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All You Need Is Less

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 8th April 2014

The Frugal Diva likes the style of this book – easy solutions for living a greener life which inevitably costs less.  Madeleine Somerville has a breezy way of helping you concoct your own shampoo, laundry detergent, circumvent the flu, and all manners of taking care of your garden, baby, and sex life with the best environmental outcomes.  Yes, even your sex life can be more eco friendly.  You’ll have to read the book to find out how.

Short Excerpt From Chapter Two – Body “Basic Hygiene Boot Camp (And I Mean Reeeally Basic)

All You Need Is Less by Madeleine Somerville

It goes a little something like this: Use soap.

Oh, I know you are a clean person and you probably smell nice too. In fact, I have no doubt that your personal hygiene is beyond reproach.

But choosing to use plain old bar soap instead of that pump hand soap, body wash, shower gel, or super-expensive foaming, miracle-moisturizing mousse you got on sale can do wonders for your skin, your local landfill, and the crowded shelves of your shower caddy too.

People tell me that the reason they use body washes instead of soap is that soap is too drying or too harsh on their sensitive skin. With conventional bar soaps this is often true, and I mean, fair enough, no one likes walking around in a skin suit that feels two sizes too small. Nevertheless, I didn’t usually have this experience and am a huge fan of natural bar soaps, so I wanted to find out why so many people were passing them over in favor of the plastic-packaged stuff.

Because I sometimes like to pretend that I am a girl detective like Nancy Drew, I hunted down some answers from my very own soap lady, Kirsten French of Be Clean Naturally. Kirsten was a regular at the farmer’s markets in my old hometown of Squamish, BC. Starting with soaps and gradually working her way into shaving creams, laundry detergents, and other personal care and home products, she always sought to use minimal packaging, offered product refills when possible, and had a real passion for getting clean the natural way. She helped me get to the bottom of The Case of the Natural Bar of Soap (aka, Why good-quality natural soap is actually better for your skin than anything found inside of a bottle and also, Why do you have to be so lame, Madeleine?)

“Typically, commercial soaps and shower gels are made from a detergent base, which strips the natural oils away from our skin, leaving us dry and scaly,” French explained. “This causes many people to then slap on skin cream to combat the itchy, tight post-shower feeling. Detergents are very inexpensive to make and are derived through a laboratory process. They also have a lower pH than traditional soap, which means that they need synthetic chemicals, such as triclosan, added into them to make them antibacterial.”

After briefly mocking me for pretending to be a girl detective, Ms. French went on to explain that triclosan is rapidly accumulating in our oceans and impacting the ability of whales to reproduce (save the whales!). And whereas shower gels are often laden with synthetic fragrances and preservatives that can be irritating to the skin, sinuses, and eyes, soap is inherently antibacterial without needing anything nasty added.

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Order Some Law With Legal Zoom

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 24th March 2014

Being totally phobic about all things legal, the frugal diva was really happy when a friend recommended Legal Zoom.  Personal recommendations rank very high on my list of reasons to use a service – especially one on the Internet.  Being nervous about the process also generates a high need for great customer service. In my case more like hand holding, reassurance, and letting you ask many questions along the way.

I got all this and more. This company has the best customer service ever.  They inform you by mail and by phone each step of the way and you never have to wait more then a few minutes for a real, live person to walk you through the process.

And that person is soooo patient, soooo informed, and will make sure you understand everything before the conversation is over.  There is no rush, no attitude, and they are interested in your concerns.

You do pay for the service however you are saving time, aggravation, and gasoline. Instead of driving around, finding parking, making mistakes filling out forms, and dealing with clerks, you are taking care of your business.  Their prices are very reasonable given how much time you would spend getting the same service yourself or using the higher priced services of an attorney.   Legal Zoom proved that the law can be very orderly and efficient.

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Who Has The Best Shipping?

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 21st March 2014

And  by “best” the Frugal Diva means free.

With the big news last week that L.L. Bean was joining an exclusive list of retailers offering free shipping on all orders every day, FreeShipping.com thought it only appropriate to list the top 20 merchants offering this great deal on a regular basis. Some merchants offer free international shipping in as little as three days, while others give shoppers free overnight shipping or free return shipping.

This is such a savings when you are in a rush and want something across the country for a wedding, baby shower, birthday, or anniversary.  Thanks to FreeShipping.com for letting us know who are the companies grateful for our business.  Use their codes to save even  more!

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Home Office Tips

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 10th March 2014

Home office, it sounded so good when we first thought about it. Working in our bunny slippers, never having to dress up, showering at our whim, and sipping coffee from our own mugs.

