Ask Away Blog: September 2016

Friday, September 30, 2016

5 Ways to Have Fall Fun with Your Dog

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Fall is a beautiful time of year not just because the changing of the leaves but also the changing of the weather.  It's cooler without the humidity and unbearable sun beating down on you so take advantage of this time to get outside with your pooch.  Here are 5 ways to have fun this Fall!


{1. Run}
That's right get out there and run around in the yard with your dog.  You likely won't need to worry about the horrible heat so you can stay out for a little longer and get your dog's energy out.  


{2. Hike}
For dogs that love taking hiking expeditions, bring them along.   Now's the perfect time of year to find a hiking trail and enjoy the views.  As always, bring along food and water for your pooch and any emergency items you may need.  


{3. Practice Training Outside}
Take some treats with you (I really like Good Dog Jerky Treats from ZiwiPeak because they are grain free, have a taste dogs love, and are the perfect size for training rewards) and head outside to practice commands with your pooch.  Sometimes being outside exposes dogs to different situations and distractions so it's good to condition them to obey your commands even in those situations! 

{4. Photo Session}
Fall trees and leaves make a beautiful natural backdrop so get out there and take lots of photos with your pooch!  Now's the time of year to plan your Christmas Card shoot as well!

{5. Endless Fetch}
That's right, for those of you with dogs that are obsessed with playing fetch, have at it like you've never done before!


How do you enjoy the outdoors with your dog this time of year?

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What's Going on With My Grace? [How You Can Help]





So in case you missed it here and here, Grace has been struggling lately.  My fur babies are my whole entire world so right now I am still reeling from last week's events. 

Basically, for weeks now Grace has these recurring episodes where she seems panicked and stressed and she yelps if you touch her neck, which indicated that she is in some sort of pain.  So after talking to my regular vet she referred me to a neurologist since we couldn't find anything to diagnosis through standard testing.  

I had to take a whole day off work to drive to the neurologist located in Maryland.  It was only an hour drive but still I was nervous.  He looked at her, did some poking and prodding and could immediately find where the nerves were reactive, which was her neck.  He said it's likely some sort of spinal issue but the only way to diagnosis it would be to do an MRI. 

Now in case you've never googled around, an MRI on a pet is big money.   But for me the MRI is much more than just expensive.  The MRI was going to give me answers and a definite diagnosis.  Because without that, we wouldn't be able to treat Grace properly.  So to me the MRI was invaluable.   So I went ahead and agreed. 

Grace with her shaved head after the MRI

Sure enough she was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) of the surgical spine, which means she has some ruptured discs that are being squashed by her spine which is obviously painful, like if someone were driving a nail into her neck. 

Obviously surgery is one option but it can be very risky and it's INSANELY expensive.  Luckily for me, Grace has other options for pain management and since she isn't hurting 24/7 as it is, this is great news.  There are many alternative treatments to surgery aside from pain management but all will require some money.   

Most of you remember that Rocky was diagnosed with a heart condition (Mitral Valve Disease) 2 years ago and requires about $2,000 in medical costs each  year.  But the good news for him is that he's doing awesome on his medication so I'm quite happy with that but my extra money that I can scrounge up already goes to his costs.  So to bring me back up to speed so that Grace can't be slighted in regards to medical care (it's a nightmare to even think that I'd have to choose between the two) I have set up a GoFundMe page for Grace. We are already at over 50% of our goal.   

Now this part of the post is where I tell you how you can help.   It doesn't necessarily mean you have to donate, trust me! SO here are the different ways in which you can support Grace as well as me. 

 
1. Donate
Click on the image above to donate ANY amount (it all helps) for Grace. 

2. Share
Sharing the GoFundMe link each and everyday makes a HUGE impact.  It keeps Grace trending on the main GoFundMe site which means it has the opportunity for more eyes to see it.  We gotta keep it moving! SHARE SHARE SHARE! It only takes a second. 

