Cheap Wax From The Thrift Store

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:30 am on Tuesday, December 2, 2014

If you’re interested in No-Mess Candle Making, here’s a tip for getting cheap candle wax: check out your thrift store. They are full of half-burnt candles that usually sell for about $.50 or less.

These candles are cheap for a reason. Few people want a gummy, sticky, weird-looking candle in their house. But if you’re buying the candles for the wax, it doesn’t matter what the candle looks like since you’ll be melting it down.

I’d wager that short of reusing the wax in old candles you already have, this is the cheapest way to get candle wax.

Just make sure to smell the candle before you buy. It’s best to stick to no-scent wax in this scenario, unless you want your newly made candle to smell like a thrift store.

Make Your Own Charlotte Olympia’s Cat Shoes

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:27 am on Tuesday, November 4, 2014

These Chralotte Olympia Cat Velvet Flats are great looking. The problem? They cost $660. (Really??)

Screw that. Make your own. Born By The Seine shows you how.

The tutorial doesn’t say how much these shoes cost to make, but I bet they were a few bucks cheaper than $660.

Reducing Food Waste Round-Up

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:12 am on Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I’ve talked about reducing food waste quite a bit on this blog, but it looks like the issue is getting worse. A new study says that Americans waste 40%–almost half!–of their food, according to the Natural Resources Defence Council. An average family of four wastes $2,275 in food each year, or 20 pounds per person per month.


This is especially crazy at a time when food prices are skyrocketing and many families are struggling to pay their bills.

Even though my food waste isn’t anywhere near half of my food bill, this is an issue everyone can do better on. This month, I’m going to write down everything I throw out and then use that to get a sense of how much I’m really wasting. After that, I’ll take steps to rectify it.

I’m already doing better, too. Instead of tossing some old pears to the chickens today, I put them in the food dehydrator and am making dried pears instead. However, there was no saving that 1/3 of a watermelon that had mold on it. Into the compost it went!

Stay tuned for an update on this situation. In the meantime, here are some posts on reducing food waste:

How to Reduce Food Waste

Using Up Commonly Wasted Foods

Fridge Eat Me First Box

10 Things To Do With Overripe Fruit

100 Things To Do With Lemons

5 Things To Do With Stale Bread

What To Do With Milk and Cream

How To Freeze Tomatoes

Use It Up

Use It Up II

The Many Lives of My Dumpster-Dived Bureau

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:09 am on Friday, October 3, 2014

savvyhousekeeping dumpster dive diving bureau

Awhile ago, I found the above bureau in a dumpster. Someone had decided to get rid of it, and instead of selling it or donating it, they decided it should end up at the dump instead.

There was nothing wrong with it, and I happened to need a bureau, so we brought it home, cleaned it up, and used it in our bedroom. Use number 1.

Not long after that, I refinished the bureau. In fact, it was the first thing I ever refinished, which means that not only did I gain a bureau from this dumpster dive, I learned a new skill. (I kind of did a crappy job, to be honest, but this is how you learn, right?) Use number 2.

We used the bureau for four years, then we upgraded our bedroom set and no longer needed it. But my husband needed something to hold his tools, so we moved the bureau to the garage and loaded it up. Use number 3.

Then last August, someone gave my husband a nifty cabinet for tool storage, so we decided to get rid of the bureau. I put an ad on Craigslist and we sold it that same day for cold hard cash. Use number 4.

So to recap: we got the bureau for free and used it for six years. During that time, it had four separate uses that benefited us, not the least of which is that we came out of the endeavor with a profit!

Compare that to people who buy furniture for high prices and then throw it out when they are done with it. This is frugality in action, don’t you think?

If you have a similar story, please share!

Food Preservation Round-Up

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:16 am on Friday, September 19, 2014

Ah harvest. It’s time to do something with all that produce you grew. Here’s some recipes and how-tos to help:

Save Money By Dehydrating Fruit

Make Your Own Sundried Tomatoes

How I Made Blackberry Jam For $.69 A Jar

Orange Marmalade

Pepper Jam

How To Freeze Tomatoes

How To Freeze Basil

Make Your Own Zucchini Pickles

How To Freeze Basil

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:11 am on Friday, September 12, 2014

savvyhousekeeping how to freeze basil preserving

As I have mentioned, I have a lot of basil this year. My method for preserving it is simple: freeze it in ice cubes.

The best thing about this method is that you can use the basil as needed. All I have to do it remove the ice cube from a bag, stick it in a strainer, and let it melt. The basil will be wet and soft and taste better than dried. It can be added to any dish that calls for basil.

