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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to get Free Shipping on Amazon with Filler Items

Okay, I want to start by saying that I am not being paid by Amazon to write this blog. I'm also not being given anything for free by Amazon. I am not affiliated with them at all, besides the fact that I love Amazon!

Have you heard of Amazon Prime?  You pay about 80 bucks a year, and you get free 2-day shipping on all Prime items on amazon, no item limit and no minimum amount. You see the Prime symbol next to those items, and that's what it means. In addition to the shipping perks, Prime members get free videos and movies for streaming, and a ton of free Kindle books to rent.  If you don't subscribe to Amazon, you can buy at least 25 dollars worth of stuff in your cart and you still get free shipping.

There are a few items, however, that you cannot get under the Prime deal unless you spend at least 25 dollars in your cart still.  Those are Add-on Items.  They're usually rather small items that would be difficult to ship alone, and so you can only buy them with other things. You see this logo next to the items:

If you try to check out on Amazon without the minimum amount of Prime items in your cart, then you will see this message:

There is an easy solution to this problem, and that is to simply add more items to your cart!  But how about those times when you only need to add a dollar or two to your cart, and you don't need anything on Amazon that is so cheap?  This is why someone invented filler items.  There are whole websites dedicated to filler items.  I used to use, but the website has, since the advent of the add-on program, been extremely unreliable in pricing.  The other problem I find is that the items on the filler item websites are just like random car parts and springs and stuff, with the occasional pen or something thrown in.  Today, I'm going to show you how to get better filler items and use them to your advantage for that sweet sweet free shipping!

First, I recommend that you create a wish list on your Amazon account just dedicated to filler items. This way, once you find a really awesome filler item that you can actually NOT just throw in the junk drawer, you can buy it multiple times if you like.

Your next step is to find some items to put in the wish list.  This is an optional step, but it works best so you don't have to keep repeating your searches.

 A quick reminder: please keep in mind that Amazon prices change periodically, so some items I show you in this blog post will inevitably change price over time.  I apologize for any future inconsistencies.

Now, on to the filler items!

The first and easiest thing to do is to just conduct a search on Amazon for the words "filler items" and see what comes up. 

You can see that a few items right off the bat are pretty useful. Who doesn't need tape and sharpie markers?  I have added those to my special filler item list and plan to use them in the future. I already bought a pack of sharpie markers, and they're great for everything.  You can choose between ultra-fine point and the regular fine tip.

You may want to narrow your results a bit, and you do that by going to the right of the screen and choosing a department.  I chose art and craft supplies.  Then, I went and sorted by price (low to high, of course!).  The last step is to go to the left of the screen and check the box for Prime only items to show in your results. 

You want to look for items that you are actually going to use, that's the idea here.  In my results shown above, there are several gift bags, pens, and tissue paper for wrapping.  I would definitely buy a gift bag or two, because those are always useful--especially around the holidays!  Other items you can search for are things like body wash, sponges, straws, stationary products, cabinet and drawer hardware (which sometimes is as cheap as a penny!), and more. Get your list ready now, so you can use it when you need it.

Another tip is to simply browse by category, choose prime only items again, and then sort from low to high. I found a few filler items by browsing this way, and I have shared them below. I tried to keep them all at 5 bucks or less.  Some of them are definitely worth spending a little extra for:

One of the best filler items is scissors. I always need these, and I am always losing them.  If you don't need scissors at your home, buy these kids' scissors for 67 cents and donate them to a nearby school!

Westcott Classic Kids Scissors, 67 cents

Hide-a-Spare Key Fake Rock, $4.98
I thought this was a great item, just because a lot of people use them, and this is cheaper than you would get any hide-a-key kit at a store. Amazon also has a thermometer with a secret spot for a key inside that you can mount on your house, so check that out also!

50 Piece Assorted Picture Hook Kit, 2.97

Who doesn't need more hardware for hanging pictures?  Perhaps I'm just one of those people who moves stuff around a lot, but I consider this a junk drawer staple.

