Category: money and happiness

22 Free (or cheap!) Fun Things To Do When You’re Broke

Looking for free things to do? Or fun ideas under $5? Look no further! Click hear to stretch your budget and get a bit outside of your comfort zone! >>
Do you guys have Switzerland-sized bank accounts? Are you always complaining about the extra money that’s stuffed in your pockets, creating unflattering bulges? Do you think “Where can I go that serves $17 cocktails? I can’t think of enough places that overcharge for their drinks!”

No? Weird. Me neither.

Regardless of your income, it’s always fun to enjoy the cheaper things in life, isn’t it?

22 free* things to do when you’re broke

* or very cheap

1. Ride a bike/scooter/motorcycle

Autumn was made for bike rides along the river, filling your basket with goodies from the farmers market. Or with puppies. If you have a friend with a scooter or motorcycle, ask for a ride. Bonus points for taking it on windy roads!

2. Afternoon movie matinee

Because every movie is better if it costs $4.

3. Tuck notes of encouragement into library books

Find the books about business development and leave a note that says “Your business idea is great!” Find the diet books and leave a note that says “You’re gorgeous just the way you are.”

4. Have a picnic (indoors if necessary)

Food tastes better when it’s eaten outside, on a blanket, in the company of ants. Or in the arboretum. Pack up your favorite nibbles and head somewhere lovely and green – here are some great ideas for easy, delicious picnic food.

5. Host a potluck and games night

If you want to have some friends over, but can’t afford footing the bill for a fancy dinner, invite everyone to bring a dish, pull out your favorite old board games and play a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit. Or, really, Girl Talk.

6. Host a clothing swap

Invite your favorite ladies to your place, bringing over the clothes and accessories that they’re no longer feeling to trade with each other. Borrow a few full length mirrors, put on some RuPaul, throw together some cheap appetizers and you’ve got a super cheap, really fun party.

7. Take a public transportation adventure

I have extolled the virtues of bus adventures before, but let’s belabor the point a bit, shall we? Buy a full-day pass on your city’s bus or train line, pack a lunch and your camera and head out to explore the city. Bonus points for getting off at the same time as that looker in the plaid jacket.

8. Volunteer

Improve your karma, meet cool people and do something fun? That’s a win/win/win, y’all! You’ll obviously get the most out of a volunteer opportunity that corresponds to your interests, so I’d give a try. I searched ‘writing’ and found 667 volunteer opportunities!

9. Go to a museum’s free day

It’s always fun to ogle dinosaur bones or paintings, but it’s more fun if it’s free. Check out for free days in major cities. In the Twin Cities area, The Walker is free on Thursday nights, The Minnesota Children’s Museum is free the third Sunday of every month, and The Minnesota Institute of Arts and The Weisman are always free!

10. Go to the library

Why pay $7 for the latest Vogue when you can peruse it for free at your library? Check out DVDs, language-learning CDs and Twilight (in the event that you refuse to spend money on that delicious foolishness).

11. Go to an open mic night

Whether you favor a poetry slam, comedy or some tender-hearted singer/songwriters, there’s certainly an open mic night in your city that caters to your whims. Sure, you’ll see some stinkers, but you might also spot the next Lily Allen! Here’s a collection of all the open mic nights in the Twin Cities.

12. Karaoke

I looooove karaoke. Largely because I’m (erroneously) convinced that I can rock ‘Heart of Glass’ like no other. If you’re too shy to take part, at least you can be entertained by the group of ladies yelling out ‘I Will Survive’ or the fifteen dudes who are going to sing that song about having friends in low places. Here are 10 karaoke songs for bad singers.

13. Engage in a covert, fitting room photo shoot

Dress up in your most impressive outfit and hit up those crazy expensive boutiques where you can’t even afford the socks. Pull a few great outfits off the racks, try them on in those over sized fitting rooms and document the whole thing on your digital camera. This girl has some fantastic photos from doing just that! If you can’t own the clothes, at least you can remember how you look in them.

