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


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.

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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!

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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/

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Express Jeans Rock The Sidewalk! Chance to win a FREE pair of Jeans!

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

I love wearing jeans and you could say that I practically live in jeans and I love the Express jeans and how they fit on me! I am a big fan of their wide leg jeans and their boot cut jeans as they hug me in all the right places and I can find them in a rise and inseam that is perfect for me and my body shape and type. If you are looking for women's jeans then you need to check out the selection of jeans that Express carries.

Right now you can enter the Express giveaway for your chance to win one of 50 pairs of jeans that Express is giving away! yeah! I know I am entering and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I win a pair! EXTREME STRETCH STELLA JEAN LEGGING at Express

I tend to stick to the traditional stone wash, indigo and/or black colored jeans. What color or finish to your denim jeans do you prefer? I haven't tried any of the jean leggings yet that are super hot & trendy for fall but I am thinking about it. Do you like the jean leggings?

I love the traditional style of jeans that Express carries. If you buy jeans at Express what style of jeans are your favorites? Give me some tips on jeans ladies...I would like to hear about your jean likes and dislikes along with any jean buying tips that you have to give me.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fabulous Vacation to North Wildwood NJ

Hubby and I took a much needed 1 week vacation down to North Wildwood, New Jersey and had a fabulous time! We walked the beach twice a day so I could collect shells for my flower garden at home, we ate out almost every day and dined on fine food...especially seafood and steaks! We took a drive down to Cape May and did some shopping and toured some Victorian Homes.

We had a fabulous time shopping the boardwalk in Wildwood and rode bikes one beautiful morning. We got to be lazy and hang out at the pool and went to play mini golf one afternoon.

It felt so good to get out of dodge for a week and just relax and be lazy! We are looking forward to going back next month for hubby's 50th birthday. Below you will find a few photos from vacation.

I will post a lot more pics over the coming weeks of the lighthouses we toured, mini golf, bike riding and other fun things we got to do while on vacation!

Friday, September 9, 2011

More Parents and College Students Buying Gift Cards

College students and credit cards aren't always the best mix, as recent history proves. Perhaps that's why more parents and their college-bound kids will buy gift cards this year than ever before. As a back-to-school staple, they offer plastic cash without the pitfalls of credit card use.

A new survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) found more than 30 percent of parents with college-bound kids will supply them with gift cards and prepaid cards. That's an increase of 2 percent over 2010 and an excellent predictor of sales to come for the holiday season.

What's even more surprising is the total students and their parents anticipate spending on these handy pieces of plastic, totaling $3.4 billion for an increase of nearly $1 billion from last year. The average expenditure clocked in at just over $60.

That $60, however, will stretch even further with discount gift cards. Websites such as Gift Card Granny allow consumers to buy gift cards and save up to 35-percent off face value when purchased online. The site offers cards for everything from Domino's pizza to Bed Bath and Beyond dorm-room decor. Students can also check their card's balance at the site so there are no nasty surprises at checkout.

Those looking for more localized gift cards can find them on Craigslist or eBay and such swap sites as SwapAce.

Internet Retailer noted online gift card sales alone are expected to grow at 29 percent for the next four years. In addition, the increasing popularity of mobile gift cards plays well with this plugged-in generation. The class of 2014 can access discount e-cards while shopping and have them scanned at the register. This technology has made gift card buying and use much easier, with 42 percent of merchants currently offering an e-card option, according to Bankrate.com.


Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. 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 among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Must Read Tips to Avoid Drowning in Deals

Tough financial times call for smarter shopping measures. For some of us this means going to extremes and cutting up credit cards. For others, it just means clipping coupons and unplugging appliances.

No matter what your money-saving solution, merchants are catching on to these smart shopping tactics. Stores are constantly developing their own methods to make sure we keep buying. Many times, this comes in the form of a sale that looks great on the surface, but actually ends up saving next to nothing.

In fact, recent studies suggest that plenty of shoppers are overwhelmed with the flood of daily deals they receive. With so many special offers flying around, here are eight tips to help you avoid drowning in deals.

1. Unsubscribe from NewslettersSigning up for email newsletters from favorite merchants will keep you informed about their special offers. However, these mailings are still promotional materials intended to make you spend money. If you find yourself exasperated by the breadth of deals and discounts, try following stores on Facebook and Twitter. You still get access to promotions, but they're not always being waved in your face. Instead, you can access the information only when you want to see it.