Now we order our own paper, find our own printers, and try to get supplies at the best prices. Like everything else loyalty matters, pick a club and stay with them except for exceptional bargains.  I am a proud member of the Staples Club. They give me points for purchases and every three months send me a check.  Recycle used ink cartridges for a $2 rebate per cartridge.

My personal paper goods favorite is Envelope Mall for that all important first impression. What variety, what fabulous colors, what a deal. For business I want the best quality to tell my clients they are worth it. For a few pennies more you can have something that makes a terrific impression.  Do your own invitations. Euroflap envelopes bring a touch of elegance and no one will know whether you bought them at that expensive stationary store or ordered them off the Internet.

My pick for an online printer is uprinting.com- the site where you can talk to a real person and they actually care about your order. You can send up files for a technical review at no charge and receive an on line PDF to verify your order. If you live in Los Angeles you can pick up your printing and skip the delivery charge. They deliver a high quality of customer service along with great printing.

If you are also your own publicist, go to PRWeb.com - they will teach you how to write a press release and then deliver to multiple markets. Not bad for getting your name out there in a hurry.

Start receiving emails from HARO, Help A Reporter Out. This might be the day that CNN or any of a number of outlets needs your expertise.

You are receiving this newsletter from Mailchimp.com. They will let you have 12,000 sends per month for up to 2000 subscribers for free. This is a great way start out your mailer and see what works before making an investment. The dashboard is user friendly and they have many templates to choose from.

If you have a straightforward legal issue, Legal Zoom is reliable with top notch customer service. I used them for a DBA after a friend recommended them.  They were so good at explaining every step that it was a very relaxed process for a legalphobe such as myself.

Use that travel time that you are saving for walking, meditating, or reading a good book to transition from office mentality back into your home environment.

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Spring Yard Sales

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 25th February 2014

Those novels you read on vacation, the shirt you haven’t worn for five years, the toys your college bound student won’t need, and the sheets for a single bed that you don’t own anymore. Sound familiar. We all put things away for a rainy day or because they remind us of a favorite event.

This is a great time of year to reorganize, declutter, donate, and stash stuff  in boxes for a future yard sale.

In fairness to yourself before selling or donating anything that you feel might be worth something check the ebay price of the same or similar item.

If you feel something is very valuable check with a professional auction house. Bonhams Auction House . Is it treasure or trash?  They are a neutral party who can provide an auction value estimate.

If you decide to go forward with a yard sale here are some good rules to follow:

Put a price on all items! You can have individual prices or grab bags where everything in the bag goes for a set price. Put stickers on everything and you can also segregate areas for different prices. All fifty cent items on one table. Remember nobody comes to yard sale to spend big bucks. Everything you sell is one thing you don’t have to carry back into the house.

Don’t let early arrivers throw you off. Post a sign that says when you start and don’t let anyone into your home. You want good coverage so if you don’t have enough family members, invite friends to help out or sell stuff along with you. If you can get your neighbors to join in – all the better.  Everyone has a unique inventory so the more the merrier.

Get change the day before and post that you will only give change up to $10 or $20.  Most yard sale shoppers know the drill and will come with appropriate coinage.  Since many items will be $.10 or $.25, get a few packs of quarters, dimes, and nickels plus twenty to  fifty in singles. Keep your cash on you or with a helper who is designated the cashier.

Feel free to sell sodas or lemonade for a modest price. This is a great learning experience for small children. Let them set up a stand and feel they are part of the experience.

Now to let people know about your sale.  Many local papers have free listings, put it up on bulletin boards at your grocery store, school, church, and gym, and post signs at all major intersections in your neighborhood. Many people still drive around looking for yard sales and neon colored paper will attract attention.

The most important thing about a yard sale, have fun, watch your stuff enhance another person’s life, and make a few dollars in the process.

Whatever is left over can be boxed up and delivered to Goodwill.

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Mega Bus

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 23rd February 2014

The wheels on the bus go round and round and you end up with a great price. Riding the bus used to be for the poor and downtrodden now with airport security, delays, less leg room all the time, it seems like this might be the best option. Megabus will take you from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in about 5 to 6 hours for as much as $24 and as little as $9 (please check prices online). If this seems like a lot of time, let’s add up the time it takes to fly.

Arrive two hours before flight for security check in

Flying time is about 1 hour and 5 minutes

Deplane and get transportation into town could take 1 hour and a half

These times reflect no delays on the ground or landing

So for 4 hours you can rush to the airport, pay for a cab or parking your car, go through security, hope your plane gets off on time, land, get a rental car or find a cab to your hotel OR for an extra hour or so you can board the bus and be dropped off in town. This is a great way to get kids home for the holidays or grab a few days of vacation.

