9 Excellent Black Friday Shopping Tips

The biggest shopping day of the year is about to happen next week. I’m pretty sure it now rivals and perhaps beats out Boxing Day sales. Black Friday can be a fantastic time to score great deals on Christmas gifts. It can especially be a great time to shop if you know a few tips and tricks to make your shopping successful.

Here are 9 excellent Black Friday shopping tips:

black-friday-shopping-tips

Bookmark my giant Black Friday post

Coming up next week, I will have my annual list (it’s giant!) of Canadian Black Friday deals. Simply peruse the list to find the stores that interest you, click the links, then start shopping from the comfort of your own home!

Buy discounted cards for the stores you will be shopping at.

Go shopping with discounted gift cards instead of cash to save yourself some moolah! There are many stores like Real Canadian Superstore/Loblaws, Rexall and Shoppers Drug Mart that offer discounts on gift cards for stores such as Old Navy and Gap during their weekly sales. You might also want to take a look at CardSwap.ca for discounted gift cards. However, I’m not sure you will receive your card in time for Black Friday shopping.

Ditch the big shopping cart if you’re shopping in-store.

Just don’t even think about getting one of those large cumbersome shopping carts if you plan on shopping in-store. Grab a basket or bring a large reusable shopping bag (IKEA bag anyone?) to avoid collisions or getting stuck in an aisle when you just want to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible.

Make your shopping list in order of importance.

Is Santa promising to bring a Rescue Bots toy this year? You better put that first on your shopping list! By making your shopping list in order of importance, you’re really helping yourself to not forget that all important gift.

Sign up for emails for the stores you will be shopping at.

Whether you’re shopping in-store or online it can be extremely valuable to sign up for the email list of the stores you will be shopping at. Almost certainly, they will include coupon codes or coupons you can print/show on your phone for an extra discount. Often times email subscribers can also start shopping the sales earlier online.

Shop online.

The same sales are typically available online too, save for the extreme doorbusters. Save yourself some time and energy by shopping from the comfort of your own home. (This is my preferred method ;))

Join loyalty programs

Might as well join the loyalty programs for the stores you will be shopping at if you haven’t already! Collect points that can translate into free items or even extend certain perks. (I’m thinking the TJX card from Winners.)

Shop online at Amazon.

Because I’m such a fan of online shopping, I usually check Amazon.ca first. Black Friday will be no different because I find that they usually have some great one day deals. Another Amazon tip: Use CamelCamelCamel to track Amazon prices so you can see how today’s Amazon price compares to the rest of the year. Just enter the Amazon URL to see a graph of the price history. You can even sign up for price-drop alerts.

Set a budget and stick to it.

You’re really not getting any deals per say, if you put yourself into debt trying to get the latest and greatest thing. If you’ve created a shopping list, it should be easy to stay within budget because you have an idea of the price of each item. Don’t ruin your holidays worrying about debt! There’s rarely any deal that is worth that amount of stress.

Do you shop on Black Friday? I’d love to hear your Black Friday Shopping tips in the comments below.

Frugal Stocking Stuffers

Frugal Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Stocking stuffers can be so much fun!  My husband and I really only exchange stockings each year.  I like to fill his up with practical things and a few goodies.  But it’s quite easy to get carried away buying all sorts of little things to add to the stockings so I’ve compiled a list of frugal stocking stuffers that you might enjoy!

Have you got any other ideas?  What do you normally add to stockings?

6 Ways to Save Money on Family Holiday Photos

6-ways-to-save-money-on-family-holiday-photos

Can you believe it is time to start thinking about holiday family photos already? The holidays are the perfect time to get family photos done, especially if you are considering photo greeting cards or other photo gifts. But how can you get amazing pictures without going broke? The great news is there are plenty of ways to save money on family holiday photos while still putting your best foot forward. Take a look below at 6 ways to save money on family holiday photos so you can be sure you get gorgeous photos at a great price.

1. Scour for coupons.

Chances are, you won’t have to scour at all! Newspapers are filled with photo studio coupons around the holiday season since studios know this is when customers are most active. Chances are you can find packages for as low as $20 with coupon for some of your favorite local studios.

