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Friday, August 28, 2009

Three recalls yesterday: Hoodies, action figures, & strollers

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Quiksilver Recalls Girls’ Hoodies with Waist Drawstrings Due to Entrapment Hazard


Liquidation Outlet, Inc. Recalls Action Figure Toys Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard; Sold Exclusively at Dollar Stores - Click through for additional photos.


Baby Jogger Recalls Strollers Due to Fall Hazard - Click through for more photos.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Price Per Unit is Especially Important When You Use Coupons

This post over at A Thrifty Mom reminded me that when using coupons, calculating the price per unit is more important than ever. That's because, when you have two sizes, a coupon will have a bigger effect on the price per unit of the cheaper/smaller item.

Here's an example: Target sells single rolls of Bounty Basic paper towels for 99 cents. Using a 25-cents off coupon from the P&G insert makes the price 74 cents per roll. Last week, I used the P&G insert coupon and a 50-cents off Target coupon to make the price 24 cents per roll.

Now, let's say that there's an 8-roll pack on sale for $5.99. That makes the per roll price 74.9 cents per roll. With the P&G coupon, the price comes down to $5.74, or 71.8 cents per roll. If you only have the P&G coupon, you'd be better off buying the multi-pack. But if you have the Target coupon also, the price on the multi-pack is $5.24, or 65.5 cents per roll, meaning you get a much better deal on the single rolls.

Granted, you'd need eight of each coupon to get eight rolls for just 24 cents apiece. I usually get two sets of each week's inserts, so I usually have two of each coupon. But I've found that unless I'm in desperate need of something, I can buy enough small packages of things over the weeks and months that my family's needs are met. This may change as my boys become bigger consumers of household products, but if it does, I'll probably just get one or two extra newspapers and do more bargain shopping!

(ATM has a great example with Arrowhead water in her roundup of this week's Safeway deals.)

Previously: Why you need a price book

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Six recalls yesterday: Various blinds

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Strangulation Deaths of Children Prompt Recall to Repair of Roll-Up Blinds and Roman Shades by Lewis Hyman Inc. - Click through for close ups.


Near Strangulation Prompts Recall of Roman Blinds; Sold Exclusively at IKEA - Click through for more photos.


Near Strangulation of Children Prompts Recall of Roman Shades; Sold Exclusively at Pottery Barn Kids - Click through for more photos.


Risk of Strangulation Prompts Recall to Repair Victoria Classics Roman Shades; Sold Exclusively by Target Stores - Click through for another photo.


Risk of Strangulation Prompts Recall to Repair Roller Shades by Lutron Shading Solutions - Click through for more photos.


Strangulation Death of a Child Prompts Recall To Repair Window Blinds By Vertical Land - Click through for more photos.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Giveaway Winners: $30 Kroger Gift Card & Smelly Washer

Thank you to everyone who entered the $30 Kroger Family of Stores gift card giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

Michelle (couponf****@ymail.com)


And thank you to everyone who entered the Smelly Washer giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

Nancy C. (latejan*****@yahoo.com)

Winners, I've sent you an email, and you have 48 hours to respond with your address.

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Review & Giveaway: In Balance Mattress Topper (+ Select Comfort Sale)

IMPORTANT UPDATE 9/1/09: I omitted an important requirement/disclosure regarding Select Comfort's newsletter, so I am closing entries to this giveaway and will re-run the giveaway, starting from scratch, on 9/2/09. The new giveaway is here.

Select Comfort is the company behind the Sleep Number beds that you've seen on TV, and they're currently having their biggest sale of the year (it ends Labor Day). These beds use "uniquely designed air chambers to provide a gentle cushion of support which can be easily adjusted to your preference for comfort and firmness." You can even set the sides of the mattress on different settings if you and your partner disagree on what's comfortable. I've been thinking that we are going to need a new mattress soon, and I'm definitely going to consider a Sleep Number bed because they are supposed to relieve back pain, improve sleep, and last for 20 years.