3. Blog It
My fellow friends and bloggers have already posted about Grace which once again gets more eyes on her page.  Monica from Jersey Girl Texan Heart posted this awesome and informative post and Jenn from BITCHFEST posted an amazing tribute to how much we love our fur babies! 

4. Shop using my Amazon Link
All you have to do is bookmark THIS LINK and anytime you click it, shop, and add things to your cart and then purchase, I will get a percentage of affiliate credit.   Every little amount adds up and helps go towards Grace. 

So please please please keep spreading the word about Grace! I will be sure to keep you update once I discuss a set plan for pain management with my vet! 

 

 




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How I Save Space in Our Tiny Bathroom

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I am all about saving space in the home especially when you're short on storage area or counter space.  My bathroom is no exception.  I love it, don't get me wrong but it can definitely be frustrating especially when I start knocking stuff over. 


Our bathroom is definitely tiny but it can still be functional.  That's because I utilize the space we do have and for anything extra, I use suction cup items from FECA, which offers a line of suction cup storage and organization items for the home.  

So let's take a closer look at how I save space in the bathroom.



[In the Shower]
I use the shower for myself and for the dogs and because of that I'm often flustered and knocking things over, especially when I have to reach way up to get the shower head.   So hence why I'm in love with the Hand Shower Holder.   It holds the shower head for me so that whenever I need it for things like bathing the dogs it's conveniently located closer to me so I don't have to keep standing up and risking the dogs trying to jump out and escape.


[After the Shower]
I don't know about you but our bathroom is so tiny that there's really no room to hang anything so I simply would have to drape it over the toilet or keep it on the floor.  Well, that's not so good when you want to hop out of the shower and put your clothes on in the bathroom.  So enter this nifty little hook from FECA.  Not only can it hold up to 13 pounds but it keeps my robe or clothing nice and dry and OFF the ground.   You could use this little gem pretty much anywhere and for any reason.  I love that they come in fun colors too! 


[Every Other Moment]
So we have the tiniest sink ever.  That means we have the tiniest counter ever so we try to keep as many things up off the sink as possible.  This also makes it easier to wipe down on a regular basis.  For this, I turn to the Multi-Purpose Holder which is able to swing out horizontally which makes it perfect for me to store brushes, soap, nail clippers, or Dixie cups in!  It frees up a nice amount of space and it's always kept up and out of the way so I don't even have to open a cupboard or medicine cabinet to get whatever is stored in it.


So you see, there are other options instead of just tearing up the bathroom and building a bigger one.  Honestly, it's a bathroom and we don't have kids so we don't need to have multiple people in there at a time so for us we just needed a few simple, affordable, and stylish solutions!  


How do YOU save space in your home?








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Monday, September 26, 2016

Live Your Dreams AND Save Money With These Amazing Hacks



Life is full of amazing milestones. Some of them, nearly everyone has; getting married, buying a house, having a child. Others are unique to the individual. Travelling the world, or building your own home could easily be considered milestones too. The problem is that none of these huge events really come cheap. Like hundreds of other Americans, you may be struggling to save money on a daily basis, nevermind on huge costly events. But, at the same time, there are some things that we just can't miss out on.

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Marriage

Getting engaged is all well and good, but when it comes to planning the wedding, cracks can begin to show! Weddings are expensive and difficult to save for - especially if you're already trying to save money while paying off debt. The venue is easily the most pricey part of the wedding, with many couples spending in excess of $14,00 for the venue alone. Engagement rings tend to come in at around $5000, whilst the dress usually sets the bride back around $1400. However, there are ways you can cut back on the cost of your wedding if you need to save money. For example, booking a promising local band rather than a company-represented wedding band can save you hundreds. They'll be happy to oblige and glad for the exposure, and you will have a bit more money in the bank too. Paying for alcohol by the head, rather than the glass, is another useful tip for cutting venue and catering costs. If your budget really is limited and every penny counts, also consider cutting the cake and throwing the bouquet early on. Once those are done, you can get your photographer/videographer to leave. For a quirky addition, give each of your guests a disposable camera for the rest of the evening so you have lots of lovely pictures to look back on.