2. Look for mini sessions.

If you want to use a private photographer, look for mini session deals. Many photographers offer mini sessions around the holidays which include a 30 minute session and 8-10 images. This is perfect for snagging a few shots that you can use in greeting cards and photo gifts! Ask local photographers in your area if they offer any mini sessions.

3. Head to Old Navy.

Why? Because they offer all sorts of color coordinated pieces for the whole family! Plus, during the holidays you can score these items for as much as 40% off. Choose a color theme of 3-4 colors and mix and match Old Navy clothing pieces for a picture perfect wardrobe.

4. Skip the extras.

Do you really need that photo keychain? Mousepad? Or fancy editing? Probably not. Skip all of these extras no matter how cute they are. Instead, stick to the basic prints and packages you are offered and bypass any additional photo perks which can hike up your price.

5. Ask a friend to take the photos.

Do you have a friend with a creative eye? Ask them to help you out. See if they will take a few family shots for you in exchange for a small fee or favor. Find a nice field or fireplace to gather around and take a beautiful shot. Use online photo editing (a program like PicMonkey is great) to make your photos pop! Then, just save and send them to your nearest photo lab for printing.

6. Check out Groupon.

Groupon is where I find a deal every year on portraits from Walmart. While Walmart definitely isn’t fancy, I’m still very happy with how our photos turn out! We also get a ton of photos with the package! Win!

As you can see there are many simple ways to get holiday family photos for less. Give these tips for getting holiday family photos for less a try and see what amazing results you can achieve.

I’d love to know how you save on family holiday photos each year. Let me know in the comments!

10 Ways in 10 Days to Earn Money for the Holidays

10 Ways to Earn Money for the Holidays

I’ve got something fun planned for you all. I’d love for you to join me in the 10 Ways in 10 Days to Earn Money for the Holidays email series!

This time of year should be a time of celebration and happiness, not one that is dreaded! Trying to figure out how to come up with extra ways to earn money for this season can be difficult.

Luckily, we can do it together!

Sign up for the 10 Ways in 10 Days series here.

Instead of blowing your budget or going into debt, 10 Ways in 10 Days will help you find new ways to stash away cash for your upcoming expenses.

You will receive 1 email per day for 10 days with a new idea each day, starting the day after you sign up.

If you know anyone else who could use help saving money for the holidays then share this link with them so they can join the challenge with you –> http://forms.feedblitz.com/5qe

7 Things You May Not Have Considered Cooking in a Slow Cooker

Unique things you can cook in a slow cooker. Slow Cooker ideas.

Sure, slow cookers are great for roasts and chili, but did you know they can do so much more? There are literally hundreds of dishes you can prepare in your slow cooker, and they aren’t just for dinner either. Take a look at these 7 meals you may not have considered cooking in a slow cooker. So whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner you need to prep, you can put your slow cooker to work for you! Here are 7 ideas to get you started!

1. French toast bake.

Do you want to simplify breakfast? There are tons of recipes for slow cooker French toast. By combining a mixture of eggs, bread, water, and select spices, you can make your own French toast bake that is perfect for serving at breakfast on Sunday morning or any day of the week, really!

2. Taco casserole.

Did you ever think about preparing tacos in a slow cooker? Add your cooked ground beef, chopped veggies, cheese, and taco chips along with select seasonings and you have a taco casserole. This pairs well with a side salad and is a meal you will be happy to come home to.

3. Brownies.

Yes, you can make brownies and other cakes in your slow cooker! There are so many recipes out there that allow you to slow bake your dessert. Can you imagine how amazing your house will smell? Head to Pinterest where tons of slow cooker recipes for brownies and cake await you.

4. Biscuit/breakfast gravy.

Heading to a breakfast potluck or just want a nice Sunday breakfast? Consider preparing a breakfast or biscuit gravy in your slow cooker. You only need a few ingredients and in no time you have the perfect, creamy topping for biscuits, toast, and other breakfast items.

5. Cider/Hot chocolate.

Yes, you CAN prepare hot beverages in your slow cooker. This includes various kinds of fall cider as well as hot chocolate. Or my personal favourite, chai tea! Your slow cooker will make it easy to prepare these hot seasonal beverages in bulk, so you can easily serve a crowd!

