Hooking You Up: Awesome and Affordable Lingerie

I love lingerie. I really, really love lingerie. I love all types of lingerie from the classy to the trashy. I think lingerie is the single easiest thing a woman can change in her wardrobe and completely change her mood. And you ladies that are single and not even interested in finding someone special? You are not exempt from this! Lingerie isn’t about your significant other, it’s about you.

With Halloween, the holidays, and New Year’s Eve, there’s no better time to really revamp your lingerie wardrobe and even try something new. So a while back, when I was determined to own a steel boned corset, I found the most amazing lingerie site ever– Oh Cheri. Before I say another word, I want to say something– Oh Cheri didn’t reach out to me about writing for you guys. I love them and wanted to recommend them to you guys.

This store has three key features to an awesome online shopping experience– huge selection across a huge array of sizes, cheap prices (often the cheapest anywhere), and FREE shipping in the US with no minimum purchase.

Can we take a moment and “window” shop? Don’t be freaked out or anything, I’ll keep it tame. Oh and all of these items are under $20.

And ok this is definitely not under $20 but it’s one of my favorite things on their site and I covet it deeply. Come covet with me.

Yeah. Sooooooo pretty.

By the way, I reached out to Oh Cheri and let them know I was going to blog about them because of how much I love their site. And you know what? They offered a discount for you guys– my readers. So go online and do some sexy shopping for you, your friends, and hey even family. Or pass this along to someone who may be shopping for you! Just make sure when it’s time to checkout, you enter the code MUTANT and get 10% off your order.

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Keeping the Gift Budget Under Control

Earlier today I read Sharon’s most recent post– just a regular update sort of thing. But this time, she mentioned two specific spend issues she has problems with that I directly related to.  So I’ve been thinking about them all day like I said I would in the comments and I do have some ideas but I wanted to scratch your brains as well. Only one problem per post because these suck up my brain power!

Problem One: Blowing the Gift Budget Every. Single. Time.

Ah, gifts. These are really tough for people with the deadly combination of loving to shop and loving to give. If you’re the type of person who absolutely loves to help someone else shop but fall apart when it’s time to spend on yourself you most likely have a struggle with keeping gifts under budget.

First things first– get a realistic grip on your gift spending. If it feels like the right amount when you spread it out across the year, it’s the right amount. If it feels way too high even when you spread it out across the year into monthly chunks, bring it down. Accept whatever the real amount needs to be.  The bottom line is if every year you look and you’ve spent $1200 on gifts, you need to set aside $100 for gifts period, end of story. No occasions to celebrate in July? Don’t delude yourself into thinking you can use the gift money for something else because you will be pressed in August when you have four birthdays to deal with. If deep down you know the number is too high because you’re just being extravagant to be extravagant, you’ve got to wrestle that demon and whittle it down to a reasonable number. If it’s because your circumstances just don’t allow you to spend as much as you want, you’ve got to accept that too.

Now that you’ve wrestled with the real and true and livable gift budget, I think it’s time we all truly embrace the one solution that just makes sense– the gift closet.

Oh, the groans! I can hear them, you know. But seriously, the gift closet makes sense (and cents, ha). I think it really is time to put this concept to the test. How many times have I gone into the store not looking for anything in particular, finding the perfect thing for so and so, not buying it because there’s no occasion coming up to give it to them and I can’t be giving things just because, to then not find a damn thing when it IS time to give them something?

There are certain things in life that are highly probable at least once a year. This is my list:

  • Your loved ones will have a birthday
  • You will celebrate Valentine’s Day one way or another
  • You may celebrate Easter one way or another
  • You will have at least one person deserving of a Mother’s Day gift
  • You will have at least one person deserving of a Father’s Day gift
  • You will celebrate some sort of holiday in December
  • Someone will have a baby
  • If you have children, there will be birthday parties
  • There will be an occasion you really wish you had a hostess gift for
  • There will be an occasion you really wish you had a thank you gift for
  • There will be an occasion you really wish you had a congratulations gift for

