Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on you life and all that you have to be thankful for. But we're not listing those here.

There's lots of healthy, frugal dishes one can prepare for family gatherings - large and small. But you're not getting those either.

We're out. Unplugged. Logged off. You should be too.

Ok, ok, one bit of advice

  1. Stay out of the stores on Black Friday - you're better off sleeping in. The real deals are on Cyber Monday anyways. Relax. It's a holiday.

I said one.

Ok, seriously, we're very thankful for our readers and the opportunity to reach out to people this way. Won't be long and we will have been doing this for 1 year. Blows my mind.

Now get outta here - turkey is getting cold.

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Seeing Green This Winter

Even though I always get the winter time blues, this year my goal is to save some green while being green this winter. I'm thinking of not just the usual home energy costs, but beyond as well. There are so many wasteful things we do every winter so here is my list of ways to save.

  • Thermostat- Our house does not have programmable thermostats and I miss them. This year we will be getting new ones to help cut back on our heating cost.
  • Down a Notch- Our first winter up north after moving from the far south was a tough one. I was freezing if the house temp dropped below 72 degrees. As our family's bodies have adapted to the climate we have slowly dropped the winter temp in our house. Every degree lower does (obviously) save you money. We have also turned off the heaters in the bathrooms and the kitchen. If you have an unused room you might want to also consider not heating it as well. Every bit counts.

  • Caulk- I think Mr. NtJS is starting to despise caulking. It is so important to make sure your windows are not drafty but also check your attic to make sure that all places for air to escape have been properly sealed.
  • Curtains- If you have an older, draftier home consider making some heavy full bodied curtains. When the sun is shining on a window open the curtains to let the sun warm the house. When it's not sunny leave them closed to help keep the warmth from escaping. Going one step further. If you live in a really, really old and drafty house the cold air could be coming through the walls. We had that growing up. When I would wake up on really cold days, there would be frost on the walls in my bedroom. Now that is cold! To help with that problem you can hang large "decorative" quilts and blankets on your walls. This will help keep the draft down as well.
  • Boiler- Our boiler is the original 1964 model - a classic! It still works but it is on it's last leg. Even though a new boiler would be a lot more efficient saving us money on the heating bill, it would cost us a LOT upfront. After discussing it with our boiler repairman last year when one of the water pumps went out, we decided it would be best to wait until the boiler started leaking or died a "natural" death. When the day comes, we do have money saved up that can be put towards the boiler and it will pay for itself in the long run as long as we live in the same house for many years.
  • Netflix- save time, gas, and money by not going to the movie theater or the video store.
  • Gifts- This is a big drain on our budget. Not only do I plan ahead for the usual people but I also plain on four "extra" gifts. It seems like there is always a person who I feel like I need a gift for at the last minute.
  • De-clutter- While trapped inside it's a great time to start going through your house room by room and setting aside garage sale items for the spring and freecycling your other unloved items.
  • Gardening- Sound weird? The best time to start your garden is in the winter. Well, actually it is the best time to start planning your garden. What you are going to plant where. It's also a great time to start seedlings indoors.
  • Soup- Nothing feels better on a cold winter day then a hot bowl of soup. Soup also makes my wallet feel better. Soups and stews are great ways to make your food dollars stretch.
  • Preventative Care- The best way to save money when hit with the winter bugs is to not get them. I'm willing to spend the money up front on healthy foods and supplements to avoid having kids miss school.
  • Freezing- If you have put up a lot of frozen fruits and veggies over the summer you will notice your freezer will start to empty fairly fast if you are anything like our family. The more open space in your freezer the more it costs to cool it. My solution is to make extra casseroles and other meals to freeze. This warms up my kitchen keeping my heating bill a little lower, fills my freezer, and then when I use them in the summer it helps keep my kitchen a little cooler taking less energy to keep us cool on a hot day.
  • Christmas lights- Mr. NtJS spends a little too much time and gets a little too much enjoyment out of programming the timer each year for the Christmas lights. Then again, it is a rather complex product with too few buttons. Anyways, I do appreciate the effort each year when I see the neighbor's over-the-top display left on all hours of the night. Ours only come on after dark, off again at bed time. Sometimes, just for fun, they'll kick on for an hour in the morning when it's time to go to work and school. Like I said, a little too much enjoyment in the programming.
  • Bartering- Our neighbor has a plow blade and some time on his hands in the winter. We have loads of delicious home-canned goods in the basement. For a few jars of of our home-made apple pie filling, some peach butter, and some pear preserves, we get our abnormally long driveway plowed after every snow. Not a bad deal, eh?
  • Junk in the trunk- This may not be what you think. A few hundred pounds of ballast over the rear axle of your rear-wheel-drive car or truck will increase your grip and keep those wheels from spinning so much. Try a few bags of softener salt (if you have a softener) or rock salt. Add as needed. I like to use rock salt as if all else fails, a handful can melt that ice or snow and get me in contact with the pavement again. Spinning your wheels wastes a lot of gas.
This list will not make you rich but it should help you make some cheap or free changes to your life that will keep you from going broke - and maybe out of the ditch - this winter.

