31 Days: 20 DIY Projects for a No Spend Month {Day 20}

Welcome to 31 Days:The No Spend Month. If you are joining for the first time, you may want to start on Day 1.

Since I’m not doing many outside activities this month, I’ve got some extra time on my hands.  I’ve decided to do a few cheap DIY projects using materials I already have on hand.

I’ll be doing just a few of these (I’ve ** mine) but I’ve compiled 20 fun DIY projects using materials you might have at home for your own inspiration.

1. Take cute wine bottle labels and put them onto candle holders.

2. Dress up a plain bookshelf with fabric.

3. Make a sock bun. **

4. Whip up homemade pumpkin spice lattes. **

5. Make a pennant banner for a kid’s space or holiday. **

6. Roll candles in salt for pretty sparklers during the holidays.

7. Turn fabric scraps into beautiful flowers to pin onto sweaters or hairbands.

8. Sweeten up some t-shirts with applique.

9. Dig out an old frame and make a dry erase board for the kitchen.

10. Add a pretty ribbon to my wreath. **

11. Start preparing for a season of thankfulness by printing these.

12. Create some after school organization for backpacks, coats and papers.

13.  Get a chore system going.

14. Print out free botanical prints and hang them.

15. Pull out a stash of fabric and make no-sew drapes. **

16. Get rid of a few fabric scraps with one of these 30 fabric scrap ideas.

17. Make a no-sew fleece blanket for my son. **

18. Create monograms with buttons.

19. Put together a bottle of homemade Modge Podge with glue and water. **

20. Use kid art to create personalized thank you notes.

Do any of these DIY projects float your boat? Can you share other ideas that are inexpensive and use materials many people might already have on hand?


31 Days: 10 Things I Want to Buy, But Can’t {Day 18}

Welcome to 31 Days:The No Spend Month. If you are joining for the first time, you may want to start on Day 1.

If I wasn’t doing a No Spend Month, here’s a few things I would consider buying:

  1. This coat. It’s 40 degrees and dropping here. I’m so not prepared.
  2. A blanket for our guest room. Did I mention it’s 40 degrees here?
  3. Anything from this company, swoon.
  4. My favorite natural hair detangler. My homemade version isn’t cutting it.
  5. This custom return address stamp. We’ve just moved and ‘need’ one.
  6. I need these sticks to make a prayer pail.
  7. My baby is almost 3. It’s time to move him out of the crib. This duvet might be on his big boy bed.
  8. I want to light these for our Halloween party.
  9. This pan would be marvelous for the kids.
  10. I wouldn’t actually buy this but it’s definitely on my Christmas wish list.

What’s on your wish list?


31 Days: 25 Ways to Stay Busy During A No Spend Weekend {Day 17}

Welcome to 31 Days:The No Spend Month. If you are joining for the first time, you may want to start on Day 1.

So we’re in the middle of our No Spend Month and I have to be honest, it’s quite a bit harder than I thought. There have been so many things that have come up that we didn’t expect when planning this month: birthdays, early winter weather, and unexpected trips out of town.

The good news is that we have cut expenses in several areas: groceries, entertainment, eating out and other non-essentials.

If you want to save a few bucks but can’t commit to an entire No Spend Month, why don’t you have a No Spend Weekend? It’s a great way to get a small taste of the discipline you need and the money you can save.

You can implement similar No Spend principles:

  1. No eating out. Eat from your pantry and freezer. Get creative.
  2. No spending on entertainment. Below are a few ideas on how to spend your time.
  3. No spending on non-essentials.
  4. Only drive when necessary.

