Category Archives: Family & Relationships

Adult Children Living at Home – 5 Reasons to Live with your Parents Longer

living at home parentsDude, you still live with your parents?

This phrase is uttered time and time again those who live their own and can’t understand why anybody would continue to stay in their parents’ home. Although there is nothing wrong with moving out, don’t overlook the benefits of living with your folks a little longer.

If your parents support the idea, there are many reasons to stay at home for a few more years. If you could stay but are feeling the peer pressure to strike out on your own, weigh both options carefully. You may find that leaving the nest is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Here are five reasons to live with your parents longer.

1. Maintain relationships with your parents and anybody else (siblings, extended family) living in the home.
Let’s face it, many people move out and quickly lose touch with their parents. Phone calls start out a couple of times a week, but, eventually, you’re lucky if you can manage to talk once a month. While you may be looking for independence, moving out and avoiding your parents is a mistake that you will eventually regret.

The longer you stay at home, the more time you can spend with your family. Sure, there are going to be arguments and disagreements. In the end, though, you will be happy that you had some extra time to strengthen those relationships.

2. Focus on advancing your career or education.
When you live with your parents you don’t have many responsibilities outside of school and/or work. In turn, you can devote all of your time and effort to getting better grades, making more money, or moving up the corporate ladder. Living at home can be especially helpful when trying to get through college without accruing student loan debt. You can save money by not living on campus while also putting the cash you would be spending on rent toward your tuition.

Take advantage of this time to focus on your goals. As soon as you move out you will find that your life has changed forever. You now have a house to take care of and bills to pay. As a result, you will not have nearly as much time for your career or education.

3. Do you dream of owning a home in the future?
If so, you can save your money much faster when living with your parents. This is especially true if they let you live with them rent free. Why pay for rent when you don’t have to? By staying with your parents a little bit longer you are giving yourself enough time to save for the home of your dreams.

Let’s say you decide to rent an apartment for $500/month. By the end of the year you will have paid $6k in rent alone. This does not take into account the price of food, utilities, and other expenses. By staying with your parents for two more years, you can bank at least another $12k toward a down payment. Now do you see how quickly your savings can add up?

Even if your parents do ask for rent money, it’s usually a fraction of what you would have to pay if you were out on your own. Remember to offer something, whether it be monetary like rent or payment for a utility, or assistance with various household chores. Your parents are doing you a very generous favor, after all.

4. Can you really afford a home that offers all the amenities and features you have come to rely upon?
In short, your parent’s home is probably nicer than anything you are going to get on your own. There is nothing worse than moving from a nice home to a dumpy apartment. Sure, you will have your independence, but that is about it! Saving some cash and working to advance in your education or career will insure that you are able to afford some additional creature comforts when the time comes.

5. Upkeep, upkeep, and more upkeep.
What do you do if the furnace breaks at 2 AM? Who do you call about leaky pipes? If you buy a home you are going to be responsible for everything from interior repairs to lawn maintenance and much more. Not only does this take up a lot of your time, but it also costs quite a bit of money. Even if you move into an apartment you will find yourself spending time on maintenance. When you live at your parent’s home, you may be called upon to help out from time to time, but you won’t be solely responsible for upkeep.

Final Word

Don’t give in to peer pressure! If you have the option to stay at home a while longer, seriously consider taking it. As long as you are using the time wisely and working toward a better life, there is no shame in living with your parents.

Did you live with your parents as an adult? What were you able to accomplish because of it?

6 Tips for Finding a Good Mechanic Who Won’t Break the Bank

finding a good but cheap mechanicFinding a mechanic that you can rely on isn’t easy. While there are undoubtedly some great mechanics out there, knowing who to trust can be difficult, and making the wrong decision can be costly.

Here are 6 tips for not getting stung when you need a mechanic:

1. Stay Local
When deciding where to take your vehicle, you have three main choices: a big national auto chain, a dealership, or a local mechanic. At an auto chain or dealership, you’ll find mechanics who are particularly skilled at working with your make of car, but this comes with an inflated price tag in most cases. With a local mechanic, you’ll often get more personalized service as well as lower prices, and will be able to have much closer contact with the mechanic who is actually doing the work on your car.

Moreover, because local mechanics rely on a good reputation and positive word-of-mouth to bring in new customers, there’s a much bigger incentive for them to perform quality services and gain your trust. They won’t develop long-term relationships with customers if they sneakily add on extra jobs to bump up the final bill, so it’s in their interest to play fair. Dealerships and national auto chains are less reliant on this type of relationship, so they’re not as bothered if you don’t use them again. That’s not to say that all dealerships and big auto chains are necessarily out to sting you, but one of the disadvantages of going to a dealership for a service is the strong emphasis on getting maximum profits rather than looking to build relationships with customers. They are more about quantity than quality.

If you decide to go the local mechanic route, ask around and see if any particular names come up multiple times. If you notice the same mechanic being recommended by different people, that’s probably a great place to start.

2. Check their Reputation and Affiliations
Once you’ve got a name or two to go on, head over to the Better Business Bureau website to see what kind of reviews a particular garage has received. You might also want to take a look at the Mechanic Files tool on the Car Talk website. You can search for mechanics in your area (including those who specialize in particular makes) and see what ratings they’ve been given. Ratings on this site are based on factors such as how much they charge, how quickly you can expect them to complete work on your car, how trustworthy they are, and their level of skill and competency.

It’s also a good idea to check their affiliations. Is the repair shop affiliated with the likes of the American Automobile Association (AAA), the Automotive Service Association (ASA), or the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). It’s no guarantee of trustworthiness, but it may indicate that the mechanics have received a certain degree of training or that the repair shop has demonstrated acceptable levels of ethics.

3. Do Your Homework
If you’ve got some idea of what might be wrong with your vehicle, you’re less likely to be seen as a potential victim who can be walked all over by the mechanic. Doing some background research on the potential causes of your problem can give you a rough idea of what you should be spending, and it will allow you to speak intelligently with the mechanic.

4. Get the Quote in Writing
Once you have your quote, get written confirmation so that the price can’t be jacked up on you. This also reduces the likelihood of finding adds-ons tacked onto the bill for work that wasn’t part of the original quote.

5. Gut Check: Do they Seem Legit?
Are the prices prominently displayed? Is it easy to find information on the warranty terms? A good mechanic will have this kind of information on display so that customers will not be confused. You’re right to be wary if you don’t see evidence of this!

Are you given any alternative options to reduce your bill, or are you just given the one solution? Depending on the problem that brought you to the mechanic in the first place, there may be more than one way to fix it, and some options will undoubtedly cost more than others. It can’t hurt to ask!

Are you allowed to stay and watch while work is performed on your car? If they don’t have anything to hide, there shouldn’t be a problem with you waiting around to assess the situation.

6. Are Problems Resolved?
If you do run into problems, you can learn a lot from how the situation is handled. An honest mechanic will want to resolve the problem as quickly as possible and retain your business rather than run the risk that you’ll warn others against using them. How they handle any unexpected obstacles is a telltale sign of the shop’s dependability and quality.

Final Word
What are your tips for finding a good mechanic that can be relied on without having to pay a small fortune? On the flip side, how can you tell if a mechanic is going to be a nightmare to work with? As always, I’d love to get your thoughts on the subject!

(photo credit: Alan Vernon)

Christmas on a Budget

The holiday season has officially begun with the hustle and bustle of retail shopping, pulling the boxes of decorations from the garage, and families planning their seasonal meals (now if California would just drop below 78° so I could light the fireplace).

But are you nervous about spending money during the holidays? Well, if so, you are not alone. While retail sales are showing a promising sign this year, it’s my gander that people are putting a more conscientious thought into their purchases. It just means there is a frugalite in training – taking that hard earned money and finding the best buy.

A frugal holiday can still be high in cheer if you think like a pioneer, plan the holiday budget, instill some frugal fun, research some great sales and take up that free shipping. Yup, free shipping! Read all the way down for details. Check out my giant holiday post.

Pioneer Christmas

How do you have a real frugal Christmas? Think back to how our Old West ancestors celebrated – with a Pioneer Christmas.

Taking the consumerist out of the season is not easy. I really had to consider this one. With everyone so geared to opening retail gifts, is it possible to have an enjoyable simple holiday with our loved ones?

Well, I am willing to try! Here are some tips to bring you back to the roots of celebration:

  • Cooking all day. There is nothing better than having the family cook a great big meal together. It’s especially great at my aunt’s house because we cook Filipino, Mexican and a traditional American meal.
  • Use natural materials found anytime of the year, such as evergreens, pinecones, holly, nuts, and berries. The great Adirondack Christmas – simple, natural, and cozy.
  • Decorate the tree with ribbon, yarn, berries, popcorn or paper strings, and homemade decorations. Sounds like a great craft for the children to string popcorn or berries! My daughter and I are making colorful paper chains this year.
  • Give gifts of jam, preserved fruits and vegetables. If you are a crafty, make gifts of dolls, sachets, knitted scarves and hats. Gift making was a craft that lasted through the year in the pioneer days. Since I have not been so crafty this year, the farmer’s market and craft fairs will make a great place to stock up on gifts with love. Time to ponder on next year’s gift giving list.
  • Sing carols with friends and family around the Christmas tree or fireplace. I remember as a child, we used to take hayrides around the neighborhood to sing Christmas carols. What fun! Does anyone do that anymore?

Christmas Budget Worksheet

You may start realizing, as Christmas dawns, that you forgot to get a gift for Aunt Sallie or Uncle Bob. If you don’t plan accordingly, the holiday “forget me’s” can’t wreck serious havoc on your finances. Save the stress and have a merry holiday by using the Christmas Budget Worksheet by Simple Living.

Advent Calendar

With all the hard work that goes into preparing for the holiday. Make it shine each day with opening a small give from the advent calendar. Yes, even adults can enjoy a bit of chocolate or a script of love.

Last year, I finally remembered to buy my daughter an advent calendar before they were sold out. Trader Joe’s sells a great chocolate candy advent calendar every year. But, I wanted to craft an advent calendar so I could have to take out each year. So, bring a bit of frugal happiness to a person each day in December by creating a matchbox advent calendar. Those small pieces of left over scrapbooking paper or gift wrap now have a purpose!

Five unique ways to make and display them:

 

Plan a Christmas Dinner on a Budget

Whether you plan to host a few friends or a large gathering of family members, planning a Christmas dinner requires some thought, and a little creative shopping. Fear not. Following these tips will allow you to plan a Christmas dinner on a budget.

  • Host a potluck. Big gatherings can be expensive. Especially when everyone has a hearty holiday appetite. To stay in budget, our family hosts a potluck. The hosting family will provide the main course – usually a turkey or ham. Then family members will bring all the side dishes and desserts. It works out great, as there are always tons of left overs to take home.
  • Change the main course. A traditional thanksgiving dinner may not always the frugal choice. Consider mixing up the menu to fit within the budget. Most people will welcome the change. With my family, there is no shortage of ethnic flare.When it comes to holiday gatherings we have lumpia, enchiladas, mochi, adobo, sashimi, and a traditional turkey dinner (p.s. I have a large family and that sashimi is fresh, as my uncle is an avid fisherman).
  • Check out your cupboards. Plan your side dishes by checking out your cupboards. If you have a can of green beans, a green bean casserole could be a start. Or a can of chickpeas, you can easily make hummus for a starter. Then start looking at your grocer’s sale ads to start saving on the other necessary ingredients.

Free Shipping Day 2010

On Friday, December 17, an estimated 1,000+ participating merchants will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve. Check out Freeshippingday.com for more details.

Free shipping day isn’t the only perk. Did you know you can score unadvertised specials from 40 Merchants?

I am so happy to be able to share these unadvertised specials with you. Because fewer people know about the sale, Freeshipping.org betters their chances of closing the deal at cut-rate prices.

(Credits: freeshippingday.com, legendsofamerica.com, and inspireco)

10 Thrift Store Halloween Costume Ideas

The official countdown to Halloween has begun! With parties and trick-or-treating around the corner, its time to find that original costume, and what a better place than your local thrift store?

It’s amazing what you can find at the thrift stores during Halloween. Many stores, like the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores set up an area of the store specifically for second hand Halloween merchandise. They even offer consultants to help you piece a costume together!

Plus, it is a frugalite’s dream – buying local, recycling, very budget friendly – with a little creative thinking you can have a field day finding a great costume for Halloween.

To help you get the creative juices flowing here are 10 Thrift Store Halloween Costume Ideas:

Gypsy

Find two loose fitting skirts to layer, a large white shirt and a shawl or scarf. Find any kind of gaudy, large or flashy costume jewelry such as big hoop earings, bracelets and beads are good and you have just created a gypsy costume.

Bride of Frankenstein

A great classic Halloween costume is the Bride of Frankenstein. All you need to buy is white formal or wedding gown from the thrift store. Then finish the look by teasing the hair up, spraying stipes of white on both sides of the hair and adding some dramatic make-up.

Dr. Killjoy

Become a depraved medical practicioner who works in the Asylum. This costume requires a pair of scrub and a lab coat. Accessorize with a medical face mask, lots of fake blood on the outfit and large fake shot.

Princess

Thrift stores are always stocked cheap prom dresses. Adorn the look with cheap costume jewelry and a tiara. Need princess shoes? Paint a pair of shoes with silver, glittery paint.

Pirate

Shiver Me Timbers! This costume can be made by a pair of jean cutoffs, a striped pullover shirt, an eye patch made out of black fabric and a red bandana. Look in the costume jewelry case for a big clip-on hoop earring. Enhance the look with pirate lingo – check out Pirate Speak: How to Talk Like a Pirate

80s Prom Queen

Thrift stores make it easy to find formal dresses adorned with giant bows, sequins galore, puffy sleeves, layers of lace and bubble skirts. To be an 80s prom queen you will need the tackiest prom dress, lots of costume jewelry, the biggest, crunchiest hair, and the brightest eye shadow to complete this look.

The Mother-in-Law

Mud masks and wearing curlers was popular with the women many years back. You just need to grab a bathrobe, throw on a pair of bath slippers, pin some rollers in your hair, and apply a mud mask. Halloween costume in comfort. If you prefer not to wear a bathrobe, find a pair of polyester pants with an elastic waist band and a tacky floral print blouse.

Zombie

This is a great inexpensive costume. Pick up a suit and shirt you don’t mind getting messy. Tatter and tear the suit to make it look worn, a white face and black circles for the eyes will make any person look dead, and smear fake blood across body to complete the look. Women can dress it up with a thrift store prom dress.

Tourist

There is always Hawaiian shirts available at a thrift store. Pair that with some khaki shorts, some colorful, large sunglasses, a sun hat, and an old camera to go trick or treating as a tourist. To enhance the look a streak of white make-up on your nose to look like you are preventing a sunburn and where some knee high socks.

This costume can also be changed up to look like a geeky nerd. Just omit the hat and camera, add black rimmed glasses with tape in the middle, and a pocket protector.

Steampunk

Steampunk is the Victorian era meets tech – think of the movie Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Men can dress it up with wool suits, top hats, long button up shirts, cargo pants with lots of pockets, vests, belts, and a pocket watch. Ladies can wear gowns, layered skirts with big belts, button up blouses, vests, metal jewelry and flight hats. What makes the steampunk is a pair of flight goggles – to do so the frugalite way – paint a pair of swim goggles gold.

Do you have a favorite costume put together from thrift store finds? Or have another great idea to share?

(Photo credit: Kitty-Mutant via Deviant Art)

Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Cranberry, and Pecans

A vegan inspired “stuffing” for Thanksgiving (or anytime of the year).

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about mindful eating, sharing recipes, and pretending I can cook. Oh ya, pretending I can take food pictures, too.

And if you are vegan – you’ll be happy to know this recipe is 100% vegan. This is my test recipe for an upcoming family gathering. You see, when our families get together for the holidays, my aunties opt me in to, “bring a green salad”. Granted, I make awesome mixed green salads – filled with cranberries, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, sprouts, purple onions, seasonings, the list goes on. But who wants to always bring the salad? That’s like being the designated soda person.

I wanted this year to be different. Flipping through my cookbooks and paging the web, I found this delicious Autumn inspired vegan dish, Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Cranberry, and Pecan ‘stuffing’. It reminds me of a stuffing. In fact, if you want to be ultra creative, you could stuff this wild rice mixture into halved acorn squashes and roast them for 25 mins or so at 400 degrees. It would make for a pretty plate.

Ya! totally bad lighting. Where’s the daylight when you need it?

Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Cranberry, and Pecan
adapted from Tasty Palettes

Ingredients

1C wild rice mix
2C butternut squash, cubed
2/3 C pecan, chopped
½ C white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 carrot, sliced thin
1 stalk celery, sliced thin
1 Tbl thyme, fresh
½ C dried cranberries
1 pinch Red Pepper flakes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt
Pepper

With a French accent, repeat, “Mise en place” or Putting in Place. It means to prepare your ingredients before you start cooking. Measure, wash, chop, cut, and place ingredients in individual bowls. I love this step before cooking. Like pulling off the fresh Thyme leaves by pinching the stem with your fingers and railing up so the leaves fall off. Or chopping the celery in thin slices. It my mini-therapeutic Zen session. Weird, I know.

Wish I had a better pic of the Thyme and red pepper flakes together. It reminded me of Christmas with the red and green. Holidays on the mind.

Directions

  1. Steps 2 and 3 take similarly the same amount of time to complete. Prepare these steps at the same time.
  2. Heat Oven 400 degrees. Place cubed butternut squash on a sheet pan. Roast for 30-35 minutes.
    Roasting the squash gives the dish a delectable taste due to the it caramelizing. Alternatively, you could steam the squash for 15 minutes or boil it in water for 10 minutes.
  3. Cook the Wild Rice. One cup of wild rice, add 2 – 2½ cups of water and a dash of oil. Bring to a boil. Then turn heat down to medium-low and cook until water has been absorbed. About 40-45min.
  4. After the rice and squash are cooked. Heat a wide skillet on medium-low. Gently toast chopped until aromatic. Watch carefully that they do not burn. About 1 min. Transfer nuts to board and reserve.
  5. Turn heat up to medium-high, add oil, and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent and soft. Add celery, carrot, and red pepper flake and stir-fry for a three minutes. Then add cooked rice, squash, thyme, cranberries and pecans. Add salt and pepper to chef’s taste, toss to combine. Pair with a green salad. Enjoy!

Oh ya, I said to pair it with a green salad. Well, looks like I’m bringing the salad, too! The dish? It is rather tasty. I almost forgot to add the salt and pepper. Geesh on me. But enhanced the flavor of the dish right at the end. It’s a good tasting dish. And I look forward to the flavors developing even more overnight.

Frugal New Parents – What to Buy For a New Baby

essential baby itemsProspective and new parents often rush out to buy everything that a baby could possibly want or need even though this isn’t practical if you’re on a budget. Even if this isn’t the case for you, things that you buy still may not ever be used and can turn out to be a big waste of money. Note that I won’t be listing absolutely every item that you could feasibly need/want – think of it more as a list for those who want their new baby to be fully kitted out without going overboard on the spending front.

Sleeping Essentials

  • Crib/Moses bed/Travel cot. The baby will obviously need somewhere to sleep but new parents often disagree on the form that the sleeping arrangements should take. This one is probably a matter of personal choice.
  • Bedding. Whatever type of bed you choose, you’ll need blankets and sheets for bedding. A waterproof mattress is also advisable.
  • Baby monitor. It’s not realistic to be with your baby every second of the day so you’ll need a baby monitor to be able to keep tabs while you’re in another room.

Changing Essentials

  • Changing mat. Technically speaking this isn’t strictly an absolute essential. Many new parents just use the floor instead but a changing mat can be useful to prevent you from having to keep bending down to the floor every time a baby needs changing. To protect your back, you may consider this to be a necessary item.
  • Diapers/Diaper bags/Diaper ointment. These are self-explanatory so I won’t go into details on this one!

Transportation

  • Stroller. This one is pretty self-explanatory for when you’re traveling on foot. Until your baby is old enough to support its head by itself, you’ll need a stroller that reclines. This can be one of the most expensive purchases you’ll make for a new baby.
  • Car seat. If you’ve got a car and are planning to take the baby out and about in it, a car seat is a must. This is one area not to be skimped on – you don’t want to put your baby’s safety at risk. Ideally, look for one with top-notch safety reviews for piece of mind.
  • Baby sling. Even if you’ve got a car, there might be situations when you don’t want to travel this way and a baby sling can be an ideal way to transport a small baby on foot if a stroller would be too much hassle to set up and maneuver.

Feeding Essentials

  • Sterilizer/Feeding bottles/Bottle brush. This comes down to whether you’re going to be breastfeeding or using formula milk. If it’s the latter, you’ll need feeding bottles and a sterilizer.
  • Nursing bras/Nursing pads/Nipple cream. If you’re going to be breastfeeding, these items can make it easier. Baby/parenting websites often advise having at least six nursing bras.

Clothing

Most new parents receive a lot of baby outfits from friends and family so you may be able to get away with buying predominantly essentials like:

  • Babygros (somewhere between six and eight is recommended)
  • Bodysuits (again, six to eight is recommended)
  • Vests
  • Hat
  • Coat
  • Booties/Socks
  • Mittens

If you’re not lucky enough to be helped out in the clothing department, you’ll also need:

  • One-piece outfits
  • One-piece pajamas
  • Fleece outfits for winter

Optional Items

If you can borrow these items from friends, do so as chances are that your baby won’t need them for too long. For this reason, you probably won’t want to buy most of them brand new, especially if money is already tight.

  • Moses basket
  • Newborn clothing
  • Baby bath
  • Baby bouncer

Buying Tips

If money isn’t plentiful, you may not be in a position to buy brand new items. You can get some absolute second-hand bargains if you want to go down this route. I would never buy things like car seats second-hand because of the safety aspect, but you can buy a lot of the items mentioned in this post second-hand if needs be. Shopping online is another alternative, because you can shop around and maybe find discounts.
What are your suggestions for preparing for a new baby if you’re on a budget?

(photo credit: jessicafm)

Keeping your Pet Safe with Spot-on Flea & Tick Control

I tried so hard for it not to happen. And many years I have been successful, but I just couldn’t keep them away this time. The fleas are popping up around around house. DRATS!

When you have a household furry friend there are many preventive measures you can take to keep the fleas away.

The EPA’s following tips may help to prevent, reduce, or eliminate flea infestations:

  • Vacuuming on a daily basis to remove eggs, larvae and adults is the best method for initial control of a flea infestation. It is important to vacuum the following areas: carpets, cushioned furniture, cracks and crevices on floors, along baseboards and the basement.
  • Steam cleaning carpets may also help as the hot steam and soap can kill fleas in all stages of the life cycle. Pay particular attention to areas where pets sleep.
  • Wash all pet bedding and family bedding on which pets lie in hot, soapy water every two to three weeks. If an infestation is severe, discard old pet bedding and replace it with fresh, clean material.
  • Flea combs are very effective tools in the suppression of adult fleas. They allow hair to pass through the tines but not the fleas, removing fleas as well as flea feces and dried blood. Focus combing on those parts of the pet where the most fleas congregate, usually the neck or tail area. When fleas are caught, deposit them in hot soapy water to kill them.
  • Consider keeping pets indoors.

The last one, riiiiggggghhhhhhttttt. Try telling my cat to stay indoors. Mr. I-Own-the-House-I-Will-Do-What-I-Want. Cody has his own Cat Door mounted in the screen (works really cool. Just watch your pet, because they start bringing their prey indoors, too. Ewww.) ;)

I do a good job keeping things clean around here. And I know when spring and summertime comes around, its vital to take a bit more precaution. But the fleas are waging the war this time and I need to stop it quick. Now its time to look into topical flea treatments, specifically spot-on products (i.e., the one that generally comes in tubes or vials and is directly applied to specific areas on the pet’s body to control fleas and ticks).

But what is the best way to safely keep your pets free of fleas when buying spot-on products?

Surely, we all have heard complaints about topical tick and flea treatments. In fact, in 2009, the EPA logged some 600 pet deaths and about 44,000 reports of harmful reactions, including skin irritation, vomiting and seizures.

So the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an advisory warning consumers who use specific types of flea and tick control products on their pets to take precautions. The advisory applied nearly 70 “spot-on” products, including Frontline and Advantage products, that contain registered-pesticides (yup, pesticides – scary stuff).

What can you do

The Natural Resources Defense Counil (NRDC) published a pocket guide to flea and tick treatments, which provides the group’s assessment of chemical used in pet pest control products along with safer alternatives.

If you do decide to use spot-on treatments, follow these safety tips when treating your pet for fleas and ticks:

  • Always read the label carefully
  • Use protective gloves when applying
  • Follow the directions exactly.
  • Monitor your pets for side effects
  • Call you veterinarian if your pet shows symptoms of illness after using a product
  • If you pet experiences a bad reaction from a spot-on treatment, immediately bathe the pet with mild soap, rinse with lots of water, and call the vet.
  • Do not apply a product to kittens or puppies.

What I did

We went to the pet store to pick out a spot-on treatment for our friendly feline(s). Sixty dollars for a 3 month supply?!?! Ouch. So we checked out the cheaper brands and compared.

Zodiac Spot On Plus: $10.99 for a 4-month supply
Contains (S)-Methoprene: 3.6%, Etofenprox 40.0%, Other ingredients 56.4%

Sergeant’s Sentry PurrScriptions: $12.99 for a 3-month supply
Contains Pyriproxyfen 2.20%, Etofenprox 55.00%, Other Ingredients 42.80%

Etofenprox was not listed on NRDC’s pocket guide (discovered after I got home). However, I thought with the chemical being in the same ‘prox’ family (as the Pyriproxyfen) I went with the first choice for three reasons, it was $2 cheaper, contained the same ingredients, and I received an extra month supply. Great deal, right? NOT!

After researching Etofenprox, I found out some disturbing information. Etofenprox is a Pyrethroid (aka permethrin). Permethrins should NOT be used on kittens or cats. I found this alarming shout out on various websites. So why do various companies, like Bio Spot, Zodiac, and Seargent’s use this pesticide in their flea products???

I discovered the answer (yes, this post is longer than intended but I had to share the info). I discovered a product performance evaluation review in regards to etofenprox and discovered it works just as well as the high priced Advantage for Cats containing imidacloprid) and FrontLine Top-Spot for cats (containing fipronil). BUT products containing permetherin (like etofenprox), while have a good range of safety on dogs, a few drops of concentrated permethrin could be lethal to a cat. The signs commonly seen with permethrin toxicity in cats include generalized tremors, muscle fasciculations, and seizures. Signs can develop within hours or may be delayed up to 48 hours.

What this means

Companies can produce a cheaper product proved to be just as effective as the top brands despite the fact its harmful to cats (but they don’t have to tell you that).

Conclusion

Shame on these companies developing such unsafe products!
Cat Owners: stay away from products containing etofenprox!
While I didn’t price out the products for dogs, if they contain etofenprox your animal is safe under directed guidelines.
Research proved to a valuable lesson.
And in this case, quality is much better over quantity.
I am returning my Cheap-O product and coughing up the $60 for Frontline Top-Spot for Cats.

Another Option: Anyone have some green friendly pet practices they use for keeping the fleas away (like using flea treats) or a eucalyptus collar?

Private School: Worth Your Money?

A guest post by Trish of Simple in France.

Would you pay $8,000 a year to send your child to private school? According to the Council for American Private Education (http://www.capenet.org/facts.html), that’s the average tuition at a K-8 private school. Assuming tuition doesn’t go up during your child’s schooling, you’re looking at an average of $64,000 for 8 years. And don’t let the averages fool you—some private schools cost quite a bit more.

I know the value of education. I myself am a teacher by trade. Before moving to France from Southern California, my husband and I both worked in a number of excellent (public and private) schools. Still, if you’re considering investing in a private education for your child—I’m sure you want to make sure your money is well spent.

The most important question you can ask yourself in considering private education is: “Is this school worth it for my child?” The answer will vary. Here are some points to consider:

Qualifications of teachers: Academics often argue that a teacher’s ability has more to do with learning than any other factor (including small class sizes, use of technology or specific textbooks . . .). If you want to make sure your child receives an excellent education, research a potential school’s teachers, their qualifications, their backgrounds and even what other parents and students think about them.

I’ve worked in public schools with stringent hiring practices, enticing teacher salaries and top-notch teachers. I’ve also seen private schools that employ teachers without credentials and at a 30% lower salary than their public school counterparts—some of the teachers at these schools were, in fact excellent. Others were mediocre at best.

Individualized Instruction/ Low Student to Teacher Ratio: Having taught in public schools with class sizes as large as 36-40 and private schools with class sizes from 10-20, I’ve experienced the difference. A given teacher can provide more individualized attention per child with smaller groups, and I personally feel that the outcome would be better in a smaller class—provided the teacher of the smaller class is as qualified and competent as the teacher in the larger class.

Once again, however, I would not assume smaller class sizes. Before sending your child to private school, ask about the school’s limit for class sizes.

Safety and Security: This would be my number one reason for considering private school if I had children. I’ve worked in plenty of perfectly save public schools . . . and one or two that were downright violent. I personally would spend the extra money to keep a child safe.

That said, when you consider paying extra to send your child to private school, be sure to take a tour of the campus and check out the safety of the campus for yourself. And don’t overlook perfectly safe public school alternatives.

Social Life and Social Skills: Private schools with their small class sizes can allow some children to bloom in terms of social skills. Students will get to know others faster. They will often find themselves with a close-knit group of friends. However, when small class sizes throw children together who do not get along, private schools can be very unforgiving. Putting your child in private school does not necessarily mean he or she will get along better with peers, in fact, minor social problems can be exacerbated in smaller schools.

Resources for Students with Special Needs: Public schools are required by law to provide services for students with special needs such as learning disabilities, ADHD, deafness etc. Often, it is possible to find public schools with staff trained to assist students with special needs on site. This may not be the case in private schools where parents may need to seek aid from specialists on their own.

Do you or would you send your child to private school? The answer to that question most likely has something to do with the factors I discussed above. It also may have to do with cultural or religious opportunities provided by a given school. Regardless, your experience and your child’s experience is likely to be a unique one.

Trish is the author of the Simple Life in France, a blog describing a duo who moved from California to the countryside of France to escape the rat race. Where the two survive on one income by maintaining a simple, frugal, and sustainable life together.