Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday | Christmas Day with Grand-Wee-One

Okay...I know I am a day late with this but I have been sick all week and running behind! We had a great Christmas and we were able to spend the day with our 2 1/2 year old Grand-Wee-One who insisted on wearing her new blue Cinderella dress for the holiday LOL!

Here is a pic from our holiday with Grand-Wee-One opening up some of her holiday gifts. It took her well over an hour! Yes...she is our first & only grandchild so we do spoil her a lot!

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday!

~* Shelly *~

I've Been Shopping For Baby Gifts!

A few weeks ago we were given the news that my niece is expecting her first child and is due in April 2012. Since that time I have been busy shopping and looking for a special baby blanket to give to her as one of her baby shower gifts.

I know that when I was a new mother you could never have enough blankets so I always like to give one as a gift at the baby showers I attend. This time around I am specifically looking for special baby boy blankets since she is having a precious little baby boy.

In addition to the blanket I will be giving her some newborn baby boy outfits, box of disposable diapers, changing pads, organic cotton baby bibs and I purchased a baby monitor. I love it when we are provided a list of things that the new mom will need as it makes my shopping a whole lot easier!

My mother-in-law is into Knitting Baby Blankets and is already working on a blanket for Ashley's baby shower so I know that will be a treasured gift too! I know I still have the baby blanket that she knitted for my daughter (who is now 26 years old) and I gave that to her when she had her first child 2 1/2 years ago. Blankets can become treasured heirlooms and I love that aspect!

I am really excited about Ashley's pregnancy and I am looking forward to attending the baby shower in late February. I will post again here on my blog once she finally has the baby in April and give you all an update.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated by the advertiser to write this post. We were provided with the subject matter to write about but our thoughts, opinions and words are 100% our own. Please read our Terms of Service & Disclaimer Policy for additional information. All information contained on this blog is copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 26, 2011

How to Manage Your Holiday Debt

Before the holidays there was endless advice about setting a budget and sticking to a shopping list. Those who ignored the wisdom shared by experts will be in for a shock when credit card and bank statements arrive in the mail.

According to a Consumer Reports poll, six percent of us are still paying off holiday debts from 2010. That means any new purchases racked up over the past holiday season will inflate those interest charges and make paying down the old and new balances more difficult and expensive.

If the bottom line on your bills is looking ugly, it's time to get a financial-management makeover. Consider these tips for balancing your holiday debt:

1. Double and Triple Up
Multiply your credit card minimum payments two or three times to reduce the amount of interest you'll end up paying. Merely meeting the minimum means you'll never see bottom.

2. Now's the Time to Negotiate
Talk to your credit card company about negotiating a better rate on interest, fees and other expenses. If your interest rate is above 15 percent and they won't negotiate, it may be time to transfer much of the balance to a lower-cost card. Just make sure you pay off the debt before the interest rate climbs again.

3. Go On a No-spend Diet
Stick those credit cards in the freezer, if you have to, but do what it takes to avoid impulse shopping sprees. Better yet, give them to a trusted friend or family member for safekeeping.

4. Get Couponing
Using coupons for necessary purchases not only saves you money, but the practice helps you make more educated purchasing decisions. You can find online and printable coupons for thousands of stores on CouponSherpa.com, or download their mobile app for instant access to coupons while you shop.

5. Stick to Cash
There's something about parting with greenbacks that makes us less likely to spend. Keep a budgeted amount on hand and stay away from the cards. Using the envelope system is expecially helpful in tracking your cash spending while working toward financial goals.

6. Cut Back on Luxuries
You've had your fun during the holidays; now it's time to get serious. Cut out the restaurants, nail salon and triple shot mocha latte until the bills are under control. Of course, too strict of an economic diet is as easy to break as a weight-loss regimen. So figure in an occasional, small splurge to keep you going.

7. Set Small Goals
Don't try to do everything at once. If paying off credit cards in three months means going hungry, you're biting off more than you can chew. Set smaller, obtainable goals and you'll appreciate the final results more. For those with multiple credit cards with high balances, try paying down one card at a time to feel that sense of accomplishment needed to push on to the next goal.

8. Meet With a Financial Planner
If you're barely treading financial water, it's time to get some assistance. A professional financial planner can help you establish a reasonable plan that won't leave you paying off debts until next Christmas. You can find a qualified guide through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards website or you might check for non-profit assistance.

###

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert who has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. For all media inquiries, please contact Andrea Woroch

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I just wanted to take a few minutes this morning to wish all of my online friends and blog readers a Merry Christmas! I hope you all enjoy spending the day with your loved ones and I hope Santa brought you something special this year!

I will be enjoying the day with my husband, daughter, granddaughter and my mother! Lots of gifts to open and some delicious food to eat so I am really looking forward to it!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Shelly

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How to Tip With Gift Cards for the Holidays!

Here's an interesting statistic from Consumer Reports: Nearly 50 percent of people surveyed by the national research center tip their cleaning person for the holidays with cash, checks or gift cards. The same genorosity is shown to hairdressers (36 percent), manicurists (35 percent) and barbers (32 percent).

It sounds like people know exactly what to give their beauty-care specialists and, since gift cards are the most-requested present for the fifth year running, you have to bet a large portion of those holiday tips came in the form of gift cards.

Tipping with gift cards adds a personal touch you can't get with cash. It shows you know something personal about the recipient, other than that they provide a good service. If this sounds appealing, read on for five suggestions on tipping with gift cards.

1. Consider The Individual
Those who stand on their feet all day would likely love a spa treatment. Delivery people who use their own vehicles, like newspaper carriers, would probably appreciate a gas gift card.

2. Give an All-purpose Card
If you're totally clueless, a grocery gift card from Whole Foods, Safeway, etc., could hardly go amiss. Other gift cards to fall back on include iTunes or big-box stores, like Wal-Mart or Target.

3. Buy Discount Cards
You can prove your largess without spending large. Check out websites like GiftCardGranny.com, where you can buy discount gift cards at up to 50 percent off the face value. The recipient will never know and you'll save enough to tip your newspaper-delivery specialist.

4. Give Them Something to Chew On
Check with local eateries for discounts on gift cards. At this time of year, some restaurants -- big and small -- offer bonus cards when you buy a minimum amount, like California Pizza Kitchen.

5. Point Them Towards Gift Card Exchange Day
Should the recipient give you a blank look when you hand over their gift card, you might casually mention Gift Card Exchange Day, when they can exchange their card for cash on Dec. 26 through a variety of resellers.

###

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. For all media inquiries, please contact Andrea Woroch at 970-672-6085 or email andrea@kinoliinc.com.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Only Nice Thing About Winter Is...

Hubs and I were sitting around having our coffee yesterday morning and discussing the fact that summer flew by and winter is right around the corner. Neither one of us are big fans of winter and personally...I hate winter! Anyway...we were trying to think of a few nice things to say about the winter season and we could only come up with a handful of things.

The Only Nice Thing About Winter Is...

1. We don't have to mow the grass every week.
2. Christmas Vacation with family.
3. New Years Eve, great time to hit the party scene.
4. I (Shelly) don't have to shave my legs every day! LOL
5. The neighbors dog doesn't come over & poop in our yard. (their dog hates the cold, ice and snow, so he won't come over to do his business).
6. School & Work Closings due to bad weather. (free paid days off work)
7. No Traffic Jams that last 3 hours. (we live in a tourist area near Hershey PA and winter is our off-season).
8. More Romance Time! Yes folks, it is a proven fact that romance increases during the winter time thanks to couples being stuck indoors).
9. Valentine's Day: Hubby always takes me away for a mini romantic weekend.


So folks, as you can see...my list isn't very long since we are not fans of winter!!! Are you a winter fan? If so, what do you like about winter?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday | Fun At The Cape May Zoo!

Okay...almost wordless Wednesday! We had a lot of fun at the Cape May County Zoo back in early October! This was the first time my grand-wee-one had ever been to a zoo and she absolutely loved it!

The Procrastinator's Guide to Holiday Shopping

More than one-third of consumers have already finished most of their holiday shopping, a figure released by the American Research Group on Monday that's particularly irritating to procrastinators. Just because you waited until the last minute, however, doesn't mean you have to pay top price for the dregs of merchandise.

In an effort to reduce their inventories further, some stores are dropping prices as Christmas approaches, so it sometimes pays to wait. Still, it's a lot more stressful and shoppers are more likely to grab the first thing they see, regardless of price. Avoid overshooting your budget by following these six tips for last-minute holiday shopping.

1. Skip the Hottest Toys
The odds of finding a Nerf Vortex or a Sesame Street Let's Rock Elmo rank up there with winning the lottery. Even if you could locate the object of your child's most expensive affection, stores will likely have jacked up prices as they know shoppers are desperate.

