DIY en-US Ask the Readers: What Is Your Favorite DIY Halloween Costume? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ask-the-readers-what-is-your-favorite-diy-halloween-costume" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="halloween costume" title="halloween costume" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Editor's Note: Congratulations to <a href="">Beth</a>, Susan, and Candace for winning this week's contest!</em></p> <p>Costume retailers are out in full force now, but with so many DIY costume tutorials on the web, you can save some cash by making your own. From bubble wrap jellyfish to balloon grapes, your next Halloween get-up is only a click (and maybe some duct tape) away!</p> <p><strong>What is your favorite DIY Halloween costume?</strong> Have you worn this costume before, or made it for someone else? Will you dress up this Halloween &mdash; if yes, what will you be?</p> <p>Tell us about your favorite DIY Halloween costume and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!</p> <h2>Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards</h2> <p>We're doing three giveaways &mdash; here's how you can win!</p> <h3>Mandatory Entry:</h3> <ul> <li>Post your answer in the comments below. One commenter will be randomly selected to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!</li> </ul> <h3>For Extra Entries:</h3> <ul> <li>You can tweet about our giveaway for an extra entry. Also, our Facebook fans can get an extra entry too! Use our Rafflecopter widget for your chance to win one of the other two Amazon Gift Cards:</li> </ul> <p><a id="rc-79857dfa146" class="rafl" href="" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a> </p> <script src="//"></script></p> <p><strong>If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.</strong></p> <h4>Giveaway Rules:</h4> <ul> <li>Contest ends Monday, October 27th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Winners will be announced after October 27th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.</li> <li>You can enter all three drawings &mdash; once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.</li> <li>This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.</li> <li>You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Good Luck!</strong></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Ask the Readers: What Is Your Favorite DIY Halloween Costume?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><div class="field field-type-text field-field-blog-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tell us about your favorite DIY Halloween costume and we&#039;ll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card! </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Jacobs</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Giveaways Ask the Readers Halloween costumes Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:00:07 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 1238211 at 20 Simple and Cheap Halloween Costumes for Kids <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/20-simple-and-cheap-halloween-costumes-for-kids" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="halloween costume" title="halloween costume" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I have an almost 3-year-old daughter, and she's incredibly excited to dress up for Halloween this year. The thing is, we went out shopping for costumes the other day, and I was absolutely shocked at how much these little outfits cost. I complained to my own mother who, in turn, showed me photos of some of the costumes I wore as a kid. Guess what! They were all humble and homemade. (See also: <a href="">Last Minute DIY Halloween Costumes</a>)</p> <p>So, get out the glue, cardboard, and pipe cleaners. Here are 20 amazing Halloween costume ideas that are both adorable on your kid and sensible for your budget.</p> <h2>1. Black Cat</h2> <p>Dress your child in black pants and a black shirt or sweater. Use construction paper to cut out two triangles to attach to a headband for ears. Use eyeliner to <a href="">draw a black triangle</a> on your child's nose and then whiskers on his or her cheeks. Finish off by filling a long black sock with some stuffing and pinning it on as a tail.</p> <h2>2. Robot</h2> <p>Gather up any discarded boxes you were planning to recycle and use them to assemble a <a href="">DIY robot costume</a>. Paint with bright or metallic craft paint however you like. Decorate with &mdash; you guessed it &mdash; plastic bottle caps, stray buttons, and other discarded items.</p> <h2>3. Snail</h2> <p>Use brown craft paper to twist and turn into a shell for this cute <a href="">snail costume</a>. From there, you simply make a base using a square of cardboard and hot glue ribbon onto it so your child can wear the shell as a backpack.</p> <h2>4. Runner</h2> <p>Put your kid in his or her most athletic clothes &mdash; a t-shirt and shorts should do. You can add leggings if it's cold. Then choose a pair of sneakers. If you have a sweatband &mdash; great! To finish, pin one of your race numbers onto the shirt and add a finisher's medal (or borrow those items from a runner friend).</p> <h2>5. Aerobics Instructor</h2> <p>My mom taught dance aerobics in the 1980s, so I love this <a href="">throwback costume</a> that even a baby can wear. Dress baby in a onesie with leggings underneath and a pair of leg warmers. If you don't have leg warmers, cut the feet off a pair of old socks as a temporary fix. The author of the costume made a felt boom box. If you're not into sewing, make one using a small cardboard box and craft paint.</p> <h2>6. Angel</h2> <p>You can make some amazing angel wings using <a href="">cardboard and coffee filters</a>. Though this tutorial was originally intended for decorative wings, they'll attach to your child's body with ribbon much like in the snail costume instructions above.</p> <h2>7. Superhero</h2> <p>Dress your child in one color as a base and then craft a quick, no-sew cape <a href="">using an old t-shirt</a> (or you can buy one for just $1 at the Dollar Store). Then make cuffs using toilet paper rolls and a mask using construction paper. Decorate using whatever art supplies you already own.</p> <h2>8. Crayon</h2> <p>Have your child wear his or her favorite color from head to toe. These girls decided to <a href="">color their hair</a> and loft with water bottles, but you could also make a quick cap using construction paper and ribbon. Otherwise, make a label using black paper and paint that says Crayola.</p> <h2>9. Ghost</h2> <p>Your classic homemade costume. Use a sheet or large piece of white fabric as your base. Cut holes for the eyes. Or you can buy this <a href="">exact same thing</a> for $200 with 600 thread count. Your choice.</p> <h2>10. Fairy</h2> <p>Most little girls already have one of those tulle dress-up skirts. Dress her in one color leggings and a shirt and throw on the poofy skirt. Head to your Dollar Store and pick up a few fake flowers to glue onto a headband. Craft some <a href="">DIY wings</a> using cardboard, glitter, and ribbon.</p> <h2>11. Lego Man</h2> <p>If your child loves playing with Legos, this inexpensive <a href="">Lego Man costume</a> will surely be a hit. Use two cardboard boxes and some disposable bowls (or Solo cups). Glue everything together and then spray paint your favorite color.</p> <h2>12. Wind-Up Doll</h2> <p>Though this <a href="">Wind-Up Doll</a> idea is originally for a girl's costume, it could work equally well for a boy. Use a toilet paper roll, a styrofoam ball, and a cardboard cutout to make a wind-up handle and spray with gold paint. Use elastic and brass fasteners to attach to your child's arms.</p> <h2>13. Artist</h2> <p>Dress your child in all black, including a beret. Cut cardboard in the <a href="">shape of an artist's palette</a>, paint white, then add color splotches and a paintbrush. Then cut two small holes in the top so your kid can loop the whole thing around his or her neck.</p> <h2>14. Jellyfish</h2> <p>All you need is an umbrella, some ribbon (or streamers, etc.), and embellishments for this <a href="">DIY jellyfish costume</a>. Bonus: When you're done with Halloween, your child can continue to use the umbrella on rainy days for years to come.</p> <h2>15. Care Bears</h2> <p>Get the whole family involved with this no-sew <a href="">Care Bears costume</a>. You'll need sweatshirts or hoodies and matching pants. The rest requires felt, paint, glue, some pipe cleaners, and a little artistic ability. If you don't want to go to all that trouble, I think you could draw the designs on paper plates for a similar impact.</p> <h2>16. White Cloud</h2> <p>This <a href="">white cloud</a> getup would be a lot of fun to wear. After you construct your base, the bulk of the costume is made from cotton batting or polyester pillow stuffing. Use whatever you have on hand. This cloud would also be cool if you spray painted it grey or black and added a cardboard lightning bolt.</p> <h2>17. Game Boy</h2> <p>Turn your baby into a <a href="">handheld gaming system</a> with a onesie, different colored felt, and glue. This costume is seriously adorable and &mdash; as the author writes &mdash; the hardest part is waiting for it to dry.</p> <h2>18. Litterbug</h2> <p>Tampa has a Green Halloween celebration each year. In 2010, a little girl stole the show with her eco-conscious <a href="">Litterbug getup</a>, winning first place in the costume competition. Simply have your kid wear a solid color underneath a collection of taped-on (and cleaned off!) recyclables of all shapes and sizes.</p> <h2>19. Octopus</h2> <p>I laughed out loud when I saw this <a href="">DIY octopus</a> costume in my search. I've come across several variations, some with matching socks and some without. If you're on a tight budget, just use what you have around the house before buying anything new.</p> <h2>20. Masked Animal</h2> <p>If you don't have a lot of time or crafting ability, try these <a href="">no-sew animal masks</a>. The template is free and this project is a fun one to get kids involved with creating. For the rest of the costume, have your child wear simple clothing so the mask is the focus.</p> <p><em>Are you proud of a DIY costume you made (or wore)? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="20 Simple and Cheap Halloween Costumes for Kids" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Entertainment costumes dress up Halloween Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:00:04 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1237801 at How to Make 8 Trending Halloween Costumes on the Cheap <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-make-8-trending-halloween-costumes-on-the-cheap" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="minion costume" title="minion costume" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Halloween is a booming business, and the only thing more expensive than the treats for little tricksters are the costumes. Commercial get-ups can run into the hundreds, so many people are looking to Pinterest and other sites to turn their next disguise into a DIY adventure.</p> <p>So here's how to make some of the hottest costumes this season yourself for less!</p> <h2>Striped and Wrapped</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" alt="" src="" /></p> <p>Candy Crush Saga isn't just a game. For many, it's a way of life. This sickly sweet and addicting mobile app has many adults seeing images of brightly-colored candies in their dreams each night, so bringing them to life as a Halloween costume only makes sense. Simply get a big box and paint it on the front to look like a candy grid before cutting out holes for the head, arms, and legs (or <a href="">use a sandwich board</a> for better mobility).