Amazon Mishandles A Necessary Change to Amazon Mom

I’ve written before about the Amazon Mom program.  When it first came out, the deals were too good to be true.  They basically gave a free year of Prime shipping benefits, plus 30% just about any baby item, namely diapers.  As soon as the program came out and I found out about it, I signed up, and we’ve saved plenty in the meantime.

It was such a good deal that I figured it would really have to pay off big for Amazon, otherwise they’d probably scale it back or eliminate it.  I noticed the first signs a few months ago when some of the deliveries seemed to be taking place by non-traditional (read: cheaper) carriers.  Next, they cut the discount from 30% to 20% on items you weren’t already buying.

So, the e-mail I got last Thursday wasn’t really a big surprise:

Read moreAmazon Mishandles A Necessary Change to Amazon Mom

Always Track Your Holiday Spending

One sure way to blow your holiday budget is to avoid tracking what you spend.

This may sound like common sense, but really, it’s not.

Many people do shopping for multiple people at once, often having a list of multiple things for those people.  Unless you are uber-prepared and know exactly what every item is going to cost before you buy it, then you will probably be doing shopping in the following fashion:

  1. Gift 1 for Person A
  2. Gift 1 for Person B
  3. Gift 2 for Person B
  4. Gift 1 for Person C
  5. Gift 2 for Person A

Read moreAlways Track Your Holiday Spending

Do You Have The Money Habits Of A Two Year Old?

Our two year old boy is so much fun.  He discovers new things and finds new interests every day, and he loves sharing them with us.

He’s also learned the words ‘want‘ and ‘need‘ and isn’t afraid to pull those out any time something tickles his fancy.  And when he ‘wants’ or ‘needs’ something, it’s a broken record until he gets what he wants or until we redirect his attention elsewhere.  “I Want Snack, I Want Snack, I Need Snack, I Need Snack”

You get the picture 🙂

You see that behavior and you automatically think “That’s just a phase.  Everybody grows out of it.”

Or do they?

Read moreDo You Have The Money Habits Of A Two Year Old?

Having Health Insurance Is Hazardous To My Health!

As many of you know, we had a beautiful baby girl a month and a half ago.  As with any change, a new baby has meant that everything has changed.  While there are challenges, they’re all worth it for those beautiful moments that only a newborn can give you, a soft sigh, a little breath, or a touch of wonderfully soft skin.

One area that hasn’t been amazing has been the health insurance.  As with anything major, the cost of having a baby is pretty high.  There are insurance claims upon insurance claims.  The ironic part is that keeping on top of all the insurance claims have been a source of more stress than actually having a newborn!

Consider this:

Adding our baby was pretty simple.  HR walked me through the steps I would need to go through to add the baby to our insurance plan.  The plan wasn’t changing, since we were already on family coverage anyways, it was just adding her to the plan.

Read moreHaving Health Insurance Is Hazardous To My Health!

3 Ways To Save When Using Disposable Diapers

Diapers are expensive.  We discussed the option of cloth diapering but we made the personal decision that it wasn’t for us.  With the understanding that disposable diapers was going to be more expensive, but that it was worth it for us in the convenience factor, we still look to save money where possible.

mb-201102changingHere are a few ways to maximize your savings:

Read more3 Ways To Save When Using Disposable Diapers

The Outdoor LED Lights Look Great!

Since we moved into our house, we enjoy putting lights outside on various trees and bushes in the front of the house, as well as the deck railing in back.

This year, we completed the transition to LED lighting for the entire outdoor set of lights!  I’m happy to say that we like it a lot.  As an added bonus, our next door neighbors do their garage, trees and bushes in the same style of lighting so we inadvertently created a ‘double dose’ of lighting.

It was a ‘long’ road to get here, relatively speaking.

In 2008, we had no plans to get up and do any shopping on Black Friday.  However, for reasons I can’t remember, we were both up around 5am.  I decided to go look at the sale ads and found that the KMart ad contained a great sale on LED lights.  We agreed that since we were up we’d go there, as well as to a couple of other places.

KMart had multi-colored LED lights, for which we bought seven sets or so at a good price.

Read moreThe Outdoor LED Lights Look Great!

The LED Christmas Light Issue

We do some lights on the outside of our house, in the bushes and around a big tree in the front yard.  We have been interested in converting to LED lights, and I decided to look and see if this could be the year.

I am a little concerned with everything that I found.

While we ended up getting lights, there still seems to be a lot of barriers to get lights into peoples hands to realize the energy savings that everybody talks about.

