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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Done Shopping Yet? Still Need Ideas?

You have a total of 11 days until Christmas!!!

Have you finished your shopping yet? Well, if you’re a woman reading this post, you’re probably done or nearly there… However, If you’re a man, I’m sure you haven’t even started and have absolutely no clue where to even start… Right?

What do you buy for your girlfriend or wife, or maybe even your best female friend? A co-worker? Boss? Teacher?

No matter who you have to buy for, if it’s a woman, I’ll let you in on something, the easiest thing to buy for us… Beauty products!! We love them, we can’t have enough, that’s right, even if you think we have enough, we want more, and lots of them!

Think about putting together a beauty package, include some shea butter and Lavender products, wrap it all up in a little box, or basket and you’ll be good to go. Add a few things in there such as coffee, chocolate, heck even fruit. Make it a sort of relaxation package, whoever you give it to will love it!

Don’t stress out, don’t think to hard, sometimes the simplest easiest things are the best gifts. Now get out there, get your shopping done before the mad rush on December 24th, don’t leave things till the last minute this year!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Top December Coupons

All of the holiday shopping hype seems to surround Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but a recent study from Consumer Reports indicates they're not necessarily the best days to find deals. As it turns out, many popular items are at their lowest prices in the first two weeks of December.

Even though we're heading into prime shopping times, you can still save even more money using the Holiday Coupons page on CouponSherpa.com. The following list details just a few of the top coupons for December.

1. Macy's
Receive free shipping plus 20% off on orders of $99 or more with coupon code PERFECT.

2. Coldwater Creek
Use Coldwater Creek coupon code AFLC439 to save $25 and receive free shipping on orders over $100.

3. Gamestop
$15 off in-stock orders of $100 or more using coupon code MERRY.

4. Footlocker
Use the Footlocker promo code LKS1VR37 to receive free shipping on orders over $75.

5. eBags
Free shipping plus a 20% discount using the coupon code LINKSPEC20.

6. Vans
Get free shipping on any order by using coupon code OKBYME.

7. Neiman Marcus
Use code DECFS to receive free shipping on orders of any amount.

8. Finish Line
Save $20 on an order of $100 or more using the Finish Line coupon code BFCM.

9. Bath & Body Works
Spend $50 or more and receive free shipping with the promo code FREEGIFT50.

10. Crocs
Save $15 on your order of $75 or more with promo code HOLIDAY15.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Live Christmas Tree Buying Guide

Oh tannenbaum, oh tannenbaum, how lovely is thy tax situation.

Less than 24 hours after the Department of Agriculture announced they were slapping a 15-cents per tree tax on Christmas tree growers, the Obama administration backed off on the plan. The idea, hatched by the tree growers themselves was to fund a promotional push similar to the successful "Got Milk?" campaign from dairy producers.

Naturally, consumers would get stuck paying any such tax, bloating tree prices even further. Maybe it's time to try that Festivus aluminum pole from "Seinfeld," instead of a tree? So before you break out the band saw blades maybe it's time to consider these guidelines for buying that Christmas fir.

1. Ask Where It Came From
Some Christmas tree lots buy trucked-in trees before Thanksgiving, meaning they'll drop needles faster than airlines can raise their baggage fees. Weeks may have passed since those trees were originally cut, so always ask the vendor where and when they buy their trees.

2. Check for Freshness
Is the tree green and healthy with a fragrant scent and moist, flexible needles? Does it have damaged bark or broken branches? When you bounce it lightly on the ground, does it shower you with needles?

3. Weigh It
A heavy tree -- proportionate to its size -- means it contains a higher water content, and is therefore fresh.

4. Buy Locally Grown
Is there an area farm that sells freshly cut trees? You'll still want to give them the bounce test, but just the fact they were cut on-site means the trees are fresher. Enter your zip code under "Find My Tree Now" on the National Christmas Tree Association's website to find your nearest provider.

5. Cut Your Own
It takes some effort and a good axe or saw, but there's a great deal of satisfaction in harvesting your own tree, from an approved location, of course. Finding just the right tree and tackling the job as part of a team also makes for a fun outing.

