You may or may not know that today is actually George Washington’s birthday. Sure, you had off on Monday for President’s Day, but today’s the day he would have been blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Now, as a consumer blog, you might think that we should have celebrated President’s Day by talking about where to find the best sales and how to take advantage of them. But if you think that then you don’t know how much I love George Washington. I’m a huge fan. If he was still alive, I’d be a groupie but I had to make do with a visit to Mount Vernon instead.
And so in honor of his birthday, I’d like to present you with a few pearls of wisdom from our Founding Father that are particularly useful for consumers, even those of us who do pay a tax on tea.
“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder”
Or as the more popular wisdom goes: Everyone has his price. At some point, the material benefit is too high and most of us will compromise on what’s important to us. This is beginning to apply more and more to us as consumers as we gain recognition of some of the human and environmental cost of the goods that we buy. Things like clothes and shoes are often manufactured in places where we wouldn’t approve of the working conditions but doing the research to find out or even just finding alternatives takes a lot of time and is often more expensive than we’d like. The same goes for food products. You may want to buy only locally grown organic produce but that is likely to limit your options and raise your grocery bill.
“To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones”
This is particularly easy to do in the age of credit cards. Which George Washington, who hated the idea of paper money, would probably not have approved of. Credit cards make it really easy to use money you don’t actually have. Of course, sometimes going into debt is acceptable but it’s important to have a good plan for paying it off and if you have to contract a new debt to do that, chances are good that you didn’t have one.
“Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s mind, than on the externals in the world.”
This is probably the most important part of being a smart and savvy consumer: Not buying for the sake of buying. Your material possessions won’t make you happy if nothing else will, but they can contribute to things that do make you happy. If buying a new kitchen gadget will allow you to make your wife’s favorite dish more often, then it’s a good purchase and it’s worth spending money to get the best product to save time and frustration later. Make sure you’re buying for the right reasons and you keep your priorities, both emotional and practical, in order as you shop.
Happy Birthday President Washington!
This weekend is the last hurrah as kids start school after Labor day. From the standpoint of a savvy consumer, getting ready for the new year depends in large part on the age of the student. For kindergarteners, you are probably all set with a new box of crayons, some safety scissors and a glue stick but things get more complicated as kids get older.
As your child goes through elementary school having the right name-brand set of school supplies may seem to them like a thing of utmost importance. Anyone who remembers Trapper-Keepers and Lisa Frank will know what I’m talking about. The rest of you: Google it. Your kids may not really have a concept of prices yet and this may be an opportunity for a lesson. Even if you as the adult have managed to conquer all sense of materialism and need to “keep up with the Joneses”, your children and their classmates probably haven’t. As silly as it may seem to you, not having the “cool” school supplies may make your child feel left out and embarrassed so this is a chance to let them learn to prioritize and manage money. Depending on age, you can try giving your child a budget for school supplies before you begin shopping together or help them compare prices and if they do choose the less expensive item, reward them by letting them use the money that was saved to get ice-cream on the way home.
This will continue in high-school but it won’t just be pens and notebooks. School clothing is likely to become more important to students and they will have developed a lot more independence. This means that if your child tends to want back-to-school outfits that you consider extravagant, you can leave the consequences to them. Try giving them a monthly clothing budget, with the clear understanding that if they buy a brand new wardrobe for the first week of school, you will not be doling out extra when they want expensive new boots in the winter. No matter how cold it is.
By college, most students are less likely to follow the trends in clothing or school supplies. They’ll have the skills to judge what is worth spending money on and the patience to save. However, for kids going off to college, there’s a whole new area of spending: dorm rooms. It’s easy to get swept up by all the gadgets and space saving devices out there for dorm rooms but don’t buy more than you know your child will need. If this is their first year away from home, send them off with no more than the basics. Let them take some time to learn about college life and figure out a routine and then when they come home for Thanksgiving you can stock up on the things that you know would be helpful.
