Candles and wax melts are so incredibly expensive. Too expensive in my opinion, but I’m obsessed with them. I love to have candles lit or wax warmer on at the end of the day to make the house smell really nice and relaxing, but also provide some nice relaxing low light to wind down. During my season of getting laid off and being unemployed a few years ago, I really wasn’t able to justify purchasing new candles or wax melts for my house at full price. For many of them, I used coupons, but sometimes I would be out and didn’t have any coupons to buy more. It also frustrated me that I would have a decent amount of wax left at the bottom of some of the candles or in my wax warmer when the scent was gone. It seemed like a waste to throw that wax and jars away. I knew that people get out the wax and reuse the jars, but I still felt guilty about throwing the wax away, so I figured out a way to reuse old candles to make wax melts from the leftovers.
1. Gather all of your old Candles.
Ask your friends and family for more if you can. You’ll be surprised how many people have hoards that they’re happy to give. You can also ask in Facebook groups, like your local Buy Nothing Project, or on Nextdoor. Again, you’d be surprised how many of your neighbors also keep these and aren’t sure what to do with them.
2. Order cheap pre-waxed wicks on Amazon.
I like these. I purchase this pack 3 years ago and haven’t had to buy another pack yet.
3. You need to get the wax out of all of the old candle jars.
You can freeze the jars and try to pop the wax out with a knife once they’re cold. I don’t find that method super effective myself and I feel like I’m going to accidentally hurt myself that way. Instead, I boil water in my electric kettle (if you don’t have an electric kettle, you can just use a regular pot) and put boiling water in each jar, filling it up to as close to the top as I can. The wax will heat up and bubble up to the top like in the video above. Let the wax cool at the top and then just pop it out. You may need to do some of the jars more than once to get all of the wax out. Sometimes they’re stubborn.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip: Put the jars on a few old towels. I tend to spill a bunch of water when I do this.
4. Clean the Jars.
You’ll need to scrape or pop out the leftover wicks and any bits and glue at the bottom. Then scrub the jars inside and out with hot water, and abrasive Scrub Daddy and Dawn dish soap. This may take some scrubbing to get all of the glue, wax, oil, stickers, and soot off. I also then like to run them through the dishwasher after for good measure.
5. Gather Your Other Supplies.
You need an old pot that you don’t mind getting wax in, pencils to prop the wicks, and a clean tin or aluminum can (I used an empty and cleaned refried bean can with the label taken off), and tongs. And a mold to put the remelted wax in. I use a silicone ice cube tray that I got from Family Dollar.
6. Group Your Waxes.
You want to try to put like waxes together. For example, you want all of your soy wax together, regular wax, and then beeswax separate. Then group again by scents. So, you want summer scents together, winter or fall scents separate, etc. The reason for this is that different wax types don’t necessarily mix well. Also, you’ll probably need to mix the wax from more than one candle to make sure you have full molds.
7. Put a cup or two of water at the bottom of the pot.
Then put the first chunks of wax that you’d like to be the base of your first candle into the tin or can. Then put the can into the water and pot to melt the wax. Use the tongs to maneuver the can if you need to because the can will be HOT. You may need to swirl around the hot wax every once in a while to help the wax melt down.
Pro Tip: Put a lid over the tin can to push it down to the bottom of the pot and keep it from floating. This will help the wax melt much faster.
8. Pour your wax.
As the wax melts in the can, use the tongs to lift the can and pour the hot wax periodically into the mold. Keep melting wax and pouring the waxes into the mold until they are full. If the wax doesn’t have much sent left, feel free to add a drop or two of your favorite essential oils. This is a project that I usually do on a weekend over a couple of days and I listen to podcasts, or music, or play Netflix on my tablet while I’m doing it.
10. Enjoy your new wax melts!
Feel great about the fact that you recycled and reused old candles to make wax melts instead of throwing all of that away or your friends, family, and neighbors throwing it all away. The best part is, that you can do this several times over, this wax can be reused again and again. You also saved several dollars per mold that you didn’t have to buy! Your original candle or bar of wax melts can go so much further now.
Is there truly anything better than getting freebies? If there are, I think they’re very few. Freebie hunting is not only a fun scavenger hunt at times, but it allows me to get the same little hit of dopamine as I would with online shopping, but without spending the money! Do I often get high dollar items as freebies? Not usually. However, I sometimes do score some goodies! These are the 5 Brilliantly Frugal ways to get freebies:
Sampler sends me the most samples out of the other companies. I’ve gotten everything from tabasco to laundry detergent and snack items from them.
They don’t always have openings for new customers, but they do once in a while. You can check periodically and sign up for an account through their website or the app. Once you have an account, you’ll need to fill out the survey so that they know which offers will be best for you. They have gotten better about sending emails when you’re matched with an offer, but you will want to keep checking back and signing up for new programs in the app or the website once in a while.
