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Holiday gift buying gets more and more difficult each year. I HATE gift cards. Even though some people may love getting them– they just seem so impersonal. I don’t like to spend a lot on potentially unwanted tchotchkes either.
What is the point of exchanging gift cards? I give you a $20 gift card and you give me one back. Okay. What was accomplished? Why not just pass the $20 bill back and forth and call it a day? Giving a gift card to someone is not the same as exchanging gift cards. Understand?
Gift cards or E-certificates are great to send to people miles away; or a last minute gift. I’m just not a fan of them when their are other alternatives.
While I was decorating this weekend, it struck me– how many little things I kept needing that you normally might not think about. It’s great if you already have them and extremely annoying if you don’t.
That gave me the idea for a perfect, inexpensive Christmas gift that everyone can use: Things That Every House Should Have. This is a gift you could put together for any occasion! It’s a gift that will last throughout the year.
Now this isn’t an emergency kit (which could also be a possible gift solution) and it’s also not a crafter’s kit (another good one). How about a collection of simple items that everyone needs and you could use everyday?
If you make up several of these gifts, you can buy multi-packs of items and break them up.
Here are some suggestions you might want to include:
- Transparent tape ( I prefer invisible archive- safe tape)
- Electrical tape (available in many colors)
- Wire (I like Ook 18mm gauge- there’s a wire cutter on the package!)
- Twist ties
- Utility knife,
- Sharpie or permanent marker
- Small screwdriver
- Thumb tacks and/or nails
- Plastic cable ties (come in many colors)
- Safety pins,
- Sponge (I like Scotch Brite)
- Microfiber cloth
- Thick rubber bands…
- Batteries (AA are the most common and I’d recommend including four, if any)
- Spool of ribbon or string
- Duct or masking tape (both do leave a residue)
- Felt pads (for the bottoms of furniture or bottoms of deco items that can scratch surfaces)
- Needle and thread
- Goof Off: Heavy Duty Spot Remover and Degreaser (can clean most anything)
- Dawn Dish-Washing Liquid (best eco-safe, grease remover)
- Wet Wipes
- Lens wipes (good for any glass, computer & phone screen, etc.)
- Aspirin… the list could go on and on.
I don’t recommend those little picture hanging kits– they are usually cheaply made and hard to work with; nails are too tiny and bend, usually not enough wire to be useful.
I’m also not a fan of those adhesive “easy release” hooks and hangers. I’ve tried them and they don’t usually hold the claimed weight (if they stick at all), can be affected by temperature, and do often leave marks.
Use your imagination.
Whether you fill a stocking, a gift bag, a box or a tool kit– this is a gift that: shows some thought, gives you some room for a little creativity; and is something that everyone can use for months to come.
You might want to include a poem or a “thinking of you every day”- type note to personalize it.
This little kit could also make a great birthday, anniversary, graduation, open house, or friendship gift.
AND — you can always add that gift card. If you really must.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months looking at pet insurance and seriously considering the pros and cons of it. With two new puppies in the house and having gone through added medical costs in the last months of Roxie’s life, I decided I really needed to investigate the pet insurance options.
Pets are an investment. Pets are expensive to care for; they become valued members of our family. So how can we best protect them and be prepared for emergency situations?
Pet insurance seems like an easy solution, right? Well, maybe. It’s not as affordable as you might think. It also doesn’t cover everything you’d hope it would. In fact, reading through some policies will leave you scratching your head, wondering exactly what it does cover.
Unfortunately, navigating your way through the various policies, coverages and fine print is as complicated for pet insurance as it is for human health insurance. Many options, deductibles, varying premiums depending on the coverage; lots of exclusions and vague language that suggests many of the policies won’t pay out– at least, not the way you would expect. You don’t always get what you pay for.
A Financial Decision
The idea of pet insurance sounds like a good investment… but is it worth it? It’s always a good idea to educate yourself before making such an important financial commitment, no matter how logical it sounds to you initially. Do the numbers, compare and read before you sign.
Coverage could be the best way to go for people on a tight budget, that might not be able to afford a large unforeseen expense. It’s also a good option for people that, by making a monthly payment, will give them a sense of security and peace of mind.
For people that can afford an immediate and unexpected outlay of cash; coverage may not be beneficial. Especially, if your pet lives a long, healthy, incident-free life.
