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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to get Free Shipping on Amazon with Filler Items

I have to apologize for anyone coming to this post for the lack of images.  Somehow, all my blog images from June of 2014 onward were deleted, despite multiple backups and cloud storage through Google and Picasa.  I am still researching this and hoping to find them, but I will likely have to take new photos and re-upload them to this blog post.  Please be patient with me until I do so.  Again, I am very sorry. -Ashley

Okay, I want to start by saying that I am not being paid by Amazon to write this blog. I'm also not being given anything for free by Amazon. I am not affiliated with them at all, besides the fact that I love Amazon!

Have you heard of Amazon Prime?  You pay about 80 bucks a year, and you get free 2-day shipping on all Prime items on amazon, no item limit and no minimum amount. You see the Prime symbol next to those items, and that's what it means. In addition to the shipping perks, Prime members get free videos and movies for streaming, and a ton of free Kindle books to rent.  If you don't subscribe to Amazon, you can buy at least 25 dollars worth of stuff in your cart and you still get free shipping.

There are a few items, however, that you cannot get under the Prime deal unless you spend at least 25 dollars in your cart still.  Those are Add-on Items.  They're usually rather small items that would be difficult to ship alone, and so you can only buy them with other things. You see this logo next to the items:

If you try to check out on Amazon without the minimum amount of Prime items in your cart, then you will see this message:

There is an easy solution to this problem, and that is to simply add more items to your cart!  But how about those times when you only need to add a dollar or two to your cart, and you don't need anything on Amazon that is so cheap?  This is why someone invented filler items.  There are whole websites dedicated to filler items.  I used to use, but the website has, since the advent of the add-on program, been extremely unreliable in pricing.  The other problem I find is that the items on the filler item websites are just like random car parts and springs and stuff, with the occasional pen or something thrown in.  Today, I'm going to show you how to get better filler items and use them to your advantage for that sweet sweet free shipping!

First, I recommend that you create a wish list on your Amazon account just dedicated to filler items. This way, once you find a really awesome filler item that you can actually NOT just throw in the junk drawer, you can buy it multiple times if you like.

Your next step is to find some items to put in the wish list.  This is an optional step, but it works best so you don't have to keep repeating your searches.

 A quick reminder: please keep in mind that Amazon prices change periodically, so some items I show you in this blog post will inevitably change price over time.  I apologize for any future inconsistencies.

Now, on to the filler items!

The first and easiest thing to do is to just conduct a search on Amazon for the words "filler items" and see what comes up. 

You can see that a few items right off the bat are pretty useful. Who doesn't need tape and sharpie markers?  I have added those to my special filler item list and plan to use them in the future. I already bought a pack of sharpie markers, and they're great for everything.  You can choose between ultra-fine point and the regular fine tip.

You may want to narrow your results a bit, and you do that by going to the right of the screen and choosing a department.  I chose art and craft supplies.  Then, I went and sorted by price (low to high, of course!).  The last step is to go to the left of the screen and check the box for Prime only items to show in your results. 

You want to look for items that you are actually going to use, that's the idea here.  In my results shown above, there are several gift bags, pens, and tissue paper for wrapping.  I would definitely buy a gift bag or two, because those are always useful--especially around the holidays!  Other items you can search for are things like body wash, sponges, straws, stationary products, cabinet and drawer hardware (which sometimes is as cheap as a penny!), and more. Get your list ready now, so you can use it when you need it.

Another tip is to simply browse by category, choose prime only items again, and then sort from low to high. I found a few filler items by browsing this way, and I have shared them below. I tried to keep them all at 5 bucks or less.  Some of them are definitely worth spending a little extra for:

One of the best filler items is scissors. I always need these, and I am always losing them.  If you don't need scissors at your home, buy these kids' scissors for 67 cents and donate them to a nearby school!

Westcott Classic Kids Scissors, 67 cents

Hide-a-Spare Key Fake Rock, $4.98
I thought this was a great item, just because a lot of people use them, and this is cheaper than you would get any hide-a-key kit at a store. Amazon also has a thermometer with a secret spot for a key inside that you can mount on your house, so check that out also!

