Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Gift Giving on a Budget

The Holiday Season is upon us.

For many people, the holiday season means gift giving and the good feeling one gets when giving someone special, something special. Unfortunately, this can also mean the trashing of already stretched budgets.

I love gift giving. The question is how to get through the season with as much good gift giving feeling as possible and yet have your budget still be intact.

The Answer: Planning.

Ideally, you began that planning on the day after last holiday season by going shopping for deep discounts. Wrapping paper, ornaments, decorations, artificial trees, and seasonal clothing, go on deep, deep discounts at the end of December when the stores are trying to make room for the next season’s stock. Snatch up what you need and store it away in a holiday papered box.

Shop all year long at clearance racks, yard sales, swaps and other deep discount sites for the gifts you will need. Bring your goodies home and stash them in a box awaiting rediscovery in November when you assess what you still need to buy.

If your planning was really good, by Thanksgiving you will be finished with your holiday shopping. All you have to do is set aside some time for baking, wrapping and delivering.

Of course, it is too late to follow the above strategy for this season, but think ahead to next year. Set a bit of money aside in this year’s budget to grab up those good sales. The Holidays WILL come again next year.

Even at this late stage of the game, you can still gain quite a bit from planning.

First of all, make a list of anyone and everyone that you need/want to give gifts to. Make the list long. Don’t think in terms of money. Think in terms of people that you want to thank for their help, friendship, inspiration, and just being-there-ness.

Break those names into categories. People you need/want to give something really special to and people you want to just give a bit of holiday thumbs up.

You’ll find that most of those names are in the thumbs up list.

Now, take a look at your skills. Do you draw, bake, sing, fix things, garden, babysit, dog walk, sew, make jewelry, brew the best cup of coffee in the world, etc.? Make a nice LONG list. Take a look at that list and see what you can make/do in quantity for a minimal amount of money.

For instance, we make chocolate covered pretzels. We make the very best chocolate covered pretzels. They are just delicious. We make these by the hundreds (see above picture), package them up with a custom made hang tag and then give them out to people who touch our lives.

Each family member has packaged pretzels with them as they go about their lives during the holidays and hand them out with a big “Thanks for being there.” Co-workers and acquaintances ask about these pretzels all year long and let us know they are looking forward to their next gift.

As a family, we enjoy the making and giving of these gifts. When I clear the table, bring out the pretzels and chocolate and start dipping, everyone knows that “The Season” has officially begun.

So, take a look at your talent list. Maybe you are a musician. Record some of your songs, burn some disks, create a label, package them up and hand them out. Not only is this a great promotion, it is a fabulous gift.

Many people take their abilities for granted. Maybe you don’t think that your ability to doodle is anything great, but someone else might treasure a piece of doodle art from you in a cute little frame.

My sister once told me that her friend gave her the gift of helping decorate her living room. It was a present that my sister got to appreciate for many years. Your take-it-for-granted-talent might be someone else’s This-is-the-best-present-ever.

Locate those talents and give them as gifts.

If it is too hard to get the gifts done by the holidays, give an IOU. An offer to babysit, to weed the garden, wash the car, sew a hat or teach the kids to yodel are sure to bring a smile and a big thank you.

If you feel like you need something less personal, I suggest that you buy some gift certificates from This site gives deep discount coupons on restaurants and gifts. Normally you can buy $25 worth toward your restaurant bill for $10. Until December 25, 2009, using the coupon code "SANTA" at check out will get you 80% off your total! If you are reading this after December 25, 2009, email me and I'll tell you the best coupon code I can find. Click here for

If you are going to shop for items online, make sure you check for coupon codes before you place that order. Just search for “name of store”+“coupon codes”. You will end up with a list of sites that have possible codes that you can input during online checkout to get a discount and/or free shipping. One of the best sites for this is Finding a free shipping code or a percent discount code for a large item can mean a big savings – especially on high price-tag items.

If you are going to go to actual stores, make sure that you check out the current store flyer before you venture forth. You can find most chain store flyers for the current week at There are links to JoAnn Fabric, Frys, Big Lots, Boston Market, Staples, CVS, Home Depot, Whole Foods, Target, Petco… the list goes on and on. The idea is to check out the current flyer and clip the coupons before you go to the store. You can also comparison shop. Taking in a flyer from a competing store will usually get you the same price on an item at a store that doesn’t have the item on sale. Make sure you read the fine print though. Sometimes the item on sale isn’t the EXACT item. This site also has advance links to Black Friday ads.

If you are looking to purchase a big item for someone special but don’t have all the money for it now, consider using a lay away plan. This staple from my childhood is making a comeback in the stores. You find the item you want. Put in a down payment and then pay some every week until you have it paid in full. Paying this way keeps you from paying interest. Watch out though, because this IS a contract and you WILL need to pay it as promised.

An interesting win-win gift could be to pay a reliable teenager (it could be your teenager) a set amount to do chores for someone. Inform the gift recipient that they now have a certain amount of prepaid hours of work coming to them. Give them a list of all the kinds of things the teen can do – yard work, sweeping, digging, errand running, etc. Not only will this put money into the pocket of the teen, but it might give that teen a job that will continue past the few prepaid hours.

Whatever you decide to do for your gift giving this year, remember that your best deals come when you aren’t in a hurry.

We are all so busy these days that the spirit of gift giving can get lost. One needs to remember that it IS the spirit in which the gift is given… not the gift itself which is important.

Sometimes just being there to celebrate the holidays with someone special and holding their hand and telling them that you appreciate that they are in your life is the very, very best present you can give. A smile, a laugh, a hug. These are the riches of this planet. Give generously.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to test cell phone reception at your house before signing contract

Trying to figure out which cell phone company to sign up with is a pretty complicated process. Not only are you looking for the best cell phone plan, but you also have to figure out if the reception will be any good in the places you will be using the phone the most.

I know many people who have cell phones that do not get adequate reception in their homes or office. We've all seen people pacing around their driveways or front yards talking on the cell phone because the reception isn't any good inside their house.

Most cell phone companies now offer reception maps on their web sites. (T-mobile, Verizon, AT&T coverage maps) Supposedly, these maps show where the reception is good.

I even know of a site that is trying to get more specific by having individuals log in their personal experience. I think this is a great idea, but unless they are specifically in your house, the information is still variable.

I get great reception with my carrier at my house, but as I go three houses down the street, I always lose the reception.

