While many people are out shopping the day after Thanksgiving, you can often find me at home, digging through my closets, bookshelves and drawers. The goal is simple: to find better homes for all of my unwanted items and to make room for any new items that might make their way into my home.
Since I can’t get loved ones to stop buying me presents I typically ask for experience related gifts or consumable products like food. While this works more often than not, it’s inevitable that I’ll wind up with a few new things that need space in already crowded closets and drawers.
Every black Friday I perform a major deep clean and try my best to reorganize everything. I know that charities are always on the look out for donated clothes this time of year so I do my best to get things packed up into boxes in anticipation of the holidays.
I start by digging through the back of my closets and drawers and trying on each and every item that I’m just not sure about anymore. Then I move on to the linen closets and sort through sheets, blankets and towels.
Next I take a stab at the overflowing shelves lined with freebies like razors, toothpaste and shampoo. I keep one or two of each item as backups and then bundle the rest up for donation drives in our area. Last year I also provided small baskets filled with these types of products to family members.
Once that’s all wrapped up I typically move on to the gift closet. I take stock of what’s inside and pile up Christmas gifts I purchased throughout the year.
Lastly I clear out the rest of the house. I walk around and remove unwanted magazines, which can also be donated, along with odds and ends that have made their way into the various spaces of my home.
I also look for any items that we haven’t used in awhile. I’m always surprised by the number of things in our home that go unused over time. This includes everything from books to kitchen utensils. Sometimes I just box up items and move them out of the way, other times I try to sell or donate the unwanted items.
It can take a few hours to organize all of the nooks and crannies of my home, but when I’m finished I typically find at least a few boxes worth of items that I no longer want. I always feel a little bit lighter when I clean out the house and I’m happy to send those items off to those in need.
These days decluttering on Thanksgiving Day or the day after is an annual ritual. It feels good to get rid of all that clutter, but it feels even better knowing that it’s helping other people who need it more than we do.
How about you? Do you plan to shop on Black Friday? If not what do you plan to do?
This post was originally published on November 25, 2010.
You tend to donate the old items you no longer want or use, and not just because you’re a believer in reducing what heads to the landfill; each year, you rely on donations for a tax deduction. However, if you’re a frequent donator, you may wonder when it’s worth waiting for a receipt or if you should bring your items to convenient drop-off locations without someone there to hand you a receipt because it’s on your way to somewhere. It’s possible that your donations won’t exceed the standard deduction, so it may not be worth making a point of getting a receipt. However, there are several exceptions.
Rely on Pickup
If the foremost reason you sometimes avoid getting a receipt for your donations is because it’s more convenient for you to drop off items when no one is there to receive them, look into an even more convenient way to donate: arrange for donation pickup and get a receipt when the charity picks up the item at your home. You’re most likely to find organizations that provide free pickup for large donations, such as appliances, furnishings and vehicles, but some will even take smaller donations.
Old cars, boats, motorcycles and tractors tend to sit in driveways covered in weeds and taking up space. Rather than hauling them to the junkyard and writing them off, donate them to a company specializing in vehicle donation. Charities sell these old vehicles to interested buyers and use the money raised for their causes. Your car doesn’t have to be in prime condition to qualify for donation, as the organization may be able to fix it up or sell it for parts.
You may consider donating even your current vehicle if you’re looking to buy something new. If you sell an old car, you’re lucky if you get even a thousand dollars. Donating the car and writing off the donation on your taxes could translate to a bigger tax refund or a smaller tax bill.
Your old computers, tablets, phones, TVs and game systems may not be worth a lot after the release of several new models; however, they are still worth something. Charity organizations will take electronics to refurbish them and give them to underprivileged families, soldiers or schools or to recycle them and potentially make money off of the recycling for their cause. Although electronics lower in value more quickly than other items like furniture, they were a sizable investment when they were new and you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to claim the donation on your taxes.
