So What Do You Do With Old Toys?

Honestly, if I didn’t feel so guilty about it, I’d love to just set all of the totes of toys on the curb next to the garbage can. Easy. They’re gone. I have more room for more junk…I mean toys.

But that truly would be a waste of a lot of money and believe it or not, there are kids out there that only can only dream of the toys that our kids have forgotten about. Is it just my kid that only plays with things a handful of times? We’re talking about practically new loot here and not just old Dollar Store gizmos.

So what in the heck do you do with all of those old toys? Well, I have some suggestions. Sure they take a little more energy than el garbage-o but trust me, you’ll sleep better.

1. Save toys for unborn siblings
. Okay, this isn’t the greatest suggestion because we’re trying to actually move stuff out, and if you’re like me, you can’t even fathom the thought of anymore kids. If you’re not like me and you do plan on having more, I’d save the toys. Go through and organize everything. Make sure Dora’s wearing both shoes and all of the Littlest Pet Shop animals are hanging out with the equipment they came with. Put it in a big plastic tote marked “JUNK” “TOYS” and shove the tote away into the basement.

2. Sell the toys online. Everything can be sold online. I mean everything. People sell used blenders for pete’s sake. Again, clean up the toys, which shouldn’t be a big ordeal, and make sure you have all of the pieces together. Take a picture and throw it on eBay or Craigslist. Bundle toys together and get rid of more. For instance if you have Dora, Boots, and Swiper, you’ll have better luck selling all of them together than just one. People will buy used toys, especially now that almost everything is electronic. My daughter had a mini laptop that she played games on since she was 2. Now that she’s graduated to mommy’s real laptop, she barely touches the thing.

Zwaggle.com is a website that you can join and earn Zoints (or points) which can be used instead of cash. They offer everything from Arts & Crafts to Video Games. Mykidscloset.com is another site where you can buy and sell used toys.

3. Look for consignment shops in your area
. There are stores that buy and sell toys and kids clothing. In my area, Once Upon a Child not only pays you for gently used stuff but also sells some pretty sweet stuff. I have made up to $40 unloading kid’s stuff there and was able to turn around and buy something practically new for my daughter. Call the stores in advance just so you’re not dragging around a bag of toys all day.

4. Donate to Goodwill and thrift stores. This time of year everyone’s looking for tax breaks, don’t forget that your kids can help by not only being the dependents that they are, but by donating their old toys. Also check churches, daycares, children’s homes and schools to find out if there is anything particular that they can use. Don’t forget a receipt.

5. Garage sales and yard sales.
I’ve been planning this for years because my town has a citywide garage sale every year and you wouldn’t believe how many toys are bought. The key, according the pros (read: my mom and aunt) is to put everything together nicely. Make sure you’re not trying to dump off dirty teddy bears and broken pieces of plastic. If you’re selling puzzles and don’t have the box, put them in ziploc bags with labels-and of course all of the pieces. Even if it’s a quarter, remember that some kid will be playing with that and deserves to have all of the pieces. A lot of kids are rewarded with a couple dollars to spend on themselves in exchange for being dragged around to stinky garage sales. And guess what, they very rarely spend their cheese on machinery or old loafers.

These suggestions do take a little work but it’s better than just tossing out the old toys. Children also like to help getting things organized and can be rewarded with a new book or sketch pad or you could just add any money made to their piggy banks.

Now does anyone wanna buy a slightly scribbled on LeapPad? Let me know…

Posted in Children, Make Extra Money | Tagged | 4 Comments

Debt Collect Phone Calls and What Not to Do

Ah…it’s Friday and it’s been a hard week so I’m just adding this video of some guy being silly on the phone and pretending he’s talking to debt collectors. Hope it gives you a little Friday laugh. Enjoy your weekend!

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The Great Trade In at Babies R Us

I have not yet found a place that will pay me for the entire room full of toys and plastic that my daughter has stashed away in totes, but I did come across The Great Trade In by Babies R Us.

I also don’t have a baby or need any new baby stuff, but thought it would be helpful to somebody. It is still a great idea even though it’s of no use to me, and I do know a few people that have babies.

