DIY Girlfriends Spa Day – One Fabulous Gift!

Holy Cow! Christmas is just a few days away. How the heck did it get here so darn fast? And you still haven’t found that perfect gift for your best gal pals!

What’s a Frugalista to do? I’ve got you covered, Cupcake. . . Give your friends a Girlfriends Spa Day. . .  I know, I know. You’re thinking,  “Has the Famous Frugalista lost her freakin’ mind? That’s way out of my price range.”

Stop stressing and take a deep breath! My Spa Day Plan is simple, fun, and best of all, you can put it together in a jiffy on a bargain basement budget. Bet I’ve got your attention now. . .

All you need are some of my DIY spa recipes, a cute coupon you make yourself, and an afternoon set aside just for you and your friends. After all the hustle and bustle and stress of the holidays, a gift of relaxation and pampering . . . What’s not to love?

Fancy spas specialize in pampering their guests and that’s just what you’re going to do. To set the stage for your Spa Day, brew up some delicious herbal tea and whip up a platter of hors d’oeuvres. Or pour glasses of sparkling cider or wine or champagne if you’re in the mood to splurge.  (Remember, best prices on champagne are usually just before New Year’s Eve.) How about some chocolate-dipped strawberries? Or rich, decadent cookies to go with your beverage of choice?

Being the smart cookie that you are, you’re not only going to put a fabulous Spa Day together without emptying your wallet, you’re going make it easy on yourself too. After all, you want to enjoy the day right along with your gal pals.

Don’t worry about gathering up a bunch of robes and slippers. No need. Just ask your friends bring their own robes along. Trust me, they won’t mind a bit! Then all you have to do is mix up my super-simple spa recipes, put out some fluffy towels, a little food and drink —  and you’re ready to R-E-L-A-X.

Want to make it even more spa-like? Put some relaxing background music in the CD player, light a few candles, and serve the food and drinks on your best dishes. That’s right!

NO paper plates and stryofoam cups allowed, Pumpkin! Make it an elegant and oh so special event. You may be saving money, but there’s no reason to look cheap, so don’t even think about going there.

Here are three super-easy facial recipes you can make up in minutes. And Darlin’, there’s not a single harmful chemical in them either. Who needs all those added pesticides, preservatives, and toxins?

Yogurt, Oatmeal, and Honey Mask

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon plain yogurt (room temperature) with 1 tablespoon finely ground oatmeal (toss it in the blender or food processor if you’ve got one) and a teaspoon of honey. Blend well. This recipe is for one facial mask, but it’s easy to make up as many as you need. And you don’t need a degree in calculus to figure it out.

Apply the mask to your face and leave it on for 10-15 minutes. Use warm water and a washcloth to rinse it off.

Oily Skin Citrus Facial

Blend 1 teaspoon orange juice or lemon juice with 2 teaspoons honey and half a cup of plain yogurt, room temperature. Slather the mixture on and let it dry. Rinse off with warm water.

Dry Skin Avocado and Honey Facial

Mash half a ripe avocado in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup honey and mix well. Smooth on to your skin and leave the mask on for 10 minutes. Use a wash cloth and cool water to remove.

Need a moisturizer? Smooth on a dab of plain olive oil. Works for all skin types. Now that your face is looking great, it’s time for a luxurious hand, foot, and leg treatment:

 Honey, Oatmeal, and Aloe Vera Scrub

Most of the ingredients for this recipe come right from your kitchen cabinet. For each scrub, you’ll need:

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons aloe vera gel

2 tablespoons oatmeal (To get the right consistency, grind the oatmeal in a food processor or blender. It should be kind of like sand.)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice.

Mix it all up until it looks like a paste. Then, just splash some warm water on your feet, legs, and hands and massage the paste on using circular movements. Rinse off with warm water, towel dry, and apply a bit of olive oil to your skin.

Oooooh, doesn’t your skin feel amazing? Did I just hear a great big “Aaaahhh?”

Now it’s time to pour the drinks, munch on those goodies, and enjoy a gab-fest and some giggles with your girlfriends. And Sweet Pea, your Spa Day will be talked about for weeks to come as the best gift ever! So what are you waiting for? Get busy and make up some coupons for Christmas!

Want to add even spa treatments to your line up? Check out these articles.

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

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The Famous Frugalista Find of the Week — Dining Out on a Dime

When you’re making every dollar stretch ’til it begs for mercy, going out to eat seems like an unaffordable extravagance. Especially during the holidays when you’re trying to pay the bills, buy gifts, and maybe put together a big dinner for family and friends besides. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching! Who’s got anything extra to spend on restaurant meals? (OK, maybe fast food once in a while, but not a real sit-down, served by a waiter, kind of meal.)

