Money-Wise Family Vacations

Trips don’t have to cost a fortune. If you think ahead and think outside the box you would be amazed at the savings that are awaiting you. While every kid equates the word vacation with Disney World, a trip like that can cost you anywhere between 5 and 10 grand…and honestly that is not the only way…it’s not the do all end all family vacations there is a whole world and other options to explore.

Recently our family was in this situation: Where to go? What to do? How much to spend? As a family of 6 you can imagine we need to play this game smart in order to not break the bank and frankly we don’t want to be paying for this for the next 5 years but we want to create a vacation of great times and memories! After much time and investigation we uncovered some hot tips and tricks that I thought important to share.

Bigger isn't better ~ More is better
Rather than taking one big trip every five years or so, consider taking smaller ones more often. This requires more planning but there is little question you’ll get WAY more bang for your buck. Think about renting an RV for a road trip, booking a cottage by the lake, visit a new city’s attractions and theme parks, go camping, book a beach front home, to name a few.

Location, Location, Location
When planning a trip, choose a location that holds interesting sights and activities for everyone. Plan activities that are a mixture of indoor and outdoor fun. Remember there are a lot of ways to provide tons of activities for a family at a low cost such as hiking, picnics and days at the beach, which kids all love…and so do our wallets as well! Consider the location of your hotel or lodging and have it be within walking distances to several of your desired activities. Let’s face it parking in these hot spots costs an arm and a leg so lace up those shoes and start walking. It can save you a ton of money (and it’s good for you!).

Hotels need to be managed
Back in the day (ok here I will date myself) we got out the yellow pages book and looked under “Hotel” called the one with the prettiest ad and booked our rooms. Just saying that sounds ridiculous! There are so many ways to book a room, compare prices and packages it is a crime not to take a little time to get the best deal in town. Booking multiple times for consecutive nights can be advantageous, because you get to have access to multiple activities packages without changing hotels! Also, pay the extra money to get better hotels, if your booking a package deal, the actual cost of the room won't be totally out of reach if you choose wisely. Read up on these hotel websites deals directly before booking with them. (i.e stay 2 nights and receive 2 tickets to Wonderland). While generally ticket hotel packages are better they are usually for 1-4 people max as well, so don’t forget to buy the extra tickets at the hotel at the same discounted prices. Hotels will usually sell any amount of discounted tickets to any attractions they have even if they were not expressly part of your package.
Deal Sites

Top Tips
  • Make sure you get your kids involved with the planning ask them what they want most…their answers may surprise you.
  • Use your air miles, credit cards to their full potential – don’t assume (you know what they say about ‘assume’) that they have no offers. Take the 5 minutes and call or visit their web site…it could be time well spent.
  • Remember buying tickets at the concession stands hold full ticket price.
  • Did you know that many major credit cards have cardholder special deals? Check their web sites or give them a call.
  • Use those Airmiles!
  • Look into purchasing tickets through a local city hall or city tourism bureau.

Homemade Peanut Butter - You'll never eat store bought again!

Several months ago, I gave it a try making my own peanut butter at home and I tell ya I will never eat store bought PB again!  The taste is no phenominally better and the health benefits so high I would be crazy to not continue to make this. So I really wanted to share this with you.  It really is so easy that you will wonder why you have not done this sooner (like I did).


RECIPE

1) Peanuts - most recipes use roasted but I have used blanched with equally good results.

2) Coconut Oil - if you don't already have this in your home buy it and google coconut oil for cooking, hair and skin moisturizing (some say it helps with weight loss too).  You will be glad this recipe encouraged its purchase.


3) Agave Nectar - again another great item you may not have but should. It's a plant derived sweetener and healthier substitute for honey. I actually first heard of it on the Dr.Oz show and really love it (I use it on my oatmeal too).

Sugar or Splenda - optional
-------------------------------

Alot of the process is 'eye-balling' it and taste testing to get the desired results you personally like most. 

Important Note:  ALOT of online recipes and how-to's for homemade peanut butter omit telling the reader one important point :  DO NOT add the coconut oil nor agave nectar till the very end or else your peanuts won't blend down properly.  This I have learned from experience lol.

