Thursday, August 27, 2009

Save your cash - don't buy from Bayer

I'm going to start listing companies who act deplorable - let's save our money rather than give it to these guys. Remember, we vote with our spending dollars. If you don't like a company's actions, don't buy from them.

More to come,

Quick meal on a budet

So I totally jinxed myself making this video (laugh it up when it all spills! It's ok, I laughed too.) but here's a pretty simple recipe anybody can make with stuff they probably have on hand. (And yes, again, I used my real first name for the entry.)

More to come,

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Want to move without buying a single box?

So as some of you know, my fiance and I bought our first home. It's 3 times larger than our two bedroom, extremely cramped apartment. We'll finally have some space to put our things. Unfortunately, because we have so much stuff (my fiance had to clean out his dad's house when he died so we have a lot of leftovers that need to be moved) it means we need LOTS of boxes to move. We have a storage unit where we've been storing a lot of things - although we have a two bedroom, we have more than enough stuff to fill a three bedroom place (luckily there are 5 bedrooms in the new house!)

Here are some of the boxes I've packed up on top of our air hockey table (which I got for free off of Craigslist!)

To buy a sufficient amount of boxes from U-Haul, it would cost $379.98 for the 3 bedroom pack - that doesn't even include the boxes for the living & dining rooms plus kitchen! To buy one big package, it would cost $535.66! We don't have that sort of money to spend on boxes so a few months ago, I started keeping my eyes peeled for boxes on Freecycle. I picked up boxes from two people who were giving away their used moving boxes and now we have more than enough to get us through this move! I just stored all the boxes on our balcony while we were looking at houses. (Remember to donate your boxes back to Freecycle once you're done moving to help out others!)

More of the boxes we've packed!

If you need a box or two, U-Haul has a donation program where you can donate your used U-Haul brand boxes and if somebody needs one or two (don't abuse this service) they can pick one up. It's sort of like the "give a penny, take a penny" bowl near cash registers. If you need a box, I suggest getting one when you're renting your truck - don't just make a special trip to take a free box.

Another way to save cash is to ask your work if they have any boxes from shipments that you can have (such as from office supplies or product.) Remember to ask first, but usually you can take as many boxes as you need!

If you can't get boxes from your work, local grocery stores have tons of boxes. Usually, if you go in and ask for the produce manager, you can ask to have all the boxes that fruits and veggies have come in. I've never been to a grocery store where they won't give them to you for free!

By searching out free options, we've saved $600+!

More to come,

Want to move without buying a single roll of bubble wrap?

I've been packing more boxes than I can stand. Luckily, the only thing I've bought for this move is packing tape - I haven't used one roll of bubble wrap or packing peanuts. Want to save money and skip that pricey stuff? Start saving up your plastic grocery bags, newspapers, weekly ad inserts and packaging from things you buy to use as packaging. Want an even more eco-friendly way to pack? Use your blankets, sheets, towels, curtains and even clothing to pack and pad your items.

You'll save cash, have less stuff to throw away and you won't have to pack as many boxes!

More to come,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

MAC makeup brushes VS. Artists brushes

I've been SUPER busy here at home packing and filling out paper work and everything that comes along with buying a foreclosure (we snagged an AMAZING deal on a 2,700 sq.ft house with a 7,000 sq. ft. lot!!!) I haven't had any time to sit down and write unfortunately but I know it's going to change when this move is over!

Anyway I was online because I need to buy some more powder, blush and foundation from MAC. I almost exclusively use MAC makeup with a little Bourjois and Maybelline. Luckily for me, MAC actually saves me a ton of money because I used to exclusively use Sue Devitt and it was terribly expensive. Unfortunately, although MAC makeup is affordable for me, their brushes are very expensive (which is why I only have a a handful of them.) I've really been wanting to buy some more eye makeup brushes because your applicator makes ALL the difference in your makeup. At this time, MAC brushes are just not in my budget. I knew there had to be a way to get nice, quality brushes at a fraction of the cost. I found the answer and I thought I'd share this video I found about saving money on makeup brushes:

More to come,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Save money - Enter contests - like this one!

One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to save money is to win the things you like. Of course it's always a long shot but it's still worth trying! If you get really organized (our next topic) you can win a fair amount of times (I've won more than 20 giveaways in July alone.)

I actually won this prize for the month of July this morning! (so you'll find out my real name probably rather than my pseudonym :-P) But they're holding two more drawings, one for August and one for September so go over and enter! You can submit up to 5 entries!

Paint Your Appliance Pink

"Pink Prize Package consists of a Pink KitchenAid® Stand Mixer, Pink Stand Mixer cover, Pink Silicone Mixer Spatula, Pink Silicone Heart Pan, Pink Measuring Cups and Spoons Set and a Cook for the Cure® Apron. Each pink prize package is valued at $369.97."

Every entry also means $25 is donated to Breast Cancer Research.

I used paint for models and made sure to wash it off while it was still semi wet (ok, a few were completely dry and it was a beast trying to clean it off.) I had to use a scrubby pad for pots and pans and you can still see a tinge of pink on my oven door!

