Archive for the ‘Budget Friendly’ Category

Magic Cupboard

Marianne Stuart with Children

Marianne Stuart

I have a magic cupboard and, if you are a busy mom, you should have one too.  I learned about this concept from a friend who has since passed away.  Cheryl had a closet that consisted of gifts of all varieties for different occasions.  The best part of this idea is that the gifts are purchased at your leisure and at a deeply discounted price.  

My magic cupboard is a room in my basement.  I have shelving units in it.  I shop year-round and I also specifically shop at Black Friday sales to fill my shelves.  When one of my children comes to me and needs a gift for a birthday party, I don’t have to rush out late at night and spend full price.  I head to the basement and bring up a few items for them to pick from. I also keep a good stock of gift bags.  

I have expanded this idea to include shopping for my children’s’ birthdays and Christmas gifts.  For that reason, I don’t let my children into the magic cupboard much.  I also buy with the intention of giving items to our church, who in turn give them to needy families at Christmas.  

Occasionally, I will find that I have things that seem to have gone out of style or I just don’t want to give to anyone anymore.  These items are perfect to be donated to Goodwill or I let my kids go through them.  Who would have thought that a portable cassette player would be so cool?!

My husband wants me to warn you that shopping for your magic cupboard has to be managed carefully and with restraint.  For some reason he thinks I have too many things in mine.  I beg to differ.  All I know is that even if I do have a lot, I have saved so much money and time by being prepared.


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A Recipe for Saving on Laundry Costs

Tracey HeslipMy girls tell me this is a boring first blog, but I figure if I can get you on the road to saving money then the sooner the better!

Raising a family in today’s economy sometimes calls for drastic measures. About 2 years ago I Googled “living frugal” and it brought up numerous ideas for being creative while providing for your family on a budget. One of the things I found was making homemade laundry soap. It’s easy, cheap and fun…and it WORKS! I can make 10 gallons of soap for just $3!

My husband, Jim, is a mechanic and this laundry soap works on his greasy uniforms. If you have stains, keep a bar of Fels Naptha in your laundry area for pre-treating. Also, for really ground in dirt or things like red wine, soak clothing in equal parts of water and laundry soap. I did this with my girl’s canary yellow soccer uniforms that had been worn while playing in the rain right after the field had been mowed. They had so much ground in mud and grass stains I thought I’d never get them clean…and waalaa…canary yellow showed not one stain.


  • 1 Fels Naptha soap bar, grated
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup Borax

Other Things You’ll Need:

  • Small Saucepan
  • Hot tap water
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Smaller laundry detergent container (with a lid)

Grate the bar of soap into a small saucepan. Cover with hot water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continually, until the soap completely dissolves. Do not walk away from the pan; if it boils it will make a mess of your stove. I learned the hard way!

Put washing soda and borax in a 5-gallon bucket. I put the bucket on a chair next to the kitchen sink to make for easier handling and less mess. Pour in the hot, melted soap mixture. Stir well, until all the powder is dissolved. Fill the bucket to the top with more hot tap water. Stir, cover, and let set overnight. If you let it stand longer it won’t hurt. The next morning, stir the mixture. Mix equal amounts of soap concentrate and water in a smaller laundry-detergent dispenser or container. Shake before using. At first, I used milk jugs but they don’t hold up very well, so now I use windshield washer solvent jugs that Jim saves at work. They have a good locking lid and last for many uses. Think of how green that is!!! 

Directions for Use:

  • Use 1 cup per load for top loaders
  • Use 1/3 cup per load for front loaders

Now, For Fabric Softener!
Buy your favorite fabric softener and a pack of cello sponges. Cut the sponges in half. Get an empty baby wipe container or something similar. Put 1 part fabric softener to 2 parts water in container with sponges. When putting a load of clothes in the dryer, take a sponge and gently squeeze it and put it in the dryer like a dryer sheet. Use your fingers or plastic tongs that you can just leave in the laundry area. When the clothes are dry put the sponge back in the container. The sponges will hold up for 6 months to 1 year depending on how much laundry you do. This stretches your fabric softener saving you $$$$!!!!

I LOVE sharing these recipes with people. Why pay money for something you can make. Also, this is a GREAT project to do with your kids!!!


10 Thrifty Summer Fun Things to do With Your Kids

Lori VacekIt’s summer time! With the kids home on a full-time basis, coming up with new, fun things to do can be time consuming. Then throw in trying to stay on a budget and you could spend your whole day coming up with just one thrifty thing to do. Here are my top 10 thrifty fun things to do with your kids this summer:

  1. Create a Craft Station – Gather all the possible craft and art supplies into one central location. I have mine in a cupboard near the kitchen table for easy access. If you are low on craft supplies, yard sales and dollar stores are cheap sources for great stuff. On a lazy summer day we all sit down together and create!
  2. A Weekly Visit to the Library Keep a calendar of special activities and events. And join the summer reading program. We like to get a good book and take turns reading together.
  3. Water Fun! – Water fights, sponge toss, or just purchase a cheap sprinkler at Wal-Mart for $.99. Find a friend with pool privileges and make a weekly date. We even wash the car. The kids have a great time and I get a clean car!
  4. Have a Home Economics Class – We do a weekly class and learn to sew a button on, fix a hem, embroidery stitches, and do a simple repair. Even my 10-year old son loves it, and it gives the children independence. 
  5. Bargain Shopping – We love garage sales, The Goodwill and the Salvation Army. I give each child $2 and see who can get the best deal. We have bought some beautiful school clothes from Gap, Express, and Hollister’s with tags for $1 – $2 dollars.
  6. Cook and Shop Together – I include children on grocery shopping and teach them to comparison shop. Then each lunch and dinner they take turns helping to cook. They learn skills and love sharing their creation with the rest of the family. My children have now learned enough that there are many meals they can take over and cook while I sit and watch.
  7. Nature Walks and Journaling – There are so many cool places to explore in and around our area. I buy each child an inexpensive notebook and encourage them to draw what they discover. Then we fill in the page with facts from the library, internet, or books from home. My daughter did one on butterflies that was amazing!
  8. Do work projects together – Make a garden, or refurbish one. My older son and I made a Victorian Herb Knot garden together in which we both have fond memories. Clean the garage or a closet. Organize some drawers. My kids fuss a bit but when it’s done they enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
  9. Spend time with Family and Friends – Summer is a perfect time to catch up with good friends and far away family. Our whole family loves going to a special event, the zoo, camping or a cookout. A festive attitude goes a long way to add fun to just about anything you do.
  10. Do It Together! – Most of all, for any successful activity, do it together! The memories you make this summer, and for summers to come, will last a lifetime!