A Christmas Thank You Letter to Treasure

Today’s Famous Frugalista Christmas gift suggestion is for a very special person on your list. It will take an hour  — maybe even less — to create and you won’t have to lay out a single penny. The best part is that whoever gets this one-of-a-kind and unexpected gift will think you’re absolutely incredible for giving it. Have I got your attention now?

What is this super-sensational, extraordinary, marvelous, totally amazing present? A letter.

That’s right, but not just any letter. A letter written straight from your heart that tells why you’re so thankful to have that person in your life. The kind of letter that will lift a person’s spirits and make them smile. The kind of letter that will be read again and again and again.

All too often we mean to acknowledge a special someone, but life gets busy and somehow we just never get around to it. Nobody gets through this life all alone and each of us has people that have made our lives sweeter. This is the season to say “Thank You!” — but  it’s kind of hard sometimes to express what we’re really feeling face-to-face. isn’t it? That’s why a letter is so perfect, Sweet Pea.

Some idea sparkers:

• How has this person had a positive effect on your life?

• What have you learned from her?

• How has he inspired you?

• Picked you up when you were down? Encouraged you when you wanted to give up?

• Helped you through a rough patch?

• Made you laugh?

• Been loyal and supportive no matter how many dumb wrong turns you took?

Who will you write to — a parent, an old friend, a mentor, a pastor, a teacher?

Do it this Christmas while that special person is still living. Don’t wait until it’s too late, Cupcake. Get some paper and a pen right now and get busy. You’ll get all warm and fuzzy-feeling inside (a bonus just for you!) and you’ll give someone special the best gift ever. A pure pleasure boost. A gift worth it’s weight in gold. It will mean more than you can possibly imagine.

So write that letter today. If you’re feeling extra-creative, you can always add a decorative border or a little drawing or sprinkle a few sequin “jewels” in the envelope. Remember, it’s what you say, straight from the heart, that makes your Christmas Thank You Letter really shine.

© 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

DIY Gift – Ooh La La! Lemon Body Scrub

Well, Darlin’, the countdown to Christmas is officially in full swing, judging by the number of annoying commercials on TV. Wouldn’t it be great to actually get through Thanksgiving dinner without being urged to get out there and “Buy, Buy, Buy!” — especially when you’re on a tight budget?

Not to worry though. All this week I’m sharing simple and sensational Famous Frugalista ideas for making Christmas gifts that people on your list will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

We all know how it is when money’s tight. . .  lots of us women don’t feel like we can splurge on little luxuries for ourselves, right?  Alright, Cupcake, that’s where you step in and whip up a glorious spa treatment that any woman on your list would go crazy for. And the best part is it’s gonna cost less than a buck to make.  (Heck, you can make up a dozen jars and keep a few as a special treat for yourself — without feeling the least bit guilty!)

I promise these recipes are soooo easy and won’t take more than ten minutes to mix up and package.

Ooh La La! LemonBody Scrub

What you need for each jar of body scrub:

• 1 cup sugar (I like to buy the regular ol’ white sugar on sale, but this recipe works with brown sugar too) 
• 1/2 cup olive oil  
• 1 T lemon zest (grated)  

• small jar with lid

• sparkly ribbon, fabric scraps, small candy canes, beads, feathers, old broken costume jewelry pieces, etc. for decorating the jar(optional)

Here’s how to make it:

Mix the sugar, oil, and lemon zest until thoroughly blended, breaking up any lumps in the sugar.

A used jelly jar with a tight-fitting lid makes a nifty container. Just spoon the body scrub mix into the jar and tighten the lid.

OK, let’s add a little pizzazz to your gift. If you want a simple and elegant look, just cover the lid with some brightly colored fabric and wrap a couple of sparkly ribbons around it. Or tie on one of those cute little miniature candy canes and some greenery for a traditional Christmas vibe. Perfect!

Want a little extra glitter and shine? Glue beads, feathers, pieces of broken jewelry or whatever you like to the lid. (Oooh, I do love those sparkles, don’t you?)

