Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Free for All - 09/18

Hope you're having a great week!

Stop in and enter my giveaway for Noxicare natural pain relief cream!  Two winners will be chosen and it ends tomorrow night!

Please scroll down to find some other great giveaways to enter and/or to list your own!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 Years Ago Today - What'sYour Story?

Today is the anniversary of one of those days that everyone remembers where they were when the news reached their ears.



For me, I was at work.  Due to a cell phone restriction in the facility where I worked, none of the regular employees got a call from home informing us of the tragedy and ongoing drama unfolding on the televisions at home.

However, we had a technician in our building who was there to work on a piece of equipment we were having problems with.  He received the call.  He was standing next to me when the call came through.  We immediately tried to log onto a news website, but they were all jammed up with traffic and minute-by-minute breaking news updates.

I called the guy in charge of our entire facility, and he was able to get in touch with his wife.  I called Chip, who I was engage to at the time - just a month away from marrying - and we talked through his tears as he described what he was seeing live on TV.

We spoke with our company's home office, just one hour's drive from NYC, to see if we could glean any additional news, but they didn't seem to know any more than we did. 

We stopped work and had a meeting with all of the employees to tell them everything we knew - everything that the news was reporting at that time.  It was a day that work continued, but not like any other day.  We were all walking around in a fog trying to wrap our minds around the horrific events that had been described to us.

We were unaware just how much life had changed. We knew our sense of what was right and what we had assumed to be true was rocked, but it would take a few days - even weeks - for us to really realize the horrors of the world we live in.  We would, however, also get to see the beauty of humanity as people opened their arms and hearts to complete strangers both next door and on the opposite side of the world.

This morning as I described the events of this day 11 years ago to our 6 year old (in terms that I hoped he could understand), I was reminded not only of the fear that gripped me that day, but in the faith in humanity reaching out to one another in the face of a travesty.  I was reminded not only of the evil that exists, but also of the good.

For the sake of those lost on this day in 2001 and in the days to follow, I hope that the goodness it was endures.

Where were you on that fateful day?  What is your story?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pants Without Pockets - WHY?!

This will be a short rant.

I have been frustrated by this situation for a while now, but I am not feeling well today, so darn it - I'm going to complain about something.

Why, oh why, do they make pants without pockets? 

I have several pairs of work pants that have no pocket area (front or back) whatsoever and it drives me up the wall!

I know - some ladies carry purses to work, and frankly I do also carry one - TO work, but not around work.  I work in a manufacturing and warehouse environment and it's just not practical to carry my purse around with me all day.  What I do need though, is somewhere to stick my keys to the facility, a place to clip the radio that I have to wear, and somewhere to stick a dollar bill for when I need some caffeine in my life. 

On those days that I happen to choose pants without pockets are obviously the ones when I usually end up needing them the most.

GRRRRRRR.

Yeah - don't remind me to look for these things while I'm shopping because I never realize I don't have pockets until I need them.

Tell me something that frustrates you today. Let's all gripe together.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ideas for College Student Care Packages

Photo credit
My oldest niece is starting her first year of college this fall (boy, does that make me feel old!), and she's going to be moving away from home - pretty far away - for the first time. Although I was only 100  miles from home when I attended college, I remember getting a care package a time or two after I moved.  It was the most amazing thing to see that little slip of paper indicating I had something that was too big to fit in my tiny dorm mailbox.  Opening it was like Christmas morning each and every time - even when the things included were not big and luxurious.  It was amazing to know that someone was thinking of me and helped bring a little bit of home to my dorm room in those first uncertain, exciting months away from home.

So I have vowed to myself that at least once a month, I will be sending our niece something just to lift her spirits and (hopefully) make her smile.

Of course you can always do a themed gift box that includes toiletries, first aid stuff, candy, foodstuff, holiday items, or any other "theme" you can think of.  But you can also just throw in a number of things that are in no way related one another, but you just wanted to send.

And being on this website, I cannot go without saying that some of these things you can get for cheap or free because of seasonal purchases, sales, and playing drugstore shopping games. =)  Go with what you can find.  But if you are looking for some ideas, these are perfect.







Any other good ideas to add to this list? I'll add them to the list! What did you receive at college that was a must have?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Store Brand vs Name Brand

Source: Paul Jerry
As I was walking out of the door for work this past Tuesday, I reached into the pantry and grabbed the breakfast of champions.  No...not that cereal.  Pop Tarts.  I opened them up and took a big bite of my frosted strawberry name brand breakfast treat and realized that I had been eating store brand toaster treats for long enough that I no longer have a taste for the name-brand product from Kellogg's.  I actually prefer the store brand. 