More to come,

Saturday, August 1, 2009

What happened?

Well, I haven't updated in a bit because... umm... we got a call, about 12 hours before we were supposed to have a home inspection that the bank didn't actually own the house they were selling to us. Apparently they were trying to buy it from another bank and this other bank didn't end up selling it to them - so everything we signed was invalid. I'm not sure how that was even legal for the bank supposedly selling us the house, I'm trying to figure that out, before I update. So yeah, we're back looking for another place.

We were supposed to move in on Monday - so our entire house is packed up. Lordy. I am positive we'll find something else that we like better - with a bigger lot, a laundry room and a fourth bedroom (all things this house didn't have which we wanted.)

More to come,

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm featured on Things Mommys Love!

Check out Things Mommys Love today! I'm the featured contributor!

More to come,

So frustrating!

I have been overwhelmed in the past few days. My computer crashed and I lot a few folders (including my articles folder.) so I'm a little behind on updating this. Sorry :-(

More to come,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Check out Mama's Money Savers!

I'm the featured guest blogger at Mama's Money Savers today! Check it out!

More to come,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Want to snag a foreclosure? Pt. 1

I got a question asking how we found foreclosed homes. Rather than make one long comment, I thought this would be great for a double installment.

I want to start off by saying, your own personal house is not an asset - it is a liability. Your home's equity is NOT an asset. If you want to know more about why this is, check out Jim's Random Notes. (The book he mentions, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I first read when I was 13.) or read everything but the last paragraph here.

When you first decide you want to buy a foreclosure, think about if you're willing to put a little elbow grease into a house. When the market was hot, really hot, in my particular area, people were camping out for homes, bribing neighbors with cakes, faking references, etc. It was nuts. If a seller wanted a house to bring in top dollar ($700,000+) they staged the house, had it professionally cleaned, maybe redid a kitchen or bathroom and had it professionally landscaped. This isn't the case anymore. For example, here's the backyard in the house we just bought:

I'm 5'9. Many of those weeds are taller than I am.

There is no way a house would have looked like that back when the market was climbing. Most of the houses my fiance and I looked at needed work - and 99% of them had been built after 2001. For example, our house, which was built in 2006, needs all the carpet replaced because somebody poured bleach on it, our sliding glass door's handle has to be replaced because somebody broke half of it off and a window screen needs replaced because somebody sliced it.

A lot of the houses we looked at (we probably have looked at close to 30 houses.) needed doors replaced. Bedroom doors would have huge holes in them from previous owners, I'm assuming, just kicking them in. Counter top tile would be broken with a hammer, cabinet drawers were missing, appliances would be gone (which is illegal for the previous owners to take, but they didn't care.) Some houses look as if the owners, while understandably upset, moved their furniture out and didn't care if it hit a wall or a window or anything else - some still had junk left behind in them. Some houses, such as in the case of the house my fiance's sister bought, has to be completely gutted. If you're wanting a move-in ready house, foreclosures aren't for you.

If you've decided you're up for hanging a piece of drywall (takes 10 minutes to hang a new piece) then you need to go to a bank to get pre approved for a loan. Yes, this is step two, not step # later down the line. In our particular market, if you see a house, you need to put an offer in on it that day so you need to already have your loan ready to go.

Do not, under any circumstances borrow more than you need to. Don't borrow extra to use a little to buy a car, pay off credit cards or anything else. Just don't do it. If you think you can afford a $300,000 loan, get a loan for $250,000. You don't want to be living paycheck to paycheck. You want some cushion in case of emergencies. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM.) Do NOT get any loan that is longer than 30 years. That means no 40 year loans, no 50 year loans. If you can't pay it off in 30 years or less, you can't afford it. Period. If possible, get a loan where you don't get penalized for paying off more of your mortgage than is due that month.

For example here's a 30 year mortgage for our house, versus a 15 year mortgage for our house. The monthly payments aren't what you look at, it's the final cost of the house you look at. If you notice, the monthly payments for the 15 year mortgage are not double the price of the 30 year mortgage monthly payments.

30 year mortgage

15 year mortgage

Difference in money saved with a 15 year mortgage vs. 30 year mortgage = $100,800

After you get pre-approved for your loan, gather up the money you're going to use for a down payment. If you don't have any money for a down payment, forget about buying a house right now because the amount of money you'll pay on interest back to your bank will mean you end up paying twice as much, if not more, for your house and your monthly payments will be huge.

Try to squeeze every last penny you possibly can from your excess fun money to put toward a down payment (don't take from your emergency fund though.) The usual rate is 3% down which is usually a couple thousand dollars. This is a bad idea because the less money you put down, the more you end up paying for the house. We put down 20% and we're going to try to put down a little more if we can scrounge up the money.

For example, here is our loan with 20% down on a 30 year mortgage. Compare that to a 30 year loan with a 5% mortgage. Look at the difference in the monthly payments, and, most important - the actual, final cost of the house.

