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I’m Discovering Dollar Stores

I haven’t ever been a huge proponent of dollar stores since I generally thought that most of the things they sell aren’t worth $1 or will break too quickly.  Well, the new Dollar Tree near my house is changing my mind.

Dollar Store

Plethora of Choices

This Dollar Tree is huge.  There are seasonal items, household goods, tools, makeup, toiletries, and even food.  It’s like a mini-Walmart except I never feel like I’m being trapped into small aisles between baskets and motorized scooters.  :-)

I was honestly surprised by the selection.  In the 1990’s, I remember dollar stores having cheap toys, candy, wrapping paper, and random stuff that I usually bought elsewhere.  Boy, has it changed!

I went in about a month ago to check out their Halloween decorations.  I had time, so I browsed around.  That’s when I figured out that they had so much.  I think I spent $9.72 and came out with six Halloween decorations, cookies, and some batteries.


Everything is $1 or less.  I know all dollar stores don’t stick to that rule, but I am glad that this Dollar Tree does.  Obviously, not everything is a good deal for $1 or less, but the good buys seem to outweigh the bad options.  Heck, I bought poster board for $0.67 each instead of $1 like I found at Walmart…

Unexpected Deals

That brings me to some other awesome deals.  This Dollar Tree carries the Nutri-Grain Honey Wheat bread that we like so much for $1 a loaf!  It’s $2.25 at Sam’s Club, $2.80 at Walmart, and $3.25 at Kroger usually.  For $1 each, I stock up!

They also have $1 off-brand fig newtons and brownie crisp cookies that are really good.  Yesterday, I found the light bulb I needed for the oven for $1 and a little $1 LED press on-and-off light that we had been looking at on Amazon for $6.  Oh, and I won’t forget to mention the 10 pack of AA batteries.  And Mandy, my roommate, found a bunch of supplies for our nails that we use for girls’ nights.  We each spent less than $6 and came home very happy!

I’m impressed.  I’m also glad that our Dollar Tree is less than 3 minutes away.  I will try not to load up my basket with unnecessary purchases, but with a list, I should be safe.  :-)

Do you shop at dollar stores?  What do you think?

Layaway Isn’t an Excuse to Spend More!

I just had a conversation yesterday with a single mom I know with 4 kids.  She isn’t struggling to survive anymore, but she hasn’t made it to middle class yet either.  She was talking about buying an Xbox One and a Play Station 4 (PS4) for her kids for Christmas.  I asked if she found them used on Craigslist or something.  She replied:

No!  I put them on layaway!  It will be $1401.  But I already put $400 or so towards it, so I’m almost there!


NOOOOOO!!!  Why spend more than you have on gaming systems?  Aren’t you saving for a big move and don’t you have a bunch of other big ticket items on your need and want lists?

She and I are good friends.  I pointed out the problems that I could see with this plan.  I really like her and her kids, and I know they will kill me if they find out I talked her out of the other system.  But I did tell her that they may want her time more than stuff.  I even suggested some activities.  She sincerely thanked me for being more level-headed than she is being.  She even admitted that she is probably just trying to make up for the fact that she just went through a divorce.  She has now decided to just get the PS4 since the Xbox One would need all new games.  I’m considering this a win.

Layaway Positives

I’m still thinking about layaway in general.  I’ve never used it, but I understand its purpose.  You pick what you want, pay it off in installments, and pick up your stuff when it’s paid off.  Why not just wait to buy it outright?

The useful reasons that I’ve heard to use layaway:

  • Keep the gifts out of the house…like free storage.
  • Gives you time to decide whether you really want it or not, as long as there isn’t a fee to cancel the layaway.
  • Some layaway plans offer a small discount if you use them.
  • Sometimes you can put off-season stuff on layaway and pay off that discounted amount in time to use the items in season.  This helps if you are low income.
  • Could be used as a physical example of budgeting for children, although I think the temptation to spend too much negates this.

If you can’t afford to buy it outright, it being sold before you get to it would probably save you a lot of money.  But if you are low income, layaway seems like a less expensive alternative to additional credit card debt.