50 Piece Assorted Picture Hook Kit, 2.97

Who doesn't need more hardware for hanging pictures?  Perhaps I'm just one of those people who moves stuff around a lot, but I consider this a junk drawer staple.

Anyway, you get the gist of it at this point.  If you find a great filler item, be sure to share it in the comments!  Happy online shopping!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cube Drawers From Cardboard Boxes

I have to apologize for anyone coming to this post for the lack of images.  Somehow, all my blog images from June of 2014 onward were deleted, despite multiple backups and cloud storage through Google and Picasa.  I am still researching this and hoping to find them, but I will likely have to take new photos and re-upload them to this blog post.  Please be patient with me until I do so.  Again, I am very sorry. -Ashley

I am SO EXCITED to write this post, because an Idea I have had for quite some time finally has come to fruition.

 I found a cube shelving unit on the side of the road last year, and I previously used some Dollar Tree bins for yarn storage, but they were very shallow and overflowed rather quickly.  This is what it looked like before:

How embarrassing, I would have never shared this mess with my readers, except for the fact that I turned it into this!

Beautiful, isn't it?  :-)

So, I had been pricing those fabric drawers online, and the cheapest I could find for anything that wasn't designed in colors for a kid's bedroom was 8 bucks apiece.  I mean, they're just glorified cardboard and fabric and I could never justify paying that much for cardboard!  That's when I got the idea:  I have fabric here, and I also already have some 10x10 cardboard boxes in the basement from a prior project.  Here's how I did it:

First, you will need:
Hole punch: (preferable a crop-a-dile or something else that punches small holes and has a long reach, otherwise a nail will probably work just fine.
Fabric: In total, I used about 2.5 yards of fabric, but I recommend 3 yards, because then your pattern will all go the same direction when you cut it out.
Cardboard Boxes: My shelf had 9 spots for drawers, so I used 9 boxes.
Drawer Pulls: Optional, but it really gives it an expensive look.
Spray adhesive--alternatively, you can use a hot glue gun, but I would only use it on the folded over edges, because it can make bumps in the fabric once dry.
Screwdriver for attaching hardware
Hot Glue for assembling boxes
Extra cardboard (a small amount will do)

I got my boxes from Amazon. they need to be 10x10x10 to fit the standard cube shelving units, which are actually 11x11. To start, take out as many boxes as you need and assemble them.  I used hot glue instead of tape, since it keeps the outside of the box clean.  As for the top flaps, I folded them down inside each box to give it strength, and it also made the top of the boxes look much cleaner than if I had cut them off.

Next, I did some calculations to see how to cut out my fabric strips. I wanted to cover the front and sides, with a 1" allowance on each edge to fold around the top, bottom, and back.   This will make them look less like cardboard boxes and almost indistinguishable, even if the drawers are pulled out.  I initially had planned to cover just the front, but I am glad I decided against that.

When I was doing calculations, I figured the boxes are 10x10x10, and so I would need 30" to cover the box itself, but since cardboard boxes are imperfect, I wanted to add 1" of fabric to each edge (which worked perfectly).

This is how I cut out the fabric.  I recommend putting something down and using a rotary cutter if you have one.  Make sure you are only cutting the part of the fabric that has pattern on it, not the white edges (I trimmed those off prior to cutting my pieces).

I tried to get a photo of my 12x32 piece of fabric, but whenever I put fabric on the floor, Chunk thinks he has to sit on it.  I think it works anyway.

Next, You need to lay down some cardboard that is wider than your fabric, so that any overspray of adhesive will not stick to the floor.  Ideally, this should be done outside, but I am stubborn.  Just open a few windows and turn on the fan so the spray adhesive can be ventilated, if you do do this inside.

Next, place the fabric right side down and center your box on it so that you will have about 1" to fold over the top and back.  Pick up the fabric on each side and hold it on the box a few times, moving the box until it is in just the right spot.

I sprayed the right side first, taking care to get glue on all the edges, and then I rolled the box over to the right on top of the fabric. Then, I sprayed the middle and left sides, and rolled the box back to the left over the fabric. 

