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The generic-but-not group gift dilemma

About a month ago, pretty reader Jean sent me the following question, and I was all, “Yes, I would love to tackle that! Stay tuned!” And then I saw something shiny and wandered off. My apologies for taking so long, Jean. Forgive me? Here we go:

Last year was my first year at a new job. In past jobs, we always did a Kris Kringle type of thing so you only had to purchase one gift for one co-worker. Well last Christmas, everyone was giving gifts to everybody! This was not in my budget so I wound up getting cards and a small bag of Lindt chocolates for everyone. It was fine but not super creative.

This year, I have budgeted about $10 per person (not including cards because I bought those at the end of the year sale last year). Any ideas of what I could get coworkers? Most are female and are aged between 30 and 50 (I have one male co-worker in his 40’s). I could go a bit higher per person if need be.

My knee-jerk response to this is abject horror. Times are tough and budgets are tight; I don’t know how many people there are in Jean’s office, but this seems excessive. Yikes. What if you couldn’t afford to participate? (I could go on and on, here. I’ll stop now.)

But with a budget of $10/person, I think you can probably go a few different ways. (more…)

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Soooo… did I mention…

… that I broke my hand? Because apparently I did.

Whoops!

I’m having surgery tomorrow and hope you’ll bear with me for a few days until I can get back to work (with my good hand).

[I’m filing this under “Everyday Wisdom,” as in, “Don’t break your hand, it hurts.” You’re welcome.]

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Why I love and hate Craigslist

Once upon a time, some people (possibly my husband and me) built a cool new screen porch and wanted some comfy furniture for it. But those people (again, not naming any names) may have finished up that project and realized that their funds for buying new furniture were… shall we say… depleted.

Enter Craigslist! No problem, thought those people—we will simply look for a used set of furniture.

They looked. And looked. And looked some more. Apparently patio furniture is in demand in the spring. (Who knew?) And one day a cheap set popped up, and those people pounced on the listing, called immediately, and made plans to drive over an hour to look at it. The drive was made, and the owners said, “Ooops, we should’ve called. We sold it already.”

On that day, I pretty much hated Craigslist.

Later, we, er, I mean, those people did find a set of furniture on Craigslist. They probably paid a little more than they should’ve (desperation!), but it was a decent deal and a relatively happy ending to the saga.

But today, I love Craigslist. We have been looking for a bike trailer to take camping, that our dog can ride in (stop laughing). I refuse to pay $100+ for a sidecar for the dog, y’know. Today, we snagged this Burley bike trailer, barely used, for—I hope you’re sitting down—$40. (In case you didn’t feel like clicking through, retail on that trailer is $529. I’ve owned cars that cost less.)

What’s your best Craigslist deal? Go ahead, brag about it.

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Heads up, Zappos and 6pm shoppers

If you’ve ever shopped at either Zappos or 6pm.com, you already got an email about this, yesterday. But just in case you haven’t checked your email, be aware that Zappos experienced a privacy breach and some of your information may have been compromised.

Now. The good news is that your credit card information was not compromised—that information was stored on a separate server. But passwords and address information may have been accessed, so it’s a good idea to change your password on these sites, particularly if you use the same password in a lot of different places.

Several folks have asked me if this makes me not want to shop online or if I feel like this is proof that shopping online is somehow dangerous. The short answer is absolutely not. You could drop your wallet (or have it stolen from your purse) at the mall. Stuff happens. I feel like Zappos is handling this appropriately, and shopping online with my credit card gives me protection through my credit card company, too. If someone wants to use my name and address to do something nefarious, that would be a pain in the rear, but it certainly wouldn’t be catastrophic. My view is generally “Okay, that’s annoying, let’s deal with it and move on.” But I know not everyone will see it that way.

Regardless, change those passwords, if you haven’t already.

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Another angle on time vs. money

Over the next few weeks I hope to 1) get back into the groove of working normally (before the holidays = working crazy and post-holidays has = not working enough) and 2) get to the backlog of advice requests y’all have sent my way.

Let’s start with the following from lovely reader Caty:

Could you possibly, sometime after the holidays maybe, share with us how you weigh the time you save shopping online versus (maybe/sort of) saving a few bucks in store? For example, according to the Target flier this week, there’s a particular toy I want to give my 3 year-old that is $10 cheaper than the Amazon price. It’s sold out on target.com and while our Target had the toy last week, there’s no guarantee it will be there when I get a chance to stop by/after I call to see they have it and the last one sells before I get there. To me, it’s totally worth spending the 10 extra bucks on Amazon considering a) Free Prime (thank you very much!) b) the time I would spend actually going to the store and c) I am physically and mentally incapable of spending less than $100 in the bricks and mortar Target store. Spending $10 extra is not exactly frugal money-wise. But it’s frugal time-wise. Which is better when you’re already crazy and have neither much time nor money? WWMD?