The thing is, these somewhat predictable events will always come around when you have the least money available for them. Not only that, but the stores will instantly hide all of their good stuff too. So clearly, the only real solution I can see is year-round shopping. You can make this as haphazard as you want or as neat and organized as you want. My idea for myself is to maintain some sort of list I can access with my phone so I can check really quick if I’ve already got Mutant Wino’s gifts covered for the year or if something’s missing because I just found the most perfect thing for him at the most perfect price. And even if he is covered for the year, I might get it anyways because there’s next year. As long as the gift closet doesn’t turn into some out of control clutter beast, I really do think this is the answer for us gift-budget-busting gals. The trick is to not put it off. You find something, it fits the budget, it fits the closet, do it. Make it a point to go gift shopping once a month so you’re not tempted to paint yourself into a corner two months from now.

There are some gifts that are classics. There are gorgeous baby items in neutral colors deeply discounted. You can find some great deals on great gift basket shelf-stable items like wines and gourmet foods (check the expiration date before buying). Keep an eye on the clearance section of department stores for discounts on classic home gifts like frames, vases, candles, and so on. Check the kids’ department for discounted books. Toys R Us constantly marks down toys too– maybe avoid the more trendy pieces and stick to classic characters and games.

Even those of us who make things can benefit greatly from a gift closet. How many of us have those gaps in the calendar when no one’s celebrating anything and suddenly it’s everyone’s birthday and right after that is Christmas? Make a gift every month for the closet. If a pattern catches your eye, go for it and add it to the gift closet. You can even turn this into one of those annual challenges!

What do you think? Any strategies or tips for keeping the cost of giving gifts down that don’t include the classic, “Instead of buying a gift, give the gift of time”? Share!

Work in Progress Wednesdays: The Afghan

One of the things on The Plan is to finish my mom’s afghan. I started this afghan last August but that I promised her back in Christmas 2010.  So even though I haven’t been actually crocheting it for as long as I thought, it’s still a long time coming.

I know I don’t have a lot of yarnies on here so I won’t get into the technicalities of it. I will say it’s a really interesting pattern done with two strands held together and a really big hook (love those). I also love the way it’s coming out and want to have it all done already but it is a time consuming project. While many people who know me and watch me crochet tell me they’re amazed at my speed, I know compared to most regular crocheters I’m a total slow-poke. The pattern is complete when the little curly things and the little diamondy things (non-technical terms in case you were wondering) are done a total of four times so I’m not even halfway through yet. Also, now you’ll know how close I am to finishing it even if you don’t know anything about crocheting and you can nag me.

I don’t know that I will do a Work In Progress Wednesday update every week but I would like to do one when I’ve made some decent progress. So if you don’t see one for another month, please harass the hell out of me. It would be awesome to have this for her Mother’s Day present.

Are you making anything right now? Tell me!!

The Gift Guilt Complex

Gift ribbon heart and bokeh

“Gift Ribbon Heart & Bokey” by Moa Maria on Flickr

When it comes to gifts, I have two distinct personalities: The Receiver and the Giver.

I’m the easiest Receiver in the world. I’m very grateful for every gift I receive no matter how small. I don’t care if you got it at the thrift store, a garage sale, or Neiman Marcus. I love handmade. I just very much appreciate that you took a moment to think of me and let me know with a gift- any sort of gift.

As a Giver though? Well, I have a bit of a problem. Gift-giving to me is very stressful and it has to do with one major flaw in my thinking.

I pay attention to the cost/value of the item I am giving.

It’s not the only thing I look at, granted, but I have shied away from certain gifts because I was afraid they would be perceived as cheap. Price is a determining factor.

This sort of thinking is partially the reason I loathe gift cards. There is a price tag right on the gift! I was brought up in an environment where it was always tacky to leave the price tag on.

I find it strange I have this issue as a Giver because it doesn’t figure into my experience as a Receiver. I’m not even sure where it came from exactly because my parents, and the majority of my family members, aren’t the materialistic type. Actually, I’ve always thought of my parents as pretty thrifty people. My mother is a bargain-hunting queen!

The thing is, I don’t want to do this. I feel as if my gift is less sincere if I shy away from an item because of its cheap price or gravitate to a different item because of its higher price. Just typing that makes me feel somewhat petty and childish.