Beginning January 20th until February 20th, you can trade in old baby stuff and get 25% off of something new. Before you start thinking about all of the baby stuff you have, they are only accepting certain baby things. Cribs, strollers, playards, and high chairs are just some of the used products that qualify and there is a long list of manufacturers that are participating in the 25% discount, some of which are Carters, Graco and Eddie Bauer.

Check this list to see if your item has been recalled first, because if it has you may be eligible for a full refund (which of course trumps a 25% discount). Otherwise, according to the Babies R Us website, any old baby items on the list will qualify for the discount. If you’ve been considering an updated crib or high chair, this would be a good deal on something shiny and new, as well as if you’re planning on more children in the future.

If you need a few different items, you can take in multiple baby things, you will still only receive 25% on each new item. This just means if you bring in 3 cribs you won’t get a 75% discount, rather 25% on 3 new items.

Check out the website for more details, now on to find a place to sell all of these unused toys…

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Another Place to Sell Old Electronics

By chance, I stumbled upon yet another site to unload old electronics. Seriously, if you’re not using your old cameras, cell phones and video games than you’re missing out on at least a couple bucks. The reason, in my opinion, that people hold on to electronics that are outdated and not being used is because they don’t feel like they’ll get what they paid for it so they’d rather hold on to it…just in case.

The worst part about holding on to it though, is eventually if you hold on to it long enough, it becomes worth absolutely nothing. Think VCR tape of Top Gun. As a matter of fact, think VCR. You can’t sell these things and might not even be able to give away a lot of electronics from the 90s. You have, if anything, many sizes and shapes of paper weights. If you’re not using your electronics, make a few bucks and get rid of them while you can.

Anyway, besides Craigslist, eBay and just trying to sell your stuff at garage sales, I’ve come across another way to get some cash back. It’s a program that Target has through Nextworth. You enter your product, answer some questions, and it’ll let you know what they’ll give you for it. You then print out a prepaid shipping label and ship your product to Nextworth and in about 10 days you receive a Target gift card. Okay, not really cash, but if you shop at Target at all, it’s probably worth it.

So, I began hunting around my house for old junk…I mean electronics and this is what I’ve come up with:

Old Digital Camera: I’d have to dig up everything that came with it but I’d get $5.40 for my old digital camera that occasionally works if I did…

Old Cell Phone: With or Without the Manual is $21.90. Sweet…here I thought it would only be a good walkie talkie for my daughter.

An Even Older Cell Phone With Water Damage: Has no cash value according to the site but they will recycle it. Or it’s a good walkie talkie. (Minus the lithium battery of course).

Okay, so it’s fun to walk around the house and see how much the Target machine will give you. They even take DVDs and I could give them our Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer DVD for $5 if I were willing to take an arse kicking from my daughter. I don’t know if $5 is worth all that.

Anyway, if anything it made me realize how much junk I have around here that isn’t being used.

Next I’ll find a site that takes plastic kid’s toys that are only played with once…

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Save Money on Your Workout Part 2 of 2

I won’t spend a lot of time on the cheap workout ideas because it’s something I think most people are pretty aware of. Working out and exercising is really a lot about motivation and wanting to get in shape and it takes a bit of determination. After all, there are tons of things that are more fun that require a lot less energy to distract us.

Once you get into a routine though, exercise does become a comfortable habit. It’s the moment you deviate from the routine that will mess up the progress.

This final post about saving money on working out will cover cheap ways to get the training and actual workout program, while in your own home and not paying for a gym or activity membership. So, if you weren’t interested in my fantastic exercise ball routines, maybe one of these ideas will suit your exercise fancy.

Search Craiglist and Classifieds for Exercise Gear

If you would prefer building a small mini gym in your home, you may want to look over Craigslist or your newspaper ads for used treadmills and exercise equipment. I am currently on the hunt for a treadmill myself but I’m holding out for really cheap and really fancy. Good luck, right? I have noticed quite a bit of exercise equipment available though for way cheaper than buying new. All you need then are a couple free weights (if you like) and of course your exercise ball and you have everything you’d find in a gym…practically.