2. Set a Time to Review DealsThe urgency to get a bargain before time runs out can be a distraction. When you find yourself getting sidetracked checking each offer as it comes in, set aside a time where you can review them all at once. Sure, you might miss the occasional Groupon, but at the end of the day it's cash that's still in your pocket. Reviewing deals all at the same time lets you think out purchases more clearly, compare offers side by side, and prioritize those that best meet your needs.

3. Technology is Your FriendYour smartphone is a surprising savings tool. Some apps like GasBuddy can help you track down the lowest gas prices, no matter where you are. The Coupon Sherpa mobile app lets you locate and scan coupons directly from your phone. Using your cell in this way allows you to find special offers specific to your shopping needs.

4. Weigh Credit Card OptionsCashiers frequently encourage you to open a store credit card, promising healthy savings if you do. While there may be a good initial offer or incentive, like a regular discount on all purchases, this is another tactic to keep you spending. It's best to just have one of these cards specifically for expenses like gas and food. You'll have to spend on those needs either way, so you might as well get a discount. At NerdWallet.com, they have a comparison of the top 18 store credit cards to help you make an informed decision.

5. Track Your DealsAh, the agony of a missed expiration date for a voucher. It gets in your head and makes you regret dollars down the drain. To avoid getting mixed up and missing deadlines, keep a calendar of when offers expire. This helps you track the good ones and keep an eye on how your spending matches up with your budget. You can even do it digitally at CityPockets.com. They organize all the deals you've already purchased, send you expiration reminders, and even allow you to sell unused deals.

6. Eating Out is a TrapRestaurants are filled with drink specials and dollar menus to encourage buying. While a double cheeseburger and fries from McDonald's costs just over $2, the nutritional value is low and you'll soon be hungry again. It's surprising how much you can save buying groceries and making meals at home, instead of eating fast food. If your culinary muse has failed to inspire you, AllRecipes.com has plenty of Quick and Easy Recipes to consider.

7. Use Coupon SitesDespite the sufferings of deal-of-the-day sites, coupon sites continue to grow, making it a good thing for shoppers. Sites like CouponSherpa.com have coupons organized by product category and retailer name, so finding a good discount is easy. The best part is, their services are offered for free; credit card information and personal details aren't required. The savings are there at your leisure with no strings attached.

8. Price ComparisonsSeeing a deal with numbers like 50-percent off can lead to an itchy mouse-clicking finger. Resist the urge to act now and shop around a little instead. Often, similar retailers are aware of their competitors' deals and will offer something comparable. Also, try to shop at stores with low-price guarantees. This way, if you find a better deal after you buy, you can still get reimbursed for the difference.

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. 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 Good Morning America, NBC Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ShopSmart Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.

7 Reasons to Celebrate National Coupon Month

Couponers of America unite! It's time once again for September's National Coupon Month, when we celebrate Sunday circulars, direct-mail booklets and the modern technology of online printable coupons and coupon applications.

Thanks to an increased interest in frugal living, $485 billion worth of coupons were distributed in 2010. That figure can only grow by the time 2011 is over. In appreciation of these handy money savers, here are seven coupon tips.

1. The New FrontierOver 88 million consumers said they'd use Internet coupons in 2011. If you haven't tried out this techno method of coupon clipping, it's time you gave it a try. Websites such as CouponSherpa.com allow you to search by category for online coupons to hundreds of popular merchants.

2. Thank You for Your PatronageVisit the websites for supermarkets such as King Soopers and Safeway and download coupons directly to your club or loyalty card. When the cashier swipes your card, the savings are automatically deducted from your total bill.

3. Catalina Isn't Just an IslandNo scissors are necessary to use a Catalina. Printed out with your store receipt, these paper coupons offer savings on products you've just purchased or those from similar manufacturers. Most have longer expiration dates than standard coupons -- an added bonus.

4. Look Beyond DinnerThink coupons and you're mind likely skips directly to food, but there's a world of merchants and services longing for you to use their coupons. Read about "7 Expensive Things You Should Buy With Coupons."

5. There's Always an App for ThatMaking a shopping list and checking it twice isn't for everyone. Many of us make purchases without a great deal of forethought, and that's where the Coupon Sherpa app comes in handy. You can access coupons using the app while in a store and show it to the cashier at checkout.

A new feature on the app allows you to type in your ZIP code to find grocery coupons at the store in which your shopping. It will then download the coupon to your store club card, automatically registering the savings when you swipe the card.

6. BOGOs and DoublingCoupons aren't always good for just one item. BOGOS let you buy one product and get a second identical one for free. Some stores allow doubling up, so your 10-cents-off coupon automatically becomes a 20-cents savings on a single item. Check out this list of 94 grocery stores that double coupons.