6. Buy Online
You can buy anything online these days. Companies like Christmas Trees Galore offer free shipping and you won't have to cart the tree home on top of your car. Check FreeShipping.org for delivery deals and while you're there, find free shipping offers on ornaments and other decorations.

7. Treat It Tenderly
Keep the tree outside in a shaded, cool place for a couple days, preferably standing in water. Before bringing it indoors, cut half an inch or so off the butt end to open up its pores, much as you would with cut roses. Once inside, remember to keep the tree stand topped up with water each day. For more information about caring for your live tree, check out The Ohio University's Extension Fact Sheet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Holiday Budgeting 101: Tips to Keep Over-spending at Bay

It's time to pull back the spending reigns and prepare for holiday gift expenses. During a time when most shoppers are reducing their spending altogether, it's especially important to make a realistic budget for your gift list.

While the following tips are intended to help you manage holiday spending, many are applicable to saving money all year 'round.

1. Make a budget!
The National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey reported that holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $704.18 on gifts this season, representing a slight decrease over last year. Making a budget is a no-brainer, but challenge yourself to go under budget this year. Track your spending using the Toshl app to keep tabs on what you're shelling out and how much you have left.

2. Cut down on dining expenses.
'Tis the season for holiday dinners at expensive restaurants, but this expenditure is the last thing your budget needs. Replace the annual white-tablecloth celebration with an intimate gathering at home. Guests can bring a dish to share and everyone can comfortably converse without interruption from servers or obnoxious patrons.

3. Refrain from personal purchases.
This one is tough during a time when bargains abound, but it's especially important to avoid making purchases for yourself when you still have people on your gift list. That same NRF study reported the average consumer will spend approximately $130 on gifts for themselves. Imagine the dent you could make in your recipient list using that cash.

4. Reduce everyday costs with resourcefulness.
The toughest part of budgeting for holiday gifts is not letting it eat into the money required for everyday items, including food. Consider developing a menu for the week to reduce unnecessary food purchases, and use websites like Gojee.com to develop dishes around what you already have in your pantry. When you do head to the store to stock up on provisions, arm yourself with printable grocery coupons from such sites as CouponSherpa or look for coupons for gifts such as aeropostale coupons.

5. Trim your gift list.
The spirit of the season often yields never-ending gift lists, especially when you're surprised by presents from people who didn't make the cut. Trim your gift list to essential recipients and come up with inexpensive tokens for everyone else. Homemade goodies, cards with heartfelt wishes and offers of service (babysitting, for example) are great options for neighbors and coworkers and can be produced last-minute.

6. Research gifts to find best bargain.
Santa never misses the mark by making a list and checking it twice, so take a hint from the jolly man in red and do the same. Once you develop a list of essential recipients, bargain shop for gifts before making your final purchase. It's tempting to get all your shopping done over a weekend just to get it out of the way, but doing so means missing out on bargain-rich opportunities.

7. Know return policies.
Retailers tighten return policies around the holidays, so be sure you read the fine print before making a purchase. Price matching is all the rage these days, too, so it pays (literally) to know a store's policy on compensating shoppers who find better deals elsewhere. Walmart recently announced it will provide gift cards in the amount of the price difference, and Bed Bath and Beyond will even price match items found on Amazon.com.

8. Shop early...and late.
With all the advice circulating about when to land the best deal, it ultimately pays to shop throughout the holiday season. Make a game plan for Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases with these do's and dont's, and don't forget about Free Shipping Day for last-minute items. The one-day online event is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 16 and features free shipping offers from over 2,000 merchants with delivery by Christmas Eve.

