Friday, March 14, 2014

You're So Vain

I admit it-- I'm vain, like really vain, when it comes to my teeth. Although they aren't all that straight, I'm that person who brushes her teeth 3x a day and not necessarily for good oral hygiene-- although I totally find that important, too. I'm just a sucker for a great smile. A good smile is almost always, the first thing I notice about people. Because of that, I am constantly on the lookout for products that will whiten mine.

You name it, I've tried it: baking soda, baking soda with peroxide, whitening toothpastes, whitening strips, gums, mouth washes... the list goes on. The only thing I have never tried is a professional whitening and only because it's so stinkin' expensive and you know Clippin' & Savin' ain't got time fo'dat.

A few weeks ago, I was scanning Pinterest and found a teeth whitener, of which, I was completely skeptical-- activated charcoal! Say, whaaa? So, I did what everyone else would-- I headed straight to Google.

Crunchy Betty is the one who had the best explanation of how it works and how to use it. You can find her article about it, here. The short version is, activated charcoal is merely carbon. It was used in toothpastes before hydrogen peroxide replaced it, to whiten teeth, as it's apparently attracted to tannins, that stain teeth in the first place.

Because I just can't bring myself to spend $40 on whitening strips every month AND because they make my teeth so stinking sensitive, I decided to head to my local pharmacy. After checking at the nearest Walmart and Publix pharmacies, where they looked at me like I had just grown a second head (in their very presence, no less), I just happened to ask my pharmacist friend Grace, when I stopped in another nearby Walmart, yesterday. Not only did Grace overlook the 4 young'uns, who act like the blood pressure cuff and Dr. Scholl's inserts machines are rides at Disney World (and they may or may not have been handing out fast passes to the older people behind them...), but she also didn't bat an eye when I asked her if they carried activated charcoal capsules. For roughly $5, I bought the caps and went happily away, to give it a whirl. I bought it for the tooth whitening power, but the fact that it can "relieve gas and bloating FAST"-- well, THAT's good to know. :)

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Because I am always looking for ways to whiten my teeth, I was completely skeptical of turning them BLACK, with activated charcoal. However, I cut open a capsule, added a wee bit of water and went to work. After swishing the slurry in my mouth for about 2-3 minutes, I began swishing & spitting-- a lot! Then I brushed-- first with just a wet toothbrush, then with toothpaste.

The pics are as follows: top left is before, top right is after the 1st use, the bottom left is during the 2nd process (talk about GROSS!!), and the bottom right is after.

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I know, I know... the "during" picture is completely funk-nasty-filthy and completely looks like 'Bubba Teeth'. I get it. I really do. The twins wanted to be brave and try it, but they were very fearful. So, being the awesome, fearless mom I am, I gave it another go... you know, to set an example, not to whiten my teeth any more-- oh who am I kidding? Of course I wanted to see if it would work a 2nd time!

I sent my results to my BFFs, via text, and both said, "I want to try it!!". (Insert "All I Do Is Win" bed music, here). Both immediately had questions like, "Does it taste bad?". My opinion is, it's less abrasive and tastes better than baking soda, although you'll look like a dirt-munching zombie, while using it.

If you're looking for a way to whiten your teeth, you might give activated charcoal a try. It's cheaper than other methods and I promise you'll get a good laugh out of seeing your entire mouth black. Smile purdy and save on, friends! :)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Blinded By The Light

I think I suffer from an undiagnosed condition. The condition is, I do (or think) things in my MIND, but they never actually get done. However, since they were accomplished in my MIND, I feel like I've actually done them... My friend Shaun and I were talking a few weeks ago about buying blinds and I said, "I've blogged about it". I went back and checked and umm... no, I actually had NOT. My 'condition' strikes again... I wrote this article (in my mind) a while back. So, please pardon the fact that it's just now making it in actual print... I know you've been holding your breath. :)

Five years ago, we built our house. Once the windows were in, I measured all the windows and wrote the sizes and the rooms they would eventually go in on a small piece of paper. I then placed that piece of paper in my wallet, for the many trips I would be making to home improvement stores.

Lowe's and Home Depot cut wooden and and faux wood blinds every day. However, on occasion, they will mis-cut blinds and, if they actually make it out of the store before the mistake is realized, they will be returned. When the blinds are returned. Once they are cut, the store cannot sell them for the original price, so they will often discount those blinds for 50% or more of the original price. This also happens when blinds (or anything, really) are special ordered and returned.

