Thursday, January 31, 2008

Handmade in the Headlines

Perhaps you are already familiar with the fabulous online handmade sellers site Etsy. They were in the headlines this morning, for the first time that I know of. (Correct me faithful Etsyians if I'm wrong!) The article said that they are receiving an inflow of 27 million for expansion into more languages and currencies, improve search and checkout functions, and other "next step" goals for a growing internet company.

Etsy has an excellent business model that's strength lies not in how many buyers and sellers are in it's lists, but the loyalty and frequency of those members. When you go to the site you can feel what a community is there, and that people are committed to helping eachother's businesses and promoting "handmade" as a trade. Unlike e-bay, the site is uncluttered, un-junky, and people really care about making the best offerings possible. There are no mega-store sellers, just artisans who love what they make.You should see the care and creativity people use in posting the pictures of their beloved wares!

I'm glad Etsy got a fresh inflow of cash. Going global is a great move for them. I just hope they can maintain the high quality, and community of the sellers as they expand.







By the way, if you're looking for a unique valentine gift you are sure to find one there!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Accountability at a Glance

So I'm sure you set yourself some goals for the New Year. How are those going, anyway? If you're like most people, you probably fall into one of the options of "not great", "okay I guess", or "horrible".

Here comes some accountability, which we all know is so critical for following through on your goals! This cool, way-simple site Joes Goals lets you set up a list of goals in literally one minute (if you already know what they are. Taking extra time thinking of goals does not apply to the one minute) and then give yourself a smiley when you complete that goal for the day. You can also put things that you want to avoid doing, and give yourself a little red dot if you mess up that day.

"Sure", you say, "like I need another website to go to each day." Well, thankfully, if you use igoogle, like me, you can add your progress chart as a wiget! Here is a little screen shot for you to get the idea, if you still aren't sure.

Anyone out there need some fashion advice?


I always find myself saying, "Well I could look great if I had a ton of money to spend!" So this book caught my eye, particularly as I love tips on where to get a good deal. It's called "How to Be a Budget Fashionista". Yeah, I love the title!

A fellow frugal blogger is giving it away on her site. She's also got some awesome tips on ways to work the drug stores for free stuff. Check her out! Click the book to go to the givaway.

Fun Mental Workouts

My dad is paranoid about Alzheimer's disease. We do have some in our family history, but a bigger factor of who will develop it has to do with how healthy your mind is to begin with. What is a healthy mind you ask? One that deals with stress, not letting it build up, and that is given new and challenging exercises to strengthen and increase memory. Mental exercise has been reported by neurologists to reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 70 percent. They say that everyone should spend at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week, doing mental exercise. That advice is not just for old people!



So what counts as "mental excercise"? I think you know! Word puzzles, soduku, board games and basically any puzzle that requires concentration! So to help you get started, here are a few I enjoy, which will hopefully be keeping me sharp for a very long time to come!






Monday, January 28, 2008

The Tax Man Cometh!

So my little Dodge Neon is about dead. *sniffle* Despite the fact that it is old and tiny (but very gas efficient!) I am rather sad about letting it go. Now I will be getting a new car in the not-too-distant-future. So some extra money would really come in handy about now... (like it doesn't always?) so I am doing our taxes quite early so I can hurry up and get our tax rebate!


I normally let my dad do them on some fancy tax software that he likes (and pays for) but since I do not want to wait for him to do them, I did a little search for free tax preparation! It turns out that our kind, generous government is all about free tax preparation and has a plethora of links on the IRS website. I chose TaxCut because I am familiar with the name, and while putting everything in correctly is not effortless, they have pleanty of links to explain everything. Hopefully I'll have a nice little pile of money headed my way soon!

Here's some more free tax filing sites:

More about car buying later!

Why you NEED to get rid of TV!

There is a TV at my house. It is mainly used for entertaining my 2 year old for brief periods while I shower or try to get a quick chore done. That amounts to probably 2 half-hour movies a day.

My husband and I do watch movies; we have Netflix, which is awesome. But even more awesome than getting movies in the mail is the now unlimited streaming videos we can get from their website. (Well, okay, I do like getting the new releases on DVD too!)

So we pay for Netflix, BUT we do not pay for cable, DISH, or movie rentals. You would not believe how much money this saves us! We used to get cable ($30/mo) and rent at least one movie per week ($3.50/wk) and I thought we were doing pretty well. That is really almost $50 a month, and most of what we watched on cable was junk and a time waster! And I know so many families who pay much more, get the TiVo and whatnot, and either don't use it effectively, waste way more time, or still end up renting movies from a local store. This is not thrifty! And I don't just mean with your dollars, but your time too!

Here's what you should do...
Write down what your favorite shows are; the ones you can't miss, and what channel they are on. ABC, NBC and the other major channels are now putting their most popular shows online to be streamed, so if your show is on one of these channels you should probably be watching them online anyway, because you can watch whenever you want!

Now, if you can wait a few months to watch your shows, Netflix has all the shows that are on DVD, so you can have those sent to you as soon as they are released. I've also found past TV shows on youtube, and myspace. I'm sure if you do a little bit of hunting around, almost any show can be found available on the internet.

So what is the major flaw in this ingenious plot? Well, frankly, it's sports. While I understand there are many men out there who like to TiVo the game, I don't see how that can be nearly as thrilling. The whole point of watching sports is to find out who wins, and enjoy the game at the same time as millions of other people! It is possible that even without paying for channels that you may get the ones you need for watching football and whatever else. But if you don't, not having cable could really cramp your watching. Ways that my family has worked around this have been going to a public restaurant famous for it's great TVs (the game is always on there), or getting ourselves invited to a friend's house for the game. (making really great guacamole helps!)

But we are not huge sports fanatics, so we haven't really felt like we've missed much. The money and time savings of only watching what we really want to watch has been a huge improvement in our quality of life.

You can do it too! Get Netflix or Blockbuster Online, dump your cable or DISH, find your other favorite shows online and I promise you won't miss the junk!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Can you shop only once a week?

Well, I can, and I do as much as possible. Why? Here's my reasons:

  • Less impulse spending
  • Less time wasted in extra trips
  • Easier to keep my budget and receipts organized
  • I can plan ahead
  • I take inventory before I go and know exactly what I need for the week
  • It's fewer times to drag my little kids through the store
  • It's easier to plan one big trip a week and block out that time
In short, it's cheaper and more effective!

How do I do it? I prepare a menu before I go to force myself to plan what I will need for each meal. I look through my fridge and pantry and note what I already have, and what I am out of. From experience I anticipate how much cereal, crackers, snacks etc. my family will need for the week and I add what is needed to my list.

I also try to be general where possible. I may not know what fruit is in season or what meat is on sale this week, so I leave myself some wiggle room. I may put "Fruit, 4 pieces" or something to that extent.

Now there's a couple things you can do to help yourself not run out of unexpected things. I like to have several cake mixes, pudding mixes etc for last minute "Could you bring a desert?" situations, or times when my hubby is craving something sweet. I try not to buy chips very often, but I like having a good supply of healthy crackers on hand for snacking emergencies etc. I also keep my baking supplies well stocked, and I TRY to keep a good amount of canned goods. I pay attention to how many eggs, sticks of butter, and the like, that I have so that I can plan my meals using up what I have, but not running out before I go to the store again next week. I also try to just buy the fresh things that I will use that week. Wast because of spoilage is not thrifty!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Socialized Interactive Goodie-ness!

I added a few new toys to this blog! As you can tell, now you are able to subscribe in pretty much any possible way your heart desires! Feeds, Bookmarks, or E-mail are now available to your every whim!

I also would really appreciate your comments and feedback! And if you find an article or site you think worth mentioning/reviewing, let me know! I love the latest buzz!

Thanks for reading!

A Friendlier Walmart?

Yesterday, Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. addressed his company, and the press, touting many incremental changes that Wal-Mart will be pushing for their employees and their customers benefit.


Wal-Mart has the negative reputation as being the "Big Box Giant" who cares nothing about the environment, foreign labor practices, or their employees health coverage (I heard a while ago that 80% of Wal-Mart employees are "part-time" which exempts them from being able to purchase the group health insurance) But the mega-retailer seems to be recognizing the problems, and instead of throwing their weight around to slow the process of change, they seem to be doing the opposite.

The company CEO was quick to identify changes they've made in the past year to encourage energy conservation (they are working on pilot solar powered stores, and thanks to a big in-store marketing push, are the leading retailer of energy saving light bulbs). He also shared that they plan to use their awesome database power to assist other companies in managing and paying their prescription drug claims, and also increase their own volume of electronic prescription filling. Electronic prescriptions have proven to be more accurate than hand-written ones, and can also be double checked against existing prescriptions to make sure there are no reactions or overdosing. They also plan to provide electronic health records to ALL U.S. employees and their family members by 2010. These are intended to give doctors a full survey of a patient's medical history, and to aid in preventing treatments that conflict with one another. (Aren't databases wonderful?!)

Another way they plan to use their corporate power is to leverage their suppliers in China to start sticking to the environmental regulations their country already has in place, but are notoriously lax in enforcing. Personally, I'm hoping this also includes fair wages to employees, and dare I imagine, health insurance?!?!

