Friday, November 25, 2011

Budget-friendly Tips for Holiday Weddings - Your Wedding Dreams Can Come True!

The countdown to the holidays has begun. With it comes the only time of year that's simultaneously joyous and stressful. For some, this season will bring with it the event of a lifetime: a wedding. Those planning holiday winter weddings have several opportunities to save money and lessen the stress burden for themselves and their guests.

1. Deck the Halls.
Most event locations will have already decked the halls for the holidays, allowing you to piggyback their efforts for a low-cost wedding. Go with Christmas hues of gold, red and green -- or go for a silvery winter blitz. Strings of white Christmas lights will transform any room into a holiday paradise.

2. Silver Bells.
Create budget large-scale ornaments as decorations using Styrofoam balls spray-painted and covered in glitter. Or create groupings of bare branches spray-painted white and covered in silver glitter. Paper ornaments, like these ornament greeting cards, make great wedding invitations or wedding favors.

3. Seasons Eatings.
Comfort food is a popular winter wedding choice (think soups, pasta, pot pies, mac-n-cheese). Don't shy away from cost-cutting measures like serving family-style or buffet. Consider a hot chocolate, cider, eggnog or coffee bar your guests can immediately help themselves to (plus: you'll save hundreds by skipping the alcohol).

4. Marshmallow World.
Gingerbread houses make quaint table centerpieces, as do natural greenery and berries. Cocoa mixes or cookie cutters also make inexpensive wedding favors.

5. Peace on Earth and Online.
Couples are increasingly using online wedding planning tools, like creating or sending save-the-date and invitations online (40-percent increase over the last two years), personal websites and online RSVP services (23-percent and 31-percent increases respectively) and using social media to communicate wedding details (78-percent increase), according to Brides and grooms also have the option of registering online for gift cards at sites like, which a great option for guests already overwhelmed with holiday shopping lists.

6. Jingle Bell Rock.

If you chose to have your wedding around the holidays, it's likely a favorite time of year for you. As such, incorporating favorite holiday tunes into your wedding reception is a must, and a fantastic way to get your guests into the holiday spirit. Pandora is an excellent, economical method to pipe in some yuletide carols at the appropriate time during your reception.

When all is said and done, you'll begin your first happy new year together, and that's something to celebrate indeed.

Weddings expert Cara Davis is the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot and blogs from her home in Orlando, FL, about cheap ways to spend and save at

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving When Your Nest is Empty

Have your children all flown the coop with nary a look backwards? For some, Thanksgiving is pretty lonely when your own flesh and blood can't make it home for even a brief visit. On the other hand, you might delight in your freedom from turkey tyranny. Either way, if you're a Baby Boomers lacking nestlings for the first time, you'll likely need to adjust holiday plans to better suit your new lifestyle.

After experiencing Thanksgiving without family several years, I came up with several ways to celebrate the holiday without feeling abandoned. Read on for six new Turkey Day traditions that might suit your needs. And Happy Thanksgiving!

1. Host an Orphan's Dinner
It really helps to remember you're not alone in this boat. There are plenty of people who'd greatly appreciate an invitation to socialize while enjoying a touch of turkey. I threw such a party last year and asked everyone to bring a dish to pass. The only thing I had to buy and prepare was the turkey, which made it even easier than being a parental unit in this scenario.

2. Retire to a Restaurant
Celebrate kicking the turkey habit by dining out at one of the many eateries that do all the work for you. You'll enjoy the football games much more if you don't have to leap up every 15 minutes to baste a bird. And, you can take advantage of cheap gift cards at such sites as GiftCardGranny to reduce your bill up to 30 percent.

3. Shop!
Black Friday has lately seceeded space to Grey Thursday. According to an article on, more stores are offering doorbuster sales on Thanksgiving, so you could get some shopping done without facing the mass stampede to follow. Or you might hit the Internet and do some early cyber shopping. You can run price comparisons with a few mouse clicks and have gifts delivered directly to those ungrateful wretches to whom you gave life.

4. Spend the Day at a Shelter
One of my favorite Thanksgiving activities is cooking dinner at our local homeless shelter. Actually, I don't cook the turkey dinner itself, as there are plenty of people willing to do that. Instead, I use the leftovers to create future meals for the shelter. It just seems a huge waste to throw away all those bird bones when the makings for broth and casseroles are readily available. Visit for a list of volunteer opportunities.

5. Brighten Someone Else's Day
The homeless aren't the only ones who could use your volunteer services. Many nursing homes and hospitals would greatly appreciate a visitor who will bring some friendship into what they may otherwise find a very lonely day. It's a win/win situation and you just might make some new friends. Check out this excellent blog post for some do's and don'ts when visiting hospitals and nursing homes during the holidays.

6. Get Out of Town
A childless couple I know make a point of leaving home for the holidays; usually preferring to spend the long weekend scuba diving. While part of the reason they skip town is to avoid miserable family gatherings, they also miss bad weather and crowds of shoppers. Not all of us can afford a sunny beach vacation, but you might team up with another singleton or couple and rent a cabin, or simply go for a long drive.


Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist for Kinoli Inc. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, "ABC World News," NBC's "TODAY" show and many other media outlets.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Frugal Homemade Cleaning Tips

If you are looking to save some money you can start by using homemade cleaning products to clean your home with. Not only are these inexpensive to make but most are eco-friendly too! I use a lot of baking soda and white vinegar around my home to kill germs and to keep my home clean. Here are a few other ideas to help you get your house cleaned up and do so on the cheap.

Vinegar - Vinegar can be used to remove mold, grease, and mildew. Vinegar will kill bacteria and germs. Just dilute down your white vinegar with tap water so that it doesn't irritate your skin while using it.

Baking Soda - Baking soda can be used as a scouring agent and deodorizer. You can even brush your teeth with it. I like to make a baking soda paste by just adding a tad of tap water to it and then use it for scrubbing. It will also do a great job at deodorizing your garbage disposal. If your carpets have a stinky smell sprinkle plain baking soda onto your carpets and let it sit for an hour and then vacuum it up.

Bleach - I purchased an empty spray bottle and I put in 1/4 cup of bleach and then filled it with tap water. It now can be use to clean counter tops, toilets, tubs and sinks.

Salt - Your basic table salt makes for a good abrasive scouring powder so sprinkle some onto your stainless steel kitchen sink and use a sponge to scrub it down. A salt scrub also works well for removing baked on food from your cookware and bakeware too!

Lemon Juice - Lemon juice mixed with water makes a great all-purpose cleaner. I keep a spray bottle filled with lemon juice/water and spray down my kitchen countertops with it every day. It also is great for cleaning the microwave, stove-top and refrigerator.

As you can don't have to pay a fortune at the store for chemical household cleaners when you can spend pennies and make your own at home! Do you have any frugal cleaning tips to share with me today? If so, please leave me a comment.