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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I am {blank} because...

I'm sure you've seen a few  posts around lately filling in "the blank."  You can check out the original "I am blank because..." post from Little Miss Momma to see what's it's all about.  I love these kinds of posts, because it's a chance to learn more about fellow bloggers.  Here goes my turn...
I am weird because...
orange juice and other citrus fruits make me break out, so I avoid them ((sigh))
I have never lived in the same state as another relative outside of my immediate family
I have a big crush on the city of Boston
I get emotional over sports ((particularly college ice hockey and major league baseball))
I like to eat most leftovers cold
I haven't seen most music videos and get shocked when I do see even snippets of them
I'm just not hip with pop culture, rarely knowing the name of songs or who celebs are

I am a bad friend because...
I have high expectations
I don't always assume others have the best intentions
I talk when I should listen
I would rather stay in than go out
I am a good friend because...
I am thoughtful
I like to do/make things for others
I write thank you notes and reply to emails promptly
I remember birthdays
I'm easy to entertain-- love running errands with friends

I am sad because...
our family is spread across the country & it makes getting together a challenge ((especially at the holidays))
my grandparents are getting old and our relationship isn't the same as it was even five years ago
I struggle to find contentment lately
this time of year makes me miss my mom
I have a hard time bouncing back from mistakes, even when they're not mine

I am happy because...
my old church just put out their Christmas album and I can't stop listening to it
I love my job
my husband is an outstanding cook and carpenter
we have amazing friends
I recently redesigned the blog ((have you noticed?))
I am excited for...
the day I become a mother ((no, you didn't miss anything, I just know it will happen some day))
drinking hot chocolate when the weather turns colder
decorating our house for Christmas
baking new recipes I've found via Pinterest
our kitchen to be finished ((we still have the floor and counter tops to complete))
two weeks off around Christmas

Have you written an "I am blank" post?  If so, leave the link below so I can check it out!

((...and in case you missed my December sponsorship announcement, check it out!  I'm trying something new.))

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

dot cuts back {trends on a budget}

Thank you to all the fabulous guest bloggers I've had over the past TWO weeks!  It's been a pleasure to have such amazing ideas from such giving blog friends!  When I first asked people to write about their money saving tips, I was a bit nervous but quickly learned everyone was eager to share and had a specific area they felt strongly about ((in case you missed them, I'll recap below)).  Today, it's my turn to share some tips about updating your wardrobe on a tight budget.

Here's my approach to looking good on a budget:
  1. Know the trends ((if that interests you))
  2. Decide which item((s)) you want most OR will benefit from between both work and play ((I usually base it on what's versatile, fits within the budget, etc.))
  3. Make a list ((and stick to it!!!))
  4. Be willing to search high and low for the "right" item ((this will likely mean looking at many stores-- and I love nothing more than the thrill of the chase))
  5. Have will power ((while you're looking, you're sure to come across things you didn't know you want)) but you'll need to keep on moving to stay on task
...and now, I'm about to get real honest.

My list & budget for fall/winter 2011 ((September to January)):
>>brown leather boots (($25))
>>tights (($10))
>>infinity scarf (($5))
>>slouchy knit cap (($5))
>>misc. accessories (($5))
total: $50
dress {h&m last year}, cardigan {Loft last year}, scarf {birthday gift from Cotton Lane}, boots {Target last year}, tights {Target}, earrings {Christmas gift last year from Pretties by Meg}
I am still looking for boots ((and I started the search about a month ago)).  I've been going to thrift stores and consignment shops and I believe I will find the pair I'm looking for, I just have to be patient.

About a month ago, while wandering through Target knowing I couldn't spend more then $10, I discovered tights in some fun colors for $5/pair.  I bought two pairs in trendy colors ((mustard yellow and rust orange)).  They will definitely get me through the winter ((in addition to the brown/grey/black pairs I already own)).

I used a tutorial  I found via Pinterest to upcycle a t-shirt into an infinity scarf & have plans to try to find some lace for another, easily keeping me within my budget since I'll use materials I already have ((thread, t-shirt)) and only spend a small amount for the lace ((hello thrift stores)).
{t-shirt chain scarf} {t-shirt and lace scarf}
I am learning to crochet and plan to make my own slouchy knit cap (( I already made an infinity scarf)), so I bought some yarn ((two skeens for less than $5 is reasonable with sales/coupons at Michael's you just have to know when the sales are)).

For accessories, I take note of trends I see and make my own.  Thankfully, I have a jewelry making "stash" I've acquired over the years that allows me to create a faux enamel necklace like this or embellish a belt like this.
{faux enamel necklace} {anthro belt}
What trends are you digging this season?