There are some products that I cannot differentiate between store brand and name brand.  I taste little difference in pasta, milk, breads, canned fruits or vegetables, ethnic food products, and the like. I could not tell you in a blind taste test whose soup, sour cream, or hot dog buns I was eating. No idea whose box that jello was in or what the package of those frozen veggies looked like. Salad dressings?  Except for ranch, I have no preferences.


There are other products that I can tell a difference, but don't mind the store brand. Typically fruit juices, sodas, bottled water, potato chips, sliced bread, frozen pizza, frozen french fries.

There are products that I actually prefer the store brand - Publix ice cream, Walmart sandwich cookies, store brand cereal bars, Publix brand yogurt, and others. 

But there are a few products that I cannot handle a store brand.  Peanut butter, saltine crackers, cheese,  ketchup (although strangely, mustard is all the same to me), ranch dressing, buttery crackers, and Oreos.

So that made me want to ask, what about you?  Are there some products that you MUST have your preferred name brand?  Are there others that you cannot tell a difference?  Are there some that you prefer the store brand?  Let us all know!  You might let us in on some delicious treats for less money!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Great Price on School Uniforms If You're Looking

I am coming out of my self-imposed blogging sabbatical because I had to share this one with you:

I just did a little unplanned internet shopping, but totally for a good reason:

I have been searching and searching and searching for a local business that sells school uniforms in toddler sizes. Our Abigail, who barely fills up a 3T, will be starting preschool at Patrick's Montessori school this fall and she is required to wear the same uniforms the big kids do.  Problem? Most schools here don't have a preschool program, so most consignment shops (where I do most of my school uniform shopping) don't have any 3T clothes on their racks. I've looked.  At 5 consignment stores.  Came up with one skort that was on the regular rack of clothes, but it is navy without any logos, so it will work.

I asked on our school Facebook group page if anyone had any girl 3T uniforms they wanted to part with, as I would be interested in buying. No bites.

So I prepared myself to buy new clothes for this child...this child who only wears new clothes if her Nana (or someone other than me) buys them.

This morning I got one of my usual sale emails from Children's Place. I like their clothes so I receive the emails. I usually just delete them though because I usually don't have the need to buy any clothes. But this was bragging on an "additional" 30% off.  So I clicked.

Seems that there is a coupon code (P7H2012) that saves you 30% off your order if you spend $60 or more (you can also use Q7H2012 for 20% if you order $50+ or R7H2012 for 15% all other orders).

So I clicked over. They had uniforms (slightly) marked down anyway, making them lower than usual, but not lower than I could find them elsewhere. But then...that extra 30% off?  That's big.

So I loaded up my "cart" online with long and short length items for Abigail and two long-sleeve gray polos for Patrick (gray and long sleeve are both hard to find, so this is good) and added the coupon code. Then I took into account that shipping for orders over $75 is free (all others is $5).

After I saw my total, I compared it with two other online retailers, just to make sure I was really getting a good deal, and BANG - super good deal compared with other sites.

For $108.54 (shipped and with taxes), I got 15 items and I think save a couple more shirts for her for winter - we might just have her entire school wardrobe taken care of (plus two more shirts for Patrick, which he actually needed).

As a bonus, I went through ShopAtHome and was pleasantly surprised to see that they are giving 9% cash back for Children's Place right now.  So really I paid less than $100.

YIPPEE!

Those coupon codes are good only through 7/29 so use them if you need them while they are available!

By the way...I don't get any type of commission or benefit from telling you about the sale or coupon. Although you and I will both get $5 if you click my ShopAtHome link. I just saved a lot of money on something we actually needed and hoped you could do the same. =)

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Best of 13 Best

In January and April I posted links to 13 articles featuring 13 ways to do things and 13 uses for ordinary items.  All in "honor" of Friday the 13th. 

Today, the last Friday the 13th of the year (yep...really), we will look at 13 posts that feature the 13 Best of their kind.  There were a lot of these to choose from, but the 13 I selected entertained and/or educated me the most. Hope you enjoy!

HEALTH:
The 13 Best Abs Exercises
13 Best Quit-Smoking Tips Ever
The 13 Most Powerful Superfoods
13 Best Outdoor Workouts

BEAUTY:
13 Best Drugstore Hairstyling Products

LIFE:
The 13 Best U.S. Cities for Public Transit 

CAREER:
The 13 Best-Paying College Majors
13 Jobs in Hard Times

FUN:
13 Best Grilling Tips
The 13 Best Global Google Doodles
13 Best Places in the U.S. for Wildlife Viewing
Top 13 Best Castles in Wales With Beautiful Pictures
The 13 Best Protest Signs Seen at Occupy Wall Street - this whole movement irritates me, but I can appreciate a good protest sign (even if I don't agree with all of them).

Monday, July 9, 2012

This is Why We Tithe

Photo source: ColinBroug
I have never hidden the fact that we are Bible-reading, devoted Christ followers in our home. We tithe.  What is tithing?  We give 10% of our (gross) income to our church.

