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How to Host a Successful Garage Sale

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How to Host a Successful Garage Sale

I've had several garage sales over the last decade, and I've made anywhere from $150 to over $1600 at my sales. Here are my tips for having a successful sale:

 

1. Pick a beautiful day (or two) for your sale

People like to go out when the weather is nice--not too hot, not too cold, and definitely not raining or super windy. If the weather has been nice for a few days before the sale, people will be looking forward to getting out.

 

2. Have enough stuff to sell.

No one will stop the car and get out if you don't have enough for sale, nor will you make much money.

Let people know you're having a sale ahead of time. Friends who have just a few items they need to get rid of are often happy to donate them to your garage sale rather than making a special trip to donate them somewhere else. 

Every sale I've had has had enough stuff because I've had items from others, as I'm not someone who buys a lot of things. When my grandmother moved from a house into an assisted living facility (basically a small apartment), we sold her unneeded items. When she died, we sold the rest of her items (this was my biggest sale). At that same sale, we knew a family who was moving the day of our sale. They left a bunch of stuff at their curb the night before that wouldn't fit in their moving van and told us we could have it all for our sale. One of the items was a large piece of furniture that we sold for $100! My parents have also given us whatever they were purging at the time (usually making up over half the items in my sale), and they often gave us a few extra items from friends who no longer needed them.

If you still don't have enough, combine forces with a friend (or two!) and host the sale together. Label items with different colored stickers so that you can keep straight where the money goes. I've stopped at huge sales and found out when I went to pay (and the sellers marked prices down by the color of the labels, or took the labels off and stuck them on a piece of paper) that the sale was hosted by more than one person.

 

3. Display your items on tables.

No one likes to bend over in your driveway and look through piles and boxes of items on the ground. If you don't have enough tables, borrow some for your sale and arrange your items neatly on the tables. Make a beautiful shopping display with like items to make it easier for your customers to find what they are looking for.

I like to have large items on one side of the driveway. On the tables, I'll arrange sections for different items: children's clothing (sorted by sex and size), women's clothing, men's clothing, housewares, (sorted by kitchen items, decorative items, bedding, etc.)  children's books, other books, etc.

As your sale continues throughout the morning, rearrange your items on the tables during slower times to keep the items looking neat. Refold clothing and re-stack items that have become disorganized.

In addition, if you can hang clothing (a pole between two ladders works well) your customers can see your clothing better, and it's more likely to sell than clothing that is folded.

 

4. Price everything ahead of time.

You will sell more items if people don't have to ask you the price. 

When pricing your items, remember: You want to get rid of these things and make some money doing it! Don't price items too high, or no one will buy them. Think about what price you would consider to be a good deal and price it accordingly.

Use stickers for individual items. You can also use signs in combination with stickers, such as a sign for all books or all clothing. I usually hang signs for books and clothing on the ends of the tables so that potential buyers can see them from the street as well as when they walk up to the sale.

In my area, some prices that I consider to be a good deal are the following:

Paperback books: $0.25 each

Hardcover books $0.50 each

Children's clothing: $0.50 each

Adult clothing: $1 each

Coats and Dresses: $1 to $3 each

If these items are more than that, I will hesitate before purchasing them when I go to a garage sale. I will pay up to $2 for clothing items if it is something I really like, but I am less likely to buy several items from the same seller. The more items you can get your customers to buy, the more you've gotten rid of, and the more they are likely to spend in the end.

 

5. Accept reasonable offers

Everyone loves a bargain. Especially on large items, people will offer you an amount lower than what you have priced. If it's not way lower than what you priced it at, accept the offer, or offer a slightly higher price back that is still lower than your original asking price. Remember, the goal is to sell the items, not have them left at the end of the day, and this person is actually interested in your item, so sell it to the interested party!

 

6. Advertise your sale

The night before the sale, put up a notice in the garage sale section of Craig's List for your city. List the items and prices of those items in your post. If you have clothing, be specific; i.e. "Boy's clothing sizes 5-8 $0.50." If you can take pictures ahead of time, include pictures of as much as possible.

The morning of the sale, I'll take pictures of my items in the driveway and use the same list to post the sale on the local Facebook page.

Another free place to list your sales is garagesales.net. 

 

7. Have good signage

I can't tell you how many customers have thanked me first thing as they come up to my sale for having had good signs! Most of your buyers will come from your signs.

I print my signs on colored paper on the computer and use packaging tape to tape them to boxes. I print in a large, bold print so that potential customers can easily read the signs. I include the date (or dates, if it's a two-day sale), the time of the sale, my street address, and a huge arrow pointing the correct direction. I make signs for both sides of the box so that it can be read from both directions at an intersection.

I use milk jugs filled with water to weigh down the boxes, and I place them on the concrete medians at the nearest intersections. I place another box with signs like this outside my housing tract. 

Once inside the tract, I have boxes with signs that just have large arrows printed on them at every turn.

I use the same colored paper for all of my signs, so that people know it's the same sale. I have used light blue and light green paper in the past, as that is what I had. The signs were colored but still easy enough to read.