And in case you missed the earlier posts in this terrific series, here's a recap:
>>grocery shopping by Alli from Life on LeRoy
>>small ways to cut back by Maggy from Living Tall
>>guide to thrift shopping by Erika from Rouge & Whimsy
>>upcycled projects by Laura from Along for the Ride
>>building a wardrobe that's a workhorse by Shannon from The Scribble Pad
>>thanksgiving leftovers ideas by Kara from Sweet & Salty
>>buy local/handmade by Virginia from Geeky & Sassy
>>holiday gift guide by Lauren from The Elephant's Trunk
>>guide to online shopping + coupons by Alli from Ferguson Finds
>>college guide to saving money by Melissa from Simply Melissa Ashley

Many thanks to all who shared their tips and those who read along--  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

((...and in case you missed my December sponsorship announcement))

I'm linking here for the first time with What I Wore Wednesday!

Monday, November 28, 2011

dot cuts back {college guide to saving money}

I'm excited for this guest post in our money saving tips series from Melissa of Simply, Melissa Ashley.  She's currently a college student and has some great ideas that translate to those of us event out of college ((as much as I hate to admit it)).  Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section or tell her how much you loved her ideas!

Hello Dot...In the City readers!  My name is Melissa and I blog over at Simply, Melissa Ashley.  I am so excited to be a part of the series that Beth is hosting about saving money because let's admit it, we all can't say no to tips about money ... the dirty, but helpful old thing. It doesn't make the world go round, but at times it does make it go more smoothly. I am currently studying Public Relations at Appalachian State, so being a college student, I've had a little glimpse about what it's like to live on a budget. A crazy one at that! Let's not even begin to talk about the loans I will have to pay back after six months of graduating (eek!).

I graduate in May (yes!) so over the course of my college career, I've had some opportunities to discover ways to save money, even on the a college budget! Hope these tips help those in college, those going into college and everyone in between!

Maybe some of you have already discovered this wonderful thing called consign, but I've recently discovered this! What's consign you ask?

This is the best way to still add things to your closet, while giving things away. First look through your closet and separate things you want to consign and donate. For consigning, pick items that are (a) name brand (b) in season (c) you think would be able to sell (d) don't have any stains/damage. Find a local consignment shop, for me it's Anna Banana's in Boone, NC, and either set-up an appointment for them to look through your clothes. Each consignment shop will vary with selling hours, etc.
How does it work? Depending on your consignment store, some will either give you the option to get cash right away for those clothes or consign, which means you will make a percentage of the sales if your item gets sold. Each consignment shop will have their own policies, but this is the best way to go. Anna Banana's gives you 40% of the sales if your item is sold within 30 days. I've had such a positive experience! This way you can rid of those clothes you never wear and buy things you know you'll wear.

2. Ignore those emails  Seriously. Nothing is worse than checking your inbox for assignments and then you run across Old Navy or J. Crew emails with their sales ...and cute sweaters. Just don't look because trust me, I am the QUEEN of justifying an online purchase! What's worse is you don't physically see the money you're spending. For some websites I have everything set-up where I just click a button...just ignore the store emails! Spam those suckers until you allow yourself some spending.

3. COOK  This may be common sense, but being in college it's almost impossible to find time for cooking, but it needs to be a priority and made into a commitment. In between classes, work, group assignments, commuting and lord knows how many other things a college student attempts to balance, we're more likely to justify fast food and the inevitable cafeteria. Try try try your best to cook! If you get a little group of friends to cook together, you can socialize and save money! Especially since most recipes have for 2-4 people, you can split the cost of ingredients and maybe only spend $3-$5. Plus, cooking is relaxing and when you're in college, you don't even know what that means. Lasagna is a great meal of choice for sharing - here's a peek into one recipe my friends and I tried that was a huge hit!

This is another recipe my friends and I tried together + loved it. Inexpensive too!

4. SWAP!  The best kinds of friends are those you can share your closet with. Haha, kidding. Kind of. My friends and I have been known to do a little thing called "retail therapy." Instead, shop in each other's closets! This way, no money is spent, you're spending time together and you've got new clothes! Voila!

Even the littliest changes in your lifestyle can change your wallet, especially in college. Just because you're not out in the "real world" making money, there are ways to build up your closet without hurting your wallet.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

sponsorship {around here}

((photo taken by me in 2009))
For the first time, I'm offering FREE sponsorship for the month of December.
Please email me at beth {at} bbgoad {dot} com to get details.

Consider it my Christmas gift to you!

Friday, November 25, 2011

dot cuts back {online shopping + coupons}

Happy Black Friday!  Today, we have the last guest post in our 'dot cuts back series' with Alli from FergusonFinds to tell us her tips for online shopping and finding great online coupons.  I think this post is perfect timing to get ready for Cyber Monday!

When I started reading Beth's dot cuts back series, I emailed her right away about writing a segment; but first, let me start by introducing myself and then I'll explain why I'm so passionate about cutting back!

I'm Alli and I blog over at FergusonFinds about life as a newlywed couple living on one salary in a very affluent community while my husband, Tommy, finishes his two year graduate assistantship and MBA.

I love to shop but having only one source of income, I've had to get creative to stay within our budget. I've learned a lot in the last year and a half and am confident God has challenged me with this journey so I'll be a better steward of our finances someday when Tommy is working full time.

So, without further adieu ... here's four ways I shop til' I drop on a very limited budget.

Cash Back Websites

Using a website like Ebates or Shop at Home to earn cash back on all your online purchases is a must. You'll earn a percentage of your purchase (the exact percentage depends on the store) just by using the cash back site website as the starting point for your purchase.

For example, making a purchase at Target? Visit Ebates, search for Target, click the link to Target and a new window will open and redirect you to Target. The window will start with a cash back ticket. Like the window says, there's "Nothing more for you to do. It's that simple!" When you reach a certain amount in your account, Ebates or Shop at Home will mail you a check or deposit it directly into your bank account.

I use Ebates but I have a close friend that prefers Shop at Home. Take a peek at each site and decide what works best for you, or if you're diving head-first into saving money, make an account on each site and check both when you're about to make a purchase. Sometimes the cash back percentage at particular website varies by which cash back site you're using.

Another great thing about using a cash back site is they typically provide you with a rundown of promotions and coupon codes currently valid for the site you're about to purchase from. It's a great way to double check you're getting the best deal on your online purchase. For example, below is a screenshot of Ebates' Target coupon codes that you otherwise wouldn't have known about it if you were shopping straight from Target's website.

That makes for a great transition into my next category ...

Online Coupon Codes

If you don't see a coupon code on your cash back website, you can also check "Cents"able Momma's online coupon database. Click here to visit the database.

Like a true sleuth, if you have no luck on your cash back site or in an online coupon codes database, Google it. Just open a new tab in your browser and Google the store. Google phrases like “Target promo codes” “Target discount code” and “online Target coupon code” until you find an offer that will work. It never hurts to try a code, you never know what will work. Your transaction won’t be cancelled by using an invalid code.

Recently I ordered a rug from Target, I not only received 3% cash back but also had two coupon codes added to my purchase, one from Ebates and one by Googling the phrases above.

Store Credit Cards

I love using my store credit cards; I have two that I use regularly (Ann Taylor LOFT and Gap).  This may sound irresponsible, but just hear me out.  Many store credit cards have great rewards and special shopping days where cardholders can earn double or triple rewards on their purchases. Having a store card makes you eligible for additional discounts and promotions during a store's regular sale. Plus, you’re more likely to receive mailbox coupons from the store if you're a store cardholder. Store cardholders also receive significant savings for a birthday, free tailoring and more.

Having store credit cards can be tricky. I am not a believer in credit card debt, and it can be easy to get lost in your finances if you have multiple store credit cards. If you do decide to use store credit cards, remember this: many stores allow you to pay their store credit card with a debit card, in store. You can make your purchase, reap the store card benefits AND pay the store card off, all in the same transaction. If you can do that, I say "go for it" when it comes to a store credit card.

Printable Coupons

If you’re shopping in-store don’t assume just because it wasn’t sent to your mailbox or email inbox that a coupon isn't available. There are many blogs that post weekend restaurant and retail coupons regularly as well as keep a running list of both categories on their websites.

My favorite is Surviving the Stores, this deal-savvy blogger providers her readers with a restaurant and retail coupon round up almost every other day. Click here to view the most recent roundup. Also available through Surviving the Stores are restaurant and retail coupon databases.

Again, Googling never hurts. I recently purchased a camera from Best Buy. The coupon I used saved me $130 and isn't available via Surviving the Store's database. I found it from Googling phrases like “Best Buy printable coupon” “Best Buy discount coupon” and “Best Buy coupon print.”

I printed two versions of the offer when I went to purchase my camera. Since both versions were valid, I shared one with the couple who was in line behind me and purchasing the same camera. They were amazed I had such a good coupon but I was amazed they didn't have a coupon. I knew the camera should come with a free memory card even though it wasn't ringing up with one, but they didn't. I also knew the camera was $100 less online than it was in store and that Best Buy will price match, but they didn't. It was heartbreaking to see such an uninformed consumer purchasing such a large item.

And this is a great place to end my cutting back advice!  If you're going to spend money -- do your research.  Find a way to save money on the items you do purchase and cutting back won't seem like such a burden, but rather a blessing and a lesson in managing and mastering the resources God had given you. 

Best of luck, please follow my blog, FergusonFinds (I try to run down my deals in detail when I score a really great one) or email me at alliferguson {at} me {dot} com if you have any questions or are looking for any other savvy shopping resources. I'd love to hear from you!

P.S. One of my favorite posts on FergusonFinds is my Birthday Deals Summary.  I had an amazing 24th birthday because I was able to use so many freebies (including a $20 off a $20 purchase at Vera Bradley).  Even if your birthday isn't for a few months, this is a great post to check out now, as it's important to sign up for your birthday freebies early.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

thankful on paper {4}

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
Today I am thankful for my cousin, Margie.  We didn't grow up in the same town or even in the same state, but we have become true friends in the past five years and it has been a huge blessing to me.

