Archive for the ‘General Money Saving Advice’ Category

10 (More) Awesome Birthday Freebies

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

It’s that time of year again…the time when I’m savoring every last minute of my ‘youth’, in anticipation of my upcoming birthday.  The time when I’m subtly reminding my friends about my upcoming celebration, so that it passes by withFree birthday skiing sufficient fanfare.  The time when I’m registering for birthday freebies so that I’ll enjoy some great gifts, even if said friends ‘forget’ to present me with the items I’ve been yearning for.  And, of course, the time when I get to share these birthday freebies with you, so that your birthday won’t go by silently.  Here are some of my favorite places to get free stuff on your birthday this year (ideally with no purchase required) – I hope you enjoy them!

  1. Aveda Birthday Program– If you register for Aveda’s Birthday Program at least 28 days before your birthday, you’ll receive a free Personal Blends Pure-Fume or other product worth up to $24, which will be blended with the aromas of your choice.   This is even better than last year’s Aveda birthday freebie (IMHO).
  2. Baskin-Robbins – I’ve already told you about Friendly’s birthday freebies, but if you love ice cream as much as I do, you’ll appreciate knowing that you can also get a free 2.5 ounce scoop of Baskin-Robbins for your birthday.  The freebie email will arrive five days before your birthday, so you can spread out the frozen love.  As an added bonus, you’ll also get a discount on a birthday cake and a coupon just for joining.
  3. Red Robin – Although the company’s web page is a little bit confusing, rumor has it that when you join the Red Royalty club, you’ll get a $3 signup bonus, plus a free burger on your birthday.  Come to think of it, I’m hungry just thinking about it.
  4. AMF Bowling – Who says that birthday freebies have to be physical things?  AMF Bowling centers are offering free games to eCLUB members on their birthday.  That sounds like great free stuff to me!
  5. Firehouse Subs – Hungry after your game of bowling?  Members of the Firehouse Subs birthday club will get a free medium sub on their birthday only, with valid ID.  If you ask me, this will be delicious even if you go bowling on a different day.
  6. Keva Juice – Join the Keva Klub to get a free smoothie on your birthday.
  7. Auntie Anne’s – Sometimes I think that just the smell of the pretzels is enough of a gift.  But of course, I look forward to getting the real one even more!  You can get a free pretzel too, if you sign up for the Auntie Anne’s VIP club.
  8. DSW – The rewards club offered by DSW has some great perks such as free shipping on select orders and money back rewards, but you’ll also enjoy getting a $5 gift card for your birthday.  In other words, you can probably get free socks or accessories for your birthday…or you can get your favorite pair of shoes for a bit less.
  9. Free Skiing (Multiple Locations)– This makes me happy that my birthday is in the winter!  Check out some places throughout the country that are offering free skiing on your birthday here.
  10. Old Navy – I know that I’m not actually listing the specific birthday freebie, but I couldn’t help including it because of my love of surprises.  Old Navy is offering a birthday surprise to members of its email list.  That means you’ll get a free surprise, plus updates about the rest of the company’s deals.

How to Plan a Royal Wedding For Less

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Now that the hullabaloo surrounding Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton has dwindled a bit, fashion magazines and celebrity watchdogs are focusing on their wedding details – where will the wedding be held, what designer will she choose to fashion her gown, what types of flowers will she carry, and more.  If you’re planning your wedding now, you know just how important those details can be.  But just because you aren’t marrying royalty, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feel like a princess on your wedding day.  I’ve taken a look at some spectacular royal weddings – and one royal wedding-to-be – and compiled some suggestions for how you can replicate royal wedding ideas on a commoner’s budget.   I would even like to suggest that your wedding can be even more enjoyable than a royal wedding, because you won’t have the press intrusion.

