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My husband thinks I'm wacky, but I get a big kick out of going to garage sales.  They are pretty much the only thing that can motivate me to wake up early on a Saturday morning.  I love the the excitement of never knowing what you'll find and the fun of finding a great deal.  Garage sales are one of my best money saving home design tips and they didn't disappoint this weekend.  Today I'm participating in the Thrifty Treasures round-up at Southern Hospitality to share my finds.

I went to 4 garage sales this weekend, but only bought from one of them. It started of with a disappointment when a lady walked into a garage sale right in front of me and purchased a couple vases I was admiring.  But I lucked out at the last garage sale I went to where I found 2 of these greater planters:



I bought 2 planters for $4 for both!  What a great deal, I had been waiting for planters to go on end-of-summer sale, but couldn't find anything I liked for under $25/$30.  So now I am able to take my fun palm tree out of its plain black planter:


And give it this pretty new home for just $2:


Plus I have another planter that I can use for an additional plant.  I have an indoor plant that's looking for a new planter to dress it up.  Do you think this pot can be used indoors?  Find any good garage sale deals yourself this weekend?

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I stopped by TJ Maxx and Home Goods yesterday and scored some awesome finds. Home Goods didn't have much, but TJ Maxx was having a huge clearance. I would recommend stopping by your local store to see if they're having a big clearance sale as well.

In particular, my store had a ton of glassware on clearance.  I spotted these sets of 3 glass canisters for just $5.  Unfortunately I couldn't think of a use for them myself (I brainstormed, believe me), but they would make a great gift or would look nice displayed in a kitchen or even bathroom.  Any suggestions on how I can use these?  I really wanted to get them since they're such a steal, but can't think of a good use.





I also have all of the glasses I need and had to pass on these, but they are super cute and cheap for just $5.50 for a set of 10 glasses:

But I did find these pair of pretty hurricane vases for just $3 for the set.  And this nice glass candle holder for just 50 cents!



Without luck, I even braved the clearance linens aisle which was a total mess.  Brace yourself:
Yikes!!!

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I have another lighting update to share today!  Hubby and I have been busy bees this summer doing some work in our yard (and coincidentally nearly getting attacked by bees many times).  I have some very exciting projects and photos to share of that later, but for now I wanted to share the outdoor lighting fixture we replaced.  Upon moving in, we had this boring lighting fixture in our yard.  It was plain, not so pretty, and dirty.



 A couple of weeks ago, we were in Walmart and spotted this outdoor white coach lantern on clearance for just $13.  Very traditional looking, but a much needed fresh looking upgrade.  After learning how to replace a lighting fixture while revamping my kitchen light, the lantern was a breeze to install (although we did get attacked by mosquitoes while doing so).



For under $15 and very little time, we have a nice new outdoor light!

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Conserve Energy at Home


August 25, 2009
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Rob & I had a big shock yesterday when we opened up our gas and electric bill yesterday and saw how crazy high it was.  The electric portion was insane due to all of the air conditioning use.  While I like enjoying the summer warmth, Rob does not and likes the house too chilly for my taste.  We can't cut the A/C usage while he's home, but I did come up with some other ideas to cut our energy bill.  These are super easy to do since most of them involve simply shutting things off when you're not using them.  How easy!




 Your couch doesn't need the AC: Turn off, or lower, the air conditioning while no one is home. No need to pay to chill the house when no one's there to enjoy to coolness (or suffer and freeze in my situation!). This may seem like an obvious solution, but we need to be better about it. Our house retains heat/cold well, so it's not an issue to shut off the air conditioning while we're gone. If you leave/come home at the same time each day, you can even program your A/C to do this for you.

Don't get scorched:  Water heaters have a thermostat that sets the maximum water temperature.  If you can make the shower water scorching hot and much hotter than you need it, then you have some room to dial down the maximum water temperature.  Around 120 degrees F is a good maximum temp.  This will prevent energy from being wasted as the water heats to temperatures higher than you'll ever need.  Plus every 10 degrees you lower the temperature, saves 600 pounds of CO2 a year (440 pounds for gas heaters).




Your clothes don't mind cold showers: Laundry uses lots of power between heating the water, running the washing machine, then running the dryer.  Wash as much as you can in cold water so you can conserve some power heating the water. Try to cut down on dryer usage also by line drying or flat drying clothing.  You can also partially dry things in the dryer and then line/flat dry until completely dry (works well for things like blankets and towels) 



Water heaters like to be cozy too:  A special "blanket" can be purchased and wrapped around your water heater to insulate it better.  This will reduce it's standby heat loss and lower your water heating costs by 4%-9%.  The blankets are only $10-20, so this is a quick and inexpensive improvement.


    There are about 20 vampires in your house:  Many electronics are energy "phantoms" or "vampires", they use electricity even when turned on.   If your device has a digital clock, remote, or little red light signaling it's off then it's still using electricity.  Unplug things like tvs, microwaves, radios, video game systems, chargers, dvrs, and vcrs (seriously you're not using that vcr, you can unplug it) when not in use.  Things that are a pain to unplug can be plugged into a power strip with an off switch.  Turn the power strip off easily and cut off electricity to your vampire electronics.  Computers too!  Unused monitors shouldn't stay on for longer than 20 mins and computers for more than 2 hours. 


For more ways to save money, check out my home improvement money saving tips or read more about conserving energy from these resources I researched: Energy Savers, Household Electricity Report, Energy Vampires .

Shared on Frugal Friday

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I've been doing a lot of online furniture shopping lately (looking for family room side tables), and I can't believe the price differences between stores.  I've seen big price gaps between very similar pieces of furniture sold in different stores and I've even seen price differences between the same exact furniture being sold in different places.

So I'd like to play a little game...which piece of furniture is more expensive?  Today, I'm featuring discount bedroom furniture finds.  Which of these very similar furniture pieces is the pricier one and which is the cheaper:

Upholstered Headboard:














White Eight Drawer Bedroom Dresser:











Black Curved Nightstand:



















Answers!

Upholstered Headboard:
Left:  Target Tudor Headboard $329
Right:  Williams-Sonoma Gramercy Headboard $1,250

White Eight Drawer Bedroom Dresser:
Left:  Crate and Barrel Cubix Eight-Drawer Dresser $1,199
Right: Ikea Hemnes 8-Drawer Dresser $279 

Black Curved Nightstand:
Left: Pottery Barn Julia Bedside Table $199
Right: Bellacor Black Wooden Accent Table $67.50

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DIY Window Valance


August 18, 2009
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I'm very excited to share this DIY sliding glass door valance I made yesterday! Since we moved into our house, I've been brainstorming window treatments for our kitchen's sliding glass door which leads to our patio. I wanted to still use vertical blinds for privacy, but add something to them to dress them up.


I considered hanging curtains on each side but since this is a busy door, I didn't want them getting in the way every time we walked in and out of the house. So I've been looking for a valance to use at the top, in addition to the blinds. Unfortunately, I need something very wide which is both expensive and difficult to find. Plus, I wanted something to match the blueish curtains I have in my adjoining family room to tie the two rooms together.

With no luck finding anything to buy, I found this beautiful table runner in Home Goods for $15. It is the perfect color and has a beautiful design so I transformed it into a diy window valance!


Since it was a bit wider than I needed, I folded 4" at the top and secured the valance with a safety pin about every 8-10 inches.


Since the valance has a lining, I was able to secure the safety pins through the lining without having to make a visible hole in the outer layer of the fabric that everyone could see. The safety pins hold the valance very well, so for a no sew window valance, you can just hang it after pining in place.


For a more long lasting design, you can sew little stitches where the fabric is marked with the safety pins. Once sewed or pinned, simply slip a curtain rod in and tada! An easy diy (no sew) window valance!

I love this look, but need to mess with it a little more as it is still too short for my very wide sliding glass door. But overall, I love this look and recommend this super easy window treatment. Now I just need to upgrade the blinds!


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When we were house shopping and walked into our house for the first time, we both agreed that the water feature would look great in the front living room. Both of us are big water people and love everything from fountains to the ocean. Come Christmas time, I wanted to buy Hubby an indoor fountain for the living room. I looked around online and found this "Leaf Sun" floor fountain from Seventh Avenue. After a few more searches I found what appeared to be the same fountain on sale on Ebay for much less and ordered it. When the fountain arrived, I was very disappointed. Although it functioned, the fountain was poorly put together, was made cheaply, and looked cheap overall with cracks in the paint and a totally messy appearance (note: although it looks identical in the photo, I'm not sure if the Seventh Avenue fountain would be the same quality). I tried to return it, but would have needed to pay a hefty price to ship it back (and swallow the original shipping cost I paid). So we decided to keep it and make the best of it.




After a few months of disappointment, I finally bought a few cans of spray paint and decided to fix the fountain myself. I chose a textured stone finish spray paint for the body of the fountain. The texture helped hide any imperfections in the structure and gives the fountain a more upscale look.


Then I painted the leaves/moon (after protecting the inside as shown) with a gold spray and used a darker hammered finish paint which I already had to accent the tree branches. I sprayed the darker color onto a crumpled up newspaper and dabbed it on the fountain to give the branches a cool streaky look that mimics real tree branches.



For less than $10 I was able to salvage this fountain and turn it into one I am proud to display. The final product is what I had wanted all along! Ah, the magic of spray paint.

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Ikea has been advertising lots of really great deals lately. Along with their recent 2010 catalog release, they posted a slew of reduced priced items for the year:


I also signed up for their email list and have been getting some really good deals emailed to me weekly. I think their sales differ by store, but here's what I got for the Philadelphia store. This week they have the Liden TV bench on sale, usually $50, now for $30. I bet this could be stained a variety of lovely colors or painted black for a sleek look.


And next week they have this Leksvik coffee table with foldable leafs on sale for $80, instead of $180. Talk about a deal!


I'm thinking of stopping by Ikea next week. Get any good finds there lately?

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Yesterday I posted some of my money saving home improvement tips, today I have another one: re-purposing furniture. After getting a new coffee table and console table for my living room, my existing side table looked crowded. After a little brainstorming, I realized it would be perfect to dress up my adjoining dining room which was in need of some more furniture. Since dining rooms don't really require end tables, I decorated it to become a wine cart! With a few bottles of wine, glasses, and a dressy napkin my wine cart was born! This simple furniture fix used items I already had and cost me $0!



I've been looking around for a wine rack to place on top of the table which may define it more as a wine cart. I've also considered hanging a holder in the compartment below so I can hang my remaining wine glasses. Although this would be very cool, since we're not huge wine drinkers and guests would rarely/never see that feature below, we decided to keep it as a general storage space (I think we have some party decorations in there). So there you go, old piece of furniture, new use, new look for $0. What furniture pieces have you re purposed?

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Over at Young House Love, young home owners Sherry and John posted some money saving tips they've come across to keep some more dough in their pockets each month. They've inspired me to share some of my money saving home design tips:

• Use Coupons!
This one may seem fairly obvious, but it’s actually surprising how many stores offer coupons, they’re not just for grocery stores! Before making any big purchases (online or in-store), I Google the store name and “coupons”, “printable coupons,” or “promo codes” and see what comes up. Sometimes I find nothing, but other times I can save big. Either way, it’s worth the 2 minutes to do a simple search. Some stores, like AC Moore and Michaels, always post their coupons online so I never go into the store without having one printed. Just this week, I saved about $7 by using 40-50% off coupons in AC Moore.

• Sign-Up for Store Mailing /Emailing Lists
This one goes along with the coupons suggestion. Signing up for mailing lists, email lists, newsletters, and shopping clubs is a great way to get sale notifications, special offers, and coupons. I sign up for pretty much every store email list I come across using a separate email address just for these types of emails, this way my personal email doesn’t getting clogged and I don’t miss out on any deals. I get coupons emailed directly to me and I store them in my inbox until I’m ready to go to the store and print them. Even stores with highly coveted coupons like Home Depot send coupons by email. Recently, I joined the Home Depot Garden Club and have been receiving some sweet coupons for 10-15% and buy one get one free off plants (which I used on my gorgeous hibiscus). When installing my patio this summer, I saved over $150 by using 10% off movers coupon at Home Depot.


• Shop More Often
This may sound counter-intuitive, but I’ve saved lots of money by shopping more often! The trick is to go shopping without necessarily buying. I regularly stop by stores like Ross, Christmas Tree Shop, and Home Goods to check out their inventory. Buy stopping by these types of discount stores regularly, I can catch great deals when they come in, saving me money over having to buy the item in a more expensive store later. Plus by going into these stores regularly, I can wait for things to go on clearance and grab them off the sales rack to save even more. I can’t even begin to estimate how much I’ve saved by buying things on clearance because about 90% of what I buy has that lovely read clearance sticker on it!

• Comparison Shop
I won’t even go into the need to price compare between stores since I expect all Thrifty Theresas and Frugal Franks to already be doing this (plus it’s so easy to do online these days!), but I will mention price matching. Many big stores, like Home Depot and Lowes and electronics stores, will price match you if you find the same item cheaper elsewhere. But sometimes they will even price match another store if you find a similar item cheaper elsewhere. For example, Lowes was selling some patio pavers for a $1.74 each while Home Depot was selling very, very similar ones for $2.34 each. I wanted the Home Depot ones more and they wanted my business so after mentioning the thousands I’ve spent in their store recently and asking for a price match, they gave me one and I saved about $20.