I’m always on the lookout for a good deal that helps us hold on to a middle-class lifestyle, even on a skinny little budget. Listen, Cupcake, you don’t have to give up those restaurant meals completely. You can still eat out and save, save, save at the same time!! And you know me, I’m all for saving some serious cash. They don’t call me The Famous Frugalista for nothing, ya know!

Want in on the secret? Of course you do! Just go to restaurant.com and select your state. Up pops a list of cities where you can find some sweet discounts. You can purchase a gift card online with NO fees and NO expiration date. I love that!  A $25 card for $10, all the way up to a $100 card for $40.  Whacking 60 bucks off a nice dinner out — Woo Hoo! Now that’s what I call the Frugalista Way!

restaurant.com

Image by FunnyBiz via Flickr

Check out the list of restaurants in your area, pick out your favorite, and use your discount card when you pay the bill.

Until December 25, there’s a special promo going on — a $25 gift certificate for just $1. You read that right — just one little ol’ simoleon! The catch is that only certain restaurants are honoring this deal. Check the web site to find out if there are any in your area and cash in. I’m all over this deal, Sweetie Pie!

Want more goodies? Check out Specials.Restaurant.com for daily deals like 2 dinners and 2 movie tickets for $25.

And Darlin’, how would you like to give a FREE $10 eCard to a friend, a family member, or just as a random act of kindness? You can send up to 40 a day through December 25, so now’s the time to jump on this special promotion.  Sound too good to be true? I thought so too, but it’s for real.

It’s part of the Restaurant.com Feed It Forward program. All you have to do is create a free account, then follow the step-by-step directions for sending out those $10 eCards. So easy to use and it won’t cost you one red cent. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas . . . Ho, Ho, Ho!

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

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I think Santa Claus just pulled up in his sleigh.

Just so you know, I don’t receive any money, discount cards, or anything else from Restaurant.com. I’m  passing along the savings info, in case you want to give it a try. If you do, I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a minute to let me know how the gift cards or the Feed It Forward program worked out for you.

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

Best Buys in December

Well, Darlin’, I know you’re gearing up for the holidays just like me. And finding all sorts of ways to dazzle your family and friends with extra-special hand-crafted gifts, the kind that don’t cost a small fortune to give. (Stuck for ideas? Be sure to check out my earlier Famous Frugalista blog posts for super gift ideas.)

While I love those home-made gifts just as much as you do, there are some things that are just too dang hard to make yourself.  I mean, really, when’s the last time you tried to build your own microwave, for heaven’s sake? Sometimes there’s no choice but to shell out the cash for what you need.

The good news is that December is a “Best Time to Buy” month for plenty of items. Make that list, check it twice, then shop around and keep your eyes peeled for bargains, Cupcake!

Here’s a quick list of goodies that you won’t have to pay full price for this month:

Bicycles 

Toys (Some insist the week before Christmas is when you’ll find the biggest discounts. Others say in the first couple of weeks of the month. Either way — you’ll get some deals. Retailers want to move ’em out NOW.)

Cookware — gifts or for your own needs  



• Tools — and here’s a website, ToolBarn.com, to check for bargains on hand tools, power tools, even air tools and accessories for all sorts. And my favorite — clearance items.  It’s a treasure hunt and you never know what you’ll find. Woo Hoo! I love a great deal!

 • Blu-ray movies 

• HDTVs

• Champagne — Watch for bargains in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve and ring in 2012 with a glass of the bubbly.

Cars — If you’re in the market for a new car, this month is the time to scope out the best deals. Why? Dealers don’t want to have “leftover inventory” (2011 model year vehicles) on their lots come Jan. 1. Manufacturers are offering year-end dealer incentives and sales people are scrambling to meet their yearly sales quotas. Dealers and their sales staff have bills to pay, just like you, so they’re a lot more willing to wheel and deal right now. And this means price cuts and better deals for you!

Here’s a tip I got straight from a retired car salesman. If you want the biggest discount, the best days to shop are December 21, 24, 28 and 31. And take delivery off the lot, instead of doing a special order.

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

Do-It-Yourself Kahlua

Bottles of Kahlúa photographed with a Canon Po...

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Mmmmmm! One of my favorite little treats is sipping an after-dinner coffee with a dash of Kahlua added. Or maybe a bit of that yummy coffee liqueur served ice cold with some heavy cream floating on top. Yeah, totally decadent, I know.

When money’s tight, those lovely little extra treats have to go, right? After all, a bottle of Kahlua costs about $25.00 and that kind of splurge isn’t in the budget, especially right now when I’m thinking more about Christmas, paying the heating bill, and buying new tires for the car.

WRONG! I’m The Famous Frugalista and I know how to cut corners without cutting out every cotton-pickin’ little goodie in life. Not to worry, Cupcake. You can make your own liqueur on the cheap! (I don’t think you’ll be able to tell the difference between your own homemade cordials and the expensive stuff.)

