Author Archives: bigcitysmallwallet1

Last Minute Gift Ideas

There’s just over one week until Christmas (eek!) and for most websites, this is the last week to order gifts and have them arrive in time to go under the tree. Before you turn to gift cards (which are a great gift by the way), check out these last minute gift ideas.







Local deal websites are a great place to find some last minute gifts. Whether it’s a workout package to help kickstart your loved one’s New Year’s resolution, or a night out to dinner that they can enjoy after the holiday craziness dies down, you’re sure to find something for anyone on your list.* Your gift will be ready in an instant – all you have to do is buy, print, and wrap the voucher and you’re all set!

*Search by area to make sure the deal is easily accessible for your friend or family member. 



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Give the gift that keeps giving all year with a personalized photo calendar. They are such great, thoughtful gifts for anyone on your list, and with same day pick up at places like Walgreens and Walmart, you still have plenty of time to order.




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Socks may seem like a lame gift, but most adults would be thrilled to receive a pretty pair. Fancy socks are the type of thing that most people wouldn’t splurge on for themselves. Help break your loved one’s plain sock monotony and splurge on a nice pair for them! Check stores like Macy’s, DSW and JCrew or, if you live in NYC, there are plenty of specialty sock stores that you can browse.



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Give yourself the gift of time – and help alleviate the stress of gift shopping by signing up for Amazon Prime. You get a free 30-day trial, so now is the perfect time to sign up and give it a try! There are tons of fun gifts that are eligible for free 2 day shipping – and you might even be able to get 2 hour shipping on certain items depending on your location.

Order a water bottle with a storage compartment for your gym loving friends or a corkcicle for your wine or beer loving friends.






Decorate Your Small Space For The Holidays

Whether it’s for yourself or a holiday party, nothing gets people into the holiday spirit like decorations! If you live in a tiny apartment, getting festive for the holidays might seem impossible. You might not be able to have a huge tree or outdoor lights, but you can still deck your small halls with these simple holiday decor ideas.


For those who celebrate Christmas, nothing gets you into the holiday spirit like a huge, beautifully decorated tree. If you have a small studio or one bedroom apartment, setting up a large tree is no easy task. Especially if you live in a walk up building! But it’s still possible to have a beautiful tree for Christmas, you just may have to think a little smaller.

Miniature Christmas Trees are a great option for those who live in tiny spaces. They can go pretty much anywhere (table top, dresser, shelf, etc.) and can look just as festive as a floor to ceiling version. You can go even smaller by decorating a few branches in a vase.


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If a mini tree isn’t going to cut it, try a half or quarter tree that fits perfectly in a corner or flush against a wall.


Not interested in cleaning up pine needles? No where to store an artificial tree no matter how small? Make a tree out of lights on your wall, or take your books off the shelves and stack them into a tree shape. The possibilities are endless!



Cover your picture frames with pretty wrapping paper to make them look like presents. This is a super cheap and easy way to make your apartment more festive.

If you don’t have frames on your walls or around your apartment, you can also wrap flat pieces of cardboard or small unused boxes and hang them with Command Hanging Strips. You don’t want to sacrifice your security deposit for a little holiday cheer.


Get your guests into the holiday spirit as soon as the enter your space by decorating your entranceway. Hang a festive wreath or decorate the door to look like a giant present.

Hang some lights and garland around the entrance, or any doorway, to give your apartment a holiday glow.



Fill clear bowls or vases with ornaments to use as a centerpiece or just for decorations around your apartment.  You can get ornaments to match any color scheme, and everything can be purchased at the dollar store for super cheap.

Painted wine bottles are another way to create festive decorations for your apartment.


If you’re having a holiday party in your apartment, create a picture taking area for your guests. Decorate a wall to look like a fireplace, or hang a shiny foil fringe or sequence backdrop for a truly festive backdrop that can work through New Years Eve!


No photo area is complete without some props! Buy them online or print your own and leave them around the apartment for your guests to use throughout the evening.



Great Holiday Gifts for the Host

Whether it’s a holiday dinner party, a brunch, or even just a cocktail party, you’ll want to bring your host a little something to say thank you for all the hard work. Here are some gift ideas that will wow any party host this holiday season – all for less than $25!


After cooking for the party all day, the last thing a host wants to do is make themselves breakfast the next morning. Help them out with a breakfast basket!