</p> <p>You can also chose to dress like Tiffi, that little girl that cries at the end of each level. Popsugar has your shopping list for all the <a href="">cute-sie accessories</a> you'll need to pull off the look.</p> <h2>Clash of the Clans</h2> <p><iframe width="605" height="340" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>This is yet another obsession for kids (and their parents), but the silver lining is that the costumes aren't that complicated. This video tutorial for <a href="">making up a child to look like the goblin</a> takes patience, but isn't very expensive. Archers seem to be a simple costume as well, assuming you have a pink wig and both a green dress and hooded cloak. If you have old gear from a Renaissance Fair, you'll likely have what you need to dress up as many of the characters in this game.</p> <h2>Lego Minifig</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" alt="" src="" /></p> <p>This trend never seems to die out, and once again, Pinterest is full of Lego character costumes. While everyone can get the &quot;box body&quot; pretty easily, the head is what give people trouble. <a href="">This Instructables</a> shows you step-by-step how to get it done in one weekend!</p> <h2>Minion</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>These little creatures from the <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0042U94UQ&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=CRFREKZDNPRZNLAS">Despicable Me</a> franchise have been a huge success as both adult and kid costumes. Their simple features make them easy to duplicate in a DIY project. Most of the projects I've seen involve nothing more than a yellow hooded sweatshirt worn under a pair of denim overalls. Add some black rounded glasses and a toolbelt, and you have yourself a fashionable version of this cartoon trend! Or, check out this tutorial for an <a href="">accessory Minion hat!</a></p> <h2>Monster High</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>As much as I can't relate to this trend (I have five little boys), I do see it as any easy win for the DIY costume crowd. A private school uniform skirt and blouse altered slightly with some iron-on patches of spooky spiders or webs will go nicely with a black studded belt, black tights, and some creepy hair accessories. Don't forget to paint a few scars or stitches on the face!</p> <h2>Doctor Who</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>This is one alien that won't cost a fortune to replicate. Since any human can get away with looking like our time-traveling friend, you simply have to pick your favorite regeneration and buy the appropriate accessories. Will it be a bowtie? A fez? Something vintage, like a scarf? While some Doctors (like the 11th) weren't as quirky looking &mdash; and you might get confused with the Fonz &mdash; you can always prove a point with your own <a href="">homemade Sonic Screwdriver</a>!</p> <h2>Mario and Luigi</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The NES may no longer be functional, but the legacy of the two most famous Italian plumbers lives on! Mario and Luigi costumes are still for sale at major retailers, so it's a safe bet to make at home. A pair of denim overalls can be dyed bright blue and paired with a red long-sleeve tee for Mario (green for Luigi) and topped off with a red or green baseball cap. Mustaches are easy to find, too!</p> <h2>A Selfie</h2> <p>In this selfie-obsessed world, what's more fashionable than a pic of you? This tutorial for putting together an <a href="">Instagram frame</a> is brilliant and surprisingly not too complicated. It's an acceptable solution for tweens and teens who may be forced to take younger siblings out trick-or-treating, but feel lame &quot;dressing up.&quot;</p> <p><em>Each year bring it's share of super heroes, angels, monks, and witches, but it's nice to bring a little creativity to the party &mdash; especially at a low cost. What frugal Halloween costume ideas will you try out this year?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Make 8 Trending Halloween Costumes on the Cheap" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Linsey Knerl</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Entertainment cheap costumes costumes Halloween trendycostumes Thu, 16 Oct 2014 17:00:06 +0000 Linsey Knerl 1236049 at 10 Homemade Child Products That Are Cheaper and Better Than Store Bought <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-homemade-child-products-that-are-cheaper-and-better-than-store-bought" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="mother feeding baby" title="mother feeding baby" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Whether it's to save money, avoid harsh chemicals, or simply for the joy of creating, there are tons of good reasons to make your own baby and child products. (See also: <a href="">7 Homemade Pet Products That Are Better and Cheaper Than Store Bought</a>)</p> <p>If you're feeling that DIY itch coming on, try these homemade child and baby products that are both cheaper, and better quality, than what you'll find at the store.</p> <h2>1. Baby Food</h2> <p>Pouches and jars of store-bought baby food are convenient, but homemade baby food tastes better and is more nutritious, not to mention cheaper (most pouches run over $1 each, which can add up with a hungry baby!). With my first baby I kept a variety of pre-packaged baby food for emergencies, but for meals at home I definitely made my own purees. Here's a great place to look for <a href="">baby food recipes</a>. Any fruit or veggie, cooked until soft, can be pureed, and the combinations are endless!</p> <p>Freeze extra purees in ice-cube trays for convenience. Then at mealtimes, heat up a few cubes. You can also buy <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B00AM5NTIS&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=46CNNOKK67VRDHQ2">reusable baby food pouches</a> (easily cleaned in the dishwasher) for bringing homemade purees out when you're on the go &mdash; just remember to pack them with an ice-pack.</p> <h2>2. Diaper Rash Cream</h2> <p>With all the unpronounceable ingredients found in baby products these days, it's nice to know exactly what's going onto your baby's bottom. This recipe for <a href="">natural diaper cream</a> works as well or better than store bought. Although you'll have to buy all the ingredients, you'll spend less than buying the expensive organic brand diaper creams in the long run.</p> <h2>3. Baby Laundry Detergent</h2> <p>Little ones have sensitive skin that can sometimes be irritated by the chemicals in commercial detergents. It is easy and cheap to make your own with minimal and natural ingredients. Check out this tutorial on how to make your own natural <a href="">baby laundry detergent</a>.</p> <h2>4. Baby Wipes</h2> <p>If your child has sensitive skin, the alcohol in store-bought wipes might irritate his or her skin. You can make your own <a href="">homemade baby wipes</a> that don't have any irritating ingredients and that are almost as convenient as store-bought wipes.</p> <h2>5. Toys</h2> <p>If you've ever hung out with a baby or toddler, you'll have quickly realized that they can be surrounded by the most expensive, fancy, developmentally-appropriate toys, but all they want to do is play with a cardboard box. In fact, one of the most fun things to do with your child is to make things together. My daughter and I have spent hours creating furniture for her dollhouse (which was also a DIY my husband nailed together from wood boards). Cardboard beds, &quot;paintings&quot; for the walls, blankets and towels, a bathtub made from a plastic food box &mdash; all of these have inspired hours of creative play.</p> <p>Other examples of DIY toys we've tried include:</p> <ul> <li>Plastic cups and a wooden spoon for play cooking</li> <li>A hand-drawn &quot;map&quot; to drive toy cars on</li> <li>A paper gift bag and some play &quot;money&quot; made of paper for pretend shopping</li> <li>Paper crowns for dress-up</li> <li>Homemade <a href="">play-dough</a></li> </ul> <p>The vast majority of the &quot;interactive&quot; toys &mdash; the ones that make noises and have blinking lights &mdash; sit forgotten in the toy box. It's the toys with scope for imagination that get the most use.</p> <h2>6. Kids' Paints</h2> <p>Kids love to do crafts, and you can make your own washable <a href="">watercolor paints</a>, diy <a href="">non-toxic finger paints</a>, <a href="">face paint</a>, or washable <a href="">sidewalk paint</a>. Paint isn't expensive to buy, but by making your own you can ensure you know exactly what is going into each paint, in case little painted fingers find their way into curious mouths. Also, since these paints are made with common household materials, you have an unlimited supply.</p> <h2>7. Accessories</h2> <p>It seems crazy to spend a lot of money on kids' accessories when they're just going to get lost under the sofa cushions, so good thing it's super easy to make your own hair clips and accessories with some basic supplies and a glue gun. Check out these tutorials for <a href="">ribbon hairclips</a>, <a href="">baby headbands</a>, and for the little man in your life, <a href="">baby bowties</a>. In my opinion, these diy accessories are cuter than store-bought ones anyway.</p> <h2>8. Baby Linens</h2> <p>If you know how to use a sewing machine, the following baby linens can be made by sewing more-or-less straight lines. You'll have the satisfaction of having your child sleep in bespoke linens right from birth.</p> <ul> <li>Baby <a href="">burp cloths</a></li> <li>Fleece-lined <a href="">baby blanket</a></li> <li>Baby <a href="">bibs</a></li> </ul> <h2>9. Bubble Solution</h2> <p>Kids love bubbles and go through bubble solution fast! Instead of buying the bottles from the store, try making your own <a href="">homemade bubble solution</a>, which allows you to make as much as you need with easily accessible ingredients.</p> <h2>10. Nursery Decorations</h2> <p>Decorate your child's room with some DIY art &mdash; better yet, involve your child in the creation of the room's decor. Try this cute <a href="">button monogram art</a>, a <a href="">yarn mobile</a>, <a href="">embroidery hoop art</a>, or a cute <a href="">DIY garland</a> for your child's room. Decor for kids' rooms can get expensive if you buy it in the store, and your homemade creations will be much more special.</p> <p><em>Do you create for your child? What kids' products have you made that are better than store-bought?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Homemade Child Products That Are Cheaper and Better Than Store Bought" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Camilla Cheung</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Shopping babies crafts kid stuff kids toddlers toys Thu, 02 Oct 2014 17:00:06 +0000 Camilla Cheung 1225627 at 20 Ways to Use Pool Noodles <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/20-ways-to-use-pool-noodles" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="pool noodles" title="pool noodles" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Believe it or not, pool noodles are good for more than beating up your friends on a steamy summer day. Exactly what other practical applications do they have? Let's take a look.</p> <h2>1. Insulate Your Pipes</h2> <p>Cut a slit in the noodle from top to bottom and wrap them around your pipes during the winter to keep them from getting too cold.