Designing a room for kids to grow into – looking ahead to save money

There have never been as many exciting pieces of furniture designed especially for kids as there are today.  We all know what pester power can be like and it’s tempting to give in, splash out and give kids just what they want for their dream rooms, but this isn’t just expensive in the short term – it also leads to long-term costs.  Most pieces of furniture like this are not designed to accommodate growing bodies, so sooner or later they will need to be replaced.  What’s more, as passionate as kids can be about the things they love, they also tend to be fickle, and if you’ve indulged a love of pirates one year, they won’t understand why you can’t stretch your budget to switching to a space theme the next.  A much better strategy is to choose furniture that will suit growing kids.  This saves on the cost of replacement furniture and there’s no reason why it can’t still be fun.

The basics

The first thing to think about is how to decorate the walls and floor.  Paint is best for the former – not just because it’s easy to change the color, but because it’s easy to redo small areas to make it look neat again when taking down old posters or shelves.  Paint doesn’t have to be plain or dull – using stencils makes it easy to create patterns or pictures, or you can work with your child to create a mural based on their favorite themes of the moment.  You can also add accessories like friezes, posters or glow-in-the-dark stars.

For flooring, one of the best options is carpet tiles, which can easily be replaced if stained, damaged or simply no longer appropriate for your child’s tastes.  They’re cheap to buy, easy to mix and match and generally designed to be hardwearing.  An alternative is to choose a neutral carpet and add colorful or interestingly shaped rugs of your child’s choice.

Accounting for size

One thing you can’t stop your kids from doing is get bigger, so it’s advisable to buy larger items of furniture that they’ll grow into.  A big bed can be made to seem friendlier to a small child by filling up the extra space with toys.  A large closet will have room for a growing number of clothes and any short-term fear of monsters hiding in it can be dealt with by turning it into a den for playing in.  A large beanbag can be fun for a toddler to roll around on and still make a comfortable lounging spot for a teenager.  A sofa bed can be a good place for young kids to sit while playing board games on the floor, and can provide sleeping space for visiting friends when they’re older.

Make fun themes easy to change

Creating themes using paint and accessories makes them easy to change and can be a fun way to get creative with your child.  Over time, what that child wants will change, and you may feel a twinge of regret, but ultimately you’ll enjoy seeing the room change as your child grows and gradually becomes an adult.

 

 

August 27, 2014 at 3:38 PM Leave a comment

31 Days of Giveaways

giveaways

Are you gearing up for Back-to-School? Educents is celebrating with the 31 Days of Giveaways!

Not familiar? For the entire month of August, Educents will host MONTH-LONG giveaways for all of your Back-to-School needs, including an Apple iPad Mini, ink & toner for the whole school year, a family vacation, curriculum and MORE!

Make sure to enter the grand prize!

August 20, 2014 at 1:34 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: What Counts Most is How You Finish

What Counts Most is How You Finish

About the Book:

What Counts Most is How You Finish is a book of short essays that shares ideas for addressing life’s challenges. The book (which uses experiences from the author’s life and the lives of others) is written with two ideas in mind: 

• Each person has to find his or her own way in life
• We can learn worthwhile things from each otherTo make it easier to find an essay that can help the reader address life situations in real time, What Counts Most is How You Finish is divided into seven topic areas: Being You, Taking Care of You, Dealing with People, Overcoming Challenges, Staying Focused, Achieving Success and Making a Difference.

While the primary audience for What Counts Most is How You Finish is people between the ages of 16-25, the book has received positive feedback from many older than that who say it’s a good reminder for them.

Finalist of The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, What Counts Most is How You Finish is filled with insightful lessons.

My Thoughts:

Although this book is a completely different genre from To Hold the Sun it reminded me a lot of that story. Probably because I recently read and reviewed it, but also because both authors attempt to impart life lessons upon their readers.

