The holidays are here again. It’s that time of year when spending can easily get out of control. Gifts, gift wrap, greeting cards, household decorations, outfits for holiday photos and parties, and food shopping for holiday meals are at the top of everyone’s lists.
Unfortunately after Santa has arrived and New Year’s has been rung in, many of us are faced with credit card debt and a pile of bills. Here are a few ways to save during the holidays and start the New Year on the right foot.
- Planning ahead can save you in the end. Make a list of people, and then prioritize. This list will also be your gift shopping budget for the holidays. Note how much you are going to spend next to each person’s name. You can even share your holiday gift lists with family and friends online at KeepandShare.com. For budgeting tips, go to Mint.com and check out its easy budgeting tools. Now carry the list and budget with you on your shopping sprees, and stick to it!
- Focus on buying for close friends and family. Minimize the number of gifts for acquaintances and coworkers. Also consider buying one large gift that several people on your list can enjoy. Some people would rather get one great gift for the family than 10 little gifts. Groupon.com, with the slogan “collective buying power,” provides bulk discounts. You can sign up at Groupon.com for e-mail alerts of sales going on in your area, such as restaurant or beauty salon discounts, which make ideal gifts to share with family or friends.
- Pick a name out of a hat. Whether you come from a large or small family, buying for everyone adds up quickly. It’s been called Secret Santa, Grab Bag or Pollyanna. But the concept is all the same. You only have to buy a gift for one person. Set a limit on how much you are allowed to spend so everyone is on an even playing field.
- Online coupons are great. Consumers can simply point and click to find online coupons for the product of their choice. Most of these coupon sites provide a coupon code to be used on a retail store’s website. During the online checkout, type the code under the “promo” or “coupon code” heading to receive the discount. On most of these websites, you can register to receive daily or weekly E-mails of coupon specials. Sites like Coupon.com, SmartSource.com, and CouponMom.com are popular for consumers looking for a bargain.
- Comparison shop on line. Left with excess inventory last year, retailers are going to sell fewer items in stores this holiday season. As a result, more people are going to go online for research, price comparison, and convenient shopping. One way to do that is through sites like ComparisonShopping.com, which aggregates product search results from the 10 leading websites for price-comparison shopping, including BizRate, PriceGrabber, NexTag, and Shopzilla. These sites have vendor prices, reviews of vendors and items, and product descriptions. Also, visit FreeShipping.org, which provides free shipping coupon codes for more than 1,710 stores. Other websites have threshold free shipping, where shipping doesn’t cost anything after a minimum purchase; Amazon.com, for example, provides free shipping for members whose purchases are over $25.
- Homemade gifts, cards, and wrapping paper. Get crafty. Homemade gifts and cards are not only affordable but also fun projects for you and your friends or family to do together. Clip craft stores’ weekly coupons, or visit cheap art supply websites, such as CheapJoes.com, to save on supplies. Instead of buying expensive cards and wrapping paper, make them with colored paper and art supplies. You can put your kids to work with craft ideas from KidsCraftWeekly.com. “If you aren’t so artsy, buy homemade artwork, jewelry, and clothing at Etsy.com, as well as unique art supplies,” says Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of shopping websites SheFinds.com and MomFinds.com. If you’re a baker, recipe sites like Epicurious.com have a plethora of seasonal recipes from cookbooks, chefs, and home cooks. Holiday-themed treats are tasty and inexpensive gifts for your friends and family members with a sweet tooth.
- Buy gifts that save money. You don’t have to be buying for the “Do It Yourselfer” in the family or even the frugal family member. Give gifts that people wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. Energy saving lightbulbs, a showerhead that saves water, or a programmable thermostat makes a great gift or stocking stuffer. They’ll be thanking you every month when they see the savings on their utility bill.
- Re-gifting. Refer to re-gifting as “gift recycling”. It is easy not only on the wallet but also on the environment, as you are reusing items rather than throwing them away. Avoid the dreaded fruitcake this year, and go for gifts, preferably less personal and unused, such as gift cards, candles, picture frames, and homeware items.
- Budget for yourself. Now after all of your generosity, don’t forget to reward yourself. Along with your gift list, budget how much you’d like to spend for yourself. It’s best to decide what you’d like early on, so you can spend time looking for it at the lowest price. If you have a specific gift in mind, you can go to sites like ShopStyle.com, for clothing and fashion accessories, or PriceSpider.com, for electronics, and select items you like. Then the website will send you E-mail alerts whenever your selected item goes on sale.
- Happy shopping. Remember to have fun. Shopping for gifts shouldn’t be a dreaded chore. Give yourself plenty of time. Enjoy the crowds and everything that comes along with it. It only comes around once a year.