There are two main options to consider first: pet insurance and/or a wellness plan. These are two different protections that do not cover you for the same expenses. Some companies offer one or the other and some offer both options– charged separately. Pet insurance starts with a chosen deductible amount and can cover medical care, surgeries, emergency procedures and some medications– BUT, what is covered depends on the individual policy. A wellness plan does not carry a deductible (in any of the examples I have found) and can cover many of the reoccurring, yearly costs of preventative care. These can include: health check-ups, vaccinations, heartworm, flea and tick preventatives, spaying or neutering, and sometimes even discounted grooming services. All plans are different, as are the costs. Many I found are $25-$40 a month per pet.
Most companies offer plans with deductibles of $0, $100 or $500. The better the coverage, the more it costs. Most companies do not cover preexisting conditions. Yearly wellness and preventative care are not covered by any of the pet insurance policies, from any of the companies I researched. When looking at insurance, make sure you read the complete policy to be sure all your concerns are covered. There are many exclusions you would expect to be covered. Several companies also provide additional coverage (riders) for more specified health concerns, adding to the cost of your plan.
The least expensive plans I could find, providing what I would consider average or basic coverage, was just over $2,000 a year, with a $500 deductible, per pet. Policies easily climb in cost up to around $6,000 a year.
In the long run, most pet owners do not benefit from the coverages. In some cases, the policies are written in a way that the companies could legally avoid any actual payout. It’s legal– but I still consider it a scam. Negligence is subjective. Most policies will not pay for services that are needed as the result of what they consider owner negligence. Many accidents and incidences such as the ingestion of foreign objects, could easily be classified as negligence.
I also found that, except in the most extreme circumstances, most people pay more for insurance coverage than if they paid for medical care out-of-pocket. In most of the cases, this costs pet owners $2,000-3,000 more annually for the insurance, even if minor unexpected medical services were needed.
One of the main benefits of a wellness plan is that you pay a monthly premium that spreads the costs of preventative care over the course of the year as opposed to all at once. On average, the cost of a wellness plan is pretty much equal to what you will need to spend each year on your pet anyway. Some wellness plans offer discounts for multiple pets so there could be a savings there. If you have a wellness plan that covers all office visits, you might find you are more likely to be proactive regarding any early signs of possible illness.
Insurance is a gamble. You put out a sum of money now, in the hopes that it will pay off (protect you) in the future. If you carry insurance, pay monthly premiums and actually need medical treatment, then it’s could be worth it.
Important to Note
I’m purposely avoiding too much discussion on specific companies. I recommend doing a review and complaint search online before you commit to any company.
I do have to point out that where most policies’ deductibles cover annual costs, Trupanion’s deductibles are per incident. I did not even notice that fact until it was pointed out to me in one of the articles I read. Each accident, illness or incident would require you pay a deductible for each, prior to insurance paying for anything.
I found a really good article in Consumer Reports you should look at before purchasing pet insurance. It will help you along the way, give you some idea of what to look for; and help in deciding whether this is the best decision for you and your pets. It compares several polices and gives several incident scenarios that might help you decide.
If you are disciplined enough, you might want to consider putting a certain amount aside each month, maybe opening a savings account; to accumulate funds in case of an emergency or to cover future expenses. There’s always the risk you might be tempted to use the money elsewhere; but if you end up not needing to use the funds over the lifetime of your pet– the money is still yours.
I also found a company called Pet Assure that offers a 25% discount program, for an annual fee, on all services. They have rates for individual to unlimited family pets– which could provide a huge savings. There are no exclusions with this plan. The program does require services through participating facilities. There may be other programs out there you might want to look into providing a similar savings.
Michael and I decided that at this point, neither pet insurance nor a wellness plan was the right decision for us. We might sign up for a discount program in the future; but again, at the current time it does not benefit or protect us financially, in a way that we need.
I hope this helps some people considering coverage. Coverage is a personal decision. Never let anyone pressure you into committing to a policy that makes you uncomfortable. The most important thing is that you do the very best you can to keep your furry family healthy, happy and safe.
It’s 3:00 AM, no traffic and I pull into the empty parking lot. I park up front in the first spot close to the door. I approach the door that glides open, revealing a clean, quiet shopping metropolis just waiting for me. I nod, or say Good Morning, to the familiar faces of employees, busily stocking shelves and taking inventory as I move quickly through aisle after uncrowded aisle gathering the items on my list. Something in the produce department not on the shelf? No problem. There’s someone there, willing to get it for me from the back. The only other shopper in the store– and I swear, he’s there every time I go at this hour– is an older gentleman using one of those electric mobility scooters. I go to self check out, scan my items as a friendly cashier rushes over to assist and engage in a little small talk as they help bag my items. Then I’m done. This is the only way to shop!