5 % down payment

20 % down

Difference in money saved with a 20% down payment vs. 5% down payment = $36,900

Start looking for agents who specialize in foreclosures. Not all real estate agents deal with foreclosures (the process is a little different) so you need to make sure you tell whoever you are working with that you specifically want to view foreclosed homes. You really do need an agent for foreclosures because the day they come out on MLS, they will probably already have multiple offers in by the end of the day. If you look on your own, most of the houses you find online will already be pending. That said...

All banks have a list of foreclosures that they own. You can call up banks and ask for their list or try to find if they have a web site. For example, Wells Fargo has their own site - Pasreo, but to buy one of their houses, you or your immediate family can't work for them. You can take a look around at their site and get a feel for what's available in your area.

Tomorrow, I will start the second installment of How to buy a foreclosure.

More to come,

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We got the house!

This morning our real estate agent called to tell us we now own our first house! It was the seventh house we put an offer on so we're so relieved!

Our new house! 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 1,600 sq. feet for $215,000.

It seemed like every house we put an offer in on, somebody out bid us. It was so frustrating because we only looked at foreclosures and banks tend to price the houses very low knowing that they're worth much more. This creates a huge bidding war and drives the price up. For example, my fiance went out to go look at houses and found one he liked (I told him if he was looking without me and found something he thought was a good deal to just put an offer in on it.) He put an offer in on the house slightly above the asking price of $250,000. The house ended up selling (to somebody else) for more than $500,000 in less than a week.

The reason we got the house that we did was because our agent works in the same office as the agent selling the house for the bank. It had just been listed on MLS (Multiple Listing Service) that day. Our agent called up his coworker and told him we wanted to put in an offer. Because they knew each other and had a good working relationship, we didn't have to offer anything above the asking price. (Ok, we offered $100 more, just to give an even number.) She also promised us she wouldn't accept any other offers beside ours to submit to the bank. To top that off, we got our closing costs paid for by the bank, home insurance for a year, pest control and inspection all paid for as well as.

We got really lucky. My fiance's sister and her husband recently purchased their first house. They had also put in offers on multiple homes. Their agent knew the agent (not in the same firm) selling the house and knew that my fiance's sister and husband were offering the highest bid. Unfortunately, the other agent submitted another offer to the bank that was much lower. Their agent said he couldn't believe that the lower offer got accepted but apparently, it's more about who the agent has a better professional relationship with.

My advice for buying a house without going through the hassles we did was to straight up ask your agent if anybody in their office has any homes for sale with your conditions. You're much more likely to get a better deal this way then going with a home listed through another firm due to the fact your agent works with the other agent on a daily basis. Honestly, it's more about connections than how much you can offer.

More to come,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Under Construction!

There's a new (temporary) layout in the works right now. I'm working on two guests posts today for two other ladies' blogs (yay!) so I'll be updating tomorrow!

In the meantime...

In what area of your life are you looking to save money? What is your biggest expense? What do you cut back on when money is tight?

Have any questions, comments or suggestions?

Send your answers and thoughts to

More to come,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When "for sake of tradition" heaps on costs

"You've got mail." Click, click, click, slumping back in your chair, you realize everything is forwards and junk mail. How often do you find yourself in this position? Political Jokes, a cartoon and warnings about kittens being stuffed in glass jars usually get deleted by me. But once, my dad had me read a particular forward from my grandma that I never forgot and actually changed the way I viewed everything I did. Has that happened to you with a forward?

To make a long story short, this particular forward was about a lady who was making an Easter ham. Before she put it into the pan, she cut the ends off. Her daughter asked her why she cut the ends off and the mom replied, "That's just how my mom did it! Let's ask grandma why she did it." They went into the living room to question the grandma why the ends of the ham get cut off. The grandma replied, "That's just how my mom did it! Let's ask great-grandma why she did it." They turned to the great-grandma and asked her why the ends of the ham were cut off. She replied, "I had to cut the ends off because my pan was too small for the ham!" So basically, two generations later, the ladies were cutting up their ham without knowing why they were doing what they were doing. All it took was one little girl to ask "why," to stop the cycle of blindly following "tradition."

When it comes to weddings, at least here in the U.S., they're full of tradition. Unfortunately, this makes for some very cookie cutter weddings. I don't think there's a bride out there that wants her wedding to be just like everybody else's. She wants to be unique, but stick with tradition. After adding in the bridesmaids, the tiered cake, the bouquets, the garter, something borrowed, something blue, a six pence in your shoe, yada, yada, yada you end up with one very expensive wedding - and it ends up being the same show, with a different cast.

Here's a few very common wedding "pieces" that I'm skipping and the root of tradition behind them.

-Bouquets : Bouquets, used in Medieval times, consisted of herbs and roots to ward off evil spirits. Later, brides added lots of fragrant flowers to cover up body odors since soap and deodorant were non-existent.

- Matching bridesmaids dresses - Bridesmaids wore similar dresses to the bride's gown, while groomsmen dressed similar to the groom. This was to confuse and protect against evil spirits or jealous suitors who attempted to harm the bridal couple, as they would be confused as to which two people were the bride and groom. (I doubt this one worked!)

