ReUse It! Decoupaged Outlet Covers

Two weeks ago Mr. NtJS and I did some major work to our kitchen (that is another post all together). When I went to put the light plate and outlet covers back on I realized that they were no longer the right style for the kitchen. What to do? Break out the Mod Podge!

I decided that the best and cheapest way to dress up our light plates and outlet covers was to decoupage them with some fun paper. What I used was "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" book that I found at a garage sale for $0.25. The bright bold colors matched our new kitchen counter tops and wall colors perfectly.

We're posting this today so that you have this entire long weekend to funkify every switch plate in your house. Got them all removed? Good. Now let's go.

Cost: $5.00 or less.

Time: 5 minutes not including drying time.

Skill Level: Beginner

Materials needed:

  • Smooth light plate or outlet cover (try to match the color to that of the paper you are using)
  • Paper (children's book, vintage ad, etc)
  • Mod Podge (decoupage glue)
  • Foam brush
  • Exacto knife (be sure you have sharp blades)
  • Clear acrylic spray


1. Cut- Lay your outlet cover on top of the paper you are going to cut. Using the outlet cover as your template cut an extra 1/2 inch on each side.

2. Glue- Next put a thin layer of Mod Podge on your outlet cover and a little bit heaver coat on the back of the paper you are using.

3. Attach- Place the front of the cover face down on your freshly glued paper. Carefully turn right side up and smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles.

4. Glue- On the back edges of the cover add a thin layer of glue. If the edges of your paper need more glue, then add some now.

5. Smooth- Wrap the edges of your paper around the cover and add more Mod Podge as need to keep your paper wrapped around. Allow glue to dry for 10-15 before moving to the next step.

6. Cut- After allowing the glue to dry turn the cover upside down on a flat surface. Using your knife cut either an "X" shape or slice like a pie to curl the rounded corners. Then turn right side up and carefully cut an "X" into the screw holes.

7. Glue/Smooth-After cutting add some glue to the back of the cover and smooth out the paper while gluing it to the back of the cover. Let the cover dry until it is no longer tacky to the touch.

8. Spray- Once the cover is dry move to a well ventilated space and spray your cover with two or more light coats of acrylic spray to protect it from being damaged.

9. Completed- After the acrylic coat dries your done! You can put it on your outlet just like you would any "normal" outlet cover.

Overall Project Grade: B+

Project Notes: One of the things that I found as I worked on this project is that paper with a lot of white on it did not work as well as a patterned paper. Maybe it was just me, but when I sprayed the acrylic on it made the finish uneven. Other then that it was a great project.

I did enjoy this project and am hoping to do it again as we remodel more of our home.
Has anyone else tried this project? How did it turn out? I'd love to see photos! E-mail us your photos and they might just end up on our blog...

Do you like creative make do ideas? Join us on:
Make do Mondays

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Frugal Lunch Time Style

School is going to start in our area in two weeks. So I, the novice mother of a soon to be kindergartener, just went school shopping last night with my daughter for the first time. I was amazed with how picked over the school supplies were! I guess next year I'll go a little earlier... but the one thing I was really surprised about was the lunch boxes! They were not "green" and were either a thinly veiled advertisement or too expensive. Since I want to send a healthy lunch to school for my daughter on a daily basis I know she will need a nice one that will last. While I would LOVE to get a Laptop Bento style lunch box, I just don't have the funds to buy one right now. So what is a frugal mom to do?

Break out the sewing machine! Actually... Before I powered up the sewing machine I did my homework. I googled "lunch bag patterns" and found a variety of free patterns online. There are lots of really unique ones out there. As fun as it would have been to sew a really funky one for her, she is only 5 yrs old and it will be taken to school. So I wanted something a little more functional and durable. I ended up taking a basic lunch sack pattern and tweaking it by adding handles, snap closure and a vinyl liner. My daughter had a choice between 4 different fabric scraps.

Letting her make some of the choices and help sew it really helped her to take some ownership in the bag and ultimately really like it.

Now that she is outfitted with her "cool bag she helped make" she is excited about taking a healthy lunch to school in style and I'm happy it only cost me a little bit of time and talent.

Here is the finished product. Next is reusable bags and wraps... After I mend the pile of school uniforms I received for a quarter each because they needed some repairs (almost all buttons). Ahhh, the money you save when you can sew.

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Carnival of Money Stories - Olympic Hangover Edition

Welcome to the 74th Carnival of Money Stories - Olympic Hangover Edition. Today we'll take a look at a variety of articles from across the PF blogosphere. The curtain has fallen on the Beijing Olympics (and the smog has settled back in), so here is one last look back on the 2008 games to help ease the transition back to normal life / fall TV schedules.

We are pleased to welcome all new readers to Not the Jet Set. To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to subscribe and check out our NtJS Cafepress shop!

