Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mother's Day Gifts Series - Part 2 of 5

See this previous post for the intro to this series. Moving on...

3.) Family Photo Session:
Standard: I don't know any mom that wouldn't tear up with a nice framed photo of her family looking their best in a professionally taken and framed photo. However, this can get pricey and all moms know this. So instead of worrying her about the cost of such a gift, try out these other ideas!

Less Costly: Try making a photo book for her using a collection of photos. Make them recent. Make them from the first year of her children's lives. Make them a collection of her with her children. Whatever would mean the most to her. Check out Walgreen's (enter code MOMSDAY for 20% savings through May 3rd), CVS, Snapfish, and plenty of other photo sites for offers on photo books! If this does not appeal to you, try buying/making some keepsake photo boxes for storing all of those precious memories. And any mom can appreciate organization! Or try creating a professional-looking Mother's Story.

Frugal Alternatives: More homemade ideas:
--Organize those family photos into albums or boxes in an orderly manner (one that won't give her the impression that she needs to come behind you and do it over).
--Have the children create a "This is Your Life" series of drawings, writings, and artistic impressions and present them to her in the game-show type theme
--Home-Sweet-Home Photo Gallery
--Springtime Photo Frames
--Refrigerator Clips
--Various Frames
--Create refrigerator magnets of photos of your family (adhesive magnets + family photos)
--Update: And I just found out about this deal over at Bargain Shopper Lady. I had to edit my post to share it with you since it is such a great deal! Artscow is offering 400 free print credits & 1 free 8×8 custom cover photo book for signing up now! (You get 50 free per month for a period of four months.) This is possibly one of the best deals of the year!

4.) Pajamas/Loungewear:

Standard: There are some great ideas for purchases and nothing says "relax and take the day off" as a nice comfy pair of PJs. However, check out the following alternatives before running out and making that purchase.

Less Costly: Buy a regular sleep shirt and decorate with paint via the kids.

Frugal Fabulous:
--A Comfort Pillow
--Silky Sachets for that lingerie drawer
--Beauty Mask for sleeping/relaxing

Ideas #5 and #6 will be here tomorrow...

Photo credit: doc18

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mother's Day Gifts Series - Part 1 of 5

If you are visiting via the 151st edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance over at Alpha Consumer, please make yourself comfortable here in my little corner of Blogland. Feel free to comment, stay a while, and subscribe. =)

So, I was going to write an 11-part series on the 10 most popular Mother's Day gift ideas for this year, some less expensive alternatives and some downright frugal choices. I considered starting this on Wednesday the 30th, which would take us right up until Mother's Day itself. Then I realized that if anyone wanted to use these ideas, that really left no time to do any of them. Therefore, I am combining the posts into 5 parts consisting of 2 ideas each, with the last post being 2 gifts and packaging ideas. Hopefully this will leave some time to implement. Sorry for the long intro, but I felt it was necessary (I am not a woman of few words).

1.) Flowers:
Standard: What says "Mom" like flowers? To some people, nothing. However, these blooming beauties can be quite pricey and frankly, they typically die within days. So I am offering you alternatives.

Less Expensive: Gardening tools, seeds, seedlings, or perennials that can can be planted. And yes, plant it for her. Nothing says "Happy Mother's Day" like "here's another chore for you to do, but I bought it." Plant a tree in her honor. Buy her some seedlings or seeds to get started.

Frugal Gifts: Here are some great ideas I found. What is more wonderful than a handmade gift from the kids?

Photo flowers
Laundry Bottle Bouquet Holder
Flower Pot Recipe Holder
Pretty Painted Flower Pot
Coffee Filter Flowers
Finger-Print Flower Vase
Helping Hands
Bouquet in Hand

2.) Designer Handbag:
Standard: These are all the rage among some of my friends and co-workers. I'm not a designer-bag type of girl, but hey--to each his own, right? How about these alternatives?

Less Expensive: Check out discount stores like Target, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or departments stores that are having sales. You can find some really cute bags for great prices!

Downright Frugal: How about making some? are some ideas!
Almost No Sew Hip Make-Up Bag
Tiny Tote

Tune in tomorrow for more ideas!

