Made in the USA = Jobs in the USA: Clothing

When I'm looking into buying clothes for my family the first place I check is garage sales. If I can not find what we need in a reasonable amount of time then I look for US made clothing. There is still a wide variety of clothing made in the USA. Take a look at some I've found.

All American Clothing Co.- This company makes a variety of clothes to cover almost any of your (men's and women's) clothing needs.

American Apparel- All of their clothing is made in Downtown L.A. They are one of my favorites because they have a nice AFFORDABLE selection of organic cotton apparel.

Apple Pie Apparel- This website only sells American made clothing.

Carhartt- This high quality work clothes is still made state side. I grew up wearing their coveralls and overalls in the winter time. They hold up well to abuse!

Etsy Shops- Etsy has thousands of listings for clothing most are made here in America others are spruced up here. There are listings from sellers around the world so do check the location of each artisan.

Hyena Cart- Like Etsy Hyena cart is made up of artisans and crafters. The difference is Hyena Cart is earth friendly (but so are a lot of Etsy sellers).

Lucky Jeans- When I contacted them they said that all of their jeans are made in the US. Some of their other items such as the bags, jewelry, and shirts are produced in other countries.

Prom Party Dress- Most of their dresses are made in the USA. Before you buy you should ask to make sure that the dress you like is a USA made item.

I hope that this list helps you to fulfill your clothing needs while keeping jobs and money close to home. Some of the upcoming posts to this series include toys, bath and body products, appliances, and more! This Christmas season, buy Made in the USA gifts for your friends and loved ones.

Do you know of any other companies that make their clothing right here in the great USA?
If so, comment below and I will add them to my list.

I have not bought clothing for all of these sources, so I'm not giving my opinion on the quality of the products. I would suggest doing a search for reviews before buying any product sight unseen. If you work for any of these companies and would like for us to do a product review please feel free to contact us. I would love to review US made products and help consumers buy quality US made items.

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How To: Survive Layoffs

I caught word of layoff rumors at my employer last week. Our factories have gone through cut-backs this year, and a couple even closed. We're hurting just like.... well, every other company. We've gone through all of the cost cutting exercises, temporary travel restrictions, best cost practices, etc, etc... But so far, the restructuring really hasn't hit the white collar staff let alone my department.

You keep hoping that things will turn around, things will get better.

And they will, but likely not soon enough for some. The rumors got a hint of credibility this morning when it was reported on the local news. Reported as a rumor, but they felt is was credible enough to read.

Today, it was all the buzz around the office - everyone hoping that the next guy had answers, or maybe you had heard something? It was getting deep, and I couldn't wait for the day to end as management's actions gave hint to the impending notices.

One friend asked, "Have you been through this before? Why aren't you worried?!?"

The answer is, yes, I have been laid-off before, and I watched several happen as an outside observer in the tech-town we used to live in. But now the bigger and more important question: Why aren't you worried?

I wish this post could be some magic formula, some secret trick to avoid being one of the unfortunate few. It's not. No-one can give you that. Maybe a pill to make it all better after it all goes down. Nope, not that either. But it is what I know about surviving a layoff, about keeping it together, about keeping your sanity, and thus why I am not worried.

  1. Don't Panic. Panic is contagious, and spreads fast. It does no good and you tend to make bad decisions when you panic. When was the last time someone when through a horrific event and later said, "Wow, good thing I panicked!" Never. Doesn't happen. Besides, whether you know it or not, there are people who look up to you, people who depend on you. People who look to you as their rock. The best thing you can do is be that rock. Be that calming voice of reason when all hell breaks loose.
  2. Find Solace in Your Diligence. If you've been on the ball, then you've likely got one of those budget things, and maybe been saving some money in an account or something. The Mrs. came out looking like an absolute genius after I was laid-off some years back. When we got home that day, we went over the budget to find that we were.... ok. We could make it on her income alone. Especially since we had been aggressively paying down our debts. We also had some cash tucked away in the baby emergency fund. Those three things gave us great peace on what was one of the worst days of my life. Seeing that storm coming, she had us in high gear leading up to it. If you haven't been doing these things, this is why you do them. If your plan is based on the best-case scenario, then welcome to life - it doesn't work that way.
  3. Put it in God's Hands. This is likely the most important one. Maybe you've heard the phrase, "Control what you can control". Well, this one is out of your hands. Seriously. Your past actions and performance may determine your fate, maybe not. Either way, it's out of your hands and quite possible that anything you do will only make matters worse. This is likely the largest part of why I can be so calm during something like this. Because I choose not to worry or act foolishly, but rather to pray to God, and put it to Him. If it is his will, if it is my time to go, then so be it. We don't know his plan and if you want to make him laugh, tell him your plan! When I was laid-off, I later saw it for the blessing that it was. I'm not saying that it was easy, but I later saw that it was time, and that God removed me from a poisonous situation that was only bound to get worse.
That's it. By the time you hear that it is coming, likely everything has been decided and all that is left is the formalities and the announcement. Let's say that the worst has happened, and you now find yourself unemployed. What now?
  1. Don't Panic. Yeah, we're still not going to go there. B r e a t h e. Maintain your dignity and your composure - be professional. If you play your cards right, then you'll walk out with a healthy severance and maybe even a letter of recommendation. The world hasn't ended, just your job.
  2. Know your rights. You may want to do a bit of research if you know that this is coming. Know what your employer can and cannot do. Know your rights as an employee. Can you collect unemployment? Have you been unfairly treated or discriminated against? Don't just assume that they know what they are doing and remember who's best interest they have in mind. Document everything, and know that all internet activity is monitored on the company network, so do your research from home.
  3. Your New Job Starts Today! That is, your full-time job of finding a new job. Time to hit the bricks and press the flesh, because the sooner you get a new steady income, the sooner that severance package looks more like a big bonus. Or maybe it's time to consider a job in the art of homemaking. Yes, you too can be a stay-at-home-mom or dad. There is no shame in it, and it can be a great time to bond with your kids. Take the opportunity if you can.
If you were not one of the ones cut from the pack, then take a deep breath and thank God. While you're at it, say a prayer for the people who were laid-off and their families. And if you can, send them this post. They could use some sanity about now.