6. Barbecue sauce.

Why not try making your own signature barbecue sauce? Your slow cooker is perfect for creating the best blend! Use a variety of ingredients and spices to create the perfect blend (ketchup, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, etc.) and see what you can create. Your slow cooker makes it easy for you to prepare your sauce in bulk which you can then can or freeze for later.

7. Baked fruit.

Try baking fruit such as apples or peaches in your slow cooker for a sweet breakfast or dessert. You can top them with sweet seasonings for the ultimate treat! If you haven’t tried baked fruit, your slow cooker is the perfect way to experiment!

Are you ready to get creative with your slow cooker? Give one or all seven of these ideas a try. Need a recipe? The internet (especially Pinterest) is chock full of them. Give one a try!

I’d love to know what your favourite thing to make in the slow cooker is. Let me know in the comments below!

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas: Create Your Holiday Budget

How to create your holiday budget.

Are you excited to work your way to a more organized Christmas?  Today marks the first day and task in the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas series that I hope will be super helpful to you!

Before we get started, I have a whole bunch of printables and checklists for you to print out to help you along:

Alright, on to the first task, an important one. 🙂 This week, if you haven’t already, sit down with a hot cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate… and create your holiday budget.  This is what you think your holiday season will cost and will allow you to put limits on your holiday spending to keep you from shopping regrets if a credit card bill comes your way!

Related: How to Have a Merry Christmas Without Spending a Dime

Here is an extensive list of things you should keep in mind when you create your holiday budget:

Gifts:

  • spouse
  • kids
  • parents
  • siblings
  • nieces/nephews
  • grandparents
  • neighbors
  • coworkers
  • friends
  • secret Santa gift exchanges

Activities/Events/Parties:

  • tickets
  • dining out
  • clothing

Food (not including regular groceries):

  • baking ingredients
  • dessert ingredients
  • Christmas eve
  • Christmas dinner/brunch
  • Boxing day
  • parties

Cards:

  • stamps
  • cards/envelopes
  • stationary for family newsletter
  • photos

Clothing:

  • outfits for photos
  • parties
  • Christmas day outfit

Decorations:

  • tree
  • lights
  • ornaments/candles/wreath/etc.
  • craft supplies

Giving:

  • charities
  • volunteering

Now, those suggestions were just a guideline.  Every family is different and has different needs.  My intent is to bring to mind every possible thing that could incur an expense during the holiday season.  I’m sure many of you won’t even see half of these things on your list.   Also, in my mind, a more organized, more stress-free Christmas means not only less stuff, but a simpler season.

As for my family, we only buy gifts for immediate family and a couple of close friends.  My husband and I only exchange stockings. I make some homemade gifts as well as collect credits throughout the year so I can do some online shopping for “free”. I stopped buying Christmas decorations a few years ago and will make do with what we have. The only outfits we’ll buy (already bought for a steal at Gymboree!) are for Sienna and Adelyn since they’re constantly growing.  We won’t be hosting any parties, but I like to bring some baking along to parties we’re invited to.  I intend on handing out Christmas cards to a few friends and the grandparents.  (You can find great deals on Christmas cards every year from various places!)

Enough about us.  🙂

If after writing down your expenses, you’re scared of the number you see, you have two options:  Decrease your expenses or increase your income.

Decrease your expenses

To make a happy holiday season, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money.  In fact, I’m daring to say, that being extravagant in your spending can be overwhelming not only for you, but the recipient as well.  As a child, one set of grandparents used to be quite extreme in their gift giving.  It was SO exciting, but I remember being quite overwhelmed with all the gifts once Christmas was over.

Gift giving is probably the easiest expense to cut back on.  If you have a large extended family, consider drawing names so each member is only responsible for one gift.  Or do what our family does and only give gifts to the children.  My parents have also started to set a $20 limit on each other in recent years.  Jesse and I exchange stockings.

Setting a price limit on each gift will allow you to shop within that budget.  If your limit on sister Sue is $30, then that $50 purse is off limits.