Photo credit (in order of appearance): torontofotobug, Jungle Jim's International Market

Monday, April 28, 2008

Teaching Children About Money - Part 1 - Credit

If you are visiting via the Festival of Frugality 124 over at Frugal for Life, let me take a moment to welcome you. Please feel free to browse about and leave comments wherever you feel inspired. If you like what you find, you can subscribe via feed over in my right margin.

Let me start by telling you that I am under no circumstances an expert when it comes to saving money, being a parent, or (certainly) combining the two. Little Nespy is only 2-1/2, so I cannot personally say that this tip works on him. However, I think it is a pretty cool tool, and I would love to pass it along to you.

Now, why teach children about credit? It's inevitable that they will encounter it...and kids are getting offers for credit sooner and sooner. You don't even have to wait until they are in college and getting pounded with offers all over campus about all of the great things that they can buy with this magical tool called "credit." Buy now, pay later--it seems too good to be true. Well, it is and most of us adults know that. However, most of us learned it the hard way. So I'm going to present an idea of how to teach this concept to children to get them to really grasp how credit works and making decisions of purchases based on this reality.

I cannot take credit for this idea, as it was one from a friend, but she does not want to be mentioned either, so I will just call her "my friend" (clever, isn't it?).

So, her children receive an allowance. The amount is dependent on the child's age. The child also is limited to 1 hour of TV during the week and 1 hour on the weekend. They can choose to watch whatever they want (within reason), but they have to make that decision. When the children started begging for more TV privileges, they came to the agreement that the children would pay for additional TV time. For the little one who only got $1 a week, it was a quarter for an additional 30 minutes. They did limit how much extension the kids were given so they didn't spend all their money on TV time and become couch potatoes at the same time. The cost of additional TV time was proportionate to what the allowance was.

When the kids wanted to watch TV, but had used their money to buy some other treat, my friend saw this as an opportunity to teach them about credit. Within the confines of the amount of extended time allowed watching the tube, the kids could "buy" TV time with credit, which carried an additional 20% interest per day until it was paid for. So for the little one, who paid $0.25 per half hour. It costs an additional $0.05 per day until the debt was paid off. Once they were spending $0.50 or more for an item that should have only cost $0.25, reality set in and they began deciding that it was not often worth the extra money. Sometime a really good show with a quick pay-off period was considered worth it, but it really started them thinking about their purchases and evaluating if the shows were worth the extra investment.

I think this is AWESOME! What do you think?

Continue here to Part 2 - Giving
Continue here to Part 3 - Saving
Continue here to Part 4 - Spending

Photo credit: qwurky

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Does God Want Me to Be a Loaf?

As you read this (if it is Sunday, that is), the Nespys will be on their way back home to Savannah from Orlando. I sure we will have had a wonderful time visiting close friends and reluctant to leave them, as we don't get to see them often. In the meantime, as we travel down the highway, speeding no doubt, and burning some expensive gasoline, I will leave you this to read:

Today I will drift from my usual subject matter. Today I will ponder in writing what I should do. If you don't want to read about a matter that I have been dealing with in my spiritual life, feel free to skip today's post, as tomorrow I will be back on my usual topic.

I really feel that God has been leading me to teach or lead. Not as a profession, mind you, but just in some capacity. The obvious lead was at church to lead women's groups or such--and it may lead to that as well or in the end, but right now I'm wondering if I should start another blog that would be a teaching/learning tool for both me and readers. Frequently when I am reading my Bible or just going through my life experiences, I think of things that I would like to share, but I have no one to share them with (in a teaching type environment). It is nothing that really fits the context of this blog, but creating a new one is a real possibility. Nespy would probably think I was crazy, as he (and I sometimes) think this one is becoming a bit of an obsession from time to time.

However, would you be interested in reading it (yes, I realize the topics would really influence if you read or stayed around)? Do you think God would ask me to write a blog? I am really nobody and have no training to teach His Word. However, that is really not an argument, as He is FREQUENTLY calling the lowly to teach and lead (shepherds as kings and fishermen as the foundation of Christianity?!). Then I think that I would be scared to death to do it. Wouldn't I be responsible for everything that I typed and how it might influence others? Would my faults get in the way of His glory? It would be so easy to let my shortcomings get in the way.

"How could I make a difference?" I asked Him one day. Then I thought I heard Him speak to me through a Biblical account that I learned as a child in Sunday School and have heard about over and over again throughout my life.

