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This post was written by staff writer Crystal Stemberger at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, where she writes about finding the balance between paying your bills, saving for your future, and budgeting in the fun stuff along the way.

The Best Time to Buy Stuff

by Crystal Stemberger on August 17, 2011

Have you noticed that certain things are just priced better at certain times of the year?  Seasonal sales and end of year inventories have led me to create a quarterly cheat sheet for shopping.  Now I can keep in mind the big purchases we may have to make and can look up the best months to start shopping.  This makes it much easier to tackle large purchases and I don’t feel like I lost out on easy savings. 

Here is my current annual shopping calendar broken down into quarters.

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Guide to Safe Dumpster Diving

by Crystal Stemberger on August 16, 2011

DumpsterI heard about Freeganism about a year ago. I will admit, the idea of dumpster diving for food and home items when you aren’t starving grossed me out. I just don’t think I will ever be comfortable rooting around trash to find treasures. But when I wrote about that on my own site, I was surprised by how many people have been able to find some awesome stuff in other people’s trash. Apparently, you may be surprised about the great things that you can find by dumpster diving. Here are some tips that have been suggested for finding the best stuff.

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5 Middle Class Tax Breaks

by Crystal Stemberger on August 15, 2011

I have heard a ton about tax breaks for the wealthy over the last two years. I have also heard a few things about tax breaks for the poor but didn’t know any details. I seldom heard about tax breaks for middle class individuals though. I thought I could do us all a favor and write about tax breaks I saw mentioned at Kiplinger. You may be able to benefit by taking advantage of the following tax breaks for the middle and lower income classes (and some of these may apply even if you are in the upper echelons of the IRS tax brackets).

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Frugal Gift Ideas for Anybody

by Crystal Stemberger on August 11, 2011

I am not a craftsy person.  I don’t paint or draw well at all unless stick figures count.  I also have never taken up knitting or crochet.  In short, when I want to give thoughtful gifts that stay within our gift budget, I have to look elsewhere for ideas.  I’ve started thinking outside the box.  Here are some frugal gift ideas I have found work for almost anybody.

Credit Card Rewards

I know that some people in the world of personal finance see credit cards as the work of the devil, but I love them.  Specifically, rewards credit cards help keep my world sane and give me a little extra to boot.  My husband and I use the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Visa for gas to get the 5% cash back and the Discover More credit card for almost everything else.  Discover gives us cash back that can be exchanged for cash or gift certificates to places we go anyway.

I use some of that cash back each year to buy a few gift cards and certificates that can be used for general gifts.  For example, $20 can buy a $25 gift card to Kohl’s, Bath and Body Works, or 2 movie tickets and small popcorns to AMC.  $45 can buy a $50 gift card to Starbucks, Dillard’s, or even Best Buy.  Any of those cards or certificates makes a great present for most of our friends and family.

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Car Problems You May Be Able To Ignore

by Crystal Stemberger on August 09, 2011

Car MechanicI drive a 2005 Chevy Aveo that I bought new. In case you have never owned one, they were made with sub-par parts. For example, the thermostat housing was made of plastic. Thermostat housings are near the engine, so within 3 years, it had gotten so hot on and off that it cracked in two. Amazingly, the replacement part was metal. Long story short, I have looked into what problems can be ignored and what problems can’t when it comes to a car like mine. Please keep in mind that I am not an auto professional – I just own a cruddy one and am sharing my experiences.

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Buying vs. Renting Furniture

by Crystal Stemberger on August 08, 2011

FurnitureI needed furniture for the first time in a college apartment. Thanks to hand-me-downs and gifts, I didn’t have to hunt down much at all. Then I graduated, got married, and we moved into a house a couple of years later. We had to get our own furniture for the first time ever. We had to decide whether we wanted to buy or rent the pieces we needed and ultimately decided to buy. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are stuck on the fence on whether to buy or rent furniture for your place.

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When To Be Frugal

by Crystal Stemberger on August 04, 2011

I am not an extremely frugal person, but I am not a spendthrift either. I love squirreling away my money just as much as I love my home, health, and hobbies. In short, my husband and I save more than a third of our income on a regular basis, but we do not cheap out on certain things. Specifically, I will spend whatever is necessary to live healthily and sleep well. Frugality has its place in the world of personal finance, but there are some things that you just cannot afford to be cheap about and things you can.

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Cheap Fun for the Kids

by Crystal Stemberger on August 03, 2011

With the kids out of school, I know there are a ton of parents out there trying to think of ways to keep them entertained without draining the family’s coffers.  I know I remember my mother having the same problem with the three of us.  At the beginning of every summer, we’d get bored and slowly tear up the house looking for stuff to do.  After a few days of driving her nuts, we got used to playing on our own outside and she took us on a few frugal trips every summer as well.  Here are some ideas for cheap fun for the kids.

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