Then, I smoothed out the front first (since that's what everyone will see), and smoothed out the sides. The spray adhesive dries quickly, so you want to work fast to get good adhesion. If you wait a few minutes, the spray adhesive will still be tacky, but it is a very weak adhesion at that point so you will need to spray more.

I carefully folded down the sides first, then the front top of the box, just like wrapping a gift.

It is important to note that I made sure that I lined up every box exactly the same, as pictured below. I always used the side that had a fold on the bottom to be the front, since it would be a clean edge.  Plus, I noticed that all the boxes had the same lean, as they did not sit completely flat.  Using the same side for the front makes sure this lean is uniform and undetectable.

Here's how it looked after I finished covering all 9 boxes. I was amazed at how much neater it looked, aside from the box of craft supplies on the right and all the dog toys on the left, that is.  Doesn't that opossum look real?  Chunk loves it, he is a very spoiled little dog. 

I loved how the look was so far, but I decided that adding drawer pulls would make these things look really expensive and real.  I wanted to get some of those vintage glass hexagon knobs, but the cheapest I could find those was for about 5 bucks apiece, and I was not about to spend 50 bucks on knobs for cardboard boxes.  I went to my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore and found 9 drawer pulls for 79 cents each, totaling $5.50 after taxes.  They match the fabric well, and they look awesome.

I looked these up online to find the retail price, and they're between 3 and 4 dollars a piece!  Score!

To attach the handles, I used my Crop-a-dile hole punch, which makes 1/8" holes.  Alternatively, you could probably use a nail and hammer to punch holes through the boxes without messing up the fabric.

One thing I always have trouble with is measurements. I'm pretty good at basic stuff, but when it comes to figuring out how to center drawer pulls on a box (not knobs, but the ones with 2 holes), that's a bit tough for me. I can do it, it just probably takes longer than the average person.  Luckily, at my father in-law's suggestion, I made a template, and it saved me SO MUCH TIME! I already knew the approximate center, but I wanted these to be perfect.  Upon measuring the box, I realized that after all the folding, the front from top to bottom was about 10.5" and side to side it was still 10".  I used another box and cut out what would be the front, being sure to match the measurements of a finished box.  I marked the actual center with an X, and then I found the center of the drawer pull. I measured how far out from the center it was to each hole, and that's how I marked it on the template. I measured a few times to make sure it was all correct, and then I punched holes in the template where I marked the drawer pull holes, so that I could stencil them onto each finished box.  I also made sure to mark the top of the template to match up with the top of the box, just because I knew it wasn't 100% perfect, so this way every single box would be consistently "not 100% perfect," and thus less noticeable.

I took out each box, placed the template on top, and marked the holes.  Then, I used my crop-a-dile to punch the holes out.

The screws that came with the hardware were 1" long, and that meant they were longer than what I needed by about 1/4 inch. To remedy this, I cut out rectangles of cardboard a few inches long and about 1 inch high, and used the template again to put holes in them. I then used them inside each box and put the screws through them before I put them through the box:

So, there you have it:  A way to make CUSTOMIZED shelf cubes instead of going broke on the store-bought kind.

I love that the fabric almost makes a continuous pattern throughout the boxes.  If you get really meticulous, I bet you could match the pattern!

Now, I had most of my materials on hand, so this project only cost me $5.50, but if you needed to buy all of the materials, there are a few ways you can go about it. 

I would never recommend that someone use free Priority mail boxes for any home project, since that is illegal, and they don't come in 10x10 sizes anyway.

 A pack of 25 10x10x10 boxes costs $22.00 on Amazon, but you could contact your local restaurants, as they all get shipments each week and thus get rid of many boxes.  Perhaps you could have them collect the size you need.

My Fabric was something I bought for a project a couple of years ago, and I went in another direction with it.  You can get upholstery fabric for this project, but quilting fabric would work just fine.  You can often get quilting fabric for $3.00 per yard when Joann's has a sale, or you can use one of their coupons for 40% off that the usually offer. Check their website for deals.

