I NEED A New Camera!

I am in desperate need of a new camera, as you can probably tell by the garbage photos I have been posting here.  I am currently using my iPhone 4 as my only camera.  It’s seriously time for an upgrade.  I mean, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, how can I NOT have a good camera! I am not a spender, and definitely not a spender of hundreds of dollars on one item.  So begins my research.

In high school, my brother Chris and I took photography together.  I had an ancient Canon camera that my mom had when she was in high school.  Needless to say, it had it’s fair share of issues.  My brother had a new Canon Rebel 35mm.  We ended up sharing his camera for the entire school year.  I liked his Canon and I am comfortable with it.  This is where my hunt began.

I checked out the Canon website to see their new cameras.  I also wanted to find a few reviews on entry-level DSLR cameras.  Clearly, I’m no Ansel Adams.  I found that the Canon Rebel T3i is exactly what I’m looking for.  It retails for $699 with a basic lens.  One thing I really like about the camera is that it can take video too.

Photo from Canon website.

Buy a Canon DSLR, Get $150 Off a Canon 75-300 Lens – 11/22-12/29 Only

Let me just put this on the table, I’m cheap.  I’m very cheap.  What to do next?  Check Craigslist, duh!  Would you know, someone is selling the same camera, brand new, with a ton of accessories and a long-range lens here in Anchorage.  The bad part… they want $900.  I actually don’t think that $900 is a bad price, but again, I’m cheap.  So I wait… and pick up spare change that I see on the ground.  One day!

New Items in Our Etsy Shop

We have a new set of financial documents available on Etsy! This set of three documents include an easy to use budget, a two-column register, and a log to list all of your bills and their due dates.All three documents come as a printable PDF.  All three documents for only $6.00!  Check it out here.

Happier With Less

A woman I work with pulled in behind me in the parking lot at work. Walking in, she asked when I got my new car.

“I’ve had it for a year now”, I replied.

“Oh, I thought you had a Lexus?”, she asked.

I told her that I did before we bought our Kia. Then she asked how I went from a Lexus to a Kia. I told her how a car seat wouldn’t fit in the backseat of the Lexus. Then I shocked her by saying that I liked my Kia better than I liked the Lexus. I also told her that I would buy another Kia before I ever bought another Lexus. She looked surprised, and I left it at that.

This conversation reminded me that I am happier with less. My
“cheaper” car has more features than my old car had. I also don’t feel like a phony driving a Kia. It was a good way to start my morning.

What Can You Buy For $1?

So what can you buy for $1. Lots of stuff if you go to a thrift store. On Saturday, before I picked Tony up from the airport, my friend Brittany and I hit up some of the good thrift stores in Tampa. I found a picture frame with a really ugly picture of a boat for $1. I really only wanted the frame, not the ugly picture. Digging a little more into the box of frames, I pulled out a digital picture frame! Yes, you read that correctly, a digital picture frame! It even had a really nice dark wood frame. And to sweeten the deal, it was only 99 cents! What! Okay, yes, it was missing the power cord, but for less than a heart attack inducing McDouble, I would take the chance that it didn’t work. I’m still hunting for a 9v AC adaptor to work with it.  I did have a 12v and I tried it and the screen came on but then went back off.  Tony thinks it will work, but it’s getting too much power.  So the hunt for the 9v adaptor continues.

Also on our trip, I found a cute dark wood basket for $1 and another picture frame for another $1. At the Goodwill in Wesley Chapel, I was peaking back in the unloading area and noticed an entire cart of baby equipment. There was a kiddie pool, a walker, and a Baby Einstein jumper. I asked the girl if they were going to be putting those things out. She went over and asked the guy that was near it. He told me that he would have to ask his manager because they normally don’t sell that stuff. WHAT?!?! He came back and said they could sell the jumper because it was in new condition. Then he said $10! $10, seriously! YES!

At the Salvation Army I found Ava two cute dresses for $3 total. One of them is Ralph Lauren and both look brand new! I feel like I can go shopping all day and buy whatever I want at thrift stores and not spend very much at all. Although, this can also be a problem. When we went to Ikea, all I was thinking was how expensive everything was! I love finding little treasures for next to nothing. And now, I have enough frames to get started on my frame wall project.

Have you found any awesome things at thrift stores recently?

You CAN Afford to Insure Your Family

While I was pregnant with Ava, Tony and I began researching our insurance options for our family. I had really good insurance through my company that the company paid for as a part of my benefits package. This was really nice while I was pregnant because I didn’t pay for any office visits. I essentially paid my deductible for her birth, which was very reasonable.

Tony had an individual policy just for himself at the time that he had before we met. Since my insurance at work was so good, we looked into adding Tony and the new baby to the insurance. I was totally shocked when they told me it would be $800 a month to add them! That was never going to happen. I had an initial freak out moment because I thought we could never afford insurance for all three of us.  As usual, Tony calmed me down and we began to shop around for individual policies for the whole family.

At my company, if you opt out of the health insurance, they pay you a small amount each paycheck. I knew that this could help pay for whatever policy we ended up going with. It wouldn’t pay for all of it, but anything helps, right? I did some initial research on the internet.  I learned really fast NOT to enter your phone number into any of the health insurance websites because they will all call you 1000 times a day trying to sell you insurance. I wanted to buy insurance, but on my time, not theirs. I found a website that lets you compare different companies and the plans they offer without entering any of your personal information, ehealthinsurance.com. I was able to get rates by entering basic information like our age and whether we smoked or not (which we don’t!). I knew that we wanted a reasonable co-pay for office visits for both our primary doctor and specialists and free preventative care, which we found!