My mom and Margie's dad are siblings who grew up buddies in Northern Virginia.  Margie and I grew up with fathers in the U.S. Air Force for their careers; though doing doing very different work they both stayed in the US for the majority of their careers.  We both lived in the midwest and northeast U.S., but not at the same time.  We changed schools frequently, went to the base chapel for church and have a lot of memories of what growing up an Air Force brat was all about.  But we love to share a giggle of over the funny things Grandma did and our visits

After college, Margie went to graduate school about two hours away from where I was living at the time.  She made time for me and we got the privilege of getting to know each other as friends.  I remember weekends of exploring the new-to-us cities we'd made our temporary homes: Baltimore and Philadelphia.  Since her parents and our grandparents were just outside DC, we also have great memories from our nation's capitol.

Margie now lives on the other side of the world ((literally)) in Amman, Jordan. She's way more adventurous than me!  Our friendship has moved from exploring our cities to conversing via g-chat and skype.  I admire Margie's ambitions and desire for community.  Living so far from 'home,' she has had to work hard to build a community of friends.
Before running the Broad Street 10 Miler in Philadelphia (May 2008), Christmas in Northern Virginia with our mutual friend, AMy (2009)
I am grateful for Margie's...
>>ability to keep up from so far away
>>desire for building community
>>shared interest in pinterest, blogging and twitter
>>running ((she finished her first marathon a month ago in Jordan))
>>music taste ((I always need help finding new stuff))
>>sense of adventure
>>shared love for all things Trader Joe's, Starbucks red cups and Gilmore Girls

I'm linking up over here.

Who are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

dot cuts back {holiday gift guide}

As our series continues, I am excited Lauren from The Elephant's Trunk is here to share her creative holiday gift giving ideas with us. She has some great ideas for where to get your shopping done-- be sure to check 'm out and leave her some comment love!

Hello everyone, My name is Lauren and I blog at The Elephant's Trunk. I also have an Etsy shop of the same name where I sell original canvases and handmade wine accessories. I'm honored that Beth asked me to be here today to talk about saving money during the holidays. It's sad that the holidays have turned into more of a money purging time of year than remembering the real reason for the season but none the less it is always fun to shower others with gifts. So how can you do that without burning a hole in your wallet? Over the years I've gathered a couple of ways to do this...

1. Have a secret Santa exchange with a group of friends/co-workers/neighbors/church group/etc...
When you belong to a group it can get very expensive to buy each individual member of the group a present so I suggest agreeing as a group to do a secret Santa. I did this all through college with the group of girls we lived with. Instead of buying five gifts each we only had to buy one and we set a price limit. It was a relief to only have to think of one gift as well and opening the presents all together was a blast. 

2. Baked Goods
People always appreciate baked goods around the holidays and plus it is inexpensive for you. Giving baked goods shows you care and took the time to really put something together for that special someone. Growing up my Mom and my sister and I always used to prepared mixed platters of baked goods. We would spend a whole day creating all different types of baked goods, sugar cookies, lots of different types of bars, fudge, peanut butter star cookies and more. Once we were finished we would created mixed platters for all our neighbors. My Mom would even go every year the day after Christmas and buy discounted holiday plates and save them for next year that way we could give each neighbor cookies and tell them to keep the plate. I did a variation of this for my co-workers last year, I bought those Chinese take out boxes from Michaels' and filled them with a variety of holiday goods and let's just say it was a success! 

3. Handmade Gifts
A well made, thoughtful handmade gift is always well appreciated and if you are smart can be very inexpensive for you. A great place to find some awesome ideas for handmade gifts this holiday season is Pinterest. I adore these wine coasters from Heartmade and they would be perfect for any wine-o on your list this holiday season. This year I am going to be making some holiday ornaments for some friends. Using simple glass balls from Hobby Lobby (a large pack is very inexpensive I believe under $10) and some glitter and glass paint to personalize. There are countless options for handmade gifts and handmade is always loved and cherished by those who receive a gift where so much time was put into. 

4. Magazine Subscriptions 

There is a magazine out there for everyone on your list and the best part is a subscription is fairly inexpensive. Magazines are a great gift option because it is the gift that keeps giving for a whole year. Your friend or family member will think of you every month or week when they receive that magazine in the mail. is a great place to find magazines for everyone on your list and at a great price! 

5. Etsy Gift Search 
This year Etsy has a great feature where you can get gift recommendations for anyone on your Facebook friend list. Simply go to Etsy home page and there is a "get gift recommendation" button on the top of the hope page. Click that button and from there Etsy will connect to your Facebook friends and based on what they "like" on Facebook give you gift suggestions and also give you gift suggestions by price. I just love technology, don't you? 