I have come up with a reliable and fun way to figure out which carrier to choose for your cell phone.

Have a Cell Phone Reception Party!

Invite your friends to come over to your house and see how their various cell phones and companies receive at your house. Make a game out of it with little forms. People fill out a form that says what their phone manufacturer is (THAT is also a factor by the way) and what their phone service is. They then rate their service on a scale of 0-10 in various places in your house: front lawn, garage, kitchen, etc.

Have a theme party.

Do a showing of "Bells are Ringing"

Play a game of "telephone" (where you tell a message to the person next to you and they tell it to the person next to them and then you see what comes out the other end after going through a dozen people).

Make origami cell phones for decorations.

Believe me, I tried to figure out which carrier to use with supposed reception maps and it doesn't work. Per my carrier's map I should not get any reception at my house at all.

Save yourself time and aggravation AND make new friends. Have a Cell Phone Reception Party!

Be sure to let me know if you do this.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Free Inkjet Printer Ink

Over the years, the cost of printers has gotten lower and lower. Sometimes you can get a new printer for practically nothing (with rebates.) But, the cost to buy the ink is absurdly high.

I used to shell out almost $100 dollars to get a set of replacement ink cartridges for my color inkjet printer.

Then, I discovered I could buy ink cartridges for a fraction of the cost of buying them at Staples or even Frys.

Instead of paying $15 for a cartridge, I now pay less than $2 a cartridge AND I can return the empties to Staples and get a $3 Staples credit.

Oh... wait, this is better than Free. I'm actually making a dollar to use these cartridges!

So where do I get this great ink? The Abacus 24-7 Private Store.

Now, I do know that some companies will tell you that if you use any ink other than their brand that your warranty will be voided. The fact is that you will save more money buying this off brand ink to replace your full set of cartridges twice, than it will cost to buy a new printer. You do the math.

By the way, you can also buy toner to refill your laser cartridges. I just purchased toner to refill my laser cartridge. The toner cost $8.95. To buy a new cartridge would have cost $86.99.

I purchased this toner from Laser Tek Services, Inc.

Yes, I did have to get out a screw driver and read some instructions, but I saved almost $80!

Now you have no excuse not to print out a lovely letter to send to your mother to tell her you love her.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oprah's O Magazine for $5

If you or someone you know likes Oprah's O Magazine, then this is the best deal you'll ever find. is running a one-week sale for a year's subscription for only $5.

This is a 89% savings. THAT is my definition of a sale.

Heck, even if you don't like O Magazine, it is a great deal. Magazine subscriptions make a great gift that keeps giving all year long.

Click here for O, The Oprah Magazine (1-year) for $5.

This offer is only good until Saturday, December 19th, 2009 at 11:59pm.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Free Swap in Los Angeles - Sunday, December 20, 2009

What is a Free Swap?
A Free Swap is like a garage sale, but everything is free.

You bring some of your stuff (make it good stuff, NOT broken, torn, dirty stuff) and then you take some of the stuff that other people bring.

What kind of stuff to bring?
Clothes, housewares, music/film/books, crafts, homemade goodies, tools, toys, garden fresh vegetables, games, art, electronics that work, stuff you got but never used, etc. You get the idea.

Is it Free?

There is going to be a Free Swap
Sunday, December 20th from 9am to noon
at Valley Village Park, 5000 Westpark Drive, Valley Village, CA.

This park is just on the WEST side of the 170 Hollywood Freeway,
between Riverside Drive and Magnolia. It's also very close to the
134/101 Ventura Freeway. Please Google Map it, since it's not on a
main street. It's the half-circle-shaped park.

Google Map tiny URL:

The Swap will be in the picnic area next to the children's playground. It's
got picnic tables and a paved area. It is outside, so dress for the weather.
There is street parking.

Everyone is welcome.

People are encouraged to bring at least something, to swap. But you
can bring more than you take, or vice versa.

Please don't bring unrepairable junk.

If you're bringing stuff, please arrive by 11am so others have a
chance to review your goodies.

We will try to find a charity to pick up the unclaimed stuff, but we
don't know if that's possible on a Sunday. Please plan to take back
your stuff that is left over. (In other words, don't drop off and leave.)

Swaps are more than just bringing your stuff, grabbing and running. Swaps are also a social event. A time to get to know some pretty cool people. So bring your smile and holiday spirit with you. You never know who or what you will find at a swap.

See you all there!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A new online media viewer -

I'm not a big TV watcher. As a matter of fact, I stopped getting cable TV many years ago. I do have a few favorite shows from the past and a few from the present that I do like to watch. Not enough to pay ridiculous prices for cable or to open up my living room to endless advertisements, but enough to seek them out for viewing online.

Of course, there is YouTube for watching just about anything in ten-minute segments. Hulu has been getting quite a bit of TV programming. Also, you can go to the various major tv station sites (Fox, NBC, ABC) and watch there.

But, if you don't know where to find your program, it can be a bit tough.

New site, just went out of beta today.

Seems to have a better search capability and a bit of ethics. I searched for my favorite show: Inside the Actors Studio, and found it. I also found that you can not legally watch full episodes of that program at this time. So, Clicker didn't have them. But they said to check back later.

I think this will turn into a great site. Check it out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Calculators to help you buy, rent, get out of debt and decide

I'm pretty good with basic math. I don't mind long lists of numbers. I actually enjoy balancing my checkbook. But when it comes to figuring out if it is better to buy or rent a home or how much my mortgage will ACTUALLY cost, it's just too much to figure.

Thankfully, there are some handy-dandy online calculators that will let you know the truth. (I suggest that you sit down before you calculate how much your mortgage is REALLY going to cost you!)

Here are some of the calculators that I have found that I think you might like.

Is it Better to Buy or Rent? From the New York Times, a great gadget to figure out how many years you have to live in a house before it is a better deal to buy it instead of rent it. One of the variables in this calculation is the increase or decrease in property values. When you mess around with the figures on this one, you can see when and why you would buy or rent. Of course, it does not take into account the value of having a home that you own and can do whatever you want with... priceless?

Credit Card Repayment Calculator from our good friends at the Federal Reserve Board. This one shows you how long it will take and how much it will cost in the long run to pay off an outstanding credit card debt if you make no more purchases and only pay the minimum payment due. You put in the total you owe and the percentage of interest you are paying.