14. Airport people watching

I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time in airports over the last few years and watching tearful, joyful reunions never, ever gets old.

15. Beauty school spa day

If you’re not afraid to let a supervised student work on you, you can get crazy, crazy cheap salon services. The Aveda Institute in Minneapolis offers $13 haircuts that include a wash, dry, head massage and makeup! For less than the cost of an entree at Applebys!

16. Real estate open houses

Barring marriage to a professional athlete, I will never be able to afford a home in the neighborhood where I currently rent an apartment. But! That doesn’t mean that I can’t stop in at the real estate open houses, check how the other 5% lives and eat a lot of free cookies.

17. Utilize some sidewalk chalk

My nine-year old neighbor is always doing this – drawing and labeling robots and, oddly, sprinklers. Draw a hop scotch on the sidewalk in front of your favorite coffee shop and see how many people will hop through it.

18. Photo scavenger hunt

It’s a great way to spend a weekend afternoon and an even better way to bond with a kid you’re getting to know! Here’s a list to get you started.

19. Attend a cultural events

No, not the opera. Does your city have a large immigrant or refugee community? Check out their events calender and you could find yourself at an awesome Day of the Dead party or an “Auspicious Wrist Tying Ceremony” like I attended a few years ago.

20. Watch the Wizard of Oz while listening to The Dark Side of the Moon

Seriously, that business matches up in an uncanny way. Particularly great for a rainy Sunday night.

21. Buy a Sunday paper to split with a friend, and read it while mulling over a coffee

I love doing this. It’s so much more gratifying than checking CNN repeatedly. You can be those people who say “Listen to this!” or “What’s a five letter word for ‘Egyptian king?'”

22. Get a free pass to a swanky gym

Work out, shmurk out. How about swimming a few laps in the pool, doing a bit of rock climbing and then sitting in the sauna? Yes please! Lifetime Fitness offers free 7 day passes.

What fun things do you do when funds are low? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. Did you know I host a free private Facebook group of 3,000+ awesome humans who want to add more money and more happiness to their lives? Click here to join us!

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

How To Find The Best Stuff In Any Thrift Store

Want to find the best stuff in the thrift store? Looking for thrifting tips or budgeting tips? You're in the right place! Click through for my best tips on second hand shopping!

It brings me an immeasurable amount of joy to tell people how much my belongings cost.

Like my sofa? I’ll fall all over myself to tell you that it was $90 on Craigslist.
Those brass bookends? $5 at Salvation Army.
My red velvet flats (which are, amazingly, Crocs!) I got ’em at Goodwill for $7.
One of my biggest not-so-secrets to living the proverbial champagne life on a beer budget is buying many, many of my belongings second hand.
There’s an art to thrifting but there’s also an art to finding things that you really, really love … not just stuff that’s pretty-cool-it’s-cheap-and-funny, which then gather dust and suffocate you.

Here, are my best tips for creating a gorgeous space filled with wonderful, cheap things  – but not dying under a pile of bad oil paintings.


14 Ways To Make Your Apartment Look Great On A Budget

Want to make your apartment look great on a budget or find cheap decorating ideas? You're in the right place! After 14 apartments, here are all my favorite ways to decorate on a budget!
My first post-college apartment had dark, dirty 1970s cabinets, a yellow stove and a green fridge, and a full-size window directly in front of the toilet.

And I loved it.

I took so much joy in making that weird, cheap apartment cute! I scoured thrift stores and Craiglist, I repainted and disguised and replaced and I positively

After 14 rentals, here’s everything I know about how to make an apartment look great on a budget.


How To (At Least Start To) Get Your Finances Under Control

These are simple, easy baby steps most of us aren't taking to get our finances under control. Click through for five things you can do TODAY //

Gosh, but money is a touchy subject, isn’t it? When we’re not good with it, we feel embarrassed, ashamed, and overwhelmed with but-I’m-smart-why-do-I-keep-screwing-this-up? And when we manage it wisely, we just might be the source of jealousy or even how-does-she-do-it gossip.