Gift cards made up nearly 18% of spending this season, higher than any other year and retailers saw it coming since gift cards were at the top of most people’s wish list .57% of retailers expected an increase in their sales, which means that they can still look forward to those cards being redeemed in the next month or two. Apparently, unlike me, most people actually spend their gift cards within 60 days of receiving them instead of keeping them in a drawer until they get found next July.
On the other hand, as shoppers start seeing December’s credit card debt turn up, it may keep some people at home. November’s credit carding spending was up 7% from last year although numbers aren’t available for December yet. Plenty of people are likely to make thriftiness their New Year’s resolution and retailers will have to put up some really impressive sales to lure shoppers. It’s a great time to keep an eye out for bargains and stock up on items that can be used all year round.
All of these factors contribute to make this a shopping season just as much as it was a month ago and it’s just as easy to get caught up in the moment. Like all things in life, this shopping season comes down to balance.
Gift card purchases feel like free stuff but they make it easy to end up justifying purchases that you would never make otherwise, especially expensive ones that are only partially paid for with gift cards. Post-holiday sales are also a great way to save some money in the long run but be careful to only buy things that you are sure you will use and would have to buy eventually anyway.
Almost all of the news I get is free because I get it online and it’s paid for by advertising. But now, consumers may have the opportunity to get other things for free. A new company is giving users the option of viewing an ad instead of paying a fee at ATMs. This means I can stop wondering if it would be more economically sound to keep my money under my mattress. The ATMs wouldn’t be associated with any bank and the advertising money would cover the fee that you normally get charged for using an ATM belonging to a bank where you don’t have an account. There could still be fees from your bank for using an ATM that isn’t theirs, but it’s a good start.
The founder of Free ATMs NYC, who are installing the machines, say that a given transaction should take the same amount of time as it would without the ads and users will still have the option to pay a fee instead of viewing the ads.
I have to wonder who would choose that. I tend to be good at ignoring advertising (chalk it up to a mom who would NEVER buy the toys in the commercials) so I’m all for anything that gets rid of bank fees. On the other hand, I do wonder what could be next. How many services could I get for free if I’m willing to be advertised to? Besides our online news, TV and music which come with healthy doses of advertising a lot of web services, like the web designers we review, will give you a free trial in exchange for their logo prominently displayed on your site.
So little by little we are not only the targets of advertising but can easily become advertisers ourselves. When I put it this way, all of a sudden it sounds a bit creepy. On the other hand, I still like free stuff.
If you’re researching different web hosting plans, you’ve probably noticed that many web hosting packages come with free advertising credits. But if you’ve never had a website before you probably don’t know how or when to use these advertising credits. And if you’re not familiar with social media, these advertising credits may not hold that much appeal. But with a bit of understanding and explanation you may begin to realize just how valuable these credits can be.
The benefits of online advertising credits:
Things to Know about Facebook Credits:
- You will need a Facebook account to use Facebook credits.
- Facebook credits received from most web hosts can be used for both new and existing accounts.
- You can use Facebook credits to promote your company’s Facebook page or to promote your website directly.
- With Facebook advertising you can target people who have interests in line with your product or service.
- When creating ads with Facebook credits you can schedule them to run at certain times or on certain days.
- Facebook offers comprehensive tracking and analytical tools to help you understand the successes and failures of your ads.
Things to Know about Google AdWords Credits:
- Google AdWords credits are most often valid only for new AdWords accounts.
- If you have an existing AdWords account that is currently pointing to your website you’ll need to use your free advertising credits for a different account point to a different website or for a new account that uses a completely different set of keywords to point to the same website.
- You will need to enter billing information when setting up your AdWords account. Even though you are using free advertising credits you’ll be required to pay a small activation fee.
Things to Know about Yahoo! Credits:
- Yahoo! Credits work similarly to Google advertising credits.
- You will need a new account to use Yahoo! advertising credits.