Select Comfort wants to share these sleep tips as families get ready to go back to school:
  1. No gadgets: Minimize media-related activities like texting or games one hour prior to bedtime.
  2. No homework in bed: the bed should only be for sleeping, light reading and relaxing.
  3. Minimize light: Reduce the amount of light your family is exposed to the hour prior to bedtime. Also, minimize light in the bedroom while family members fall asleep. If you must use a nightlight, put it near the floor.
  4. Consistency is key: Maintain a consistent bedtime routine and sleep schedule all week long, even on the weekends since altering sleep schedules create jet-lag-like symptoms. Remember that sleep is not negotiable.
  5. Quality bedding: Invest in a quality mattress and accessories to keep your family comfortable.
I got to test out an In Balance Mattress Topper. I was looking forward to trying it out because it the "Outlast® fabric technology is designed to reduce the temperature swings that can cause restless nights-to help you sleep more comfortably each and every night." I liked that the polyester fiberfill features an antimicrobial agent to inhibit the growth of fungus, mold, and mildew. I'm actually not sure that I'm sleeping any better because of the mattress topper, because my sleep patterns are totally whacked right now. But the mattress topper is certainly very comfortable, and unlike our last one, doesn't get lumpy at all.

Would you like to win one? Select Comfort will give one lucky CFO reader their very own In Balance Mattress Topper. To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you may need to click through to the post to reach the form. If you're having trouble filling out the form, try going directly to the published form.)

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, follow me on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway. Then fill out the form to let me know you've done so (include the link to your update).

For a fourth entry, blog about the giveaway on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again with the link to your post.

You can enter up to four times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, September 2, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Good Financial Practices = No Financial Stress During Stressful Times

When I mentioned that our stockpile has meant that I don't need to go shopping, Mr. Credit Card pointed out an emergency fund provides peace of mind too. I hadn't thought about our emergency fund much because it's always there. In fact, so much of our finances are on autopilot that I hadn't thought much about money in the midst of the medical-induced stress.

Not surprisingly, then, during the current medical crisis, money hasn't been a source of stress - even though we've been spending significantly more on fast food and toys.

I haven't seen anything on the actual medical costs yet. I expect them to be substantial, but I don't have to worry about our ability to pay them. Because we've had good financial practices in place for years - namely, good health insurance, a flexible spending account with wiggle room, and a solid emergency fund - there should be more than enough money to pay the bills.

(Which isn't to say that I'm not interested to get the explanation of benefits statement from our insurance company, because I'm very curious to see how much a three-day hospital stay can cost. Not to mention three trips to the ER and an ambulance ride!)

Previously: How much should you contribute to a Flexible Spending Account?

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Meet my Blogroll: Baby Cheapskate

If you have young children, I hope you're already acquainted with Baby Cheapskate – it was one of the first blogs I started reading, and I think it's a must-subscribe blog for any parent with young kids. I'm actually a little sad that I – or my kids, rather – are outgrowing BC, because it's been such a fabulous resource on all kinds of baby-related deals.

Angie has a super handy spreadsheet that every parent who buys diapers ought to memorize (or at least keep a copy of in their wallet) – it lists the target price of diapers by brand and size. Unless you're using cloth diapers, this is vital information that will save you hundreds of dollars through your child's first three years or so.

In addition to diaper deals, Angie keeps me up to date on the latest sales and bargains on baby and kid-related products. Right now, I'm keeping an eye on BC for car seat deals (I'm looking to buy a couple more Nautilus seats in the near future, and Angie tells me I might be able to find a good deal in September). You'll also find updates on stroller markdowns, photo deals, and more.

After you check out Baby Cheapskate, head over to Freepeats.org, which is kind of like Freecycle but for baby and children's products only. There's a nominal membership fee of $1, but you'll get it back after you post two offers. And residents of San Diego and Birmingham (AL) can join for free this week!

And if you're a blogger, be sure to check out Angie's other project, BlogCoach, for tips and info to help you maximize your blog.

Previously: Meet other blogs on my blogroll

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Deciding how much to share

I think every blogger struggles at some point over how much information to share. If a blog is public, anyone can read what's published. And once it's out there, you can't take it back. Even if you un-publish something, it might be cached, or quoted, or at least indelibly etched in someone's memory.

Since day one of this blog, I've tried to err on the side of caution, and not publish anything I might later regret. There are times when I've been unsuccessful, but for the most part, I think I've done a good job of protecting my family's privacy. I particularly don't want the day to come, five or ten or fifteen years from now, when one of my boys is furious with me for something I innocently revealed.

This is all a roundabout explanation of why I've been so mysterious about our medical crisis. I don't want to go into details simply because I don't want to compromise my children's privacy - now or in the future. But I did want to explain why I'm not sharing details, since I know I'd be curious if it one of the bloggers I read every day was so oblique. And I sincerely appreciate all of the kind thoughts and prayers. They truly mean a lot!

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Trust your parenting instincts – they're probably right!

I mentioned yesterday that we had an important medical appointment, but what I didn't mention is that the evening prior, we got a call from the nurse, essentially saying (reading between the lines) that the specialist didn't think he needed to be involved and our regular pediatrician ought to be able to handle the follow up. It was certainly surprising and frustrating, although after the initial shock and irritation, I realized that what really mattered yesterday were the actual test results and not the specialist's input – particularly if the results were positive.