Whenever you donate a large appliance or an item of furniture, request a receipt. Even if it’s not in the best condition, the charity may be able to refurbish it — and it could be worth a few hundred dollars. Ask for a receipt for items such as:
- Bed frames
- Washing machines
If you’re asking for a receipt, confirm you’re giving the item to a charitable organization, not someone who just hauls unwanted appliances or furniture off your property. Some places will take these large furnishings off of your hands free of charge, but they sell or recycle them for profit. It’s still convenient for you, but it won’t qualify you for a donation receipt.
If you’re making a large donation of clothes, knickknacks or food, ask for a receipt. It may not be worth the effort to get a receipt for smaller donations – a shirt or two out of your dresser, a grocery bag full of non-perishable goods – but if you have an entire closet to donate or you plan to give a food bank enough food to feed a dozen families, make a point of asking for a receipt.
According to the Network for Good, 89 percent of American households give to charity, claiming an average of $1,620 in deductions in each year. If you frequently donate or donate even a single large item like a vehicle, your deductions will total more than that. In many cases, it’s worth taking the extra time to ask for a receipt for your donation – especially since sometimes the charity will do the work for you and pick up the items.
Before giving birth to an October baby I never factored in the number of gift list requests that would come between the time the first leaves fall and Christmas begins. I don’t know what to include on these lists anymore. I feel quite inundated by the number of toys currently overflowing in our living room and that doesn’t count the droves of items I’ve already moved to the basement.
I need help! No seriously. I really could use some advice on this topic. I know that everyone wants to see the little guy’s eyes light up when he rips open the wrapping paper and reveals his gifts, but I don’t want another mound of toys joining the piles we already have to contend with.
I’ve told everyone in my family that time is really the best gift of all, but with that suggestion they all seem to shrug their shoulders and say “uh-huh, but what can I buy the little guy?”
A few friends have suggested sticking to the good old rhyme:
- something they WANT
- something they NEED
- something to WEAR
- something to READ
I’ve also thought about asking them to wrap gifts of food and other consumable items. My kid loves fruit. Maybe they could just wrap up some oranges and apples. I know it sounds crazy, but at this age I think he’d love that more than any big box they’d give him. Perhaps they could buy a paint brush, paints and paper all wrapped separately. Maybe they could wrap a helium inflated balloon. Hmm, maybe these ideas do sound a bit crazy?
It’s not that I’m trying to deny him toys. If he didn’t have a room full of them I wouldn’t think twice about adding a few to his wish list. And if his birthday didn’t occur two months before Christmas he might be in need of some new ones.
I’ve written about this topic more times than I can count, but I can’t seem to find a real resolution for the problem. I’m open to any and all suggestions! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any ideas!
Coupons are becoming very popular. Even the laziest of folks can find coupons with little effort. If you intend to shop with a budget and save as much as possible while purchasing items that you require, coupon shopping is the right way to go to maximize savings!
How To Find Such Coupons
The first question that comes to mind is how and where can you find coupons to facilitate your savings? The answer is simple. First and foremost look in newspapers and magazines. This is especially true for the Sunday newspaper, which has always been a remarkable source for getting coupons. Numerous retailers get their coupons printed in the Sunday newspaper. All sorts of coupons for products can be found ranging from soda and edibles to home appliances and decor. These are very easy to find and all you have to do is search for the ones for items that you need. You can always cut out and save the ones, which you might need in future.
Another resource to obtain coupons for savings on shopping is the mail. Many stores especially the local ones send coupons in the mail, so be sure to check your mail from any surrounding stores. In some cases, buying from stores gets you the opportunity to get registered on the mailing list of that store. Through direct mailings stores keep you updated about the deals and discounts that are available as well as mail coupons to their customers. Also, coupons for some products can be obtained directly from the manufacturer by mailing, emailing or contacting them by phone. If a store or a manufacturer knows that you are a regular customer, they will be more than happy to provide you with their coupons and latest offers and sales.