We were able to find a policy that was affordable and has good coverage. The only thing that this plan doesn’t have is maternity coverage. This isn’t a huge deal since we aren’t planning on having another baby anytime soon. When we are ready, the option to add the coverage is there.  We applied for a policy through United Healthcare.  All of our current doctors take United, including Ava’s pediatrician, which was super important to us. 

After applying, we waited a week before we heard anything back from them.  We got an email stating that our rate was going to be higher than what was quoted since Ava is under a year old and the fact that Tony has had two surgeries within the past 2 years (knee and shoulder).  Again, I went into freak out mode.  The first thought in my mind is that the price will double, triple, or worse.  Again, Tony calmed me down and gave them a call.  The increase was only $32 a month.  Crisis averted!  They sent us an approval letter and our cards came in the mail a few days later.

After months of worrying about this, the process was relatively simple.  Ehealthinsurance.com did not pay me for this, I am just a happy customer.  Have you ever had to buy individual health insurance?  How did you go about doing it?

Tough Guys Do Laundry Too: A Mans-Man Guide to Being a House Husband

I have noticed that more and more guys are becoming stay at home husbands/dads. A lot of this has to do with the economy and a lack of jobs. I have found myself in this situation after a failed business partnership and have figured out ways to make the best of it.

One of the biggest perks to staying home is the fact that we get to save money on child care and I get to see my daughter almost every day! I am a contractor by trade and every so often I get jobs that come in that I am able to do, but my main job is a dad and a husband. Every morning I start my day off by getting Amanda’s coffee made and her lunch set up for the day. If Ava is going to her aunt’s for the day (our babysitter), I get her bags packed and everything ready to go. I have found that this takes about 30 minutes off Amanda’s wake up time and we all know “Happy wife, happy life!”

On days that I have Ava, a lot of my time is spent keeping her occupied and fed but during nap time I get stuff done around the house like laundry, dishes, get dinner started, and other household chores that need to be done. I thought in the beginning that this was no way for a man to live and that I should be providing for my family in a better way. But, we have calculated that in order for it to be worth it, I would need a job bringing about $1600-$2000 a month and right now jobs like that are few and far between! SO, in the mean time I put in about 5-8 job applications a day and hope for the best.

How many of you out there are in the same situation?

It’s That Time of Year Again

Well, it’s that time of year again: tax time. This year’s tax return was much better than last year’s (where we just got by without owing). We got our direct deposit on Friday morning and already had a plan/budget in place. We really wanted to use our return wisely.

The first thing we did was stash a bunch on it in our savings account and some into Ava’s, which makes me very happy! The next thing in line was a new computer. Our current computer is one that I bought way back in my junior year of college. It’s on its last leg. The mouse button didn’t work very well and you would have to mash it like 3-4 times before it would decide to work. Annoying! Just recently, every time you would open it and wake it up, the screen would be gray and do this weird static flashing thing. So a new computer was in order.  Tony and I have been researching computers for the past few weeks. We decided that we could get a good computer that would suit our needs for around $400. Cheap, I know! So Friday morning, after he and Ava dropped me off at work, they went to Best Buy and bought the laptop we had been looking at. He walked out paying just under $450 after tax and buying antivirus software. The only thing that would have made the deal even sweeter would have been a coupon. Ha!

The other thing we paid for is Tony’s trip to Alaska! Tony will be heading out to Alaska in a little over a week to visit his best friend, John Mark! John Mark is in the Army and is stationed in Anchorage. You are probably wondering why Tony is going alone. We decided that Ava is just too little to battle Alaska’s harsh February weather. But, we have plans! We want to go up sometime in 2013 as a family, in the warmer months for sure!

So that’s what we did with most of our tax return this year. Are you doing anything exciting with yours? Are you even getting one? I would love to hear what exciting or not so exciting things you are doing with yours.

Yes, We Only Have One Car

The Scacchi family is a one car family. You might be wondering why a family with a small child would want to only have one car. We did not become a one car family intentionally; it just sort of happened. It works for us.

I actually thought we would need to buy a second car right away when we got rid of Tony’s truck, but just having our Kia Forte has worked out great. I think it helps that I have a slightly flexible work schedule and that Tony is home most of the time during the day.

I think there is another major misconception about being a one car family. You don’t necessarily have to live in the city to get away with only one car. Tony and I live in a fairly rural town about an hour north of Orlando. Nothing is within walking distance, except a gas station and maybe the library. The closest grocery store is 3 miles away and most major shopping is 7-10 miles. I am lucky that my office is only about 8 miles away, but in the opposite direction of everything else.

I remember my mother telling me that when she and my dad first got married, they only had one car.  Why is it that having two, and sometimes three vehicles is now the norm?  I guess that some people might see it as a bit inconvenient to have only one car.  I don’t see it that way.  We just have to be a little bit more strategic than most with our planning.  I also feel like I get to spend more time with my family this way.  Every morning, if Tony needs the car during the day, he has to drive me to work.  This is an extra 10-15 minutes that I get to spend with him and Ava.

We also save a TON of money only having one car.  We only have one car payment (which I really want to pay off as-soon-as-possible!), one gas bill, one car to insure, and one car to do maintenance on.  For some families that could be like $500+ a month!  You might think that we spend more on gas for our one car than most people, but I really don’t think we do.  On average, we are only spending around $200 per month on gas, some months a little more and some a little less.  I think we will eventually get a second car, but at this point, it doesn’t seem that necessary.

Have you ever experienced being a one car family?  How did that work out?  What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about it?