There are two occasions where Jesus fed huge crowds with fishes and loaves. You can see Jesus reference both in Mark 8:19-20. Jesus took just a meal for a few and fed thousands upon thousands with it. He took a little and provided for many with it. That's how He works. He takes a little and multiplies it for His glory. He fed those who were hungry. Is he calling me to be His instrument to do the same? Is He calling me to be a loaf?

Photo credit: in the shadow of za'ha'dum

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clean Pet (and Other) Stains

Best product for carpet stain fighting? For me, hands down it is Nature's Miracle!

This God-send first showed up at our house as a Christmas gift from my mom-in-law to her granddog. Seriously, this is the best product on the market for cleaning up organic stains (of any source) and even many unidentified-but-most-likely-not-organic ones.

It is pet and child friendly, so no fears there. It removes stains and odors very easily. You do have to work a little harder for set-in stains, but it still always gets them up for me! A great bonus--it works on any type of fabric item (upholstery, clothes, rugs, carpet, etc)--just check for colorfastness first it warns (I've never had a problem).

A 32-oz bottle lasted us almost 3 years. Now we have 2 bottles because shipping was the same for 2 as for 1 and that should easily get us to around 2013 of clean-ups!

Love, love, love this stuff. I bought ours from Care-a-Lot Pets, but you can find it elsewhere by visiting the product site.

Today's post was brought to you in conjunction with Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Works for Me - Toddler Hand Washing

Today's post will be brought to you in honor of Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer. Today's entry from me is a parenting hack that I read somewhere while learning about potty training. I am not taking credit for coming up with this, so if you know where this came from, please let me know so I can give proper credit. Maybe it's a tried-and-true method that all experienced moms know about, but it was new to me when our potty-training journey began and it works with Little Nespy.

In order to stress the important of thorough hand washing following the potty experience, Mr. Nespy and I began the training process with Little Nespy by having him go through ALL of the motions, even if there was no activity at the potty. We'd sit, flush, and then wash hands. Most toddlers are not going to spend the time to wash hands as well as they should on their own, so this was the tip I am giving you:

Have the little one sing the ABCs while washing. Of course at first you will most likely have to sing it for them while rubbing their hands together (front and back), but they will quickly catch on...and Little Nespy thought this was always fun. We wash the whole time we're going through the alphabet and when we get to the "Now I know my ABCs" part, we turn off the water and dry hands. It serves a twofold purpose: firstly it makes sure that we don't just get a quick rinse. Secondly he learned his alphabet song about 3 months before he was 2-1/2. Hooray! Clean and educational!

Monday, April 14, 2008

10 Things You Should Never Buy Used (and Three You Should Never Sell)

Welcome visitors that are passing through with the Festival of Frugality or the Money Hacks Carnival and dropping in from MSN's Moneycentral blog by Donna Freedman! Please make yourself at home here in Mrs. Nespy's World!

Look--a real post today. Yea, me! Yes, I am a thrifty/frugal shopper who loves finding deals at consignment or thrift stores. However, we really should draw a line sometimes. I once saw an article entitled "10 Things You Should Never Buy Used" on MSN Money (it's probably still there if you want to look), and I wanted to create something like that for my readers. Some of the ones listed in that article are here, but additional research has been done to include some others and some addition information (not really into plagiarism, you know). Here it goes:

Mrs. Nespy’s list of 10 Things You Should NEVER buy Used

1.) Car seat/booster seat – Unless you know the people who are the previous owners (and by know, I mean well—like they are your sister or something), never buy a vehicle safety device for your child second-hand. If these seats are in accidents—even minor fender-benders—they can be rendered unsafe. Without knowledge of the driving history of the previous owners, you do not want to risk using a car seat that would not protect your child in the event of an accident.
What to do? The new ones are more expensive, but this is one of the wisest investments you can make for your family. If you have to buy second-hand, please only buy from someone you know well and would trust with your child’s life—because that is what you’re doing. Even if you do this, please check with the NHTSA to make sure it has not been recalled (and therefore pulled from retailers’ shelves).
2.) Mattress – Okay, this one just seems gross to me. However, even if you can get past the concept, you really only should buy new mattresses. There are several health-related reasons for this including dust mites, bodily fluids (yes, it’s gross, but it is true), and bed bugs. Yes…I said it, bed bugs. What are they? They are not just part of a cute little rhyme you use when putting your children to bed. They are real live blood-sucking insects that live in mattresses. They were almost eradicated in the 1950s, but have been on the rise worldwide recently. Speculation is that the increase in world-wide travel has taken these creatures abroad and they are rampant in some places. Most places have regulations that either prohibit the sell of used mattresses or require tags that require markings noting that the mattress is not new. Same thing goes for refurbished mattresses, which are made with recycled mattress parts. That’s why that big annoying tag that says “all new material” is on your mattress. Make sure you have one.
What to do? If you can ALMOST afford new, haggle with the salespeople. This is one area where there is wiggle room for the sales staff, so see what you can do. However, it is true to say that not everyone can afford a brand new mattress. The best bet here is to contact a second-hand store that is under the eyes of the government (to assure they are following the laws), such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and purchase from there. They are required to have sanitized and thoroughly cleaned the mattresses…and they don’t accept items in terrible condition in the first place.
3.) Helmets – Same as with car seats, if these have been in an accident, it is best not to endanger your skull by putting it in there. And some internal, hidden damage could have occurred, so there is no guarantee that your self-inspection would catch any damage done to the shell. This goes for helmets of all types… motorcycle, bicycle, skating, etc.
What to do? Same as child seat…buy new or from someone that you literally trust your life with.
4.) Children’s shoes – Children’s feet are developing at an intense speed and are still very pliable. While it is uncomfortable to wear adult shoes that have been broken in by another person, it can be downright detrimental to the development of a child’s feet. Serious foot problems could result that would require corrective surgery later in life for that child. Please take the time to buy good, supportive shoes for your child—especially the ones that they will be wearing for an extended period of time. And never put hard-soled shoes on your infant. Infants really don’t need shoes until they are ready to walk, and then they need “walking shoes” designed to assist in the correct development of their tootsies. As long as it is not a safety issue, barefoot is always best, so if they are inside or you have a foot-friendly yard, let them run barefoot (or with socks indoors in the winter)
What to do? My advice is this—splurge on the pair(s) that they will wear regularly. For instance, our son has one pair of tennis shoes that he wears almost daily to school. Since he is wearing these for a total of over 12 hours a day, it is worth buying him good, supportive, new shoes that can take the shape of his little feet rather than forcing him to work with what someone else has worked in. I do use second-hand shoes from my sis-in-law but only those shoes that were seldom worn by her son and will be seldom worn by ours (like church shoes that he’ll only wear 2 hours max one day a week). Other than his one good pair, we do go for cheaper versions of others since they will not be worn much. Really, his long term health is worth at least a few more dollars.
5.) Bathing suits – Yeah. That’s just gross. My son is the only exception, as his are bleached heavily and he wears swim diapers under his, so there is no direct contact.
What to do? Splurge. They aren’t that expensive at Target.
6.) Skates – Just like shoes, above, even if you can get over the thoughts of what might have lurked between the toes of the previous owner and have heavily sanitized them as well, skates—if have been used for any length of time—will mold to the foot of the user and therefore, will never properly fit. They will then cause you much discomfort and possible actual foot damage.
What to do? Unless you really know what to look for, buy only from known sources who don’t skate, but really wanted to learn. If they gave up quickly, there is your opportunity.
7.) Make up – Yep, people sell their make-up on eBay, and do you know why? Because people buy make-up on eBay. No buyers = no sellers. So, even if they have only used it one time and decided it was the wrong shade, even if they have noted “sterilized for your safety” (yeah…explain to me exactly how they did that), don’t fall for it. You can get a number of diseases including pink eye, cold sores (yeah…that’s herpes, folks), nail fungus, skin-based staph infections, and even strep.
What to do? Have you noticed that there are a lot of websites out there (see the list of blogs I read) that tell you how to get some seriously cheap make-up at pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreen’s and Rite Aid? Look at other stores’ clearance shelf (I was able to stock up on some blush and eye shadow that I loved, but that was being retired once). Just two days ago I posted here about E.L.F.'s deals/prices. Keep your eyes open folks, as there are plenty of ways to get most of it inexpensively. Unless you like the type that you can only buy at a counter in a department store (sorry…totally foreign ground for me)…in the case that you can spend $38 on a tube of mascara, I’m guessing you probably aren’t searching eBay for make-up (or much of anything else).
8.) Hot Tubs – Seriously, people. Disgusting. Have you ever seen a set of jets properly cleaned out? It takes a LOT of chemicals and a LOT of work—more than most people are willing to invest (yeah…it’s easier to sell if than really clean it good). And who knows who/what has been sitting in that tub. Ughhh.
What to do? Buy brand new only or find something else to spend your money on. Even if it is family you want to buy from…you just don’t want to know them on that level.
9.) Plasma TVs – With the cost of these TVs, I can see what this could be appealing. However, due to old technology, you can easily get your hands on a set that has images burned into the screen. If you are buying an older model (which I’m guessing you are since someone is selling it), you might have a TV that was made before all of the kinks were worked out and plasmas were failing left and right. Without a store to return it to or a warranty to call on, you are out some big money.
What to do? Sit on that want. As technology advances, the cost of these will plummet eventually. Even last year’s model can be found at a huge discount already—especially when stores are trying to clear the way for the newest version. Like computers (which I am not adding to the list, but I will give them a quick reference here), the designers are working way too quickly to justify buying used and dealing with outdated technology.
10.) Certain car parts – Okay, I’ll admit, this one I know nothing about, but in my research for this post, I found a list of parts that could cause either some serious headache or a real safety hazard by purchasing used. I am throwing it in because although I don’t rebuild or fix cars, I can see why it would be appealing to buy second-hand parts. Since it could be a huge mistake, I am including it.