What "green" things do you do in the winter to save some green money?

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Review: What Would Jesus Buy?

Netflix brought us another gem this month. I'd placed this one in the queue a while ago, only to have it bumped down repeatedly. We both enjoy a good documentary, but' you've gotta space them out a bit - you can't be serious all the time.

What Would Jesus Buy follows the Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping on their crusade to get their message out - something Billy struggles with a bit. No, he's not really a Reverend, and no they are not really a church. But you wouldn't know it.

Billy preaches to his congregation, as well as to real churches, about the evils of shopping - the social, moral, and economic irresponsibilities of the current consumerism. Micky Mouse, for example, is his anti-Christ. Products produced by slave labor, they have drawn his ire.

His protests - part performance, part real - have a delightfully comedic element. They attempt to exercise the demons out of cash registers, go caroling door-to-door to sign their versions of Christmas songs, and torment retailers in choir robes, marching and singing all the while.ONe quite memorable scene showed the group protesting outside a strip mall. While being escorted (poorly) off the grounds, Billy calls out through his megephone, "What would Jesus buy?!", in full character. "I'm pretty sure he wouldn't buy anything at Staples!" Classic.

The movie itself gets a B. The message gets an A.

Morgan Spurlock's flick is good, but not great. It lacked... something. I'm not sure what, but it certainly wasn't there. This was also somewhat true of Super Size Me. Maybe just a bit anti-climactic. It dropped off at the end, and lacked closure.

Rev. Billy is spot on. Jesus wouldn't buy this crap and he wouldn't buy it from Wal-Mart. He wouldn't support these working conditions. He wouldn't pass buy the local merchants to shop at a super-store. Billy has taken extreme measures here for a noble cause. I'm just not sure how effective his methods are. I'm sure it has quite the impact if you were to see him in person. It also seems like his demonstrations are rather short lived as he is constantly being led away by security.

Have you seen this movie? What did you think?

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We Are a Nation of Consumers

I missed The Office this week. One of the few shows that I really look forward too and will actually plan things around. Wanna get together on Thursdays? Sure, so long as we're watching The Office! Despite my best efforts, no Office for me this week. Fortunately, NBC has heard of this thing called the "web", and posts full episodes the next day. It would have to do.

Episode was great, btw - New lows for Michael and Dwight.

Commercials were interesting as well - New lows for Discover Card.

The ad starts out with "We are a nation of consumers... and that's OK".

Actually, no - I'm pretty sure it's not OK.

You see, Discover, we've become a nation of consumers. We used to be a nation of producers. This is a big part of the overall economic collapse we are currently facing. If foreign oil is the largest transfer of wealth in human history, then foreign plastic crap must be close behind. But keep on telling your target market that it is 'OK' - apparently some folks believe your advertising.

What's worse is their claim that you don't need to stop your spending on stupid stuff (as depicted in the ad by the people obviously confused with their shiny new toys). Just spend it on their card. Yeah, it's magic powers will somehow bring you 'prosperity' while you keep on buying 'lot's of cool stuff'.

Well. As long as it's cool...

This ad is an effort to tout the new features of the card. New online tools to show you how to pay your balance off in less than 30 years. Go ahead and add that to the long list of faux features - expense tracking (didn't know where your money was going, but now you can see who has your money) and spending pie charts (who doesn't like pie?). Because they care. Because they want to help you. Because they know that no matter what color the credit card is, you're very likely going to go out and charge it up, only to look for a magic pill later on.

This is not it.

No credit card has ever, or will ever lead anyone to financial prosperity.

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Can Kids Comprehend Value - At Age 5?

Ashley at Wide Open Wallet posed the question a week or so ago - How do you teach value? I was a bit stumped. We'd tried explaining, at various times, why something was or was not worth it's cost. I never felt like any of it really hit home.

In reading Ashley's post, I thought about our oldest - age 5. She definitely didn't have this. But it's not for a lack of trying. These decisions are still very binary - I have enough money or I don't have enough money. I'm not sure, at this age, she could comprehend a concept like value. But it is something to work toward.

As always, we'll lead by example. We'll try to explain why we make the purchases that we do. We'll try and guide her she wants to buy something. But there has to be something more. Some way to harmlessly let her make purchases. Someway to get insight into her decision making.

Maybe... Monopoly?

She has a Junior version of Monopoly and we've been playing it together for about a year now. At first, she bought every property that she landed on. Kid in a candy store, right? Why wouldn't she by everything??? The more she plays it, the more sophisticated she's gotten. She doesn't buy everyone that she lands on now. Why? I'm not sure. Working on that one.

Monopoly has some properties with good 'value' in that they aren't that expensive, but can yield a descent payoff. Others hardly worth buying, and some you'll go broke just buying them. Trouble is, her 'buy everything' strategy works pretty well. She either kicks our butts or gives us a very good run for our money.