 

8. Start early

The serious buyers will be at your house a half hour before you start your sale, hoping to find great deals while you're still setting up everything. They haven't spent their money yet, so they're more likely to spend more with you if you have what they want. Be ready for them by setting up early (I like to bring out tables about an hour and half before the sale starts), and advertise the start of your sale at 7 a.m. Be prepared to make most of your money between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. (Note: Start time vary by location; in some areas, no sales start before 9 a.m. Learn what is normal where you live).

If you have a place to stage tables indoors the night before, you can have non-breakable items already arranged on the tables. Then you simply have to carry your tables outside with the for-sale items on them. 

 

9. Greet your customers

A cheery, "Good morning!" is always helpful! Ask your customers if they're looking for anything in particular; perhaps you have that item and can help them find it amongst your items for sale. Tell them your prices, i.e. : "All paperback books are $0.25 and all hardcovers are $0.50. Clothing on the tables are $0.50 each and hanging clothing is $1 each." Even though your prices are posted, letting them know what they are will prompt them to look through things they might not have been considering. Have a lot of clothing in the same size? Don't be afraid to tell people! Likewise, let people know what other items you have; I have seen lots of potential buyers look through my sale items more closely after we've told them what we have in a cheery manner, and they have bought a lot more that way.

At a busy sale, it's important that customers know who's in charge. If they have any questions about an item, they know who to ask, and when they've found something they want, they know who to pay. Your greeting makes it easy to establish who is in charge of the sale.

 

10. Be helpful

Have plastic grocery shopping bags handy for your customers to put their items in. Ask your customers who are buying several items if they'd like you to start them a pile while they look around some more. This leaves their hands free to pick up more items that they might just buy. I've had customers hand me enough items for 2 to 3 piles while they look around.

 

11. Have change

I like to start out with at least $60 to $80 in change. Many people only have $20 bills. I go to the bank ahead of time and get ones, fives, and a roll of quarters. Just remember how much you started with when you count your profit at the end of the day.

I prefer to wear an apron with two pockets while I'm having the sale. In one pocket I keep bills, and in the other, I keep coins. This way I can walk around the sale and help customers without worrying about the money.

If I've made a lot of money, I take a second during a time of no customers to run inside and put some large bills/stacks of twenties in the house.

 

12. Have help

If you can sell with someone, you can both answer questions about items together, rearrange items during times of no customers, and give each other a chance to use the restroom. One of you can also watch your sale while you set up signs early in the morning and help you take signs down when the sale is done.

 

13. Consider a two-day sale

If you live in an area that has sales for two days, the real serious buyers come on the first day. You'll need to have lots of items in order to do this, but if you have enough, it's totally worth it. My highest profit garage sale (where I made over $1600) was held over two days. In our area, the big days are Fridays and Saturdays. Fridays are especially busy early in the morning, as people stop on their way to work. Find out what days are the most common sale days in your area. In some places, it's Thursday! You'll have the most success by selling on the days that people are normally out looking for sales.

 

14. Have a free box

While not absolutely necessary, a free box will often prompt people to stop. They may then end up deciding to look around the rest of your sale, since they have already gotten out of the car. I use a free box for items I think won't sell but that I still want to get rid of. Some things you may want to include in your free box are VHS tapes, clothing items that are really worn and/or outdated, promotional t-shirts and other promotional materials, stuffed animals, and items that may be missing pieces.

I set up the free box a little distance from the rest of my items. 

 

15. Donate what's left

At the end of your sale, (after you've taken down your signs) load up your vehicle and drive straight to the thrift store to donate any unsold items. In the U.S., you can receive a receipt for donated items and use it as a tax write-off. This nets you a bit more money on your sale in the form of lower income taxes next year.

 

 

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What You Really Need For a Baby The Prudent Homemaker

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

 

When I was pregnant with my first baby, money was super tight. I wondered what I really needed for the baby, and everyone would tell me the same thing, "You need everything." 

"But what about __________?" I would ask.

"Oh, yes, you have to have that," they would say.

It didn't seem possible to me that I had to have all of these many things for a baby, but no one could guide me to what a baby really needed, and what I could skip spending money on.

Eight babies later, I've found that a lot of those things people said I had to have (and that I thought I probably didn't) are things I didn't have to have, and even a lot of the things I thought I would need are things I have either done without or gotten rid of (because we rarely or never used them!)

I have received a lot of emails over the years from readers asking what items they have to have and what they can do without, because they have a small budget for their baby.

If you have a small budget and want to make sure you have the essentials, here's my list of what you really need--and remember, you can get almost all of these items used via yard sales, hand-me-downs, children's resale shops, thrift stores, Craig's List, and local Facebook garage sale pages.

 

1. A car seat

It needs to be rear-facing and up-to-date (not expired).  

In the U.S., you must have this in order to take your baby home from the hospital. Even if your children are all born at home, like mine have been, you still need a car seat. You'll also need an infant insert to hold a newborn's head.