2. Read Your Junk Mail
Remember all those merchant e-newsletters you receive throughout the year? Well this is the time to start reading them. Online retailers usually include coupon codes that allow you to score great last-minute deals.

3. Take Advantage of Free Shipping Day
It's not too late to order gifts online. Scheduled in its fourth year for Dec. 16, Free Shipping Day allows procrastinators to shop from over 2,000 merchants with free shipping by Christmas Eve. You'll find both big-name and small business merchants at FreeShippingDay.com, along with many great deals.

4. Keep Comparing Prices
Stressed shoppers will often pay whatever a retailer charges for an item just to cross it off their gift list. However, it's important to comparison shop even when you're in a hurry, which is why sites like PriceGrabber.com are so helpful this time of year. Simply enter the product name and the site locates a store near you with the lowest price. Better yet, get notified via FreePriceAlerts, a free browser download that updates you via e-mail or mobile app when your desired item drops in price.

5. Seek Out Free Gifts
Victoria's Secret is making 100,000 fans very happy with free gift cards given away on Facebook each day through Dec. 15. American Express cardholders who spend $25 or more at select stores are receiving a surprise gift by email through their "Gift Chain Program" (while supplies last). Keep an eye out for such special deals as they're all over the place this year.

6. Last-minute Lifesavers
The secret to successful procrastination is making it seem like you plan things well in advance. Gift cards are a go-to solution for anyone facing a last-minute gifting challenge, especially now that they're available in printable, e-mail and mobile formats from popular merchants. You can also find printable gift wrap for small purchases from sites like gift-wrapit.com for last-minute packaging.

###

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. For all media inquiries, please contact Andrea Woroch at 970-672-6085 or email andrea@kinoliinc.com.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sprint is Having a Big 3-Day Sale! Hurry!!!


This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Sprint for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


Do you still need to pick up a last minute holiday gift this year? Got someone on your holiday list who is asking for a new cell phone? If so, You need to check out the big 3-Day sale going on now over at Sprint!


Right now you can get one of the Android™ powered EVO 4G devices for FREE! Thats right, you heard me correctly, FREE! For a limited time you can get the HTC EVO 4G or the EVO Shift for FREE! What a great deal! Furthermore, you can get the activation for new lines of service and free shipping from Spring but checking out the offer details directly on their web site!


In addition, Your old cell phone could pay for your new one (up to $250) with Sprint's buyback program! You can grab the details for that also from their web site. These offers are strictly online so you will need to head on over there today to grab the details and to learn more about it.


Here is a fact you might not know about Sprint. They are ranked #3 among companies in America for being green in Newsweek's 2001 Green Rankings! Wow, that is impressive for sure!


So head on over to the Sprint web site today and check out this fabulous new offer before it is gone!


Happy Holidays!


Visit Sponsor's Site

Getting my Christmas decorating over with now

Guest post written by Sarah Robbins

There is so much that I have to do over the next month. I really don't even want to think about it, so going ahead and decorating for Christmas is a necessity, not an option. I think it's that way for a lot of people. But I don't just want to throw up the old Christmas decorations and call it a day. I enjoy coming up with neat, new Christmas decorations to make!

But because time is of the essence, I looked online to see if I could find some really cheap and easy DIY cute decorations to make on my own. While I was online looking for that, I ran across some stuff about Replacement Windows that sounded really great, so I decided to use that service to replace our windows right after the holidays. I just don't have any time for it right now!

I did find some pretty cute little tutorials on decorating that I'm pretty proud of! I made this really cute little Christmas bunting to hang up in our dining room that really brings teh crafty little Christmas look into our space.

Monday, December 5, 2011

5 Practical Lessons from "Extreme Couponing" Season 2

With all the hoopla about TLC's first season of "Extreme Couponing," it's no wonder Season Two is eagerly awaited by many fans. Starting Wednesday, the maniacs of the supermarket aisles take to American TV screens once again to show shoppers how it's done.

Thanks to a bit of a sneak peak, Coupon Sherpa offers practical advice based on a selection of Season Two topics.

1. Shelf Clearing
No matter what the extremists say, clearing a shelf of every item is just plain rude. Sure it's okay to go for big bargains, but it's also important to remember the lesson we all learned about "sharing" in nursery school.

2. Teach Your Children
Another couponer teaches her college-bound son a few tricks of the trade. What a great way to ensure the next generation learns frugal lessons before it's too late! If you want to extend this courtesy to your children, make it relevant by encouraging use of both print and online coupons.

3. Building on a Dream
Do you get the feeling TLC learned the public wasn't too crazy about the hoarding aspects of couponing? This season focuses on more than filling your home with endless boxes of toothpaste. One segment in Season Two tells of a couponer with the worthy goal of building a dream home with coupon savings.

4. Feeding the Masses
Is it possible to feed 280 wedding guests on just $150? Apparently one woman is giving it a shot this season, but thankfully your family's food requirements are likely more manageable. In addition to using coupons for groceries, avoid paying too much by reading 8 Overpriced Grocery Items to Skip from SavvySugar.com.

5. Share the Savings
A featured couponer this season feeds both her family of seven and 200 fellow parishioners on just $100 a month. Now there's a good lesson. Extreme couponers often get a bad rap, but most of these thrifty consumers donate part of what they purchase. Read up on these rockstars to renew your faith in the practice.

###

CouponSherpa.com is dedicated to helping consumers save money and live more frugally. For all media inquiries, please contact Kendal Perez at 970-672-1136 or email kendal@couponsherpa(dot)com.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Budget-friendly Tips for Holiday Weddings - Your Wedding Dreams Can Come True!

The countdown to the holidays has begun. With it comes the only time of year that's simultaneously joyous and stressful. For some, this season will bring with it the event of a lifetime: a wedding. Those planning holiday winter weddings have several opportunities to save money and lessen the stress burden for themselves and their guests.

1. Deck the Halls.
Most event locations will have already decked the halls for the holidays, allowing you to piggyback their efforts for a low-cost wedding. Go with Christmas hues of gold, red and green -- or go for a silvery winter blitz. Strings of white Christmas lights will transform any room into a holiday paradise.

2. Silver Bells.
Create budget large-scale ornaments as decorations using Styrofoam balls spray-painted and covered in glitter. Or create groupings of bare branches spray-painted white and covered in silver glitter. Paper ornaments, like these ornament greeting cards, make great wedding invitations or wedding favors.

3. Seasons Eatings.
Comfort food is a popular winter wedding choice (think soups, pasta, pot pies, mac-n-cheese). Don't shy away from cost-cutting measures like serving family-style or buffet. Consider a hot chocolate, cider, eggnog or coffee bar your guests can immediately help themselves to (plus: you'll save hundreds by skipping the alcohol).

4. Marshmallow World.
Gingerbread houses make quaint table centerpieces, as do natural greenery and berries. Cocoa mixes or cookie cutters also make inexpensive wedding favors.

5. Peace on Earth and Online.
Couples are increasingly using online wedding planning tools, like creating or sending save-the-date and invitations online (40-percent increase over the last two years), personal websites and online RSVP services (23-percent and 31-percent increases respectively) and using social media to communicate wedding details (78-percent increase), according to TheKnot.com. Brides and grooms also have the option of registering online for gift cards at sites like CardAvenue.com, which a great option for guests already overwhelmed with holiday shopping lists.

6. Jingle Bell Rock.

If you chose to have your wedding around the holidays, it's likely a favorite time of year for you. As such, incorporating favorite holiday tunes into your wedding reception is a must, and a fantastic way to get your guests into the holiday spirit. Pandora is an excellent, economical method to pipe in some yuletide carols at the appropriate time during your reception.

When all is said and done, you'll begin your first happy new year together, and that's something to celebrate indeed.

Weddings expert Cara Davis is the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot and blogs from her home in Orlando, FL, about cheap ways to spend and save at CheapWaysTo.com.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving When Your Nest is Empty

Have your children all flown the coop with nary a look backwards? For some, Thanksgiving is pretty lonely when your own flesh and blood can't make it home for even a brief visit. On the other hand, you might delight in your freedom from turkey tyranny. Either way, if you're a Baby Boomers lacking nestlings for the first time, you'll likely need to adjust holiday plans to better suit your new lifestyle.

After experiencing Thanksgiving without family several years, I came up with several ways to celebrate the holiday without feeling abandoned. Read on for six new Turkey Day traditions that might suit your needs. And Happy Thanksgiving!