I input some test figures to see how it works. A $10,000 debt at 23% interest will take 244 years to pay off and cost $219,348 if you pay the minimum monthly payment of $200.

Did you read this right?? It will take almost twenty-five LIFETIMES to pay off $10,000 at 23% interest paying the minimum payment!

However, if you pay $282 a month (just 82 dollars more) then it will only take you FIVE YEARS to pay off this debt and will only cost $16,195.

Running figures through this calculator should be mandatory before anyone (you love) is allowed to use a credit card.

Snowball Calculator
. This one is a REAL help to anyone who is trying to figure out how to pay off several outstanding debts. You list each debt amount, the interest percentage and monthly minimum payment. You then input the amount you can spend toward paying off the debt. The calculator then lists out exactly how much to pay on each debt for each month until you are debt free. (For this calculator, make sure you click on the US flag if you want your figures in dollars. You can also calculate in pounds and euros.)

Don't have enough to even cover the minimums? Check out this forum on Dealing with Debt.

For a bit of fun, you might want to play with the Geek Logik calculator Should I Buy It? based not only on your finances, but on your need and interest (not the financial kind). Like this calculator? Get their book: Geek Logik: 50 Foolproof Equations for Everyday Life

I plan to spend some quality time with my kids "playing" with these calculators. Just running the figures through a few times will help them understand why they don't want to over-extend themselves with credit.

Hope this helps you and yours.

Friday, October 23, 2009

International Bargain Shopping

From Here To Uncertainty from FromHereToUncertainty on Vimeo.

I know some brave and wonderful people who quit their job, sold their stuff, got rid of their house and took their kids and their lives on a trip to Europe. They are chronicling their adventures on a site called From Here to Uncertainty.

After reading one of their blog entries about a joke their kids played on Brenna (the mom) while shopping, I got to wondering how to find bargains in other countries ... especially w. So, I wrote to Brenna.

Turns out that Craigslist is international. The family has used it to find rentals during their trip.

Brenna also told me that Charity Shoppes (think Goodwill) are big. She says there are three or more in every town.

Because it is important to be able to find a good second hand shop wherever you go, I found a link to help you, if you happen to be in the UK. This Charity Shop Locator is run by the Association of Charity Shops and will help you locate second-hand (charity) stores in the UK.

Apparently the place to shop is Tesco. It's a cross between Costco and Wal-mart. I went online to check it out. I could tell I was looking at a European site because they had a bag of "Lots of Lollies" on sale. The prices are in Euros, so I can't tell if it is a bargain or not.

For those of you who are heading to countries where haggling is part of the shopping experience, here are some useful articles:
How to Bargain in a Market in Israel
How to Bargain at Mexican Markets

In Lille, France, bargain hunting is an annual event called La Braderie de Lille (The Fair of Lille.) The world's largest flea market takes place in the first week of September each year. A not to be missed event for an international bargain hunter.

I'd love to hear from any of my readers who went to La Braderie in Lille this past year. Sounds like a great time for a bargainista.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Free Balloon Rides in Orange County, CA

I have always wanted to take a balloon ride. I'm pretty sure my desire to do so comes from the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the "no-longer Great and Powerful Oz" flies away. I was always sooo upset with Dorothy for missing that ride.

Now, you don't have to miss the ride and you can do it for FREE!!

Get this. There is a Great Park being constructed in Orange County. It is on the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Irvine, California which is half way between Los Angeles and SanDiego. The Park is being promoted as the First Great Metropolitan Park of the 21st Century and is planned to be twice as large as Central Park in New York City. The design of the park has a great emphasis on sustainability with plans to generate and demonstrate cutting edge technology to inspire people to make changes in their lives.

You can read about The Great Park Design here.

Meanwhile, they have gotten their first attraction up and running. It is the Great Park Balloon ride... kind of like the one the Wizard flew off in, but not exactly.

This balloon is tethered to the ground so it won't go flying away. It's max height is 500 feet (which is plenty to see the planned park with a 360 degree view.) The balloon is not hot air, it is a giant helium balloon and is environmentally safe, non-polluting and virtually silent.

Rides are first come, first fly. The balloon only flies Thursday through Sunday and won't fly at all if it is too windy. The balloon will hold up to 30 people and can accommodate wheel chairs.

For times and directions click here. For more information about the Great Park Balloon and flight conditions, you can call the Visitor Center at their toll free number (866) 829-3829.

If you are looking for a unique first date idea, I'd certainly consider this.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Easy Way to Stop Smoking

The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in the United States is around $5.

The average smoker smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.

5 x 365 = $1825

One thousand, eight hundred, twenty-five dollars.... literally up in smoke.

If you are planning on smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for forty years, it will cost you $73,000 (without inflation.)

How would you like to save $73,000?

There is an awesome book called, "Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking." It costs less than a few packs of cigarettes.

Check out these Celebrity Testimonials about this book.

My husband read this book and stopped smoking. I have other friends who read this book and stopped smoking. Ellen DeGeneres read this book and stopped smoking. You can read this book and stop smoking.

You can buy the book here.

The Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Join the Millions Who Have Become Non-Smokers Using Allen Carr's Easyway Method

You CAN stop smoking!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Research colleges for free at College Prowler

Extensive college research site, College Prowler, is now free. Due to a change in business model, College Prowler has opened their site up for free registration.

College Prowler began its life as a site that gave the inside scoop on colleges by surveying students who were currently enrolled regarding what the school was REALLY like. Each school then got a report card on key points such as academics, athletics, nightlife, parking, Greek life, facilities, drug scene and weather. All of this information is put together into a user friendly format so you get a real feel for the school from the students, not just from the college promotional literature.

The site has expanded to include student aide calculators, video tours, costs, internships, and comparable schools. You can quickly see the difference in tuition for various colleges and your chances of getting student aide or a job to off-set costs.

You can also do a survey on your personality and find schools that might match. Kind of like a "college computer dating" service.

Even if you only want to check out how your own alma mater rates, it is worth visiting this site. If you are in the early or late stages of choosing a college for yourself or your child, it is a definite go-see.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Disney to give away one million free park passes to community volunteers

In 2009, Disney gave free admission to everyone on their birthday.

In 2010, Disney intends to give one million volunteers free admission to a Disney theme park in exchange for a day of service in their communities. This program is called, "Give a Day. Get a Disney Day."