Anyway, you get the gist of it at this point.  If you find a great filler item, be sure to share it in the comments!  Happy online shopping!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cube Drawers From Cardboard Boxes

I am SO EXCITED to write this post, because an Idea I have had for quite some time finally has come to fruition. I found a cube shelving unit on the side of the road last year, and I previously used some Dollar Tree bins for yarn storage, but they were very shallow and overflowed rather quickly.  This is what it looked like before:

How embarrassing, I would have never shared this mess with my readers, except for the fact that I turned it into this!

Beautiful, isn't it?  :-)

So, I had been pricing those fabric drawers online, and the cheapest I could find for anything that wasn't designed in colors for a kid's bedroom was 8 bucks apiece.  I mean, they're just glorified cardboard and fabric and I could never justify paying that much for cardboard!  That's when I got the idea:  I have fabric here, and I also already have some 10x10 cardboard boxes in the basement from a prior project.  Here's how I did it:

First, you will need:
Hole punch: (preferable a crop-a-dile or something else that punches small holes and has a long reach, otherwise a nail will probably work just fine.
Fabric: In total, I used about 2.5 yards of fabric, but I recommend 3 yards, because then your pattern will all go the same direction when you cut it out.
Cardboard Boxes: My shelf had 9 spots for drawers, so I used 9 boxes.
Drawer Pulls: Optional, but it really gives it an expensive look.
Spray adhesive--alternatively, you can use a hot glue gun, but I would only use it on the folded over edges, because it can make bumps in the fabric once dry.
Screwdriver for attaching hardware
Hot Glue for assembling boxes
Extra cardboard (a small amount will do)

I got my boxes from Amazon. they need to be 10x10x10 to fit the standard cube shelving units, which are actually 11x11. To start, take out as many boxes as you need and assemble them.  I used hot glue instead of tape, since it keeps the outside of the box clean.  As for the top flaps, I folded them down inside each box to give it strength, and it also made the top of the boxes look much cleaner than if I had cut them off.

Next, I did some calculations to see how to cut out my fabric strips. I wanted to cover the front and sides, with a 1" allowance on each edge to fold around the top, bottom, and back.   This will make them look less like cardboard boxes and almost indistinguishable, even if the drawers are pulled out.  I initially had planned to cover just the front, but I am glad I decided against that.

When I was doing calculations, I figured the boxes are 10x10x10, and so I would need 30" to cover the box itself, but since cardboard boxes are imperfect, I wanted to add 1" of fabric to each edge (which worked perfectly).

This is how I cut out the fabric.  I recommend putting something down and using a rotary cutter if you have one.  Make sure you are only cutting the part of the fabric that has pattern on it, not the white edges (I trimmed those off prior to cutting my pieces).

I tried to get a photo of my 12x32 piece of fabric, but whenever I put fabric on the floor, Chunk thinks he has to sit on it.  I think it works anyway.

Next, You need to lay down some cardboard that is wider than your fabric, so that any overspray of adhesive will not stick to the floor.  Ideally, this should be done outside, but I am stubborn.  Just open a few windows and turn on the fan so the spray adhesive can be ventilated, if you do do this inside.

Next, place the fabric right side down and center your box on it so that you will have about 1" to fold over the top and back.  Pick up the fabric on each side and hold it on the box a few times, moving the box until it is in just the right spot.

I sprayed the right side first, taking care to get glue on all the edges, and then I rolled the box over to the right on top of the fabric. Then, I sprayed the middle and left sides, and rolled the box back to the left over the fabric. 

Then, I smoothed out the front first (since that's what everyone will see), and smoothed out the sides. The spray adhesive dries quickly, so you want to work fast to get good adhesion. If you wait a few minutes, the spray adhesive will still be tacky, but it is a very weak adhesion at that point so you will need to spray more.

I carefully folded down the sides first, then the front top of the box, just like wrapping a gift.

It is important to note that I made sure that I lined up every box exactly the same, as pictured below. I always used the side that had a fold on the bottom to be the front, since it would be a clean edge.  Plus, I noticed that all the boxes had the same lean, as they did not sit completely flat.  Using the same side for the front makes sure this lean is uniform and undetectable.

Here's how it looked after I finished covering all 9 boxes. I was amazed at how much neater it looked, aside from the box of craft supplies on the right and all the dog toys on the left, that is.  Doesn't that opossum look real?  Chunk loves it, he is a very spoiled little dog. 

I loved how the look was so far, but I decided that adding drawer pulls would make these things look really expensive and real.  I wanted to get some of those vintage glass hexagon knobs, but the cheapest I could find those was for about 5 bucks apiece, and I was not about to spend 50 bucks on knobs for cardboard boxes.  I went to my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore and found 9 drawer pulls for 79 cents each, totaling $5.50 after taxes.  They match the fabric well, and they look awesome.

I looked these up online to find the retail price, and they're between 3 and 4 dollars a piece!  Score!

To attach the handles, I used my Crop-a-dile hole punch, which makes 1/8" holes.  Alternatively, you could probably use a nail and hammer to punch holes through the boxes without messing up the fabric.

One thing I always have trouble with is measurements. I'm pretty good at basic stuff, but when it comes to figuring out how to center drawer pulls on a box (not knobs, but the ones with 2 holes), that's a bit tough for me. I can do it, it just probably takes longer than the average person.  Luckily, at my father in-law's suggestion, I made a template, and it saved me SO MUCH TIME! I already knew the approximate center, but I wanted these to be perfect.  Upon measuring the box, I realized that after all the folding, the front from top to bottom was about 10.5" and side to side it was still 10".  I used another box and cut out what would be the front, being sure to match the measurements of a finished box.  I marked the actual center with an X, and then I found the center of the drawer pull. I measured how far out from the center it was to each hole, and that's how I marked it on the template. I measured a few times to make sure it was all correct, and then I punched holes in the template where I marked the drawer pull holes, so that I could stencil them onto each finished box.  I also made sure to mark the top of the template to match up with the top of the box, just because I knew it wasn't 100% perfect, so this way every single box would be consistently "not 100% perfect," and thus less noticeable.

I took out each box, placed the template on top, and marked the holes.  Then, I used my crop-a-dile to punch the holes out.

The screws that came with the hardware were 1" long, and that meant they were longer than what I needed by about 1/4 inch. To remedy this, I cut out rectangles of cardboard a few inches long and about 1 inch high, and used the template again to put holes in them. I then used them inside each box and put the screws through them before I put them through the box:

So, there you have it:  A way to make CUSTOMIZED shelf cubes instead of going broke on the store-bought kind.

I love that the fabric almost makes a continuous pattern throughout the boxes.  If you get really meticulous, I bet you could match the pattern!

Now, I had most of my materials on hand, so this project only cost me $5.50, but if you needed to buy all of the materials, there are a few ways you can go about it. 

I would never recommend that someone use free Priority mail boxes for any home project, since that is illegal, and they don't come in 10x10 sizes anyway.

 A pack of 25 10x10x10 boxes costs $22.00 on Amazon, but you could contact your local restaurants, as they all get shipments each week and thus get rid of many boxes.  Perhaps you could have them collect the size you need.

My Fabric was something I bought for a project a couple of years ago, and I went in another direction with it.  You can get upholstery fabric for this project, but quilting fabric would work just fine.  You can often get quilting fabric for $3.00 per yard when Joann's has a sale, or you can use one of their coupons for 40% off that the usually offer. Check their website for deals.

There are knobs available at Home Depot for 80 cents, so you can definitely find some knobs for a low price.  For just a little bit more, you can get plain white knobs. I used the drawer pulls because it is what I happened to find that matched.

If you make your own, please post your results in the comments, or on my Facebook page.

Happy saving!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Magnetic Poetry Wall Decor

So I have always been really into magnetic poetry, and after years of being unwilling to spend 20 dollars on a set, I was browsing and found that the price had dropped!!! Nowadays, 6 bucks can get a decent set, so about a year ago, I indulged and got a set, including, of course, the F-word expansion set (hey, to each one's own, k?).