To make matters worse, most of us feel weird talking about it. Yes, I want to know how you can afford that shiny, new SUV. No, I’m never, ever going to ask about it.

But devotedly ignoring things rarely gets anyone anywhere. With that in mind, here are five things you can (and should!) do if you’re serious about getting your financial life in order. 

5 ways to get your finances under control

1. Make a real budget

Yes, I know. You’ve heard this a million times before. For good reason! We manage what we monitor and you’d be amazed how quickly those $4 lattes and $17 Target sweaters add up.

Your budget needn’t be anything fancy – it can just be a spreadsheet listing your monthly income and recurring bills. If you want something more involved, check out Dave Ramsey’s free forms or Once you’ve decided how much you can spend, make it easier on yourself by leaving your credit cards at home, freezing them, or covering them with a photo of something you’re saving for.

My trick? Give yourself a ‘fun allowance’ and withdraw that amount from the ATM each week. Once the cash is gone? It’s soup and library books for you, my friend.

2. Actually understand your job benefits

Back when I was working for other people my understanding of my benefits was exclusively limited to vacation time. 401k matching? What’s that? HSA? Home shopping account? Life insurance? Who caaaaares?

Be ye not so stupid as me, friends. Really, actually read through that huge binder your HR person gives you. Google what you don’t understand. Schedule a meeting with HR to go over anything that’s not clear. It’s estimated that benefits can add as much as 30% value to any job – you might as well understand them and take advantage of them!

3. Put your school loans on auto-pay

Do you have school loans? (Dur. Yes.) If you put them on autopay you a) don’t have to worry about writing a check once a month b) can save .25%. I realize that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re repaying tens of thousands of dollars, it adds up! And remember, you can deduct student loan interest from your taxes!

4. If you know you can use a credit card wisely, get one with great rewards

If you know you struggle with impulse purchases and you’ve had credit card debt in the past, take a pass on this one. But if you can manage a credit card, getting one with good rewards can make a huuuuuge difference.

I have a Capital One card because it has amazing travel rewards and I put ev.ery.thing on it – I even pay my utilities with it! I pay it off every month and I’ve already received hundreds of dollars worth of rewards this year.

5. Think about ways you can cut spending

I’m a big believer in putting your money where your happy is. If you don’t care about that painfully hip new restaurant, don’t go there. If name brand clothes don’t bring you joy, don’t buy them. If you need a three week beach trip each year, budget accordingly. It’s a lot easier to cut your spending when you know you’re saving for something important and joy-making.

You can find a million good ideas for living a good life on a budget here.

How’s your relationship with money? How do you save + manage it?

P.S. 10 ways to feel rich and How to save up for big ticket items.

Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash // cc

My problems aren’t your responsibility (and, ahem, probably vice versa)

For too long I expected other people to cater to my needs and whims or work around my issues. Putting our happiness or contentment in the hands of other people is an exercise in managing disappointment. Let's stop. Here's how >>
When I was 12 years old I convinced my parents to let me be a vegetarian.
I’d spent at least five years battling their two-bites-of-everything rule.  If memory serves, my mom finally caved after I theatrically gagged some summer sausage back onto my dinner plate and worked up some crocodile tears + puppy eyes.
I remember her standing in our dining room, hands on hips, and sighing “You don’t have to eat meat anymore but I’m not fixing you anything special.  There’s enough food on the table.  You’re not going to starve.”
In our current state of helicopter parenting, this might sound overly harsh, but I think it’s completely legitimate. To this day, I’ll happily pick pepperoni off the pizza my friends ordered or dig the pork out of the soup.  Being vegetarian is my deal.  Which means I’m the one who has to deal with it.
Because I’m The Most Fun, I have plenty of other deals. Want to hear them? 
  • I get really motion sick and I’ll puke if we’re driving through the mountains (even if I take Dramamine).
  • I don’t like it when people eat cocktail shrimp in my vicinity.
  • There are various exes I’d prefer not to run into.
  • I don’t like amusement parks or the State Fair.
  • Wearing cashmere or angora makes me feel like the walls are closing in.
  • I don’t like to be around large groups of drunk strangers.
  • After about four hours of conversation or group engagement, the light turns off inside me and I need to go sit in a quiet place by myself. And preferably read lady magazines or nap.
And there was a time (um, embarrassingly not-that-long-ago) when I thought it would be really, really lovely if everyone ever went out of their way to accommodate my various neuroses.