Look for Used DVDs and VHS Exercise Videos

If you still have a VCR you can find a plethora of exercise videos for practically free at garage sales and eBay. You can find quite a few DVDs as well if you happened to have dumped your VCR in the last decade. Find videos that you’re actually interested in though, if you don’t like hip hop music, I’d stay away from exercise videos by rap stars or that take place in dance clubs. Not too many people are still interested in breakdancing anymore either, so I’d skip those videos as well…no matter how cheap they are.

Exercise With the Internet

Are you interested in yoga but not willing to pay for any classes? Many activities are available online so that you can not only watch and try it out, you can do stumble around in the comfort and privacy of your own living room. After all, who wants to try bending their bodies like that among a group of strangers? Just a google search came up with www.yogajournal.com which provides basically anything you’d need to know about yoga.

Believe it or not, you can also find a lot of exercise routines on Youtube and Hulu. This video is actually a no-exercise-equipment routine which is nice if you don’t actually have any exercise equipment.

Check Your Cable Package

As Jpkittie mentioned in the last post, you may already be paying for an exercise channel or two. Check your cable or satellite package. You may also be able to call and try out some of the channels before you make a decision to add them. Either way, it’s cheaper than the gym.

Above all, make sure you are safe. Obviously you don’t want to workout in crappy shoes so you may want to invest in a good pair of tennis shoes. When looking for used exercise equipment you should also make sure it isn’t broken and falling apart or dangerous to use.

Good luck, and I’ll let you know if I find my treadmill…

Posted in Budget Shopping, Cheap Healthy | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Save Money on Your Workout Part 1

I mentioned a while back that the gym membership I used to have was one of my top “wastes of money”. Trust me, going to a fancy gym is not going to get you into any better shape than if you worked out at home, it just seems like it because it’s…fancy.

And since it’s winter and I’ve noticed my belly creeping slowly over my pants, I figure I better get back to getting into shape. Yes, if you know me you’re snickering, I am a wee bit of a lass but creeping bellies don’t look good on anyone and may even be worse on small people.

During one of my crazy get in shape phases I purchased an exercise ball at Walmart. If I remember correctly it cost me around $25.00 including the pump and has been durable enough to withstand begin kicked and dribbled by a group of small children. One of the main things I learned at the gym is that almost every exercise for almost every muscle of your body can be worked with an exercise ball.

Here are some examples of exercises to try with an exercise ball:

My Favorite Crunches: Okay, no one really has favorite crunches. We hate them, but these crunches don’t kill your neck and are so effective you can feel your abs tightening up immediately.

1. Position the ball near a wall.
2. Lean back onto the ball with your feet parked up to a wall and bent slightly.
3. With arms behind your neck or across your chest crunch up and down like regular situps.

I think these crunches are also more effective because you have to balance on the ball at the same time. It takes a second to get used to and you may fall off a couple times, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick. I was also told that it’s still okay to put your hands behind your neck or head as long as you aren’t pulling your neck or head up. You’ll feel it in your abs if you’re doing it right.

My Favorite Push Ups: Again, push ups aren’t a favorite anything, but I like these better than the standard ones.

1. Place the ball on a wall in front of your chest.
2. Put your hands on the ball and push back.
3. Go forward with your arms and repeat in the push up motion.

As with the sit ups, it’ll take a second to get used to balancing the ball on the wall. My first tries I thought I was going to slip and smash my face into the wall as the ball rolled away, but it didn’t ever end that tragically.

So for a one time cost of $25.00 you can easily work out your abs and arms. Some exercise balls also come with DVDs and their own workouts. Even with the health insurance bonus for attending a gym, the exercise ball is going to be cheaper.

My next post will cover other cheap ways to work out and get into shape, so stay tuned…and get working on those abs!

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How to Deal With Collection Agents from Hell

My friend sent me a text the other day that a collection agent almost scared her into emptying out her savings account to pay a bill. She is young(er) and the mother of an 8 month old baby and she only has this one particular bill in collections. I’m embarrassed to admit that I can barely remember the days that collection agents frightened me. For young people and people not used to dealing with collections, it can feel like the agent could quite possibly show up at your house ready to hit you over your head with a hammer and take all of your money.

Not true, of course. I don’t think they’re allowed to use hammers. Anyway, although my friend fully intends on paying her bill with the collection agency (sooner than she thought simply out of fear), I thought I’d take a look at what exactly our rights are when dealing with collection agents.