Here’s how to use the body scrub:

After you shower, scoop out a teaspoonful or two of the scrub into your hands. Using a circular motion, gently massage it onto your wet skin. Rinse off and pat dry. Your skin will feel soft and silky smooth. Oh La La! Luxurious!!

Don’t like the scent of lemons? Try a tablespoon of orange zest instead. Or substitute a half teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg for the citrus and voila! A spicy body scrub to pamper any lady on your list.

© The Famous Frugalista 2011


Simple, Heartfelt Gifts to Make for Christmas

Yowza! The year is zippin’ by, isn’t it? Seems like we were just throwing our 4th of July bash, then it was “Trick or Treat” time. And now Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away. Which means Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye and we’ll be singing “Jingle Bells” before you know it.

I love, love, love this season! Decorating the trees, cookin’ up all kinds of yummy treats, Christmas carols, watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the 127th time, finding just the right gift for everyone on my list. . .

Screenshot of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in ...

Image via Wikipedia

Most everyone I know is on a budget these days — and that makes Christmas shopping kinda stressful. For anyone trying to figure out how to make those dollars s-t-r-e-t-c-h, the holidays can give you a big, bad case of heartburn.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, Cupcake. Quit worrying about where the money’s gonna come from to cover everyone’s presents. I’ve got your back on this!

How about I show you how to give sensational, stupendous, awesome gifts that won’t cost you one cent? That’s right. Easy-peasy and quick to make. And the person getting one of your gifts is guaranteed to absolutely love it — and YOU for dreaming it up. What could be better?

Christmas gifts.

Image via Wikipedia

All you’ve gotta do is gather up some stuff you’ve already got around the house, get the ol’ creative juices flowing, and spend a little bit of time.

All this week I’ll be giving you super-simple, step-by-step directions for heart-felt Christmas presents your family, friends, and neighbors will love.

And they’re not gonna bust your budget, have you whipping out a credit card, or overdrawing your checking account either. Ready? Then let’s get going on the first one!

Personalized Services Coupon Book

What you’ll need:  

2 index cards or pieces of thin cardboard

paper cut the same size as the index cards

colored markers, crayons, pictures cut from magazines, old Christmas cards, anything that you want to use for decorating the cover

glitter, sequins, etc. (optional — but isn’t glitzy fun?)

Step 1:  Now’s the time to put your imagination into high gear. Think, Sweetpea, think! What would the person getting this coupon book really love having someone else do for them? Clean out the garage? Wash the windows? Give the family chariot a good scrub and wax job? Bake a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies? Or take care of ironing a big pile of clothes? (I’d sure like that!)

Maybe a coupon for an evening of baby-sitting for a friend or neighbor who never gets to go out? Or a coupon good for helping her finish that scrapbook she started years ago? How about a few hours of yard work? Help with planting a vegetable garden in the spring?

Step 2:  This isn’t hard, is it? Once you’ve got a fistful of coupons (write them out by hand or do ’em up on your computer), it’s time to sandwich them in between the index cards so you have a front and back cover. Staple it together — or tie it up with a ribbon, stick them in with a Christmas card, whatever tickles your fancy, Darlin’.

Step 3:  Whew! The hard part is done. Now you get to design and decorate the cover. Have fun! Play with this and make it special. Make it stand out with color or drawings or a collage of magazine pictures. Go natural with pretty leaves, seeds, or dried flowers. Sprinkle on the gold and silver glitter.

Christmas in the post-War United States

Image via Wikipedia

Remember, it shouldn’t be “store-bought perfect.” What makes this so wonderful is that in this age of fast food, race track speed lives, and a “just grab anything and go” attitude, you’re taking the time to create a heart-felt and personalized gift.

Who wouldn’t love you for it?

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

  • Gift Time (growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com)

Great Deals for Our Military and Veterans

First of all, I want to say a great big, heart-felt “THANK YOU!” to all of you in the military and to those who have served in the past. And to all of the military families out there. In your own way, you are serving too. You don’t get half the recognition and thanks each and every one of you deserves.