How To Freeze Basil:


    Ice Cube Trays
    Scissors or knife
    Plastic bags or other freezer-safe containers


Cut the leaves off the basil plant. Discard the stem (they are great in vegetable broth). Cut the leaves into pieces and push down so they are packed into each indentation of the ice cube tray.

Slowly fill the tray with water, then freeze until the ice is solid. Remove the basil-ice from the tray and transfer in a plastic bag for storage. Use the basil as needed.

5 Ways To Save Money In College

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:39 am on Thursday, September 11, 2014

When I graduated from college, I learned I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Here I was just starting out in life, yet I was heavily in debt and had to start paying right away. It was depressing and scary.

So I feel for the people in this NPR piece who are struggling with student-loan debt. Some of them owe $80,000 or $100,000. While that’s excessive, the burden for paying for college is worse than when I was in school, and the price of education is still going up.

It took me 10 years to pay off my school debt. I don’t regret going into debt for my education–getting a college degree is one of the best things you can do for yourself–but I could have owed much less if I had gone about things differently.

So learn from my mistakes. Here are 5 Ways To Save Money In College:

1. Pay Attention To The Loan Terms.
Don’t just sign papers. Try to get loans that have low interest rates, or better yet, no interest rates–they do exist for student debt. Understands the terms of the loan: what are the monthly payments? What are the penalties if you don’t pay? How long can you defer payment after you graduate? It’s important to know what you’re paying for school, if for no other reason that it’s a motivator to do well in class. You certainly won’t want to pay for the same class twice.

2. Reconsider The Dorms. Let me put it this way: when I graduated from college, the vast proportion of my debt was from living in the dorms. Had I gone right to living in a house with roommates, as I did later in college, I would have had a LOT less debt to deal with. There are benefits to staying in the dorms, and many schools require you stay there your first year (although I find that rules are usually negotiable), but dorms are often overpriced for what you get. You may do better living off-campus, so do a cost comparison.

3. Cut The Meal Plan. Make sure you are paying for what you will actually eat. My first year, I paid for eating in the cafeteria three times a day when I really just ate there once. That was a waste of money. Also, consider feeding yourself–a microwave and a small fridge (if allowed in the dorms) may be cheaper than a meal plan.

4. Be Smart About Books. Textbooks are notoriously expensive, so don’t just buy them in the student bookstore. Shop around. Most college towns have bookstores that sell used textbooks for cheaper than the school, and there are websites that sell used textbooks for a fraction of the retail price. There are other options too–you can share a book with a classmate or get it out of the library, although this can be difficult and annoying during exam times. Another option, and this worked for me, is to wait until you get to the class to see what the professor actually uses. Many times, they will assign books that they barely glance at during the class, so wait to see what the syllabus says before purchasing. It can save a surprising amount of money.

5. Don’t Procrastinate. Late fees. Parking fees. Handing in student aid forms after the deadline passes. Not getting a scholarship because you didn’t apply in time. All these things have one thing in common: procrastination. And procrastination is expensive. I racked up hundreds of dollars in parking fees because I was too lazy to get the change I needed to pay the parking meters. Eliminating procrastination can save thousands over the course of a college education–and isn’t a bad policy for studying, either.

So there are my tips. What tips do you have for saving money in college?

Tips For Thrift Store Shopping

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:39 am on Monday, July 21, 2014

Yesterday, a friend asked me where to get an office chair. I told her I got it at a thrift store for $15. It’s black leather and in excellent shape.

She needed a chair too, so we went to the same store and she found a chair for $16. She wasn’t sure the chair was quite right, so we went to a big office supply chain and looked at the chairs. They had the exact same chair we saw in the thrift store for $50. She went back and bought the thrift store chair and saved herself $34.

On the same trip, I bought a hole puncher and a binder for $2.25, combined. The same thing at the office supply store would have cost $16, according to their website. That means I saved $13.75 by buying secondhand.

Thrift stores aren’t the only options for bargain hunting. Estate sales, yard sales, consignment stores, and even antique stores yield great deals all the time. But regardless of the places you secondhand shop, some basic procedures make shopping go smoother. Here are some tips:

Make a shopping list–I have a piece of paper in my wallet with a list of things I want for the house. Sample things on my list right now: A coffee table, nickel-plated hardware for the kitchen cabinets, a glass pitcher, vintage wall phone, and a rolling shelf to fit under my desk. The list also has dimensions for the furniture so I know how big it should be.

