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living on less

Gifting Outside The Box This Holiday Season

by Tara Kuczykowski on December 16, 2015 · 0 comments

Gifting Outside The Box

I think we all have at least one person on our gifting list that's difficult to buy for. Whether they seem to already have everything under the sun, are ultra-picky, or ask for items outside of your budget range, finding the perfect gift for them is challenging at best.

My dad is notoriously hard to buy for. His home is an eclectic collection of '50s era antiques, with a few modern items sprinkled in. At the same time, he's pretty frugal, and there really are very few things that he actually needs. I often find myself resorting to gift cards, because then he can just pick up whatever he needs, but it feels a little impersonal, you know?

So when American Auction Co. contacted me about checking out their site for holiday gifting, a little lightbulb went off. You see, I used to do a lot of garage sale-ing and antique hunting with my dad back when my husband and I were first married. Once we had kids, though, that became nearly impossible -- toddlers and antiques just don't mix!

And these days we just don't have the time to spend scouring garage sales and auctions. But online auction antique hunting... Well, that's something I can do from the couch in my yoga pants, and I don't even have to worry about my hands getting dusty and dirty.

I have to be honest, purchasing gifts at auction never crossed my mind, and I'm willing to bet it hasn't crossed yours either. But surprisingly, when I searched the American Auction Co. site, I found a lot of items that would make great gifts at prices far below retail -- and not just antiques, either.

For example, I found two of these Franklin Sports MLB Pro Return Trainers on (lot #1291 and #1292) with a starting bid of just $10. The description states that they're in the original packaging and appear to be unused.

In comparison, I found them on and elsewhere priced around $93! This would be a fantastic gift for my older boys.

And how about this Coleman Steel Cooler (lot #1315)? It appears to be in like new condition, and the current bid is $35. This slightly smaller model is on for $110 right now. That's a nice savings, and I know my husband has always wanted a really nice cooler like this!

I really got sucked into the sporting goods category, but I couldn't believe the prices... I also found three of these Spalding Basketball Hoops (lot #4109, #4110 & #4111), all new in the original box, with a starting bid of $10. Current retail price is $355!!!

In addition, I found power tools, quick set pools, small appliances, and much more. While not all of the items are new, the significant discounts are enough to make a little bit of wear more than acceptable.

I happen to know that my dad has a real weakness for vintage Santa Claus collectibles, and this lot of ceramic pieces (lot #354) certainly fits the bill. With a starting bid of $10, I'm pretty certain these are worth significantly more at retail. I think I'll place a bid and see what happens!

So I wasn't actually looking for anything for myself, but while I was browsing, I stumbled across this Manfrotto Professional Camera Tripod (lot #1341). It appears to be in excellent condition, and the starting bid is just $10. I looked it up on Amazon, and it retails for $80! I just might have to gift this to myself...

Using The American Auction Co. Site

Even if you've used other auction sites in the past, you'll want to browse American Auction Co.'s online auction FAQ before getting started. Some auctions are online only, some are in person only, and some are a combination of the two (known as simulcast), and the process winning an auction depends on the type. At its most basic, though, if an auction has a green Bid/View button, you can go ahead and bid on it.

Before you can bid, you'll need to register for an account, and two important pieces of information are needed to validate your account. First, you'll need to include your driver's license number and a scan of your driver's license, and second, a valid credit card needs to be on file. The first time you check in to an auction, a $200 hold will be placed on your card to guarantee your bids. When you're done bidding, you can go into your account settings and select "Return My Deposit".

Finally, if you win an auction, your items will usually ship within one week after the auction or lot has closed and been paid. You should see a "Please Ship" button on your account settings to set up the shipping and initiate your payment.

A Few Tips For Bidding On And Winning Online Auctions

  • Do your research. Examine the auction images carefully, and read the description thoroughly so you know exactly what you're bidding on. If in doubt, don't be afraid to ask questions before you bid, either via phone or the online chat feature. Search the Internet to make sure that all parts or pieces are included, and to get an idea of what the going price is for an item.
  • Set a limit. It's easy to get caught up in bidding wars, which can lead to paying a lot more than you intended for an item at auction. Have a set price in mind that you absolutely will not go above, and stick to it.
  • Bid an odd dollar amount. When entering a bid, rather than entering a round dollar amount, $10 or $10.50, try bidding an odd amount like $10.62. It's natural to gravitate toward round numbers, so bidding an odd number may give you a slight edge on the competition.
  • Make a last second bid. If you have a quick Internet connection, you might wait until the last few seconds to place your bid. I've been known to keep two windows open to the same item. One I prefill with my bid information, and the other I continually refresh until just before the auction is ready to end. If my set limit hasn't been exceeded, I'll submit my bid with a few seconds left before the auction ends.

Checking out has definitely opened my eyes to a whole new world of gifting. New auctions are added often, so check back frequently to see new items!

Have you ever shopped an auction for gifting purposes?

Disclosure: Sponsored by American Auction Co., all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!


Giant Gingerbread Men For The Win! {From Meijer}

by Tara Kuczykowski on December 14, 2015 · 0 comments

I mentioned in my glitter slime post, that keeping my kids occupied now that sports have slowed down for winter has been somewhat of a challenge this year. And by the way, if you missed that post, you totally need to check it out -- this stuff is so fun to make and play with!

Anyhow, I knew that keeping my kids busy over the short Thanksgiving break was going to test my patience. So when I spied these giant individual gingerbread men at Meijer, I knew this would be a fantastic afternoon project for them.

I had actually been thinking about getting a gingerbread house for them to build, but I'd pretty much ruled it out because the last few years they've argued over who gets to frost what, and what candies go where, and "Don't lick the frosting!", and "I wanted the gumdrop tree!" I'm sure you all can relate, right?

So the idea of them all having their own gingerbread man to decorate was super appealing. He came packaged up with all of the necessary frosting and candies, so each of my kids were able to get creative within the parameters of what was included -- and as you'll see, they all turned out very different! Even my teenage boys chose to participate, although later in the day after they were done "saving the world" on Destiny...

Each having their own gingerbread man to work on was really the key to making this an enjoyable afternoon. They were able to work side by side without arguing since they all had their own supplies.

And since the gingerbread men were only about $4 each, it was much more affordable than buying them all their own gingerbread house to build.

Didn't they turn out so cute? If you'd like to pick up some of these kits at Meijer, Wednesday and Thursday this week would be a great time. Meijer will have their Santa Bucks coupons available, so you can take advantage of those at the same time! Clip your coupons digitally at

I'm thrilled to be collaborating with Meijer on an ongoing monthly feature to help you save more! Follow them on Twitter and Instagram to see more of what you can expect to find in stores.


As you probably know, tomorrow is Veterans Day. I'm a firm believer that our military veterans deserve our appreciation all year long, but I'm grateful for the additional recognition that this day brings.

Every veteran has a story, and we make sure to share our family's stories with our kids regularly in the hopes that they will pass them down to their children. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II, with one earning a purple heart after nearly being crushed by a tank in Germany. My husband's grandmother was in the Navy, and his father was in the Air Force. And I'm so proud of my cousin who was just accepted into the Navy's nuclear engineering officer program -- wow!!!

And these are just a few members from among the many branches of our family tree. I'm sure there are more uncles, aunts, and cousins that I'm not even aware of, you know? Because once they're no longer on active duty and put away their uniforms, they just start to blend in with the crowd...

GreenLight A Vet

Which kind of makes you start to wonder how many service members we see each day that just blend into the crowd. Right? So I love this program that Walmart is supporting called GreenLight A Vet. The program encourages Americans to establish visible daily support for our veterans by changing one light in a visible location to green, a color symbolizing hope, renewal and well-being.

Thousands of everyday Americans have already shared their support for the Greenlight A Vet movement on social media -- and you can, too! At the very least, you can simply use the hashtag #GreenlightAVet on your favorite platform. But if you have a chance to pick up a green light bulb at your local Walmart, please do so and share a photo, as well!

P.S. Be sure to share this BIG list of Veterans Day freebies with your favorite vet!

Walmart Moms Disclosure


DIY Harley Quinn Halloween Costume For Girls

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 9, 2015 · 0 comments

My youngest daughter is slightly obsessed with Harley Quinn... Mind you, I don't think she's ever seen a single movie featuring this character, but after daddy used up some of his GameStop Rewards points on a Harley Quinn-inspired juniors tank top for her (which she wears to sleep in and as her dress above), she's been hooked -- collecting Funko Pop figures, Bleacher Creatures, and any other fan gear she happens across.

So it really was no surprise when she asked to be Harley Quinn for Halloween. Unfortunately, finding a girls' costume in her size that isn't too racy has proven to be a challenge, to say the least...

We solved this easily enough by simply slipping her soccer cold gear shirt and leggings under the aforementioned tank top. But for other Harley Quinn wannabes, an oversize black tank top and a little red Duck Tape would be another simple solution!

Though Harley Quinn is typically shown with white face paint, I knew Addie wouldn't be comfortable with that amount of makeup on. So I kept things pretty simple by playing up her eyes with a kohl eyeliner followed by some matte black eyeshadow. I simply lined her eye all the way around heavily with the eyeliner, and then layered on the eyeshadow, blending it up to her eyebrows and down underneath her eyes. I finished her eyes off with a couple of coats of very black mascara.

Finally, I carefully applied a true red lipstick on her lips. I chose a long-wearing formula to prevent any smudging and smearing while sneaking a piece of candy while Trick-or-Treating when she thinks I'm not looking.

When it comes to Halloween makeup, I typically shop the regular cosmetics department, choosing from the bargain brands since they're not usually items that I'll use frequently. Here are some budget-friendly options I found:

The finishing touch was to pull her hair up into two pigtails, doubling up on the elastic bands so they were extra perky, and then sprayed one side with washable black hairspray and the other with red. She loves the way it turned out and can't wait for Halloween!

I'm pretty sure I have a budding fashionista on my hands, as getting her to remove the makeup after snapping some pics proved to be another challenge, lol. But here's a fun tip -- fragrance-free Equate Wipes double as a gentle and effective makeup cleansing towlettes at a fraction of the price of other brands! And trust me, you'll need them with this black eye makeup...

Do you have a great DIY Halloween costume idea that you're pretty proud of? Share a link in the comments -- I'd love to see them!

Walmart Moms Disclosure


10 Minutes to Good, Better or Greater Health #Just10

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 8, 2015 · 1 comment

Making a commitment to get healthier can seem a little overwhelming... Am I right? But what if you take a minute to break it down into small baby steps that you can tackle in just 10 minutes or less? Seems a whole lot more manageable then. Yes?!

This is exactly the premise behind the #Just10 campaign. Starting on Saturday, October 10th (10/10) at America's Biggest Health Fair, Walmart wants to help get you started on your journey to good, better or greater health!

In just 10 minutes at Walmart you can complete the following activities to make your life healthier:

  • Get your blood pressure taken and your blood glucose checked
  • Get a flu shot and a pneumonia shot.
  • Learn what are the best health insurance options for you.
  • Get a vision screening and your eyeglasses cleaned and adjusted for free.
  • Shopping at Walmart for just 10 minutes burns 35 calories.

Yogurt Substitute

The #Just10 challenge is bigger than just the health fair, though. It's an attempt to get us all to find ways to squeeze in short, 10-minutes or less activities daily with the goal of making your life healthier.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share 5 easy under 10-minutes ideas to get you started:

  • 10 minutes of exercise every day lowers your risk of heart disease. How about a brisk walk after dinner as a family?
  • In just 10 minutes, you can whirl up a batch of these easy freezer smoothies for a healthy breakfast or snack.
  • Gather up your kids and make your own on-the-go dried fruit and nut snack packs.
  • Learn how to substitute yogurt to cut fat and calories (while adding protein and calcium!) in your favorite recipes.
  • Treat yourself to a mini massage to soothe sore muscles with this homemade massage oil.

What are your favorite quick and healthy activities to squeeze in each day?

Visit to find an America's Biggest Health Fair event near you. The event will take place in more than 4,400 stores across the U.S. from noon to 4 p.m. Free blood glucose, blood pressure, vision screenings, product samples and health insurance information will be available. In addition, more than 10,000 of Walmart’s licensed pharmacists will offer immunizations in select stores.

Walmart Moms Disclosure

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