theSkimm – News Made Easy

I know I’ve written about this before, but in case you missed it or weren’t a reader back then:

I try my best to keep up with what’s happening in the world, whether it be politics, sports, pop culture or anything else. And when I say keep up I really mean quickly peruse the headlines once a day on the websites of CNN, People & ESPN. Honestly, this strategy has been pretty successful over the years – I’m able to kind of know what people are talking about, but really just let them tell the detailed story while I nod along sort of aware of what’s going on.

And then I found theSkimm, which was made with people like me in mind (people like me being those who want to be able to take part in any conversation happening around them without sounding like an idiot). Every morning around 6 am you get an email with a roundup of news stories from the day before, spanning across all subjects. The coverage is pretty detailed, with a paragraph or two about each item (or more for much larger news stories). While you won’t hear about every single thing going on in the world, you will get enough info to hold a conversation with someone who spent 30 minutes reading one article on each topic. And even better, you’ll sound like you know exactly what you’re talking about!

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And that’s all folks. Sign up, and if it isn’t for you you can always unsubscribe…it is free after all. I think it’s fun getting the email every morning and catching up on the news. I still head over to other websites to get more detailed information on world events, but if I’m having a busy day and don’t have time theSkimm‘s roundups are enough to keep me in the loop.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mug Cake For One [or Two!]

While I love spending all day slaving away in the kitchen over some cupcakes or cookies (really, I do), I’m always looking for quick and easy desserts I can make at the last minute. Plus, isn’t it better to end up with one or two servings, instead of 24? Nothing like some forced self-control to ensure you don’t eat a dozen cookies for lunch the next day.

One night after dinner I started searching online for something sweet and came across a slew of mug desserts. Did you know there are tons and tons of baked goods you can make in a mug, that are cooked in the microwave? I had no idea! I found one that sounded yummy and only used items you should have in your pantry, which is a requirement if you’re deciding to do this at 9 pm. And let me tell you…it is absolutely delicious!

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 drops vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips, or any form of chocolate you’ve got, broken into small pieces [Note: I’ve made this with and without the chocolate chips. It’s great either way, so if you don’t have any on hand or prefer it to be more about the peanut butter, feel free to leave them out]
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter, creamy or chunky

Directions

  1. Place butter in your favorite coffee mug – the smaller the mug, the “fluffier” the cake will be. Place the mug in the microwave for increments of 15 seconds, until the butter is melted. It only took me 15 seconds, but could take a little longer depending on your microwave
  2. Stir in sugars, vanilla & baking powder
  3. Once mixed, stir in egg yolk, cocoa & flour. Add in chocolate chips, stirring slightly.
  4. Press peanut butter down into the center of the batter
  5. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. It should be fully cooked, but if it looks underdone you can keep microwaving for 15 second increments

That’s it! If you’re feeling extra indulgent, you can serve it with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream on top. I wouldn’t exactly call it healthy, but at least it’s only one mug’s worth of cake, right?

I’m back (again)!

So, I sorta disappeared for a few months. Sorry about that. It was mainly due to having no ideas for new posts (which I haven’t exactly fixed yet) but also…I moved! While I was very sad to leave my favorite – and the best – city in the entire world, Philadelphia, life has brought me to the actually-always-sunny San Diego.

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Nothing will change about the blog, not even the name. I wasn’t posting on Philly-specific things much anyway, though I might start writing a little about Southern California living. But the focus of the blog will still be frugal living, eating and travel.

And while I don’t have a lot of post ideas (comment with some you’d like to see please!) I’ll do my best to check in once a week or so. Or just disappear again…we’ll see :)

How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Shortly before moving from a 2,500 square foot, 3 bedroom home to a 500 square foot studio I (along with my roommate and original LibertyBelle Ashley) had a garage sale. We both learned a ton and earned over $300 each!unnamed-1

My tips for a successful garage sale:

  1. Put price tags on as many items as possible: Ashley bought a package of circular stickers and we used those to price most things. I found that people were much more likely to buy something with a price on it. They might haggle, or try to combine, but they were less hesitant to ask about pricing if there was already one on there. At first I didn’t think it would matter much, but as we added more and more price tags we definitely saw those items sell faster. unnamed-2
  2. Set everything up the night before, if possible: set-up will take a while. We spent maybe 2 hours laying out the items, and it was much better to have it all ready to go when we “opened” at 9 am. We got a lot of foot traffic the first few hours, and if we’d been spending that time also setting up we likely would’ve missed out on a lot of sales.
  3. Do your best to display items close to eye-height: we didn’t have a lot of space to display items, but were as creative as we could. Only put items on the ground that are easy to see – boots, pillows, etc. – and group like items together. That way, when someone sees something they like, they’re right near other similar items. Bring any tables, shelving and other furniture you have to the sale; you will use it all for display. You’ll be surprised how much space it all takes up, trust me.unnamed-3
  4. “Hot” items might surprise you: I definitely thought jewelry would sell easily, along with books and DVDs. They did not. Instead, super dated/old electronics were most in-demand, by far. We sold an ancient desktop computer, a 7 year old laptop, a non-operational Ti89 calculator and a few dated mp3 players. Lamps were another high-ticket item, as were specific types of clothing. Most clothes didn’t see any action at all, but jackets were very popular. Cooking items (pots, pans, blenders, etc.) went fast, while utensils and cups didn’t sell. I’m not sure what the point of a barely functioning laptop (for $20) is, but who cares.
  5. Post beforehand on Craigslist & hang signs: Ashley posted on Craigslist a few days before the sale, giving a general location (don’t put your actual address!) and date/time. We also hung a few signs nearby to increase foot traffic. We’re lucky to live in a pretty heavily trafficked area, but that posting on Craigslist absolutely brought us people. We asked a few who bought a ton of stuff where they’d heard about it (some came in cars) and many of them said they’d seen the CL ad. I highly recommend putting an advertisement in your local paper, if you’re not located in a major city.
  6. The more items, the better: If it had just been my stuff for sale, or just Ashley’s, I don’t think either of us would have sold as much we did. Casual walkerbys were more likely to come check out our sale when there were more items available. As the garage emptied, so did the people. That’s a good problem to have (selling everything), of course, but the more you can bring out to display the better off you’ll be. Even if you’re positive something won’t sell, as long as you’re willing to part with it put it out. I was positive nobody would buy a used comforter set, but turned out I was wrong. An easy $5 and it took up some space that would have been empty otherwise.unnamed-4

Ashley and I both had a great time at our garage sale. We were able to get rid of things we would have otherwise thrown out (or even worse, kept and taken up space in our too-small apartments), made a good amount of money doing it and met a bunch of our neighbors. I can’t wait for my next one!

Saving at the Grocery Store: Where to Start

I’m a couponer. As in, I go to Shoprite armed with a handful of coupons I’ve printed, combine them with sales, use an app like Ibotta after purchasing, and end up saving between 50% and 90% on my shopping trip. I do it because it’s fun for me, and I love the feeling of saving on things like yogurt and pasta sauce.

But I know the majority of people aren’t like me, and think spending half an hour printing coupons before going to the grocery store is a waste of time. And you know what…it might be. But even for those who don’t want to put in the effort or take the time to “coupon” can still save a significant amount at the register with very little effort.

  1. Use your grocery store’s shoppers card: there is no excuse for not having a shoppers card for the grocery stores you frequent. It takes a few minutes to sign up (many offer this option online), and then you can use your phone number at the register to get any discounts offered that week. Sometimes sales are applied without an account, but often if you don’t scan your card you’ll be missing out on a ton of instant savings. And who knows…maybe something is on special and you didn’t even know it.
  2. Buy non-perishables only when they’re on sale: the ultimate savings combination is a sale + a coupon + some other discount (catalina, e-coupon, app, etc.). But that type of planning isn’t easy. However, if you know you bake a ton during the fall, or that you love Progresso soups in the winter, try to purchase those things when you’re at the store and they’re on sale. Sale items are easily 50% off their regular price. If you absolutely need something for that week, and it’s not on sale, of course buy it. But if you can stock up on butter (which freezes fantastically) when it’s on sale, knowing you’ll use it eventually, do that. If you cook with chicken a lot, buy it when it’s a few bucks off per pound (and freeze it until you’re ready to use it). I know it can be slightly annoying to have to defrost meat vs. buying and cooking it the same day, but it’s worth the savings. Trust me. Household items like toilet paper are perfect for this rule – full price vs. on sale can differ a ton, so try your best never to “need” to buy these items. Get two or more packs when they’re on sale and pick up more before you run out.
    Cottonelle

    [save $5 on two packs just from a sale]

  3. Use e-coupons, if your store offers them: Tons of large grocery store chains have a website or app, or both, that offer e-coupons. They’re super simple: you enter in your shoppers card number (once!), and then “add” any offers to your account. If you buy any of the items, the amount comes off automatically at the register. I recommend googling to see if your store offers something like this, and if they do sign up and add every offer. They change weekly and monthly, but if you can remember to add new ones every few weeks you should notice some savings. It won’t be as significant as buying items on sale, but it’s too easy not to do. It takes me only a few minutes at the start of every trip to Shoprite to add the new e-coupons to my card, and it’s saved me a lot of money over the past few years.unnamed

For those of you that shop at stores that don’t have shopper’s accounts, or don’t typically put things on sale, you can still try and save here and there. Whole Foods, for example, does have weekly sales. They also have a circular when you walk into the store full of coupons for that week or month. If you can save even $5 a week shopping with the tips above, that’s over $250 a year! But if spending five minutes for $5 doesn’t appeal to you, then ignore everything I’ve said. Enjoy overspending :)