An essential place to look for active coupon shopping is online. Many websites have been made and are solely dedicated for the purpose of providing printable coupons to people. The most popular ones include coupons.com, retailmenot.com and CouponsRain.com. All you have to do is sign up and get registered on the site. You can check the site or get emails of the latest deals of your interest.
If you are trying to save money, make sure you don’t use a coupon for a product you don’t need. Buying something that is unnecessary just because you have a coupon is not a smart move. Be aware that this is certainly wasting money and is not really helping you save. However, just because you don’t need a coupon right away doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clip it and save it for later.
Melaine Morgan, Basically a marketing specialist, loves to write content CouponsRain
I got married in 2004 and swore I would send out Christmas cards when December rolled around. Did I do it? No. Every year after we were married I planned to ship out cards, but somehow or another I failed to do so. Some years I got very close to sending out cards. I picked out my favorite pictures and even thought about what I wanted to write inside of them. One year I even bought cards, but when the time came I couldn’t find the addresses I needed and never stamped or addressed them.
This all changed in 2011 when my son was born. I felt like I’d waited a lifetime for him to arrive. After a series of unfortunate medical problems my husband and I decided to wait to get pregnant. I always knew that I wanted children, but we both decided that it was best to let my body heal before attempting to carry a child. Of course, once I healed it took us another year of trying to conceive and nine months of pregnancy to make that wish come true.
As soon as he was born I decided to send out birth announcements. I was elated by his arrival and would have climbed to to the top of the tallest mountain if I could have. As soon as I selected a favorite picture I turned to the Internet in search of a website with baby related designs. I hate to admit this but I actually searched various sites for over two days. I wanted something simple and elegant, which can actually be quite difficult to find. A lot of baby designs are too cutesy for me.
When Christmas rolled around just two months after his birth I was bound and determined to send out Christmas cards. I vowed that this year would definitely be different and it was. After years of avoiding the camera I had taken more photos in two months of my son’s life than I had taken in over ten years! Every day I was capturing new moments. Looking back I’m so glad I picked up that camera. So much has changed in my son’s first two years of life and those photos instantly bring me back to the beginning.
In 2011 I actually had too many photographs to chose from. I settled on a Christmas card that let me include nine photos, because I simply couldn’t narrow my options. For some reason 2012 was an easier year. I fell in love with one particular photo and printed a card with my son’s beaming face on one side and a beautiful sentiment on the other.
This year I’m not sure what to select. My little guy is no longer a baby. His little face has started to thin out and he has lost that baby look almost entirely. As I look through the photos I cannot believe that another year has gone by. Looking at him makes me realize just how quickly time passes.
There are so many companies offering holiday photo cards that it’s definitely difficult to choose one. After searching a number of sites I’ve chosen to use minted. I absolutely love how you can alter the shape of them. Look how pretty this scallop shape looks.
Now I just have to settle on a picture or pictures of the family.
How about you? Do you send out Christmas cards each year? Do you find it difficult to select the picture or pictures?
*The pictures are from the minted. site. They are not pictures of my family or son.
I’m in the process of organizing my house. Whenever I’m feeling a bit uneasy about life I start looking for piles that need to be sorted and toys that need to be put back on the shelf. It’s an easy way for me to release my nervous energy. I don’t know where this habit stems from, but it makes me feel so much better to look around and see everything in it’s place. I don’t typically feel 100% better once the house is neat and tidy, but I feel more productive than worrying or sitting for hours on end with my thoughts. I also have a hard time thinking straight when things are out of order, so cleaning keeps me busy and then gives me the space to think and breathe. The end product isn’t too shabby either: a house with less clutter and more room to live.
So far I’ve taken two trips to the donation center and plan to take another one this week. My organization quest began this summer when I replaced a bunch of gray storage containers with clear ones. Believe it or not I filled 6 small (32 qt) containers and 6 large (66 qt) containers primarily with hand-me-down clothing and toys for my son! The large boxes cost $6.99 a piece. The small ones cost $5.99 each. The total for all twelve came to $77.88 before tax.
