Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Frugal Gift Giving: Kid Edition

I am very specific in my kid gift giving and shopping. I like to buy what I consider nice gifts for a very small price, and I am picky about good quality. I should mention that all of the kids that I buy for are aged 6 and under. I'm not sure how it will work when they are teenagers!

First, I have several little kids to buy for, each with their own rules. For example, for my friends' kids, I generally purchase one toy, book, or article of clothing for their birthdays. The budget for this item is $5-6. For my friends' kids at Christmas, I purchase an ornament for each child and paint the year and their name on it. The budget for each ornament is $2. I know they are overwhelmed with gifts at Christmas, so I try to do something different. And when they are grown and move out they will have a large set of ornaments. I typically purchase individual ornaments at Hobby Lobby when they are 50% off or I have a 40% off coupon.

The other set of kids that I buy for is my nephews and niece. They each get one book and one toy at Christmas and birthdays, and I really try to make sure their stuff is something they will love. My total budget for book and toy is combined is $10, although in years past I have gone up to $15. (However, I should note that I went overboard for my niece's upcoming birthday and also bought her some really cute sale clothing from J. Crew on top of the normal toy and book. Then I felt terrible guilt because my nephews did not get extra on their birthdays. So I bought them Ninja Turtle rolling backpacks to compensate. Which they will like way better than if I had bought them clothes. Ahem.)

Now, how do I stay on such a small budget? As I mentioned in a previous post, I am always shopping. Once again, that does not mean I am always buying. I am just always searching for the perfect gifts. The most important thing is to find the stores that work for you and offer great deals. For me, I get the best deals on Amazon and at T.J. Maxx/Marshalls stores. Amazon used to be paired with Toys R Us, but now Toys R Us has gone off on its own. There was a better selection of toys and sales when they were paired, but I must say things aren't too shabby now. I only purchase toys on Amazon when there is a huge sale and I purchase enough ($25) to qualify for free shipping. This means that I make a major toy purchase only 2-3 times per year. Everything in the pictures above was $5.29 or less. The items in the top picture were $4 and under (mostly under). Earlier this year, American Girls online had some great clearance with a free shipping code. I purchased six books at .49 each. Seriously. You can't get any cheaper than that brand new. These books are too old for the little girls that I buy for, but I plan on keeping them for the future. I have recently found some good hardback childrens books at Dollar Tree, but I usually don't have any luck there. I typically buy kids books at T.J. Maxx or Amazon, and the books are usually the most expensive thing that I buy.

Some of the gifts above are earmarked for specific children and some are just in my gift tub to be used as needed. I can get a little carried away with the sales, so I try to have a specific plan for what I am buying and not purchase more than 3 or 4 gifts that don't yet have recipients. Another good source for kid gifts is the school supply sales in July and August. You can get all kinds of crayons, markers, colored pencils, paper, et cetera for rock bottom prices. Stock up!

The trick to good and frugal gift buying is to find stores that work for you. I have heard great things about Target toy clearance, but by the time I get there it is always wiped out. So I stick with the stores that are currently working for me. When they don't work for me anymore, I will move on and find something better.

Happy frugal shopping!

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Post In Which God Shows His Presence to Me...Again

Yikes, it's been over a week since I've posted. I've been very busy working on my internship application stuff and I also had a stupid weekend class. I hate weekend classes. Anyway. So I've been in this mopey-boohoo-poor-me-life-is-so-hard kind of place lately due to life circumstances and some things that I feel I need that I don't have. This has been one of those times where God feels really far away, you know? As you may or may not know, I've been hoping to go with my friend A., a high school Spanish teacher, as a chaperone when she takes some students to Mexico next summer. I've never been out of the country before. I've been saving in an ING account where I couldn't see the money and would therefore forget about it. I don't have loads of extra money, but lately I've been saving all of my work study money for this trip. I wanted to purchase the trip package before the end of the year when the price goes up again. Today I checked my ING account to see how much money I lack, and the total is $640. Then I calculate how much money I can make at work study between now and the end of the year. The total is, you guessed it, $640. And that was totally a moment where God was like "Hi, Tessa. Remember Me? Almighty God? Right, the One that provides for your every need. And even most of your wants. Well, guess what, I'm still providing for you. And I'm not planning on stopping any time soon." It was a very nice and much needed reminder. And I wonder if I will ever get it enough so that I don't need these reminders. Probably not while I'm still on Earth. ;)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What Their Faces Should Have Looked Like

Mm-hmm. Nothing crazy here, is there?

Deranged Mini Cabbage Patch Dolls

I recently ordered some more toys from the Amazon toy sale, and in my order were several mini Cabbage Patch dolls (2 princesses, 2 holiday, and one rock star). Most of them have adorable, sweet expressions on their faces, but these look deranged. Seriously, it is hard to capture on film how insane they look. The blonde one looks much crazier in real life, as her multiple missing teeth and uneven eye placement contribute to an "I'm going to murder you and your entire family while giggling insanely" look. The brunette looks as though she has no control over her tongue and it has flopped, uncontrolled, out of her mouth.

Am I still going to give these as presents? Yes, yes I am. So don't be surprised if your child is a little scared of her gift from Miss T.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Frugal Baby Shower Gift

I have a few baby showers to go to in the next couple of months, and here is the gift for one of them. I found the wagon clearanced at Wal-Mart for $2.50, and the diaper disposal bags (in the back) and baby hangers are from the dollar store. The diapers were purchased on sale with a coupon, but I could have done even better if I had taken advantage of Walgreen's rebate last month where you bought $20 worth of Huggies products and got a $10 giftcard. I think the Pampers were around $6 or $7. The Huggies samples were free. My absolute favorite thing about this gift is the gorgeous well-crafted scrapbook in front. The inside has some beautiful pre-printed pages as well as tons of card stock, stickers, etc. to fill it in. And the best part is it was absolutely free!!! I also sent off for some free wipes, and if they come in time I will try to cram them into the wagon if there is any room left!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

And Many Happy (Frugal) Returns!

When you shop online there will inevitably be returns that need to be made. Over time, this can be expensive. There are three main options for reducing or eliminating this cost: don't shop online at all, be able to make store returns, or research your shipping options. I live in a small town and even the larger town where my grad school is located does not have many of the stores that I like to (online) shop at. Thus, I choose option C, research your shipping options. I am returning the shoes and the blue skirt purchased under Graduation Fun (below). I did not like the shoes $56 worth, and the skirt had a defective zipper. The melon-colored flowered skirt, however, was lovely and a hit! Anyhoo, both of the items I'm returning had the Smart Label option. This is a prepaid sticker that you stick on the box you are returning. You then just stick it in the mailbox. The shipping amount is deducted from your return money. Sometimes Smart Label is a good option, like when I had to return a heavy coat last year. In that case, it saved me money. However, the Smart Label cost for the shoes was $9, and for the skirt it was $5.95. I knew I could ship both back for less. Sure enough, I was able to ship the shoes USPS Priority for $6.40 and the skirt fit into a Priority Flat Rate Envelope for $4.05. Both options come with free delivery confirmation if you print your own label online, which I did. I always have Priority boxes and envelopes around since I occasionally sell on eBay. They are free, and you can get them at the post office or order them online. I also recommend that you invest in a digital postage scale if you do a lot of shipping. My sweet grandparents got me one last Christmas, and it has been a wonderful time saver. So, the next time you have to make a return, be aware of what your best option is.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

I'm not feeling very inspired today, so I thought I'd join the Thursday Thirteen bunch and post thirteen facts about myself:

1) I think John Denver was a musical genius.
2) My two closest friends are people that I have been friends with for 13 and 11 years, respectively.
3) I have double jointed thumbs.
4) I am an optimist.
5) I think the television show The Office (U.S. version) is hilarious.
6) I was baptized in a river at age 9. No baptismals for me; I'm hardcore. ;P
7) I use the United States Postal Service for all my shipping needs.
8) I need to pick up my dry cleaning. Most of my coats are there and it suddenly turned cold.
9) I have issues with public bathrooms.
10) (closely related to #9) Whenever I have bad dreams, they usually involve disgusting public bathrooms. No, really. Issues, I tell you!
11) I have more in common with people older than me than with people my age.
12) I worked in a pharmacy for 6 years.
13) I don't drink soda (or pop in my neck of the woods).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday: No Iron Shirts

I don't mind ironing, but I just don't have the time to do it right now. I'm in graduate school, so that means I balance class/dissertation work/work study job/real life responsibilities with my practicum work. The practicum is where I am actually practicing under the supervision of a psychologist. I do it two days a week, one in a primary medical setting, and one in a community mental health center. On those two days I have to look professional. I love button down shirts, but the ones in my closet that get the most use are these Van Heusen No-Iron Shirts. They have simplified my life! They are available in both women and men's sections. Van Heusen frequently has sales/coupons, so if you have a location near you be sure to register at the website of the mall the store is located in. The only drawback of these shirts is they contain polyester. The polyester is what makes them not wrinkle, but it also doesn't breathe. If you are a person that sweats a lot, beware! Another option is Brooks Brothers' no iron shirts. They are treated cotton, but are much more expensive.

No ironing works for me!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Steal vs. Splurge: Graduation Edition

I graduate a lot. You could say that graduating is what I do. I'm a professional graduater (graduator?). I graduated high school in 2000, college in 2004, with my Master's in 2006, and my doctorate will be in 2008 (if all goes well!). Since this happens fairly frequently and I am a poor graduate student, I wanted to save some money. I decided to forgo the $40+ invitations and print my own. At the clearance aisle at a nearby Wal-Mart, I found this graduation paper for $1.00. The envelopes were .50 per package and I purchased two packages. I also bought some embossed envelope seals for $2 at a paper store. I had some free address labels that were silver and matched perfectly. God totally provided this for me, as I made for $4 what would have otherwise cost me $40+. Unfortunately, the honor cords and medal you see there cost me $28. At least I will be able to wear them at my next graduation and if I am ever a professor who has to wear academic regalia!

I also decided to forgo the $40 picture package. My family took plenty of pictures, and I will print or enlarge those for a much smaller cost. :)

Graduation Fun!!!

Saturday was the graduation ceremony for my Master's degree. My sweet family and friends gave me cards, presents, and cash for this momentous occasion. ;) I decided to save 50% of the money and use the other 50% to blow on whatever I want. I loooooooooove clothing and fashion, and I have been very good lately and have not spent much on clothes. I have banished myself from purchasing expensive clothing, with the only exceptions being cashmere sweaters (I'll pay $40-60), tall boots (up to $100), heels (I have weird feet- up to $50) and winter coats (up to $150). However, I only purchase maybe one of each category per year, with the exception of heels. The last article of clothing I bought was a white and green butterfly print dress for next summer that was $5.97 at J.C. Penney.

I didn't really want to sink all of my "fun" money into one thing (like one piece of jewelry), so I decided to give in to two of my weaknesses: Neiman Marcus and Anthropologie. I never shop at Anthro online anymore because the shipping is ridiculous and they pretty much never offer coupon codes. Also, their "sale" prices aren't what I consider cheap. But I do have such a weakness for their girly, frilly circle skirts thatI ordered the two above. They were on sale (duh! I haven't totally lost my mind!). The blue was originally $118, and I paid $40. The orange was originally $88 and I paid $25. The cute shoes are from Neiman Marcus. I ordered online and was able to go through luckymagrewards.com and get 4% of my total purchase back. I also got free shipping with the coupon code BEST. The shoes were $56 down from $225!! I still feel guilty about spending so much, but I have to say that it is fun to do every once in a while. I also have some money left to spend, so I will keep you updated on my next purchases!!

(Note: I always purchase clothing on sale for the seasons ahead. That is why I am purchasing summer clothing in October ;) ).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Integrated Healthcare: A Brief Overview

As most of you know, I am a psychological trainee. That means I am in school learning how to be a psychologist. There are many paths psychologists can take, and a lot of different ways they can specialize. I have chosen Integrated Healthcare as my specialty. In a fully integrated system, psychologists work in primary medical settings (i.e. your primary medical doc or nurse practitioner's office). In this setting we do not provide psychotherapy. Rather, we utilize brief, solution focused treatment modalities. Appointments are generally for thirty minutes rather than fifty. Things we commonly treat or assist in are symptoms of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, sleep difficulties, weight loss, and smoking cessation. I like integrated care because it is a holistic approach. We do not ignore the impact of the mind on the body or the body on the mind. Integrated care is relatively new, and I am lucky enough to be able to have a practicum rotation in one of the only such prac sites in the U.S. I also like integrated care because it is more direct, concrete, and to the point. We address what the patient wants rather than what we feel is pertinent (psychologists are very good at thinking they are all-knowing and brilliant). There are also a lot of reasons why it is good for the healthcare dollar, but I won't go into them now. ;)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Works for Me Wednesday: Recipe Box Addresses

Address books do NOT work for me. At all. The reason is because I am too obsessive-compulsive for them. People move, change phone numbers, etc., and I don't like the way the address books get all crossed out and ugly looking. Crazy, I know. I also have a problem with the too-small spaces in address books. I like to include address, home phone, cell phone, birthdays of everyone in the household, and anniversary dates. Having all of this information in one place helps keep me organized. Once upon a time I typed an address database where I just printed, cut, and glued them to index cards. Then came the Great Computer Crashes (2!) of 2004, and I haven't done it since. I got the wooden recipe box free from my mom, and the blue index cards were .12 (clearance) at Office Depot. I don't worry about alphabetizing within each individual letter because I like to keep the "most used" addresses toward the front of the letter section. So as long as John Doe makes it back to the D section, all is good. This is also handy when you just need a few addresses/phone numbers/birthdates and you can pull out their cards and take them anywhere with you. Works for me! Go check out Shannon and the other WFMW ideas at http://rocksinmydryer.typepad.com/.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Catch Up!

I haven't been around for a few days due to being utterly behind in a million different ways. I am currently behind in:
* Work Study- reading and summarizing 20 articles, due on Thursday AM
* Internship Applications- creating essays, writing 15 cover letters, finalizing my vitae, requesting letterhead, entering clinical hours, preparing work samples of assessment reports, filling out the APPIC form, requesting transcripts, following up on letters of recommendation
* School- reading about a million articles and textbook chapters (but I rarely do this anyway!) ;)
* Real Life Stuff- updating this blog, calling or emailing a few friends and family members that I have been neglecting, vacuuming/sweeping, mailing a book, balancing my checkbook, doing my nails/toenails/eyebrows, getting an oil change/tire rotation, cleaning out my car, going to Staples/Walgreens/Target, clipping and filing coupons, reading Martha Stewart Living and Antiques Magazines.

AND my weekend looks like this: Friday evening- going to a Third Day concert with friends after being in supervision/practicum block all day. Saturday- Master's degree graduation ceremony. Sunday- going to a friend's baptism (yay!) and then meeting up with another friend at three o'clock.

I can't wait till it slooooooooooows down a little.