Maybe we'll just chill on this one for now.

In the meantime, here is a link to a detailed property analysis and Monopoly strategy. Looks like he has more time than I. Good stuff.

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Do You Dread Christmas?

Please don't get me wrong, I LOVE to celebrate the birth of Christ and truly enjoy the religious aspect of the holiday. However, the rest of it is just goes against my values to much for me to truly enjoy.

Let me explain.

Mr. NtJS and I had set a limit of three gifts per child and one stocking for Christmas. The gifts do not have to be large either. We work hard to make sure that the items under our tree are of good quality (made in the USA and environmentally friendly when possible). We also de-emphasize Santa Claus (or Saint Nicholas as we call him) but instead focus on each week of Advent and the story behind Christ's birth. We would prefer to sleep in on Christmas morning (going to Mass the night before) and then spend the day in our PJ's having fun with the girls. Enjoy a nicely cooked meal at whatever time we get to it and munch on cookies all day.

What REALLY happens at our house? We spend from early October through Christmas Eve trying to convince our family that our children do NOT need tons and tons of plastic crap made in China. They do not need 5 new expensive dressy outfits each. Then we have the joy of spending out Christmas away from home. We grew up in neighboring towns so we have to go to everyone's Christmas gathering. Dragging food, gifts, and kids all over creation for two to three days. Then we have to rush home before it's time for the Mr. to get back to work. We are all tired, the house is trashed, the tree we didn't get to enjoy has to come down, I have to box up a ton of the girl's toys and clothes to make room for the new ones since their room is stuffed full from their birthdays and the previous Christmas's stuff. I'll spend the next couple months giving away the toys and the brand new stuff I don't feel we should have in our house.

Where is the joy? Where is the fun? Why do I have to compromise my values for the holidays?

I'm I just a stick in the mud? I'm I the only one who dread's Christmas because of these issues?
What do you do to avoid these negative Christmas feelings?

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Made in the USA= Jobs in the USA: Cleaning Products

What is under your sink? Toxic petroleum based products produced overseas? If you look under my sink that's not what you find. You will find some of the most environmentally friendly cleaners made in the USA, some even mixed in my own home.

What are some good ones? Check out my list!

Bi-O-Kleen- I personally go through the bottles of Bac-Out fast. I use them on nasty (cloth) diapers. It takes the stains right out. They also care a variety of other cleaning products as well.

Borax- What would we do without Borax? I make most of my own cleaners and Borax is a staple in cleaning recipes. I was happy to see on my box that it is made in the USA. I'm not sure what I would do if it wasn't!

Charlie Soap- Like many cloth diapering mom's I use Charlie soap and love it! We wash all our laundry in it as well. Once my diapering days are done I think that I will continue to use it since it does a great job.

Dr. Bronner- Dr. Bronner is know for their soaps. They also have a special forumla for housework soap.

Environmentally Friendly Products- This company is best know for Ecos, their laundry detergent. Along with the laundry soap they produce a large variety of cleaners to fill all your cleaning supply needs.
Seventh Generation- This is the statement I found on their website:
"We manufacture our products at co-packers who use our unique formulas, and meet our stringent quality control specifications. These facilities are primarily located in North America to minimize our carbon footprint caused by transportation. Some of our products are made in Canada and in Europe.

Since we do not own our own facilities, we benefit from the state of the art equipment and manufacturing flexibility that our manufacturing partners can provide."

So do check their packaging before purchasing. They make a wide variety of products including toilet paper, paper towel, napkins, diapers, wipes, dishwasher soap, etc. I could list the items all day long! We personally use their paper towel and dishwashing powder.

Are there others that make their products in the USA? If you know of one that I missed that is both made in the USA and environmentally friendly please chime in.

Is there a specific product catergory you are wondering about? Please let us what other items you want us to write about. There are countless catergories to cover in our Made in the USA series so speak up to get your topics bummed to the top of the list!

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What's Your Food Budget?

The national economy is in the dumps. The local economy is no exception. In fact it has been hit pretty hard. So it didn't surprise me when I saw that the local news had a running segment coming up about feeding your family on a tight budget. Made sense to me.

What did surprise me was the amount.

"We'll teach you to feed a family of four on $100 per week."

My suspicions were confirmed when I checked the budget. Our monthly food budget is $400, roughly translating into 100 dollars per week. So they were going to teach me to be myself?

No. I know that many would consider this amount to be scant. I also know that our kids are quite young, though at times, our 5-year old can put away as much as we do. Still four mouths to feed.

I also know that we've gotten by on less - a lot less. I can recall, during my SAHD days, having to explain just how we could possibly be spending only $250 per month on groceries. I had to be wrong - it just couldn't be possible. Though the person in such disbelief was spending $700 + per month on a family of the same size, and our kids were the same age. I would have been in shock too.

So I put it to you, dear readers -
What is your monthly food budget? And how many are you feeding with it?