And I’m not talking about hiding a still out in the bushes in your backyard either, Darlin’! It’s perfectly legal to craft a little homemade hooch for your personal use and enjoyment. But don’t you even think about selling barrels of it to your friends and neighbors or you’ll be in the slammer quicker than you can say “Revenuer”.

Here’s a quick and super-easy recipe for Do It Yourself Kahlua:

• 3 cups white sugar

• 3 cups water

• 10 tsp. instant coffee (not the freeze dried kind)

• 1 quart vodka (I bought the cheapest brand available and the Kahlua turned out great)

• 6 tsp vanilla

Here’s how to mix it all up:

Put the instant coffee, water, and sugar in a large pot. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down and let the liquid simmer for an hour, uncovered. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. I put mine in the refrigerator overnight. A sort of “skin” will form on top. You can remove it by laying plastic wrap right on top and just lifting that “skin” off.

Next, pour in the vodka and add the vanilla. Mix thoroughly. (The liquid will be slightly thick.) Use a funnel to pour your homemade liqueur into clean, dark bottles (like used wine bottles) and cork ’em up. Store in a cool place.

You can drink this right away and it’s delicious, but if you’ve got a little more patience and let it age for a few weeks, it’s even better.

Just so you know, I doubled the recipe so I could give a couple of bottles as gifts. Doubling it makes just a bit more than 4 wine bottles full of Kahlua and it cost me less than $15.00 to make. Makes an elegant Christmas gift for your liqueur-lovin’ friends.

Coffee cup

Image by doug88888 via Flickr

Looking for some other ways to enjoy your Kahlua? Check out the links below for some mouth-watering recipes.

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

Save Some Moola With Free Christmas eCards

American card, circa 1940

Image via Wikipedia

Ho, Ho, Ho! Ready or not  . . .  It’s time to get those Christmas cards ready to mail — or email, as the case may be.

I know, I know — some of us are purists who insist that it’s not really a card unless it arrives in your mailbox, you rip open the envelope, and prop it up on the mantle.

But don’t you worry, don’t you cry, Sweet Pea, in the next week or so I’ll be sharing some places to get great deals on “real” Christmas cards and some super-cute ones that you can make in just a few minutes.

Let’s face it though, Darlin’, this IS the Electronic Age and gazillions of people are using email instead of snail mail to send holiday greetings to everyone they know. Two big reasons:

1) eCards are FREE (at least the sites I found for you are)

2) you can whip through that Christmas list quicker ‘n you can whistle “Jingle Bells”

Ready to start browsing through the selections? Lots of traditional styles, along with some that should make even Ebenezer Scrooge smile, religious ones, and a few that will just make you go “Aaawwww.”

Christmas cards with angels, scandinavian “nis...

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123Greetings.com – Hundreds of free cards to choose from and you’re not limited to just Christmas at this site. You’re going to see pop-up ads for the site sponsors from time to time on either side of the page. (Yep, they’re kind of annoying but it’s easy to close ’em up. Just click and they disappear.)

It’s the season to give to your favorite charities, right? And I know you’re a generous soul but on livin’ on a shoestring budget makes giving kind of tough. Here’s a totally painless (as in, “This won’t cost you one red cent”) way to give to charity and send out some cute eCards at the same time. Here’s how it works. When you send a FREE Care 2 eCard, it generates a donation to a good cause.  Check out the list at the bottom of the site to see the causes supported. There are over 25,000 eCards to choose from for all occasions too. Now how’s that for a win-win, Pumpkin?

Still haven’t found that perfect card for Great Uncle Harry or your new niece-in-law? Take a gander at egreetings.  You can make someone’s day without spending a dime. . . and it’s not just for Christmas either.

Rust Craft, circa 1950

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How about Valentine’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, April Fool’s Day, even — are you ready for this? — Black Friday. What? You need a card to tell you to go out and shop, shop, shop? Lots of nice Christmas cards here too. And some are available in French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Now you can send greetings to all your BFFs around the world.

Got someone on your list who’d get a big kick out of a card that’s just a little goofy? Try Funny Ecards. To be honest, I doubt if they’re exactly right for your Aunt Millie, but then who knows? She might get a big belly laugh out of them.

If you use one of these sites, please let me know if you liked their service. I’m not affiliated with them in any way. In other words, Cupcake, they’re not sending me boatloads of cash for recommending them. It would be nice, but they’re not. I’m just passing the word along about them because as The Famous Frugalista I’m all about helping YOU save money. Yep, it’s all about livin’ high on the hog when you can’t afford bacon.

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

Give a Gift With a Story Behind It

The Black Friday madness is on! Zillions of people waiting outside stores in the freezing cold, willing to brave the crowds ready to trample anyone too slow to get out of the way when the doors open. . . Shoppers grabbing any bargain they can get their mitts on, buying stuff just because it’s on sale . . . but not you and me, Cupcake. No siree!