HAVE A SAFE & PROSPEROUS HOLIDAY SEASON & A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR!
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Good luck and happy Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. And now during such uncertain times, it is even more important to stop and think about how truly blessed we are. This is the perfect time of year to give to someone else (even if it’s just your time) or help someone in need. Even the smallest gesture could make a huge difference in someone’s life.
IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE!
Minute timers are simple and useful tools that have been around since 1935. They’re one of those items you see every day and probably not think too much about it. But thee are tons of things that a minute timer can be used for. And in a time of computers and complicated technology, it’s nice to have something that’s simple, helpful and reliable.
MORE THAN MAKING THAT PERFECT TURKEY!
Over the years a LUX Minute Minder Timer has been used for lots of things other than cooking.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Use it for coloring or putting a perm in you hair, so there’s no worry about over-processing.
- Use it for timing how long to exercise. No getting off that bike to answer phones or check e-mail until that bell rings.
- Use it for testing children. Great for teachers in school, and great for allotting time to do homework
- Use it for limiting your kid’s time on computers, cell phones and video games.
- Use it to limit time in the bathroom getting kids ready in the morning for school. Putting time limits on showers prevents morning chaos and saves hot water. It adds up to huge savings on the utility bill.
- Use it to time your parking meter. Set it when you put your money in the meter so you don’t have to worry about getting a ticket. You’ll know when to put more coins in or move your car.
- Use it for getting the perfect tan. Set the timer for thirty minutes so you know when to flip to the other side.
- Use it when you have barbecues/pool parties to let the kids know when they’re allowed to go back in the water.
- Use it for setting specific time to work on projects. It’s easy to procrastinate starting or even finishing a project if you keep checking voicemails and e-mails. If you set a timer, it will force you to get a chunk of work done without interruptions.
- Use it for setting specific time to return phone calls and e-mails so you’re not constantly being interrupted during work, meals and quality time with family.
- Check out some more ideas [MORE].
Have a use for this old favorite? Let us know.
IT’S TIME TO FEAST!
Whether hosting your first holiday feast or you’re a seasoned pro, it can be daunting. A menu of familiar dishes for which everyone will have expectations, plus the pressure of executing a complicated meal in a timely manner, can make event the most experienced cook wish someone else would take over [MORE].
A kitchen timer is a necessary tool for such a big meal [Get yours at Amazon]. You not only need to know how long to cook a turkey, but how long to let it cool before carving.
“We have many tips for a successful Thanksgiving, but our top recommendation is to rest your turkey. We (spend) weeks trying to decide how to cook the turkey every year—brine, roast, fry? How long should we cook it, and what’s the best turkey to buy? But if you don’t rest your turkey long enough (once it comes out of the oven), you’re throwing all of your expert technique out the window. You should rest your turkey for approximately 40 percent of your total cooking time. So be sure to rest it in a warm place and allow plenty of time for the whole process.
Source: Karen & Quinn Hatfield
Chefs, Hatfield’s, Los Angeles
So you’ve started pulling those sweaters out of mothballs and started seeing holiday decorations in stores … have you thought about getting your house ready for the cold months ahead?
It’s easier to get through the long winter months with peace of mind and money in your pockets, if you start preparing now and not at the last minute.
Here’s a boiled down Fall to-do list in 10 easy steps:
- Clean gutters: Once the leaves fall, remove them and any other debris from your drainage gutters, so snow and winter rain can drain out and away from your house. Clogged drains can for ice dams. When water freezes and backs up, water can seep into the house.
- Block leaks: The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall! An easy way to find leaks is to walk around your house on a breezy day with a lit incense stick. The most common drafty areas are: recessed lighting, window/door frames, and electrical outlets.Use door sweeps for door drafts and caulk for other drafty spots. Use weather-resistant caulk for outside. Even if you think a crack is too small, it’s worth sealing up. It also discourages insects from finding a warm hiding place.
- Insulate yourself: A great fix that costs little money is adding insulation to your attic. Regardless of your climate, you need 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If you can see ceiling joints, you don’t have enough.
- Face your windows: It’s time to take down window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth in your home. Of course windows are pricey, so if you can’t afford to replace old drafty windows this season, you can purchase a plastic window insulation kit for cheap, which will help cut down on those heating bills.
- Wrap those pipes: A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze can be a nightmare. Before freezing nights hit, make sure all outside water lines are drained and shut off(hoses, sprinklers, etc). Also, go around your house and check to see if there are any pipes that are not insulated or pass through unheated spaces (crawlspaces, basements, garages) and be sure to wrap them. Pre-slit pipe foam can be cheaply purchased at any hardware store.