- Huge Bridal Parties - During Roman times, to make a marriage legal, a wedding required 10 witnesses. During the bride kidnapping era, close friends of the groom-to-be assisted him when he kidnapped the bride from her family. The groomsmen were there to fend off angry family members fighting to keep the bride. (This still happens in parts of Eastern Russia.)

-Throwing rice (now blowing bubbles) - Rice became the popular item in the United States to wish prosperity and luck on newlyweds.

-Tossing the bouquet - Tossing the bouquet is believed to be an outgrowth of an idea, that was popular in the 14th century France - that it was considered lucky to get a fragment of the bride's clothing. Unlike today, where we have bridezillas, the woman was more like property and therefore treated rather terrible. Guests would grab at the bride's dress to tear off lucky infused pieces. Brides, looking to run away unscathed, began the custom of throwing bouquets as a distraction.

-Garter tossing - The garter represented the virginal girdle. When the groom removed the garter, he was demonstrating publicly, that the bride was relinquishing her virginal status. In medieval times, guests accompanied the newlywed couple to their bed chamber after the ceremony. Some guests would way overstep boundaries by trying to get the bride undressed and in bed. In order to keep the other men at bay, the groom would toss the bride's garter to distract them.

-Wedding cake - The wedding cake originated as loaves of wheat bread, broken over the bride's head to symbolize the virginal state of the bride being broken. Guests were encouraged to eat the crumbs that fell for good luck. During the Middle Ages, the bread became sweet buns, and the guests were responsible for bringing a bun to the wedding as a gift. For fun, after the ceremony, the mini sweet cakes were piled up and the bride and groom attempted to kiss over the enormous pile - the taller the pile, the more prosperous the couple. Supposedly, an anonymous French chef working during the reign of King Charles II, in the 16th century, visited London, and was appalled by their gross wedding cake traditions. Eager to make a buck, he came up with the wedding cake.

Frankly I don't feel that any of these traditions are very relevant today and am skipping all of them. Think about all the associated costs with all the above mentioned items. They get really expensive! Personally, I'm carrying a flamenco fan down the aisle, serving Russian tea cakes and we're going to be hitting a pinata. I'll update later more of our alternative wedding choices!

More to come,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quick running total of wedding costs.

Wanted to do a quick run down of costs so far for the wedding and wedding related stuff. I'm not listing the items we already had or received for free.

  • Ring - $1,000 even.
  • My engagement photo outfits - $52.66 at Forever 21 (Includes Tax -4.46, Turquoise dress - $22.80, Green dress -$14.80, Gold necklace - $6.80, Earrings - $3.80)
Subtotal as of today: $1,052.66

Wedding Decor:

  • Porcelain birds - $11.47 at Michaels. (Includes 3 2.5" green birds at $1.49/each, 2 3.5" birds at 2.99/each, Sales tax - $1.02)
Subtotal as of today: $11.47

Paper Goods:
  • Loteria cards - $3.92
  • Colored cardstock - $4.36
Subtotal as of today: $8.28


Michael's Trip #2 - Total w/ tax: $15.56
  • Embossing Hole Punch - $11.19
  • Glitter Stickers - $2.99
Subtotal as of today: $15.56

Wedding Clothing:
  • Mantilla Veil - $57.61 (Includes 49X49 veil, shipping, tax) from Ebay.
Total as of today: $57.61

Total as of today: $1,145.58

More to come,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Diaper Free Babies?

Have you ever watched those Discovery Channel or Nova programs, heck, even No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, that feature non-Western people and wondered how their babies go to the bathroom? Maybe it's just me, but I always wondered how those little babies didn't cover their moms, who were carrying them around on their back or on their hip, in their pee or, well... poop.

About three or four months ago, I was surfing online and stumbled upon this series of articles at Eco-Child's play: Baby Essentials That Aren't. As I read through the first three articles, I found myself saying, "yeah, this makes sense!" That is, until I hit the fourth article. "What do they mean diapers aren't essential?" My mind reverted back to the explosive diapers I changed when my brother and sister were born, added that to a picture of tribal women carrying diaper-less babies and came up with a disgusting picture of a messy, filthy baby and a very frazzled mom. Settling into the pillows on my bed, I continued to read, albeit with a big dose of skepticism.

In the article, after mentioning the well known cloth diapers, the writer suggested early potty training - from birth! "What?! How is that even possible?" I thought, scratching my head. I Googled "potty training babies" and then "E.C. babies," unsure about what EC meant (don't you hate when links in articles use abbreviations without saying what they mean first? It means Elimination Communication.) I found a site about Diaper Free Babies and then the very humourous free webs site about one mom's experience about going diaper free. I finally knew what all those women in Africa and South America did with their babies, they used elimination communication!

I've read various web sites stating that babies can cost upward of $5,000 in their first month of life! Geeze! After reading Eco-Child's Play's series, tons of web sites on home birthing, breastfeeding and now babies going diaper free, I can't understand how a family with a stay at home mom could pay $1,500, tops, for a new baby (obviously day-care will cost a fortune.) I've had a lot of experience with the ins and outs of babies as my brother was born the day before my 16th birthday and my sister was born when I was 18. I honestly don't think babies need a whole lot, so I don't know what would jack the price up if you cut out non-essentials (heated diaper wipe holder anybody?)

