Tag Archives: on a budget

Save the Date Design

14 Jan

Now that I have a moment to breathe after everything that came along with this time frame, I thought I would post something that I realized I never posted about way back when – our Save the Date card!

You may remember when I created a Save the Date card for my bridesmaids, but shortly thereafter, I put one together for all wedding guests to mark their calendars! Typically Save the Date cards go out about 6 months ahead of time. However, with our engagement photo shoot in October, ours went out a bit delayed, but I think it was well worth it for some amazing photos from one of my dearest friends!

Check out how our Save the Date design turned out. Considering I made it as a random tester one night on Powerpoint, I am pretty impressed!



In case you’re interested in printing your own Save the Date cards, try out VistaPrint! They allow you to upload your own image and it is significantly cheaper than ordering them through other websites! I just printed them as postcards, added a little postcard stamp and off they went!

What have been neat Save the Date cards you have seen? I’d love to see!


Christmas Doormat

24 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! As many people prepare for a feast this afternoon and Christmas decorating beginning tomorrow, I am preparing for Christmas decorating beginning Dec. 16.

As we near the closing on the house, I am doing any little things that I can to make it “ours” right off the bat. Although we know decorating and re-doing furniture will be an endless process, there are a few things I have in mind that will make it home-y and Christmas-y for the holidays.

I found the first project on this blog and just couldn’t pass it up. I knew that I wanted a way to welcome people into our new home, have some Christmas cheer and to describe the sentiment of how blessed we are. What better word than “joy“?

Not only is this super easy and festive, it’s also $5, so don’t be surprised if I switch them out for each season!

You can find these doormats at Home Depot, which we actually came across while registering.

(Side note: Home Depot really should get with the technology times. We actually had to write out each UPC code for what we wanted to register for and then the employee had to hand-key it in. It was tiring. We also tried Lowe’s since the fiance wanted Kobalt tools, but Lowe’s doesn’t even have a registry at all. Wouldn’t that be a gold mine for hardware stores in this crafty/DIY age? I think so!)

anyway… You can find them at Home Depot. As I’ve done before with the Fun(d), I created a stencil out of paper. Since I didn’t have an Exacto knife handy, I just very meticulously cut out the letters with scissors. As per the original suggestion, I used American Typewriter Bold. Font size was 440, in case you’re wondering.

Once the letters were cut out, I placed them in the proper spot on the doormat and taped them down. I also had a little help from the fiance’s family’s dog, Katie. She is quite the crafty pup.

I found that the tape didn’t stick very well on the doormat material, so I improvised and decided to use a Sharpie with the stencil as an outline for the letters. Worked nicely!

Then, with a small paintbrush, I simply filled in the letter outline with black paint. Be sure to get the paint down into the texture of the material for the most success.

Now, I just can’t wait to place this on my new front porch complete with a wreath on the door and rocking chairs on the side. I’ll post once it’s set-up so you can see the final product!

What Christmas touch do you recommend for any home?

Create Your Own Coasters

9 Sep

Last weekend four of my girlfriends threw us an awesome engagement party in Atlanta. Not only was it a blast and so sweet, it was also the perfect excuse for all of our college friends to get together after a few months apart. We were so appreciative and loved being able to celebrate with everyone in one place at one time.

My super crafty current roommate from the Yellow House created the cutest decoration for the party – an “eat, drink & be married sign” with photos from our relationship.

In addition to the cute decorations and wonderful people who were there, the desserts were delicious. The line-up included some doctored up cupcakes after a bit of an icing catastrophe, cookies, brownies, spice bars, and my personal favorite: chocolate covered strawberries.

After thanking them multiple times for everything they had done, I wanted to present the hostesses with something fun as a gift. My love of crafts has always been high, but since planning this wedding, it has soared through the roof. Think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and multiply it by about 10.

After a stellar discovery on Pinterest, I decided to make drink coasters for each of the hostesses based on an easy tutorial from this blog.

To give you an idea, it starts with this:

1. Buy 4 x 4 in. ceramic flooring tiles from Lowe’s or Home Depot.

2. Paint Mod Podge over the tile.

3. Stick a 4 x 4 in. sheet of scrapbook paper on the tile. (Hint: It is very easy to buy the 12 x 12 in. paper and cut it into 9 pieces.)