 

Sleeping Baby The Prudent Homemaker

 

2. A place for the baby to sleep

More than likely, you'll need a crib of some kind. It can be a small crib, it can be a used crib (try Craig's List, garage sales, Facebook garage sales, and children's resale shops). You'll also need a crib mattress and bedding. For bedding, you need 2 bottom sheets, 2 mattress pads, and 2 blankets. I personally also like waterproof crib pads that go in between the waterproof mattress pad and the sheets; they save you from having to take off the mattress pad every time your child spits up or has a leaky diaper while sleeping.

What you don't need:

A bassinet, a cradle, or a matching bedding set with a quilt. The baby will quickly outgrow the first two, and the big fluffy quilts that come in the sets are too large and too thick. A crib bumper is no longer recommended in the U.S. (as it is considered a suffocation hazard) and is also difficult to tie on and off every time you change the sheets.

Gender-specific crib sheets. If you opt for neutral colors, you can feel good about using the same sheets for each baby (of course you can use pink sheets for a boy, but many people would prefer not to. If you start with a neutral color, you won't have to feel obligated to buy different sheets if you have a baby of the opposite sex later).

Note that many places recommend not using blankets but using sleeping sacks instead. Despite this recommendation, I have never known anyone who didn't use blankets with their baby at some point, whether in the crib, while sleeping elsewhere, while being held, while swaddled, to cover the car seat when the sun in shining in the baby's eyes, or to lay down on the floor for the baby to play on. Chances are good that you won't need to buy any baby blankets; they are a gift that everyone loves to give. I've received over 80 baby blankets with my 8 children!

Receiving blankets are too tiny to be of much use. Many parents prefer a larger muslin blanket like this.

 

3. A place for the crib

This can be in your room or in another room. 

What you don't need:

A decorated nursery. Yes, it's pretty. Your baby will still be just fine without it. Your baby will notice your love and affection more than anything on the walls, a mobile, a rug, or coordinating decorations.

 

4. A place to feed the baby

A chair with arms is the most comfortable option. A place to put your feet up is a bonus but not required. I've nursed most of my children at the computer sitting in the computer chair, because it has arms. This website was started while I fed my 5th baby!

What you don't need:

A glider rocker with matching gliding ottoman.

I really wanted one of these with my first baby. We had 7 chairs at our house when my first was born--4 metal folding chairs that we used as kitchen chairs, 2 computer chairs without arms, and one broken recliner with wood arms. I used the rather uncomfortable recliner with my first two babies, until we bought a computer chair with arms when I had my third. Some type of chair with arms is helpful for nursing or bottle feeding.

 

5. A way to feed the baby

 

If you nurse your baby, you'll need at least 2 to 3 nursing bras. I cannot recommend getting fitted for a nursing bra enough! Department stores have women trained to fit you for a bra, and even if you've been fitted for a regular bra, your size will change when you are nursing. A comfortable nursing bra is important, and a properly fitting bra will be much more comfortable than one that rides up or pinches you.

Nursing pads are essential to keep you from leaking milk through your shirt. I like these disposable ones and these washable ones.

A nursing cover is wonderful for discreetly nursing (and fastening your nursing bra and shirt after you're done nursing). I've used blankets before, but the cover doesn't slip when I'm buttoning my shirt or the baby decides to flail his arms. 

If you're formula feeding, you'll need formula (of course), bottles, nipples with different numbers of holes depending on the baby's age, and a bottle brush.

If you're planning on pumping your own milk, you'll also need those items (minus the formula). You'll need a breast pump. This may be covered by your health insurance.

If you don't know what brand of formula you want to use, you can sign up before your baby is born on different companies' websites, and they'll send you free samples and coupons.

Burp cloths. Babies spit up. Some babies barely spit up, and some babies spit up a lot. Prefold cloth diapers work as great burp cloths, or you can purchase or make some.

 

What you don't need: 

Special nursing clothing. A regular t-shirt and/or button-front shirts work fine. If you like to wear a dress, a button front bodice or a criss-crossing bodice (such as in a wrap or faux wrap dress) will work for nursing.

A nursing pillow. If you really want a pillow, try using a pillow you already have.

A bottle sterilizer. You can wash bottles in the dishwasher, and if you don't have one, you can dip them in boiling water in a pot on the stove--or simply wash them well.

Nursery water. As long as you have clean, safe drinking water where you live, you don't need to mix your formula with bottled water.

 

6. Diapers and Wipes

Cloth or disposable, you'll need something. Baby wipes (cloth or disposable) are also needed. You'll want a place to dispose of the diapers (if disposable) or a bucket to put cloth diapers and wipes in until you're ready to wash them. You'll also want something to put them in until you're ready to use them (a basket, a drawer, etc.) 

Both cloth and disposable diapers can be done on a low budget. I have done both and prefer disposable. I buy the Target brand diapers when they have sale and gift card offers. I use the Costco wipes (a box is $20 but it also goes on sale for $16 a few times a year). I find that one box of wipes lasts me 9 months. I usually spend around $250 a year for disposable diapers and wipes.

You'll likely also want to use a diaper rash ointment and some baby powder.