One more thing - Help us, yourselves and the carnival by:
  • Subscribing to our feed
  • Submitting the carnival to sites like PF Buzz, Reddit, Digg, Stumble Upon, or Technorati
  • Linking back to the carnival.
On with the stories...

On the Medal Stand this week (Editor's Picks)
The Olympics mean one thing to businesses - golden opportunity. And some cash in, or at least attempt to. McDonald's chicken sandwich w/ pickles :: Olympic athletes, just as Visa :: Michael Phelps (Remember those 'is-to' questions from the SAT? Fun.) That's right one has nothing to do with the other. It will be nice to see less commercials of athletes holding food items that they wouldn't eat if they had to.


How about some carbon credits for Beijing? After a pre-Olympic ceremony was shrouded in a vale of disgusting smog, Chinese officials took action to save face. Too bad you can't eliminate decades of air pollution in a matter of weeks. They planted millions of trees, shut down nearly all construction and factories in the area, and took the majority of the vehicles off of the road. All typically commendable. In the end, they still had to cook the books on the true air quality. Too bad their range of influence doesn't include the AP and the BBC.

The cost of the opening ceremony is rumored to have cost more than the preparations in progress for the entire next winter Olympics in Vancouver. Not to mention the cost of the closing ceremony. Did you see that double-decker transforming bus? Wow. Here's to living within your means and not keeping up with the Jones' - or the Zhangs:


In general, many Americans have been glued to the set every evening for the past 2 weeks - myself included. I'm not really much of a swimming fan - or gymnastics, or water polo, or track - but the people competing here are the best in the world. It becomes tough not to watch when records are being smashed and medals are won by hundredths or even thousandths of seconds. It sucks you in and like any good stimulant, it's tough to shake. I may have to replay some of the Redeem Team's games just to hold me over until the basketball season starts. I'll be ok. Really. I don't need it. I can stop any time I want.


Olympic athletes invest amazing amounts of time into training. Michael Phelps claims to be up at 5:30am 365 / year and has done so for years. I tend to believe him. The US men's basketball team asks their players - NBA players - to commit 3 years to the team. It's very inspiring to see athletes who dedicate themselves and invest their time by their own free will for the chance to represent their country and the possibility of winning big.

Net Worth

From the beginning, it's been the US and China atop the medal standings. South Korea made a good showing, but fell off towards the end. Other perennial performers like Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia and Russia did well also. It was nice to see a few countries like Afghanistan and Togo earn their first medals ever! In the end, it was USA - 110, China - 100, and Russia - 72. Here are some folks focussed on their own 'medal count':


Here are some folks who are a long way from retirement - the Chinese Womens Gymnastics team. Are they 14 or 16? The world may never know. The IOC and FIG are in the hot-seat with so much conflicting information out there regarding the ages of two of the team members, as well as the admission of former gymnasts that they were guilty of the same. Let's look at some better plans and a different definition of 'starting early in life'.


Other?! Is there anything else to talk about? Yeah, we've been pretty rough on host country China, but we call it as we see it. We avoid Chinese-made products like the plague, not only for the traditional low quality and their predilection for toxic chemicals, but also for all of the injustice, pollution, and other stuff going on there. Hey! See! we did get 'other' in there. We'll end things on a high note with a pic of some of the amazing architecture generated for these games as well as some posts falling into the fine category of 'Other'.

Thanks to everyone for submitting such great work. Come back as often as you need if you feel that Olympic withdrawal coming back - just go easy with the mouse if you get the shakes. Tune in next week to host blog Funny About Money for the 75th Carnival of Money Stories. If you didn't make the cut, then buck up, there's always London in 2012!

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Smartest Advice Round Up

We've given ours - yes hers and mine - and other bloggers have chimed in as well. I noticed these showing up on a few carnivals, so I thought I'd search out and post a round up of the Smartest Advice Ever Received by PF bloggers. A LOT of folks chimed in on this topic, so I've tried to single out the best ones I could find. No offense if yours isn't up here - I may not have found it! Chime in with your story in the comments, or bloggers can just link to their post.

A bunch of bloggers managed to sum up the advice from the folks in the original article (way to go, guys!), but didn't share their own - advice received, that is. Pony up, bloggers! Commenters too. Once again, if you did share and I missed it, then hit us up with the link and then go work on your Google page rank as apparently we need to as well - neither of ours came up!

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...Mrs. Not the Jet Set!

Ok, so she's always been here - writing, posting, editing, advising - but now, we've given the Mrs. her own handle. Now, you won't have to guess who's writing these posts with the androgynous handle of "(not) the Jet Set". That 'set' was always comprised of the two of us, but with her increased presence, we thought it fitting to differentiate between the two of us for the sake of clarity.

Be on the lookout for her posts and be watching to see who the author actually is. No, I don't sew or do much gardening or decoupage anything. No, she doesn't handle the power tools or have a penchant for all things HD. Now you know.

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ReUse It! : T-shirt Bags

Welcome Stumble Readers! To find out more about Not the Jet Set, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our NtJS Cafepress shop!
Also don't miss the other posts in this series: ReUse It!

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has heard the grim statistics about plastic bags. What can we do to cut back on the 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags consumed world wide each year? Keep your own reusable t-shirt bag with you every time you shop! When you think that it's only one plastic bag stop and think. If you use an average of 6 bags per week it adds up. That is 288 bags per year!

As promised, Here is the information to make your own Reusable T-shirt Bag. If you are looking for an easy, weekend project, then we've got you covered.

Cost: Nothing if you have an old t-shirt and a spool of thread. I bought some t-shirts at a garage sale for a quarter each so that is my project cost.

Time: 10 minutes first time, less then 5 minutes after the first one

Skill Level: Beginner

Materials needed:

  • 1 t-shirt any size
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • 9" pie pan or 9" circle
  • fabric pencil or chalk


1. Mark- Lay your t-shirt on a flat surface. Take your pie pan or template and lay it over your collar so that it is a half circle on the shirt. Mark the shirt for the bag opening.

2. Cut- Cut out the neckline according to your markings. Then cut out the sleeves just inside the seam line.

3. Pin- Turn your shirt inside out and pin the bottom opening closed.

4. Sew- Sew the bottom edge that where you pinned.

5. Done- Turn your shirt right side out and enjoy your new bag!

Overall Project Grade: A (it doesn't get any easier than this!)

Project Notes: As you can see from the photo some shirts work better then others. I found that the fitted style t-shirts work better then the unfitted. I also found that the smalls work the best. The white one in the photo is a large but I found that unfitted mediums seem to work well also.

This is a super fast and fun project. I love to use novelty t-shirts and college shirts. By using those types of shirts I can make them patch their new owner's personality so that they will be used and not tucked away in the back of a closet!

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Extravagantly Frugal: Cut The Cable

Some time ago, we wrote about how living frugally does not necessarily mean that we're missing out on all the fun. Quite the contrary! Frugal living does not necessarily mean doing without. But you may have to look past the mainstream to find a cost effective solution. We thought it would be good to spend a little time expanding on some of these concepts individually.

First off: Cutting out cable / satellite TV.

Commonly listed by every frugalist as a way to save an easy $50+ every month, this is often one of the hardest ones to do - at least for us guys, we like our TV! Even after getting past my reluctance and getting with the program, I was still hesitant. But this is not impossible. So if your spouse is dropping hints about giving up TV service to help get out of debt or just to save money, here are some suggestions to help cope with this change:

  1. Here's a crazy idea - get away from the TV! With the virtual cornucopia of channels and figurative horn-of-plenty of programming, its easy to get sucked in. Pretty soon, your evenings are filled with one show after another. Go outside. Walk, run, bike, jog. Play with the dog. Wrestle with the kids. Read a book. Talk to your spouse (not just at commercials). Take up a sport. Pick up a hobby. Do something non-TV related and see how other aspects of your life changes.
  2. Netflix. For as little a $5 per month you can satisfy or supplement your TV watching habits with some non-live content. Their selection is growing all the time, even including complete seasons of TV shows so you can still get your Law & Order fix - all with no late fees, and nothing to buy.
  3. If it hasn't gotten cut too, get on line. There is so much streaming content on-line that maybe your monthly ISP fee can cover your TV cravings. Skip physical media and get your entertainment via the ether.
  4. That funny looking thing hovering above your house? That's called an antenna. That's how you get free TV. The extravagantly frugal option of choice is that good old standby that was the norm a few years ago. But this isn't your Grandma's TV! Digital signals and tuners bring in far more channels in far better quality than ever before. This is a much more viable option today than even just a few years ago. No aerial outside? Much smaller options exist. BTW - Free over-the-air HD rules!
Have you done it? Have you given up cable, or just been threatened with it? These items aren't pie-in-the-sky - we've done them, and currently have 20+ digital channels coming in over-the-air.

Are you more willing to consider this request considering that these alternatives exist and are improving all the time?

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we have been included on five carnivals and festivals. Next Tuesday, we'll be hosting the Carnival of Money Stories. More info on that here.

We are pleased to welcome all new readers, as well as new carnivals to Not the Jet Set. To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our NtJS Cafepress shop! On with the round up...

