DIY Satin Lips Gift Sets for $.91 each

The struggle is real. You know you are friends, but how good of friends are you? Sure, you want to give them something for Christmas, but does your budget want to give them something? You also know that you’ll continue to be friends whether or not gifts are exchanged for Christmas. But that doesn’t answer the question of whether or not you should (i.e. can afford to) give them something for Christmas. The struggle continues.
This year we attempted to do homemade gifts all around. I found this recipe for making homemade Satin Lips, and the price point solved my problem for me!

You can make these gift sets all at once and then have them on hand for last minute gifts (just maybe do a seasonal color ribbon), and the lip balms scents are customizable, so change it up and have some fun with them!

The prices are estimated based on how much of the item I used. Disclaimer: I prefer to read and blog about costs that 1. don’t require any additional buying and 2. that don’t assume you already have these items (because that, of course, changes the cost if you don’t already have it on hand and have to buy it), but there’s sometimes no way around assuming you have some semi-basic household items on hand already. Here’s how I did 15 gifts for my  coworkers and friends for less than $1 each.

One set of plastic cosmetic containers, 50 pieces (I bought these:): $7.75

One package of strawberry Jell-O: $.50

Cocoa powder: $.25 or so

Coconut oil: $1 or so

Sugar: $.20 or so

Coffee grounds: $.50 (if that)

Vaseline (I used generic brand that I had on hand, regular petroleum jelly): $1 or so

Candy canes: $.20

Peppermint oil (I recommend Young living): $2.25

Total: $13.90

Divided by 15 = $.91 each 

Here are the recipes I used:

Mocha lip scrub: http://retrohousewifegoesgreen.com/2016/09/homemade-mocha-lip-scrub/

Strawberry lip balm: http://www.inspirationmadesimple.com/2015/07/diy-jello-lip-gloss/#_a5y_p=4064714

Peppermint lip balm (created on my own, adapted from the Jello lip balm recipe above):
Started with 1 to 1 ratio of coconut oil and Vaseline. Ended up using more coconut oil because I don’t care as much for the feel of Vaseline.

20-25 drops of peppermint essential oil (mine is therapeutic grade, so it goes farther than others)

1. Melt the oil and Vaseline together in the microwave or using a double boiler. Let it cool.

2. Add 10-15 drops of peppermint oil to the mixture.

3. Break up candy canes into chunky pieces and place in bottom of container (this is really just for looks).

4. Pour lip balm into containers after mixture has mostly cooled. Take my advice and do this carefully. When these containers are oily/greasy, they are rather difficult to clean!

5. Add another drop of peppermint oil to the top of the lip balm before putting the lid on the containers.

At this point, if you’ve already made the lip scrub and other lip balm, you can pick up with step #6:

6. Use a doubled over piece of tape and tape each container together, stacking one on top of another, to help the containers stay together when you tie them.

7. Measure, cut, and tape ribbon to the bottom of the stacked/taped containers and tie a bow at the top.

I had 5 extra containers of peppermint lip balm, so I gave them out as well, meaning I had more than 15 gifts out of this deal.

I think my favorite part was trying out the mocha lip scrub while I made it. It’s just GREAT, so be sure to make some extra scrub for yourself. You can thank me later. Happy scrubbing and happy crafting!

3 Ways to Save $2,400 a Year on Bills

TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read): Call or shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible on your monthly bills.

Ever looked at your account and wondered where all the money went? Ever think that it’s disappearing before your eyes? It’s easy to feel that way in a normal day of adulthood and even easier when you don’t have a budget you stick to and check up on. I – of course – would urge you to get a budget if you don’t have one. And if you do have a budget and disparage of your finances still, it might be time to take a look at your bills to know for certain you are getting the very best deal possible.

Here’s a look at some of the ways we’ve saved at least $200 a month on our bills. That’s $2,400 in a year!

Shop around for the best car insurance rate. “We switched to Geico and saved $60 a month!” isn’t just a statement you hear on a commercial! Geico might not be your best option, but for us, switching from Allstate to Geico literally cut our bill in half, and we are getting the same, full coverage! If your insurance rate increases every time your policy is up for renewal, it’s highly doubtful you’re getting the best price. Geico has actually gone down a bit from the time we started. Don’t be bashful or feel bad about calling to ask for a discount. The easy switch saves us $60 a month.