We’re giving gifts with sentiment and meaning behind them this year. Gifts we create ourselves. And we’re not spending a fortune or going into debt to do it either. Don’t you feel pretty darn smart? OK, let’s be honest, maybe even just a tad smug? It feels pretty good, doesn’t it, to know that everyone on your list is getting something individually designed and distinctive? Something original and unique? Oh yeah, it does!

Did anyone ever give you a present with a special story behind it? If you were lucky enough to get a gift like this, I’ll bet you were thrilled that someone cared enough to give it to you. I’ll always treasure a black string shawl given by a dear friend who wrote a “legend” to go with it. How terrific is that?

What can you give that has a great story to go with it? Go through those boxes in the attic or garage, check the top shelf of the closet, dig around in the cabinets. You’ll find some goodies there. The actual article can be just about anything — salt and pepper shakers, a hat, a plate, a family heirloom, a book — even a gum wrapper that you’ve formed an emotional attachment to. (I’d recommend framing that gum wrapper to make it totally amazing though!)

Here’s how to amp it up and make your gift a real treasure. Sit down and write about where it came from, who owned it before, and explain why it has a special meaning to you — and most especially, why you’re giving it to that particular person.

Give specifics about anything and everything that you can think of. Is there a wonderful family event associated with it? A reminder of a fabulous vacation spot? A funny story? Something that happened the day you got it? Be creative! What makes this particular item extraordinary? Put your heart into it, Darlin’.

And if you don’t have a terrific tale to go with it, write up your own “legend.” Make it fun . . . or poignant . . . or silly . . . or adventurous. Go ahead — it’s your tale. Get those creative juices flowin’, Pumpkin, and let ‘er rip. (This isn’t the time to get all self-conscious and negative about your writing abilities. Just start writing! And it doesn’t have to be ten pages long. One little ol’ page, that’s all you need.)

When you’re finished, sign and date it. Then carefully wrap it all up and be prepared to “feel the love” when it’s opened.

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

Fabulous Freebies at a National Park Near You!

Brrrr!! The nights are getting cooler, the trees are putting on a gorgeous display of color and now’s a great time to get a REAL DEAL at more than 100 National Parks that usually charge $20-25 to get in. Woo Hoo!

There’s a park within a few hours drive from where nearly all of us live, so gas up the family chariot and take a mini-vacation with your family. Spend some time in the Great Outdoors. Get that city smog out of your lungs (hack! cough! wheeze!) and breathe in some fresh, clean air.

Put on your Bucky Beaver Ground Grabbers (that’s tennis shoes, Darlin’) and take a hike. Not into hiking? OK, let’s just call it a stroll then. I’ve already got a feather boa picked out to match my hiking boots and I’m ready to go . . . uh . . . I mean, stroll.

Get up close and personal with Mother Nature. Pack up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and make some memories with your kids or your sweetie.  And guess what, Cupcake? It’s F-R-E-E!

Right about now you’re probably thinking, “What’s the catch? It usually costs at least $20.00 a carload to get in to any National Park, so how come you’re talking freebie here?”

Here’s the secret. . . Every year there are no-entrance fee days.. Even a couple of weekends. And one entire week in April. Free. No charge. Absolutely nada. Sweet!

You’ve got one shot left this year — November 11-13. That’s right, Veteran’s Day weekend. And it’s comin’ up soon, so mark your calendar. Hey, call it an “Expedition” and get the whole dang family involved in planning it. What’s not to love?

Here are the fee-free dates for 2012. There are 17 in all:

• January 14-16 (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend)

• April 21-29 (National Park Week)

• June 9 (Get Outdoors Day)

• September 29 (National Public Lands Day)

• November 10 – 12 (Veterans Day weekend)

There’s also something called The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series. That’s a mouthful! Here’s the deal with that. It gets you into 2,000 + federal recreation sites and you won’t have to take out a loan or hock the family silver to make it happen.

The pass is free if you have a permanent disability. For people 62 and over, it’s a mere $10 for a lifetime pass. And you thought getting older was just about gray hair! HA! Getting older does have some benefits so take advantage of ’em, Baby Doll.

You don’t fit either one? No problemo. An annual pass is $80 and anyone qualifies. Yeah, I know $80 sounds like a lot to lay out all at once. But think of it this way — if you use it just 6 times a year, that’s less than 15 smackers for a whole day of fun. And there are tons of freebies thrown in too. Here’s just a sample of goodies you don’t have to shell out a dime to enjoy:  ranger-led fall foliage tours, Junior Ranger activity books and programs, history walks like the Going Bunkers tour at Ft. Hancock, or spend an afternoon fossil hunting. Every park offers something different but there are free events and activities at each one. Such a deal! Now that’s saving money, Frugalista-style.

Before you go, check out How to See National Parks Like a Pro.