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Buy an inexpensive basket and fill it with some tasty breakfast muffins, scones, or breads (that can easily be reheated) and a nice jam.

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Add a couple of pretty cloth napkins and some tea or coffee and you’ll have a breakfast basket that will make your host look forward to the morning.


There’s nothing like warm bread fresh out of the oven. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for a host to keep warming up bread for their guests while they’re trying to host a party. A bread warming stone can solve that problem. Most are less than $20 (some less than 10!), so you can afford to bring some bread and a basket to go along with it.


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Nothing goes better with warm bread than a little seasoned olive oil! Give your host this beautiful garlic grater and oil dipping dish as a gift, and both your host, and their guests, will thank you.


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Every host needs some glass accessories to help distinguish their guests glasses. These wine charms are an adorable option for a cat-loving host.

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Keep it in the holiday theme with these ornament wine charms.

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These are my favorite glass accessories because they work for any drink, not just wine.

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No one should have to choose between drinks and food, and these mingling trays can make sure no one ever will!

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They are the perfect gift for someone who hosts a lot of get-togethers.

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Dessert is (arguably) the best part of any meal and it deserves a beautiful presentation. If you’re bringing a cake, pie, or cupcakes to the party, consider bringing it on a pretty dessert tray that the host can keep. A cake stand is one of those items that people rarely buy for themselves, but can be incredibly useful once you own it.






Creative DIY Gifts for the Holidays

Finding thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list (and staying within budget) can be really difficult – and stressful! Making your own gifts can be a great cost effective way to get everyone something special without spending a fortune. But often times, DIY gift ideas can get very repetitive. I mean, really, how many framed pictures can a person fit on their walls? And while hot chocolate in a jar can be a great gift for a teacher or a mail person, it’s not the most thoughtful gift to give a loved one.

Here are some relatively easy to make DIY gift ideas that are sure to bring some holiday cheer.



Many New York City residents were not born in New York State. It is America’s melting pot, after all. Pay homage to your loved one’s home state by turning it into string art! It’s pretty easy to make and can be customized in a variety of ways.

The picture above was made for a friend of mind who was originally born in LA, but now call Brooklyn her home. I stained two pieces of wood, then hand painted the city’s name repeatedly (I first used a ruler to light draw lines in pencil for guidelines). Then I printed out an outline of each state, cut them out and traced it onto the wood. I then hammered nails around the outline and made a heart of nails around where each city would be located. I used different colored yarn to fill in the state, and red yarn to fill in the heart.

Here are tutorials for other examples of DIY state art.

Not into states? Here are some other things you can make using the string art method.


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A deck of cards, a hole punch, and some kind words are all you really need to make this thoughtful gift.

If you prefer letters over numbers, this is another version of the same idea that is just as touching.

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Start someone’s morning off in style by making them a stylish coffee mug. There are SO MANY different DIY mug tutorials, the hardest part will be choosing which one you like best.

If the person you’re making a gift for already has too many mugs, you can make a pretty wine glass as well.

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Or even mason jar – which can be used for drinking or decoration!

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A few years ago, I found this DIY tutorial on Pinterest on how to make angel wings from old sheet music. I loved the idea of angel wings, but wasn’t so into the sheet music part. So I decided to tweak it a little, after all isn’t that what DIY is all about?

My mom LOVES angels. She also loves red and yellow, so I decided to replace the sheet music with fabric in her favorite colors. I purchased pieces of fabric in different colors and patterns from Walmart. Look for the clearance fabric bins or fat quarters like the ones below. At less than a dollar each, you can get a bunch of different coordinating prints. You shouldn’t need more than one sheet, depending on how many different prints you use. I also added some white lace.


First, I cut out the wings from cardboard (great way to make use of all of that Cyber Monday packaging!)

Then I cut up the fabric and lace into small rectangles of the same size. Starting from the bottom, I added each piece in rows using a little hot glue.

For the middle, I cut out an oval from a piece of cardboard, printed out “Believe” in a color and font that I liked, then glued the paper to the cardboard, trimming off the excess. I also added a little glitter grapevine garland around the middle to give it a little shine.

A really pretty, custom piece of artwork that is super easy to make. Once the supplies are purchased it can be completed in a day!