There are many places where you can argue about how much to tithe, whether to tithe, or when to tithe. I'm not here to have that discussion. I'm here to tell you why WE give and how faithful our Father is when we are obedient.

We give
  • out of obedience (Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce  Prov 3:9)
  • out of worship (Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. Lev 27:30)
  • from our gross income (The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. Deut 18:4)
  • a 10% tithe (And this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you. Gen 28:22)
  • out of trust (And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:19) 
  • because God not only promised us, He challenged us (Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  Mal 3:10)  
And there are may other verses (let me know if you want more and I'll hook you up!).

Anyway...not telling you this to brag that we give. God supplied it to us in the first place, we have nothing to brag about.

I'm telling you that we tithe because I want to show you a beautiful example of God's promise in those last two verses up there fulfilled. Here is the story I've been getting at:

This past month was horrible for our spending.  We were truly irresponsible with our money and spent it on a lot of stupid things. It's been a long time since we've been as spendthrift as we were this past month, and it doesn't need to happen again.

But we did tithe this month.

And God (despite our poor stewardship of His blessings) still provided for our needs.

My car has been needing an oil change frequently. Too frequently. We knew there was a small oil leak because of this frequency and because there would be trace amounts of oil in my parking spot in the garage. But it didn't look too big.

A week and a half ago, Chip took it in to the shop to see what was going on. It was a much bigger leak than we knew. A leak to the tune of $500. Yikes!  And I knew that we hadn't been as careful with our money as we should have been, but was determined not to put it on our credit cards but to pay for it in cash. Just less money to send to the creditors, I thought.

Last Monday we were on our way to pick up the car and pay the $500 invoice when Chip happened to mention, "Oh...we got a check for $950 from our insurance company today for overpayment of home owner's insurance." What?!  That's almost an entire year's bill of insurance and we're getting it back? We are getting back enough to cover our bill AND cover the childcare costs that we will pay while Chip is on orders?!

Man oh man...God is so good!

Do you have an interesting story of God's provision that showed up just when you needed it?  I'd love to hear it, so either link to it or leave it in the comments and let's celebrate how good God is!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Our Financial Update #29 - June 2012

So as I start typing this, I'm ashamed to say that I have no idea what this update will look like, but based on memory alone, I think it will be ugly. Actually based on the fact that I don't know indicates that this will be ugly.

Boo for accountability.  But here it goes anyway.

INCOME:
Nailed it. A whopping $21 over my rough estimate of our monthly income.  Looks like my estimate isn't quite so "rough." 

UNDER BUDGET:
Gasoline: $17 under I'm not really sure how, but it seems that we were under this month.  I guess because we filled up on the 31st of May? 
Electricity/Water: $6 under budget.  Does this even count as "under budget"?  Yes...yes it does.  =)  Don't worry...next month's power bill is higher than my monthly budget for the two items, so it won't last. That's summer around here for you.
Doctor: $25 under budget. No spending this month.  Which is odd because Abigail had a checkup on the 29th.  It must have just not cleared that month. But that makes it come out as "on budget" because that would use up the $25 with a copay.
Home Supplies: No spending.
Hair: No spending. I really need a trim and my color touched up, but in a month with such horrible spending, I knew I couldn't afford to spend it on that.
Toiletries: No spending.


ON BUDGET:
Tithe: There is no question here. Any offerings above our tithe will not be noted because I'm not about bragging. But I do want you to know that we are giving 10% of our net income to our local church, as I feel it is important that you know that this is top priority to us.
Auto Insurance: No surprise here.
Television: As usual.
Term Life Insurance: Done
Mobile Phone: Nothing new here.
Alarm Monitoring: Usual deal.
Pest Control: Regular charges here. 


OVER BUDGET:
Auto Parts/Service: $30 over budget thanks to a not-at-home oil change. Now we remember why Chip does them at home. 
Eating Out: $450 over budget. Yeah...that makes me want to throw up. Seriously...that would have been another nice chunk of change off of a credit card balance and we spent it on food. I hate that. I plan on making a big change in that direction starting this month.
Groceries: $121 over budget even after all of the eating out. Gross and stupid.
Mortgage/HOA/Timeshare: $15 over budget for the first time ever. And I'm mad because it's because of my stupidity. I was late paying the HOA bill, so we had to pay a late charge of $15. GRRRRRR.
Clothing: $120 over budget. Actually this is because I desperately needed some...um...unmentionables.  And let me tell you...those things are EXPENSIVE.  I remember now why I wear them until they fall apart now!

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: 
  • Spent $550 on start up costs for Chip's genealogy business, which I will discuss more later. 
  • Spent $116 on Kids "free" bowling.  Don't ask. We've had discussions about it. 
  • Cancelled my weight watchers account because I'm not using it, so it is just proving to be a money suck.
  • Spent $87 on Abigail's birthday presents
  • Spent $44 on her birthday party (above what I'd already spent in May). Not too bad. 
  • Spent $69 on Army supplies before Chip leaves for his orders.
  • Didn't send nearly enough to our credit cards. Just the minimum this month because I already saw the above travesty happening.