Just something to think about in the future when Dre and I are ready to start having some kiddos.

More to come,

Monday, July 6, 2009

The best food in life is homemade.

Well, I'm laid up in bed with the most horrific Earth shattering cramps and two gallons of water (I love water.) I won't be doing a whole lot today but I'd like to give you some recipes that I'll be using at my wedding reception!

The Restaurant Dilemma:

My favorite restaurant in California is La Mediterranee in Berkeley. "I love La Mediterranee. I've been going to la Mediterranee since 1999 and I love it. It's my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in California. The food, especially the Middle Eastern Plate with the Pomegranate Chicken is to die for. I do wish they'd take the chickpeas out of the Chicken Cilicia and Spanakopita though. Luckily, my mom, after lots of trial and error is able to make everything on the middle eastern plate at home and I have her recipes so I make those dishes at home for a fraction of the cost. When I don't feel like cooking though, I go to La Mediterranee for those dishes. Just a suggestion - the Avgolemono and Fava bean soups aren't that great but the mushroom soup = heaven.

Although the food is wonderful, the waitresses suck. (The busboys are good though) I can count on terrible service when I go there. It's just a given. They're too busy chatting between themselves to notice customers. I don't know how many times I've had to get up from the table to go find the waitress to say, "hey, we need the bill" or "here's my debit card" because they never come pick up the tab. I don't want to wait around for 20 minutes after my meal is finished for the waitress to finally come with the bill. Also, I hate having to wait 15 minutes to get a refill on my drink... just a water.

I've only had one really bad experience (Jan. 2009) at La Mediterranee in 10 years so I can't say that it's terrible. I was sitting at the bar waiting for my to-go order (because I didn't want to put up with the crap waitresses that night) while my fiance stood next to me (lack of seating) and all of the sudden, a wine glass in the top rack somehow spontaeously combusts over my head and the head of the guy eating his dessert next to me. There was glass all over me, the floor, in the guy's dessert and wine. The waitress just said, "wow, that's never happened before" and she wisked the guy next to me's plate and wine glass away. She didn't replace his food (he had a substantial amount on his plate and his glass was full) She never apologized or anything. Me, the guy sitting next to me, and a busboy cleaned up the glass. It was ridiculous.

Despite the terrible waitresses, I highly suggest La Mediterranee as their food is delicious - just get your food to go though. Great, delicious food - consistently bad service.

3.5 stars (yes, the service and wait staff brought the rating down that much.)" (From my own Yelp review)

Like a lot of people, my fiance and I are sick of spending loads of money to go out to dinner only to experience sub-par service. My mom and I spent I don't know how long perfecting our "copy cat" recipes (and leaving out all the garbanzo beans that are in the originals) so now we can have the Middle Eastern plate foods for 8-12+ people for the price of 3 meals + appetizer would cost if we ate out.

My Inspiration:

Here's La Mediterranee's Middle Eastern plate:

From left to right: Hummus, rice pilaf, chicken pomegranate, spanakopita, lavash sandwich, chicken cilicia, pineapple, and munster cheese. Avgolemono soup (Center)

The Recipes:

Here's my family's recipes for our versions:


Serves 12
  • 19 ounces garbanzo beans (chick peas), undrained
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons ground sesame seeds or tahini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Combine the 7 ingredients in blender on high. Turn off and scrape sides with spatula.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Chill then serve with pita bread.
Pomegranate Chicken
(I think my mom tweaked another recipe to make this.)
Serves: 4-6
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-6 chicken breasts or 12-16 chicken wings (The size you'd use for hot wings)
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish.
  3. Combine garlic and oil.
  4. Brush all over chicken.
  5. Bake 45 minutes, bast several times with pan juices, until skin is browned and chicken is cooked.
  6. In a small saucepan, combine pomegranate juice, wine, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.
  7. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  8. Reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Transfer chicken to a ziploc and deeply pierce meat with a fork in several places.
  11. Pour sauce over chicken.
  12. Let it sit in the bag with the sauce for a few hours in the refrigerator.
  13. Remove from bag.
  14. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.
  15. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm. (I like to eat it cold.)
Serves: 8-12
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach (Thawed and squeezed dry of liquid)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1/2 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (chopped)
  • 1 egg
  • cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (ground)
  • 1/2 cup butter NOT MARGERINE! (melted)
  • 12 phyllo pastry sheets (9X13)
  1. Mix all ingredients well in bowl except Butter and Phyllo.
  2. Butter 4 Phyllo sheets and stack together.
  3. Place 1/3 of filling mixture in a long roll along the long edge of the Phyllo Sheet.
  4. Roll in log form.
  5. Cut log into 6 pieces.
  6. Place in buttered 9X13 pan.
  7. Repeat twice as above.
  8. Butter all the pieces with the remaining butter.
  9. Bake in a 350F oven uncovered until golden brown or approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
Lavash Sandwich
Serves 10
  • 1 piece lavash bread
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 1/2 cucumber , in thin slices, should be cold
  • 20-25 mint leaves should be cold
  1. Spread cream cheese evenly over the lavash bread.
  2. Sprinkle with desired amount of garlic and onion powders.
  3. Layer the cucumber slices over the cream cheese.
  4. Layer the mint leaves of the cucumber slices.
  5. Roll up into a log.
  6. Slice into 1 inch wide pieces.
  7. Serve.
Chicken Cilicia
(Bear with me, the recipe my mom gave only listed ingredients and nothing else so I'm trying to do it from memory.)
Serves 8-12