2. Sample Source
Fair warning, Sample Source does not have the most modern-looking website. It looked a bit spammy to me when I first saw it. However, several coupon influencers swore by this site and some google searching helped me determine that the site and company where legit! They too do not always have openings but when they do jump on it! They do sample drops, so you’ll want to also follow them on their Instagram or Twitter so that you know when to log in to your account and snag the drop.
BzzAgent fell off for me for a little bit but have started to come around a lot more recently. I get the most invitations but least opportunities from this company now, but they do send full-size and decent freebies in exchange for a review once in a while. I’ve gotten everything from cases of dog food to a new electric Oral-B toothbush! All you have to do to get started is sign up for an account, fill out the survey so they can match you, and link your social medias. Keep an eye out for invitations from them in your email and apply when you get those invites. An invite doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get picked to get the product. I probably only get picked for 1 out of every 10 invites I get.
4. Send Me a Sample
I don’t get a ton of items from Send Me A Sample but it’s one of my favorite ones at the moment, just because they make it so easy! To get started, sign up for an account through their website, or you can ask your Google Assistant or Alexa to “Send Me A Sample” and you’ll be prompted to create one. Once you have an account, you just say “Hey Google, Send Me a Sample” and it’ll ask which one you’d like. You can then ask “What’s available” and it’ll go through what they have available at the moment. Also, follow them on social media to see what’s being made available. I typically get snacks, drinks, and perfume sample options.
You can’t get things for free all the time. Things have changed a lot since the show Extreme Couponers came out so coupon restrictions have gotten a lot tighter. It’s rarer than it used to be but it does happen. I usually get completely free items with coupons once every few months. This method definitely takes the most work than the other options, since you have to look through the different apps or the newspaper and then go to the store, but you get more items at once. They’re also usually better because you’re getting full-size items usually instead of samples like what you get from some of the sample companies. Check out my favorite couponing apps here.
6. Buy Nothing Groups
I know. I don’t shut up about the Buy Nothing Groups, but they’re the TRUTH! If you have a local Buy Nothing Project group on Facebook, be sure to join and check back regularly for items that neighbors are gifting FOR FREE. I’m currently in the middle of planning our upcoming wedding. We’ve received so many items from neighbors for the wedding, like mirrors, vases, bachlorette party games, and so many other things that our neighbors were no longer using but we were happy to give away. We’ve returned the favor by gifting our unused or unwanted items frequently as well.
Follow Brilliantly Frugal and othercCouponers on Instagram. I post on the Brilliantly Frugal Instagram periodically when I see a good deal that works.
So you want to start Poshmark as a Brilliantly Frugal side hustle. No worries! This post goes through everything you need to know to get started making some extra money to help pay off your debt faster, save up for something fun, or just for extra spending money!
What Poshmark is
Poshmark is a social media online selling Platform app. It allows people to buy and sell clothes, shoes, accessories, beauty items, make-up, pet items, and home decor. Most of the items on Poshmark are used or even vintage. However, there are also plenty of new items (with or without tags) and even online boutiques on the app with new items.
How to get signed up for Poshmark as a Brilliantly Frugal Side Hustle
You can download the free app here. Be sure to enter code DANIELAMCL) when you sign up to get $10 off your first purchase. When you get set up, you are more than welcome to just browse or be a buyer on the app, much like eBay. However, if you do want to start selling items, you can do that right away by clicking the sell button, taking some pictures, filling out the information, and then listing the item.
What to know about Poshmark
People can make offers on your item. You don’t have to accept any offers. Though my personal rule of thumb is to try not to decline offers but to always counteroffer if I don’t like their offer. My theory is that declining an offer isn’t seen as favorably in the algorithm when the algorithm is determining if your items are showing up in other people’s feeds or searches. When someone does purchase your item, Poshmark will send you a label to print in your email. You have to pack the item, print and put the label on the box, and drop it off at USPS or schedule a pickup. Poshmark will take 20% of the sales price for items over $15 and a flat $3 on sales prices under $15, so keep that in mind when you’re listing items.
How to take good pictures for Poshmark
Blank white backgrounds show up in google searches, while other photos usually don’t. So, hang the item on a hanger blank white, or near a white wall if you can to take pictures. If you don’t have that, try flat laying the item on a flat white sheet or poster board. Make sure the sheet isn’t wrinkled or dirty. Don’t take the photo on just your floor. That’s really gross to a lot of people, even if you have really clean floors. You’re better off getting a couple of white poster boards from Dollar Tree to take photos on. You can also take photos and edit out the white background in photo editing apps. I personally don’t bother doing that, I use a hanger on a white wall, but many successful Poshers use editing apps.
How to list on Poshmark
Just click the sell button at the bottom of the screen. Take pictures of both the front and back of the item. Take close-ups of any interesting features on the item (like buttons, interesting patterns, year stamps on graphics, logos, etc). Be sure to take close-up pictures of any flaws. I like to use a ballpoint pen to show the size of the flaw. Also, be sure to take a picture of any tags inside the item – both size and care tags that describe the fabric composition.