Fill your food processor 1/2 - 3/4 full of peanuts and blend away.  Be patient this step can take a good 4-5 minutes depending on your machines strength. 

In the meantime microwave 1 tbs of coconut oil (naturally a solid oil that melts to liquid form when heated).

Add 1 tbs of coconut oil and 2 tbs of agave nectar and blend again for 1 minute.

Taste test

If you would like to add a little more coconut oil or agave nectar to sweeten it up now is the time.  I have actually in the past sprinkled a little pinch of sugar or splenda.  Remember a little at a time for any additions.

Blend to the consistancy you like.
You will be shocked how much better this is to store bought and it is minus all those funky ingredients they contain.  Remember, if you won't be eating this quickly it is best to keep it refrigerated.  I divide my batch in 3 small jars, keep one on the counter and 2 in the refrigerator.  They don't last long in my house and I don't think it will in your house either...you can thank me later :).

End of Season Shopping Calendar

Buying a pool in February, installing windows in December, or buying a snow blower in July are perfect examples of smart end of season shopping and it is a buying technique we all need to implement more often for our pocketbooks well-being.  However, I will be the first to admit while swimming in my pool I am not thinking I need to pick up a couple shovels but ultimately I should be if I want the biggest bang for my buck. 



Savings Calendar
JanuaryBest time to stock on next year’s holiday lights, gift wrap and decorations.  It is not uncommon to find 80% off sales this time of year.  The end of January many winter clothes and outerwear go on sale so this is a great time to buy your kids school clothes, winter coats and boots for the following school year just upsize them (that's what I do each year).

February – Chocolate lovers rejoice and stock up as Valentine day chocolate is on major clearance! Remember you can freeze chocolate for future enjoyment.  We do it all the time and often thaw and melt chocolate to use for fondues months after Valentine’s (or Easter).  Household items such as bedding sheets, blankets, pillows, curtains and sometimes even carpeting can all usually be found for great bargain prices during the month of February.

March - Winter sports equipment such as skiing accessories and sports coats are great buys in early March.

July-August – Start stalking garden centres for end of season plants, flowers and garden tool.  Come end of August they are almost giving stuff away. Camping equipment, tents, and accessories are traditionally great bargain buys during August. Clearance markdowns of over 50% off the retail price can often be found. If you are looking for a whole new golf set August is the month to do it.

September - October – Good time to buy many outdoor items such as patio sets, gardening tools, pools, interlock bricks and barbeques to name a few.  Summer décor items are another great find this time of year.

November - Since the colder months are a slow period for home improvements, items like carpeting, paint, bathtubs, sinks, doors and other hardware items are usually good bargain buys in November. So this would be the best time to buy for that spring project you have planned.

So with a bit of foresight and patience to purchase, the pay-off to offseason shopping can be huge - so make it happen smart shoppers!

 Happy Savings,


Frugalicious Sugar Coconut Oil Body Scrub

During our colder winter months nothing feels better than a good body scrub especially one that smells like heaven, which is pure, and is actually beneficial to your skin as it contains coconut oil a.k.a natures miracle product.

Over multiple future posts I will be diving into all the crazy benefits of coconut oil.  Wow this stuff is amazing for your body, hair and to eat as a healthier replacement to extra virgin olive oil.

Ok I will digress.

I have been using this body scrub for a couple of months now and I have to say my skin has never felt better.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup virgin or extra virgin  or virgin organic coconut oil

1.25 cup sugar – white sugar is great in this scrub and more economical however the brown is very lovely and probably what I personally prefer.

1 TBS Honey (optional)

Simply mix the ingredients together and you can play around with the amounts somewhat to get your desired consistency.  Remember that coconut oil is solid in colder temperatures and becomes a complete liquid once warm. You can let this solidify a bit in the refrigerator if you want a solid scrub or use it as a warm oil scrub. I like to keep my bottle in the bathroom thus it warms nicely with the warm shower air. Scrub gently all over and rinse.  Be careful whenever using an oil based product in the shower or bath as you can slip. 

You will absolutely love the smell and your skin will be more moisturized from the oil and soft from the sugar then you have ever had. A little goes a long way and you won’t want to scrub every day so this DIY scrub will last you some time.  You will be hooked!

It’s time we all stop buying all those drug store beauty products we have become accustomed to owning and start taking hold of our own products and make them ourselves. They are better made products, more pure products without all those terrible ingredients we don’t need and they cost a small fraction to the drugstore brands. Doesn’t it make sense?

Happy Scrubbin',
 

Top 10 Tips for Building a Stockpile

In my opinion every house needs a stockpile…without question and it is easy to accomplish a little at a time.  Not only does it greatly impact your budget but let’s face it, in case of an emergency it is in your best interest to have a backup supply of foods and other essentials. Also having a stockpile eliminates the need to rush out and purchase an item for full price, and also using your time and gas to do that too!

I have a stockpile that is a work in progress but I have set aside an area in my home to store my items and I try to add a little to it every week. Remember building a stockpile will take you time! You can’t have this surplus overnight and purchasing it all at once would probably mean you went over your grocery budget to achieve that, which is against the premise of stockpiling to begin with. Remember also you don’t need to be a “couponer” to have a stockpile – coupons are not easily available in my area and I still have a stockpile!

Top 10 Stockpiling Tips

1.  Eagle eye the flyers each week.  Watch for the sales! You will get to know prices and the value of an item and if it is worth buying multiples.
2.  Have a designated stockpile area set up so you can stay organized and also know how much you can comfortably store.

3.  Set aside a designated amount for multiple purchases each week.

4.  Check beyond the kitchen for toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper are great money saving stockpile items.
5.  Write a list of your 10-20 most used non-perishable items.  You can build beyond the list but it gives you a guided start on what to look for.

6.  Don’t fill your pantry with items that aren’t on sale; wait for markdowns or apply a coupon.

7.  Buy in bulk: If you have six coupons for Cheerios and they’re on sale, making the cereal 50 cents per box, buy all six boxes. The initial cash outlay will be higher, but you won’t have to buy cereal again for six weeks or longer.

8.  Take-it easy and make sure not to overbuy a particular item beyond your need.
9.  Watch expiry dates.  Gage how much you use per year and judge how many to purchase based on use over time and the items expiry date.

10.  Enjoy the process and be proud of yourself for being a savvy shopper.
 
 Happy Stockpiling!

Keep Your Money in the Bank - Money Saving Tips

1.   If you don’t already own one purchase yourself a separate stand-alone freezer.  It will pay for itself and much more over the years through the savings you will get buy purchasing foods in bulk.  I bought a stand up freezer used online and I have been able to stock purchase meats on sale and have saved so much money (more on that in future post).

2.   Always shop 1 year ahead for clothes – especially those with children.  Catching end of season sales for clothing can save you up to %75 off the ticket price.  For example, I always purchase my children’s winter snow suites, boots and mitts at end of season sales for the following winter – Massive Savings!

3.   Stop paying someone else to paint your home.  I see so many able folks spending a pretty penny to have their homes professionally painted.  Geez-Louise what a waste of money.  With some decent quality angled brushes and tools you can totally do it yourself.  Take your time and enjoy it and you will complete your room in no time.

4.   Skip the popcorn!  I have never seen such robbery then that of the concession stand at the movie theater. Eat before you go or if you must have some (yes I know it’s good) always limit yourself to small sizes only.

5.   Buy and install a programmable thermostat. Set the thermostat higher when you are gone during the day and cooler when you are at home at night
6.   Prepare you lunch at night. If you’re like me, you typically don’t have much time in the morning to make lunch, so do it at night and put it in the refrigerator. It will help you to stop eating out for lunch so much.

7.   Take notice of your homes windows. If you have an old house, you probably have a ton of air escaping through your old windows. The initial cost will be a good chunk of cash, but it will be worth it from years of energy savings to come.  If purchasing new windows is not in your plans get some chaulk and reseal them until you are ready to purchase.  Stop those drafts and you will save a ton.