The style of this book is very different from To Hold the Sun and I thoroughly enjoyed Shelia Payton’s narrative. Her ability to relate events from her own life into stories for teenagers and young adults made the book an easy read with valuable life long lessons. I think we all need feel good stories in our lives. We often read these as children, but I think the 16-25 year old crowd, (the intended audience of this book), is often forgotten.

But isn’t this the time when we begin leaving our parents nest and forging out onto our own? Isn’t this the time when we begin to create a life for ourselves; learning how to navigate life while keeping our head above water?

As a parent of a two year old son I can only imagine what he will be like fourteen years from now. As he begins to form his own theories on life and forge his own path into this world I would definitely hand him a copy of What Counts Most is How You Finish.

This books speaks to the character of being a good person. It focuses on learning how to form relationships with others without losing the most important part of ourselves. I think this book would make a great gift for those graduating from high school or college. It’s the kind of book that focuses on the good in being human.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

August 18, 2014 at 8:00 AM 1 comment

A Follow Up to That $440 Question

Needle

I decided to spend the extra money to avoid the twelve hour round trip drive from our vacation spot to my doctor’s home office. I’m frugal enough in other aspects of my life to weather the $440 bill. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the hospital the clinical staff could not confirm the cost of my test. I was told that my initial estimate was probably correct, but that the hospital could not provide the exact cost. Apparently the hospital farms out their billing processes to a third party who could not be reached to provide an estimate either.

I asked if I could receive the total cost and pay cash up front and in advance to receive a discount, but since they couldn’t provide a price they had no way of making this happen. So I have no idea if the bill will be larger or smaller than the $550 I was originally quoted. This gets a little scary when it comes to medical procedures because something that should cost $550 may very well end up costing me $3000.

At that exact moment in time I had no choice but to move forward with the test. I could not reschedule a test closer to home within the necessary time frame required by my doctor.

When my doctor received the results of the exam they told me I would need to have it repeated. While the test revealed a number of items the doctors were looking for, it was inconclusive about one specific issue.

A commenter on my blog asked if the test might need to be repeated and while I knew it was a slim chance I nearly laughed out loud when the nurse told me they only trust their own technicians.

The day after I return from vacation I will drive to the doctors office for a repeat scan. At least I know I’ll only owe a $30 co-pay this time around. I am a bit terrified that this last scan is going to cost me an inordinate amount of money!

Photo Credit

August 17, 2014 at 4:37 PM 2 comments

Planning Her Dream Quinceanera on a Budget

Preparing for your daughter’s quinceneara is, for many parents, the joy of a lifetime. Your little girl’s 15th birthday not only marks her transition from childhood into womanhood, but it provides you with the opportunity to prepare a proper celebration for the community that supported you while you raised her. Unfortunately, not every family has an infinite amount of money with which they can throw a party befitting their daughter. Thankfully, a dream quince can be had on even the slimmest of budgets, as long as you’re willing to plan ahead and do some of the work yourself. Here are several tips and tricks that will ensure you plan and throw a fabulous quinceneara without losing your shirt in the process.

Hire a Seamstress to Recreate her Dream Dress

Dress

Most budding young women have more than a small notion about the dress they dream of wearing to their quinceanera. After all, to a 15-year-old girl, fewer details at any party are as important as what she’s wearing. Whether she spied it online or in a fashion magazine, find a local seamstress who can work with you to recreate it. While it won’t bear the designer label, a skilled seamstress can save you hundreds of dollars, while ensuring that the dress your daughter most desires is the dress she gets to wear.

Limit the Guest List

While it can be exceedingly difficult to limit the number of guests you invite to your celebration, doing so will save you countless hours — you’re doing a lot of this quinceanera work yourself, remember — and plenty of cash. Instead of inviting your entire parish, just include those members who have been instrumental in your daughter’s life. Skip your co-workers unless they’re family friends, and in general, only include people who have a personal connection to you or your daughter.