1. Host an Orphan's Dinner
It really helps to remember you're not alone in this boat. There are plenty of people who'd greatly appreciate an invitation to socialize while enjoying a touch of turkey. I threw such a party last year and asked everyone to bring a dish to pass. The only thing I had to buy and prepare was the turkey, which made it even easier than being a parental unit in this scenario.

2. Retire to a Restaurant
Celebrate kicking the turkey habit by dining out at one of the many eateries that do all the work for you. You'll enjoy the football games much more if you don't have to leap up every 15 minutes to baste a bird. And, you can take advantage of cheap gift cards at such sites as GiftCardGranny to reduce your bill up to 30 percent.

3. Shop!
Black Friday has lately seceeded space to Grey Thursday. According to an article on FOXBusiness.com, more stores are offering doorbuster sales on Thanksgiving, so you could get some shopping done without facing the mass stampede to follow. Or you might hit the Internet and do some early cyber shopping. You can run price comparisons with a few mouse clicks and have gifts delivered directly to those ungrateful wretches to whom you gave life.

4. Spend the Day at a Shelter
One of my favorite Thanksgiving activities is cooking dinner at our local homeless shelter. Actually, I don't cook the turkey dinner itself, as there are plenty of people willing to do that. Instead, I use the leftovers to create future meals for the shelter. It just seems a huge waste to throw away all those bird bones when the makings for broth and casseroles are readily available. Visit HomelessShelterDirectory.org for a list of volunteer opportunities.

5. Brighten Someone Else's Day
The homeless aren't the only ones who could use your volunteer services. Many nursing homes and hospitals would greatly appreciate a visitor who will bring some friendship into what they may otherwise find a very lonely day. It's a win/win situation and you just might make some new friends. Check out this excellent blog post for some do's and don'ts when visiting hospitals and nursing homes during the holidays.

6. Get Out of Town
A childless couple I know make a point of leaving home for the holidays; usually preferring to spend the long weekend scuba diving. While part of the reason they skip town is to avoid miserable family gatherings, they also miss bad weather and crowds of shoppers. Not all of us can afford a sunny beach vacation, but you might team up with another singleton or couple and rent a cabin, or simply go for a long drive.

###

Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist for Kinoli Inc. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, "ABC World News," NBC's "TODAY" show and many other media outlets.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Frugal Homemade Cleaning Tips


If you are looking to save some money you can start by using homemade cleaning products to clean your home with. Not only are these inexpensive to make but most are eco-friendly too! I use a lot of baking soda and white vinegar around my home to kill germs and to keep my home clean. Here are a few other ideas to help you get your house cleaned up and do so on the cheap.

Vinegar - Vinegar can be used to remove mold, grease, and mildew. Vinegar will kill bacteria and germs. Just dilute down your white vinegar with tap water so that it doesn't irritate your skin while using it.

Baking Soda - Baking soda can be used as a scouring agent and deodorizer. You can even brush your teeth with it. I like to make a baking soda paste by just adding a tad of tap water to it and then use it for scrubbing. It will also do a great job at deodorizing your garbage disposal. If your carpets have a stinky smell sprinkle plain baking soda onto your carpets and let it sit for an hour and then vacuum it up.

Bleach - I purchased an empty spray bottle and I put in 1/4 cup of bleach and then filled it with tap water. It now can be use to clean counter tops, toilets, tubs and sinks.

Salt - Your basic table salt makes for a good abrasive scouring powder so sprinkle some onto your stainless steel kitchen sink and use a sponge to scrub it down. A salt scrub also works well for removing baked on food from your cookware and bakeware too!

Lemon Juice - Lemon juice mixed with water makes a great all-purpose cleaner. I keep a spray bottle filled with lemon juice/water and spray down my kitchen countertops with it every day. It also is great for cleaning the microwave, stove-top and refrigerator.

As you can see...you don't have to pay a fortune at the store for chemical household cleaners when you can spend pennies and make your own at home! Do you have any frugal cleaning tips to share with me today? If so, please leave me a comment.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

7 Retail Trends for 2011 Holiday Shopping

Forget credit cards; layaway plans are the hot trend for Christmas shopping this year.
These perky payment plans began to re-appear several years ago, but Wal-Mart is giving it a big kick in the pants this year. After a five-year layoff, Wal-Mart announced Thursday it was bringing back the payment method that gained initial traction in the Great Depression.

Speaking of trends, merchants plan on using a variety of methods this holiday season to part consumers and their cash. Here are seven retail trends you'll see unveiled in October...or earlier.
1. Allow me to recommend...Personalized product recommendations are everywhere this year, as improved technology allows merchants to base purchase suggestions on a shopper's previous search behavior. It's a proven system for presenting consumers with products they might otherwise miss, while promoting a one-to-one experience that personalizes an e-retailers website.

2. Look at your marketing campaign, then look at me.Old Spice got it right in 2010 when they expanded their marketing campaign across all platforms. Starting with the phenomenally popular commercial featuring a handsome man on a horse, the scent manufacturer upped the ante by turning the towel-clad stud into an Internet meme.

Pepsi Refresh soon followed suit with an integrated marketing campaign that hit social media, mobile devices, e-readers and offline marketing. Other manufacturers and merchants are already ramping up their integrated attacks. L'Occitane en Provence, for example, recently calculated its revenue from an email registration campaign as increasing sales from .11 cents for random emails to $2.84 per targeted email.

3. Have yourself a very mobile Christmas.Mobile marketing will really hit its stride, starting as early as October. Fueled by increased smartphone use and mobile-only households, Forrester predicts over 75 percent of marketers will include mobile in their marketing mix, using a variety of techniques that blend in-store and online experiences. Shoppers can readily compare prices, scan for coupons, and even order a product, if a brick-and-mortar store doesn't meet their preferred price.

The trend represents a rapid response to statistics from IBM Coremetrics, revealing sales via mobile devices made up 6.5 percent of all site purchases, as of April 2011.

4. Pay for shipping? No way! Amazon.com started a mass movement towards free shipping in 2005 that consumers rapidly took to heart. As more merchants jumped on the bandwagon, shoppers began expecting free shipping and even refused to buy when no such deals were offered.

The mobile and free delivery trends dovetail nicely this year, with such sites as FreeShipping.org providing readily accessible codes.

5. Procrastinators have a reason to rejoice.This is the year Free Shipping Day is expected to overwhelm Cyber Monday. The one-day shopping holiday, scheduled this year for Friday, Dec. 16, will allow consumers to shop more than 2,000 online merchants with free shipping and delivery by Christmas Eve.

In 2010, Free Shipping Day blew past its 35-year-old sibling Black Friday by nearly $300 million in online sales and proved the third-heaviest day of online shopping in history. The event is further fueled by statistics from IBM Coremetrics indicating 83 percent of consumers prefer to shop online than in crowded stores, and 21 percent expect to spend more online in 2011 than 2010.

6. Expect color coordination across the board.We're going to be sick of silver and green by New Years, as merchants push the official 2011 color pallet for Christmas decorations. According to The Trend Curve, an international authority on designs and color trends for the home, silver and a soft green are the pair to beat this year.

7. Please hold. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, layaway plans are making a rapid comeback, as consumers increasingly refuse to pile on more credit card debt.

Sears and Kmart led the charge for Christmas 2010, introducing reasonable layaway programs. This year, the Sears program allows customers to pay as little as $20 or 20 percent down (whichever is greater) and make online or in-store payments every two weeks before claiming their purchases.

Sears charges $5 to initiate a layaway contract and $15 for cancellation. The Kmart layaway program is identical, except shoppers make a down payment of $20 or 10 percent.

Wal-Mart's campaign begins this year on Oct. 17 and is available only for purchases of $50 or more on electronics and toys. Each item must be worth at least $15 and shoppers will pay a $5 initiation fee, place 10 percent down, and pay off the debt by Dec. 16 or face a $10 cancellation fee.

A few other stores with similar programs include Toys R Us and Babies R Us, Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Big Lots offers a "Price Hold" program on select furniture.
###

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Advertising Indoctrination: Tips for Avoiding Targeted Online Ads

Human beings look at the world and see a complex network of interconnected individuals, each with their own autonomy and free will. This perception is a far cry from what credit card companies see. Instead, they view individuals as big bundles of data from which they can profit.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported both MasterCard and VISA are working on plans targeting online ads to consumers based on previous credit card purchases. The idea is you pick up a bag of dog food from the store and charge it to your credit card. When you get home and go online, you start seeing ads for corresponding products and services, like dog toys and dog grooming.

Despite the massive amount of personal data we transmit every day, there are still ways to protect yourself from targeted online ads. Try a few of these tips to avoid the watchful eye of Big Brother.

1. Don't Over-share
Countless websites and stores ask us to provide phone numbers, email addresses and ZIP codes to help them build a marketing profile. Don't bother sharing your details unless they're essential to your purchase. If the guilt of creating fake information keeps you tossing and turning at night, GuerrillaMail.com provides temporary email addresses that last for just 60 minutes.

2. Cut Down on Cookies
"Cookie" is an important keyword here. These small files are stored on your computer every time you visit a website. They're the reason you don't have to log in to Facebook 10 times a day and why you see ads for a pair of shoes viewed yesterday when you're checking your email today. Luckily, the Network Advertising Initiative can help you opt-out of advertising cookies. With just a few simple steps, you're able to block major marketers from access to your browsing habits.

3. Privatize Your Purchases
Don't forget about the main culprits in this personal information panic. All told, VISA and MasterCard process nearly 70 billion transactions each year. All the while, they're collecting and analyzing this massive amount of data. Avoid having your information inspected by opting-out of their analytics programs. MasterCard makes it especially easy; all you have to do is follow this link and opt out of programs in which you don't want to participate. VISA makes it more complicated, but look here for details.

4. Beef Up Your Browser
In response to growing discontent over privacy issues, popular Web browsers like Internet Explorer and Firefox are making it easier to protect personal information. Their latest versions include a private browsing option you can enable to keep your online habits confidential. The browser then won't store such information as cookies, passwords and files you download.
5. Leave No Paper Trail
Paperless statements are good for the environment and also good for your security. Not only does online banking eliminate the amount of personal information you dump in the trash, it also lets you track each purchase instantly. It's a smart security strategy to check your online bank accounts often. This way, you can ensure suspicious items don't slip through the cracks.

6. Get Off the Grid
Credit has practically become our official currency. If you're tired of stressing about credit card security, go old-fashioned. While cash doesn't work online, it doesn't require you share any personal details, either. Gift cards are another good way to avoid using credit. Buying gift cards at less than face value from sites like GiftCardGranny provides instant savings, plus you can use them both in-store and online. Even better, gift cards aren't attached to any of your personal info.

7. Avoid Auto-Fill
Keeping your credit card number, billing address and shipping address on file at Amazon is handy, but it also makes you more vulnerable. Something simple like forgetting to log out at the library can place your personal details in the wrong hands. Though it's tedious and takes extra time, enter your information anew with each order.

8. Ensure You're Secure
It's surprisingly easy to confirm an online merchant has secure checkout. Always look for "https" in the Web address, instead of just "http." That extra "s" shows your connection is encrypted and unauthorized users will have to go to greater measures to get your information. You can learn more about site-specific security by clicking the appropriate box near the address bar in your browser.

###

Andrea Woroch is a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert, having been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I LOVE the Jersey Shore!!!

Hubby and I just got back from a mini vacation down to the Jersey Shore...North Wildwood to be exact! We got down a few times every year and this time we were surprised at how gorgeous the weather was for the middle of October! It was so nice and warm that I even got to walk the beach in my bare feet!

ahhhh...looking forward to spring as I hate winter so that come springtime my butt will be back down on the beach! I just love visiting the Jersey Shore and looking forward to retirement when we will move down there to stay!

~ Shelly ~

Monday, October 17, 2011

Remedies For The Top 11 Consumer Complaints of 2011

Consumer complaints are on the rise, whether it be over poor customer service, billing errors or faulty workmanship. The incredibly popular website Consumerist.com is even dedicated to publicizing and solving such problems. While blog posts and comments on the site suggest the biggest areas of friction, a survey released July 27 substantiates this information.

The Consumer Federation of America, the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators released the results of a study detailing "the most common, fastest growing and worst complaints" received in 2010 by 31 agencies. Most were related to the economic hardships faced by consumers and businesses.

Here's a look at the top 11 consumer complaints, along with a few possible remedies.

1. VehiclesCOMPLAINT: The fast-talking salesman isn't an out-of-date myth. Such tactics still exist, and they're bolstered by misrepresentations in advertising. What's a car buyer to do?

REMEDY: Research any unfamiliar products before you begin shopping. Consumer Reports and Car and Driver rate and review cars on their websites, although you have to buy a subscription to read Consumer Reports online so you might look for print copies at your public library. Safercar.gov also allows you to check for recalls by make and year of the vehicle.

2. Credit and DebtCOMPLAINT: A friend had a credit rating about 800, until his bank was purchased and all routing numbers were changed. All his bills were auto-paid so he had to change this information for each account -- a feat that proved to be unbelievably difficult. Six months later, he's still trying to get the situation corrected and his credit rating has dropped below 700.

Correcting credit and debt errors is a nightmare from which it often feels Americans will never wake. To do so requires determination, many phone calls and lots of letters, but you're faced with an even bigger problem if you allow the mistake to stand.

REMEDY: Companies can't legally charge a fee to help you settle or reduce debts, including avoiding foreclosure. Instead, seek out legitimate, licensed sources to deal with such problems. Non-profit credit counseling agencies are available for free or at a reduced cost, depending on your financial situation. To find a service in your area, call 1-800-388-2227 or visit the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website.

3. Home Improvement and Construction (tie)COMPLAINT: After seven years of trying to build his dream home, actor Will Smith was so frustrated he advised others not to even attempt the job. If a multi-zillionaire celebrity was so stressed by the process, what can us little people do about shoddy work and failing to start or finish the job?

REMEDY: Research companies before you engage their services and only hire those who are licensed. Word of mouth is your best ally and getting references is a necessity.
Rutgers University compiled a detailed listing of websites with resources for researching companies of all types. The Better Business Bureau also can often fill you in on complaints lodged against local companies.

4. Retail Sales (tie)COMPLAINT: False advertising, defective merchandise, problems with coupons, gift cards and rebates...the problems abound. The maxim "buyer beware" particularly becomes a necessity when you're dealing with a small budget for high-ticket items, but even smaller purchases can break the bank, if repeated often enough.

REMEDY: To avoid problems with gift cards, use them promptly instead of tossing them into a drawer. Even long-established businesses -- like Borders and Circuit City -- can go broke and you might have trouble cashing in your cards when they do. If its unlikely you'll use the them, sell your gift cards on GiftCardGranny.com.

A fake coupon likely won't have a bar code and expiration date. Look for qualified, printable and online coupons at such sites as CouponSherpa.com. To ensure you receive a rebate, follow the guidelines listed in Consumer Reports' article "Rebate tips: Make sure you get what's coming to you."

5. ServicesCOMPLAINT: The term "service" has almost become an oxymoron since the beginning of the recession. I'm not talking about texting sales clerks who ignore customers, however. The complaints were about shoddy work or failure to perform a service.

REMEDY: Don't pay the entire bill upfront. If you're asked for a deposit, give the service provider one-quarter of the total but withhold further payments until the work progresses or is completed as promised.

6. Internet SalesCOMPLAINT: Shopping online can be wonderful. Ease of comparing prices, free shipping offers and a wider range of options are at your fingertips. Sadly, some Internet merchants misrepresent their products and/or fail to deliver.

REMEDY: Use your credit card or a PayPal account for online purchases so you can dispute products that were misrepresented or you didn't receive.

7. Household GoodsCOMPLAINT: Complaints varied a mere mite between online and brick-and-mortar merchants. Consumers were fed up with misrepresented products, delivery failures and faulty repairs. Raise your hand if you've experienced such problems.

REMEDY: As with online sales, you're best off making major purchases with a credit card so you have buyer protection. Don't fall for schemes, however, that try to sell you credit-card payment protection plans. Your provider should already carry this service, so check with the issuer before you buy.

8. UtilitiesCOMPLAINT: If you have phone, satellite, cable, electric, Internet or gas service, you likely know why the survey respondents complained about their utility services. I went through three Internet providers before finding one that actually worked, which left me without service for three months. Naturally, this led to billing problems, a problem almost every American has experienced.

REMEDY: The Consumerist received so many complaints on billing and service issues they created directions on "How to Write a Complaint Letter." Make sure you read the "Comments" on this page as they provide useful advice. Before resorting to a letter, however, start with at least two attempts to solve the problem over the phone. Never resort to threats or swearing as this will only irritate the customer service representative. Remember, they have the power to put you in "hold" purgatory. If there's a local office available, you'll often receive a better response by hiking down there and politely stating your case. A friend recently met a stonewall when trying to get a better deal on his Comcast service, until he made a personal visit. Bingo: Bill reduced from $95 to $30 for the same service.

9. Landlord and Tenant IssuesCOMPLAINT: Problems abound on both sides, but tenants have the least protection against landlord ineptitude and outright injustices. Complaints from survey respondents focused on unsafe living conditions; illegal evictions; rent and deposit disputes; and failure to make necessary repairs or provide promised extras.