All in all, layaway is like credit cards.  Don’t use it if you can’t control your spending.  Don’t use it if you just let yourself use it as an excuse.  But if you are in complete control, and it helps you in some way, more power to you.

Do you use layaway?  Have I missed any of the positives?

Still All About the Thrift Shop!

Back in May 2013, I started a challenge to only buy “new” clothes from second hand shops like Goodwill for a full year.  I did pretty well and am still all about the thrift shop!

New Clothes Over the Last Year

I said in the challenge to myself that I would allow myself to buy brand new undergarments.  I stuck to this pretty well.  Here are the only new clothes that I have bought since May 2013:

  • A package of new underwear – $6
  • Swim suit (not technically an undergarment, but it touched my womanly bits directly and ended up being an amazing Amazon deal that looks fantabulous) – $33
  • Cat suit that I used to dress up for Comicpalooza as the Black Widow and Cat Woman (again, touched my lady parts, so I made an exception) – $28
  • Flexees (like Spanx) to make the Black Widow and Cat Woman look sleek instead of belly-licious. – $15

All Other Clothes – Donations and Thrift Shop

I will admit, I didn’t go clothes shopping much anyway.  Here were all of the other clothes that entered my possession since May 2013:

  • My friend, Isabelle, cleaned out her closet and I inherited a bunch of awesome new-to-me shirts.
  • Isabelle also donated the boots I wore as the Black Widow and Cat Woman as well as a nice pair of wedge heels to my small, but growing, shoe collection.  I think she felt sorry for my lonely other shoes…
  • Here were all of my Goodwill and resale shop purchases over 4 total visits (most of these were made this past week, which reminded me to write this post, LOL):  1 pair of boots ($10), 1 pair of heels ($7), two new shirts ($13), 1 pair of jeans ($9), 1 pair of slacks ($8 – and they are also knows as my “booty slacks”), and 3 sweater/pullovers ($14 – one given away accidentally at Fincon14).
  • Total = $61

That means that I have spent a grand total of $143 on clothing and related items from May 2013-September 2014.  I aim to spend $100 or less per year, so I have stayed on track.  I don’t see shopping again at all until 2015.  All of that said, I’ve decided to make this a permanent life change!  No reason to buy new when I can get the same or better used at 50%-90% off.

How are you doing with clothes?  Is it where your budget sails or sinks?

Different Shade of Blue – Ion Brights Sky Blue to be Exact!

For anyone following along with my hair saga, my last update was early this month.  I had switched from Manic Panic Ultra Violet Semi-Permanent to N’rage Cobalt Blue Demi-Permanent on September 1st.  Manic Panic had lasted strong for 3-4 days, and lasted in total for exactly 2 weeks and 3 main washes.

Crystal Loved Her Purple Hair

Love at first sight. :-)

N’rage – Less Than 2 Weeks

N’rage lasted from September 1st through September 11th pretty well, and it wasn’t completely gone.  But then I got my hair cut/updated on September 10th to look spiffy at FinCon14, so that definitely stripped a lot out.  It was stronger than Manic Panic, but it wouldn’t have lasted much more than 5-6 regular washes with me.  Keep in mind, I hadn’t been using sulfate-free shampoo or anything special.

Crystal with N'rage Cobalt Blue Hair

This only lasted 11 days with me…

Ion Color Brilliance Brights Semi-Permanent – Sky Blue

I’ve moved back to the semi-permanent arena, lol.  I’m now using Ion Brights Semi-Permanent in Sky Blue.  I am loving this shade of blue!  I also splurged on $6 sulfate-free shampoo and have washed my hair once so far without it looking nearly as faded as the other two did in one wash.  So yay for maintenance shampoo, lol!  Without further ado, here is how my hair will hopefully look for at least the next week:

Ion Brights Sky Blue

Can’t decide whether I like this one even more than the purple or not! No worries though…I have other colors to try too!

Since the Ion Brights variety is cheaper than Manic Panic and N’rage ($5 versus $9-$13), and they were having a buy-two-get-$1-off sale, I decided to take a chance and bought four colors at once.  This is Sky Blue.  I will also be trying Aquamarine, Magenta, and Fuschia.  Thanks to my super short hair, it only takes one tube to cover it all.  If you have more hair than me at all though, I would suggest buying two tubes for Ion or two containers of Manic Panic.  Or, just streak your hair instead of covering it all.