Vintage engagement rings – One of the most talked-about aspects of Kate’s engagement to PrinceSave money with vintage wedding jewelryWilliam was the engagement ring that she received, which previously belonged to Princess Diana.  There’s no question that Prince William could have afforded to purchase an exquisite ring of his own, but the fact that he chose to ‘recycle’ his mother’s ring makes a dual statement.  Firstly, budget-conscious couples should know that there is nothing wrong with saving money by reusing a family heirloom.  Secondly, there is a sentimental value in handing down a family ring that increases the value of the ring beyond its financial worth.

Royal tiaras – For those marrying royalty, chances are high that they’ll need to wear their wedding tiara again at some point in the future.  But while you may be marrying Prince Charming, you probably won’t have a reason to wear yours again.  So instead of spending money on a 40 carat diamond tiara (as Carrie Underwood did for her 2010 wedding to Mike Fisher), why not get a faux tiara for all of the glitz but a fraction of the price?  Faux tiaras cost $50 and up, but if you can manage to borrow one from a friend, it’ll be free.

Church wedding – Not sure whether you want to get married in a church (or other place of worship)?  Take an example from some of the most stylish royal couples, including Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz, Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Mary Elizabeth Donaldson, and England’s Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones.  Not only will your wedding have a royal (and holy) ambiance, but it’ll probably be cheaper than renting an exclusive wedding hall.

Design your own gown – Most royals design their own wedding gowns, and you can get the regal feel by designing your own.  Instead of having Valentino stitch it, have a local seamstress craft it for you.  A custom gown shouldn’t cost more than a gown that you bought off the rack (unless you choose yards of Chantilly lace or expensive embroidery).  In fact, it may actually be cheaper than choosing a designer gown off the rack and having it altered.

Skip the jewels – Royalty may have a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean that they choose to flaunt it.  If you peruse royal wedding pictures, you’ll see that most royal brides don’t wear flashy jewels, or that they don’t wear much jewelry at all.  Noticeably absent from most royal wedding albums?  Bridal necklaces.  Among the brides that decided that less is more?  Marie-Chantal Miller, who wed Greece’s Crown Prince Pavlos in a high-necked wedding gown, and Lisa Halaby whose wedding gown during her wedding to King Hussein Ibn Talal had gold embroidery near the neck, eliminating the need for extra baubles.

Good luck planning a gorgeous wedding (without overspending)!

10 Great Money Saving Apps

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Did you get a new smartphone during the holidays?  Make a New Year’s resolution to save more money this year?  Congratulations!  I’m so excited for you that I’ve taken the time to research a bunch of money saving smartphone apps, and to introduce you to 10 of my favorite apps.  Have you been using one that you don’t see on my list?  Please share!Money saving smart phone apps

  1. CouponSherpa – This free iPhone app sends hundreds of in-store coupons directly to your cell phone, and allows you to share them with friends.  My favorite part?  It helps you find the nearest store so that you can find your savings as quickly as possible.
  2. TheCouponsApp – The name of this Android app says it all.  It’s great because it’s fre, but it’s especially awesome because it lets you search through your coupons with voice recognition.
  3. GasBuddy – Find the cheapest gas station around with the GasBuddy app, available for iPhone ($2.99) and Android (free).
  4. AllPoint – Avoid ATM fees by using AllPoint’s ATM locator to find one of AllPoint’s surcharge-free ATM machines.  With 35,000 machines nationwide, there will hopefully be one near you.
  5. RepairPal – Wondering if your mechanic is giving you a reasonable price quote for the service you need? RepairPal will tell you what the necessary repair should cost and will help you understand what you can expect to pay for parts, and how much the labor will cost.  When relevant, the app will also tell you if it’s worthwhile to get the job done somewhere else (perhaps in a nearby area with another zipcode).
  6. CompareMe – This iPhone app costs isn’t free, but can save you a bundle by offering on-the-spot price comparisons of nearly any product.
  7. Kindle Ebook Reader – Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader is available for many smartphones (iPhone, Android, Blackberry and more).  Save $139 (or more) if you don’t need to purchase the Kindle, just make sure that you aren’t overpaying for the books.  Try to borrow from friends with Kindle’s new lending feature, or download free ebooks to read anytime, anywhere.
    LocalReuse – A modified Craig’s List for smartphones, LocalReuse does just what it’s name suggests – when you submit your zipcode, LocalReuse suggests used items that are being given away in your area.  If you find something that you need, you’ll be able to save big!
  8. CardBank (for iPhone) – Wary of signing up for store discount clubs because you’ll have to tote around the membership card?  CardBank allows you to store your membership details and barcode on your iPhone so that you won’t have dozens of cards stuck to your keychain.  This app isn’t free, but you’ll definitely make your money back in savings.
  9. Cellfire.com – A few months back when I wrote about where to find coupons, I mentioned Cellfire.com, but it’s worth mentioning again.  Cellfire is a great service that allows you to search for coupons on your cell phone and to redeem them by showing the cashier your saved coupons.  Over 4,000 retailers offer coupons on Cellfire, so chances are high that Cellfire can save you money in your area.