Write a good description and title of the item. Include the brand and type of item in the title using as many descriptors as you can such as V-neck, Baseball style, color block, lace, see-through, etc. Include the same in the description as well as any further descriptors you can think of to use for the item. I sometimes like to include how the item could be styled or worn. If you would like to measure your items ahead of time, include the measurements as well. Though, to be honest, I only include measurements when I’m asked for them. Fill out the rest of the fields, such as if it is new with tags, the size, color, etc. Then click list.
How to be most effective with Poshmark as a Brilliantly Frugal side hustle
Share your whole closet to your followers at least once a day. Poshmark just released a new feature that makes this really easy. Just click the tool button at the top right of your closet, then share to followers, then click each item available for sale in your closet (you can click two at a time for speed). Also, be sure to share eligible items to all 4 of the parties every day. You can do this quickly through the new feature as well but click “Share to Party” instead of “Share to Followers”. Be sure to connect and share to your social media, like Pinterest. I get a lot of sales from people who saw my item on Pinterest and click through to buy on Poshmark. Lastly, be sure to share other people’s items as well. Do all of this until you eventually hit Poshmark Ambassador status. You’ll get a lot more followers and interest in your closet when you get that.
What to do when you get a sale
Poshmark makes this pretty easy. They will send the shipping label to your email. Just print the label from your email, wrap the item nicely, put it in a recycled box you have around or in a free post office box. I like to wrap the item in a plastic bag that I saved from online orders I’ve received to my house, then wrap the item in tissue paper, include a handwritten thank you note, and then seal it in a free post office box. Don’t forget to attach the shipping label! Drop off at the post office or schedule a pickup
You can find the free post office boxes at the post office, or you can order them in bulk on USPS.com. You can also schedule the pickup on USPS.com.
The aftermath of Poshmark as a Brilliantly Frugal Side Hustle
Keep track of the money coming in! Redeem it either immediately or on a frequent schedule. Money is not FDIC insured in the Poshmark app so if your account gets hacked, Poshmark has a glitch or Poshmark shuts down or something, that money is just gone. Get it into an FDIC-insured bank account ASAP. Check with a CPA to see when or how you need to report earnings on our taxes.
Figure out what you want to use the money for! We’ve used the money to pay off one of my student loans and now to save for our wedding!
I’m so excited to share my Brilliantly Frugal ways to decorate on a small budget! Decorating is often what makes a house a home, but it can be dauntingly expensive and discouraging. You’ll find Pinterest full of large home renovations and million dollar budget redesigns on Pinterest. I’ve personally have had to decorate my homes on a small budget and have gotten very creative over the years. What that meant though is that my house was beautifully decorated and put together in a unique way. I’ve always received compliments on how my home is put together and questions on how I chose my items, where I found them, and how I came up with the ideas.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #1: NEVER PAY RETAIL!
This is 100% my motto when shopping and it holds true. I almost never pay retail prices. It makes me physically irritated to do so. I do my best to only buy an item if it is on sale or with a coupon, if that’s an option. If it’s not on sale or I don’t have a coupon, I wait. I practice my patience. And believe me, it is practice! I know it is torture to want an item very badly BUT IT WILL GO ON SALE. STAY PATIENT.
Although, there are some items that don’t go on sale or have coupons. For those, I try to buy secondhand or get free what I can. You can save SO MUCH MONEY that way.
These are my favorite Brilliantly Frugal ways to decorate and make a space a home on a small budget.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #2: Paint
If you have hand me down furniture that you don’t like, paint it (ask for permission first!) You can also paint your walls, cabinets, even small home decor items. You can paint almost anything, even upholstery. Paint is probably the cheapest way to turn something you don’t like into something you love. Also, you can avoid doing an entire tear our renovation this way. For example, you can paint cabinets that seem outdated but are still in very good condition. You’d be surprised how a fresh coat of paint can make it look as if you got all new cabinets, when in fact, you only gave them a color update.
This is one of those items that rarely go on sale or has coupons unless you’re buying from Sherwin-Williams (they often have coupons available, but they are a more expensive paint option). Your family, friends, or neighbors may have some leftover paint from their home projects that you can use! Ask on our local neighborhood Facebook pages or Nextdoor. Even if they don’t have quite enough for your project, you can use what they have and spend a lot less at the hardware store by buying only what you need to finish the project! If you’re looking for a popular color, you’d be surprised how many people have that exact color leftover. They are usually happy to pass it along and get it out of their garage or attic.
Alternatively, if you’re flexible with your color choices, you can try the paint “oops” section of your favorite hardware store. Most hardware stores have a bin of paints that were incorrectly mixed, were returned, or never picked up. You can buy those instead of having a new batch mixed and save quite a bit of money.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #3: Wall Art
If you’re renting and can’t change the wall colors by painting, you can try temporary (removable) wallpaper. You can get it at most hardware stores, and even online from Target. This can be a bit more expensive than paint if you’re doing an entire room. However, if you only cover one wall ( an accent wall), it can make a huge difference in a room and save a bit of money!
Alternatively, you can buy large tapestries as cheap alternatives to expenses canvas. You can find these online on Amazon, Target, Ikea, and other stores relatively cheap. These are often available at thrift stores as well.
Also, be sure to support your artist friends or local artists! Your friends may have relatively inexpensive prints or other art available for sale. This is a great opportunity to support your friends or community and have beautiful unique pieces in your home. If you don’t know any artists yourself, look out for local art shows on Facebook or in the local paper. Many cities, even small towns have annual art shows were local artists can showcase and sell their artwork. These are often hosting on the main streets and have music and food vendors as well. They can be a lot of fun on a weekend with friends to look at great and inspirational pieces.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #4: Greenery
Plants are perfect for decorating on a small budget! Bring the outside inside. Houseplants can add a pop of color and life into a small space with little to no money. Are you scared of killing it? No worries! Get a succulent or ivy that is low maintenance. Don’t go to a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes. You’ll have more luck by going to a small local plant store. The owners and employees there will have specialized knowledge in the plants in the store and can help you pick something that fits your home, expertise, lifestyle, and budget. They also sometimes offer consultations online with suggestions of what would work best in the space and can provide delivery.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #5: Thrifting
You will not believe how many New With Tag or like-new items you can find at Goodwill, Savers, Salvation Army, or other thrift stores. It’s insane! I regularly find new with tag or like new clothes, picture frames, candles, candleholders, pillows, and other decor items for 70-90% off the original retail price.
Even if you end up buying something used, you can often find the most unique and interesting items at thrift stores. It is so much more interesting to have one of a kind items to decorate your home. Having the same 5 things that everyone else is buying from big box stores that will be out of style next season can cost you more money in the long run.
Just be sure to carefully inspect items before purchasing them. Go to a well-lit area of the store and look over every share inch of the item for chips, stains, or missing buttons or pieces. I’m definitely guilty of getting too excited about a great deal and not realizing that the item is broken or damaged until I get home.
Thrift stores can also be a great resource for DIY projects. You may be able to find broken or cheap items that can be reused or remade into something new. You can also find items that have good bones, but the color, stain, or finish is a bit outdated for very little money. Antique, vintage, and other well-made items are frequent finds at thrift stores. You can paint, stain, or refinish items in contemporary colors for a lot less than buying the item new or at an antique store!
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #6: Estate and Garage Sales
Estate and Garage sales are two of my favorite Brilliantly Frugal places to find items to decorate on a small budget. At sales like these, the sellers are often motivated to get rid of the items and are hopefully not sentimentally attached to the items. This can make for some great sales. If you get vary lucky, you can find new with tag, vintage, or designer and luxury items for a great price if you dig enough. Just be sure to bring hand sanitizer and to wash all items as soon as you get them home. Many times items have been in storage for a bit and can be dusty or dirty.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #7: Discount Stores
Discount Stores like Ross, HomeGoods, Burlington, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and others are honestly some of my favorite places to check for new but deeply discounted items to decorate my home.
Caution. These stores are addicting. They have GIANT home decor areas with cute decorative furniture, decor items, linens, and kitchenware for fractions of the original pricing. You can often find designer or even luxury brand items there for fractions of the cost. Just be careful. Sometimes the deal on a designer or luxury brand item looks great, but the quality of a lesser known brand or other option at the same store is the same or even better for a much lower price.
Again, be sure to inspect items for any damage or missing parts or pieces. By the time the item makes it to the discount store, it has been through several warehouses and damage does happen, unfortunately.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #8: IKEA
Ikea has an amazing amount of home decor, art prints, and trendy home pieces for incredibly cheap. We’ve gotten aesthetically pleasing home storage solutions for under $10 that I love using in our pantry. We were also able to find two large poster size art prints for only $4. I cut one down to fit a frame that I found at Salvation Army for another $5 and hung it up in my office at work. It is the item that I get the most compliments on and I only spent $9 total on it.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #9: Target
Even Target sometimes has extreme discounts on home goods and furniture. Full price, a lot of their offerings can be expensive. However, if you wait for the end of a season or during Target’s big sales, you can often get trendy contemporary pieces for great prices. Read about how to save more at Target with Target Circle here.
Brilliantly Frugal Decorating Tip #10: Maximize Social Media
Facebook Marketplace, Offerup, & 5Mile and other similar apps are great spaces to check for hidden gems. You’ll often find people selling items that they no longer want for very little in good condition that you can grab in your area. This is especially true if you can find people who are moving. They often desperately want to get rid of the item quickly before they have to be out of their current home. This means you get an item for very cheap and they don’t have to move it! Win-Win!