- Reverse that fan: Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don’t often think of. By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate, keeping you more comfortable.
- Get your ducts in a row: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That’s a huge amount of wasted money! You can often see exposed ducts in attics, basements, and crawlspaces.Ducts should also be vacuumed out once a year to clean out abundant dust, animal hair and other allergens that cause respiratory problems.
- Mind that thermostat: It’s easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave the building, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money. Most households shell out 50 to 70% of their energy budgets of heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses? For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you’ll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill. Make it easier with a Lux programmable thermostat. They are widely available and come in many models with a variety of features that will best suit your family’s needs.
- Check the furnace: First, turn your furnace on to make sure it’s even working. If strong odor persists for a lengthy period of time, turn it off and call a professional. Furnace filters should be changed once a month during winter. Dirty filters restrict air flow and increase energy demand causing your heating bills to skyrocket. Worst cases, dirty, clogged filters can even cause a house fire.
- Finally, check those alarms: This is a great time to check the operation, and change batteries of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Also check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works.
It’s that time of year again. The pools are closed, the days get shorter, the alarm clocks ring earlier, and the schedules get crazier.
The hardest part is getting back into the swing of things after months off from hectic days of scheduled classes, sports practice, homework and other extracurricular activities.
Here are some tips to make this difficult transition a little easier:
- Prepare for the flood of paper. There are always tons of papers that seem to appear when the kids go back to school: permission slips, health forms, school supplies lists. Set up a filing system or scan them into your computer so things don’t get misplaced or are easily found when things get hectic.
- Post your children’s class schedule where’s it’s easily seen. Color code each child or specific activities so there are no conflicts when scheduling.
- Create a homework station. Have an assigned clean area with no distractions for the kids to do their homework. Put all the supplies they would need in a central location, so they’re easily accessible. It’s also good for you to be able to walk by periodically and check on their work.
- Avoid morning chaos. Set the family table for breakfast the night before. Get lunches packed or leave lunch money out so you’re not frantic or forgetting when the kids are rushing off to school. Pick out outfits or lay out clothing in the evening so there are no arguments in the morning when you’re pressed for time.
- Plan a bathroom schedule. Anyone who is in a multi-child household knows how crazy the morning can be when sharing or waiting to use the bathroom. Get a timer (Amazon is a great place to get an affordable timer) and put a limit on how much time each child has to get ready.
- Shop the closets. Before hitting stores, take a good look a what’s already there. Do an inventory and make a list, this way you’re not spending extra money on things your kids already have. There may be clothes that are trendy again, or even things you can donate.
- Keep receipts. Colored pens look cool in the store, but the teacher may request that students use pencil only. If you have to return anything, you’ll be able to get your money back.
- Start interviewing babysitters. Knowing there are people who your children are comfortable with will make it much easier when you have “Back To School” night, parent-teacher meetings other events when you’ll have to leave the kids a home.
- Now that you’re not seeing your kids as much, make it a point to set aside quality time to spend with them. Don’t answer cell phones or watch TV. Ask about their day, friends and school projects.
- Take it all in stride. It’s easy to give advice, but things happen that throw the best laid out schedules into havoc. Knowing that this happens will help you cope better when it does. What is hectic now becomes fond memories later. Enjoy every moment, it goes by so fast.
As the summer slowly winds down, hurricane and tropical storm season pick up. The damage that rough weather can inflict on your home and HVAC system can cause headaches in the aftermath, so it’s important to make sure your home is protected.
Most people who have ever been through a hurricane know the routine: bring in the plants and outdoor furniture, tape or board up your windows, stock up on candles, flashlights and non-perishable food. Quite often however, you HVAC system is overlooked.
Obviously, you can’t relocate your outside HVAC system, so it’s best to cover it securely to protect your equipment from harsh rains and falling debris.
Have a thermostat installed that has battery back-up power, this way you don’t lose all of your HVAC settings during a power outage (Amazon is a great place to get a battery backed-up thermostat).
If you’re close to the storm, don’t take chances and run any equipment that might burn out. You want your HVAC running long after the rains have stopped. It’s best to simply shut everything down if you anticipate a power outage. This way, you reduce the risk of blowing out circuits and burning out the compressor when the electricity returns.
Once the storm is passed, check your outside equipment for any damage like dents from fallen debris. If you feel there is something obstructing your system and preventing it from working properly, call an HVAC repairman before you turn the system back on.
Here are some additional tips to ensure your HVAC system stays protected in the high winds, falling debris, and dangerous lightening.