There are knobs available at Home Depot for 80 cents, so you can definitely find some knobs for a low price.  For just a little bit more, you can get plain white knobs. I used the drawer pulls because it is what I happened to find that matched.

If you make your own, please post your results in the comments, or on my Facebook page.

Happy saving!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Magnetic Poetry Wall Decor

I have to apologize for anyone coming to this post for the lack of images.  Somehow, all my blog images from June of 2014 onward were deleted, despite multiple backups and cloud storage through Google and Picasa.  I am still researching this and hoping to find them, but I will likely have to take new photos and re-upload them to this blog post.  Please be patient with me until I do so.  Again, I am very sorry. -Ashley

So I have always been really into magnetic poetry, and after years of being unwilling to spend 20 dollars on a set, I was browsing and found that the price had dropped!!! Nowadays, 6 bucks can get a decent set, so about a year ago, I indulged and got a set, including, of course, the F-word expansion set (hey, to each one's own, k?).

After having the set on my fridge for awhile, I started to desire something more portable for my immature bad poetry hobby, since standing in the kitchen isn't so conducive to one's creativity, ya know?  I went back on Amazon and the only thing I could find was a glorified cookie sheet for 10 bucks. Well, after doing some research on what magnetic metals I can buy rather inexpensively, I realized that I have a whole bunch of sheet metal leftover from my birdhouse project!  Here's how I did it:

You Will Need:

Sheet metal

More specifically, sheet metal that is magnetized-- I used a piece of metal from the ductwork section at Home Depot, it is galvanized and zinc-coated (make sure you get the zinc coated type--if you're not sure, you can bring a magnet with you to the store and if it sticks, it will work!  I researched other options, including magnetic wall decal, paint, etc, and this is still the cheapest option out there, and it looks awesome.  Luckily, my metal was leftover from my prior project, thus no additional cost.  However, if you do need to buy some, it is only $6.98 per sheet.  You really only need enough sheet metal to fill your frame, so as long as it is the same size as the glass, you're all set.

Tin Snips

There are several kinds of tin snips, but I recommend the aviation snips.  Really, anything with a yellow handle will work, as yellow is universal for tin snips that cut a straight line (not curving left or right, as pictured.  I got this set of tin snips at Home Depot on sale for $9.99, but it usually costs, $29.99.  Again, no cost to me for this project, because I had bought them for a prior project.

Picture Frame (glass optional)
I used an old 8x10 frame that was in my basement. 

To start, if you have the glass, lay it on your sheet metal and trace around the edges.  Alternatively, lay your frame face down and trace the inside of it, but you may want to add 1/8 to 1/4 inch around to make sure the metal comes out big enough to fill the frame without falling out. Honestly, I'd probably just lay the frame down facing up (with the back down), and when running my sharpie marker around the frame, I'd angle it 45 degrees so the traced shape is a bit larger than the front of the frame, as it should be. 

Using your tin snips (you may want to wear work gloves to protect yourself, since sheet metal becomes razor sharp after you cut it with tin snips--be careful!), cut out the metal rectangle you traced earlier. 

Lay the metal inside your frame to ensure a good fit, and make any adjustments as necessary.

I only did this part because they came with the frame, but next I put the foam sheet and the glass in the frame, behind the sheet metal, so the metal is exposed at the front of the frame.  Put the backing back into the frame and latch it closed.

Now you have a nice, decorative frame for magnetic poetry, and it was at little to no cost!

I tried to keep my poetry clean, so, you're WELCOME. :-)

I hung the frame on my wall just to see how it would look, and I really like it. I will probably not hang it at this time, just because I am thinking it will be great on my coffee table, but I love this look!

So, there you have it!  A nice, possibly free way to class-up your immaturity self-expression.
I hope you like it, and if you do make one using this tutorial, please share it on my Facebook page or in the comments below!  

A great variation on this project for gift-giving: Get small frames from the dollar store, compose some personalized magnetic poems for your friends, and make them their own framed poem!

Thanks so much for reading, and happy composing!