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Babies are fun, cute, cuddly and freaking expensive!  Before my son, I never felt so rich in my heart or so broke in my wallet.  From doctor visits to cribs, the bills start to pile up where your savings used to be.  So, in my infinite new-mom wisdom (ha!) I will give you a few money saving tips for what baby stuff to skip, whether you are about to become a parent or need a gift for one.

1.            Wipe Warmer.  This is a waste of money, space, and electricity.  Think about this: your baby is sitting in a hot, sticky, plastic-y, papery diaper all day and night, and you know the stuff filling up those diapers is also warm and sticky.   Don’t you think a cool clean wipe would feel good after all that?  Besides, your baby will have a lot ruder awakenings in the future than a cold wipe, he can tough it out.

2.            Crib-in-a-Bag Sets.  Ok, so you saw the pictures in the baby catalogue with the nursery all set up, a warm and cozy wonderland of fluff and cuteness.  And you thought “oooh, so sweet! But how will I afford it?”  Well, great news!  You won’t have to because the American Academy of Pediatrics has labeled this a SIDS deathtrap.  Bumpers, pillows, quilts, positioners, are some of the cute but unsafe items that come in bedding sets.  Some people buy all this just to take a picture, then they stuff most of it into a closet.  Big waste of money!  A crib needs a fitted sheet and a wearable blanket or light cotton blanket, that’s it.  Another waste item in these sets and also sold separately is the diaper stacker, a hanging fabric sack that holds diapers.  It’s cute in a matchy-matchy kind of way, but ultimately useless and annoying to keep refilling.  Put a stack of diapers on the changing table or fill a dresser drawer.

3.            Newborn Clothes and Shoes.  New babies sleep, …a lot. What they need for that are sleepers, not a ton of tiny jeans or frilly skirts or three piece suits.  It’s not like they wake up in the morning and get ready for a day at the office.  They get up to eat, then go right back to bed.  Also, they grow out of this size so quickly (if they ever fit into them at all).  Get a few “nice” outfits for pictures, coming home from the hospital, or special occasions like baby’s christening or blessing at church.  As for baby shoes: bottom line, babies don’t need shoes until they start walking. Before then, barefoot is better for muscle development and to allow growth and formation of feet. Get some socks to keep those piggies warm or crotchet some booties during that long third trimester.

4.            Drool Bibs.  You will need plenty of large bibs when your little one starts eating solids (those mashed peas get everywhere!), but you don’t need the tiny bibs designed for new babies to drool or spit up on.  They are even too small for doing that job well.

5.            Baby Monitor.  With audio and video night vision monitors you could drop a wad of cash on these, but the truth is you don’t need them.  Unless you live in a mansion or spend an inordinate amount of time in your garden or garage you will hear when your baby needs you.  Also, baby monitors can rob you of precious moments of sleep new parents are desperate for.  You hear every little squeak and wiggle the baby makes.  It continually wakes you up and turns you into a paranoid freak, anxiously listening to every breath the baby makes wondering, “Was that normal? …Was THAT normal??”  Get some rest, save your money.

Baby stores would love for you to buy one of everything in their inventory, and well-meaning friends and grandparents would love to buy them for you.  But you don’t need all of it, and what you really don’t need is a money crunch on top of the new-parent stress.  Friends of new parents, please don’t waste your money on something they will never use or use only once.  New parents are really grateful for help, so buy them necessities, not a bunch of “cute” junk to fill up their house. Diapers and wipes are always welcome and in a variety of sizes—my kid only wore one newborn diaper, in the operating room, fresh from the oven, and it looked like a bikini.  The nurse took one look and said, “That’s not going to work.” So all the packages of newborn diapers from my shower are in the back of the closet in hopes that baby #2 isn’t 10lbs and a week overdue.

Finally, to the baby gift searchers out there, when in doubt, ask the proud parents what they need.  And to those new moms and dads, good night, good luck, and happy savings.

 

Article publié pour la première fois le 12/03/2012

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Home Spa: Save Sanity and Money!

In my humble opinion, there is absolutely nothing more relaxing and rejuvenating than a day spent at a spa. There is something magical in getting a massage and forgetting all of your cares for an hour or so. But, the joys of going to the spa are not solely to be found in getting a massage — it is the entire relaxing experience. Taking a dip in the hot plunge, sweating away in the sauna, or breathing deep in the steam room is relaxation defined. There are few things I’d rather do more than spend an entire day with little between me and the world but a plush spa robe. With just the mere thought of it I can already feel my shoulders relax and my breathing deepen. Like I said, its magical.