The program begins on January 1, 2010, but you can sign up now to receive an email reminder and updates on the program.

You will need to volunteer a day of service with a participating organization and your service will need to be verified. Then you will receive a one day (one park) admission to a Walt Disney World® or Disneyland® theme park, FREE!

The volunteer opportunities will be made available through HandsOn Network. HandsOn Network has 250 on-the-ground volunteer action centers across the country and connects volunteers to more than 70,000 nonprofit agencies. To get more information on how your non-profit organization can join HandsOn Network click here.

You can sign up for Disney's "Give a Day - Get a Disney Day" here. You can read more details and FAQs here.

This is a great project that the entire family can do together. You must be 18 years of age to sign up and at least 6 years old to participate.


Free Museum Days - Los Angeles and Orange County - October 3rd & 4th, 2009

One of the reasons to live in a metropolitan area are the excellent museums. Below is a listing of museums that will be participating in the upcoming "Museums Free-For-All in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. If you don't live in Southern California, don't worry. I'm sure there are free museum days in your area as well. Here are links for free museum days in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and New York City.

24 Los Angeles and Orange County Museums
Free Admission Days October 3 and/or 4, 2009

In a joint effort to present the arts and culture to the diverse and myriad communities in Southern California, the Museum Marketing Roundtable announces the fifth annual "Museums Free-For-All" Saturday-Sunday, October 3 and 4, 2009. The following museums - presenting art, cultural heritage, natural history, and science - will open their doors wide and invite visitors free of charge.*

Participating Museums:

Armory Center for the Arts - Both Days
The Autry National Center - Sunday, October 4th ONLY
Bowers Museum - Sunday, October 4th Only
California African American Museum - Both Days
California Heritage Museum - Saturday, October 3rd Only
California Science Center - Both Days
Craft and Folk Art Museum - Both Days
Fowler Museum at UCLA - Both Days
The Getty Center - Both Days
The Getty Villa**- Both Days
The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live - Sunday, October 4th Only
Hammer Museum at UCLA - Sunday, October 4th Only
Japanese American National Museum - Saturday, October 3rd Only
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial - Saturday, October 3rd
The Museum of Contemporary Art,
Los Angeles (MOCA) - Sunday, October 4th Only
Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) - Both Days
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County - Sunday October 4th Only
Norton Simon Museum - Sunday, October 4th Only
Orange County Center for Contemporary Art - Both Days
Orange County Museum of Art - Both Days
The Paley Center for Media - Both Days
Santa Monica Museum of Art - Saturday, October 3rd Only
Skirball Cultural Center - Sunday, October 4th Only
The Studio for Southern California History - Both Days
*Regular parking fees apply. General museum admission only. May not apply to ticketed exhibitions.
**Timed tickets are required. Visit

Thanks Shannon for bringing this listing to my attention.

For a listing of year around free museum days in the Los Angeles area, click here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hear Susan Boyle's new single - White Horses

The Lady is not disappointing us. Just "leaked" - the single "White Horses" from her upcoming album "I Dreamed a Dream." The album has topped the best selling album charts, yet isn't set to be released for another two months! You can pre-order the album here or click on the link to my recommends on the top right hand corner of this page.

At the time that I got this link from YouTube, there were only 169,473 views after being posted for about a day. However, this song is posted on a zillion places, so I expect it has already been heard and loved by millions.

Here is a clip of Susan arriving in Los Angeles the day that the single was released.

For those of you who somehow or another never heard of SuBo (Susan Boyle), here is the post that I originally wrote just days after Susan gave the performance that changed her life forever.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thrift Store Shopping links and tips

I just LOVE thrift stores. Nothing like stumbling upon a great thrift store while strolling through a undiscovered area of any town.

The only thing that beats finding a new great thrift store is finding a new great article with links on how to FIND new and great thrift stores. Let's face it... you can stumble around many a town looking for a thrift store and not find it without a map. Kind of like the fellas who were trying to find a waterway through the American continent. I'm sure they would have liked a link to a nice google map.

Well, the good folk at Webfloss (great site for all kinds of nifty thrifty ideas) wrote an article on how to shop at a thrift store. The article outlines some very good shopping strategies (especially if you have kids).

One of the tips is to check for functionality - make sure that the zippers, snaps, and buttons are in place and working. I know I need to do this and yet, just the other day I failed to check and ended up with this fabulous hoodie with a broken zipper. Now I have to decide whether to cut it into rag material or replace the zipper. Replacing the zipper will cost more than I paid for the hoddie. Oh, how I wish I had just checked the zipper in the first place.

The article ends with links to sites that help you find thrift stores in your area.

Some of these links were brand new to me!! Yes... imagine!!

My favorite way to find a new thrift store is still The Thrift Shopper which I wrote about here. But some of the other links are worthy of perusal (Goodwill locations, Thrifty Planet, and Habitat for Humanity stores.

If you are a thrift shop owner or a fan of a particular thrift shop, then I suggest you get yourself listed on all of these links.

If you are a thrift store shopper, then don't leave home without consulting some of these links to see what new great thrift shop might be on the block next to where you are headed.

Save Philly's Free Library System

I just found out that Philadelphia is "threatening" to close down their Free Library System on October 2, 2009, due to lack of funds.

People of Philadelphia and the United States... Wake UP!!

The Free Public Library system is one of the best uses of my tax dollars. I have personally saved well over a quarter of a million dollars by using the Public Library System. Inside a library, anyone can learn about anything. The books don't have to be approved by the state. YOU don't have to be approved by anyone to sit in a library and drink of the knowledge of the ages. Even if closing the libraries is just a "ploy" to get money... what a scary ploy. How can we all just sit here and go, "Oh yes, that's fine. Close down our libraries. No biggie. We have the internet."

You have to understand that a library is more than just a place where you can check out a free book. A library is the keeper of the knowledge. It is a place in the community where knowledge is important. A place where there is agreement that knowledge is power. It is a place where you can meet. It is a safe place for your children to go after school. It is a symbol that we are a free nation with free ideas and free speech. Libraries don't cost that much to run. Out of the billions and TRILLIONS that are being spent on destructive programs and bailouts, how can there not be enough money to keep the lights on in our libraries?

You must ask yourself.... "Who would benefit from a population that doesn't have access to knowledge?"

People of Philly.... have you lost sight of what Freedom consists of? Ensure your libraries stay open and free!