1. Debt Collectors Cannot Curse You Out

According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors are prohibited from harassment and cannot use obscene or threatening language. You will hear horror stories about agents doing exactly the opposite, but they’re not supposed to. Unfortunately, they are permitted to talk down to you and make you feel like a loser.

2. You Are Allowed to Negotiate

Collection agents will tell you that you have to pay a certain amount and that they won’t accept anything less or any other payment terms. You always have the right to negotiate. After all, what are they going to do, send you to collections? Isn’t it weird that the amount they request is almost always enough to starve you to death? Negotiate, set up a payment arrangement, ask for a lesser amount to pay the debt in full. You always have options.

3. Debt Collectors Cannot Put You in Jail

I’ve heard this before, especially when I was much younger and collectors were basically allowed to say anything they wanted. Debt collectors are telephone agents, not police officers. They cannot come to your house and take you to jail. They can’t arrest you for not paying your bills.

4. Debt Collectors Cannot Call Whenever They Feel Like It

If you’ve ever been contacted by a debt collector, you know that it seems like they can call 24/7. They can’t, it just seems like that when you’re avoiding phone calls. According to the FTC, debt collectors cannot call at inconvenient times or places, like before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They are also not supposed to call you at work if you have notified them that you aren’t allowed to receive collection calls at work.

5. Collection Agencies Are Not Allowed to Contact Everyone You Know

They can’t call your family members to tell them about your debt, but they are allowed to contact them to find out if your address or phone number. They are not allowed to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse or your attorney.

If you’re having repeat problems with a collection agency, you may have to start documenting the events. Sometimes you may even need to get an attorney. Alleged violations can also be reported to your state Attorney General’s office, www.naag.org or www.ftc.gov. The Federal Trade Commission website also has more information regarding your rights when dealing with collection agents.

Of course we made the debt, we owe the money. I’m in no way saying that we shouldn’t pay our debts. I am saying that it is not okay to be bullied or frightened into paying our bills. Remember, they won’t kill you and eat you. Keep that in mind and you may come away from the conversation with a workable deal.

Posted in Paying Bills and Collections | 1 Comment

Top 5 Easy Cheap Sandwiches

I don’t know about the rest of the world but when the groceries start getting low, I resort to a number of different favorite sandwiches for dinner. And, if you know me, you know I’m not talking about fancy mustard and special bread sandwiches. Being more of a “wow, I have a packet of mustard in my fridge,” kinda girl, the sandwiches I’m talking about are easy and cheap.

Ingredients vary, but here are the Top 5 Easy Cheap Sandwiches (in case you’re looking for dinner ideas). ALL require bread, we use simple and plain wheat, if you happen to have fancy herby or seedy bread, lucky you.

1. Toasted PB&J

Of course the bread has to be toasted, if you need directions on that part we might be in trouble. PB&J is always a good go-to sandwich, but toasting the bread makes it better, IMHO.
Other variations: PB&Honey, PB&Banana, PB&Marshmallow aka Fluffernutter.

2. Fried Egg and Mayo

Fry an egg or two and throw it on toasted bread slathered with Mayo. Done. Some people like adding cheese, I don’t.

3. Chicken Salad

This sandwich may be the most complicated of the easy and cheap sandwiches, but come on, it basically involves canned chicken. Try this simple and speedy chicken salad recipe that I posted a while back. One of the great things about chicken salad is you can whip up a bowl of it and eat sandwiches the rest of the week.

4. Tuna Salad

My daughter loves tuna with mayo. That’s it. I like adding lots of onions. We’ve also made tuna melts with cheese toasted in the oven. Still, simplicity wins and she prefers plain old tuna with mayo, nothing else. If you want to try something different, grab a packet or two of the new flavored tunas (ie garlic herb tuna, sweet and spicy tuna), and add mayo and the rest of your regular tuna ingredients. Yummy…

Grilled Ham and Cheese

The ham can be replaced with any kind of lunchmeat in the fridge, although I don’t think I’ve tried to grill bologna with cheese. I have, however, fried bologna and let me tell you, if you absolutely have to eat bologna (baloney as it should be spelled) fry it and season it. Sounds complicated and ridiculous but there aren’t too many things that can’t be made better by frying.
Most people are of course familiar with grilled cheese, I’m just saying to take it a step further and throw on some meat. Again, if you’re not sure how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, let me know.