Unfortunately, while a day at the spa is absolute relaxation, paying the bill is usually enough to shock you back into the real world. When it comes to a spa, relaxation comes at a cost, and that cost is almost never cheap. So, the other day when I was at my wit’s end and the siren call of the steam room was beckoning, I thought that there had to be a way to bring the spa experience home. Luckily I found that a few simple additions (and subtractions) to your own bathroom can make home feel that much more like the lusted-after spa. Try out some of these ideas and before you know it, you’ll be relaxing and saving money.

Clean your bathroom and then clean it again. Although it is a basic trait, perhaps the most essential trait of a good spa is how clean everything is. It has to be, if it were dirty, it would lead to stress rather than relaxation. Bringing this home is simple: deep clean your bathroom. Its best to clean everywhere, but pay special attention to the bathtub area, the place where you will most likely be spending your “me-time.” Once everything is clean make sure you . . .

Declutter. Spas are relaxing because there are usually simply and minimally decorated. There is no visual clutter muddying up your line of sight. Visual clutter leads to mental clutter which leads to stress.  If you do want to add to the visual aesthetic, a good way to decorate without muddying your line of sight is modern wall decals depicting relaxing locales. By decluttering and organizing your bathroom, you can obtain the clean look that leads to relaxation.  And if you simply can’t bring yourself to throw out half of your lotions and potions at least tuck them away in a basket or bin.

Set the mood with candles. Bright lights are great when you are trying to shave or brush your teeth, but when it comes to relaxing, it is the soft flicker of a candle you are after. For a few dollars in candles, you can turn down the lights and turn down your stress.

Use your sense of smell to relax. Your sense of smell it a powerful thing. By using candles, soaps, bath salts, or any other smelly things that have the right scents, you can breath your way to complete relaxation. Try anything with lavender if you’re trying to fall asleep. Nothing says clean like the smell of eucalyptus. Mint and citrus are rejuvenating. Pick the right scent for you and float away.

Invest in plush towels, robes, and bathmats. Remember, the softer the better. Nothing feels better after stepping out of the bath or shower than surrounding yourself in a luxurious and plush towel. Spas surround you with softness. Mimic this at home and you’ll never regret the cost.

Play the right music. An essential part of the spa experience is how a spa sounds. Mostly, its quiet. The little sound you do hear is soft instrumental music, usually with the sounds of nature playing with it. Simply closing your eyes and listening to this music will calm you immediately. Invest in similar music and your house will sound like a spa in no time.

One of my favorite perks at a luxurious spa are the snacks.  I just feel like a queen lounging near the cool plunge waterfall nibbling dainty treats.  But if you really think about what you are eating these are not expensive food items.  Cover the top of your hamper next to the tub in a white hand towel and put a glass and pitcher of extra chilled water with sliced cucumber or fruit in it. Add a small bowl of natural granola, nuts, or my favorite– chocolate and Voila!  You’re set.

So if the hustle and bustle of the holidays has put a kink in your neck, but your spa budget was snuffed out with 2012 use these ideas to mimic one at home and get ready for a richer and more relaxed year in 2013.

What affordable additions to your home spa would you make friends?

Article publié pour la première fois le 16/01/2013

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Five Skills to Save You $$$: Handyman Skills

My husband and I recently became home owners. While this life milestone was cause for celebration, I don’t mind admitting that it has also filled me with dread. Prior to being a homeowner, back when I merely paid my rent and thought little else of the cost of housing, it was so easy to call the landlord when an issue involving the home reared its ugly head. Air conditioner on the fritz? No problem! Call the landlord. Husband is inept and failed to properly screw in the water hose to the washing machine thereby flooding all of the carpet in the hall (true story)? Call the landlord. Need to bury a dead body? It’s the landlord’s problem! (Just kidding on that last one, a dead body is still your problem.)

So buying a house and suddenly assuming all of the responsibility for home maintenance and repair has been nerve wracking. Once you are financially responsible for it, it is amazing how much money goes out the door to pay for your house. It is for this reason that skill number one on our list of five skills that will save you money is handyman skills.