</p> <h2>2. Protect Children at the Supermarket</h2> <p>Cut a 12-inch piece of the noodle off and slice it from top to bottom to wrap around shopping cart handles so children don't have to touch the germy handle or hurt their head, nose, or teeth by accident.</p> <h2>3. Stuff Your Boots</h2> <p>Keep your boots in boot shape by cutting a piece of noodle long enough to fit inside so they stay erect in the closet.</p> <h2>4. Form Wreath Shapes</h2> <p>Becky Clegg, author of the blog <a href="">Happy is a Verb</a>, says, &quot;I have used pool noodles instead of foam for wreath forms. You just cut the noodle to the size you'd like, put the two ends together, and tape that baby really well. It's so much cheaper!&quot;</p> <h2>5. Quiet the Clanking on Sailboat Masts</h2> <p>Certainly this isn't a common problem for most of us, but if you're a sailor you might be familiar with <a href="">seafarer Dana Greyson</a>'s conundrum.</p> <p>&quot;One thing that drives us sailors crazy is when the wires inside the main mast of our sailboat 'clank,'&quot; says Dana. &quot;Given how small our living space is &mdash; about 150 square feet of living space in our 36 foot sailboat &mdash; it's a real sleep disruptor. We know a number of sailors who've stopped the problem by pulling their mast &mdash; on purpose &mdash; and using pool noodles to quietly contain all the otherwise loose wires inside, then stuffing the wire-filled noodles back down into their mast. We hear from them it's become blissfully quiet. Our mast is due to be pulled in two months and we'll likely follow suit.&quot;</p> <h2>6. Fortify Car Seats for Children</h2> <p>Certified passenger safety technician Cherlyn Jenkins says, &quot;Pool noodles are acceptable to put under certain rear-facing car seats to get the correct angle when you can not otherwise achieve the correct angle.&quot; Please just be careful.</p> <h2>7. Get a Workout In</h2> <p>Fitness pro and author <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B00AWF97EI&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=ODJ7SMOFGL4GYF2V"> Noodles for Dumbbells: Water Exercise, Weight Management &amp; More</a> <span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; display: inline !important; float: none; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Janna Lowell</span> is an expert on how to use noodles to break a sweat. &quot;I am currently quite fond of single leg jumps on the noodle. Beginning with the left foot in the middle, push the noodle to the pool floor and &mdash; keeping both knees slightly bent &mdash; begin jumping up and down with both legs,&quot; she says.</p> <h2>8. Start Stamping</h2> <p>Cut the noodle into different shapes and use them as stamps for craft projects. Circles are easiest, of course, but you can cut the noodle into many other designs.</p> <h2>9. Keep Your Sports Equipment Scratch-Free</h2> <p><a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0877423407&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=PT3SIA4JHHSUDL6V">Living Aboard Your RV</a> author Janet Groene suggests using pool noodles to pad sports equipment when traveling. &quot;Slice [pool noodles] in required lengths to make a buffer to slip over the edge of a surfboard, snow skis, water skis, and so on.&quot;</p> <h2>10. Outfit Your Garage Door to Protect Your Car</h2> <p>Cut a slit in the pool noodle lengthwise and put it on one of the &quot;ribs&quot; of the garage door. When you're parked in the garage with the door shut and open the trunk, the car trunk door will come in contact with the softer surface of the noodle instead of the door, and save your car from scratches.</p> <h2>11. Keep Kids From Rolling Out of Bed</h2> <p><a href="">Mom blogger Katie Moseman</a> says, &quot;When your child transitions from a crib to a toddler bed or a full-size bed, place a pool noodle at the edge of the mattress &mdash; underneath the sheet and the mattress cover &mdash; to keep your child from rolling out of the bed. It works!&quot;</p> <h2>12. Line the Underside of a Loft</h2> <p>Many college students know the pain of standing up underneath their lofted bed and banging their heads on the wood of the bed above. Reduce the amount of concussions your kid gets in a semester by advising them to line the underside with pool noodles to help soften those blows.</p> <h2>13. DIY Your Kids' Halloween Costumes</h2> <p>The possibilities for making Halloween costumes using pool noodles are only limited by your creativity. Find some inspiration at <a href="">Frugal Living Mom</a>, which has suggestions on how to make pool-noodle ninjas, bats, spiders, cowboys, and more.</p> <h2>14. Stop Drafts From Sneaking Under Your Doors</h2> <p>Make a <a href="">two-sided draft stopper</a> to keep warm air in and cold air out.</p> <h2>15. Prevent Creasing on Clothing</h2> <p>The blog Living on the Cheap <a href="">suggests wrapping your clothes hangers in pool noodles</a> to avoid dreaded &quot;hanger dents.&quot; There are a few other fun and creative ideas for pool noodles on the post as well.</p> <h2>16. Invite the Force to Be With You</h2> <p><a href="">Photographer and mom Kristin Griffin</a> details how she and her husband made mock light sabers for her tiny Star Wars fanatic: &quot;My 7-year-old son loves Star Wars, so my husband took red, green and blue pool noodles, pushed a wooden dowel &frac34; of the way into the noodle and used duct tape to keep the noodles in place and cover the handle,&quot; she says. &quot;Now, we have light sabers for both Jedi and Sith lords, and my son loves to battle with them. The noodles are a lot softer than plastic toy light sabers, so there are fewer injuries around our house now, too.&quot;</p> <h2>17. Use as a Roof-Rack Alternative</h2> <p>Don't want to spend the money on a roof rack for your car to prevent large items from scratching it? Fasten a couple pool noodles to the roof and place your equipment on top to keep everything looking its best before and after transit.</p> <h2>18. Childproof Your Home</h2> <p>If you have little ones that are in danger of bumping their heads on tables and other hard objects, cut pool noodles to size and slit lengthwise and wrap the edges.</p> <h2>19. Protect Value Items During a Move</h2> <p>Cut pool noodles to size and slit lengthwise to wrap items like flat-screen TVs and computer monitors for protection during a move.</p> <h2>20. Impress Your Friends With a Floating Beer Pong Table</h2> <p>And finally, there's absolutely no way you shouldn't have this incredible creation if a) you're under 30 years old, b) you don't have any children, c) you have a pool. A DIY floating beer pong table will be your everything next summer if you <a href="">follow these detailed video instructions</a>.</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" width="605" height="340" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p><em>Do you have more ideas for how to use pool noodles in different ways? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="20 Ways to Use Pool Noodles" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY General Tips DIY foam making pool noodles Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:00:07 +0000 Mikey Rox 1224680 at 12 Ideas for Cheap, Festive, Fall Decor <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/12-ideas-for-cheap-festive-fall-decor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="autumn candle" title="autumn candle" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>This time of year gets the best of me when it comes to my inner nesting goddess. Whereas during the summer I'd rather cool off than decorate our spaces, fall brings me indoors and into full-on festive-mode. If you've been to the store to check out how much little knickknacks cost, your eyes might bug out of your head (which might help with a Halloween costume &mdash; but still!). (See also: <a href="">15 Easy Fall Pizzas</a>)</p> <p>Try these 12 inexpensive projects using items you can find in your backyard or otherwise on the cheap.</p> <h2>1. Cozy Candle</h2> <p>This <a href="">autumnal candle project</a> costs just $6 for two, and most all of the supplies can be purchased at dollar discount stores. Fill a glass candle jar with some un-popped popcorn, stick a candle inside, and tie some raffia ribbon in a bow around it. I suggest embellishing your finished piece with colorful leaves you find outdoors for free.</p> <h2>2. Thankful Tree</h2> <p>Celebrate Thanksgiving early this year by making a DIY <a href="">Thankful Tree</a>. Fill a Ball jar with assorted nuts (or wine corks), then poke in a few sticks from outside. The rest is flexible, as the author uses wooden chalkboard tags to write down her thoughts. You can also use inexpensive paper tags. Tie a ribbon or some burlap around the jar and place on your mantel.</p> <h2>3. Fall Potpourri</h2> <p>Don't just make your place look like fall, let the scents mingle and linger as well. This <a href="">fall potpourri</a> is made using ingredients you likely have on hand, including orange peel, apple, cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla and almond extracts, and plain water. Fill a stock pot and let simmer all day long to wrap yourself in the warm aroma.</p> <h2>4. Junkin' Pumpkins</h2> <p>Skip the patch this year and recycle your old aluminum cans to make these cute <a href="">Junkin' Pumpkins</a>. Find some empty tin cans of assorted sizes and paint them orange using craft paint. Use branches and wire to make convincing stems, and then decorate with ribbon or whatever else you think will make them pop. Bonus: They won't rot, so you can keep them for next year's decor!</p> <h2>5. Gold Leaf</h2> <p>If you have an old frame begging for a photo, consider trekking outside and finding a leaf for this <a href="">sophisticated art project</a>. Clean off any dirt or debris on the leaf with plain water, let dry, and then paint with metallic paint and let set. Place a clean sheet of paper or card stock behind the leaf and then frame for display.</p> <h2>6. Festive Garland</h2> <p>While you're looking for leaves, pick up some pine cones, too. You can make a <a href="">beautiful garland</a> by tethering the cones with twine or hot glueing other items you find &mdash; like flowers and leaves &mdash; to the string. Feel free to paint cones for a brighter look. Then hang over a door or fireplace mantel.</p> <h2>7. Pumpkin Planters</h2> <p>Maybe you'd rather hollow out your pumpkin and <a href="">plant some mums</a> inside. You'll need to drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage, but the rest of the project is super easy. Pack in some dirt, plop in your plant, and water as usual. For the best prices on pumpkins and mums, head to a local farm.</p> <h2>8. Carve-Less Pumpkins</h2> <p>I hate carving pumpkins. I usually cut myself or make a huge mess. You can <a href="">paint pumpkins</a> using acrylics for a gorgeous addition to your indoor or outdoor decorations. One blogger even <a href="">snagged puffy paint</a> for an impressive 3-D impact. Or let your pumpkin double as a <a href="">message board or table decor</a> using chalkboard paint and chalk.</p> <h2>9. Wrapped Wreath</h2> <p>Use those yarn remnants to make a <a href="">colorful wreath</a> you'll use for years to come. You'll need a wreath form, that you can find at most craft stores, and &mdash; of course &mdash; yarn. Wrap the yarn over the form until you get the look you want. Then decorate using buttons, fabric flowers, or anything else you like.</p> <h2>10. Nature Wreath</h2> <p>Not as crafty? It's okay! Check your local fabric or craft store for a <a href="">wood or wicker wreath</a> and then use hot glue to decorate it to your best ability. There's no right or wrong way. You can make simple felt rosettes or use items you find outdoors &mdash; acorns, leaves, etc. &mdash; for a punch of color.