Bright on a Budget: March 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

How Not to Extreme Coupon

We all have defining moments in our lives.  One of mine was when I realized that I was turning into my mother.  It was my 1st year of law school, and I'd just gotten back from the grocery store.  I had 2 bags of groceries and had spent $75.  I looked at the bags in my hand and thought, "I just spent $75 and didn't get anything!"  BINGO--just like my mom!  Wasn't there some way to save money and spend a little less without having to coupon?!  

Couponing just wasn't worth the time I felt like I would "waste" clipping coupons. So I would only use "big" coupons for stores like Victoria's Secret, New York & Company, Bath & Body Works, Macy's, etc.  I would almost never take the time to clip coupons from the newspaper, and when I did, I'd just get so overwhelmed that I would never use them.  Who has time for sorting them and figuring all that out, let alone keeping up with them?!   Let's be honest--couponing intimidated me just as much as budgeting did.

Then, Target sucked me in.  Just between us, I used to hate Target.  I resisted it for so long.  But then I had to completely furnish a house and figured out that Target was the best place to do that while being bright on budget!  It started out with me getting the Target REDcard debit card.  I didn't want another credit card, but the debit card still allowed me to save 5% on all of my Target purchases and get free shipping from their website (I HATE paying for shipping online, because I factor that in to the cost of the product).  

After navigating Target's website for a while, I noticed that Target has coupons you can print from their website--how great is that?!  You select only the coupons that you want/will use and then print them, no "clipping" required!  This in turn led to me also looking on coupons.com and smartsource.com for manufacturer coupons that could be combined with the Target coupons for even bigger savings!  Always look for a way to combine store coupons/in-store apps (like Target Cartwheel) with manufacturer coupons to maximize your savings!   I was on a roll!  It was so easy--I was hooked!


Just print and clip--so easy!

After several months, I finally attemped clipping coupons from the newspaper again.  As I started couponing more, I got better at saving money in a way that worked for me.  Below are simple steps to easy, quick, and non-extreme couponing:

1.  Only clip coupons for items that you will use.  I don't care how great the deal is--if you don't use it, don't clip it!

2.  Sort the coupons into a coupon pouch so that they're easy to find, using categories like "personal" for razors and shampoo coupons, "groceries" for food coupons, "home" for cleaning supplies coupons, and "baby" for diaper and other baby-care coupons.  ***Don't miss the BRIGHTutorial about how to make your own coupon pouch for CHEAP coming on Wednesday!***

3. If you have a chance, make a list before you go to the store of what you need, and pull out the relevant coupons.  Place these coupons with your store list in the front of your pouch so they're easily accessible.

See my store list? DON'T JUDGE:)
4.  When you checkout, just pull your coupons out of the front of the pouch and hand them to the cashier!  QUICK AND EASY!  No having to fumble for coupons or trying to figure out what coupons you can use based on what you're buying. 

5. Sort through your coupons a couple of times a month and weed out any expired ones to keep things simple!

Couponing can be easy as long as you keep it simple and manageable.  If you want to extreme coupon, go for it, but start slow so that you're not overwhelmed.   Just know that couponing doesn't have to be extreme to save you money.  Couponing is a great way to save money on everything from baby to beauty, as well as food and home products.  I definitely don't dread a trip to the grocery store as much as I used to, and I hope you won't either!




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bright [Baby] on a Budget: 4 Baby Must-Haves for New Mommies

I've had a lot of request for baby-related posts, so here's the first.  As some of you may know, I have a 9 1/2 month old son.   Motherhood has been interesting to the say the least, especially juggling a full-time job outside of the home and grad school.

Newborn Kane- June 2013.
Another wonderful picture by Dakota Maynard Photography.

While we LOVE Kane's daycare, it's not cheap--our monthly daycare expense equates a mortgage payment or a really, really nice car payment.  So I've taken the same approach to baby budgeting that I have with everything else--I strive to find good deals on high-quality items. Below are 4 useful items at GREAT prices that I think every mommy should register for/buy!
   
