Archive for February, 2012

What Do Your Possessions Say About You?

My husband and are in the process of attaining a chair and ottoman for our living room. Our possession of these objects came about rather strangely. We were sitting in the living room of our friend’s home when they mentioned their desire to replace it. Without hesitating for a moment my husband asked if we could have it. They agreed, (as they planned to donate it anyway), and with that their furniture found a new home.

When I told my mom we were getting a new chair she immediately asked about the color. When I told her it was purple, she said, “purple, that won’t match anything in your living room.” The funny thing about that comment is that none of our furniture matches. We have two yellow chairs and a green and red plaid couch so adding a purple chair and ottoman to the mix won’t much matter. All of them are covered in cat hair and most are ripped and torn from our 12 year old cat’s claws.

While this isn’t the ideal setup, it certainly suits my family for now. There is no point in replacing the furniture with anything nice while our cat’s alive and still has claws. We’ll gladly accept hand-me-downs that can handle the wear and tear of our animal and our new baby who will be crawling around on it in no time.

So what would a stranger think if he walked into my home and saw our mismatched decor? Well he might think we’re cheap, have horrible taste and are terrible pet owners. After all, we clearly should have trained the cat by now.

But the truth is in the broader context of my life the furniture is simply not important to me. The furniture is a place to sit, to rest, to relax or to read. It’s a place to hold the baby and a place where he can sit up and look out at the world.

These days I’m not focused on our matching decor. I’m focused on saving our money and finding a way to stay at home with my son. It doesn’t matter if the couch and chair clash or the sides of our furniture have all been ripped to shreds.

While my possessions may look tired and tattered I don’t much mind. My goal is to spend money on the things that really matter. On raising my son, retiring early and pursuing my passions. For now the furniture is functional enough to provide exactly what we need: a place to sit down.

For those of you who read this blog on a daily basis I am applying this same logic to the pink car seat. Who cares what people think about it. A perfectly safe, but less expensive car seat will leave more money for the things that matter.

February 29, 2012 at 8:55 AM 5 comments

Do You Have Rules for Purging Clothing?

I have those clothes. You know the ones. They sit in the back of the closet and never get worn. I consider tossing them every so often, but I really don’t have a reason for getting rid of them. They aren’t worn out, they still fit and the color looks good on me, but for some reason or another I simply never wear them. Every so often I move them to the front of my closet only to find them hanging in the far most corner by the time the season ends.

Well this year I said, “enough’s enough.” I boxed them up and prepared them for donation. Only for some strange reason I couldn’t actually give them away. Just before the truck was scheduled to arrive I convinced myself I might actually wear them again.

So out came the Adidas workout pants that I’ve owned since college but have never actually worked out in. They are the kind of material you want to wear on a rainy day, but I never seem to workout when it’s raining. There’s the black turtleneck, which would be perfect for wearing out on the slopes, but I rarely go out west anymore. Or how about the giant cotton sweater that is just perfect for cold weather. The trouble is it’s so large and warm that I’ll sweat to death if I attempt to wear it inside.

I cannot believe that I’m finding it difficult to donate these things. I know my odds of wearing them again are slim to none, but I hate the idea of having to buy replacements if I do end up needing them.

I’m sure I’m not the only person out there with a hodgepodge of clothing that I never seem to wear yet can’t seem to get rid of. Do you have such items hanging in your closet? Do you find it difficult to get rid of clothes you rarely wear? Do you have rules for when to purge them?

February 28, 2012 at 8:05 AM 43 comments

Crazy Sh*t! I Sure Hope You Need It.

We have a small space between the front and screen door at the front of our home. Whenever charities call and ask for donations I pile up all of the items in this tiny little space, sometimes three or four boxes tall so they’ll be kept out of the elements and no one will take them in the night. Sure someone could open my screen door and take them, but we’d hear the door open and I figured most people wouldn’t do that.

Well today I’m donating a coffee table in addition to lots of books, housewares and clothes, so I piled up the items and placed them on the table just below the front steps of our house.

I took six boxes and bags of items outside and then went into the house to get my son ready for the day. When I came back downstairs I saw a car out in the street in front of our house and a woman walking to her car with two of the bags.

Now she was not a walking to a broken-down, dilapidated car. This was a large silver SUV that looked relatively new and in good condition. The woman didn’t knock and she didn’t ask if the items were for donation or sale, she just took them and ran off. In fact, she took all four boxes and bags of clothing, which means she made at least three trips up to my door to retrieve them.