Click here to find out what you can do to help.

Friday, September 11, 2009

McDonalds Afterschool Snack Coupons

OK... this is a hard post for me because I really am not a huge fan of McDonalds food (or any fast food for that matter), but this is such a great little deal that I have to pass it on.

The McDonalds Afterschool Snack Coupons will be available starting October 1st, 2009

You pay $1 for a book of 12 coupons. The coupons are for:
- 3 baked pies
- 3 small apple juices or juice jugs
- 3 small cones
- 3 apple dippers or small fries

Now, let's face it, McDonalds KNOWS that most people can't walk in and just get ONE thing... but if you do and can, then this is a great little deal.

From what I have heard, the coupons are good til the end of 2009. To buy the coupon books, you MUST go to a corporate McDonalds, not a franchise.

Free Night of Theatre 2009 USA

Theatre Communications Group has announced that Thursday, October 15th, 2009 is the date for their 5th Annual Free Night of Theatre throughout the United States.

Last year, 650 theatre companies in 120 cities gave 65,000 audience members free tickets and a chance to experience live theatre.

This year, the expectations are for more companies, more cities and more free tickets.

There aren't any specifics yet, but save the date and check back for more developments. I'll be sure to write more when I know more.

I just LOVE live theatre!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sell your CDs, DVDs and Games if you live in the United Kingdom

Do you have unloved CDs, DVDs and Games that are sitting in stacks, bags and boxes around your house? Have you made drink coasters, mobiles and other useless pieces of artwork out of them in an attempt to save them from the landfill? Because you spent your hard earned cold cash for these shiny disks, does it just seem WRONG to toss them into the waste basket and be done with them?

If you have said "yes" to the above, you may be in luck if you can also say "yes" to the following question: "Do you live in the United Kingdom?"

For those of you lucky enough to be living in the land where the Beatles strode across Abbey Road, there is an awesome online service that will pay you Pounds for your disks.

MusicMagpie (not to be confused with the singing group Magpie Music) is a smart, fast-growing company that will buy up your legal disks (no pirated copies here.)

Apparently user friendly, MusicMagpie, will instantly give you a price (in pounds... not dollars), send you a prepaid mailing label and then a cheque (no dollars, so no "checks") upon receipt of your items.

According to their website: "Musicmagpie allows you to convert all your unwanted CDs, DVDs, or Games into cash (UK Trades only at present). For all CDs, DVDs, or Games sold to us, the disk must be in a perfect playing condition and it must have all the original artwork, covers and booklets. The case must be structurally sound although we accept it may have some blemishes incurred during day to day use. "

The company also will buy your used cell phones (or mobiles as they are called in the UK.)

I do like the part that says "UK Trades only at present" because it gives me hope that this brilliant idea will become available here in the United States. Meanwhile, for my readers in the UK, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Free Kid's woodworking clinics - Lowe's and Home Depot

When my kids were little, they loved going to the Home Depot Kid's Workshops. They had the bird house, mail box and tool carrying case they made at the clinic for years. I think we still have the apron with their name on it that they got that day.

Home Depots offer their free workshops on the first Saturday of each month between 9am and noon. You can check for your local Home Depot on their website.

Lowe's has gotten wise and are offering similar workshops called, "Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics." They are offering their clinics on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month.

These free activities are a great way to teach your kids about how to hammer a nail and make a simple wooden "something." The wood is pre-cut and the instructions are easy... but the kids DO have to put the project together. A great parent and child activity. The workshops are geared to kids between the ages of 5-12. The materials, safety glasses and aprons are free.

I do suggest making sure that your local Home Depot or Lowe's is having a workshop on the day that you plan to attend. Also, preregistration and early arrival are wise.

Of course, if you can't get it together to take your little loved one to the store, then you can just buy the Home Depot Ready-to-Assemble Kits and the Lowe's Kid's Starter Tool Kit online. Then you can have some cool parental and child (non-bargain but cool) quality time in the comfort of your own garage.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fake Antivirus Programs

This very helpful tip was offered up by The Remote Help Expert

Fake or rogue antivirus programs, also called scareware (you'll see why in a moment), are applications that pretend to detect and get rid of viruses, while actually being malware themselves, or being completely useless other than to scare the user into paying to download or unlock the full version of the "antivirus" to "remove" the "infection" the computer is plagued with.

Be very careful with this, as it is currently the most common type of infection going around - a rising trend. Assuming you have an antivirus solution in place - and I hope you do - know how it behaves and learn to recognize that it is not what is making an alarming pop-up window come into view all of a sudden and tell you there is an infection in your computer, and maybe prompts you to do a scan or simple starts a fake scan with lots of alarming results.

Once you've learned to recognize a fake antivirus in action, you have only two valid choices, and I'm deadly serious. The choices are based on your personal knowledge of malware and how to get rid of it. A) If you're not sure what to do, save any open files, turn off your computer and contact an expert. B) If you know what to do, well, do it!

I'll tell you what are NOT valid choices though: 1) Clicking on the "OK", "Scan", "Yes", "Download" button that the suspicious window contains, 2) Even clicking on the "X" on the upper right corner of the window to get rid of the pop-up, 3) Entering your personal and credit card information to purchase the "antivirus" so you can disinfect the computer, 4) Ignoring it hoping it will go away and continue using your computer. All those are invalid options.

Here's a list of trusted antivirus software vendors - you can use it as a starting point to recognize the legit ones:

Hope this helps.

Bobbi's Bargains in Top 100+ Most Popular Personal Finance Blogs list!

Oh wow! I'm excited. My lovely little blog that is dedicated to helping you spend less money, has been included in the list of the "Top 100+ Most Popular Personal Finances Blogs" at

Yipee! Toss the confetti (but only if it has been recycled and is biodegradable!)

Monday, August 31, 2009

When is an Expensive Haircut a Bargain?

Let's get one thing clear here... just because I am the Bargain Queen does NOT mean that I like things that are cheaply made or of low quality. Being the Bargain Queen means that I know a bargain when I see one. Getting a cheap haircut that only looks good when you leave the salon and needs to be recut after just a few weeks is NOT a bargain.

Here is the way that you determine if your hair cut is a bargain. Take the amount that you paid for your cut and divide that by the number of days that your hair looks good when you get up in the morning. Yes, I said, when you get up in the morning. Not after you blow dry it, fluff it, cover it with a scarf or pull it back in a ponytail.

