Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nearly every purchase has a cheaper option

In my quest to save money I've realized I know one thing that's nearly always true--there's usually a cheaper option. So, for any purchase, step back.... pause... and ask yourself: should I really buy this item for this price?

Perfect example: my husband's cell phone recently died. He's hard on phones. When he gets a brand new one he might as well just flush it down the toilet, use it for fetch with our Lab, then attach it to his car from a string and drag it 40 miles on a gravel road... so when his phone died too soon for us to renew, I knew a used one was the best option.

Photo: My phone appears nearly new next to his mangled mess.
I remembered that a friend on the same network had an extra phone she didn't need. I called her, but didn't reach her. I panicked...aaaggghhh! We had to have a phone! We can't live without a phone!

So, I checked an on-line company that someone I knew had used: <---don't use them. Long story short: I ordered a phone, it didn't work, they promised to send another, didn't send one... they don't offer money back, and so on... probably just lost 70 bucks because of impatience. And wouldn't you know, my husband's co-worker just got a new phone and gave his old one to us. Just like that. So easy. So free. What should I have done? Well, I could've posted a note on my facebook account, I could've sent out a few e-mails, I could've asked strangers on the street, and in all likelihood, we'd had a phone that same day if I hadn't panicked. How many of you have old phones sitting at your house right now you'd been happy to see put to good use? You know the phone, too good to throw away or recycle, just sitting there... and you keep thinking to yourself... "I ought to sell that thing on Craig's List" but you haven't. There's usually a cheaper, or even free, option... when you take the time to consider your situation. Clothing. Furniture. Cars. All things we buy used all the time, so often, in fact, that whole industries are based on used clothes, cars, furniture, appliances, houses... But what about everything else? Here are some random examples from my life where I realized I could find a cheaper or free option. Carpet (cheap). My house has hardwood floors, but with the addition of baby, I realized I wanted some softer areas. Instead of buying expensive rugs, I just bought remnants from Fraziers. You can get any number of large or small sizes of varying quality and pay as little as $12 or as much as $200. They have a whole area devoted just to remnants, just ask when you go in.

Seeds (free). When it was time to plant my garden this year, I realized it'd cost me $20 just in seeds because I wanted so many different plants--zinnias, cucumbers, okra, watermelons, sunflowers, zucchini, marigolds, green beans, peas, etc--and I didn't want very many of each plant either. I mulled it over and realized I could just ask my mother, who plants a large garden every year, for a few seeds of each of the items she was also buying.

Coupons (free). Many couponers buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper to get to the good stuff--the coupons. I just get my parent's coupons from their paper and from a friend couponer who gives me her extras.

Fertilizer (cheap). I have two fish tanks, a 30 and 75 gallon, and I have 30+ houseplants. One day I put two and two together. When I siphon the yucky muck from the bottom of my fish tanks... I put that into my houseplants. Sorta free, but I do have to pay to keep up the fish.

Photos: some of my many house plants.

Gift bags (free). Next time you receive a gift from me, it'll be in one of the many gift bags I've received over the years. I recently realized--while decluttering--that my emotional attachment to gift bags ends now.

Photo: that's an 18-gallon container stuffed full.

VCR (free). Plenty of people have given their video cassette tapes to McKay's Used Books & CD's, but not me. I keep all my favorites, whether on disc or tape, so when our VCR died, I thought about how like the above cell phone example, plenty of people had VCR's they were dying to get rid of. Sure enough!

The above examples don't begin to touch on the amazing savings one can get with coupons. If you still haven't ventured into the couponing world, I urge you to do so. An example: for the last few weeks, my new best friend and I have been scrapbooking once a week. That stuff's expensive, but... A.C. Moore will email you a coupon each week, print one on the bottom of your receipt and give you another in the Sunday paper, Hobby Lobby emails a coupon, JoAnns, Michaels... Scrapbooks and More will match competitor's coupons once a week and usually have their own coupon in the school coupon books.

We also need to print out some of those millions of digital pictures we have. Shutterfly can't seem to stop themselves from offering me 50 free prints time and again--all I pay is shipping. Walgreens gave me 25 free prints when I bought 25 this week. Offers abound--find the one that's right for you.

Everything we purchase might have a cheaper or free option. About to throw down money on something? Wait! Let's put our heads together first and see if we can think of a cheaper option.

Finally, many thanks to everyone I've alluded to in this post!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Insect repellent cures eczema?

At only a few weeks old, my daughter began getting dry patches on her legs. The doctor said, "oh, winter is so hard on new baby skin."

At a different doctor's office during her 18 month old check up, the nurse practitioner said, "oh, summer heat is so hard on baby skin."

Something isn't adding up?

My daughter's dry skin patches, or eczema, have been present to varying degrees ever since. I tried a few things here and there, but mostly in the beginning I kept her moisturized with Eucerin moisturizing cream. Before long, I noticed the patches would go crazy--spread up her legs and turn red--after being in strongly chlorinated environments like pools. This summer I kept her away from fountains and pools at the cost of many a playdate. In addition, only a few weeks ago, she hopped in the creek at Fountain City Park, and her skin reacted. Who knows what's in there?

When we went to the beach this summer, we camped, so she wasn't in chlorinated water at all. Her eczema disappeared right away even though we were eating the same foods. Since our return, I've been putting Vitamin C and sea salt in her bath water, (Vitamin C neutralizes chlorine) and her skin has been decent but not great.

Now for the news: Burt's Bee's "All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent" cures eczema??? Well, I tried it out--for the insect repellent effect--and the next morning, her skin was smooth and soft. The only other time it looked and felt that good was after our beach trip. So, what to do now?

