Works For Me Wednesday–Online Budgeting

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Here’s a snazzy thing for you – online budget software @ Mint.com

*Gasp* I said the “B” word. And in Southern California, the land of fruit and honey and rampant consumerism, I really am gonna cause a ruckus just saying that word… I realize that to a lot of people, BUDGET is a nasty concept, much like DIET. Guess what folks? It doesn’t have to be! All a budget is, is a SPENDING PLAN. So if you really want that 7 series Beemer, use  Mint.com to put you on the track to get it. It works like Quicken or any of the other budget software systems you buy, except 2 differences:

1 – it’s web-based

2 – it’s FREE (check out the free part, that’s my favorite)

Is it secure? Yup. I’ve been using it more than a year now, and let me tell you the difference it’s made in our household finances… We now know where every single cent goes. We have budget categories for every single expenditure you can imagine. We discovered we were paying a stupid amount of money on banking fees. It even has a feature that will tell you what banks and credit card companies would be better for you and your assets (lower fees, higher APY’s, etc). Got investment accounts? Plug those in, too, and it will tell you your net worth. I could go on and on about all the features it has, but I won’t. Just go check it out for yourself. (In case you missed it before, it’s FREE, so you got nothin’ to lose.) I discovered it through The Motley Fool , an independant personal finance site I’ve been using for ages. (Check them out, too while you’re at it. They have budget tutorials)

Happy Budgeting!

The SoCal FruGal

Catch more money-saving tips from the SoCal FruGal on her blog: http://socalfrugal.blogspot.com/

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Chicco Lullaby LX Playard–Save your money

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Most first-time parents are completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of baby crap stuff available on the market. There’s pretty much a product for everything, and don’t get my husband started on the phrase “invented by a mom” (invented by somebody somewhere = $ vs. invented by a mom! = $$$$$). Weeding through the crap stuff is not easy. Fortunately, here at Gen X Moms, we’ll be giving you a variety of reviews from the trenches, so to speak.

Today, I’m here to talk about the Chicco Lullaby LX Playard. We knew we wanted a playard (also known as a Pack ‘n Play, which is a registered trademark of Graco. And an interesting piece of trivia–did you know that the word “Onesie” is a registered trademark of Gerber?) because we had grand visions of Mouse, our now-13-month-old, sleeping peacefully in the bassinet feature in our room soothed by the gentle sound of our breathing. Sadly, we forgot to mention this plan to Mouse, and he was having none of it. But I digress.

There are a number of playards on the market and they range from the cheapo basic Graco to the playard that doubles as an air raid shelter. The key difference is in features–the sheer number of bells and whistles. Well as a new parent, I thought “the more, the better!” and the Chicco Lullaby LX certainly fit the bill on that on. I mean look at that bad boy (above) compared to its basic Graco counterpart.

Clearly we weren’t going to be putting our precious little baby in something so cheap! Not when the Chicco Lullaby LX Playard existed! The product description sounded dreamy:

No 1 rated playard in America. The Chicco Lullaby LX Playard is perfect for your child’s playtime or naptime. The Lullaby LX Playard comes with a thickly padded, quilted mattress that can be removed for easy machine washing. To meet the needs of smaller babies, the Lullaby LX includes a bassinet with an elevated changing table. The Lullaby LX also has a toy gym with plush toys that can be used on the bassinet or as a playmat. To help your child sleep, the Lullaby LX is equipped with electronics that feature music, vibration, and a nightlight. The Lullaby LX even includes a remote control that allows you to adjust the electronics from a distance. With its push-button folding mechanism, compact fold, and matching cargo bag, the Chicco Lullaby LX Playard is perfect for use at home and on the road.

No 1 rated by whom? The American Council Of How Many Extra Features We Can Stick In What Should Be A Very Basic Baby Item? Let me break the features down for you.

The Lullaby LX Playard comes with a thickly padded, quilted mattress that can be removed for easy machine washing.