The downside to these apps is that you often have to do A LOT of scrolling through junk or overpriced items to find something you like. You’ll have to check back often because a good deal will usually go pretty fast. Also, be sure to double-check that the item you are looking for is actually listed in your area and not somewhere else that will ship unless you’re willing to pay the shipping.
If you have a local Buy Nothing Project group on Facebook, be sure to join and check back regularly for items that neighbors are gifting! We have acquired so many items from our neighbors on our local Buy Nothing group. We’ve received a lamp, large mirror to hang above our front entryway table, coffee table books, and so many other things that our neighbors were no longer using but we were happy to give away. We’ve returned the favor by gifting our unused or unwanted items frequently as well.
Your Brilliantly Frugal Motto: EVERYTHING is negotiable.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #1: Electric
If you are able to shop for electricity in your area, start by shopping on powertochoose.com. You will need to know your average monthly kilowatt per hour (kWh) usage to know your TRUE rate. Find your average (kWh) by looking at your last few electricity statements to see what you used. You may have to dig around on your electricity provider’s website a bit to find the statements.
Now head over to powertochoose.com, enter your zip code, filter by your average kWh usage, companies with good ratings, and whether you would prefer a company with renewable energy or not. I would also suggest picking a fixed-rate plan to be sure that your rates will not increase. Now, look through the available plans, considering the kWh charge, any new customer signing bonuses, and your current rate charges to pick a new plan!
Brilliantly Frugal Pro Tip: Follow these ^ steps each time your electricity contract is set to expire to make sure you’re getting the best rate.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #2: TV
You’ve probably seen this a million times now, but it’s true. If you have cable, you need to cut right now. There is nothing on the cable channels that you can’t watch on a streaming service like Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, etc. Hulu even has a live TV option with live sports. Though, if you don’t watch live TV now, there’s no need to buy that ore expensive version of Hulu. Who has time for live TV anymore anyway?! Even when I had cable, I found myself almost exclusively watching my recorded shows on the DVR. Which is basically like watching streaming services with more steps and for more money.
If you aren’t willing to cut your cable, check to see if you can get a better rate with a competitor or at least check to see whether you’re actually using the channels in your current package. If not, you may be able to at least downgrade the package you’re subscribed to and save a little bit of money each month. When that’s not an option, call your cable company to see if they have any current promotions available. Sometimes they’ll at least give you free premium movie channels for 3 months.
Brilliantly Frugal Pro Tip: Review your bills, subscriptions, etc for ways to reduce your subscriptions or ask about promotions once a year for the best savings.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #3: Internet
The major internet companies often work together to keep options limited and prices high for customers. However, shop around once in a while or see if you can bundle services to reduce your bill. It may be worth switching between companies every once in a while when your contract is up to get the “new customer” promotional rates. If you’re lucky enough to have Google Fiber in your area, switch to Google Fiber. It is incredibly fast, reliable, and cheap.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #4: Credit Cards
If you have consistently paid on time, call your credit card companies and remind them of how long you’ve been a good customer. Ask for a reduction in interest rate. Even if they won’t permanently reduce it, they may give you a limit increase or 0% interest for a period of time. If they give you a limit increase, this can help your credit score (read more about that here). If they give you 0% and you have balances on other cards, consider transferring the balances to reduce the interest you will accumulate on the debt. Read more about credit cards here and how to focus on reducing your debt here.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #5: Student Loans
If your student loan payments are a struggle to keep up with or afford, consider switching to an income adjusted or an income-driven repayment plan. You can talk to your student loan servicer about your options. You will pay more interest in the long term, but may help you keep your head above water if you need the help. I have an income-driven repayment plan and focus any extra money I make in the month towards the one student loan with the lowest balance. Read more about paying off debt using the snowball method here.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #6: Cell Phone Data Plan
Get on a good unlimited plan! Do your research! I personally suggest switching to Google Fi.
Pros: Unlimited data. You can sign up for a straight unlimited plan. If you don’t use much data each month, you can sign up for a different plan for less. If you use less than 6 gigs per month, they will refund what you didn’t use as a credit on your next bill. In other words, you ONLY pay for what you use. And yes, they pay CASH on your statement, not “rollover minutes” or “rollover data”. Each line is only $20 per month. They use both Sprint and T-Mobile towers, so coverage is both good AND backed up. If one of them has towers down, Google will auto-switch you to the other towers. It auto switches you to open wifi when it detects it. It encrypts the connection, so you don’t have to worry about security. This keeps your data usage WAY down! I only used about 2-3 gigs per month now. It also includes free international data in over 200 countries.
Always go shopping with a list and use coupons. The list will help give you an idea of what you will be spending before you even leave the house to go to the store. It can also help you be sure that what you will be spending will be within your grocery budget for the month. Lastly, it will keep you from placing random things in your basket while you shop and help keep down your overall cost.