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Having a baby

Having children of your own is one of life's true pleasures. There is nothing quite like having your own little family. But, like most of life's pleasures, they certainly don't come cheap. Thankfully, there are ways you can get savvy about child costs, right from the birth to the first year. During your stay in hospital, say no to any added extras in your birthing room, such as a television. There is often a cost to incur with these, and no one wants to be hit with an even bigger bill after giving birth. If you're planning on having a number of children, buy unisex clothes for them. That way, you will have plenty of hand-me-downs available for when baby number 2 arrives!

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Travelling

If it has always been your dream to travel the world, but you've never had enough money to do so; don't fear! You can still travel on a budget, as long as you are smart. An obvious tip is to exchange all your currency before you go. It may seem like a hassle, especially if you are going to lots of different countries. But, you will be able to get the best exchange rate and will avoid cash machine charges too. Avoid glitzy hotels and use websites like Air Bnb for cheap accommodation. Hostels may present images of rowdy teenage backpackers, but don't overlook them either; many even include private rooms.


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Fall To Do List for Homeowners





Tis the season for cool breezes, crisp leaves, and pumpkin spice everything!  It's Fall and I love it!  However as a homeowner there are several things that should be done each year around this time to prepare for the cooler months and some things that it's just a good idea to do every few months anyways. So here is a list for all you homeowners!

[ ] Wash + Vacuum the Windows
Not only do you want clean windows for when you leave them open for a cool Fall breeze to come in, but it's finally not so sticky and humid out which means it's not an ordeal to wash the outsides of the windows (if you can reach all of them).  Wash the windows inside and out and then take a vacuum to the screen and the entire inside of the window sill.  No one wants those dead bugs and cobwebs hanging around!

[ ] Clean Out Gutters
If you are able to safely get on your roof or against your gutters to remove leaves and other debris, make sure you do so.  If not, it's not a good mix when it rains because your gutters can be clogged from a variety of things including leaves, twigs, nuts (from those pesky squirrels), and more.  Summer always has lots of storms that wash things down from the top of the roof so you'll find lots of interesting surprises I'm sure.

[ ] Trim Shrubs
After the summer, things are no longer blooming so it's always a good time to trim shrubs and bushes so that they are nice and pretty come Spring. 

[ ] Change Air Filters
Always change your home's air filters, it obviously helps with air quality and allergies, but it's also a great way to keep your heating/cooling system working better.

[ ] Clean Your Oven and Fridge
There's always so much entertaining in the summer so it's more than likely that your fridge and oven need a good scrub down.  Make sure you use the Self Cleaning option on your oven if you can.  This way everything will be ready for all the Fall festivities.

[ ] Clean Out Cupboards
Now's a great time to purge, reorganize, and donate any canned goods or dry goods you don't need.  Take everything out at once, then go through one by one and donate or pitch any expired items or items you no longer really need.  Then carefully refill your cupboards keeping them somewhat organized.  It's also a great time to take inventory of any staple ingredients you may need to restock.



[ ] Wash Baseboards and Vacuum Nooks & Crannies
Use a wet wipe or a rag with water or cleaning solution to wipe down baseboard heaters.   Also use the narrow nozzle attachment on your vacuum to go through the entire house, high and low and vacuum in things, under things, and around things to get any cobwebs, dust bunnies, fur balls, and crumbs.  Don't forget to vacuum vents!

[ ] Clean Bathrooms
Fall is the time of year for inside guests so be sure to scrub the counters, the tub, the floor, and clean out the toilet.  Also don't forget to wash your hand towels every 2 weeks.

[ ] Cover or Bring In Patio Furniture
If you have cushions on your patio furniture you may want to bring it in when you know that you'll no longer be outside a lot.  If you have covers for your furniture now's a good time to get them out and get them ready to put on.  

I'm sure there are plenty more things I could add but I tried to think of the less obvious ones than decorating for fall and raking leaves, hehe! Happy Fall!








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We Need YOUR Help!




In case you missed Friday's post, here is all the information of what happened with Grace and I. 

Grace is doing great and is able to manage her pain.   Over time her condition will worsen. But right now it's bittersweet because she's still so young and healthy.  So please please please consider sharing or donating.  PLEASE!

HELP GRACE BY DONATING TO GOFUNDME HERE!  

If you can't donate on GoFundMe you can also help in another way. 
Another way you can support Grace is by using my affiliate link when you shop on Amazon. Simply bookmark this Amazon home page and use it anytime you get on amazon and order. Each month a portion of the sales will actually come to me. It's small but every little amount helps!



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Friday, September 23, 2016

Help Me Help My Grace [How My World Has Been Turned Upside Down]








Grace is my 9 year old female chihuahua and everyone who knows me knows that her and my other 3 chihuahuas are my children.

Recently Grace was having what looked like severe anxiety and panic attacks due to pain in her neck.  She would tense her neck up and scream if you touched her neck.  This was happening twice a day almost everyday for a month.  After a recommendation from my regular vet to a neurologist in Maryland, I took her down there on Friday September 23rd.

The neurologist did some poking and prodding and could tell that there was some sort of spinal pain with Grace but the only 100% way to find out what it was and where it was, was by doing an MRI.  The MRI cost over $4,500 but without it, I would have no answers for Grace's pain and she would continue to suffer every single day.  I needed to be able to know what it was that hurt so I can properly treat her.

The MRI showed that Grace has Intervertebral Disc Disease  (IVDD) which is common in small dogs like Chihuahuas.   IVDD is a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space.  In Grace's case, 3 of her discs ruptured, the C34, C45, and C56.  This is why she is in so much pain when it flares up.  So much pain that it actually causes her to go into a panicked state. 

Some dogs have it further down their back and end up losing the ability to use their hind legs and become paralyzed.  Luckily, Grace's is up higher and is treatable in a variety of ways, those of which I am still learning about as I research my options.  One option is surgery, which obviously comes with many risks, but there are other options for pain management.  Grace's quality of life is great. She literally JUST turned 9 and she is healthy in every other way.

My heart is breaking that money is even an issue for me.  I already spend $2,000 a year on my other Chihuahua, Rocky, for his heart condition.  He has Mitral Valve Disease but we have it way under control and he is thriving.  Unfortunately, I thought I had atleast another year or two before I had dish out major money on another one of my dogs.  So this was very unexpected.

I will be discussing my options with my regular vet (whom I trust with every fiber of my being) and in the next week I should have a better plan of action.  My goal is to give Grace a normal pain free life.  For now, she is on pain management with Gabapentin, Rimadyl, and Tramadol.  Because there are risks with anti-inflammatory medications, I am looking into other options immediately.  But in the meantime, Grace is not in pain and is enjoying life. 

Please consider donating to Grace and I or atleast sharing with others.

Friday was such a difficult day!  I went to Maryland alone so I was already overwhelmed.  Of course when they were telling me that we should do an MRI I was already freaking out at the cost but I knew that the MRI would give me answers.   As soon as they told me the amount I was devastated and my world began spinning. They casually mentioned that depending on the diagnosis there is surgery and I just nodded my head because all I could think of was SAVE HER!!   Then they gave me a quote just so I had an idea.  After seeing $11k I went to my car and cried. I couldn't even remember how to type or who to call. I was having a major panic attack! I knew that the MRI was necessary for me and for her.  But then came the question of how to come up with more money than that for her treatment. 




After the MRI, when it was time to take Grace home I lost it. I cried the entire ride back in the car. 
I was not ready to see my poor shaved pup! 

Please consider donating to Grace and I or at least sharing with others.   I can not tell you how important this is to me. If there's only one favor you ever do for me in your lifetime, please let this be it. Thank you so much for even reading this! 