- Fewer people use Yahoo!’s search engine than Google, but some studies indicate that those who use Yahoo!’s search engine may be more likely to convert.
- A planned merger between Bing and Yahoo! will likely change the face of this type of advertising, so it’s worthwhile to proceed cautiously when planning your ads, in the hope that in the future this search engine will see a boost in traffic.
Good luck with your new web host and your free advertising credits!
There are so many ways in which a divorce can be complicated, exhausting and painful- but it doesn’t have to be. Thousands of unhappily married Americans are discovering that the internet can be use for more than just email and Facebook- it can also be used to procure a quick and easy divorce. Divorce legal forms are popping up on hundreds of websites, and they make it possible for couples to reach an amicable settlement without shelling out thousands of dollars in legal fees.
If this is your first divorce, you may not be familiar with the procedures and requirements of filing for a legal divorce. You may have questions about what you’re entitled to, how the procedure works or how to properly proceed. In these cases, you’ll likely need more than a service that will file your divorce papers- you’ll need one that can offer divorce legal help. Fortunately, there are many reputable online legal form websites that offer both online divorce forms and divorce legal help. These services are likely to cost more than simply purchasing the necessary documents, but they will still cost substantially less than hiring a divorce lawyer.
In addition to the affordability of filing divorce legal forms online, this type of filing is remarkably convenient, and is truly eases the process for those who are going through this busy time in their lives. Why waste time running to a lawyer’s office to sign the papers, when you can do it from the comfort of your own home? Proper online legal form websites will make it clear exactly which forms you need to fill out and what information you need to provide in order to complete your filing.
Although divorce is seldom an enjoyable process, it is possible to have an easy divorce (and a completely legal divorce) by filing the paperwork online. Don’t be alarmed if you’re uncomfortable with the process- many services allow you to fill out the paperwork for free before paying, so that you can make an independent determination about whether you want to proceed with an online filing. It’s completely normal to feel apprehensive during this time, and there’s no reason why online divorce legal forms should contribute to the anxiety. There are enough reputable online legal services that can make it possible to receive a legal divorce without the headache and hassles- don’t be afraid to shop around until you find one that is right for you.
Tired of spending a fortune to hang out with your friends? Why not host a movie night in your own home? Movie nights are not a new idea, but with these 7 suggestions you can put a new spin on an old classic and host a night to remember.
- Make it a double-header. If you’re not sure exactly what films your audience will like, ask each guest to bring a movie, and play the two most popular choices.
- Mix up your snack selection. Why settle on simple popcorn and jellybeans when you can offer a more exciting snack selection? Consider adding ice cream sundaes, gourmet pretzels, fruit salad or other interesting snacks to your homemade concession stand.
- Drink up. Sure, movie theaters are known for their oversized cups of soda. But your personal movie theater can stock up on more exotic beverages. Mix up some fruity spritzers or martinis, or encourage your friends to shake up their favorite drinks.
- Open with a short comedy. It may be called a movie night, but there’s no reason that you must limit yourself to movies. Why not start with a short TV comedy or a classic skit that you haven’t seen in a while? Consider Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Simpsons or the Honeymooners.
- Go for surround sound. If you host movie nights regularly, consider installing speakers around your TV room so that you can get the full feeling of the movie’s sound effects.
- Surprise your friends with your decorations. Watching a horror movie? Why not play up your room with scary accents? Watching a tear-jerker? Consider leaving tissues and a wastebasket next to each seat (or row of seats). Your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness and may even laugh at your antics. If you’re feeling particularly eager you can even print out homemade tickets (for an added giggle, try telling one your friends that the theater is full!).
- Add another activity to the evening. There’s no reason why a movie night should be limited to only a movie. Invite your friends to play a game either before or after the feature film, or to go for a walk to work off some of those snacks.
Have other ideas that can make movie nights a bit more exciting? Feel free to share them!