If your stylist knows their business, your hair will look good as it grows in and even when you first get out of bed in the morning. Yes, it will be a bit mussed, but it shouldn’t take a shelf full of hair products and tools to make it presentable.

So, let’s take my math formula and try it out. Let’s say you get a $30 cut. It looks good the day you get the cut. It looks OK for the next week. Then, it starts to get a little weird. You pull it back. Add some gel and some hair clips. About four weeks after you got the cut, you feel you need to go to the salon again. So, this cut lasted 30 days. Cost of the cut? A dollar a day.

Now, let’s say that you get a cut for $135. The cut looks great the day you get the cut. It continues to look really good for six months; even while it is growing in. So, that’s $135 into 180 days. That cut only cost you 75cents a day. The expensive cut was actually cheaper. But in fact, the “expensive” cut is even cheaper than that because you didn’t have to spend the extra time or the money it would have taken you to get to the stylist five additional times.

Personally, if my hair doesn’t look good in the morning when I look in the mirror, my whole day starts on a downer. Hey, that’s me. No matter how bad things are, if my hair looks good, I’m starting out in a good mood.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a good haircut (one that looks great at the beginning and continues to look great as it grows in) for a low price. It just means that after many, many years of looking, I’ve never found a good “cheap” haircut that ended up being cost effective.

Now I am going to give a huge shout out to an amazing stylist that has gone above and beyond to make sure that I have my great cuts. His name is Michael Lanza. You can reach him at

His cuts are not cheap (cost around $135) … but they ARE a bargain. Michael lives in the New York City area, but travels to Los Angeles often. For the right price, he’ll come to you… wherever you are.

When I was moving across the country, he traveled to another state to meet up with me on my cross country journey because I told him that I couldn’t bear to start “a new life” with a bad haircut.

So, the next time you are trying to figure out whether to get the cheap haircut or the more expensive one, make sure that you do the whole math and see what your cheaper haircut is actually costing you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Improve and Enhance our Public Lands

Saturday, September 26, 2009 is National Public Lands Day.

OK... that's a new one to me. Is there a card for it? Well, probably, but that's not the point.

The point is that for one day, you can volunteer to help create and maintain the incredible public lands that we have in this country. One person alone can only do so much, but when an entire crew of people show up and are coordinated in their efforts, quite a lot can occur in one day.

National Public Lands Day began in 1994 with three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. Last year 120,000 volunteers worked in over 1,800 locations and in every state. Now, 8 federal agencies and many state and local lands participate in this annual day of caring for shared lands.

Did you know that the combined size of our country's national forests is roughly the size of Texas? Wow! That's a lot of space to take care of.

The website for this event ( is very helpful. You can easily find locations near to you where you can volunteer on this day. There were three sites within 20 miles of my house.

So, you can find a site, register a site and/or sign up for their newsletters. Here's a link to a pdf that you can print out to help promote their event at your business or school.

No matter where I have lived, I have enjoyed the benefits of our glorious public lands. Finally, there is a way that I can give back to those lands.

Hope to see you there.

Swap-o-Rama-Rama - Fall 2009

If I could only write about one event, I would write about Swap-o-rama-rama. As a matter of fact, I DO write about this event quite a lot (and you can read all the postings here) ... but that is because it is truly the best place to score free clothing and get awesomely inspired to "pimp" your own clothes. I always leave this swap with a bag full of clothes and the desire to cut up and redesign the clothes in my closet that I "almost" like. (Hey, that's me in the picture on the left making a super cool shirt out of a dress.)

One note: Bring your own good fabric cutting scissors. There are never enough. I'm going to bring mine and tie them with a long ribbon to my purse shoulder strap. I suggest you do the same.

Upcoming Swap in the Los Angeles area just in time to create your Halloween costume. Mark your calendar.

Venice Center for Peace and Justice with the Arts
2210 Lincoln Blvd (one block north of Venice at Victoria)
Venice, CA 90291
Saturday, October 10, 2009
noon to 5pm

To find upcoming events in your area, click here.

To find out how to start a swap in your area (yes, YOU can create one yourself... it's easy), click here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Advanced Searching on Craigslist

I use Craigslist every day to find great bargains, but I never read this helpful bit of advanced search training direct from their website. Helpful, helpful, helpful. Wish I had read it sooner. I pass this new-found knowledge on to you.

Advanced Searching

If simple keywords don't find what you are looking for, here are some advanced features to try.

Phrase Search

You can use quotation marks to search for a phrase:

"low miles"

That will find posts that contain the term 'low' followed by 'miles'.

Excluding Terms (filtering)

To specify one or more words you'd like to exclude, use a minus sign to negate them.

honda black -red

That will look for postings that contain 'honda' and 'black' but not 'red'. Note that a search must contain one non-excluded term.

"OR" Searches

By default, every term in your search must match unless it is excluded with the minus sign (see above). You can specify a list of terms that you want to find one or more of (instead of ALL of them) using a "pipe" character '|' like this:

honda | toyota

That query looks for postings that contain 'honda' or 'toyota' (or both).


Finally, you can group terms together in parenthesis when queries are complicated:

red (toyota | honda) -2000 -2001

That query tries to find all listings that contain 'red' and either 'honda' or 'toyota' (or both) but do not contain 2000 or 2001.

Posting ID

If someone has given you the Posting ID (10 digit number), you can use that number in the search box to find the posting.

Free to access Federal Court Documents

Have you ever wanted free access to Federal Court Documents?

Now you can access PACER documents (the ancient Federal court document system) without charge (as long as one other person has already purchased the same docs.) The PACER service provides on-line access to U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records and documents nationwide.

RECAP (PACER backwards) is an addon to the Firefox web browser that allows you to access PACER docs already purchased by another, and then shares any docs you purchase with others similarly.

You can read about it here.

Thanks to Dan (Engine Ecology) for this really cool and unusual bargain tip.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

101 Memory Making Adventures for a Childhood in Los Angeles

One of the reasons that I started this blog was so that I could easily find my favorite links and share them with my friends. I've just found a new one in the form of an article on entitled "101 Memory Making Adventures for a Childhood in Los Angeles."

I am pretty good at finding some totally fun things to do with kids and adult-kids in Los Angeles. After all, I LOVE field trips. But I am humbled by some of the destination ideas that are listed in this article.