After having the set on my fridge for awhile, I started to desire something more portable for my immature bad poetry hobby, since standing in the kitchen isn't so conducive to one's creativity, ya know?  I went back on Amazon and the only thing I could find was a glorified cookie sheet for 10 bucks. Well, after doing some research on what magnetic metals I can buy rather inexpensively, I realized that I have a whole bunch of sheet metal leftover from my birdhouse project!  Here's how I did it:

You Will Need:

Sheet metal

More specifically, sheet metal that is magnetized-- I used a piece of metal from the ductwork section at Home Depot, it is galvanized and zinc-coated (make sure you get the zinc coated type--if you're not sure, you can bring a magnet with you to the store and if it sticks, it will work!  I researched other options, including magnetic wall decal, paint, etc, and this is still the cheapest option out there, and it looks awesome.  Luckily, my metal was leftover from my prior project, thus no additional cost.  However, if you do need to buy some, it is only $6.98 per sheet.  You really only need enough sheet metal to fill your frame, so as long as it is the same size as the glass, you're all set.

Tin Snips

There are several kinds of tin snips, but I recommend the aviation snips.  Really, anything with a yellow handle will work, as yellow is universal for tin snips that cut a straight line (not curving left or right, as pictured.  I got this set of tin snips at Home Depot on sale for $9.99, but it usually costs, $29.99.  Again, no cost to me for this project, because I had bought them for a prior project.

Picture Frame (glass optional)
I used an old 8x10 frame that was in my basement. 

To start, if you have the glass, lay it on your sheet metal and trace around the edges.  Alternatively, lay your frame face down and trace the inside of it, but you may want to add 1/8 to 1/4 inch around to make sure the metal comes out big enough to fill the frame without falling out. Honestly, I'd probably just lay the frame down facing up (with the back down), and when running my sharpie marker around the frame, I'd angle it 45 degrees so the traced shape is a bit larger than the front of the frame, as it should be. 

Using your tin snips (you may want to wear work gloves to protect yourself, since sheet metal becomes razor sharp after you cut it with tin snips--be careful!), cut out the metal rectangle you traced earlier. 

Lay the metal inside your frame to ensure a good fit, and make any adjustments as necessary.

I only did this part because they came with the frame, but next I put the foam sheet and the glass in the frame, behind the sheet metal, so the metal is exposed at the front of the frame.  Put the backing back into the frame and latch it closed.

Now you have a nice, decorative frame for magnetic poetry, and it was at little to no cost!

I tried to keep my poetry clean, so, you're WELCOME. :-)

I hung the frame on my wall just to see how it would look, and I really like it. I will probably not hang it at this time, just because I am thinking it will be great on my coffee table, but I love this look!

So, there you have it!  A nice, possibly free way to class-up your immaturity self-expression.
I hope you like it, and if you do make one using this tutorial, please share it on my Facebook page or in the comments below!  

A great variation on this project for gift-giving: Get small frames from the dollar store, compose some personalized magnetic poems for your friends, and make them their own framed poem!

Thanks so much for reading, and happy composing!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to Groom Your Dog at Home

If you are familiar with my blog, you know that I have two furbabies, Duke and Chunk. Duke is a Sussex Spaniel/Chocolate Lab mix, and Chunk is a Yorkie/Miniature Poodle mix.  Both dogs require some amount of grooming, but their grooming is very different. For Duke, I pretty much just give him a bath occasionally and brush his fur a lot. He has a thick double coat like a Husky does, so we often have "tumbleweeds" of Duke's fur in our house. 

Now, Chunk is a different story.  Since he is a Yorkie/Poodle breed, his hair is harder to manage. Unfortunately, I never got into the habit of brushing him when he was young, so now he never lets me brush him.  Because he is part poodle, he never sheds and actually has hair instead of fur (hence no shedding).  This wouldn't be so problematic, but for the fact that Yorkies have several different types of hair.  Yorkie hair is very similar to human hair, but there are two basic types: smooth and cotton.  Smooth yorkie hair is more like human hair in that it doesn't really become matted, as long as you brush it occasionally.  The other type of hair texture is called cotton, and that's for good reason.  It's extremely soft and fine hair, and this is what Chunk has.  Sometimes I think this hair grows out matted to begin with, it's so hard to keep groomed!  Since Chunk is more of a "rough and tumble" little guy, he definitely gets matted in a couple of spots, mainly his legs.  He hates when I trim the hair on his legs or touch his legs, because he's a little brat.  Hopefully this post will help people who are looking to take better care of their dogs and/or save money on grooming. 

Here are the standard supplies I use when I'm taking care of Chunk:

Wahl clippers with a guard--Here's a tip:  If you buy clippers in the pet section of the store, you are basically paying more for the word "pet."  If you go to the section where you can get clippers for people, it is the exact same product, but at least ten dollars less. I actually very rarely use the clippers on Chunk, because he is so afraid of them--and I always try to make his haircut experiences as stress free as possible.  Here is something like the set I own.

The good thing about this set is that it comes with a really nice pair of scissors, and they are great for cutting Yorkie hair or other small dog hair.  If you opt to use clippers, please always use a guard to make sure you never cut your dog by accident.

Detangler for dogs:  I have some I found on sale, but that's the only reason I actually bought some of the stuff. You can get the exact same effect by putting a little hair conditioner in water in a spray bottle. I actually use my Wella conditioner on Chunk when I give him a bath, and  I let it stay on him for a little while before I rinse it. It helps so much with matting.  Sometimes, I even do a shea butter conditioner treatment.

Dog Shampoo:  This is another kind I found at the Dollar Daze store where I live.  It's sort of like a discount store or a merchandise outlet, and so they have quality stuff. This is organic shampoo and I absolutely love it. I recommend that you don't skim when it comes to dog shampoo, especially if you live in a cooler climate, because you don't want anything that will dry out the dog's skin.

Other things you are going to want are nail clippers, a comb, and I'll talk about some other optional items that I use when I'm pampering my furbaby.

I try to give Chunk a haircut about every 2 months, or a little more often in the summer. Here's about how long I let his hair go:

At this point, you can see that his legs are so hairy, and you may not be able to tell, but he has a lot of mats underneath that shiny fur.  I make sure to feed my dogs very high quality food, and their fur is always shiny since I have switched to Natural Balance.  I know this is a bit of a digression here, but part of grooming your dog is taking preventative measures.  Feeding the dogs high quality food helps keep their fur and nails healthy, so I consider it a first step in helping keep them pretty and happy.

Just FYI, I am not being paid or anything to endorse this dog food, it's just what I found to be the best balance of high quality food and it still is pretty affordable.  A 30 pound bag is about 45-50 dollars (free shipping from Amazon usually, too). While this may seem expensive, keep in mind that dogs eat about twice as much of the less expensive brands because there are less nutrients and their bodies tell them to eat more until they get all the nutrients they need.  I encourage you to do some research.  Natural Balance isn't the absolute best brand I found, but I can definitely sleep well at night knowing that I am taking good care of my furbabies by feeding them good food. End rant. :-)

To begin the actual grooming process, I give Chunk a bath in warm water (but not uncomfortably warm--think baby bathwater).  I use the dog shampoo, and then I will use my conditioner and leave it on for about 1-3 minutes, depending on how much he hates the bath at that time.  A good tip is to wait to get the dog's head wet until the very end of the bath--wash everything else first. This keeps the dog from shaking all that water all over you.  Be sure to not get the soap in the dog's eyes, and rinse all the fur thoroughly.  When washing with dog shampoo, be sure to take a little more time on the winkie area for a boy, and wash his or her little butt really well also. It's a dirty job, but we do it because we love them. 

After the bath, towel off the dog and allow a few minutes for the obligatory run through the house at light speed.

Once your furbaby has gotten that out of his or her system, it's time to brush and cut.  Now, I really don't brush or comb Chunk much at all. I will spend about a minute trying to detangle what I can, but I am really worried about ever causing him pain, so if I notice that it bothers him at all, then I stop right away and move on.  This also minimizes stress for the dog and ultimately they will trust you more if you groom them yourself on a regular basis.  