4. Paint another layer of Mod Podge on the paper. Let dry. Like below.

It looks like they're drying on animal skins... really they're just plastic bags. Weird.

5. Spray paint the tiles with clear, glossy spray paint to coat the paper and prevent the drinks from ruining it.

6. Let the coasters dry overnight.

7. Stick small felt pads on the bottom of the coaster to prevent the tiles from scratching your tables.

8. Tie the coasters into sets of four with a pretty bow.

9. Marvel in your beautiful work and gift away!

These really were one of the easiest things I have done in a while. Typically I would brag about how inexpensive they were too, but since they were a gift, I’ll just say… you really should consider making these.

At the engagement party, these were a huge hit amongst the hostesses! Plus, now they know that they won’t get awful rings on their tables. I know they’ll rest easy at night.

Overall, the engagement party was a blast, and I loved being able to come up with a fun and crafty way to thank the great girls who threw it for us!

What are some great hostess gifts that you have seen? We’ve got showers coming up and I’m already brainstorming!

Homemade Shrimp and Grits

13 Jul

Where the shrimp & grits obsession began

Ever since a UGA football tailgate last fall when the boyfriend’s mom made shrimp and grits, I’ve been dying to give them a go. I figured: you mix some shrimp, grits and cheese… can’t be too difficult. Right?

Good news: I was right! And as my mother would say, this recipe is “so easy.” But unlike my mother, I have an actual recipe written down for you.

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. chicken granules (or 2 chicken bouillon cubes)
  • 1 1/3 cup quick grits
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 lb. shrimp, chopped (this can be the frozen cooked kind in a bag to make it easy)
  • 1/2 cup cheese, shredded (I used cheddar but you can use whatever you have)
  • 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, shredded
  1. Spray a large pot with non-stick spray. Bring water to a rolling boil and add salt.
  2. Stir in grits slowly and add chicken granules. Bring to heavy boil for 3 minutes. (Warning: the grits will get bubbly and pop out and burn you, so keep it on medium heat and stir… and wear protective gear…)
  3. Add cream and boil again.
  4. Add shrimp and, you guessed it, boil again.
  5. Turn off heat, cover and set aside. When you’re ready to serve, reheat and stir in the cheeses.
It really is as easy as that! While I didn’t take a picture, I did take a bowl to my See.Spark.Go bosses for a late night snack because it made so many portions! And the best part about it was that since I am playing the “clean out the fridge” game, this only cost me $3.89 to make! Delicious cooking on a budget!
Do you have any recipes that are simple and a classic like this one?

Thrifting 101

3 May

A couple weekends ago I ventured to my parent’s house in Alpharetta. I had not been home for an entire weekend since last semester, so it was very nice to relax a bit and enjoy my time with them before school ends and the real world starts for me.

My mom, who is a professional organizer (aka goes into houses like Hoarders and revamps them on the cheap), absolutely swears by thrift stores. She finds the best deals and is able to save her clients tons of money without forgoing style.

After visiting my dad’s chiropractic office and having lunch with my parents in the same center, my mom wanted to go into one of her favorite Alpharetta thrift stores, The Hope Store. While I accidentally broke one platter (oops), I was much less clumsy with this lovely $8 find!

Originally from Swoozies, platters like these average about $40. When I found it, I did a little happy dance with visions of burgers, warm sun and fresh tomatoes dancing in my head.

When I showed my mom, she proceeded to tell me all about the great finds she has at thrift stores, so I thought we would feature her knowledge and thrifting ability today!

Meet Joan Locher, Owner of Organizing For U in Alpharetta, Ga.

Q: What are your best recommendations for new thrifters?

A: My recommendations for new thrifters would be when you see a thrift store that looks interesting, make a stop in just to check it out. Just about any thrift store has something interesting you can find. After you’ve checked out several in your area – it’s fun to take a day and make the rounds to see what treasures you can find. If you’re looking for something specific, keep going back because the turnover of items in these types of stores is usually big and new things come in all the time. If you want to bargain – ask if the prices are firm or not. If they are not, make an offer and see what happens. They just may accept it – you never know. And if not, it’s probably a bargain anyway!!