As my tiny way of saluting you for all you do, today’s post is devoted to helping you save $$$ on products and services, even vacations. Hey, who couldn’t use a vacation? Especially if it doesn’t cost a bundle.

If you’re serving in the military, are retired from the service, or are a veteran, there are some pretty great deals out there for you. That’s right,  Darlin’. Lots of businesses know the sacrifices you and your families make and want to say, “Thank You for Your Service!”

The trick is knowing where to find them and how to get your well-deserved share of the savings. It’s easy if you know how, so stick around, Cupcake. I’ve got lots of ways for you to save some moola.

Some businesses say, “Simply ask and have a valid military ID with you” to be eligible. Discounts vary from 5% to 25%. Some discounts apply only to active duty, while others are for retirees and veterans. Others are for online orders only, are location-specific, or have an expiration date for the deals. Not all locations participate either, so the key is to ASK.

My husband (retired Army) always asks and often gets some really nice discounts from our locally-owned retailers too, not just the national chains. So ASK!

Here are some links to stores and services that offer military discounts:

http://www.bradsdeals.com/blog/2010/09/22/160-stores-with-military-discounts/

http://www.military-money-matters.com/military-discounts.html#axzz1aZtsRaVL

http://www.military.com/discounts/

http://www.4militaryfamilies.com/militarydiscounts.htm

http://www.militaryconnection.com/deals.asp

Main Street USA as seen on July 4, 2010.

Image via Wikipedia

Love Disneyland? Get your discounts to Disney cruises, theme parks, hotels, and more.  http://www.wdwinfo.com/discounts/discounts-military.htm

Hotel stays can be pretty dang pricey, but there are ways to cut costs. Here’s a link to help you do just that. http://4militaryfamilies.com/travel.htm (Be sure to compare prices, especially on hotel deals because the military discounts aren’t always the cheapest way to go.)

A number of schools offer military discounts so if you’re heading back to the classroom, be sure to check this link. And for children of military members, there are quite a few scholarships available too.     http://4militaryfamilies.com/education.htm

Want to save money on a new car? (discount applies to retirees too) https://www.gmmilitarydiscount.com/ip-vpp/

More ways to save on vehicles, electronics, sports, and other goodies: http://www.afcrossroads.com/popups/special_offers.cfm

Do your kids love  horses? Horses4Heroes is a  network of kid-friendly, family- friendly places that make  horseback riding affordable for  the families of the heroes in our  country. Not all communities have  this program, but it’s worth  checking to see if it’s available in  your area.  http://horses4heroes.org/join/programs/

Here’s a link to find veterans discounts in your area. They also have a job search component.

Be prepared to do a little digging with this website because there are pages and pages of links to discounts for veterans:

http://www.info.com/veterans discounts?page=1&qkw=veterans+discounts&cb=51

Looking to save on prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses? Or gift baskets? Thomas Kinkade artwork? Cell phone service? Computers? Here’s a link to businesses offering substantial discounts for those in the military, retirees, and federal employees. http://www.govexec.com/discount/

How does a week’s stay in a luxury condo for under $400 sound for  your next vacation? Check out The Armed Forces Vacation Club.  http://www.afvclub.com/ There are listings for all 50 states, Europe, Australia, Mexico, the Caribbean — just about anywhere in the world you might want to go. With the cold and rain we’re having in Tennessee, a tropical vacation sounds pretty sweet to me right now. And for less than 400 bucks? Oh yeah, I’m in. Such a deal!

Veterans Day is November 11  and lots of businesses are offering goodies to our military and veterans. Free restaurant meals, free park admissions,discounts at B & Bs, even free car washes.

Take a look at what’s available near you.

http://themilitarywallet.com/veterans-day-free-meals-and-discounts/

http://www.vetsfirst.org/veterans-day-discounts-for-2011/

http://military-civilian.blogspot.com/2011/10/veteran-day-discounts.html

Red Roof Inn is thanking America’s service members and veterans by offering a 15% discount for the whole month of November, plus another 11% if you stay on Veterans Day. That’s 26%, Cupcake! Woo Hoo! Here’s how to take advantage of this offer:

http://www.military.com/military-report/hotels-offer-vet-day-discounts  

You serve our country, make enormous sacrifices, and I know you don’t get huge paychecks every month. You’ve earned every freebie and discount, so take advantage of them.

