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Last minute gift ideas

I can’t believe it but we are less than a week away from Christmas and Hanukkah starts tomorrow. If you’re like me, your gifts are bought but sitting in a stack because you’re too lazy to wrap them. If you’re like my husband, you’re probably not done shopping yet.  While my husband doesn’t mind the stress, it’s something that drives me crazy. I can’t stand crowds, never mind crowds of pushy last minute holiday shoppers.Since I refuse to be stressed, I do my shopping early or online. My husband  enjoys the frantic pace of the mall and other assorted stores and I think he actually likes the stress . However, if you’re a combination of the two of us, a last minute shopper who hates crowds and stress, here are some options for you:

  • Utilize websites like Amazon that allow you to pay extra money to ensure that your gifts arrive on time (thanks, Amazon!). This allows you to get what’s on your list without the stress of the mall or big box stores. This extra money is worth it to me.
  • Purchase gift cards that can be delivered electronically.  We do this every year anyway, mainly to save on paper. Plus, it’s nice to open up my inbox and find a gift.
  • Purchase online subscriptions. I’ve done this for several people.  Sites like Netflix, Gamefly and Instructables all offer subscription services and are often services people do not want to pay for themselves. This is a great way to give that person a chance to try out those services on someone else’s dollar.
  • Make a charitable donation in honor of someone. You can do this from the comfort of your home, via PayPal. My in-laws do this every year for my daughter. They pick a charity and will make a donation in her name. I love this gift because it serves two purposes: it teaches my daughter about the importance of giving and it benefits a charity.
  • Give cash. Even though it may seem impersonal, I love receiving cash. It gives me the freedom to spend it how I want, free from the constraints of a gift card. I actually give my husband cash every year which he uses to feed his golf habit.
  • Offer a service. OK. I admit this sounds weird. But hear me out. Let’s say you have a friend who you know is stressed out and could desperately use an afternoon for herself only you know she can’t afford a babysitter. As a gift, you can give her an afternoon or two of free babysitting. This can go for cooking, housecleaning, helping with laundry…anything where you can help fill a need and help someone out.
  • Create a photo collage. This works really well for grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends. Print out some pictures, purchase some stock paper and scrapbooking supplies and you can assemble a really nice, personal gift. Homemade gifts. I am terrible at crafts. I wish I were better at them.  I can’t knit, paint, crochet or come up with any cool idea that someone would actually want to have in her home. Fortunately, there are lots of bloggers who are crafty. Check out these ideas:

What last minute ideas do you have?

Article publié pour la première fois le 19/12/2011


The best things in life are free

I spent a very long, cold afternoon this weekend at my local Halloween parade. Each year, the city closes down Main Street for a Halloween parade followed by trick-or-treating for the kids. It’s very chaotic and very disorganized. And it’s very cold. But, the kids find it fun (this was the first year my daughter was old enough to want to go) and it gets a huge turnout. It’s also free.

As we were walking down Main Street, I commented to my husband that I think it’s great the city does this, especially for parents who have to work and can’t take their kids trick-or-treating on Halloween. It’s a way to share that experience with their children and create those memories. It’s one way that our city is able to enhance a family’s Halloween experience for no extra  expense (municipal parking is free, too!) to the family. Which, given the hardships a lot of people in my city are facing, is nice.

Of course this gets me thinking about all the other free things that we have available to us that enhance our lives for little to no extra cost. Here are a few of them:

Community parks: Although there’s a small park in my neighborhood, I don’t like it very much. Fortunately, we live less than a mile from one of the biggest community parks in my county. This park is over 300 acres and contains walking and biking trails, tennis courts, basketball courts, 4 huge playgrounds, and lots of open field space. Parking is free and there are party pavilions available for a small fee. Even dogs are allowed! What’s particularly enjoyable about this park is that there really is something for everyone. Families and individuals can play, enjoy nature, get exercise and get outdoors all for free. With the amount of kids and adults tethered to electronics all day long, it’s wonderful that there is a free way to disconnect.

Libraries: I cannot express in a strong enough word how much I love my library. I’m an avid reader with extremely eclectic taste. I read a wide variety of subjects but rarely read a book more than once. For someone like me, the library is perfect. We also have a statewide loan system (when you live in a state with 3 counties total, it makes it easy) and sometimes my state is so foolish as to only order one copy of a book for the whole state; with the statewide loan system, I have no problem getting access to any book. The supplemental programs are fantastic, too. Each year, the vo-tech high school has a gingerbread house making event at Christmastime. There are family exercise programs, story time, and charity events. There are movies, book clubs, educational speakers (I got to see Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, this past April) and tons of free community events (including tax preparation).

The radio: For as much as I love my iPod, I love the radio that much more. I was raised listening to the radio. It was on all the time. I’ve gotten to the point that I cannot function (read: think) if there isn’t some kind of music on. I love all that the radio has to offer. There is literally something for everyone. I tend to get stuck in a music rut and the radio is constantly introducing me to new music. My morning commute would be that much more treacherous if it were not for the morning show that I’ve been listening to every morning for the last 9 years (there have been times where I’ve been laughing so hard, I can’t drive through my tears). For an accurate picture of how I feel about the radio, listen to Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio”. That should do it.