Q: What is the best bargain you have ever found at a thrift store?

A: The best one I found is a set of four side metal chairs for a total of $20. I needed a few chairs for decor in a couple of rooms for a client and didn’t want to buy something new. So, I hit my usual stores and buried in the back of one of the rooms were the four chairs I was looking for! I couldn’t resist. They were metal chairs that my mother actually had with a vinyl seat. They were a mess and very old and worn out and I knew if I took them apart and repainted and recovered them, they would look wonderful and that’s exactly what I did.  They turned out to be so unique. But I had to be willing to put in the time to redo them.

Q: What can you do with thrift store items that people wouldn’t think of?

A: Since I have my own business organizing, staging and redecorating people’s homes – I often times think outside of the box with items I purchase – especially when my clients are on a budget! For example I once used a big plastic flower pot that I bought for cleaning supplies and rags in a closet instead of going out and buying a carryall. It worked perfectly and everything fit like a glove! You have to think outside of the box when thrifting.

Q: What’s the best thing about thrifting?

A: The best thing about thrifting is that you get bargains at minimal prices and find wonderful treasures along the way. Remember – one man’s junk is another man’s treasure!

And that’s it, my friends – if you live in the Atlanta area and are looking for someone to help with organizing, cleaning out and decorating, my mom’s your gal. She does incredible work. You can contact her at 770-402-6828 or at joan[at]organizingforu.com.

We’re always looking for great deals: have you ever found an incredible something at a thrift store? We’d love to see!

Until next time, happy thrifting!

10 Ways to Save Money on Vacation

10 Mar

Challenge: Enjoy a week of vacation where I do absolutely nothing work related other than working on my tan.

Could be tough for me, but I’m up for it.

That means: no cell phone, no Internet, no homework, no work, nothing.

The reason I say this is because in approximately 2 days I will be on my way to Florida for a weekend in Cocoa Beach and then a week cruising the high seas with 15 of my best girl friends on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Can. Not. Wait.

This is the last time we will all really be together until who knows when, so I want to cherish every moment of it. However, that doesn’t mean I need to spend beaucoups of money just to have fun. There are plenty of ways to save money without being cheap on your Spring Break trip, or any trip.

Here is a list of some suggestions:

  1. Visit/stalk sites like www.kayak.com: Their slogan is “One and Done” because they literally scour the web for any and all flights, hotels, etc. and show you the prices. Then you choose the best one. Easy as that. Start early and you’ll find even better deals.
  2. Make your own meals: It sounds so simple, but people often forget that they can make a sandwich for lunch, instead of paying upwards of $15 for a bad burger on the beach. Plus, if you pack yourself a little picnic, you can stay in the sun for even longer. A win/win.
  3. Pack efficiently: If you can manage it, pack as little as possible and carry-on your luggage on flights. Checking bags can be unbearably expensive these days, and truthfully, not always worth it. You will probably only really need about one sixteenth of what you are packing anyway.
  4. Walk: Benefits of walking include – seeing sights you may not see otherwise, getting exercise, saving money by not paying for a taxi/bus/etc.
  5. Avoid over-priced drinks: On cruises especially, alcohol can be more expensive than anything else. Sure, you have to pay for soda now too, but those fun smoothies and fruity drinks by the pool can really rack up the credit card bill. Consider drinking water or finding other options, like waiting until you’re at a destination stop to drink.
  6. Limit yourself on shopping: Those cutesy, tourist-trap shops may have the perfect thimble for your great-aunt Susie, but realistically, you don’t need to buy it. Consider other options like taking pictures and framing them when you return from vacation for souvenirs. Let’s be honest – Susie wouldn’t even know what she was missing anyway.
  7. Use coupons… for everything: Oftentimes your hotel will have coupons in the lobby for different restaurants or attractions nearby. Also, you can search online before you go for coupon codes, group discounts or student discounts for most things you want to do.
  8. Budget for the week: Create one. That’s it.
  9. Bring snacks/drinks in the car or on the plane: This will save tons of money when you are tempted to hop out of the car and grab a bag of Doritos, some gummy worms and a Coke at the gas station. Plus, healthier snacks will actually keep you full for longer, so you will have to eat less, and ultimately spend less. Try peanut butter crackers and an apple, or if you’re like me, a jar of peanut butter and an apple.
  10. Have a “staycation” instead: Many people don’t even consider staying home an option for vacation. However, if you don’t have to money to travel somewhere, consider taking a weekend to veg-out with a good book, glass of wine and no cell phone. It will do a world of wonders. Or, you can check your local paper to see what awesome attractions are happening in your area. Try free concerts, museums or just a nice hike. It will be worth it in the end.

