Tips for the Holidays: Games, Decorations, Free MP3s, and more!

There's nothing like the mix of joy and stress that comes with the holiday season! To make it a little easier, here are some tips for saving money during the most wonderful time of the year!

When wrapping presents, use pages from the past year's calendar to wrap smaller gifts--two taped together are great for books or DVD sets. You can also have your kids draw on some taped-together printer paper and use that. After everyone's done opening their presents, don't forget to save bigger sheets of paper, bows, and pretty cards (to use for next year's gift tags). We keep our stash in one of those giant popcorn tins with a Christmas design from years ago!

If your front lawn still seems empty, check out KMart's sale on lights and decorations (both indoor and outdoor). Just make sure you get LED lights, which will only cost you 12 cents per strand this month in electricity, as opposed to the $10 traditional lights would cost to light.

Supplement your holiday soundtrack with these free, legal holiday MP3s from Amazon: A nice orchestral version of Joy To The World, Lady Gaga's Christmas Tree (for your teenagers), a fun Deck The Halls by Los Straightjackets, Silent Night by Sixpence None the Richer, and a beautiful Tori Amos song, "Snow Angel".

If opening presents is going to take drastically less time than usual this year, fill the gap by starting some new Christmas traditions. Make a popcorn string for the tree, cut out sugar cookies with differently colored sugars for decoration, or try this game to make gift-opening take longer (it's a favorite at our gatherings): Find as many holiday present rejects as you have people playing--all those candles with scents you can't stand, weird gifts from office gift exchanges, or your silliest finds from the dollar bin at Target. Wrap each one and have each guest pick a gift. Go around the room clockwise, starting with the youngest person. Before opening their gift, guests can decide to trade with someone else (even if that person's gift has been unwrapped). After one round of gift opening, have one more round of trades, with players deciding if they want to keep their current gift or switch with someone else. You'll be surprised which gifts people actually like, and get a laugh at the expense of the person left with the worst one.

What are your holiday plans or money-saving tips? Tell us in the comments or link to your blog post below!

Household Tip of the Week: Keeping Trash Cans Smelling Fresh

When cleaning kitchens and bathrooms, sprinkle a little scouring powder like Comet (or better yet, a generic brand) at the bottom of trash cans. The powder will soak up any liquids if there is a leak in your bag, and keep your bin smelling fresh.

Thanks to reader Jennifer B from Illinois for the tip!

When are foods in season?

The best way to save on produce is to buy when it's in season. Any fruit or vegetable will be much cheaper when a farm near you is harvesting it, because you won’t have to spend money on the cost to transport it from another country. When a harvest has been particularly good, expect deep discounts as distributors try to get rid of a fruit or veggie before it goes bad. Visit our new website to find out when foods are in season!

Household Tip of the Week: Making Condiments Last

It's frustrating to have to throw out condiments like sour cream, mayo, yogurt, and mustard because you didn't use the entire container before it went bad. However, you can easily combat this by changing containers as you use up the item. Using a smaller container exposes the condiment to less air--and less bacteria. The trick, of course, is making sure you successfully transfer every bit of mayo possible from the jar to the tiny Tupperware. We usually do our container downsizing right before we're about to use the condiment on something--that way, we can scrape what we don't transfer for our sandwiches.

How Much Cash Back Does Your Bank Offer?

There's a great article in today's NY Times about online cash-back programs. They mention Fatwallet (I won't say "told ya so") and Ebate, but the really interesting part is their excellent overview on cash-back rewards programs offered by different banks and credit card companies. If you have a card with Chase, Citibank, Capital One, Discover, or American Express (yep, that's pretty much all of 'em), you can get money put directly into your checking account just for connecting to websites through their portal. (Basically, you visit their site first, then click on the link to, say, Amazonto get the reward.)

Incidentally, if you've never checked out the Times' archives on personal finance, you're missing out. They have the most informative article on credit scores I've ever read, and another one explaining which "free credit score" sites you can trust and why. And if you're feeling bad about your personal debt, check out their interactive feature that lets you compare your debt to the rest of the country' (25 percent of families owe between $100,000 and $320,000! .