As for my company, we should know more in the coming days. Maybe tomorrow.

What is your best job layoff advice? How did you survive?

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Made in the USA = Jobs in the USA: Shoes

If you have been following our Patriot Pact Series you know just how I feel about supporting American workers. This weekend I spent some time with my parent's and other extended family. When the topic of the economy came up everyone talked about our money all going overseas and not staying here. When I said that I work very hard to try to buy only products make in the the USA, I was told over and over again how you just can't do it. Well, they are right. If you only shop at Wal-mart you can not do it, but if you are willing to try new stores and shop online there is a way.

These weekend conversations have inspired me to prove them wrong with a new series called: Made in the USA = Jobs in the USA.

I thought that I would start this new series out with one of my favorite things, Shoes.

New Balance- Most of their shoes are made in the USA, but check the label before buying.

Okabashi- These plastic shoes are very affordable and made for every day wear.

Red Wing Shoes- All of their shoes including work boots are made in the USA.

Soft Star-They make some adorable looking shoes for babies.

Wilson Boots- It's hard to believe that not all cowboy boots are made in the USA, but it's a sad truth. Wilson still makes their boots in the USA.

The next time you need a new pair of shoes try to buy these brands first to help keep jobs right here in America.

Do you know of any other companies that make their shoes right here in the great USA? If so, comment below and I will add them to my list.

I have not bought shoes for all of these sources, so I'm not giving my opinion on the quality of the products. I would suggest doing a search for reviews before buying any product sight unseen. If you work for any of these companies and would like for us to do a product review please feel free to contact us. I would love to review US made products and help consumers buy quality US made items.

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Why Is Gas Cheap Now?

A couple of weeks ago, gas prices started falling. A little at first, then a dime. Another dime. And another.... Seemed like for a while it fell a dime every day or two. I took this picture in disbelief of gas approaching $3. Not an unwelcome change. Then it fell below $3.00. I wasn't sure I'd live long enough to see that again.

Now, on the way home tonight, I saw it posted at $2.46 - TWO FORTY-SIX! Pleased as I was, I thought back to the previous weeks and months with the question:

Why is gas suddenly cheap, and why now?

I've come to two conclusions on this one:

The tangible answer:
This summer crude oil hit an all-time high of a bazzillion dollars a barrel (ok, it was something like $150 or $160). It was expensive. Needlessly expensive. Everyone came up with every excuse in the book and put them on heavy rotation. Turmoil in the Middle East (as if it is ever calm), higher demand (as if it suddenly jumped), lower supply (an intentional condition), blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.... I think a few Shieks got greedy and decided to take us for a ride this summer. Well, they found that they went too far, as people were pushed past the breaking point. Then that artificial price, fell, and fell and fell. Now its about half the price it was at it's peak. But gas prices did fall when crude fell. Why? Well, those sharply falling prices were quoted for "September Delivery". Meaning, the refineries would not get that cheaper crude until September. Then they process it. Then distribute it. Once it finally reached the pumps, September was near over. The downward trend continued, and now with the end of October coming up fast, we are seeing the lowest gas prices in some time. It's really quite logical.

The intangable answer:
As the price of crude dropped off, so did the rhetoric. Apparently there's a big group hug over there in the Middle East. Whatever. Everyone in the oil and gas sector is staying calm this fall. The fall of an election year! Gas prices were front and center this summer, but that decline in crude prices came conveniently before the Olympics and the party conventions. A nice 3-4 week distraction. Then gas prices aren't such a big deal. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe an oil based America is OK. Maybe not. Maybe the oil companies and OPEC want us to forget all about that come the first Tuesday in November. Maybe, one candidate for president is more friendly to oil companies, and they'd like to see him elected. If oil isn't such a problem, you'll vote on another issue or favor the oil-friendly energy plan, keeping the oil industry fat and happy for another four years minimum. Maybe.

I won't forget. I won't forget the calls for energy independence made by Presidents three decades back. I won't forget about the record profits and the lack of new refineries. I won't forget about the strong arming that helped kill the electric car and kept America cranking out internal combustion engines. I won't forget about the way their greed nearly killed the auto industry in America. I won't forget that we consume one fourth of the world's oil, yet only have the potential to produce a small fraction of that. I won't forget that more drilling will only lead to nowhere.

I won't forget.

Is gas prices and energy independence an important issue to you this election? Is it in the top 3?

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on five carnivals and festivals. Another slow posting week here at NtJS due to, life getting in the way. Stay tuned - lots of good stuff on the way and in the hopper. Be sure to check out the return of ReUse It!

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 All Things Eco: The twenty-first edition is hosted at Focus Organic and features Mrs. NtJS's adventures in baby-wrangling and cloth-diapering. I also liked:

Carnival of Personal Finance: Class clown, J. Money, hosts this week's CoPF at Budgets Are $exy. This week, we make rare appearance in the 'Credit' category with our post on credit reports vs. credit scores. Do you know the difference? Also be sure to check out:

Carnival of Money Stories: So Cal Savvy hosts this week, and just before being taken down by a sinus infection. Not Fun! Get well soon! Something that is fun? Finding good news in your mortgage statement. Some other good news:

Festival of Frugality: Is up at the Mighty Bargain Hunter with the Free Extra Money Edition (not entirely sure what that means). Featured is our tips for saving money on Halloween costumes. At our daughters school Halloween party, there were a lot of home-made costumes, many of which were quite clever.