Book Early and Choose an Off-Day

Saturdays are the most treasured day for almost any event and for good reason. Most people have their weekends free, which allows for easier travel to and from weddings, parties, graduations and the like, and few people have to wake up early for work the next day, which means they can celebrate with abandon. If you’re looking to book a banquet hall in Los Angeles, consider booking well in advance and choose an off-day, like a Friday or Sunday. Days that are less likely to be booked often come with a price break — even if it isn’t listed. Venues and banquet halls will usually negotiate fees when they know they might not book that date otherwise, so there’s no harm in asking.

Borrow a Car

car

Chances are you know someone whose fancy car would put a rented limousine to shame. While the limo ride to the party has become synonymous with the guest of honor’s quince arrival, there’s no reason you can’t top that tradition and save money in the process. Find a classic car somewhere in your network of family and friends and see if its owner wouldn’t mind showing it off on your daughter’s big day.

Prepare Your Own Food

A quinceanera wouldn’t be a party without plenty of delicious food, and while hiring a caterer would certainly make your life easier, not hiring a caterer will probably save you thousands of dollars. Plan ahead with a detailed menu and make sure you solve the difficulties of transporting the food to the venue and serving it. Recruit friends and family to join in the fun by asking them to create the dishes they’re most known for. Many hands make light work, and if you ask enough people ahead of time to pitch in, making your own food won’t just happen, it will also taste delicious.

Hire a Student Videographer and Photographer

Videographers and photographers make sure your daughter’s celebration is recorded for posterity, and skipping either would probably break her heart. But there’s no rule in place that says you have to hire a professional to get professional-quality work. Place a notice on the bulletin board in the art department of your local community college or university for a videographer and photographer. When someone contacts you, treat her exactly as you would a professional. Ask to see her work and inquire about her work ethic as well as the time it will take for her to get the photos or video edited. If you find someone who seems like a good fit, negotiate a price you can afford that is still fair to the amount of time she’ll need to put in.

Planning and pulling off your daughter’s dream quince without going broke will take plenty of planning and a firm hand, but with enough time and effort there’s no reason you can’t succeed. From hiring a student videographer to enlisting the help of a seamstress to recreate her dream dress, your daughter’s quinceanera can be just as regal, celebratory and memorable as one with a bigger budget, and no one needs to know about the money you saved but you.

 

August 14, 2014 at 4:15 PM Leave a comment

Just a Few of the Ways I’ve Wasted Money

beach

As I was contemplating my decision to stay at the beach I couldn’t help but think of all the ways I’ve wasted money over the years.

There was the time we remained on COBRA long after we should have switched over to my husband’s insurance plan. We paid well over $1500 a month and went to the doctor only twice during that period. Switching plans would have saved us over $9,000 a year. With a young son I wanted to know we had the best insurance possible, but I could have paid our entire deductible three times with the extra money we spent.

How about the time I paid full price for a mattress. Luckily I was able to rectify the situation, but in the blink of an eye I spent $600 more than necessary. Let’s not forget the mutual fund that dropped it’s five star ranking. Over the course of three years it fell to two stars, resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars. Although I look over my portfolio over year I somehow missed this failing mutual fund three years running.

I’ll worry about forgetting to use a $5 coupon and then allow myself to lose wads of money over the long haul. I’m sure we all do things that are penny wise and pound foolish, but it feels pretty stupid to save one dollar here and pick up 25 cents there, all the while letting real money drain from our bank accounts.

I thought long and hard about where to go for my medical testing. While I might save $440 by going home I have decided that staying put makes much more sense. I’m fine with making the decision to spend more money, but I hate knowing that sometimes I let money slip out of my hands without ever really thinking about it.

Photo Credit

August 13, 2014 at 12:02 PM Leave a comment

What Would You Do? Drive 12 Hours to Save $440?

piggy bank

My doctor wants me to undergo a specific medical test. I am currently out of town and didn’t plan to return for at least three weeks. If I seek medical attention while I’m away all services will be priced out-of-network, which means I will pay full price. We are not even close to meeting our $4000 out-of-network deductible for the year.