8.   Don’t play the lottery. You’ve got a better chance at getting struck by lightning.

9.   Avoid extended warranties. These are like pure profit for retailers, that’s why they push them so much. Best Buy and others will try scare tactics to get you to buy one, but don’t fall for it.

10. Check craigslist/kijiji for used furniture. You can find steals on lightly-used stuff .  Actually older furniture has better construction and materials then most new items today.  Most of today’s furniture has poor craftsmanship and is often made of veneer and pressed wood and will likely need replacing in no time at all!
 



Broken Eye Shadow? Don't Trash it - Smash It!

How many times have you broken an eye shadow or blush to smithereens?  Once it’s broken its history right?  Wrong.

In a couple of easy steps you can fix your shadow to near new condition and save yourself the expense of the replacement and let’s face it these can be pricey.
Before we start with any of these steps please ensure your hands and all tools are cleaned.  Any germs will transfer into the powder so clean – clean – clean!
Step 1
Taking a small tool you want to break up all the shadow to make it 100% powder consistency again.  A cuticle pusher, toothpick or something similiar will do the trick. Make sure it is grem-free. No little clumps of shadow should remain so smash it up real good.
Step 2
You will want to pour a little bit of rubbing alcohol into its own cap (just to ensure you don’t pour too much).  Take the cap and pour the alcohol into your powdered shadow pod.  A couple drops at a time is best.  As you pour the alcohol in with your tool mix it up really good.  You want your shadow to take on a creamy (not overly watery) consistency.
Step 3
Once the consistency is right take the pod and hit it gently on the tabletop.  This will settle the entire product and smooth out the top layer.

Step 4
Wait approximately 2 hours.  During this time the alcohol starts to dry out.  Take a thin cloth, paper towel or tissue and place on top of the shadow and press down on your shadow.  This will again compress and flatten the shadow to the original store bought look.  Some people will use a coin on top of the tissue for a perfect flat surface (coins are dirty so handle them with care in this DIY).  Keep in mind bigger shadows or blushes will have longer dry times.  You don’t want to compress it when it is too dry or else it will just crumble again so test out before pressing. 

 Step 5

Overnight is a best bet for a full dry out time and voila your shadow/blush are back to new condition.  Take a q-tip or tissue and clean up edges for a perfect new look. Isn't it great you just saved yourself the money you would have spent to buy a new one?

 Cheers Friends,

Homemade Laundry Detergent = Big $ Savings!

How would you like to do your laundry for .03 cents a load as opposed to over .21 cents a load of Tide? How would you like to save a huge amount of money each year in detergent? How would you like to remove the worry of running out of detergent for a year at a time?  How would you like to be environmentally friendly by eliminating 8-10 plastic laundry bottles from your yearly carbon footprint?  How about I show you how to do this and it will only take about 30 minutes 1 time a year. 

I am talking about making your own laundry detergent.   A concept when I first heard of it seemed so odd, strange, bizarre – something that never even crossed my mind as a possibility.  Not only is it easy peesy many say that the cleaning performance is equal to or better than Tide and some of the leading detergents.  Once you do this one I am telling you will never go back to store bought brands for a plethora of reasons.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup of 20 Mule Team Borax – this can be found in your local grocer or Wal-Mart in the laundry detergent isle.
1 cup of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda – again found in the laundry isle.   Don’t get this confused with Baking Soda as it’s not the same.
1 Sunlight Soap Bar – another item I never knew about (apparently amazing as a stain remover). Soaps used in other recipes Fels-Naptha (harder to find in Canada), Zote and traditional Ivory bar soap (the basic one with no additional scents or moisturizers).  I wanted a laundry bar for extra cleaning kick and I found them at Ace Hardware and Wal-Mart Superstore for $1.00 a bar.

HOW-TO
Using my food processer I first used the shredding blade to shred up the Sunlight soap bar. 


Pour out the shredded soap in a side bowl then attach your dicing blade to processer.  Pour back in your shredded bar soap and add 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and 1 cup of Borax.