Some caveats that came out of the above debate:

  • Our food budget is just that - food, for us. Not some, "we buy it all at the same store, so it's the same money" fund.
  • We buy our dog food elsewhere, but it likely comes out of the same pot.
  • Eating out is not included in this number as it is a separate line item called "Eating out"
  • Even on our $400 / mo., we are buying organic milk and eggs, all natural beef, chicken, pork, and turkey, and many other organic products. No Kraft nothin'.
So let's hear it. Bust out your budget and pony up!

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Made in the USA = Jobs in the USA: Bath and Body

I never really thought about where my bath and body products were made. I was just concerned about what was in the bottle. Well, much to my surprise everything we use is made in the USA! For this category I reviewed some of the top all natural/organic brands since I feel strongly about the harsh chemicals used in traditional products. I was actually blown away by the great variety of USA made products I found.

Check it out for yourself!

Aveda- The response I received from Aveda was that the "bulk" of their products are made in the USA, but not all of them are. They never did give me an answer as to which ones where made here so you will have to look at the packaging to answer that question.

Burt's Bees- Who doesn't know Burt's Bees? Most large retailers carrier their products. Personally, I love their lip balm!

California Baby-
I love CB's products! I've been using them on my girls for over a year and would not use anything else.

Dr. Bronner's- Dr. Bronner's has been making their soap in the USA since 1858. I have friend's who swear by their 18-in-1 castile soap.

Earth Mama- After having our youngest daughter I used their products for myself. I really did enjoy them and hope to give them as apart of baby shower gifts.

EO- EO has many wonderful products. Mr. NtJS uses their shaving cream and we both like it...

Giovanni- The Giovanni products we use are made in the USA. I'm not sure if all are since never did respond to my email requests. The packaging does say where the product was made.

Jason- I contacted them via their website and never recieved a response. I can tell you that at least some of their products are made in the USA, if not all. Check the container before buying.

Kiss My Face- I love the name of this company. This well known brand is still a small USA business. We have used a variety of their products and have liked them all.

Nature's Gate- Nature's Gate makes all of their products in the USA, except their organic deodorants (which are made in Canada). We use their tea tree shampoo and conditioner and really like it.

Are your bath and body products made in the USA? If so, tell us what you like or don't like! We want to hear YOUR recommendations for USA made made products.

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Money for Nothin' - My Experience with Scrappin'

Scrappers and scrapping have taken on negative connotations in the recent years. It was bad enough to see the headlines night after night of another home owner, church, or business becoming a victim of this brainless, thieving crime. What was worse, was when a family member was hit.

I've seen graveyards stripped of brass vases. Churches relieved of copper gutters and A/C units - despite the A/C units being locked down in chain-link cages. Thousands of dollars of electrical cables cut down - while hot!

Then one day it hit me. Maybe these guys ain't dumb...

I realized that the reason they have such sticky fingers with metals is not from the jacket that they just melted off of those electrical lines (still dumb, btw). They are doing this because metal prices are (or at least were) up - bigtime. Maybe I was the dumb guy for having a box of random scraps as well as several copper cut-offs just laying around. It doesn't have to be such a sinister act. Besides, you're recycling! It was time I cashed in on the scrappin' gravy train.

I started consolidating my scraps and realized that I had more than I thought. I had replaced two junky aluminum storm doors with much nicer, all glass ones last Fall. Yeah, two aluminum doors + the trim pieces, just laying around. Copper cut-offs I had mentioned before, but also some brass joints and valves that were replaced.

As the dollar signs were rolling in my head, I looked forward to a few looming DIY projects - the kitchen remodel (including the cast-iron sink and crummy old faucet), the bathroom shower remodel (lots of copper pipe and brass castings), and the electrical system upgrade from fuses to breakers (big, heavy, steel box). My scrap run would have to wait. In the meantime, I found myself giving lots of things a good hard look, thinking, "hrrmm, I wonder what it weighs?".

It gets to you, so watch yourself, and stop eying the neighbor's old swingset.

A few weeks later I prepared my cache. Not all scraps are taken at the same rate despite being like materials. High dollar materials, like brass and copper, will be split between at least two grades each. A grade 1 piece pretty well like new. No solder on the copper, no steel screws in the aluminum - pure samples. Everything else is grade 2 or lower, though my recycler of choice had just 2 grades. Grade 1 scraps will of course fetch the best price, with grade 2 being half-rate, sometimes less.

