Blog Posts by Real Simple Magazine

  • How to Make the Holidays More Affordable

    Lauren NassefLauren NassefDon't let money worries ruin your reindeer games. Here, insiders go off the record to spill their best-kept secrets for an affordable holiday season.

    By Yelena Moroz, Shivani Vora, Kaija Helmetag, and Brad Tuttle

    Save on Entertaining
    Tips from an anonymous caterer
    Besides asking friends for recommendations, the best way to find a caterer is to go to a cooking store, like Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, and speak to the employees running the demonstrations. Many of them do catering gigs as well, for less than standard local rates. An independent caterer will often be more wallet-friendly than a large company, which can have high minimum requirements (as much as $2,500 per event) and more operating costs, like paying full-time staffers. In contrast, independents are usually amenable to negotiation. So ask for a 10 to 20 percent break, or see if they'll toss in a few more appetizers or another entrée for the same dollar amount.

    See More: Inexpensive Ideas for Holiday Party Food


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  • Easy Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

     Dana Gallagher Dana GallagherMake it through the holidays without combusting with this handbook of tips.

    By Kristin Appenbrink, Lori Bergamotto, Elizabeth Jenkins, Maya Kukes, and Elizabeth Schatz Passarella

    Let Go of Holiday Stress
    Do you love the holidays? Yes, probably. Do you suffer through the stress that likely goes with them? Errrr... There is a better way. Just take a deep breath, and follow the easy tips in this guide.

    Skip Traditional Gifts in Favor of Money-Saving Alternatives
    Give to the group.
    "A Blu-ray player or an ice cream maker is a gift that everyone can enjoy together," says New York City event planner David Tutera. Or surprise the gang with individually wrapped tickets to a shared activity.

    Think small. Several creative stocking stuffers in lieu of one big (costly) gift affords you more of a chance to speak to the personality of the recipient while also stretching out the gift-opening process. A couple of ideas: chocolate-covered Cheerios ($5 for four ounces, or stitchable

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  • How to Avoid a Costly Restaurant Bill

    Gazimal/Getty ImagesGazimal/Getty ImagesExperts reveal the sneaky strategies restaurants use to get you to spend more money.

    This article originally appeared on

    Expect the Unexpected
    We've all been there: You head out to dinner with a friend, a ballpark amount in mind that you want to spend. You have a great time, laughing and catching up, and before you know it, the wine is flowing, you've ordered the extra appetizer, that tasty-sounding special, and life is fantastic-until the check arrives, and it is double what you wanted it to be.

    It's not a coincidence.

    Smart restaurant owners know how to boost their profits by using subtle strategies that encourage you to spend more. Here, a restaurant insider and a behavioral psychologist dish about these secrets, so you won't fall for them.

    See More: Money-Saving Secrets From the Pros

    Menu Design

    A menu's layout, language, and other factors can subconsciously shift our ordering patterns. For instance, a study at the Culinary Institute of America found that when

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  • How to Fix 10 Common Thanksgiving Problems

    Susie CusherSusie CusherA guide to get you over some of the holiday dinner's most common hurdles.

    Problem: You Don't Know How Big a Turkey to Buy
    You want to be sure you have enough turkey but have no clue how many pounds you need for the number of guests you're going to have.

    If you need only enough turkey to make it through Thanksgiving dinner:
    Buy ¾ to 1 pound per person.
    If you want enough leftovers for the long weekend: Calculate 1 pounds (or slightly more) per person. Get leftover turkey recipes and turkey sandwich ideas.
    If you need a large turkey: Consider buying two 10- to 12-pound birds and roasting them side by side. Small turkeys cook (and defrost) much more quickly than supersize ones, and they tend to stay moister. Print out this simple turkey recipe to get started.

    See More: Choose the Right Thanksgiving Turkey

    Problem: The Turkey Is Still Frozen
    It's 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Dinner is at 2 p.m. And the turkey, which has been thawing for days in the refrigerator, still feels

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  • Last-Minute Thanksgiving Side Dishes

    Gentl & HyersGentl & HyersThese 12 easy recipes can be mixed and matched at will and are sure to be the star of your Thanksgiving table.

    By Kate Merker and Sara Quessenberry

    Though the turkey always grabs the spotlight, the right side dishes make your holiday dinner spread especially memorable. Ready to tackle the main event? Start with this simple turkey recipe.

    See More: Back to Basics Thanksgiving Dinner

    Honeyed Carrots and Oranges

    Serves 8 | Hands-On Time: 15m | Total Time: 50m

    * 2 pounds very small carrots, scrubbed; or regular carrots-trimmed, peeled, and cut into thin sticks
    * 1 orange, cut into 8 pieces
    * 2 tablespoons olive oil
    * 2 tablespoons honey
    * kosher salt and black pepper
    * 2 tablespoons small dill sprigs

    1. Heat oven to 375° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots and orange with the oil, honey, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
    2. Roast, tossing once, until tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle with the dill.

    See More: 10 Tricks to a

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  • 10 Simple, Festive Holiday Decor Ideas

    Looking for new ways to deck the halls? Check out these inspired holiday decorations.

    Ditte IsagerDitte IsagerTwist on a Traditional Wreath
    Instead of the traditional evergreen, try a homemade wreath of citrus fruits. Start with a circular piece of florist's foam, then use wooden florist's picks to secure large items, such as oranges, first. Continue with smaller fruit―kumquats, clementines, limes. Tie with a thick velvet ribbon.

    Looking to update your holiday decor? Find more easy holiday decorating ideas here.

    Melanie AcevedoMelanie AcevedoSparkly Ornament Display
    Place vintage ornaments on a cake stand nested with leaves for a stunningly simple centerpiece.

    See More: 15 Easy Christmas Decorations

    Lucas AllenLucas AllenModern Mobile Chandelier
    Use wooden quilting hoops to create a mobile that floats over a table like a weightless chandelier. Turn the inner ring 180 degrees and wood-glue it to the outer ring at the top. Choose various sizes and hang the spheres at different lengths with clear fishing line and thumbtacks.

    See More: Holiday Decorating Ideas

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  • How to Deal with Nuisance Neighbors

    ..No-fail strategies for handling eight types of annoying Joneses.
    By Amanda Hinnant

    Inconsiderate Behavior
    The Careless Dog Owner

    Lets her pooch out to prowl freely―and dig up your lawn, howl at the moon, and sift through your trash.

    How to deal: Skip the blame game, says Stephanie Shain, director of outreach programs for companion animals at the Humane Society of the United States, in Washington, D.C. "Your neighbor will probably feel embarrassed and defensive, so be honest," she says. "Let her know this is uncomfortable for you to bring up, too." Focus on the animal's behavior―not the owner's. Explain that you're concerned about the dog's welfare and that you want a peaceful neighborhood and unsullied gardens. Then try to come to a solution together. If you can't bring yourself to talk in person, write a letter, says Shain. If nothing changes after a reasonable period, contact local law-enforcement officials and your animal-control agency and find out about noise ordinances and

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  • Surprising New Cleaning Solutions

    Use everyday items to dust, polish, and conceal flaws.

    undefinedSee More: A Guide to Cleaning Household Surfaces

    Baby Oil as Chrome Polish

    Forget keeping skin soft, baby oil also polishes chrome. Apply a dab to a cotton cloth and use it to shine everything from faucets to hubcaps. You'll end up with shiny, happy surfaces from a medicine-cabinet staple. (Who actually owns chrome cleaner, anyway?)

    See More: Clean Your Bathroom, Fast

    Broom as Long Distance Duster

    To dust crown moldings, place a microfiber rag over the broom's bristles and secure with a rubber band. Then use the long handle to dust areas that your arms can't reach. No more circus acts (starring you, on a rickety, wobbly stool).

    See More: How to Speed-Clean Your Kitchen

    Rice as Coffee Grinder Cleaner

    Mill a handful of grains in your grinder and the fine particles will absorb stale odors and clean out residual grounds and oil. Discard the rice and wipe clean.

    Toothpaste as CD Cleaner

    To restore a damaged CD, apply a dot of

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  • 31 Ways to Make Over Your Closets

    Closets can be the bane of your existence. Steal some ideas from those pictured here.

    Read More: 31 Ways to Make Over Your Closets

    Don't Miss:

    Design Your Dream Closet

    12 Secrets of Closet Pros

    New Uses for Things in Your Closet

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  • Turn Clutter into Storage and Decor Solutions

    How to refresh a room using boxes, jars, and other household items.

    By Joyce Bautista

    3 Clutter-Busting Concepts

    These three key steps will get you on your way to making order in your home using basic everyday items.

    1. Contain: Enough storage space is, of course, the Holy Grail of any household. But solutions to the problem are probably littering your closets and cupboards right now. Use monochromatic boxes, wooden crates, berry baskets, and empty jars to stash anything from mementos to old files, paper clips to dried spices.

    2. Repeat: Transform stray containers or collectibles into a decorative tableau by clustering like objects. Consistency produces a neater look than a random assembly does―and while one or two may look arbitrary, a group looks like art.

    3. Repurpose: Although your lidless sugar bowl and your wobbly chair no longer serve their original purposes, they're far from useless. You can eke a second life out of idle treasures by assigning them new functions―and, in

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