Carnival of Personal Finance: This week's is hosted by Daily Finance and Marketing News, and is all about commodities. You know, where speculators invest millions in pork belly futures or frozen concentrated orange juice, it drops a nickel and they blow their brains out? Well, HDTVs are not yet considered a commodity - check out how we paid for ours, with no speculation or debt. Here are some others watching the market:

  • Sallie's Niece ponders just how a single gal working her way out of debt can ever get one of those shinny KitchenAid Stand Mixers. Is a wedding registry her only hope?
  • Christian Personal Finance offers five quotes from someone who really know his stuff - Warren Buffett.

Carnival of the Green: #141 Is up at Enviroblog. There's no "editor's choice" articles, but were near the top with our review of non-paint smelly (no VOC), paint. Here are some other posts, all in lovely shades of green:

Carnival of All Things Eco: Focus Organic hosts the 13th edition of All Things Eco and has included our totally unbiased review of the eco-friendly FreshAire Choice paint. Here are some other things eco:
  • Organic Makeup and Skin Care reviews some shampoos by Aubrey Organics.
  • Zeer Blog ponders ponders the new packaging decision - glass or aluminum beer bottles - with an interesting analysis.

Carnival of Money Stories: Living Almost Large has this week's money stories sorted by breed with a Best in Show movie theme. We walk away with a 'Participant' ribbon for our tale of the true cost of some light fixtures. Some other contenders:

Festival of Frugality: Has posted at Our Fourpence Worth, and if you haven't gotten enough Michael Phelps, then dive in for a Phelps themed Phestival - go ahead, the water is warm (and not nearly as polluted as the river - those poor rowing teams). Reporting live is Mrs. NtJS with a post on the smartest advice she ever received. Some others in the hunt for gold:
  • Saving Advice has a great story about a friend's path to financial independence. Ctl+F: credit card.... results = 0. Not to say that this guy didn't use them, but it's not what got him to where he is today.
  • Sound Money Matters has 10 ideas for frugal anniversaries without skimping on the romance.

Thanks for reading and thanks to all the hosts. Don't forget to tell your friends and subscribe to get updates via email or RSS.

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Why Does The Checking System Suck?

A few months back, our bank - which we've been otherwise pleased with - made a bit of a boo-boo. A $1000 boo-boo. We didn't blog about it at the time because we weren't entirely sure what to make of all of it. At the time I was ready to tell the branch manager off and pull every red cent of ours out and move it to the credit union that holds our mortgage. Would not have been tough. The wife, who took a slightly cooler approach, talked me down. Guess that's why they call it 'the better half'.

Here's what went down:

A check cleared our account - Twice!

At first, the Mrs. thought maybe it was just a glitch when viewing our account online, but deep down she knew better and called right away. Yes, she had indeed caught an error, but they could not handle it over the phone. She was told that she would have to fill out a form at an actual branch. What!?

The CSR couldn't fill it out for us? The CSR couldn't just take care of it, ya know, electronically? No, you-screwed-up-now-fix-it online form? No, no. To fix their mistake, we had to take time out of our day, to go to a branch and fill out a form in-person. They want to see me pissed off in-person, then they got it.

The details of the assistant manager's state of aloof and our discussion are not important. Entertaining, but not important. The real highlight is that clearing a check twice raises no red flags in their system. I had an account at a different bank in college that put an asterisk on your statement when the check numbers were not sequential. They have no provision to raise an alert - even a small, internal one - when two check numbers are identical? No. None. They are essentially a clearinghouse for incoming checks - no time to check to see if it is real, no way to check to see if the funds are there, nobody to check signatures. I mean really what did I expect?

I wrote the woman off as being another mindless drone - the kind that banks like to hire these days instead of intelligent folks with financial knowledge and skills. The real kicker was that she filled out the form for me! Poorly, too! Took about three stabs to get it right. I just had to sign the correct one. She also couldn't tell me how long it would take to fix. I asked for a ballpark, "...hours, days, weeks?" To which she replied, "Well, it won't take weeks!" I told you she was aloof.

The whole experience showed me just why check fraud is so prevalent - because there is no-one checking anything! No wonder so many places offer free checking.

So we see why it's so popular to pass a fake check, especially since banks hold responsible the person cashing it, not the person who wrote it. It's so easy for the criminal since no-one is going after them. On the same note, ID theft is just as easy a deal. I personally know some folks who were victims in a way that few would anticipate. They run their own business, and some of the paychecks that were sent out got intercepted in the mail. Fraudsters started writing bogus checks with the company's bank account info - and it worked!

It was amazing how many went through. In the end, it was a huge mess - employee's paychecks delayed, shutting one account and opening a new one, making sure real payments went through. It hopefully ended with a new policy of mandatory direct deposit.

There is a whole host of scams involving checks that leads one to ask, "Why does the checking system suck?" Is upgrading so terribly difficult? It took the events and subsequent canceled flights of 9/11 to get attention to Check 21 and eventually get it passed. Otherwise, checks would still 'float' as it would still take days (physically) for a check written to pass from the recipient, to their bank, and finally to your bank via commercial flights. This obvious improvement, among other things, allowing checks to be scanned and sent electronically took until October 2003 to pass and October 2004 to go into effect.

Just about the only other significant improvement to the checking system has been the advent of online billpay. Kind of a 'duh' thing for the tech-savvy, but apparently this was not obvious to our banking overlords. Really, this amounts to a convenience for the consumer, but little else. ID theft is still a problem as there is still a paper check that can be intercepted.

This all leads me to the following conclusions:

  1. Banks are too busy collecting NSF fees to care about improving the checking system.
  2. You get what you pay for with free checking (mostly), but are pay-checking accounts any better? Do they exist today?
  3. It's best to minimize the use of paper checks - both giving and receiving.
Are we wrong? Is the checking system in America better / worse than we think? Or have we got it right?

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Hosting Carnivals / Festivals

Wake the kids! Not the Jet Set . net will be hosting the 74th edition of the Carnival of Money Stories on August 26th!

Get your posts submitted via Blog Carnival. If you are unfamiliar with this carnival, then you can find out more info here. Also, please do not submit any articles that are not money stories or experience related. As a primer, this carnival asks that you categorize your post into one of the following: Business, Credit, Debt, General, Investing, Net Worth, Retirement, and everybody's favorite - Other.

Submit your stories HERE

Looking forward to all of the traditionally stellar submissions!

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ReUse It! Series

For those of you who have been following along with our blog posts you might have noticed two trends in posts. Frugal and Green. Yes, I know that it was as obvious BUT sometimes I personally have missed the elephant in the room.

That said, what could be more frugal-green then reusing items you already own? We love to re-purpose items at house. When people first visit our home we get a lot of "Awwww, I never thought of doing that". Our home and yard are full of reused, re-purposed, and re-made items. Our friends and family receive a lot of gifts along those same lines as well. No complaints so far from them.

We would love to share some of our more successful ReUse it projects with our readers as well as highlight others from time to time who have a fun ReUse it project to share. Future posts will include ReUsed T-shirt bags, Remade Lightswitch plates, and Repurpused Pallet Compost Bins.

Check back often or subscribe to be sure that you don't miss any of these!

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So What's It Really Worth? : Light Fixtures

The "What's it really worth" segment has been a tad neglected over the past several months, but it's not exactly something that you always have worthy subject matter for. 20% off? Buy one, get one free (BOGO)? So called 'employee pricing'? Nothin' doin'. This is for serious deals - sharp discounts. Deals so good that they cause you to pause on your way to the cashier, thinking, "Wait. So what's this really worth?!" This is one of those times.

We had purchased these a while back, but they had been in cold storage until the opportunity arrived recently to install them when we were reminded of this deal. Did we need 4 new light fixtures? No. We needed one because the main kitchen light had gone bad. Somehow. But! Were we going to pass up the opportunity to get 4 matching fixtures that could replace the one that had failed and three others that were underpowered and ugly? Not on this day!

We already wanted to goose up the brightness in the hallway which gets no significant natural light at any point of the day. The existing fixtures did an excellent job a throttling the brightness that they did have by about half. Being who we are, we naturally wanted something cost effective, but also low-wattage fluorescent for our fixtures. Options: Zero. We got to the end of the lighting isle at Lowes, and looked back saying, "Where's the good stuff?" Everything was low-output LED, or high-heat halogen, or just plain ugly. Where were the nice looking, designed-for-fluorescent fixtures? Apparently not at Lowes. Home Depot was no help either.... at first glance. Once we found the isle o' fluorescent, we found a whole host of fixtures. A much better selection than Lowes, but they seemed to be separated into two categories: Grandma's basement, and needlessly expensive. Ug.

After three passes, the Mrs. was ready to walk. I couldn't blame her. We were both pissed. We knew that in about 18-months, after settling for something lesser, there would be any number of attractive, cost-effective solutions. I talked her into one more pass. I don't know how, but I did. "What amazing deal are we going to find that we already walked by 3 times?" A few minutes later, I had the answer.

While walking the isle this time, I cross referenced the display items with the stock below. A couple bins toward the end had no display. "What are these?" They turned out to be somewhat stylish fixtures originally marked at $74.95. OUCH! For some reason, they were on clearance, but not congregated to the endcap with the other clearance items - despite the lack of a display model. The sticker for their bin had them marked down to 10 dollars and some odd sense. There were 4 left - two blue, two amber. We took one of the amber ones and pushed the rest back out of sight (it may have been kind of a dick move, but it worked). We wanted to make sure that it was the right size and would put out enough light.

When we got to the check out, the price was not $10.something. It was even less! We paid just over 7 dollars for this thing. We installed it that night, and were so pleased with it that we bought the other three the next night. They were just where we had left them. We had budgeted $40 for the kitchen light, little did we know we would get 4 for that amount!