101 Memory Making Adventures includes some of my favorite field trips: Decorating Rose Bowl Floats; getting up close and personal with exotic animals at America's Teaching Zoo; and getting to know your world at the Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena.

This list has ideas that I've never even heard of: Pick a plant at Tomatomania; make a book at Scribble Press; dig up crystals at Gem o Rama; and play in the mud at Mud Mania.

There are also links to other lists that one might look for, such as, where to watch fireworks on July 4th.

There is even a link to a field trip that is on my MUST DO list: Watch a free rehearsal at the Hollywood Bowl.

Even though the title of the article says "Los Angeles," some of these trips will require a car, some driving time and even a possible overnight stay.

This is a keeper article especially for someone that is planning on visiting LA with kids or expecting guests with kids. There is something here for everyone.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dress on a Dime - 90% off retail

It seems to me that finding a great women's clothing consignment store is getting harder to find, but finding a great women's clothing consignment SALE is getting easier.

If you live in the Santa Clarita (northern Los Angeles, CA) area of the country, you have a great sale coming up.

Similiar to LA Kids Consignment Sale for kid's stuff, Dress on a Dime is a twice-a-year sale featuring like-new casual-to-designer clothes from 0 to plus sizes, shoes, purses and accessories for women at a fraction of retail price.

Whether your size has gone up or down and whether you are selling or buying, this is a smart way to get some new stylish clothes at 90% off retail (my definition of a sale).

Consignors make 65% of the selling price and get paid within 2 weeks.

The next sale is September 11-13th,2009 at the Residence Inn, 25320 The Old Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91381.

If you can't make this date, then sign up to be notified of future sale dates.

For those of you not in the Los Angeles area, you might get in touch with these nice folks and see if you can set up your own Consignment type sale in your area.

I think it is time for me to realize that I am NOT going to fit into those clothes in my closet that are FOUR sizes too small for me. If I consign them, then I will have the money to buy some new ones at the sale that WILL fit. Oh, right... that's the whole idea.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Free Land in Kansas

No kidding. They are giving out free land in Kansas. Just like the land rush that was the central theme of the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman 1992 movie, "Far and Away."

Well, I don't think that people are going to line up with a horse and wagon and plant flags to claim their land. But, indeed there is land to be claimed.

Apparently there are some little towns in rural Kansas that don't want to disappear. They have created a program to tempt people to come and settle in Kansas.

The web site states their simple and direct plan: "Kansas is a great place to live, play, work or own a business. We would like you to consider moving to Kansas and have created incentives to draw you to our wonderful state. Several communities in Kansas are offering free land and other incentives. Our goal is to help our rural areas sustain and grow economically."

This is a powerful offer and a smart move on the part of the people of Kansas. Check it out.

Free land. Hum.... as my brother says, "Land. Get some. They aren't making any more of it."

Bobbi's Bargains Works!

Just had to share this email I got from one of my readers (yes, I know that I need to work on my comment section so that it is more user friendly.) This email outlines exactly why I LOVE freecycle and encourage all of my readers to sign up and use freecycle. (Don't know what I am talking about? Read the very first post on this blog.)

Dear Bobbi,

You know where to find all the great deals. I wanted to validate you and thank you for that.

At your suggestion, I joined my local Freecycle group.

A couple of weeks ago, I was making some split pea soup, and I thought, "Some home-made whole wheat bread would go great with this. I need a breadmaker." I put it on Freecycle, and by 2pm, someone had e-mailed me and by 6pm I had my breadmaker. We've made about 5 loaves of bread since. Last Saturday I put an ad on for a kitty condo, and I had it by 5pm.

We had a jaccuzzi that came with our house that we've never used. It was a big piece of "stuff" sitting in the backyard since 2004. I put it on Freecycle and yesterday someone picked it up!

Thank you for your great tips!


I love hearing from my readers. Let me know if my posts help you and if there is something you would like me to write about more.

Thanks for reading... and writing.

Homemade Ice Cream Drumsticks

Recently, on a hot day, I gave in to the urge to buy a Drumstick Ice Cream Cone from the freezer in my local gas station. Oh man, it was REALLY good. However, that little ice cream cone was THREE DOLLARS!!! Yikes! That is a real budget blower.

Unfortunately, as it continues to be hot, here in Southern California, I keep dreaming of that Drumstick. But, my little change purse keeps saying, "no, no."

Well, I have been saved by a totally swell tutorial on Instructables on how to make your own drumstick ice cream cones. The lovely author, Ms. Schoochmaroo, has created a fun and understandable set of instructions on how to make killer ice cream cones.

This is a definite activity for this week. There is a birthday coming up in our family and I can see a drumstick birthday cake in our future.

Stay cool.

Easily Map your Yard Sale Route

Technology is so awesome for a bargain hunter. No longer do I have to spend hours and hours with my newspapers and maps to figure out how to get the best bargains on Saturday morning. Now, in just a few minutes, I can find the sales I want to go to AND map my route.

I wrote about another yard sale treasure map a while ago. This new site, (garage sales, yard & estate sales by map) is very similar to Yard Sale Treasure Map, but more user friendly. The map loaded faster and it was easier to add the sales I wanted to map and ignore the others.

Both Yard Sale Treasure Map and Gsalr pull the majority of their info from Craigslist. However, Gsalr (what DO those letters stand for??) also has a feature to add your own yard sale info. The standard ad is free and if you want to make it more visable in the list (bold letters, etc) you can pay extra using pay pal or a credit card.

Another smart feature of this site is that you can sign up and get a reminder email of the upcoming garage sales in your area.

If you have another way to find where "X marks the spot" on Yard Sale day, let me know.

Happy Hunting.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Frugal Festival a Great Success

Thanks to all of my readers that come to the Frugal Festival and helped to make it a great success. It was so much fun to meet you there.

We went through TEN tables of FREE stuff! I can't even begin to figure out how much money was saved at the swap. There were books, housewares, baby items, music, movies, and even a box of fresh picked amazing tomatoes.

Bargain Babe and her volunteers did a fabulous job putting together this unique festival. I was glad to help out by creating the swap.

Thanks so much to Hilary who came with lots to swap and tons of energy.

Thanks also to Madison and Jessie who painted faces for almost four hours straight. By the way, I happen to know that they can be booked for parties and events in the Los Angeles area. Just email me at and I'll track them down for you.

You can see more photos from the event here.

The swap was such a success that there are plans for another one. I'll let my readers know when and where the next swap will be.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Really Free Swap in the Park at the Frugal Fe$tival - July 26, 2009 - Van Nuys, CA

I'm going to run the Really Free Swap at the Frugal Festival in Woodley Park (just southeast of Victory and Woodley) in Van Nuys, CA this Sunday, July 26th, 2009 from 1-4pm.

What does that mean, Bobbi?

It means that after going to several swaps (check out my picture from the latest swap-o-rama-rama), totally enjoying myself, getting great stuff and telling the world how much fun they are... I opened my mouth and told the wonderful Bargain Babe that there should be a swap at the upcoming Frugal Festival.

Well, you know the rule. If you suggest that something should happen, you get to be in charge of it. So, I am.

It's going to be a REALLY FREE SWAP, which means you bring some stuff and others bring some stuff and then you take some of the other guys stuff. No money involved. And if you happened to forget to bring some stuff... well, you can take some stuff anyway. I'd call that a bargain!

Click here to get the specifics on the festival and the swap.

You can bring all kinds of COOL stuff to swap. Clothes, dvds, jewelry are awesome swap items. But don't bring things that won't do well in the heat... like candles. Your junk will be someone else's treasure. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean that someone else won't love it. Make sure the stuff is legal, kid appropriate and working.

You can also decide that you are going to just free swap your services - haircuts, massage, juggling.

I suggest you bring a chair, a table (or picnic blanket), a bag for holding your swap treasures and a sun umbrella.

If you want to help me with the swap, send me an email at I'd LOVE your help.

The Many Uses of Plastic Storage Bins

Many years ago, when my kids where little and had a zillion toys (all purchased at yard sales and consignment stores), I purchased (on sale) a half dozen good quality large (14-22 gallon) plastic storage bins with lids.

I taped pictures of the different kinds of toys (stuffed animals, trains, blocks, dolls, balls, etc) on the outside of the bins.

I sorted the different kinds of toys into these bins. The kids could now find and put away their toys. This kept the house, somewhat, cleaned up and made it easier to locate specific toys.

Because the bins had lids, we could stack the bins when not in use and save floor space. They were very handy.

I then purchased smaller clear containers of various sizes to store toys and games that had several pieces but had lost their boxes (or, more likely, had been purchased at yard sales without boxes.) These containers could then be stored inside the bigger container or stored on a shelf and easily stack. I put a picture of the toy/game on the top and side of the box so that it could be identified easily. This little trick made it possible to keep track of all the little pieces of various toys and games. I was very proud of myself for having all of these pieces when we later sold them at our own yard sales.

These containers were a life saver when my kids where little, but I had no idea how many other uses there were going to be for these containers.

I have had some of my storage bins for almost two decades and they look only slightly used. Amazing stuff, plastic.

Here are some of the additional ways I have used my bins:

1. Moving boxes. We have moved at least six times with these bins. They are sturdy and stack. A wonderful container for fragile items. Way more sturdy than cardboard. The money that I saved from not having to buy sturdy cardboard moving boxes recovered the original price I paid for the containers after the first two moves.

2. Out of season clothes storage. When I lived in an area of the country that actually had seasons, we had a ritual of going through the clothes each change of season - getting rid of items that didn't fit any more and putting away clothes we wouldn't need for six months. I put a sign on the outside and top of the bin stating whose clothes they were and the name of the season and year the clothes would be appropriate.

3. Storage for hand-me downs. Sometimes I had clothes that wouldn't fit for another year or two. I would put them into a bin labeled as in #2, but with a date a few years away. I would also note what sizes the clothes were.

4. Garden bins. Currently two of my bins are full of rose bushes that I got from a couple of freecyclers. They are acting as temporary planters until I get the holes dug. They could be permanent planters if I was willing to drill holes in the bottom of my wonderful bins... which I am not. The handles make it super easy to move these containers around, even when full of heavy items.

5. Road trip "baggage." When we take a road trip, we take a LOT of stuff with us. I can fill up one of the containers with books, CDs, drawing pads, extra clothing, etc. I put this in the back of our minivan (yes, I know, not too efficient on gas, but I LOVE my van) and we can easily get to these items but not have them rolling around the car.

6. Beach trip. If we are going to the beach for the day and taking tons of stuff, these are great containers. Not only are they easy for two people (or one strong person) to carry, but once you get to your place on the beach, you have a little seat. You can also drag the container across the sand by one handle. After the trip, just hose the container down and get rid of the sand. By the way, these are NOT the containers to use for food storage at the beach. They are not insulated and they will get hot inside pretty easily.

7. Pre-yard sale storage. I always have a couple of these containers being filled with items that are destined for a yard sale or charity donation. I put the container in a corner of a closet and/or in the garage. When I find some item that I want to get rid of, I can just toss it in my designated container. When the container is full, I can decide whether to go all out and put together a yard sale, or freecycle the items or drop them off at my local charity donation center.

8. Party Ice Chest for drinks. Although these containers are not insulated (as noted in #6 above) they will "make do" in a pinch for loading up with ice and sticking in cans of drinks for a party/picnic. Because they are water proof, the melting ice won't be a problem. But, because they aren't insulated, they will get condensation on the outside and drip water.... so either use them outside where it doesn't matter if the ground gets wet, or put an absorbent towel underneath so your floor doesn't get ruined.

9. Dress Up Box. I've had a giant bin with a hinged lid that has served as the "dress up box" for many years. It's the perfect size for storing light sabers and magic wands as well as tall princess hats, ball gowns, superman capes, fireman hats, wigs, toy instruments, batons, poodle skirts and other necessary garments and accessories needed for children of all ages with an active imagination.

10. Christmas/Hanukah/Birthday present secret storage. I buy presents all year long when I see them at deep discount. I store them away until the needed time in my "secret" storage bins. My kids are old enough now to just know not to look (or risk ruining their surprise), but when they were very little, I could store their presents in "plain sight" in my storage bins on a high shelf with a note that said "Presents."

I am sure that there are many more uses for these indestructible bins, but these are some of my favorites.

I purchased several kinds of bins over the years, but the ones that held up the best were the roughneck storage bins made by Rubbermaid.

When I originally purchased these containers, I had no idea what a bargain they would be. Now I know, so I am telling you.