(Homemade pita bread, black bean hummus, tabouli, spanakopita and chicken cilicia (on bottom, sans powdered sugar.)
  • 2-3 cups dark meat chicken meat, shredded
  • 1 c Chicken broth
  • 1/2 T Cinnamon
  • 1 t Nutmeg
  • 1 T Turmeric
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 1/4 c slivered Almonds
  • 1/4 c Raisins
  • 12 Phyllo pastry sheets
  • Butter, for brushing
  • Powdered Sugar, for garnishing
  1. Cook dark meat chicken in chicken broth until there is hardly any broth left.
  2. Add in spices and sugar, stir.
  3. Add in almonds and raisins.
  4. Butter 4 Phyllo sheets and stack together.
  5. Place 1/3 of filling mixture in a long roll along the long edge of the Phyllo Sheet.
  6. Roll in log form.
  7. Cut log into 6 pieces.
  8. Place in buttered 9X13 pan.
  9. Repeat twice as above.
  10. Butter all the pieces with the remaining butter.
  11. Bake in a 350F oven uncovered until golden brown or approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
Serves 6 (I like to make it with the least amount of Bulgar to keep it lower carb!)

  • 1/2 cup Bulgar wheat (even a third would work)
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 4 cups tomatoes , seeded and chopped
  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and finley chopped
  • 1 cup onion , finley chopped
  • 5 cups fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Soak bulgar wheat in 2 cups of water or chicken broth let soak overnight or use boiling water and let soak 1 hour.
  2. Rinse and drain wheat in tea strainer and pour in large bowl.
  3. Add oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, stirring well.
  4. Add chopped veggies, mix well, cover.
  5. Refrigerate 3 hours, stirring a few times.
  6. Serve with pita bread.
I'm going to take a break right now. Hopefully you (or somebody else!) will enjoy these recipes.

More to come,

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lucky Me

In the past five days, I've won three giveaways! As my way of saying thanks, if I win a giveaway, I'll put a link to the giver's site under the "Thank You" header over there on the side.

Many of the products / services I've either received or won are wedding related, some aren't. Either way, check them out because I've gotten some really great stuff from them all!

More to come,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My DIY escort cards

Ever since I laid eyes on Manzanita tree escort card holders, I knew I had to have one. I don't know if you've ever priced Manzanita branch centerpieces at a florist, but they are EXPENSIVE! Technically, I could buy branches online at $4+ a piece, but luckily, a friend cut me 3 nice branches that he had, so I'm good. I'll post that project closer to my wedding date because I don't want to have to find room for a gigantic assembled tree / stand for 11 months right now.

Anyway, I couldn't decide if I wanted to make just escort cards or place cards so I made something I could use as either (and I'll decide later.) If I make them as escort cards, I'll hang them from the manzanita branch project.

Here's what you need:

  • Glue - fiance already had it for his minuature models so "free."
  • Colored cardstock - used leftover scrap pieces from making my save the dates - the package of cardstock cost me $4.36 at Jo-Ann's Fabric.
  • Fancy punch - $11.19 at Michael's craft store, on sale for 30% off.
  • Scissors - already had them so "free."
  • Pen - already had it so "free."
Not pictured (because I'm not going to do that until I know how many people are coming):
  • Ribbon /raffia - something to hang it on the manzanita tree. - already have it so "free."
  • Felt tip / calligraphy pen - to write names - already have it so "free."
What to do:
  • Bear with me, I took the pictures after I had already made a few escort cards so that's why they're not taken in exact order.
  • First, cut a size that you like from scrap paper, punch it, and glue on another scrap piece to the edge (optional)
  • Use this as your template to measure your cardstock to cut more paper.
As you can see, I'm using super advanced tools. ;-)
  • If you mess up on your punches (I like to have four at the end) just cut off the messed up piece and glue it to another piece of scrap paper.
  • Cut out one of the tiny cuts into a square. (We didn't pay $8.00 for that glue.)
  • Glue square to the underside of card so it sticks out like a pull (you could use these in guest books or whatever.)
  • If you're going to use these on a hanging tree, you can punch a hole in the opposite end and thread ribbon or raffia through it to hang. Finish it off by writing the guest's name on the card.
It was pretty easy and used just scrap paper that was otherwise going to go into the trash. The only thing I bought specifically for this project was the paper punch. I'll use it for more wedding related projects though!

More to come,

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reception location: Country Club vs. Backyard

I've been looking at wedding blogs galore to get some ideas about things I'd like to make for this wedding. I am so happy we're paying for it ourselves which means anything I want to do, I can.