While we were still building, I would visit my local home improvement stores as often as possible and check the rack of mis-cut blinds. Stores put them in different places, so check your local store and ask where they keep theirs. With patience and continuous checking, I was able to purchase faux wood blinds for every room for at least 50% of what they would have cost-- and if you're keeping score, the larger the window, the bigger the blinds, the more the cost. As long as you aren't in a hurry to cover your windows, there's a really good chance that you can get your blinds on the cheap... just make sure you write down the window sizes and carry it with you, so when opportunity knocks, you can open the door... or window, as it were. :)

As for me, I still have 2 windows I'm waiting, ever so patiently, to cover... in the garage. So, until I find blinds in the right size on the cheap, I am using old curtains, with the lining toward the road. I mean, it's a garage for goodness sake... However, occasionally, I will see a set of blinds I think might fit, so I whip out my handy-dandy sheet of measurements to check. If you're in the market for new blinds, get to measuring, write it down, be patient, and save on, friends! :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Clippin' & Savin'-- Literally.

Financial Guy & I have been together for a long time. As a matter of fact, we met in college, when we were 18 and dead broke. Being broke college students, we were both looking for ways to cut costs. At some point in those early years, Financial Guy needed a hair cut & it was determined that I could, in fact, wield a pair of scissors (on paper, mind you, although I can also usually throw a mean game of "paper, rock, scissors"). Because I got skills, I was named prime candidate for cutting home skillet's 'do when he took himself down to "the Walmart"and bought a Wahl home hair cutting kit... let's just surmise that fate shined on him and 'the bowl' haircut was popular. Although a bowl was not actually utilized for said cut, it merely looked like it had been.

Fast forward a few years and we were married, but still dead broke. However, being gainfully employed, we felt it necessary for him to have a "real" hair cut. Financial Guy likes his hair cut about every 3 weeks... this can add up fast, especially when you're as poor as "two church mice" or "Job's turkey"-- I've heard these expressions my entire life and, for the life of me, can't figure either of them out.

The hairdresser I used was kind enough one day, to show me some tips for giving financial guy a non-bowl, professional cut and the rest is history. Four kids later, I now shear and/or clip 5 heads, when necessary.

That really is me, that really is one of the twins, and I really (truly) am cutting his hair. We are so straight-ghetto (or redneck... take your pick. There really isn't much difference, truth be told) that-  

1) we don't put newspaper on the floor. They don't do it at a salon, so why should I? I own a broom, doggone it, so I sweep and vacuum after cutting hair. We also...

2) don't own a hair cutting cape. We go old-school and use a towel, held together in the back with a hair clip. I just roll the towel up, take it outside, & shake it out between cutting heads of hair. Rumor has it, the smell of human hair deters deer from eating your plants. We have exactly 1 tree in our yard. Well, it was a tree, until a deer got a hold of it. Here's hoping apples grow on bushes, since that's what it resembles now... Here's also hoping that shaking the hair off the deck will keep our exactly 1 apple bush safe from Bambi's buds.

Although I can't do hip 'dos, I can do basic enough cuts to save us from spending so much stinkin' money on coiffured locks. I know all too soon, the twins are going to want a specific style & I'm just gonna have to bite the bullet & take them to have it done. That said, I'll be asking lots of questions & paying close attention to attempt to replicate it at home. I'm very meticulous about cutting hair, but not formally trained to do such. As a result, there are times when the cuts are better than others. When people find out I cut Financial Guy's hair, the question is often asked "do you let him cut YOUR hair?". I love the guy, but let's just say there's a reason why I call him "Financial Guy" & not "Edward Scissorhands." :)

If you are looking for a way to cut costs for your family, this might just be an easy enough way, especially if you can get a few tips from your hairdresser. Cut, color, you name it & I ain't skeert to try it... just don't ask about the time my hair was purple-- on accident, not to be the cool rocker-chick type that I think I am. I exaggerate a lot, but the purple hair story is no exaggeration.

If you mess up, my philosophy is "it's just hair, it'll grow back". :) Give it a try. It just may help you take a little off the top-- pun intended. :)  Save on, friends!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Curtains on the Cheap

Confession: I'm cheap. I'm not crafty, although my Pinterest boards would tell you I get jiggy with crafts. I never had a single Home Ec class in high school-- and I'm southern! How the heck does that happen?! I mean, I'm not sure a southern woman will be let into heaven without knowing how to make a mean banana puddin' and having been presented at a cotillion, but I digress... Long before Pinterest, I was young and newly married, with a desire to make our starter home as cute as possible. I knew the basics of how to sew with a machine, by watching & helping my mom. However, reading a pattern was something entirely different.

