I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the missing UVA student Hannah Graham? She went missing last weekend after leaving a party by herself. As I write this (Thursday afternoon at 3pm) they still haven’t found her :(

 

This is hitting really close to home for me– not only because I’ve visited UVA quite a few times, but because the story (at least from what they’ve released of it) is frighteningly… normal.

 

Since most of you reading are females in your 20s… I want to take today’s post to do a little PSA… ok?

 

 

I know I make a big deal on this blog about saving money. A few bucks here and there really can add up to a significant savings each month! But lemme say this right now:

 

NEVER. EVER. EVER. skimp on your safety because you’re trying to “save money”.

Never.

Ever.

 

 

I mean… have you ever been in this scenario?

 

You’re out with your friends, you decide that it’s time for you to head home but the rest of your friends still want to stay out (or they live in the opposite direction of you).

 

You have a mental battle with yourself as you leave the bar: should you walk home, or should you take a cab or some other form of mass transportation? You know the cab would be smartest, but you ARE trying to save money, so maybe you should just walk home and save the $10 or $20 cab fare…? It might be sketchy, and it’s late at night, but gosh, that $20 is a LOT of money just to get home…

 

You might feel invincible (especially after drinking…) and think “oh it’s just a mile, it’s pretty well lit, I’ve never seen anyone sketchy, I really shouldn’t spend money on a cab, I’ll be fine!” but it is SO so so not worth it.

 

Never skimp on your safety.

 

And look out for your friends, too. Don’t let anyone leave alone.

 

Don’t let a few bucks be the difference between you (or a friend!) getting home safely.

 

 

Be safe this weekend, please <3

 

I, much like many 20-something females in Fall (ahem, except for, evidently, Mel and Erin… haha!) , found myself last week with a strooooooong craving for anything and everything pumpkin.

 

I already shared that I went ahead and made some mini pumpkin pies (seriously, they were SO good. have you made them yet? get on that!) but there was one other pumpkin item haunting my dreams…

 

Yep, of course, it was the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte.

 

Every year Starbucks does some fancy marketing witchcraft and somehow lures us all under their PSL spell. Remember last year when they created all that buzz around how they were “running out of the PSL syrup”? and this year they did all that fancy stuff with unlocking the PSL a few days early? It’s witchcraft, I tell ya…

 

Anyway. Back to the point at hand.

 

So I was craving a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I had held off pretty well, but I knew my resolve wouldn’t last long. I knew I had to either do something about satisfying my craving or I would admit defeat and spend $4-5 on the delicious drink.

 

But uhhhh hello, I write a personal finance blog so I obviously can’t let Sbux win.

 

So I DIYed my own PSL! (hooray acronyms!)

 

DIY-PSL

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of coffee
  • pumpkin spice creamer
  • whipped cream
  • pumpkin pie spice (or just plain cinnamon would work too)

 

Make your coffee, pour in a generous amount of pumpkin pie creamer (and ignore the nutrition facts on the back that say a serving size is 1 tablespoon… HA GOOD JOKE), add whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice… VIOLA!

 

DIY-Pumpkin-Spice-Latte

I suppose I could do a fancy cost breakdown to tell you exactly how much one of these babies costs to make at home, but honestly I am too lazy. I will say that the creamer itself was $3.19, which is cheaper than even a small PSL at Sbux and it will last me for a LOT of homemade PSLs. (and if you can’t finish it before it goes bad, don’t forget– you can freeze coffee creamer!)

 

But yeah, the drink was pretty delicious– I won’t say that it’s AS good as a real PSL, but hey, it works for me! I’ve seen a few recipes for a “real” pumpkin latte drink (with real pumpkin and stuff) but I know I’m not that dedicated. The creamer + whipped creme is good enough for me :)

 

Anyway, moral of this story is that you can’t deprive yourself of things you really want. Deprivation leads you to go off the deep end and buy the item you’ve been lusting over anyway. Why not just figure out a way to make it for cheaper?

 

 

Have you given in to the PSL yet?
What’s your favorite fall food/drink?

 

 

Up until a few days ago, I prided myself on never getting tired of certain meals. Mike and I had a rotation of meals that we made every week (including burritos, baked chicken, thanksgiving chickenstir fry, and spaghetti) and I liked them all.

 

Until last week, when I suddenly hated everything we make.

 

Has that ever happened to you? Ugh, it was the worst. I couldn’t get excited about ANYTHING we had in the fridge. So this week we picked up some new foods and I am super excited!

 

We started by whipping up two awesome things during our Sunday football watching (still going strong in my attempt to become a football fan) — Nachos and mini pumpkin pies!

 

Up first: NACHOS

 

baked-nachos

We totally winged this and it turned out SO great!

 

baked-nachos-ingredients

The toppings we used:

  • onion
  • black beans
  • tomatoes
  • frozen corn
  • CHEESE (on my portion… Mike still doesn’t like it. BOO)
  • shredded chicken (1 chicken breast baked with taco seasoning then shredded up)
  • salsa
  • plain greek yogurt (which we use instead of sour cream, totally tastes the same and is way healthier!)
  • cilantro (had some leftover from last week’s salsa football snack!)

 

Put all those toppings on top of some chips, bake at 350 for 5ish mins, and BOOM! you have some deeeelicious nachos :) Seriously, so good. I want to make these for dinner sometime! It’s pretty healthy, right?

 

 

And dessert: MINI PUMPKIN PIES!

Remember when I asked last week if it was too early to make pumpkin pie? Welp- you guys said that it was totally okay. So I finally caved and made them yesterday :)

 

mini-pumpkin-pies

I used this recipe (found on Pinterest– hey, are we Pinterest friends yet?) and added mini chocolate chips to half the batter… just because :)

 

mini-pumpkin-pie

We topped them with whipped creme and they were AMAZINGGGG. You should make them, like, today.