The way the items were placed on the table, they actually looked more like we were moving or planning a yard sale. They certainly didn’t look like they were piled up for donation.

The craziest thing to me is that they were placed just at the bottom of our front steps which is at least twenty five steps from the street. We live in a single, detached home, so there are no other houses near us and you would have to go out of your way to walk up to our door. Also, nothing about this pile looked like I intended to give it away. It was neatly piled and organized, so it was clear this wasn’t an eviction of any type and there was no sign saying ‘free for the taking.’

Given the fact that this woman had the nerve to walk all the way up to my house to take these items I can only assume she needs them. At least I hope she does.

Luckily I intended to give them to charity anyway, so I suppose they have just found a home sooner than later. I say “luckily”, because if we were planning a yard sale we’d now have nothing but the table and a box of books and hangers left to sell.

February 27, 2012 at 8:55 AM 8 comments

Who Knew? A Clarification.

Who knew yesterday’s blog post would get people so up in arms. I received two emails from readers who seemed utterly disgusted by what I wrote, so I added a clarification to clear up any misunderstandings.

February 26, 2012 at 10:22 PM 6 comments

A Pink Car Seat for My Son?

Baby A’s car seat will support him until he reaches 22 pounds, but he’s growing like a weed and is currently in the 90th percentile for height and the 85 percentile for weight. Needless to say he’ll outgrow his original car seat much faster than your average baby.

Rather than waiting for him to outgrow his current seat I decided to begin searching for a new one now. I figured I’d have a head start that would help me find a really good bargain. According to the experts car seats are one item you should never buy used. The reason being that you can’t guarantee a used car seat has never been in a car accident before.

So I scoured the Internet for new ones and found a few good deals on Britax models. Late one night, long after I should have been asleep, I found a really great sale at Target.

I was clicking around on all sorts of things. Adding them to my cart and then removing them after further review. Well as some point in the night I found a much less inexpensive Britax model that had outstanding ratings, so I did what any sleep deprived mother would do I pulled out my credit card and purchased it.

A few days later a large package arrived outside my door and sure enough when I opened the box I found my car seat had arrived. There was just one problem. Inside the box I found a bright pink, flowered seat in a place of the black and gray one I expected to find.

I thought for sure the store made a mistake but when I went back and looked at my order I realized I’d accidentally ordered the wrong car seat for my son. While I did pay just over $100 for this seat, which is a really good bargain, it is undoubtedly pink! Similar seats for boys are at least $60 more.

So here’s the question. Do I stick with the bargain and keep the car seat at this unbelievable price or do I return it simply because it’s pink? I must admit it seems rather crazy to pay more just to get it in a different color. On the other hand it seems a little crazy to buy a pink car seat for my infant son just because it’s cheap!

*Note – I am not concerned about my son’s reaction to the pink car seat. He sleeps in a pink blanket every night. See picture above. I was more frustrated by my own mistake and I think slightly concerned that other people would recognize my cheapness, but in saying that out loud I realize that I really shouldn’t care what people think.

February 24, 2012 at 8:36 PM 15 comments

Best iPhone, iPad and Android Apps Selected for You

I am amazed by just how much the iPhone has revolutionized my life. I use it to read my email, follow directions, find the highest rated restaurants, keep up with my favorite blogs and play games while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office.

I’ve become hooked on iPhone apps the minute I found out that I was pregnant with Baby A. I installed the What to Expect app, which told me how the typical baby grows from week to week and what size it is along the way. I’d wake up every Friday to tell my husband, he’s the size of a blueberry, a raspberry, a pineapple or a melon.

The day Baby A made his way into this world I started using apps that helped me track his feeding and sleeping trends. To this day I still use the Total Baby app on a daily basis. It helps me see that he is sleeping for longer periods of time each night. It may only increase by ten or fifteen minutes a week, but it’s unbelievably important to feel reassured when you are in the midst of sleeplessness night after night.

I love my iPhone apps. In fact, I love them so much that I drafted a blog post a long time ago, (that is yet to be finished), listing all of the apps I use on a daily basis.

Friends are constantly telling me to download this app or that app, but I often forget or find that the apps they’ve selected aren’t quite right for me. Well today I came across the perfect solution for finding apps that will help organize and add value to my life. I found appSmitten.

According to the founders of appSmitten:

There are hundreds of apps released each day. Most of them aren’t worth your time. We sort through all of the clutter to find the iPhone, Android and iPad apps that add the most value to your life.