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Letter art is another great DIY gift. They can be customized so many different ways, and can be hung on a wall or door, or placed on a shelf or dresser.

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Plain wooden, cardboard, and tin letters can be found at just about any craft store or craft section.

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Here are some great tutorials for wall letter projects.


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Magnets can be those things that everyone needs, but no one wants to spend the money on. Help you friends and family out my making them some one of a kind magnets that will make their fridge stand out.

These DIY magnets, are a great way to turn plastic toy animals into pretty decorations for your fridge.

I saw this tutorial on DIY polaroid photo magnets and thought it was such a great gift idea!

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This is a great idea for turning plain childish letter magnets into something little more grown up.

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Holiday Fashion on a Budget

December is a month full of food, gifts…and parties! Work parties, friend’s parties, family parties – it seems like there’s a party every week in December. With each party comes one very important question…what am I going to wear?!

Thanks to smartphones and social media, wearing the same thing to every party might be a little less than ideal, but buying a new outfit for each one can get really expensive!

The solution? Buy one or two smaller items that you can use to dress up what you already have in your closet. Make your dollar go even farther by purchasing items that you can dress down and wear throughout the year.

Here are a few wallet-friendly ideas that will help you look festive without going broke this Holiday season.*



Nothing says “holidays” like glitter and shine! Dress up your jeans and blazer look with a sequined t-shirt or tank top. Pair it with a skirt or dress pants for a look that’s a litter dressier. And of course, don’t forget the heels!















Make your dollar go even further: Wear it on a night out on the town, or pair with jeans and sneakers (or flats) for a chic daytime outfit you can wear all year long.

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Sequined skirts are another great way to shine at your holiday parties. Pair with a dressy button up or a plain tank top and blazer for a holiday look the will work for just about any office party.



















Not into glitter and shine? Velvet is a great way to look festive without drawing too much attention to yourself.

















Make your dollar go even further: Pair either skirt with a t-shirt, sweatshirt, sneakers, flats or boots for dressed down look you can wear all year long.



Accessories are a great way to dress up an otherwise average outfit. Jewelry, headbands, and tights can take your look from everyday to holiday for less than 20 bucks!

Pair fun, sparkly necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets with all black for a look that will dazzle at any holiday party.

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Forever21 Filigree Bib Necklace








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H&M Necklace With Pendants








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GUESS Gold-Tone Textured Double Triangle Drop Earrings









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Glitter and Glee Earrings








If you’re wearing a basic dress or skirt, try pairing it with fun, festive tights. Try a pair in holiday colors or add a little shine to your outfit with some shimmery tights.




If your party it a little too formal for anything in your closet, you can still find a pretty party dress for less than $100 – maybe even less than $50!



Whatever holiday look you chose, don’t forget to finish it off with flawless make-up.

A shimmery gold eyeshadow can look really festive (if done correctly). L’Oreal HIP Shocking Shadow Pigment* in Visionary is a great gold shadow. Put on very lightly for a little shimmer or add to slightly damp eyelids for a bolder look.

I couldn’t find this item on L’Oreal’s website, but they do sell it on Amazon and a few other places online.

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Sparkly, shiny make-up is certainly not for everyone, but a beautiful red or berry lip definitely is! If you don’t want to break the bank on high end brands, there are plenty of drugstore brands that work really well.

e.l.f Studio Matte Lip Color is a great bold matte color. The liner-like size means it goes on really precisely and it’s pretty long lasting and non-drying. Also – it’s only $3!!

Sold online, in Target, and also in some Old Navy stores.

Maybelline Color Sensational Matte Lipstick is an amazing matte lipstick! It’s super creamy, long-lasting, bold – and it doesn’t dry out your lips. They have a ton of different shades and for about $6 each you can afford to get them all (I have them in at least 5 different shades and counting). If you prefer your lipstick shiny over matte, their Color Sensational Vivids are also pretty awesome.

Sold at Target, Walmart, and Walgreens.


*I am not being paid to endorse any of the brands or items in this post.

15 Awesome Gift Exchange Ideas

December is right around the corner, and with every holiday season comes the often dreaded workplace gift exchange. Whether your job does a more structured Secret Santa or an unpredictable White Elephant gift exchange, these gifts are bound to fit into any spending limit and make you an office favorite. Some of them are so nice, you might want to get them for someone you actually like!



