How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget

I like to indulge in little luxuries every now and then. Some fancy-pants coffee, a $30 scented candle, or something equally rad, yet non-essential. Sadly, I cannot afford to bathe in champagne (which is probably good, because, STICKY), but with a little thought and care, I can indulge in something special now and then. I’m used to living a champagne life on a beer budget. This is how I do it.

Here’s how I live a champagne life on a beer budget.

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Coffee. I don’t go to Starbucks. Why? Isn’t hating Starbucks Anti-American? Nah. I kinda think Starbucks brews coffee too bold, bitter, and tastes like burning. I brew my coffee at home, using my preferred blend (everyone’s got one, right?), throw in some half and half, and I’m one happy girl. That’s an easy six bucks a cup saved right there, plus I’m not adding to the landfill with all those paper cups.

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Scented Candles. I totally dig the atmosphere that scented candles add to my home. There’s something about the flickering light, the delightful aromas, the relaxation and stuff, but I can’t afford $30 candles. What I did find that I can afford is a warmer from WalMart ($3), a package of 100 tealights ($4), and the $2/pack wax cubes to go in the top. Those cubes last for days, and the package of tealights lasts for weeks. I get all the benefits of the luxuries of scented candles without the expense (or mess).

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Bubble Baths. I love a good bubble bath. No, I’m not an old-ass woman, don’t get me wrong. Problem is, I can’t afford $15 (or more) for a small bottle of bubbles that smell oh-so-good. So I wait until one of those bath stores has their sale where they’re clearing out the bottles of discontinued scents, or a holiday sale, and I stock up. You can score some fabulous and spendy lotions, creams, bubble baths, body sprays, and other sundries — without the spendy total.

How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Consignment Stores. I can’t say enough awesome stuff about consignment stores. Remember when Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City reference!) paid $398 bucks for a pair for her Manolos? Those were the good old days. These days, you can’t find Manolos for that price. We’re talking $800 or more. My underemployed ass certainly can’t afford that. Or can I? You would be shocked at what people consign. Unworn designer clothes with the four-figure price tags still attached. Shoes and boots that don’t look like they’ve ever been worn, or worn for one night. I’ve gotten leather Manolo sandals, snakeskin Dolce & Gabbana pumps, and leather Moschino mules for around the same price Dillard’s and Macy’s get for Steve Madden or Jessica Simpson man-made patent shoes. I once got a brand-spanking new pair of Ferragamo loafers for under $10. Don’t let the ick factor deter you. Those brand-new Madden pumps have been on somebody’s foot before, when a woman tried them on. Same goes for clothes. Women try on clothes and then don’t buy them. How is that any grosser than buying a professionally-cleaned designer garment in a consignment store?

I frackin’ love this site:




How To: Live A Champagne Life on a Beer Budget: Smoothies. Sunshine and I make our own smoothies instead of spending chain-smoothie prices for them. This is rad because it actually saves me money on skincare, because I know there are no ingredients in them that will break me out (damned allergies). The added benefit is that we snack on the fresh fruits instead of buying cookies and shit, so we’re theoretically healthier.

Being healthy? That’s also living the good life.

This site can offer some amazing deals:


How do you afford the champagne life on a beer budget? What luxuries do you indulge in (on the cheap?)

How To: Clean With Baking Soda

One of the more important things I’m learning about living life on the frugal side is that many things can be used for multiple purposes - like vinegar, which not only makes my sandwiches delicious, but also can be used to clean everything from toilets to coffeemakers, which is pretty full of the awesome. Another one of the green cleaning products I’m learning about is baking soda; specifically, how to clean with baking soda.

First, what the nuts is baking soda (besides something used for baking)? Baking soda, or sodium hydrogen carbonate, is a chemical compound, a white solid often sold as a fine powder. It’s often used as a way for bakers to make their delicious treats rise in the oven, and can be used in the laboratory to neutralize both acids and bases. But that’s neither here nor there.

how to clean with baking soda

That’s what baking soda looks like. Except with less balls.

Baking soda is a rad cleaning agent for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s non-toxic, even in large amounts.
  2. It’s green – which means that it also won’t hurt the environment
  3. It’s cheap as dirt.
  4. It’s got a ton of different uses.

(check this out – it’s pretty rad if you’re into green baby stuff. Not like GREEN babies, because that’s just awk)

Let’s get to the good stuff, shall we? Here’s how to clean with baking soda:

1) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Fire Retardant. If you’re prone to grease fires in the kitchen, sprinkling some baking soda on the fire can put the fire out.

2) How To Clean With Baking Soda: The Fridge. So you get some funky smelling shit in your fridge. It happens. A really simple way to reduce those nasty odors is to throw (read: place) a box of baking soda into the fridge, freezer or stinky cupboard to absorb the odors.

3) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Surfaces. To clean the surfaces in your kitchen, sprinkle a lightly wet cloth with baking soda, wipe the surface, then rinse it clean with fresh water. To get rid of super stubborn stains, make a paste using three parts baking soda to one part water, rub the paste into the stain, then rinse with warm water.

4) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Burned pans. We’ve all (raises both hands) burned some food to the bottom of a pan. One of the best ways to get that nasty shit gone is to sprinkle the bottom of the pan with baking soda, then soak overnight in hot water. Makes the nasty food easier to scrub clean.

5) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Hair Stuffs. To clean out your hairbrushes and combs (who the nuts uses combs?)(don’t answer that), clean ‘em with a solution of baking soda.

6) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Clogged Drains. Very little is grosser than clogged drains – so avoid ‘em by pouring a quarter of a cup of baking soda down ‘em once a week. Be sure to rinse the drain super carefully with loads of hot water.

7) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Laundry. Substitute half the normal amount of laundry detergent with baking soda – keeps clothes supa fresh.

8) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Kids Toys. One of the harder things about parenting is keeping kid’s crap clean. Why? Because they’re germ factories. So make a mixture using a quarter cup baking soda in one quart of warm water and submerge their germy toys in them. Then rinse the toys off with clean water.

9) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Litter Box. We all know cat poo stinks. So sprinkle some baking soda in the litter box to help remove some of the nasty stench from the house.

10) How To Clean With Baking Soda: Carpets. So your carpets stink. Happens. Luckily, you don’t have to live with it. Sprinkle the carpets with baking soda, let stand for over fifteen minutes, then vacuum up. Repeat this as needed.

—————–

What are some other ways you can clean with baking soda? I’m all ready to get down and dirty with green cleaning. Wait – that sounded weird.
 

How To: Spoil Your Pet Without Breaking The Bank

Let me start by saying that the dog was Sunshine’s idea. He snuck off one day when he was supposedly working and went to the rescue shelter and adopted our baby. Now that she’s here, there’s no way I’m giving her up. My puppy is my baby, and I love her very much; so, NO, you can’t have her. But now that she’s a part of the family, I had to learn how to spoil my pet without breaking the bank.

When your pet is part of the family, naturally you want to give the puppy/kitty/insert-animal-here all the things. Well, I do, anyway. I am constantly looking for little ways to give my puppy a special treat or luxury, but that gets expensive fast. Especially when your puppy is like mine – she lives to systematically destroy toys, leashes, and more toys and leashes.

This is how I’ve learned how to spoil my pet without breaking the bank.

I have discovered that Marshall’s, TJMaxx, and Ross are fabulous places to find nice pet stuffs and spoil my pet without breaking the bank.

I constantly buy my retractable leashes at these discount stores, because they offer them for a fraction of the price of similar items at pet stores. I’ve also gotten sweaters for my puppy there for far less than sweaters at the mega pet stores, and pennies on the dollar compared to the prices at pet boutiques. I occasionally find nice toys for my baby at these stores, and gourmet treats, and I even got a great deal on a couple of those poop-bag dispensers and little baggies to refill them.

I once got my doggie some shoes at one of these stores for about a quarter of what the pet mega-stores ask for them, which wound up being a good deal since my puppy hates the shoes. (I realize that it isn’t a deal if it doesn’t get used, but I can’t call it a waste of money when it is so entertaining to watch her try to walk in the puppy shoes.)

My favorite finds from these discounters include a luggage set (tote bag with traveling food bowl and water bottle) and the most adorable little doggie-bed THAT MY PUPPY ACTUALLY LOVES.

How To: Spoil Your Pet Without Breaking The Bank

Tell me that bed isn’t the most precious thing ever for my precious baby.

A little bed shaped like some sort of sea-shell/soup-bowl hybrid. That bed? Under $20 at Ross (I think $13.99 + tax, but I don’t remember), which is an amazing deal on something the dog actually uses as a bed instead of a toy-box or chew-toy.

(Yes, my dog has a doggie-bed that serves as a toy-box most days, until she decides she is enraged with it and drags it across the floor chewing on it and pulls on the broken zipper to get the foam out.)

Another great place to find doggie things? WalMart.

Normally, I hate The WalMart. It is just so big and so filled with stuffs, and as my hairdresser once said in the late 90′s, “How many canister sets with geese painted on them do people really fucking need?” However, with $5 sweaters and inexpensive little puppy-sized blankets and little doggie puffer vests with (faux) fur trimmed hoods, well, you can see why I would choose to buy puppy things from them. I also love their toy selection for dogs. I have found rope toys and squeaky stuffed toys for $1 each, 3-packs of tiny tennis balls for my tiny little girl for $1, and squeaky loofas for a few bucks.

When your dog is as systematic in her destruction of toys as mine is, $1 toys are the way to go.

Dollar stores of all kinds also carry inexpensive pet toys, which is another way I can give my puppy something new to destroy by simply digging the change out from under the car seats. Another great, yet inexpensive, toy found at dollar stores? Those little laser pointers. $1 each, and entertain the puppy (or kitty) for hours on end.

When my dog destroys a stuffed squeaky toy, I break out my cheap little sewing kit (needles, thread, needle threader, thimble, tiny scissors, all in a handy little case; only a couple of dollars at the WalMart or Dollar stores), poke the stuffing back through the hole, poke the squeaker back through the hole, and stitch it back up. My puppy doesn’t care if the thread doesn’t exactly match the color of the toy, so it doesn’t matter what color thread I use. This helps me get miles of use out of a simple $1-$3 toy. This trick is especially handy on those moments-of-weakness that are otherwise known as $15 toys purchased at the doggie-day-care boutique, because my dog destroys these expensive toys as quickly as she destroys the cheapie ones.

Because my dog is such a picky eater, when it comes time to buy treats I tend to stick to the ones I know she likes. I go online and search for coupons for these treats (I find them quite often, thank heaven), and grab them while I’m Krogering on the cheap.

One other place where coupons can help you get pet things on the cheap? Bed, Bath, and Beyond. My mom hoards those 20%-off-one-item coupons, because BB&B accepts them even after they’ve expired. I found a set of Puggs (puppy Uggs) on a clearance rack there for $9.99, and could have used the coupon on them, had my mom been willing to give me one of her coupons. She wouldn’t, because she said she would NOT participate in me torturing my puppy. However, this incident serves as a good example of how, sometimes, you can find great things for your pet in unexpected places.

This is how I spoil my pet without breaking the bank.

If any of you have more ideas, please share them with me, because I can’t stop shopping for my little doggie .

Hrms – I wonder if I can send him to Disney World…


How To: Clean With White Vinegar

The cleaning products aisle at my friendly neighborhood Target overwhelms me, but usually in a good way. I love cleaning (shut up, I’m sick, I know), which means I’m a sucker for those bright packages boasting that they’ll get my whites whiter than ever before (since their LAST cleaning product was released). Unfortunately, cleaning products cost a fortune as compared to the pantry staples I’m accustomed to buying – milk, eggs, diet Coke – and I knew that there were alternatives – like white vinegar. I simply didn’t know WHAT to use white vinegar on (besides my sandwiches).

How To Clean With White Vinegar:

First, the why’s: why does white vinegar work to clean stuffs?

White vinegar is an acidic substance, a mixture of acetic acid and water; a tasty and delicious addition to any food stuffs, and is effective as a household cleaner as it can dissolve mineral deposits, is safe for consumption (obvs) and manages to (especially if mixed with water) avoid damaging the surfaces it can clean. Vinegar has strong antibacterial properties as well -  5% vinegar is 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria. With the recent surge to find “green” products, white vinegar is also considered environmentally friendly.
Check this out if you’re into being green while parenting:



That’s all well and good, but what the nuts can you CLEAN with white vinegar? Here’s a list of things I found that can be cleaned using white vinegar:

What To Clean With White Vinegar:

What To Clean With White Vinegar: Yer Coffee Maker. Pour a cup or two of white vinegar into your coffee maker and run the coffee maker (without, naturally, coffee grounds) to remove any mineral buildup. Then rinse by running the coffee maker again two or three times with water.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Windows. Mix half white vinegar and half warm water to wash your windows.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Drains. Once a week, pour white vinegar down your drain in the kitchen so the drain doesn’t smell like hot ass.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Laundry. Add white vinegar to the water in the washing machine to make clothes both softer and fresher smelling.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Ants. Get a spray bottle, mix it with half white vinegar and half water to get rid of ants. Then spray those assholes down. You can also try and prevent them from getting into your pad by spraying down the areas where they enter your house – like window sills, doors, stuff like that.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Counter Tops. Soak a sponge or cloth in white vinegar, then use it to clean the crap out of your counter tops.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Microwaves. Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl, then microwave until the mixture reaches a boil. This should remove any caked on crap and make the microwave smell loads fresher.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Glassware. Wrap vinegar-soaked paper towels around any cloudy glassware, let sit/soak before rinsing clean with hot ass water.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Grease. Soak a sponge in white vinegar to get rid of caked-on grease-covered surfaces (like exhaust fans or the oven).
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Sponges. Take your dirty ass sponges and rags by putting them in a small dish with just enough water to cover them. Add 1/4 cup white vinegar and allow to sit overnight.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Grout. Clean yer grout by spraying with white vinegar, then scrubbing with a toothbrush. Just be sure not to USE that toothbrush for anything else. Because EW.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Bathroom Stains. Get rid of soap, hard water, and other stains by spraying your bathroom down with white vinegar, allowing to sit, and then wiping clean with a towel.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Toilets. Throw (or, rather, gently place) three cups of white vinegar into the toilet bowl, let it sit for at least three hours, then scrub it with your toilet brush. It’ll totally sparkle.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Fruit Flies. Well, okay, you don’t CLEAN fruit flies, but if you’ve got ‘em, this can help. If’n you have fruit flies, leave a small dish of vinegar out. Should kill ‘em.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Teakettles. If you’re a tea drinker, you know that minerals generally build up inside the tea kettle – pretty nasty and super hard to clean (I went through a tea phase while I was pregnant). If you’ve got that goin’ on, boil some vinegar for a couple minutes, allow it to cool, then rinse out your tea kettle with cold water.
What To Remove With White Vinegar: Wallpaper. Take off fug-ass wallpaper by spraying down with a mixture of half vinegar and half water.
What To Clean With White Vinegar: Pennies. If’n you save pennies and they’re dull, go ahead and soak them for a couple of hours in white vinegar.
What To Clean With White Vinegar:Kid Toys. Use a mixture of soapy water with a splash of vinegar to clean toys.
What To Remove With White Vinegar: Labels. You know those annoying-ass price stickers on your freshly bought stuff that tear off in an unsightly mess? Use a rag soaked in white vinegar and leave it on overnight. The label should come off pretty easily after that.

