Easter Basket Rip Off

I find it fascinating to see the prices charged for pre-made Easter Baskets.   If you take a moment to investigate the contents and do some quick math, it is easy to see that the mark up is substantial.

The basket below is listed at 49.99.  It took me ten minutes of shopping around on the internet   to find these prices for the items listed in the basket:

1. Basket:     Michaels craft store $1.99

2. 12 oz jelly beans:     Local drug store and dollar store price $1.99

3. 8 oz. of bunny corn:     Local drug store and dollar store 99 cents

4. 10 oz. milk chocolate crisps:     Drug store $1.99

5. 8 oz spring marshmallow mix:     Grocery store $2.99

6  1 16 oz package of peeps:     Drug store 2 packs for $3.00 ( $1.50 )

7. 1 10 inch stuffed bunny:     Five Below  $3 to $5



Total Merchandise in Basket $16.50

That leaves you paying $33.49 for someone to place these items into a basket for you  I estimate that would be  $33.49 for approximately 10 minutes of work.

I would much rather save $33.49 and put my own Easter Basket together.   If you have 3 kids to make baskets for, you could save $100.00.

Craft stores, Target and Walgreens make it very easy to make your own basket these days.  They sell the basket, a pre-made plastic sleeve to wrap the basket in and colored grass for the lining.

Saving money on your vacation

Today the cost of a hotel in a foreign country or another city can be extremely expensive. For a family, these costs can be further magnified. Very often the facility is not centrally located thereby adding additional expenses to get around. The rooms maybe small or the food plan does not accommodate children. Let’s say you are a family of four and want three rooms. The price of this in a conventional hotel can be exorbitant, even if you get a suite.

You can go to various Internet sites like www.hotels.com , www.tripadvisor.com or www.kayak.com and look for their best deals. This may get you a better price, but may not fulfill all your needs.

What are the other choices?

There are a number of house sharing and apartment sharing sites that may better serve you needs. Of course you need to be willing to share your home with a stranger but they are sharing their home with you. If you live in a desirable travel destination like New York City or San Francisco you have a real advantage. I have heard of people in New York City who had a great experience trading their three bedroom Manhattan apartment for a similar apartment in Paris. You can find these deals on sites like www.lovehomeswap.com and www.homeexchange.com .

You may just want to rent an apartment or a room in a place where you are going on vacation. A web site like www.airbnb.com will show you private rental deals that can save you a lot of money. The site allows you to pick neighborhoods, price ranges and the type of room you are looking for. Additionally, this site provides you with reviews from people who have stayed there in the past. The host determines how much they want for their rent and Airbnb then adds on their fee. This total fee is what appears on the web site as the fee for the guest. The time of the stay is determined by the host and is agreed to by the guest.

When you are on #vacation this is also a way to earn additional money by allowing someone else to use your home while you are away and offset some of the costs of your vacation.

#consumersangel #consumer

The Shopping List

We have all experienced coming out of a store or a supermarket having spent much more than we planned. We may have even shot the family’s monthly #budget on a single trip. How does this happen and what can we do to protect us from ourselves and our own impulses? Why do we act this way?

We are surrounded by pictures of buying our way to happiness. We see ads in newspapers, magazines and on TV showing beautiful happy people and families. They are happy because they are consuming some food or own some product. The message is clear if you buy this product, you will look just like this and you will be happy too.

In the store aisles there are ads to reinforce what you have seen or read. It is all designed to draw you into the belief that a product will satisfy some inner need and make everything in your life better. This has all been very scientifically studied and planned out by the companies that are trying to sell you their products and a host of psychologists they employ.

How do you get past this? The solution is very simple but not easy to implement. Make a #shopping #list. While you are quietly sitting at home make a list of what you need and what you are planning to buy. If you are familiar with store you are going to make the list in the order of the way you traverse the store. Bring the list with you and check off each item when you buy it. Do NOT buy anything that is not on the list because that will open up the flood gates. Almost any item you “forgot” can be purchased the next trip.

Following this strategy will amaze you. Not only will you save money, but this simple strategy will help you break the habit of allowing yourself to be controlled by the advertisements. You will shop according to your needs not your wants.

#consumers #angel

How to save on your weekly shopping

Buying groceries in our economy can be quite challenging. Taking some time to educate yourself on how to stretch a dollar will give you a better price for food for yourself and your family.

First off, when food shopping, check your local stores and comparison shop for the items on your list. You will quickly see that on a week to week basis some offer the exact same goods for less than their competitors. Additionally, if you sign up for the store’s free reward program, you will get additional savings on sale price items. When signing up, you may wish to decline giving the store your e-mail address for weekly email notifications. Some companies have taken e-mailing to the extreme and bombard your inbox on a daily basis with advertisements. If you do have to give your e-mail address, you can later "Unsubscribe", while still being able to use your rewards card.

Check your local newspaper for coupons. There was a time when only the thriftiest shopper would come in with a file folder filled with coupons. However, if you take a moment to look through your daily paper, you can easily save money by utilizing the weekly coupons in it. Think of it this way, taking one minute to cut a few coupons out can save you ten dollars at the register. Who wouldn’t want to be given ten dollars for two minutes of work?

There are also websites that offer consumers coupons on a daily or weekly basis. Among the best are:

1. Coupons.com: This site offers coupons for food, beverages, toys, household goods and other items.

2. Supermarket Guru: Gives you advice on specials in a variety of supermarkets in your area.

3. Living on a Dime

4. Smartsource.com

5. RetailmeNot.com

Additionally, chain stores like Walmart and Target are becoming major competitors for supermarket chains. They also offer organic products at competitive prices to your regular supermarkets or health food stores.

If you are looking to buy in bulk, we recommend Costco or BJs as a great option, offering not only raw food items, but cooked food, flowers, furniture, household items, clothing and jewelry at deep discounts.

Finally Dollar Stores are popping up all over the place. They are also a great option for the educated consumer. Plastic ware, items for students (notepads, pens, pencils) as well as bowls and holiday decorations can be found for just one dollar!! They also sell some food items although the quality of these goods has come into question over the past years, so buyer beware.

GroupOn, The New Trend in Consumer Savings

GroupOn is a deal of the day website. It serves major markets in the United States and Canada. Everyday GroupOn recommends services or a deal of the day to its customers. You sign up by e-mail for this site (see below for specific). You will then receive an electronic coupon daily, listing local services, stores or restaurants, which boast a 40 to 60% discount on items or services if purchased through GroupOn.

GroupOn is the middle man that promotes these services in your city. Groupon does receive a commission once you have made a purchase, however the service is free to the consumer.

Common GroupOn discounts include hotels at discounted rates, spa days, clothing, jewelry discounts and restaurant deals. Generally, the consumer can save up to 50% off the usual price. This huge savings has made GroupOn quite popular these days among consumers. In today’s economy, who doesn’t love getting a deal!

One reason GroupON has spread so quickly among consumers is because of social media. Once the deals are shown, friends can tweet each other about a spa day or a restaurant deal and make plans to purchase at the same time. GroupOn also offers a $10 incentive to refer friends which makes referring friends via social networking even more enticing.

Once the deal of the day is announced, it remains online for 24 to 72 hours to purchase. After that, the deals are no longer available. Once purchased however, the coupons generally need to be used within 6 to 12 months of purchase. This gives plenty of time to the consumer to use their coupon and enjoy their deal.

GroupOn is catching on fast. GroupOn can be found in every major city in the US as well as Canada.

You can find GroupOn at http://www.Groupon.com.

Even if you don’t buy any of the advertised coupons, it is fun to sign up and watch the daily deals listed. It is a great education about the prices of various restaurants and services that are available for both adults and kids in your area.

What Ever Happened to A Free Cookie Given with Kindness?

What Ever Happened to A Free Cookie Given with Kindness?

When I was kid (back in the day) accompanying my parents to the bakery or the butcher was always a treat!! Who doesn’t have a fond memory of “the nice bakery lady" leaning over and secretly handing you a cookie or the butcher slicing off a piece of bologna to munch on while mom’s order was being prepared.

Today I went to a popular bakery in my area. They are always busy and I have noticed that despite a strong customer following, the attitudes of the workers have declined. I usually don’t go there for just that reason.

The service is not particularly prompt, nor is it friendly. However, despite a similar selection in the supermarket, sometimes a bakery wrapped item still commands a premium because of the perceived differences in the quality of the goods

I took my young son with me. He immediately ran to the cookie area and started sizing up the goods.

Before taking my order, the “Not so nice bakery lady" leaned over to my son and admonished him for leaving his nose print on her glass".

Now, my son is not perfect, what kid is. However he was not running up and down the bakery with finger paint on his hands dirtying up the glass. He was merely doing what every kid has done for decades.

I glanced over to the other side of the store and noticed three adults putting their hands all over the glass pointing to items or just leaning to keep them comfortable while they waited.

I chose to leave the bakery, but explained to my son in front of the "not so nice bakery lady", that when Mommy was a little girl, the workers at the bakery were smart enough to know that the way to a Mother’s business had a lot to do with how her children were treated.

That one small cookie and a wipe of the glass counter (which they do time and time again all day) helped to keep my parents as loyal customers.