A low phone battery is one of the many things a New Yorker will NEVER be caught dead with, along with scrunchies and crocs. But let’s face it, most smartphones can’t keep up with the amount of texting, hop stopping and google mapping that the average New Yorker does in a typical night out (I’m looking’ at you iPhone).

Enter the portable charger.

Many of them are about the size of a tube of lipstick so they fit easily in a purse or pocket. They come in all different colors and you can find them on amazon for less than 20 bucks! Most of them are universal, so they will be equally as useful to Galaxy and iPhone users. It sure beats fighting over the outlets at the nearest Starbucks!


Help your co-workers up their Instagram game with some awesome smartphone lenses. Many of them are less than 20 bucks on Amazon with free shipping if you have Prime (if you don’t have Prime you should really look into it). They clip on to basically any smartphone, look very easy to use, and have received very good reviews.


Encourage your co-workers to channel their inner Zack Morris with this retro iPhone case! At the very least it will get a laugh – and if your co-workers won’t actually use it then can regift it to friends or family.

This retro Gameboy case is another fun option.


NY winters can get really cold, and there’s nothing worse than having to choose between responding to a text or keeping your hands warm. If you’re wearing touchscreen gloves, you can text to your heart’s content, while keeping your fingers nice and toasty. Some brands can be kind of pricey, but it is possible to find them for $20 or less!


Never be caught at a party without a bottle opener again! This incredibly useful gift has multiple tools all combined in one credit card shaped gadget. My co-worker has one of these, and said it was the best gift he never knew he needed. And at well under $20 (some for less than $10!), it’s sure to fit in your gift exchange budget.



Coloring books aren’t just for kids! They’re a great way for adults to unwind, de-stress, and get their creative juices flowing. They seem to be everywhere these days in a variety of themes. Personally, I’ve got my eye on the Color Me Crazy coloring book, the 1990’s coloring book, the Outside The Lines coloring book…oh who am I kidding, I want them all! And for about 10 bucks each, why choose? The low price also means you can throw in a nice set of colored pencils to go with it.







Mornings suck, but having a fun mug to drink your morning coffee (or tea) out of can make them a little better. A Darth Vador mug is a must if you have any Star Wars fans in the office. As is this holiday themed Star Wars mug (as long as they release it on time for your exchange).







A mug with a lid on it is a genius idea – and an amazing gift! Part travel mug, part cup – this lidded mug is a great way to keep your drink warm and free of debris while you’re getting work done. As an added bonus, the lid can serve as a coaster! If you have any co-workers that are interested in photography, this lidded lens mug will definitely be a gift exchange favorite.


You might not be able to take a midday nap at work, but at least you can give your feet a rest with this mini footrest hammock. It attaches to your desk, so just be sure it works with the desks you have at your workplace before you purchase them.










A travel wine tumbler is the perfect gift for any vino loving New Yorker. Great for a picnic in the park, a drink on the beach, or the next tailgating party. Don’t have many wine lovers at your job? They make them for beer too!


While the tumbler is perfect for a glass or two, this foldable wine flask is great for numerous people. It holds an entire 750 mL of wine and it’s reusable. It’s not only convenient for travel – it also works great for smaller fridges that are often found in tiny NY apartments.


Subway commutes and busy work days can really burn a person out. After especially stressful weeks, a full bottle of wine might be in order. Save your co-workers the hassle of those pesky refills with this jumbo wine glass which fits an entire bottle of wine! Personally, I can tell you I own one – and it’s amazing! And for only 10 bucks you might be able to get a bottle of wine to go with it and stay within your limit!


A cold alcoholic drink is the perfect way to unwind after a stressful week, but unless you’re a fast drinker your relaxing drink can become ruined with by melted ice cubes. Enter the whiskey stone (and it’s newer cousin the wine pearl).


If you work in Brooklyn, or have a lot of co-workers who live in Brooklyn, this Brooklyn Wine Book might be a great gift. It’s $20 and gets you 2 for 1 drinks at over 20 spots around Brooklyn.


If you waiting a little too long to order one of the previously mentioned gifts, you can still get a great gift to be proud of.


Starbucks gift cards are a great option, but if you want your gift card to look a little more thought out, try to get a card to a great lunch or dinner spot near your job. Fandango bucks are another great option, especially for those co-workers who have children and might be in need of a date night. They work in various locations, so they’re even great for co-workers who commute in from the burbs!