—————-

Got any other recommendations for cleaning stuff with white vinegar? Have you used white vinegar to clean stuffs?

 ————–

And because everyone else is promoting breast cancer awareness, I’m daring to be different and being all heart healthy:




How To: Use eBay

I remember the day, back when I rode some sort of in-pronounceable dinosaur to school and Jesus copied my notes in Trig, that I learned about eBay. I was over hanging with my friend Stef, listing to some Rolling Stones LP’s while she bustled around her auspiciously room looking for something to show me while I rocked out to Goat’s Head Soup (great album, by the by). We were on our way to grab a cup of coffee but we, according to Stef, had to find this particular item before we were going to set off to drink our weight in coffee. Finally, she emerged with it: a rhinestone covered antique cigarette case.

“Check it out, Becks,” she said, glowing as she handed it to me.

“Wow,” I replied, holding it in my hands. “This is beautiful.”

“My sister got it for me,” she said, pride oozing off her.

“Where?” I breathed, thrilled that I too could possibly own something so awesome some day.

“eBay,” she replied. “It’s like an online garage sale, Becks. You should try this shit out!”

After coffee, and before I even had an email address, I went on my Dad’s ancient computer and typed “ebay” into the search box. What I pulled up both overwhelmed and terrified me. There was just so much… stuff! And you could like… bid on stuff on eBay and oh holy good lord of butter, I just wanted A Pretty, not voting on stuff. I’m not cut out for auctions and that’s what it appeared to be – not a garage sale, but an auction. Auctions terrified me because they played on my deepest issues: once I got it in my thick head that I wanted something, I’d stop at (literally) nothing to acquire it.

Quickly, I turned off the computer, scared about what I’d seen on this eBay thing. I didn’t know how to use eBay and I wasn’t certain that I’d actually WANT to learn. eBay had Bad Idea written all over it. Especially once all of the eBay horror stories of people who sued for this or that, lawsuits climbing into the millions, did I realize how ill-prepared I was to use eBay.

Sure, I’ve bought a few items on it here or there, but overall, I pretend eBay doesn’t exist, just eBay pretends I don’t exist.

When it was decided that I was going to move out onto my own, I realized that eBay may suddenly become my bestest friend in the world. I’d originally planned to run an auction on my site, like we’d done with Band Back Together, but quickly realized that it was a bad idea. I’m not entirely certain WHY this is a bad idea, it just seems to scream STEP AWAY FROM THE AUCTION, BECKY, BEFORE ANYONE GETS HURT.

So I turned to my one-time nemesis, eBay, to see if I could figure out how to use eBay without being sued for millions of dollars I don’t have. This is what I learned before I made my decision:

How To Use eBay:

1) How To Use eBay: Make sure eBay is the right place for your item.

For example, I want to sell my old Big Mac, which is simply collecting dust – not broken in any way or anything – but I also cannot afford to list it without paying shipping, which, I’ve learned, is a real asshole. No one’s going to buy an old iMac to pay 60 bucks to ship, nor can I eat the cost of shipping, much as I may want to, just so it goes to a new home where it can be loved and used.

Items that are great for selling on eBay include:

  • Items that are popular – these may attract multiple people who want very much to battle it out over the item.
  • Items that (unlike my iMac but like my Burberry wallet) are easy and cost-effective to ship.
  • Rare items – if people can’t get stuff off Amazon, they’re likely to turn to eBay to get ‘er done.
  • Stuff that you can look at in pictures to ascertain if they are of good quality (or not)

2) How To Use eBay: Use your words. That means, using the proper keywords as well as a great description.

Writing a good description for eBay includes the following steps:

  • Search for similar items to your item on eBay and see what keywords pop up. Make sure to use those in your description without sounding spammy (ex: “Apple’s iMac 2007 desktop computer is a powerful iMac computer that is made by Apple.”)
  • Use both descriptive terms packed with the keywords you’ve discovered to make sure to answer any questions regarding the item and waste less time (both buyer AND seller time is valuable): “iMac desktop computer was manufactured in 2007 by Apple and has been upgraded to include more memory. Will be shipped in original box.”
  • Keep the description very succinct: “24 inch iMac computer,” so it’s easily accessible and telling.

