Beauty and the Budget

Beauty & the Budget: Tips for Renters

tips for rentersAre you moving into another graduate student housing dorm soon?  Are you packing up and moving for a graduate degree or post doc. into yet another rented space?  Or are you staying still, but just oh so ready to have a home of your own?  If you flip through some of our Beauty & the Budget files, you’ll see we have lots of tips and ideas to hopefully get you thinking about how to beautify your space, even if it is only for a few months or years.  You can even read this post on how strongly I feel about the importance and value of creating a home that really  reflects who you are, even though the space might be temporary.  As this is the season for moves and transitions, I’ve done some searching online and below are some of the best ‘tips for renters’ that I could find to pass along.

Even if you can’t paint the walls, have you thought of using tempaper (fancy pants temporary wall paper) or purchasing fun chalkboard or sticker decals, or even painting some furniture to give you some color?  Have you thought of getting new hardware for the kitchen and bathrooms to give the cabinets a facelift or even taking the cabinets off and storing them to have a fun open storage thing going on?  What about embracing bold colors in small spaces through a new rug or curtains or adding more throw pillows to the couch?  Lots of fun ideas below to bring life to a rental space. I hope some are helpful and encourage you to make your new abode your own!


tips for renters 1

* Apartment Therapy: 20 Tips, Tricks, & Solutions for Renters; 5 Resources for Temporary Wallpaper

* Better Homes and Gardens: 25 Ideas to Steal for your Apartment

Canadian House & Home: Top Decorating Tips for Renters

* The Daily Buzz: Ten Decorating Tips for Renters

* Salvage Love: Decorating Tips for Renters

Do you have any tips to add?


Money Saving Tips

One of the most difficult things about graduate school is learning to survive financially. I feel like I spend hours poring over our budget, trying to squeeze every last dime (or ten pence!) out of the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves. I know those financial boundaries are good for the long term, even though they seem utterly painful right now.

I know we all have different systems and processes for managing our money, but I thought I’d share some financial websites I frequent for tips on saving money, budgeting, and getting out of debt. These have been my go-to websites while navigating the financial perils of graduate school. I hope they help you as much as they have helped us!

Money Saving Mom – she was also a graduate wife!

Dave Ramsey – financial guru – for budgets with fancy graphs

Happy saving and spending!


Beauty and the Budget

Decorating Tips from a Military Wife: Part I

-written by Megan, a military wife that will soon be a graduate wife

I couldn’t tell you how or when I first stumbled upon the Graduate Wife blog but I do distinctly remember finding myself able to relate to a lot of the experiences that I read about here, and I’m not even a graduate wife, I’m a military wife!  Well I’m a soon to be graduate wife but that’s a whole other story!  Each role requires tough personal sacrifices, long separations from the one person who you can’t bear to be separated from, and both include frequent moves where sometimes your new pad is less than stellar.

Staying in the present and decorating for your current home is always tough when you know that it is only temporary.  Everyone wants to make smart decisions about their home décor, but its hard not to worry if what you purchase now will fit into the next place.  In addition to that mindbender, many times in this gypsy lifestyle the best option is to rent rather than buy, which we all know places limitations on how much you can do.  As a military wife who has moved three times in four years and formerly employed as an interior decorator here are a few decorating tips!

1.     Paint, paint, paint!  Definitely ask your Landlord if this is allowed, but I promise you that nothing will have a greater visual impact per dollar spent then a few gallons of paint does.  Paint walls, paint doors, paint baseboards!


2.     Keep main pieces of furniture and window treatments conservative but have loads of fun mixing and matching patterns and colors with everything else.  If you are worried about curtains lengths (like I tend to be) just realize that hems can always be let out, topper treatments improvised to add height, and an oversized horizontal banding in a lovely coordinating fabric can always be added to the bottom.  Even in my very colorful home I stuck to leather furniture and grey drapes in the living room and an espresso bedroom set with white curtains in the bedroom.   But this doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING needs to be brown, black, or white; go bold with color!  Pillows, rugs, blankets, art, tchotchkes, these are all the perfect opportunity to liven up a space!