It’s a good idea to make things to go with the sandwiches, like soup if you’re working on anything larger than a snack (toasted PB&____ is a late night snack for me sometimes.)

I’d like to know if anyone else has any simple sandwich ideas. Please don’t suggest special occasion sandwiches–you know, the ones with the fancy stuff that you only make when you have company. Those aren’t simple or cheap. Still, gimme your easy sandwich ideas…can you tell what we’re having tonight?

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Earthquake in Haiti: How to Help

The news of the recent earthquake in Haiti may not actually move many of us simply because it’s in a different country and we seldom think we can help. We are of course, just pulling ourselves out of our own disastrous recession.

Still, the earthquake in Haiti has resulted in what’s estimated at thousands upon thousands of deaths and injuries. I honestly don’t think Haiti was ever destination paradise, but imagine what it must be like now.

So we’re broke. A lot of us wonder if we’ll ever get a job, when unemployment may run out, or when our own positions will be deemed unnecessary and be cut. When I read the stories of the earthquake in Haiti and look at the pictures of the people in the streets, I can’t help but wonder if in my own heart I could ever summons the strength needed to make it through such a disaster.

Most of us are not in positions to fly to Haiti and help physically, but here are a few simple ways that we all could pitch in. It only takes juggling a few dollars from our budgets to help.

1. Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-American singer founded the Yele Haiti Foundation which provides scholarships to children in Haiti. If you would like to donate to disaster relief, you can text “Yele” to 501501 and $5 will be billed to your cell phone bill and donated to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. You can also go to Yele.org to donate.

2. To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, you can text “HAITI” to 90999.

3. A list of charitable organizations are available at this website if you’re looking for other ways to help the Haiti earthquake victims.

I want to note as well, that with each tragedy, a new group of sleazebags pop up to swindle people with good intentions out of their money. Don’t give out your personal information over the phone (and those calls will presumably start any day now) or over the internet through any emails. If you wish to help, stick with reputable organizations like those included in the link above.

There are tornados and sunamis and earthquakes and hurricanes. Do what you can, and if anything say a prayer for the country of Haiti and its people and remember that it could be any of us, it could be you, it could be me.

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Say No to Fake Bling

That is…fake children’s bling. The kind you find at the Dollar Store and Walmart bling. I don’t know too many adults that still wear Disney Princess jewelry, but if you do, don’t put it in your mouth and don’t eat it.

It seems that Chinese manufacturers, when barred from making trinkety jewelry with toxic lead, is now using…cadmium. Big deal you say right but according to the article I read today, cadmium is even more dangerous than lead.

This bugs me more than usual because I’ve often mentioned how nice it is to buy cheap gifts for kids at the Dollar Store and other discount stores like Claire’s and Walmart. Sure you have to ingest the cadmium from the jewelry, so obviously this is a very big no no for very small kids, but since I can’t remember if I’ve ever had to put any jewelry in my mouth myself, I can’t say it would be impossible for a girl my daughter’s age to do such a thing. And trust me, that girl likes anything girly she can get her hands on so no matter how green a fancy unicorn ring turns her finger, she’s going to sport it til she loses it (the ring, not the finger).

According to the article, “Cadmium is a known carcinogen. Like lead, it can hinder brain development in the very young, according to recent research.” It later states that children don’t have to actually swallow the jewelry to become exposed, biting and sucking can be just as dangerous. Further, on a list by the CDC’s list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, our friend cadmium is number 7. So yes regardless of who says what about it, it isn’t safe.

Unfortunately, jewelry has to be added to the list of “What Not to Buy at Walmart”. If anything, spring for the children’s jewelry that is sterling silver or gold, there are usually decent deals on those items. I hate to say it, but it may be a good idea to steer clear of children’s gadgets made from Chinese manufacturers until we have clearer regulations regarding toxic materials. There is also plenty of colorful plastic play jewelry that is just as safe (for now anyway).

Remember, cheap is no good if we’re sick. Usually this rule applies mostly to buying decade old food from Dollar stores but it seems we have to keep it in mind for children’s toys as well. Cinderella would be ashamed…

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