One thing that a dog will do if you are combing/brushing them and you hit a tangle, is they will instinctively turn their head and make almost a biting motion toward you.  Most dogs will stop themselves, and some younger and rambunctious ones will possibly get a little nip in.  After researching this behavior and reading about it from several sources, I am confident in recommending that you never punish this behavior. The reason behind this is that the dog is not being malicious, it is an instinctive response to pain, and the dog stops itself before biting you, so it is already practicing self-control.  If you punish this behavior, you will confuse the dog. If you keep causing this behavior, you will make the dog anxious. If you have been brushing your dog since he or she was a puppy, then you likely won't have this issue, but I was a bad mommy and I did not think to start combing Chunk to get him used to it (I was more caught up in trying to get him to stop shitting in my house).

After brushing, while the fur is still damp is the ideal time to cut the dog's hair, just like people hair.  If you do use clippers, put about a 1 inch guard on and go to town, then use the scissors for the hard-to-reach spots and the head/face.

Since Chunk hates clippers (the guard snags his cotton-texture fur too often for them to be effective), then I just go straight to the scissors.  To do this safely, it is extremely important that you take your time to discern where your dog's skin is in relation to the fur, and you may want to find a helper to gently hold the dog while you do this the first few times. All it takes is one little slip and your dog will be traumatized and future grooming will be that more difficult (not to mention how badly you will feel!).  

The normal routine for clipping is back to front, bottom to top.  Others may do it differently, so I don't think it makes a big difference.  First, I start with the tail.  Really look at the fur, and if there are any mats, lightly pull it apart until you can see where the skin ends and the mat begins.  Then, holding the fur taught (but gently), use the TIP of the scissors to slowly clip the mat out of the fur little by little. This way, if you slip or the dog moves and they get cut, it will be a small wound.

Speaking of cuts, now would be a good time to mention that you should have styptic powder on  hand just in case.  It will stop bleeding very quickly.  This is an essential item to keep on hand if you clip your dogs' nails yourself.

Back to the cutting steps:  After taking care of the tail, I go for the rear end and the back legs, usually with my husband holding the dog gently.  I usually do this outside on our back deck on the glass top table, and set the dog on the table on a beach towel to catch the fur that falls and make it less slippery for the dog to stand on (have you ever seen a dog who enjoys standing on that slippery metal table at the vet?).

When clipping the hair on the dog's butt, you want to hold up the tail and be very gentle in this delicate area. It is important, however, to make sure to trim the fur as short as possible around the dog's anus, and this will not only keep your dog cleaner longer, but you don't want dingleberries dragging on your furniture, to be frank.  

When I trim the dog's leg hair, I do find it a bit difficult to trim around the feet. Most dogs don't like you to touch their legs, and Chunk is no exception.  I try to hold up the fur and trim it as short as possible without danger of cutting the skin.  If you do this step, make sure to cut the fur on the bottom of the feet also.

After the back legs, I move up the back.  It takes a lot of practice to get the fur close to the same length, so if you are cutting the fur all by hand sans trimmers, your dog will probably look a bit mangy after the first few sessions. Keep in mind, however, that I am not out to enter my dog into a beauty contest, I merely want him to be happy and comfortable. He's cute whether or not he has his hair done, but that's a mother's love for ya.

Here is how Chunk looks after getting regular cuts from Mommy for the full 3.5 years of his life thus far:

It's pretty even, but you can see a few spots where he probably moved a bit, and I got the fur a bit shorter in those spots. I really don't care. Isn't he so cute anyway?! 

After you finish the back and legs, make sure to trim the chest and stomach.  If your dog is a boy, it is also important to trim the "winkie hair."  Chunk, although fixed, still has a little pillow as a "girlfriend," so he does occasionally partake in hormonal teenage practices (regardless of who is watching!).  If his winkie hair is too long, his sheath (basically the outside of the winkie) will get folded in upon itself, and guess whose job it is to finagle that thing back to normal so it doesn't dry up and fall off?  Mommy's!  You'd much rather trim his little pubies than fish out dog foreskin, just trust me on this one.  Just be extremely careful!  Just in case this does ever happen to your little boy dog, I have had luck with spraying a bit of cold water on it and pushing the sheath down toward the base, then often times the sheath will unfold and come back out. Otherwise, you can try to grab some of the fur and tug it out, but that can't feel too good on your little sex criminal dog's junk.  Either way, it is extremely important to address that issue when it arises, no matter how creepy and molesty you feel, because the part that stays uncovered can get infected and have to be surgically removed.  Okay, are you sick of reading about dog penis?  Because I feel creepy now that I've written so much about it. The joys of parenting...