I hope some of these ideas get your juices flowing for ways to save money when gift giving this holiday season. Thanks for having me Beth! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

dot cuts back {buy local/handmade}

I'm so excited to have Virginia from Geeky & Sassy to share some of her favorite ways to save money today.  She has some great ideas about buying local and knowing your resources, as well as trading for items. 

Hi all!  My name is Virginia from Geeky & Sassy.  I'm so excited to be here with Beth and all of you!  When Beth asked me to write something about finances, right away I thought I'd share these 3 things that a lot of people don't think about....

Local Factories & Resources~
  • What things are made in your area?  Ask around and find out if they have a separate outlet store for locals and employees.  You can find things at a sharp discount!
  • In my area people can get baby food, medicine, sand, office furniture, fabric, and pickles at discounts to name a few.  To give you an example, we wanted some sand for our sandbox.  Living close to Lake Michigan, there are a lot of people who have to literally shovel the sand out of their driveways and give it away for free.  Well, my husband went down to the beach but there were no "free" signs out by the road with a bunch of sand.  On the way back he went to the local sand-mining place and asked if they would sell him some sand.  $5 and a huge trailer half filled with clean sand and he was headed home. 
  • There's also a local place that powder coats for big companies.  You can also contact them to powder coat things for your home for a price.  They'll just throw it on the line when the color you want comes up. 
  • We live near Herman Miller and they have an outlet/shop that exclusively sells their items at an extreme discount. 
  • What is your area known for?  Do you have a pickle factory near by?  Take advantage of those things around you to save a bit of money!
  • Have you thought much about trade?  My husband has refinished the top of an end table for a new refrigerator.  Half of the furniture in our house has come from trade.   
  • What talents or things do you own that you could trade?  I would say that 9 times out of 10 people are up to trade with us when we ask.  It's totally worth it!  Just make sure that you know what you have (and it's something you think they may want) and what is the value of both of the items for an even trade....(or if you really want them to say yes, make their value a little more.)  
  • Who or how do you ask?  I would approach your locally owned shops - if you go to a big box store, they can't do anything.  Ask to talk to the owner & see what you can come up with.  (ie: do you have a second hand furniture store that has a $90 lamp you want?  Maybe they'll take that coffee table and a $20 bill!)  
  • Think about your friends....what do they do?  My hairstylist has become my friend.  She commented on how much she liked Eliana's jacket in our fall photos.  A few Facebook comments back and forth and we're trading for hair cuts! 
  • Now, I honestly have not traded on Craigslist, but I know there is a section on there.  Think of second hand stores, antique shops, craft shops, blogs, gyms, local shops (meat), farms, friends with kids' clothes, etc.  

Buy Local~
  • Check out your locally owned shops.  The customer service, deals and more are often better than online & you know that you're helping the people right there.  Quite often they'll price match, or tell you about a coupon if you ask.  
  • Your local shop owners have families and usually are all about shopping local themselves, so the money you spend there is usually spent at another local shop.  So, next time you want to click "buy & ship" think of your local shop and how you can support them.  (About 45 percent of money spent at a local business stays in the community compared to only 14 percent of dollars spent at a big-box store.)  
  • Oh, and another tip - if you're looking to organize your own shop or basement, ask if they have any displays or rolling racks they may want to sell.  Sometimes there's a bunch in the back room just waiting to get pushed out the back door. 
A few extra random tips~
  • People who grocery shop with the kiddos - check your store's policies ~ my local Meijer gives out cookies for free to the kids if you ask at the bakery.  
  • They also give out cheese and meat samples at the deli.  
  • & Last but not least, when you're at the deli find out if they discount their items when they close.  Our store discounts everything by 50% fifteen minutes before they close the deli.  

So, what are your tips?  Have you traded for anything before?
I'd love for you to stop by little bloggy corner of the world, or connect via facebook & twitter!
Thanks for having me Beth!  (Isn't she so sweet!?)

((photo credits: Virginia))

Monday, November 21, 2011

dot cuts back {turkey leftovers}

Just in time for Thanksgiving, we have some ideas on what to do with turkey dinner leftovers from Kara who blogs at Sweet & Salty.  She has some creative strategies she uses for all the leftovers from a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Be sure to show her some comment love and feel free to add your own suggestions.

Hi, I'm Kara from Sweet & Salty.  I’m thrilled to be a guest today for Dot Cut Backs money-saving series! This is my first guest post so I am extra excited.

When Beth asked me to be a part of her money-saving series, I knew right away what I wanted to blog about.  Since the holidays are approaching I thought, “Why not talk leftovers?!”  One of the perks of being the holiday host is having leftovers.  
Here are some tips to help you put leftovers to good use:
  • Clear off the table as soon as you can and put the leftovers away to prevent food from spoiling. Prepared food should not be left out longer than two hours to prevent spoilage and to ensure food safety.
  • Keep the turkey carcass and giblets along with the vegetable trimmings to make homemade broth.
  • You can choose to freeze or refrigerate your items. Most refrigerated items should be used within 3 to 4 days and frozen food anytime between 2 to 4 months.
  • Make sure you properly store leftovers in airtight containers to prevent freezer burn.
  • If you wish to share your leftovers with guests, have containers available with labels.