Styling? Check - good fit for decor. Low-price? Yep - still under budget despite purchasing 4 of them. Low-wattage? Relatively, see next. Good light output? Oh, yeah! These things put out so much dog-gone light it's unbelievable. Very high compared to the wattage.

So what are they really worth?

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we have been included on three carnivals and festivals. We were also featured on MSN Money's SmartSpending blog, which is always a wild ride. Thanks again, Karen!

We are pleased to welcome all new readers, as well as new carnivals to Not the Jet Set. To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our NtJS Cafepress shop! On with the round up...

Carnival of Personal Finance: No Debt Plan brings us a college football themed edition of this carnival featuring our post on how our podunk bank foils ID thieves like none other. Some other posts that made the team this week.

Carnival of Money Stories: Broke Grad Student reminds us that it's back to school time again. Here, we tell our story of how the Mrs. got through to her reluctant spouse. Here's a few classmates who survived the summer:
  • My Dollar Plan talks about a small water problem and the need for a house repair fund.
  • Trees Full of Money tells how reading Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover changed his paradigms and consequently his spending.

Carnival of Financial Learning: The 11th edition of this carnival is up at Financial Learn featuring the smartest advice I ever got. That advice looks better and better each day. Some other posts we can learn from:

Financial Ramblings: Not a carnival, but but a listing of the most popular and longest lasting personal finance blogs. Just glad to be listed.

Thanks for reading and thanks to all the hosts. Don't forget to tell your friends and subscribe to get updates via email or RSS.

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The HDTV Challenge: Update 4

We have to start this update with a retraction from Update 3. We mistakenly allocated a bonus check to the HDTV fund. After reviewing our HDTV Challenge mantra - 'buy this want by selling things we don't need' - we found that including the bonus check was not appropriate. It has been re-allocated to a different fund, and put to good use.

In the meantime, we've sold some items. Actually, we finally managed to sell the big items from our garage sale several weeks ago. It's proven difficult, but not impossible.

  • $200 for some antique furniture
  • $270 for a 'dumpster-dive' item sold on ebay
  • $275 for old TV
The math comes out like this:
  • Previous balance of $600 (adjusted balance from update 3)
  • Total from items sold $745
  • New total of $1345
It's time to go shopping!
(update: we've bought our TV, we got a great deal on it, and it's awesome!)

Our goal of $1400 was based on early research and not necessarily tied to one specific model. We had hoped that for that amount we could get one darn nice TV as well as the wall-mount. It has been a long journey, and we are seeing the light at the end - and that light is in 1080p. Here is what we have learned from the experience.

  1. Patience. Incredible patience and perseverance. Slow and steady does win the race. There were several occasions when we could have given in and dipped into savings to take advantage of a 'great deal' or given up altogether. We stuck with it, and the result is an incredible feeling of satisfaction. We earned this. We didn't splurge, we didn't impulse, we didn't cheat. We devised a plan and followed it - kinda like getting out of debt...
  2. Moore's Law still works. Wikipeadia has a very detailed explanation for those of you unfamiliar, but in essence: Over time, technology goes up and price goes down. This always works in your favor if you are patient with your purchasing. Launch-day iPhone people, I'm looking at you.
  3. We are weird. Even "un-American" by some people's estimation. We sold our old TV, then bought the new one. No financing. No 'TV fever'. No robbing other funds or burdening the budget. We did it our way, in our time. This also kept us in control of the sale of our TV since it wasn't playing second fiddle to the shiny, new TV. We also weren't 'desperate sellers'. We turned down several low offers before getting one that we were happy with.
  4. Curb appeal isn't just for houses. We bought a DTV converter box to include with the purchase of the TV. It cost us $20 after the government subsidy, and even though a small percentage of Americans actually need the box (ie, the buyer may not need it), it at least gave us a crystal clear picture and sound for showing it to buyers, and we got to use it in the meantime:)
  5. The HDTV market is rather complicated. Not for the faint of heart! Brands, features, sizes, model lines, product reviews, 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 60Hz, 120Hz, brightness levels, contrast ratios, sales, sales, SALES! All this time gave us ample opportunity to navigate the market and zero in on what we wanted and what we were willing to pay.
Would you have done it? Could you delay such a purchase for 8 months to avoid financing / robbing other funds for a large purchase?

Be on the lookout for our next challenge.... Coming Soon!

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Welcome MSN Money SmartSpending Readers!

We're pleased as pie to welcome back the fine folks at MSN Money's blog "SmartSpending". Karen Datko has taken our ponderings local on Dumpster Diving Etiquette, and rounded it out with advice and insights on the subject from others. Some great stories and info in the comments as well, which were piling up fast last time I checked.