Editorially independent, we choose which apps to recommend because we like them — not because we are being paid to promote them. We keep you updated through our newsletter, which is delivered to your inbox daily…or weekly. If you’re not a subscriber already, you’ll want to sign up here.

I haven’t received any newsletters yet, but I did sign up today. If you own an iPhone, iPad or Android I highly suggest checking out the appSmitten website. The good news is that you can request weekly emails, which means you won’t be inundated with emails every day if you don’t want to be.

In full disclosure I will let you know that I receive compensation for each person that signs up through my affiliate link. (So please, please, please sign up :-)) If you’re even the slightest bit interested in this I encourage you to check it out. Sign ups are free!

February 23, 2012 at 5:49 PM 2 comments

Is Travel Insurance Needed?

My parents plan on taking my 89 year old grandmother on a 5500 mile trip this spring. She wants to make one last trip to visit my uncle who moved far away shortly after graduating from college. For her age I think my grandmother is in great health. She still lives at home alone and is able to walk unassisted.

The biggest problem is that she often doesn’t feel well. She doesn’t necessarily have a cold or anything, she just feels tired and run down. In essence, she doesn’t feel like she can leave the house.

Of course, from day to day she never knows whether or not she’ll feel well. Some days she wakes up feeling great and happy. Other days she simply doesn’t want to leave home. So how can my parents plan a cross country trip when they don’t know how she will feel on the day they leave for Hawaii?

I told my dad I would look into travel insurance, but after reviewing the details online I can’t quite make heads or tails of it. It seems like all three of them need to be insured so that if my grandmother is ill they will receive money back for all of their tickets, but I’m not exactly sure how that works.

I’m also not certain how insurers define ‘ill.’ I doubt the policy will pay out just because my grandmother says she doesn’t feel well. I would assume she needs some type of medical proof of her illness. Given that she isn’t necessarily ‘ill’ by medical definition, but rather just exhausted and tired I’m pretty sure that she would not be covered.

After talking it over with my dad I wonder if she really needs travel insurance at all. Perhaps she just needs to purchase more expensive, refundable tickets that would allow her to change or cancel her flight all together.

I need to gain a better understanding of the role and rules of travel insurance, but at first glance it does not appear to be particularly straight forward. I would hate for my family to purchase something they don’t need, but given my grandmother’s age and frailty I would also hate for them to lose money if she wakes up on the day of their trip and doesn’t feel well enough to fly.
Is anyone familiar with the rules of travel insurance? Do you think that travel insurance is necessary for my grandmother’s trip or are refundable airfare tickets all that she needs?

February 22, 2012 at 10:32 PM 17 comments

Minimalist Makeup

I’m a minimalist when it comes to a lot of things including makeup. I’ve never been one of those girls who carries around a big bag full of products. Give me a bottle of non-gloppy mascara and a colorful eyeliner and I’m good to go for the day. Every once in awhile I’ll throw in eyeshadow and blush or bronzer for extra effect, but I can probably count the number of times I’ve used those products in a year on one hand.

I’m sure I save a lot of money this way. I have friends who buy their makeup from the counters of department stores. Not me. You’ll find me buying most products at the drugstore. Lately, I’ve been splurging on eyeliner at Sephora, but only because I’m in love with a particular color and have a gift card to help cover the cost of it.

To be honest I’m not sure where I came from. My grandmother and mother both love their makeup. At nearly 90 years old my grandmother still puts on a coat of lipstick every morning. She says she’s just not herself without a coat of paint and a pair of earrings. By the way she’s always telling me how beautiful I’d look with a touch of rouge and a drop of lipstick.

For the better part of my life I never wore makeup at all, but when I first found out that I was pregnant I started wearing eyeliner and mascara almost every day. In the beginning I was convinced I was carrying a girl. During the early months I started shopping for pretty dresses and wearing makeup. Two girlie things I’d rarely done before.

I felt more radiant during my pregnancy then I have at any other time in my life and I wanted to enhance that feeling. After reading an old wive’s tale that says women are most beautiful when they carry boys I became convinced a baby boy was inside of me. As my pregnancy wore on I was sure of it.

Needless to say I was right. My son is now four months old. These days I wear eyeliner and mascara to help disguise my tired eyes. In fact, I put on makeup even if I don’t intend to leave the house for the day. After a long night of waking every few hours I can’t stand to look at my tired self in the mirror and I’m amazed at how my day brightens by simply dolling up my eyes.

What are your best beauty tools? Join the discussion at BlogHer.com and then enter to win a Kindle Fire and Amazon Gift Card.

February 21, 2012 at 10:14 PM 2 comments

How Do You Save Money on Baby and Wedding Showers?

I’m happy to say that my friends and I no longer buy each other gifts for holidays or birthdays. That may sound a bit scrouge-like on my part, but I’m unbelievably relieved by this fact. It means I no longer need to spend time and energy searching for the perfect gift only to find out that my friend really doesn’t love it as much as I thought she would.

Instead most of my friends and I simply meet up for lunch or dinner and I pay for their meal. Depending on where we eat a meal can be the same price or even more expensive then a gift I might have purchased, so in the end no one gets jipped and we get to spend quality time together.

Don’t get me wrong, I still buy my friends presents, but I don’t buy them for any particular occasion. I only buy them if I happen to be somewhere and find something I know they will love. I’m not sure why, but it seems much easier to buy gifts for people when there isn’t a deadline looming ahead.

With holiday and birthday gift giving out of the way I find that most of my gifts are now targeted towards special occasions like baby showers, bridal showers and weddings. My friends and family threw me an amazing baby shower last summer and I was blessed with a room full of gifts for my little boy.

Since that time I’ve gone to a couple of different baby showers and I noticed my gift giving varies quite widely. I typically spend at least $100 on really close friends and family members, $50 to $75 on close friends and $35 to $50 on just about everyone else.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve for saving on baby showers. First, I buy a lot of baby items on sale. If a friend registers at Babies-R-Us or another big box store I’ll search for 20% off coupons and keep an eye out of online sales. If I can’t find a coupon I’ve been known to buy one for 99 cents from eBay. I also find it helpful to search for good deals on discounted gift cards from places like eBay or Plastic Jungle. This helps me buy a more expensive gift off the registry without spending the full retail price for it. I follow the same procedure when purchasing wedding gifts. If a friend registers at Macy’s I’ll wait for special sale days or search for coupons in the newspaper.

Because I have so many friends expecting these days I’ve also started to buy inexpensive baby toys, clothes and gear that I find along the way. These are often presented in addition to the item I picked off the registry. Now that I have a child of my own I often find myself in the children’s department and almost always check out the clearance aisles. I find all sorts of adorable little toys and onesies at unbelievable markdowns.

Of course, I won’t buy an item just because it’s on sale. It has to be really cute and I have to have a general idea of who the item will be given to. Oh, I also try to purchase items that can be worn anytime of year. For example cotton sleepers with feet and onesies can be worn year round. I avoid items that are worn only for a specific season. For example, a 3 month old swimsuit won’t do much good for a baby born in the winter and sweaters aren’t a good gift for a baby born in July.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I also like to create diaper cakes. They are inexpensive to make but they have huge crowd appeal. In fact, every time I bring one to a shower people ask me how it’s made. You can stuff the cake with all sorts of inexpensive, but high quality items like bibs, burp cloths and toys that you find on sale.

Do you have tricks that help stretch the amount of money you spend on weddings or baby showers? If so, please leave a comment below.

 

February 20, 2012 at 6:30 PM 10 comments

That’s One Way to Save Money on Groceries

At one point in time I decided to use baskets at the grocery store rather than carts. Hand baskets forced me to think through each and every product. After all, if an item wasn’t on my list or on sale, I certainly didn’t want to lug it all the way around the store.

Of course, this worked much easier for some products then others. I could avoid a heavy twelve pack of soda a little more easily then a lightweight candy bar. But overall this trick worked for me for years. Inevitably I found that I purchased a lot less impulsively when I was forced to carry the weight of those products around in my arms. More often than not I found that I simply didn’t have the room or the strength to lug things around.

Well today I found a new trick. For the first time in four months I took my son grocery shopping with me. By the time I fit his car seat into the back of the cart there was little to no room for food. I carried my coupon binder in the front of the cart so I primarily used half of the front portion, plus the space just above the wheels.

As I walked through the aisles I considered picking up one thing or another, but I had absolutely no room in the for them. I was forced to stick to the list of items that were on sale. It not only cost us less to shop today, but actually took less time as I knew there was no point in wandering the aisles. Plus I had the added benefit of looking down to see my little angel looking back at me.

Soon enough my son will be big enough to ride in the front of the cart, but for now this little trick will definitely help us cut back on impulsively buying groceries.

February 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM 5 comments

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