We're doing this wedding in my fiance's parents' backyard. We really lucked out because they live in an upscale gated community with a winery, country club and golf course. To rent out the country club within their neighborhood, it would cost more than our entire wedding budget of $2,000 (not including engagement/wedding rings)

Here's the country club:
Outside location

Inside location

We figured, "Hey, if we can get basically the exact same scenery in the same gated community - for free, why not?" Here's part of the backyard where we're going to get married (and my fiance's 12-year-old half brother looking for Easter eggs.)

I've been making my own inspiration boards because I decided I didn't want to have a color as our theme. Because I'm not bound by a certain color palette, I've noticed I can get a lot of things way cheaper (don't have to have custom colors, can buy what's in stock.)

Here's one of the inspiration boards I made:

We're doing a Spanish flamenco theme so we're having lots of bright colors - yellows, oranges, greens, teal, reds, hot pinks and white. Nothing dark and dreary. To go with our theme, we're having a tapas bar with sangria along with Mexican wedding cookies/Russian tea cakes instead of a wedding cake (neither of us like cake and cheesecake for 75 is out of our budget.)

To save on some money, my friends, fiance's sister and I will be making the majority of the tapas, drinks and cookies. I used to work at Whole Foods in the bakery so I've worked on my fair share of catering orders and can cook large orders fairly fast. We may hire a few people to man the tapas buffet and heat the tapas that need to be warmed in my fiance's parents' kitchen (Which is a dream kitchen - a shame since his mom said she doesn't cook!)

Here's my fiance's sister with her husband and sister-in-law in the kitchen we're making our food in! (I think the coolest thing is that heat lamp under the hood!)

We've done some pricing and we're going to save at least $1,000 doing the DIY catering. My next task is to try out some sangria recipes (I've never made it before and don't know what it's supposed to taste like.)

One item we've already decided we're serving is a chocolate cake shot. We'll be serving it at our reception dinner. My fiance's friend's mom made these for us a couple weeks ago and it's insane how much they taste like chocolate cake. It even has a complex and distinct flavor of cake and frosting!

Here's the recipe:

1/2 ounce Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
1/2 ounce vanilla vodka
powdered sugar
lemon slice

- Mix Frangelico and Vodka in a shaker.
- Pour into shot glass.
- Dip lemon slice in powdered sugar.
- Take your shot of liquor - don't swallow, just hold it in your mouth.
- Immediately place lemon slice in your mouth. (Don't dribble!)
- Enjoy.

More to come!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The power of the sun!

Oh my goodness! It has been a long 10 days! Dre and I have been looking for our first house as our rent is way too expensive for us ($1,750/month) now that we're on "month to month" instead of a lease. Yeah - it's the complete opposite of what would be the financially sound thing to do.

The reason we're going month to month was because a few months ago, his grandmother offered to gift us a down payment for our first house as a wedding gift and we expected to be in a house months ago. Unfortunately, what was supposedly a gift has now become a huge burden for us. This "gift" is now dependent on whether she likes the house, if she would live in it, etc. We've gone through multiple real estate agents already because they just can't put up with her. (I forgot to add I think she has undiagnosed narcissistic personality disorder, which is common with people with NPD.) Things have gotten so out of control with her that I've told Dre that under no circumstances will I be visiting her regardless of the occasion and that I'd rather forgo this "gift" than be around her even though we can't buy a house without it. We just don't have that sort of money right now. Luckily, I'm not the only person in the family who feels this way toward her and I happen to have two fabulous future mother in laws - my fiance's mom and his step mom to go to for support. It's not often you get two mother in laws and it's really not often that you actually like them!

Anyway, for money saving tips, I'll tell you about this house that my fiance and I really wanted to buy (his grandma said no dice to getting this "gift" of a down payment if we pick it out because she said it's a cheap piece of junk...{???}) This house isn't completely finished being built yet. It's slightly over 1,800 sq. ft, $253,000, 3 stories (it's a bonus room + full bathroom on the third story) and... the entire community is completely solar powered! This house has the largest lot of all the houses (they have zero lot lines unfortunately) so it has a tiny back yard and the front door opens up to the gigantic park in the neighborhood.

With the first time home buyer credit + new house credit + solar energy credit, we would get $20,000 in credits for our taxes! As well, because everything is solar powered, PG&E buys excess solar energy to the tune of $600 a month. Yep, we'd be getting a $600 check from the electric company every single month (It's sunny year round and they have it set up where no trees or anything will even be close to casting any shadows on the panels.) We could use that check toward our savings, my fiance's debt or our mortgage!

Unfortunately, we're not getting the house (I'm sure something better will come along.) but granite is standard, security systems + free monitoring is standard as are Bosch appliances. It's so cute but hopefully we'll find a place with a nice big backyard so we can save some real money through our grocery bills, rain water collection system and (I know this sounds gross) composting toilets.

More to come shortly!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Want to get pearly white teeth without the chemicals?