1.  Snuza Go/Levana Oma Baby Monitor- Amazon (click picture for link to product).

I stumbled upon the Snuza when I was searching for a way to utilize my Angelcare monitor with the bassinet part of a Pack 'N Play/playard.  Long-story short, you can't use an Angelcare monitor with anything other than a crib or the main bottom of a Pack 'N Play.  When reading up on it, though, several people mentioned a Snuza monitor.  The Snuza monitor is recommended to be clipped on a baby's diaper, and it's monitors their breathing.  It sounds an alarm if they stop breathing, just like the Angelcare monitor does, but it is VERY portable.  In addition to a diaper, this can be clipped to the baby's pants or a restraint, like with the one in a Rock 'N Play Sleeper or in a carseat!  This is my #1 must-have product!  Also, some models of the  Snuza/Levana can often cost over $100, so this is a great deal at $69.99!  If you don't care to have a used one, keep an eye on eBay.  I found mine for around $35!
    Levana Oma powered by Snuza
    $69.99 at Amazon.com
2.   Boppy PillowBabies 'R Us.  

Boppy pillows have multiple uses.  They are great in the beginning for helping daddies gain confidence holding the baby and lending support to mommies who are breastfeeding and/or had a c-section.  As baby grows, they're great for tummy time and helping baby to learn to sit up.



While Boppy Pillows are regularly priced $39.99 with a standard cover  (different pillow and cover combinations can be more expensive) and only $29.99 without a cover, you can actually score this pillow for much cheaper using the BRIGHTip below.

BRIGHTIP:  Whenever purchasing from Babies 'R Us, it is important to maximize your savings by knowing their policies.  First, Babies 'R Us will price match some competitors, including some online competitors (read price match policy here).  Second, my local Babies 'R Us also accepts Buy Buy Baby coupons that are not expired, which are typically for 20% off any regular-priced item or $5 off a $15 purchase.  Third, you can combine coupons to maximize your savings--I've been told by my Babies 'R Us that they can accept one coupon on a specific item and one coupon off total purchase for the same transaction.  For example, on the Boppy Pillow, I would try to use a 20% off Babies 'R Us + a $5 off $15 Buy Buy Baby coupon, making the pillow with cover (reg. $39.99) $26.99 after all discounts.  Be sure to check with your local Babies 'R Us to verify their coupon policy.  At the very least, you can use a 20% Babies 'R Us coupon (one usually prints out with your receipt from a prior purchase or you can sometimes get them via email) to get the Boppy pillow for $31.99.
  

3. Fisher-Price Newborn Rock 'N Play Sleeper- Babies 'R Us.

Kane slept in a Rock 'N Play Sleeper for the first 7 1/2 months of his life (note that all babies are different, so it's important to check the weight restrictions published by the manufacturer).  I breastfeed, so this was super handy to sit right beside the bed at night.  It was also great to move around the house, especially to put in the bathroom so you can get a nice relaxing bath or hot shower without having to worry about baby.  Finally, we travel a lot, and this easily folds up without taking up a lot of space in the car.  The sleeper works great in conjunction with the Snuza, and I slept much easier at night using the two of them together!  This is now my go-to shower gift for expecting moms!

You can actually get a great deal on the sleeper using the BRIGHTip above.  It's currently on sale for $49.99, so some coupons will not apply, but you can go to the front desk and ask if they will do the discounts off the regular full price ($54.99 in store) of the item.  That would put the sleeper at $43.99 if you use a 20% off coupon, or lower if you can stack the coupons!


Kane soon after he came home from the hospital.
He had a touch of jaundice, so we were making sure he got some sunlight.


Rock 'N Play in the bathroom.  Sox was trying to figure
out what sort of creature we'd brought home.

       
    Rock 'N Play + Snuza.