What you don't need:

A diaper pail. This is one of those items that we registered for, received as a gift, used for the first two children, and then we decided we didn't need it. We had a diaper pail that took regular trash bags. Starting with my third, the babies have all been changed in my room. We found it easy enough to put the diapers in the bathroom trash can (under the sink in a cabinet) and to empty that trash can every day. Emptying it every day is the best way to not have a stinky nursery. If you are changing a baby in a nursery, you may find a trash can with a lid (that you can line with plastic grocery sacks) to be the easiest option.

 

7. A place to change the baby

Somewhere to change diapers is important. If you have a two-story house, you'll want somewhere to change diapers on each level. 

This can be as simple as a waterproof pad. I use a waterproof crib pad with two cloth prefold diapers on top. If the baby spits up on the top or the diaper leaks while changing a diaper, I can replace that cloth diaper with another for the next time. You can also opt for changing the baby on a bath towel folded in half. Both of these options will can be done on a bed or on the floor; I change my babies at the foot of my bed.

A portable diaper changing pad is useful when you leave the house--and you can use in to change the baby on at home, too!

What you don't need:

A changing table. They're an expense that wasn't in our budget with our first, and we made it work without one. It worked fine, and so, 8 babies later, I've never used one. Are they nice? Sure! But if one isn't in your budget, you can put down a waterproof crib pad on your bed or on the floor and change a diaper there (and if you have a two-story home, you might not always change the baby in his room!) Don't stress over having one if it isn't in your budget. I did--but we made it work without, and once I realized we were fine without one, we never bought one, even when we had the money to do so.

 

8. A place to wash the baby

I had a baby bathtub that I used with each of my eight babies, and I gave it away after our eighth. I won't be getting another one for my ninth.

I only used the baby bathtub on occasion, when my babies were younger than four months. After that age, you can sit up (while you hold the child) a baby in the kitchen sink for a bath. 

Most of the time, however, we bathed the baby by having dad hold the baby in the shower while I washed the baby (standing right outside the shower). This was the simplest way for us and why we rarely used the baby bathtub.

Used baby bathtubs are usually free for the asking; people can't seem to give them away. If you want one, ask around, and the chances are pretty good that you can find one for a song or even for free.

You'll want some baby soap. I highly recommend smelling the different brands if you can before you commit to a brand; you may find that you like the scent of some and hate the scent of others. This is a gift that you may receive in a baby shower, too, giving you the chance to try out a couple of different brands in small bottles.

A couple of small, soft baby washcloths are nice, but you can also use a regular washcloth.

What you don't need:

Baby towels; they are rather small and thin. They never kept my babies warm when taking them from the bath (even when it's 78ºF in my house half the year) and my babies outgrew them in the first few months. A regular towel will do just fine, be large enough, and be thick enough to keep your baby warm between the bath and getting dressed (and not be too wet to dry your baby like the thin, tiny baby towels).

 

8. Clothes for the baby (and a place to put them)

There is a reason so many people say that their baby outgrew clothing before it was already worn. If you have more baby clothes than you need, this can easily be a problem.

If you have a baby shower and people know what sex the baby is, you will most likely receive a lot of clothing, and it will quite possibly all be in the 0-3 month size. Don't be afraid to exchange clothing for a larger size.

A new baby spends most of his time sleeping. When your baby is less than 3 months old, you can easily have the baby wear pajamas all day long.

How many clothes you need in each size depends on a couple of things: how often your baby spits up, how often your baby has a leaky diaper, how many times you want to change the baby's clothing, and how often you do laundry. How many layers you need will depend on the season, the climate you live in, how warm you keep your house, whether or not you keep your baby swaddled in a blanket, and if you take the baby outdoors often or keep the baby inside.

Baby clothes are often freely handed down; you can quickly end up with more than you will use. They are also a great buy at garage sales.

Any dresser will do for your baby; if your baby is in your room, one designated drawer will keep all of your baby clothes handy. Baby hangers are very helpful for hanging clothes in a baby's room (or in your own closet, if the baby is in your room) and you'll use the fo years until your children need adult-sized hangers.

What you don't need:

Baby shoes. Babies won't need shoes until they are walking, and even then, they will do best barefoot most of the time. My babies have almost all walked early (at 9 months) and I don't purchase shoes until they have been walking for a few months. 

12 of everything. 6-8 of most items of clothing per size is more than sufficient if you do laundry every couple of days. A couple of hats (or even just one) when your baby is brand-new to the world are useful, but you'll quickly no longer need them (and your baby will quickly outgrow them).

Special baby detergent. Babies clothing can be washed with your regular clothing. You will want stain removers.

 

9. A few hygiene items

Baby nail clippers are one of the best things ever.

A small comb with fine teeth works well for combing fine baby hair--but it doesn't have to be a special baby comb. 

A nasal aspirator (referred to as a "booger sucker" at my house) is extremely helpful in unclogging a stuffy baby's nose. The larger the aspirator, the better; tiny ones are not worth your money.

What you don't need:

Baby brushes. These usually come packaged with a baby comb and sometimes with nail clippers. If your baby has fine hair, a comb is more useful than a brush. 

