Easy Valentine’s Day Nutella Cookie Cups

Easy Valentine's Day Nutella Cookie Cups

Something about this season really makes me want to bake and sometimes, when I want something warm from the oven but don’t really have time to make something from scratch, I like to “cheat” a little and use these delicious refrigerated Pillsbury sugar cookies to make something that looks like I slaved over homemade treats. This recipe really fits that bill because they’re super fast and easy to make but they look really complicated so get ready for the compliments!

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DIY Vanilla Mint Lip Balm

DIY Vanilla Mint Lip Balm

If you are new to making lip balm, the first thing you should know is that it really isn’t as hard as you may think! It also isn’t time consuming either and one great perk is you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. If you have a good, natural base, then once you’ve made your own lip balm a few times, you will feel confident in changing the flavors and ingredients for them with no problem. This recipe has a good base which comes out nice and smooth and then with the addition of a great spearmint essential oil and vanilla extract you’ll have a perfect flavor combination.

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10 Things to Stock Up On During the Holidays

10 Things to Stock Up On During the Holidays

This time of year we have sales happening left and right. Sure you are thinking about gifts for the holidays and food for those smorgasbord meals. If that is all you are shopping for you are losing a great chance to stock up during the holidays for the best prices of the year. These ten items are worth stocking up on even if you have to mix your budget up a little.

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Make Your Own Chocolate Hearts for Valentine’s Day

Make Your Own Chocolate Hearts for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up shortly and I absolutely love to make gifts for my friends and loved ones for the holiday. These Chocolate Valentine Hearts are perfect because they’re so easy to make, they’re delicious and the presentation is wonderful. I’m planning to place them in decorative cupcake wrappers inside treat boxes as gifts for co-workers this year.

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11 Ways to Save on Christmas Gift Shopping

11 Ways to Save on Christmas

1) Use Apps

There are many smartphone apps that can help you save money on not only things you buy everyday but toys, games, and clothes. For instance Target’s Cartwheel app, as well as Michaels, Hobby Lobby and many more apps often contain percentage off and other coupons.

2) Use Coupons

As we get closer to the holidays you will notice an influx of coupons on hot toys of the season in grocery coupon inserts as well as printable online coupons. Companies like Mattel, Milton Bradley, and a few others will put out coupons that when combined with sales make for amazing deals!

3) Shop Sales

This may seem like a no brainer but really, when you see an item that is on your list at a great price, go ahead and grab it. Saving $2 or $3 dollars later on is probably not worth the running around, long lines, and gas money.

4) Start a Gift Closet

While it may be a little late for this year, you can start right after Christmas building a gift closet for next year. While tastes change, and your kids may not demand the hottest Star Wars toys next year there are plenty of simple items like clothing, stocking stuffers, cologne, and beauty products that you can pick up at a heavily discounted price after Christmas. Designate a large tub in your closet or somewhere else convenient and fill it with gifts throughout the year as you find amazing deals. We use ours for unexpected birthdays, hostess gifts, and of course I am always stocking up for kids Christmas and birthdays.

5) Price Match

So many stores have begun to price match against other stores paper or online ads that there is no reason to pay more or run around to 3 or 4 places to get a great deal. Most places will also match Amazon’s listed prices so look them up on your smartphone while shopping.

6) Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Purchase discounted giftcards at GiftCardRescue.com and Giftcards.com for anywhere from 5%-30% off the value. Use a $100 card that you purchased for $80 in conjunction with sales and coupons – you won’t believe how much you save.

7) Minimize Your Shopping

Get with friends and relatives at the start of the holidays and agree in advance to only buy for the kids or opt to draw names so you are only buying for one person or couple in the family instead of every third cousin and great uncle.

8) Re-Gift

Not last years fruit cake of course… But if you receive gifts that just don’t fit you or your lifestyle there is no harm in re-gifting. Just be selective with who you regift to, make sure that the original giver and the new recipient do not run in the same circles. Your pet sitter who keeps her nails meticulous might love the nail dryer Aunt Helen gave you.

9) Seach For Codes

I never buy anything online or head out to the stores without first checking RetailMeNot.com for discount codes. You can find everything from restaurants to photo developing on there and you can save a ton overall.

10) Research Online

Search sites like PriceGrabber.com for the best deals. Scope out reviews also – cheaper does not mean you will save more money in the long run and more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean the item will last longer.

11) Budget in Advance

Set a budget up front and stick to it. Oftentimes the thing that costs us the most is mindless spending with no aim in mind, and not knowing what you have spent until you pull the tangle of receipts from your purse at the end of the day. Have a list and do your best to stick to it at all costs.

