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Friday, January 31, 2014

Finance Fridays: Department Store Credit Cards


We have all heard the shpeel before: sign up for our store card and receive 15% off your total today. I was one of those cashiers who said that over and over again, all in hopes of receiving $3 bonus per card signed up for at my register.

TRUTH #1
Store cards are HARD inquiries on your credit report. Your credit standing is reported by three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. This inquiry is not as negative as having an outstanding bill unpaid, but it does contribut to lowering your score a bit. How much lower is really part of a matrix used by each company. Try to hold on to every point of your credit score.

TRUTH #2
Store cards have high interst rates. Interest rates are charged to your total balance due, and most of these cards charge 15% to 28%. This annual rate (APY or APR) will be charged on ANY balance you have. And, to top it off, it accues DAILY. Word to the wise, if you have these cards, pay them off in full each month. Pretty please!

TRUTH #3
Closing a store card will negatively impact your credit. Once you pay off the card, if you do at all, it is tempting to close it and get rid of it. Instead, just do not use it. Do not go to that store. Closing the card will decrease your available credit, which means you will have more debt compared to less credit (also known as the debt-to-credit-ratio).

TRUTH #4
You can go to the store's website and watch for in-store deals, which will let you save MORE than you would if you were a cardholder and received coupons in the mail. The store promises some exclusive offers to cardholders, but that is untrue. The offers apply to all shoppers.

TRUTH #5
You don't need the card. If you can't afford to pay for the item or items with your bank debit card or cash, you can't afford it. Reward yourself with one clothing/shoes/accessories shopping trip once a month. At that time, you can spend the amount you have BUDGETED for in your monthly budget sheet.

Let me know if you want a budget sheet.

Diana

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New purse






I just have to share this pretty new purse I purchased at Van Heusen's outlet store. It has a tag of $78, but I got it for $27. I would have paid more for it at Kohl's for sure.

I am not big into purses. I have one for carry-on travel, one for my laptop, and then my everyday bag. My white Nine West everyday tote has seen better days. So, I knew this Van Heusen bag would be a perfect replacement.

I will donate my old bag. My rule is: new one in, old one out. I will clean it up before I donate it to Goodwill.

What purse have you been eyeing for some time? When will you buy it?

Diana

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mom don'ts that I did

1. I dropped my child off at school in my workout clothes, a pony tail, and no makeup. But, I practically jogged her in and my way out as fast as possible without talking to anyone.

2. I ate one of my child's snack. I buy lots of snack-size things (chips, granola bars, cookies, etc.) for her afterschool snack. So, I had one myself while she was home and I hid in another room while I ate it. If she would have caught me, I could only imagine her disappointment.


3. I lied to my child. When she wouldn't pick up her toys, I threatened to take them to the Goodwill in the morning. I placed all of them in a trash bag and then into my car. The bag was out of my car and toys were back in the living room the next day. I like to think that the threat was good enough.

4. I told her the Easter Bunny is not real. It just slipped out, really. I could not take it back once it was out there. But, she still believes the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and her Elf on the Shelf are real.

5. I do not fraternize with other moms at my child's school. I smile and say hello when someone passes, but that it is.

6. WORST OF ALL. My husband and I talk negatively about some people we know in front of her. We pretty much forget that she is listening. I dread the day she blurts out something I've said about someone to that person's face. I will lie through my teeth! (I should just stop talking about people, of course.)

What "parent fails" have you done lately?

Diana

Time for comfy style

I wish it was always time for comfy style. You know, comfy style - clothes that are warm, soft, and loose-fitting. Oh, and... they do not flatter your body at all. 

Here I am, in a very comfty style kind of mood. I throw on my ultra soft on the inside Chicago hoodie that I picked up (of all places) at a Walgreens in Downtown Chicago. I was unprepared for the chilly wind that day in August, so I threw this on at the cash register. Classy. 

So, the perfect time to break out your comfy style, which could include sweatpants, t-shirts, hoodies, worn-in jeans, or that piece of clothing that you would be caught dead outside in (Snuggie anyone?), is when you are literally inside your home and you will not encounter another human being. I guess spouses are excluded, but you should try to not wear this often around the hubbie.

