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Obligatory but Awesome Christmas Gift Post

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The annual Christmas gift ideas post by Crystal, perfect for nerdy friends!

I’m one of those people who sincerely enjoy the gift giving part of Christmas.   I bask in the hunt to find gifts for my loved ones that they’d truly use and enjoy.  The sticking point is that means finding gifts for 25-30 people, generally on a budget of $400-$500. Here are a few of my favorite ideas this year for $20 or less… My Funny Gift Winner Here’s a $10-$15 funny wine glass sure to make anybody laugh. Personalized Movie Night or Book Baskets – ALL the Details I put together these sorts of gift baskets for people who are picky or already buy what they want.  All you need to do is pay attention to what sort of movies or books they enjoy.  Then find something in that genre for sale. For example, action movie fans may like R.E.D. and it’s on sale right now on Amazon (Dec. 12, 2016) for less than $4 for the DVD or $10 for the Blu-ray.  If they enjoy heist movies / con movies, Inside Man is one of our absolute faves and is on sale for $6 DVD or $10 Blu-Ray too.  And comedies like Mrs. Doubtfire are $4-$9. For books, get … Read more…

How I Created a $30,000 Per Year Pet Sitting Business for Less Than $600

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It is hard to believe that you can start such a successful business for such a small investment. This is an amazing way to make money at home and be a work at home mom. Plus, you can do this as a side hustle, in addition to a regular job! Repin this, it's an excellent business idea.

When I first started Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting at the end of February 2014, I was aiming to just earn extra spending money on the side – like a few hundred a month.  I ended up making $750 in March 2014 and it’s just gone up from there.  It’s now grown into a full $30,000+ per year business! How? Because I’m awesome.  😉  But seriously, it’s because I treated it like a “real” business and not just a hobby.  I also kept costs down to a minimum for the maximum gain. My Business Basics Here are the basics for Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting: Pet Sitting Insurance – $400 per year Website Hosting (I already had unlimited hosting through Bluehost) – $70 a year Website Domain Name (included free in a new Bluehost package) – $15 a year Business cards (use my referral links to automatically get a discounted rate) – $23 for 1000 cards Advertising on Craigslist – $0 Advertising on – $0 Advertising via Car Signs (magnetic) – $25 for two Advertising via Yelp – $0 Advertising in my neighborhood’s newsletter – $50 per newsletter (wasted) Advertising via Tshirts – $2 (received two nearly free tshirts in exchange for reviewing … Read more…

Budgeting for Unexpected Fun

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This was a post response for a newsletter reader question back in June 2014.  I feel like I did not promote it correctly back then and it may help a few more out now.  Thanks!  How Do You Budget for a Completely Unexpected Expense? Here was a recent question from Carmen: My kids have gifted me with a ticket to Istanbul & then Italy for my daughter’s wedding in Autumn…what is the best way to budget for additional trip expenses?  Thanks–take care! Okay, so most of us are probably thinking that the best way for budgeting for unexpected expenses is to save money in advance.  You’d be right, but that isn’t helpful if that hasn’t been done yet and the expense pops up anyway.  Plus, that may not be the question… First – How to Estimate Travel Expenses First thing’s first.  Carmen may be asking how much she should budget for the trip, not how to come up with the money.  Either way, she’ll need to know.  For travel, I generally search around online for recent personal stories from other people to see how much things run.  I research them based on the big categories and round up to cover … Read more…

5 Common Mistakes Small Businesses (and Households) Make

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Here’s another post from my friend and staff writer, SherryH.  SherryH lives near the coast of North Carolina. Her family consists of her husband, their two adult sons, and the requisite writer’s cats. In 2013, she survived a brain tumor that destroyed her eyesight. She’s determined not to let that slow her down and recently started blogging at Blind Not Invisible. For several years now, my husband and I have participated in our local Small Business Roundtable, a weekly discussion group for small business owners and entrepreneurs in our community. He owns a small business doing residential design and contract drafting, and I’m starting one as a freelance writer, so we’ve both gotten a lot out of the discussions. But it’s also interesting to me how many of the business principles we discuss can be applied to personal finance. In many ways, running a household is like running a small business. Household like a Small Business I don’t mean that you should hold board meetings and give your spouse and kids annual performance reviews, though that could be interesting. But just like a small business, a household needs to track income and expenses, maintain a cash reserve for unexpected events, and … Read more…

Sam’s Club versus Costco – A Real Life Comparison

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I always wonder if it's cheaper to shop at Costco or Sam's Club and this comparison lists out the pros and cons. Costco vs Sam's Club is such a controversial topic, lol. Saving money on groceries is a HUGE way to make a budget balance, so this is definitely something to think about.

Yep, I’m a turncoat. I had been a Sam’s Club member on and off for years and years…but now I’ve turned to the Costco side. It was a pretty easy decision to make actually – I received a free Costco membership from a friend at Christmas, yay! So far, I’m impressed. Let me try to give an unbiased rundown for you… Costco Pros Slightly larger in my area Wider aisles Cleaner feel More free samples Their store brand, Kirkland’s, is a better quality than the Sam’s Club brand (I’m in love with Kirkland apple sauce packets) They have walk-in cold sections for dairy and produce that are sort of like secret rooms Their produce and dairy quality is better than Sam’s Club Sam’s Club Pros They accept Discover card, cash, and debit. Costco accepts American Express, cash, and debit. Discover is my favorite credit card company thanks to amazing customer support. On the bright side, Costco will start accepting Visa instead of Amex in April 2016 though. I’m cool with my Visa. Sam’s Club has cheaper and better beef Also, according to my in-laws, Sam’s Club has better sausage Cost Comparison Okay, so maybe I’m not completely unbiased after all. … Read more…

Have You Heard About Amazon Smile?

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I know gobs of us use Amazon, but have you heard about the Amazon Smile program?  It’s an easy way to support a favorite charity when you shop on Amazon and it costs you NOTHING.  The prices aren’t higher or anything.  Same Amazon, but now 0.5% of what you’re paying will be given back to the charity of your choosing when you join. Easy to Smile All you have to do is visit and select a charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. They donate there whenever you shop using  You can change your choice at any time.  And they will occasionally remind you to switch over to Smile when you forget and are on Amazon anyway.  But I just bookmarked “” as my main Amazon link so I don’t accidentally forget. I’ve been on Amazon Smile for a while and my charity of choice is SMART Animal Rescue (Sunmart Animal Rescue Team Inc. on Amazon Smile).  There is a whole list of charities that have signed up, so you have a lot of options!  And if your favorite charity isn’t there, let them know to sign up! Not a Substitute for Giving, But … Read more…

Do You Black Friday?

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Do I wake up at 5am to get dressed, drive, stand in lines, get stepped on, and grab deals? Ummm…oh hells no. BUT, I do “do” Black Friday. Online. Favorite Online Shopping Sites My favorite online shopping sites are usually Amazon and Ebay. But on Black Friday, I also get really into Think Geek since I am the proud daughter of a Star Trek fan and a proud friend of many, many different geeky fans including Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Wars, and just general uber-geekdom stuff. Here’s a peek at my Black Friday routine. First of all, I do have an actual Word document with everyone listed with whom I usually exchange gifts. I update this list every month or so with gifts I find or make, and I also keep track of any ideas I get to research in the future. When I have a couple of hours, I see if any of my friends have Amazon wish lists to help throw me in the right direction. I also highlight anyone I’m gift hunting for along with the ideas I’ve had throughout the year. If that is blank, I start brainstorming while looking around. I also keep in mind … Read more…