Saving Money


Welcome to the life of an occasional spend-all-the-money-in-the-world impulse shopper who sometimes uses a coupon but tries mightily to save money where she can.  Each week I will be sharing one (or more) of the ways I saved our family money or time.  Or both.  The purpose of this series is to highlight the fact that there are SO many different methods you can use to lower your overall budget that don’t involve mad-crazy coupon shopping.

For the last few years, we have picked up our boys’ Halloween costumes at Costco.  They come out in like August, have TONS of styles to choose from, are generally full costumes (accessories, suit, mask) and are a CRAZY good price.  One year I thought I could be crafty and make their costumes.  One year.  Sometimes it is better to just admit where your strengths DON’T lie and make it easy on yourself.

This year was no different.  We let the kids pick out their favorites, tucked them away in the closet and forgot about them.  We won’t let the kids touch them until close to Halloween because, they’re crazy. We’d like them to trick or treat with costumes that aren’t full of holes and still actually snap in the back.  This past weekend, we decided to pull them out and just double check that everything fit right and figure out what the kids would need to wear under their costumes if is cold.


We have an amazing little samurai warrior and A TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE WITHOUT A SHELL.  I swear I checked each costume up and down for all the parts before we bought, but the belt that comes with the costume is giant and I’m pretty sure I thought it was the shell.  So we have no shell.  A turtle without a shell.  Praise all that is holy that we didn’t wait until Halloween morning.

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Some time ago, my good friend Jessie and I started meeting at Costco to split some items each month.  You know Jessie as our recipe contributor from Bites.  I can’t even remember now whose idea it was but I’m going to give Jessie all the credit because she’s usually the brilliant one in our friendship. That girl comes up with the most amazing, creative and helpful ideas!

Basically, we split items that our entire family won’t use before they go bad or that are expensive and keep us from sticking to our grocery budget.  Have you ever seen a Costco bag of onions? Or their 2-pack of lemon juice? How about their block of yeast?  We both have a family of five (although Jessie’s is about to become a family of seven!) and even though we feel like all we do is feed people, we just can’t get through some of the items from Costco.  This is a a great way to eliminate waste and have more diversity in our menus.

Because we both use a Dave Ramsey style budget and love to cook, it’s super hard to get exciting ingredients like goat cheese, pine nuts or even just splurge on fancy bread and stay in the monthly grocery budget. The first of every month we meet at Costco armed with a crazy list, six kids between us and lots of snacks.  It takes about an hour to do the shopping, checkout, get the kids a smoothie  or piece of pizza and split everything up. It also takes about an hour to unload, put stuff away and recover.

We made a list of some of the items we have split at Costco in the past.  Feel free to use it as a guide if you try to plan a trip to split with a friend. As I think of more items we have split or we find new items to split, I’ll update the sheet.

This is a picture of Jessie with her full Costco cart.  Imagine two of these.  And six kids.  That’s us at Costco on the 1st of the month.  And it’s usually raining.

Costco Cart
A few tips:

  • Bring supplies: We bring grocery bags, Ziploc bags, a food scale, scissors, and sometimes a huge knife. I’m not even joking. People stare. We like it to go as quick as possible because we are splitting packages in the parking lot.  Having the right supplies makes it snappy.

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Budget Control: Hosting a Clothing Swap

by Emilie on February 28, 2013

How to Host a Clothing Swap

You know how every time you see your friend, she looks adorable and you feel like you’ve been wearing the same clothes since the early 90’s? And then, when a friend see you, they comment on how cute your sweater is? It’s the never ending clothing battle we face, right? We shrink and grow as we have babies, styles changes, our hips widen, our feet flatten, we get sick of the shirt we wear five days a week. In a dream world we could just go overhaul our closet but it’s obviously not very budget friendly. The solution is a clothing swap!

What is a Clothing Swap?

Basically, you invite all your friends over and you each bring the clothing and accessories you no longer wear for a big huge trade.  Think a clothing garage sale, but everything is free and you drink wine and have yummy snacks.  And you get to catch up with your friends and get their fashion advice.  Make sure you invite your one really honest friend, the one who tells you when something actually makes you look fat.

Last year, a friend invited me to a clothing swap at her house.  I walked in, armed with all my families clothing items we didn’t wear regularly, ready to find a bunch of old clothes I wasn’t super excited about. Then, I saw the pile of shoes and the loveliest pair of purple corduroy Toms (in my size!!) and I was sold on this recycling clothes concept. This is a great way to get new items that fit and are in style without spending a cent at the mall. I ended up with so many pairs of shoes in my size that looked brand new, it was amazing.


The Details

  • Pick your Invitees – Make sure you invite your most fashionable friends! And it will help if you have people in all sizes and shapes as well.
  • Set a Date, Time & Location – It requires a decent amount of space depending on the number of people invited so make sure you have room to spread out the items and not have people stepping all over each other.
  • Determine What Types of Clothing & Items To Bring – You could limit it to just women’s clothes & shoes or include kid’s clothes, men’s clothes, household goods & decor, toys, accessories, etc.
  • Set The Rules – Do you draw numbers to see who gets to pick first? Or, have a starting line and when the buzzer rings, everybody just runs to the items they like and starts grabbing? Do people get to preview the goods or do they have to wait until start time?
  • Organize Your Space – I’d recommend having items separated by type (ex. shirts, pants, kid clothes, accessories, shoes) or it could get pretty overwhelming trying to find items in your size. You could do this in separate rooms or just use tables.
  • Ready, Set, Go!  – This is the fun part of course, searching through all the items.   You will be amazed at the good stuff people will bring.
  • Find a Home for the Leftovers – You will end up with a lot of extras, how much depends on if you limit people in what they bring.  Have a plan for where it will go, we recommend donating it or selling it to your fave consignment shop and donating the money.


Tips for Success

  • You might want to limit the amount of stuff people bring.  I went to a swap once where the host was literally left with 20 full garbage of clothes to donate.  It was a huge job to get it out of the house.
  • Have guests bring extra bags to take the items they want home. I actually brought my laundry basket once, it was easy to transport all my goods home and the breakable household goods I found made it in one piece.
  • Remind people to just bring items in good quality & that are fairly current.  Not that the patterned parachute pants you wore in high school aren’t awesome and all, but you know what I mean.
  • Have people bring a snack, dessert or drink to share.  You will be so busy clearing the clutter in your house to make room for wild women knocking each over trying to get to a pair of heels, you might not have time to bake.
  • Have mirrors accessible so people can see what looks good if they want to try it on. A few standup mirrors would be awesome if you can find them.
  • Include the charity you are donating to on your invite.  People love giving their items to a good cause, it will increase your attendance.

We’d love to hear if you have tips for hosting a clothing swap or end up having one after reading this post.  I’m planning one for next month.  I hope I find another pair of Toms in my size! Because let’s be honest here friends, all I really wear is Toms & yoga pants.

For more ideas on budget control, check out our 2012 Budgeting Series or our recent post, Splitting Items at Costco with a Friend.


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