What to do with all those leftovers? Here are some ideas to make that turkey dinner last for days...

Turkey: You can make the traditional leftover turkey sandwich with stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy, or you can make more of a gourmet turkey sandwich using an artisan bread such as a ciabatta, dress it up with a cranberry chutney, slices of a granny smith apple, a nice aged cheddar cheese, a slice of bacon and some lettuce.  And, of course, we can't forget the star of the show... turkey (I'm drooling just thinking about it).

Stuffing: What to do with that stuffing??? Perhaps you can make a few over-easy eggs and put them on top of your stuffing using it like a hash.
Or you can cook up some sweet sausage out of the casing and add it to the stuffing to make stuffed mushrooms with the mixture.

Potatoes:  (This is my favorite) Take your refrigerated potatoes, put them in a bowl with sliced scallions, any type of cheese, and combine the ingredients.  Make some potato patties or balls and dip them in flour, then an egg and milk mixture, then breadcrumbs.  You can either deep fry until golden brown or bake in the oven.  Yum!

Veggies: Take all your left over veggies and spread them on a baking sheet, put them under the broiler for a few minutes then toss them with cooked pasta and a little olive oil.

Gravy: Cook some egg noodles and add some chunks of leftover turkey and lots of gravy for a different take on a type of goulash.

Rolls: You can make breadcrumbs by blitzing away in your food processor.  Or, you cut up your bread in cubes, drizzle some olive oil, S&P and any spices you like, throw it in an oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to make croutons.  Or you can just give to the birds or feed the ducks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

dot cuts back {make your wardrobe a workhorse}

Happy Saturday!  Today, Shannon from The Scribble Pad is joining us to share her tips on how to make sure you're looking your best by building a wardrobe that's a workhorse.  Don't forget to leave her some comment love!

 Hi everyone, I am Shannon from The Scribble Pad.  I hope you are enjoying Beth's series on saving money.  I was thrilled she asked me to be part of this great group of women!  I have to be honest, I am a bit of a shopaholic, but this series was just in time.  I am transitioning into my new body type after having my first baby and I have two sisters transitioning into the workforce - all three of us in need of wardrobe building blocks without spending a ton of money! So today, I am here to tell you how to make your wardrobe be your workhorse!  Find a few great pieces {that fit well...take pictures, bring a friend, be sure it fits!} that transition you from day to night and even festive parties of the upcoming holiday season. Rather than splurging on one outfit, find a few separate pieces that mix and match.  Let these be your building blocks.
Jeans in a medium dark wash with a slight flare like the Original Boot from American Eagle will transition from day to night with the addition of heels and a bangle. A black skirt, a bit off classic, that is conservative enough for the office or can ring in the festivities like this pleated version from Tulle. If you don't already own a party shirt, grab yourself a sequin tank this winter, like the one featured from Anne Klein.  But remember, this is a trendy item, so don't over pay.  ppst...this item might not make it into the 9-5 rotation, keep it for the weekends! The perfect black tee from Banana Republic.  To find the perfect tee, try it on and ask yourself: Can it work with jeans?  With a suit?  A party skirt?  Does the material feel nice?  Check to ensure it isn't see through, and finally, try it on first, under everything else, to see how it moves.  If you are tugging, it isn't perfect! Skip the cardigan and grab a simple Black Blazer. It will always be useful. This one from LC for Kohls offers a bow detail to sweeten the deal. A second blazer {to stretch your work wardrobe} is a great addition, just be sure the color compliments the rest of your choices, like this Taupe Jacket from LuLu's.
Additional Building Blocks:
+ jewel tone cardigan, once you already have two blazers
+ 3-4 basic tees in the colors you wear most frequently
+ a taupe pencil skirt to wear with your black tees
+ two statement necklaces, one chunky + one pendant
+ sparkly stud earrings to finish off any look
+ black flats, the true workhorse of your wardrobe

Thanks so much for letting me share my two cents about building a new wardrobe on a budget!

Friday, November 18, 2011

dot cuts back {upcycled projects}

It's back to our budget series today with Laura from Along for the Ride.  She has some great ideas about upcycling to share.  I just love her ideas and hope you'll tell her how much you love it!

I am continually trying to find ways to spruce up my wardrobe. 
A new necklace here.
A belt there.
What about a bracelet?
But, like every other family, money is getting tighter, yet my interest in expanding my closet seems to just grow.
So what's a girl to do?
Upcycle of course!
Upcycle: "The practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value."
Gosh, what's better than finding ways to add cute jewelry and accessories to your closet than with items you already have!?
So go dig out your old clothes from the Goodwill pile and rescue those scraps from the garbage. Here are a few fabulous projects you can do with the things you already have on hand!
[Please note, these are not my original ideas. Click on the links below each image for original tutorial.]