Make It From Scratch Carnival: More than a mouthful, 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven hosts this week and did an awesome job with a more visual version of the carnival. Our extra effort in the photography department pays off with our post on making these attractive reusable produce bags. Some other attractive posts from the carnival:

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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ReUse It! Towel Apron

At notthejetset, we've always pursued quality over quantity. Even still, we're please as pie to present this, our 200th post! Happy reading, and here's to 200 more. Cheers!

What to do when your favorite towel gets stained? Get creative! This reuse it idea is not the most creative but it is great classic idea that makes a good frugal gift as well.

Cost: $2.00 or less.

Time: 25 minutes (more or less depending on the detail you add)

Skill Level: Beginner

Materials needed:

  • Towel
  • Ribbon (1 1/2 yards min)
  • Applique (optional)
  • Other Trim (optional)
1. Layout- Line up the middle of the ribbon length and the middle of the longest side of the towel to create the top waist band/tie. Pin together.

2. Sew- Next sew the ribbon to the towel along both edges making a rectangle.

3. Details- Now the fun part! Add your applique to the towel or any other trim you like. Make it unique to fit your own style.

4. Completed- Tie it on and test it in the kitchen!

Overall Project Grade: A

Project Notes: This project can easily be done for free by using items you already have. The nice thing about these aprons is that they are absorbent and you never worry about staining them since they are a nice cheap work horse.

To make them into a more personalized gift add an appliqued or hand embroidered letter to the towel in your friend's favorite color.

Have you made a towel apron before? If so tell us about it!

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Frugal Baby Food

Back in June Mr. NtJS asked me to write a post about frugal baby food. I informed him that I was not an expert and all I really do is just mash bananas and serve. Well, almost three months later I still do not feel like an expert but I would like to share what I have learned about making our own baby food and feeding our baby on a budget.

Like usual, we went against the norm and did not introduce rice cereal first. In fact, I still have not introduced grains yet (daughter is 9 months, started solids @ 4 months). I found no evidence that supported the notion that you have to give cereal's as one of the first foods. In some cases due to allergies it is better to wait.

Instead, I started with bananas. They are the easiest to prepare and one the first foods on all the list to try. It's as easy as keeping a few fresh ones on hand and mashing 1/3 of it at a time with a fork. Since we have an older child we would give her the other 2/3 of the banana with her meal. If you don't have another child to eat the left overs you can cover the cut end with a small piece of plastic wrap and it will keep it from browning.

Since I was trying to feed my daughter healthy, but frugal foods the next logical choices where direct from the garden. Zuchinni, carrots and peas all came straight from our garden. I did purchase sweet potatoes, peaches, apples, and other fruits from local farmers (equaling a good deal for both of us).

I was amazed at how easy and quick it is to make the food! The veggies I would steam while steaming them for us as well. So if we where eating peas I could steam the extra's for the baby. Once they were steamed, I just put them in the food processor or the food mill (our food mill is awesome, by the way). Then I fill ice cube trays with the pureed food. Once it's frozen I move the cubes into marked containers. The fruits I just slice up and give her them in a mesh feeder. That is her favorite way to eat right now. I did make apple sauce which takes more time but if I'm going to put up over 50 quarts for my family what are a few more sugar free ones for the baby?

My baby loves the food. She has yet to find a food she did not like. As for my older daughter, she did not like my homemade baby food. I think that the issue was that I started her on jarred food and then decided to try to make it when she was a little older. My guess is that if I would have done it from the beginning she would not have minded the taste or texture.

Another interesting observation is that our still toothless infant is eating cheerios, while other kids we know, who have been raised on jarred food AND have teeth, are unable to handle solids and gag unless everything is liquefied.

By making my own baby food we have saved a lot of money. We have not made any charts or formula's to calculate how much, but when you look at the high price of jarred food compared to fresh fruits and veggies you will see a huge mark up.

Do any of you make your own baby food? Do you have any tips you could share or stories to tell?

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Extravigantly Frugal: The Do-It-Yourselfer

Disclaimer: This is the second, and I can't say the final, post based on a country song. Fan or not, they are many times difficult not to relate to. You've been warned.

Few things are quite as frugal as going the DIY route. Many times this can be simple things:

  • Mowing your own yard instead of paying the neighbor kid twenty bucks.
  • Washing your own car instead of blowing ten bucks on the Scratch-o-matic downtown.
  • Making your own meals instead of letting McDonald's catch your slack.
You didn't know you were a DIYer, did you? Stop discounting it and give yourself credit - some folks would balk at those tasks without even considering it. Sure those are all pretty low-risk, low-involvement, but money-savers none the less. People typically associate DIY with higher risk ventures like carpentry, plumbing, car repair, basic wiring, or the dreaded computer repair. While the first list is often overlooked, the second is all too often farmed-out and put off as being 'too hard'. I will admit, they are - in their own way - a gamble, a risk.

Here is what the Gambler taught me about DIY:

Know when to hold 'em:
Some things are just as simple as you would hope. A burnt out tail light on NtJS-mobile-1 required removing 1 screw, unfastening the harness from the reflector, replacing the old bulb (a few dollars for TWO from the auto supply store), and putting it all back together. A 15-minute job. Even an auto-repair-phobe like me can handle that one. Some things you should just dive into and not worry about it. If it's in the front half of the home improvement store or featured on a commercial, then you can probably handle it. When in doubt, read the instructions. Celine fans, wall paint, lawn and garden care - you can do this stuff and succeed despite your skill set or lack there of. And the small wins will give you confidence to move up to bigger things.