To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our NtJS Cafepress shop! Just need to design a dumpster diving t-shirt now....

Just to follow up on Karen's post and some of the comments:

  • We always advocate safety first - don't be dumb, nothing is worth getting injured or maimed over.
  • Always obey your local laws, though I hadn't though of this angle before.
  • Always, always, always be respectful. Never leave a mess, and leave when asked.
That being said - Happy dumpster diving!

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What Is: The Smartest Advice You Ever Got - Mrs. NtJS's Turn

What is the smartest advice you ever got, directly, pertaining to money?

Thanks for asking me! Okay, you really didn't but here is my story... from Mrs. NtJS

"See how the corn leaves are rolling? That means the corn is dying from not getting enough water. Daddy's not going to be able to get much money from our harvest this year. Things are going to be tight baby girl...". I'll never forget this conversation I had with my dad. It was 1984 and my parent's had another mouth to feed that year with my new little sister. It was also a horrible drought that forced a lot of local farmers into retirement and the loss of their family farms. The next year was really not any better for local farmers. Those who had hung on through the first drought went belly up the next year. My dad was one of handful who made it through those years without a scratch.

I was not surprised at all. My dad had always taught me (I was the oldest by 5 yrs) that we can live on love and the land. My parents were young when they got married and and had me right away. Dad was working on a dairy when I was born and a few years later started farming on his own. We did not have a TV until I was in grade school and only got two channels on the antenna. I always had used toys, clothes, bikes, etc. I never thought twice about the way I was raised. I really did not know what a credit card was because my parents never used one (until I was about 15 yrs old). They never took out a car loan. My dad never did take out a loan to buy a tractor! (those can be more expensive than you think)

He always would say that if you don't have the money then you don't need it.

We always lived in homes that came with farm ground. So it would not cost my parent's anything for house other then utilities. Most American's would say he was nuts and that he would not have made a successful businessman. But then again, most Americans are broke! He actually has been extremely successful and is now one of the largest farmers in his state. My parent's just build their first home (that's right they never owned their own home until a couple years ago) and paid cash to have it done. It's anything but a shack. It's an extremely nice, large home. My dad owns his own plane, camper, farm equipment, grain elevator, etc. Not to shabby for a still fairly young man.

I'm proud of my dad because he did things the right way. I'm also proud of him because he taught all of us kids what he was doing as he did it. We knew when it was a bad year and we knew that meant that things would be tight. There was no hiding it from us. There was no putting Christmas on the Discover card because next year will be better. NO, Next year might not be any better! I have always taken his advise to heart and so have my siblings. So far none of us have screwed up too bad! And interestingly enough... None of us use credit cards.

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Review: FeshAire Choice No-VOC Paint

As we got more and more serious about our recent remodeling project, we addressed the decision that consistently proves most difficult for us: paint color. While investigating low-to-no VOC paint, the Mrs. discovered the FreshAire brand of paint sold at Home Depot. FreshAire is a true no-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound, EPA info). VOC's are the stuff in paint that smells, and the reason women aren't supposed to paint when pregnant. They're harmful to you and the environment.

What makes FreshAire different from other "no-VOC" paints is that there are no VOCs in the paint or the colorant. Other brands sell "no-VOC" paints, that is until you tint them to your color of choice. That's right, once tinted, your upcharge no-VOC paint is now loaded with VOCs!

FreshAire Choice No-VOC Paint from Home Depot - $38 per gallon

Pros: No odor - NONE! The paint went on well and dried fast. Coverage was good, but required two coats (typical for consumer grade paint). Finished surface had an even, consistent color and felt very nice (ours was semi-gloss). Unique system of tinting ensures that consistency from one can to the next.

Cons: Price. This may improve as it gains popularity and volumes rise, but for now, a gallon runs about 25% more than paints of similar quality. Color selection is limited, though this too may improve with time.

Grade: A-

Details and our experience inside

The price is something that will be a major stumbling block for some. Our project required about a gallon and a half, so it's not a huge cost increase for us. Also, we saved so much money in other areas that spending a bit more here was no big deal - more about that in a later post.

Once you get over the price, you start looking at colors. Unfortunately, consumers are hit with another negative here. Your selection is limited to 65 colors. With other brands, you get hundreds of swatches to choose from not to mention the fact that you can color match nearly anything these days. Not the case here. But there is an upside here. Their exclusive ColorFresh colorant system takes the the variance out of the system. With traditional paints, colorant is added by a series of liquid base colors that mix to produce the desired color. This doesn't always come out right and sometimes requires tweaking. FreshAire uses pre-mixed, pre-measured packets of colorant. The powder, clear package and all (made of corn starch?) is dropped in and then the can goes into the paint shaker. No machine error due to poor calibration. No human error due to... human error. I should also note that the colors are not necessarily bad. I know that this part is quite subjective to tastes, but we found several that we liked. Some were quite close to others that we had picked out from other brands.