Debt Paid off Since May 2012: $70.39 (pathetic)
Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $21,074.58
Change in Networth from May 2012: $532.89 (at least it's in the positive direction)
Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: $44,270.07

Did you do any better than I did this month?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Allow Your Daughter to Be a Super Hero - Review

Super heroes are a big deal these days. About 10 years ago Hollywood started bringing every comic book character of any major (or minor) importance to life on the big screen again, and they haven't ceased pounding us with image after image of super heroes.

I grew up with those same heroes and love them.

But you know as I do that most of them are all male.

There are a handful of strong super hero females, but none as powerful and iconic as Wonder Woman!


Our little firecracker princess is a strong personality, and I want her to revel in that and know that being strong (physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically) are traits that we hope she thrives for. Allowing her to "hero worship" a cartoon character at age 3 is one way to allow strong women into her life, even if they are fictional ones.

You can choose this same costume or any other from the girls' superhero costumes options at Costume Super Center or check out this Superhero article to read more about Superheroes' influence in our current entertainment options.

We were provided this adorable costume for review from Costume Super Center. The cutie inside the costume is our own, as are my opinions.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Eco-Friendly Ways to Beat the Summer Heat

Photo source: runrunrun
It was 102 degrees on Saturday here, people.  And the heat index?  109!  What makes it more absurd?  It was still JUNE!  Yuck!

As the temperature readings skyrocket across the nation, there are some great eco-friendly ways to beat the summer heat that you can employ:

  • Switch to CFL bulbs throughout your home. They emit less heat than incadescent bulbs and consume between 70% - 75% less energy.
  • Connect all of your small appliances to one power strip that can be easily switched on and off when not in use.Kill the vampire power!
  • Try not to use your oven. Summer is a great time to use your grill, microwave, or slow cooker to prevent heating your entire home. If you do cook, do it in bulk, only heating the oven once a week.  Then reheat the meals using your microwave.
  • Keep the effects of the sun to a minimum by closing the blinds and shades during peak periods of sunlight.  Buy black out curtains and use them - especially on rooms that have a lot of windows or get a lot of afternoon sunlight.
  • You can also plant trees or bushes in front of maximum light windows to keep out the scorching daytime heat.  You not only save on cooling bills, but you plant a tree!
  • Use ceiling fans to cool you. Even though they don’t actually cool the air, just the circulation of the air in the room makes you more comfortable by helping to cool and evaporate any sweat on your skin.
  • Look into purchasing a programmable thermostat for your home. You can bump it up during the time people are away from the house and lower it just before you get home so that you are not cooling an unoccupied house.
  • Your clothing choice has a huge effect on how hot or cool you feel. Lighter shades and natural fabrics will help you feel a lot cooler. Make sure your clothes fits loosely so your body is able to breathe.
  • As your body is sweating a lot, you need to replenish the lost water. Water keeps you cooler and healthier.
  • Keep a spray bottle of water in the refrigerator, and when the going gets hot, give yourself a good squirt.
  • Skip the drying cycle on the dishwasher. Instead, leave the door open to let the dishes dry. And put off using the dishwasher until evening, when the air is cooler and the electric rates are lower.  Better yet - run it while you sleep for optimum results.
  • Bypass the clothes dryer and use a clothes line.  Even if you don't have a yard, setting one up in a well lit area in your home is much more cost efficient.  If you think this leaves your clothes feeling too stiff, after they are dry use the dryer for 10 minutes to fluff them. 
  • Cold (or cool) showers will cool your body, improve your circulation, and close your pores. Great beauty and health benefits along with not having to heat the water and then cool yourself off after the shower. 
  • Leave your lights off as long as you can during the day.  Use natural lighting as much as possible. 
  • Have your A/C ductwork inspected for leaks.  It will cost you a bit of money to pay for the service call, but if they find a few easy fixes, it will immediately pay for itself.  
  • Install an attic fan. You can purchase solar powered ones that burn none of your electricity but can cool your attic, allowing less heat to settle at the top floor of your home. 
  • Turn off the technology.  I know...this one might be harder on some of us than others.  But not only will you save money on your electric bill, but those laptops, big screen tvs, and gaming systems that so many of us have really put out a LOT of heat. 
  • If you have one available, visit a public park with a kid-friendly water feature.  I know downtown Savannah we have one of our city squares that has a giant splash pad for the kids.  It's a public space so it's free. You might have a fountain in a local park that allows playtime. If not, visit a friend with a pool. 
Can you think of any others that should be on this list? 