Blend and chop it all together.  At this point the bar soap breaks down very small blending right in with the other ingredients. Store in any container you wish (keep out of reach of children).


Remember to wash all your utensils very thoroughly after use.  Many folks who don’t own a processer simply use their cheese grater on the ‘fine side’.


AMOUNTS

You only need 1 tbs of this mixture per load (2 tbs for heavy soiled loads) and this will make 64 loads of laundry (based on 1 tbs per load).  I repeated this process 3 times to make myself 192 loads but you can do it as many times as you feel fit.  Remember 1 tbs is all it takes.  This is a low-suds super concentrated soap and because it is low suds it is fine to use on HE washers (which all their soaps are low suds).

Per Load Cost Breakdown

(based on 1tbs per load and 64 loads)
1 cup Borax = .40 cents/cup
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda = .30 cents/cup
1 Bar Sunlight Soap = $1.00
64 Loads = $1.70
1 Load = .03 cents

Yearly Cost Breakdown

In Canada an average of 392 loads of laundry are washed per year, per family (Source Gov.Canda).
Tide with Bleach = .21 cents (ave.)per load/$82.32 year
Home Recipe= .03 cents per load/$11.76 year
Savings: $74.56

There you have it so easy, so quick, so environmental – try it!

Happy Washing,

DIY Microwave Popcorn - 85% cheaper!

I am assuming at one time or another we've all bought our standard grocery store microwave bags of popcorn for its cooking convenience but have you ever really thought about how much that convenience is costing you?


Kerry at SquawkFox.com did the math and figured microwave popcorn costs around $22.65 for 12 boxes with 3 packets per box (source Amazon) — that’s $3.53 per pound! Compare that to the .50 cents a pound you pay for popcorn purchased in bulk! It’s so easy and healthier made at home once you start you won’t go back to Mr. Orville anytime soon.

It is such an incredible waste of money and like so many foods on the market it has a list unknown ingredients that are simply not good for you. For those of you watching your waistline home popcorn is a fab snack.

  • Get a brown paper bag. (Dollar stores are a great source for cheap bags)
  • Add a 1/2 cup scoop of popcorn kernels to bag.
  • Fold the bag over twice.
  • Stick the bag in the microwave.
  • Set it for 3 minutes on high.....however it is important to stay nearby and listen to the popping. Once it slows to 1 to 2 pops per second take it out.
  • Add topping of choice.

Think outside of the box for your toppings.  From Italian, curry, caramel, cinnamon, to nacho there are so many recipes for popcorn toppings that are really delicious.  Click Here for Topping Ideas.
So there you go oil free super easy popcorn. Stop buying grocery store prepackaged popcorn for the sake of your health and your wallet.
 
 
Happy Popping,
 


DIY Makeup Remover for Pennies!

Do you ever feel a little ripped off when you purchase your eye makeup remover?  Well sorry to say you should!  Most store bought removers consist of some type of oil, water and a bunch of chemicals that frankly you should not have on your face to begin with and are totally unnecessary in removing makeup. 

Once you start to make your own you will 1) wish you started doing this years ago 2) swear to never buy store bought again 3) recommed this to your friends and family.

Based on the size of bottle I use I would guess that my eye makeup remover costs me approximately .50 cents per bottle compared to my past costs of around $10.00 or more a bottle.
 Water
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Baby Oil (you can find some with added vitamin E which is a nice addition)


You want to find an empty bottle and you will be aiming to fill it only 75% (as you want room in the bottle when you give it a shake).  Measurements can be "eye balled" but you want to add 25% water, 25% EVOO and 25% baby oil.  Give it a good shake before each application and voila! You are ready to go.  If your eye area feels too oily after removal just give your face an all over wash or just leave it to absorb into your skin (remember its all good stuff!).

Below is a how-to video I found on YouTube.



If you have any great DIY budget beauty tips please let me know via email our The Kamikaze Shopper Facebook fan page.


Happy Cleansing,

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day

I am always looking for new ways to reduce my grocery bill and feed my family healthier foods. I came across this recipe online and I just had to try it. For some reason making bread always intimidated me but the simplicity of this method made it so I could not resist at least an attempt. 