Overall, I’m looking forward to see how little money I can spend this week. Since my sweet roommate booked our cruise through a travel agent literally in October, we got a great deal. It’s going to be glorious.

In the meantime, feel free to add suggestions for what your best money-saving tips are while traveling.

Bon voyage!

I pledge to Live Financially Thrifty

22 Feb

So, as I have mentioned before, being a college student definitely lends to an “on a budget” lifestyle. Although I do have two part-time jobs, all of that money goes immediately to pay the rent for my sweet Hartford house, bills and food (which I love a lot, as you can/will see over the course of this blog).

The mission

However, being a college student definitely also keeps me in the know about what awesome things are going on in Athens/at UGA. I recently discovered the Live Financially campaign that has been taking over The Classic City. Originally I saw the campaign come to life on Twitter and Facebook before really realizing what it was. I later had the opportunity to get to know a little more about the campaign and seriously think that Athens could not be a better place for this team to be executing it.

According to their Facebook page, Live Financially is a community-based grassroots movement to inspire Athenians to take charge of their personal finances. The goal of the campaign is to encourage people to define their financial goals and practice personal finance skills to achieve them.

I have been following their “Daily Tips” for February to remind myself to be financially thrifty and here are a few of my favorites:

1. Record all of your purchases: Sometimes I can lose track of how often I eat out since I have such a busy schedule. By doing this I can monitor where my money is going and hopefully spend it more wisely.

2. Replace your incandescent lightbulbs: Save $56 over the course of the lightbulb’s life? Heck yes. Who cares if it’s a bit more expensive to start, that’s totally worth it. Plus, it saves our precious little Earth.

3. Free entertainment is the best entertainment: It’s so true. It makes you feel better about going out to do something fun when you know it’s not putting a dent in your wallet. Also, discounted entertainment is definitely another way to go, if you really want to do something that costs a bit (more on that to come in a future blog post!)

And here is some free entertainment from the team – I highly recommend checking out the other “Suggested Videos” because some are seriously funny:

Those are just a few of their many awesome ideas to save money!

And guess what… if you want to learn more about how to Live Financially Aware, you can check out their free financial workshop at the ACC Library on Baxter St. on Feb. 26 at 2:30 pm.

So, what do you think are the best ways to be thrifty?

DIY: Melting Pot at Home

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is the one day of the year when all couples spend romantic evenings together and all singletons celebrate “Singles Awareness Day.” However, often, both of those cost quite a bit of money. I am here to tell that that whether you are with that special someone or just having a night with the girls, I have quite the inexpensive, Melting Pot-worthy treat for you!

Cheese fondue. Yep, you know, the gooey goodness of cheese and deliciousness that graces a table of bread, Granny Smith apples and veggies.

Last night, my sweet boyfriend surprised me with a 3-course fondue dinner complete with two (yes, two) different types of chocolate – and he doesn’t even like chocolate. I’m going to toot his horn for a moment and say that not only was it absolutely the sweetest thing ever, but he also is quite the chef.

I’m here to be the first to tell you that you can have Melting Pot taste without the Melting Pot price – and all in the comfort of your own home.

Cheese fondue and Ratatouille: the Perfect Combo

Here are the ingredients for the cheese fondue:

  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Fontina cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Bavarian Bergkase cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Irish Cheddar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Wait?… corn starch? Yes, corn starch. The boyfriend went to his trusty friend, Alton Brown, for that tidbit of info. Check out around 5:30 for more info.