Most businesses don’t have great big ol’ Military Discount posters slapped up all over the place, but they’ll give you your discounts if you ask for them. So. . . open your mouth and politely request your discounts. Who doesn’t want to have more money in their pockets these days?

And please take a minute to pass this list on to anyone you know who’s a service member, military retiree, or veteran. Thanks!

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

Famous Frugalista Find of the Week!

You know me, as The Famous Frugalista I’m always on the lookout for a great deal to share with you. I’m all about helping you save money on the things you need. And this week, I’ve found a real goodie for you. In fact, it’s more like a trainload of goodies! A true Famous Frugalista Find of the Week! 

Here’s just a teensy sample of super-duper savings available this week in four different cities:

• Want to work off some weight and have a little fun? Try 5 Jazzercise classes for 20 bucks. That’s half price, Cupcake!

• Car repairs are mega-expensive, you know that. $90 to spend on auto repairs for just $40 sounds pretty good to me. In fact, I could have used this deal last week.

• Do you dream of being on the PGA tour, complete with your own personal caddy and a throng of adoring fans clamoring for your autograph? Bring out your inner golf pro with 18 holes of golf and cart rental for two people – $31 (Unfortunately, no adoring fans included.)

• Are you a hockey  fan? How does a  premium or select c ircle ticket to a professional hockey game sound for just $13?

• Maybe you want to give your little darlin’ dance lessons but it’s just not in the budget. Here’s a deal for 52% off — weekly dance lessons for 2 months for $60. Can’t promise she’ll be a prima ballerina in a couple of months, but she should be more graceful. (Hey, wonder if I can get in on those lessons? I’ve been told I have two left feet.)

• Got an old photo of great uncle Elmer that desperately needs restoration? You can get a photo restored, plus a free 8 x 10 print made of it for 6 bucks. You read that right. Regular price is $50.

  And I just scooped up a Home Murder Mystery Party for 15-20 people for just $25. Yep, that’s all. Half price. Comes with the whole mystery party laid out for me, including costume ideas, tips for food, music, decorations, even has the invitations ready to print out. Makes is soooo easy. No stressing about what to do, so I get to enjoy the party too. Hmmm. . . Now all I have to do is decide whether I want to be Iguana Trump, Mimi Martini, or Lucy Legs. As long I as can wear my purple feather boa, it’s all good. Zowie!

So, the question is “Famous Frugalista, where can I get in on these sensational savings?” And the answer is . . . (drum roll please. . .), . . . just sign up at LivingSocial.com for Daily Deal alerts.

It’s simple. You just plug in your email address and the cities where you want to find the deals.  Full disclosure here — if you don’t live in a pretty good-sized place, your town won’t be listed. You’ll have to pick a city that’s near you. (I signed up for four different cities, two nearby and two where I want to vacation one of these days.)

Here’s how it works.  Every day you get an email with at least one deeply discounted deal for a local business. The deals have a time limit attached — some are open for a few days, some much longer. There’s no spamming and Living Social guarantees to make it right if you’re not “jumping for joy” with your deal. A huge discount, no spam, and a guarantee. Don’t cha just love it?

When you buy, you get a link to your voucher the next day. You can give deals as gifts which is pretty nifty, especially if you forgot someone’s birthday or (gulp!) your anniversary. I know you’d never, ever do that — but just in case, it’s good to know about.

Maybe you’re thinking, “This deal’s pretty good, but it would be a whole lot better if I could get it for nothing.” (Spoken like a true Frugalista!) If you want your particular deal for free, then you can share a link with your friends. If three of ’em buy the same deal, yours doesn’t cost you a thing. Take that to the bank, Baby!

OK, Cupcake, get yourself signed up today and start saving some serious money.

And just so you know, I’m not getting paid to endorse this site or sing their praises. I just like the deals and I think you will too.

© 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.