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Discounted Way to Say Thank You

Right now LivingSocial has one of their national daily deals as a 50% savings for purchasing a USO care package for our troops.



Pay just $25 and the USO will put $50 toward a deployment care package or other morale-lifting services for our men and women of the armed forces -- and send you a T-shirt to show their appreciation. Filled with items like snacks, toiletries, and phone cards, each care package not only provides troops with a reminder of home, but helps those serving a world away reconnect with their loved ones.

Anyone who has ever been deployed will tell you how wonderful a simple gift from home can be a huge morale lift.  And this deal is a great way to send a care package full of useful goodies without having to worry about what to put in the box.

What a great way to celebrate our nation's birthday - by honoring and blessing those who maintain our freedoms and help others gain the same liberties we enjoy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Less Debt Equals Cheaper Insurance

Photo credit: penywise
In the last 2-1/2 years, we've reduced our debt by $21,000. As much as that feels good to say, that fact reaches farther than I knew it could.  Recently we learned that with a better credit score, we could get better insurance rates.  That sounded interesting since we haven't gotten our insurance requoted during that time frame.

So we called our existing  insurance agent and asked if they could run a credit check and see if it would affect our rates. We knew our scores were really good because we had seen them when we refinanced our home a few months ago. We didn't change companies.We didn't change our plan. Just reran the credit score. Honestly, all my husband and I did was sign a form and fax it to them.

We got a letter in the mail.  Our auto insurance rates were reduced by 13.5%!  Now, in dollars that isn't a huge amount because the cars are paid off and as their worth depletes, so does our insurance rate.  However, 13.5% is huge - especially since all we did is sign a piece of paper.

So if you've made some lifestyle changes and recently reduced your debt and have a lower debt to available credit ratio or if you've found another way to recently improve your credit score, contact your insurance agent. It's simplistic and can really save you some money!


Have you ever done this?  What other ways can you save in unexpected places?

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Heart Like His by Beth Moore - Review

Publisher's Description:

We all go through times when we feel insignificant or times when we feel certain that we have experienced a degree of failure from which there is no return. This is not a reality we experience alone, but is one that a man after God’s heart experienced as well

In “A Heart Like His,” Beth Moore looks at this bond of mutual love and admiration between a man who was not unlike any of us and the one true God who is all good and all powerful. The book is an exploration of David’s incredible life, drawing spiritual insights from a man who boldly fulfilled his divine destiny not merely by what he did, but who he loved and served.


Bringing lessons from David’s life to bear on your own, this picture of a man who loved and followed God will help you to serve with a heart focused on Him no matter the circumstance.




My Thoughts:
I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that I am an enormous Beth Moore fan. The lady is truly gifted in her ability to truly study the Bible and inspire you to apply those stories you might have heard your entire life to your life in ways that you've never seen for yourself.

This book is no disappointment.

A Heart Like His takes the reader through the entire life of David, pulling from both books of Samuel, Chronicles and Kings as well as through many of the Psalms to compile David's life into a chronological story that I have never been able to put together in my mind so succinctly. I was truly wowed to see those things I knew about David put together into one long story and see him as a complete man. I am more in awe of him - his faults and failures as well as his victories, humility, and obedience. It is a story that allows that even the most obedient are not immune to sin - deeply ingrained sin - but allows that all can be redeemed.  It shows God's love, His faithfulness, His heartbreak, His justice, His sadness, His disappointment, and His patience. It is a story, while sometimes hard to read, of hope.

Summary:
An amazing story, this is not a light read, which is pretty true of Mrs Moore's style. It is intense, unapologetic, tactful yet convicting, and humble while proclaiming the Glory of God and His holiness. However, although a heavy read, it moves along easily and smoothly - a feat that difficult for most authors to pull off.  If you are ready to grow in your faith, pick this one up. You'll find yourself in this book somewhere in the life of David and you'll discover that no matter where you are, you too can be a (wo)man after God's own heart.

I was provided a copy of A Heart Like His for review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Auto Maintenance Even a Girl Can Do

Photo source
Growing up my dad made sure that I knew the basic ins and outs of my car. I knew a few tricks to keep it maintained on my own.  It was a great lesson. I used those tricks several times while I was in college.

However, after I got married and my husband started handling all of the car maintenance, it seems I forgot how to do even some of the simplest tasks. This past week my oil light was coming on indicating low oil pressure. I knew with the light on I needed to stop and put in at least a quart of oil so I wouldn't ruin my engine. I had to call my husband and ask him several questions about what type of oil he used when he changed it and if it mattered if I put synthetic in or not.  That frustrated me because these things I once knew. But I did it...and you can too.