 

 

Have you cooked anything delicious lately?

What’s your fav dinner recipe? I need new ideas!

 

 

Today I just want to share a random discovery with you…

 

My sis-in-law gave me a little individual pack of a face mask (I would say it’s a sample-size, but after googling it, that might just be the size they come in? weird) and when I opened it, I realized there was WAYYY too much in there for just one use.

 

So I brainstormed ways that I could save the rest of it without it drying out… and came up with the easiest answer ever.

 

TAPE!

 

save-samples-tape

 

{I really honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I took this picture- I should have focused on the tape but then I took the pic in a way that it cut most of the tape out of view? hahaha #notaphotographer}

 

I grabbed two pieces of tape and put them on either side of the opening, then stuck it all together so no air could get in. (and later I discovered that I could use just one piece of tape and fold it in half)

 

Now I’m super excited- I don’t have to use all of it at once, and I know it won’t get all dried up OR spill on anything! Win!!

 

So. That’s today’s random discovery :)

 

 

Please tell me I’m not the only one who attempts to ration & save sample-sized products? HA!

 

 

So here’s the thing.

 

A few weeks ago, I learned that many of you really only want to learn one thing from me: you were basically just interested in learning how the heck you can save money but not become a hermit who never goes anywhere or does anything. (I may be putting words in your mouth, but that was the jist)

 

So I announced that I was going to do a series of posts about “how to have a life while still saving money”

 

My first post in the series was about going out at night (bars, drinking, etc). And this post will focus on restaurants!

 

So to set up this post, let’s imagine that one of your best friends calls you up and says “hey, wanna grab dinner sometime next week?”. You do want to hang out with her, so you want to agree, but you are also a very smart SMIYT-er so you don’t want to spend a fortune on one dinner.

 

 

My top 3 tips for {CHEAP} restaurant eating!

 

Numero uno: Location, location, location.

This is literally the most important decision of all: where will you be eating? If possible, YOU should set the location. My best suggestion here is to find a restaurant WITH NO WAITERS. No waiters = no tip. That’ll save you a huge chunk-o money.

 

auld-shebeen

For example, I would not choose this restaurant. There are most definitely waiters, and everything on the menu is in the $15-$20 range. (Fun fact: this is where Mike and I met! But at the bar downstairs. We’re classy like that)

 

If the location isn’t up to you, that’s cool too. I have more ways to save money, so never fear!

 

 

Numero dos: Know before you go.

1) Can you find any coupons for that particular restaurant? Go to their website and see if there are any special deals listed. You never know- you might score a 2-for-1 deal or a free appetizer or something! (and don’t be embarrassed to use a coupon… your dining partner should be impressed by your couponing skillz! If they aren’t, well, maybe you should get rid of that dining partner. haha, just kidding… but really)

 

2) Scope that menu out before you even go to the restaurant. (hellooooo what else do we have google for if not for pre-viewing menus?)

 

I don’t know about you, but when I go to restaurants I often find myself chatting with my friend and totally get distracted and have to make a super quick decision on what I’m going to order… and then I usually order something more expensive than I prefer! So check it out first and try to pick out your item in a no-pressure environment :)

 

garbage-plates

In this situation, I had picked out my meal (the back plate– Mike’s is in front) before we even went to the restaurant. They had a portabello sandwich on the menu and I really wanted to try it!

 

 

Numero tres: Will you drink?

Decide in advance if you will be getting drankzzz (of the alcoholic variety). If you don’t want to spend money on a drink, decide that ahead of time and make yourself stick to it. It’s too easy to get to the restaurant and be tempted by the delicious looking IPA selection (oh, just me?)

 

IMG_20140723_163849088_HDR

Wait but this is really funny- I ordered a beer by Dark Horse brewing and when it arrived, doesn’t that look like a horse in the foam?!?! HOW FITTING.

 

If you do want to drink, decide (in advance) how many drinks you’ll get. Again, it’s easy to get carried away once you get started. Also– be sure to ask about any happy hour/drink specials. You might be able to save a few dollars just by ordering one particular drink! (of course, don’t do it if you don’t like that drink– it’s not worth saving $2 if you’re gonna hate it, haha)

 

 

Numero cuatro: Cut the unnecessary ad-ons.

(PS this is embarassing to admit but I took spanish in high school AND college and couldn’t remember how to spell “cuatro” as I typed this heading… definitely spelled it as “quatro” and then had to google it. oops)

Let’s remember the reason for this restaurant outing: it’s because you wanted to hang out with your friend.

 

Do you have to order a $2-$3 soda in order to hang out with your friend? NO. Order water and save the money (and be healthier).

Do you have to order the $18 salmon in order to hang out with your friend? NO. Order the $10 sandwich and save the money. You’ll still be full and it will still be amazingly delicious.

Do you have to order an appetizer in order to hang out with your friend? NO. Your meal will fill you up, I promise. (Unless you’re going to one of those super fancy restaurants that give you like, 3 bites of food and charge you $50 for the “experience”…)

 

 

Numero cinco: Take what you paid for.

Restaurants give you a LOT of food. If you can’t finish your meal, take it to go! No use in stuffing yourself just to finish the meal- just box it up and take it with you… and then you have a delicious snack or meal for another time! :)

 

 

Numero seis: You do you.

You know what? These are the tips that work for me based on my preferences & financial priorities. But if you really truly want that $18 salmon, or you really truly want to try an appetizer, then do it!! Don’t deprive yourself of something if you really want it (and can afford it).

 

 

 

How do YOU save money while eating at restaurants?