With the amount of stuff that there is to make my life easier–my iPhone, the Internet (I have learned so much from YouTube. I swear I do more than just watch old hair band videos), and DVRs–it’s nice to pause sometimes and realize that my life can be equally enhanced by things that are free.

What are some of your favorite free activities and items that enhance your life?

Article publié pour la première fois le 31/10/2011


A Very Scary Money Story

This Halloween week read the truly terrifying tale of how Husband and I almost lost literally every important document that we have.  Muahahaha!  You might want to lock your doors and close the blinds before reading this one…


What is your greatest fear?  

Public speaking?  Public nudity?  Spiders?

What is your greatest financial fear?

Not having enough money for retirement?  Being unprepared for a financial emergency?  Douglas H. Shulman?

This past week Husband and I were caught very much with our pants down (figuratively, of course) when one of our biggest financial fears became a reality. 


At long last, the movers came.  Husband and I were on Cloud 9 as we watched the them pack up all the stuff that we hadn't seen for the past 5 months.   We I even said "hello" to some of the little nick knacks that I had been missing the most.

"Hey there little butter dish, looking good."

"Why howdy Mr. Hamper, I sure have missed you."

In our giddiness we got sloppy. 

When you're moving overseas, you can't exactly carry your safe around with you to keep track of your important stuff.   What you should do is buy a brief case, handcuff it to your wrist and not remove it until your arrival.  Sure, showering can get a bit tricky, but at least you know everything is safe (I advise a waterproof briefcase).

Since neither of us could fully commit to the briefcase scenario, Hubs and I opted for a non-brief-cased, non-handcuffed, green folder. 

Yup, as you suspected, the green folder was packed.  But we didn't notice until one day later when we were 200 miles away from the shipment.  I believe the conversation between Husband and I went something like this:

Hey, where's the green folder?

I dunno, I thought you had it.  Why?

Uh, I don't have it.  It has our *important document*, *important document*, and *REALLY important document* in it, that's why.


Yes, crap.

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Article publié pour la première fois le 25/10/2010


August 2010 Archive

Pardon the dust.  It is an archive afterall.


August 3  Pay Now, Play Later

August 9  Why are you saving?

Article publié pour la première fois le 09/08/2010


Bankruptcy isn’t the only answer

In the current economy, bankruptcy is a common topic to land on. When I worked in an office, I often overheard discussions about bankruptcy from fellow employees; they themselves or someone they know having to file due to debt they couldn’t possible climb out of on their own. It’s been fairly common to hear about companies, too, filing for bankruptcy in the past few years.

In fact, my sister-in-law had a huge medical emergency come up about four years ago now and had she not had excellent insurance, her and her husband would certainly have had to file for bankruptcy as the medical expenses exceeded their annual income by a double-digit multiplier.

But I also had a friend that went to great lengths to avoid bankruptcy and I learned about some of the alternatives to bankruptcy as he went through the process. In the end, he did end up filing bankruptcy, but he didn’t do it without a fight.

If you take a look at the website for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, you can get some idea of what my friend dug up. Essentially, there are cases where you’re on the brink of bankruptcy due to circumstances that aren’t just and can be legally disputed such as a lawsuit from a creditor over debt you no longer owe them.

You may also be able to work out a payment plan with your creditor. This may sound like a long shot, but in the current economy, with so many people filing for bankruptcy or running away from their debt, creditors are more willing to work with those that stick around and ask for help. It’s much better for them to work with you if you’re willing to work with them as they’ll end up getting paid back at least in part versus being completely out the money they lent.

My friend owed money on his home which was well underwater and he was unable to make the payments. He tried paying what he could afford but the lender wasn’t happy about that. He did contact the lender to try and work something out but they were unwilling at that point. In the end he decided it was best to file bankruptcy and move into a rental home that he could better afford.

Whether you’re facing bankruptcy or struggling with your finances, it’s a good idea to get to know your options as there are alternatives to bankruptcy. They don’t always work out, but they are there.

Article publié pour la première fois le 25/02/2013


Spending Under Pressure

This past weekend Husband, Friend and I visited the “grassy knoll” where JFK was shot.  My nerdy camera around my neck, I stopped to read a historical plaque.  As I read, behind me Husband and Friend were approached by a man in a fanny pack (I should realized right then and there that something was amiss, my mother taught me never to trust men with fanny packs).

Fanny Pack Man (FPM from here on out) pointed out the window where Oswald shot from and told me mumbled to me that the view was better for picture-taking across the street.  Clearly it was, so us three adults, oddly plus one FPM, crossed to get a better look.  

Once across, FPM’s intentions became apparent as he gave us a mini-lecture about the scene in front of us.  He pointed out the marks that indicated where the gun shots hit.  He relayed the different conspiracy theories.  He wanted money

At the end of his half-mumbled, semi-informative speech, FPM delivered a time-perfected line that in effect told us we owed him $5 a pop for the presentation.  I like to say we got “Mariachi Banded” (common where we used to live in south Texas) – we received a service we didn’t ask for and were then told to pay up.  

Much to my dismay Friend and Husband reached for their wallets.  Gasp.  The rest happened in slow motion. 

*Re-reading that last sentence, I realize I might have given the impression that we were in danger.  No, we were not being robbed, at least not literally.*


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Article publié pour la première fois le 06/09/2010

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