REMEDY: Get everything in writing so you have recourse when an issue arises. That means you need a detailed rental agreement, which you should read thoroughly before signing. Do a walk-through with your landlord before moving in to note any stains, scratches, etc., then make copies for both of you and have them signed. Contact your local sheriff for solutions to illegal evictions. When all else fails, check to see if your city, county or local university/community college offers landlord/tenant mediation services.

10. Fraud COMPLAINT: Surely that Nigerian prince must be out of money by now, having given it all away to complete strangers via emails. Sad to say, some people are taken in by bogus emails, work-from-home offers and other schemes that inundate our junk boxes. Fraud complaints didn't even break the top 10 last year but it looks like they're soon destined for a shoot to the top.

REMEDY: Trust me; no stranger is going to wire you money for any reason. The same goes for companies requesting your personal information to "check" on a shipment, payment, etc., as well as offers to help you make money FAST! If you think you've been a victim of fraud, visit the National Consumers League's Fraud Center.

11. Home SolicitationCOMPLAINT: A localized version of the Green River Ordinance is used to prohibit home solicitation in my friend's city. Now this consumer-protection legislation is going by the wayside, thanks to a U.S. District Court ruling. Fortunately, misrepresentation or failing to deliver a door-to-door service or product is illegal, and the same holds true for mail or telemarketing solicitations -- all common complaints.

REMEDY: As the saying goes: When in doubt, check it out. Before you buy, research the company's reputation via your state or local consumer agency. As mentioned above, pay with a credit card so you have buyer protection for products, and get all promises in writing.
###

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., which operates a group of money-saving brand sites called The Frugals. She is available for in-studio, satelite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured on NBC Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ShopSmart Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. To view recent interviews or for more savings tips visit www.andreaworoch.com.

Planning A Month Long Trip Overseas

My husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this year and now we are looking to take a month long vacation overseas to really celebrate our accomplishment of being married for over 25 years. We are thinking about taking this month long trip in April 2012 since that is our anniversary month.

We want to travel around Europe and check a few of the European countries to see what they have to offer. One bed and breakfast place that hubby contacted via the internet sent us some brochures and stuff but they are in Italian so now we need to find a document translation service to translate them to English for us. Yes...we do want to go to all of that trouble as this place looks perfect for us to spend a week there while vacationing.

We plan on doing most of our traveling by air and then renting a few rental cars once we are at the various destinations that we plan on visiting so hopefully that will keep some of our costs down. We are choosing to stay mostly at small bed and breakfast type of places and maybe one or two small hotels/motels. We don't want to stay in any large, over-populated, busy resorts! We want some alone time along with a lot of peace and quiet!

I hope once we do get to our destinations that we won't need to get any type of document translation done but if we do...I am sure we can find a few places to translate for us. We are really looking forward to this "second honeymoon" and seeing some new places and trying out some new activities...maybe even some skydiving if I can work up enough nerve! LOL

Have any of you ever traveled over to any of the European countries? If so, where did you happen to visit?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated by the advertiser to write this post. We were provided with the subject matter to write about but our thoughts, opinions and words are 100% our own. Please read our Terms of Service & Disclaimer Policy for additional information. All information contained on this blog is copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Budgeting Beauty: How to Save on Your Favorite Beauty Essentials

When it comes to shaving our budgets, most ladies put beauty products in the "need" category. A study commissioned by Mintel validates this assumption, reporting consumers spent $2.32 billion on shampoo and $1.71 billion on conditioner in 2010 alone.

So what's the best way to save on essentials without resorting to dollar-store cosmetics? Here are nine tips to keep both your beauty and your budget intact.

1. Hair Products
Consider extending the life of your shampoo (and hair color) by using dry shampoo or baby powder in between washes. When using shampoo and conditioner, check out these great tips and best bargain buys from DailyFinance.com.

2. Hand Soap
Foam hand soap is all the rage these days, and one of the easier beauty products to DIY. Refer to EHow.com's recipe for specific instructions, but ultimately all you need is a lot of water, a bit of soap and a few drops of essential oil.

3. Makeup Brushes
In addition to extending the life on pricey makeup applicators, regularly cleaning your brushes is just the sanitary thing to do. And if you really need replacements, consider a tip given to me by a MAC Cosmetics artist; buy art brushes at craft stores for a fraction of the price!

4. Foundation
Whether you're a liquid, powder or mineral foundation girl, you can use less of this beauty staple by applying a base before application. The Magic Perfecting Base by L'Oreal is a favorite among top fashion magazines, and is available for less than $12 from Walmart and Target.

5. Fragrance
Let's be honest -- designer fragrances are among the most expensive beauty purchases, with $80 buying less than 6 ounces of product. If you can't part with your signature Chanel scent, buy gift cards at a discounted rate for retailers selling your fragrance and enjoy immediate savings.

6. Body Lotion
Moisturizing is a must for anyone who wants to avoid the shar pei-look at 50, but lotion gets pricey when you see the words "illuminating," "firming" or "age-defying" on the label. Unless you have a serious skin issue, consistent use of most drugstore moisturizers is sufficient.

7. Hair Color
Prolong your color-treated hair between salon visits using household ingredients. Brunettes can use a strong pot of cooled coffee and blonds can use a lemon juice-water mixture. Apply the treatment after shampooing, let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse, condition and style as usual.

8. Hair Accessories
Today's trendy hair accessories can be homemade for a fraction of salon and department store prices. Channel your inner domestic goddess and create one-of-a-kind hair candy with beads, feathers and artificial flowers found in craft stores.

9. Less is More
There's no need to wear your entire cosmetics collection every day of the week. Consider giving your wallet a break by opting for the basics during mellow workdays or lazy weekends. For tips on how to pull off the "au natural" look, refer to Real Simple's step-by-step instructions.

###

Andrea Woroch is a nationally recognized consumers-savings expert, and is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles.
For all media inquiries, please contact Andrea at 970-672-6085 or email andrea@kinoliinc.com

Taste the fun of T.G.I. FRiDAY's at home with the new Entrees for One!



This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of T.G.I. FRiDAY'S for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.



Guest Post By Sam H.



Today my guest post is about the great tasting new frozen entrees by T.G.I. FRiDAY’S “Entrées for One” which are great for us guys who don't like to cook or don't have time to cook. These entrees are delicious meals in a box that only take a few minutes to make. They come in several tasty flavors so there is a flavor for everyone to enjoy. I like these entrees for lunch because I only get a 45 minute lunch break and they totally satisfy me until dinnertime once I am back home. Entrées For One



Right now they are hosting a Fun Freezer contest where you can go over to their Facebook page and vote for your favorite fun freezer, really nifty contest is I say so myself. It ends on the 20th of October so make sure you cast your vote today. You can also leave me a comment on this post on which one you voted for, I would love to see your particular choice!



Entrées For OneLast week I enjoyed the Sizzling Chicken Fajitas, Cajun-Style Chicken Alfredo and the Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo. Out of those 3 particular ones my favorite was the Chicken Fajitas since I love Mexican food and this tasted delicious and was totally satisfying to my taste buds and to my belly. It was a nice fulfilling meal. Next week I will be trying out the Creamy Chicken Pasta Carbonara so I am really looking forward to that. I am sure it is just as tasty as the other 3 that I have already tried.



I love these new T.G.I. FRiDAY'S frozen entrees because they are easy for me to make, super affordable and they taste delicious. They make great workplace lunches for me and I think you would love them toEntrées For Oneo. I hope you give them a try.



Visit Sponsor's Site

Dorm microwave cooking 101

Guest post written by Stephen Winkler

Most of the time, I'm too worried about studying to actually go and sit down at the dining hall. It's just entirely too much trouble and then also I would rather use that extra time standing in line and finding a table asleep if I don't have to be studying then. So is the life of a pre-med student. So you could say that I've become pretty handy at cooking stuff in my dorm room. It's just so much easier and quicker. Then I don't have to worry about not finding food I want or having someone mess up my order.

But I can always find some new recipes to fix in my room, so I used the few days I had before my classes started to look through and find some new ones. While I was searching for them, i saw the site http://getclearwirelessinternet.com/. After I looked through it some I decided to send it to my mom, who switched our home internet service over to a package on there.

I did find a few more microwave cooking ideas, like some potato skins. There's surprisingly a lot that you can do with a baked potato.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated by the advertiser to write this post. We were provided with the subject matter to write about but our thoughts, opinions and words are 100% our own. Please read our Terms of Service & Disclaimer Policy for additional information. All information contained on this blog is copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Travel Tips | Packing Checklist For Busy Last Minute Vacation Travelers

Are you the type of "packer" that starts your packing for a trip or vacation days in advance or do you start your packing at the last minute? Personally...I start 2 weeks in advance as I like to be organized and I like to make sure I pack everything I think we "might" need.

Often times when I speak to others about their packing habits many people tell me they are last minute packers and usually start the day before! Many of these folks just take things out of their drawers and closets and throw them into a suitcase and out the door they go. The bad thing about this is that when you arrive at your destination your items in your suitcase are a wrinkled mess and/or you realize you forgot to pack some important things that you need. Then you have to scour an unfamiliar area to purchase the items you forgot or you have to pay a laundering or hotel service to wash, dry and iron your clothing.

To solve all of those problems I sat down a few years ago and drafted up my own vacation checklist of items that we will always need when we travel. Then approximately 2 weeks before our departure time I get that list out and start our packing. If need be, I head to the store to pick up items that I need to replace or "might" need while we are traveling.

Here is an example of our Travel Packing List:

___ Seasonal Clothing for ___ amount of days.
___ Non-Seasonal Clothing for 1 day. (just incase the weather changes).
___ Outerwear (coats, jackets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves...depending on destination).
___ Two Pairs of Shoes Per Person
___ Haircare Items (blow dryers, curling irons, shampoo, conditioner, etc.)
___ Toiletries (soap, shower gels, shaving gel, razors, face wash, deoderant, dental care, etc.)
___ Prescription Medications and Over the Counter Medications
___ Eyecare (glasses, contacts, solutions, sunglasses, etc.)
___ Rainy Day Activities For Adults (hand-held electronic games, puzzle books, reading books, games)
___ Kid's Activity Bag (games, toys, arts & crafts supplies, books, etc.)
___ Linens (if appropriate, pillows, beach towels, bath towels, bed linens, etc.)
___ Snacks and Beverages for the Family.
___ Empty Tote Bags, 1 Empty Duffle Bag, 1 Empty Wet/Dry Bag (these can be used to bring wet clothing/towels home or to carry souvenirs back home).
___ Traveling Essentials (passports, hotel reservations, airline tickets, documents, maps, etc.)
___ Equipment (any equipment needed for activities)
___ Miscellaneous Supplies (mending kit, first-aid kit, extra money, etc.)
___ Other ___________________________________________
___ Other ___________________________________________
___ Other ___________________________________________

You can tailor my above list to suit your own family's needs or according to your vacation/trip destination.

Getting yourself organized and starting your packing 2 weeks in advance saves you a lot of time, stress and money once you arrive at your vacation destination. Prepare your packing ahead of time and enjoy your family's vacation time together.

This article was written by Shelly Hill who is the owner of the popular travel blog called Pennsylvania and Beyond at http://pennsylvaniaandbeyond.blogspot.com/ where you can find travel related articles, travel reviews, travel tips and other travel related information for destinations across the United States. Shelly and her husband Sam have been traveling together for over 27 years and love to share travel stories and travel tips with their blog readers from across the world.

Planning A New Trip For Our Wedding Anniversary to Spain!

My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this year but since I had been ill for a few months we couldn't travel out of the country to celebrate. Now that I am doing much better we are planning a big trip this coming spring to celebrate our milestone anniversary.

We have spent a few weeks researching different places we want to visit and finally decided that we wanted to travel to Spain! Now that we decided on our destination we are trying to decide if we want to look for Villas in Spain or Apartments in Spain because we plan on staying for 2 1/2 weeks.

I have always wanted to visit Barcelona after seeing the Olympics held there several years ago. From what I read and have seen...it looks like a large city with a lot of history for us to explore. In addition, Barcelona Apartments are pretty affordable and within our budget. We found many great apartment choices to choose from and have decided on a small 2-bedroom flat.

There is a lot of Spain Tourist Information out there on the internet so take your time reading it all and exploring all of your possibilities before booking your specific trip. We are really excited about our special vacation and we are looking forward to it.

Have any of you ever been to Barcelona, Spain? If so, got any tips for us?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated by the advertiser to write this post. We were provided with the subject matter to write about but our thoughts, opinions and words are 100% our own. Please read our Terms of Service & Disclaimer Policy for additional information. All information contained on this blog is copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Scrapbooking ~ ZooTastic Fun At The Cape May Zoo!

A Scrapbook Layout I made featuring a photo of the Zebra at the Cape May, New Jersey Zoo! You can visit my Passionate About Crafting Blog to find tons of free crafting patterns, crafting instructions, scrapbooking layouts, etc. and it's all FREE!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

7 Ways to Recession Proof Your Wedding | Great Tips For Those Getting Married

As businesses brace for the possibility of a double dip recession, brides and grooms should plan for the unexpected when planning their wedding day: job loss, vendors going out of business, rising prices and traveling limitations.

While weddings still take place even in a down economy, brides and grooms are scaling back and trimming the excess from their celebrations. The numbers show the dramatic shift:

The average cost of a wedding dropped $10,000 in a year after the recession began. Last year the cost began to recover, rising from $19,581 (2009) to $23,867, according to The Wedding Report. But the latest figures show weddings are taking a hit again, with the average cost of a wedding for the first half of 2011 sinking to $21,277.

Scarcity of jobs, a sour housing market and high fuel costs are making wedding planning a challenge - for couples and vendors alike. Florists, caterers and bakers are feeling the pinch of rising prices and are passing those costs onto their clients.

But there are ways to recession-proof your wedding and make your day of celebration a little easier on the wallet for everyone involved. Here are several ways.

1. Go off-peak. Choose an off-season month (January, February or November) to get married, and an off-peak day and time. Saturday afternoon and evenings are the most desired spots, so go for Saturday morning, or Friday or Sunday night to save money on venues and services.

2. Limit the guest list. Most caterers charge per-person, so the difference between 100 guests and 150 is significant. The reception is usually half of your budget - and with food prices rising, feeding your guests tastefully will be hard. Simplify the reception by serving high tea, dessert buffet, brunch or finger-foods instead of compromising on options for a multi-course meal.

3. Buy discounted gift cards from GiftCardGranny.com. Use them to purchase decorations, supplies and materials from stores like Hobby Lobby, or your wedding attire from Macy's or J.Crew, which is among a growing number of retailers with affordable wedding boutiques. Combine the cards with coupons or promo codes and increase your savings.

4. Shop around and negotiate prices and packages with vendors. Don't ever settle for more than you think you should be paying. Vendors will be happy for your business. Get everything in writing and have one to two backup vendors you can call should something go south with your first choice.

5. Get your hands dirty. The key to any successful budget wedding is doing it all yourself. But it requires delegating to friends and family, who are often honored and happy to play a part in your big day. Get your friends and family in the act of addressing envelopes, folding programs, creating favors and making a headpiece or a veil. Some might be willing to cover some costs involved as a wedding gift to you. The greatest benefit of going DIY is saving money, which will allow you to in turn spend on what you can't do - or don't want to leave to chance, like photography.

6. Get thrifty. Twenty-two year olds Jonathan and Rebecca Mooradian of Tennessee scoured Goodwill, thrift stores and yard sales for practically everything they needed for their wedding this year. After paying about 50 cents to a $1 for each item (including a 25-cent wedding gown), they sold their wares in their own garage sale after the wedding, according to The Tennessean's Ms. Cheap. Keep an eye on your local Craigslist and Freecycle for potential finds, and don't forget to ask friends if you can borrow crystal or glass vases, dishes, glasses, serving trays and utensils.

7. Consider insurance. Wedding insurance can protect you in the event a vendor goes bankrupt or out of business. If you're spending more than $5,000 on your wedding, it might be worth the extra cost. Talk to your insurance agent for advice, or check out online offerings like WedSafe.com.

When couples or their parents are faced with the choice of paying for a 150-person reception or putting money toward a down payment on a house, the more practical option may win the day. Do what's best for your situation and remember a lot of people are going through what you are. Friends and family will understand if you don't throw a soiree of Kardashian proportions.
###

Weddings expert Cara Davis is the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot and blogs from her home in Orlando, FL, about cheap ways to spend and save at CheapWaysTo.com.

Getting Ready To Go Shopping For New Fall Clothing and Shoes!

I am really excited that fall has finally arrived as it is time to go shopping for a few new pieces for my wardrobe this fall. This season I am looking for a new pair of Kate Spade shoes and a new pair of Vaneli shoes to go with some of my new dresses and skirts I purchased to wear this fall and winter season.

I got this dark emerald green suede skirt last week that comes to just above my knee so I am looking for a pair of suede pumps and a pair of suede knee-high boots to wear with that skirt. I also invested in a pair of black leather jeans and I am thinking about purchasing a pair of black leather platform clogs to wear with those. I am not sure exactly what kind of footwear to get but that is what I am leaning towards because I found this great article online called Match Your Outfit where they talk about how to match up your shoes and clothing so that you look nice!