Bonus: Three Things to NEVER Sell

--Your Hard Drive – There are many people building computers out there who are just itching to get some spare parts. Looks like an easy buck, right? Well, a co-worker in our IT department was elaborating on all of the personal information that can be acquired from a hard drive—even one that has been “cleaned off”—by a person who is very skilled at finding this information. Same note—don’t ever let the guy who recovered the hard drive of your fried computer keep it to salvage parts. Even if he is completely honest and trustworthy, who knows what the people who buy it will be up to? We’ve made this mistake before. It’s now in the past, so I just hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us.

--Your hair* – Yeah, sounds weird, right? I was thinking about this while getting ready for work this morning and pondering over this post. It occurred to me that about 10 years ago, my hairdresser cut off a LOT of my hair and bagged it up because he thought he could sell it “for a wig or a weave or something” because it was healthy hair. Now, I ponder this—what if the person wearing that weave or wig committed some heinous crime and left my DNA behind at the crime scene? Far-fetched? Yeah, probably, but what if it happened? I could certainly prove that I’d been at work that day at that time, and by the way, I’ve never even BEEN to Saskatchewan, but I don’t even want the cops calling me.

--Drugs – It’s illegal. And just wrong. Get help. Seriously
*Note--Please know that this is said tongue-in-cheek. I know there are organizations such as Locks of Love that are wonderful ways to contribute to people who can use your healthy hair.
Photo credit: Pyzam

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Saving Water--Works for Me!

I frequently read people's blogs who are participating in various carnivals, including Works for Me Wednesdays at Rocks in My Dryer. I have never participated until today, but I had an epiphany of sorts this past weekend and although it is very simplistic, I had never thought of it! I am assuming that if I have never thought of it, some of you might not have either, so I'm sharing. If this is obvious to you, please don't count me as dumb. =)

This weekend I was prepping to shave my legs. I don't like doing it in the shower because the shower is not conducive to this activity (it's big enough to shower in upright, but bending and posing to shave--not so much). Since it is not really large enough for this, not only is it uncomfortable, but I end up taking much longer showers than normal, thus wasting more water. I love bubble baths for relaxing, but don't want to use all of the water those require in order to shave every time the need arises (not to mention that it is completely gross to sit in that mess--not at all in theme with "relaxation" for my tub-time). So I typically shave by propping my leg up over the bowl of the sink and proceeding (is this getting too personal? sorry). This still wastes water because I have always left the water running for rinsing off the razor.

Here's my brilliant idea--I filled the bowl of the sink up about 1/3-1/2 full (it would depend on the size of your sink) with the stopper closed. Voila'! Now I have water that I can rinse my razor in, but I actually have less water in there than if I left it running continually. Does this seem weird/gross? Kinda' looks that way, but it is just shaving cream and shavings in there, which rinse nicely down. After I'm finished, I rinse and dry off the razor (it stays sharp longer if you don't air dry it) and put away.

So am I a complete idiot for never realizing this before now?

I need to lose weight