HVAC To-Do List for Hurricane Preparation:
- Turn your AC unit off prior to a severe storm.
- If you have a window unit, unplug it entirely.
- Cover your outside unit and make sure it’s secure and put a sticky note next to your thermostat to not turn on system until cover has been removed.
- Do not turn your unit back on immediately following a storm or hurricane.
- Inspect the unit and surrounding area first to ensure it’s in proper working condition.
Remember, as you make plans and prepare your emergency hurricane kits, take care to watch your heating and cooling systems. You’ve spent a lot of money having these systems installed and maintained. With the proper precautions you can protect your investment and avoid coming home to an unpleasant situation.
Summer has finally arrived, so make it a memorable one! You have plenty of time to squeeze all of the hottest things about summer into the next couple of months, and before the kids head back to school. Here’s a list of ideas for a summer of fun!
You don’t have to spend tons of money to have a great time, so here’s some great ideas that won’t bust your budget.
- Go backyard camping. Gather your pals, pitch a tent, grab some sleeping bags, and head out your back door. While you won’t be able to have a campfire, there’s no reason to forgo the traditional campfire songs and tales. Of course include S’mores! Have a blast sleeping with the kids under the stars while enjoying the indoor plumbing just a few steps away!
- A day at the Beach! It will feel like a mini-vacation (especially if you couldn’t get away this year). Build a sandcastle or have a sandcastle contest with friends. Build a giant fort or get buried in the sand. Actually go in the ocean! Nothing feels better than coming home sun bleached, sandy and smelling like Coppertone.
- Before summer ends, it’s required that everyone attend a festival! There are tons of festivals or County Fairs taking place between now and the start of September. They all have free concerts, games, crafts, rides & petting animals. Don’t forget to enjoy some great carnival foods which can only be found in the summer time: cotton candy, corn dogs, snow cones and roasted corn!
- Watch the sun rise and set in the same day.
- Make hand squeezed lemonade. Or help your kids set up and old-fashioned lemonade stand.
- Fly a kite. Or tie a secret or wish to a balloon and let it go. Do it alone or gather kids in the neighborhood for a fun colorful activity.
- Go to the nearest park and have a picnic. Nothing beats hanging out on a blanket with your pals. Have everyone pack their fave foods. Don’t forget the Frisbee!
- Pack your kids in their PJs, bring your favourite snacks and head to a double bill at a drive-in theatre. Crank up the volume on your car stereo… and, talking is allowed!
- Take outdoor photos. Take pictures of everything you love about summer and make a book or collage that you can look at and smile when “Old Man Winter” arrives again.
- Get inspired by being outside. Find a special place that you enjoy and feel peaceful. Tap into your creative writing. Write a letter to an old friend, write a love letter to that special someone, write a poem or even a song.
- There’s nothing more beautiful that a clear summer night with a sky full of stars. Enjoy a night of stargazing. Look up the different constellations on line and try to find them or point them out to your kids.
- Give them containers to run around and catch fireflies.
- I love fresh summer fruit and produce. Stop at a roadside stand or farm and buy fresh picked produce and make an entire meal from it.
- Start that book you’ve been meaning to read for a long time and actually finish it!
- Make your own popsicles. It’s a fun activity that doesn’t take a lot of time. Try different juices and mixtures. And if you’re 21 you can even try adding a little booze!
- Attend an outdoor music concert. There are always tons of free concerts in the summer. Check out what’s happening in your local area. There nothing better than chillin’ out on a summer night listening to great music.
- Go on a rollercoaster. Nothing says summer like the laughter & squeals of joys as you zip around a rollercoaster. Make a “bucket list” with your friends and go on the top 5 rollercoasters in the area.
- Organize a water olympics. Invite your children’s friends and the neighborhood kids to join together in the back yard. Have a water balloon toss, sprinkler freeze tag. Plan a timed water balloon relay race (Get an affordable timer at Amazon) and other games to cool off on a hot summer day.
- Before it’s time for books and homework again, do a family activity – something outdoorsy before the nice weather is gone for the year. Tour the countryside on your bikes, go for a hike, explore caves. There are also farms, orchards, lakes and parks to enjoy.
- Have the best.summer.ever.♥
Summer weather seems to have arrived out of nowhere, and with this weather brings seasonal allergies.
Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. This year will be especially tough because of unseasonably high amounts of rain and humidity.
Although we can’t control Mother Nature, there’s plenty you can do to make your home more comfortable by reducing allergens and irritants.