How to Use Homemade Printed Tee Shirts

With the increasing accessibility of screen printing programs and materials, more people have been able to take advantage of screen printing in their own home. Making homemade printed tee shirts can be fun and easy when you have all of the right supplies on hand. Starting with a comfortable blank tee, you can turn your imagination into a one-of-a-kind creation. The following ideas are just a few examples of the many ways to use homemade graphic tee shirts.

Homemade Gifts

If you are finding it difficult to select a gift for a friend or loved one that really captures their personality or sense of humor, you may want to go the route of making a homemade gift. Although you may not consider yourself crafty or creative, a screen printed shirt made with a custom design, saying, or graphic can be a fun and unique way to give a personalized gift that they cannot buy in a store.

Team or Group Unity

When trying to create unity or cohesiveness amongst a large group, tee shirts are a great way to make a group into one unified body. If you find that custom logo printing is too expensive, you may want to try making printed graphic tees on your own. Starting with a basic shirt, you can create a matching logo to apply to all of the shirts you need made. Take a look at the following infographic to get more information about the basics of home screen printing.

Infographic below by ShirtSpace.com:

Screen Printing Instructions Infographic

Making Cashew Bark Holiday Gifts

Cashew Bark Holiday Gifts

I’ve enjoyed being a contributor to the $5 Dinners website for about three years now and this week I posted a recipe for my super easy Cashew Bark. There are only two ingredients, the bark is delicious, and it makes a great gift for the holidays!

Cashew Bark Holiday Gifts

The kids had so much fun helping me make the cashew bark, then after it had cooled and I broke it into pieces, they each got to fill up a Christmas themed coffee mug with bark for their teacher.

Cashew Bark Holiday Gifts

Once all the mugs were full, we even got to taste test some ourselves! We wrapped the mugs in simple white dotted cellophane tied with ribbon, and the kids can’t wait to hand deliver the gifts to their teachers at school tomorrow.

Cashew Bark Holiday Gifts

Shhhh – don’t tell the kids, but I made a BIG batch so we’d have some left over and I’ve already hidden most of it for later. I may even decide to share!

6 Ways to Make This a Cash Holiday!

6 Ways to Make This a Cash Holiday!Every year when the holiday season hits, it seems as if there is a race to drain our wallets. Don’t succumb! Let’s not use plastic to fund our season this year, and let’s not blow our budgets. It may require us to make some different choices, but it will certainly feel a lot better in January when we aren’t suffering the post-holiday financial hangover!

1) Make a Plan

I cannot stress this enough. Plan your budget, plan your gift giving, plan your event spending, plan your time. When we go into the holidays without a plan, we will become overwhelmed. And overspend. Does that bring you joy? Does it bring others joy? Then don’t do it! Determine what you realistically have to spend and decide how much of that amount you want to spend on gifts, parties, etc. I know it’s hard, but stick to it.

2) Cut Back

It is very important that if you find you don’t have the budget for all you would like to buy or do, that you make careful, conscious decisions of what to cut out. Decide which traditions are important to you and which ones you may be doing simply because you always have. If you buy Nutcracker ballet tickets every year, but your family really isn’t looking forward to going, don’t go. If you have a lot of holiday events you will be attending, don’t buy a new outfit for every event—work with what you have and buy a piece or two to jazz up what you already own. Pare back your holiday meals to the food that actually gets eaten—all too often we are throwing away perfectly good food.

3) Do Less Gift Giving and More Sharing of Time

See if certain friends and family may be willing to forgo the exchanging of gifts this year and instead exchange some quality time. By next year, you may have forgotten the token gift your girlfriend gave you, but my bet is you will remember going to see a free concert in the park with her.

4) Choose a Meaningful Gift

Sometimes we tend to overbuy because we KEEP buying! Choose a gift—ONE gift—that you want to buy someone and then STOP BUYING! It’s so easy to keep picking up little trinkets here and there, but resist the urge. All of those little things do add up rather quickly.

5) Plan Your Meals

November and December seem to fly by, and it becomes so tempting to pick up a pizza here and order in Chinese there. Instead, make a simple weekly meal plan that you can stick to. Even if you are just heating up a frozen pizza, it’s still less expensive than takeout. Plus, one weekly trip to the grocery store has to be a lot less stressful than 7 mad dashes to already packed fast food chains and carry out establishments.