    4. Fisher-Price Kick N Play Piano Gym- Amazon (click picture for link to product).

    Kane LOVES the Kick N Play Piano Gym.  We started using it with him when he was 2 1/2 weeks old.  The great thing about this is that a baby doesn't have to be very interactive to play with and enjoy this gym.  Most babies kick a lot, and you just have to position them down low enough to where their feet hits the piano.  Four toys + a mirror hang from the arch, and the arch can be repositioned down low for tummy time.  Additionally, when baby starts to sit up, the piano can be flipped up so they have a new way to play!  This is a great way to distract a fussy baby and let them wind down for a nap!  

    Amazon has an amazing deal for this at only $33.99!


    Fisher-Price Kick N Play Piano Gym
    $33.99 at Amazon.com


    I truly consider all 4 of these items as must-haves for baby!  If you're an expecting mom or someone looking for a great shower gift at an awesome price, you should definitely put these items at the top of your list!



    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

    When to Save and When to Splurge on Makeup : Cheeks + Lips


    I used to be a total beauty county makeup girl, but that has changed lately.  I'm detailing when you can save and when you should splurge when it comes to makeup, and giving you some product recommendations. This is the Part 2 of my When to Save and When to Splurge post on makeup, and you can find Part 1, covering face and eye makeup, here!

    Cheeks
    • Blush- splurge, but on the cheaper side (maximum price point of $16).  I found this Sephora cream blush and almost didn’t buy it because of the price, but I fell in love when I tried it on.  It’s the perfect color year-round.  It goes on sheer but the color is buildable.  I had never tried a cream blush before, and found this much easier to work with than a powder.  I purchased the Bare Minerals blush/highlighter duo on sale via the Bare Minerals website for $7.50, but it's no longer available. 
    1. Sephora Double Contouring Blush Cream $16
    2. Bare Minerals Blush/Illuminator from Cheek to Chic set.
    Dillard's has the set with makeup brush for $15 (original retail price). 
    Lips
    • Lip color- splurge (maximum price point of $20).  A close friend of mine always wears bright pink shades, so I finally took a page out of her book and tried some brighter colors.  I think a brighter shade does wonders for my complexion, especially in the winter.  Actual lip color is a splurge because a good quality lipstick is important to me.  I want something that will last for a while and that won’t bleed all around my mouth, making me look like the Joker.  (Please note that the POP Beauty and MAC shades are VERY similar when applied, but the POP Beauty shade is $6 cheaper.)
                 If you’re looking to save, however, one cheaper lipstick I have tried and liked is the Sonia Kashuk                        Satin Luxe Lip Color SPF 16, which retails for $9.99 at Target (not pictured below).  
    • Lip balm- save (maximum price point of $7).  I think there are LOTS of great lip balm products out there at low prices, so there’s no need to spend a lot of money in this category.  My favorite for taste and no color is EOS and my favorite for effortless color is Maybelline Baby Lips. 
    • Lip liner- save (maximum price point of $7).  I love that lip liner keeps your color inside the lines, but I hate trying to color match lipliner to my gloss/lipstick color.  I finally found the solution--clear lipliner!  The lipliner below is no longer available, but Maybelline has a very similar one--> Maybelline Color Sensational Lipliner in Clear for $6.99.  Right now at Ulta, all Maybelline products are BOGO 50% off, and this deal can be combined with Ulta's current store coupon for an extra $3.50 off any $10 purchase!
    1. MAC Creamsheen Glass in Loud & Lovely $20
    2. POP Beauty Aqua Lacquer in Flowering Fuchsia $14
    3. Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter in Strawberry Shortcake $5.99
    4. Maybelline Baby Lips Dr. Rescue Medicated Lip Balm in
     Soothing Sorbet
    $5.99*
    5. EOS Blueberry Acai Lip Balm $2.99
    6. Avon Glimmersticks Lip Liner in Clear.  No longer available.

    HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON MAKEUP

    Drugstore/Discount Store Cosmetics: 

    Look for the BOGO (Buy One, Get One) deals at Rite Aid or other drugstores, and combine with any manufacturers coupons that are out there.  Coupons.com is a great place to print these coupons if you don't get the Sunday paper. 

    At Target, search their store coupons and Cartwheel app for beauty deals.  These can be combined with manufacturer’s coupons for some pretty sweet savings!