Know when to fold 'em: Somethings you just shouldn't even attempt. I'm not saying that they are not possible. Just that they lie far enough outside of your abilities to have even a chance of success. We needed some electrical work done recently. The first bit was hired out. We got a recommendation on an electrician and he was great. When the next bit came, I thought I should at least look into doing it myself. Frugal? Over-confident? Who knows, but I mostly found myself wanting to do it. I could see other electrical projects on the horizon, and if I could do this, then the others would be no problem. I went through 3 or 4 resources from the library before I decided to call the guy back. I just wasn't getting it, and an attempt by an uniformed novice could go awry fast.

Know when to walk away: Some DIY is based on prior experience. In a previous life, I've hung drywall and gone though gallons of joint compound. I've built various things out of raw lumber. I've operated and serviced lawn care equipment. But all initially with the guidance of someone who knew what they were doing. With a little luck, I can repeat those tasks today with success. Some DIY is based on little more than a willingness to try. During a kitchen remodel, we replaced - among other things - the sink and drain. Whenever I get the chance, I add shut-off valves where they would today, but didn't 40 years ago. When I went to do that here, I got in a hurry and made a mistake that I had made before: I didn't open the valve prior to soldering it on. Even with the water off, there is still moisture in the lines. When you add heat, you get steam. When you get steam, it will look for the easiest way out - usually up and/or at the weakest point. My closed, un-soldered valve was both. Once enough pressure built, it overcame the weight of the valve and shot it 7 feet into the air. The burning hot brass valve landed 6 inches from my hands. It was time to walk away, b r e a t h e, and take some time to regroup. I came back a few minutes later with a clearer head and did it right - valve open - with no trouble.

Know when to run: Sometimes, you get blinded by bravado (or the fear of a professional's bill). As my father would say, "He knows enough to be dangerous". I've had no formal training when it comes to plumbing, but that didn't stop me from... well any plumbing project. While some were surprising successes, they didn't all go well. In a recent venture, my largest to date and the reason for our intermittent posting as of late, the test run of the new supply and drain resulted in 3 leaks. I was beaten and I knew it. The close quarters soldering and blending of the new PVC drain to old cast iron proved to be too much for me, especially after weeks of following up an 8 or 9 hour day at work with 4-6 hours of DIY at night on this mega project. It was late, I was defeated, and I could see it going from bad to worse in a hurry. I looked at the Mrs, and asked her to call a plumber in the morning. It was time to cut my losses and run.

You never count your money, when you're sittin' at the table, there'll be time enough for countin', when the deal is done: I can't help but think of my early days of computer building and repair here. In college, I was introduced to the notion of computer DIY. It started with simple upgrades: more RAM, extra HDD, new video card. It was surprisingly easy. Then a friend took me to the next level - building from scratch. The mechanics were surprisingly easy, but there was still a chance for failure. Cards not seated properly, incorrectly set jumpers, or the dreaded static discharge, could leave you perplexed for hours. The rule of thumb was, "never put the case back on before testing it". Even a simple task would get the kiss of death if you were so foolish as to make your upgrades, close the case, and then fire it up. I can't say that it always made sense, but it usually held true. Don't count the job as done until it's truly done - testing and all.

DIY work can be incredibly rewarding, and if nothing else, should give you an appreciation for the professionals who do this stuff every day. Basic competencies in these general home improvement areas can be just as valuable as having a phone list of contractors that you can trust. One will mostly cost you your time, the other is more taxing on your wallet. Like anything, the more you do this stuff, the better you'll get at it. But the next time you are staring down the barrel of a home improvement project, think of the lessons of the Gambler.

DIYers: How do you choose when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em?

Non-DIYers: What keeps you from sitting at the table?

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on two carnivals and festivals. Another slow posting week here at NtJS due to, life getting in the way. Stay tuned - lots of good stuff on the way and in the hopper. Be sure to check out the return of ReUse It!

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 Politics: Is a new one for us. Not your typical carnival as your post has to receive 5 votes to be included. We skated in (on our first try!) with our Patriot Pact.

Carnival of Personal Finance: Greener Pastures hosts this week's CoPF with a Colombus Day Edition. Included is our mockumercial for the Need Meter

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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ReUse It! Produce Bags

I'm a green gal. I use cloth diapers on my baby, I compost our food scraps and yard waste, I take my own reusable bags to the grocery store. Because of this green lifestyle I also tend to buy a lot of fruit and veggies at the local farmer's market during season and at the grocery store the rest of the year. I find it extremely difficult to use those little plastic produce bags at stores. I also tend to lose the small items in my large bag while buying lots of goodies at the farmers market and need something smaller to sit them in. What to do? Well, make your own stylish reusable produce bags of course!

After lots of online research I came up with an idea that was spurred on by a lady who was making them out of fabric and doilies. My spin on the produce bags is even easier to do for us DIYers with no sew machine needed. Just a couple doilies and some ribbon.

Cost: $4.00

Time: 10 minutes

Skill Level: Beginner

Materials needed:

  • 2 identical doilies
  • 1 or more yards of ribbon
  • large eyed round tipped needle (optional)

1. Layout- Lay your two doilies on top of each other lining the holes up.

2. Seams- Starting at the top corner, working your way down make a 'U' shaped seam along the outside edge of the doilies. Make sure to make it a tight enough weave that your produce will not fall out of the gaps.

3. Knotting- After the ribbon has made its way around the outside edge tie off both of the top corners. This should have created your pouch.

4. Drawstring- Starting at one top corner weave another strand of ribbon around the entire top circle working your way back to the starting point. Tie off the ends leaving enough room for a little (or large) handle to carry it with.

5. Complete- Your done! Go enjoy the fruits of your labor. LOL, I could not help myself.

Overall Project Grade: A-

Project Notes: I love doilies so I have a fine collection to choose from. While trying to find the right ones I looked at the tightness of the design (large wholes could mean you would lose your small fruits), strength of the doily, and overall size. Have fun and use some creativity with this project. If you have large circle doily you could just take your ribbon around the outside end and make a bag that way without using two doilies. The sky is the limit on creativity of this project.

