Tomorrow is for Thanks. Friday is for Giving. In these commercial times it's hard to mention Thanksgiving without Black Friday. Not sure how I feel about that.
I do want to shamelessly plug, however, a small St. Paul gallery I will be a part of this Holiday season. They have asked me – for the 2nd year – to submit work for their Holiday Gift Show. I couldn't be more honored to be among "real artists" who I'd give up candy for a YEAR to just have a FEW of their great ideas. Seriously folks, last years show was beautiful and I found many handmade gifts there.
Wherever you live, wherever you'll spend your precious dollars this coming weekend, make sure to dedicate a portion to local artists. You and the folks on your list will feel warm and fuzzy about sharing a perfect gift.
Not without mention – whoever you are celebrating with tomorrow, be thankful for the moment. Spread cheer to strangers and family alike and take a few quiet moments to appreciate yourself – I am most certainly thankful for each and every one of you.
Are you a new blogger? Perhaps someone who wants to resurrect your blog or give it a new face? What stopped you from successfully blogging before? Was it fear? Blog envy? "Writers Block?"
Here are 3 things I find helpful to keep in mind while trying to find my happy place online:
1. Nobody STOLE your idea!
2. Make it pretty!
3. OWN your space.
Join me this week as I show you how to make a winter basket in minutes!
Grab your spruce tops and get ready . . .
I've been stewing over this post for days – how to portray the message I want to send about frugality. Throughout the "simmer period" of these words I have been given more fuel from my love-to-hate friend "Twitter."
Tweet: "13 ways to become an extreme couponer."
I read: "13 ways to become an extreme hoarder."
Let this be the blog post that puts to rest all of the ridiculous ways in which Americans "save money" and allow you to free yourself of wasted time and anxiety trying to "find a better deal." I give you permission to go to the store and buy ONLY what you need, pay full price if necessary and MOVE ON!
I have many friends, local and virtual who have somehow become lost on their search to "save money." I see three common mistakes among them and I'm going to tell you how to avoid these lifeblood-sucking errors.
1 - Couponing
How many hours have you spent searching for online coupons? Are you constantly googling "walgreens coupon code?" Are you finding and printable coupons to use in stores (never mind the ink usage...however many are available on smart phone now)? Do you think EVERYTHING YOU PURCHASE could have some sort of discount? Are you buying things that you don't need because you have a coupon for them?
Couponing is one of the most dangerous phenomenons that may ultimately lead to hoarding. Do you honestly think the "stock rooms" they show on "extreme couponing" prime-time shows are normal? Does the phrase, "Waste not, want not" mean anything to you? I'm going to call out all my couponing friends right here and now by saying that if you purchase what your family NEEDS, at the time you NEED it, you will buy a sufficient amount – wasting much less! This applies to food, clothing, etc.
I have a family of 4, 3 boys/men, and I RARELY find the need to shop in bulk. Portions are simply too large and I DO NOT USE it all if I buy a larger-than-normal amount. The sale you are taking advantage of WILL COME AGAIN. There is no such thing as "LIMITED TIME" as retail would have you believe.
Couponing may not only lead you to buy brands/things you wouldn't normally, but can take your PRECIOUS TIME away from you. I used to think that since I'm home all the time anyway I might as well search for codes/search through ads to save 50 cents here and there. YOUR TIME IS NOT WORTH $0!!!
Even if you are home doing NOTHING, consider yourself to make $10 per hour. That's how much you might pay a cleaning lady, that's how much you might pay a babysitter, that's what you would spend eating out for lunch. That's AT LEAST how much you are saving by being yourself...being home. DON'T give an hour of your time for a 50-cent coupon. THATS A BAD TRADE.
If the item you're trying to "coupon" is too much money, find an alternative, skip it all together or cut something else from your budget.
2 - Buying knockoffs.
Having just told you to find an alternative to save yourself time on clipping coupons, I'm now going to tell you that by buying a knockoff you are simply delaying the inevitable – spending money you don't have on the REAL THING.
Do your kids want an iPad this Christmas? Are you hoping to find a PANDORA bracelet under the Christmas tree? Either eliminate if from the list or buy the REAL DEAL. Don't settle for less. You won't be happy.
Why are we so ashamed to tell our kids (or ourselves) that, "We can't afford that gift right now." Why isn't it ok to say, "NO!"
Kids are often too young or inexperienced for the things they are circling in the catalog. They need to be taught realistic expectations from a young age or could mature into adults who cannot set limits on themselves.