Check your phone carrier’s competitors. We made the switch to T-Mobile and save at least $120 a month! Again, maybe T-Mobile isn’t the best deal for you. When we were faced with a large phone bill for average service and coverage and very average data, we asked AT&T to lower our rate, and when they didn’t, we decided to shop around. T-Mobile was having an excellent deal, and we were able to get unlimited data, talk, and text; 2 lines for $100 total. That is half what our other bill would have been. And there’s no contract. Consider what you could be saving and ask yourself this question: would I rather have great cell service or $100 extra per month? 

Get smart about your utilities. 

  • Electricity – Did you know electric companies charge more per kilowatt at certain times of the day/days of the week or after passing a certain threshold of electricity? It does pay to be smart about your utilities! If you really want to save more on electricity and/or gas, you’ll change your tolerance level for the temperature in your home. It may mean adding or shedding a layer of clothing or adding a fan to your home (look here for even more helpful tips from a real guru). I even try little things like ironing all at once so that the iron doesn’t waste electricity getting heated up each time. Yes, it can be inconvenient, and it might not feel like you’re making a difference, but when you get your electric bill, you’ll know it’s paying off. We recently received a $15 bill for electricity (for our 2 bedroom apartment, to be fair), and I was one happy woman!
  • Gas (natural) – Our heat is from natural gas, so during these winter months, we are especially careful. Personally, I now enjoy bundling up when I go to bed, so I don’t think of it negatively. You might be able to close a vent in a spare room or keep the curtains closed to help keep the heat in. Between the two of these, we’ve cut our gas and electric in half, saving at least $20 a month.

You may not be able to cut $200 of your monthly bills, but I certainly hope you can look at your budget, determine where you might be overpaying, and decide what to do about it. Call the company and ask for a lower rate. Shop around and let competitors know your current rate and ask if they can do better. Figure out where electricity is getting wasted and fix it. Feel free to let me know some ways you save on your bills each month or if there’s something I missed! I’m all ears.

Photo credit: 401Kcalculator.org

Best Free Things To Do in Los Angeles

 

Living in or just visiting Southern California can get quite expensive, especially if you don’t know your way around. Not only that, but there are opportunities for fun everywhere! It’s hard to know where to start. If you’re in the LA area and are trying to have some fun on the cheap, you need to cross some of these items off your bucket list! Disclaimer: some of these destinations may require a parking fee. If you get creative about your parking and find a good, free spot, please let us know in the comments!

This list could very well apply to all of SoCal. I can only imagine that some of the best things to do in San Diego would include beautiful beaches, breath-taking mountains to hike, and pleasant shopping and social areas. However, I decided to stick to Los Angeles, at least for this post.

Check out these places and you’ll see why we rarely spend money on entertainment.

The beaches (here are some favorites):

Redondo Beach. Such a beautiful beach area! The vacation homes are so fun to look at and dream about. We actually saw Troy Aikman (famous, former Dallas Cowboys player!) on vacation with his family there! We had fun just looking at the homes and talking about what we liked about each of them. (Sorry, my pictures don’t do it justice!)  Cost: gasoline and parking money

Santa Monica Pier. With their recent enhancements, this is a big tourist attraction now and rightfully so. Come here to experience a care-free fun time, seeing different performers along the pier, just hanging out at the beach, or fishing from the pier. Cost: gasoline and parking money

Photo credit: Pacheco

El Matador Beach. If you’re looking for some scenic beach pictures, this is the place to go! There’s not a lot of room between the cliffs behind you and the water when the tide starts coming in deeper, but the rocks makes for some great pictures! Cost: gasoline and parking money 

 

  • Griffith Observatory. This is a fun place to go to see LA from a higher perspective! Parking is free, and there’s some educational displays and potential hiking (particularly if you don’t get the parking at just the right time). Cost: gasoline

Photo credit: Frank Steele

  • UCLA performing arts. We went to a free symphony and enjoyed their fabulous music, twisted with a little drama. On a separate day, we went and explored their beautiful campus.  Cost: gasoline 

 

  • Hiking trails. If you enjoy the great outdoors at all, the possibilities are endless!!! Here are some of the places we’ve hiked: 

The bridge to nowhere. The waterfalls at the end of the trail make it all worth it. Warning: it’s a 10 mile round trip hike. Please don’t go if you’ve never hiked before or if it’s been a while for you. And take lots of water. There’s a river along the way to help you stay cool and welcoming waterfalls at the end (did I mention I love those?). My husband and I got engaged on the bridge, so it’s somewhat sentimental to me :).

