Robbing the Bank for $50

I realize I haven’t posted in (ahem…) a while. To be fair, I’ve been busy. I’ll probably write a more in depth life update post at some point. But, in summary, since my last post: I’ve finished graduate school (Master’s in Social Work), got divorced, got a cancer diagnosis, bought a used car, and did some traveling. Some of those things weighed heavier than others but I’m proud to say that I am happier than I’ve ever been. Aaand I’m so excited to start writing blog posts again and revisit my love for mindful spending and playful adventures in frugality.


IT’S THE END OF THE YEAR, MOTHAS! That means I get to take these friends off the shelves and see what they have to offer me:

Porky and Peacock? I’ve never named them until this second. They faithfully hold my loose change and put up with me shaking it out of them every other year.

I realized that I hadn’t counted their holdings last year. So it’s been two years of random change tossing with the rogue loose dollars getting dropped in the mix. I don’t have a strict system. When my purse, pockets, or work bag gets too jangly with coins, I off load them into either Porky (who lives upstairs) or Peacock (who lives downstairs). Whichever is closer to me at the moment.

Blessings abound! These pigs were full of jangle!

So I grabbed one of these bags of coin rollers, which you can get for $1 at your local dollar tree, and I started the satisfying child-like process of counting and rolling. It was a lovely way to spend an hour.

All rolled up! Robbing the bank never felt so good.

I had $51 in rolled up coins and bills! Plus about $3 of leftover jangles that I will replant into Porky and Peacock so they don’t get too hungry. I will then put the bills safely in my wallet and the rolls of coins will go promptly to the bank. DO NOT TAKE THEM TO COINSTAR! They will take nearly 12% of your earnings. Your bank or credit union will pay you out for free. So walk these adorable rolls to your local bank teller like you’re an adorable eight year old and explain that you just cleaned out your piggy bank and this is what you found. There — you’ve beefed up your bank account AND channeled the whimsy of your inner child. What a deal!

Bonus points if you also find some fun foreign currency. Especially if you find it right before your visit there next week (thank you piggies for the pesos)
I think the handsome profile of JFK is worth more than the half dollar it’s worth. This cutie is going back in the piggy bank for fun future ogling.

It’s the end of the year — rob your piggy banks! Or mason jars or desk drawers. Wherever you keep your annoying jangly loose change (no judgement).

Exceptions to the Dollar Store challenge

Okay, so a few exceptions have come to light since I started the challenge a week ago.

1. Reddit gift exchange. I almost forgot that I had signed up earlier this month for the Reddit Secret Santa gift exchange. I go all out at secret gift exchanges because they make me super happy! So I will not confine my gift shopping to the dollar store.

2. Trader Joe’s wine. Aka “2 buck chuck”, although we frugal folk know it ought to be referred to as “3 buck chuck” since it’s $2.99/bottle and therefore closer to $3. Apparently The Beard thought that Trader Joe’s wine was not included in the dollar store challenge. I don’t drink much wine but The Beard enjoys a glass most nights so he has requested that Trader Joe’s wine be allowed.

The rest of our shopping is dollar store budget material. We’ve done okay the first week with just a few minor slip ups. May we keep it up for the next two weeks!

Dollar Store Challenge and Blogging More!

Okay….I’m a bad blogger. I’m really good at coming up with articles to blog about and even drafting them out — but I’m terrible about starting and finishing and publishing blog posts. I get too self critical and give up. The last few months have been particularly tough to blog through – I’ve taken vacation, started a new job, got wrapped up in home renovations…

But I’m committed to blogging more! And I think what will help me the most is….*drum rollllll*….a new MONEY CHALLENGE!

This is one that I’ve been thinking about for a while now – at least a year.

When I was a case manager for homeless women, there were countless times that clients would come in to strategize a budget. In creating budgets with impoverished folks, you learn a few “frugal life hack” things pretty quickly:

1. Wash your clothes with powder instead of liquid.

2. “Mend and make do” when something rips or breaks as opposed to quickly replacing it.

3. You can get A LOT of your daily needs met at your local dollar store.

Of course, I also learned a lot of valuable “don’t ever do what they did” lessons from impoverished folks.

But I must say, working with a vulnerable population encouraged me to visit my first Dollar Tree and the first time I set foot in a Dollar Tree I felt like I’d been short changed all of my life. Who knew that the same glass vases at Pier One for 4.99 could be had for only $1?! Who knew that cleaning supplies with the same ingredients as pricier brands could be achieved for only $1?! And who knew that even some of the same foods I bought at grocery stores were elsewhere sold for only $1?!

Perusing my local dollar store, I was amazed at both how cheap things could be and also how people could be duped into believing that they were getting a deal by purchasing something at a dollar store. It’s something of a paradox. Yes, it’s cheap to get a 2 pack of party streamers for $1. But it’s also a sham to pay $1 per apple when you can get a 5lb bag for $3 at the grocery shop.

Furthermore, I’ve been exhausted with figuring out how to get X-mas presents for everyone in my family while living on a budget. ‘Tis the season…

And so…I’ve decided to embark on a new money challenge:


That’s right. If it’s more than a dollar, then I can’t have it. Whether it’s Dollar Tree, Dollar General, The Spot at Target, The “Everything’s a Dollar” lane at Price Chopper, or the less than a dollar produce at Aldi, there are dollar deals to be had. And I intend to have only them for the next three long weeks.

Some things that I can buy at prices above a dollar:

1. Gas for the car (although, as usual, I’ll try to limit my car use)

2. Mortgage and utility bills

3. Up to THREE nights at Bier Station – our favorite beer bar.

That’s all I can come up with. Everything else is fair game.

Tomorrow will be Day One of this challenge. The Beard is biting his nails over it right now. I happen to think it’s going to be way easier than we imagine, save for the whole coming up with X-mas presents bit…but I’m sure we’ll manage and it will work out just fine.


Day 10 of Money Challenge #1: $500 in 31 days – Ebay Bidding Blues

Last week I listed an expensive dress and skirt on Ebay in the hopes of seling them for a hefty profit to pull me ahead in the challenge. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen quite as planned. The dress and skirt sold for a profit of only $10. At retail price, they’d sell together for around $280. I guess that’s what makes ebay such a great site for bargain shoppers. 

But today I’m only $10 richer. I guess it’s a fitting number for day 10!

Day 10

Today’s gain: $10

Total amount accrued: $142.50

Left for the win: $357.50

Day 9 of Money Challenge #1: $500 in 31 days – Selling collections

We all have collections, intentionally or not. Most of which can yield some profit if we’re willing to relinquish them. Some people have video games they can sell to a video game store for some quick cash, some people have antiques, others have a surplus of DVDs to resell. I have vintage clothes. I’ve spent the last 8 years selling vintage clothing for a profit. Sometimes on ebay and sometimes on etsy. Either way, I have a few plastic tubs of vintage clothing that I can always resell in a pinch. 

Today, desperate for funds, I called vintage clothing shops in my city for a potential customer for my lot. Finally, I found a buyer: 



So I gathered two bags worth of my collection that I was willing to part with


The owner of the vintage shop looked over the smattering of my collection and opted to buy one bag’s worth for the low sweet price of 


That’s right. $40 cash. All for a few vintage dresses and handbags. This is the most I’ve made in a day of my money challenge. 

I’m still behind schedule to attain $500 in 31 days, but I’m getting closer. At least I’ve finally broken the $100 mark!

Day 9

Today’s gain: $40

Total amount accrued: $132.50

Left for the win: $367.50


Day 9 of Money Challenge #1: $500 in 31 days – Trouble at Target

After a night hanging out with friends, I slept in ’til noon today and laid awake thinking of how to make some money to keep my cash streak going. Since The Beard and I go to Target most Sundays to peruse the aisles for deals and get frozen meals for the week, I thought of something to make some fast cash: I’d return two clothing items I bought a Target months ago that I have since decided I no longer want. They have the tags on them still so I figured this won’t be a problem.



A dress and a top that I bought on sale and didn’t like how they fit once I got them home. So I packed them up and we went to Target. That’s when I ran into some trouble with my plan.  Since I bought the items a couple of months ago and didn’t have a receipt, the rep couldn’t give me any cash, so I got this instead: 


A gift card for $35.51. I was okay with it but because of my money challenge, I couldn’t figure out how to factor in this game changer. Do I put the gift card in the money bag? Does it count at all towards the challenge? Do I exchange the gift card for cash to put in the money bag? Do I try to sell the gift card? Finally after we were done shopping, I applied the gift card toward our purchase and decided that I wouldn’t count it towards the challenge at all. 

After using the gift card, taking advantage of a Buy one Get one sale, a $3 off coupon, a $2 off coupon, and 5% off by using our Target debit card, we paid only $53.25 for a $105.70 purchase. Not bad for a poor girl! 

Unfortunately, none of this counted toward my money challenge. I still have to come up with a way to make some cash.

Day 8 of Money Challenge #1: $500 in 31 days

This morning when I woke up I decided that A.) I have too many clothes. And B.) I’m going to try real hard to make at least $20 today. 

And with those two points on my mind, I went through my closet for some clothes I don’t intend on wearing again. I came up with a decent bag of brand name clothing and vintage clothes that I don’t plan on wearing in the future: 


After the bag of clothes was assembled, I had to figure out where to take them. There’s a few places in my city that’ll pay okay for clothes they choose to buy. I decided to test my luck and take my clothes to a place of which I have a love/hate relationship. The thrift store is Arizona Trading Company:



I had a few too many times back in college when I, desperate and broke, took my clothes there for a few bucks only to be told they didn’t want to buy anything. So I was a little nervous taking my clothes there several years later. Luckily, they liked my style today more than when I was in college and I was presented with this receipt of payment:



They can sell the stuff they took for $83.50 so they gave me $29.23. Not bad for thirty minutes work of going through my closet. And they paid cold hard cash. So my money bag now looks like this: 



Well, you can’t see that it’s now a few tens, fives and ones, but it is! And while I’m not where I need to be in order to secure $500 in 31 days, my money bag is growing and I haven’t gone a single day without some kind of cash gained. And that’s important when you’re poor. 

Day 8

Today’s gain: $29.23

Total amount accrued: $92.50

Left for the win: $407.50


Day 6, Money Challenge #1: $500 in 31 days



Yes. It’s what it looks like. I found a nickel in the bathroom at work today. And since I knew that I likely wouldn’t be getting any money today since no one had contacted me about stuff on Craigslist and I have a yard project that I new would take up almost all evening, I did something a little gross. I took the nickel! Five cents the richer. 

Additionally, I sold a listing on ebay that I had listed the day before I started the challenge. I still can’t decide if I should count the earnings in with the challenge or not since I technically listed the item the day before the challenge but I’m getting the money after the challenge has started. Hmmm….either way, the buyer hasn’t paid for it yet so I can’t count it today anyway. Today, I made only 5 cents….which was found next to toilet paper in my work bathroom.

Day 6

Today’s gain: $.05

Total amount accrued: $52.76

Left for the win: $447.24

Day 5, Money Challenge #1: $500 in 31 days

It really pays to spend a couple hours listing stuff over the weekend. Day 5 is already here and I just made the most I’ve gotten in a single day so far: $25! I sold the gross grill!

My money bag looks so much less pathetic.



The only annoying thing about selling on Craiglist is the rush of anxiety about texting total strangers directions to my house. But so far, it’s been worth the $50 I’ve made in less than a week.

We’ll see how long this Craigslist luck lasts. At the rate I’m going, it’s going to take 47 days to reach my goal. Time to step it up…

Day 5

Today’s gain: $25

Total amount accrued: $52.71

Left for the win: $447.29

Day 4 of Money Challenge #1: $500 in 31 days

I sold the picnic basket I listed on Craigslist! That’s $15 more toward my goal. 

Plus last night I freaked out when I only made .53 cents and summoned energy from within to stay up late to list a dress and a skirt on ebay. I’m beginning to realize how much I’ll have to stay on top of listing stuff if I’m going to meet my goal. It’s probably time to look into additional money making possibilities…

But today, my money bag is $15 richer!

Day 4

Today’s gain: $15

Total amount accrued: $27.71

Left for the win: $472.29