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 Cheap Date Night Ideas {Day 13}

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

In 8 years of marriage, we’ve never done a date night at home.  I know it’s a common way to save money but I find that I enjoy my time with my husband most when we’re out of the house, not listening for a child waking or household distractions.

We don’t regularly go out more than one or two times a month and it’s often for a get-together with friends.  When we want to hang by ourselves and save a few bucks, here’s a few of our favorite night out ideas:

Go Scenic

TO GO: Head to a nearby location with a great view of the city.

TO BRING: A favorite drink and dessert.

TO DO:  Ask 20 Date Night Questions.

Into Nature

TO GO: Local observatory, planetarium or night hike.

TO BRING: Warm clothes, a blanket and a star chart.

TO DO:  Explore and cuddle.

Dream A Little Dream House

TO GO: Open house tours.

TO BRING: Camera, pen and paper.

TO DO:  Walk through homes for sale and make note of what you love.

Learn Your History

TO GO: Most museums are free once or twice a month.

TO BRING: Just yourselves!

TO DO:  Take time to read and participate, you might just learn something.

Get Sporty

TO GO: Try a new sport: batting cages, ice skating, paintball, pool or rent a tandem bike.

TO BRING: Appropriate clothing.

TO DO:  Teach each other what you know (and finding out what you don’t!).

Be Thrifty

TO GO: Thrift store.

TO BRING: $10.

TO DO: Buy something for the other person without spending more than $5 each.


TO GO: Volunteer at a local organization such as a food pantry or soup kitchen.

TO BRING: Helping hands.

TO DO: Give of your time generously alongside the one you love.

Make It a Theme

TO GO: Wherever your theme night takes you.

TO BRING: Dress appropriately.

TO DO: Choose a theme and base your night around it. Idea: Cowboy/Cowgirl Night – BBQ and Line Dancing.

Progressive Dinner, Coupon Style

TO GO: A different restaurant for appetizers, dinner and dessert.

TO BRING: Coupons for each restaurant.

TO DO: Most restaurants won’t take more than one coupon per table so use your appetizer coupon at one restaurant, your dinner coupon at another and your dessert coupon at another.


TO GO: On the tourist route.

TO BRING: A tourist guide book available for free through your city’s visitor center.

TO DO: Pretend you are new to the city, visit the places mentioned in the guide book and take silly tourist pictures.


20 Date Night Questions

This is a fun way to change up your normal date night. Grab your favorite drink, find a quiet place and ask each other these questions.

If you like the idea, this game has hundreds of these types of questions. I also love to use it in a group of friends, it’s a great way to to get to know each other in a new way.

Click on the image below to download a PDF copy of these Date Night Questions to take along with you!


31 Days: How to Spend $15/Month (or Less) on Personal Care {Day 9}

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

If you read Our Budget for No Spend Month, you’ll know that our budget for personal care items in October is just $5. This budget includes items such as tampons, toothbrushes, band aids, vitamins, soap, razors, makeup and more.

Honestly, I regularly spend about $10-15 per month on personal care items so it’s not that big of a stretch for us. In fact, I could probably do $0 spend this month because of the stash of personal care items we have on hand.

2 years ago, I was spending $35 per month on personal care items and have, over time, figured out several ways to get the products we need much cheaper. Here’s a few tips:

Go Homemade

My favorite way we save money on personal care products is to make them at home. I’ve made natural hair detangler, cleaned my face with olive oil, scrubbed my body with brown sugar and used both coconut and olive oil for different personal care purposes.  I’ve got a long way to go as recipes for homemade toothpaste, shaving cream, hand soap and others abound.

Use Less

I’ve saved money over previous years by using less product or in some cases, no products. An example? I stopped using shampoo and I honestly don’t miss it a bit. In fact, we don’t even have a bottle of shampoo in our house because we all use conditioner to scrub and condition.

I can’t believe I’m sharing this with the world but I rarely use deodorant.  Once I stopped using it regularly, my body stopped sweating much. I occasionally need it for a tight fitting shirt or ones made from specific fabrics but I only put it on about once a week.

I found that wearing socks keeps my feet softer than a slathering with lotion and my toe nails look fine with a home pedicure and clear gloss. I dry my razor and keep it in a drawer because the moisture from the shower was dulling it, shortening it’s life span. In fact Clark Howard says that he can use one razor for an entire year with this method.