I made a trip to Earthfare, discussed it with a helpful employee and came home with Mommie Dots "ReNewed Bebe Vegan Butter Balm" which states: a "soothing atopic remedy for eczema and severe dry skin."

So far, it's great, but not as strong as the Burt's Bees. Please note I've only had it for one day. I had planned on buying some of the same essential oils in the insect repellent, so that's probably what I'll still end up doing.

The bottom lines are: doctors weren't helpful at all, my girl has some sensitive skin/allergy seemingly to external not internal causes, and this is probably going to take a while to figure out.

By the way, the only place I know of to get the Burt's Bee's spray is at Lowe's, and it worked much better than those other natural brands I've tried. I wasn't completely mosquito proof (I had to put it on thicker), but the daughter was.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Baby Bookworms at Burlington Branch Library

True for any major city (I hope!): the public library is your friend.

Mine saved me from postpartum depression. Ok, so that's an overstatement. But, when my daughter was about four months old, I heard about a program called baby bookworms, bb, at our libraries. I also heard that the 11:00 bb at Fountain City branch was The One, so we went and faithfully attended. At times, attending bb was the only thing I looked forward to for the week. My baby was always calm and happy while there. The charismatic storytime leader thrilled us with interactive songs, big pop-up books, finger plays, and playtime on a blanket of toys afterward.

She's still doing that now, but word has spread. Our baby bookworms storytime has gotten crowded! Other moms have told me about bb at other library branches--some good, some not so good. So, when I finally made it to a new once-a-month story time at my closest branch, Burlington, I was excited.

The best news is that it will now be held twice a month. Beginning in September, it's the first and third Tuesday at 10:30. The time and day are a perfect match for me and the little one. To recap:

Baby Bookworms
Burlington Branch Library (East Knoxville)
1st and 3rd Tuesdays
10:30 a.m.

(September 1 and September 15)

Here's more good news about Burlington Branch Library: a park is being built adjacent, so soon, you can have a picnic right after storytime. Many thanks to Town Hall East for helping the park plans happen!

Don't feel left out--8-5 working moms and pops can also have fun at the library. Lawson McGhee offers an evening storytime at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday, which we have attended and enjoyed.

Find a storytime or event that's right for you:

See you at the library!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Coupons, Barnes & Noble gift card with purchase

Image representing Barnes & Noble as depicted ...Image via CrunchBase

To take advantage of this offer, visit this page.

Take A Bite Out Of Reading

Back to school just got a bit healthier as Earth’s Best joins with other Hain Celestial Group organic brands to nurture healthy reading habits!

When it comes to good habits, Earth’s Best and parents are on the same page. Just like eating healthy, reading is a good habit, and a great way to spend time with your kids. So when you purchase $15 or more of participating Hain Celestial Group products, you will receive a Barnes & Noble Gift Card. In addition to the Barnes & Noble gift cards, you will receive a complimentary Healthy Eating Tips bookmark and coupons for all participating Hain Celestial Group brands. It’s a great way to build your back-to-school book collection!
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Be an informed voter

A Candidate Forum is being held to present the 4th District City Council candidates to the community. The forum is being jointly sponsored by: Town Hall East, Alice Bell-Spring Hill, and Fountain City Town Hall. The forum will be held at the New Harvest Park Building, 4775 New Harvest Lane (near the new Target Shopping Center) on Monday August 10, 2009, at 7 p.m.

The format will include opening and closing statements by the candidates, and a question and answer period involving the audience. Community members are invited to attend and become better informed before casting votes in September.

Choosing your next council representative affects the City you call home.

Please join us and become an informed voter.

Who's running in the 4th district? Nick Della Volpe and Ray Abbas

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

East Knoxville's own "Secret Garden"

My daughter and I recently visited the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, which is within minutes of our home. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll and even found a cat in Knoxville's 44 acre "secret garden." The grounds are beautiful and provide a great place for a picnic or in my case, for my toddler to run around and let off some steam that day!

The gardens are actually older than Knoxville and began as a nursery.

"The year was 1786, the United States had declared its independence from Great Britain 10 years earlier and North Carolina was awarding land west of the Appalachian Mountains to its dedicated soldiers of the Revolutionary War and selling land to cover war debts. David Wessels Howell was one of the individuals who was awarded a piece of land where he established a plant nursery and orchard in the area that would later be known as Knoxville, TN."

--from the Garden's Website: History of the Howell Nurseries By Katie Steinhoff

The gardens and nursery were nearly lost for a housing project in 2001, but now, full restoration efforts are in progress. The board has big dreams for East Knoxville's garden space:

"Our hope is to see this historic landscape preserved, restored and expanded as a public garden, a community resource and as a tourist destination. We envision: every tree native to this region displayed along with rare and exotic species already established, pleasure gardens designed by nationally noted garden designers to create a collection quite extraordinary and significant to Knoxville, a bird sanctuary, areas designated for plant cultivation, meditation, water features, sculpture and ultimately an amphitheater for plays, concerts and festivals... The Gardens will provide a new and much needed dedicated “green space” for the community that surrounds it as well as educational programs for children and adults throughout Knoxville."

--from The Garden's Website.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Thrift Store Sale

Thanks to Couponing in Critical Times for a heads up on an upcoming sale at the American Council of the Blind Thrift Store. They are offering 50% off during tax-free weekend, so for more details, click the above link.

The store is located just off Clinton Hwy next to Northern Tool & Equipment and across from my family's business, Lee's Specialtee.