Tips to Make Thanksgiving Easier!

I simply can't believe Thanksgiving is only three days away! I'm not sure how the time got away from me (but it always does). If you're hosting the big day at your house like we are, we have some great tips to make it easier for you!

Visit our new website for tips on how to cook a turkey, Thanksgiving decorations, and more!

"You can't use ALL those coupons at once!"

Over at Freebies4mom, Heather has a great post about what to do if your coupons get rejected. If you've ever walked into a grocery store worried about having too MANY coupons, you have to check this out.

Must-Visit Site of the Week:

No matter how hard we try, we always end up eating out way more than we'd like. It's easier to not feel bad about it when we go to a restaurant where the kids eat free. To find a bunch in your area, visit Enter your zip code and you'll find deals from chain restaurants and local joints alike, and they even have apps for iphones and blackberrys in case you need it on-the-go.

The only downside to this site is that you have to search by day of the week (there doesn't seem to be a "search all" option), but a restaurant that offers deals for kids also usually offers frugal prices for adult entrees, so this site could potentially save you hundreds (or if you're as bad as us, thousands) per year. Bon appetit!

Five Easy Ways to Save on Groceries

One of the questions we get asked the most is, "How do I save more money on groceries?"  Visit our new website for 5 easy ways to save hundreds of dollars on groceries each year.

The Best Free Online Courses for Resumes, Math Skills, How-Tos, Crazy-Smart People, and More

Reading a recent post over at Susan Heim on Partenting about the benefits of an online education for moms got me thinking that I should post some of the great, FREE online courses we have found while researching our books. The post on Susan's site focused more on online degrees, but I'm of the mind that it's not worth it to pay for classes unless you really think that degree could advance your career. There are several quality online programs that will teach you a lot and not charge you a cent.

Visit our new website to learn about the best free online courses!

Must-Visit Site of the Week:

While Oriental Trading may not have the most PC name, it does have fantastic deals on crafts, decorations, and large quantities of toys. If you're having a kids party, this is the must-visit site for goodie bags. For example, $25 for 50 glow bracelets, $8 for 72 sticky lizards, $9 for 48 yo-yos with snowflakes printed on them, and more.

Oriental Trading also has tons of fun decorations, and today, of course, begins their sale on Halloween decorations, so act fast if you want a cheap head on a platter for next year. Check their sale section for more deals on decorations for birthdays, baby showers, and more.

Right now, the site is running a contest to win $500 in Oriental Trading gift cards. You can enter every day, so check back frequently! They are also offering a FREE subscription to Martha Stewart Living (or an extension if you already subscribe) and free shipping if you spend $50. Not a bad deal!

Halloween Party? Here are some tips!

I wrote a post awhile back on some general household tips for Halloween, but as I start to think ahead to this Saturday, I thought those of you who are hosting a party for the ghoulishiest night of the year might need some help, too!

I'd like to tell you that I'm throwing a big bash, but truth be told, with getting costumes ready for the boys, writing Who Knew?'s new series of cookbooks, and two weddings to go to this October, I'm lucky I even remembered to buy pumpkins! Luckily my old college roomate is having a party--which is even better, because her name is Candy!

I called Candy and we talked Halloween parties (and old gossip) for a while... Visit the new Who Knew? website for some tips from her Halloween party and some parties I've had in the past. Let us know if you have more!

Sample New Proctor & Gamble Products

One piece of advice we always give our readers is to set up a separate email account for freebies. (It's also great to give out at stores and anywhere else you think might send you a lot of mail you don't want or sell your address.) The Proctor & Gamble newsletter, however, I get straight to my "real" inbox. It reminds me to collect my P&G freebies, it's a must-have coupon source for everything from fabric softener to cat food, and it also has some fun tips and tricks--and you know what household tip junkie I am! This month's free sample is for Oil of Olay bodywash. I'm hoping this one arrives before my other body wash samples run out! Maybe I'm just crazy, but I always feel better using a sample than something I paid for. Or maybe I just love saving that much....Click here to sign up for the newsletter and get their body wash sample, and enjoy!