I love finding vintage doilies at garage sales but never have had a "need" for them before now. With this new project I can always find a "need" for a cute doily at garage sale!

For more great ideas visit:
Make Do Monday
Tackle It Tuesday
Get your Craft On
Works for Me Wednesday

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The Patriot Pact: Reality, Not Rhetoric

If you haven't read our first draft of the Patriot Pact, then be sure to check it out. We're our to remind Americans how much power they actually wield, and begin to steer our nation in a direction that doesn't lead to stupid.

For those of you who have read the Pact, you likely noticed that 10 through 13 are are political based, yet non-partisan. Neither party is always right, and neither is always on the correct side of the issues. That is for you to figure out. But that is not always easy to do. This being an election year, it is increasingly important to get a grip on what is going on.

How, as a voter, do you separate the rhetoric from reality, and make an educated decision?

TV ads aren't going to get you there. The internet is a slippery slope of myths, lies, rumors and occasional truth. Source is always important. Hot off the heels of the third and final Presidential Debate here is a tip for separating signal from noise.

Lately, I've found it quite informative to read the Fact Check posts on CNN's Political Ticker. Sure, each news outlet has and shows it's bias. But these Fact Checks are backed up by data collected from independent sources. One of which is factcheck.org

Will McCain raise taxes? Will Obama spend us into the poor house? Did Palin shut down the Bridge to Nowhere? Did Biden say that Obama was not ready to lead?

Here you will find the facts, clearly stated, followed by a conclusion. True? False? Misleading? Incomplete? They let you know. Responsible voting - now that's patriotic.

How do you seek out the truth when it comes to politics?

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Our Mortgage Statement is Awesome!

The Mrs. and I were super excited about two things on our mortgage statement this month. Sounds like someone getting excited about the new phone book coming it, right? Well, there's no misplaced emotions here. These are actually pretty cool things, and they wouldn't be so had we of opted for the standard issue 30-yr mortgage.

Cool thing number one:
Our balance is below $100,000. We got a great deal on our house (even though it needed a lot of updating). We bought for way under original asking price and had some concessions on top of that. Then we put 20% down to avoid PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance, foreclosure insurance for the lender that you pay for!). It's a mental win really. It just feels great to know that we owe less that $100k, when we know so many spending 3x what we did. With a 30-year mortgage, our payments would have been less, and we would not have as much payed off by now.

Cool thing number two:
Our payment is almost equal parts interest and principle. A year and a half in, and we're nearly split between the two. Again, kind of a mental win as nobody likes to look at these things and see 90% of that monthly payment going to interest. Again, 30-yr notes don't amortize as fast as a 15-yr.

When was the last time you felt good about your mortgage?

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on four carnivals and festivals. Sad to report that we don't have time to add some suggested reading from each carnival, but then again, we barely got this one out as is! Enjoy the round up, and be sure to visit the carnivals as there are some great posts on there other than the ones written by us:)

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 Kids and Money: Is hosted by Money Hacks and features our post on College Kids and Credit Cards. A great read if you got sucked in by one of these slimeballs, or know someone who did.

Make It From Scratch! Carnival: Is at it's mother blog this week. Included is our post on putting up peppers for the winter after doing without for most of the year.

Festival of Frugality: Up at Dollar Frugal this week, includes our mocku-mercial on our financial product of the centruy - The Need Meter! Get yours today!

Carnival of Money Stories: Hosted by Living Almost Large, opted in to our post on opting out. You'll want to do this if you haven't already.

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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Debt Is Bad, Mkay?

With the current financial crisis in full swing, the evening news is littered with bank failings, job losses, and business closures. Sad news, undoubtedly, as these failings only add to the turmoil. Story after story, usually followed up by more tales of foreclosure. As we watch the fallout from years of bad decisions, we see a common theme arise:

Too much reliance on debt.

Lenders have worked tirelessly to desensitize us to the use of debt to the point where we use it daily. Personal finance gurus and documentary filmmakers have struggled to keep up and bring us back to reality. The undeniable reality is:

Debt is bad.

Some of you are in the choir on this one, but if you are still struggling with this issue then here are a few points to consider:

  1. Car sales are way off across the board - no free pass for golden children Honda and Toyota. But when have you ever known anyone to pay cash for a brand new car? Every once in a while, some hermit will ceremoniously pay for one in nickels. That's about it. The entire industry is so heavily reliant on debt to sell their product that they have their own financing divisions. When credit is less available, less people can buy.
  2. Businesses, usually smaller ones, are closing up shop in droves. Why? Many rely on financing their operating costs, and when short term credit becomes less available, they can't buy materials or pay workers. The business literally exists on debt.
  3. Families are falling behind on mortgages. Blame who you want here, but those who took out short term financing, expecting to re-fi later, took on a huge risk and banked it all on some really bad debt.
  4. People with even just a few debts are struggling where they weren't before. Increasing living costs or job losses bring the house of cards tumbling down. Even having credit limits slashed or interest rates jacked brings their best-case-scenario 'plan' to a grinding halt.

Individuals and families are so reliant on debt (and if you use a credit card, you are using debt), that they face the same fate of businesses during tough economic times - financial failure. I'm not saying that it is unavoidable. But it is an undeniable risk that has always been there and this financial crisis has brought to light for many. the families and businesses that are succeeding right now, are the ones without debt.

This is quite possibly the best part of Dave Ramsey's financial advice - It doesn't change.

It works in every economy. And the best part about that, is that you don't know when this is going to happen. Sure people predicted this fall out. But no-one could look into their crystal ball and say that it would be this bad at this time. No body knows. Truly sound financial advice is unfazed by economic swings.

