down on those.



For example:

If you always need a snack before you go to your grad school night class, could you try packing a dinner (bring it to work with you to stash in the fridge) and eating that before going to class? Or maybe on those days that you have class, make a bigger than normal lunch and have half at lunch and then half later in the afternoon to keep you full until you get home from class, when you can have a late dinner.


If you always need a mid-morning snack, maybe your breakfast isn't big enough. Try making bigger breakfasts that will keep you full for longer. (my current favorite breakfast food for work days is Breakfast Burritos- SO good and they keep me full all morning, esp when we bulk them up with red and green peppers and fried potatoes)


This one is my personal downfall: I come home from work and start raiding the cabinets because I'm tired from work and tired from commuting, and also because I want to postpone my workout :) Instead of eating snacks I just need to suck it up and do my workout, which means I can start making dinner sooner, and then I can have a real meal rather than snacks.



What if I really do NEED a snack?

Some days I notice that I am EXTRA hungry. When this happens, I usually can make do with whatever we have in the house. Things like a bowl of cereal, carrots with peanut butter, toast, or a spoonful of straight peanut butter (we recently discovered natural PB with just peanuts, omg, SO good) are the stuff I snack on if I am really hungry.  It's very rare that I specifically buy snack foods. We do, however, buy ice cream- oh and I always have some form of chocolate to go in my lunch box- it helps the day go by ;)


A disclaimer:

Living life like this is a bit harder, I will admit. Some nights I get VERY annoyed trying to wrangle something together for breakfast or lunch for work the next day. But those extra 5 or 10 minutes finding food is ALWAYS worth it. For example, last night I was prepping our breakfasts and lunches and realized that we only had 1 breakfast burrito left. I gave that to Mike (no, I'm not really that selfless- it was one of the burritos without cheese in it so I didn't really want it haha) and then had to decide what to make for my breakfast. I settled on cereal to go- cereal in a tupperware container, milk in a small mason jar. It took me a few minutes to make the cereal, and I probably could have saved time if I had a granola bar or individual sized yogurt that I could just grab and throw in my lunch. But that's ok- I'm willing to spend the extra 3-5 minutes to prep my breakfast in the absence of those items.


Another thing that I will admit: sometimes I REEEEALLY want a traditional snack food and then I get irrationally angry that we don't stock anything in the house like that. But then I eat a spoonful of peanut butter with chocolate syrup and mostly get over my anger.



I was NOT always like this.

I remember I used to buy granola bars, nuts, individual yogurts, crackers, string cheese, etc almost every week. I just assumed that I needed a mid-morning snack to get me through the day until lunch, or I needed an after-work snack. But it turns out, if I just eat better meals, I don't need those snacks!


I've basically been forced to discover that I don't require snacks throughout the day :) Mike never really snacks (yes, he's a robot, I am aware) so by living with him I've just gradually shifted my eating habits to align with his. He eats 3 real meals so I might as well eat 3 real meals too. And because of that, I don't get hungry at other times in the day, which means I don't need to buy snacks.



It's quite insane how many snack foods there are in the grocery store, and how much those can drive up your grocery bill. Start paying attention to how many snack foods you're buying and see if you can cut down on those at all!**




* Key word = ALMOST... except for the times we buy Tostitos Lime chips for taco salads and devour the entire bag in less than 24 hours.. no really, less than 24 hours. EVERY.TIME.


** Unless you are my mom, because I enjoy raiding your cabinets to find delicious trader joe's snacks and lime cookies when I come over. Don't cut down your snack supply!!! ;)



Do you keep snack foods at home? 


Resisting Impulse Beauty Purchases

Resisting Impulse Beauty Purchases

I think one of the very difficult parts, for me, about being frugal is that I have an instinctual desire to buy every sort of beauty product that promises any sort of result that I want. Soft skin? Shiny hair? Pretty nails? GET IN MY CART.


