This month is all about pumpkin lattes, Halloween costumes, and vibrant fall leaves, but it’s also when crafty people start looking ahead to the winter holidays. If you’re planning to create or make gifts by hand this year, now is the time to get cracking! Additionally, the Christmas and winter themed books that will be in short supply after Thanksgiving are abundant in October, so you are much more likely to find something inspiring when you stop by DPL.

The Art of Gift Wrapping: No matter what’s inside the package, thoughtful gift wrapping always makes it much more special. Instead of last-resort gift bags and tissue paper, check out this book for ideas and detailed instructions on innovative and lovely gift wrapping techniques.

Classic Crafts and Recipes for the Holidays: For timeless and sophisticated (and decidedly not “beginner”) DIY decorating, Martha Stewart’s books are the way to go. This particular one includes directions for some stunning outdoor-only ice decorations as well as decadent holiday recipes and some very creative uses for velvet.

Knitted Gifts and Holiday Knits each include the instructions for quite a few lovely knitting projects that are sure to please anyone on your gift list, from Christmas stockings to baby booties, cable-knit hats and mittens and decorative ornaments. All projects include photos and patterns. Easy for experienced knitters, but not out of reach for beginners either.

We’ll file this one next to “what kinds of products keep places like Best Buy in business”?

Today we’ll simply focus on fluids.

1)LCD screen cleaner – How selfless of them to offer everything you need in an easy to use kit?  Too bad it’s just a microfiber cloth, isopropyl alcohol, and distilled water. You can make a gallon for 3% of that price.

2) Shredder oil – Paper shredders are an excellent way to fight identity theft. The action of shredding paper generates a large amount of dust that is detrimental to the life of the printer.  Big box stores sell a lubricant for this purpose.  I don’t know if I’d want to stir fry with it, but according to lifehacker, this product is canola oil placed in a different container.

We’ve all heard the cheapest day for airline ticket purchases, for which there has been no definitive ruling about the mythical master mainframe of all airfares that mystically opens up pumpkin coach-class seats at midnight on a Wednesday.

According to site Extrabux, there is also some data out there that backs up weekly price trends for computers, TV’s, jewelry, appliances, books, and more.

And if you want a deal, don’t worry that cyber Monday has passed.   The biggest online day of the shopping year usually ends up being something like December 10th.   On which, the odds of getting pepper-sprayed/trampled by your fellow retail shopper significantly decrease.

The most expensive multivitamin is the better one, because the price reflects a company with more stringent quality controls, right?  Not at all.  But the cheaper ones aren’t any good either, right?  Wrong again.  Some of them are stellar.  Some.

It turns out there is pretty much no correlation between cost and quality, from a few cents per dose to some over fifty cents a pill.  Some don’t have the the advertised  RDA of certain vitamins.  Some have unhealthful contaminates.  Some are of such low quality they don’t disintegrate properly, rendering them ineffective.

So, just don’t take vitamins then?  Also, a bad idea.  Read the results of this experiment and buy the cheapest with a passing score.

In another month, every break room and front porch is going to be loaded with well-intentioned zucchinis, cucumbers, and tomatoes from benevolent friends and neighbors.

But in the interim, take this recent advice from Lifehacker.  According to them, it’s practically a standard equation at the supermarket level regarding deep price markdowns to salvage some return on the product before the freshness date expires.

To compound it, Wednesday may enable you to harness overlap between the the two-week span’s advertising circulars.

It makes sense, and it’s actually true.  I figure whatever they aren’t going to be able to work into the next day’s salad bar gets the big red sticker.

Frequently I get seven bagged salad mixes that were $3 once they become $1.    That’s the only time to buy.  If you pay more than $1, you paid too much.  If there’s nothing there for $1, select another style of mix that they are unloading.

Congratulations, you paid $7 instead of $21 for your week’s lunches, you genius.

Apparently the leafy greens in there turn into a pumpkin coach after midnight as opposed to something that is completely edible and delicious we all can safely consume for an additional 7 to 10 days.

Bless you freshness date.

If you’re not French-pressing, you’re shortchanging yourself.

A recent convert, and not for lack of trying from others, I’ve rationalized that it is more than win-win.  Four wins.  That’s right, a quaternary level of winning.  Insert hackneyed, two months’ stale Charlie Sheen reference here if you’re that person, followed by a sound life-examination.