</p> <h2>11. Sensational Centerpiece</h2> <p>If you're hosting any gatherings, you'll likely want to jazz up your dining table. Don't over-think or over-spend. Instead, <a href="">glue together a few boards</a> (you can ask your store to cut them for you) and make a base to fill with whatever you choose. You can also use a container you already have on hand. Head to the farmers' market to stock up on small squashes, gourds, and pumpkins that will double as decor and food at a later date. Round out the look by placing a few candles in Ball jars.</p> <h2>12. Apple Candles</h2> <p>Or skip all that and try these genius <a href="">DIY Apple Votives</a>. Cut into the top of your apples with a paring knife to make enough space for your votive. You'll want to sprinkle a little lemon juice to keep the exposed fruit from turning brown. Oh, and you can skip the expensive steel tub and arrange these candles on your dining table atop a plate or other fire-safe surface.</p> <p><em>How do you decorate for fall? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="12 Ideas for Cheap, Festive, Fall Decor" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Entertainment Home autumn crafts decor DIY fall festive Holidays Fri, 26 Sep 2014 11:00:03 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1220813 at 4 Times You Should Splurge and Hire a Pro <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/4-times-you-should-splurge-and-hire-a-pro" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="professional movers" title="professional movers" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Having a DIY attitude is great for saving money.</p> <p>Between Google and YouTube, you have a virtually endless resource of tutorials and guides on how to do anything. From installing a ceiling fan to mending a wall, you can figure out how to get the job done yourself. (See also: <a href="">The Top 10 DIY Jobs Homeowners Should Avoid</a>)</p> <p>However, there are times that you can lose more than you save by risking to do the job yourself. Here are four scenarios in which is best to hire a pro.</p> <h2>1. Moving</h2> <p>Between 2012 and 2013, about <a href="">12% of Americans moved</a>. Even though many people move every day, this doesn't make moving an everyday chore.</p> <p>First, even the fittest of athletes can get <a href="">seriously hurt by moving a heavy couch</a> or a <a href="">bulky box during a move</a>. It is not worth it to risk an injury that could make you miss work for several days and unable to finish your move in the first place.</p> <p>Second, a major benefit of using a professional mover is that you can insure your expensive items, such as antiques, electronics, and artworks. This is an extra cost to your move but a very necessary one to protect your valuables. If your items were to be damaged during your move, would you be able to afford replacing them on your own? When signing up for insurance go beyond the standard policy because that one covers only <a href="">up to 60 cents per pound</a>. Also, make sure to check that your mover is adequately insured to carry your valuables.</p> <p>Third, if your move is at least 50 miles and related to your new job, you meet the <a href="">distance test to deduct moving expenses from your federal taxes</a>. By hiring a professional you leave the guesswork out of the estimate that you present to your employer for negotiating and reimbursing your moving expenses. Also, having an invoice from a pro mover helps you when it is time to file your taxes and prevents raising any red flags from the IRS.</p> <h2>2. Tax Preparation for Freelancers and Self-Employed</h2> <p>Small businesses using Schedule C are almost <a href="">three times more likely</a> than corporations to be audited. Back in 2009, the IRS audited 10 times as many Schedule C filers as corporations. (See also: <a href="">3 Reasons to Hire a Tax Professional Even If You Don't Mind the Work</a>)</p> <p>The main culprit is the freelancer him or herself. In keeping with the entrepreneurial attitude, the already busy-busy self-employed tries to wear the accountant hat and makes too many mistakes. Some of the <a href="">most common mistakes</a> are:</p> <ul> <li>Not reporting all income (e.g. leaving some 1099's hidden);<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Claiming too many suspicious deductions (e.g. $15,000 in deductions for $50,000 in revenue);<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Making arithmetic mistakes on paper filings; and<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Mixing personal with business expenses.</li> </ul> <p>This is why about <a href="">60% of individuals use paid preparers to do their income tax returns</a>. Still, the IRS urges you to do your <a href="">due diligence when choosing a tax preparer</a>. Specifically, you should:</p> <ul> <li>Review the preparer's qualifications and certifications;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Check the preparer's background at the Better Business Bureau or other applicable institutions;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Avoid preparers that charge a percentage of your refund or make claims obtaining large tax refunds; and<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Review your entire return before signing it.</li> </ul> <h2>3. Cleaning for a Move or Home Sale</h2> <p>There is no straightforward method to determine how clean is &quot;ready-for-vacating- or sale-clean.&quot;</p> <ul> <li>Many rentals and home purchase contracts require that your unit is in &quot;broom clean condition.&quot; This generally means that you need to take away anything that doesn't belong to the original unit and leave the unit as you found it when you first moved in.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>While most standard residential purchase or rental agreements have a clause about the requirements to present a unit when vacating, any landlord, buyer, or seller may add special requirements. Read contracts thoroughly before signing.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Remember that your landlord may properly deduct from your security deposit to make the rental unit as clean as it was when you first moved in. <a href="">Depending on the length of your stay</a>, this may also include replacing carpets and drapes, repainting walls, and fixing damages to property.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Real estate agents are in no legal obligation to pick up after your mess. Just because they receive a commission from a transaction doesn't mean that they will always cover cleaning costs.</li> </ul> <p>To avoid headaches and stay in friendly terms with the other party, hire a professional cleaning service. Tell the other party about what company you're planning to use or, even better, present an estimate with line items. By providing an opportunity to the other party to review your plan of action, you most likely meet the common sense and good faith requirement in case of a dispute. If issues still arise, then you have invoices and receipts to back up that you acted in good faith.</p> <h2>4. Tree Trimming and Removal</h2> <p>Think twice before trimming or pulling out a tree on your own.</p> <ul> <li>Tree trimming is a dangerous profession with about <a href="">2,000 injuries reported in 2009</a>. <br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Branches hanging near or over power and telephone lines are a major safety hazard &mdash; not only to yourself but also to any people passing by.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Tree removal requires the use of dangerous tools, such as chainsaws, wood chippers, and axes.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Improper technique can result in serious harm to your body.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Some trees may host dangerous or poisonous animals, fungi, and insects.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Other trees may have become toxic from exposure to chemicals.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Depending on the age of tree, it may have rotting wood or deadwood. Either condition makes it hard to predict the trajectory of the tree when felled.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Some trees may require the crane to removed them and a big truck to haul them away.</li> </ul> <p>You cannot afford the potential physical and legal consequences of a tree take-down that goes wrong. This is not a time to wear your DIY cap.</p> <p><em>What are other times when you ought to just hire a pro? Please share in comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="4 Times You Should Splurge and Hire a Pro" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Damian Davila</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY contractors DIY taxes tree trimming Thu, 25 Sep 2014 21:00:05 +0000 Damian Davila 1220279 at 13 DIY Clothing Projects for Men <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/13-diy-clothing-projects-for-men" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="sewing accessories" title="sewing accessories" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We've already covered <a href="">20 Simple and Stylish Clothing Projects for Women</a> and <a href="">Cute and Frugal Clothing You Can Make for Kids</a>. Though men's clothing projects are much harder to find online, they're well worth seeking out. Any time you can bring new life to the duds you already own, you're saving money.</p> <p>So check out these 13 cool projects for DIY men's clothing and accessories and feel free to add your own in the comments!</p> <h2>1. (Re)Dyed Jeans</h2> <p>Have a pair of faded denim jeans? This <a href="">smart tutorial</a> will show you how to refresh them for just $3. Grab a box of RIT dye at your local grocery or drugstore. You can go with traditional navy or blue, but there are a wide variety of colors from which to choose.</p> <h2>2. Cutoffs</h2> <p><iframe frameborder="0" width="605" height="340" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>If you have a comfy old pair of jeans, turn them into cool cutoffs with this <a href="">simple tutorial</a>. It's really as easy as cutting the jeans and cuffing them. The author also uses a standard razor to create a naturally distressed look.</p> <h2>3. Pocket T-Shirt</h2> <p><iframe frameborder="0" width="605" height="340" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>A printout pattern and piece of your favorite fabric jazzes up a plain t-shirt with a <a href="">new, useful pocket</a>. There's a bit of basic sewing involved, but it's nothing a novice can't handle.</p> <h2>4. Skinny Tie</h2> <p>Need a unique tie for a special occasion? Skip the store and try <a href="">making your own</a>. You'll need a vintage tie to act as your pattern, but once you get going &mdash; you'll want one in every color.</p> <h2>5. Bow Tie</h2> <p>That's right, you can also create your own <a href=";craft-15098">stylish bow tie</a> for special events or, well, just because. This tutorial requires some basic sewing, but you can use whatever fabric matches your theme. And making the bow tie might be easier than tying one!</p> <h2>6. Leather Belt</h2> <p>Create a custom <a href="">DIY Leather Belt</a> that will last you years and years. Find an old belt to serve as your pattern, as well as a long strip of leather, some hardware, and a few leather-working tools. You can dye it whatever color you like and then condition using olive oil.</p> <h2>7. Tank</h2> <p><iframe frameborder="0" width="605" height="340" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>All you need is an old t-shirt, a sharp pair of scissors, and a marker to make this casual <a href="">Tank Top</a>. This piece would be great to wear to the beach or at the gym for lifting weights. Plus, it's a good way to reuse an old shirt that might have pit stains!</p> <h2>8. Screen Print</h2> <p>This specific tutorial features a women's shirt, but the same <a href="">basic screen printing process</a> applies for men's (and kid's) shirts as well. Choose a design you wish to print and draw it onto freezer paper. Iron it onto your shirt on a flat surface. Then paint over the design using fabric paint and remove the freezer paper to let set.</p> <h2>9. Elbow Patches</h2> <p>Again, this <a href="">DIY Elbow Patch Sweater</a> tutorial features a women's shirt, but it's just as stylish for men. Plus, you can buy leather or fabric elbow patches if you want to skip the stitching for less than $10. Otherwise, you need an old sweater, iron-on adhesive fabric, and an iron.</p> <h2>10. Button Up Shirt</h2> <p>This manly sewing project creates a <a href="">button-up shirt</a> for a fraction of what it would cost at the store. You can use whatever fabric you might have on hand or choose something specific, but you'll need two yards in all. The pattern is free after you sign up for the blog's email list.</p> <h2>11. Card Holder</h2> <p>These awesome <a href="">leather card holders</a> come together quickly and require minimal stitching. You can also play with the pattern a bit to get the look you want. A great place to find leather in all textures and colors is on <a href="">Etsy</a>.</p> <h2>12. Paracord Bracelet</h2> <p>I see these <a href="">Paracord Bracelets</a> everywhere, and I never thought to make my own. Though the images might look tricky, you can click them for a closer view. It's a lot of figure eight weaving, but after a while, you should get the hang.</p> <h2>13. Hoodie</h2> <p>This <a href="">DIY Hoodie Project</a> surely requires some sewing skills. However, it doesn't look out of the realm of possibility. And the pattern is loose. You can use an old t-shirt &mdash; just make sure to leave a seam allowance.</p> <p><em>Alright you manly DIYers: what projects are you getting into?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="13 DIY Clothing Projects for Men" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Style clothing crafts men's clothing menswear sewing Fri, 19 Sep 2014 09:00:07 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1215197 at 12 Unique Ways to Use School Supplies <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/12-unique-ways-to-use-school-supplies" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="eraser stamp" title="eraser stamp" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I love finding dual purposes for everyday items. It's a sneaky way of getting more bang for my buck. And &mdash; chances are &mdash; if anyone in your family is in school, you have quite a collection of school and office supplies handy. (See also: <a href="">18 Awesome, Practically Free Upcycled Craft Projects</a>)</p> <p>Break out your pencil boxes and your craft paper and let's get started!</p> <h2>1. Pencil Eraser Designs</h2> <p>For a custom <a href="">stamped shirt</a>, use your eraser. Cut out a simple shape or design using freezer paper, place it on a clean cotton shirt, and then dip an unused pencil eraser in fabric paint and get creative.</p> <h2>2. Large Eraser Stamps</h2> <p>For those bigger erasers, carve out a design and make a <a href="">smart stamp</a> for personalizing stationery or just plain fun. Don't forget: If you're going to use lettering, you'll need to write it backwards to make sense once stamped.</p> <h2>3. Pencil Beads</h2> <p>For a cute back-to-school accessory, look no farther than your pencil box. Colored pencils make wonderful, <a href="">vibrant beads</a> that can be drilled for use in necklaces, bracelets, brooches, and more.</p> <h2>4. Mega-Crayons</h2> <p>Turn those old crayon bits into a <a href="">great gift or party favor</a>. Simply take off any leftover paper, place remnant into a silicone mold, and bake at around 200 degrees for just five minutes (baking time will vary depending on your oven). Let cool before packaging.</p> <h2>5. Paper Clip Ornaments</h2> <p>For a super frugal way to decorate your tree this year, try these <a href="">paper clip ornaments</a>. All you need are butterfly flips, a bit of ribbon, and pearl beads. Once you get the hang, you can make dozens an hour for stocking stuffers!</p> <h2>6. Post-It Planner</h2> <p>I'm a big fan of Post-It notes, and I love this idea to use those little squares in a big way. Turn yours into a <a href="">wall planning system</a> by arranging each square like a box on a calendar.</p> <h2>7. Three Ring Genius</h2> <p>Use a three ring binder to organize more than just class notes. You can use a variety of <a href="">plastic inserts and baggies</a> to hold your memory cards, jump drives, etc. I use a similar method to organize my coupons, store punch cards, gift cards, and more.</p> <h2>8. Upcycled Hooks</h2> <p>Or you can use that old binder's insides for a <a href="">quick hook system</a>. Once you get the metal out of the plastic cover, use screws to fasten the hooks to a wall or fence for instant hanging.</p> <h2>9. Rubber Band Remedy</h2> <p>Need to dry your makeup brushes? Try <a href="">tethering them to a towel rod</a> using rubber bands. No towel rod? Easy &mdash; just use a hanger for the same purpose.</p> <h2>10. Clipboard Decor</h2> <p>Arrange various sizes and styles of clipboards into a gorgeous wall of art with these <a href="">free printables</a>. You could also clip photos, your child's artwork, and even use this trick to organize an office the chic way with important documents and to-do lists.</p> <h2>11. Clip Cord Holder</h2> <p><iframe width="605" height="340" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src="//"></iframe></p> <p>If you've ever tried charging your devices at your desk, only to have all those cords fall straight to the floor &mdash; this trick is for you. Loop the end of your computer or phone charger cords through <a href="">binder clips</a> and clamp onto your table or desk to hold steady.</p> <h2>12. Sharpie China</h2> <p>To upgrade basic dinnerware into something beautiful, try <a href="">drawing geometric designs</a> with Sharpie markers. To set, just bake the dish for 30 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This projects lets you freshen your kitchen for less or give great gifts on the cheap.</p> <p><em>How do you upcycle school and office supplies into cool tools and decor? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="12 Unique Ways to Use School Supplies" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY crafts recycle reuse school supplies upcycle Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:00:06 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1211250 at 10 Things You Should Never Buy From Aldi <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-things-you-should-never-buy-from-aldi" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="ground beef shopping" title="ground beef shopping" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I've been shopping at Aldi for our weekly groceries for over half a year. Along the way, I've picked up a few best practices. For example, buying for two or more weeks at a time saves us time and money on shelf-stable foods like tortillas, spaghetti, and canned goods. I love Aldi's selection of price-friendly cheeses, Greek yogurt, chocolate-hazelnut spread, and hummus, among many others. Plus, our local shop stocks its shelves on Sunday afternoons, so that's the time to go for the freshest food and the most selection. (See also: <a href="">6 Awesome Reasons to Shop At Aldi</a>)</p> <p>Of course, with all these tips for things to buy and ways to buy them, I've also discovered there are a few things &mdash; at least at my store &mdash; that are better purchased elsewhere Yes: There are plenty of foods that are great and price-competitive, but consider staying away from the following.</p> <h2>1. Certain Dairy</h2> <p>If you're trying to avoid food additives, your Aldi's almond milk, cottage cheese, and a few other dairy products might be suspect. These foods &mdash; at least in some markets &mdash; contain carrageenan, which is a thickener and stabilizer. There is some debate over whether carrageenan is a carcinogen, but it has been shown to cause some <a href="">inflammation in the digestive tract</a>. (You can also find this ingredient at most other grocery stores, so keep an eye out.)</p> <h2>2. Shredded Cheese</h2> <p>I love Aldi block cheese. It's economical and tasty. However, the shredded variety contains cornstarch to keep the shreds from sticking to one another in the bag, and I find that it burns quicker than other cheeses, especially under the broiler. And mine burned with an oily mess on top of it. Stick with block cheese and a grater for the best results.</p> <h2>3. Garlic</h2> <p>Maybe I've been spoiled by our gigantic, juicy CSA garlic, but Aldi's cloves just don't match up. They're tiny and difficult to both peel and cut. Since garlic isn't terribly expensive, when it's the off-season for produce, we tend to buy it at another store (when we pick up tofu and a few other ingredients Aldi stores don't carry).</p> <h2>4. Potatoes</h2> <p>I've given several varieties of potatoes a try, only to have them spoil within the week (one time, even in just a few days). Since I stored them like I have stored all other potatoes in the past, I cannot assume it was my own error. Potatoes should be hearty and last a good while. Thankfully, they are one of the more inexpensive buys at most stores &mdash; so, I grab a bag elsewhere.</p> <h2>5. Other Produce</h2> <p>On that same note, you must be stringent when choosing produce of all shapes and sizes. Depending on the time of week you shop, the food &mdash; like at any store &mdash; may have been freshly delivered or sitting there for days. Inspect each piece for signs of spoilage before bringing home. I once got a bad batch of onions, bananas, and green peppers that got soft and moldy the day after I stocked them in my fridge. (See also: <a href="">Fridge or Counter? Where to Store Fruit for Best Flavor</a>)</p> <h2>6. Chocolate Chips</h2> <p>While I absolutely adore the Moser Roth chocolate in the first aisle of the store, the chocolate chips in the baking section leave much to be desired with taste. If you want your chocolate chip cookies to taste out-of-this-world delicious, scrimp and save to get a bag of the quality stuff. Alternatively, I've made chocolate chunk cookies using the Moser Roth chocolate.</p> <h2>7. Packaged Cookie Dough</h2> <p>If you're planning to skip the from-scratch experience and lay out prepackaged cookie dough on a sheet to bake, just don't. Even following package directions, my refrigerated dough burned easily and still didn't cook the whole way through. To make matters worse, the flavor was definitely artificial.</p> <h2>8. Frozen Stir-Fry</h2> <p>I was incredibly excited to find brightly colored packs of frozen veggies with sauce for quick weeknight meals, only to become dismayed when I read the label on the back of the package. In Aldi's defense, I haven't closely inspected other frozen stir-fries before, but I found that the ingredients in the Fusia mix came from all over the place: China, Holland, Guatemala, Mexico, and the USA.