Friday, May 29, 2009

Free Lip Item at Bath & Body Works

Click on image to print.

  • The Semi-Annual Sale starts in stores Monday, June 1. Can't wait? Shop the sale online now.
  • I like to stock up on stocking stuffers and gifts for friends, neighbors, and teachers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

InStyle Deals & Steals...for Less

(click to enlarge)

From the clearance rack at TJMaxx.

Found at

Found at the jewelry counter at TJMaxx. These can be worn as either hair accessories or pins.

On clearance at

Cable & Gauge top from TJMaxx.

Nine West bag from TJMaxx.

What's a "steal" to some is not a "steal" to the Bargain Huntress...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

BCBG Memorial Day Weekend Sale

Looking for something to do this weekend?

Here are a couple of items I picked up at the BCBG outlet in Sacramento, CA while I visited my sister last week...

This bargain-priced top keeps my wardrobe up-to-date with the latest trends.

The small amount of stretch in these denim shorts give them the perfect fit.


  • Go to the outlet. The prices on the website are definitely discounted, but the outlet is where you will get the best deals.
  • Make sure you like it. All sales are final at the outlet, so after you hand over your cash, it's yours for good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Digital Camera: Part Deux

Suzanne* writes:

"Hi Becky. Our digital camera died on Mothers Day. John and I are pretty bummed about it. I thought I might surprise him with a new camera for Fathers Day. I liked the info you had gathered earlier for yourself on cameras. But I want to know if you are still happy with the camera you bought now that you've owned it and used it for a while. I think you got it for a steal because I cannot find it for that price anywhere - at least anywhere that I know of. Could you recommend some websites for me to shop? Or tell me a little more about the runner up cameras you considered that I could find for a comparable price? My budget is $120. Thanks!"

*Names have been changed to protect a surprise.

First, I ABSOLUTELY still love my camera (Canon Powershot A590IS). Now that I've had it for a few months, I'm practically a professional photographer. :)

However, Suzanne's right. I can't find it anywhere online for the price I paid--unless it's used or refurbished.

So, here are some new options:

Samsung S860: $79.99 at

Pros: It's compact and the cheapest of my bunch.
Cons: Offers minimal features.

Olympus Stylus 840: $99.95 at

Pros: Highest optical zoom (5x) in my bunch.
Cons: Average features.

Canon Powershot A480: $118 on

Pros: 10 megapixels is the most in my bunch, good manual controls, great menu system.
Cons: Tiny zoom, minimal external controls.

Canon Powershot A470: $86.99 on

Pros: Takes great pictures, and takes them fast.
Cons: Chunky body, average features.

WWBD: Using the same spreadsheet as last time, I determined that the Canon Powershot A470 is the best deal right now. If you don't like the yellow, you can pay $5 more to get the silver or blue.

  • Evaluate objectively. Since there are so many different options available, I built a spreadsheet based on important features, price, etc, to score each camera. It's easier for me to determine the best deal this way.
  • If someone can find a better price, (Chris J., I'm talking to you...) please let Suzanne know before she buys! You can be king or queen of my blog for the day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stress Less during the Holiday Season

Why am I talking about Christmas in May???!!! Because my husband once suggested the best tip for Christmas budgeting that has eliminated financial stress during the holidays almost entirely. The key is to start NOW.

Here's how it works:
  • Figure out your Holiday budget for 2009.
  • Divide that amount by 12 (divide by 8 if you're starting now for 2009).
  • Put that much money in your savings account each month.

It's that simple; common sense, really. But when he suggested this system, it seemed revolutionary to me--so much so that I actually resisted at first. Now that I have done it for a few years, I will NEVER turn back.


  • Keep a record. When gift-buying comes around, you will know exactly what you have to spend.
  • Stick to the budget. Sometimes I find this tip really difficult, but if I make it a game or a challenge to spend less than the budget, it becomes easier. In fact, as an incentive, I get half the surplus to spend, and the other half goes back into savings.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Deal on Fresh Green Beans?

No matter how much money I "saved" on something, it's not a good deal if it goes to waste.


Here's a chart that shows how long produce lasts once it's home from the store.

  • Take inventory of your produce. Before you head to the store to restock your fridge, know what's already there.
  • Plan your meals according to which produce goes bad faster. For example, if I would like to make a meal with green beans and another meal with carrots, I should make the green bean dish FIRST (are you listening, Becky?) and the carrot dish later.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Princess Birthday Party

My daughter, Claire, turned 4 last Saturday. She informed me that she expected friends to come over, to have a princess cake, and to receive every girly item she has seen on commercials. For months I have been hearing, "I want that for my birthday!" coming from the vicinity of the television.

So this puts me in a tough spot....I am lacking in the party-planning department and in the artistic department as well. On the other hand, I'm not about to spend a lot of money on a fancy princess cake or on out-sourcing the party.

When I turned 8 or so, my mom made me a doll cake--one of my fondest birthday memories. So, I searched for instructions on google and landed on Family Fun.

Princess Cake


2 baked 9-inch round cakes
1 baked dome cake (baked in a 2 1/2-quart bowl)
4 cups white frosting
Red food coloring
Gel icing
Cake doll

1. Stack and lightly frost the two round cakes and then the dome cake (flat side down) on a serving plate to form a skirt.
2. After the frosting on the cake firms up (you may have to chill the cake for a while), tint the remaining frosting with food coloring and spread it on the upper two thirds of the skirt.
3. Pipe on decorative gel icing trim. Then press the waist of the cake doll into the center of the cake.
4. Dress her in a frosting bodice, and she's ready to make her debut at the party.