    Beauty Counter/Specialty Store Cosmetics:

    Ulta is the place to save on these cosmetics.  
    • For brands like Maybelline and Revlon, look for their BOGO 50% sales, which occur quite frequently, and combine with any manufacturers coupons.  
    • For prestige cosmetics, like Bare Minerals or Too Faced, Ulta sends out 20% off your entire purchase coupons to their Ulta Rewards members (join here) that can be used on most prestige brands.  They also have their 21 Days of Beauty sale that’s going on now, where they feature amazing one-day deals on prestige cosmetics. 
    • Ulta Rewards members always accumulate points that can be used for discounts!

    Bare Minerals has 12-hour flash sales called Beauty Rushes during which they have fabulous savings, so it’s important to sign up for their email notifications (sign up here) to find out when they're having these sales.   They also periodically send out coupons for freebies.  

    Sephora usually doesn’t have coupons the way that Ulta does, but once a year right before Christmas, they send out a $15 off $50 purchase coupon to their Rewards members (sign-up here).  That’s how I got the Clinique Foundation and Sephora blush.

    If you like brands like Clinique or Estee Lauder, make sure you’re maximizing your money by purchasing when they have free gifts with purchase (until March 27, Dillard’s had Clinique Bonus Time, and Macy’s has  a free gift with any $35 Estee Lauder purchase).

    MAC and Bobbi Brown never have discounts, but you can usually aways find their products at the outlets in the Cosmetics Company store.  I've found several really great deals there on some of my favorite palettes!

    Please note that all Rewards programs listed above are FREE, so take advantage of them!

    Don't forget to check out Part 1, covering face and eye makeup, here!


    Monday, March 24, 2014

    When to Save and When to Splurge on Makeup : Face + Eyes


    I used to be a makeup snob.  If the makeup wasn't from a beauty counter or specialty store, then it didn't touch my face. Everything from foundation to eye liner had to be a prestige brand of cosmetics.  This was killing my wallet, as makeup can be very expensive--seriously, have you seen the price of foundation lately?!

    Shelling out major money on items that were always running out got old quick.  So I read reviews online and started trying to work some cheaper products into my routine.  I've found that there are some things that ARE worth splurging on, such as foundation, and some things that aren't, such as eyeliner.

    Below is my take on what beauty items are worth splurging on and what products aren't.  I think it's important to set personal price points on what you're willing to spend and stick to them, so I've included my thoughts on that as well.  Please note that I purchased some items, including the Clinique and Too Faced foundations using coupons, so they both came in under their respective price-points--otherwise, I would not have purchased them.

    FACE
    Your face is like a canvas, so I think it's important to have a good base for everything.

    • Foundation- splurge (maximum price point of $32).  This is such an important part of my routine because I have acne issues, and my topical acne cream (Differin) causes my skin to dry out.  Therefore, I'm willing to spend more in this category.  Go to Sephora and try out the Pantone shade match for foundation, and do a quick consultation to get recommendations for foundations that fit your skin type and meet your needs.  
    • BB cream- splurge if used in lieu of foundation (same price point as foundation), but should be a save if used as a primer ($10-11 max).  BB cream is great to even-out skin tone and provide light coverage.
    • Concealer- user's choice of splurge or save.  Personally, I see concealer as a splurge because of my acne issues ($20 max if splurge, $10 max if save).  Tip:  put concealer on first (before foundation) if you're wearing a powder foundation, and last (after foundation) if you're wearing a liquid foundation.