I see people where their comfty style outside the home all the time. Not cool. It is just as easy to grab a fitted t-shirt, holeless jeans, and finish with some boots. To keep my wardrobe in check, I have a tiny assortment of comfy style clothes to choose from: 1 pair of jeans, 1 hoodie (shown above), 2 college t-shirts, 1 unattractive chunky sweater, and 1 pair of sweatpants. The key is to store all these items together and away from your regular clothes, so you have to work to find them. This keeps me from throwing these peices on too often.

Quick tip: Play it down
Do not add jewelry or have your hair cute when wearing the comfy style. A messy bun or pony tail will do. Keep makeup very basic, if any. Looking plain-Jane in this outfit will keep you from grabbing for it on a regular day.

Quck tip: Don't wash jeans
Keep your jeans comfy by not washing them, unless absolutely necessary (i.e, stains, stench, etc.). This will keep your jeans from being stiff and tight.

Quick tip: Hide
Wear sunglasses if you must leave the house. This will at least hide your identity a bit if someone you know spots you in this getup.

Let me know what your comfy style is.

Diana

Lighting love affair

I never thought I could love a lighting fixture so much. This pendant chandelier, from Lowes, is so pretty. It reflects my personality and style. Didn't know a light could do all that?






Doesn't it make your heart go pitter patter? Well, it does for me. I first found this light on Pinterest. I followed the link from there to a woman's blog. She has it in her dining room too. She said she got it at Lowes, and off I went to Lowes to make my purchase. I was grateful that they had it. Even though it was no longer available in brushed nickel (my fave), I went with the bronze. My table is dark brown anyways, so it is a perfect fit. Bonus: everyone who sees it loves it and comments on it right away. A chandelier can really speak volumes.

What does yours look like?

Diana





Art under $15

I wish that I could say I am an artist. Actually, I wish I was several things that I'm not. Still, it would be great to think abstractly and create my own works of art. However, since that is not my reality and art supplies can be very expensive, I buy mine.


These two identical pieces of art, which are just canvas prints stretched over a wooden frame, were puchased for $15 at Kirklands. If you have not shopped there before, I urge you to find one and give it a try. It is a wonderful and affordable home decor store. I have been to one in a mall and one that was free-standing.

Also, Big Lots, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and other discount stores carry artwork. Before you spend over $30 on supplies, think about purchasing at one of these stores.

These two pieces hang above my sofa in my formal living room. I hung them just slightly askew so they fill up the bare wall more. If I hung them side-by-side, they would look even more identical. Separating them and hanging one below the other gives your eye more stimulation. Plus, it goes well with my off-white furniture. Yes, off-white furniture - that is why this room is the FORMAL living room. My family room has dark brown everything.



What kind of art are you picking up on the cheap?

Diana

My arch nemesis

Gold. The gold plated fitures are around my house. The house was built in 2001, but it is like 1985 blew up in here. Take a look for yourself.

Ceiling light in hallway before laundry room door.

All door knobs are gold. This door leads to my basement.

More gold sitings. This is the front door.

I cherish the day I give all gold finishes to my local Goodwill. I want to replace everything with brushed nickel. Sure, I could remove everything, spray paint, and replace. However, there are dents, scratches, chipping, and other issues on the fixtures. Plus, it will be good to remove the gold juju from this house. Not sure what juju is? It is like a curse or bad omen. I love using that word.

What do you just hate in your house?

Diana



The importance of back-ups

For the second time in a matter of two weeks, I am functioning without internet and television. Thank you, AT&T U-Verse (sarcastic tone). It got me thinking again about the importance of having back-ups. I mean hard copies, saved electronic files, and other things not associated with having internet access. Plus, you can get crazy bored without either of these things.

1. Hard copies - I purchased a bill organizer for $2 from Dollar Tree, or you can use an old 3-ring binder you have laying around. Print out montly bill paid receipts from your online accounts, hole punch them, and store them in the binder by month (not category). This way, you have a year-at-a-glace of bills paid in case the question arises.

2. Calendars - I trust my iPad calendar as much as the next gal, but also keep a tiny 3-ring binder calendar by Greenroomeco.com that I found at Target. You can buy refills and continue to use the cute binder for years to come. I jot down appointments, things I need to do, a shopping list, and many other things in my calendar.