Special wipes for the baby's nose.

 

10. Baby medicine

When your baby is fussy, crying, and won't sleep, it can be overwhelming. It's helpful to have a few items in the medicine cabinet before your baby is born.

Gas drops. The store brand of these works just fine, as this tiny bottle can be expensive. I always find I need these in the middle of the night the first couple of weeks after my babies are born, when they won't stop crying and arching their backs from stomach pain.

Baby acetaminophen. Babies can only have acetaminophen during the first six months to reduce fevers. You can add infant ibuprofen to your medicine cabinet after that.

Garlic Ear Drops. These are amazing. Everyone I've told about these (and loaned my bottle to) has ended up keeping the bottle and buying me a new one, because they loved the product so much! If your baby (or child, or YOU) has an earache, these drops get rid of it very quickly (only 4 times have I ever needed to administer a second round of drops), and save you a trip to the doctor for an earache (and ten days of antibiotics)!

Oral Relief Tablets. I found these easier to administer and more effective than teething ointment.

 

11.  A stroller

I thought I needed a large stroller that my car seat could clip into, with a big basket underneath and a place for me to put a drink.

By the time my third baby was born, I had used that stroller less than 10 times with my first 2.

When I went shopping, I would put the baby's carseat into the shopping cart. Once the baby was bigger, I would put the baby right in the child seat in the cart. Most places I shopped (grocery stores and big box stores) had carts, so this worked fine.

When we went places, I usually found it easiest to just carry the baby. I rarely needed the stroller.

Eventually, I bought a smaller umbrella stroller at a garage sale for $7 (after my 5th was born). We were going a few more places and I found the lightweight stroller to be so much easier to use. I sold the big stroller at a garage sale.

Whether or not you need a stroller (and what kind) really depends on your lifestyle. Realize, too, that you may decide to stay home more once you have a baby.

 

Ivory Baby Toys The Prudent Homemaker

 

12. A few baby toys

Babies are curious about new things. Once they've learned all about something, they often tire of it and want to learn about something new. Once they can crawl and walk, they no longer want baby toys--they want to play with everything else in the house (including everything in your kitchen cabinets).

Before our eighth was born, I narrowed down the baby toys to the toys my young babies liked the most, and I donated everything else. What we kept for our eighth baby included the following: Sophie the Giraffe, Oball shaker, and Links

 

What you don't need:

A bouncer, a swing, playmats, and large baby toys that take up huge amounts of space. 

None of these made my babies happy. The baby would constantly slide sideways in the bouncer and preferred just to be held, and once the baby was 4 months old, all of my babies preferred time on a blanket on the floor instead. The swing had similar issues, and once I had a couple of children, the swing became something that the toddler just want to push really high and really fast! Every mom told me these were necessary items, but we found that they weren't something we had to have at all.

 

13. A diaper bag--or something to carry your baby supplies in when you leave the house

You don't have to have an actual diaper bag with pockets for bottles inside. If you bottle feed, they are certainly helpful, but any bag will work to transport diapers, wipes, a baby blanket, a nursing cover, bottles and formula, burp cloths, a diaper changing pad,  and a change of baby clothing. You can use a large purse, a backpack, or a tote bag.

I found it heavy to carry around a large number of supplies in a diaper bag while also carrying a baby (or a sleeping baby in the carseat!). To make my life easier (and to relief the back pain) I started keeping a large container of wipes, several diapers, and an infant bodysuit in the car. In my bag I have 2 to 3 diapers and a small container of wipes (and when I am nursing, I have a nursing cover, 2 burp cloths, and a change of clothing for the baby). With a one-year-old currently in diapers, I can fit a couple of diapers and a small package of wipes in my vintage 1950's handbag, and I don't have to carry a large bag.

What you don't need:

A designer diaper bag.

 

14. A high chair and baby feeding supplies

You won't need this until your baby is able to sit up and eat food. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting babies on solids at 6 months or slightly later.

Baby bibs are important for feeding to keep your baby from staining his clothes. The larger the bib, the more of the baby's clothing that is protected. I use homemade bibs in dark colors (so that I don't need to use stain remover) that are large enough to cover their entire outfit. In the beginning, at 6 months, I'll use a slightly smaller bib that covers their entire torso.

Two baby spoons is more than enough for a baby; you can quickly wash them by hand and have them ready to use.

You can mash up what you're having; steamed fruits and vegetables are easy items to give to your baby. A blender can be used to puree your food and you can freeze food in ice cube trays to use later to feed your baby if you're making a bunch at once.

What you don't need:

Baby cereal, individual baby food containers, teething cookies, Cheerios, veggie straws, and toddler food. These can quickly add up and make your grocery budget double, with half the budget going towards baby food!

Not convinced you can do without baby food? French Kids Eat Everything is a book I highly recommend getting from the library and reading at least once! I watched the truthfulness of this when a French friend of mine came to visit and gave his 8-month-old steamed broccoli from his own plate at dinner at our house. The baby loved it!