It’s possible to decrease your food budget too by shopping the sales and limiting the baking and Christmas dishes you prepare.

When it comes to decorations, why not create some memories by making some homemade decorations?  (I’ll be featuring some ideas in a few weeks)  Or read my Fond, Frugal Christmas Memory post for a fun Christmas tree idea.

Increase your Income

If decreasing your holiday expenses is not an option, then consider increasing your income.  Many retailers hire for the holiday season (and may offer an employee discount!).

A couple of other ideas are to:

  • sell extra baking to those that may not have much time to create their own.
  • sell unwanted household items for cash (make room for new stuff too!)

What are your tips for staying on budget at Christmas time?

Sign up for the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas newsletter to receive a FREE Christmas Dinner Checklist!  This checklist is quite detailed and will help you remember all the details needed for a memory filled dinner with family and friends. You’ll also receive a weekly email with each week’s “task”.

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas

How to Make a Meal With What’s Left in Your Pantry

We all find ourselves in a pinch from time to time. Things get tough and we don’t have enough money to go around. When this happens you may find yourself looking at the pantry wondering how you will make a meal out of what is left so you can get through to pay day. You will be proud of yourself when you serve that meal knowing you did it with what you had in the pantry.

How to Make a Meal With What's Left in Your Pantry. Grocery saving tips.

Here’s how to make a meal with what’s left in the pantry:

Strive for balance.

When it comes to tossing a meal together out of the blue, you want to look for ingredients to make a balanced and filling meal. This means you want to search for a protein, some fruit/veggies and a carbohydrate to create your meal. Canned meats or beans will give you a protein, while rice, pasta, and potatoes for your carbohydrate, are found in nearly any pantry.

Mix it together to have enough to fill you up.

If you find you do not have enough of something for a meal, you could try mixing two things together to make enough to feed your family. For example, you could mix rice and potatoes together in a casserole or add beans to ground beef to make tacos stretch further.

Give your meal a flavor boost.

When it comes to making a meal from very little, the best trick you can use is your spice cabinet. Adding flavor to your mystery dish can make the plainest foods feel like a gourmet meal. Some cooked pasta with butter, spices, and whatever protein and veggie you have in your fridge or pantry can become a new family favorite. When in doubt use garlic, basil, and oregano for a foolproof flavor combination.

Add a Carbohydrate.

Any bread in the house will do. It adds a filling element to your meal making it go further. If all else fails mix 2 cups flour, a pinch of salt, your favorite herbs (basil and oregano for the win again), 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and enough milk or water to create a pancake-like batter. Fry up like a pancake and serve with butter for a filling side to any meal.

Put ramen noodles to good use.

Any college kid will tell you that ramen noodles can be made into a pretty tasty meal. Add some chopped veggies, a scrambled egg or leftover meat out of the fridge. While high in calories and salt the occasional pack won’t hurt you. Or you could omit the packet all together and add some teriyaki sauce.

Cheese goes with nearly anything.

If you’re truly low on food but, are lucky enough to have some cheese in the fridge you can turn nearly anything into a cheesy filling casserole.

Need a little bit more help getting started with a meal idea? MyFridgeFood is made just for people like you. Select the random things running around your pantry and fridge, hit select and get instant inspiration.

I’d love to know some of your ideas for pulling together a meal with the bare minimum. Let me know in the comments!

Related: Basic Pantry Staples List and a Free Printable Checklist.

7 Items to Keep on Hand for Great Slow Cooker Meals

Do you love using your slow cooker? It’s the perfect appliance for getting a hot meal on the table with little effort and little expense. But do you know which items to keep on hand if you own a slow cooker? There are in fact a few ingredients that can help you get a meal on the table quickly, even if you haven’t planned ahead. Take a look at 7 items to keep on hand for great slow cooker meals, so you can put a meal together even at the last minute.

7-items-to-keep-on-hand-for-great-slow-cooker-meals

1. Canned cream soups.

You can dress up so many cuts of meat with a can or two of creamed soup. Cream of mushroom, celery, and chicken soups all dress up chicken and pork nicely. You can pour a can over your cut along with some water, seasonings, and vegetables if you have them and have a tasty dish in no time.