    1. Revlon PhotoReady BB Cream  $8.99 on sale at Target
    2. Clinique Even Better Compact Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 15
    (cream to powder)
    3. Too Faced Amazing Face SPF Foundation Powder
    4. MAC Pro Longwear Concealer
    Eyes
    My eyes are my favorite part of my beauty routine.  I really like to take the time to emphasize them, and will wear mascara even if I'm not wearing any other makeup.
    • Eyeshadow- splurge (maximum price point of $15 for single shade).  More expensive eyeshadows tend to have better pigmentation and wear longer, so I feel like you get more for your money.
    • Eye primer- splurge (maximum price point of $20).  MAC's eye primer has lasted almost a year.  I also like Mary Kay's Eye Primer for $12.
    • Eyeliner- save (maximum price point of $8).  I used to spend $20+ on eyeliner!  I was using Tarte Aqua-Gel Eyeliner, because I loved how smoothly a gel would glide on and how defined it looked, plus it had the convenience of being a pencil.  Tarte discontinued the line, so I had to scramble to find a replacement.  I like both Avon's and Ulta's brands of gel eyeliner, and you can usually find great deals on both (Ulta currently has them 2 for $6)!
    • Mascara- save (maximum price point of $10).  I really like the L'Oreal Voluminous line, especially the False Fiber Lash mascara, as well as Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes! mascara.  The Tarte mascara normally retails for $19, but it is a staple of Ulta's 21 Days of Beauty sale (going on now), so I always get it for $10.
    • Eyebrow pencil- save (maximum price point of $7).  I really like eyebrow pencils that have have the spoolie/mascara wand at the end of them, so that you can make your brows look more natural.  Avon's product was great for this and was only $1.99, but it has since been discontinued.  I recently picked up Maybelline's eye pencil, and have been pretty happy with it.  TIP:  pick out a pencil that is 1 shade lighter than your hair.
    1. MAC Eyeshadow
    2. MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Painterly
    3. Tarte Lights, Camera, Action! Mascara
    4. L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara  $7.99
    5. Avon Eyebrow Pencil (discontinued)
    6. Maybelline Define-a-Brow $5.99
    7. Avon SuperSHOCK Eye Liner Pencil  $4.99
    8. bareMinerals READY Eye Shadow 2.0
    9. bareMinerals Eye Shadow 
    ***Part 2, which you can read here, includes Splurge vs. Save for Lips and Cheeks, as well as overall tips on how to get the best deals when buying makeup!!!***


    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    How to Do a SIMPLE Budget (in 15 Minutes or Less)


    For years, the word "budget" intimidated me.  I'm more of a flexible person, and I saw a budget as being something rigid and unworkable for my busy lifestyle.  Just the thought of it stressed me out! I thought it would take too much time and would be too complex to keep up with.  Who has time for that?! Can anyone else relate???

    Then I entered the real world and started working full-time.  There were no more student loans to bail me out when money ran low, so I HAD to be more careful with my money.   One night, I made myself sit down and calculate how much money I had due on bills each month--cable, electric, cell phone, car payment, etc.  I wrote down everything (when it comes to "figuring" stuff out, I prefer to put pen to paper than type) and totaled it up.

    The next week, I went a step further.  I decided to write down all my paychecks for a 3-month period and sort out what bills needed to be paid from which check.  This, my friends, was the start of the Bright on a Simple Budget.  You can plan a 3-month budget in 15 minutes or less!!!

    What is the Bright on a Simple Budget?  It's a SIMPLE, quick, and easy 3-month budget.  Once you gather your information, it only takes about 5 minutes to complete each time you sit down to do it.  Below, I walk you through a sample simple budget based on an even $1000 paycheck every two weeks.

    1.  Pull out your calendar and figure out your paydays for a 3-month period.  List those paydays on the left-hand side of your simple budget, like so.  I like to do this part on a post-it note so I can re-stick it on my next budget sheet:)  Be sure to update with any new bills, though!


    2. Make a list of ALL of your monthly bills, the date they are due by, and how much they normally run.  If you have a savings goal, you can add that amount in as well:


    3.  Allocate each bill to the paycheck that it needs to be paid out of.   For example:  Daycare ($200), House Payment ($300), Electric Bill ($90), and Car Payment ($200) are all due between the 1st of the month and the 15th, so they would be listed under the April 1, May 1, and June 1 paychecks


    4.  Total up the bills for each each paycheck, and you will know how much you have left to spend on things not listed.  For example, your bills for the April 1 paycheck total $790 of your $1,000 take-home pay, so you have $210 left for gas, food, entertainment, etc.  If you don't have enough money left over to meet your needs, or if there isn't enough money to pay all of your bills that are due from that check, then reallocate your bills to a prior paycheck or split the bill between two paychecks.