Here are some issues I see with LED lights:

  • Availability – At almost every store I went to, I saw shelf after shelf of ‘regular’ lights, but very little space dedicated to LED lights.  I saw signs at a few stores promoting the virtues of LED lights and how they could lead to 80% savings over traditional lights.  Yet, in most cases, regular lines of LED bulbs were sold out.  This is the third year I’ve gone on a quest for LED bulbs and I was not impressed with their availability at all.
  • Price – When there were LED lines available, they were very expensive.  When stores do offer them at discounts, you can go right back to the availability discussion because they’re usually gone the first day.  So, your choice becomes to look for the lines at $7, which are always gone, or pay $19 for the same line.  I think it would take a lot longer to make that extra $12 back in energy savings, so people just forget it.
  • Look – This is the first year I’ve seen white lights that aren’t those awful blue shade.  It looks like technology is finally getting there to offer traditional white lights that can save money.  Of course, their limited availability meant that they were priced even higher than regular lines.  I think it will be another two or three years before you actually see these.

Read moreThe LED Christmas Light Issue

It Was November of 1943

As you may recall, my grandmother passed away last year at the age of 95.  She had a nice, long life, and was relatively healthy until near the end.  She lived alone in her own apartment until a few months before her death.

I was blessed to have been named as a beneficiary for a small life insurance policy that she took out.  I received the paperwork for it the other day, and found that the original policy had been taken out in November of 1943.

The more I sat and thought about it, the more that just absolutely amazed me.

Some facts about 1943:

Read moreIt Was November of 1943

Considering A Membership To The Zoo

Up until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t been to the zoo in years.  We’ve gone a couple of times over the past couple of years, but the other day my wife brought up the idea of purchasing an annual membership.

When I looked at the cost, it makes sense.

We first both agreed that we thought it would make sense based on the fact that we now have Baby Beagle.  Even though he’ll be too young to fully understand, we want to build his awareness of things and expose him to different things.  Plus, he loves to be out and to look around.

We’re thinking that on days that we’re looking for something to do or just want to get out of the house, the zoo would be a great place to go.  It’s only a twenty minute drive from our house, and the cost breakdown is pretty favorable.

Each trip, without a membership, would cost us $27.  This includes $11 each for my wife and I plus $5 parking.  Baby Beagle is free since he’s under two.

A one year membership runs $69 and includes access for my wife and I as well as our kids.  It also includes parking!

So, the ‘payback’ for purchasing the membership is three visits.  With the third visit, we’d be ahead $12 and each one after that would save us additional money.

Down the road, when Baby Beagle turns two, this becomes even more of a bargain as he would normally be charged an additional $7 without the membership.  By that point, two visits would probably make it equal out.

I think a zoo membership is definitely in our future this year.  What we’re planning on doing is purchasing it at the next time we go.  The reason for this is that it gives you one year from the time you purchase it, so we might as well start the clock ticking right when we need it, and can enjoy it for the next year.

If you have a zoo in your area and are looking for some family fun, give a thought to a visit or even a membership.

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Paying Down A Chunk Of Student Loans

Last December, I reported that my grandmother had passed away.  She was 95 and lived a great life.

I miss her dearly.

She was kind enough to have left me an inheritance.  She and my grandfather (who passed away in the mid-1990’s) lived modestly, but were able to save a little bit.

My grandmother had told me of the fact that I was to receive some money at a couple of different points over the past few years.  Even so, I never ‘counted on’ this money, because I knew that expenses she might have for medical or housing issues might necessitate dipping into her savings.  If that would have happened, I would have been perfectly OK with that because her happiness and comfort was more important to me than any amount of money could have provided.

Things played out, though, where I did receive some money after her passing.  I’m holding onto some, and not including it our net worth, because I haven’t decided what to do with it.  I have often heard that the best thing to when coming into money is…..nothing.

We did make a decision to take some of it and apply it towards paying down the student loan balances that exist as debt.  Our goal is to pay these off by the end of 2012, so we applied a portion of the monies towards that.

I sent off the payment this morning!

I know that my grandmother would approve of this choice.  She and my grandfather were among the first people to instill in me, at an early age, the belief that carrying little or no debt was the best way to go.  From as long as I remember, my grandparents owned what was theirs.

The payment we made will take out a big chunk, around 40%, of the first of two student loans.  In addition to applying 25% of our expected tax refunds when those come in, we should be on track to be near a zero balance by the end of 2010.  Once that’s paid off, we’ll ‘debt snowball‘ the amount we’re paying on the first loan into the second loan payment.

I would much rather have my grandmother back, but I’m thankful that I do have thirty five years worth of memories of her, and a lot of good values and things that provided me happiness. Paying down our debts will make us very happy, so even though she’s not here in spirit, part of her is along the journey with us now, and I’m very happy to have her on our side!

Other great reads

Here are some additional posts I’ve read recently by other great, hard working bloggers.  Give them a read if you have a few minutes: