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TB Articles: Living on A Budget August 26, 2009

Posted by texasheartland in Ecnomony, life, money, shopping.
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I may be young, but I’ve understood what it is like to live on a tight budget. Now that unemployment has risen the the economy is recovering too slowly for many people, living on a tight budget has become “the norm”.

When it comes to groceries, coupons have become wildly popular. But most of them are for name brands and those tend to run on the expensive side. Don’t be afraid of store brands. In some cases, they can taste the exact same as the name brand version but at a cheaper price. And sometimes, generic store brands have larger casings or packaging, making them last longer. Cap’n Crunch may taste great, but Malt-O-Meal has a bigger back with the same great taste. It may cost more, but you’ll save money when you aren’t buying the name brand box every 2 weeks. If you only get paid every 2 weeks and need to stretch the food out, stock up. Instead of buying 1 gallon of milk, buy 2. Instead of buying one box of Pop Tarts, buy 2. You might not be saving a lot of money, but you’re saving yourself a trip to the grocery store and whatever money you have left, that can used towards other things.

Speaking of trips, setting aside gas money for a week or two is a great way to save. It cuts out the desire to spend the money for something else (unless it was needed) and you know exactly where it’s going. If you spend $20 every week for gas, take out $40 for two weeks. Label an envelope “Weekly Gas- 2 Weeks”, and place the $40 in there. That way if you get the impulse to buy that DVD, you will know that it is to be used for gas or emergencies.

If you feel you can’t pay a bill or have problems buying food, don’t underestimate the power of help. There are thousands upon thousands of people who go through the exact same thing every single day. There are problems that are available to help pay a bill or even help with food. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce if you want to know what programs are available.

Living on a budget doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Reinventing the way you make pasta or even buy groceries can bring new ideas, making a tight budget seem less suffocating I promise.

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Bye-bye eBay- Hello Amazon! August 19, 2009

Posted by texasheartland in Amazon, eBay, Feelings, life, random, shopping, thoughts.
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Through a stroke of good luck, I won a $50 gift card to Amazon. At first I had trouble figuring out what to buy because I wanted to buy this and I wanted to buy that but luckily, I thought of a movie that my family loves and decided to buy it. It was Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration. When I first saw it when I was a tot, I absolutely loved it and didn’t get it on VHS until a few years ago but that tape has since been lost and we’ve been without our Claymation Christmas!

Claymation Christmas Part 1

So thanks to this gift card, I was able to buy it. The thing on Amazon said it should be here by September 8th, but I was expecting it to ARRIVE ON September 8th. I purchased it on the 16th and it arrived today! Talk about some fast shipping! That’s even better than eBay and I used the standard shipping! I love Amazon a lot better than eBay because while Amazon has its fair share of crooks, you can search for something better and eventually find it. Not to mention that 85% of companies/users fulfill their requirements as to eBay, where you have to sometimes wonder if they’ll actually send the darned thing. With Amazon’s universal wishlist, I am able to add things to my Amazon wishlists from different websites instead of bookmarking each page. With eBay, you have to “watch” the item and grow in disappointment as you watch the bids get higher and knowing you can’t bid on it. With Amazon, you just add it to a wishlist, wait until you can buy it, and away your order goes! I have a couple of more things coming (even 1/2 of Mom’s Christmas gifts). I should get another tomorrow (Mom’s gift)- yippie!

I know it’s 5 months early, but I know what I’ll be watching later!

CIJ: Electronics July 28, 2009

Posted by texasheartland in Christmas, Christmas in July, Electronics, Gift Ideas, gifts, holidays, shopping.
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christmas-presentIf you have a gadget buff in your midst, then give them more gadges- electronics! With the Kindle (Amazon’s Original Wireless Reading Device), you can take eBooks that are downloaded onto your computer or bought at the Kindle Store and read them as you would a regular book, except it is almost like a tablet! I personally would love to have one, since I am an avid reader. Millions have already been sold and this should be a hot ticket this year for bookworms!

