You have to LOVE Ben Franklin… Thursday, Apr 22 2010 

“Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything.” — Benjamin Franklin

More upcoming stuff in June! – Another workshop at Serenity Spa! Thursday, Apr 22 2010 

Just connected with Cyndi Posusney, owner of Serenity Fitness, the gorgeous spa I did a January workshop for a while back. She’s working on a workshop series on “Healthy Green Living”, and has graciously asked me back to lend my two cents on incorporating frugality into that concept. What a fantastic idea! Thanks Cyndi!

Right now, we’re looking for a mutually convenient date in June. As soon as we confirm, I’ll let you know! In the meantime, have an e-look at Serenity Fitness. It’s GORGEOUS!

Had the BEST time on Erin’s show! Thursday, Apr 22 2010 

Wrapped up “Onwards & Upwards” with Erin Ley at Blog Talk Radio, and had such a fantastic time. She was great, the hour just flew by, and I actually got asked back! Looking at mutually convenient schedules, we’re headed for a date in June! So exciting!

First Worldwide interview today! Tuesday, Apr 13 2010 

Hey gang! Hope your Tuesday is starting off great!

Over here, I’m so excited for today’s Brilliant Frugal Living interview with Erin Ley at Blog Talk Radio! Erin is a complete riot, I’ve had such fun talking with her over the phone just prepping for this interview. Today should be a lot of fun, and I’m really looking forward to connecting with a nationwide (actually *gulp* worldwide) audience!

To add to the interesting agenda for the day, we still have only one car over here (the Dodge is still in the shop for a busted head gasket). In order to pull off this interview with minimum pain, the kids and I are driving Victor to work, taking the car to run to my folks’ house, having my Mom hang out with the kids between noon-1:00P so I can speak to Erin in a relatively calm environment, running errands after 1:00P, and picking up Victor at 5:00P to bring him back home. Truthfully, all of this IS necessary to ensure the kids are supervised a couple of rooms away during today’s interview. They’re fabulous, but they inherited my LOUD gene, and the last time I tried to conduct an interview on the phone, it was punctuated by Katie’s running report on the big poo our goldfish was doing. (“Mommy! Look! You’ve GOT to see!!! Nemo, you must have had a BIG BREAKFAST! Mommy! Come see!”).

Wish me luck for today, and thanks SO much for all of the ideas you sent in, they were so helpful! If your schedule allows, tune in 12P-1:00P Eastern if you can! If you have a question or just feel like calling in, please give us a shout at 347-637-3044.

Have a fantastic Tuesday, everyone!

Saving on Baby! The first (frugal?) year… Friday, Apr 9 2010 

Hey all – Happy Friday! Just wrapped up a truly fun week, and getting excited for Katie’s first T-ball game tomorrow morning. Hysterically cute.

Received an e-mail from LiveWellHD/6ABC about another possible “Mary Talks Money” piece, which would be SO much fun. They suggested a segment regarding saving money on baby the first year. This is an outstanding subject; I often get questions about this at my workshops. I’ve also got a 5 year old and a 2 year old, so I’ve experienced this firsthand, and rest assured, made just about every mistake in the book…

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it can cost between $9000-$11,000 to care for a child in their first year alone! When it comes to saving money on baby, there are some excellent places to start:

Formula: Yes, we’ve all heard that it’s best to nurse a baby for the first six months; if it’s feasible in your household, it will save a tremendous amount of money. However, some women are physically unable to do this, and sometimes work schedules make it utterly impossible. If you’re unable to, the average cost of formula can come to $200/month. I was a Mommy who was physically incapable of nursing, however, I did find our brand name (organic no less) baby formula at our local discount gourmet grocery for approximately 75% off on a regular basis. Often the reason for the discount was a small tear along the label. As a result, we spent $50/month for formula our first six months. Money saved compared to national average: $150/month for 6 months = $900 saved

Diapers: When I had Katie, my wonderful family had a “diaper shower” for me, in which we received six months worth of disposable diapers – very appreciated! However, in the time it took to get Katie potty trained (at age 3), we went thru approximately $1500 in diapers. Ouch! Would prefer to have that in the bank, thanks very much…that’s an average mortgage payment!!! For Robbie, in an attempt to keep that money in the bank, I decided to go the cloth routine (see earlier blogs). Today’s cloth diapers are ingenious, and very easy to use. They’re also an average of $20 each retail! RIDICULOUS! It can cost $400 just to get started! If you’re planning on using cloth, and can count on receiving them as gifts at a baby shower, by all means, get new. When I myself shopped for them, I found them for $3 each on Craigslist. I purchased $80 worth, which gave me 3 days worth of diapers. They have worked beautifully. Many mention the savings from cloth diapers is offset by drying them in the dryer, however, I dry mine on a clothesline outside, so it’s not such an issue. Money saved yearly compared to national average: $400+