I’ve had loud-colored hair for about a month now, and I can honestly say that I’m loving it.  My pillow case may never be the same again, but it’s a small price to pay for the fun factor of this experiment so far.  Financially, I’ve spent about $40 in the last month on dyes, my new shampoo, and 12 shower caps.  But I still have three of those dyes left to try, so this should take me on for at least another month or two.  In my world, that’s 3 continuous months of entertainment for $40…what a steal!  Hahaha!

And, an extra benefit, I should be very easy to locate at FinCon this year!  :-D

Did I leave anything out?  What do you think of my colors so far?


I’m a Cruise Addict and Other Financial Oddities

I saw this question left in my newsletter post this month from Alexis (thank you for subscribing and commenting!):

What financial things do you do that makes you think you are a little overboard? Is there anything you do to save money that makes you think “OMG, I’ve really lost it now”?

Cruise Addiction

I have gotten better at judging myself for my financial oddities, lol.  I also understand that Alexis was asking about my savings habits BUT my main financial oddity is at the other end of the spectrum.  I am addicted to cruising.  I love cruise ships, dining rooms where I’m spoiled, ports of call, and just showing up to scheduled activities all day.  If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d be booked for several cruises in a row that would start next week after #FinCon14.  ;-)

In case you haven’t been reading for the entire last year, my addiction is fed regularly.  We took a 5 day cruise in early September 2013, a 7 day one in January 2014, and another 7 day one in August 2014.  In my defense, I did at least find great deals.  All three of those cruises plus taxes, tips, excursions, and extras came to less than $4600 total for the two of us.

I am now attempting to talk my hubby into wanting to go again in either November-December 2014 or February-March of 2015.  I’d prefer both but do want to save for another rental property as well and I know it’ll make it harder if I keep spending $1200-$2000 every few months on what should probably not be happening more than every year or so, hahaha.

Other Money Oddities

Funny Piggy Bank

On the savings side:

  • I haven’t bought any retail clothing in more than a year other than my bride’s maid dress.  I make the exception for undergarments, but all of my shirts, pants, shoes, and dresses have been bought from second hand shops and Goodwill since early 2013.
  • I gave up most drinks at restaurants more than 10 years ago to save that $2-$4 per visit.  I just order water.  I will splurge a few times a year on lemonade or iced tea, but that’s about it.  This isn’t that weird but it came to mind.
  • We have more than 10 accounts at CapitalOne 360 because I manage money better when it is pre-assigned to specific expenses and goals.
  • I save more by using credit cards than cash.  Honestly.  When I have cash, I spend it without remembering what I spent it on.  It’s like drinking water.  But when I use a credit card, I see the charges every time I log in – they stare me in the face and force me to spend less especially towards the end of the month.  I’ve had a credit card since I turned 18, and I have never carried a balance or accrued interest charges in any way.
  • I re-use junk mail envelopes to leave money for our lawn guy.  I think it’s funny as hell that I don’t mind paying $35 to have my lawn mowed, edged, and weeded, BUT heaven forbid I use a fresh envelope for the cash…
  • I haven’t had an ATM usage fee since college in 2001.  I despise getting charged to withdraw and spend money.  So I used to go out of my way to find my own bank ATM’s just to avoid that $1.50-$2.50 charge.  Now I keep a small-medium cash pile at home so I don’t need to use ATM’s at all.

What are your financial oddities?  Please share!!!

Hair Dye Update – Goodbye Manic Panic and Hello N’rage!

Two weeks ago, I dyed my hair Manic Panic Ultra Violet. You may remember this picture:

Crystal Loved Her Purple Hair

Love at first sight. :-)

Manic Panic Ultra Violet Review

I loved my purple hair, but Manic Panic is truly a temporary dye.  My friends slathered my hair up, used a hot blow dryer on it, covered my head with a plastic bag for 30 minutes, and then I rinsed it out until the water ran nearly clear.  Then they did it again because they noticed some missed spots.  In the end, it took 2.5 hours to get me purple-headed.