Put everything on the list–Lots of people look at secondhand shopping as just a way to get clothes or furniture, when thrift stores (and the like) are a great place to get everything from wrapping paper to frames to office supplies. If you want it, throw it on the list.

Be patient–The key to bargain shopping is to keep looking until the things you want show up. I just bought two never-used, restaurant-quality cookie sheets for $1.50 total. New they would have cost me $50. Great deal, right? The thing is, I’ve been looking for them for about 6 months. So I saved a whopping $48.50, but I had to wait 6 months. It’s a trade-off.

Carry a measuring tape–I cannot tell you how many times I have used that little measuring tape in my purse, not just for secondhand shopping but for life in general. Since I write down the dimensions of furniture I want on my list, it comes in extra handy at a thrift store.

Use your imagination–Could you take that ugly chandelier and spray paint it hot pink for your daughter’s bedroom? Maybe a golf caddy could be turned into a tool caddy for the garden? Or how about taking those old 1970s pepper mills and painting them an awesome shade of turquoise? It takes a little creativity to spot a diamond in the rough.

Don’t buy just because it’s cheap–A good deal turns to wasted money if you don’t need or want the item at hand. I had to learn this lesson about clothes. It turns out that if I don’t like some item of clothing, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is, I still won’t wear it. And nothing makes me feel dumber than buying something at a thrift store and then donating it again a few months later. So when in doubt, don’t buy it.

Check Out This $1 Mansion

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 10:37 am on Thursday, June 26, 2014

This historic mansion in Memphis sold for $1.

The owners, Jose and Jennifer Velázquez, put in $2.1 million of renovations, and look at it now.

Bedroom before:

Bedroom after:

Bathroom before:

Bathroom after:

The mansion is now a bed and breakfast. Rooms are $245 a night.

There are so many gorgeous historic buildings in America that can be purchased dirt cheap. I don’t understand why more people don’t do this.

Check Out More Pictures Of The House Here.

Homemade Vs Store Ice Cream

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:47 am on Thursday, May 29, 2014

savvyhousekeeping homemade ice cream should buy ice cream maker

The most expensive ice cream I’ve seen was $10 a pint in Louisville, Kentucky. I could hardly believe my eyes. Since then, I’ve noticed that ice cream prices have gone up. The local $4-a-pint ice cream is suddenly $5-a-pint ice cream, and goat milk ice cream has shot up to $7 a pint. (I never liked it that much, anyway.)

But I’ve found a way around this: make your own ice cream.

Before I go on, I should say that if I’m going to indulge in ice cream, I want real ingredients in it, like cream and milk and eggs. When you start to see corn syrup sweeteners and emulsifiers and ingredients like “Propylene glycol,” the price begins to drop, but so does the flavor. Luckily, I’ve found that making my own ice cream is a way to get high-quality ice cream on the cheap.

Of course, there are downsides to making your own ice cream: it requires time and an ice cream machine.

Some people make their own ice cream makers, but for most of us, it’s easiest to invest the $50-$70 into a new machine. (Or, as always, buy one used.) If you plan to eat ice cream regularly, the machine will pay for itself over time.

Here’s why: your typical pint of nice-quality vanilla ice cream costs about $5. Homemade vanilla ice cream costs me about $.60 per pint. That’s a savings of $4.40/pint.

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe:


    2 c whole milk
    1 c heavy whip cream
    2 eggs
    3/4 c sugar
    1 Tbs vanilla


Beat the two eggs until they are slightly lightened in color. Slowly add the sugar and beat until integrated. Stir in the cream, milk, and vanilla. Chill thoroughly and pour the batter into an ice cream maker, according to directions. Let ice cream set up before eating.

This makes roughly 4 cups of ice cream, or 2 pints. I get the eggs for free from my chickens. The vanilla I made myself. The sugar costs about $.10. I buy whip cream in bulk from Costco for $3.99 a half gallon, or $.50 a cup. Milk is about $.25 per cup. That’s $.10 + $.50 + $.25 + $.25 = $1.10 for 2 pints of ice cream, or $.60 per pint.

Of course, most people buy eggs and vanilla, so lets add another $.70 on that price, or $1.80 for 2 pints of ice cream, or $.90 per pint.

I’ve heard that you can cut that price down farther by substituting half-and-half for the milk and cream above, although I haven’t tried it. This would have the added benefit of being lower fat, too.

There’s nothing wrong with buying ice cream from the store, and I still do it from time to time. But if you eat ice cream regularly, making your own saves enough money that it’s worth looking into.

And best of all, if you make your own, you can experiment with all kinds of crazy flavors. Here’s some recipes to get you started:

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