If by “thickly padded, quilted mattress” you mean “approximately 1/16th of an inch with some sewing to look quilted,” then yes, the Lullaby LX Playard does have a thickly padded, quilted mattress. But let’s get real here–we all know that due to the danger of SIDS our babies should be sleeping on boulders, and this playard is no exception. If it were indeed thick and lush, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with Mouse on it. Let’s just say I feel more that comfortable with its padding level. Also, it’s just now in writing this review that I see the mattress can be removed for easy machine washing. I’m going to have to look into that because ours is getting pretty gross. See? This review is helpful for everyone!

To meet the needs of smaller babies, the Lullaby LX includes a bassinet with an elevated changing table.

When they say “smaller babies,” they aren’t kidding. The bassinet feature is actually just that thickly padded, quilted mattress placed in a higher position. Its weight limit is 15 pounds (which is typical for all playard bassinets). The elevated changing table simply swings up and rests atop the frame of the playard (if you look at the picture above, the changing table is that big bulgy thing on the left). The problem with the changing table is that the baby lays along the short width of the playard. A long baby, or any baby who becomes long (which is most of them) doesn’t have a long shelf life with the changing table.

The Lullaby LX also has a toy gym with plush toys that can be used on the bassinet or as a playmat.

The plush toys are cute, but the toy gym thingy attaches to the actual mattress in the four corners, so if you want to use that handy changing table, you have to detach it. And when you move the mattress down to its lower position to use as a crib, the toy gym goes down with the mattress and doesn’t work like a mobile. I suppose you can use it as a playmat, but we never bothered with any kind of playmat anyway. Basically the toy gym is in the closet unassembled.

To help your child sleep, the Lullaby LX is equipped with electronics that feature music, vibration, and a nightlight.

These electronics are actually on a plastic unit that attaches to one of the corners of the playard. As a result, the vibration doesn’t even move the mattress, the nightlight is one-sided, and the music is that annoying tonal music that never, ever soothed any baby, ever. Although it’s all a moot point since the thing shuts itself off in just a few minutes. I mean, isn’t the point of a nightlight that it lights up the night? Like all night?

The Lullaby LX even includes a remote control that allows you to adjust the electronics from a distance.

Two problems with this. One, the remote had to be pointed directly at a very small spot on the corner unit to work. And two, since the unit timed out so quickly, if your child didn’t fall asleep within those few minutes, you are stuck clicking the remote over and over again. No thanks.

With its push-button folding mechanism, compact fold, and matching cargo bag, the Chicco Lullaby LX Playard is perfect for use at home and on the road.

WRONG! The push-button folding mechanism is a serious pain in the butt. It would be great if it worked all the time, but it doesn’t. It’s very touchy, both going up and folding down, and you end up doing a lot of yanking to get it to stay. The compact fold is anything but–but then again, looking at it, it should be obvious that a behemoth like that isn’t going to get all that small. But perhaps the most irritating thing of all is that matching cargo bag (and by “matching” they mean “gray nylon bag with CHICCO emblazened on the side”). You would think it would be handy, but the bag only really works if every single piece of the playard is packed–the changing table, the toy bar thing–all of it. If you happen to want to leave some of that behind, the bag is way too big for the playard and the whole thing just flops around and is difficult to carry.

This playard also does not fit through standard doorways–a feature I never thought I’d care about until I had to break the damned thing down to move it from room to room. And my final beef is this–around the edges of the rails, there’s padded fabric to give it that deluxe, cushy look. Unfortunately, now that Mouse is teething, he is literally shredding the fabric. So there are now threads hanging all over the place, which defeats the purpose of a decorative padded fabric intended to give a deluxe, cushy look.

The Chicco Lullaby LX Playard retails for about $150. It’s such a pain in the ass to deal with, we ended up buying a cheapo Graco to use as a crib while traveling, at the cost of approximately $70. All those bells and whistles on the Chicco are pointless. I wish I’d saved the money.

Happy Packing and Playing!

The Scrivener