Since the holidays are coming I still need to go out and purchase a new "little black dress" so that I have it on hand to wear to all of those holiday parties and shindigs that I will get invited to. While I am at it...I think I will purchase two new handbags for the fall season too. I am thinking about a medium-sized brown leather hobo bag for my casual wear and perhaps a small black beaded and jeweled clutch bag for my dressier outfits.

I love updating my dresses, shoes, boots, leggings and jackets with all of the current and hotest trends for the season. Yes folks, I love fashion and shopping and what I love even more is when I get a few of my girlfriends together for the afternoon and we go out for some shopping fun and then to dinner for a good meal.

What clothing pieces, accessories and footwear do you plan on purchasing this season to update your fall and winter wardrobe? I would love to hear all of your suggestions on the items I should consider purchasing next week when I go shopping


Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated by the advertiser to write this post. We were provided with the subject matter to write about but our thoughts, opinions and words are 100% our own. Please read our Terms of Service & Disclaimer Policy for additional information. All information contained on this blog is copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't Crank Up the Heat - 6 High-Tech Tips for Keeping Warm This Winter

As temperatures begin to drop, consumers may soon have a lot more on their minds than the coming winter chill. Since 2010, many states have seen the cost of home heating oil rise by as much as 30% or more. Depending on where you live, a particularly glacial season could put a serious freeze on your budget. So instead of just cranking up the thermostat, check out these six alternative tools for keeping costs down and the heat up. Splurging on all of these high-tech solutions could cost you a pretty penny, but pick out one or two and your wallet may thank you come Spring.

1. Cuddle up with a USB blanket.
If you spend a lot of time at home on the computer, this USB heated blanket is perfect for keeping away the chills. It plugs into any USB port, comes with two cords and can be worn over the shoulders or across your lap. Just pour yourself a cup of tea and settle in.

2. Keep your toes toasty with battery-powered heating socks.
These super-cozy socks have a thin battery-powered heating element encased in the toe that won't overheat, and are made out of "moisture-wicking" material to keep you toasty, not sweaty.

3. Get efficient with a programmable thermostat.
This one's a no-brainer so if you don't have one, get one. A programmable thermostat will automatically lower the temperature of your home at night or while you're out and about, making the heat run less when you're not actively using it. Avoid the elements all together and find free shipping codes for Home Depot, who has a great selection of these handy devices.

4. Stay mobile with touch-screen gloves.
iPhone users have long known the frustration of trying to text, swipe or tap while out in the elements. Hopefully you won't need gloves in the house too often, but when Jack Frost really comes a knockin', these babies from Agloves made with a special conductive material will keep you connected.

5. Dodge the draft with outlet insulation.
Drafts pass in and out of the home through the outlet and outlet covers, especially the ones along exterior walls. Fortunately there are special outlet and switch gaskets specially made to reduce drafts. Ask your local hardware store or just DIY.

6. Go old school with the hot water bottle.
OK, this is hardly high-tech, but this ingenious invention is still one of the best and easiest ways to stay warm in bed, as well as soothe aches and pains. It's cheap, reusable and will last forever. Tell that to your soon-to-be obsolete iPhone 4.

###

Jeff Cambron has worked in the technology space for over 10 years, fueling an obsession with all things digital. He might not hear you while rocking his Tooks hat, but he never misses an email. Jeff can be reached at Jeff@Kinoliinc.com.

Help Celebrate 10 Years of Giving






This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of UPromise for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.




As a parent, I think that everyone wants their child to have a a better life than we did. For most people, dreams, goals and college are usually included in the path we would love our children to take. www.upromisetodream.com has been helping people obtain their goals for 10 years now. And they can help your children too!

Program info: Upromise Dream

www.upromisetodream.com




UPromise_Brand_300x250_static.jpg (3 documents)
You can help Upromise its 10th Anniversary too! They are giving away $20,000 to users that share a story about how a parent has supported a child's dream! Upromise members have received more than $600 million in college savings through their rewards program. And they want to see you be a part of the dream too!

Come by their Dream Wall and post your story. You can vote for other peoples stories too and be entered into the sweepstakes for the prizes. Upromise is going to be giving away $1,000 to 10 winners and a grand prize winner receives $10,000! What a great start to a college fund!


Come by and read their dream wall official rules and get your story posted today. You maybe seeing you and child's dream come true in a very short time.


Visit Sponsor's Site

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Can Common Pain Relievers Do More Harm Than Good?

When it comes to relieving the common headache or body aches, it seems as if the cure may be worse for you than the pain it’s supposed to relieve.

Consumption of NSAIDs – common pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Excedrin) – has grown to 70 million prescriptions and 30 billion over-the-counter sales annually. That statistic is disturbing to Michael Sheehan, founder of natural medications company BioResource Inc., because of a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine (AIM) that reveals NSAIDS may play a part in the development of heart disease.

“The risks of NSAIDs are a growing concern,” said Sheehan. “The fact that they may contribute to heart problems is a wake-up call the public needs to take seriously.”

According to the American Heart Association, about 785,000 Americans suffer a first heart attack each year, and another 470,000 who have already had one or more heart attacks experience another episode. The AHA also revealed that in 2010, heart disease cost the United States $316.4 billion. This total includes the cost of healthcare services, medications, and lost productivity.

The AIM study found that heart failure patients who used NSAIDs may be at an increased risk for side effects and other dangers. The article concluded that NSAIDs “are harmful to heart-failure patients,” reporting that individuals who received the medications were subject to “dose-related increases in risk of death and re-hospitalization for heart failure.”

Research also showed that, with prolonged use, NSAIDs can cause potential side effects that include:

· upset stomach
· nausea
· vomiting
· heartburn
· headache
· diarrhea
· constipation
· drowsiness
· unusual fatigue
· stomach pain
· swelling of feet or ankles
· ringing in ears
· vision changes
· joint pain
· muscle pain and weakness
· easy bruising
· bleeding
· persistent sore throat
· fever

“The nature of these recent revelations, combined with the pervasive use of NSAIDs, should make people stand up and notice,” added Sheehan. “There are good signs, however, that more Americans are seeking natural options to pain pills. A recent National Institutes of Health study revealed that the number of men seeking information on alternatives to traditional pharmaceuticals and treatments rose by 18 percent between 2002 and 2007. This trend indicates Americans are getting smarter about taking responsibility for their personal health. The truth is there are dozens of natural substitutes for NSAIDs, and many of these remedies lack the potentially harmful side effects and risks associated with NSAIDs. With new, safer choices available, perhaps the need to use NSAIDs will diminish in the future.”

About Michael Sheehan

Michael Sheehan is CEO and founder of BioResource Inc. (http://www.bioresourceinc.com/), a natural medications company that distributes German-made energy remedies, including INFLAMYAR ointment for sports injuries. Sheehan graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Santa Clara University. In addition, he received a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University. He lives in Northern California.

Straight Talk 2 Offers Fabulous Cell Phone Calling Plans To Fit In Your Budget!


This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Straight Talk for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


My husband and I are both big time cell phone users, matter of fact, we use our cell phones more than we use our landline phone so I think I will totally drop the landline phone come November. With that said, our contract with our current carrier comes to an end the beginning of October so we have been looking for other options and came across Straight Talk.


Straight Talk has no hidden fees, no surprise charges, no activation fees, reactivation fees and no cancelation fees and guess what? Those 411 calls are included for FREE! I love that I know what I am paying upfront with no hidden surprises after the fact.


They have an All You Need Plan where you get 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts and 10 MB of web data a month and I think that would be perfect for me. Then they have an Unlimited Plan where you get unlimited calls, texts, picture messaging and web data for only $45 a month, this plan would be perfect for my hubby. Wow, for around $499 a year you can get great reliable cell service that is totally affordable. With prices like that you can Call a friend anytime you want!


If you need a new phone they got basic phones that have been reconditioned for only $10 and if you want a smart phone with keyboards, etc. they have those too! There is even Android on Straight Talk for all of the Android fans out there.


I was looking into their International Calling Plans because I have family members who live overseas and I love that their International Plans are affordable too! Check out this video from a real life Straight Talk customer and I think you will be impressed with what you see and hear.


If you are like me and you are tired of over-paying the "big boys" when it comes to cellular service then you need to check out Straight Talk! Don't be a victim of those other carriers who rope you in Hook, line and sinker with their long term contracts and hidden fees!