If you can’t spend money and can’t go anywhere, you’re going to need a few ideas on how to spend your time, here’s 25:

  1. Bake your family’s favorite cookies, pie, cake or dessert.
  2. Complete a home improvement project that never got finished.
  3. Go for a bike ride or family walk.
  4. Play a game with your kids: baseball, tennis, basketball, frisbee.
  5. Clean and organize your pantry and freezer and fill out the Inventory.
  6. Meal plan for the week ahead.
  7. Plan a cheap date night – for next weekend.
  8. Subscribe to a few frugal living and deal blogs: FrugalLivingNW, Hip2Save, Organic Deals, Money Saving Mom.
  9. Clean out your closets and donate, recycle, or sell unneeded items.
  10. Plan your holidays.  Start on any homemade gifts.
  11. Create a Pinterest account and find pins that interest you.
  12. Invite friends over for a board game, cards or movie.
  13. Host a sleepover. Make pancakes for breakfast – they are cheap.
  14. Catch up on a favorite book or magazine.
  15. Create a free spa day with homemade spa products.
  16. Make a list of goals for 2013 – it’s going to be here before you know it.
  17. Cancel your cable and sign up for Netflix – it will save you big bucks.
  18. Put together the baby books you haven’t gotten to in years.
  19. Go to the library, there’s so many ways to save money there.
  20. Get out all the construction paper, stickers and scissors you’ve been saving for a ‘rainy day’ and do a craft with your kids.
  21. Plan a volunteer activity for your family.
  22. Exercise.
  23. Set out clothing for the weekend. Iron, if needed.
  24. Put together your annual photobook – just don’t click ‘Buy’ until Monday.
  25. Take a nap!

What else could we do during a No Spend Weekend?


31 Days: How I Score Books and Magazines for Free {Day 16}

Welcome to 31 Days:The No Spend Month. If you are joining for the first time, you may want to start on Day 1.

I adore reading, it is possibly my most favorite thing to do. Books, magazines, pamphlets. You name it, I’ll read it. A few years ago, I spent $200 on magazines in one year. $200!

This year, I have spent NOTHING and yet, I have magazine subscriptions coming out of my ears: Better Homes & Gardens, Whole Living, Country Living, Outside, Parents, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and many more.

It’s the same with books: I’ve purchased about 200 books this year and only spent $95.  90 of those books were FREE.

Honestly, if you had told me this was possible a few years ago, I would not have believed you. Here’s how I do it:


I got a Kindle Fire for birthday last year. Knowing that I’m an avid reader, my family thought it was the perfect gift.

It took me 2 months to open the box.

I had a stigma about reading a book made out of paper versus an electronic version.  But then I found eBooks. Hundred (thousands!) of them for FREE. I’ve downloaded about 100 books this year and 90% of them were free. The others were $1-3.

Kindle books are often free for a 24-48 hour promotional period. For example, 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life is currently just $0.99 until Oct 26.  Written by popular blogger, Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom, it’s got great reviews and under $1.

Because eBooks are often free or discounted for such a short period, the best way to find out about them is to follow a blog or two that highlights free eBooks. Here’s a few:

  1. Money Saving Mom
  2. Kohl’s Deals
  3. The Prudent Pantry
  4. Jungle Deals & Steals

Project Gutenberg has over 40,000 eBooks you can download for free. They are books that the copyright has expired. You can find classics like Moby Dick, Pride & Prejudice and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still download and read Kindle eBooks on your smartphone, computer or tablet by downloading a free Kindle Reading app.

Another avenue for free books are libraries. I often reserve books ahead of time and we go a couple times a month.  Any books that we just love are purchased and added to our permanent library.

One of the ways I buy books at a super discount are library book sales. I discovered them this year and Oh.my.goodness. If you like to read or your kids like to read, bring a few reusable shopping bags (here’s one of my favorites) and LOAD up. I’m telling you, great books for just $0.25 – $1!

Finally, another way to score free books is through book reviews. I have done book reviews on Mommy Goes Green in the past and received a free book in exchange for my honest opinion.  Here are a few sites you can apply to for book reviews:

  1. Dorrance Book Review Team
  2. Book Browse
  3. BookSneeze – for bloggers
  4. Blogging for Books – for bloggers
  5. Tyndale – for bloggers
  6. Bethany House – for bloggers
  7. NavPress – for bloggers
  8. Wilbooks – for educators


My coffee table is stacked with unread magazines. I’m behind on reading but no regrets because: 1. I don’t pay for them and 2. I pass them on to friends once I’m done.

Another discovery I made last year is that I don’t need to pay for magazine subscriptions anymore I get them for free so often that some of them have 3 or 4 years worth of free subscription on them.  Here’s a few ways I’ve been able to do that:

  1. Daily Deals – Occasionally, Daily Deal sites will have a deal on a magazine and I’ll use credit to purchase it. I recently bought two subscriptions using credits: National Geographic Jr. on Saveology and Outside magazine through The Clymb, a Daily Deal site for outdoor enthusiasts.
  2. Purchase Bonuses – I often shop online and when I’m checking out, I will get an offer for a free magazine subscription. One time I decided to take them up on their offer and lo and behold, I actually got the subscription without paying a dime.
  3. Rewards Gold and Mercury Magazines – These companies often give out free subscriptions to magazines in exchange for a variety of information. Sometimes you just provide your name and address. Other times you might fill out a survey. Honestly, I’ve never spent more than a few minutes filling out the forms for these. I currently have subscriptions to Martha Stewart, Country Living, Parents and several others, all received through this avenue. Right now, you can get the following magazines for free: Working Mother, Lego Club, Shape and Thriving Family.

How much do you think you’ve spent on books and magazines this year? Any other tips to score books and magazines for free?


31 Days: 5 Tips to Cut Laundry Expenses {Day 15}

Welcome to 31 Days:The No Spend Month. If you are joining for the first time, you may want to start on Day 1.

Laundry is actually one of my household responsibilities that I don’t mind at all. I know, I’m weird. Unloading the dishwasher, that’s a whole other story.

I regularly do laundry every other week with one or two loads in between (kiddo wets the bed or gets chocolate on a white shirt). In an attempt to meet our utility goals this month, I am only doing laundry twice. I did it the first week of the month and will be doing it this week, as well.

Here are 5 other ways I am saving on our laundry costs:

Reduce and Reuse

The #1 way to save on laundry costs? Do less laundry. This doesn’t have to mean that you buy more clothing. It means:

  1. Encouraging the family (specifically my husband, ahem) to hang clothing after they wear it.  Clothing laying on the floor, all wrinkled up, usually gets tossed in the dirty clothes basket.
  2. Just because a pair of jeans was worn once (and for just 20 minutes, in my daughter’s case) doesn’t mean they need to washed. This is a mantra I’m drilling into the kids. I often go through their clothing at the end of the day to help them get their items back into the closet or into the laundry pile.

Large Loads

Our front-loading washer and dryer are about 4 years old and can handle large loads.  I am separating clothing into whites, darks and colors and hoping to do only 3-4 loads of clothing for our family of 4.

I use white towels and sheets in our entire home so it’s easy to toss those in the wash together.  We do have a few colored towels that we don’t need regularly so I keep them in a laundry basket, stored until I have a full load. I also add filthy shoes to this load.

Cheap Cleaning Aids

I have a few secret weapons in the laundry department that are so cheap, I can’t even believe they work. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. I use vinegar as my fabric softener and hydrogen peroxide as bleach.  Both of them are added in the washing machine in the specific compartments.

I also use a homemade stain remover, I’ll be sharing that later. I like both the cost and how simple these solutions are – no chemical residue in our clothing or linens.

Cold Water

I always wash in cold water unless the load has a lot of stains or bodily fluids in it.  I’ve been doing this for years – it works – and it saves money because you aren’t using energy to heat the water.

Line Drying

Don’t imagine yourself dragging a basketful of clothing outside every day. I have this drying rack and keep it propped up outside my laundry room when I’m washing.

Once I’ve washed a load, I pop it in the dryer for a few minutes to get the wrinkles out and then hang it on the rack.  Dress shirts and dresses get hung on hangers. I can hang one entire load this way so I usually get 1-2 loads done per day.  Even the children’s clothing gets hung up.

I honestly believe that the combination of cold water + line drying keeps our clothing in the best condition possible.  We have avoided faded and shrunken clothing and it allows us to resell our clothing at a higher cost.

Do you love or loathe laundry? Any other cost-cutting ideas?