There is one huge exception to my price tag problem, handmade gifts.

I don’t feel awkward or cheap giving them. And when budgets have been slim, I’ve done those gifts in the past. But this year, I’m completely wiped out and I just know gift-making is not going to happen. So, working with slim budgets is my only alternative.

And I feel so weird about it.

Yesterday, I wrote up a budget for Christmas. It’s $1500 and that’s with slim individual gift budgets that I am not comfortable with honestly.When I was married, we gave much more extravagant gifts- especially to our immediate family.

The killer is, that amount is very high and is really not even very realistic for me. I have a lot of expenses this time of year outside of Christmas and I haven’t done a good job at all of saving money for things.

Right now, I was on Amazon because I had a great idea for a gift for my Mom. It’s the kind of thing I know she’ll really enjoy and I know it’ll show her I know what she loves and enjoys and it’s directly tied to a couple of conversations we had ages ago. It’s the kind of gift I feel only I could give to my Mom if that makes sense.

Well, when I hopped on Amazon I found the price was very reasonable. But right away my brain noted it was only half of the budget I had designated for my Mom. Instead of being happy about this, I got nervous and instantly thought of ways I could supplement the gift to reach the budgeted amount.

And that’s when I had the ridiculously embarrassing “Duh” moment that prompted this whole post.

I’m glad I caught on to this early in the shopping season. I’m glad I realized it because I don’t think it’s healthy.

I don’t have $1500. I fully intended to have Christmas saved up for and yet all I managed to squirrel away was about $200. If I manage to actually spend the $1500 for Christmas, which is NOT hard to do with a family the size of mine, I know it’s going to cause more stress and leave me with Post-Christmas Guilt and Depression.

I really love my family. And I really love to give them gifts.

But I need to let go of the Price Tag and Budget thing I have going on.

My budget is not an amount I am obligated to spend, it’s a limit to how much I can spend. And this distinction is one I have problems with over and over again. Even while creating the budget, I found a flaw in my thinking.

Let’s say I assigned Co-Worker a $10 budget. My brain right away started brainstorming ten dollar items that would be suitable. I didn’t even think about sales tax if the item is purchased locally, or delivery charges if the item is purchased online.

I do that all of the time and then get frustrated and confused when my budget is blown. People tell me I’m really smart, but when I have these “a-ha” moments, I really feel I should disagree.

What about you? Do you wing Christmas? Do you budget every cent? Do you write a budget and blow it consistently?Are you already done with Christmas? Any advice?

Oh Christmas pig, Oh Christmas pig!

Christmas Pig

"Christmas Pig" by Justin Belcher

Here’s a quick little idea I had that I wanted to share.

I have a routine where I empty my wallet daily and put the ones in a little box. I use the ones to pay the kids’ allowances. Sometimes, I have enough ones in there to pay allowances for a month and sometimes I have just enough for the week. It depends on how much cash I’m using, but it overall has helped me always have money on hand to pay them and that’s been a real sanity saver and guilt curber.

I’ve wanted to use more cash more often because I think it limits me better than a card does and I’d like to get in the habit of going cash only for 90% of my day to day expenses.

Now, I have an incentive to do that.

I have a piggy bank.

Every time my wallet looks huge and gross, I empty the coins out into it. I wasn’t really sure what to do with the money this year.

But now I do.

I came up with a little incentive to dump my change into my piggy bank. My change is going to buy my Christmas present to myself. It’s not going to go towards my Christmas present, it will pay for my Christmas present in full.

What’ll it be? Depends on how much money my little piggy’s got when I cash it out at the end of the year.

I figure this will help me in a couple ways.

1) I want to use cash as much as possible as we head into the chaos of the end of the year. I behave so much better when I know I can only buy x amount of dollars worth of stuff because there’s only x amount of dollars in my wallet. With the little plastic card thing, it gets fuzzy. I know I only have x amount of dollars to spend on y thing but I don’t know know, you know? Anyhow using more cash inevitably leads to more cha-ching, cha-ching for the little piggy wiggy.