3) How To Use eBay: Don’t Lie. The urge to make your item sound even better than the real thing can turn around and bite you in the ass when it’s purchased on eBay and discovered to be broken, even though you claimed it was in “perfect condition.” On eBay, your reputation is everything, so don’t dock your ratings by not disclosing any flaws in your item.

4) How To Use eBay: Be Professional. Like anything else in life, appearance is nine-tenths of the law or something, and people who are professional, use proper grammar and spelling are more likely to be trusted on eBay.

Tips for being professional on eBay:

  • Create an organized template for each item.
  • Include high-quality photos of your item.
  • Write a clear description of your eBay item.
  • Pick one category rather than a number of them.
  • Descriptions should include short but very informative sentences.
  • Think about what you’d want to ask about the item if you were the one purchasing it.
  • Practice excellent customer service – reputation is king and you want to make sure each of your customers is as happy as you can make them.

5) How To Use eBay: Pictures Matter. Not all of us (raises hand) are photogs. But since people are going to (presumably) bid on your item based upon the pictures and descriptions you set forth, it matters that you take a great photo.

Tips for taking great pictures for eBay:

  • Include photos of disclosed flaws.
  • Take non-blurry pictures
  • Use the right lighting on your snaps
  • Make sure that the photo is ONLY of the item, and not of packing materials, messy areas, or anything else that may deter a potential eBay bidder.
  • Use a photo-sharing site like Flickr to upload multiple snaps of your item and link to the set to circumvent eBay’s multiple picture costs.

6) How To Use eBay: Pricing. It can be very discouraging to learn that your item is worth less than you’d have imagined, but it’s vital that you make sure your price is set appropriately. See what other eBay sellers are listing the same (or similar) items for and set your price accordingly.

Tips for pricing stuff on eBay:

  • Check out the competition’s pricing and what (any) bids are for the item.
  • Use the old 0.99 rule – it helps people feel as though they’re getting a deal.
  • Odd or rare items, or items that are hard to price, set those at the lowest price you’re willing to accept.

7) How To Use eBay: Timing of your auction. Timing is everything, especially when it comes to snagging the right buyer.

Tips for timing your eBay auction:

  • Start the auction at night.
  • Sunday night is the best night to begin the auction.
  • Don’t forget that time zones do matter.
  • Don’t schedule the end of the auction at a time when people won’t be online (i.e. 4AM)

8) How To Use eBay: Policies. You must be certain to spell out your policies for items to keep a good reputation and avoid any unwanted confusion from the buyers to reduce the amount of time you may spend trying to please an unhappy customer. Try a week-long return policy that places half the shipping costs onto the sellers. Having a return policy makes people feel more secure about buying your item and because you’re setting the shipping costs at half, it ensures that people won’t simply return items on a whim.

9) How To Use eBay: Be Smart. Your buyers aren’t dumb and the whole, “free with thirty dollar shipping” thing really makes people not want to buy your stuff. In fact, most people turn away from an inflated shipping cost. If shipping on your item is cheap, don’t hesitate to say “FREE SHIPPING” or include the cost of shipping in the price.

When shipping, pack fragile items securely in bubble wrap or packing peanuts. The US post office has some of the lowest shipping rates anywhere, so try and ship whatever you sell on eBay via USPS.

—————

So now that I’ve done my research on how to use eBay, I’ve made an executive decision. There’s no damn way I can use eBay and maintain any semblance of sanity. Instead, I’m going to find one of those “authorized eBay merchants,” and go from there.

THIS site looks interesting – have you used it?


how to use eBay

———–

What do you know about selling and buying stuffs on eBay? What kinds of experiences have you had on eBay? Time to dish!