The clothes are all sorted by age and range in size from 0-6 months to size 4. For the most part my son is still wearing size 18-24 months, which means more than half of the boxes contain clothing he won’t wear for at least another year or two. I’m not a big fan of storing things in the basement for two years, but the quality of hand-me-downs could not be beat. I’m holding onto the smaller sizes in the hopes that we might have another child. If we don’t make any progress on that front within the next year then I’ll pass them on to someone else.
I spent almost $80 on new containers, but everything is now organized and easy to see. The hand-me-downs easily saved me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in children’s clothing, so $80 to store it seemed quite reasonable.
Earlier this month I donated all of my mismatching bowls and other kitchen items and replaced them with items that can stack easily in our cabinets. This felt just as crazy as donating perfectly good storage containers just because they weren’t see-through. My husband and I spent an hour in TJ Maxx and walked out with $118 worth of stuff. In that case I spent a measly $6.18 out of pocket. The rest of the money came in the form of gift cards I received for completing surveys.
My last purchase was three sets of skinny hangers. After reorganizing all of the closets in our house I decided to get rid of the funky, mismatching hangers that seemed to take up a ridiculous amount of space on each rod. One final trip to the store and I became the proud owner of three new sets of hangers that provide a world of space in the closets. I purged a bunch of stuff that freed up space, but those skinny hangers really make my life easier. I can see almost everything in closet, (I don’t have much stuff in there anymore), without moving everything back and forth to find what I’m looking for. Each set of hangers cost $9.99. I also bought two sets of pant hangers, which cost a total of $7.98. The grand total for four sets of hangers: $37.95 before tax.
All told I spent $233.83 to reorganize the house. Four sets of hangers, 12 storage containers and countless new stackable bowls and other kitchen items. Thanks to the TJ Maxx gift cards I spent just under $125 (before tax) for all the items.
Did I need new hangers, bowls and storage boxes? Probably not. The items I had in the house were completely functional and to be honest it felt very strange to get rid of things that were perfectly useful. After all a bowl is a bowl, isn’t it?
In this case I fought the urge to keep the items I owned. I passed them on to the donation center and hope that someone else will use them. They serve the needs they were designed for, they just didn’t keep things as organized as I wanted.
Would you spend money to reorganize your house? Do you think replacing functional items is a complete waste of money?
Over the years I’ve written a lot about the steps that can lead to financial success. In December of 2006, (the year I created this blog), I wrote about the best financial decisions I’d made to date. In 2007 I elaborated on the lessons I learned, which included getting my first job early in life, attending a state college, interning, and living with roommates after college. Last year I elaborated on the decisions and events that enabled me to increase my savings. (If you plan to click through the previous links I should warn you that some of the details are duplicated across posts.)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the advice I’d give my younger self. If I had it to do all over again would I repeat the same actions and make the same decisions? Sure I’d tweak a few things here and there. If I were smart I’d buy a house in a different neighborhood or live in a group house that wasn’t infested with fruit flies. I would definitely travel more! There are a few places I really wish I’d visited before my son was born, but my regrets are actually few and far between.
The number one contributor to my current wealth is definitely the occupation I previously held. As a hard working software developer my salary rose to higher heights than it would have in most of the other professions I considered as a college student. The fact that my husband also works in software further boosted our overall net worth.
While I was in college I considered becoming a teacher. I love working with children and wanted a ‘feel-good’ occupation that would warm my heart and help me feel like I was contributing to the greater good of society. Of course, a teacher’s salary cannot compare to a position in the IT industry. As a teacher it might have taken me thirty years to accumulate the amount of money I earned in twelve.