Growing up, I had the worst teeth. By the time I was two years old, I had had 18 ear infections (according to my parents.) I was on antibiotics the entire time and unfortunately, when taking a whole lot of Amoxicilin, my teeth had weird discoloration and came in quite crooked.

When I was in middle school, I was in braces for two years. Unfortunately for me, I followed my orthodontist's orders to a T and over corrected my teeth by wearing my bands 24/7 (apparently they double the time because they think kids will only do it half the time.) so that ended up keeping me in braces even longer. Fabulous.

When I was very small, my parents would brush our teeth and what I remember most is how much the toothpaste burnt. Maybe I was just extra sensitive to the mint flavoring but I hated it. I didn't care for the kid flavored toothpastes either. As I got older, I never felt like my teeth were getting very clean. I flossed, I scrubbed, I bleached, I scraped and brushed everything. Every time I'd go to get my teeth cleaned at the dentist's, I'd hear the same thing - you need to floss more. You need to brush 9 zillion times a day. Blah, blah, blah. I had plaque build up even though I was brushing twice or more a day - I kept my toothbrush and toothpaste in my backpack so I could even brush at school and nothing helped.

A while back, I stumbled upon an article about the dangers of fluoridation. I decided to completely cut out toothpaste with any fluoride in them. I went to the store and tried all the fluoride free toothpaste - NOW's Xyliwhite, Burt's Bees (owned by Clorox) Lavender Mint Toothpaste, Tom's of Maine (owned by Colgate-Palmolive), a few others and some sort of German toothpaste I got at Whole Foods (I used to work there.) None of them really worked at all and I always felt like I had nasty breath. It wasn't very refreshing. The German toothpaste was the worst - I couldn't read it as it was all in German but it used some sort of alternative to whatever chemicals are in regular toothpaste. When I went to my dentist, he told me to stop using it because it was eating my tooth enamel away. Great...

I was on a search for something that didn't have a bazillion chemicals in it. What's a better way to control what's in your product than to make it yourself? I went online and started searching. After awhile, I played around until I got the amounts I like just right. Here's my recipe for whitening toothpaste which you can also find on my Recipezaar account:

8 tablespoons baking soda
8 tablespoons sea salt, not iodized
20 drops orange blossom essential oils

1. Mix ingredients in a glass jar.
2. Dip damp toothbrush into mixture and brush your teeth for 2 minutes.
3. Rinse.

Honestly, this is something you can make with ingredients from around your house for just pennies. That's a lot better than the Crest you buy at the store. It's so affordable you can make a jar for each member of the family so you don't have to double dip after each other. I've been using this for two months and my teeth always feel clean, like I just got them done at the dentist! They are also noticibly whiter!
Cost: x<$1
Saved: $3+

Try it some time!


Let us begin!

Well, it looks like I need to get this show on the road. I started this thing more than 10 days ago and not one post! Eeek! Maybe I should start off with telling you a little about myself.

Well, I go by Bella (I actually respond to both my birth name and my nickname) and I'm 21, going on 22 at the end of September. I live with my fiance Dre and our two chihuahuas, Maximus and Tiberius, and our two black cats, Furball and Sophronia. Guess which three Dre got after we got engaged? (Hint: the ones with non-animal names.) Actually, with the exception of 4 year old Furball, all of our animals are less than a year old. It's a lot of mouths to feed and there's a lot of animals that need house training! (That's Sophronia, Maximus and Tiberius in the tub.)

Dre and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and we're in the middle of trying to purchase a house a little farther north of us, still in the bay, but in a big farming community. We have a nice big chunk of down payment and an approved loan - we just can't find a house! We've put in offers on three houses so far and have been the second highest bidder on them all! It's awful! Currently we live in a two bedroom apartment and it's getting very cramped.

Our main reason for wanting a house is so that we can have a nice big backyard. Maybe I'm asking for the moon, but I want to grow the majority of our food. I'm very into eating fresh food and staying away from processed muck. I gained a bunch of weight when I went off to college in the midwest and it's been beastly trying to get back down to my high school body. My diet follows the Primal Blueprint ( with a lot of raw, vegan (tons of fresh fruits and veggies) thrown in. It's fabulous - but expensive! Gardening is by far the cheapest way to grow your own organic food - the next is going directly to the farm or farmer's market.

Because I'm detoxing (there is no "end" to this way of eating) I'm cleaning up everything in our lives - household cleaners, body cleaners, pet food, transportation, food, water, everything. Beside the benefit to our bodies, our wallet isn't so darn skinny anymore!

Basically, that's why I wanted to start this blog - to share how to live the good life (a healthy life!) cheap. Hope you enjoy today's short little post (the one I'm about to post - the teeth one!)


Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Hi! I'm Bella and welcome to The Little Budget. I'm starting this site as a means to document and share my ways of saving money for everything that comes up in life. As my life progresses, so will this blog.

I'm going to start out with having a great wedding on a shoe string budget ($2,000) because that's where I am at this point in my life. Check back as I update as not everything will be weddings (we're buying a house right now, going to plant a garden, friends and family are having babies, etc.)

Well, I hope you enjoy as I start out!