Food: Once baby is ready for solids, forget the ridiculously overpriced jarred foods, and pull out your food processor. Chicken, beef, pasta, vegetables, fruits, soups – whatever you’re eating, chances are excellent (if it’s not too exotic), it’s fine for your baby. Add a touch of baby cereal to the repertoire, and you’re in fine shape. If you have any questions about foods or potential allergic reactions, ask your pediatrician. A word about juices – more and more pediatricians are warning against giving too much to your baby, as it’s usually empty, sugary calories, and expensive to boot. Try water & milk for your child’s needs. Money saved compared to jarred foods / juices / etc = hundreds of dollars

Furniture: Beautiful furniture, well built, can cost hundreds, if not thousands. We all want the best for our kids, but paying retail is insane. Start with Craigslist listings in the towns near you. I’ve seen every possible type of baby furniture (cribs, rockers, changing tables, dressers, etc) for up to 90% off, in wonderful shape. Often, the current owners are simply desperate to get rid of it and free up space. The only caveat is that you will usually have to pick it up yourselves. Ask a neighbor with a truck if he/she will help out in exchange for a tank of gas – no doubt they’ll be glad to lend a hand. Money saved = hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Clothing: There are dozens of resources to tap when you’re looking for children’s clothing. Outstanding resources I’ve found include local thrift stores, Church sales, and by far, the best resource: Craigslist. This last year, I’ve purchased dozens of outfits for both of my children, and clothed them both (including special occasion outfits) for less than $50 total, thanks to Craigslist. My kids are dressed like royalty for approximately 90% off. Money saved = hundreds of dollars

Daycare: Today’s trying economic environment is transforming a lot of two-income households into one income households. If there is any silver lining to this, it is that the cost of daycare for pre-school age children in these households is now zero. If the stay-at-home parent is Dad, I recommend a “Mr. Mom” movie night. If it’s necessary for both parents to work, start thinking outside the box with regard to daycare. I’ve connected with parents in which one took a job working primarily weekends, the other week days. Another couple alternated working nights & days to ensure kids were supervised. Another family had a wonderful, energetic grandparent move in to ensure proper supervision. With the cost of daycare topping $200/week for babies, finding an at-home solution with family will save a significant amount of money. Money saved per child: $200/week for one year = $10,000+

Baby Gifts – most of us are very blessed in that the wonderful news of a new baby will often send loved ones into a frenzy of gift-giving. If possible, try to steer them towards useful items, ones that will benefit the baby for years to come. You’ll notice the above items (furniture & clothing in particular) are not only top gift items, but ironically are also rather easy for a parent to acquire for next to nothing nowadays. With that in mind, you might want to steer family & friends into a slightly different type of gift, the “not glamorous but AMAZINGLY helpful gift”.
Some examples:
– When I was born in 1968, my folks had a lock on just about everything I needed with regard to clothing, furniture, etc. When family & friends asked what to buy for me, my parents recommended (brace yourself) Savings Bonds. Dozens of (middle class) family & friends did just that – these small bonds (for between $5 & $50) then went into the bank where they sat untouched until they came to maturity. I redeemed them my junior year of college at Penn State, where they pretty much paid my tuition for an entire semester. Not a bad gift, and those same family & friends were delighted to hear from me at age 20, touching base from college and thanking them (with a laugh) for my incredibly helpful BABY gift!
– Insurance covers a big portion of the average maternity stay, but there’s usually an amount due by new parents when they come home. If you’ve got family & friends each eagerly looking to give a $25+ gift, explain how you’re looking to pay down the amount due the hospital, and set up a special bank account for it. I’ve spoken to “Brilliant Frugal Living” workshop attendees who knew of people who did just that – and received over $1000 from family, friends & co-workers. Rather than a hodge-podge of well-meant but somewhat useless gifts, they were instead able to pay down a good chunk of their hospital bill. Fantastic stuff.

If you have other ideas/suggestions regarding saving for baby, I would love to hear them – please send them my way!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

BFL connected with BlogTalkRadio! Friday, Apr 2 2010 

Hey gang!
Hope you’re having a fantastic Friday prior to the holiday weekend! Over here, I’m so excited! I just had a hysterical talk with none other than Erin Heenan Ley at BlogTalkRadio. This woman is an absolute riot, not to mention busy Mom of three, cancer survivor & hugely successful radio show host, just to name a few of her accomplishments.

She has invited me to join her fantastic (*gulp* nationwide) radio show Tuesday, April 13 from 12:00P-1:00P! (Me? Talk for an hour? … well … yokay!)

One thing I REALLY want to find prior to this show is a discount gourmet grocery near her – she’s located in Long Island, NY. Any frugal bloggers out there living in Nassau County or thereabouts? Any discount groceries / warehouse clubs / thrift stores you can recommend? Send them as a comment here, or shoot them to my e-mail at
Throw them ALL at me! Thanks so much!

Above all else, have a wonderful weekend! K

“Fruglamour” – Time for a Spa Day! Thursday, Apr 1 2010

Hey all!