 

Every mother is different, and every mother has her own personal favorites that she has to have. You'll find favorite brands of baby products, favorite kinds of baby blankets, and favorite products. You may find you can't live without some of the items that I mentioned as not being needs, and that's okay! In the end, you are the parent, and you get to choose what you want for your babies.

 

Ivory Blessing Day The Prudent Homemaker

 

 You may also enjoy reading: Our Baby Naming Day Tradition

 

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Rethinking Christmas Stockings

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Christmas Stocking 3 The Prudent Homemaker

A few years back, we were in need of new Christmas stockings. Our family had grown, and we didn't have enough matching stockings for the family.

At the same time, I had been seeing beautiful miniature stockings online made from vintage grain sacks. I loved the simple red stripes at the top and I especially loved the fact that the stockings were tiny. Small stockings (rather than ones that could fit an entire adult's arm) mean there is less to fill, and I can have a wrapped gift sticking out of the top, which is something I had always wanted to do. That didn't work with our previous stockings, which were so long I could fit all of our gifts for each person in with room to spare.

Chirstmas Stocking The Prudent Homemaker

I drew up a small stocking pattern and set to work. I didn't have vintage grain sacks, nor a budget for them, so I used my sewing machine to sew red stripes on some painter's drop cloth that I had previously bought at the hardware store. (Note: Our city got an Ikea store last year; they have dishtowels for $0.79 each that have red stripes at the top which would work beautifully to make these stockings).

Last year, with our new baby, I wasn't worried about hanging a stocking for him. Now that he's a year and a half, it's time for me to make a stocking for him too!

You can make your own small stockings out of your fabric of choice. Not a fan of red stripes? Try cutting up a velvet skirt or dress, or an old sweater that you find at the thrift store! Repurpose an old sheet to use as the lining.

Christmas Stockings The Prudent Homemaker

 

When it comes to filling the stockings, consider the simplest things.

In the toe, put a clementine or an orange. These are always on sale at Christmastime in the U.S.  (Readers in the Southern Hemisphere, please share your favorite summer fruits for stockings in the comments below!)

Include some candy and/or nuts. I like to buy some candy from the bulk section at Winco when it goes on sale right before Halloween and give that (this year I bought peppermint patties). Candy canes, purchased on sale, work well. I like to make homemade candies too, such as peppermint bark, which I put inside in plastic bags. For nuts, look at buying them in bulk from Sam's Club, Costco, Winco, or another place that sells bulk nuts. If you grow your own, whole nuts in the shell look pretty in stockings as well. If you prefer cookies to candy, a beautifully decorated Christmas cookie or two is a nice, edible gift.

For gifts, I like to keep the cost down. Most "inexpensive" stocking stuffer ideas that I see include several gifts that are $10-$20 each. Most years, that is my entire Christmas budget per person (candy and nuts come from my regular grocery budget, rather than my planned gift budget), which means I need to lower that amount considerably to keep within my budget for the year. I usually include two to three gifts per person in stockings. Here's some of what I like to include:

 

For my daughters:

Jewelry. I find pieces at garage sales for $1 an item. I'll make jewelry from repurposed or garage sale pieces. Broken or old costume jewelry is great for this purpose. I've also bought beads, elastic, and jewelry findings on sale to make pieces between $0.15 to $1 each.

Small toys. Garage sales are also a great place to find small toys. I found a number Legos for a total of $0.50 this year, and I'll divide these up between my four younger girls.

Art supplies. I purchase these for $0.25 to $1 at back to school sales.

Hair ribbons. I buy them on sale by the spool and cut them on the diagonal (to reduce fraying) in lengths for the girls.

Homemade barrettes.

Hair elastics. I buy these in packages of 100 from the dollar store.

Bobby Pins. I get these from the dollar store.

Hair brushes. I also get these from the dollar store.

 

For my sons:

Legos. Garage sales are again my source for the least expensive small Lego stocking stuffers.

More Candy and/or nuts. My boys like to have the same candy as their dad.

Ties. My boys wear a tie to church every Sunday. I find them at garage sales for $0.50 to $1 each.

 

For both boys and girls:

Toothbrushes. I buy them in packages of 4 or 5 for $1 from the dollar store (last Christmas I saw this same deal at Walmart too).

Chapstick. I often buy a bulk package and divide it up. I look for coupons and sales to get the price lower than $1 each.

Bouncy balls. You can buy a bag (usually of 6) in the party section of several stores.

Puzzles. The dollar store has small puzzles that fit in stockings. 

Earbuds. Again, I get these at the dollar store.

Bookmarks. Homemade bookmarks are a favorite gift at my house. My children are avid readers who always have a book going.

 

For my husband:

His favorite candy. At my house, this means a large bag of peanut M&Ms and/or a bag of Werther's. I can always find coupons and sales on these to get the price down considerably.

This is all I usually get my husband, but this year I'm thinking of adding a restaurant gift card using points I earn on Swagbucks. We don't usually exchange gifts between the two of us, so this would be a surprise. It also won't cost me anything at all!