2. Barbecue sauce.

Make quick slow cooker ribs or slow cooker chicken when you add in the cut of meat along with some barbecue sauce. You can also add chopped onions if you wish to add some extra flavor, but even the sauce alone will dress up the meat nicely.

3. Ranch mix.

Dried ranch mix can spice up your chicken and even a beef roast nicely. Just sprinkle the mix in and add some butter and you will have flavorful chicken or roast that your family will love. If you have fresh veggies you can add them, but the ranch mix does well on its own.

4. Onion soup mix.

No fresh onions on hand? No problem! Dried onion soup mix can really dress up a cut of meat. Just add it along with some water and it will flavor the meat nicely. Of course you can add fresh veggies if you have them, but if not the onion soup mix is quite flavorful alone.

5. Rice and noodles.

You can bulk up any meal with some rice or noodles. Add rice or noodles along with the cream soup of your choice for a fast meal. You can also use them to make quick casseroles, soups, or stews. Rice and noodles are both cheap when bought in bulk, so stock up.

6. Certain cuts of meat.

Try to keep certain cuts of meat in your freezer so when you need to toss a quick meal in you can. Simple ribs, chicken breasts, or even an inexpensive roast all do well in a slow cooker. If you see these items on sale, stock up for future meals. They are so easy to dress up and prepare in a slow cooker.

7. Dried seasonings.

Stock up on dried seasonings. This doesn’t mean just salt and pepper, but seasoning salt, garlic salt, chili seasoning, taco seasoning, beef stew seasoning, and ranch and onion soup mix as mentioned above. All of these seasonings can be added to your slow cooker along with some water for a fantastic meal.

Make sure you are slow cooker ready when you keep these 7 slow cooker must haves on hand. They are sure to come in handy when you are preparing your next slow cooker meal in a pinch!

$20 Until Pay Day: How to Get the Most Groceries for Your Dollar

We’ve all been there: pay day is still a week away and you only have $20 to your name. This might feel like a reason to panic, but the truth is, you have options. There are certain tips and tricks you can implement so you can make that $20 go its very farthest and get the most grocery bang for your buck. Take a look at these tip on how to get the most groceries for your dollar. So you can be sure to stretch your food budget the best you can until pay day arrives.

How to get the most groceries for your dollar, Grocery saving tips

Purchase rice in bulk.

A 2 pound bag of rice will cost you about $2, especially if you buy generic. Rice is perfect for stuffing in tortillas, adding to casseroles, or serving as a side dish. You can even add some milk and sugar to it for rice pudding, and inexpensive dessert idea. ($2)

Purchase beans in bulk.

Consider a 2 pound bag of beans, perfect for using as a side dish, in soups or stews, or add them to wraps. They are full of protein, taste great, and cost pennies per serving. Just soak them to soften them and then cook to your liking. ($2)

Canned vegetables may cost less than fresh.

It can be hard to find fresh produce at a great price. If you can grab cucumbers or peppers for under $1 each grab them. If not, you may be better off buying canned. Head to a store such as Walmart or FreshCo where you can grab canned tomatoes, green beans, corn and peas for less than .80 cents a can. ($3)

Apples and bananas are your cheapest fruit option.

If you thought fresh vegetables were expensive, fresh fruit can be even worse! When you’re on a budget, fresh bananas and apples are your best options. Simple red lunch box apples run about .25 cents each, while bananas are around .70 cents per pound. This is a great way to get the fruit your body needs while staying on budget. ($3)

Powdered drink mixes are pennies per serving.

Beverages can be pricey, so instead, opt for water dressed up with a drink packet if you’re wanting something other than plain water. You can find powered drink mixes for pennies per serving. For calcium, milk may be pricey so opt for a few yogurt cups at .50 cents or so each. ($2)

Chicken will be your most budget friendly choice of meat.

You can often find chicken wings, drumsticks or thighs for a low price so this is your most budget friendly option. Dress them up with salad dressing or simple olive oil and salt and pepper. Some other cheap “meat” 😉 options include deli meat and of course, hot dogs. ($5)

Opt for day old bread choices.