3. Contacts - Again, I trust my iPad to hold my contacts. I can access the contacts even without an internet connection. Still, I have a cheapo $1 phone book that I found at Dollar Tree that has emergency contacts and some friends. You never know when you will need that. At minimum, you can leave it with the babysitter. You wouldn't want her/him having your iPad.

4. VItal documents - You should invest in a small fire-proof safe with a handle (they are heavy) and use it to store your birth certificates, marriage license, social security cards, passports, deeds, and other vital documents which would be a major pain to replace. I love my little safe! I even store special photos that I could not do without (before I had a digital camera!).

Let me know what you do in this kind of situation. What are your back-ups?

Diana

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Three days of misery... sort of


Misery may be a strong term. More of a strong inconvenience. I did not have internet or television for four days. There was a bad snow storm where I live, and the loss of power seemed to have knocked out my internet and TV. To top it off, I had my child at home due to no school. Wow, I have never played so many card games and watched so many DVDs on the laptop.

If you are caught in a similar situation, below are some tips I learned to pass the time.

1. Board and card games. This is perfect for adults and kids, or just the adults. Have the neighbors over for games if possible.
2. Speed cleaning games. While cleaning may not be fun to everyone, the kids will go along if they think it is a race. This works well for decluttering and laundry. (I am officially the fastest dishwasher loader in the family.)
3. Story telephone game. One person starts a story stops mid-way, and the person to his/her left adds to the story. It makes for great laughs.
4. Anything in the snow. Snow angels, snowmen, snowball fights, and sledding. You need to get out of the house.
5. Pantry recipes. Be creative to make food out of what you have stashed in the pantry. This could be pasta dishes, cookies, casseroles, etc.
6. DIY projects. Grab all the supplies you've been hoarding and make lots of things. Paint plates and mugs. Make your own art and frame the pieces. Scrabooking is okay too. To prepare for DIY projects, purchase small containers of paint from Lowes or Home Depot (or even sample paints). Store them in a dry, cool place, like the basement.

We didn't let the inconvenience of no internet or television get us down. Let me know what you do to get through snow storms.

Diana

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nutella love affair

I discovered Nutella just two years ago after watching an episode of Giada DeLurentis' Food Network show. She made Nutella-filled wantons. I'll never forget it. Then, I saw Nutella-filled crepes at IHOP. I then knew it was calling me. Since then, I have purchased jar after jar. It is a pantry staple, more important than peanut butter.
  I've had delicious Nutella chocolate truffles.
(source)

Still, there are countless Nutella recipes I can't wait to try and share with you right here. This site (http://www.nutelladay.com/nutella-recipes/) is a magical place that you can find tons of Nutella recipes. How could I have missed Nutella Day?

This other site (http://anightowlblog.com/2013/03/nutella-recipes.html) is great as well.

Share your favorites here.

Diana

Speedy breakfast

Not that I make breakfast a huge priority. I once worked with a lady who said breakfast was a big event in her home every day, and she made pancakes, sausage, eggs, toast, bacon, and fresh juice - every day! Bless hea heart. That is just not me, and I wouldn't want it to be. I love cereal. I mean I really, really love cereal. All types of cereal. However, if I am out of milk for some reason (rare), I trust toast and Nutella. I remember the first time I bought Ferrero's Nutella and ate it with a spoon until I was full. Then, I realized it was great on toast too.


Since it is a hazelnut spread with cocoa, my kid loves it too. I like using Nutella in chocolate truffles and other recipes. If I could ever create an untorn crepe, I would use Nutella as the spread.

As school starts up again tomorrow, I will trust Nutella for some quick breakfasts. My kid has been known to eat toast or a bagel in the car on the way to school. Hey, I know she isn't the only one!

Share your quick breakfast stories here.

Diana


A True Winter

In the Midwest, we have been hit with a few inches (6 to 10) of snow. Powder. The white stuff. And, I love the sight of it.

Here is the view from my house.

We were spoiled last winter with just a couple of inches of snow and a couple of days of icy road conditions. Well, today, powder won't stop falling. I think it's just beautiful.

In appreciation of the pretty snow and smiling child face waiting to jump in the snow, I am relaunching my blog with vigor. I feel compelled more than ever to make it a success.

So, thank you for reading this post and looking around my blog. I have great things coming.

Diana