Here is how I came out:

  • The aluminum trim from those storm doors? Grade 1. They were little more than cut-off aluminum extrusions. I had about 5 pounds of trim (grade 1) and 30+ pounds of doors (grade 2). Would have been worth my time to look at reducing those doors down to parts to get more into the grade 1 bin. $15 in Aluminum
  • Brass adds up fast. I had a relatively small box of brass, but it sure is dense and pricey. 11lbs of yellow brass netted me $15.40
  • Copper on the other hand is fairly light and usually thin-walled. So while it pays well, you likely don't have as much as you think. 6lbs of grade 2 copper came out to $12
  • Tin sucks. Steel, cast-iron and the like gets payed by the ton, not the pound. Meaning I had to weigh in, drive around back and unload it myself onto the giant pile of twisted steel scrap, and then weigh out. Not worth your time unless you have a large load. Here, the heaviest pieces of my haul brought in very little. This would explain the S-10s and Chevettes I saw - loaded to the hilt - weighing in and out. The scrap looked to rival the weight of the car! For their sake, I hope it did. 180lbs brought in just $14.40
All in, I walked out with $56 and some change. Not bad. I kept it out of the landfill, and made some money. All I was out was my time - pretty close to money for nothin', chicks (on the other hand) still aren't free. Speaking of my time, I made the mistake of going over lunch, so I had to wait. And wait. And wait. This ate up the majority of my lunch hour. All the more reason to take a portion of my cash and by myself lunch. I called the Mrs. and told her how I just made 51 dollars :)

Any veteran scrappers out there with advice for the noobs? Do you bother to call around for prices?

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Made in USA = Jobs in USA: Toys

Last Christmas I asked our parents to only buy the girls toys made in the USA. One set listened... one set did not. The mom that did not listen still believes that you can not find USA made toys. However, I have found that there are still a huge variety of toys made in the USA. In fact, do a Google search for yourself and see what you find. I was amazed by the results.

Here is a very small section of what I found in the way of toys.

Down To Earth- Has a great selection of natural toys for baby through preschooler. They offer $4.95 flat rate shipping.

Fat Brain Toys- This online toy store has a special section for the over 500 USA made toys. The search function is great for narrowing down the selection. Fat Brain offers free shipping on orders of $75 or more.

Lehman's- Last year we bought a lot of toys for our daughter through their online store. She still loves playing with the tractors and building wooden cabins. Nothing beats those classic toys.

Little Tikes- I was surprised to see a large selection of their products are still made in the USA. I guess I need to have more faith in some of these larger companies.

NMC Toys has a great selection of toys made in the USA and Europe. Each toy listing does list the county it is made in so that it is easy to tell. Through the end of 2008 they are offering the coupon code of SAVE8 to save 8% off your purchase price.

River Birch Creations- This website ONLY carries toys that made here in the USA. Along with having a great selection they are currently offering a 10% discount if you buy two or more toys. The discount applies to the shipping as well.

This Christmas, give more then just a toy, give an American the opportunity to keep their job. Buy USA Made!

What other shops do you buy USA made toys?

I have not bought items from 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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Starting Financial Peace Junior at Age 3

Our 5-year old, as noted previously, has some interesting habits and ideas when it comes to money. We got her off to an early start as we were determined to teach her about personal finance, as well as not to end up as that family with the brat begging for money to buy toys while in the middle of the store.

So at age 3, we gave her FPU Jr. for her birthday.

I'm not sure which was worse: Having our daughter open it, and toss it aside like a three-pack of socks OR our family thinking we were loony for giving a three-year old a money management product and enduring all of the eye rolls. Who has the lamest parents? "I do, I do!!"

Here is why we proved them both wrong:

At age 3, we had her earning money by doing chores. No, she wasn't weeding the garden or dusting the house. Nor was she pulling down big bucks. The key is 'age appropriate' - for the work and the reward. At 3, I think she was feeding the dogs twice per day, for a quarter each. It was something that she liked to do anyways.

Still, she didn't totally value this whole 'money' thing. They were shiny, and fun to put in the piggy bank, but that was about it. Sometimes, she was quite ok to not do the chore, and not get paid. That was fine - she was 3.

But already starting to understand that work = money.

FPU Jr. comes with a little marker board and pen for listing chores and checking off when they were completed. For the most part, she would play with this and draw all over it. We gave up on the marker board as we really didn't need it for her age. We talked to her about money too. When we had her attention, we'd talk about how we give, save, and spend. Mommy and Daddy do this and so should she.

Saving wasn't tough. She'd put the money in and forget about it. We'll talk about giving in another post, as we have a great story about that. Spending is where some early lessons happened.

We explained to her that a certain amount of her money could be used to buy things that she wanted. It didn't do any good to talk about half, or one third - c'mon, she was 3! We would remind her that if she saw a toy that she wanted, she would have to use her own money. This kept the whining down considerably, as Mommy was never viewed as an ATM, and Daddy never seen as a money tree.

Usually, she didn't have her money with her when we went places, so it was easy to keep her from acquiring lots of plastic crap. I've always said that plastic must be magnetic as kids seem to attract it like metal to a magnet. But one day, not having her money didn't matter.

While in the check out line at the grocery store, she saw a toy 'brass band' set. It had four or five play instruments in it, and it was $10 or $15. Enough that we weren't just going to buy it for her. But she was totally enamored with it, and that didn't happen with her. We told her that if she wanted it, then she had to use her own money, and she didn't have that with her. "Can we go home and get it?" It was a short drive, and we knew that the grandparents had been 'feeding the pig' as well, so she likely had enough. Actually, she had around $40!