    This also helps you to plan semi-monthly bills that tend to be larger, such as car insurance, home insurance, HOA dues, etc.  Carve out money to pay for these semi-monthly bills from paychecks where you have extra money.  In the sample above, car insurance in the amount of $200 being due on May 1.  If the money were to come from the May 1 paycheck, that would only leave $10 left over, so it would be better if it was allocated to the April 15 paycheck.


    TADA!!! YOU HAVE A (SIMPLE) BUDGET!!!

    I choose to schedule as many payments as I can online for the day after my paycheck clears the bank.  As I schedule or make each payment, I check them off my budget list, and I LOVE the sense of accomplishment I feel!

    I've found the simple budget to be quick, flexible, and easy-to-do!  Plus, it's completely customizable, and you can choose what works for you!  If you decide to try it, let me know how it goes.

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    Welcome to Bright on a Budget!

    Hi, my name's Tif.  Welcome to my new blog, Bright on a Budget!  Since this is the first post, I figured I would give you a little background about me and a preview of what to expect from my blog.


    This is me!  Warning: Photos are only this great when
    Dakota takes them.

    I grew up in a small town in eastern Kentucky.  I worked my way through undergrad at Pikeville College, spent three years in law school at UK (GO CATS!!!), and am now getting my MBA at Morehead State while working full-time.  I am a new mom and an amazing wife (regardless of what my husband says about my cooking, cleaning, or anything else housewife-related).   

    This is Kane.  Yes, he's that adorable in real life.

    As I worked my way through college and law school, I learned a couple of things: budgeting did NOT have to equal boring, and thrifty CAN be trendy.  It's not how much money you have--it's how you use it.  I like nice things, but I never pay full price!

    For as long as I can remember, I've loved a good deal--okay, I take that back--a REALLY good deal!  Sometimes I just happen upon an awesome sale, but other times I watch items like a hawk to get them for the price I'm willing to pay.  I set a price point in my head and stick to it!  I apply this philosophy to everything, from beauty to baby, hair to home decor, and style to saving in general, and now I want to share my philosophy with you!

    Being bright on a budget can work for anybody, regardless of what your budget is.  It's a way of life, and that's what I'll be sharing on this blog.  To start off, I'll show you how you can do a simple budget that won't intimidate you.  When you're busy, you don't have time to sit down and balance a checkbook everyday, or count every dime, so you need something that's easy and workable.

    I'll share tips for how to get a great manicure without going to the salon and how to do your own flower arrangements (yes, even wedding flowers!).

    There will be posts about how to pair cheaper but trendy accessories with basic outfits to transform your look--you can never go wrong with a white shirt and bright scarf, like my picture above.  BTW, that scarf was $2 on clearance.

    Babies are expensive, so I'll share my favorite baby items that are affordable.  I highly recommend the Snuza for any new moms out there, or if you have a baby shower to buy for.  Amazon has a great discount on it right now!

    And makeup.  We'll talk about what items you should splurge for at the beauty counter and which items you should save and buy at the drugstore/discount store.  Below is a great deal that I got in the mail today!  When I find deals like these, you can be sure that I'll let you know ASAP because deals like these sell out fast.

    Target Beauty Box.  $5!  Contains my favorite brand of
    drugstore mascara (L'Oreal Voluminous).  I think it's sold
     out now, but you can check here.


    Right now, Ulta  has their 21 Days of Beauty Sale going on, where they have amazing one-day deals on prestige cosmetics.  Deals I recommend are:

              ***I think the limit is 2 products per customer, but these products at these prices are worth       stocking up on***

    I hope this has given you a good overview of what to expect.  I'll always be willing to share good deals that I find, so be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

    Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at brightonabudget@gmail.com with questions or comments.