(This is precisely why I have to avoid advertisements; I fall for everything)


On one hand I want to save my money and not buy these things. But on the other hand, I just wanna live my life! I enjoy trying new products and want to buy them.


So I've come up with a compromise (with myself).



The compromise --> I must research things before I buy.


This has a two-fold effect: First, I can't make impulse purchases, which MAJORLY helps in avoiding dumb spending. Second, it forces me to learn new things.


For example, a few months ago I needed new shampoo and conditioner and I wanted to find something that would make my hair less frizzy. So I started researching causes of frizzy hair, and that opened up the world of sulfate-free shampoos, which opened up the world of silicone-free hair products, and ended in me learning a lot about hair care science that I never knew! (I ended up getting this shampoo and this conditioner and really like them so far- I have greatly increased the time I can go in-between shampooing, WIN)



Here are some of the resources I've started utilizing:


For hair stuff - the Haircare Science and Curly Hair subreddits (I don't have curly hair but they have good hair tips in general), specifically the Basic Haircare Guide to get started educating myself.


For skin stuff - the Skincare Addiction subreddit, specifically "The SCA Routine" and "Evaluating your Routine" to get started.


For fashion stuff - the Female Fashion Advice subreddit, specifically "So you want to do a wardrobe overhaul" and "Finding a Style, Building a Wardrobe" to get started.


(Yes, if you can’t tell, I just discovered Reddit and I'm hooked!! I love getting so many points of view about topics. I have started google-ing things like "[product name] reddit" just to find what people on Reddit said about it)


Buying as cheap as possible

Additionally, part of my research process is finding the cheapest place to buy an item. If I'm buying online, I use ebates to search the item name to see where it's being sold and then I'll check those prices and see if any of those retailers are having a big ebates cash back percentage. (that's an affiliate link to ebates - if you sign up through that link you get a $10 bonus after making a purchase of $25 and I get $5!). I also check ebay to see if it's being sold there, or poshmark if it's a clothing item, etc.



It takes a bit longer to make purchases when I have to thoroughly research like this, but I feel so much better knowing that I'm picking a product based on my research rather than advertisements. And I still get to try new products! It's just more of a deliberate process.



How do you manage your impulse beauty buys?

What came first: being a homebody, or saving money?

What came first: being a homebody, or saving money?

A recent realization: I absolutely LOVE my current lifestyle. And my current lifestyle just so happens to save me an insane amount of money each month.


I love hanging out at home rather than being out and about shopping (yes, even at Target) or at the movies or an amusement park or even a coffee shop. 


I love laying on the couch reading a book. 


I love watching Parks and Rec with Mike on Netflix. 


I love batch cooking 16 breakfast burritos at once (here's the recipe I found, SO GOOD, we’ve been eating these for breakfast for weeks and I am obsessed). 


I love walking around our neighborhood listening to podcasts. 


I love having our friends over to have a few beers rather than going to a bar. 


I love listening to new playlists on Spotify while cooking dinner or writing a blog post (as I write this, I'm listening to the “Lighten Up, Man!” playlist on Spotify, it’s good!)


I love NOT driving to places on the weekend or after work to shop. I hate traffic and hate having my precious non-work time taken up by driving all over the place. Ugh.



But what came first?

Do I love being home because that's my personality, and this has the unintended consequence of helping me save money?


Or does the fact that I want to save money have an unintended consequence of making me like staying home?


It’s an interesting question to ponder.


In my case...

I probably trend towards being a homebody at heart. I guess I’m lucky that I enjoy the solitude of being at home and not feel like I need to go places and spend money to keep myself occupied.


In YOUR case...

However, if you are the type that feels like you need to always be out and about to keep occupied - I bet if you start slowing down and cutting down on some of your paid activities, you’ll realize how much you like doing other, non-spendy, things. 


I found this post on the Mr. Money Mustache forum the other day and absolutely loved it: What frugalities do you find the most pleasant, and why? I loved reading through the responses and realizing how many of those things I enjoy also!! 


