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family finances

New Year’s Resolution: Gonna Eat Better

Well, it’s January 2 and I’ll bet there are already a lot of people out there who are despairing of keeping any sort of New Year Resolutions. It’s ok – you are not a bad person and frankly, there is no reason to drag those resolutions around like some sort of anvil for the rest of the year if you know, deep in your heart of hearts that it’s sort of a waste.

But here’s one that we work pretty hard at here at Chez Siberia that might work for you: Gonna Eat Better. (more…)

Saving Money Creatively With Kids

One of the ‘not such a secret’ ways to saving money is first not spending it. The second half is actually taking the money you are not spending and putting it in an account someplace so that you aren’t just substituting ‘not spending’ on xxx for ‘spending on’ y. But some things are hard to give up, especially if you are in a married situation (with or without kids) and both halves of the couple are working full time outside the living unit. Life gets busy and then it gets really really easy to just call up the other person at 4:45 p.m. and say, “I forgot to take anything out; let’s go to …..” (more…)

To Do List: Caulk. Now.

I know there are people who are going to argue with me on this, but if you have a limited budget in terms of improving the energy efficiency in your living unit, your Aunt Toby is going to advise using it to buy caulk. And a caulking gun if you can’t borrow one from someone.

Why not insulation? I just checked the price on that – one roll of R19, 15” wide, is $15.67.

We just did a little project as a final little ‘zip up’ for winter, and it hit me when I went to the ‘large chain building supply place because we don’t have a local hardware any more’ how cheap caulk was in terms of what we were getting versus how much insulation was going to cost if someone were going to try to insulate an attic, for example. (more…)

Making Home Sewing Pay: Choosing the Right Pattern

One way to save money with sewing your own clothing is to pick something that costs a whole lot in a store. Now, while some things, like bridal gowns and men’s suits, take skill levels that require training and years to perfect, there are others that are well within the realm of an advanced beginner sewer. One of them is a wool jacket or coat. (more…)

Family-based Healthcare System Reform

This is a photograph of the person who is probably responsible for 90% of her descendants’ deaths over the past 100 years. Our own version of Mrs. O’Leary (minus the cow, the fire and Chicago). This is Elizabeth Briggs-Smith, my mother’s grandmother. For her time, she was prodigious – married at least 3 times that we can document, buried all three husbands before dying herself at the age of 55 from what was referred to at the time as ‘dropsy’. We call that congestive heart failure today – and any way you slice, dice, or mince it, she died of heart disease but not before having several children. One of them was my grandmother, Rosalyn Briggs-Smith. She and my grandfather proceeded to have over a period of 20 years (20 years!!!) 9 children, 2 of whom died during the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1917-1918. My mother was born in 1919. Out of the 7 children who survived to adulthood, all were touched by heart disease, the youngest son having his first heart attack in his mid-forties. (more…)

It’s Curtains For You, Bub..

The little den is coming together now, with some little bits and pieces to pull all the disparate colors together. The original color of the den, when Elder Daughter used it as a bedroom, was an aqua color and she got some cotton hopsacking tab top curtains to match. Pretty, a little girly perhaps but not bad. Well, of course, all that aqua paint went out the window (literally) when the DH and I wrecked out the walls to rehab the space. And when we painted the new walls, we painted them the same color as the rest of the downstairs (another hint in terms of saving money on redecorating: Find a color that you can stick with across an entire floor). So, we had ‘pecan’ walls (a nice warm beige), a futon that needed a new cover, and some aqua colored curtains that were still good and that I was loath to give or throw away. (more…)

Basic Entrepreneurial Rules Still Apply: Find a Need and Fill It

“Demetri Leontaris sometimes calls himself the “iPod Doctor” and the license plate on his van that says exactly that. But the first thing you notice is how many people come up to his van and ask him for a business card. Leontaris repairs cell phones, laptops and digital music players, and he says his business got started by chance. He loved the iPod when it came out; he bought a broken one, but he found Apple’s repair prices too steep. So he bought another broken iPod for the parts, took them both apart, and fixed one of them. Before he knew it, he “kept on finding people with broken iPods, who wanted to get them fixed.” In fact he says that most people are amazed. They had no idea they could get their Blackberries, or iPods fixed.”

Mobile Electronics Repair

The DH heard this story on NPR this week and told me about it – he was fascinated by the major aspect of the story: A guy turning a personal need into a business that is growing like crazy – a mobile ‘small personal electronics repair’ business. (more…)

Taking Personal Responsibility for Breaking the Recession

Aunt Toby was not always the Philosopher Queen on the kitchen counter; once upon a year quite a few years ago, she was the marketing and sales rep for a family-owned employment agency. I covered three counties and was in and out of every commercial office, manufacturing plant, and machine shop. On the one hand, it was an amazing education in what made our metropolitan area economically tick – who supplied whom, who depended on whom, where people were going and so on and so forth. Your dear Auntie had many adventures during that period, including being pushed through a door by an malicious office manager(and almost falling down two flights of stairs), watching two months worth of cold calling go rapidly down the tubes as my boss’s brother monopolized the sales presentation, creeping up a rickety staircase of a dark back room of a warehouse to speak to a director of human resources (that meeting did NOT end well).

The best part of the job, (more…)

Close – But No Cigar: New Credit Card Legislation Does Not Go Nearly Far Enough

Aunt Toby has written before about credit cards, their use, abuse, and the almost preternatural ability of people to create large weights of debt with which they can NOT continue to conduct their financial lives. Atkins for Plastic Thank Shopping

One thing I have not written about is how I feel about credit card companies targeting people who not only are not in a position either psychologically or financially to take on debt, but the effects of people such as these groups who end up with huge amounts of debt at times in their lives when they can least afford to have it.

These people are college students. (more…)

Sewing: Make it worth even more

Aunt Toby has, I suspect, a rather unique philosophy on sewing clothing for family members in terms of ‘making it pay’, which is this:

Learn to do one thing really well. Make that a bunch of times…and then learn to make another thing really well and make THAT a bunch of times.

Example One: Men’s shirts. I make men’s shirts for the DH as an act of love (ok, I admit it), but also because he has a sort of shoebox shaped body and the tails are just not long enough. Men’s shirts, from a sewing and design aspect are like Japanese pen and ink drawings: the buffet of design opportunities is pretty narrow. The items that are usually seen when the man wears it with a suit or sportcoat are the collar, the cuffs and the band (and even then, with a tie an observer doesn’t get to see much, actually) . The only other place to do anything is the yoke in the back and the chest pocket and even then, there is this really thin line between “Oh, that’s nifty” and “Oh, you’re subbing for The Tumbleweed Boys” this evening?” (more…)

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