Of course, digitized photos are VERY hot right now. With new digital cameras coming out all the time, it’s hard to choose which one to get. I say get one that would be appropriate for the person’s age and experience with digital cameras. If they aren’t that experienced, the Nikon Coolpix 4100 would be a great simple camera for them to get their feet wet in digital photos. There are also digital photo frames. What you essentially do is plug the frame into your USB port, upload the photos to the frame, and set the frame anywhere in your home! It’s like have a regular frame except all your photos rotate so they have their own moments to shine. If you want to take it for on the go, there is always the Digital Photo Keychain from Overstock.com that can hold up to 60 color photos.

Then you have the newest phones, like the iPhone 3G, which seems to be the hottest phone around. Not only is it a phone, it has internet connection, applications, and tons of other things to do! But it can cost anywhere from $200-$600 so I would wait for sales before buying so you get more bang for your buck. BlackBerry is also becoming popular. Texting is a lot smoother than on regular cell phone and they have a lot of applications for you to choose from whether you like music or travelling. They pretty much have it all. BlackBerries usually range in the same price of the iPhone.

iPods aren’t as popular, but as soon as the iTouch http://www.apple.com/ipodtouch/ hit the shelves, the demand has been grand. It’s not like the iPhone where you can talk or text to each other. But it’s just the same! You can download your favorite music, movies, get online, and even get weather or stocks! These tend to be a little less expensive, starting at $190 for the cheap versions up to $400 for the official iTouch device. But don’t forget that you have the Zune Music Player, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, or the SanDisk Sansa.

If you’re man doesn’t know where to go and won’t stop to ask for directions, give them a GPS so you won’t nag them to stop and they won’t argue back that they “know” where they’re going. At GPSCity.com, they have hundreds of different kinds of GPS to choose from. According to BestBuy.com, they can range anywhere from $80 for the easy and simple to over $400 for the high-end GPS systems.

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CIJ: Christmas Decor July 7, 2009

Posted by texasheartland in Christmas, Christmas in July, Gift Ideas, gifts, holidays, shopping.
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Another thing I love about Christmas is the decorating. I love decorating for Christmas because it just puts me in the Christmas mood. While I’m not one of these that leave Christmas decorations up all year long, I do enjoy the look of Christmas decor at Christmastime because I think it’s absolutely beautiful.

Aside from the normal Wal-Mart or Lowes for Christmas decorations, there is always the internet! Believe it or not, a lot of Christmas places are popping up, selling nothing but Christmas decorations! One of my favorite places to visit is Bronners, which is an actual store in Michigan. They have everything from trees to light displays to thousands of whimsical tree ornaments. They also have a few seasonal items including Halloween and Graduation gifts. You can request a catalog but I do warn you: you’re better off shopping online instead of their catalog because their catalog is mostly filled with ornaments.

A great place for Christmas decor HAS to be the Maine (pun not intended) store, 365 Days of Christmas. You have the choice of shopping by type (Disney, Bears, Angels, etc.) or shopping by category. They have TONS of decor to choose from. The Penguins~Penguins even have their own category! One thing they do not offer, which is sad for a collector like me, are nutcrackers. Bronners has a slew of nutcrackers to choose from. But Christmas 365 has TONS of other items.

AAAAArdQe9wAAAAAAJRPFgIf you are looking for pretty much anything for a good price, Christmasplace.com is the place to go. They have novelty items like the Texas Gnome Cheerleader, which only sells for about $15. Like the 2 previous places mentioned, this is also a real store that you can visit in Tennessee. They are also the only place that offers a reward program for every $250 you spend. Trust me, it would be super easy to do that! For more information on the Rewards Program, visit here.

Of course, we can’t forget about Amazon. They offer pretty much anything and everything you’d ever want for Christmas decorations and competitve prices. They also offeer items from Bronner’s so it’s easier to choose an item from Bronner’s.

So if you’re ever in the mood to do some early Christmas decor shopping, keep these places in mind because it’ll save you a lot of time!

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CIJ: Etsy Christmas Crafts July 5, 2009

Posted by texasheartland in Christmas, Christmas in July, Crafts, etsy, shopping.
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I don’t know about you but I love homemade items, especially homemade Christmas items. It just screams Americana and Christmas at the same time. I also love Etsy and as I was getting ready for Christmas in July, I decided to search on Etsy to see what kind of Christmas items the sellers currently had just for kicks. I guess we’re not the only ones who shop for Christmas items in July. They currently have several items for sale that are Holiday-oriented.