9. Pay with cash.
It's not easy sticking to a budget and the holidays make the task even more challenging. Paying for purchases with credit cards is risky since the "I'll pay for it later" mentality breeds over-spending. Opt to pay with cash and experience your hard-earned money disappear from your finger tips. This sight alone will make you think twice about unnecessary or overpriced purchases, and help you stick to your budget.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Early Bird Nightmares: Coping With Kids and Daylight Savings Time

Back before you were a parent, the end of daylight savings was a welcome relief to pitch black mornings. An extra hour of sleep is more valuable than gold, especially post parenthood. Enter Sweet Bundle of Joy who doesn't share your affinity of snoozing and also has a set, circadian rhythm that doesn't magically readjust over a weekend. Your baby doesn't care that Uncle Sam dictates a useless time adjustment every six months.

As if parenting weren't already the hardest thing anyone has ever done in the history of doing things, we must deal with the time change and our children. Here's what will happen, if you're new to fall-back with children: they wake up after the same number of hours of sleep. So if Junior typically wakes up at 7:00 am, you'll now have a 6:00 am early riser after the change. Don't worry about doing something crazy like having them wear equestrian clothing or some weird home remedy. Start gearing up for that adjustment now with these six easy tips.

1. Extend bedtime a little later each night.
Folks who prefer to rip the band-aid off may just push through a few tough days and move bedtime forward a full hour immediately. Older children can handle a change like that a bit easier. But if you you have a baby or toddler, I recommend pushing bedtime back by ten or fifteen minutes for a few nights. This will take some discipline, but establishing a solid bedtime routine and sticking to it is not only important for your sanity, but for your child's health, too.

2. Expect grumpy toddlers for up to three weeks.
Again, the younger the child the longer it will take to adjust. According to multiple studies, poor or inadequate sleep causes irritability, stress and anxiety. No big surprise there. Pile on top of that an inability to verbally communicate and you've got a cranky young child on your hands for days, if not weeks. Just brace yourselves and prepare to expect some rocky terrain.

3. Reduce other variables to focus on sleep.
Kids do really well when they have time to hone in on one skill or hurdle at a time. If you're potty training, pull back on the reins for a while to let the lack of sleep pass. Trying to concentrate while sleep deprived makes you ineffective and irritable -- and the same goes for Junior.

4. Get room darkening shades or curtains.
Kids sense morning like sharks smell blood; the tiniest crack of daylight can wake even the hardest young sleeper. Keeping it dark in your child's room will encourage more sleep in the morning, something you'll want all year round. If you're not a fan of drapes, grab online coupons for custom blinds from sites like CouponSherpa, and outfit your windows with tailored dressings on the cheap.

5. Consistency is key.
It's tempting to give in to Little Darling when she pitches a fit for candy at the grocery store. If you give in to her demands, she'll just ratchet up the decibels on your next visit. That same principle applies to adjusting your clocks back. Stick to later naps and a later bedtime to avoid prolonged pain. According to Kim West, social worker and sleep coach, children will adjust to your age-appropriate sleep requirements when you are consistent. This means having the exact same routine every night and responding in the same way to your child's testing.

6. Minimize exposure to artificial light.
There's solid evidence that exposure to artificial light limits the production of melatonin, a key hormone in regulating the sleep/wake cycle. This goes for TV too. Cut the pre-bedtime cartoons and opt for relaxing, sleep-friendly activities like reading or puzzles.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Things You Don't Think Of With Home Ownership

About 6 years ago we went from being renters to being home owners, it was a great time in our life and we were very excited about it, but eventually the excitement fades and you wonder what the heck you got yourself into?

Home ownership is great in some ways, and a total pain in others. We have to do everything ourselves, pay for everything ourselves. Sometimes renting was so much more stress free!

It seems that after we bought the house, a year later anything wrong that could happen did happen, appliances that came with the house started breaking down, a leaky basement, we had a flood, furnace repair… I can go on, things we had to worry about and fix on our own.

Thankfully we had done a homeowners warranty inspection before we bought the home, and renewed that for another year, which helped us save ourselves some money in the long run.

Places like American Home Shield is one place people should check out when they're thinking of buying a new home, a home warranty should be on the list of things you need when buying a home. You don’t think something will break down a month or two or even a year after you move into your new home, and new home ownership costs a lot of money, this warranty will save you lots in the long run that you might not have around at the time you need it. I know it sure helped us out!