Coupons of course help reduce your overall bill by helping you save on individual items. Thankfully, couponing is not as time-consuming or laborious as it once was. If clipping coupons from the paper sounds like a lot of work, you don’t have to do that at all!. You can find and print coupons on coupons.com. Additionally, almost every store has an app with digital coupons available. You just need to save the coupons ahead of time when you’re making your list and scan the barcode at checkout at the store. If you shop Target, use Target Circle. You can read more about that here.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #8: Gas
Use the GasBuddy app to find the cheapest gas in your area. I’ve been surprised a few times when I thought I already knew the cheapest gas station in the area only to find that a different gas station is a bit cheaper in the area.
Google Maps will also sometimes show the gas prices when you search for gas stations along your route.
Brilliantly Frugal Pro Tip: Check the app every single time you need to fill up and you’re low on cash for the best savings since gas prices change so frequently.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #9: Eating Out
Use a loyalty program every single time that you can. You’ll usually rack up points for free items later, get free items on your birthday, or coupons for discounted items frequently. The trick to this is to not eat out more than you normally would. You should go the same amount, just be sure to scan the reward code to keep free items later. Whataburger, Starbucks, and Chick fil a are good examples of fast-food restaurants with rewards programs. Most restaurants also usually give free items or coupons if you join their email list. Ask your waiter about it.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip #10: Car Care
Get your car regularly serviced. I know, that seems daunting or like a luxury when money is tight. However, I promise it will save you a ton of money in the long run. The trick to this is to set aside a little bit of money each month (put it into a savings account on payday if you have to so that you won’t spend it.) Most auto servicing chains like Jiffy lube or Kwik Kar always have coupons for oil and brake changes. Just google for those coupons in your area, print or show the coupon on your phone when you get the service for the discount!
Brilliantly Frugal Pro Tip: Follow Brilliantly Frugal on Facebook and sign up for the email list on our website for notices and alerts about how to save more money!
First of all, I am not a tax expert, CPA, or tax attorney. Nothing in this post should be taken as tax or legal advice. Please consult with your own CPA or attorney.
I don’t know everything
It is hard for me to admit, but I don’t know everything and sometimes I need help. This year, I learned that I needed to file certain tax forms that I not only have never filed before, but when I looked at them, they made no sense to me. I consider myself an intellegent person, but even the smartest and most educated people don’t know how to do everything. I realized I needed an expert.
Why I actually hired a tax professional
As I said, my taxes got more complicated this year. When I bought my first house several years ago, I used a first-time homebuyers government grant to help with my downpayment. In return, I agreed to not sell that house for nine years. I had no intentions of moving out of that house any time soon. But life happens and plans change.
Since I bought that house, I went back to school, got laid off from my job, took the Bar exam, and got a new job. Then I found a dream job in a city 3 and half hours away. I needed to pack up and move within 30 days and sell the house that I spent the last five years renovating, decorating, and making a perfectly comfortable, functional, and beautiful home for me and my dog. That also meant that I had to send the IRS specific forms about the house sale.
What I learned
I LEFT MONEY ON THE TABLE.
Apparently, I hadn’t been taking advantage of a credit from my the original house purchase and lost out on hundreds of dollars in tax credit. I was also worried that I would owe additional taxes because I did make a profit from the house sale. Thankfully, my CPA was able to find an exemption that I was able to take advantage of. I don’t owe any taxes and got a return!
Does this mean you need to hire a tax professional?
Not necessarily. If your income is fairly straightforward, you normally only file a 1040EZ. You may not need one.
Though, if you have a small business, several sources of income, own property, or have made any big purchases or sales within the last year, you may consider speaking with a CPA to see if their services and fees would be something that you would like to consider.
The bottom line
Ultimately, ONLY YOU know your financial situation and whether you need a CPA or tax professional. Even if you may not need one, you may always hire one anyway for peace of mind.
Garage Sales are my absolute favorite way to sell my unwanted items. I can easily make a few hundred dollars in one weekend instead of selling one item at a time. Here are my tried and true Brilliantly Frugal Tips for 2018!
Garage Sale Pro Tips
Pro Tip #1: Know your city and county rules. Some require that you register your garage sale. You may get fined if you don’t.
Pro Tip #2: Garage sale season starts in early spring and ends in early fall. Try to schedule your garage sale at popular moving times. Those are typically in June after school is out, and in August, right before dorm move in season. If you can, have the sale Friday through Sunday or Thursday through Sunday. Believe it or not, Friday is usually my busiest day.
Pro Tip #3: Don’t do it alone. I usually need at least one helper, sometimes two. Ask a friend to bring their items to sell and run it with you, offer a friend a percentage of the sales to help, or ask the family to lend a hand. You will need help carrying items in and out of the house, to answer questions, and to take and exchange money. Don’t try to do it all yourself, because you will be overwhelmed.
Pro Tip #4:
How to Get People to Shop:
Post on your personal Facebook page! You’d be surprised how many friends might stop by, even just to say hi, as they run errands.