A Sugary Cereal Trick

Sorry I haven't posted in a while! We've had two weddings in the month, and although it's been so much fun, it's eaten up a lot of time!

Bruce will be on HSN tomorrow morning selling Who Knew? II with our new calendar, so tune in while you're getting ready in the morning to see some fun household tips. You can catch him at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. eastern time. Meanwhile, I'm sorting through a million recipes for our next set of books: an as-of-yet unnamed series of cookbooks. They're going to concentrate on teaching people how to buy in bulk and cook their meals once a week (or once every other week, or once a month) to save time and money later on.

If there are any tips you'd like to share about how you make coupons work for you, save on meals, or making cooking for your family easier (and you wouldn't mind us using them in our book) please share! Here's something my friend Tina shared with me--it's too late for my kids, but maybe not for yours! Tina is one of those super-parents who doesn't let her children eat sugary cereal, so she uses it as a reward!

Kids who are not used to having a morning sugar fix normally like sugary cereal brands as much as they like candy, so why not use it instead? That way, when kids are getting a sugary treat for being good, they’ll at least getting it from a food that is also enriched with vitamins. And if you’ve been wanting to wean your children off the sugary stuff in the morning, this might be a good way to start!

If You Only Join One Website to Save Money...

If my friends roling their eyes everytime I bring up yet another savings website is any indication, not everyone is as nuts about finding good coupons as me. But even if trolling the internet for coupons isn't your bag, there is one site you definitely need to sign up for:

Fatwallet is one of the best ways to start saving money immediately and easily. All you have to do is log on to Fatwallet before making purchases at such websites as, Payless shoes,,, and Walmart. They'll give you money back on everything you buy--usually 2 to 8 percent, and let you know if there are any coupon codes for sales on the site. You can even earn cash back for using travel sites like, Expedia, and, and if you use an online dating site, you can save a huge portion on your membership ( gives you 30% back and 50%!).

You'll need a Paypal account and will have to wait several weeks to get your money back. But when it's as simple as clicking through, why not? (For more details on how it all works, check out their FAQ page.) And if you do enjoy coupon clipping, they also offer printable coupons and one of the best user forums about recent deals on the web.

By the way, if you visit FatWallet before buying our book you'll save an extra 4%! Even we can't offer you that deal.

A face mask for every skin type!

Who doesn't love some time at the spa...even if that spa is your bathroom with a couple of candles?  With these homemade face mask recipes, you’ll  not only save money and get the same results as expensive store-bought varieties, you won't mind that you had to lock the door so your kids won't barge in.

Cheap and FREE ways to learn to play guitar

Luis, one of our sons' best friends, has decided he wants to be a guitar player. Unfortunately, he refuses to practice! "He knows the basic how-tos," his mom Lupe told me, "but I feel like I'm throwing money away to pay for lessons, when getting him to practice is always a fight." This got me wondering about low-cost alternatives to expensive music lessons.

Visit our new website to learn about cheap and free ways to learn how to play the guitar.

Why We Love Meijer!

Every time we visit our friends Lora and Bill in Illinois, we have to take a trip to Meijer! If you live in IL, IN, MI, KY, or OH, you probably already shop at this superstore, which somehow manages to often have prices lower than Walmart.

But even if you don't live in the Midwest (or have a Lora and Bill to visit), you can visit Meijer's website, which has practically everything you could ever want to purchase--sporting equipment, furniture, toys, electronics, pet supplies, drug store items, and more. The best part of the site is their bulk grocery section--if you don't belong to a Sam's Club or Costo-type wholesale club, find your savings here!

Meijer already has ridiculously low prices, but if you sign up at and click thru to, you'll get 2% of your purchase back. That's an even better deal than shopping in person!
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