Malibu Beach area. It’s so nice to hike right along the beach!

Vasquez Rocks. A season of 24 was filmed here, as well as several other popular movies and shows. This place will suit all your exploring desires with trails, vast hills, little coves, and rocks that beckon you to climb them.

Seriously, endless possibilities in SoCal. Cost: gasoline (just be sure to plan your drinking water and meals properly)

  • Shakespear plays at the park. This was a neat little experience for us! Take a blanket to sit on and maybe a pillow or two for comfort. The actors did a great job, and the sound quality and staging was pretty good as well! Cost: free

 

  • Snow! I absolutely love the snow in Tehachapi in the winter months. Just wow. There’s also Wrightwood, but I find it quite overwhelmed with tourists, as is Big Bear. My husband found this amazing area of Tehachapi where we saw next to zero snow-deprived Californians, and if there had been many people, there would have been plenty of snow to go around. It started snowing while we were there… I was in heaven!!! We didn’t have to pay for parking, and there were even bathrooms with toilet paper along the snow-covered trails (always a plus, right?). This only required gas and warm clothes, and we made some AMAZING memories!!! Cost: gasoline

 

 

  • Downtown Disney. Parking is free for the first two hours. Walking around and getting the essence of Disney without the price of Disney is great for us. Visit the lego store and other fun shops (this girl has awesome pictures!). Just don’t get so carried away that you forget about your car’s time limit! Cost: gasoline and potentially parking
  • The Grove. This is such a beautiful shopping area to walk around in. They have lots of shops, a nice fountain, and a little bridge. My best friend got engaged on the bridge; her fiancé sang and played his guitar and then proposed. It’s especially romantic at night if that’s what you’re going for. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking

Photo credit: Prayitno

  • The Americana (Glendale). While this place is awesome all year round, I have to say that Christmas time is the best!!! They have a beautiful fountain running through the middle of the outdoor shopping area, and at Christmas time, the lights make it even more inviting. As my husband and I were enjoying the scenery, we hear “Let it Snow” by Michael Buble, and snow starts falling from above!! It was fake of course, but it was still magical! Just magical. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking
    This is certainly not a comprehensive list (and I hope to keep adding to it!), but I hope it helps some locals to figure out inexpensive ways to create family memories! Yes, some of these places may tempt you to spend money. However, the goal is simply to give you some fun destinations that don’t require a huge entrance fee and certainly don’t break the bank. Now, please. Let me in: what are some of your favorite, inexpensive things to do in LA? 

Faith: my story



Have you ever wondered what makes someone the way they are? Life has a way of giving you the unexpected. It’s funny, we all know (or at least we pretend as if we know) that we should expect the unexpected. That nobody’s life is perfect. That there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter life. Our experiences and environments help mold us into the person we are. Everyone is different, and everyone’s story is different.

My story started in Texas (and what a great place for it to start!). I went to a private Christian school for 13 years, and I loved it! There was a period of my life that lasted a few months that I did not want to go to that school. I had friends leaving to go to public school, and our Christian school was changing to uniforms. Yuck! Those two reasons combined made me question my parents’ decision to keep me in this Christian school. And I questioned this verbally. That was when I was 10, so you’d think that I wouldn’t have that much of an opinion about it, right? Oh, but I did. However, my parents loved me enough to disregard my opinion, despite my pleading. And I’m forever grateful! Going to this Christian school changed my life.