I do most of my shopping at a local super store chain (grocery and department store combined) in the early morning hours and I love it! It’s a quiet, quick and efficient use of my time. I can do a full grocery shop and browser through the other departments (and always the pet aisles) in about an hour.
This particular chain has a great phone app that allows me to clip manufacturer coupons, store coupons and incentives AND form a shopping list for a quick and easy shopping experience. Store coupons (or sales) and manufacturer coupons are stackable for additional savings. If for some reason the coupon or discount doesn’t come up at the register, there’s always someone there to quickly correct it, no questions asked.
My receipt shows me my total combined savings over regular retail prices– and so far this year, I’ve saved over $2,800! I love this place.
That is, I love this place at 3:00 AM.
Yesterday, I went at 11:30 AM. What was I thinking? The store was crowded with typical shoppers that have no concern or awareness of anyone but themselves. Kids are screaming, wandering shoppers leave their carts blocking aisles; and I have to wait for the two retired gentlemen to wake up from their conversation about how bad the Bears are this year and move out of the way.
Oh yeah, the reason I had to go at this normal hour was two fold: There were two, one day-only coupons I wanted to use; and I needed to have a quick adjustment done on my eye glasses at the little in-house vision center. (If only they were open at 3 AM!)
I got my glasses fixed at the front of the store and headed into the chaos. Swerving, dodging and taking detours, I navigated my way around the myriad of confused shoppers blocking my path.
The special coupons I had were for 40% off a men’s outerwear and an accessory item. I wanted to get Michael a new heavy duty coat for work and for shoveling snow at home. I found a good Dickies brand coat under a sign that said Men’s Outerwear and 20% off. Perfect. The discounts would stack and I would get the $80 coat for about $38. I also picked up a pair of gloves, already 30% off, plus the extra 40% off.
Avoiding the crowded aisles, I headed to the back perimeter aisle to head over to the pet department. As I was passing through, I found some pet toys on final clearance, 90% off. As I was picking out a few, I happened to glance to my right. In the distance, coming towards me down the aisle was my 3 AM friend on his scooter. )Why was he here now?) Seconds after I spotted him, a woman on her cell phone crashed her cart into the side of his scooter. He wasn’t hurt but I’d bet he was a sailor in his youth, if you get my drift.
I was nearly done with my shopping and headed to pick up my fridge and freezer items, not yet too annoyed by all the people– I reach the dairy section to find: No whole milk. How does a store that size have no whole milk? They barely had any 2% milk, either but I refuse to buy that anyway. (Sugar is added to 2% milk to replace the fat, actually making it less healthy for you!)
So then, I move through the meat section, which apparently, at noon is a social gathering spot; reach the produce section to find the bagged, chopped salad shelves empty too. This really wasn’t going well.
I headed toward the registers to check out and in the center aisle where they display sale merchandise, I found the large jars of peanut butter on sale for $1.49 if you bought eight. Well, eight is a lot but it has a long shelf life; and we go through a lot of it with the dogs. Sell by date was October 2016, so in the cart it went. Shopping done– just had to pay.
I’m not sure if any of this is annoying or amusing enough for anyone to continue reading–BUT– it took me 45 minutes just to check out!
45 minutes to check out in an empty, self-scan checkout lane!
Well since you asked….
The peanut butter was really on sale for $4.99 not $1.49. I had to go get the sign to show them their mistake… They gave it to me for the lower price… but it took almost 15 minutes just to change the price in the computer, for me to get it at the posted price. Then the register wouldn’t give me the extra 40% off on the coat because it was work wear not just outerwear that they claim was excluded– but not listed on the app coupon OR the text message, I’d received. This was what got me in the store at that ungodly hour. I made them take it off my tally, I wasn’t paying that much. (The guy that had gotten in line behind me was sighing loudly and cussing under his breath at this point.) Then the gloves? Same thing. Only they couldn’t claim a reason why I wasn’t entitled to the discount, so that took even longer to figure out. The original attendant had just gone on break… and the replacement didn’t know how to do price adjustments. Suddenly, every self checkout was at a stand still because every one needed assistance. I was never more relieved to finally get out of a store in my life!
This is exactly why I try to only shop off hours or online as much as possible.
That would be the end of the story… except– stupid me, I forgot eggs. When I got home and started to make meatloaf, I discovered we were completely out of eggs. You can’t make meatloaf without them.