Considering Easter Sunday is in a few days, then a fabulous opportunity to do a Brilliant Frugal Living segment on “Better Philly” at WPHL Channel 17 first thing Monday morning, it occured to me yesterday that a Frugal Mega Spa Day might be in order. (As to the effort required at this point, think “Miss Congeniality” when Sandra Bullock is locked in an airport hangar overnight & beauty technicians do their magic). Would LOVE that scenario personally, but being short one airport hangar (and 57 beauty technicians at my beck & call), I’m going with the next best thing – doing it myself.

If you’re thinking of going for a “let’s try to make people think we look like this ALL the time” look this weekend as well, here are the moves that have given me an outstanding frugal bang for the buck, head to toe.

Okay, first things first. Time for Prep – deciding what is really necessary to do, and what is not. Quick look in the mirror (pre-coffee, no less) tells me it wouldn’t be a bad idea to just touch up, ummmm, everything. Alrighty then…

Haircut: A quickie hair trim is a no brainer & not so tough, been doing it myself for decades. Trust me folks, if I can do it, ANYBODY can. A quick 1/4 inch cut to eliminate split ends is also a smart move before working with any haircolor. Total cost: $0

Deep conditioning hair treatment (pre-color): if you’ve never done this, try it once – you’ll LOVE the way your color looks afterwards. Tresemme has some great salon-worthy conditioning products. Pretty pricey when purchased retail, but still less than a salon. I buy my Tresemme stuff (shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioning, etc) at my local discount gourmet grocery, usually find it for about 70% off. Very cool. Total cost for today’s treatment, about $1.

Haircolor: In high school, my hair, courtesy of Mother Nature, would best be described as “black”. With my 25-year reunion rapidly approaching, my hair color would now be best described as “Loreal Mega Browns series in Truffle, combined with Oreor #20 developer”. Fantastic, fast, frugal, effective. Total cost: $4.50, vs. $150 in a salon. Nuff said.

Nails. Gloriosky. I run after two fantastic Energizer bunny children during the day, and bang on a computer keyboard mornings, nights, and anytime the kids allow me a break. Enjoy the visual on what my hands look like. Since I’d like to perpetuate the illusion of looking like an actual GIRL for Easter, it is sooooo time for a manicure. Cuticles, heated lotion treatment, nail tips, filing, polish, boom. done. And hello, thank GOD for fast-drying nail color, as it lends itself well to the non-stop commentary from the other room… “Mommy, can I have a glass of grape juice… Mommy, Robbie is making funny faces I think he needs a new diaper… and my favorite – Mommy…Robbie is trying to put the remote into the fishtank again!” calls from the other room. In a salon, todays hand transformation would easily cost $50. At home, we’re talking more like $5.

Facials – I so love these, and I just finished my eyebrows (I find eating chocolate simultaneously is a great numbing agent), so pain is over, let the pleasure begin! I do everything with the Olay Regenerist line, which I’m completely addicted to. Regenerating Cleanser, Pore Minimizing Thermal Scrub, Eye Derma Pods & Transforming Cream, finishing off (as Michael Caine’s character so perfectly said it…) with “two more coats and a sealant”, my sealant of choice being Olay’s Micro-Sculpting Cream. Got all of my Olay products for roughly 80% off at BB Grocery Outlet in Morgantown, so today’s treatment (yes, in frugalista fashion, I calculate these things…) comes to a total of $2. My freaking face doesn’t know what hit it. However, when I finish up, I ask my highly-perceptive 5-year old daughter: “Does Mommy look different?”, her immediate response (after a brief glance my way): “No. Can I have some more grape juice?” Yokay…Whatever.

Smile Time: Coffee addicts like myself are wise to use a whitening tooth polish, keeps the worst of the “Bold Columbian” effects at bay. Really not bad already, but couldn’t hurt to do a super whitening treatment. Not sure what they cost at the dentist – at home it’s two sets of whitening strips for $2. (bought them for next to nothing at B&B). Good stuff.

With the fabulous sunshine & high temps expected this weekend, briefly considered doing a self-tanning job, I’m in possession of plenty of Loreal self-tanner (GREAT product) and it’s pretty easy to do. Decided against it, but will definitely hit this fabulous stuff later in the month.

Okay, looking *pretty* good. Time to get the outfit ready: Found a GORGEOUS Evan Picone suit in cobalt blue at the Goodwill Outlet in Morgantown, freshly dry-cleaned no less, for $1.50. Great cut, great color – I adore this suit, perfect for Easter.

Shoes: More Evan-Picone – found brand new shoes, again at Goodwill, for $1.50, perfect match for an adorable Kate Spade bag that I recently purchased at the Exton Goodwill for $4.

Okay, hair, face, nails are done, quick dry run with the outfit on, shoes on, handbag in hand. Final Result? Definitely better than I was this morning, feeling far more camera worthy.

Final cost: $14.50 for head to toe frugalista glamour treatment, another $7 for brand new Evan-Picone/Kate Spade Easter Outfit, for a total of $21.50.


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