7. Raincheck, PleaseAsk for a raincheck when a rude extreme couponer has cleared the shelves, or legions of shoppers have beat you to the punch. Sometimes you can actually save more by waiting to use your raincheck coupon until an item is offered at a deep discount.

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. 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 Good Morning America, NBC Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ShopSmart Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Homemade Tub-Time Bath Soap Crayons Recipe

As moms, dads and grandparents we are always looking for ways to save money but yet keep our kids occupied and when it comes to bathtime fun...I prefer to go the frugal way for our little one. We make homemade bath crayons here at our home and our wee one loves playing with them while in the tub. Here is the recipe we use when we make them.

Tub-Time Bath Crayons

You will Need:

1 cup grated Ivory Soap
1/4 cup warm water
Food Coloring
Plastic Cookie cutters

How to: Mix water, soap & food coloring together in med. size bowl. Stir the crayon mixture until it begins to stiffen. Remove the mixture from the bowl and knead until it is the consistency of a very thick dough. Spoon Crayon Mixture into plastic cookie cutters or other plastic molds (playdough molds work great too!). Press down firmly. Place the plastic cookie cutters in your freezer for 10 mins or in your refrigerator for 30 mins. When firm, Pop the bath crayons out of the cookie cutters (or other molds) and allow them to air dry overnight or until hard.

Molds: Ice Cube Trays, Playdough Molds, & Cutters Tupperware Cookie Cutters, Plastic Cookie Cutters, Plastic Guest Soap Molds (buy at local craft store), The Plastic divided tray that comes in choc. candy boxes and so forth! Inexpensive Fun!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chili Cornmeal Waffles Recipe

With National Waffle Week around the corner, waffle lovers across the nation will be celebrating these sweet and fluffy bites of deliciousness starting September 4-10th.

Just in time for back-to-school, make the first day of school special with a hot waffle in the morning or a tasty snack for the kids when they come home. The KRUPS F654 Waffle Maker ($49.99) makes 4 thick Belgian waffles in just 4 minutes. This appliance is perfect for all waffle lovers to enjoy during this lesser known holiday and for busy parents needing a helpful kitchen tool for a quick breakfast or innovative snacks and desserts.

Homemade Chili Cornmeal Waffles Recipe

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 cans of favorite Chilli
Shredded Cheddar, chopped Scallions and Sour cream for garnish

Directions: Preheat KRUPS waffle maker. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add milk, oil, and eggs; stirring until smooth. Pour batter onto hot waffle iron. Set aside and keep warm. Serve with chili. Garnish with shredded Cheddar, Sour cream, and Scallions..

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Six Ways to Maximize Labor Day Savings

The only good thing about the end of summer is Labor Day, a holiday that provides a day off and great opportunities for consumer savings. Labor Day sales allow shoppers to take advantage of discounts on everything from fall fashions to appliances. It's also a good time to find deals on end-of-season merchandise, like swimsuits, lawnmowers, patio furniture and more.

With practically everything under the sun on sale during these short three days, how can you possibly know if you're getting the best deal? Here are six ways to maximize your savings on Labor Day.

1. Do Your Due Diligence
Find out the average price of your coveted purchase before Labor Day, using sites like Pricespider.com. This will keep you from being fooled by false promotions, and help you identify the best sale price.

2. Shop in Your PJs
Labor Day triggers the holiday shopping madness that continues into the New Year. Let the masses scurry about the stores and highways while you casually shop multiple online stores in the comfort of your own home. Not only will your blood pressure thank you, but you'll realize savings in fuel, too.

3. Save More
In addition to Labor Day price reductions, be sure to find online coupons for more savings. Shipping should also be free or greatly reduced; merchants like Lands' End and JCPenney typically offer free shipping codes during this high-volume weekend.

4. Negotiate
Major sale events represent an excellent opportunity to hone your haggling skills, especially on big items like televisions and appliances. Compare prices between various competitors and ask retailers if they can meet or beat your preferred price. Not comfortable with bartering? Check out this article on ConsumerReports.org for tips on making the negotiating practice work for you.

5. Socialize
Before hitting a store's sale rack or browsing Labor Day deals online, remember to follow or "like" the retailer or brand on Facebook and/orTwitter to find exclusive coupon codes and promotional offers. It pays to join these social media networks.

6. Use Tunnel Vision
Knowing what you want before Labor Day is easy; sticking to just that in the heat of the moment can be challenging. Be strong. Whenever you find yourself straying from the main purchase, gently remind yourself to "stay focused" and move on.

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. 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 among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.