Christmas Stockings detail The Prudent Homemaker

Reducing the size of your stockings makes it easier to fill a stocking and keep within a tiny budget. There's no need to feel obligated to spend money on stocking stuffers that will end up broken and unwanted before the New Year. Let your gifts be simple.

 

As I was writing this post, I asked my 12-year-old son what he loved getting in his stocking. He immediately mentioned the clementine, then candy, and then bouncy balls! And only then did he mention Legos. What my children have come to remember is the simple traditional items that we have included, and they look forward to them every year!

 

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Why I Don't Mind Being a One-Car Family

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One Car Family The Prudent Homemaker

 

Twelve years ago, after our third child was born, we sold both of our vehicles and bought a single vehicle for our family. We needed something that would fit three car seats and have rear air conditioning and tinted windows. In our heat, it can easily get to 140º in a car in the summer, so having these features in pretty essential in making sure that passengers in the back don't overheat; we run the air conditioning in our vehicle eleven months of the year.

After our seventh child was born, we needed a larger vehicle that would fit our larger family. We sold what we had and bought a used van for $500 over what we sold our previous vehicle.

 

Why I Love Being a One-Car Family:

 

1. We only have one car to register.

In our state, registration for a vehicle is pro-rated by the vehicle itself as well as the age of the vehicle.  It's several hundred dollars a year, even for older vehicles.

2. We only have one car to insure.

This easily saves us hundreds of dollars a year.

3. We don't have car payments.

Not making payments on multiple vehicles saves us a ton of money.

4. I have plenty to do at home.

Being home more often rather than running around gives me more time to do the things I want and need to do

5. I am happy at home.

I have been asked if I don't feel "stuck at home" with just one car. I have never thought of being in my own home as being stuck. Home is not a place I want or need to leave and get away from in order to feel complete each day. I try to make my home a beautiful place to be where I am surrounded by the people and things that I love.

 

The practicalities of living with one car: 

 

1. Most of the time, I don't go further than a two-mile radius.

Within that distance, I combine trips to save time and gas. We have a lot of stores within that distance. Once a month I'll go to Sam's Club (which is 5 miles) and a couple of times a year I run an errand a bit further out. 

2. I will make a trip to the store usually very early in the morning or late in the evening.

Stores are blissfully empty early in the morning, making it easy to check out quickly without a 20 minute time spent waiting in line. Late evenings are good for that as well, depending on the store. 

In our summer heat, running an errand during the day will literally wipe you out. Sure, it may only take 5 minutes to get to the store, but your vehicle is 140º inside and it doesn't cool down by the time you've gotten to the store. Then you get back in on the way home. This makes a person exhausted and in great need to cool down when they return home--and leaving you too tired to accomplish much for the rest of the day. In the summer, I try to go shopping less frequently. No matter the time of year (but especially important during the summer) I'll try to go super early (like 6 a.m. if the store is open then, or right at 8 if it opens later) or go after the children are in bed, so I can come home and go to sleep afterwards. Going shopping during those hours means I don't interrupt our day and my husband has our van to take to work.

3. I don't go shopping very often.

I try to limit my trips to the store. I keep a well-stocked pantry, which means I don't have to go to the store every week and can wait to find the best deals.  Staying out of the store also makes it easy to stick to my grocery budget.

4. I do my shopping research online ahead of time.

If I know what I need but I'm not sure where to get it, I'll look at several stores websites before venturing out to see if the stores have what I need. This saves a ton of time and gas. It's much faster to "go to" 10 stores online and figure out if they have what I need before I go. Another bonus of looking online ahead of time is that I can often find out if the store has what I need in stock.

5. I shop online when possible.

This saves time and money. I look for free shipping deals whenever possible.

6. My children use bicycles.

My older children get to where they need to go on their bicycles. Last week when my husband was at Scout camp with one son, my daughter attended a swim party and my son attended Boy Scouts. They took their bikes where they needed to go. They learn independence.

We bought used bicycles and solid tires for their bicycles to keep costs down and keep them from getting frequent flats.

7. We carpool when possible.

When my eldest has a church dance she wants to attend, she'll go with a group of friends all together and one of them will drive or one parent will drive. They have more fun being together in the car. We'll likewise do the same for church activities for our younger girls.

8. We have piano lessons at home.

We have a piano teacher who comes to our home every other week. I don't need to drive my children to lessons. (Bonus: I get to accomplish more things at home while they have lessons!)

9. I homeschool my children.

Driving them to school and picking them up isn't something on my to-do list. This alone gives me a ton of time in my day which I can use to do other things.

 

We generally put between 8000 - 10,000 miles a year on our only vehicle. We save not only gas, but wear and tear on our vehicle.

 

I know being a one-car family isn't practical for everyone, but if you can make it work for you, it's a great money-saver!

 

Are you a one-car family? How do you make it work for your family? Do you have great public transportation where you live and go without a vehicle?

 

Tagged in: Frugal Living
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The $1 Dress

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The 1 Dress The Prudent Homemaker

Winter just attended her first formal dance, a Winter Ball put on by the local LDS Seminary, which she attends. They have 375 students who attend a religion class early every morning an hour before school starts. 