The estimate for the procedure is roughly $550. In order to use my in-network services I need to drive over six hours home and another six hours back. That’s twelve hours of driving I did not intend to incur.

I initially planned to make the long drive, but after further consideration I’m just not so sure. I’ll need to drive a total of twelve hours alone. I would probably drive home the night before the test, drive to the test that morning and then drive back to the beach. I’ve done this before, but twelve hours in the car alone is quite exhausting.

If I make the drive home I’ll owe a $30 co-pay plus at least $80 in gas expenses. That makes a $440 difference between using an in-network provider versus a local out-of-network provider. (I’ve already met my in-network deductible for the year.)

So what do you think? Should I make the long haul back to my in-network doctor and save myself $440 or should I suck up the cost, stay at the beach and keep in my mind that I have plenty of money saved to pay this bill, even though I absolutely hate to pay that much money unnecessarily?

Honestly I cannot decide what to do and for those that are wondering I cannot delay the timing of the test. It must be performed during the three weeks that I am scheduled to be away.

Photo Credit

August 9, 2014 at 11:56 AM 8 comments

Book Review: Supreme Macaroni Company

Book

About the Book:

In The Supreme Macaroni Company, Adriana Trigiani transports readers from the cobblestone streets of Greenwich Village to lush New Orleans to Italy and back again while exploring the tricky dynamics between Old World craftsmanship and New World ambition, all amid a passionate love affair that fuels one woman’s determination to have it all.

For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This ancient business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the schoolteacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.

But after the wedding celebrations are over, Valentine wakes up to the hard reality of juggling the demands of a new business and the needs of her new family. Confronted with painful choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: “A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.” Now the proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves—the bitter and the sweet of life itself.

Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: an unforgettable narrative about family, work, romance, and the unexpected turns of life and fate.

My Thoughts:

The author portrayed Valentine as an overly ambitious woman who struggled to maintain her business while beginning a new family. The first words that come to mind are: self-centered and ambition seeking. It was difficult to get behind this character, to root for her or hope that her marriage would be successful.

It’s an easy book to read, but I was so discouraged by the attitude of the main character that I really didn’t enjoy reading it. I’m sure the author intended the reader to cheer for Valentine and Gianluca, but instead I found myself wishing they would just end their disastrous marriage. Valentine treated her husband quite badly, but the reasons for this were unclear.

I thought this book would make a great beach read as the two previous books in this series received solid reviews, but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps reading the first two would have given me a greater understanding of the characters and their conflicts. It was difficult to understand the characters’ motives and why the author chose to create a main character who seemed so nasty and unlikable.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

August 5, 2014 at 3:44 PM 1 comment

How to Save Money on Your Fall Wardrobe

One of the best things about summer has to be the clothes. Summer clothes are hip, fresh, comfortable, and typically inexpensive. On the other hand, one of the worst things about summer is the fact that it’s over much too soon, and unless you live in Hawaii, you’ll have to start thinking about duds for fall.

Picture 1

Some people have a bit of a love/hate relationship with fall clothes. After a season spent wearing shorts, tanks, and breezy dresses, the thought of bulky sweaters, jeans, and heavy boots can feel stifling. In addition, due to all of that extra fabric, fall clothes can be twice as expensive as their summer counterparts! All of these factors combine to make shopping for a fall wardrobe feel like a chore.

Fear not, fashionistas! Just like any other unsavory situation, there are ways to make the most of it. Designers want your money, so it’s in their best interest to help you make that uncomfortable transition from season to season, and they do this by offering you tempting deals on trendy items that just might make you forget about the beach and embrace cable knits and denim.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to save on your new clothes for fall.

Coupons

I know what you’re thinking. You have visions of crazy people running around like madmen, clutching those weird wallets full of snippets of paper that they’ve cut from newspapers. Yes, coupons have evolved to the point that they’re now part of our reality television shows. However, coupons are good for a whole lot more than six hundred rolls of paper towels.