2) It’ll curb satisfying the wanties. Or at least delay it. And then I won’t be dipping into any other type of money to satisfy the holiday wanties. I think the reason the wanties really kick into gear around the end of the year is because we get absolutely bombed with advertising and subconscious messages to want things that are shiny and bright. Not to mention, most of us shop for gifts and just in doing so we are exposed to things. I’m a sucker for things. Nice, pretty, lovely things.

3) I’ll be doing something for me and it’s not of negative consequence on anything else. Not to mention, I’m a single mom of three wee ones. If I don’t spoil me, no one else will and that’s completely fine with me.

So, I’ll be focused on feeding my pig and fattening him up for my totally self-indulgent Christmas slaughter.

Do you have any totally ridiculous silly little games you play to motivate yourself? Don’t you think my piggy bank needs a name? Should I take a picture of him to encourage a pig-naming brainstorming session?

P.S. Do take a moment to read the article I linked to up there. It is amazing.

Weekend Summary

Eldest decoding a clue

Eldest loved his treasure hunt. He had eight clues and he had a great time figuring them out and then running to find the next one. It was really cool. We had flan instead of cake because it’s his favorite and my mom makes it deliciously.

Found one!

Friday ended up being a No-Spend Day for me which was nice. Saturday was the party day. I do the parties late in the afternoon because it gives me plenty of time to get things ready. Early in the day parties don’t work for me.

Another one!

Unfortunately for me, I woke up on Saturday feeling like total crap again. I was completely congested and miserable. My mom came over and got to work on cleaning with her super amazing cleaning abilities. I attacked my congestion with every treatment I could. I did the sinus rinse. I did the inhalations with a scoop of Baby Vicks (which had the unintended effect of making my house smell quite lovely actually). I took the Sudafed. I took the Nasonex. I took the steroid. I took the antibiotic. I took the Advil. Party time came and I was as ready as I could’ve hoped to be. I decorated the cake. I’d done the goody bags. I prepped the snacks. Guests arrived.

Gratuitous Kitten Cuddles

The party was chaotic but I guess that’s what happens when you jam a bunch of 7 year old boys together. They mostly played with the Beyblades and anything else they could lay their hands on in the play room. Finally when I was getting tired of all of the screaming and stuff, I checked the time and saw it was almost 5:30. YES! Reptile people should be here any minute.

Daughter's photo of the cat in the bag

Except they never came. We called over and over and over again. Nothing. No shows. I was sad. And I was relieved I hadn’t told Eldest what I’d planned but I was still sad. Really sad. But we did the cake and gave the goodies and collapsed.

Made by my mom, decorated by me

At least that made Saturday another No Spend Day for me. Yay I guess. And it also meant I now have freed up $250 I’d been reserving. But still. Major letdown.

I'm gonna eat you!

Sunday we were useless. Even the kids. We watched movies and played with the cat. Actually, we did have a productive morning and picked 69 avocados from my tree. There are at least another hundred up there. I think I might sell off a bunch of them. At a dollar each, I could make another $50 bucks and have plenty to eat and giveaway. And that’s just from this harvest. There are plenty more that need to keep ripening. We wrapped up the day at my cousin’s house for his going away dinner. He’s heading to college this weekend.

Bonding with the cousin

So Sunday was another No-Spend. Three in a row. Who would’ve thought it possible?

And then yesterday I couldn’t keep food down. And today, I’m fighting to keep down toast and Gatorade. I think I’m going home soon. Someone tell me something lovely is heading my way please.

Staying on top of August

Happy Birthday Eldest!

It’s Friday! I can’t believe it. Just going to follow up on some stuff I’m focusing on this month.

Today is Eldest’s birthday. He is awesome. Seriously, he’s everyone’s dream first-born. He’s smart. He’s loving. He’s sweet. He’s obedient. He’s strong. He’s handsome. He’s amazing.

Tomorrow is his much deserved birthday party. My plan was to keep it all under $400 including the food, the entertainment, and his gifts. Mission accomplished. I thought I could do it for under $350 but I ended up at about $376. Considering the HUGE bulk of this is a reptile show at the party that’s costing me $250, I think I did pretty darn well.

I spent less than $75 on gifts and the vast majority are books– Books 5, 6, and 7 from Harry Potter, a Gods and Heroes Pop-Up book, Book 1 of The 39 Clues, and Ultimate Fallout #4 that reveals the new Spider-Man: Miles Morales. In addition to all of that reading material, I got him a new Beyblade, a new pair of flip flops because his little toys were wriggling out over the tops of the old ones, and a couple of Tech Decks because he specifically requested that. One of the Tech Decks was a totally awesome Target clearance score and only cost me $1.74! The gorgeous pop up book was only $8 at Marshall’s.

I’ve planned a very elaborate Treasure Hunt for him when he comes home today. Friend is at my house now helping me set it all up. I wrote all of the clues in classic alphabet/number code and sometimes hid the clue in the gift to make it JUST a little harder. I hid one of the clues between the claws of a monster in the pop-up book for instance.   I started the treasure hunt for him last year and he really liked it. I think it’ll be a fun tradition and something the little ones can look forward to doing when they learn how to read. I actually had a lot of fun planning it last night.

My plan for August is 8 No-Spend Days. During my first week, I had two no-spend days and was super excited. This week I’ve had zero so far. UGH. This stupid sinus infection has been the sole cause of expenses on a couple of days this week and that’s irritating. Especially because the stupid thing is still hanging on for dear life and I’m taking like 5 different medicines to treat it and its symptoms. I am seriously hoping for a no-spend tomorrow and Sunday.

I’ve been working with the separate accounts for spending and bills. I have to say, I really like this system so far. It makes things a little less gray and a lot more black and white: Spend This, Do Not Spend This (Moron).

According to a super brief email reply from Ex this morning, money was deducted from his check today for child support. He didn’t specify what the amount was or anything like that. I’m not sure when I’ll receive it but at least I’m breathing a wee bit easier. My priorities in handling that money remain the same: 1) padding my super slim budget for back to school and 2) rebuilding the savings accounts.

So about working out… yeah. Not happening really. I just can’t get into it. I’m sure the sinus infection does nothing for my motivation but it’s just that I can’t care about it either. I know this will come but it’s not happening right now.

Getting stuff done the night before is kinda mixed. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I haven’t really had a chance to get the kids involved either because of the insane summer schedule. But it hasn’t slipped my mind and it does make things easier. I’ll probably really start working on this one come August 22.

No girlfriend outing. No money. No time. And I’ve been sick and whiny.

Books! I love books! I’m now up to 42 out of 60 books this year and that means I’m ahead of schedule. I finished Remains of the Day and then read Alex Flinn’s A Kiss in Time and Cloaked to round out the fairy tale trilogy. Beastly is my favorite and Cloaked is my least. But now, well I’m stuck. I still have Loving What Is going but I need something else while I work through that. My cousin bought me the next two books in the Parasol Protectorate Series for my birthday which I’m SUPER excited about. But, I’ve got library books with due dates. So, help me pick my next book(s). Here’s what I’ve got in order of due date:

The flowers of evil (this is Patti Smith’s fault)

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Library) (another suggestion from blog readers)

Fool: A Novel

My Own Two Feet: A Memoir Apparently this is part two. I didn’t know there was a part one. Should I read it anyways?

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel

POPism: The Warhol Sixties (I’d meant to read this ages ago after seeing Factory Girl. Patti Smith reminded me)

Bossypants

You can vote via this poll!

On the blog front, I’m pretty happy with where it is and where it’s going. I got the past couple of weeks on various blogs including First Gen American, In Mint Condition, 101 Books, Molly on Money, Daily Plate of Crazy, and We May Be Poor, But We Are Happy. There might be others but I have issues tracking links AND the sinus infection is really messing with my thoughts. I’m having a great time meeting new bloggers and readers. It’s seriously the most amazing part of the Internet for me personally– community-building.

And last but not least, Mutant Kitty is doing very well. To think one week ago when I got her all she wanted to do was cuddle! She is non-stop these days and eats like crazy. The kids adore her. It’s so nice coming home.

See that? That's love, folks.