I think you’re especially pretty today.

I’m happy to share my thoughts on this, though I think Caty is so very pretty she actually already answered her own question. Let’s get to it. (more…)

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Saving money vs. saving sanity

Oh man, I love this. The very pretty Sarah just wrote the following to me:

I realize that you probably have a TON of time between now and Christmas to sit around and reply to your readers (have I mentioned that you are VERY pretty?), but I was wondering if you could answer a quick question for me.

With Christmas nearing and the arrival of 16 family members and 8 children looming (where the heck are we gonna stick all these people??), my washing machine decides that it is time to die. This happens the day after both kids and I decided to start feeling better from the cold we have had for the last week and the day after my husband arrives home after a week long work trip. Needless to say, I have laundry coming out of my ears. Here’s my question….do I use a neighbors washer and wait until after Christmas for a good deal or do I run out to Sears and pick one up today? I am unsure if washers and dryers go on sale after Christmas. Do they have amazing deals on sets like on Black Friday? In your opinion, can I save enough money by waiting that would make it worthwhile?

If you get a chance, let me know what you think. If not, NO WORRIES!! Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday and a long life to your washing machine!!

To clarify, I do not love that poor Sarah’s washing machine chose this moment to die. I just love that she wrote to me about it, and also that this is—to me—kind of the crux of this whole money-saving thing. Let me explain. (more…)

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Getting the best bed

The lovely Dallas writes:

Dear pretty Mir —

I’m a longtime reader and finally moving into an apartment with no roommates (holler for being a grown up, even in a recession!)… I’m upsizing from a twin bed (I’m 27, it’s time) to a queen bed. Any suggestions on how to pull off getting a good deal on a mattress, quality tips, etc? I’m totally clueless… and you know everything ๐Ÿ™‚

Love,
Dallas

You know what? I do love Dallas! She’s exceptionally pretty. And that’s not even just because she’s also an accomplished suck-up.

Speaking as someone who enjoys researching products before I buy them and then finding the best deal, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the mattress industry is in cahoots with the liquor industry. That is, even the most savvy and conscientious among us want to drink when we have to shop for a new bed. That’s because it’s confusing, time consuming, and there’s no possible way to find a “standard” for pricing. But let’s see what we can do. (more…)

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Keeping baby from breaking the bank

The lovely and pretty Allison wrote to tell me that she and her husband are expecting their first baby. (Yayyyyy! I did a little dance of joy, because news of babies always makes me happy.) She says:

Since we are of the school of: Iโ€™d rather send you to college than break the bank on onesies and burp cloths โ€“ how do we go about outfitting baby/getting room together/getting all the โ€œgearโ€ that babies seem to require without hemorrhaging money? What is okay to buy used? What is most definitely not? Is there a list of must-haves that anyone can point me to? Are there common traps to avoid? Are there any reputable sites for product review/safety standards that I should familiarize myself with?

And finally, I am a lawyer. Where in the world do I find affordable office appropriate maternity wear?

The first thing I advised Allison to do was take a deep breath. Then I asked her if I could use her question here on the site. (Priorities: I have them.)

Let’s talk about this. (more…)

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Heal My Sole contest reminder, plus selling advice

Two things:

First, don’t forget to enter the contest to win a $40 shopping spree at Heal My Sole—you’ve only got until early tomorrow morning to get your comment in for a chance to win, you know! And as always, remember to leave your comment on the contest post for an entry. Comments left on this post don’t help you win.

Second, this week at Tree.com I’m giving you advice on whether you should sell on eBay or Craigslist, and why. (Spoiler: the answer isn’t entirely clear-cut.)

And as a bonus third: How in the world is it Wednesday already??

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I do recommend against used babies

Gearing up for a new arrival, but on a limited budget? Used baby gear (please note: this is different than used babies) may be right for you. Check out my latest post over at Tree.com to find out what to remember when shopping for used baby gear.

Of course, it’s now been so long since I had to shop for baby gear, it’s possible you can just order a complete gear bundle from Alpha Centauri, but I don’t think so.

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