Here are several car maintenance tips that every woman should know. And your college students that are leaving home for the first time this fall?   Teach them too. =)

Changing the Air Filter - Rule #1 that only your dad will tell you is that when it is dirty, you don't necessarily need a new filter.  Take it out, bang it on the concrete a few times to get the "big dirt" out and put it back in.  After two or three times of this though, you need a new filter.  All you'll need is a filter (say $15, but it varies between vehicles) and possibly a screwdriver.  Make sure when you open it that you note how the filter sits in the housing so you'll know how the new one goes in.  I had a oil change place try to charge me three times the price of my filter to do this once.  I politely declined telling them I was perfectly capable myself, but thanks for letting me know it was dirty.  Saved $30 right there.

Changing Windshield Wipers - Okay - this may not be a big deal to you because most auto parts stores will do this for free if you buy your wipers there. But in case you pick them up somewhere else, you can do this. Don't pay for someone else to do it for you. Note how the old ones come off and simply install the new ones the same way.

Replacing Fuses - If you've ever had a fuse go out on you, it could be really frightening at first. All my lights are off?  Is the battery okay?  First tip here is to keep a "multipack" of fuses in your glovebox. It will have an assortment that will cover you in a pinch.  Locate the fuse box on your dashboard (probably on the side or underneath but could be on driver's or passenger's side). There will probably be one under your hood too, but check the one inside first. Read the little key on the cover of the box to tell you which one is the likely candidate to replace. Simply pull the fuse out with your fingers and replace it with the same kind.  They are even color coded by amperage to make this easier on you.

Checking and/or Adding Oil - So changing your oil might be a bit over your head (it's really easy from what I hear though and my husband saves us a LOT of money by doing it himself). But if your car is an older model (or even if it isn't), you'll need to know how to pull the dipstick and read it and where to add oil if you're getting a little low.  This is in no way meant to replace an oil change, but just to get you through until it can be changed (like if your oil light is on like mine was).  Pop the hood of your car and locate the dipstick.  It will be the little handle (either looped on top or a T shape) that says "OIL" on it. Pull that stick out. Wipe it off with a rag and reinsert.  Now pull it out again and read the lines on the stick. It will tell you how much oil you have in there by the location of the oil on the stick. If you need more, buy a quart of the oil weight your car uses. Locate the twist-off cap labeled "Oil" that is probably near the middle of your engine. Carefully pour that oil directly into that hole. Be careful not to spill any, as it will smell awful as it burns off if you miss.  But a steady hand is usually good enough. If you don't trust yourself, get a cheap funnel when you buy the oil.

Check and (if needed) Inflate Your Tires - If you own a car you should know how to use a tire gauge and keep one in your car. It can be checked anywhere at any time, as long as the car isn't moving (yeah...that wouldn't be recommended). Unscrew the tire cap, hook up the gauge, read the pressure.  Your tires should have their recommended pressure written on them. Top off to that amount using one of those air stations at many gas stations. Your car will run better and you'll get better mileage with properly inflated tires.

Change a Light Bulb (headlight, turn signal, etc) - Okay, I'll admit...this is a lot easier on some cars than others.  Some make it nearly impossible to get to the lights without disassembling part of the engine. But most are user-friendly. If you can get to our light housing, it's as easy as changing a bulb in your house.

Change a Flat Tire - Trust me on this one...you'll want to practice in your driveway before you've encountered this one real-life.  This is one of those things that might be needed whether you have a brand new car or a 25 year old legend. It can happen any time, anywhere. If you don't want to wait for 1-1/2 hours for roadside assistance or trust the stranger that pulls along side to help to not be a mass murderer (okay, that might be excessive), learn to do it yourself.  If you've practiced, you'll be able to do it in 10 minutes or less.  If you haven't, it will cost you more time. Time that you don't want to be sitting on the side of the road as a potential abduction target or just a target or oncoming traffic that gets dangerously close.

Refill Wiper Fluid - It doesn't get easier than this. Buy a bottle of the stuff at a local retailer or gas station (possibly sitting outside between the pumping stations), pour into the wiper basin. It's labeled. It's probably white. Unless it's completely empty, you'll be able to see the old blue wiper fluid in it.  If it is entirely empty, go ahead and pour that whole bottle in. Easy peasy.

So there are eight things that you can do. All by yourself. I promise. No matter how mechanically inclined you are (or are not), you can do each of those tasks.  So go buy some fuses and a tire gauge on your next outing and while you are at home, do a few tire changes using your jack (and your owner's manual if needed).

Stay safe...and save some money while doing it! =) 

Have you ever had to do these things? Tell us your story in the comments.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Solution to our Overspending?

If you have looked at any of our month to month financial update posts, you know that we have a problem with overspending on eating out. Restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, convenience stores...somewhere or other there is always money spent that we did not budget for.

And as much as I know this, it never seems to change our habits.

So I have a trial of a solution that I am going to give a go.