But I found myself unwilling - even unable - to let the specialist write us off completely. I asked if we could be rescheduled for next week – in the nicest, most reasonable way I could, because I do strongly believe that being nice will always get you more than being nasty, even when you have a right to be angry. The end result was that we were told we could make an appointment with the nurse practitioner, and maybe the specialist would also see us.

It turns out my instincts were right on. Most of the test results were positive, but there was one negative result that needs to be monitored. By the specialist.

And I realized that, ever since that first night in the ER, when I understood that my job was to be my child's advocate, that I have had to advocate almost every step of the way. Each time I think my job is pretty much done, something comes up that requires me to take that role again.

What I didn't realize at first was that being an advocate is exhausting. In retrospect, it should have been obvious. My good friend B. has spent countless hours advocating for her child, who's been diagnosed as high-functioning autistic. I cheered her on from the sidelines as she cajoled, negotiated, and demanded the plan that was in his best interests, and refused to settle for anything less. And I understood at the time that it was mentally and emotionally exhausting for her to do that.

What I've now come to realize is that being an advocate is also a privilege. I love my children so much, and it really is an honor to be able to stand up for them and make sure that they are getting the absolute best care possible. I wouldn't trade my role for anything!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Two recalls yesterday: Dolls & books

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Weight Watchers Recalls Plush Hungry Figures and Magnets Due to Puncture Hazard


Cloth Books Recalled by Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. Due to Strangulation Hazard - Click through for an additional photo.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

One recall yesterday: Bike trailers

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Burley Design Recalls Child Trailers Due to Risk of Injury - Click through for a close-up.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why So Many Coupons?: Coupon Stacking and Credit Card Stacking - Don't feel guilty

This is a guest post by Mr Credit Card. He saw my article on the ethics of stacking coupons and wanted to share his thoughts on them, and they're very thought-provoking. Definitely check out his site before you apply for a credit card, because it's chock-full of useful info to help you decide on the card that's right for you.

A few weeks ago, Cathy wrote a post about the ethics of coupon stacking. At the time, I was reading a book calledWhy Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies: And Other Pricing Puzzlesby Richard B McKenzie. Chapter 5 was all about the economics behind supermarket and manufacturers coupons. I had thought about writing a review of this chapter on my own blog but thought this would be a better place since Cathy brought up the stacking and ethics issue.

Here is the outline of today's post: I'm going to go through and summarize the chapter about the economics of coupons and I'm going to share some ideas of how savvy credit card holders use the "stacking strategy" as well. I'll then conclude with my thoughts about the ethics of coupon stacking. So let's get started.

Coupons are seldom used? - To anyone who reads coupon or mommy blogs or Chief Family Officer for that matter, this might seem a little ridiculous. But as a matter of fact, very few coupons are actually used. Here are some of the stats:
  • In 2006, redemption rate on coupons were a meager 0.8%.
  • Redemption rate for peel-off and on-shelf coupons is pretty high, sometimes as high as 50%!
  • The author then posed the question as to why do manufacturers give discount. The two common explanations given by economist are price discrimination and peak load pricing.
Coupons and price discrimination - As a backdrop, price discrimination allows the seller to earn more profits by charging multiple prices for the same product to consumers with different price sensitivities than they would if they charged just one fixed price.

While those who use coupons think they are getting a great deal, the sellers, by using coupons, can actually charge a higher price to price insensitive buyers. By going through the trouble of actually researching and cutting coupons, price sensitive buyers declare themselves as such. They also indicate that their opportunity cost of time is not high (they have time to go through the whole coupon research thing). But they also reveal that the other buyers who do not bother with coupons are price insensitive, have higher opportunity cost and can be charged a higher price relative to those who cut coupons. According to studies, about half of the unit products with coupons pads just below the products are bought by folks who do not bother peeling off the coupons at check outs!

The author also goes on to say that coupons are used to

  • draw attention to ads
  • create market buzz - especially with free trials
  • create future buying by tying the coupon to future purchases

  • Coupons and Peak load pricing - According to the author, coupons also allow for another type of price discrimination called peak load pricing. Groceries and supermarkets are most busy during the late afternoons and early evenings. During this time, shoppers are usually coming from work and are relatively price insensitive. Those who shop mid morning are more likely to have no jobs or perhaps are stay at home moms. They tend to be more price sensitive and have more time for research. Coupons are a way to cut prices for these price sensitive shoppers. Hence, in the big scheme of things, coupons separate the price sensitive coupon cutter mid morning shopper from the price insensitive evening shopper. By doing so, they also spread the "load" of the supermarket and ensures that a smaller number of check out staff can service the same given number of customers.