Many clothing retailers offer coupons at various times of the year. These can be good for a free item, free shipping, or a percentage discounted from your total. The best part? Most of these coupons are not really coupons in the traditional sense, meaning there is no clipping involved. For instance, Jimmy Jazz 2014 coupons are a simple code that you enter at checkout. What could be easier?

Scour the Sales

Most of us love shopping, right? It’s fun, you get new stuff, and you can always just refer to it as “retail therapy” if someone questions your actions. Since we’re all well versed at seeking out the sales, we also know that the best time to buy fall clothing on sale is usually in the late winter, as the stores are gearing up to put our their spring and summer displays.

Picture 2

However, one of the best things about fashion retailers is that they can’t always get all of last season’s items out on time. In some cases, if you head to the far back corners of the store, where few fear to tread, you’ll find that lone rack that holds deeply discounted items from one or two seasons ago. The sizes might be funky, and the designs might not be quite up to par, but the prices and a few alterations can make up for that.

In addition, the stores that resell fashion in bulk don’t always get their seasonal shipments on time, so a surprise fall shipment that arrives in spring might just be a win for you, the consumer.

Hit Up Your Friends

We all have that one friend; the one with the fab wardrobe for every season of the year. However, what you might not know is that she’s probably just as bored with her clothes as you are with yours. Yes, while you were coveting her fall coat, she was probably eyeing your new boots.

One way to “shop” for a new fall wardrobe, and to possibly get your hands on one of your friend’s outfits, is to host a clothing swap. Simply gather a bunch of your girlfriends together, ask them to bring any of their unwanted fall clothing that is in good shape, and you can all shop through each other’s castoffs. Add some wine, appetizers, and a great Spotify playlist and you not only get new fall clothes, you get an impromptu party with all of your girlfriends.

So, as summer winds down there’s no need to go through the seven stages of grief like you did last year. Shopping for your fall clothing can now be fun, interesting, and, in many cases, downright cheap once you know the secrets. So put down the swim floaties and Daisy Dukes, pick up your virtual coupons, and go fall shopping like a pro.

July 31, 2014 at 9:02 PM Leave a comment

When You Have No Where Else to Turn?

Do you have an emergency fund large enough to cover an unexpected crisis? If not, where do you turn? Many use credit cards, home equity loans and even help from friends and family, but what if none of these are available when you find yourself in need?

Some turn to personal loans and payday loans provided by companies like Wonga. In my opinion these services should be used as an absolute last resort. The amount of interest accrued will far exceed any of your other options and the cycle of debt and need to continually apply for more loans may continue indefinitely.

It is extremely important to read the fine print before signing up for any of these services, but sometimes life circumstances provide you with little choice. If you didn’t have an emergency fund, credit cards, home equity or family support where would you turn for money?

Luckily I’ve never faced this particular scenario before. I’ve never had to carry a credit card balance. Thanks to amazing health insurance I’ve never been in debt to hospitals and medical providers. At the peak of my health crisis my bills racked up to $60,000, but thankfully insurance covered all but $8,000.

An old neighbor of mine, (who moved across country many years ago), recently found their home entirely underwater. A series of rains and flooding from a nearby river forced them to be rescued from their home by boat. They turned to crowd funding in an effort to repair their house after the water receded. While they hoped to receive over $15,000 in donations they winded up with little over $3,000. I’m not close enough to ask how they will finance repairs, but it’s clear they don’t have an emergency fund to pay off the damage. It’s not difficult to see how a simple act of nature can dramatically alter your financial well being; rising rivers and hurricanes can quickly drain the money you’ve saved.

I believe wholeheartedly in living off of less and saving the excess. I never want to be in a predicament where I cannot pay the bills and I am ever so grateful that so far I have not faced a situation like this one. But what do you do when you don’t have the money to pay your bills? Where do you turn in emergencies?

July 31, 2014 at 5:46 PM Leave a comment

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