I think too many people equate saving money with NOT having fun. If you find yourself thinking that way, change your thinking! Focus on what things save you money AND make you happy. Once you’ve figured out those things… do more of those and less of the money spending activities.


You'll be shocked at how much money you start to save while having an even MORE enjoyable life!




What things do YOU enjoy doing that also save you money? (once you've listed them in a comment below, be sure to start DOING them more often!)

Some more of mine: Skipping the hair salon by cutting my own hair, having ice cream at home on the couch rather than out at an ice cream shop, making my own food because I can tweak it to taste just like how I want, bringing lunch to work because it means I don’t have to take time off to go buy lunch somewhere, making coffee at home because I can make it taste just how I want it, using the public library, listening to free podcasts, helping Mike plant fruits and vegetables in our backyard garden, making homemade salads because I can put as many delicious toppings on without being charged a fortune... I could go on and on :)


DIY Crockpot Candles

DIY Crockpot Candles

I ran across this article back in December that explained that you can make candles IN A CROCKPOT. I was immediately intrigued. I love candles but strongly dislike how expensive they are. (Remember how much effort I put into finding a deal on candles a few years ago?)


I had briefly looked into candle making previously, but it seemed really hard - there were specific temperatures you're supposed to heat the wax to, a specific temperature when you pour in the color and scent, a temp to pour the candle into the container (not to mention the terrifying prospect of pouring molten hot wax into a container)... it just seemed too hard.




I researched a bit more and found a few additional articles. I ended up using a process that most closely resembled this article's.


I researched for a day or two and then decided to jump right in and immediately ordered $70 worth of candle making equipment so that I could make candles for Christmas gifts. I've made 10 candles so far and I'm ready to show you my method now that I've tested it out a few times.




You'll need:

  • Soy Wax (I got a 10lb bag from the CandleScience website, but it was this 464 kind)
  • Wicks (make sure you figure out exactly which size wick you need; too small OR too big will cause the candle to not burn properly. I used the wick guide on the CandleScience site to figure out what size I needed based on my wax type and container diameter)
  • Scent - I got three:
    • Very Vanilla - this was okay, not my favorite vanilla scent though. It was too sweet smelling for my preferences. I will try another one next time I order.
    • Christmas Hearth - this was legitimately awful. It made our apartment smell SO BAD for weeks after I made the candles. The final result in the candle isn't bad, but dealing with the smell while making the candle was just terrible.
    • Love Spell - this one was AMAZING. Hands down my favorite scent. I will absolutely purchase this again. Thank goodness it made up for the two other scents.
  • Liquid Dye - I got Hunter Green to go with the Christmas Hearth scent. It's definitely not necessary, though; I kind of like NOT having dye. I didn't use dye for the Vanilla or Love Spell candles and liked the plain white color. My friend Melanie is testing out using crayons as dye, so that could be a cool/cheap way to do it!!
  • Jars + lids - I was very careful to get jars that are MADE for candle making. The last thing I wanted is to skimp on the glass jars and then have them shatter while burning the candle because they are cheaply made.
  • Something to stir the melted wax with (I used plastic spoons)
  • Wick supports - I used pencils and twist ties, but you can use anything that will help support the wick. There are legit real wick holders too.



The process:


1. Put tin foil in the bottom of your crockpot. You WILL spill wax flakes; it's inevitable. Having tin foil down ensures you don't have to clean up wax from your crockpot.




2. Place candle containers in the crockpot and fill with wax flakes. I used a small measuring cup to fill the jars without spilling too many flakes.



3. Turn on crockpot to high, cover with lid, cook for an hourish or until wax melts.


4. The wax will melt down a LOT. In this pic, you can see that all the wax melted down to less than half full! So once it's melted, add more wax flakes, replace the lid, and give it another 15-30 minutes until those flakes melt.



5. Continue adding wax and melting it down until your containers are almost full - remember that if you're going to add scent and/or color, that will also increase the volume of the candle!