I did enjoy aspects of my work, but it certainly wasn’t rewarding in a way that I imagined my career would be. Despite the lack of warm fuzzies software development definitely helped me put money in the bank. I now believe more than ever that the key to acquiring wealth is working in a high paying industry early in your career. Make a high income and set aside as much money as you possibly can while still living your life. I’m not suggesting that you live like Scrooge for years on end. Even while you are earning a high income you can live a life of moderation not deprivation. The goal is not to squirrel all your money aside for the future, but rather to live today and still set aside a large chunk for tomorrow.
Above all else money provides you with flexibility. If you work at a high paying job early in your career you can ultimately choose to stay home with your children, choose to travel the world for a year, choose to retire early in order to volunteer your time to worthy projects. Yes, it’s true that you can also do all of these things without money but it certainly helps to have a firm financial footing. There is simply less to worry about when there is money in the bank.
Of course, we also know that life isn’t a guarantee. Given my medical history I certainly know this fact more than most people. You could work fifteen years in a job you don’t like and then drop dead the very next day. In that case it would have been a wiser decision to work in a more fulfilling job and to feel rewarded for your efforts. Since most of us don’t know how long we’ll live you can’t exactly hedge your bets for dropping dead tomorrow, nor would you want to.
Money is not the key to happiness. Some people would prefer to sacrifice a high salary for a job they love. In fact I know a few people who would rather sell their souls than work in a job that isn’t rewarding. Others would prefer to make a lot of money in a shorter amount of time and then be able to focus their attention on the aspects of life they really enjoy. Imagine all that you can do with your life if you didn’t spend 40 hours a week working.
I realize that a lot of people don’t have the option to work in a high paying line of work, but if you did have the option what do you think? Would you rather work thirty years in a job you love or ten to fifteen years in a high paying job you don’t really like?
As I look at my young son I wonder what advice I would give him. I chose the path of high income as did my husband. I wonder what he will decide when the time comes.
Whether the motivation is creating a safe place for kids to play or simply the desire to keep the noise and toys out of the other common areas of the house, designing a playroom in the home offers up many benefits. Here, kids can play and be kids without the worries about broken furniture or accessories, and they can play safely and securely without getting in anyone’s way. Young children can have the satisfaction and pride of having their own special place, where their most precious toys and other items can be kept.
A playroom’s design does not need to be fancy or complex, but even the most basic playroom needs to provide plenty of space for storing books, games and toys, as well as having space for artwork, areas for creative play and places to just relax.
Exciting playroom designs and ideas
Designing the perfect playroom will begin with choosing a theme that the child or children love and that is within budget. This may be a complete theme, such as a “pirate” design complete with a Jolly Roger capped ship to play on, a treasure chest or two for storing toys and games, even a sandbox for hiding and seeking buried treasures. Woodland themes, railroad themes, a variety of sports themes, and princess or fairy tale themes are all popular ideas that encompass the basic needs of a playroom with regard to storage, creative play and relaxation.
If several children will be using the room, or if a more general and basic design is desired, simply selecting lively colors for the room may be a better way to go. Children frequently gravitate towards bold primary colors such as red, blue and green; using these colors as accents rather than saturating the room in them allows some flexibility in the design while also making the room pleasant for adults to come to as well, a distinct advantage during ‘mommy and me’ play-dates.
Storage space and furniture are another area where imagination and innovation can come together with exciting results. Shelves for storing books, toys and games can be designed with display in mind, leaving them open for viewing and accessible to kids at all times. On the other hand, if a neat clean look is desired, or if the room may be used for overnight guests on occasion, curtains or wooden shutters may be used to conceal the contents of shelves.
When it comes to furniture in a playroom, it needs to be free of sharp edges and sturdy enough to stand up to the rough treatment of the average active child. It also needs to be comfortable; sectional sofas are ideal since they may be customized piece-by-piece to suit the unique needs of the playroom. Beanbag chairs, oversize floor pillows and video-gaming chairs are also popular choices and work well with most designs and themes. If the room needs to offer sleepover accommodations, a sleeper sofa is ideal, as are daybeds, trundle beds and built-in Murphy beds.