Jewelry and Accessories

Bags and Purses

And while we're at it...

For Baby

For Home

For Hubby

Happy crafting!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

thankful on paper {3}

If you've been reading along this week, you may be surprised I'm interrupting the regularly scheduled program ((a series about money saving tips for the Holidays...and year round)) for this post.  But the truth is, I started Thankful on Paper at the beginning of the month and wanted to keep it up even though I was planning a series about something un-related.  I think it's too important not to pause for a day and be thankful for a friend.
Today, I'm celebrating my dear friend of fifteen years, Carrie.  ((Growing up in five different states, I'll admit, it's weird to be old enough to have friends that I've now known for half my life)).  Carrie and I met through Young Life when were sophomores in high school...actually our moms met and they introduced us.

I was drawn to Carrie for many reasons: she played the guitar and was in a band, she was a really genuinely sweet person and she always had a lot of questions  ((she kept me on  my toes)).  Fast forward a few years and Carrie and I ended up at different colleges.  We stayed in touch, but then both had some life-changing circumstances and lost touch for at least a year.  Thankfully, we reconnected in person after college and our friendship really began to thrive.  My family had moved out of state, but I had the chance to visit Carrie a few times.
Two visits to Boston had me convinced it was time to relocate! With Carrie watching the World Series in October 2007 and at a rooftop BBQ in June 2008 when I was in town for a job interview
In 2008, I was considering moving to Boston, where Carrie was living with some wonderful roommates.  She reached out to me in a time I needed an old friend and invited me to live with her and two roommates.  I was so grateful for her offer and had the pleasure of living with her for two years before the mister swept me off my feet ((more on that coming soon)).  Carrie invited me into a community of friends in Boston, I can't imagine my life with out.

Today, I'm thankful for Carrie's passion for people.  She works as a counselor and I admire her greatly for it.  She is patient with everyone ((another quality I admire)) and so loving.  Carrie is a great listener and I treasure our times together in our busy lives.  I'm so thankful to have Carrie in my life!

I'm linking up with No. 17 over here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

dot cuts back {guide to thrift shopping}

Today, I' excited to have Erika of Rouge & Whimsy here to share her words of wisdom about thrift shopping.  Don't forget to leave her some comment love below!

Hi Dot in the City readers! I'm Erika of the Rouge & Whimsy shop & blog. I am so excited to take part in Beth's money-saving series and especially talk about my love of thrifting.

I was raised on thrift stores and sales. My mom picked up clothes and toys for us at the local Goodwill and my dad is one of those people who goes to three different grocery stores to get the best deal on a can of beans.

With their help, I know a thing or two about navigating a thrift store.


1. Go with a list in mind. While sometimes it's fun to just check out what your local thrift spot has, it can take hours and you can end up with things you don't really need, defeating the whole purpose of shopping there. My suggestion is to consider the thrift store as another option for home goods and clothing. When you need a laundry basket, check out the Goodwill before Target.

2. Go often. My mom says that inventory at thrift stores are constantly changing and to get the amazing finds, you need to go repeatedly. Ask stores when they have sales or when they typically restock inventory to find the best or most affordable items.

3. Analyze what you're getting. This is most true of furniture. It's not worth it to buy second-hand furniture made of thin plywood or particle board. Check to see if it's real wood. Turn it upside down and check the joints. While you can repaint nearly any piece of furniture, you want to make sure you're repainting a quality piece.

4. Negotiate. My mom is the best at this. She notices the nicks and dents in an item and asks the thrift shop owner if she can have a discount. The point here is it never hurts to ask!

5. Think outside the box. What looks like an ugly table can be painted, what may appear to be a broken chair leg could possibly be easily fixed. And remember anything can be painted-- glass vases, bronze lamps and frames.

The things I thrift: furniture, lamps, rugs, baskets and bins, blankets and sheets, dishes, art and clothing (especially jewelry, belts and skirts.)

Who wants to go thrift shopping?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

dot cuts back {small ways}

Today, we have Maggy from Living Tall to join us with some outstanding tips on how to cut back on the day-to-day expenses.  And don't forget to leave some comment love!
I must say, when I got Beth’s e-mail about writing a guest post, I was getting off of a plane from San Francisco where I had bought nothing for myself…and hated it.  I’m telling you, there was a bottle of wine and a pair of shoes that were meant for me.

Just not my wallet.
My husband is a youth pastor and I recently quit the job I hated to work with him at our church.  Roughly translated? We will put as much in savings in a year, as we used to in a month.  Beth asked me to provide some tips for money saving, but truthfully…I don’t sew (yet), I have a mild fear of thrifts stores (half the blogging world just shunned me),  and I find that a lot of DIY projects often cost more than I thought.