With the first crack of the lid you notice the lack of fumes. As you prep and pour, your sub-conscious still expects the stink to come, but there is none. it was quite nice to not have the entire house reek of paint and to not have to worry about the kids getting a buzz from the fumes.

It went on like most consumer grade paints with a similar consistency. I've used commercial grade interior wall paint before that was as thick as pudding and capable of covering quite well with one coat. I've also used cheap stuff that seemed like I was painting with watercolors. This fell in the middle as expected. Two-coats gave a nice even color, even where the edges were brushed on.

The real surprise was how quick it dried. It's easy to see since the wet paint is about 2 shades lighter than the target color. This may freak some people out at first, but I like seeing a noticeable difference as it tis drying.

As noted before, the semi-gloss had an excellent smooth finish and covered well. As anyone who's painted walls should know, the end result is only as good as the prep work that went into it. We did a fair amount of patching, priming and sanding. There were a few spots that I patched and didn't prime, and those were noticeable from some angles. Where we did it right, it came out nice.

There was a small issue with our second gallon. The guy working the paint desk at HD pulled it out a bit too early and it wasn't completely mixed. A little bit of stirring corrected it, and we were fine. We can't really slight the product on that one as that could happen with any paint, and has happened to us before.

In the end, we were very pleased with the experience. It would have gotten an A if not for the price and the color limitations. Two things that I would expect to improve with time and a little success. If you can spend a little extra on the paint, we highly recommend FreshAire Choice.

Anyone else used FreshAire paint?

**Note** This is a completely unbiased review based on our own experience with the product. We have no ties with FreshAire Choice or Home Depot and received nothing in exchange for this post. If it were terrible, we'd tell you that.

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Emergency Fund Complete!

Maybe you've been watching the progress bars on the right and maybe you haven't, but do note that the Emergency Fund is at 100%! For now.

We know how emergencies come and go around here, but with our health insurance maxed out for the year, at least we won't have to dip into it for any more medical expenses - this year. Through focus, the Mrs.' keen budgeting skills, and some unexpected irregular income, we've replenished it after the beating it took this year. And we're pretty pleased about that.

Bittersweet as it may be, we're enjoying it for now, and looking forward to all the other things we can do with the funds from that monthly line item.

On-ward and up-ward.

**NOTE** that HDTV Challenge progress bar is awfully close to 100% as well. Stay tuned for an update on that as well....

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we have been included on seven carnivals and festivals. We also hosted the Green It! carnival on Wednesday. Be sure to check it out if you haven't yet. We had fifteen excellent posts on the theme of Frugal Green.

We are pleased to welcome all new readers, as well as new carnivals to Not the Jet Set. To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our new NtJS Cafepress shop! On with the round up...

Our post on independence from those expensive disposable diapers was featured on the unofficial Organic Green Daddy Carnival. Below is the link to the only other blogger who also submitted to this non-carnival:

One of my favorite PF bloggers, Squawkfox, is hosting the good ol' Carnival of Personal Finance. This country gal was kind enough to include our post about my former reluctant self in her City Slicker Edition of the carnival. Here are some other tenderfoots trying to play cowboy:
  • Money and Such has a bone to pick with congress over this mortgage bail-out bill. They've found yet another way to punish people who actually did the right thing.
  • Saving Advice takes a look back at PF lessons learned from an Atari 2600.
  • Broke Grad Student explains why he never gives handouts to panhandlers. The ones in Chicago are hardcore!

Everydaytrash took a liking to our dumpster diving post and included it in TreeHugger's the Carnival of the Green this week. Here's some other posts he found in the trash (just kidding, guys):

The monthly roundup that is the Carnival of Everything Finance features one of our favorite posts about how credit cards are like fireworks. Here's one to add to the list: People use them when clearly they shouldn't! Some loser is still setting them off every so often a few blocks away. 4th of July was over a month ago, buddy!

Value For Your Life wanders around the world with the Carnival of Money Stories this week. Amanda catches up with us in London (not quite the High Street) where we make a confession about our wills. Here are some other tall tales she encountered from around the PF blogging world:

The Green It! Carnival was hosted right here! Our editor's picks from our Frugal Green Edition:

Frugal Homemaker Plus hosts the Festival of Frugality this week, featuring our post on dumpster diving etiquette. Here are some of our other favorites from this week:

Lisa at Greener Pastures reminds us that the dog days of summer are here with the Carnival of Money Hacks (as if the heat, humidity and mosquitoes weren't enough!). Like a tall, cool glass of lemonade, Lisa serves us our post about planning for the worst as well as these other refreshing posts:

Thanks for reading and thanks to all the hosts. Don't forget to tell your friends and subscribe to get updates via email or RSS.

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