Learning to be a half-way competent handyman will not only help you to fix issues that might (will) arise in your house, it will help you assess what is wrong and know when to spend the money to have it fixed and when to attempt it yourself. It is an unfortunate fact of life that time really does equal money. Therefore, when you pay for a plumber, you are really paying for their time. The fix itself may only cost pennies, but the labor costs are what will kill you. Once you learn to handle the small repairs yourself, you will have money hand over fist. Don’t be afraid!  Use the vast knowledge of the internet and the people around you.  Look up a skill and learn it once, save money forever!

“But Richly Reasonable,” you say, “I don’t have time to become an excellent handyman. Which skills should I focus on in my limited free time to maximize my savings?” Well, you’re in luck, I was just getting to that. Focus on these skills and with even a minimal time investment, you will save your hard-earned cash.

Plumbing. While designing and installing the plumbing for a house is quite an ordeal, most minor plumbing issues that arise in a house are usually easy fixes. Learn how to unclog a drain, fix a leaky faucet, stop a running toilet, and replace that leaky pipe under the sink and you are about 90% of the way to plumbing financial independence.

Carpentry Skills. You do not need to know how to build a table from scratch, but some carpentry skills will definitely come in handy. Learn how to patch drywall, hang something heavy (tv, mirror, etc.) on a wall, straighten up a hung door that has gone askew, and seal the openings to your house, and (barring a man cave addition) you will probably never need to call for help again.

Landscaping Skills. While its so much easier to call a landscaping service, the $100 a month for their services starts to get old quick. Learn to mow your lawn, weed, properly water and fertilize your grass, trim trees, cut back bushes, and adjust your sprinkler system and you will save money and have something beautiful to look at. Nothing beats staring out over your well-manicured yard at the end of a long day.

What do you think readers? What handyman skills do you recommend for saving money around the house? Let us know below.

Article publié pour la première fois le 15/05/2013

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5 Stupid Things You Can Do With Your Money

I know ‘stupid’ is a naughty word.  Thank goodness none of my nieces or nephews can read. 

Surely there are more than 5 stupid things you can do with your money, but I’d be writing forever. 

1. Ignore it.

I know many adults who are still intimidated by the terms finance, budget, and fiscal.  I’m still a little hazy on fiscal.  It’s all too common that people avoid thinking about their finances altogether.  If you ignore your yard, it’s still going to grow.  One day you’ll look outside and realize that it’s a jungle out there.  A little, consistent maintenance over time can result in a backyard escape you can be proud of (the yard is a metaphor for your finances, smooth, I know). 

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Article publié pour la première fois le 26/08/2010

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Money Love – Part Deux

Yesterday I introduced this piece from the Charlotte Observer in which young persons were ask to answer that age-old question about money and happiness. 

As you read, I took issue with parts of the responses (re-read the intro to see why I think it’s justifiable to analyze the financial views of teenagers), however, I am inclined to agree with most of the respondent’s ultimate conclusions.

 

Does happiness or satisfaction with life come with a price-tag?   

For me, I would need lots of money because I shop whenever I get the chance. It’s really a matter of opinion and lifestyle. – Age 14

You can’t say what defines happiness for people. Every individual has his or her own situation to deal with. One person might not care about money and another person might love making money. – Age 16

In my opinion more money actually could mean more happiness. It just depends on what type of person you are. If you’re a person that is very materialistic, then yes, more money would make you happy. If you’re a person who doesn’t care what kind of car you drive or what type of cell phone you have, then it wouldn’t really make a difference if you had more money or not. – Age 14

Saying that money can’t buy happiness is as Miss-America-ish as wishing for world peace and puppies for everyone.  I’m not saying that world peace and puppies wouldn’t be great.  Don’t go putting words in my mouth. 

 

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Article publié pour la première fois le 28/09/2010

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Your Space & Sanity are Worth Something

My organizing magazines are disorganizing my house.  How ironic.

001 Ever have one of those moments where you look around your house and think, “where did all this stuff come from?”  I had one of those moments yesterday when I looked down at the coffee table. 

It all starts with one magazine.  You put it out on the table, mostly for it’s decorative quality, but a little bit because you hope your guests will see it and think, “oh my, I had no idea that Ben and Lauren were so outdoorsy.  They are sooo interesting.”  Pretty soon the magazines start piling up and before you know it, your house is looking like an episode of Hoarders; guests then start thinking, “I feel uncomfortable.”  Maybe your piles are sending the wrong message.   

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Article publié pour la première fois le 16/06/2010

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