15 Things to do in a Blizzard

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Snowed in?  Wishing you were snowed in?  If you’ve been stuck at home for a while, you’re probably going stir crazy.  And if you’re not snowed in yet, you’re probably looking at your friends’ Facebook pictures and dreaming of an eventual snowy day off.  While snow might be great for a few minutes (or hours), those who have been stuck in a blizzard know how challenging it can be to be stuck at home with children for days on end.  While building a snowman would be an obvious activity, you’ve probably been there and done that.  If so, check out these creative things to do when it’s truly tough to get going.

  • 15 Things to do in a BlizzardToilet paper mummy races – Get the kids wrapped up in toilet paper from head to toe (leaving a space for the face, of course), and see who can race across the room the fastest – without breaking free of the wrapping.
  • Bake sale/cookie party – Bake whatever ingredients you’ve got in the house, then invite friends and neighbors to walk over for a treat.  Spread the word via community email list, Facebook andphone.  Sell the baked goods for charity or to defray your overhead costs.  Or, if you’re feeling generous, share your treats with anyone brave enough to face the storm.
  • Tackle your projects – You know that list of stuff you’d been planning on doing but never actually did?  Consider a blizzard like G-d’s way of telling you that you can’t leave your house until all of your bills are paid, your paperwork is organized and your clothing is put away.
  • Get a jump on your child’s homework – Your child’s report may not be due for another few weeks, but a snow day is a great time to make headway on the task (or to finish it entirely).  When you’re snowed in, there’s plenty of time for fun, so taking out an hour or two to do some homework should be tolerable (if not understandable).
  • Take a bubble bath – Few things are cozier than warming up in a long bubble bath when it’s cold outside.  Turn on some music, take in a book or just enjoy the tranquility of your alone time.
  • Start a gaming marathon – Choose a video game or board game, and start a marathon.  If you’re stuck alone, find an online game (my favorite? Bananagrams on Facebook), and play with strangers.
  • Order gifts online – If purchasing gifts is on your list of things to do, why not cross this task off by purchasing gifts online?  Since you’re not in a rush, take time to comparison-shop, search for coupons online or find a gift that’s awesome (instead of just ok).  If you need a bunch of gifts, look for an online store that offers free shipping, and see if you can get all of your gifts in one place.  At the very least, center on the items that you want to purchase and you’ll cut down your in-store shopping experience.
  • Pin the tail on the donkey – Who says you need a birthday party to enjoy party games?  Your kids will love the party feel even if it’s not birthday season.
  • Make papier-mache – Forgot to stock up on art projects before the storm?  Why not use materials you’ve got in your house, such as old newspapers which can be easily transformed into papier mache.  Find instructions here.
  • Catch up on YouTube clips – Haven’t seen the latest viral videos on YouTube?  Tired of being confused in a conversation? Here’s your chance to brush up on pop culture, and probably to laugh a bit too.
  • Create a ‘play’ and record it – Chances are good that your kids love putting on productions.  While you’re usually too busy to watch and enjoy them, now’s your chance.  Try to video the production so you’ll have great memories of your kids for the future.
  • Host a home scavenger hunt – Hide coins, wrapped candies or small trinkets around the house and let your children search for them.
  • Play indoor balloon-volleyball – Move the furniture, hang a string from one side of the room to the other (horizontally), and let the game begin!
  • Feed the freezer – If you have time, why not make dinners for the next few nights and freeze them until necessary?  Try soups, pizzas, casseroles…whatever you have ingredients for.  The kids will be entertained, and you’ll feel less stressed about making dinner.  As an added plus, the house will be warmed naturally by the heat of the oven or stove.
  • Start a blog – Do you have thoughts that you want to share with others?  If so, you’ll be a natural blogger.  Head on over to wordpress.com to get started.  Just remember to give me a shout-out when your blog makes it big!