One night when I was 16 years old, I realized that no matter how good I was on my own, no matter how often I went to church or tried to do things for other people, my good could not outweigh my bad. I realized that God is perfect and that my sin separated me from God. Just as dirt would change clean to unclean, my sin in God’s presence would cause Him to cease being holy as the two cannot go together. I realized that the only way for my sins to be forgiven was to accept God’s gift: His Son, Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross to pay for my sin and Whose blood covers my sin. I knew God loved me; I knew He had sent His Son to die on the cross for me; and I knew my sin had consequences. However this night, I finally realized I was trusting in myself (my own sinful self) when Christ had already paid the price for me on the cross. That night I turned to Him and to Him only to be my Savior, and I’m so thankful I did.

If you’ve ever wondered about where you’ll spend eternity, or if God is real, or if He could truly love someone like you, please let me know! I’d love to talk to you about how you can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He loves you, my friend. And He would love nothing more than to have a relationship with YOU! That’s why He died for you.

If it hadn’t been for my parents keeping me in Christian school (though they did not always go to church themselves), I would never have this wonderful relationship with the God of the universe, my Creator, my Savior. See, the school started from a church, and the Christian school teachers attended this church and were all encouraged to invite their students to a special day: Anniversary Sunday. A couple of our school teachers came to our home and invited us to church, where we’d enjoy a special speaker and a barbecue dinner with the entire church afterward. My mom decided that we would all go that day. After that one Sunday, we never stopped. And our lives were changed. We had found a place where we were loved and cared for and taught the Word of God. A place to call home. We got to see our school teachers love us and love Jesus during the week… and then again on Sundays. It was truly such a special privilege.

I’m so thankful to this day that my parents kept me in Christian school all my life, and that Pastor Richard Wallace has stayed faithful to the Lord and faithful to reaching people. My life is forever changed for the good.

Again, if you have any questions about having a real relationship with Jesus Christ, please feel free to let me know. You won’t regret it.

Photo credit: countrygirl0 | Cropped

7 Tips for Saving Money in the Kitchen

I tend to spend a lot time in the kitchen, and that’s also where I get to do a lot of thinking. So I started thinking of ways I could be saving money in the kitchen. These are some random, money-saving tips for the kitchen: basic and unusual. 

1. Use washcloths instead of sponges. I get that some things just clean better with a sponge (or so we like to think), but if you’re trying to save money, use a washcloth that can be washed and reused, and if you think some items might need a sponge, soak them for a while.

2. Rinse all your dishes before washing, particularly if you don’t have a dishwasher. Having food and beverage residue stuck and dried onto your dishes will undoubtedly require more soap. And since water is cheaper than soap, rinse those babies! This also keeps away bugs if you’re not able to or choose not to wash them right away, and that saves you more than just money!

3. Meal plan. If you’ve never tried this before, you must try it! There are some great, free meal plans out there! If you’ve tried it and it didn’t work out as well as you’d hoped, I encourage you to give it another try. I’ve experienced personally the savings from this – savings of money and time and stress, simply by making a comprehensive grocery list for the next week or two. If it seems daunting, try doing just one week. You’ll be glad to not have to make more than one trip to the grocery store, and you’ll save money by having food on hand and not going out to eat or making impulse purchases during another trip to the grocery store.

4. Save resealable, plastic bags and containers. Unless you use the plastic bag for raw meat, why not wash and reuse? My husband taught me the easiest way to wash plastic quart or gallon sized bags: turn them completely inside out and then wash! Works magically. I’m only referring to quart and gallon sized bags, as sandwich bags are so flimsy and thin that it’s not worth the time and effort to me. But hey, if you can get another use out of it, why not?

5. Wash and reuse foil. I just recently started doing this, but so far I like it and appreciate not messing with tearing off the foil again!

6. Save paper bags from take out or other shopping and use them as lunch bags or whatever else you want to transport! I use these again and again for taking lunches or snacks to work.

7. Repurpose citrus peels to make an amazing aroma on the stove (that’s my favorite use for them – just add some cinnamon, clove, or rosemary and water!) or use the peel to make a zest to save for later (dry out before storing), or if nothing else, use it to freshen your disposal.

Have you tried any of these? How do you save money in the kitchen department? I’d love to know. Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Ginny | Cropped | No endorsements

15 Priceless Gifts from my Parents

Christmas presents under the tree

 

The more I’m around, the more I realize how truly wonderful my parents are. I can’t imagine how different my life would be or how different I personally would be if my parents had failed to instill any of these qualities.