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Cash For Trash

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 29th January 2014

The Frugal Diva always wondered what you did with unwanted gift cards – Pep Boys and you don’t own a car, Wet Seal when you are over fifty, and Five Guys for vegetarians.  Here are some options from BeFrugal.com. founder and money saving expert Jon Lal. He shares the following frugal advice on cleaning out the clutter while cashing in on unneeded items.

Unused gift cards: To get rid of unwanted gift cards without losing out, simply use a legitimate website that buys and sells gift cards such as Cardpool. Before selling through Cardpool.com, first head over to coupons & cash back site BeFrugal.com and get money back on top of what you are selling the cards for. Rates can change today, but today you will get 4% Cash Back on sale of a Gift Card to Cardpool. Note that Cash Back is only available for the first $1000 in transactions from your Cardpool account (this includes all history in your Cardpool account).

Extra clothing: Why not clean out the clutter and cash in on last year’s fashion? Gently worn garments can be sold in consignment shops or online using eBay. Any item that does not sell in a consignment store or on eBay can be donated and you can save money with a tax write-off.

Old electronics: Sell unwanted electronic items to a site like Gazelle.com, BuyMyTronics.com, NextWorth.com or BuyBackWorld.com. These sites will pay you for gadgets you no longer use.

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Posted by The Frugal Diva on 7th January 2014

Maybe some people are less phobic about buying furniture then the Frugal Diva, maybe they know what they want right away.  While usually quick and decisive, furniture makes me quake in my discounted shoes. And why is that?  Well, this is a big purchase where you usually can’t return the item without a truck and at least one sturdy helper, that is if you can return it at all. Furnishings are more permanent then a Hollywood marriage, more indicative of your taste then the movies ordered from Netflix, and almost as costly as your car. This your statement to every guest – look at all my eco friendly sustainable wood, I love anything from the fifties,or antiques malls are my favorite vacation.

If I haven’t scared you to the point where wooded crates and a futon seem like a decorating plan, let me tell you about a fun place to learn what style suits you. H.D.Buttercup in Culver City houses over 20 manufacturers of varying genres and prices. You can stroll the vast space and learn a lot just by asking the very friendly and non pushy salespeople.  Now where is the bargain?  There are two ways to save here.hd-buttercup-chairs

The first is one of their twice yearly sales that is after Christmas and goes to January 17th and another around the 4th of July.  The whole store goes on sale (or almost all of it), including vintage and one-of-a-kind pieces.

The summer sale will feature 20%-70% off sofas, tables, lighting, chairs, artwork, rugs, linens, and more at the LA store. Stay tuned for the exact dates.

The second is the Backroom at H.D. Buttercup  across the street. This lower priced space gets both older merchandise and brand new merchandise sold at a lower price point.  They also have a mattress and bath store called Dream where a number of smaller items  like candles, home fragrances, rugs, etc. are all reasonably priced with a high-end look.

H.D. Buttercup is surrounded by other great shops and restaurants however Let’s Be Frank , the gourmet hot dog stand, is your best bet when saving up for furniture.

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Simple Solutions for Happier, Healthier Holidays

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 20th December 2013

Guest blog by: +Elizabeth Lotts writer for Vitacost.com

Do you feel full just thinking about holiday feasts? Don’t you wish for a way to stay fit and healthy, despite all the “stuffing”? Well, put down the fork and pick up a pen, because we have all the dos and don’ts you’ll want to follow. With these tips added to the holiday agenda, the only thing you’ll feel full of is victory!

DO…Take advantage of time off from work to sleep more and exercise longer. The beauty of having a day or two off from work is that you don’t have to wake up for the 5:30 a.m. spin class. But it doesn’t mean you should slack off, either. In fact, use those extra hours to stay active throughout the whole day – just 10 minutes here and there will do.

DO…Find a local race to keep you motivated (and moving!) Fall typically brings the perfect weather for running. Regardless of your fitness level, this time of year is abuzz with holiday-themed events, particularly jingle bell 5Ks, charity bike rides and the like. Committing to an event will help ensure you don’t miss a workout. Besides, accomplishing your goals will help lift your spirits as the holiday hub-bub ensues.

Do…Substitute for simpler, better ingredients. Holiday cooking can be loaded with unnecessary saturated fat, sugar galore and mountains of salt. Trim the fat when you can by using coconut oil in place of butter. Try low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise in deviled eggs and potato salad. And skip the extra dash of salt, especially if dishes already contain sodium.