So how do we (try) to stay on a budget?
First, we made cut backs.  We got rid of cable, we sold my husband’s car that we were making payments on to buy a used one, and (duh) we started cutting back on everything else.

I’d like to talk about that last part.  Honestly, I think living on a budget is a lot of mind over matter.  In our culture and in our generation, credit cards are too readily available and wants vs needs isn’t really a headline.  If you’re committed to your budget, sometimes the hardest thing is sticking to it.  It’s basically a diet.  But!  Also like a diet, the long term effects are totally worth it.
As for tips?
Ask yourself “do I need this”?  You’ll probably have to do it a few times.  That’s normal.
Oh and if you’re one of those people who can justify pretty much anything…stop that.
If you’re used to slipping your card in any slot you can find…use cash.  Our generation doesn’t understand money because we rarely ever see it when we spend it.   Cash out your grocery budget, miscellaneous (aka Target) budget, and shopping (if you have it at all) budget.  If you have it you can use it, no money in that envelope?  Sorry, try again next time.
Just say no to outings.  I know…it’s so not fun, but sometimes over committing socially is over committing financially.  Suggest a less expensive way to spend time than dinner and a movie or mani-pedis.  I now openly say “I’d love to but I can’t afford it” you would be surprised how many people say “me too” and all of the sudden you’re the hero.
Finally, stop negative thoughts.  I believe that worrying and complaining is basically negative meditating. If you can do that, you can do it positively instead.  Like that print says…don’t give up on later…for now. All of the sudden, you start realizing that living on a budget isn’t the end of the world.  It’s like getting over that first hump of a diet when all of the sudden you start to feel pretty sexy J

If you have any questions, shoot me an e-mail.  I love talking money and food and well…whatever.
Thanks for having me Beth!

Monday, November 14, 2011

dot cuts back {grocery shopping 101}

With the Holiday season approaching, I think a lot of people are considering ways to save some dough.  I read an article in Real Simple's November issue about the topic, but realized it's not much help since I already don't do what it suggested to cut back on ((daily lattes, manicures, house keeping services and more)).  So I asked some blog friends to share their best money saving strategies and here with are with the first day of "dot cuts back." 
Hey everyone!
I'm Alli from the blog, Life on LeRoy.  When Beth asked me if I would be interested in guest posting about saving money I was ecstatic.  I thought all night about what I wanted to write about and thought about my personal life and what I try to save money on and then groceries popped into my head.  I certainly don't have all the tips and tricks down to save money while grocery shopping but I've got some good advice I'd like to share with you.  Please keep in mind these are just my ideas and what I personally do.  They may not work for everyone, but I hope you give them a try.  With the holidays coming up there's no better time to learn some money saving tips!
Plan your meals
Make a list before you go to the grocery store.  Before I go to the grocery store each week I plan the meals for the week so I know exactly what I need to buy.  I've found that when I don't make a list I end up spending and extra $20-$30 on items I don't really need.  
Stock up on sale items
If you know your family likes a certain food or drink and it's on sale; stock up!  For instance, our little man loves apple juice so whenever the apple juice is on sale, I buy a bunch because I know he's going to drink it and it will not go to waste.  Although you may be spending more money up front, you'll be saving in the long run.
Buy generic
I'm a huge believer in generic brands! For a long time, I never bought generic brands because I thought people would think I couldn't afford the 'real' stuff.  The truth is, I can afford the 'real' stuff, I'm just smart enough to know that in most cases it's the exact same thing as the name brand!  I really recommened buying generic items such as; cereal, canned items, frozen items and snacks such as crackers or chips.  I dare you to compare ;-)
Don't shop hungry
I'm so guilty of doing this way too often.  I get done with work, run to the grocery store on an empty stomach and buy a bunch of stuff I don't need...naughty!  Try going to the grocery store after you've eaten a meal; it's amazing how much less cravings you'll have and less unnecessary items you'll throw into your cart.
Look up, look down
Store managers are smart, they put all the name brand, most expensive items at eye level so they're the first things you see.  Don't be fooled!  Look up and look down for the less expensive and generic brands. 
Don't buy personal items at the grocery store
Never, never, never!! Again, I'm not going to lie, I have bought an occasional box of tampons at the grocery store because we were in the middle of a blizzard and I didn't want to make one more stop. most cases this is a big no, no because you will spend double even tripple what you normally would spend.  Stick to the food items.
Think frozen, canned, or dried.
Next time you're gathering ingredients for a recipe, try using frozen, canned, or dried foods. They may be less expensive than fresh, yet are equally nutritious. Produce is typically frozen, canned, or dried at the peak of ripeness, when nutrients are plentiful. Fish and poultry are often flash-frozen to minimize freezer damage and retain freshness.
I hope these few tips get you motivated to start looking into ways to save money at the grocery store.  There are many ways to save money while buying groceries, these are just a few to get you started.  Again, they're not perfect, they're just what I personally do and I think they work!
Happy Holidays everyone!
((photo credits: