Quick and easy shower gift: DIY plywood art

I recently hosted a baby shower for my middle sis, Megan. We are so excited to meet my new nephew any day now. Eek!

As part of the shower decor, I wanted to create a focal point for the cake table that could also double as a gift my sister could take home with her. This is what I came up with (these are baby’s initials):


This project was super quick, easy and absolutely free, considering I already had on hand all the materials I needed! You could do this for a baby or a bridal shower, as the initials would work for a couple, too.

I started by cutting out a square from an old piece of plywood that was stored in our garden shed. Then I sanded all the sides really well.


For years, the only power saw I would attempt to use was my beloved miter saw. I’ve since gotten pretty comfortable using this skill saw. I have no idea why I shied away from this tool before (aside from the ever-present thought of cutting off my fingers). It’s my new BFF. It cut this plywood like buttah.

Next I gave the plywood a coat of Rust-Oleum® Universal®* in Weathered Steel. After that dried, I applied bands of Chevron FrogTape®, spaced about one and a half inches apart. If you have only regular painter’s tape on hand, you can do stripes or create a chevron shape using a craft knife. (Tip: Cut the chevron shape in your painter’s tape first before applying it to the board or it will scratch the finish.)

Chevron-Painter's-TapeI brushed on the second layer of paint, which was a sample pot of turquoise chalk paint I got at a Haven conference a few years ago. Any spray, chalk or acrylic paint should work, though. I chose to paint the sides of the piece, too, to get rid of those noticeable, raw plywood edges.


I sealed the piece with a coat of Rust-Oleum Satin Clear Enamel. To add the letters, I cut them out on gold adhesive vinyl using my Silhouette electronic cutting machine. If you don’t have one of these nifty tools, you can use my tracing method and simply fill in your letters with gold paint or a permanent marker.



I apologize I didn’t get very good photos of the finished product. I was trying to host a shower at the same time and only had my phone on hand to take the pictures. #bloggerfail

What do you think of my no-spend shower decor and keepsake?

* Affiliate links are provided in this post for your convenience. 

How to keep kids from destroying your car

This is the final post in a three-part series on how to save big money on vehicles. If you haven’t already, read parts one and two. Also, don’t forget to enter to win the Ultimate Car Care Kit from HomeRight®, running in conjunction with this series. Enter by clicking here or on the photo below. 


You’re probably aware by now that our family drives cars until the wheels fall off, which has saved us tens of thousands of dollars over the years and allowed us to have zero car payments!

I gotta tell you, though, with all the effort we put into making our cars go the distance, nothing will add wear and tear like these two little rascals:


Thanks to them (I’ve gotta blame someone, right?), my car often looks like the inside of a giant purse – used napkins, fast food restaurant toys, loose change, sports paraphernalia, crumbs, an occasional pair of underwear (no joke).

So today I thought I’d wrap up my auto-saving series by sharing five tips for how we can keep the kids from destroying our vehicles.

1. Keep it locked.

This may seem obvious and most of you probably already lock your car when you’re not in it. But this didn’t become a habit for me until recently. I used to leave my car unlocked in the driveway for convenience sake. Then my 2-year old decided it was his personal playground and would literally open the door himself, hop in and proceed to empty the glove box, tissue box, etc. Not only was this a horribly messy situation, it was also extremely dangerous. So, especially if you have young kids or grand kids, keep your doors locked and make a rule that playing in and around vehicles is not allowed.

2. Have them help clean and maintain it.

After we get home from a trip, I try to make an announcement for everyone to pick up all the stuff that needs to go inside as we exit the car. No one leaves the car empty-handed. I’m still working on consistency with this, but it is definitely helping the kids think about the fact that our car is not their personal wastebasket or storage closet.

Also, consider having the kids help vacuum or wash the car when it needs a good detail job. Fortunately, I’ve got kids at ages where they’ll do this somewhat willingly. I’ll have to get creative as they get older. 😉 #choresformoney

AutorRight-Easy-Wash-Stick AutoRight-Auto-Wash-Stick

3. Choose leather upholstery.

Oh, the sweet, sweet wipe-ability. Need I say more? Of course, I realize many of you have cloth interiors and, since I don’t want you running out and getting a new car, 😉 below are a few tips for cleaning out tough stains from cloth upholstery. (These tricks work on carpets, too.)

  • Fast-food grease – Greasy stains can be removed from both carpet and upholstery by using paint thinner and covering the stain with salt. Make sure the paint thinner you choose passes a colorfastness test by first applying it on a hidden area. Once the greasy stain is absorbed, vacuum the stain to remove it. Or put cornmeal on the stain and let it sit overnight, then vacuum. I’m also a huge fan of the AutoRight Multi-Purpose Steam Machine* to remove tough dirt and grime. Enter to win one here.
  • Ink stains – Hairspray can remove all types of ink stains from carpet and upholstery.
  • Carsick stains – Try club soda mixed with baking soda and water.
  • Blood stains – Blood should always be treated with cold water. Mix the cold water with dry laundry detergent to make a paste, then apply to the stain. Once it’s dry, brush the debris away and vacuum.
  • Frayed carpet – Buy some liquid resin at a craft store and apply to the frayed edges and trim. This should keep the edges from excessive fraying.