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Credit Reports, Credit Scores - What's the Difference?

In a blogosphere obsessed with credit scores, a place where decisions are made based on the effect it will have on their FICO, I, Mr. NtJS, am about to say the unthinkable....

I never check my credit score.


Since they checked, and reported it when we bought our house, I know what it was as of a year and a half ago. I do not make a financial decisions based on the effect it will have on my credit score.


Perplexed? Read on - I'll explain.

As if there weren't enough myths, lies and half-truths about credit cards, we have to add in the like for credit scores and credit reports. Seriously, it is a much simpler life when you stop borrowing money. But since I just watched yet another terrible segment on a local news station full of horrid advice, a recommendation of freecreditreport[dot]com (a scam), and little more than some cobbled together information from 5-minutes on google - it seems some clarity is needed.

Here are 10 points on each::

Your Credit Report:
  1. Contains your past payment history and is considered to be your 'financial reputation'.
  2. Includes any delinquencies, bankruptcies, foreclosures, repossessions, and other red flags. These can drop off after 7-10 years depending on which one it is.
  3. Includes open credit accounts of various types.
  4. Does not include your income, investments, or other assets.
  5. Likely contains errors and/or mistakes as you are the only one reviewing it for such inaccuracies. Errors can be challenged, false information can be fixed, but it is not necessarily an easy process.
  6. Can be viewed, once per year, for free, in accordance with federal law at ANNUALCREDITREPORT.com - other sites are a scam. This site is mandated by the government and information is provided by Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
  7. Can be viewed by junk-mailers and other random scumbags by 'pre-screening' unless you opt out.
  8. Was never intended for you to see, and was created for lenders to be the end users.
  9. May be reviewed as a part of applying for a job. This is typically done when you will be handling corporate money on a regular basis.
  10. Is used to calculate your credit score.

Your Credit Socre:

  1. Is derived from information in your credit report - nothing more.
  2. Is reported by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, but the most widely used is from Fair Issac, known as the FICO score.
  3. Is commonly being used by insurance companies for setting premiums as a predictor for if you are more likely to file a claim. Some states have banned this practice, and is currently under investigation by Congress.
  4. Is commonly used by lenders to determine 'credit worthiness' for risk-based pricing for debt of all kinds, by folks too lazy to look at your actual finances, income, and situation.
  5. Is commonly used by large apartment complexes, though they typically do not see the score, but rather a letter grade from a reporting agency.
  6. Is not considered negative because of a lack of information.
  7. Is not necessary for obtaining a prime-rate mortgage as many lenders will do it the old fashioned way via manual underwriting.
  8. Is not readily available to you without paying for it or signing up for a different service that includes access.
  9. Is not a measure of financial success.
  10. Does not need to be 'built', 'managed', or an important part of your life.
Once upon a time, people had no legal right to view any of this information. Ever. As I mentioned before, consumers were not intended to be the end user of this service. Lenders were the end user. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gave you, Joe Consumer, the right to review this information and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act gave us the ability to do so, online and for free on an annual basis. The latter was only signed into law in 2003.

Since then, we've had FICO score hysteria. Myths, half-truths, and outright lies spread - partially fueled by my favorite shill, Suze Orman. Lazy lenders, insurers, and landlords have jumped on the easy risk-based assessments. But is it a valid measure of... anything? Dave Ramsey commonly refers to the FICO as the "I love debt" score, and I tend to agree with him. Here's why:

FICO Score breakdown (from myfico.com, with my comments in italics)
  • 35% is your "payment history" - Making payments on debt, other delinquencies would show up here.
  • 30% is your "amount owed" - How much debt you are carrying.
  • 15% is your "length of credit history" - How long have you been in debt or carried revolving debt.
  • 10% is "new credit" - Are you still taking on more debt.
  • 10% is "types of credit used" - Have various types of debt, like a mortgage, car loans, student loans, personal loans, credit cards....
You can see why Ramsey commonly refers to the FICO score as an "I love debt" score. The only way to build and maintain this thing is to go into debt and stay in debt - forever. It is not a measure of winning financially. The majority of the score indicates a willingness to pay payments for a very long time. Only 35% would cover if you payed your bills (such as utilities) or had major delinquencies (BK, foreclosure, repo). Even then, income, investments, good money management skills, and other positive behaviors are not accounted for here. Just debt. Only debt. You want to stay in debt? You want to remain enslaved to banks and credit cards? Not us.

We're done with debt, and our FICO scores can go jump in the creek.

The beautiful part about it all is: My score is actually pretty great - my wife's is even better. I've never had a personal credit card in my name. I've never done a single thing with the intent of boosting my score. We pay our bills (I used to not be so good about that). We manage our money very well (I screwed up many times in college with my debit card and it never affected my credit). We stopped borrowing money 4+ years prior to, and were debt-free 2 years prior to buying this house. Even then, many folks were jealous of the low rate we got on our 15-year fixed rate mortgage. Don't listen to the rhetoric, get in touch with reality.

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Jim Cramer Finally Makes Sense

If you are at all familiar with Jim Cramer or his show, Mad Money, then you might be a bit confused by that title. No, I'm not saying that I finally understand his methods and that I'll be foolishly getting sucked into day-trading in the near future.

No, no, by "Jim Cramer Finally Makes Sense", I mean that he's finally come down from his decades-long caffeine/sugar high and stopped all that crazy talk - Buy! Sell! Hold! Buy! Sell! Hold! Bear Sterns is fine! At least for a few minutes on the Today Show he was making sense.

His advice sounded strangely familiar...

Cramer, calm and near tears at times, said that he thought all weekend about what he was going to say on Monday morning. His long contemplations resulted in this sobering advice:

If you'll need your money in the next five years, get out of the market.