Tell your kids the truth.
If the item is something that you agree will be an awesome surprise – something they will find value in long after "the season of giving" is over – BUY the REAL THING!
3 - "Twosies"
Why does retail sell everything "2 for $5"? It's because they WANT YOU TO BUY 2! If you look closely on the tag it will say, "$2.50 each." They CANNOT force you to buy 2. It usually isn't a good deal for you because they know you will use it wastefully or not at all. They are trying to clear their shelves and fill up yours.
Also, watch out for "twosies" that are specific. At Target they often have a "FREE $5 Gift Card – with the purchase of 3." They might have it on several varieties of the same product. Recently I decided to take them up on the offer concerning Tide Detergent. I grabbed three different scents OF THE SAME PRODUCT and when I arrived at the checkout they scanned my items, I paid, and no gift card was issued. THEY TOTALLY WON!
Little did they know that I pay attention to those things and when I asked at customer service why I hadn't received my FREE GIFT CARD, she took 10 more minutes of my time to figure out that you need to buy 3 of THE SAME SCENT to get the gift card.
THATS CRAP. But true. SOOOOO, I hauled my disgruntled kids to the back of the store again, feeling zero guilt about doing so and exchanged my soap to get the $5.
BE CAREFUL with "twosies" and don't be lazy about collecting your discount.
If you are buying online USE CAUTION. For example I noticed on Twitter: "Beautiful Owl Necklace only $5.98 – SHIPPED!" First of all, I will unfollow you if all you post is this kind of crap. You know who you are. I clicked on the ad and what I saw shouldn't be worn around ANYONE'S NECK! It was ugly. However, I know there were people snapping that up by the 2's and 4's! It makes me a little bit crazy. DON'T EVER BUY "TWOSIES" in an instance like this.
NOW. Have I inspired you to ditch your petty frugal ways and just start enjoying your time? Seriously, for the money you'll save after hours of work it will always seem like a disappointment. If you are honest with yourself and your books, you didn't come out much ahead.
Stay tuned for a future post on how you can BE FRUGAL in ways that are quick and effective. STOP reading all the petty advice on saving money. STOP watching the morning show segments on GREAT DEALS. "Waste Not – Want Not."
Need healthy lunch ideas? Want to keep your kids busy for a LONG time (and don't mind juice on your ceiling)? Set them down with a pomegranate and let the treasure hunt begin.
When I made a call to my student loan processor last week – questioning the 100% increase in the amount of my payment – I became increasingly frustrated as the operator on the other end explained to me my options.
Let me give you a little background on my education before I explain what I decided to do:
So I called the loan processor because...well...I'm home all day and getting pissed at a custom service rep sometimes fills a good 30 minutes. While we can certainly afford the monthly minimum we're at a point in our lives where we are ready for more disposable money. We're ready to quit the sacrificing (see my book...coming out in June) and start living. We're ready to pay the 3% interest in trade for more fun!
Also, I believe that I shouldn't have to pay for my schooling (ending nearly a decade ago) while we're paying tuition for our children to get through school (public school at that). My husband has to go to work each and every day (ok, only 3 days/week) to pay for bills that we accrued on a bunk purchase.
The operator let me know that "certainly we can bring your payments back down. It will – however – extend your repayment by 22 years."
TWENTY TWO YEARS!
Why is there not a way for me to "return" my purchase? When we were broke (see book released in June) I would often return everything in my closet that still had a tag to buy groceries. My degree is much the same. It is hanging in my mind, still unused and I'd like a refund for it (at least for everything but what it cost to meet my husband). I think it's fair to assume that we'd pay about $5000 for each other. :)
My thought on the liberal arts education is this: why the HELL are kids still paying for Whole Foods prices when you can buy the same groceries at Target? Why are we continuing to support a "debt society" when financial stress is a leading trigger for psychological disorders, divorce and life-shortening stress?
While I'm certain that I will have my loans paid off long before the 22 years it is projected to take, each month that I submit hard earned dollars for a "name" that has yet to come through for me, I die a little inside. If I do decide to use the low interest money for the duration of the term, my oldest son will be 27 years old. I will be 52.
Just this morning a student from my alma mater called to ask me to donate to the "annual fund." He said he was a sophomore and wanted to tell me about some of the great things happening on campus.
I told him I was uninterested in hearing about it and asked that they do not solicit me anymore. I am still paying my dues.