• Buy Used
Buying gently used items from garage sales, craigslist, and flea markets is one of the best ways to save lots of cash. In addition to saving some green, you’re also being green by reusing someone else’s unwanted items and preventing them from ending up in landfills and stopping more waste by purchasing items new.

    o Craigslist Craigslist is such a great site, whenever I’m looking to make a big purchase that I wouldn’t mind buying used I start searching on Craigslist. I’ve saved hundreds (really!) by buying items on Craigslist like an elliptical machine (saved over $100) and a brand new bed boxspring (it was right from the store and still in the plastic, but I saved over $100 than what I would have paid in-store). Craigslist even has a “free” section where you can get other people’s cast offs for no change at all.
    o Garage Sales I love the fun of hunting for items and never knowing what treasures you’ll come across. Like Craigslist, garage sales let you save green and be green. Plus they’re a great way to get some fresh air and even exercise on a Saturday morning instead of lying around in bed. Most recently, I’ve scored some great garage sale finds like a $35 lighting fixture I was going to buy at Lowes anyway for just $1, a pair of buffet lamps for $5, a cool tea box for $3, and a cookbook for 25 cents. Just from those garage sale finds I saved about $100.  
    o Flea Markets Like garage sales, flea markets are great to save tons of cash on used items, but they are also a great place to buy new items. Many flea markets have stands with “dealers” selling new items they’ve bought at store closeouts. Flea markets are also a great place to buy plants, flowers, and trees. Recently, I bought 4 golden threadleaf cypress shrubs for $10 at a local flea market, while a pricier garden center was selling them for $40 each, a savings of $120! I also bought a crape myrtle tree that’s about 6 feet tall for $20, where the big home improvement stores were selling 1 foot trees for the same price.


So the total savings over the last couple of months just from the examples mentioned above is a whopping... $600!!!


How do you save money around your home?

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As I've been decorating my new home I've learned some decorating basics, which I'm here to share with you! Today I bring you the first installment of my home decorating 101 tips which is home lighting design.

A room's lighting sets the tone for the room, dimmed lights are more romantic and formal, while bright lights are more casual and energtic. Dimmer switches are great because they let you modify how much light you get and can also save energy by keeping lights dimmed when brightness is not necessary. Kitchen lighting can be a bit tricky since bright light is needed for cooking, but a dimmer light is usually perferred for entertaining. I don't have dimmers in my kitchen, so instead I utilize 2 sets of lights. One is a ceiling fixture that hangs above my cooking area and the second is a lighting fixture above my kitchen table with a more gentle light.

But there was a problem with the lighting fixture above our kitchen table- it was hideous! No sense in worrying about how lighting sets the mood when the actual light fixture is so ugly! The previous owner took her kitchen light fixture with her when she left and left me with this less desirable one that the builders put in:


Upon moving in, hubby and I picked out a new light fixture from Lowes. But it sat in our garage until one day I decided I could no longer look at the old one. I had no idea how to install a lighting fixture, but what better way to learn than to play with electricity and try it out myself! It was surprisingly very simple (although it looked daunting at first).


First (and most importantly) turn off the power to the circuit you will be messing with in the breaker box! It's then pretty simple to mount the fixture and wire it. Since the instructions that came with my fixture were awful, I used this handy video to learn how to mount and wire the fixture:


Not only do I now have the satisfaction of knowing how to replace a light fixture myself, but now I have this beautiful lighting fixture in my kitchen. Tada!


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Target did not disappoint this week with some more great home finds on sale in their weekly ad. I totally love the Closetmaid organization system they have on sale this week. I am so tempted to completely redo my closet with this. I have a nice walk-in with wire shelving, but I think the laminate closet organization system they have on sale would give my closet a professional look and would add some additional drawer space I'm lacking. I think I will stop by my store this week to check out how much it would cost for a total redo.




I am so inspired that I even mocked up this closet with the items they have on sale. The 3 shelf unit on the left and the horizontal shelves at the top are on sale for $10.99 and the rest of the pieces are on sale for $24.99. So the entire closet system I mocked up here would be about $183 (plus the clothing rods). But if you order online and spend over $125, you get 15% off bringing the cost to $155. I think that is pretty good deal for a diy custom built closet. What do you think? Has anyone upgraded their closet with an organizational system?

UPDATE: I stopped by Target to check out this system in person. I was sort of disappointed and chose not to buy it. I was hoping this system could add a high-end look to my master bedroom closet, but I didn't think it looked nice enough to add any value to my house.

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Although it totally depresses me that stores start selling back to school supplies in June (sad reminders that summer will be over before you know it), I do enjoy back to school dorm stuff sales in August. A bunch of stores are advertising sales for cute organizational stuff, bathroom supplies, and small pieces of furniture. Target has some super cute things on sale this week.

These very cute stick lamps come in a slew of colors and patterns and are only $12 at Target this week! I might get one for my office. The black/white one is already sold out online, but is available in store.


They are also advertising this simple, cute black tv cart for just $15. I haven't seen it in store, so I don't know what the quality of this thing will be, but it got some good reviews. I can totally picture this with a DIY upgrade of nicer feet (I can't tell in the picture, but it looks like its on cheap wheels). You could also use some nice rich fabric to create a little curtain door for the front to dress it up a bit.


They also have some nice, small desks and other stuff on sale that are available in store. Stayed tuned for other back to school decorating bargains and deals, I will be posting more as I find them.

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