Also I learned that if you have a container that curves in at the top, do NOT fill wax so high that it touches the curved part. Fill no higher than the straight part of the side. if the wax is touching or past the curved part, it will make the candle crack on top as it cools. I learned this the hard way.




6. Once the candles are fully melted, remove the crockpot lid and turn the heat off of the crockpot, but leave the candles in there.


7. Now it's time for adding scent and color (if desired). I performed some high level math using the recommended dosage percentages for each scent to calculate how much I should put in each candle. (seriously, that piece of paper in the upper right corner of the picture is filled with math haha) I ended up doing 4 tsp. of scent for each candle and 15 drops of color for the colored candles. But it'll depend on the size of your containers, how strongly colored/scented you want the candles, etc. The first time I made the Christmas Hearth candles I didn't put in enough green color so it cooled and looked lime green rather than dark green. So I just re-melted it in the crockpot and added more color :)



8. Once you've added scent and color, let the candles cool for about an hour (still in the crockpot) before you put in the wicks. I added this cooling step to my process because in my experience, the wick got super bendy if I put it in a HOT candle, and then it was very difficult to keep the wick straight as it cooled. Adding this cool down period allowed the wax to cool slightly (it remained completely liquid though) so that the wick didn't bend as much. The cool down time will depend on the size of your candles and how much heat your crockpot retains, so you might need to play around with this time.


(I also ended up using a candy thermometer that I already own to check the temp of the candles as they cooled. They were around 160* when I added the color and scent, and after an hour they were down to about 120*. I only used the thermometer because I already owned it; it's definitely not necessary)


9. Place the wick in the candle. It should be easy because the wax is still liquid. (if your wax has started to harden and isn't transparent anymore, the cooling period was too long. heat them back up and cool them for a shorter amount next time!) Just gently place the wick straight down into the wax until it rests on the bottom of the jar.



10. You might have awesome wicks that already stand straight up without any support. If you don't, (and actually, it's probably a good idea even if you think the wick will remain straight) you'll need to use some sort of wick holder to keep the wick straight up while the candle cools. I created a support structure using pencils and twist ties; but you can use whatever you have on hand, or buy real wick holders.




10. Let the candles cool (still in the crockpot). I left mine overnight to be sure they were totally hardened. Be sure not to bump or jostle the crockpot or the counter it's on while the candles are cooling. These things are DELICATE and any little bump can cause a crack or sinkhole in the candle :(



11. Once the candles are cooled, remove them from the crockpot. Use a super sharp pair of scissors or shears to cut the wick to ~1/2 inch.



12. And you're done!! I read articles that say you should let candles cure for 5 days to get the optimal scent; I have no idea if that's true. I used some of mine immediately and they were fine.

You can even get fancy (I haven't gotten this far yet) and make labels for your candles!




I specifically chose soy wax because I hear that's one of the cleanest burning waxes. However, soy wax has this weird crystallization effect after you burn it. Many conventionally sold "soy" candles sold have a small amount of other types of wax that makes them smoother; however, when you make 100% soy wax candles, they'll look almost crystalized on top. It's nothing you did wrong in making the candle, that's just how soy wax is!



Is it worth it? TOTALLY!!

My ~$70 investment has created 10 candles, and I think I have enough wax to make 1 or 2 more. I ran out of scent though, so once I restock that it might be like $75 total to make 12 candles. That's a pretty awesome cost compared to most store bought candles - especially because these are actually pretty large candles! In the future, I'm also going to start reusing other candle containers that I already own which will bring the cost down, and once I find scents I like I can purchase those in bulk. Also I want to try buying wood wicks and make a candle using those; I love wood wick candles!!


Overall, this process is really easy. Once I figured it all out, t's only ~30 minutes of work spread out over a ~3 hr period to make 4 candles of this size at a time. I love being able to make my own candles!! I think it's an awesome gift - way more personal than buying a generic candle. And not to mention cheaper :)




Have you ever made candles or any other craft like this?