What I refrained from advising him is this, "GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN! IT IS NOT TOO LATE FOR YOU. Drive 10 miles down the road to a State University – save yourself 22 years of 'ball and chain'. It is NOT worth it. Some day you will want a vacation. Some day you won't feel like writing out a 'house payment' to a student loan processor. At some point you may think of a better way to spend your hard earned dollars (like maybe an ice cream cone or even shampoo...anything is better)."
Are you still paying for something you wish you could return? Or wish you could exchange for a cheaper model? Do the research. Advise your kids.
I know it's Thirty Thursday...it's a busy one at that!
I don't have time (or material) for this weeks broadcast so I'm taking a week off. Miss my smiling face? Come and see me HERE (see below) on Saturday.
That's the day after tomorrow. 2 sleeps. 48 hours from now. Seriously. COME SEE ME!
My alarm has been going off at 4:30am lately. It's a little louder than the alarm that once woke me up for an 8am class. There is no snooze button, it's wet and smelly and requires more attention than the flipping of a switch. While daylight savings time used to only require a slight adjustment, my current alarm clock doesn't seem to understand the update and continues to operate on it's own schedule.
When I was 24 and had my first child I used be tell people, "He sleeps through the night. Entirely. Always has." Lately I've been putting it all together and while my Axel eventually did "sleep through the night" – at first the only reason he appeared to was because I "slept through the night." I'm starting to think that having children in your early 20's is preferable because when you sleep like a log, so do they...at least that's what you can assume.
When you have a baby at 30 and beyond it seems that they don't sleep through the night as readily because quite frankly you have one eye open and notice the nuances of their sleep – their weak cries seem much more serious in the dark, in the silence. You are quicker to jump up and silence that alarm because – to be honest – you were just about to get up to go to the bathroom anyway.
I used to be able to crawl back in for a couple hours after dealing with my initial wake up call, but with a book on the horizon I have to say I've been thankful to be woken during the silence, when my morning brain is fresh and I can get a couple of hours in before the herd is on the move.
I'm having difficulty with this final edit. Anyone having the same issue? The publisher has asked that I submit my "final edit" by January 1 – something I wasn't prepared for (I assumed my final edit was when I submitted it to them for consideration).
With this added chance to look things over I'm feeling like there's so much I would change, so much I would re-write. My book being a memoir it would be like re-writing history. It can still be true but perhaps a bit prettier, maybe with a pinch of grandeur. This is tough!
As I read over my manuscript for probably the 25th time I feel lost in the words I wrote 5 years ago. I feel they are insufficient in telling my story. I feel that they aren't "good enough." I feel like they are juvenile. (What a way to sell books, huh?)
I try to remind myself this morning, like many a 4:30 morning before this one that people will be reading my story for the first time and they just might think it's spectacular. It might be thought provoking for them, it might bring back a few memories of their own. It might just be good enough to read a 2nd time (and probably not 25 times).
I can't help but think of the zillions of books on the billions of bookshelves around the world and how each one was written by one person – a person like me. That person had to call it quits at some time – call it "good enough." Each of those authors then had to chew on those words and read them in public for years to come and if they were lucky got to answer questions from an adoring audience. Each author has had their final edit and moves on.
While I've accomplished many things in my life it seems that each "first" is just as difficult as the "first." Perhaps each manuscript I publish over – what I pray – to be a LONG career at this will get easier and easier. Some day I will know when to let it go, let my publisher take the reigns, and accept that just by getting this far I'm just just good enough but great.
We are coming into the equivalent of monsoon season for stay-at-home parents. The snot-freezing cold, the endless darkness, the stir crazy children? Remember last year how just one more play session at the "mall play area" would have sent you directly to the nut house?
Are you sitting under a "happy light" already and dreading the days when you have to put so much outdoor gear on your kids – three times a day – just to run back and forth to school?
Well my friends, the time is now to build your arsenal of entertainment. By serious effort and preparation alone will you survive to greet March...and 40 degree weather.
This last weekend we had an awesome visit with Axel's "old buddy" from St. Cloud and we were clued in on the popular "Rainbow Loom" craze sweeping through a primary school near you.
I have to admit that these bracelets were on my radar, but the prospect of shelling out $30 or more for rubber bands and a piece of plastic didn't have me running to Michaels.
Axel's old buddy had a super neat-o loom, from Crafts Direct (St. Cloud, MN) that was much simpler and cheaper than it's viral counterpart. With a few materials from Grandpa Moustache I managed to recreate a similar concept.
Watch as Axel demonstrates his loom and how your kids can fill a few hours without your guilt over "screen time."
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