In my household we eat alot of bread. With school lunchs alone we can go through a loaf in a day or two. I normally purchase a two pack of bread and this week it ran me $6.29 and I had to buy two packs. With this recipe the cost is approximately .50 cents a loaf. The savings and health benefits are undeniable! One tip a maker of this bread mentioned is taking the loaf and making buns to freeze for sandwiches which I just may try.

The concept is simple: you take a few minutes to mix up some ingredients. You don’t knead the bread and instead let it rest for at least a few hours and then you can refrigerate it for up to two weeks to have fresh Artisan Bread with less than five minutes’ worth of work at any given time. Being a family of six I just used the whole mixture to make 2 larger loafs. It really was easy and delicious and the options of additional ingredients to jazz it up is endless!

Recipe for Homemade Artisan Bread
Makes 3 loaves

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other course salt (Not regular table salt)
6 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose
flourcornmeal for pizza peel (optional)


I personally used a baking sheet for my bread as that is all I had and it worked just fine.

So whether for school lunches or aiming to impress your dinner guests this recipe is sure to please.

Happy Bread Making,

Source:  Artisan Bread 5 Minutes a Day

All-Purpose Spray Cleaner - 7 Cents a Bottle!

As I was cleaning my kitchen today I thought it would be a good idea for me to share with you a great trick to saving a lot of money off of your bottled kitchen spray cleaner.  For years I did what everyone did and picked up my bottle every week or two and the average cost per purchase was about $3.00 plus taxes. I got tired of wasting so much money on it and thought there has got to be a better way.

I started with purchasing a 4.25 litre bottle of Pine Sol for approximately $11.00 (buying the largest size often gives better value for household cleaners).  I made sure to keep my last empty bottle of cleaner solution with the spray nozzle or you can buy a new spray bottle at the dollar store or general retailer.   I added 4 tablespoons of Pine Sol cleaning solution and then filled the bottle with warm water.  As you use this method you can increase or decrease the amount of cleaner you add to suit your desired solution strength and bottle size.  Keep in mind any of your favorite all-purpose cleaners will do – I just like Pine Sol as my house smells so clean afterwards.  Also make note the general cleaning solutions such as Pine Sol, Mr. Clean etc are not safe for all surfaces so when in doubt do a test area before using a new solution on your surfaces.
 
By making your own cleaner using this method you can get approximately 70 bottles of spray cleaner out of your 4.25L concentrated bottle.   The price per bottle is 7 cents as opposed to the standard $3.00 a bottle!  Buying 70 bottles of pre-mixed cleaner regular retail costs appromiately $210 or use this trick and pay $11.00 that is a $199.00 dollar savings.  I bet there are alot of better things you would like to spend that $199 on.

Happy Cleaning,

Specialty Coffee at Home on Budget

Did you try that pumpkin pie flavored coffee that was so popular around Thanksgiving and fall in love with it? Or the Holiday inspired lattes? Delish,right? Well, you can continue (or start!) to enjoy those special coffee flavors without breaking your budget right from home.

 
 For the pumpkin pie spice coffee, just add about a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to your dry coffee grounds when you make coffee. Over time you can adjust spice amounts based on your desired flavor strength – better to start with less and add more as you go along.


As for the peppermint mocha, add peppermint candy. Stir you hot coffee with a left-over candy cane. Or, crush a couple candy canes or other hard peppermint candies and add then to the dry coffee grounds. The hot water will melt them.  Combine coffee with half a cup of hot chocolate for a great café mocha at home. A little sprinkle of cinnamon on freshly brewed coffee is a real treat.

Often you can find coffee flavor syrups at Home Sense or Winners which retail for approx. $10.00 a bottle which add a great kick of flavor to your java.


So don’t feel like the outrageously priced Starbucks, Second Cup or any other coffee houses are your only options to get your specialty coffee fix. Do a google search also and you will find other at-home recipes to inspire you.  Experiment with other spices, candies, and flavoring extracts to come up with some new favorites your taste buds and monthly budget will thank you.

Happy Brewin',
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