Shop Daily Deals

You’ll probably see me mention daily deal sites often as a method to save money because I regularly use them to get 50% or more off items we use.  This year, I purchased two Plum District deals for Yes To – a company that makes natural and organic skin, hair and baby care products.  Together, I spent just $30 for $70 worth of products.

Today, Groupon had a deal for Alice.com for $40 worth of product for just $20.  Alice.com carries a wide variety of household and personal care products, including natural ones that I like for our house. It was another way to get the products I like at a great discount.

Look For Online Deals

When I first heard about Vitacost.com, I told all my friends.  In turn, we both got a $10 credit Those credits netted me many free items this year such as sunscreen, vitamins, castile soap and face lotion. (You can get your own $10 credit here and then share with your friends.)

I keep my eye on online deals.  Last weekend, Abe’s Market had a $5 off coupon code and free shipping. That scored me a bottle of natural baby shampoo for $3.99, shipped to my front door.

Clip Coupons

I admit, I’ve become a shopper with coupons – not an extreme couponer – but one that clips, cuts and prints coupons to use for substantial discounts and many freebies.  Some of the personal care freebies include: ibuprofen, toothpaste, toothbrushes, makeup, nail polish, vitamins, razors and more.

Similar to how I grocery shop, I also save money by stocking up on products when I get a good deal.  When I find a great price on conditioner, I might buy 2 or more.

I rely on several blogs to point out great deals, tell me where to get coupons and put together a list of freebies. Coupon shopping is an art of it’s own and these blogs can educate you far more than my purpose here. Here are a few of my favorites:

What is your personal care spending like? Share your favorite tips to save!


31 Days: How to Save on Groceries – Part 1 {Day 5}

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

I know this is the third day I’ve spent on saving money in our grocery budget but after talking to many moms, I believe it is one of the easiest ways we can make a dent in our family budgets.

Price List

While I worked to bring our grocery budget down over the last couple of years, I really honed my knowledge of food product pricing. I know when an apple has a great price and when to pass.

It’s valuable knowledge if you are willing to put in a little time over your next couple grocery trips. Here’s a printable Price List to get you started. On it, make a list of the most common foods you buy, the size of each and the price. Calculate the cost per ounce or pound and keep this on hand.

When you grocery shop, you can reference it to see how products compare. When you find a cheaper brand or size, a sale or coupon, you can update your Price List to reflect the lowest cost option. Once you’ve kept track of this for a few months, you’ll start to memorize the best prices.

Organic vs. Non-Organic

I buy organic meat, milk, eggs, flour, sugar and produce listed on the Dirty Dozen. I also choose the organic version for foods that are derived from these products such as chicken broth or diced tomatoes.

I choose organic bread when available (see Discount Stores), otherwise we have 100% whole wheat (no HFCS). Because I shop at Trader Joe’s, many other products I purchase are organic, although I don’t insist on it.

To save money, I buy conventional fruits and veggies for anything listed on the Clean Fifteen. Milk is the only dairy product that I buy organic as I haven’t found an organic dairy product that we like and at a price I am willing to pay.

Coupons and Sales

It is true that many of the coupons available are for processed and junky food but you can regularly find coupons for wholesome foods. The only reason I shop at stores other than TJ’s is to save money using coupons as both Whole Foods and Safeway allow you to use up to 2 coupons per product: a store coupon + a manufacturer coupon.

I follow several blogs and manufacturers that post coupons for foods that we buy, here are just a few:

One other way that I save money at grocery stores is to take advantage of sales by stocking up. For example, the cheese I regularly buy is on sale Buy 1, Get 1 Free so I would buy 4-6 packs, enough for my family for several months until that great sale price comes up again.  I follow this same principle on household and personal care items as well, such as toilet paper or tampons.

NOTE: This is in no way a comprehensive post about coupons and stocking up.  Here are a few blogs dedicated to teaching you how: Frugal Living NW, Happy Money Savers and The Frugal Find.

Buying in Season

The primary reason I buy produce in season is because it typically costs less. We don’t eat apples in the summer because organic apples in July are $2-$3 per pound. We start eating them again around October when they are less than $1 per pound.

The same follows with grapes and oranges and many other fruits and vegetables. Again, a Price List is helpful here.

Discount Websites

I occasionally buy groceries online when they are a better price than I can buy locally. Both Amazon and Vitacost.com offer competitive prices and free shipping. You can get a free $10 Vitacost credit here to try it out.

Tomorrow I’ll share 5 more tips on saving in the grocery budget and then we’ll move on to other topics!

What about you? Any grocery shopping tips you have to share?  What are your favorite places to find coupons?