Same furniture, two different looks:

3.     Be very picky about what you buy at places such as Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or any other store like that.  Look for items that can serve double duty.  An apothecary jar can be used to hold flowers in the spring and Christmas tree ornaments during the holidays.  A basket can hold firewood when it’s winter and dog toys when it’s warmer.  Look for things that might work in any number of rooms of your house.  Maybe a pretty lamp would look nice on your foyer table, but in the next apartment you use it in your bedroom.

4.     Don’t be afraid to put holes in the walls.  Multiple holes even, because we all know it takes at least four tries until you get the picture hung juuuusttt right.  After painting this follows as the number two tip at making your house feel like a home.  Get creative with your art, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but in my experience a frame and mat can make even the most humble of art look gallery worthy!

5.     Houseplants make any space feel more alive and its healthy for you and your home.  ‘Nuff said!  Just make sure that what you bring home isn’t poisonous to Mister Dog or Madame Cat!


Come back next week for Part II!

Shuga' Mommas

Shuga Mommas: Honey Soy Noodles

So, it’s my turn to share a recipe…and we all know that Mandy is the natural cook, not I.  :)  But here I find myself and I am excited to share another favorite from my handy little 4 Ingredients cook book.

Just last week we had a Graduate Wife dinner out at a local spot called Noodle Nation.  It  was so much fun and it also got me in the mood for noodles.  At the dinner a few of us talked a good bit about shopping on a budget (Mayra, I am awaiting your blog post with your tips!).  So in light of those two things, and the fact that the last 3 things Mandy has posted have been dessert items :), I thought I’d share this super easy, inexpensive, and delicious noodle dish.  If I can wow my family with it, trust me you can as well.  It costs a bit to buy the sesame oil and the manuka honey up front, but the recipe only calls for a small amount of each, so it pays off in the end with the many makings it offers. Enjoy! -M.C.

Honey Soy Noodles

  • 500 g pkt Hokkien noodles (or you can use the precooked egg noodle packs)
  • 1 tbs. sesame oil
  • 2 tbs. tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. manuka honey
Soften noodles in a bowl billwed with hot water, drain an set aside.  Combine oil, soy sacue and honey togethger.  Heat a wok (or large pan) to medium temperature and add liquid mixture, quickly add noodles and stir continuously for about 3 minutes.
{I usually add chicken or tofu to ours and any random veggies I can find.  I have made it with spinach once and another time threw in some frozen broccoli.  I also double the liquid mixture.}
Shuga' Mommas

Shuga’ Mommas: Chicken Noodle Soup


The Graduate Wife is delighted to announce a new series featuring budget & time friendly recipes for you and your family!  We hope these posts bring many a happy belly.  If you would ever enjoy submitting just send us an email!


Written by Tori – a current graduate wife

As a trained chef, mom “on-the-way”, and the wife of a graduate student, I feel I have a great responsibility to feed myself and my husband delicious, healthy meals, and spend as little money as possible on groceries!  I love to use coupons and get freebies whenever possible, but depending on where you live, I realize that isn’t always easy.  I find myself in a huge internal debate every time I stand in the meat section, wondering if I should buy the organic chicken (yes, I should), or buy the chicken that’s on sale- I mean, I have spent hours matching up coupons with store sales, haven’t I? I can’t spend $12 on a few chicken breasts and ruin all my hard work, right? (I haven’t come up with a good answer yet).

Sometimes when I leave the store and my master coupon scheme hasn’t worked as well as I had planned, I feel like crying.  Is that normal?  Either way, I feel like I am not even capable of doing my job well (don’t even get me started on what happens when I “overcook” dinner!).

I like to imagine that I am not the only one that feels this way about shopping and cooking.  Because of that, I am sharing a delicious, simple, and budget friendly Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.  Chicken Noodle Soup isn’t the most glamorous or exciting meal, but it is such a comfort food: perfect for all you graduate wives far from home.

This recipe and the prices are not precise, as I don’t write them down.  Keep in mind that the amounts are estimates, and I was cooking for 2 only.

Here’s what you need:

  • Chicken: I pulled two breasts right out of the freezer – – $2 (you caught me- it’s obviously not organic)
  • 4-5 cups of Chicken Broth or Stock – – $ Free! (See below*)
  • Noodles of your choice: ½ a box – – $1 (Can be free, easily, if you have a sale and a coupon!)
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
  • ½ of a yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt, pepper

Total: less than $5

Step 1: 
Place the whole chicken breasts in a pot of water and boil for 15 minutes or until cooked (no need to thaw).  Remove from the water, and chop or shred with a knife and fork. Set aside.

Step 2:  Boil the noodles in a fresh pot of water until almost done- it’s good to leave them a bit firm and let them finish cooking in the soup!

Step 3: Heat your chicken stock in a pot on medium heat; to a simmer (either store bought or homemade*)

Step 4:  Dice the onion, carrot, (a stalk of diced celery if you have it- I was all out) and garlic.  Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and add the onions and carrot and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Sautee the vegetables until tender, and then add the garlic (always add the garlic toward the end of cooking, as it burns easily)

Step 5:  Add all ingredients together in the pot of chicken stock, let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, and voila!

~If you have a can of peas or corn, toss them in at the end!

Serve with toast or crackers

*When I buy chicken, I often buy bone-in chicken breasts.  They are always cheaper than boneless/skinless breasts, and I use the bones to make homemade stock.

When you get home with the chicken, slice the meat off of the bone, and add the bones to a pot of water, just deep enough to cover.  If you have a carrot, a stalk of celery, half of an onion, and a bay leaf, toss them in, too.  No need to chop anything.  Cover this pretty mixture with a lid, and let it gently simmer on low-medium heat for a few hours.  The longer it simmers, the richer it will taste- but be careful not to let it boil dry!  This should be a gentle process. 

I store the broth in plastic containers in the freezer and pop them out when I’m ready to cook!

Beauty and the Budget · Finances

Beauty and the Budget

Greetings!  I am really excited to start this “Beauty and the Budget” series for the graduate wife. This project has become a great interest of mine as I have seen far too many friends give up on making their homes feel comfortable and beautiful because they were on tight budgets.  So, these blogs are being started for one reason: To inspire and encourage you as you seek to spruce up your space on a budget.

I don’t want to overwhelm you or leave you thinking, “Eek, I could never do that.”  It is definitely not my point to show you lovely things and make you think, ….I wish.   I PROMISE that all of the projects I am going to highlight are totally possible to do.  Yes, by you and you alone.

I can’t go on enough about the importance of beauty, balance and comfort in your personal space.  I believe it can be truly life changing for you and your family and can be achieved if you are willing to get a little messy (with some makeovers), dedicate a bit of time and allow yourself to tap into your creative side.

So, if you are reading this then you are probably a graduate’s wife and you are no doubt on a budget….a pretty tight one at that, budgeting with an income that you are bringing in or possibly even living off the luxuries of a student stipend (as I find myself).  Don’t fret!  I know that you feel there is probably nothing you can do with a meager budget to liven up your flat, apartment, dorm suite, or wherever else you now find yourself, but these blog postings are for you!!  I am going to show you some easy steps to transform everyday items and thrift store/market finds into beautiful pieces that will bring life to your home and not put a hole in your pocketbook.

If you are interested in using some of these tips, be warned.  :) Once you liven up something like a small bookcase, it is very tempting to feel depressed that the rest of your space is not ‘up to par.’ This is going to be a work in progress and you have to be patient with yourself as you slowly but surely bring a new sense of harmony and beauty to your home.  Most projects will range from around £5-15, so start budgeting in a few extra pounds or dollars a month for a new project.  I will try to do a series on one room at a time so that you can allow yourself to focus on getting one room in good shape before jumping to the next.  Or you might be like me and want to jump around…feel free!

I pray these tips are helpful and fun.  I’d love your thoughts, feedback and other ideas that can be highlighted on here. I hope to include more thrifty ideas for cooking, etc. and would love thoughts on those as well.  Tune in next week as we start on the below project!

Until then,