Because of our dating standards, only those who are 16 and older could bring dates to the dance. Everyone was welcome to bring friends to the dance.  Winter invited a cousin to come with her, which worked out well as Winter's closest friends are 16 and had dates.

Our plan was to scout thrift stores for a dress, but then a dress came along. Winter told my mom about the dance and my mom mentioned a dress she had bought at a garage sale for $1 several years ago. She had never worn it and she said Winter could have it if she was interested.

Dollar Dress The Prudent Homemaker

Winter really liked the dress, but it was several sizes too large. She removed the sleeves, took it up in the shoulders, and took in the sides. 

The sleeves were unlined. I spent $1.50 for some fabric to line them. She cut the sleeves smaller and sewed them back on.

Adjusting the shoulder seams meant the back was a bit too high. She cut the neckline down in back, and then removed the zipper and put in back in a bit lower for the new neckline.

 Dollar Dress Detail The Prudent Homemaker

Her accessories were simple.  She took a warm scarf that I bought at a garage sale last year for $1, wore a pair of earrings that were a birthday gift from her grandmother a year ago and a necklace that I had given her for that same birthday (I paid $1 for the necklace at a garage sale).

Dollar Dress Necklace Detail The Prudent Homemaker

She had a pair of vintage gloves that were given to her when she was a child. One of the buttons was broken and the buttons were white plastic that looked to have once been pearl covered. She removed them and replaced them with some pearlized shank buttons from my button jar. 

Dollar Dress Gloves Detail The Prudent Homemaker

She decorated a hair comb with a piece of a broken cubic zirconia bracelet that she received at a Church activity a couple of years ago and part of a broken plastic pearl necklace. I gave her a set of plain hair combs for Christmas, and she used one of them as the base. She glued the jewels on with some E-6000 glue.

Dollar Dress Hair Comb The Prudent Homemaker

 

Dollar Dress shoes The Prudent Homemaker

Her shoes were a recent gift. Her friend's mom had bought a pair of pearlized pale pink shoes for her daughter online. The shoes and the box were both marked "Child size 7"--but the shoes were too large for her daughter. I wondered if they were possibly an adult-sized 7, and I tried them on, but they were still too big. I asked Winter, who wears a women's size 10, if she wanted to try them on. They fit her perfectly!

Dollar Dress Black and White The Prudent Homemaker

She did her own hair and makeup. She and a few friends got together ahead of time and Winter did hair for a couple of the girls and another girl's makeup.

Several friends had dinner ahead of the dance at a friend's house near the dance, and then they all went together to the dance.

Dollar Dress 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 She'll have other occasions to wear this dress again, so it will get plenty of use in the future, too!

Flourish 2

Linking to: Moonlight and Mason Jars

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Ten Things You Can Do To Save Money This Week

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Feeling a pinch in your finances this week?

If you're feeling the need to save even more this week, but wondering what else you can do, here are some ideas to keep money in your pocket. (I'm planning to do all of them!)

Tuscan Tomato Soup 

1. Eat all meals at home

Don't go out to eat or order takeout. If you've got a busy week ahead, put together some crockpot meals in the morning, make a large pot of soup every few nights (enough for leftovers for another day or several lunches during the week), and plan some quick and easy meals to save you time this week.

 

2. Don't buy any groceries this week

Use up whatever you have in the fridge, freezers, and pantry. 

 

3. Turn the heat down

Set your thermostat a couple of degrees lower this week (for those in the Northern hemisphere). If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to be even lower during the day if you won't be home during the day. Add another blanket to your bed (a throw blanket works fine if you don't have another bed-sized blanket).

During the day, dress in layers.

 

4. Block drafts in your house with old towels

Roll up some old towels (or your summer swimming towels) and use them as instant draft blockers to block cold drafts from doors and windows.

 

5. Mend something 

Rather than buying something new, mend what you have. Sew up the hole in a shirt, patch a sheet, glue your shoes, or fix that thing that's been broken for a bit in your home.

 December Arrangement The Prudent Homemaker

6. Decorate for the season using what you have (and can get for free)

Gather pinecones and put them in bowls. Decorate with cookie cutters. Cut greens from your yard. Visit a place selling Christmas trees and ask if you can have the trimmings; many places will give them to you for free!

 

7. Make a gift using items you have on hand

Repurpose old clothing to make a hat, scarf, or gloves. Refashion a broken piece of jewelry into a new combination to give.

 

8. Be diligent about turning off lights when you're not using them

When you sit down to eat, turn off any lights that aren't right above your table. Studies have shown that you'll save more money turning them off if you leave a room for 20 seconds (incandescent) or 2 minutes (fluorescent).

 

9. Take a family photo (or individual family pictures) yourself

Set the timer and take a new family photo.  Email it rather than sending Christmas cards or post it on Facebook instead.

 

10. Have a date night at home

Play a board game or card game, watch a movie you already own (or borrow one from the library), work on a project together, clean something together, or just enjoy talking together while you have a homemade treat.

 

Do you have any other plans to save money this week that won't cost you anything this week?

 

 

Tagged in: Frugal Living
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