Wow. Really? This is somewhat sound advice, and I commend Jim for actually saying it... outloud... on national television. But here is why I think he's a big dummy: It's easy to say that NOW! After the market is downward spiraling. After the mortgage meltdown. After the collapse of bank after bank after investment firm. After the foriegn markets have taken a nose-dive. Gee. Really?! You think that money that poeple are counting on for college, large purchases, or retirement might not be there?!

You see, this is what Dave Ramsey has been teaching for years, Jim.

This, could happen at any time. The market, by nature, is volatile. If you need your money in 5 years or less, then it needs to be in a good savings account. If you won't be needing it for 5-10 years +, then you should be invesiting it in good mutual funds as you will be able to handle these swings in the market without flipping your lid.

Jim Cramer: Typically going in twelve directions about which stocks to buy and sell, had to come on the Today Show to tell the nation that he has new advice for these difficult times.

Dave Ramesy: Advice has not changed. Plan still works. Isn't selling stocks - especially at the bottom. In fact, he's still buying at the same pace he always does - slow and steady.

Did mom and dad ever read you that story about the tortoise and the hare....?

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Halloween On The Cheap

The cheapest way to handle Halloween is to leave the porch light off and forget about it. BUT when you have little kids or enjoy the holiday it makes it hard to just ignore Halloween. I find most costumes at the store to be cheaply made and not able to hold up to my kids. Especially since they want to use the costume as dress-up clothes after the holiday. Because of this I always end up making my own costumes. Some years have been expensive, like the Snow White costume that I spent a fortune on fabric to get just the right colors. But other years have cost close to nothing like the Black Cat year. I'm no expert on cheap Halloweens but here are some tips that I have learned along the way.

  • Plan ahead- Like most things in life, if you give yourself enough time to think and get good deals you will save money.
  • Creative Costumes- Be creative and make your kid's (or your own) costumes. Instead of asking "What do you want to be this year?" ask, "Do you want to be a train engineer, a robot or a super hero?". By narrowing the choices down to options you know you can make cheaply or for free you and your child can both be happy about the decision.
  • Rethink Treats- We all know that we can not give out homemade goodies on Halloween night or at the school parties. I try to be healthier and cheaper by shopping for the little snack packs of animal cracker or similar when they are on sale. I will sometimes find other smaller packaged items on sale to use also.
  • After Holiday Sales- This good rule of thumb applies to all holidays not just Christmas. Last year I was able to get Halloween knee-hi socks for 90% off at Target. I bought all of them and made a boat load of Baby Legs for my kids to wear this year.
  • Reuse Candy- This is not as gross as it sounds. If your kids get candy at school or daycare like mine do then you know how it feels to end up with candy no one in your house will eat. Why not turn around and give it out to the kids who come to your door that night? It's still wrapped and untouched so to speak.
These helpful tips should help you have a happy Halloween no matter the size of your budget. Do you have any other cheap Halloween tips? We'd love to hear them!

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The Cloth Diapering Rodeo

It has been amazing to watch our little baby change over the last month or so. It seems like over night she goes from sitting there taking the world in quietly to a non-stop explorer who loves to talk. As much as I love the changes the one hard part has been the diaper changes.

I'm sure all parents can relate to our experience as I'm well aware that it is not a unique one. Our baby would lay on the changing table so nicely while I changed her diapers. She would even hold her own legs up for me (to cute!). Now that she is 8 months old I have to wrestle her down, hold her legs up and keep her hands out of the way all while trying to wipe "real" poop and then put a prefold AND a cover on her. Most days I feel like I'm a cowgirl roping my calf because of the way I have to hold her down and she's flopping and fussing the whole time.

What to do? Do I give up on my cloth diapers? "Not I!" Says this bull headed ropin' cowgirl.

Instead of giving up it's time for a different strategy. My daughter has been in a size large for three months already and I have a nice collection of prefolds, fitteds, and velcro covers. Some I've bought but most I've sewn.

The Issues:

  1. She unvelcro's her covers all day everyday.
  2. She has "real" poop from starting on solids instead of runny baby poo.
  3. Moves nonstop while changing her.
  4. Mr. NtJS want's to go on a date and at the moment the babysitter's can't get her diapers on her right.
  5. Grandma's are not tucking the diapers into the covers correctly at the moment so she leaks and they feel horrible.
The Solutions:
  1. We switched to snap covers. So far they seem to work great. She can not get them off and they fit well. Velcro is easy to use but once your little one figures out how much fun it is to play with they just don't work.
  2. I purchased a roll of Tiny Tush disposable liners. They are 100% biodegradable and safe to use with septic systems. I've used them for a month and so far I really like they. They make cleaning up a drop in the bucket... or toilet in this case!
  3. Our last three issues are being solved with one solution. AIO or Pocket diapers. I've stayed way from them before for us they were more expensive since I was not willing to sew them (go ahead and call me chicken I don't mind). However, we need something that works and our current diapering system was not keeping up to par. I purchased a couple used AIO and Pocket diapers off of Diaper Swappers to try. As expected they worked really well and make thing much easier. I only tried snap diapers for obvious reasons and I liked the pockets better because they were easier to dry. The AIO's take longer to dry then everything else. If I was only going to have style of diaper in my rotation then I think I would have went for AIO, but I have a mix.
As we enter the next phase of our diapering for our youngest our cloth diaper stash did have to change but the key is that it is still just as do-able as it was when she was a new born. I still don't feel the need to go disposables and we are still saving money and the earth.

Do any of you cloth diapering veteran's (or ropin' cowgirls) have any other advice? Do any of you newbies to cloth have questions? I hope that this post helps others out there who struggle to make the cloth decision work for your family.

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on three carnivals and festivals. Another crazy week here on the NtJS ranch. Fear not ReUse It! fans, that camera we were mulling over is on order, and a new ReUse It! post should be up next week.