Post on Facebook Marketplace, the Garage Sale app, your city’s Facebook page, Offerup, Nextdoor, Letgo, 5miles, etc.
Pro Tip #5: When you post on Facebook and all of your other apps about the garage sale, go ahead and post your furniture, appliances, and electronics individually in the marketplace. In my last yard sale, I had more people respond to those than anything else. Several people stopped by the yard sale to pick up the item and ended up purchasing a few other smaller items at the same time.
Pro Tip #6: Never hold items for people without payment. You will have MANY people asking you to hold an item for them and then never show up to pick it up. I only hold items if they provide a PayPal or Venmo payment in advance.
Pro Tip #7: Be diverse in payment options! It is 2018! There are many ways for people to send each other electronic payments. I accept Paypal and Venmo payments at my sales, but there are many other apps that you can use.
Pro Tip #8: That being said, the majority of your shoppers will have cash. Make sure you have at least $100 in change at the start of your sale. I usually try to keep it all in $10s, $5s, $1s, and quarters. Keep the money on you at all times, either in a fanny pack or something similar. Do not use a cash box or something that you will set down. It will get stolen.
Pro Tip #9: Don’t be afraid to put anything out in the sale. You never know what someone is looking for or why. Usually, the things that I think no one will buy are the first things to sell. There are plenty of people who are happy to buy broken, distressed, or old items to fix or spruce up for a deal.
Pro Tip #10: Make sure to have some furniture available to get people to stop. Focus on ways to repurpose or spruce up furniture when talking to shoppers!
Pro Tip #11: Have organized tables! Keep like items together such as clothes, toys, home decor, auto accessories, etc. It helps shoppers find what they are looking for and show how the item can be used.
Pro Tip #12: Make lots of signs! Make prices clear and low so that you have lots of shoppers. Your goal is to get a HIGH volume of items sold, not necessarily a high price for each item.
Pro Tip #13: Most shoppers will ask for a discount. Be prepared for that. Know your rock bottom price on your items. Also, don’t deny offers! If their offer is too low, counter with another offer in the middle! The buyer’s goal is to get a deal. Your goal is to get the item out of the house and hopefully make a little bit of money in the process.
Pro Tip #14: Towards the end of your sale, offer bulk prices. EX: a whole grocery bag of items for $5 or even $1, a whole table of things for $X, etc.
Pro Tip #15: Provide shopping bags! I keep all of my plastic grocery bags. When it’s time for a garage sale, I take the entire stash with me outside. If you provide shoppers with bags, they are more likely to buy more items at once. I have had shoppers ready to check out, but when I offered them a bag, they took the opportunity to fill a second bag with items they weren’t initially sure about!
Pro Tip #16: Hang jewelry on a cork board! It’s easier for shoppers to see the displayed pieces, especially the small ones.
Pro Tip #17: If you don’t have time to do one yourself, see if you can enlist someone else to run it or give a friend your items to sell at their garage sale on consignment.
Pro Tip #18: When I do garage sales, I sell items for my friends all the time. The more items I have out, the more people stop at my garage sale, the more of my own items I will sell. Sometimes my friends will allow me to take some of the profit from their items as a thank you. I’ve also had friends donate whole truckloads of items for me to sell! I’ve made so much money on garage sales.
After the Garage Sale
Pro Tip #19: Go through the items again and see if there are items that you would rather keep than go Goodwill.
Pro Tip #20: Pull out any items that you might be able to sell yourself online. If you have furniture, appliances, or electronics, slash the price on your facebook marketplace posts and see what happens!
Pro Tip #21: Any Brand name clothes can be sold on Poshmark!
Poshmark is a great app that lets you sell brand name clothes like Forever 21, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Vera Bradley, Target brands, and so many more! People go here purposefully looking for specific brand names for cheap. Poshmark handles charging for shipping, sending you a shipping label, and provides many helpful articles for being successful in your sales.
Brilliantly Frugal Tip: Be sure to use code DANIELAMCL when you sign up for an instant $5 bonus!
Pro Tip #22: There are usually people on Facebook Marketplace that advertise that they are picking up garage sale leftovers. Message them a time they can come to pick up your leftovers and save yourself a trip to Goodwill.
I learn something new every time I do a sale. What have you learned doing your garage sale? We’ve love to see all of your suggestions in the comments below!
If you don’t have quite enough items for a garage sale, or would like to make more per item, check out our Ultimate Guide here!
Are you wanting to pay down your debt? Does it seem impossible?
IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE! YOU CAN DO IT!
Chances are, your debt isn’t even that bad. According to Experian, the average American has $6,600 in credit card debt. Even if you have double that in credit card debt, it is possible to pay it off. You may not pay it all off by tomorrow, but it can be paid off.
Paying off debt is a journey, you just have to be willing to drive. Your first stop? This Brilliantly Frugal debt calculator.
This freebie will be helpful in calculating your debt. It will also give you a snapshot of your payoff schedule under your current circumstances.