DON’T…Feel guilty about saying “no.” Some things are irresistible, especially when they’re homemade or involve family and friends. Unfortunately, not all temptations are worth their price. Even though you’re a social butterfly, you may not be able to make every holiday party you’re invited to. Don’t sweat it; there’s always next year. Same goes for Aunt Jo’s candied pecans. Dessert doesn’t have to be off-limits, but choose your favorite and stick to a single serving. You’ll be more satisfied choosing the things you really want instead of killing yourself trying to please everyone else.

DON’T…Let stress get the best of you. Cooking, decorating, wrapping, traveling, socializing…the list goes on. It can become overwhelming for anyone. But stressing can pack on the pounds and leave you moody and fatigued. Break the vicious cycle by scheduling time to focus on your own health. Exercise is a great place to start, because it boosts feel-good endorphins and helps you release any pent-up frustration.

DON’T…Underestimate calories in. Keep a food journal to track each morsel of mashed potatoes, so you can avoid overeating. Writing down what and how much you consume translates to mindful eating. This kind of practice can give you a greater appreciation for how food nourishes (or upsets) your body.

Isn’t the taste of victory sweet enough?

This article has been provided by the folks at Vitacost.com. They know that a healthy lifestyle is more than organic vitamins and natural supplements.  That’s why Vitacost.com offers essentials for your home, your baby, your pantry, your beauty routine – even your furry, four-legged friends! Since 1994, Vitacost.com has been taking the cost out of healthy living. Today, you can shop over 35,000 products from your computer, tablet or smartphone with just a click of a button. Shop for vitamins for nails, vitamins for skin, vitamins for hair and more.  Some might say Vitacost.com is the silver platter of healthy living – let them serve you. Vitacost.com is not affiliated with this blog and isn’t responsible for content outside of this article.

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Save Money during the Holidays Using your Smartphone

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 13th December 2013

Don’t leave home without reading this guest post.

I made the decision not to participate in Black Friday this year because I wanted less stress. Although, this is slightly crazy because, this Christmas season I have six children to shop for and four of them are teenagers. That alone is going to cost a pretty penny and I haven’t even mentioned all the other family members that I have to buy for! With that in mind, I set up my smartphone so that it can help me save money and you can too by using the following apps.

Money Saving Apps

Amazon Price Check – Amazon by far is my favorite site of all-time no matter what day of the year it is so using the app during the holiday season is even more helpful. The app is updated constantly to let in-store shoppers know if they can get a better deal on Amazon.com and its millions of online merchants – by simply typing, scanning or snapping a product name into the app – which has been the case for me on several occasions.

PriceGrabber – This is another app that allows the user to compare prices across thousands of online merchants and local stores. And it also allows the user to compare prices and read product reviews and lastly displays merchant ratings as well so that you can make ensure you are shopping smart.

Shopular – This app provides access to coupons from popular store merchants such as Target, Walmart, Bath & Body Works, Kohls and more. In fact, an alert pops up in real-time when you are out shopping at any given store to make you aware of the best deals.

GiftIt – Shopping this time of year can cause even the calmest of humans to have an anxiety attack between spending an entire months payroll on gifts to trying to remember who needs what and the items you already bought and yet still need to pick up. This app takes away all that confusion by helping you to keep track of all your purchases so you don’t miss anyone or overspend on something twice.

TheFind – This app is the first of its kind to combine your online and offline shopping experiences into one. You can map out  your plan of attack at home in your pajamas and then access it later on your smartphone while you are out shopping. It scans barcodes, detects your location and shows the best stores nearby and best of all is the app is ad-free and free to use. You can sync your smartphone app to the website meaning, if you don’t want to make a purchase with your phone you can wait and make the purchase from your laptop at home.

BuyVia – This is another comparison shopping app that features local and online retailers that offer the best pricing on everything from shoes to laptops and in-between.

RedLaser – The list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning RedLaser. This app is not too different from the others listed above as it compares prices, although it has been around a lot longer. But, the one special feature that I have found extra handy is that it helps while food shopping by assisting to avoid allergens in foods or special dietary needs – which helps with a daughter that has severe food allergies, a husband that is lactose intolerant and a father that is diabetic.

Utilizing one or more of these apps will help you to save money during the holiday season. Each of them is free for Android and iPhone users. If we missed one that you would recommend using, please comment and let us know! Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Gabrielle Greene co-blogs on TipsOnHowToSaveMoney. Her friends often refer to her as “Gaby Gabs A lot,” especially if it has anything to do with freebies and saving money!

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