Serves 16 to 18

Round one failure...
This is what happened when I poured the cake out of my 4 qt Pampered Chef batter bowl. The middle of the cake never cooked.

Round two: I decided to follow the instructions more closely and cook the cake in layers.

Cake in progress...

My older daughter designed the dress and helped me ice it. I was quite pleased with the outcome, moreso because Claire loved it!


Bargain hunting is essential for birthdays, especially with 5 kids. I believe in spending less when they are younger (and won't really remember), because the older they get, the more expensive their wish lists get. Might as well save up for when $10 dollar light-sabers turn into $400 iphones.

Claire's gifts from us included:
little girl's mummy sleeping bag: $10 @ Academy Sports
ballerina leotard: on clearance for $3 @ Academy Sports

the Dora Jr. Roller Skate set (@Academy Sports...can you tell I was in a time crunch?)
This set retails at most stores for close to $20. Here's my story, though. I saw this set up on the top shelf without a pricetag, so I asked an employee to find the price for me. She quoted me $7.44. That sounded like a decent price, so I took it up front where it rang up at $19.99. I explained to the clerk what I had been told, and she was nice enough to talk to the manager and get me the price I was quoted. Apparently, the first employee made a mistake.


I called a few of her friends to come over for a casual birthday party. Friends...check!

My two-year-old enjoying the princess cake

The bounty

And that's how you do a princess party for less!


  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. I was tempted to give up and buy a $20 cake from a bakery after the first try failed. I decided to give it one more go (giving myself the option to outsource if round two failed).
  • Build memories and relationships. Claire's cake may not have looked like a pro's, but my older daughter (Meredith) and I had a great time working together to create something special for Claire. Hopefully Meredith and Claire will look back on the experience fondly as I remember fondly the doll cake my mother made for me.
  • Speak up! I had 3 choices when the roller skates rang up at $19.99: pay full price, not buy them, or explain what happened. By speaking up, I got a great deal.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Your Bargain Huntress: Hotel for a Weekend

Sharel writes:

"Taylor and I are planning a little trip to San Antonio June 26-28. Looking for a great hotel for a reasonable rate, preferably near the Riverwalk area.

"Any ideas?


Here are her options:

1. Holiday Inn El Tropicano Riverwalk (89.24/night= 208.37 total with taxes )
  • Located on Riverwalk.
  • Payment due in advance.
  • If cancelled more than 7 days prior, she can get a half refund.

2. a 3.5 star hotel ($89/night = 212.54 total with tax); or a 3 star ($79 = 187.66 total with taxes).

  • Both must be paid for without knowing the specific hotel.
  • Both of these are located within 2 or 3 blocks from the Riverwalk.
  • Neither is refundable.
  • Examples of a 3.5 star hotel: Hilton, Millenium, Crowne Plaza.
  • Examples of a 3-star hotel: Holiday Inn, Radisson, Double Tree.
  • I have always been pleasantly surprised by

3. Crowne Plaza Riverwalk: 4-star, $126/night (total of 300.03 with taxes on crowne plaza's website). Non-refundable rate.

4. name your own price.

  • Choose 4-star (hyatt, marriott, sheraton, hilton), downtown/riverwalk, $89.
  • Hotel "revealed" after Priceline accepts your price and charges your credit card.
  • If Priceline doesn't accept, change to 3.5 star and offer $79.
  • Or try in a day or two at 4-star with a little higher price.

5. Another alternative is to find the hotel you want, (eg, the Crowne Plaza or Holiday Inn above), contact the local hotel to see if they can beat the lowest published price. Maybe they can throw in breakfast, upgrade your room, or lower the price.

WWBD: Try first 2 or 3 times. If that fails, go with's 3.5-star hotel for $89.


"You rock!

"We decided to go with the 3.5 star hotel for $89. We will be enjoying the St. Anthony - A Wyndham Historic Hotel. It looks really nice. I was a little bit nervous to try Hotwire, not knowing exactly what you'd get, but we were pleasantly surprised. We checked the normal rates for that hotel, for those same dates, and it runs $134 a night. So I think we got a great deal!!!

"Thanks for your help."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Your Bargain Huntress: Patio Furniture

Katy writes:

"Hey Becky,

I want the cute, $100, yellow, metal outdoor chairs from CB2. Ryan wants to buy the plastic $25 ones from KMart. Can you help us reach a happy medium?

Thanks! Our marriage might depend on it. :) "

Chairs have always been a difficult bargain for me. And I love the Sunny Arm Chair from CB2.

Here are some options, though:

1. Wait for the Sunny Arm Chair at CB2 to go on sale.
2. Here's an option from Living Direct for $62: Yellow Tulip Chair.
3. Here's an option from Do It Best for $50: Blue Tulip Chair.
4. Here's an option from Ikea for $40 (cute, but plastic): Urban Chair.
5. Scour garage sales or flea markets for mismatched rusty chairs (I bet you could find them for about $10 each; here's an example), then spray paint them with yellow appliance paint.

WWBD: Option #5. The thrill of the chase keeps me hunting for bargains. Additionally, I like having items in my home that personalize my space.