Did you see the picture of the sandwich in this post? That’s the sad excuse for a sub that I received from a local restaurant in my area. For my son’s second birthday my husband and I decided to take the easy approach to party planning by ordering subs from a local sandwich shop. I think this may be the first time we didn’t spend the day cooking and preparing, but we wanted to enjoy the time with our friends and family and opted to let someone else prepare the food.
During the party I noticed one of the subs was missing quite a bit of meat, but to be honest I was rushing around entertaining and didn’t pay close attention to the quality of food. A few hours later as we were wrapping up the remaining subs I was dismayed by the quality of sandwiches we purchased. A sub that should have contained healthy portions of turkey, cheese and veggies contained almost two thin strips of lettuce, no cheese, barely any meat and the saddest excuse for a tomato that I’d ever seen.
I paid over $100 for a platter of sandwiches that were all similarly composed. Of course, no one at the party complained. Even my parents refrained from comment until I asked them about it.
That night I took pictures of the food we received and emailed the restaurant with my complaint. In essence I kindly stated that I’ve ordered from this particular establishment many times and that I’ve never had a problem with the quality of food before. I explained the state of the sandwiches and the fact that they lacked ingredients of every type and reasonable portion.
The very next day the owner of the store called to apologize. He asked me to email him the pictures and quickly offered to make amends of the situation. A few days later I picked up a $100 gift card, which was slightly less than the amount we paid for two platters of subs.
Over the years I’ve experienced hit and miss luck reaching out to stores with negative feedback. Sometimes I receive a ‘thanks for letting us know’ response and other times, like in this case, I received full compensation for whatever I purchased. For the record I did not expect to be fully compensated. Despite the bad food the party goers did eat a healthy portion of subs that afternoon.
The fact is that some stores appreciate your business more than others. I had a completely different reaction when I bought two stale cupcakes from an upscale grocery store. In that case I was told I needed to speak with a store manager in person about the problem. Although I paid nearly $15, (yes I realize that’s a crazy amount for cupcakes, especially two unappetizing cupcakes), it certainly wouldn’t make sense to drive to the store to speak with someone about it. The store is a forty-five minute drive away from my house and I only travel there once or twice a year. I explained the situation to a customer service representative but they said that was standard store policy. Perhaps they decided I didn’t frequent the store often enough to be considered a valued customer or that $15 wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to compensate me for my troubles.
This post might make me sound like Debby Downer and I assure you that is not the case. While I do send out complaint letters I am equally prone to contacting businesses with words of praise. Of course, it’s more enjoyable to write about positive experiences, but it can also help the employees. Waiters and waitresses have been encouraged by pats on the back from their bosses and on occasion we’ve been told that our kind words resulted in unexpected bonuses.
Do you notify businesses when you are displeased with their goods or services? Is there a minimum amount you have to spend in order to justify the time and effort spent complaining? Have you ever reached out to a store or restaurant where you had an exceptional experience?
Right now you can receive a free $20 in-store credit voucher for the Body Shop via Groupon and TopCashBack. Here are the details:
- Groupon is selling a $20 voucher for The Body Shop for $10.
- TopCashback is giving $10 cash back on the deal, which means you’ll earn back the $10 you spent on the Groupon.
Here’s how to take advantage of this deal:
- Visit the Body Shop Deal on TopCashBack.
- Click the orange button that says $10.00.
- Purchase The Body Shop’s $20 in-store voucher priced at $10.
- Within 7 days you should receive $10 in cash back to your TopCashBack account
This will make the $20 voucher free after cash back. After 60 to 90 days the TopCashBack credit can be paid to your checking or PayPal account.
Please note: The purchase should only contain the $20 Body Shop voucher priced at $10 and there is a limit of 1 $20 Body Shop voucher per TopCashBack account/member.
Also – You will need to create an account if you have not already done so.
If you like the Body Shop this is a great deal!