When I first used the debt calculator, I became very discouraged. I have a lot of debt and it made it seem like I would NEVER get out of the hole.
WHAT I FORGOT:
The debt calculator does not take into account work bonuses, raises, promotions, side hustles, income tax returns, inheritances, and budget adjustments.
I had to remind myself that the longer my accounts are open and in good standing actually HELPS my credit score (Read the Ultimate Guide here).
LET’S GET STARTED!
There are two different strategies for paying off debt; Avalanche (Highest Interest First, a favorite of CPAs) and Snowball (Lowest BALANCE first, my personal favorite).
Why Snowball is the best!
When using the Snowball method you start by paying off your account with the Lowest Balance First. When you finish paying off that account, you take the payment you were making on that and add it to the next lowest balance. You Snowball it up! This is great because you get instant gratification when you pay off a small balance loan quickly. Plus you get to put bigger and bigger payments down towards your debt.
Let’s say my car payment is $300 per month and I only owe $1,000.
My student loan payment is $100 per month and I owe $5,000.
My credit card payment is $40 per month and I owe $7,000.
I will put add any extra money that I have to my car payment to pay off my car FIRST.
Once my car is paid off, I will start paying $400 ($300 car payment + $100 student loan payment) towards my student loan.
Once my student loan is paid off, I will pay $440 ($300 car payment + $100 student loan payment $40 credit card payment) towards my credit card.
You keep rolling your payments into a bigger snowball as you pay off debt until you have a GIANT SNOWBALL to tackle your debt. Snowball gives you the benefit of the snowball effect, but you may end up paying more interest over time than if you were using the Avalanche system.
BRILLIANTLY FRUGAL TIP:
If you have two debts that are close to the same balance but have very different interest rates, you may see a big difference in the total interest that you pay if you change the order of the two accounts so that you pay the account with the higher interest rate first. In that case, use the Order Entered in the Table strategy in the Brilliantly Frugal Debt Payoff Calculator.
Why Avalanche Saves You More Money
When you use the Avalanche system, you pay off the account with the Highest Interest First. This means that you will accrue and pay less interest in the long run. In other words, you start at the top of the mountain with the worst interest rate account and then move down the mountain to the next highest interest rate account.
Let’s say my car payment has $300 per month and I have a 2.9% interest rate.
My student loan payment is $100 per month and I have a 5.8% interest rate.
My credit card payment is $40 per month and I have a 19.99% interest rate.
I will put add any extra money that I have to my credit card payment to pay off my credit card FIRST.
Once my credit card is paid off, I will start paying $140 ($100 student loan payment + $40 credit card payment) towards my student loan.
Once my student loan is paid off, I will pay $440 ($300 car payment + $100 student loan payment $40 credit card payment) towards my car payment.
You keep going down the mountain faster and faster with the added money from your paid off accounts. Avalanche will save you more in interest in the long run, but you won’t get the same instant gratification that you do with the Snowball method.
If you have two accounts that are very similar in interest rate, but one balance is lower than the other, switch the order so that you pay the lower balance account first. This way you get that gratification of paying off the debt faster.
MAKE A DECISION
Decide whether Snowball or Avalanche will work best for you. Avalanche is sometimes the best decision for saving money in the long run. It was not the right fit for me though. When I started working on paying down my debt, I had high balances. If I had started on my highest interest rate account first, it would have taken me 5 years before I paid off my first account. That was too long for me to wait to see my reward. Instead, I decided to start with my credit card account which had 0% interest at the time and an $800 balance. I was able to pay it off it just three months and I felt great about paying it off! It helped me stay motivated to work towards paying off one of my student loans.
Once you’ve decided which method will work best for you,
You should redo your calculator at least once a year. So many things happen in a year that can change the debt calculator. Your pay will change, your budgets will change, and your balances will change. It is also possible that your minimum payments may change, and your interest rates may even change. Take the time to redo the spreadsheet and see where you are. Don’t forget to celebrate your progress, and evaluate how well you are doing.
Paying off debt is a journey. Make sure to take time to look back on where you’ve been. Stay focused, keep working, and don’t give up.
For gift giving, my rule is $25 per 3 months of dating. (EX: dating 3 months – $25, dating 6 months $50, dating 2 years $200, etc) You shouldn’t spend more than that because you don’t want to scare them off early with a gift that’s too elaborate. Also, if you end up breaking up (God forbid), you won’t kick yourself for “wasting money”. Here are 5 Brilliantly Frugal gift ideas that won’t break the bank at each stage of the relationship. The best part is that all of them are available on Amazon Prime!
1. Try a Funny Gift!
At the beginning of a relationship, you may not know all of their likes and interests, but you may have an inside joke that you share. Any gift that puts a smile on their face would be a great gift.
If you don’t have amazon prime, you should. It is $99 per year, which is easily made up by the free shipping! I save so much money every year by having Amazon Prime. You can sign up for a FREE 30-day trial here:
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