If you’re a parent, and you love your kids, keep it up! You’re already doing great! If you give them love, affection, food, shelter, and clothing, you’re seriously awesome! 

I wanted to give you some encouragement this Christmas season: no matter what material gift you give your kids, regardless of what you can or can’t afford, every parent can give their child priceless gifts. One that doesn’t break down or fade with time. Instead these gifts increase in value as the years go by and become more precious with age.

And as a side note, if your parents aren’t in your life – for any reason – or if this is a sore subject because of past hurts or regrets, my heart goes out to you. Our Heavenly Father loves you unconditionally – more than anyone ever could – and He understands.

I consider this more of a thank you note to my parents than anything else. My childhood wasn’t perfect. Whose is? But still I’m indebted to my parents for so many reasons! Here are just a few (alphabetical because I couldn’t decide on an order of importance):

An example of work hard – hard work wins out in so many areas!

Contentment – if I never received another thing, I’d still have a full, satisfied life

Christianity – the most important gift of all: a relationship with our Creator God through the Savior, Jesus Christ

Christian education – I was given an incredible, loving environment in which to learn and develop

Consequences for actions – I don’t know if there’s a better lesson I could’ve learned. Every action – good or bad – has a consequence

Earning what you want – if it’s worth having, you’ll work to earn it

Gratitude – we were taught to be grateful for everything, whether we wanted it or not, and that lesson lives on

Honesty – I don’t remember questioning my parents’ honesty to us, their employers, or anyone for that matter.

Humility – we never lived our lives trying to make impressions or keep up with anyone, and my parents never tried to make a showcase out of us

Love – I never wondered if my parents loved me or wanted me around

Sacrifice – my parents sacrificed a great deal to keep their priorities in their correct places (family and Christian school are the two major priorities I think of)

Sense of humor – Life is hard; make it fun and funny when you can!

Support – Having three kids and working a full-time job an hour away, my parents still made every effort to come to all of our sports games and cheer us on

The importance of family memories and family time – I can’t tell you how many times a sweet memory came to mind and brought such joy on a long day

Time – Though my parents worked full time, I don’t remember ever lacking for their time or attention…and I still don’t!

I’m sure I’m missing things, but I think these are some of the “big ones.” How about you? What are some lessons you’re glad your parents taught you? What are you endeavoring to instill in your children? I hope you can take some time over the Christmas holidays to create some family memories and evaluate what priceless gifts you’re giving your children. You won’t regret it, and your children will be indebted!

Photo credit: Dreamer 

My free personalized DIY door-hanger

If you are looking for an inexpensive craft, you have found the place!

Okay, so this post in not meant to be a tutorial (sorry, guys!). I just wanted to show you that you can very likely make something cute, using only what you have at home. I had some cardboard from Aldi (I love Aldi!), and I had some burlap (leftover from my beautiful wedding:). I also had some ribbon that came on a gift I was given (why did I keep that? for such a time as this!) and the same goes for the flower (yes, it’s awkwardly placed, but it’s covering up a difficult spot I had :).

Here’s my cost breakdown:

  • Cardboard: free
  • Burlap: free/gift
  • Hot glue sticks: probably $.20
  • Ribbon and embellishment: free/gift
  • Total: the cost of glue sticks and electricity, but for sake of ease, I say “free!”

Hot gluing burlap to cardboard can be BAD. How do you avoid getting burned when the material you’re hot gluing has holes in it (and so the hot glue comes through the holes where you’re trying to glue… it’s just bad). If you can handle some finger burning, this craft is great! (and if you have a better option, please tell me!!) If your last names starts with something easy like “L,” this craft is definitely for you!

I simply cut out the cardboard “J” and started wrapping burlap around the cardboard and gluing along the way to help the burlap stay wrapped around the cardboard. The edges are probably the hardest part. I had to get creative with cutting smaller pieces and stuffing them in to the other layers of burlap in order to cover all the cardboard.

Once it’s all covered to your liking, find some cute ribbon to glue on the back, add some embellishments, and there you have yourself a homemade door hanger, cheap as can be (that is, of course, if you already have burlap or paid very little for it, but it’s not usually an expensive material)!

Best wishes to you as you seek to use what you have in your home to make a happier, more simple life!