</p> <h2>9. Ground Beef</h2> <p>As a vegetarian, I have not purchased meat products at Aldi. I did <a href="">a little research</a>, so I thought I'd share those results. You can actually find better prices on ground beef at a store like Walmart ($3.69/pound versus $2.66/pound) for similar-quality protein. (See also: <a href="">5 Frugal Lessons I Learned From Aldi</a>)</p> <h2>10. Non-Food Items</h2> <p>I've found many of the non-food items &mdash; from brand-name diapers to garbage bags and beyond &mdash; to not be price-competitive with other discount stores. If you can buy these same products at stores that also accept coupons or offer bulk discounts, go for it.</p> <p><em>We'd love to hear what foods and products you stay away from at Aldi. Please leave a note in the comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Things You Should Never Buy From Aldi" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY aldis discounts shopping what to buy Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:00:06 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1210860 at The 6 Qualities All DIYers Have — Do You? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-6-qualities-all-diyers-have-do-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="home improvement" title="home improvement" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Look closely and you'll find them. They tool around in old trucks with homemade campers, they create wild sculptures from scrap metal, they fix what's broken and improve what's not, and they putter contentedly in basements and garages deep into the night. These are the DIYers &mdash; the tinkerers, the eccentrics, the handymen and handywomen who ingeniously reclaim, remake, and recycle bits of our world every day. (See also: <a href="">Is DIY Home Renovating for You?</a>)</p> <p>Modest and a little magnetic, these folks would be last to sing their own praises, so I'll do it for them. I've known one or two in my day and they each seem to possess a special mix of characteristics that drives their passion and fuels their creativity.</p> <h2>1. Disregard for Convention</h2> <p>Like most things in life, the really interesting stuff happens a little off kilter. In the late 1970's my uncle Hank bought a battered hardware store delivery truck. His part-time pursuit for the next decade or so was transforming that rough set of wheels into a family camper. One weekend at a time he outfitted it with cabinets, a fold-down bed, and other essentials he crafted in his garage in rural Iowa. I loved seeing his progress every chance I got. I think I was as impressed with his disregard for convention as much as I was with his skill. Even as a child of eight or nine, I realized that his camper would be a lot like him &mdash; not so glossy, but gutsy and entirely unconventional.</p> <h2>2. Vision</h2> <p>Vision makes it all happen. It shapes what's around us and gives new use to the world's refuse. Vision helps us see what an item could be or how random cast-offs could come together in a new way. A dear friend of mine in Austin, Texas makes banjos from old wooden cigar boxes, elaborate tree sculptures from storm-fallen twigs and branches, and amazing desk lamps from salvaged plumbing pipe. His vision keeps him restless and destined to never be fully retired or ever bored. That's a wonderful thing.</p> <h2>3. Ingenuity</h2> <p>If vision is the &quot;what,&quot; then ingenuity is the &quot;how.&quot;</p> <p>DIYers know that for an idea to be successful, the final product has to work. And though their projects may not always be pretty by conventional standards, they're beautiful in their authenticity. When you look at something hand-crafted from a set of discarded or random parts, you're seeing not only the object, but the mental flexibility it took to conceive and build it. Like Hank's wild and wonderful makeshift camper, appreciation can't be separated from the inspiration.</p> <h2>4. Stubbornness</h2> <p>Some of the roads that tinkerers take aren't on any map. And when you're literally winging it, you have to accept a certain degree of failure without throwing your hands up and opting for a better-traveled route. Trial and error eventually give way to success, but not without patience and persistence (and maybe a few favorite swear words thrown in).</p> <h2>5. Self-Reliance</h2> <p>It almost goes without saying since self-reliance and the nature of DIY are so closely linked, but beyond just doing it yourself, tinkering, creating, building, and repairing is a solitary way of being. Buying may be social; shopping definitely is. But making can often be a maddening, isolating, and a wholly internal pursuit.</p> <h2>6. Love of Dirt</h2> <p>At the risk of over-generalizing, most of the diehard DIYers I know are a little rough around the edges. Their fingernails aren't always clean (in fact, sometimes they're chipped or one is missing altogether). If you run into them in the hardware store, they'll likely be covered in sawdust, have grease on their cheek, or be sporting a fresh bandage. Their commitment to their craft means they live with a bit of dirt, accept the occasional bump and bruise, and sometimes drop into bed completely un-showered and woefully un-flossed. It comes with the territory and if you're married to a DIYer, if your parent was one, if you're one &mdash; well then, you know exactly what I mean.</p> <p>One of the most encouraging signs of the last 10 or 15 years is the rise of the DIY movement. Every time I read about someone in a remote outpost doing their own thing &mdash; making furniture, salvaging crumbling barns, turning license plates into birdhouses, converting diesel engines to biofuel, or making jewelry from sea glass I think of my parent's generation when doing it yourself was the only way to get it done. For the love of art, for the love of craft, or out of necessity, DIYers today are channeling the very best of our past and quietly reviving a noble movement.</p> <p><em>Are you a tinkerer or do-it-yourselfer? What qualities are most important to your way of life?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The 6 Qualities All DIYers Have — Do You?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY makers making people tinkering Wed, 10 Sep 2014 17:00:06 +0000 Kentin Waits 1207218 at 10 Cheap Ways to Make Your Apartment Awesome (Without Losing Your Deposit) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-cheap-ways-to-make-your-apartment-awesome-without-losing-your-deposit" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="apartment decoration" title="apartment decoration" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The white walls and boring fixtures of apartments are a thing of the past. You don't need to own your abode to make it totally your own. (See also: <a href="">12 Ways to Make a Tiny Apartment Awesome</a>)</p> <p>Check out these thrifty &mdash; but impactful &mdash; DIY ideas that will transform your space to home, all while ensuring you'll get that security deposit back.</p> <h2>1. Wow! Wallpaper</h2> <p>You can find temporary wallpaper rolls in a variety of <a href="">shades and prints</a> these days. Most brands are self adhesive for easy installation. To keep the cost low, consider papering a single accent wall versus an entire room. Think focal point by choosing the wall at the head of your bed, for example. A little will go a long way.</p> <h2>2. Brazen Backsplash</h2> <p>You can also use temporary wallpaper as a backsplash in your apartment's kitchen, but there's an even cheaper way to get a faux-tile look. Use contact paper! This <a href="">frugal project</a> cost only $13 and resulted in a stainless steel look that really brightened up the space. Simply cut contact paper into &quot;tiles&quot; and arrange in a pattern above your countertop. When it's time to move, just gently peel away from the wall.</p> <h2>3. Curtain Call</h2> <p>If you'd rather not stick something to the wall, consider adding some pizzaz with curtains on a tension rod. I used this technique in my <a href="">first home's kitchen</a> to hide an otherwise ugly closet door; you could use it wherever you want a little color or flair. Tension rods of all sizes cost under $10. If you don't have curtains, follow this <a href="">no-sew tutorial</a> to create some from fabric using hemming tape and an iron. (See also: <a href="">20 Unexpected Uses for Tension Rods</a>)</p> <h2>4. Bookworm Bounty</h2> <p>I recently browsed my decor inspiration board on Pinterest and discovered that many of my living room ideas incorporated the same element &mdash; bookshelves! You don't need built-ins to get this studious look, plus it's functional and perfect if you love reading. I love the idea of scouting out tall, <a href="">mismatched shelves</a> at thrift stores for a unique look.</p> <h2>5. Beautiful Boxes</h2> <p>You can also use boxy fruit crates to create custom <a href="">temporary shelving</a>! I envision countless possibilities for this easy DIY project. My favorite of the bunch is a makeshift entry area with a couple hooks and fruit crates to <a href="">wrangle shoes, boots</a>, and anything else you have around. And since they're not bolted down, you can change your configuration as often as you change your mind.</p> <h2>6. Great Divide</h2> <p>If you live in a free-form space, you might want to create some separation using room dividers that simulate walls. This basement redo utilizes an <a href="">old pair of shutters</a> painted in glossy green to create space. You can also use a pair of curtains to do the same trick by <a href="">hanging them</a> on steel wire cables in the area you want to section off. This trick is great for studio apartments, creating the illusion of a 1-bedroom at a fraction of the price it costs to rent one.</p> <h2>7. Big Impact</h2> <p>If you'd rather hang some artwork, check out engineer prints for black and white poster-sized art on the cheap. This <a href="">step-by-step tutorial</a> shows you how to take one of your own photos, add text, and get it printed for under $5. From there, you can purchase poster frames for $10 or less at stores like WalMart and Target. Consider grouping several large prints for bigger impact or browsing online for <a href="">free designs</a> to print.</p> <h2>8. Warm and Cozy</h2> <p>My favorite apartment trick for an instant homey feeling? A <a href="">faux fireplace</a>. I found one on Craigslist way back when, and it moved with me to five different apartments! A fake fireplace adds an amazing architectural focal point to your room, as well as a great place to focus your decorating efforts &mdash; especially for the holidays. And it's like any other piece of furniture that can be easily picked up and moved.</p> <h2>9. Clever Lights</h2> <p>Purchase a light kit from your home improvement store and a drum shade for a simple, DIY hanging light fixture. It requires very little installation and can be removed in a flash. You can get quite creative with the basic idea. For example, this blogger used a <a href="">wicker trash can</a> as a basic, ingenious pendant. This trick is particularly great if you need light over, say, your dining room table and don't want to go with more floor lamps.</p> <h2>10. Green Thumb</h2> <p>Plants can totally transform the feel of a space and even <a href="">improve air quality</a>. My mother-in-law has a beautiful collection of plants in her dining room, including a Rubber Tree, Jade plant, and some assorted ferns. Head to your local garden center and consult with the folks there to find a few plants that will bring the outdoors in and cozy up your apartment fast. Plus, many house plants can live for years and years with proper care.</p> <p><em>How do you dress up a drab apartment? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Cheap Ways to Make Your Apartment Awesome (Without Losing Your Deposit)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Home apartment cheap decor decorating Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:00:06 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1199024 at 7 Homemade Pet Products That Are Cheaper and Better Than Store Bought <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-homemade-pet-products-that-are-cheaper-and-better-than-store-bought" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="dog" title="dog" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We love our pets. So much so that in 2013, Americans spent a whopping <a href="">$55 billion</a> on their furry friends. Almost $14 billion of that went to pet supplies and over the counter (OTC) medicines. (See also: <a href="">10 DIY Dog Toys You Can Make For Pennies</a>)</p> <p>But here's the thing: While recently browsing my local pet supply stores, I found that quite a few of the products contained ingredients that are less than healthy for my dog and the price tag was often pretty steep. I decided to do some price and quality comparisons and found I could make the following products healthier and cheaper than comparable products I could buy at retailers:</p> <h2>1. Toys</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>There are dozens of DIY toy ideas online. My pup loves to solve puzzles, especially when treats are involved. These puzzle toys usually involve hiding a treat inside a compartment that my dog has to figure out how to open. <a href="">Nina Ottosson</a> has a great line of puzzle toys for dogs and I have a few of them that cost me about $40 each. But I could have made this <a href="">similar toy</a> for my pup using a muffin tin and tennis balls for $5, and he also would have had the tennis balls to bounce around the house!</p> <h2>2. Bedding</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Have you seen the price of dog beds lately? I recently went to my local Target to get my little guy a new cozy nap space, and small dog beds (of rather boring design and fairly low quality) cost about $25. Instead, I picked up a small vintage suitcase at my local thrift store that is in great shape and lined it with a plush towel and squishy pillow for less than $10. Try these inspiring <a href="">designs for suitcase pet bedding</a>.</p> <h2>3. Wet Wipes</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>In between his baths, I like to wipe down my pup with wet wipes, particularly after a long walk in the park or a stroll around the streets of New York. Most commercial wipes have chemicals in them that I'd rather not put on my pup's skin (particularly if he's likely to lick his paws!), so I looked into organic wipes that typically cost about $10. Instead, I followed Southern Wag's DIY recipe and made a better quality, healthier wipes for less than $3.</p> <h2>4. Shampoo</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>My dog has dry skin and it causes him to become very itchy and uncomfortable. My vet recommended a prescription shampoo that cost (brace yourself!) $21 for an 8 ounce bottle. However, I didn't want my little guy to be uncomfortable, so I bought it for him. Unfortunately it didn't do much good and it also had a medicine-like scent. I started poking around online and found this <a href="">recipe for dog shampoo</a> by Rebecca Dillon. Total cost for the same 8 ounces was $12, it worked like a charm, and it smelled so much better!</p> <h2>5. Treats</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Quite a few commercially-sold pet treat products are made in China and after <a href="">the contamination issues</a> earlier this year, I started to investigate other options I could make at home. I found a recipe for these <a href="">bacon bark sticks</a> that are a snap to make and cost only $3 for two dozen tasty treats.</p> <h2>6. Surface Cleaner</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Just like humans, pets get sick from time to time. I wanted a cleaner to clean up after my pet that is non-toxic and safe on home surfaces. I could buy <a href="">a cleaner by Method</a> for $4 per bottle. I found this <a href="">recipe for a petsafe surface cleaner</a> online that costs less than $1 to make from items I already have in my home and it did the trick!</p> <h2>7. Tummy Remedy</h2> <p><img width="605" height="340" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Dogs have very acidic digestive systems. It's a holdover from their wolf ancestors who needed to break down the food they caught in the wild. The build-up of acid overnight caused my pup's tummy to often be upset first thing in the morning. My vet wanted to put him on an antacid medicine that would cost $10 month. While I would have been happy to spend that, I wanted to check out natural remedies that might help. After a little investigation, I discovered that a teaspoon of mashed sweet potato once a day calmed his stomach and eliminated the problem for a grand total of $1.50 per month at my local grocery store. I buy the sweet potatoes, boil them, and mash them myself.</p> <p>While I love to make DIY items as much as possible, there are some pet Items that I do buy commercially, and you should too. For example, flea and tick medicine are essential to your pet's health and to your home's health as well. Once you have a flea or tick issue in your home, it is very difficult to remedy. While I've tried all-natural flea and tick medicines for my dog, they've never worked that well, so I stick with commercial brands. I also have a professional groomer do his nail clipping and teeth brushing to ensure that they're done properly.</p> <p>Because you can't put a price on pup beauty.</p> <p><em>(Please note that you should never give human medicine to your pet; always consult your veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet.)</em></p> <p><em>Please share your favorite DIY pet products in the comments below!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="7 Homemade Pet Products That Are Cheaper and Better Than Store Bought" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Christa Avampato</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Lifestyle animals cats DIY dogs Homemade pet food pet supplies pets Fri, 22 Aug 2014 09:00:05 +0000 Christa Avampato 1190936 at The Only Fruits and Veggies Worth Growing Yourself <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-only-fruits-and-veggies-worth-growing-yourself" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="growing vegetables" title="growing vegetables" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="150" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Not everyone has a green thumb, and growing a garden can often be a tiring &mdash; and expensive &mdash; endeavor for anyone to tackle. While it can be easy to spend hundreds of dollars on seeds, plants, additives, and water, you can make gardening worth your investment by growing the fruits and veggies that cost the most in stores today.</p> <p>Starting a plant as a seed (for veggies) or a sapling (for a fruit tree) is the best way to realize savings, although it takes longer for your harvest to come, and there is more risk. Seed packets usually run no more than $2 a packet, even for heirloom varieties. (Heirloom is original, non-hybrid, non-GMO seed stock.) With between 20 and 100 seeds per packet, if even a handful of the seeds grow into fruit-producing adult plants, you've earned much of your investment back. (See also: <a href="">25 Simple Recipes for 25 Delicious Veggies</a>)</p> <p>Most gardeners hope to go far beyond &quot;breaking even,&quot; however. Considering that the recent California drought, rising gas prices, and overall food inflation will make fresh fruits and veggies even more expensive this year, it may be easier than ever to earn back what you spend on even the most modest garden.</p> <p>Here are my favorites for reaping what you sow.</p> <h2>Artichokes</h2> <p>These delicious veggies are actually cousins to the thistle, and preparing them for eating is a process way more complicated than growing them. Since they are also one of the most expensive items to buy in the store, however, any success you have in growing them will be much appreciated! They can be started from seed, shoots, or the cuttings of other adult artichokes; they do well in most any climate, and can be replanted new each year in those areas that are too cold to survive the winters.</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: Many people aren't sure <a href="">how to harvest them</a> once their artichokes are ready; by cutting them before they get too big, you can ensure energy is devoted to creating more &quot;fruits&quot; than flowers.</p> <h2>Brussels Sprouts</h2> <p>The hated Brussels sprout has become a popular choice of chefs across the country, and more people are creating delicious dishes with the veggie in their own kitchens. By growing your own, however, you can choose &mdash; among other things &mdash; how big, how tender, and how flavorful your sprout becomes. You can also grow hundreds for the price of a pound of store-bought. Starting from seed can be difficult, which is why many sprout lovers get plants from their nursery. Hot summers can kill these plants, so it is recommended to grow them for a &quot;fall garden&quot; when the chance of high temps has passed for the year.</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: Looking for the best flavor in your Brussels sprouts? Experts suggest is it a good idea to harvest <a href="">after the first mild frost</a> each fall. The cold weather give them a delicious note that you just can't buy in the store!</p> <h2>Tomatoes</h2> <p>You really have to have some bad luck to get nothing from a tomato plant. While veteran gardeners can take a packet of seeds and get a dozen or more healthy plants, you can expect to get amazing results from even one adult plant ready to transplant to your own garden. (See also: <a href="">What to Do With 100 Tomatoes</a>)</p> <p>Tomatoes all offer varying degrees of yield, but the cherry or grape tomato plants seem to give and give and give. Varieties such as Romas are great for cooking and making sauce, and with more meaty pulp than water and seeds, you can expect to get gallons of sauce from just one plant. Hard-core canners with a dozen or more plants can put up hundreds of jars of sauce at the end of the season, giving you a great return on your initial investment.</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: If you have too many green tomatoes at the end of a season, with no chance to ripen before frost, consider any one of these <a href="">delicious green tomato recipes</a>!</p> <h2>Zucchini</h2> <p>This very productive plant is the butt of many garden jokes, and people go quickly from appreciating their bounty to wondering &quot;what the heck can I do with all this zucchini?&quot; Luckily, this makes it a sure-fire way to get a little back on the light maintenance zucchini plants require. Whether you eat them small, sliced thin for stir-fry, or let them grow large and bake with them, there is a zucchini recipe guaranteed to help you use up your surplus. Since zucchini actually start best as seeds planted directly in the garden, their cost to get started is minimal, too!</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: If you grow tired of eating them yourself, here are some <a href="">unique ways to get rid of all that zucchini</a>.</p> <h2>Mint</h2> <p>While not exactly something to make much of a meal out of, the humble mint plant is a fantastic addition to any garden and one that will literally take over if you aren't careful.