They have drawn prints and cards for sale that are exquisite. I did not know that you could make something like this on PhotoShop.

I didn’t know that you could make something like that on PhotoShop. That’s extremely talented. This particular piece goes for $22, which isn’t bad for the amount of work the artist did.

You can also find wreaths, stockings, and wall vinyl stickers for your home. They also have candles in Christmas scents like Apple Cinnamon or Candy Cane. There aren’t a lot of Christmas items out there at the moment because it is July but as it gets nearer to Fall, everyone will start making Christmas items for the “Day After Thanksgiving”.

Want an elf as an ornament?

*ALL PICTURE LINKED TO ETSY SHOPS.

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CIJ: Gift Ideas for Kids/Teens July 4, 2009

Posted by texasheartland in children, Christmas, Christmas in July, family, Gift Ideas, gifts, holidays, Movies, music, shopping, Toys.
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Even with children, they seem to be the easiest to shop for. They can be picky, but they also enjoy unwrapping gifts and squealing with delight as they realized that they got something off their Christmas list (even if it isn’t the exact Barbie doll they wanted). I have realized through tons of TV watching and Christmas shopping, Moms and Dads are going towards educational and personalized gifts to give their children. At Happy Kids Personalized, there are a lot of items to choose from, including personalized music CDs, children’s books, and even personalized T-Shirts. With Hannah Montana and Jonas Brother items on the rise, there should be no surprise that their products will end up on Christmas lists all around the world.

While action figures and dolls are envitable as they are synonmous with Christmas gifts, give them the gift of creativity with arts and crafts. At Michael’s and Hobby Lobby, you can usually find craft kits that includes painting, art sand, and even mosiacs. Letting them use their creative noodle not only keeps them occupied, they’ll use that same creativity and imagination later in life. Trust me- I was big on crafts when I was younger.

I know it’s wishful thinking, but I was hoping vintage toys would make a comeback. I remember getting a Furby for Christmas and a LiteBrite one year. While they aren’t what they used to be, they still sell the Mousetrap game and Simon games at Toys R Us.

But if you’re having problems figuring out what to get your teenager, DVDs of their favorite TV shows/artists and electronics are the way to go. As I went into my teens years, it got harder for Mom to shop for Manders and I because we weren’t particular in what we wanted. We were going through that stage so we had made it difficult. iPods, iPod decks, and even Guitar Hero video games seem to be what is currently popular with this age. If you do decide to get them Guitar Hero or Rock Band, I can say that it will pay for itself. As your teen continues playing, they will continue to keep getting better at it and there are other versions of them to buy so they they never have to play the same song month after month after month. If they’re friends receive a Guitar Hero guitar in the same platform, they can play against each other to see who has the highest score! You can also get the a gift card to iTunes so they can download their favorite music to place on an iPod they already have.

I may not have children but I sure do speak from experience!

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CIJ: Gifts for One Who Has Everything July 3, 2009

Posted by texasheartland in Christmas, Christmas in July, Gift Ideas, gifts, holidays, shopping.
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If you’re anything like me, you have a few family members or friends that have pretty much everything so that when it comes time to shop for them, it can be rather difficult. You could give them gift cards to Wal-Mart or even Sears but that’s not so personable.

If you have a picture of you and your family that you want to give as a gift to your Mom but not sure how do that, go to Photofiddle.com and turn your snapshot into a work of art. You have over 12 designs to choosen from and over 15 categories to choose from. You can take that picture of your daughter with spaghetti all over her head and turn it into a Oil Panting. Prices range from $15 to over $2800 for a 280″ x 70″, depending on the type of product you get.

If they have many things around their home that is personalized, why not add it? Head over to PersonalCreations.com for the foie gras of personalized items. They have EVERYTHING from gifts for babies to even pet ornaments. Manders have used them before and she actually bought me a personalized sister mug and it was of great quality. They have a plethora of items to choose from and if you can’t find that personalized item that they’ll enjoy, you might be choosing the wrong gift because they have practically everything!