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...

Green It! Carnival: Is back and hosted by Green Me. It may not mean anything, but our post is listed first. Could be nothing. Just sayin'.

Festival of Frugality: Is up at Value For Your Life and is full of gratitude. Now show a little gratitude and we'll pour you a drink.

Carnival of Money Stories: Funny About Money hosts the double trouble edition this week as last weeks was put on ice. Despite not earning a little red heart, we think you'll enjoy our post on a want that became a need. Some other enjoyable posts:
  • SimplyForties pays some Stupid Tax. We all have at some time, but this one is pretty rough.
  • The Happy Rock made the tough choice of selling a van that they love. Dump the debt and sacrifice now to win later.

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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I Just Opted Out - Have You?

Letters! We get Letters! We get sacks and sacks of letters! Letterrrrrrrrrrs!

Always an entertaining segment on the Late Show with David Letterman was the CBS Mailbag. They quit doing it years ago, but when I go to get the mail, that theme song starts up in my head. Why? Junk mail. Credit offers. Insurance offers. Free* vacations I somehow won without entering. Catalogs for stores I'd never shopped at. We even started getting these official looking letters informing us that the warranty on one of our cars was about to expire and immediate action was required to continue coverage.

That warranty ran out years ago. I was not fooled by their ruse, but I can see how many would get sucked in. Why do we get all of these letters? Sacks and sacks of letters?

I hadn't opted out. That is, until now.

I'd heard about this many times but just never took the time to do it. The bogus warranty crap pushed me over the edge. But how could those scumbags know that I even owned a car??? The answer is simple.


Credit reporting agencies allow businesses to "pre-screen" you before making their offer via mail (oh so personal). I'd like to think that the original intent was somewhat legit, but they pretty much let anyone do it. By pre-screening me, the extended warranty jokers mentioned above could see that I'd had a car loan and what year we'd bought it. Bada-boom, bada-bing. Letter goes out.

Well, now I'm out. Opted out. Ridiculous that it is even something you would have to opt out of, but that's life. Maybe we'll save a couple trees in the process too.

Ready to opt out? Visit the official site, optoutprescreen.com

Have you already done this? How long did it take to notice a difference in your volume of mail?

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Payment / Donation Policies

We're doing a bit of tidying up, so we're moving this off of the mainpage.

Buy Now using Revolution Money Exchange

Don't have an RME account? Contact us for an invite! No fees to transfer money!

PayPal's fees are for suckers!  Use RME - See above.

Only accepting PayPal payments funded by PayPal Balance, PayPal Instant Transfer or PayPal eCheck. PayPal's fees are for suckers! Use RME - See above.

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Dave Ramsey's Bail Out Plan

Our blog has been overtaken by the bail out issues lately and this post is also about the bail out. BUT the light at the end of this tunnel is NOT an on coming train!

Dave Ramsey just released . In true Dave style the steps are simple as is the plan he is proposing. Check it out for yourself! If you agree with the plan email it to your Reps and forward it on via email to everyone you know. If you are a blogger... blog it. Let everyone know and make sure to flood your Congressperson's email (today) so that they know how we Americans feel.

I know that some of you are not big Dave fans and that's okay. We are all allowed to our own opinions. But even if you don't like Dave please try to review his plan without bias and do what's right for our Country.

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The Patriot Pact

Last week, we were ranting and raving over the government using our tax dollars to bailout dumb corporations (it still hasn't happened yet). The Mrs. and I had differing views on the hows and whys of this funked up economy. And that's ok - it makes for interesting conversation.

One thing that we do agree on here, is that turning things around starts with you.

That's right. You and I hold this country's future in our hands. We can't directly control corporations, unless we happen to sit in the big office with the nice view and have the letters C, E, and O on the door. We can't directly control congress, that is unless when people write your name, they use the prefix Rep. or Sen. What we do have complete control of, is what happens in our own homes. We control the products that come in. We control the money that goes out. When you think about it, we actually do control a lot. And that is what the Patriot Pact is all about.

Mr. and Mrs. have come across the aisle, to jointly sponsor a plan, not for America, but for Americans. A plan to get our own houses in order instead of waiting for Congress to do it. A plan to take back the future of this nation from the lobbyists and special interest groups. A plan for people who are sick of watching things happen, only to wonder, "Why?". A plan that requires no special skills - only the will to do it. My fellow Americans, we give you the Patriot Pact.

The Patriot Pact v0.1

  1. I will not buy products solely because they have the lowest price.
  2. I will seek out American made products first.
  3. I will seek out environmentally friendly products and services first.
  4. I will shop local first, and national chains second.
  5. I will support companies whose morals and values line up with my own.
  6. I will live on a budget, avoid debt, and seek to bring peace and simplicity to my finances.
  7. I will hold at least one garage sale per year. (It is also acceptable to donate your 'garage sale items' in lieu of holding a sale)
  8. I will support charities and non-profit organizations that line up with my morals and values as my income permits. Equal opportunity should be given to both local and national organizations.
  9. I will bank with local banks and/or credit unions, instead of mega-banks.
  10. I will support and/or vote for candidates in touch with the reality of the issues at hand, instead of rhetoric.
  11. I will only vote when I can make an educated decision about a candidate or issue.
  12. I will vote out incumbents who serve their own interests over ours.
  13. I will contact my elected officials to inform them of my opinions as needed.
  14. I will politely encourage friends, family, neighbors and others to consider these points and/or to take the pact as well.

The Patriot Pact is not meant to be set in stone, but rather a 'living document'. It may evolve. It may change. We may add to or subtract from it. But the intent will remain the same. We welcome your input.

Will you take our pledge? Will you take back our country? Tell us in the comments.

Good night, and may God bless America.

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