Recognizing the importance of indoor air quality is imperative. Allergies, asthma, eczema, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, sinusitis, and bronchial problems are all medical conditions that have been linked to poor indoor air quality. Indoor air can be 5 times more polluted than the air outside. The EPA ranks indoor air as one of the top 5 environmental risks to public health.
Here are some simple steps to make the air your family breathes cleaner and healthier:
- Controlling the temperature in your home is a great way to control allergens. If you have a programmable thermostat (), set the temperature to 70 during the day and 65 during the night. Make sure to keep an eye on the humidity level also, no lower than 40 or 50 (don’t have a programmable thermostat! Get one at Amazon click here).
- Change your filters and have your air ducts cleaned. Dust, pest dander and mold can collect in filters and ducts if they are not cleaned regularly.
- Vacuum rugs often and have your rugs cleaned. Be sure to check cleaning ingredients, as some cleaners have strong odors that can trigger allergies.
- I know pets are like members of the family, but if you’re suffering with allergies, try to keep the family cat or dog off furniture that can trap pet hair and dander. For example, any place where you rest your head, like a fabric sofa or on the bed, should be kept free of pet hair.
- Wash you bed sheets often. You can also purchase pillow and mattress covers that provide a special barrier against dust mites.
- Keep your bathroom clean. Mold grows in damp environments and is a major cause of severe allergies.
- Keep your refrigerator clean. Food that sits beyond its expiration date begins to grow mold. You don’t want that sitting near food you are going to eat.
- Donate or pack up old books. I hang on to those books from college thinking I may need to refer back to them one day. But old books sitting around on shelves are huge collectors of dust, which increase allergens.
- Be sure to wash your hands often, as this is the fastest way to spread allergens.
Install a Lux Clean Cycle thermostat. The CAG1500 is a fully programmable thermostat that ensures the heating and air conditioning fan runs at set intervals to circulate the air in your home. It also indicates when filters need to be cleaned. A programmable thermostat that improves the quality of your air and saves you money. Now that’s a much better Father’s Day present than an ugly tie!
Father’s Day is a day honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. It is celebrated on the third Sunday of June in 52 countries around the world.
The first observance of Father’s day is believed to have been established on June 19, 1910. After listening to a church sermon about the newly recognized Mother’s Day, Sona Smart Dodd of Spokane Washington felt fatherhood needed recognition too.
Father’s day was slow to catch on compared to the very popular Mother’s day until it became recognized as a national holiday in 1972 when Richard Nixon signed it into law.
I have no idea how the tradition of giving ugly ties started!
Earth Day 2013 is Monday April 22nd. Earth day is meant to inspire the public to take better care of the environment and learn to take pride in the environment. The original Earth Day was used as a teaching day to get the public more informed about the environmental impact humans were making.
Since then, the basic message of the day is the same, but it has been taken much further. Since this original celebration Earth Day has become an international holiday. Several environmental groups have also started participating in an Earth week.
During this week, these organizations host several different programs that educate their communities about the different aspects of Earth and how to take better care of Earth. Each year, Earth Day celebrations have become more and more elaborate with an ever increasing audience.
Each year different activities are held to acknowledge Earth Day. Each participating country holds their own activities which can be seen on the international Earth Day webpage . Last year, groups across the globe began to enter into active communication with their government officials concerning environmental policy. These groups began to make moves toward getting schools and business to recycle as well as take other actions towards preserving our environment.
Other, more recreational, activities are also held each year in different parts of the world. Many national parks hold nature walks in hopes that these will inspire more environmental responsibility. Other groups organize clean-ups to clear trash and make the environment more livable.
A big push for more child appropriate programs has also been seen throughout recent years. Nearly every community holds some sort of Earth Day activity. All you have to do is read the local newspaper to find out more. Earth Day 2013 events are nearly always posted far in advance, you just have to look for them.
EARTH DAY HISTORY:
Earth day first began in the United States in 1970. This celebration was started by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22, 1970.
EARTH DAY RESOLUTIONS:
We cannot ensure a safe and clean planet for future generations if we think about environmental issues for one day only. We must think ‘green’ every day of the year. Decide now to start small with an easy resolution to make ‘green’ part of your daily routine. A few simple ways to start: turn off lights and appliances when not in use, recycle(simply throw your plastic bottles in a separate container than your trash), take a walk instead of driving to your destination. Use Energy Star appliances. Things as simple as installing a programmable thermostat can save energy, the environment and you money (Amazon.com is a great place to get an affordable programmable thermostat).
EARTH DAY ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS:
Our children are the leaders of the future. It is important that they learn the importance of the environment now, instead of waiting until they have grown. There is no better way to teach children than to make crafts and play educational games .