I loved the color but Manic Panic fades fast like it was designed to do.  I have a blessed scalp and usually only need to wash my hair every 3 days.  But I wanted to hold on to the color longer, so I waited nearly 6 full days before putting the shower cap aside and washing it like normal.  It had already faded quite a bit in that 6 days.  After the first wash, it was sporadically faded purple, and after the second wash it was nearly gone.  The third wash exactly 2 weeks later pretty much finished the job.  I was back to nearly my natural hair color, just slightly darker in the blonde areas.

So, Manic Panic is an awesome temporary dye.  If you just want a color to last a couple of weeks or less, that is the dye for you.  I may play around with it again…

Now Trying Nrage Cobalt Blue

But, I wasn’t in the mood for being a red-head again quite yet.  My friends volunteered to help me out once again, and this time we selected a demi-permanent instead of a semi-permanent…that means it is supposed to last 2-3 times longer.  Welcome to N’rage Cobalt Blue.  :-)

My friends followed nearly the same routine as last time except for using a comb and leaving it to set for a full hour.  They slathered me up, combed it through, blew heat on it, put a shower cap on me for a little more than an hour (we watched a new episode of Doctor Who), and then I rinsed it out until the water ran nearly clear once again.  Here is my new look!

Crystal with N'rage Cobalt Blue Hair

I will admit that I didn’t adore it as much as purple immediately. But now that I’ve had it for a day, I am LOVING it too!!!

I am hoping that this color holds on longer than the last. Specifically, I need it to stay strong for at least 3 weeks. the Financial Blogger Conference is about 2 weeks from now and I want it to last through that whole week of fun too. If it’s faded at all before I leave, we may hit it again or even streak it with something else like teal or hot pink…we’ll see…

What do you think?  Did you prefer the purple or the blue so far?

Supporting Local Businesses – Doing My Part This Week…

I’ve always been fond of the idea of supporting local businesses, but I’ve never gone out of my way to specifically do it.  For the last week, I think I decided to catch up.

Funding Food

I’ve been pet sitting even more than normal.  This generally means waking up earlier than normal and working online later than normal to make up for time lost.

Luckily, one of my regular routes kept taking me by a tasty-looking taco stand.  When I finally stopped and ordered something last weekend, I found the largest, yummiest breakfast burrito ever for just $4.50!  And the green sauce was oh-so-good.  I ordered the medium instead of the large, which was a good idea since the medium ended up being so stuffed with eggs, potatoes, bacon, and cheese that I ate half and was too stuffed to eat the second half.  My husband decided to save the day and ate it for me after I called it quits (and put it away for later).  I’m not a push-over…I like to eat.  So take my word that this breakfast burrito was huge, and it was only about 60% of the size of his $6.50 monster.  I may take that on later this week…

On the way back home that same day, I also saw a sign for “Fresh Peaches” and pulled over again.  The peaches sold themselves.  The guy handed me one, I bit into it, and I bought two cartons worth for $10 while I finished scarfing down the free one.  I ate another one nearly immediately.  It was about $2 a pound, which is nearly twice the price of grocery store peaches in my area right this second.  BUT, his peaches were ripe and juicy and delicious!  The grocery store peaches are hard or tasteless or both.  It was a no brainer.

Baskets of Peaches

These weren’t the actual peaches, but he was selling them out of similar containers. It ended up being about 2.8 pounds for $5.


Yep, I bought a breakfast burrito and two cartons of peaches.  I also went back two days later and bought another breakfast burrito along with a $5 carton of nectarines.  Altogether, I spent about $25 in less than 2 days on food that I didn’t technically need.  But it has been delicious.  And not so bad for my current Weight Watchers diet either.  :-)

The burrito ends up being 8 Weight Watcher points per meal for the halves I eat, and the peaches are no points at all.  They are the perfect snack between dog walking and catching up online.  Overall, I have no guilt for the “wasted” money since the food has been delectable and the money went directly into the pockets of two local guys just trying to get along like the rest of us.  Money well spent indeed.

Do you ever spend money on things you don’t technically need?  How about on local businesses?  Does it make a difference to you either way?  It seems way easier to do for me…