We gave her one last out at home. "This is all of your money, it will take this much of it to buy that toy". She was ready and we were willing. She was as proud as a 3 year old could be to put that toy on the conveyor belt, hand the cashier the money and pay for it all on her own. She has loved that set to pieces (literally in some cases), and still plays with it 2 years later.

Today, she takes her purse with her to garage sales and occasionally buys something. Its good for her to have that experience and realize that once she has bought something (usually at the first sale, and usually for most of her money) that she can't spend it again - it's gone.

Got any 'teachable moments' to share? How have your kids succeeded or failed with money?

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Made in the USA = Jobs in the USA: Appliances

Are appliances still made in the USA? I was on a quest to find out. My assumptions where that foreign companies like LG, Samsung, Bosch, etc would not be made here. But what about Whirlpool, GE, Maytag and other American appliance companies?

In the 80's, there was a lot of backlash about buying Japanese cars, since they already had a few thousand miles on them before they hit the showroom. This was of course a reference to the fact that they were shipping these cars halfway around the world. It's just as troubling to think about your refrigerator coming from Korea or China or Mexico. The Mr. and I did some serious digging on this one.

Here is what we found out...

This is a tough one. So many product categories, so many brands, and such random amounts of information available. We'll try and made sense out of it for you.

First, the Brands:
There are fewer and fewer appliance companies anymore, but still so many brands. A couple of years ago, Whirlpool bought up the Maytag Corp. In that acquisition, Whirlpool Corp. - already with Whirlpool, Kitchen Aid, Gladiator, Roper and Estate brands - added Maytag, Amana, Admiral, and Jenn-Air.

Frigidaire is owned by Electrolux, who also has quite the stable of brands, though most are not sold in the US.

GE owns Hotpoint. Bosch owns Thermador. Sears begot Kenmore......

Now, the Products:
There are still many companies making appliances in the US. I'll try and stick to the ones that you've likely heard of. See the link at the end for more info.

This smaller appliance maker produces all their washers and dryers in Ohio.

Whirlpool Corp. (see above for list of brands) - Washers, top-mount refrigerators, 50-lb ice makers, dishwashers, some side-by-side refrigerators, counter-depth refrigerators, bottom freezer refrigerators, trash compactors, ice makers, clothes dryers, washer/dryer stack units, built-in ranges, cooktop ranges, built-in microwaves, warming drawers, freestanding ranges. Some side-by-side refrigerators are made in Mexico. The Duet washers are made in Germany, but the Duet dryers are made in Ohio. Most of the Kitchen Aid portable and countertop appliances are made in Ohio, but I could not find if all were made there.

Sub-Zero- Sub-Zero brand built-in and undercounter refrigeration, Wolf gas/electric dual fuel ranges, and maybe more.

Frigidaire - Some refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, and some ranges ovens and cooktops. Some cooking and refrigeration products for North America are made in Mexico and Canada.

GE - Builds electric ranges, dishwashers, low end washers and some refrigerators at their historic appliance park. But the majority are coming from Mexico and China.

Kenmore - Kenmore manufactures nothing. All products are sourced from manufacturers. So some products may be coming from Whirlpool, some from LG, some from Electrolux... The only way to really know is to ask.

Dacor - This California based company makes ranges, wall ovens, outdoor grills, drawer microwaves, and built-in coffee makers.

For more, see the list at StillMadeInTheUSA.com

The next time you have an appliance die or are just wanting to upgrade, remember who makes their products here in the USA. Remember to support U.S. jobs! These jobs are fading fast, with more and more being shipped off to Mexico. As foreign competitors continue to come into the US market, consider this - they likely aren't building the products here. Here's a quick way to check, if your aren't sure about the one you are looking at on the showroom floor:

Sometimes, they come right out and tell you.
(Note upper left corner)

Check the labels that show the model and serial numbers. The one above is from a refrigerator. Those can usually be found in the refrigerator compartment on the upper right. If you strike out there, check the back of the unit. You may need to get a salesman to help you - that is if they can't find the info for you!

Where were your appliances made?

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on four carnivals and festivals. Be sure to check out a new series by the Mrs. on products still made in America. A good primer for your Holiday shopping.

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...

Festival of Frugality: Bargain Briana takes us through the Election Day edition of the FoF. Trade agreements made headlines late in the campaign and the Mrs's new series on products made in the USA kicks off with a post about your kicks.

Carnival of Money Stories: SimplyForties hosts this week with their take on an Election Day Edition. What is this election everyone keeps talking about?! Just kidding! Our entry this week is on a much more serious note: Layoffs and the survival there of.

Carnival of Money Hacks: the 37th edition bucks the election theme trend in favor of 'Wonders of the World' garb. Our post falls under the Great Wall of China heading as layoffs reach an equally staggering magnitude.

Carnival of Wealth, Money, and Life: Under the heading of 'Life', we talk about death and the prospect of dying without a will. Getting a will is not as hard as you think and more neccessary than you can imagine.

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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NtJS Household Budget - Nov 08

We're about to get a bit more personal here at Not the Jet Set. We talk a lot about budgeting, and made it quite clear how important it is. But how are we doing? The Mrs. is a budgeting ninja, but does it always work out perfect? Do the months march along to our beat with no slip ups, no trip ups, no overdrafts, no empty envelopes?


Sorry to report: We are not perfect. Yes, life happens to us, just the same as anyone else. With all the provisions in place - budget, cash envelopes, debit card, emergency fund - it is still possible to end up with too much month left at the end of the money.

So we're going to start something new here. A glimpse into our finances - our monthly budget. We'll start with a review of the previous month and then look at the coming month. Every month, we tithe, we pay our mortgage, pay our utilities, budget for necessities like food and clothing. We also put away a monthly amount towards irregular bills like insurance and property taxes, and save for retirement. But then there is the rest. Where does it go?

So lets dive right into our October Recap:

October's Budget Recap:

  • Food ran out early - fruit season (1/4 of food budget went to apples alone)
  • Spent hair cut and eating out money on groceries, no groceries in last week
  • A new line item for beer was added and used wisely
  • We were under budget on gas because we over budgeted for our 6 hr each way trip to the doctor (long story)
  • Added a new date night line item and we went way over budget on that as well which robbed the dog's shots for the month.
As you can see, a tad too much month left at the end of the money. It happens. We survived.

November's Budget:
Here is what we are doing in Nov.
  • Budgeted for new jeans for Mr.
  • Charity dinner is part of tithe this month
  • Re-budgeted for the dog's shots
  • Adding some extra towards Christmas gifts
  • Finding room for the fees for Mr.'s winter basketball league

'08 Budget Goals:
  • Fully fund retirement- partially funded via work 401k, not adding to Roth until after the new roof funds are fully saved
  • Fund college savings again. - adding this month
  • Save for new roof- continuing and should be have enough funds by spring

How well does your budget work? What are your problem areas?

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We Bought You A Piggy Bank For A Reason!

Few things draw snarls, glares or eye-rolls from parents like a child asking them for money. Sometimes rightfully so after witnessing a barrage of, "Can I have a quarter? Can I have a dollar? Can I have this? Can I have that? Mommy, where's your purse?" And on and on and on.

It's a tiring and uncomfortable scene like something out of the Office. My cousins were terrible about this and had a knack for ruining each and every shopping trip when we were kids by badgering my aunt until she would cave - and she would always cave. We've worked hard to avoid this with our kids.

So last week, when getting ready to go with some friends to a musical put on by the local theater group, the Mrs. told our daughter to pick out a purse to take for the money she would need to get in.

So when hearing that she would need to take money, what was her first reaction?

Now remember, she's 5.

Did she run to us, open purse in hand, asking for said money?

Did she run to mommy's purse and start to fish it out herself?

Her first reaction was to ask for help with getting her piggy bank down. We gladly informed her that it wouldn't be necessary, and that we would pay for her ticket, she only had to manage to get the money from the house to the theater without losing it.

Now this didn't happen by chance and her attitude towards money is not a passing phase. Over the coming weeks, we'll detail some of the methods we've used to teach our first child about money and plan to use with her sister as well.

We bought her a piggy bank for a reason, and it was not a novelty!

Stay tuned.

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I Voted. Did you?

Long lines be damned! This morning, I waited nearly 2 hours to vote. The line in the parking lot was probably 150 feet long. Once I got inside the polling location (a grade school gym), I found the line inside to be nearly as long!

This marks the third Presidential election that I have voted it, and each has been in a different state. I was surprised to see how archaic the process and equipment is here. The Nixion era 'tabulator' - the only elctro-mechanical part of the process - broke down as I waited in line to hand my ballot in. Fail. Once they cleared the jam, we were up and running crawling again.

Here is what I was pleased to see this morning while voting:

The Long Lines - Yeah, that's right. Long lines are not necessarily just a symptom of an antiquated process or inadequite staffing. It can be a sign of high voter turnout, which is something I am glad to see.

Friends and Neighbors - You don't always realize who lives in your neigborhood, and the one that you do know about, you don't always get to see. I saw no less than eight people that I know while voting this morning. Half of which I didn't know lived in my neighborhood (our polling locations comprises a pretty well-defined area of town, and not a very large one at that).

Young People Voting - Every election I have voted in was supposed to be the one the finally brings out the young voters. During which, every geezer candidate though he was really connecting with this saught after demographic (they didn't have a clue). But each year, the exit poling showed a different story. Will this be the year? I dunno. I think it has a better chance than previous. Young Americans need to be voting.

Determination - During my time in line, I didn't see one person bail out. Not one person approached the line and turned away. Listening to the chatter around me, people were engaged. They weren't doing this on a whim, or because someone said they should. They wanted to be there. They wanted to have their voice heard. This was important.

One Last Thing:
The Mrs. once had a young co-worker who was straight out of college. He was an intelligent, capable young man. One day, they were discussing politics and the upcoming election. He expressed his lack of desire to bother going out to the polls, despite his lack of satisfaction in the govenment's direction and choices. The Mrs. put things in prespective for him. "So, do you have the same opinions as your grandparents on these issues?" "No way", he replied. "Well guess what? I guarantee you that come election day, they will be voting." The gears started turning then....

The bottom line is: VOTE! If you don't vote, then you don't get to complain. Your vote counts as much as anyone elses.

Now, with a little luck, we may know who our new President-Elect is before the night is out!

How did you do? Are you lucky enough to live in a state with early voting? (Early voting rocks BTW)

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How To: Survive Layoffs Pt. 2

The dust has settled and I, your humble blogger, am still gainfully employed. In all honesty, I wasn't terribly worried. My review from last year went well, and this year was looking better. I'd even earned a couple bonuses YTD and am in good standing peers and supervisors alike.

I really had little to worry about other than the fact that you never know how they go about selecting the unlucky few. Sometimes you'll hear afterward, sometimes not. This was the latter. The only explanation is that they just scratched the surface, and if more layoffs come, then a pattern may start to arise. As I said in Pt. 1, there is little you can do now, and anything you do, will likely only make matters worse. That is, unless you can find a few million to take out of the product costs - immediately.

I'll live to fight another day. Will we face another round come Q4 end? Who knows.

But let's say, it is your time, and as noted by Seestellar in the comments of the first post, you know it is coming. Then what?

Consider yourself lucky. Kinda. You at least have some time to prepare. Take advantage.

Get Your Financial House in Order
- Where are you? Are you clueless, struggling, stable, succeeding?

  1. Budgeting - Do you have a monthly budget that you actually follow through on? If not, then now is the time to start. And while you need to know where your money is going now, you also need to see how your monthly finances will look post-layoff. What does it look like if you go from two incomes to one? Can you survive on one? Will you need to work part-time? Will you need to scale back your lifestyle? Sell your house? You need to know.
  2. Debt - Debt is always a burden on your finances. Trouble is, lenders have dialed in the terms so that you don't feel it as much when everything is A-OK. There is no good debt. Each is a liability - another weight holding you down. Don't wait until the payments are unbearable to address your debts. As much as I want you to start the debt-snowball and get out of debt, right now we're going to put that on hold until your situation is stable. A storm is coming, and you're going to need an umbrella.
  3. Emergency Funds - Clouds are on the horizon - the emergency fund will be your harbor in the tempest. It's time to pile up cash and that budget you just put together will help you determine just how much you can put back each month. Any readily accessible, FDIC insured account will do. In these crazy financial times, know that your local banks or credit unions are far safer than the mega-banks. Save as much as you can, as fast as you can.
  4. Retirement Accounts - Don't forget about these. Once you are laid-off, you'll want to roll these, either to a traditional IRA or a SEPP IRA - depending on what your next carrer move is. A good financial adviser can help you through that. Whatever you do, do not rob these accounts. Early distributions or loans against them can mean steep penalties and the fact that your principle is no longer pumping out returns.
Get the Rest of Your House in Order - Those looking at just the financials are missing about three-fourth's of what's going on here.
  1. The Search Begins - What are you going to do with your life? Is this the time to stay home with the kids. It may be. God has a plan, we just occasionally need a nudge. When I was laid-off, we had the good fortune of being able to survive on one income. Uncertain for what I would do next, we decided that I should take some time and become a stay-at-home-dad. What do you want to be if and when you grow up? Maybe this is the time for a career change, or the time to start freelance work for yourself. What ever you decide, be ready. Get that resume polished up. The sooner you get another job (assuming you want one), the sooner that 2 month severance package starts to look like a big bonus.
  2. Keep the House Together - You and your family are about to go through a lot of emotions - fear, rejection, shame, guilt, failure, paranoia, anger. Remember what is important - you, your family, your spouse. Talk about everything. Cry if you need to. Make an appointment with your pastor and get some spiritual guidance. Pray. Employers will come and go, but don't let the stress and emotions of this even destroy your marriage or drive a wedge between you and your loved ones.
  3. Reflect - Spend some time in reflection. Just you. No TV, no spouse, no friends, no kids. Take the time to unpack the baggage and re-center yourself. Make sure your priorities are straight. Look at this event as an opportunity - how can you take advantage? Look back on your former employ - what would you do different? What will you look for in your next job? Don't rush into something because you think that you have to. If you do, consider it temporary and don't stop looking.
  4. Accept Support - I was impressed to hear about how my company was handling the layoffs. They weren't just handing out checks and booting people out. They were offering placement services galore. As always, it's not what you do necessarily, but how you do it. They've been handling these very respectfully, and you've got to appreciate that. Take what they offer you - severance, services, whatever.
This is one of those times when you really need to lean on your support network - family, friends, church... Not necessarily in the financial sense, but the emotional sense. This hurts. Even as well as my company is apparently handling these layoffs, it still hurts.

Has you company been going through layoffs as well? How have they been handled?

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