Important things to know:

  • Start with the liquids in the fondue pot on low heat and bring to a simmer. No need to let it boil too much.
  • Pour the cheese slowly into the liquid to let it melt as you pour and stir.
  • Keep it on low heat while you eat so the cheese doesn’t harden, but make sure to wait a second after dipping so you don’t burn your mouth.
  • Only use cheeses that are not super greasy. We tried Manchego one day, and while we love the taste of it in Spain on some bread with a little tomato and olive oil, it is less than satisfying when the oils take over and make the cheese gloppy. No one likes gloppy fondue.
  • Use dippers like Granny Smith apples, various types of breads, broccoli and carrots. All are delicious and even better covered in cheese fondue.

After a bit of mixing, when the cheese starts to look a lot like this:

Cheesy melted goodness

… get your dippers, take a sip of wine and go to town!


DIY Valentine’s Present

6 Feb

Happy Superbowl Sunday!

As I sit watching the game (and enjoying the  commercials) I decided I would fill you in on a great Valentine’s Day gift for the significant other. If you’re anything like me, you would ten times rather give a handmade gift than a store-bought one. However, it can be tough to come up with endless gifts when you have been dating, engaged or married for a long time. It’s even harder when Christmas is in December, the boyfriend’s birthday is in February and then Valentine’s Day is a week later.

On my hunt initially for a Christmas present, I came across this blog post from YoungHouseLove.com (my idols in DIY & home improvement). They used it for Thanksgiving, I used it for Christmas and now you can use it for Valentine’s Day or for really any holiday where a present is required. I totally geeked out when I saw this post and could not wait to try it for myself.

Enter: the Fun(d). As a college girl dating a guy in medical school, money is tight. Surprise! This way, we have designated money that we set aside whenever we feel like we can. This money can and will only be used on fun things for us to do together that we couldn’t otherwise justify spending the money on. The original plan was to save up for a visit to NYC to see my sister. Expensive, but so much to look forward to, especially when it will (hopefully) seem like free money by the time we get to take a break and fly up there.

Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me to take pictures of the process, so I will give you directions on how to create this lovely bit of fun:

What you need:

  • Any glass container you want
  • Armour Etch Cream
  • Small paintbrush
  • Painter’s tape or contact paper
  • Exacto knife
  • Cutting board
  • A little money
  • Colorful paper

How to: (may seem long, but really actually super easy!)

  1. Choose a font that is bold enough and large enough to easily Exacto-knife it out of the paper.
  2. Type Fun(d) or any other word you want to etch into the glass and print. Don’t worry if you have to print a couple different sizes or fonts to get the exact look you want.
  3. Stick the painter’s tape or contact paper to the cutting board, making sure to get rid of any bubbles.
  4. Tape the printed word (I’ll use “Fun(d) for the sake of easiness) on top of the painter’s tape. I used a couple extra pieces of tape around the edges to make sure the word would fidget or budge while I was Exacto-knifing.
  5. Carefully cut the black letters out making sure you go all the way through the paper and the tape. This will create your “stencil.”
  6. Once you have cut out all of the letters, very slowly peel back the stencil off of the cutting board. Careful. The first time I tried to make the Fun(d) I lost the d). Yikes.
  7. Stick the new “stencil” to the glass. My suggestion is to check out local thrift stores or places like Marshall’s. I scored 4 various sized glass containers for $10 total at TJ Maxx. Totally worth it.
  8. Apply a thick amount of Armour Etch where the black letters used to be. (Warning, don’t get it on your hands. This is meant to essentially burn through glass. No need to burn through your skin, too.) You can find Armour Etch at Michael’s and get it for pretty inexpensive when using a coupon. I never buy anything at Michael’s without a coupon, by the way.
  9. Let the cream sit for about a minute according to the bottle about 5 minutes or until it looks like the cream is eating away at the tape. Then wash it off with water and remove the tape. Voila!
  10. Admire your lovely work, put in some money, adorn with a bow and come up with a few ideas of things you would like to do. Write them on little sheets of paper so you can “check” them off when you finally save up enough money in the Fun(d).

I hope this helps you with a little inspiration for a DIY Valentine’s gift! Plus it makes a nice little mantel decoration!