</p> <p>Mint comes in many varieties, including chocolate, pineapple, apple, and spearmint. Use it to make jellies, jams, teas, and salves. One small plant from your nursery usually runs no more than $4, and can quickly cover several square feet of raised bed within weeks of planting. (Plus, it comes back every year stronger than the previous year. You may find yourself digging much of it up to give away.)</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: Annoyed with how well your mint is doing? Consider pulling up all but a few plants each year and donating the surplus to the kitchen or garden of your favorite non-profit.</p> <h2>Kale</h2> <p>This salad must-have is nutritious and versatile. While it does best in cooler weather, once established, it can be kept in the shady part of a garden for almost the entire spring through fall time period. Cutting just the top leaves off when they are young can help keep the flavors mild and leaves tender, plus it will encourage growth. Started as seed, it's similar to lettuce or spinach, but is much more resistant to bugs, cold, and heat. Kale in the store can run $4 or more for a bag; having a single row in your garden can keep you in free salad for many months!</p> <p><strong>Production Tip</strong>: If you see your kale plants starting to get tough or &quot;prickly,&quot; it's time to start anew. Sow new seeds in between older plants and pull up the old plants when the new ones are producing. Rotating fresher stock every few weeks ensures you will always have the most tender leaves possible!</p> <h2>Other Smart Choices</h2> <p>Depending on your soil and growing season, there are a few other plants that tend to do well in most climate zones; squash, peppers, and radishes all grow well most years and either cost very little to start (like the radishes) or produce many fruits per plant (like the peppers and squash).</p> <p>As with any endeavor, it's best to plant no more than what you can reasonably maintain, care for, and harvest. Wasted produce does not count on the plus side of your ROI formula! It's also fun to factor in just how much you are earning back with your garden. Homegrown isn't just valued higher because it's fresh and free from strange growing and handling procedures. Food you grow yourself is tax-free, too! It takes far less effort to grow a tomato than to work to earn the money to buy that same tomato &mdash; after you pay income taxes, that is!</p> <p><em>What fruits and vegetables in your garden have given you the best ROI? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The Only Fruits and Veggies Worth Growing Yourself" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Linsey Knerl</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Food and Drink Green Living fresh food gardens homegrown vegetables Wed, 25 Jun 2014 17:00:05 +0000 Linsey Knerl 1149042 at 17 DIY Projects to Make Your Home Look Amazing (and 3 You Shouldn't Try) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/17-diy-projects-to-make-your-home-look-amazing-and-3-you-shouldnt-try" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="couple painting" title="couple painting" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="145" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When my husband and I bought our first home, I was glued to all those television DIY shows. There were so many things we wanted to do to our starter space, and the Internet hadn't yet exploded with tutorials and inspiration boards. Now? Any and every project you could ever want to do can be found with a quick search. (Related: <a href="">25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Great</a>)</p> <p>Here are some of the best home and decor improvements even novices can tackle.</p> <h2>1. Leather Refinishing</h2> <p>Have an old, worn leather couch smelling up the place? You can totally revitalize it on the cheap with these <a href="">easy instructions</a>. You'll need leather cleaner, a good quality dye, and some type of finish coat &mdash; but all the supplies should come in less than $100, depending on the size of your sofa.</p> <h2>2. Blinds Revival</h2> <p>I dream of gorgeous plantation shutters in my home. Thing is, I'm on a plastic blinds sort of budget, so I love this idea to dress them up <a href="">using spray paint</a>. The possibilities are endless! (Related: <a href="">40 Ways to Use Spray Paint for Cheap and Easy Decorating</a>)</p> <h2>3. Fireplace Makeover</h2> <p>Neutralize the dated aspects of your home with &mdash; again &mdash; our friend, spray paint. Those brassy accents disappear with a nice coat of black or, in for a more refined color, &quot;oil-rubbed bronze.&quot; With the fireplace, you'll want to choose a formula specifically <a href="">designed for high heat</a>.</p> <h2>4. Like-New Appliances</h2> <p>Our new home has a great, spacious kitchen, but the appliances don't match. Since they're all in good working order, we're considering <a href="">painting the refrigerator</a> versus buying a new one. You can use special appliance paint or kits, but the tutorial makes use of standard semi-gloss paint.</p> <h2>5. Light Fixture</h2> <p>Though I don't recommend doing your own electrical work, you can <a href="">replace ceiling light fixtures</a> without much trouble. Just be sure to turn out the power to the room you're working in and connect the wires according to your new light's instruction pamphlet.</p> <h2>6. Board and Batten</h2> <p>Adding architectural detail to a room is simple with this detailed <a href="">board and batten tutorial</a>. You need boards, construction adhesive, nails, and a few other supplies. If you aren't handy with a saw, you might even consider asking the folks at your local lumber supply to do the cuts for you at an extra charge to speed up the process.</p> <h2>7. Television Hide-and-Seek</h2> <p>I drool over media cabinets from those expensive home decor stores. Then I found this <a href="">smart solution</a> online &mdash; and I can't wait to get my hands on some 2x4s. This project isn't well detailed, but if you have a somewhat experienced woodworker in the family, the concept is easy to follow. For my &quot;doors&quot; I might use (or create) a piece of artwork that comes in two pieces.</p> <h2>8. Tile Re-Grouting</h2> <p>If you have a section &mdash; or entire room &mdash; of tile that looks dingy and old, consider whether the tile itself really needs fixing, or if you can just fix the grout. You can pick up the supplies to add some new life to those dirty grout lines for very little money &mdash; <a href="">here's how</a> you do it!</p> <h2>9. Rustic Accent Wall</h2> <p>When I came across this <a href="">cozy pallet wall</a>, my jaw literally dropped. It takes some skill, but once you hang the underlayment, it's mostly a puzzle of what pieces look good and where. The author installed it in her son's nursery, but I'd love to put one in my basement recreation room!</p> <h2>10. Custom Built-Ins</h2> <p>When I first came across these <a href="">dining room built-ins</a>, I knew they'd be perfect for almost any room in the house. The author gives <a href="">step-by-step instructions</a> for how to select the right cabinets, cut the wood, paint for more artistic flair, etc. &mdash; just note that this project isn't done in a day. However, the time involved is worth it!</p> <h2>11. Smart Shelving</h2> <p>If you're looking to add some unique flair to a room, look outside the home decor department. This <a href="">ladder turned shelf</a> could hold anything from plants to books, and it's a great way to turn something old into something treasured. All you need are some planks of wood and wood glue! Leave your ladder unpainted for a most rustic look or use a bright color for some cheer. (Related: <a href="">18 Cheap and Attractive Ideas for Bookshelves</a>)</p> <h2>12. Shaker Cabinets</h2> <p>I'm hoping to complete this next project by the end of the summer. Trim out your plain kitchen cabinets <a href="">using yard sticks</a> (or standard trim) for that Shaker look. A little grain filler and paint, and your kitchen will look entirely different for pennies on the dollar.</p> <h2>13. Revived Tub</h2> <p>You can shine up your bathtub without replacing or covering it. Just follow these <a href="">simple instructions</a> that explain how everyday products and a tub refinishing kit can take your soaking place from freaky to fab in no time at all.</p> <h2>14. Plywood Planks</h2> <p>Looking for an inexpensive wood flooring solution? These <a href="">plywood plank floors</a> can be painted or stained and seem pretty darned easy to install. Just be sure to start with a solid, level subfloor and measure twice, cut once. This is another project where you can take advantage of low-cost cuts made at your hardware store.</p> <h2>15. Distressed Look</h2> <p>I'd file this one under <em>Proceed With Caution</em>, but if you like that distressed leather look, <a href="">this tutorial</a> is for you. Even a shiny, brand new piece can turn into that &quot;old favorite&quot; with some sandpaper, rubbing alcohol, a blow dryer, and a few rags.</p> <h2>16. Console Table</h2> <p>Sometimes the furniture you need can't be found at the store. Or maybe what you see in catalogs and online is outrageously expensive. Either way, this <a href="">behind-the-sofa table</a> appears to be beginner-friendly. Just assemble a few 2x4s and 1x4s, and you're set to paint or stain it anyway you prefer.</p> <h2>17. Shutter Install</h2> <p>Plantation shutters are one of my favorite design elements because they are both beautiful and functional. They are also quite costly, so if you can order online at a discount and then <a href="">install them yourself</a>, it's worth your while.</p> <h2>And Three Things You Should Hire the Pros to Do</h2> <p>It's true that you can do a lot to improve your home and decor (and have a lot of fun doing it). However, it's also important to know and obey your limits, and we all have our limits. Here are a few projects you <em>shouldn't</em> tackle on your own.</p> <h3>Asbestos Removal</h3> <p>A lot of us have those 9x9 titles in our basements and kitchens, but if you suspect your flooring might contain asbestos, it's best to have it tested before doing any DIY demolition. When in good condition, asbestos tiles doesn't pose much threat. When damaged, the fibers become <a href="">airborne and crumble easily</a>, so it's best to leave the work to experts or leave it alone entirely.</p> <h3>Amateur Handyman</h3> <p>If your local municipality requires a permit for something &mdash; like <a href="">electrical work</a>, plumbing, or knocking down walls, etc. &mdash; you might not have the skills to tackle it on your own. Rather than search around for a quick fix, you'll probably save more money (and your health and safety) in the long run by calling in a professional.</p> <h3>Roofing Repairs</h3> <p>My neighbor recently tore off and re-installed roofing on his garage. A project lower to the ground might be okay, but if you're going to go on a super tall ladder, you should leave it to the professionals. That goes for anything up high, as falls from ladders sent <a href="">246,733 Americans</a> to hospital ERs back in 2009. Don't become a statistic!</p> <p><em>Have you tackled any DIY home projects lately? How'd it come out? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="17 DIY Projects to Make Your Home Look Amazing (and 3 You Shouldn&#039;t Try) " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Home DIY home maintenance home projects Home repair Tue, 24 Jun 2014 17:00:05 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1146613 at