Whatever your spending limit, you can grab a bunch of fun holiday themed scratch off tickets to give as a gift. Just make sure you add a little something extra in case your scratch offs are duds. A bottle of wine might be a good option – celebratory in case they win, and something to drink away the pain of still being broke if they lose. Just kidding…kind of.

Frugal Fun: 11/30 – 12/6

**This will be my last “Frugal Fun” post for a while. Instead, for the month of December I’ll be focusing on holiday themed posts to help you get through a month of gifts and parties without completely draining your bank account. 


A list of free or low-cost events happening around Brooklyn and NYC this week. As always, if you know of any other fun events that won’t break the bank, please feel free to contact me!

MONDAY 11/30


mobile mondays

Dance away a case of ‘the Mondays‘ with Mobile Mondays “New York City’s Premiere 45’s night for vinyl music lovers.” Each week is often themed (this week is FUNK), but according to the website, the genre doesn’t define the party. Listed as a Time Out New York critic’s pickMobile Mondays is sure to make the worst day of the week just a little bit better.

Located at The Bowery Electric (327 Bowery Street, New York NY), show starts at 10pm.


Dancing not your thing? Start the week off with some laughs at the BIG Pony Show. It’s a FREE weekly comedy show located at Leftfield Bar in the LES (87 Ludlow Street, New York NY). Show starts at 8p.



Every Tuesday is Trivia Night at Berg’n Beer Hall. Show off your knowledge of random trivia while drinking from a great selection of beer and munching on food from a rotating list of food vendors. There is no cover to get in and it’s a really spacious location with a chill vibe, so even if you don’t want to participate in the trivia, you can go have a drink and marvel at how much useless information a person’s brain can hold. Located at 899 Berg’n Street, Brooklyn NY.



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Head to Bryant Park for their Tree Lighting Skate-tacular and the premiere of the holiday tale The Lights Before Christmas. The story was written specifically for the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park by award winning playwright Jon Caren and will star world-famous skaters including Nancy Kerrigan and Brian Boitano! The event is FREE and starts at 6pm. Head there early and enjoy dinner at a Winter Village restaurantt, or some holiday shopping at one of their over 125 boutique-like shops. Located at 41 W 40th street (behind the NY Public Library)


From the blog: As this year’s Tree Lighting SKATE-tacular coincides with Giving Tuesday and World AIDS Day; Bank of America partner, VISA, is contributing $.30 to (RED) for every purchase made at participating Winter Village merchants with a Bank of America credit or debit card, helping us sustain the season of giving at Bryant Park and spotlighting (RED) and the impact of their efforts to eradicate AIDS.




Every Friday and Saturday night, BAM has free live music and performances as part of their BAMcafe Live series. The performances are different every night and have been a mix of all different styles of music, including rock, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, world music, and more. It’s located in the bar and lounge area on the top floor of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. Performances start at 9p*, but there is limited seating, so it might be worth it to get there early.

*Show starts at 9:30 this weekend

FRIDAY – Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio 

(From the BAM website) Intoxicating Romany rhythms meet thrilling jazz improvisation in the boundary-pushing sounds of Paradox Trio. World music woodwind virtuoso Matt Darriau (of Grammy-winning ensemble the Klezmatics) leads the outfit, performing intricate, shape-shifting melodic lines on the traditional gaida, a Bulgarian bagpipe; the flute-like kaval; and the driving Balkan beats of the dumbek.

SATURDAY – American Candy 

(From the BAM website) Part sketch comedy spectacular, part raucous musical satire, AMERICAN CANDY, created by Hollie Harper, is a Brooklyn-based troupe that irreverently skewers the absurd side of American pop culture. Taking inspiration from groundbreaking series like In Living Color and The Carol Burnett Show, AMERICAN CANDY brings together a diverse group of comedians for a special performance to celebrate their tight, naughty grasp on musical comedy.



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Get into the holiday spirit by dancing to the best hits from one of the greatest Christmas albums of the 90’s (or ever really). DJ’s will play the best songs from Mariah’s Merry Christmas album and some of her other hits, as well as the best pop, rock, R&B and Hip-Hop from the 90’s. Starts at 10p. Located at 149 7th Street, Brooklyn NY.