Second confession: I am a sewing pattern flunky. I mean, truly. All those goofy notches and whatnot... just show me where to cut and sew, for the love! After a couple of times of trial and failure, I finally branched out and have never looked back. I make my own patterns... on paper grocery bags. Yep... you read right.

Five years ago, we built our current house. Our kitchen windows have been sans curtains since moving day, until a couple of weeks ago. I've mentioned how cheap I am. I'd been looking at Goodwill for curtains, but never could find any that didn't just reek of (among other things) 1977, so I started looking for sheets and/or material there, as well. This went on for about 2 years. We live a handful of miles from Joann's craft store, where they have material run amok. Don't judge. I'm cheap, not to mention I struggle with making decisions. About a month ago, I found 3 sets of floral valences at Goodwill. The colors were perfect, but I was uncertain as to whether they were too "country". My friend Kim said, "they aren't blue with ducks", but I still wasn't convinced. Ultimately, I decided to basically remake them.

I whipped out my bags, scissors, & ruler and cut out the pattern for the curtains. Next, instead of leaving the material bunched, as the intended valence, I pulled it taut.

And bless... you can see from this picture that before I stretched them out, I tried every trick I knew to use those doggone curtains the way they were. It just wasn't happening.

The valences were not lined and heaven forbid the neighbors --that do not live behind us-- be able to see the fabric through unlined curtains... potentially this is a southern thing. I definitely wouldn't want folks doing a drive-by, shaking their heads, tsk-tsking, and saying, "Can you believe she didn't line her curtains?!". Using an old, white bedsheet for the lining, I lined the new curtains, and sewed in a tassel. Voila! New curtains. Sidebar: the cheapest material to use for lining is often times inexpensive sheets, especially if you can get them at Goodwill. My total cost-- $4 per valance. I bought 3, could've gotten away with just 2, $1.50 x 4 tassels (on sale at Joann's), $2 x 4 spring rods to fit inside my windows = $26 for 4 windows.

You can't really tell from this picture, but the window that is off by itself is considerably smaller than the other 3. Because of that, I had to whip out my crazy-sick Geometry skills and adjust the original bag pattern. This is why I love using bags: If I screwed up the dimensions, no big deal-- just cut another one! Financial Guy, who knows my history with math (suffice it to say, we ain't necessarily BFFs), sneered & said, "you think you're a Geometry teacher or something?". Well, as a matter of fact... Three new cuts later, ta-da... a smaller pattern.

My friend Kim sent me a text a couple of days after seeing the new curtains & said, "there's a house (in a high dollar neighborhood) that has triangular curtains with tassels! Go on, Mrs Southern Living". Well, I don't know about all that, but I do know that when I stand at the pearly gates & am asked if I've been to cotillion, I'll whip out pictures of my homemade curtains and hope they pass. :)  Do whatever it takes to stay cheap and save on, friends! :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Poppin' Tags

I have long been a fan of Goodwill shopping. However, it took a song by Macklemore to put my feelings into words. Please allow me to break off a little piece for you... "I'm gonna pop some tags, only got $20 in my pocket. I'm huntin'... this is... awesome."-- Thrift Shop by Macklemore 

Financial Guy was never excited, when I'd bring home something I felt like I practically stole, but when I'd reveal the true value of said bargain, he'd say something like, 'that's good'... until last night.

Our twins are literally growing like weeds right now & it's absolutely ridiculously hard to keep them in pants. It's almost like as soon as you wash them, they outgrow them! They announced yesterday morning (as we are getting ready for church, mind you) that NONE of their pants are long enough any more. Not an issue if it's not 20 degrees outside... which, of course, it was. Nice. Time to pop some tags.

Financial Guy was with me (something I usually try to avoid, strictly because having him follow me around, while I'm "huntin' for a come up" is quite possibly worse than taking a crying hound because I usually hear "how much longer?" about 3,000 times.) and I was a wreck about it. I immediately land 3 pairs of pants for the twins, all popular names, a Land's End fleece for me, and a suh-weet pair of Issac Mizrahi 4" summer wedge heels, NWT (new with tags), thank you very much. Then Financial Guy appears... holding a shirt (shut up!). He says, "this has an orange tag & that sign says orange tags are 99 cents." He smiles. It's his favorite brand. I say, with the sweetest smile I can muster (that smacks just a tad of 'told you so'), "so get it".