Photo source

During the month of July, Chip will be on orders, meaning he won't be around to eat at our house. At all. So just me and the kids. This is when I will try my trial. That actually seems funny because I'm more of a problem (usually) with this than he is, but I think I can control myself better than I can make both of us do this. So I'm going to give it a try while he is gone and see if it works. Then we might roll it out for the household.

My solution? 

The money I DON'T spend on eating out AND the money I save below my grocery budget will go to our missions budget at church. Above and beyond our regular giving, I will give that extra amount to the penny. No over-giving allowed - not because I'm trying to be selfish or stingy. But if I allow over-giving, I will just give regardless of what I spend, so that rule is in place to be a checkpoint for me.

That's it.

Doesn't sound really complex, does it?

But honestly, I can't seem to stop myself for reasons of our debt, so I obviously need a more motivational reason. And I think giving to those who don't have food?  That's a pretty good reason. That's a reason that will make me say, "You know...I'm not going to go to lunch with my coworkers today because someone else needs to eat with that money."

Let's see how it goes, okay?

Would this work for you on any overspending area?  Want to try it with me?  

Will this work for me?  I don't know, but you can check out what does work for everyone else over at We Are THAT Family

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our Financial Status #28 - May 2012

Once again we're to that point in the month where I tell you how we've done for the month.  This is a lot of information and most of you won't want to read it all. Totally understandable. But this is how I try to keep myself accountable and keep transparency for the sake of my blog.  So here we go!

INCOME:
This month was one of those "extra paycheck" months for our household, so that is always good. Chip also had some extra National Guard pay because he was on order for a few extra days during the month.

UNDER BUDGET:
Electricity/Water: $24 under for the month and that puts us $35 under for the year, which is a buffer I'm trying to build up before summer gets here and the south Georgia heat really hits.
Groceries: $57 under budget. This sounds great until you scroll down and see our eating out performance (which shouldn't shock you by now, but continues to embarrass me).  At least they aren't both over budget like they usually are (silver lining?).
Doctor: No spending this month. Abigail will get a check up at the end of June or beginning of July but hopefully that's the only medical spending in our near future.
Pharmacy: Similarly, non pharmacy spending this month either. 

ON BUDGET:
Tithe: There is no question here. Any offerings above our tithe will not be noted because I'm not about bragging. But I do want you to know that we are giving 10% of our net income to our local church, as I feel it is important that you know that this is top priority to us.
Mortgage/HOA/Timeshare: Nailed the new budget. What's beautiful? This budget is down $680/month from where it was 3 years ago thanks to refinancing and lower HOA fees.  Hooray!
Auto Insurance: This actually went up a dollar a month because I got a speeding ticket a couple of months ago. Boo, hiss on me.
Television: As usual.
Term Life Insurance: Done
Mobile Phone: Nothing new here.
Alarm Monitoring/Pest Control: Regular charges here.

OVER BUDGET:  
Gasoline: $240 over budget. Ouch. Along with Chip's extra orders came extra miles on the vehicle. Oh well.  It also didn't help that both cars got gas on May 1st and then again on the last day of the month. Great planning!
Auto Service/Parts: $9 over budget for the month but still over $200 over budget for the year. Got to maintain low usage of this account in the next few month to try to catch back up on this one.
Eating Out: $314 over budget. This is truly my Achilles heal.  I think while Chip is gone during the month of July I'm going to try a "no eat out" month and see how we fair.  Not that he is the problem (it's more me), but I think it will be easier to maintain with fewer people to work around. 
Childcare: $25 over budget. This was the registration for Patrick to go to the YMCA summer camp this July while Chip is away. I'm going to have to up July's budget for Childcare but it will come out of the paychecks he will be receiving while on orders.
Clothing: $200 over budget.  I wrote about my new weakness with buying little girl clothes a few weeks ago. I'm going to reign this in.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:  
  • Sent an extra $740 to credit cards this month (over the minimums).
  • The full effect of our refinance can now be seen in our debt payoff amount below.
  • A baby shower, a graduation gift and a birthday present for a neighbor had me spending an extra $80 this month (but not bad for those three events).
  • Spent $25 on Abigail's upcoming birthday party.  That spending will increase this month with her party at the end of the month.  
  • My 401k did horribly this month so although we made headway with debt repayment, our net worth did not increase as quickly. Boo, hiss. 

Debt Paid off Since April 2012: $3272.87
Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $21,004.19
Change in Networth from April 2012: $1331.82
Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: $43,737.18

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Boredom Busters

Since I am not personally very creative and am fantastic for taking someone else's creative genius and replicating it, today I share with you some summer boredom busters for your kids - all via Pinterest.

Grow your own rock candy

For too hot or rainy days, create a road for matchbox cars

Create this amazing piece of art with your youngsters

"Paint" bread and then toast and eat.