 
HELP GRACE BY DONATING TO GOFUNDME HERE! 
If you can't donate on GoFundMe you can also help in another way. 
Another way you can support Grace is by using my affiliate link when you shop on Amazon. Simply bookmark this Amazon home page and use it anytime you get on amazon and order. Each month a portion of the sales will actually come to me. It's small but every little amount helps!
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How to Build Up Savings AND Pay Down Debt at the Same Time





"I need to build up my savings fund but I also need to pay off my debt so how can I do them at the same time? "

I get this question A LOT when it comes to fixing finances.   And I'm not just saying that because it's the name of my finance book (shameless plug)! While it's very important to build up an emergency fund before paying down your debt full force, the two are equally important.  

You see, if you don't have a decent savings fund, you're going to continue borrowing money.  And the more money you borrow, the more you have to pay off and so you can't get focus on building up your savings. 


So I have a few pieces of advice if you'd like to do both at the same time.  Obviously you won't be able to build up a huge savings fund or pay off your debt super fast but you'll make leeway on both.



[Split Extra Income Each Month]
Any extra income you make each month whether it's from overtime at work or selling things on eBay, you need to split the profit between your savings and your debt.  I say this because if you alternate each month, putting it towards your debt one month, and towards your savings another month, time won't go quick enough and you won't feel like you're making any real progress and progress is what motivates us to keep going.



[DO NOT Use Credit Cards]
Trust me.  Hide them.  Take them out of your wallet and keep them in a secure spot at home.  This is the only surefire way to guarantee that you won't reach for them as an impulse.  It's easier to build your savings back up than it is to pay off debt in most cases so if you are in a bind for an EMERGENCY situation, take from your savings fund.  But whatever you do, don't rack up any more debt.



[Track Your Progress]
It's always a good idea to make some short of chart (just like the fundraising ones where you color in how far you are towards reaching your goal) to reflect the progress you make.  No matter how small, progress is progress and you should be happy.  I used a debt thermometer that I found on Google and that's what I would color in to reflect how close I was to being debt free.  The act of coloring it in is very rewarding even if it's just a sliver.  You can have a separate chart to show how close you are to reaching your savings goal.  And if you don't have a savings goal, set a small one.



[Limit Your Spending]
Other than emergencies, it's very crucial that you limit all of your spending, even if it's a regular expense that you can consider a luxury.  Pedicures are great but saving $30 each month that can go towards your savings will help you make progress. 


[Resume Your Plan]
Once you have your savings fund built up a bit more, you can eventually re-focus all your work on paying off debt.  You'll once again start making bigger progress.


Remember, doing these at the same time is only temporary.  You'll make better progress if you get yourself situated again with a healthy savings fund (so you don't have to borrow money in emergencies) and then you can resume your debt snowball


Be sure to join my Facebook group, Fixing Your Finances, to help you with your finance journey along the way. 

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Our Newest Porch Updates



So as you know, our screened in porch is where I spend most of my time. I love it and it's like being outside without the annoying bugs.  I mean I literally spend every waking moment that I can out here.  So, I decided to spruce it up a bit more going off of my list of a few things I wanted changed about it.
1. More Seating
2. More Storage
3. Less Clutter


 So I did just that!
 I found another couch to go with the loveseat we already had.  This one was a 3 seater sofa.  I love the loveseat, don't get me wrong but I can't really stretch out on it when I lay down to read.  I also take naps in the afternoons on weekends and it's quite uncomfortable being all folded up. 
 Of course I went crazy trying to figure out how to position everything.  I even made little blue prints for all of my options.  In the end I settled for having everything at an angle instead of aiming straight ahead. It actually opened it up much more. 





 There's still plenty of room for the dining area.



Fresh flowers really give it that added homey touch!



 So since I keep my gardening supplies out here I got another utility cart from Amazon and VOILA!

 





What's your ideal outdoor living space look like?








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