Visit Sponsor's Site

Wordless Wednesday | Going For A Walk In The Park

Okay...almost Wordless Wednesday! This is a photo of my grand-wee-one and we were heading to the park for some playtime fun this past weekend!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

10 Ways Businesses Cater to Baby Boomers

Demographers have likened Baby Boomers to a "pig moving through a python," accounting for one-third of America's population. More than 78-million strong, the post-World War II generation has long been one of the most profitable consumer demographics, a trend that isn't likely to slow as retirement nears.

They're a generation that never gives in, whether to a shrinking job market, boomerang kids or physical infirmities. Despite being faced with plummeting home values and net worth, retailers still hear their roar, as Boomers demand special treatment.

It's a demand well worth attention. The generation born between 1946 and 1964 presents a $43 billion opportunity for retailers, according to an Information Resources, Inc. report. They also, however, present new challenges. Here's a look at 10 ways businesses are catering to aging Baby Boomers.

1. Reading the Fine Print
Product packaging hasn't just gotten harder to open; it's also harder to read, with instructions and ingredient lists that look like mere ant tracks. According to AARP, CVS is dealing with this problem by attaching magnifying lenses to shelving units. The pharmacy chain also has increased natural-light wattage by uncovering windows.

Target, in turn, heard concerns about prescription labeling and increased type fonts to help customers avoid mistakes.

2. Garden Center Redesigns
Baby Boomers are big on gardening, but aren't too crazy about gravel-covered paths and narrow greenhouse aisles. According to Garden Center Magazine, the industry is moving towards friendlier access, including hard walking surfaces, wider aisles, tables that make picking up plants easier and white signs printed with black ink for clearer reading.

3. Accessible Online Shopping
The American Life Project found 69 percent of older Boomers (ages 56 to 64) buy online, more than any other generation. Merchants are catering to this by increasing website fonts so consumers with poor vision can more easily navigate online stores. Updated text-to-speech technology helps those with more serious sight problems by reading Web pages aloud.

Online shopping became more popular with aging Boomers when Amazon started the free shipping revolution in 2002. The trend has proven a boon to shoppers who find it difficult to navigate between stores. Free shipping codes bring prices as low, if not lower, than those for brick-and-mortar retailers. Examples include Boomer favorites like Coldwater Creek and Lands' End, clothing giants who offer free shipping on some, or all, orders.

4. More Online Reviews
According to a 2010 study by the Pew Center, older Boomers tend to research purchases more thoroughly, with 40 percent saying they rate products online before buying.

User reviews are an electronic replacement for this word-of-mouth generation, so e-retailers are catering to their preferences by providing opportunities for customer testimonials and highlighting positive reviews on home pages.

Technology retailer Newegg.com particularly caters to this audience according to Vice President of Marketing Bernard Luthi in an interview with Internet Retailer. "Older consumers called (customer support) more often than other age groups in advance of a purchase. They'd say: 'I want to understand more about the organization. Let me know who you are and what your return policy is.' They're still not as comfortable as a person in his mid-20s about shopping on the Web, but they are a smarter shopper. They ask for a lot more information up front."

5. Hard Landings
To make sitting and rising more graceful, high-end hotels are switching from soft, deep seating to higher and firmer chairs and couches. These same institutions, along with some banks, are replacing heavy, difficult-to-open doors with automatic ones.

6. Re-shelving
Stretching for the last-remaining box of bran and dipping down for a bulk bag are hard on the back and knees. According to the AARP magazine, both Walgreens and CVS have lowered shelving and reorganized items for easier access.

7. Urbanization of Rural Areas
As children flee the nest, more parents are migrating into rural areas. A 2009 study by the Department of Agriculture, however, indicated these Boomers will still want urban amenities, "such as proximity to health care...and walkable, active communities." Because many will prefer and eventually have to stop driving, they'll likely seek more condensed shopping formats that are closer to home.

As a result, areas like Colorado's Northern Front Range created land plans requiring developers include shopping and gas services within walking distance of each development. Retirement communities were also subject to the same regulations.

Walkability has become such an important factor that Zillow, an online real estate database, now rates the walkability of properties to retail and transit infrastructure.

8. Home-alone Servings
Household size in the 50-plus age range is shrinking, according to American Realty Advisors, leading manufacturers to reduce their package portions. Single-size and two-person servings are more readily available in drugstores and supermarkets. This is a move away from the super-sizing of the 1990s and should benefit stores that cater to this audience, including Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, as opposed to Costco or Sam's Club.

9. Non-agist Marketing
Baby Boomers work full-time, travel, care for parents and are far more active than the preceding generation. According to Nielsen, they're turned off by advertising that markets to age and decrepitude, so marketers are creating ads with an appeal for all ages. Talbot's, for example, traditionally sells clothing for older women, but their present marketing has a more youthful look and message.

10. Brain Games
The generation that made physical fitness a must is now pumping-up brain tissue to stave off the mental ills of aging. An entire industry has grown around this desire for mental calisthenics, sweeping major merchants like Target and Walmart into its wake.

While there's no end of controversy as to whether puzzles and brain games help slow down memory loss, Boomers are willing to give it a try. Much of this industry is related to board games, thought to slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"Brain-fitness products generated $265 million in 2009, up from $225 million in 2008 and $100 million in 2005," said SharpBrains, a San Francisco-based market research firm, in an AARP interview. "Consumers account for about one-third of brain fitness industry sales, or $95 million in 2009. By 2015, the brain fitness market is projected to reach $1 billion."

###

Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist for Kinoli Inc. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, "ABC World News," NBC's "TODAY" show and many other media outlets.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beginner's Guide To Using Your New Crock Pot or Slow Cooker Pot


In the summer time I use my crock pot even more than I do in the winter time as its just too hot to heat up the oven. You can make just about anything in a crock pot these days such as: Soups, Stews, Main Dish Meats, Desserts, Breads, Cobblers, Vegetables and more. Here are some great tips to help make your crock pot cooking even easier.



#1. Peel and chop the vegetables the night before, cover and keep them refrigerated.

#2. The night before, trim fat from meat and cut meat into the desired sized pieces, cover and refrigerate.

#3. Thaw frozen vegetables and meat in the refrigerator, never thaw at room temperature.

#4. Brown meat according to the recipe directions. You can brown your meat the night before and then refrigerate.

#5. Serve cooked food from your slow cooker or it's removable liner to save on washing extra dishes.

#6. Slow simmering produces a mellow blending of flavors, but whole herbs and spices may give more flavor than usual, while ground herbs and spices may give less flavor.

#7. Remember to remove bay leaves and whole peppercorns before serving food.

#8. Some vegetables, especially onions and carrots, often take longer to cook than meat. Always place them at the bottom of the slow cooker.

#9. To assure even cooking of meat, be sure there is some space between the pieces to allow for circulation of heat and seasonings.

#10. Both regular and quick cooking rice need 4-5 hours to cook on your low setting, on your high setting it will take 3-4 hours so plan ahead. You may prefer to cook the rice on your stove top or in your microwave and then add into your crock pot recipe.

#11. Pasta needs stirring while cooking to prevent it from sticking to one another. It is best to cook the pasta on your stove top until its just tender and then add into your crock pot recipe.

#12. When converting your favorite recipes for the slow cooker, reduce the amount of liquid since the slow cooker lid gives a tight seal and retains steam.

#13. Pour your liquids in last.

#14. Fill your slow cooker at least 1/2 full for the best slow cooking results.

#15. Tender vegetables such as fresh mushrooms, tomatoes or zucchini will only need to be added for the last 45 minutes of cooking time, otherwise you could over cook them.

#16. To prevent milk, cream and sour cream from curdling, add near the end of the cooking time and just heat through.

#17. Coating pot roasts and stew meat with flour helps to thicken the broth as it cooks.

#18. If you have too much liquid in your slow cooker, you can remove the lid and cook on high for the last 25 minutes.

#19. Resist the urge to lift the lid. The heat that you lose will add as much as 30 minutes to the cooking time. If you have to stir, resume timing when the mixture starts to bubble up again.

#20. Cooking for 1 hour on high is the same as 2-2 1/2 hours on low.

#21. After the food has finished cooking, it can usually be held in the slow cooker for an hour on the low setting without over cooking it.

#22. If food is not done within the stated time in your recipe it could be because you overfilled your slow cooker or you took off the lid too many times. Adjust your cooking times accordingly.

#23. Slow cooking at the low setting is better for tenderizing cuts of meats (brisket, pot roasts, etc).

#24. Take time to trim and remove excess fat from your meat before slow cooking to reduce the amount of fat that accumulates during cooking.

#25. You can use a slice of bread to skim off excess fats or you can use a slice of lettuce leaf.

Shelly is a mother and grandmother living in Pennsylvania who enjoys cooking and baking. You can visit Shelly's popular foodie blog called Shakin 'N Bakin in the kitchen at http://wahmshelly.blogspot.com/