Visit the day old bread store or raid the clearance bin at your local grocer for bread items under $1. Bread is perfect for sandwiches, making garlic bread, making croutons, etc. Plus if you find a great deal on it, you can freeze it. ($3)

Don’t let pay day being days away keep you from eating well. Keep these tips in mind for how to make the most of your grocery budget between pay days and see how much they can help!

How do you make your grocery budget stretch in between pay days?

My Budget Friendly Capsule Wardrobe from Value Village

Budget friendly capsule wardrobe

I had the opportunity to attend a pre-grand opening event at a new Value Village that has opened in the area. Not only was it really fun to attend, they challenged me to see how far I could stretch $50. Challenge accepted!

Rather than buying whatever I fancied without any thought put into it, I thought it would be fun to put together a “capsule wardrobe” for fall. A capsule wardrobe is a very small collection of clothing that you love that changes with each season. This concept appeals to me because I often find myself going for the same pieces over and over again in my closet. And I’m quite fond of (trying) to be minimalistic. Perhaps you feel the same?

I rifled through the racks and pulled out anything I thought would work for me, being sure to pick out a good assortment of tops and bottoms. I didn’t find any shoes because I’ve got pretty small feet and the selection in my size wasn’t very abundant. (Like at most stores!) However, I do have shoes at home that will work. 😉 It was fun filling my basket to the brim!

I’ve been craving colour in my wardrobe lately so I was trying to pick out some good fall colours that I liked. Value Village didn’t disappoint in the colour department. I ended up with a bit of a theme. Cobalt/navy, beige/gold and plum for tops. Bottoms are a neutral denim.

As I mentioned, I was challenged to spend $50. I tried my best to stay within budget, but I went a bit over. Here’s the break down:

  • Beige H&M sequined top  $3.99
  • Cobalt blue Simons sweater  $7.99
  • Gold Banana Republic sweater $9.99
  • Navy Hollister ruffle top $7.99
  • Purple Old Navy tank $5.99
  • Cobalt button shirt (omitted from the tally because it’s from Amazon.ca)
  • London skinny jeans $7.99
  • Banana Republic denim skirt $11.99
  • Gap jeans (omitted from the tally because I owned them already)

TOTAL: $55.93

capsule-collage

Here are some pieces that I already owned that I’m incorporating into my fall capsule wardrobe:

Accessories are generally a big part of capsule wardrobes, (I think, I’m no fashionista) but they’re honestly not really my thing. I wear my wedding rings all the time, but that’s it! However, I do have one accessory that I have been wearing because the baby likes it. It’s the hot pink teething necklace pictured below. I think it can go with all the colours I have in my wardrobe, except for the purple tank.

capsule-collage-2

So now, if I were to add everything together that you see above, I spent under $130 for an entire wardrobe. (I’ve have to purchase other new things recently because I’m losing weight and everything was falling off of me 🙁 ) Not bad! Especially since everything was bought over a span of a few months.

Now, you may be wondering how to create a capsule wardrobe with stuff you own already. Here’s how:

  1. Do a purge. Empty out your closet in it’s entirety and lay everything on your bed.
  2. Sort each item into three piles: Keep (you love and regularly wear the item), Maybe (item may not fit quite right, sentimental…etc. Put it all in a bag then store away. If at the end of the season/year you don’t “rescue” anything from the bag, donate the bag.), Donate (self-explanatory).
  3. Assess what you have left. These are the clothes you love and wear regularly. You should see your “style” pop out at you with what you have left.
  4. Fill in the gaps. Perhaps you need a new pair of jeans. Or a black tank top. Shop for one item at a time and get them on sale. However, I recommend quality over price, within reason, especially since most items in a capsule wardrobe will be getting frequent use.

The amount of clothes you have in a capsule wardrobe depends on your personal needs/desires. I’ve seen some people stick to 50 pieces, others with 37 and others with less than that. Maybe you need two capsule wardrobes. One for work wear and one for weekends. Do what works for you.

Have you considered creating a capsule wardrobe for each season? I bet you already own quite a few pieces you could incorporate!

Disclaimer – This is a sponsored post brought to you by Value Village.  All opinions are 100% my own.