You know who likes constantly accommodating one person’s needs?  Absolutely no one. 

If I don’t like it when you eat cocktail shrimp next to me, maybe I should move.

Rather than asking you not to invite my ex to that party, maybe I should go early.  Or late.  Or go whenever I want and then not talk to them.

You’re having a birthday party at an amusement park?  How about I buy you a drink the day before?

If I feel myself reaching my social quota I can just excuse myself and go the eff home.

And nobody’s going to hold me down and make me wear angora.Of course it’s nice when the people in our lives work around our stuff!  When they take into consideration our gluten intolerance or our fear of snakes or the fact that we’re on a really tight budget!

But ultimately, I am the only person who is responsible for myself, my happiness, and dealing with my issues. And I imagine you’re in the same boat.

If reading fashion magazines makes you feel bad about your body, don’t read them.

If a specific friend always brings you down, stop hanging out with them.

If a friend invites you to a cabin weekend that you can’t afford, don’t go.

If you’re a vegetarian and your friends invite you to a steakhouse, either don’t go or go and order a baked potato and a martini.

If you’re gluten intolerant and you get invited to a potluck, bring a dish that you love so you’ll have something to eat.

If you’re having a rough, grumpy day, don’t take it out on your roommate/partner/parent.  Go to the gym, go for a walk, write in your journal is a sulky, dramatic manner.

As  harsh as it sounds, I find this approach really empowering.

Making my wellbeing someone else's responsibility is an exercise in disappointment management. Click To Tweet

When I decided that I was the only one responsible for working around my stuff, life got a lot easier and friendships became a lot more fun.

(People like you more when you’re not asking them to stop eating that shrimp so loudly.)

What issues are you working through?  How do you work around them without expecting everyone to make exceptions for you? (and have you ever been guilty of being too demanding?)

P.S. If you like this kind of stuff, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to ‘Life Advice’!

12 thrift store DIYS you should try today

Looking for clever, cheap thrift store DIYs? Click through for DIY ideas for four things you can always find at thrift stores for cheap: hardcover books, vinyl records, silk scarves, and dishes!
I’ve been a voracious thrifter for ages.  I’ve been pawing through racks of second hand clothing since plaid and high-waisted jean shorts were cool – the first time around.
(You can read my thrifting tips here and here.)
These days I don’t thrift as much because, well, I don’t need anything.  I’ve got all the cute dresses and vintage t-shirts a girl could want! (Or at least, as many cute dresses as a girl who hates having excess stuff that she doesn’t use could want.)
Every time I pop into a thrift store I see shelf after shelf of the same items – there are always piles of vinyl records, dishes, silk scarves, and hardcover books.  These items might not be too exciting in their current state, but with some elbow grease and creativity, they could be amazing!

Click on the photos to see how to make these adorable things!

DIY project you can do with Records

Looking for clever, cheap thrift store DIYs? Click through for DIY ideas for four things you can always find at thrift stores for cheap: hardcover books, vinyl records, silk scarves, and dishes!
Vinyl record DIY
Vinyl record DIY

DIY projects you can do with Hardcover books

Hardcover book craft ideas
Hard cover book crafts
Crafts to make with hardcover books

DIY projects you can do with Silk scarves

silk scarf craft ideas
Shorts made from silk scarves
Silk scarf pillows

DIY projects you can do with Dishes

DIYs with dinner plates
Crafts with dinner plates
Crafts with tea cups
Do you have any favorite DIYs for things you find at the thrift store?  Leave links in the comments!