Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve!

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy new year!

See you Monday!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Get Yourself a Jimi Wallet. Now!

Item: Jimi Wallet

Price: $14.95

Where to Buy:

Review: I got a nice surprise when I wrote about the Jimi wallet in June: The Jimi wallet people offered to send me one. For free.

Um, yes please.

I love it.

It doesn't quite hold enough (five cards and three folded bills) to be my everyday wallet, but it's nice and compact for a small purse. And it's fun to use. And cute. I got a pink one.

It's too late to ask for one for the holidays, but do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a Jimi wallet in the New Year.

Image from:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here's hoping you get all you wish for this holiday season (without being too extravagant, of course!).

Merry Christmas! Thrifty Under Fifty returns on Monday.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookies for the Traveler in All of Us

Item: Biscoff cookies

Price: $26.95 (200 cookies)

Where to Buy:

Review: My favorite airline is Delta not because of low fares or on-time departures. Nope. It's because of those delectable in-flight snacks called Biscoff cookies.

Stronger that a graham cracker, yet sweeter than a ginger snap, the Biscoff cookie is the highlight of the flight. And unlike a lot of in-flight treats nowadays, they're still free (or at least they were the last time I flew Delta more than a year ago).

Luckily, I don't have to wait for a flight to get my Biscoff fix. Over supper one night, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and I learned of our shared regard for the cookie-biscuit. Lo and behold, I received a whole tin of the treats from them for Christmas one year.

Biscoff cookies not only make a great mid-morning treat at work, but also inspire me to plan my next trip -- via Delta, of course.

Image from:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Priceline: Not Always the Best Deal

I've long been a fan of Priceline. I've lost count of the number of hotel rooms I've reserved for a fraction of the listed price both in the US and in Canada.

I've turned to Priceline several times now for rental cars, with mixed results. Last year I got a rental car in Columbus, Ohio, saved a few bucks, no problem. A more recent Priceline experience, however, proves that it's always wise to do some research before submitting your Priceline bid.

The goal: A 3-day rental to and from Detroit. Before I submitted my bid, Priceline's site showed that I could get a car from Alamo for $12 a day. So I submitted a bid of $8. No luck. $9. Nada.

What surprised me was that Priceline came back with a counteroffer -- of $13 a day. Huh?

Obviously I ignored the offer, made my way to Alamo's website and rented a car for the weekend for $49 and some change.

The lesson: Priceline has some great deals, but it doesn't have a monopoly on them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Special Effects for Funky Photos

Item: BeFunky Photo Effects

Price: Free

Where to Try:

Review: Add professional-looking special effects to your favorite photos in seconds -- no artistic skills required.

With nine options (including the "Warholizer" and the "Cartoonizer") there's hours of photorific fun at For example, see what "Charcola" did to the image above.

The site is free -- you don't even have to register to try it out -- and after uploading your photo, your new funkified image is displayed in seconds. What you do with the image is up to you-- you can purchase the image on shirts, mugs, magnets, keychains, stickers and more right on the site.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saving on Household Utilities

If I had to pick a favorite bill, my choice by far would be my ConEdison electricity bill.

I love flipping to the chart that shows how my electricity usage had compared to each of the last 12 months, including the same month of the previous year. When that bar gets shorter and shorter (as it often did during the mild summer months, when I rarely ran the air conditioner), it's nice to know I'm helping my wallet and the world.

But my water usage? I have no idea. That's why I found this article on reducing your "water footprint" especially interesting.

According to Good Magazine, UNICEF says every person needs about five gallons of water per day to survive.

Americans use 151 gallons. Per day.

That includes an average of 3.5 to 6 gallons per toilet flush and 2.5 to 4 gallons per minute of your shower. See the article for a more complete list ... and tips on how to cut back.

First up for me? Something my parents asked me to do 15 years ago (with little results): Cutting my time in the shower. Besides, I can get on board with any environmental cause that also results in a few extra minutes of shut-eye in the morning.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

This winter, give your friends and family a taste of summer with these blueberry oatmeal muffins.

These muffins make tasty treats for teachers, postal workers and others you are looking to give token gifts to this holiday season. Or take them to the office potluck either for breakfast or for a healthy dessert.

Yes, blueberries are expensive this time of year, but give them a try with whatever fruit you have on hand. I've had excellent results substituting the blueberries for raspberries.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

1 1/2 tablespoons + 1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or raspberries)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, to taste
1 cup yogurt (plain or fruit-flavored)
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a muffin pan.

Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons oats and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine remaining oats, brown sugar, flour, baking powder and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, butter, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until the batter is moistened but still lumpy. Gently fold in blueberries.

Fill muffin cups almost to top, and sprinkle reserved oats and brown sugar over muffins. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 12.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Continuing this week's theme of cheap and easy homemade Christmas gifts that look neither cheap nor easy ... Homemade Chocolate Syrup.

The recipe, from Small Notebook (who, in turn, borrowed it from The Complete Tightwad Gazette) has only five ingredients. And since the result keeps for several months, you can make the sauce at your leisure, far before the last-minute crush of holiday shopping and get-togethers.

Yes, the results look tasty, but what really makes this a gem of a gift is the container you package it in. A flip-top glass bottle (like that used at Small Notebook) with a homemade label makes this easy homemade Christmas gift appear not only delicious, but also thoughtful.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Mix cocoa and water in saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve cocoa. Add sugar, and stir to dissolve. Boil 3 minutes over medium heat. Add salt and vanilla. Cool. Pour into a sterile glass jar, and store in refrigerator. Keeps for several months. Yields two cups.