Celebrity Weight Loss Strategies for Cheap!

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Every Christmas is accompanied by at least one or two bad gifts…but perhaps the worst gift is the extra weight that seems to stick around way longer than any hideous sweater or ugly ceramic sculpture.  It’s hard enough to find a half hour to return a bad gift to the store, but for some reason, it can take months to lose the extra pounds that you added in only a few hours of eating.  What’s a busy parent, professional or student to do?   As my post-holiday gift to you, I’ve taken a look at how celebrities have lost weight successfully, and converted these plans into cheap (and entirely achievable!) weight loss strategies.  Here are some of my favorites:

Cheap weight loss strategiesWalk Your Dog (or Just Walk)

Until now, you may have been fine with letting your dog take care of his business in the backyard.  But Fido will be happier, and you’ll be lighter, if you get out for a bit of exercise.  You’ve probably seen dozens of pictures of stars walking their dogs – from Jennifer Aniston to Sarah Michelle Gellar to Jessica Biel, celebrities are constantly taking time from their busy lives to walk their own dogs.  And so can you.

Of course, if you don’t have a dog, you can still use walking as a free way to lose weight.  Christina Aguilera claims that walking for 40 minutes on the treadmill regularly helped her lose weight after baby Max was born in 2008.  And, if there’s no treadmill available, your neighborhood will provide you with a good exercise and a change of scenery.

Dance like Natalie Portman

Everyone’s been buzzing about how the already petite actress lost even more weight for her role in the acclaimed film The Black Swan.  Her secret?  Intense dance practice.  While you may not be able to train for hours a day as Natalie did (nor would you want to), you can definitely make some progress by investing in a dance-workout video and making an effort to follow it through at least once (or twice) a day.   One great thing about using dance as a means of exercise is that it’s relatively low-impact, which means that your body should remain protected from other exercise-related injuries.

Snack frequently like Hilary Duff

In an attempt to lose weight for her wedding, Hilary duff changed her eating habits so that she ate small, healthy snacks between meals to stave off cravings.  It’s rather trite to suggest reaching for carrot sticks instead of a chocolate bar, and since I’m a realist, I’ll skip the cliché.  Hilary pulled off regular snacking by stocking up on delicious, low-effort snacks such as Greek yogurt or hummus.  A handful of almonds can also provide a healthy burst of energy and help you feel full.  Of course, if you want to keep a stack of chopped veggies on hand, you’ll reduce the cost of your diet and you may increase the rate of your weight loss.  And, they’ll go great with the hummus.

Drink Like Padma Lakshmi

This culinary genius is no stranger to the kitchen, but she credits a healthy drinking attitude for hastening her weight loss after the birth of her daughter earlier this year.  Not only is water an extremely affordably drink, but Lakshmi suggests flavoring it to reduce the boredom.  Among her favorites are lemon slices, orange blossoms and jasmine flowers, but the options are endless.  Try mint leaves, rosemary twigs or apple slices to add a refreshing twist to any pitcher of plain water, and drink the pounds away.

Cook Like Brooke Burke

You don’t need to be a chef to cook healthy, tasty and affordable dishes.  Salads and sandwiches (with low-calorie, whole wheat bread) are some of the best diet staples and they require no advance planning or lengthy cooking times.  Brooke recommends a whole wheat pita stuffed with chicken, lettuce, tomato and cucumber.  For added flavor, add some mustard, which serves as a tangy low-calorie dressing.  Prepare a scoop of tuna (with low-fat mayo) on a bed of lettuce, or a chicken salad made from grilled chicken and grilled vegetables.  If you rotate the seasonings regularly you won’t get bored, and you’ll always have something healthy to enjoy.

The most important thing to remember when trying to lose the holiday weight is that most celebrities have to work hard to maintain their figure (or to reclaim it after they’ve gained weight) – if they can do it, you can too.  Good luck!

How to Keep Warm without Spending a Fortune

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

How to keep warmStaying warm in the winter is more than just a matter of comfort – it’s also a matter of health.  But with oil prices continually on the rise and electric heat costing nearly as much, many people find it difficult to keep warm without spending a fortune.  Still, it’s important to realize that if you’re sick, the savings you’ll see on your heating bills will be spent on doctor’s fees and missed work.  The solution is to find cost-efficient ways to stay warm.  Lucky for you, I’ve got eight.

Don’t Heat Unused Rooms

One easy way to save big on your heating bills is to heat only rooms that are used regularly, such as the kitchen, bedrooms and TV room.  There is no reason to pay for heat in the guest room, and I would like to argue that you won’t need heat in your exercise room either (if you have one), as a few minutes into your exercise you’ll be warm all on your own.  There are several ways to avoid heating empty spaces.  If possible, close the vents in those rooms so that there will be less strain on your heating system.  If not, consider heating the rooms that you use with space heaters, which are inexpensive to purchase, cheap to run and will prevent you from heating your whole house unnecessarily.  Make sure to close the doors of unused rooms so that the cooler air doesn’t waft out.

Use Hand Warmers

If you’ve ever gone skiing, you’ll probably be familiar with the little heat packets that skiers and snowboarders use to keep their hands (and feet) warm.  But who says that hand warmers should be relegated to only to mountaintops?  For under $1 per pair of hand warmers or under $1 for a larger pad that can be worn to warm your body, you can enjoy up to 10 hours of warmth.  Once you’re warm, feel free to pass them to someone else who can use a bit of heat.  And, of course, if your toes are what’s keeping you cold, why not try a pair of foot warmers?

Save Big at Night

One of the best ways to keep warm for cheap is to adjust your habits at night.  You don’t need to run your heat on full blast all night long because you’ll be warmed by your blankets.  You can save big by programming your heat to turn off entirely during the hours you know nobody will be walking around the home (say, from 12pm to 5am), and having the heat turn on automatically about 30-60 minutes before your alarm clock goes off so that your home will be a comfortable temperature by the time you need to get out of bed.  If you have children who don’t know how to cover themselves properly at night, you may want to consider running your heat at a lower temperature that will still keep your house moderately warm, but will reduce the amount of energy used to power your heat.  You can also stay warm at night by using a heating pad or hot water bottle in your bed or snuggling up with a partner to generate additional body heat.

Start Cooking

Not only can a hot bowl of soup warm you from the inside out, but the heat generated by your house will be warmer just from the heat generated by the stovetop.  I can tell you from personal experience that the process of cooking may also distract you from the cold, and help you stay focused on the warmth ahead.

Exercise

Exercise in the winter is helpful not only to work off the pounds of food you’ve just cooked and eaten, but to help your body heat itself up.  If you don’t have an exercise machine, try using a workout video which will get your juices flowing.  Not only will you be warm during the exercise, but you’ll feel the heat for a while afterwards as well.

Check your Insulation

If you haven’t updated your insulation recently it’s entirely possible that worn insulation could be allowing heat to escape, which will require your heating system to work harder to heat your space.  It’s not always cheap to update your insulation, but this investment will be recovered in lower heating and cooling bills for the next few years.