When trimming your dog's hair, be sure to clip all the wispy hairs that a lot of small dogs grow on their bellies, because that has a tendency to get very matted.  I go as short as possible on the stomach area.

Most of the body trimming is common sense, but once you get to the neck and head, there are a few things to be sure to know before you attempt it at home. Keep in mind, I am in no way any sort of licensed groomer, I just have been doing this myself for almost 4 years now, and so I wanted to share my experiences.

For the neck, all dogs have a TON of excess skin, and that's in case they get into a fight, that's what other dogs bite at first so the extra skin is to protect them.  However, when trimming a dog's hair, the extra neck skin can sometimes be hard to differentiate from fur unless you are really careful. When trimming the neck, I always grab the fur and kind of wiggle my fingers at the base of it until I am certain where the dog's skin is, then I keep my fingers against the skin as a guard for trimming the fur, similar to what a hairstylist does when they're cutting your hair to make it a straight cut.  I also do that when trimming all the other hair on my dog, because it makes for a more even cut.

One part I always struggle trimming on Chunk is his neck/chin area.  he always wants to put his head down so I can't get to it, so in addition to taking all the precautions I have suggested, I simply will not trim this part of my dog's fur unless I have someone to help hold his head so he is looking up and the area is accessible. Otherwise, there is just too much of a risk of hurting him.

Once the neck is done, it's time to trim the head. This can be done pretty easily using my recommendations, but I do have a sort of method for getting the dog to look halfway decent, instead of just less hairy, like some of Chunk's earlier haircuts. 

First, I do the ears. I find the bottom of the ear, and I hold the fur with my fingers parallel to the bottom of the ear, then trim as close as I safely can.  Next, I move to the top of the head, moving back to front. This way I can blend the neck length into a bit of a longer fur length on the top of the head. I try to keep it as even as possible, stopping at the "eyebrows" of the dog.  Then, I go down to the dog's nose and trim around in a circle so it is all even.  Next, move to the sides of the snout, and trim the fur with your fingers parallel to the dog's mouth.  After that, move back to the eyebrows and, always keeping your fingers between the scissors and the eyes, try to match the trim around the curve of the dog's eyes, so they don't have square-looking eyebrows. If you try these tips for the first time and your dog still comes out looking like someone took a weed whacker to him, that's okay!  I promise that the dog won't mind, and you will get better with practice. 

If you want to feel even better, here's what Chunk looked like after one of his first haircuts:

As you can see, I was afraid to trim his legs because he was so wiggly. Also, this is why you need to keep the guard on the clippers, unless you want a bald dog.  At least it was summer time. 

Here is how he looks after yesterday's haircut:

There are still a couple spots that I wanna go back with the scissors to perfect, but I try not to bother the dog so much, he doesn't care as long as he isn't matted and he still gets to roll around in the grass outside.

Here's where the extras come in:  I trim the toenails, and I suggest that you have a vet or groomer teach you to do this first before trying it, because (especially dark colored) toenails are hard to trim without hitting the quick and causing pain and bleeding.

I also have made my own paw pad lotion for Chunk, since his paws often will crack.  I melted shea butter and added jojoba oil, and added a drop or two of tea tree oil for some antibacterial properties. I didn't add more than a drop though because dogs shouldn't ingest much tea tree oil if any.  Chunk always gets a little annoyed when I rub the lotion on his paws, but I can tell that he feels much better afterward.

The last thing I do before finally letting my poor dog go on his way is spraying down his back with my homemade flea and tick spray.

I hope this helps all pet owners who are on a budget.  I know that a lot of people say that if you can't afford to take care of pets, you shouldn't have them, but not everyone plans to lose income years after getting a dog, jerks!  Hopefully if any of my readers are in a situation like that, this will help you. Or, if you just prefer not to take your dog to the groomer, this will help. My dog just really hates being taken places without me, so I prefer to do this at home for his comfort. Happy grooming!