Dear PTO: Just Stop. Please.

When my oldest was in kindergarten, I was gung-ho about joining the PTO. I aspired to be like those moms that were always at the school and always knew what was going on… I was ready to volunteer (even though I had two younger kids) and I was pumped.

Then I got a glimpse into the seedy underbelly of the elementary school PTO. Can you say bitches? It was like a real-life version of Mean Girls. The blessed few that made up the board were making some really bad decisions that impacted the entire school. They were the chosen ones that determined which fundraisers would even be discussed, let alone done. (Spoiler alert, I can make a pie for a whole lot less than $17 and there’s a snowball’s shot in hell that I’m going to buy any more scented candles.) There’s zero variation in fundraisers from year-to-year and quite frankly, they suck. In addition to fundraisers, they would choose the school photographer.

This year, the bitch brigade made a very bad decision. Some wanna-be mom with too much time on her hands suggested switching from the very reasonably-priced photographer the school normally uses to Lifetouch. Fricken Lifetouch.

Why would ANYONE want to switch to a “photographer” with a reputation for horrible pictures and extortionary prices is beyond me. When I voiced my opinion that they had board the train to crazy town by picking that photographer, I was told that I can buy 4 wallets online for only $9! Are you kidding me? $9 for 4 wallets? I used to be able to get a decent package of pictures for $21! And that included an 8×10! The best I can do now is to pay $12 for a digital file and print my own 8×10 assuming they don’t put their crappy logo on it or provide a print release.

And bad decisions like this just keep on happening. I can’t believe I ever wanted to be on the PTO. I’m making it my silent mission to screw up their meetings for the rest of the year. I’ll be the naysayer. The devil’s advocate. The one putting the seed of doubt in the other parents’ ears.

It’s going to be a fun year!

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Shameless Plug: My Bestie Joined Thirty-One

So, I think everyone that follows this blog knows how I feel about MLMs. I hate them. I think they’re generally a rip off for the person doing the selling. Beyond being a kit-napper, I don’t think there’s a ton of earning potential. HOWEVER, my bestie has joined Thirty-One (kit napper — she’s totally realistic), and she’s giving a go of it during the first 4 months when the company offers a start-swell bonus to consultants to basically persuade them to not be kit nappers… I guess it works?

Anyway, if you’ve never heard of Thirty-One, it’s a brand of totes, handbags, wallets, accessories, jewelry and more. ¬†They offer seasonal prints and really high-quality craftsmanship. I’ll say it — I love Thirty-One’s products. What I don’t love is the above average price tag. Consultants take in 25% from the get-go, so prices are basically inflated by 25% to make up for that. If you’re all about small businesses and empowering women, that might not bother you too much. They’re a pretty innovative company and a lot of their things are replicated by cheap brands such as Mainstays, but it’s never as good as the original.

With that being said, if you’re in the market for purses, wallets, totes, home organization supplies, scarves, jewelry, etc. please check out my friend’s Thirty-One VIP group on Facebook and take a look. If you love it, sign up to host with her and you’ll get some amazing hostess benefits. Each month offers a different special and different hostess exclusives, so I recommend signing up for a party (yes, you can do a Facebook party) when there’s a special or hostess exclusive that you really love.

Here’s the link to her group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/277381052778320/

 

Get FREE Stuff from Very Dice

verydice

Every once in a while, I like to treat myself. More often than not, I do that by snagging a sticker book or some other planner goodie using a coupon. Unfortunately, even if I can get the sticker book for $10 or less, I often feel guilty, so I’m always thrilled to try an app that offers gift cards or freebies and that doesn’t cost anything to use.

Very Dice is my new favorite app for freebies.

It’s a dice game with a twist. Users start out with 50 free rolls if they use a friend code (need a code? Use mine — 1018348). They roll the dice and the number on the face of the dice is the number of points they get. The points add up and users can exchange points for freebies, like sticker books for their planner or hundreds of other great prizes.

What’s the catch? Rolls are few and far between. It’ll take weeks to earn your first freebie, but it won’t take a ton of effort. ¬†Just tap the screen, roll the dice and watch the points add up. Every day you get more free rolls and you can do other tasks like answer survey questions or watch videos to get more free rolls.

Sound like fun? Sign up using my friend code: 1018348 and get 50 free spins when you join! Friend codes can be entered at sign-up or right after you finish registration.

Very Dice is free to download, free to play and a lot of fun. Download it now and start earning great prizes!

Auto Inspections: A Culture of Lies

I heard recently that 38 states require some sort of yearly auto inspection. Whether that’s a safety inspection or a safety and emissions inspection will vary depending on where you live, but one thing seems to be true regardless of where you look: Lies abound.

It seems that when an individual is forced to buy something by the government, the person selling does everything they can to take advantage of the situation. In this case, people are forced to buy inspections and the people providing the inspections seem to overwhelmingly take advantage of that.

How? Well, inspections require the car to go up on a lift. The only facilities that have lifts are ones that also do auto repairs. From my experience, a good majority of those facilities will tell you something needs to be fixed in hopes that you’ll just get it done at their facility. For example, a friend recently had her car fail because 2 of the tires didn’t have enough tread. The shop offered to replace the tires at a reasonable rate on the spot so she could pass the inspection and get on her way. She didn’t think her tires were bad, but having zero power to question the authority of the shop without getting tagged with a no-drive sticker and paying the inspection fee again, she just agreed to getting the new tires. After all, she couldn’t afford to take a day off of work. Once the new tires were on, she asked to take the old tires home and the shop claimed they had already disposed of them. What? You can’t burn tires or toss them in a trash compactor, so that was just a bold-faced lie and proof that the shop had lied during the inspection to make a quick buck.

This isn’t an unusual story. The state that I live in now has cameras in the shops that are doing the inspections, but a camera on the corner of the wall can’t tell if the tech doing the inspection is lying about the tread left on a tire or whether or not he hears an exhaust leak. Sure, a shop could lose their license if a state inspector goes undercover and brings a perfectly good car in that fails, but the odds of that happening are pretty low. Furthermore, if you get your inspection done at the same place year after year or have kids with you, the inspector can probably figure out that it’s not a random spot check.

Switching to a state-run system, eliminating the no-drive stickers and giving people a more reasonable buffer to get repairs done is usually scoffed at because of the cost. So here’s my plan: Eliminate inspections in every state. It’s much too subjective and puts repair shops in a position to take advantage of low-income families that drive older vehicles. Inspections are not effective at removing truly unsafe vehicles from the roadways, so eliminating them shouldn’t have an impact on the number of accidents. It will, however, boost sales of pre-owned vehicles and help low-income families maintain employment. A win-win for everyone.

5 Tips for Selling Cars on Craigslist

The past week has been a whirlwind. My husband’s car died and it was the type of engine failure where you buy a new car rather than fix the one you’ve got. We are on a shoestring budget and couldn’t scrape together much for a replacement. In our hunt for a cheap car, we found ourselves looking at Craigslist. After scanning literally hundreds of listings for cars and looking at several, I thought I’d put together a few tips for those thinking of selling their car on Craigslist. These tips will help minimize your headaches and get your car sold faster.

1.) Post your vehicle when you plan to be home. New listings get the most views, so post your car when you’ll be around to show it to prospective buyers. Going out of town for a few days? Wait until you get back to post your vehicle. Not available Monday-Friday? Post it on Friday night and show it on the weekend.

2.) Check your messages or answer the phone. However you decide to have people get in contact with you, make sure it’s something you have access to, will check and will respond to. I’d say at least 90% of the ads we responded to either never got back to us or took more than 24 hours to respond. I know you may be flooded with interest, so go ahead and recruit someone else to help respond to messages or set up an auto response.

3.) Include all pertinent information in the ad. If you’re finding yourself flooded with messages to the point that you can’t keep up, you’ve either done a poor job of researching prices OR you didn’t include enough information in your ad. More than once I saw ads that simply had a photo and a year and said, “Contact X for more information”. That’s not acceptable. It takes 5 minutes to write a Craigslist ad. Not sure where to start? Include at least the bare minimums:

  • Year, Make & Model
  • Price
  • Mileage — don’t write 140,000 as 140 in the little form that Craigslist provides because it will screw with the search feature.
  • Any known issues (check engine light is on, needs brakes, power window won’t work, etc.)
  • Any body damage (pictures are helpful)
  • A VIN number so buyers can do a Carfax report
  • Any other important information that you may want to include such as availability to show the vehicle, issues with the tile, etc.

4.) Take new, clear pictures of the vehicle for your ad. I can’t even tell you how many photos of cars were from the wrong season, had kids or animals in them, or were just so grainy that you couldn’t really see the car. I especially liked the nighttime photos that were close-ups of the rear-view mirror or something like that. Were these people drunk when they posted the ad?

5.) Do not be misleading. If you post in your ad that the car has no problems and drives great, it should actually have no problems and drive great. There was one vehicle in particular that we were told had no problems, so we went to see it. After driving an hour to see the car, we found out that it didn’t start (needed to be jumped), had a history of not starting, had problems that would prevent it from passing a safety inspection, needed brakes, needed tires, had a very loud engine noise when driving and probably should have been in the junkyard in the sky. We were upset that we had wasted so much time and gas going up to see the car. If the owner had been straightforward, we wouldn’t have wasted our time or his. Granted, with all of those issues listed, nobody would want to see the car at the price he had it listed at. It was a parts car at best.

Basically, include pictures, include an abundance of information and be available to respond to interested buyers and to show the vehicle. Look at your ad before posting and ask yourself if YOU were looking for a car, would your ad answer all of your questions? If you went to see the car based on your ad, would you be severely disappointed?

Update on Neighbor From Hell

I haven’t updated about the neighbor from hell in quite a while and I thought today would be a good time to do so.

First, I’ll say that a fence WELL WITHIN our property boundaries was one of the best investments we ever made. We lost about 5 feet of land on all sides, but geeze it’s nice to have a physical barrier that keeps him, his guests and any town officials he has over at least a short distance from our house. Seriously folks, fences make the best neighbors.

Now that’s not to say that the fence has solved all of our problems – it hasn’t. Said neighbor is bipolar or something and every now and then he likes to be a jerk. I’m 99% sure he has a camera pointed at our back deck so he knows when we’re outside because every time we set the table for an outdoor meal, he has to mow the lawn or weed whack. Right along the fence that’s closest to the table. For hours on end. He weed whacked the same stretch of 50 feet for 3 hours the last time we attempted dinner outside. That’s not being particular about lawn care, that’s some serious effort at being a jerk. I should mention too that he also has a lawn service, so there’s no reason for him to mow or weed whack in the first place.

Then there was the time he decided to run the gas out of his snow blower next to the fence at midnight. He stopped long enough to refill it. We could have called the town on him, but we chose to be the bigger person and ignore it. We figured if we called the town it would give him some sort of justification in escalating his behavior and quite frankly, he has bought the town off in the past and I’m sure he’d just do it again.

I’ll tell you what, his behavior is annoying at times, but I just remind myself that he’s 30+ years older than I am and odds are that he’ll die first. And when he does, I’m sure hell will throw him a homecoming party.

Money Saving Tip: Double Check Dental Bills

You hear stories all the time of people being ripped off by hospitals by being charged for services they didn’t receive, but did you know the same thing happens at the dentist?

Today, I saved $100 on my daughter’s dental work with basic math skills and knowledge of my insurance coverages. $100!

Here’s what happened. When they told me that my daughter needed a cavity filled, I asked for a quote in writing. They provided one and even included my deductible in the price. I went back to have the work done and the new price was $50 more than what was originally quoted!

I questioned it. They got mad that I questioned it and tried to silence me and tell me that I was wrong and that my insurance downgraded back fillings, but I knew I was right so I stood my ground. If I were a new patient or hadn’t spent so much time on the phone with the insurance company, I might have believed them. I didn’t though, so I put up the stink and argued it. They called the insurance company and I was right!

Once that was straightened out, they re-did their calculations — and I double checked them! No shame in my game! And guess what — they were wrong again! They were still calculating my portion at the wrong co-insurance.

So, it pays to be an informed consumer. I just saved myself $100 and I cringe thinking about how many people just assume the office is always right. In my experience, they’re rarely right, so check those bills people!!

Home Depot: An Unlikely Source for Small Appliances

I took a trip to my local Home Depot this past weekend to get some funky little halogen lightbulbs for my kitchen light. They don’t sell them at Walmart, so I figured Home Depot was probably my best bet. What should have been a trip totaling under $15 quickly skyrocketed to over $100. Why? Small appliances.

Home Depot, you never fail to amaze me with your selection of random items at sometimes spectacular prices.

This week they had a display of small appliances in the lighting aisle / main aisle. They had Ninja blenders for $49, air fryers for $49, electric pressure cookers for $39, 3-pot crock pot buffets for $30 and more. It was like Black Friday pricing, but probably a little better.

I made my selections, then came home and took to the internet to see what else other stores may have. It’s July, so it’s perfectly acceptable to start looking for Christmas gifts, right? The electric pressure cookers are priced at $49.88 on Home Depot’s website, which is still pretty good since they go for $85 on Amazon. The better deals are definitely in-store, but if you don’t have time or don’t live near a Home Depot, the online prices aren’t too shabby either.

Prime Day Bust

Today is Prime Day. Amazon is boasting that they have more deals than Black Friday, with new deals being released throughout the day. Excited for the bargains, I went to their website and took a look.

What a load of junk. No, literally. Dog leashes, kindles, various supplements, yoga mats and towels. Not really any of the big-ticket items people go for on Black Friday.

If you read my Groupon review, you know that I sent back my Ninja 4-in-1. I saw that there was one on the Prime Day deals, so I took a look. Any color for $84.99 refurbished. That’s worse than Groupon where they’re currently $69.99! That’s not a deal! The same thing is true for the Instapot they have one sale. The Prime Day price is not a bargain at all compared to other sites.

So, my final ruling: Prime Day is a bust, at least, for me it is.

Did you manage to find any bargains?

My First Groupon Goods Purchase & Return: A Review of Groupon Goods

I’ve been stalking the Ninja 4-in-1 deal on Groupon and when my birthday rolled around in June, I decided to go for it. The unit arrived 9 days after I ordered it, which is a lengthy time for shipping, but ok. I opened the box and pulled it out.

My heart sank.

The cooker was severely damaged. Like much more than you would expect from a refurbished item. Most refurbished items are like new with little signs of wear. This had a huge dent on the side and the bottom didn’t fit back together properly. It looked like it fell off the back of the truck. The box was in perfect shape with a ton of extra packaging, so I know it was shipped that way. I was duped.

ninja damage

I contacted Groupon. They have a 14-day return period and this item was not excluded, so I hurried up and had them send me a return shipping label. I packaged it back into the box it came in and I sent it out the next day with the mail. The return carrier picked it up from the post office at 5am on Friday, June 30th. It’s now Saturday morning and their website still says it has not yet been received. It was. More than 24 hours ago.

I Googled the return carrier. They are known for their poor service and lengthy return times. Hooray. Way to choose a bargain-priced carrier, Groupon. One more nail in that company’s coffin as far as I’m concerned.

To add insult to injury, I left a review of the Ninja at Groupon letting others know that the unit was so damaged that I had to return it. Sort of a buyer beware warning if you will. They have rejected 4 versions of my review with no explanation as to why. I asked a chat representative if Groupon doesn’t accept 1-star reviews and she ended the chat without answering. I asked another representative the same question and they ignored it, then referred me to email support.

That leads me to believe they don’t accept 1-star reviews. My faith in Groupon was totally shattered by this transaction. I just want my money back so I can go buy a cooker from a more trustworthy site like Craigslist. Yeah, I just wrote that — I trust the weirdos on Craigslist more than Groupon.

Buyer beware.