Treat Your Windows Properly

You may think that keeping your window shades closed at all times is the best way to self-insulate your home, but that may not be the case.  Consider which windows are exposed to direct sunshine during the day, and make sure to open the blinds so that the heat of the sun can warm your home naturally.  Once the sun sets, close the shades to maximize the insulation of your home.  If you are in the market for new window treatments, consider cellular shades which are known for energy-efficiency and their ability to trap cold air within their cells to prevent it from entering your home.  For maximum insulation, choose double or triple cellular blinds.

Dress Up

Remember when your mother told you that wearing an undershirt (sleeveless as it may be) would keep you warm?  Surprise!  She was right!  Wearing multiple layers can be extremely efficient in keeping you warm.  Likewise, wearing socks and slippers will keep the heat from escaping from your feet.  If you can see your breath in your own home, it’s probably too cold.  Otherwise, don’t hesitate to dress as warmly as possible to keep your heating bills to a minimum.

How do you plan to keep warm this winter?  Share your ideas here!

Online Shopping Safety for Cyber Monday (and Beyond)

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Although it’s only a few years old, Cyber Monday has become one of the most anticipated online shopping days of the year.  Consumers who didn’t finish shopping on Black Friday, those who chose not to battle the crowds and those whoInternet shopping safety just can’t pass up a good deal will find themselves rushing to score some great Cyber Monday deals.  And, much like on Black Friday, the truly conscientious consumers will be logging on at midnight to make sure they get their favorite items before they’re sold out.  But with cybercrime at all time high and scam artists getting more creative each year, it’s a good idea to read the tips below before shopping on Cyber Monday (especially, but not only, if you life in New York, California, Florida, Washington D.C., Texas and Washington State, as those states have registered the highest number of complaints in recent years).  It’s also a good idea to share these tips with any friends you know who enjoy shopping online.

Missing auction items.  According to a 2009 study conducted by the FBI, over 30% of internet complaints result from consumers who purchase items on auction and then fail to receive them or receive an item that does not matched the description of the advertised product.

How to protect yourself:  Whenever possible, pay with a credit card.  The Fair Credit Billing Act protects you if you use plastic to pay for your purchase.  And, while many auctioneers don’t accept credit cards, you can still protect yourself by paying through PayPal with an account linked to your credit card.

Fake websites.  Nobody likes to think that they’d make a purchase from a fake website, but this form of online scam is becoming more popular with each passing year.  Phishing is a scam in which cyber thieves convince consumers to input their information into a fake website or email that looks remarkably similar to a legitimate website.  Over 5 million consumers are sucked into phishing scams each year, with an average loss of about $350.

How to protect yourself: For starters, make sure that your virus protection is up to date, and that your anti-spyware software is current.  Make sure that every site you buy from has a SSL, which looks like HTTPS in the url of the checkout page.  If you receive an email asking you to confirm your details, do not submit any information until you confirm the legitimacy of the email by contacting the online store that it came from.

Identity theft.  While some online scam artists steal only the amount of one purchase from each consumer, expert cyber thieves have found ways to lift your entire identity so that they can use your information for making future purchases at your expense.

How to protect yourself: Check your credit card bills regularly for suspicious purchases.  If you are concerned that you’ve been scammed, you should also call your credit card company immediately to get a report of the recent activity on your account.

5 Additional Ways to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

  1. Shop on accredited sites. Accreditation from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is always a good sign, as is a seal from a recognized security system such as McAfee or VeriSign.
  2. Never input your information into a popup window.  One of the most common ways for cyber criminals to steal your information is to ‘hijack’ the website you’re shopping on by asking for your information in a popup window.  Be aware of this tactic and make sure never to input your information into a popup window.
  3. Know your prices.  The best way to ensure you’re getting the best deal is to know your prices, so that you can discern between really great deals and marketing hype.
  4. Use a ‘disposable credit card’.  While I don’t advocate being overly afraid to purchase items online, you may feel safer if you use a disposable credit card which will limit the amount that you can spend on the card so that even if it’s stolen, you won’t be robbed blind.  Most major credit card companies offer this service including American Express, Citibank, Bank of America and Discover.
  5. Keep your personal information private. There’s really no reason why you should need to provide your birthday or Social Security number when making standard purchases online.  Be wary of any website that asks you for especially personal information.

Stay tuned for Cyber Monday deals – coming soon!

Bargain Hunting Basics (For Black Friday and Any Day)

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Lately I’ve been spending lots of time sharing great Black Friday deals with you…and getting excited about gearing up for the upcoming shopping holiday.  While many shoppers prepare themselves physically by stocking their purses (or backpacks) with food, water and a valid credit card, it’s crucial to prepare yourself mentally as well so that Black Friday Black Friday shopping tipsdoesn’t live in infamy as the day you landed yourself debt.     Here are 7 ways to succeed in your Black Friday shopping without breaking the bank.  Good luck!

  1. Make a list. The most important thing to bring to your Black Friday shopping spree is a shopping list.  Check out the circulars of your favorite stores in advance whenever possible so that you’ll be able to determine what you’ll be buying as gifts and what you’ll want to pick up for yourself.  It may be hard to buy things for yourself when you’re spending money on gifts, but if something is a really good deal, it may be a good idea to pick it up now to avoid overpaying later.
  2. Set a budget. Budgeting may seem like a killjoy, but it’s a critical way to ensure that you don’t overspend on Black Friday (or during any other shopping spree).  Think about how much you want to spend on each gift and don’t exceed that amount.  If I may be so bold, I’d also suggest adding a few extra dollars to your budget above what you plan on spending so that when you see a great deal that you can’t pass up you will be able to pounce on it without feeling guilty.
  3. Pack snacks.  For many shoppers, Black Friday is more exhausting than any triathlon.  Make sure that you bring enough food and drinks to keep you calm and focused.  When you’re hungry, you may be tempted to overbuy ‘just in case’ so that you can get out of the store faster.  And, while you may be able to pick up nourishment at a store, but wouldn’t you rather be spending money on long-term purchases instead of unhealthy or overpriced food items?
  4. Carry circulars with you. Can you get a circular in the store?  Probably.  Will you want to battle the crowds for it?  Definitely not.  If you have advance copies of your local store circulars, bring them with you.  Not only will this help you stay focused on your shopping goals, but it’ll enable you to ask for help simply by pointing to the item in the circular, which will spare you from wandering aimlessly around the store.
  5. Take a friend.  The benefits of shopping in tandem are numerous.  For starters, you can split up the store in search of deals, which will shorten the shopping time and prevent you from throwing unplanned items in your cart.  What’s more, having a friend whose opinion you trust can help you decide which purchases are truly worthwhile and which items you can live without.
  6. Save your receipts.  It’s easy to lose receipts during the shopping frenzy, but it’s important to make sure that you keep your sales slips organized and accessible.  You may find the same item for cheaper in another store, or you may decide to replace a purchase with another one that you find later in the day.  You may also decide that something you’ve bought isn’t quite as great as you thought, and you just want to return it.  No matter what the reason is, having the receipts handy will make your life much easier.
  7. Rest up.  It’s a well-known fact that exhaustion leads to poor decision making, and since many Black Friday shoppers shop in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning, resting up in advance can give you the energy and clarity of mind you’ll need to avoid making poor choices.  Luckily for you, Thanksgiving is a national holiday so you should be able to sneak in a nap before you shop.
  8. Wear comfortable shoes. If you plan on spending hours on your feet, you might as well be comfortable.  Just keep in mind that if you plan on trying on dress shoes, you may want to bring dress socks or stockings so that you won’t have to try them on with sport socks or barefoot.