1)It’s green. No filters showing up in the landfill. And after you’re done with it, swish the grounds around in some water and dump them onto a potted plant or garden bed of your choice. Apparently, plants love the stuff and worms will turn rock hard clay into aerated loam because you discarded your morning joe bilge there.

2)You use less coffee.  I reckon up to a third less.  There are a lot of oils and nuanced flavors that come through that you weren’t getting before. So your coffee dollar goes further. Frugal readers know that is one greenback that isn’t going near as far as it used to in the global marketplace.

3)You get more caffeine. There are scientific types that take this stuff very seriously…to a lab coat level.  They’ve determined optimum extraction occurs somewhere between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Your Mr. Coffee percolator is at best about forty degrees shy of that mark.  If you slug it out of a wide-brimmed soup cup like I do, cool down time is not an issue.

4)You get a whole bunch of counter space back. Think of all the cool stuff you could put there instead!

Yeah, so you’ve got to learn how to boil a small amount of water and you can’t set a wake-up timer on it.  Buck up. You get to feel like a chemistry major without floating a D grade-point average.  Also, you’ll have to start looking at the microwave to see if you’re running late. It’s worth it.

No, it’s not a neat hybrid of Hoarders and Extreme Couponing, but merely an impression after viewing a piece of an episode of the latter.

Widely-renowned and nationally-syndicated consumer savings columnist Jill Cataldo broke apart a recent episode of the TLC hit with Zapruder-like detail to reveal what fundamentally is theft, your perception depending on the plumb of your ethical barometer.

Far be it for me to not want a great deal or occasionally sneak one past the goalie.  There’s also the “everyone else is doing it” defense, or the “system allowed it, so it’s fair game.”   I’m very familiar.  A practitioner, in fact.  And honestly, why does a grocery’s UPC system treat all code families from certain product manufacturers as interchangeable?  I don’t know, and none of us can expect a checker to parse through 4 carts of items for validity.  On an off-note, who would pull a stunt like this in public without wanting to go take a long hot shower for want of feeling like such a sleaze?

But, it stands to reason that when you game the system for $1800 worth of merchandise for $100, there’s no down-on-her-luck-plucky determinism origin story that can explain away why the suburban mom needed sixty bottles of yellow mustard to sit on a heavy duty rack in the garage.  You aren’t going to make that much potato salad.  There’s some kind of pathology here.

It’s easy to do because of the remoteness of the nameless, faceless victim.  Guess who it’s not?  It’s not the manufacturer, or even the store.  Its the saps that have to help eat that loss.   The rest of us with a semblance of decorum.

In other news, the show also features “extreme” Nathan Engles, who rather than counting and hoarding groceries, puts together care packages for military families.  Very cool.

Most readers will recognize Christine Romans as the CNN business reporter and host of “Your $$$$$.”  But I wonder how many realize she hails from right here in the QCA?  Yup, that’s right!  Romans grew up in LeClaire, Iowa, and graduated from Pleasant Valley High School.  She went on to graduate from Iowa State University in 1993 and then began working for the Des Moines Register.  Later, she worked with a financial news firm in Chicago before hitting the big time with CNN in 1999.

But now, this TV reporter is an author of a practical, no-nonsense book about money.  It’s title, Smart is the New Rich, also happens to be a perfect fit for Money Smart Week, which is happening right now — April 2-9.  According to Romans, most of us need to start managing our money a little differently than we did before the economic bubble burst, and here are her 3 primary guidelines:

  • Live within our means
  • Live with less debt
  • Be less vulnerable

She further substaniates her message with 5 clear spending rules.  A perfect example of this is the subtitle, If You Can’t Afford It, Put it Down. Other classic rules include:

  • Think of money like nutrition
  • Negotiate everything
  • Always save first
  • Don’t deny yourself

Her book is proving popular, so come check it out and use Money Smart Week to get smart and rich!

Courtesy of savvy shortcut website for modern living, Lifehacker, here are the top ways to stay warm this winter for less dough.  Some involve constructing genius DIY doohickeys, others tweaks on classics.

I like the machine that cycles absorbed solar heat through 180 empty cans of your favorite beverage.  Well, I’d let someone else actually “make” the device.

And powered longjohns?  Interesting and doable, but I’ll leave that one to the experts.