If that doesn’t help, try a magazine subscription to their favorite magazine. But only get it for one year. My aunt got me a magazine subscription to a magazine I wouldn’t even consider reading one year. I was thankful because I guess she didn’t know what I liked but she did it again last year, and every since then, the magazines have ended up in the trash or they were given to someone else. Be VERY careful on which magazine you sign them up for otherwise they won’t get read.

Don’t forget that hobbies go unnoticed at Christmas because everyone wants that hot new gadget instead of something they can actually use like a new snowboard or garden tool. It really depends on what their hobby is and how often they do activities related to it. Do some research to find out the best place to get the gift for their hobby.

Even though it isn’t a material gift, give them the gift of a Star! At the International Star Registry, you can actually name a star in their honor! When you name the star, your recipient receives a Star Naming Kit.

All kits include:

* A beautiful 16″ X 12″ full color parchment certificate personalized with the star name, date and coordinates.
* A Personalized 16″ X 12″ sky chart containing the star name, star date, the constellation and the location circled in red where the star is in the sky.
* A booklet on astronomy written by a professional astronomer with additional sky charts.
* A letter of congratulations/memorial for the recipient.

There is even Star Groups for couples, siblings, parents & kids who want their own 2 stars in space. Sounds pretty cool, huh?

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Shopping with someone else’s money! February 9, 2009

Posted by texasheartland in life, money, Products, random, shopping, sweepstakes, Target, thoughts, Wal-Mart.
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Thanks to my sister, she won a $25 gift card to Target and being our mom is sweet, she gave us an extra $20 to go with it. It’s a good thing she did- we ended up needing it!

So as you can tell, we went to Target. I had forgotten how much more expensive Target was compared to Wal-Mart! I swear that after finding a Valentine’s Day card, we walked went from one end of the store to the other at least 5 times. I could be exaggerating, but that’s what it seemed like! We already had a Valentine’s gift, a card, 2 pillows (that we later traded- you’ll see), and we were looking at hampers when my cyber guy (the one I have a thing for) sent me a text message. He asked what I was up to, I told him, and he replied with “What are you buying me?”. I said “Well what do you want?”. He wanted Cheetos and a Dr Pepper. Wait… Couldn’t you get that at the Corner Store? Needless to say, he didn’t get it.

So we got the hamper (this would be a lot better than throwing dirty clothes on the floor for the kitties to use as a litter box) and decided to look for a comforter for the bed. Now I wish she had gotten a $25 gift card to Wal-Mart. The prices at Target for comforters are outrageous! No thank you!

So we passed on the comforter and decided to just look around when I saw the pillows. The 2 pillows we had in the cart were $5 each. I saw cheaper pillows! Only $3- you can’t beat that! So I took the $5 pillows out of my basket and grabbed 3 $3 pillows. Now that was a steal! It’s like laying on air!

I think we were done after that. Well, almost. We passed the ice cream area and I asked if we could get some ice cream. I got my ice cream! So all in all, we only spent $32 with some cupcakes thrown in there.

Now I await my turn to win a gift card so I can go shopping!

Twins & The Holidays December 7, 2008

Posted by texasheartland in birthday, Christmas, family, random, shopping, thoughts.
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A couple of days ago, I was watching “SuperQuads” on Discovery Health and the parents were Christmas shopping for the twins. An expert said to buy one major gift for multiples to share and then their own similar individual gifts. Once she mentioned that, it brought back a lot of childhood memories. My mom was the same way when me and Manders were growing up. She would buy us one gift to share and our own individual gifts.

Even now as we turn 24, Christmas gifts are equal in numbers. The gifts are no longer similar in color or item, but Mom always makes sure we have the same amount of gifts.

Speaking of birthday and gifts, I still have yet to get something for Manders for our birthday. Years before, we only got each other a birthday card. This will be the first year EVER that we have decided to get something for each other for birthday. And I have NO clue what to get her! I had her make me a list of what she wanted, but I am still at a loss. Well, the list was also for Christmas but I think I have an idea of what to get her. The only thing that would make me panic is if the store didn’t have what I want. It’s funny, though. I know her extremely well (almost as well as I know myself!) and I still don’t know what to get her. Why do they have to be the hardest people to shop for?