$18.50 later, we're headed home and Financial Guy immediately gets on the computer. He looks up the Joseph A. Banks shirt he just scored & they're listed for (get this) $99 on the website (are you kiddin' me??), but they're on sale for a mere $49. Seriously?? However, it makes his 99 cent purchase all the sweeter.

The point here is two-fold. The most obvious, there are uh-mazing deals to be had and many things are still NWT. However, if you're familiar with brands and how much they sell for, there are also lots of opportunities to buy & resell deals you find on places like Craigslist or eBay. For instance, I found
these boots  a couple of weeks ago for less than $20 and their list price on eBay, at the time, was $89. The best I've heard recently however, was a friend of mine bought a Mickey Mantle baseball glove for $1.99 & listed it on eBay 2 weeks before Christmas. That puppy sold for $850! You read right.. eight hundred and fifty dollars!

Am I telling you to be some kind of Goodwill hoarder and fill your house with junk you'll never use or sell? Not a chance. What I am telling you is try to pop some tags before you hit the mall. You may just start singing Thrift Shop and yell, "This is awesome!". Again, big shout out to Macklemore. Save on, friends!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Beating Your Tom Tom(s)

Many of you jumped on the Toms shoes bandwagon months (or years) ago. There are others of us, however, who just can't stomach the thought of shelling out $50 or more for a pair of slouchy kicks. I suppose I am defiant, regardless of how stylish they are, how comfortable they are, or the fact that the company gives a pair of shoes to someone without shoes, when you purchase them. Surely that last one puts me in the same category as Cruella De'Vil! :)  However, just when I thought all hope was lost, I found a Toms outlet!

The shoes on the outlet site are about half the price you pay in a retail store, plus they have many styles and sizes. The only issue I've seen is that they don't carry kids shoes-- sorry, this party is adults (shoes) only. :)  No matter, Toms still donates a pair of shoes to people in need, regardless of whether you purchase them online, in a retail store, or via their outlet... which is pretty cool, I think!

So, if you've beaten your Toms up and are contemplating a new pair or if you're just kicking around the idea of your first pair, per chance, this is YOUR chance! Have a great day & save on, friends! :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Is It Worth It?

To steal a line from Missy Elliott (although I'm quite sure she meant something, umm, entirely different), when it comes to saving money can you say "Is it worth it? Let me work it"? Are you willing to go out of your way or do something others wouldn't to save your family some money?

Imagine this scenario: It's Saturday morning, your family is all snug in their beds, and you sneak away to the grand opening of a local store, because they are giving away $10 gift cards to the first 50 people, a $5 off $20 purchase coupon, and gift bags to the first 200 people. Do you stay in bed or do you jump up (even if it resembles dragging yourself) from the bed saying, "Is it worth it? Let me work it" to see how far you can stretch the $5 that you would actually have to spend?

I've said before that I live out in the sticks, so opening a Dollar General 'round these parts is big news. This morning, when I told Financial Guy I was going to the grand opening because of all the goodies I mentioned earlier, he looked at me like I had lost my mind. His words literally were, "you're going to wait in line for nearly an hour for $10?"  Well, let's look at it like this: If you found a $10 bill on the ground, would you step over it or pick it up? Let me sweeten the pot-- you've just found $15. I can't answer for YOU, but right after I did my Girl Scout duty of looking around to make sure some sweet little ol' lady hadn't just dropped it, but then after that quick spurt of good deed, I'd pocket the booty.

When the doors opened this morning, I made my way around the store with way more than 50 other early risers to gather the loot I was after.

After the $10 gift certificate, $5 coupon, and other manufacturer's coupons, I ended up paying $7.58. However, at checkout, I also received another $5 coupon toward a future purchase, along with a goody bag with cleaners and other 'stuff' (water bottle, calculator, etc-- basically anything you can put a logo on). If you take that additional $5 into account, I will eventually only end up spending $2.58. Woot! You're looking at a snapshot of things my family needed. Could I have stretched that money even farther, if I purchased other things? Probably, but in my opinion, it's about saving money on the things you need at the time and getting deals on things you can stockpile.

It doesn't have to be Dollar General. This idea of the early bird getting the worm can apply to any store that offers a promo or crazy good sale. Which brings me back to Missy's question and hopefully will have you singing, "Is it worth it? Let me work it." Make your money work for you and save on friends!