6) Pat Yourself on the Back

It may be hard to not overspend, but you will thank yourself later. And honestly, you’ll feel more at peace with yourself through the holiday season. Take a little time to put your feet up, enjoy a mug of cocoa and congratulate yourself for making positive changes in your spending!

Photo Credit: iClipart

Inexpensive Gift Wrap Ideas

Gift box

The holidays are just around the corner, and the holidays mean all sorts of things to gift wrap. Get creative and think outside the box this year—literally—and wrap your packages stylishly, as well as inexpensively! Here are some ideas to get you started.

1) Newspaper End Rolls

Check with your local newspaper to find out if you can purchase an “end roll.” This is the paper that is left over at the end of a press run. It’s not enough for the newspaper to use for another run, but it’s PLENTY for you to find other uses for. They come in varying lengths, and you can usually purchase them dirt cheap. This plain, usually off-white paper can be used to wrap literally hundreds of presents. Use it plain or let your imagination (or your children’s imaginations) go wild embellishing it. Think of all the things you could do with paint, markers, stamps, stickers…the list is endless!

2) Newspaper

Newspaper topped with a bright bow makes for a pretty presentation. Use the comic pages for a whimsical touch!

3) Fabric

Have some fabric left over from a sewing or craft project that you don’t know what to do with? Use it as gift wrap! This works especially well for odd sized items. Simply set your gift in the center of the fabric, pull the fabric up around it and tie with a pretty ribbon or cord.

4) Old Sheet Music

If you have a small box to wrap, old sheet music is ideal. This one is especially fun when used to wrap a CD!

5) Things Found in Nature

Pinecones, evergreens and dried flowers all look very pretty when used as package toppers—and they’re free! All it takes is a little ingenuity and a good eye to come up with some innovative, natural ideas to spiff up your packages.

6) Odd Bits of Craft Ribbon

If you don’t know what to do with those leftover bits and pieces of ribbon from a craft project, use them to tie a colorful bow or to wrap around a package.

7) Part of the Gift

Instead of a bow, top a package with an item that is part of the gift. If the gift is mixing bowls, use a set of measuring spoons. Giving a book? Add a pretty bookmark to the outside of the package. How about tying a coordinating scarf around a box containing a sweater?

Use a few of these ideas and not only will you spend less on this year’s gift wrap, but you will also impress your gift recipients with your creativity!

Photo Credit: iClipart

Frugal Gift Giving Ideas

Frugal Gift Giving Ideas

The holiday gift giving season is getting underway, and for those of us pinching our pennies, this can definitely add stress to our budgets. Let’s use this as an excuse to get creative with our gift giving. Not only can we save some cash, but we can also give memorable gifts!

1) Give the Gift of Time

Sometimes the very best gift is the gift of yourself. Think about the people on your list. What do they like to do? Plan a day to do that WITH them. Do you have a family member who enjoys hiking? Plan a unique day of hiking and enjoy the outdoors together. Do you enjoy cooking? Offer to teach younger family members how to cook. They get new skills and the gift of your time. How about a movie buff? Borrow some DVDs, pop some popcorn and plan a night in.

2) Give your Services

We all have talents, and this is a great way to use them. Whether it’s sewing, babysitting, gardening, or housecleaning, give a “service gift certificate” for your loved ones to enjoy.

3) Preserve Some Memories

It seems we are constantly snapping pictures these days now that cell phones with cameras makes that easy. But what do we DO with all of those photographs? Make a collage of special photos from throughout the year or frame an especially meaningful one and present it with a handwritten note about what those memories have meant to you.

4) Journal It

This is an especially good gift for a parent or child. Find a pretty journal—or create one yourself—and fill it with all the wonderful memories you have of that person. Let that person know how special they have been to you throughout their lives. Let a parent know how they have helped shape who you are and made the holidays memorable for you. Tell your child how happy you were when they came into this world and highlight how you felt during big moments in their lives.

5) Gift Cards

No, a gift card isn’t always as meaningful as some of the previous ideas, but sometimes we get these cards as bonuses with purchases, as rebates or rewards. Save those—watch for expiration dates of course—and use them as easy gifts.

6) Free Samples

Peruse online freebie sites throughout the year, “like” various things on Facebook and redeem coupons for freebies that you get in the mail or in your email. Often you can create a really nice gift from these by putting them into a pretty basket or cute container. This is especially true of health and beauty items—these seem to be plentiful, you can easily make a fun “relaxation” basket from these, and who wouldn’t enjoy getting that as a gift?

The best part is, you give yourself a gift too—the gift of a mailbox NOT filled with holiday bills in January!

Photo Credit: iClipart