    Once you understand the logic behind why coupons are issued by manufacturers, it stands to reason that groceries and supermarkets should also give out coupons on top of what the manufacturers give. This way, it enables them to further refine the process of price discrimination.

    Economics of Information: some observations about coupons - According the "economics of information school," prices can vary among products in different markets for a variety of prices. Here are some typical observations.

  • The greater the size of the market (both geographic and number of products), the greater the dispersion of prices - therefore if you live in a large state, it always pays to do more research
  • The more the buyers spend on the goods, the more incentive they have to search for the lowest price and hence lower price dispersion
  • The greater the repeat purchase, buyers search more for lower prices and prices dispersion is lower.

  • As you can see, manufacturers have a purpose in mind when they issue coupons, and so do stores. Right now, let me give you some examples of credit card stacking (my area of expertise):

    Credit Card Stacking as a couple - Yes, one way to really get great deals is to stack up your credit cards as a couple. The best example I can think of is for a couple to get identical cards for airline miles bonus promotions. Let's take the Delta Skymiles credit card as an example. Their platinum card offers a 20,000 bonus miles for signing up and you will get it after your first purchase. If both partners get cards, they will get 40,000 bonus miles. This can be done with any card that offers a great reward point sign up bonus. My wife and I just got a pre-approved offer from Capital One with a 25,000 bonus miles sign up! We could simply get both!

    Here's another example of stacking by getting two identical cash back credit cards: Chase used to have the Chase Freedom card, which at one stage, offered 3% rebates on the highest spending categories among the 15 categories that were eligible. Examples of these types of expenses include gasoline spending, supermarket, drugstores, restaurants, utilities etc. Well, guess what did savvy couples do: They got 2 cards, carefully split their spending on the card based on the expenses and earned 3% rebates on 6 categories rather than 3! That's a double stack! (Note: you can further triple stack your manufacturer's coupon with store coupons and charging it to a cash back credit card!)

    Here's another example: Some folks get gas credit cards that give 5% rebates on gas and just use the cards for gas and nothing else. These cards have no annual fee and so if the card holder pays in full each month, they will earn a 5% rebate. And credit card companies lose because even the merchant fee cannot cover 5%! They use their other cards for non-gas purchases. Right now, most gas credit cards put a cap on how much rebates you can earn from gasoline spending.

    Arbitraging credit card deals - Just 2 years ago, credit card companies were falling all over themselves offering 0% balance transfer credit cards with 0% for 12 months and no balance transfer fees. Well, savvy consumers used these cards to refinance their home equity line of credit. Some even took their deals and invested them for one year at an online bank like HSBC Direct, which back then paid 5% interest! Borrow at 0%, get paid 5% - not a bad deal. But the savvy folks who played this game did not use the card after the introductory period ended! The credit card issuers thought that offering 0% deals would be like offering teaser rates on cable TV and that customers will stick around. The problem for them is that it's easy not to use a credit card if you do not want to, but more inconvenient to actually cancel a cable installation! Hence, most credit card issuers did not make anything off these offers. These days, you can only get a 0% deal for 6 months and you now have to pay balance transfer fees and they do not cap it as well.

    Now let us come to the conclusion of the whole coupon stacking saga:

    Coupons provide many benefits

    The later part of the chapter spells out some of the purpose that coupons serve producers and stores:

  • Coupons make advertisement more cost effective because ads can contain price discounts.
  • Increasing consumers' awareness of discount prices fosters greater competition among manufacturers.
  • Coupons can be used by manufacturers for lower demand goods
  • Coupons can used by manufacturers close to fiscal year end to boost profits
  • Coupons allow stores to expand their customer base and engage in peak-load pricing
  • By inducing customers to shop during off-peak hours, stores can spread out the cost of plant, equipment and check out counters over more sales
  • Coupons ensure the full price is not received by everyone

  • Moral of the Story : DO NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT COUPON STACKING

    There is no reason to feel guilty about coupon stacking. Manufacturers and supermarkets know exactly what they are doing. They are segmenting the market according to price elasticity. All you are doing is:

  • identifying yourself as a price sensitive customer
  • allowing folks who do not use coupons to be charged a higher price
  • you are actually also allowing companies to make more money through price discrimination

  • From a macro economic standpoint, the "economics of information" school says coupons ensure price competition and lower prices overall than if there were no coupons. So you are doing society good by couponing and (for that matter) stacking.

    Also, while coupons have always been around, you never know what may happen in the future with the ease in which the internet allows one to search for them. If more and more people start using them, will that make it unprofitable for supermarkets and manufacturers? I guess at some point that may happen (though it seems unlikely). But look what happened in the credit card industry (i.e., the great deals that are no longer around). Moral of the story is when there is a good deal, take it, because it may not be around tomorrow!

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    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Review & Giveaway: Smelly Washer

    As you may recall, early last year, we bought a new HE washer. I still think it's a great machine, with a large capacity, and it does get clothes clean with a relatively small amount of detergent and water. Plus, the clothes come out less wet so they spend less time in the dryer.

    The thing about a front-loading washer, though, is that there's a big rubber ring around the door area, and unless it's allowed to thoroughly dry, it gets musty. We've mostly gotten in the habit of leaving the door open after the last load of the day so the insides can air dry, but sometimes the door gets shut with some water still left inside. And I immediately know when that's happened, because I can smell it.

    So when the folks over at Smelly Washer asked if I'd be interested in reviewing their washing machine cleaner, I said sure! Smelly Washer is a "the only available washing machine cleaner that will remove mold odor from any towel or clothing that has picked up bad mildew smell from the washer." It used to be known as Purewasher, but they changed the name and removed all scents or dyes to conform with all natural product standards.

    Smelly Washer is just a white powder that you run through your washer according to the directions. The most important thing, of course, is that Smelly Washer delivers. The first time I used it, I followed the directions and ran it through an empty washer. Well, I forgot to go down at the end of the cycle to open the door so the washer could air dry. I left the door closed for a couple of days, and figured I'd have to run it again with Smelly Washer to see if the stuff really worked. But when I opened the door, there was no smell! I was genuinely impressed then.

    Best of all, Smelly Washer wants to give one CFO reader the chance to win a free bottle! To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you may need to click through to the post to reach the form. If you're having trouble filling out the form, try going directly to the published form.)

    For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

    For a third entry, follow me on Twitter and tweet the following: Chief Family Officer is giving away a bottle of Smelly Washer: http://tinyurl.com/qobx42. Then fill out the form to let me know you've done so.

    For a fourth entry, blog about the giveaway on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again.

    You can enter up to four times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

    The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Monday, August 24.

    Good luck!

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    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Giveaway: $30 Kroger Family of Stores Gift Card

    Starting yesterday through September 2, the Kroger family of stores are holding their Mega Savings Event - this is the sale they have a few times a year, where you get $5 off when you buy 10 participating products and use your shopper card. I've been known to wander up and down the aisles of Ralphs, looking for some good hidden deals. You can find a list of participating stores at the Kroger site. And keep in mind that actual dates might vary - for instance, Ralphs sales start on Wednesday, so I expect the Mega Savings Event to start here on August 19.

    Participating brands include: AMP Energy, Aquafina, Betty Crocker Baking Mixes, Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks, Cascadian Farms Cereals and Bars, Cap'n Crunch, Cheerios, Cheetos, Chex Mix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Dole Juices and Juice Drinks, Fiber One, Fritos, Gatorade, Golden Grahams, Green Giant, Hamburger Helper, Life , Lipton Tea, Nature Valley, Old El Paso, Pepsi family of 2 Liters, Pillsbury, Progresso, Propel, Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Quaker Chewy Bars, Starbucks, Sobe Life Water, Totino's, Trix, Tropicana, Yoplait and more.

    Thanks to MyBlogSpark, one CFO reader will win a $30 Kroger Family of Stores Gift Card. To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you may need to click through to the post to reach the form. If you're having trouble filling out the form, try going directly to the published form.)

    For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

    For a third entry, follow me on Twitter and tweet the following: Chief Family Officer is giving away a $30 grocery gift card: http://tinyurl.com/pf5b65. Then fill out the form to let me know you've done so.

    For a fourth entry, blog about the giveaway on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again.

    You can enter up to four times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

    The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Monday, August 24.

    Good luck!

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    Friday, August 14, 2009

    Stockpiles mean not having to worry during times of stress

    During the hospital crisis, the last thing on my mind was shopping. I'll admit right off the bat that we ate a ton of take-out for about a week. But, it could have been a lot worse. Right from the start, we didn't have to buy any snacks. Snack-type foods are pretty easy to find super cheap or even free when you combine sales and coupons. So we had a lot of cookies, crackers, Pop Tarts, and such around the house that we could take to the hospital and have on hand.

    We are thoroughly stocked on nonperishables like paper goods and toiletries. So if I don't want to go shopping for a few weeks, that's okay. We're not going to run out of toilet paper or toothbrushes or shampoo. I did drag myself to CVS this week for the Huggies deal because I just opened the last package of Pullups (we seem to have raced through the packages I picked up last month at Rite Aid). But otherwise, I could easily not go shopping and not run out of anything important for at least three months, and maybe much longer.

    And that's the beauty of stockpiling when things are cheap or free with coupons and sales: You don't need to stress when times are tough.

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    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Recall: Little Tikes Workshops

    If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

    Little Tikes™ Recalls Children’s Toy Workshop Sets and Trucks Due to Choking Hazard - Click through for additional photos.


    As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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    The hospital hierarchy: Making sense of the doctors who are treating you

    I headed off to college with the intention of going pre-med, but decided that really wasn't for me when I discovered that I couldn't tell the difference between smooth and skeletal muscle cells (and that was just for starters). And while we have a bunch of lawyers in the family, there isn't a single doctor.

    Which meant that when we ended up at the hospital last week, I was relying on my vague memories of medical dramas (I haven't really watched any in about ten years) and my own hospitalizations when I gave birth to make sense of the various medical staff around us. Yesterday, I did a Swag Bucks search and read a bunch of web sites to learn the following:

    An intern is a doctor in the first year after graduation from med school.

    A resident is a doctor who is more than one year out of med school. "Residency" is the period of training during which a doctor learns his/her specialty, so the length varies depending on the difficulty. (For example, neurosurgeons apparently have to endure an eight-year residency.)

    A chief resident is a doctor who is doing an extra year of residency and in charge of the other residents. This position apparently helps lead to other, more desirable positions such as fellowships. (A fellow is a doctor who has completed residency and is currently serving a fellowship, which is often funded by a special grant and involves some kind of research.)

    An attending physician is a doctor who has completed his/her residency. But there are obviously different levels of attendings, depending on experience. You definitely want to seek out the best attending you can find, because he/she will most likely have the final say about your care and treatment plan, and you want that to be as good as it can possibly be.

    A final note based on personal experience: If a resident writes a prescription to be filled upon discharge, try to the get the attending's medical license information to go with it. Our insurance plan wouldn't accept just the resident's info, and the pharmacy had to wait for the attending's license number before it filled the prescription.

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    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    The hospital experience (updated)

    Again, thank you for all of the kind words and prayers. They've really meant a lot.

    I don't know if I'll ever want to really write about the hospital experience – I don't think I've fully processed it yet, hence I'm still prone to bursting into tears when someone asks about it.

    But, there are a few tips I do want to share:

    Don't be afraid to ask questions. Everyone at the hospital was quite nice. Even the attending physician, who at first came off as rather brusque, turned out to be forthcoming and answered every single one of my questions with relative patience. The doctors in general were sometimes hard to track down, even for the nurses, but I never felt that they were negligent in their care.

    Distraction is the name of the game. The hospital had a DVD player and TV for each patient, so that helped to provide constant distraction. Ditto for lots of small toys (new ones, especially) and books.

    Sleep when your child sleeps. You won't sleep well, but a little sleep is better than none. And you'll need your rest, because the whole hospitalization thing is rather exhausting in and of itself.

    Maintain perspective. Even in my darkest moments, I knew we were the lucky ones. My child's life was never in danger, while we saw other children who had chronic and/or life-threatening ailments. Some were clearly regular guests at the hospital, and arrived with their own blankets and pillows.

    The nurses are your best friends. We were blessed with awesome nurses who were caring, attentive and competent, all at the same time. They tended to me, too, making sure that I was getting all of the information that I wanted as quickly as possible.

    Be prepared for things to be hard when you get home. I was so focused on getting out of the hospital that I didn't stop to think that things would still be rough when we got home. But with medicine needing to be given every four hours, and my own emotions still all over the place, the first few days home were really tough. (Not to worry, things are definitely better now.)

    **Update**
    I forgot to include this last tip:

    Check on the availability of any prescriptions you receive upon discharge before leaving. We left with a prescription for a medication that needed to be given every four hours, but it turned out the medication isn't generally stocked because it's not prescribed very often. Every pharmacy near our house could get it the next day, but that wasn't going to help me administer the medication that night. The only place I could get the medication was at the pharmacy back at the hospital (a 45 minute drive each way in rush hour traffic), and that pharmacy turned out not to be contracted with our insurance company so I had to pay a pretty hefty amount out of pocket. If only I'd known that I wouldn't be able to get the prescription filled near home, I could have saved myself an extra hour and a half in the car. At least the pharmacist was thoughtful enough to recommend only getting a partial fill, and I was able to get the rest of the prescription at a local pharmacy that was covered by our insurance the next day.

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    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    A few random thoughts

    Thank you all so much for your kind words and emails. I really appreciate them. Things are starting to improve around here - yay! But I am the kind of tired where I can't hold a thought for more than a few minutes at a time, and where I can't multitask anymore, and where I can't really think complicated thoughts. As you might imagine, that's not very helpful in my day job. And if you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I keep tweeting giveaways - that's because it requires very little thought!

    Meanwhile, there's a great coupon out for $2 off Coca-Cola product 12-packs that's good only at Rite Aid, or maybe at stores that take competitor's coupons. I printed the coupon yesterday, and it says it's good from 8/10 to 8/18. MommySnacks has a good scenario for this week. I haven't felt like shopping much, so I'm going to wait until next week in the hope that my gift cards from last month's SCRs will arrive in the meantime.

    Robert Allen - Free Investment BookFinally, there's an offer through MySavings.com (of which CFO is an affiliate) for a free copy of Robert Allen's book Multiple Streams of Income: How to Generate a Lifetime of Unlimited Wealth (click on the banner for the offer). I read the book a few years ago and was fascinated and intrigued because although he came across as very car salesman-like, the book was my introduction to the concept of passive income.

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Giveaway winners: Pillsbury Simply . . . Cookies & McDonald's Happy Meal Ty Teenie Beanie Babies Set

    Thank you to everyone who entered the Pillsbury Simply . . . Refrigerated Cookies prize pack giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

    Leslie M. (Lesli****@msn.com)


    Thank you to everyone who entered the McDonald's Happy Meal 30th Birthday Ty Teenie Beanie Babies Set giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

    Erica (ericath****@gmail.com)

    Leslie and Erica, you have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com with your address.

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    Sunday, August 09, 2009

    Being home is at least as hard as being at the hospital

    We've had major issues with meds (one of which needs to be given every 4 hours), so I continue to be exhausted, both mentally and physically. Posting will continue to be extremely light - and quite possibly, more Twitter-like than regular posts.

    In the meantime, I want to give a shout out to Zout. I got a bottle last year when it was there was a mail-in rebate offer, and it's done a fabulous job getting all of the bloodstains out of bedding and clothing. My technique is to spray the stain, throw the clothes/bedding in the washer, and soak on cold water for anywhere from 15 minutes to hours. Then I run a normal wash cycle with detergent on warm (but our "warm" tends to be cold rather than hot). When the clothes/bedding come out of the dryer, you'd never know there was a bloodstain.

    And on a related note, baby wipes do a great job getting bloodstains out of carpet. My friend K. says they work really well on vomit, too (of course she had to find that out the hard way).

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    Saturday, August 08, 2009

    Recalls this week: Gates, jumpers, boosters and play yards

    If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

    Dorel Juvenile Group Expands Recall of Safety 1st Stair Gates Due to Fall Hazard - Click through for a close up of the offending part.


    Jump ‘n Jive Doorway Jumpers Recalled by Graco Due to Choking Hazard - Click through for a close up of the offending part.


    Target Recalls Circo Booster Seats Due to Fall Hazard


    Kolcraft Recalls 1 Million Play Yards Due to Fall Hazard - Click through for a list of the affected model numbers and photos of additional styles.


    As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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    Thursday, August 06, 2009

    Quick update: I'm still being an advocate

    Thank you so much for the kind comments and emails that I received in response to yesterday's post. I really appreciate them so much. We're still spending our time at the hospital. Hopefully we'll all be home later today, but we'll need some good news first. Fingers crossed!

    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    A hospital stay teaches me my purpose in my life: To be my child's advocate

    I just spent the last 18 hours in the emergency room and hospital with one of the boys, who's being monitored following some substantial blood loss due to another bloody nose. As I sat in the ER digesting the news that he'd have to be admitted, I realized that I had one purpose in life: to be my child's best advocate.

    Partly, my sense of purpose was due to being confident that I would be good at it. My training as a lawyer and advocate make me particularly well suited for this situation, even if I don't have a deep understanding of the medical issues. Doctors are pretty good at breaking things down into layman's terms, so I had a pretty good understanding of what the problem was. And being an attorney means I'm good at asking questions, finding answers, and being persistent and aggressive (in a nice way) when warranted.

    I realize that this has happened before, just not so starkly. Since Tyler was diagnosed with a peanut and nut allergy, I have reacted fiercely when I've perceived any kind of danger lurking in a new food. I've pestered the pediatrician with all kinds of questions, and even made him find out if there are any desensitizing clinical trials going on locally. (Unfortunately, there are none.) And a couple of years ago, when the lead paint recalls were overwhelming, I convinced the pediatrician to let me get Alex's blood tested for lead.

    Maybe it's because these fiercely protective feelings are rooted in evolution, when the offspring who got their parents to care about them survived best, but I've never felt so strongly that I was put on this earth to accomplish a specific task.

    Right now, I'm feeling particularly grateful that we don't appear to be dealing with anything especially serious, while other patients at the hospital are handling major health crises. And I'm very grateful for the wonderful medical care we've gotten - all of the doctors and nurses have been terrific, and the standard of care has been incredibly high. I'm sure we'll be paying for it with a massive bill in the end, but it will be worth every penny.

    Needless to say, posting will be light here for a while.

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    Monday, August 03, 2009

    Roundup: Rite Aid scenarios edition (Updated)

    Guest Post: How to Practice Hospitality on a Budget @ Money Saving Mom - Meredith of Like Merchant Ships is one of my favorite bloggers, and this guest post is a perfect example of why.

    My Big Fat Greek Dinner @ Growing Up Gabel - Camille made her own tzatziki and pitas for this feast.

    Better than Megan Fox Cake & How to use up all that BBQ sauce! @ A Thrifty Mom - The cake sounds super easy, and I've got quite a few bottle of free bottles of BBQ sauce to use so these ideas will come in handy.

    GUEST POST: C. Everett Co-op ‏@ Cheap Healthy Good - I don't know much about co-ops, so this was a very interesting read for me.

    Raising Your Youngest Child @ Scribbit - I loved Michelle's thoughts on instilling responsibility and independence in her younger children.

    No spend month update: fail whale edition @ The ¢entsible Life - I liked that even though she deemed her no spend month a failure, Kelly's planning to do it again.

    To Shred or Not To Shred? Paper Management Tips @ The Frugal Duchess - The tip that really got my attention was the one about keeping credit card statements for seven years. Does anyone know why that is?

    Make Your Own Play Makeup Kits Using Old Eye Shadow Containers and Nail Polish @ Parent Hacks - I don't have little girls, but this is brilliant.

    You can also find a very easy Rite Aid scenario over at A Full Cup. I've already done this one resulting in a $10 profit (deals start Friday here in SoCal), but I've got another scenario too:

    1 Zantac 150 Original or Cool, 8ct $4.99
    1 Skin Clinic Advanced Wart Remover, 16ct $14.99
    1 Garnier Fructis $2.99
    1 Werther's Caramel $2.99
    Total before coupons: $25.96
    Use $5/$25 coupon, $3 Zantac coupon, $1 Garnier coupon from 6/21 RP, and 55-cents Werther's from 4/26 SS
    Total after coupons: $16.41 + tax
    Receive SCRs: $4.99 Zantac, $14.99 Skin Clinic, $2 Garnier, $2.99 Wether's
    Net: $8.56 profit

    ***Update 8/3/09: The $5/$25 purchase coupon has been replaced by a 10% off coupon. It's still a moneymaker scenario, just not quite as good.***
    Thanks to Tia's Saving Cents for the deals and coupon links.

    Giveaways to check out:
    PSA Essentials Peel and Stick Stampers from Expressionery (ARV $300!): Review and Giveaway @ The-Not-So-Blog - Win an Expressionery prize pack; ends 8/4
    Zuma Picnic Backpack: Review and Giveaway @ Happy Healthy Families - Oddly, the giveaway is sponsored by Accent Furniture; ends 8/11
    Win a $50 Visa Gift Card to Help Your Family Get Ready to Go Back to School ... Really ... it is That Time Already! @ Dealicious Mom - Ends 8/10
    Back To School Giveaway: EcoGear Backpack @ Retro Housewife Goes Green - Ends 8/4

    There's no stockpile pic of the week this week - I just didn't come across any that blew me away.

    Saturday, August 01, 2009

    Weekend blogging break: 2 trips to the ER in less than 36 hours

    I've been to the ER twice in less than 36 hours, thanks to a bloody nose (kudos to the ER at Providence Tarzana Medical Center, which our pediatrician's office recommended because they offer specialized pediatric emergency services). All is well now, but I am physically and mentally exhausted, and now on total and complete child-entertainment duty.

    I'll be back Monday - have a great weekend!

    P.S. Can you believe it's August???