Melting ice game teaches them too
Host a "drive in" theater for the kids

Spray chalk fun

DIY ecosystem - this amazes me

DIY Sidewalk Paint
Indoor fun - this fizzy fun will amaze even the little ones!

Nature Scavenger Hunt - I wanna' go!

Toddler fun for the younger crowd

Names from Nature - do the whole family!
Do you have any fun things planned for your kids yet?  Let us all know your great ideas too! 

And for even more ideas, join Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

25 Great Father's Day Items from Etsy

Everyone loved my post about great Graduation gifts from etsy and since I love etsy and etsians, I thought I would repeat the post for Father's Day items!

Here are my picks of some great items handmade and homemade for that special dad in your life:

Mahogany  Spice Shaving Soap - and other great scents - from Wicked Soaps

S'mores Cookie in a Jar - lots of other great flavors here! - from Tookies

Delicious-looking caramel pecan tarts - from Fusion Sweets

Barcode t-shirt - other fun gifts here - from BarcodeArt

Manly collection of wall art - on sale! - from Racetay

Gourmet Chocolate gift basket - who wouldn't love?! - from Nicole's Treats

Manly soap set - from the awesome Rocky Top Soap Shop

Gourmet Rubs set - lots of great choices here! - from Purpose Design

Jedi Knight robe - cause you never know when it might come in handy! - from 219eileen

Periodic Table Cufflinks - such a fun shop! - from Shop Gibberish

Set of 3 Ninjas - my hubby would love - from Lilley

Upcycled Beer Bottle Glasses - so many choices! - from bottlehood

Imperial Star Wars Cufflinks - for the geek but many non-geek offerings here- from Crimson King

Handstamped brass whistle - from my awesome friend at JoyBelle Jewelry

Guinness Chocolate Cookies or other delicious flavors - from Old Time Favorites

Steampunk Pendant Necklace - from Pink80sGirl

Gears Belt Buckle or a number of other great selections - from Flight Path Designs

Gorgeous black and white shaving kit - from The Beaver Wood Wright

An awesome bow tie - from Can Do Stitching

Beautiful rustic lunch box - from Rosemary Jordans

Vintage wood clock - so manly - from Beca Runs

Masculine Leather Pouch - from Shovava Leather

Vintage railroad lantern - from Hoof and Antler

Moleskin notebook - trio - from Big and Mighty

Four Pack Carrier - from Frick and Frack Scraps
What would you feature?  Share with us your etsy favorites!

As a side note, none of the shops I  mentioned have not sponsored this post in any way - I just like their stuff.  =)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Feel a Cold Coming On? This Stuff WORKS!

Back in February, I was approached about reviewing a product called Cold-EEZE, an over-the-counter zinc-based cold remedy, that boasted that it would reduce the symptoms of a cold and shorten the length of the illness.

Well, I waited and waited and waited. And frankly, with small children in my house, I somehow made it over 3 months through the spring without the slightest symptoms to combat.

About three weeks ago though, my boss came to work sick. He wasn't feeling well but didn't think it was a big deal. Over the next few days his cold got worse and worse and worse. He was out a few days but ended up having to come in because some bigwigs from corporate were coming in to meet with him and he couldn't reschedule their international travel.

He felt HORRIBLE.

And about a week and a half of meeting with him almost daily, several times a day, I too started feeling poorly.

In fact, a couple of Mondays ago I called him and said, "Did that crud you've been carrying around start out with a sore throat?" When he responded to the affirmative, I knew I was in trouble.

And I knew it would be the perfect time to try out Cold-EEZE.

Cold-EEZE is a homeopathic OTC medicine that you spray inside your mouth every 2-4 hours up to six times a day, as needed. That Monday evening I started my regime. I felt AWFUL that month with aches and chills and a terribly sore throat.

The next morning I woke up, I felt great. I had no voice really (laryngitis), but it didn't hurt to speak. Over the next few days I kept spraying the Cold-EEZE in the morning and then every 3-4 hours, as symptoms started to rear their ugly heads. And throughout that week, although I battled not having a voice, I really felt just fine most of the time. By the end of the week there would be the occasional coughing and sneezing, but a couple of sprays of Cold-EEZE and it would stop pretty quickly.

I was thrilled! Usually when I get a cough, I hang onto it for weeks without end - having real trouble shaking it off. This time, it truly wasn't the case.

I cannot prove that I would have gotten what my boss had without Cold-EEZE, but he was the only sick person I knew and watching him, I knew I didn't want what he had.

So does Cold-EEZE work? I'm convinced that it does! I will be keeping a bottle of this stuff in our medicine cabinet and as soon as our children reach age 12, they will be taking it too! If you want to check it out for yourself, find out where you can buy it locally.

For the little ones, you can also check out Maty's all natural products, which I reviewed here.

I was sent Cold-EEZE and Breathe Better for review. No positive reviews were promised. This stuff really worked and I really be buying some more in the future!

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