3 Ways to Save Big After Halloween

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

If I was like every other frugal fanatic, I’d be posting up some obvious tips about how to save money duringSave money after Halloween the Halloween season.  But since you can read that anywhere, I figured I’d help you out by providing you with some creative ways to make the most of Halloween deals even after your Halloween chariot turns into a pumpkin.

Stock up on costumes for next year.  Retailers may make it seem like they’re having blowout sales on costumes before Halloween, but the real secret is that costume prices plummet immediately after Halloween so that stores can make room for new products as quickly as possible.  If you’re a savvy shopper you can probably find costumes for a steal – I’ve even scored some for as cheap as $5.  Stock up for next year, fill up your child’s dress-up chest or just put away some great costumes for a rainy day when you need an activity for your children.

Consent to candy.  Let’s be honest – Halloween candy tastes delicious at any time of year, and the only difference between a holiday peanut butter cup and a regular one is the wrapper.  Keep your eyes peeled for low prices on candy and chocolate that is leftover from Halloween and stash it away for your child’s next birthday party, to use as rewards for your kids or just to use as an extra snack when the next craving strikes.  Pair sales with coupons for extra savings, if only to assuage the guilt of enjoying your favorite candy.

Pick more pumpkins.  A good harvest of pumpkins this year has kept prices lower than they’ve been in recent years, which means that you should enjoy the opportunity to use pumpkins for eating as well as for decorating.  Why not take advantage of the reduced price of pumpkins after Halloween by making some pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread or pumpkin pie?  For additional convenience, get your pumpkin carved at the grocery store, where they have large sharp knives or electric knives that can make it easy for you to peel and boil your pumpkin.  Finally, pumpkins are rich in cancer-fighting carotenoids and anti-oxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which offer a plethora of health benefits (a great way to counteract all of the chocolate you’ve probably just eaten).

Happy Halloween!

The Best Things to Buy in October

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Do you ever get annoyed when you hear about great sales after they’re over?  I know I do!  For starters, you should ‘like’ my page on Facebook so that you can get up-to-the-minute saleBuy cookware in October information straight from the horse’s mouth.  (Did I just call myself a horse?)  Once that’s done, read on to make sure you don’t miss out any of these great deals that are going on in October.  After all, there are few things more frustrating than paying full price for something that was on sale just a few days before.

  • Swimwear – Okay, you probably won’t need a new bathing suit until next summer (or, at the very least until your mid-winter vacation), but if you’re lucky you’ll be able to score some great deals on swimwear this month.  Even if it’s still warm in your area, summer break is long gone, and retailers are anxious to dump their remaining inventory from those glorious months.  If you plan on purchasing a swimsuit or cover up in the next few months, you’d be best off buying it now and saving it for later.  Some places to start?  Try shopping online at Target, the Gap and Lands’ End.
  • Jeans – Did you notice all of the new styles of jeans that were available during the back-to-school sales?  You can now officially have these jeans for even lower prices.  Check out the Gap, Old Navy, and Macy’s (Macy’s is currently shipping clearance items, including jeans, for only 99 cents) – or, just head over to your favorite jeans store and browse the racks.
  • Cookware – Everyone knows that it’s a good idea to purchase cookware at the start of wedding season in April or May.  But few people recognize that cookware prices also drop in anticipation of the holiday season.  If you’re in the market for new cookware, buy it in October so that you can get great deals and use it for the upcoming holidays.  Once again, Macy’s is having some great deals in this area, and you can check out Bed, Bath & Beyond for some great deals on a smaller range of items.
  • Health insurance – If you’re looking to change health insurance providers, October may be your last chance for a while, as many providers offer limited acceptance during the fall.  Don’t wait long to make this decision.
  • Produce – Here’s a list of produce that is at its peak during October (and should therefore be the cheapest during this month) – Apples, beets, Brussels sprouts, corn, eggplant (nearing the end of its season), pears, peppers, pumpkins, beefsteak tomatoes, squash.

Happy shopping!