I await the day when the supermarkets decide to upgrade their boxes at the bakery dept. Perhaps, invest in some old fashioned red and white twine to wrap their goods and a nice fancy sticker. Or I await the day when some of the bakeries that have survived the superstore takeovers, will remember that it is easy to make a sale, it is still an art to keep a customer.

Persistence Pays Off

Persistence Pays Off

Hurricane Sandy left thousands of people displaced and or homeless. My mother, a senior citizen was evacuated from her home. She had no choice. This was a town- wide, mandatory evacuation. Luckily she was able to secure a motel in a safe location for the evacuation period.

Upon returning home, she was assured by the FEMA officials she would qualify for monetary reimbursement if she filled out the necessary paperwork. She did so and attached all the required documents. To our surprise she was denied.

Like many people in her position, she took the initial rejection letter as "Proof Positive, you just can’t trust what they tell you".

I suggested she call and inquire exactly why the claim was denied . She tried but could not get through to a live person.

At this point, she was ready to give up. Living through this tragedy was exhausting. However, with some encouragement , we tried again. This time, she got through to a live person who explained she needed her doctor to change "ONE WORD" on his letter to FEMA for her to qualify for the reimbursement she was entitled to.

One word , was the key to hundreds of dollars. Hundreds of dollars incurred by a catastrophe not in her control. One word meant a woman living on social security with a variety of health challenges could now pay her bills for the month.

I wonder how many people in her position have given up because " You just can’t trust the system", or " you are just too tired to try to call one more time and hope this time to get a live person". I wonder how many people give up because the paperwork is daunting.

Here are a few simple suggestions:

1. Don’t give up until you understand why you are denied your claim. Ask questions, ask questions in different ways if you still don’t understand.

2. Get help from a friend or relative if the paperwork is complex or overwhelming.

3. Keep calling at different hours of the day until you get through to a live person.

4. Keep a written record of all phone conversations, dates and ask for the name of the person you are speaking with.

5. Be prepared with all documentation and a pen at the time of your call.

6. Be Persistent, it can be exhausting but it can also be worth it !!

Positive Communication Tips When We are Stressed

Positive Communication Tips When We are Stressed

Every day we encounter frustrating situations. We may feel disrespected, insulted or treated unfairly by people we need to interact with.

For example, you have been waiting for over an hour for a scheduled doctor’s appointment. You feel powerless sitting in a packed waiting room and get the sense that the staff thinks your time is worthless. You want to walk out but you have waited this long and you don’t feel well; you know you need some medicine.

Or the salesperson at the store is busy talking with co-workers rather than expediting your sales transaction.

The contractor said he would start at 8 am but shows up every day at 10 am with a variety of excuses for being late.

Positive communication skills during these times can help achieve a positive outcome.

1. Remain calm. The more level-headed and business-like you are, the more likely you are to receive a positive result.

2. Get to the point. Ask for what you want or express your disappointment concisely and clearly.

3. Be polite; don’t rage or curse.

4. If possible, find a private place to speak, shaming a person publicly will only be humiliating for them and it is less likely they will be willing to help you in the end.

5. Remind them you are on the same team. For example, with your doctor, you may want to say, “I have been coming to you for five years because of your superior diagnostic skills, however the waiting time today was problematic for me”. How can we work together so this does not happen again".

6. Focus on the actions that are unacceptable, do not personalize it or criticize the person’s character.

7. Listen to what they want to say during the conversation. If you want to be listened to, model the same behavior. Don’t be patronizing.

8. As difficult as it maybe, smile a bit or use humor to get your point across. It is a much easier to look at a smile or hear a person joke around particularly under the most intense interactions.

9. Finally, if the person you are speaking with is not paying attention to you or you see they are incapable of hearing you, ask for their supervisor or a manager. Do not waste your efforts on someone who does not have the power or capacity to resolve your complaint.

Save Money on Flowers This Valentine’s Day

Save Money on Flowers This Valentine’s Day

In a few shorts weeks, Valentine’s Day will be here. How can you purchase flowers without emptying your wallet? Here are a few tips:

1. Red Roses will fetch the most money on this day. STOP!!!… According to sources at least 80 % of women DO NOT PREFER RED ROSES.

Take a moment to ask your sweetheart before wasting money on red roses.

2. Tulips are a great option to roses at half the price.

3. Buy your own vase. A florist arranging your roses will add significantly to the final cost.

4. Buy your flowers one day early. You will save money. Place them in some water and hide them in a cool spot (like the basement). Surprise her first thing in the morning!

5. If you are purchasing flowers in another state search the web for a florist near the location you need. Call directly to place your order. It could be less expensive than going through a national chain.

6. Do something different!! For example, buy her one flower every day of Valentines week. By the end of the week she will have a lovely mixed bouquet.