So— I was forced to drive to the nearby grocery– that I hate with a passion– just to get eggs. (I won’t name any names but the store’s a real gem.) And yes, it took me almost a half hour just to buy a carton of eggs.
P.S. — The meatloaf was delicious! <wink>
The food you eat on a daily basis is probably killing you. I’m not saying this simply for shock value, I’m saying it because it’s true. You may fool yourself into thinking you’re eating healthy because you only eat organic, are vegetarian, follow a low fat or high protein diet but the bottom line is… our food supply holds many dangers we need to know about.
I hope you’ll read this before you rush to judgement and click away to another page. I’m not a doctor or a scientist– I’m just a consumer that has the same struggles and concerns regarding health and living a good long life, just like you. What I hope to do in writing this, is to encourage you to look beyond the commonly accepted perceptions regarding the food you eat (and other products you are exposed to) and to stay healthy.
The three most important things I have to say are:
1) Educate yourself;
2) Don’t trust the packaging; and
3) Listen to your body.
It’s really that simple.
Last month another of those infamous reports came out damning high protein consumption and equating it to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. (Seriously? Is that really a logical comparison?) A few days ago another report came out saying salt wasn’t as bad for you as previously stated.
So who can you trust? I think most people realize that the results of many of the studies released to the public are funded by companies that stand to gain financially if the results are in their favor. Universities and medical institutions are funded, at least in part, by corporations. So my advice is: Don’t just accept a single report you hear in the news– Do your own research!
Do you know what GMO stands for? You should. (I‘ll be discussing that in the near future.)
Hot Dogs cause Cancer. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. Have you stopped eating them? Do you know what it is about them that was supposedly linked to Cancer? Are you putting you and your family at risk eating them? Do the research.
Don’t Trust the Packaging
Do you pay more for poultry and eggs that are free range? Are you aware that ‘free range‘ is not a term that is closely or specifically regulated? Have you purchased eggs because the package has a picture of a happy chicken in a field running free on the carton? Misleading packaging is not a crime.
I’ll repeat this: Misleading packaging is not a crime.
The way I understand it, it is perfectly legal for companies to use misleading pictures or words like some uses of words like: organic, all-natural, fresh, etc. — In their company name, brand and description because there is no law against it. It only becomes a crime when it can be proved in court that it was misleading and caused documented damages. (Example– all spring water doesn’t come from springs and all cows don’t happily munch on grass under apple trees.) There are regulations regarding the use of certain wording in a product name, or list of ingredients— and this can indicate whether the product is certified, which is where it can really get confusing and misleading.
So are you over-paying for the organic celery over the plain celery, or purchasing the low-salt or low-fat products because you think it’s healthier for you? Read the label. (I’ll go into more detail about organic foods in my next post.) You could be wasting your money. You should know and need to know that anytime manufacturers takes something out of a product— they have to put something else in just to make it taste good. What they put in– could be worse for you than what they’ve removed!
Listen to your body
Are you gaining weight? Are you dieting but can’t lose weight? Do you frequently feel sick after you eat? Do you take medications to allow you to eat certain foods? Are you always tired or always hungry?
Listen to your body.
It isn’t just about over consumption or specific food allergies. There could be a variety of factors that could be affecting you physically or mentally, based on: what you eat, the amount, or combination of foods you eat… and how your body reacts.
Listen to your body.
I love chocolate. Too much of it makes me sick, as does too many chocolate-covered strawberries or too much chocolate & peanut butter. It doesn’t mean I’m allergic to it— but too much causes a negative chemical reaction in my body so I have to know when enough is enough.
We are all different. As a result, foods are going to affect us all differently, as well. Sure, there are known factors that can affect most of us– but there are also different reactions for different people. This is why I believe the food pyramid and popular diets aren’t helpful to all people. You can use them as a guide but you have to modify any healthy eating regiment based on what your body is telling you.
It’s Up To You
Obviously, we have to eat to survive. I’m only trying to encourage you to make educated decisions when you purchase your foods and not rely on the marketing or trust that every food sold is good for you. Food is a business. Businesses have to make money. Sometimes, the bottom line outweighs the nutritional value of the foods that are sold. You have to make a conscience effort to not be fooled.
(In the near future I’ll be writing posts about organic foods, GMO, chemicals in processed foods, contamination of our food supply and more nutritional concerns that affect us all. Feel free to comment or contact me if their is a topic you’d like me to explore.)