My 5 Must Read Thrifty Blogs

This may come as a major shock to you, but I am not the only blogger out there who writes about thrifty topics. Oh no, there are many many others. In fact, in the time it takes me to type this intro, I bet at least 10 new thrifty-themed blogs have been created.

This great community of blogs offers so many different ideas and strategies to be money savvy while living and enjoy life. I decided to share a few of my favorites today. These are the sites that I consider “must reads.” If I could only read five blogs a day, these would be it.

Freebies & Samples: Hey it’s Free

I post a freebie round-up every Friday, but if that’s not enough free stuff for you, then Hey It’s Free is the best source. The site is updated daily, whenever the freebies are available. The posts are all freebies and samples, along with funny and silly commentary.

Grocery Shopping: Mashup Mom

I don’t post grocery store deals because I don’t have the patience or energy to look at all the ads and do coupon match-ups. Luckily for me, Mashup Mom has all the deals every week for the stores I shop at. Though it’s targeted towards moms, anyone can find it beneficial. As a bonus, Rachel (the Mashup Mom) is very patient with her readers, answering questions and creating easy scenarios for newbies.

Note: She is a Chicago-area blogger, so most of the stores she covers are Illinois & NW Indiana stores, though she covers bigger chains like Target, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, etc.

Target Savings: Totally Target

I love shopping at Target, but like most people, I end up spending way more than I meant to every time I go in there. Totally Target is completely dedicated to Target deals, coupons, freebies–everything you need to know about saving big at Target you will find at this site.This blog is so thorough it’s mind-boggling. This is a must-read for any Target shopper.

Cooking: Broke Ass Gourmet

I love cooking, and every week when I plan the dinner menu, I try to pick at least one new recipe to try. I find most of these recipes online, and lately most of them came from Broke Ass Gourmet. Besides featuring an edgy name, this blog also has yummy, unique recipes, that are relatively inexpensive to make but go further than just dumping a box of pasta into some boiling water.

This week we’re making the Bacon-Parmesan stuffed Mushroom recipe I found on the site.

Investments, Debt Reduction and Prevention: Frugal Dad

I think every twenty something should read some sort of financial blog, especially one that focuses on eliminating or preventing debt and investing for the future. Many people our age rack up credit cards, student loans, and other debt, which can become a horrible burden. Frugal Dad is like getting wise advise from your own dad about what not to do and how to dig yourself out of whatever financial mess you might be in. If you don’t have debt, you can at least find out how to become a millionaire in 10 years.

Those are my top five thrifty blogs. What thrifty and money saving blogs are on your must-read list?

5 Ways to Keep Clean and Save Money

When looking for ways to reduce your budget and save money, the first things to cut are the luxury items like entertainment and other non-necessities. There are also ways to save money on the “must haves” in your budget.

Good hygiene is a definite must have, not only for social reasons but also for general health and well being. Even though soap and toothpaste can’t be eliminated from your budget, there are simple ways to save money and still stay clean and healthy.

Reduce Water Consumption

It’s easy to get some relief on your water bill (and help the planet) just by using less water. Anyone can do it.

Turn the water off. The faucet doesn’t need to run while you’re brushing your teeth. In the shower, turn off the water while you’re lathering and only turn it on to rinse. I turn it off while I shave my legs and just use a cup of warm water to rinse off the razor.

Install a low flow shower head. The average shower head uses 2.2 gallons of water per minute. Low flow shower heads and faucets reduce the amount of water used, saving money on water and the energy to heat it.

Don’t Take Baths. As luxurious and relaxing as they can be, opt for a shower whenever you can. The average bathtub holds 24 gallons of water. That can add up very quickly.

Shower With a Buddy. Showering with your significant other isn’t only fun, it saves water as well. One person can lather while the other person rinses and cut the time the shower runs in half. (And if things get a little frisky, make sure to turn the water off.)

(Check out 25 Ways to Save Water in the Home and Yard.)

Free Samples

You know those free samples I post every week. A lot of them are shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc. Each of those samples can last anywhere from a couple days to over a week, depending on their size. Though you probably can’t collect enough to last you the entire year, you’re saving money by using those freebies.

If you travel a lot and stay at hotels, feel free to take along with you the little soaps and shampoos they offer there, especially if you’ve used part of them. Housekeeping is going to throw them away anyway, so you might as well take them with you.

Play the Drugstore Game

I haven’t paid for toothpaste at all this year and that’s because I play the drugstore game. By matching coupons with sales and cash back opportunities, I stock up on toothpaste when I can get it for free. I’m no expert when it comes to saving at the drugstore, so I recommend reading Money Saving Mom’s post on the drugstore game.

Use Less Product

My boyfriend has short hair (less than an inch). He fills almost his entire palm with shampoo. My hair is thick and below my shoulders, but I only use a dollop of shampoo a little bigger than a quarter, which is enough to get my hair clean. One of us is probably using way more shampoo than we need to.

I recommend reducing the amount of product you use, whether it be shampoo or toothpaste (or even other household products like laundry detergent) and experimenting to find what’s the smallest amount you can use to get the job done. A pea sized blob of toothpaste works as well as an inch long strip and will help your tube of paste last at least twice as long.

Make use of what you paid for. Make sure you squeeze every last drop out of that tube and fill your shampoo bottle up with a little bit of water to get the last bits of soap.

Try Baking Soda Instead of Toothpaste or Shampoo

A box of baking soda costs under 50 cents, and that white powder is amazing. Besides being used in recipes and to clean around the house, it can also be a replacement for toothpaste and shampoo.

I’ve never tried it, but other bloggers have dared to try it as a toothpaste and shampoo alternative. Or you can just try no shampoo at all.

These are just a few tips for how you can save money while staying clean. What ways do you save money in your daily hygiene routine?

How I Saved Money on College Textbooks and Materials

Summer is coming to a close, and that means heading back to school for many 20-somethings. Whether that fills you with excitement or dread, there’s plenty of things to do to gear up for the new semester, including buying textbooks.

I’ve always felt like there is no bigger rip off than buying textbooks from the college bookstore, especially when the price of a single book is in the triple digits. During my four years of college, I had to buy a lot of books on a limited budget (my income during college was a varying mix of part-time jobs, survey money, and student loans). Here’s some of the ways I saved money.

Find Out The Assigned Textbooks Early

I was lucky because my school bookstore had a website which listed the required textbooks for my classes several weeks before the new semester started. That way I could start looking for deals on the books I needed long before anyone else.

If your college bookstore doesn’t have a website, try visiting the store or emailing your professors about what texts you’ll need for the class. Extra time gives more leeway to shop around and score a really good deal before demand for the books goes up as the semester starts.

Shop Around and Buy Used

This may be a no brainer, but most of my college friends just went to the bookstore and bought the used books there, thinking it was a good deal. Sure, that was cheaper than buying new, but it wasn’t a good deal. I did check the price at the bookstore, but then I also went to Half.com, eBay, and Amazon.com to compare prices, and bought from the place with the best deal. I’m sure there are more sites than this that have great deals, but these were the 3 I used the most.

(Don’t forget to sign up for a free Amazon prime membership to get free shipping on those textbooks. Also, shop through Upromise to earn money to pay tuition or student loans.)

Buy The Previous Edition

A lot of professors are empathetic about the financial situation of most college students and fully aware of how textbook publishers try to rip off students by releasing unnecessary new editions of textbooks. I would discuss it with your professor to make sure, but sometimes there are so few changes between editions that the previous version of the book will do just fine.

I actually had a teacher tell us not to buy the newest edition of a psychology textbook because it was nearly identical to the last version. I was able to buy it for $20 instead of the $100 the new edition was going for.

Borrow (or Buy) from Roommates, Friends, Classmates, etc

Chances are you’re not the first person to take the class, so it’s possible someone you know already made an investment for the course materials and would be glad to lend them to you. I was able to borrow books, a graphing calculator, and art supplies from roommates and friends who’d taken courses before me, and I didn’t spend a dime. In return, I lent friends anything of mine they needed.

Even if you don’t know anyone who would lend you the materials, you may be able to barter for the books you need or buy them pretty cheaply (I find cold hard cash to be very enticing to college students who need beer money).

Borrow the Books from the Library

I found this worked particularly well for my writing classes (which were the bulk of my schedule) where I had to read several novels over the course of the semester or summer classes that only lasted 10 weeks. You may be able to swing it for an entire semester, depending on what the libraries in your area have available.

At my school, teachers could actually put holds on books in the library so no one could check them out, but students could go to the library to use them. I knew students who got by with this every semester, but I liked having the freedom to procrastinate my homework to the last minute.

Sell Your Books at the End of the Semester–but Not to the Bookstore

The second reason I hate college bookstores is because they rip you off big time when you sell your textbook back at the end of the semester. Something that cost you $50 is suddenly only worth $10? I don’t think so.

If you’re never going to use that book again, sell it! Look for friends and acquaintances to cut a quick deal. I’ve sold a few books through Facebook Market Place. Selling online through Amazon, eBay, etc isn’t a bad way to go either, though they’ll want a piece of it. Another option is to shop around and sell your books to different websites or stores who will give you cash for them. I’ve lucked out a couple times and got back that same amount I spent on the book, but that doesn’t always happen.

There you have it, my tips on saving money on those pesky textbooks.

Reader Jeff sent in a link to Your Complete Guide to Cheap College Textbooks which includes 14 tips to cut textbook costs. Feel free to share any of your own suggestions in the comments.

Paying a Little Extra on Student Loans Really Adds Up

I haven’t written too much about my personal finances on this blog in the past year, and that’s mostly because I’ve spent the majority of the year unemployed, so it’s been very tough.

One of the biggest strains on my finances is the immense amount of student loan debt I amassed before I graduated from college in 2008. I had no idea when I took out the loans to pay for school exactly how much a financial burden it would be, especially since everyone kept saying, “Oh, just take out the loans and then with your degree you’ll get a good job and pay them off.”

Obviously, that has not been the case. The economy sucks, unemployment is high, and I haven’t had a decent paying job since graduation. I spent most of the time since graduation putting my loans in forbearance, so I didn’t have to make payments but the interest kept piling up and adding on to my principal. It was a snowball effect.

By the time I was able to start making payments on my loans in January of this year (thanks to a temporary job), my monthly payment was $1024.43 for my private loans. That’s a lot. In fact it was just a little bit less than I was making each month after taxes. Luckily I don’t have expense many people have like rent or a car, but it’s tough to make those payments every month (even more so now that I’m not working).

In March, I wrote about ways to help pay off your student loans, and the first tip I mentioned was paying a little extra each month.

I know it may not seem like it makes a difference, especially if you’re only paying a couple extra dollars a month, but it does. With Sallie Mae (and probably other lenders as well) anything extra you pay each month is applied to your principal balance (as long as any interest or fees were already paid). Those couple dollars each month are shaving off of the amount you’re charged interest on, which decreases the amount of interest you pay each month. That in turn means more of the money you pay each month ends up going towards your principal and so on.

But how does a couple of dollars make a difference? Well, I’ll show you, with evidence from my e-bills.

As I said before, my monthly payment was $1024.43 a month when I started making payments in January.


Instead of paying that exact amount I rounded up and paid $1030 a month. That extra $5.57 a month doesn’t seem like a lot, but it made a difference.

In April my bill came and I noticed Sallie Mae lowered my monthly payment to $1021.63. That’s $2.80 a month less.


You may think, “Oh, 2.80 a month isn’t much.” Well, I have 176 months of payment left, so multiply that by $2.80 and that’s $492.80 I saved.

This is when my job ended, so I lowered the amount I was paying to $1025 a month. That’s only $3.37 extra a month, but it’s something. For last month, I tacked on an extra $10 and paid $1035.

My new bill came yesterday and my new payment is $1021.59 a month.


That’s only a 4 cent adjustment, which isn’t too exciting, but over the next 172 months it will save me $6.88.

So far I’ve saved myself $499.68. That’s a significant chunk of change, and this is only after 7 payments with a little extra. Think of how much more this will snowball when I can pay a little more extra and really start reducing my principal.

My recommendation is that if you’re using this technique and Sallie Mae starts lowering your monthly payments, keep paying the same amount you started out with. You already know how to live on a budget where you’re paying that amount to your student loans, so keep doing it. It will help you pay it down even faster and lower the amount of interest you are paying.

This technique could also be used to pay down other loans or credit card debt.

Free Samples Are Perfectly Travel Sized

I hate packing. It’s tough trying to fit everything in my suitcase and I’m always left wondering if I’m forgetting something vitally important.

Now since most airlines have checked baggage fees, that adds a little more challenge to it since I have to try to fit everything I need for a week in one carry-on bag. Talk about a challenge. Add to that the TSA’s rules for carrying on liquids and, well, this should be a game show.

This is just one of the many reasons I love free samples. Not only are they free, but these little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste are perfect for my carry-on needs. I just open up my bathroom cabinet (where I store all those little freebies) and pick out what I need for the trip.



They take up less space that my full size bottles and tubes and help me to avoid checking baggage. Plus I don’t have to buy trial sized bottles from the store. Sounds good to me.

If you want to be extra thrifty and eco-friendly, save the bottles and reuse them for future trips (this is especially good if you travel more frequently than you receive the samples).

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