In addition to energy saving light bulbs, Wal-Mart is also encouraging their suppliers to offer more energy efficient electronics and appliances at reasonable costs for their customers.


Wal-Mart sells Organic Cotton! This Organic
Cotton Sleepshirt by Hanes costs only $8.98!


While there are energy efficient appliances available now, some believe that their higher prices have inhibited many people from buying them, and Wal-Mart says that they are now trying to change that. By holding the carrot out, Wal-Mart will probably be very effective in enticing these products to be developed.

This is very encouraging news! In order for there to be a real change in electricity consumption, we are going all have to switch to more efficient products. And how are we going to do that? We will buy them from the place we buy everything else, Wal-Mart!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Periodic Table of Clean

Have you ever wondered how often you should really clean your blinds? Or feel like you are forgetting something in your regular cleaning schedule? Well, the Elements of Clean, created by Real Simple Magazine visually displays all the household chores imaginable as well as how often each should be performed. When you have this table, you know more than Martha! Go get it, you know you should!



Oh, while I was at Real Simple's site I also found 10 Smart Uses for Old Plastic Bags, if you're interested in doing your own recycling. (See below for reusable bags)

Greener Shopping is on the Grow

Lately it seems like the media is just swarming about reusable shopping bags. Now don't get me wrong, the bags are nothing new, but recently the trend has really taken off, and not just at Whole Foods (though the "Green Grocer" is probably the leader in the movement). Word is that they will not offer any paper or plastic to put your groceries in after Earth Day this year. (April 22, 2008)
But more and more cities are trying to move away from the plastic disposable bags that seem to always end up blowing down the road. The city of Roseville California is trying to encourage the use of reuseable bags by giving them away for free, and more cities are sure to follow. San Francisco has banned the biodegradable-resistant bags all together, and anti-bag bills are also being considered in Boston, Baltimore, Annapolis, Portland, Santa Monica, and Oakland. Even New York, America's largest city which uses an estimated 1 billion plastic bags per year is also taking steps to reduce by requiring large stores to offer bag recycling, and print pro-recycling messages on them.
Here's my top picks if you'd like to pick up a few re-usable bags for yourself!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Have you heard of this scam?

I must say that pretty much every stay-at-home mom I know is looking for a legitimate home business to work from. This is so risky! This video really made an impact on me and helped me see some common dangers in even checking into these businesses! Always remember not to give your personal information out on the internet, unless you really know and trust the business!


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Do you believe in Electrosensitivity?

Don't you just feel great when you read a news article that ends in

"However, the researchers said they could not rule out the possibility that long-term use may raise the risk of cancer."....


Today the results of a study were announced regarding a connection with cell phone use before bed. The study showed that those who talk on their cell phone before going to sleep at night had a harder time getting to a deep sleep level needed for reducing stress and "getting rest". The headline reads "Mobles Linked to Disterbed Sleep", but what really drew me in was the opening paragraph

"The study, funded by mobile phone companies, suggests radiation from the handset can cause insomnia, headaches and confusion. "

Yeah, FUNDED BY MOBILE PHONE COMPANIES!

There are so many articles out there that get published that are hoaxes, biased info, or just not good reporting, but for the study to have been paid for by the companies that these results hurt the most really adds credibility, in my humble opinion. And it was reported by the BBC: also a pretty credible publication.

The article describes how the wireless signal emmitted by phones may be causing changes in the areas of the brain responsible for activating and coordinating the stress system. This results in the brain taking longer to go into deep sleep patterns. "Those exposed to radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest one"

What exactly that means, the article didn't really go into. The term they use to describe the effects was "Electrosensitivity", where test subjects reported symptoms such as headaches and the like after using the devices.

Which makes me wonder... do YOU get a headache from being on your cell phone? I usually get an ear ache... does that count? I might get a headache, but that's probably a result of the ear ache.... Oh well, I digress...

The full article can be found here

Reply to post your thoughts please.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

reviews

Would you like to see your product reviewed on my blog? I love checking out new things, testing them, and writing about them. I will give my honest opinion, and I may compare you to your competitors. But if that doesn't scare you too much, feel free to contact me. At this point in time, I do not charge anything for a review. I want to be known as an honest, unbiased reviewer. But I will probably ask you to send 2 of whatever book, product, etc. you'd like the review done on, so I can give one away as a freebee to my readers. This is great marketing for you, plus it helps me build my blog following. I will probably have some questions (interview style) to ask you so that I can talk about your business, background or whatever would be relevent for my readers to know. It won't hurt, I promise!

Also, if you run a website that is giving something away for free: samples, a contest, etc. and you think my readers would be interested, please drop me a line and I just might mention it.