If you’re sick of scrubbing cloth upholstery, you could also consider purchasing washable seat covers.

4. Prevent food and drink accidents.

Consider only allowing “safe” foods inside the car when possible. Ideally, that list would include foods that are easy to pick up or vacuum, like dry cereals, trail mixes, animal crackers and dried fruits. I’ve been guilty of giving my littles pudding in the car. Never again. Shudder. #rookieparentmistake 

5. Apply the Law of Domestic Input to your car.

I explain this law in more detail in my e-book, “Organized for Real: How to Conquer Life’s Top 5 Chaos Hotspots.” Here’s a brief summary.

The Law of Domestic Input states that for every chore that is either completed or avoided, there is an equal and similar chore completed or avoided. So if we leave gum wrappers, soda cups, etc. in the car, our kids will think nothing of adding to the mess with their own junk.

Whenever we confront a mess, we typically don’t feel bad about adding to it. On the contrary, when most normal people encounter order, cleanliness and beauty, we have a tendency to feel a twinge of guilt about crapping it up. Hence the clean, organized vehicles (and homes) seem to stay organized, while the clutter keeps piling up in the chaotic ones. So if we make the effort to keep it clean, it gradually becomes easier to keep it clean.

To find out more about the Law of Domestic Input and other practical cleaning and organizing tips, snatch a copy of my e-book here.

I hope this series on how to save money on vehicles was helpful in some way. Do you have any tips I may have missed? Please share in a comment.

* Affiliate links are provided in this post for your convenience. 

6 tricks to save thousands when buying a car

This is the second in a three-part series on how to save big money on vehicles. If you haven’t already, read part one, “How to love the car you’re with.” Also, don’t forget to enter to win the Ultimate Car Care Kit from HomeRight®, running in conjunction with this series. Enter by clicking here or on the photo below.


Besides our homes, cars are statistically our biggest monthly expense. A lot of our hard-earned dollars go into purchasing vehicles and keeping them fueled and maintained. And no matter how well we take care of them, there comes a point when life circumstances dictate that we need to purchase a different one.

So after doing a bunch of research on the subject of car-buying, I’ve compiled a list of six ways we can save thousands of dollars when it’s time to trade in the clunker.

1. Do your homework first.

The Internet is the place to go for car pricing information. Years ago (in the dark ages before the Net), we were at the mercy of a car dealer to convince us of a vehicle’s worth. Those days are gone. At the very least, get competing price quotes online from a site like Edmunds.

2. Negotiate a price via phone or e-mail.

If you’re buying through a local dealer, visit the place first and take a thorough test drive. Then leave the dealership. Call back the next day to negotiate a price over the phone. Or better yet, follow this trick the car dealers hate to secure a rock bottom price. The dealer will hate you, but you’ll most likely get the best price possible.

3. Buy used!

This is probably the best piece of advice, hands down, to save money on cars. Always remember, vehicles are not a good investment; they’re a liability! Yes, it is emotionally thrilling to buy a new car. But a used car is a far better value, plain and simple.

Sure, you can find overpriced used cars and bargain buys on brand-new vehicles, but it’s not just the sticker price that makes a new car a waste of money. The associated fees, subsequent costs and losses in value (i.e. depreciation) add up to thousands of dollars over the first few years of new car ownership. This is especially bad news if you end up upside down on your car loan. Check out this article on 6 benefits of buying a used car (in like-new condition) over a brand new one.

4. Finance wisely.

If you’ll need to borrow money for your next vehicle, get a car loan the smart way. Know what you can afford, put money down and shop for rates. Consider checking auto loan rates with your local bank or credit union before applying for credit at the dealership.

5. Sell your old vehicle privately, if possible.

Whether your old ride is a cream puff or a clunker; you’ll most likely get more for it on the private market rather than trading it in at the dealership, especially when you follow this advice for selling your car. Go the extra mile (pun intended); sell it yourself! If that isn’t possible, be sure to take steps to maximize how much you get for your trade in.

6. Just say “No” to extras and extended warranties.

In general, dealer extras like paint coatings and warranties are a waste of money. The worst thing about an extended warranty is that it is overpriced. In fact, about half of what you pay goes to the salesperson’s commission. So a lot of the money doesn’t even go toward the purpose of the warranty, which is to pay for things that go wrong with the car over the contract period. Instead, consider setting aside half of what you would pay for the warranty or extra, and use that money to handle any car repairs that might come up.

I mentioned in part one of this series that our family committed years ago to paying cash for our vehicles. We haven’t had a car loan in about 5 years now. The six tricks I shared with you today were all part of our strategy and the reason we’re living free of car debt. To read more about our personal financial story, click here.

Have you tried any of these tricks for getting a good deal on a car? Would you buy new or used?