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Thursday
Dec112014

Tips for an Affordable Holiday Party

Holiday parties are a fun part of the season, and hosting one can be a blast. The trick is to throw a fun party without spending your gift shopping budget to make it happen. Luckily, there are some easy ways to make your party fun without breaking the bank. (See also: 7 Budget Gifts You Can Bring to a Holiday Party)

PARE DOWN THE GUEST LIST

The more the merrier, right? It's not quite that simple if you're the host (AKA the treasurer). Consider whittling down your guest list for the party and you'll save a good chunk of change while providing a more intimate gathering. If you still want to invite that old co-worker, fitness instructor, and the mailman, then go for a potluck or BYOB (more on that in a moment).

GET THE TIMING RIGHT

If you don't want to serve a full meal and deal with all of the requirements it brings, try having your party at a non-eating time. Eight at night or later is acceptable for not providing dinner unless you state otherwise. Plus, many people will go out to eat just before, and therefore won't need a snack until later. If you'd like to have a less boozy gathering that won't last until the wee hours, a Sunday evening party is perfect. For a (nearly) booze-less gathering, host a cookie or tree-trimming party in the afternoon, and you can squeeze by with warm cider and cookies.

DECORATE RESOURCEFULLY

There's no need to blow your budget on party decorations. For lighting, simply gather all of the candles you own and cluster them on a main table before lighting them. Or buy a couple of strings of cheap holiday lights and stick them in jars. Instead of buying expensive flowers, take trimmings from an evergreen tree, branches with berries, and pine cones and make a seasonal arrangement.

One of the easiest ways to decorate for a party is to use food. Put those pretty cookies you made (or your nice friend brought over) on a platter. Put pretty citrus on plates and in bowls for decoration, and then use them for cocktails or snacking. Fill bowls with candy that guests can snack on and take home.

You can even make decorating the central theme. Have a tree-trimming party and either have everyone make decorations as an activity when they arrive or bring an ornament with them as their contribution to the party.

BYO ALL SORTS OF THINGS

Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring key items with them to your party. The most common example is to have people bring their own drinks, such as wine. This tried-and-true method can majorly cut down on a big party budget eater: alcohol. You can get more creative with BYOB and have people bring a mixer and you supply the liquor for a nice cocktail bar (or reverse it and have your guests bring the booze). Or have a holiday wine tasting, and have everyone bring a bottle to share.

Throw a cookie party this year — ask guests to bring cookies to share and create a sweet display. Supply a salty snack or two and something to drink and you're done! If you're having a smaller gathering, have guests specifically bring cookies for decorating andprovide the icing and sprinkles for a fun afternoon.

FEED YOUR GUESTS (WITHOUT GOING BROKE)

Food can be a major expense for holiday parties, but you don't have to spend big to have a great time. A potluck is a classic way to nearly eliminate this expense, and it's a fun way to socialize and sample new dishes. Try basing your potluck party around a theme, even if that's just "holiday meal," and let everyone know what you're making as the main course so they can plan accordingly.

It's no secret that when it comes to food, it's almost always cheaper to do it yourself. So forget catering, and get thee to the kitchen! Even if you're not a cook, you can whip up some easy but satisfying snacks. Try swapping a pricey cheese platter for a homemade cheese ball with crackers and crudites (slice the veggies yourself — it's much cheaper than buying them cut up at the grocery). Bread fills people up, so put out a variety of crostini to nibble on. And a bowl of homemade popcorn is super cheap and always a hit.

If you can stand the clean up, use your own "real" dishes, utensils and glasses. If your crowd is too big or the lack of a dishwasher makes it all feel impossible, head to your local dollar store for disposables.

FESTIVE DRINKING THE CHEAP WAY

If you're offering up drinks as part of your party deal, a great way to please a crowd is with punch. It frees you up to use cheaper booze without anyone being the wiser, and you can stretch the alcohol with mixers. An apple cider punch or mulled wine are great for a winter party and can go a long way.

If you want to serve a proper cocktail, consider using prosecco. It tastes and looks festive, but for the taste and the bubbles, it costs much less than it's counterparts.

FREE ENTERTAINMENT

No party is complete without a soundtrack. Find holiday playlists on an online streaming or radio service and just press play. Put Christmas movies that you own or are streaming for free on your TV in the background (or perhaps a crackling fireplace). Mix things up by playing games like Celebrity, Who Am I? and Mafia, all of which are totally free and great fun with a group.

AFFORDABLE GIFTING

If you'd like to include a gifting element, an always fun and budget-friendly game of Secret Santa is an easy solution. Set a spending limit as low as you like and let people get creative. That way, everyone (including you) only has to buy one gift instead of 15, and it's a fun party game. You can also send your guests home with gifts, but make them dual purpose: gift your party decorations (such as ornaments), or pack everyone little gift bags with an assortment of the cookies they brought.

Source: Wisebread.com

Monday
Dec082014

What to Buy (And Avoid Buying) in December

FIRST, WHAT TO BUY…

So, it's that time; the Christmas and holiday shopping lists are being made, and it's time to start digging out the best deals to keep everyone happy and your wallet in check. Here are the deals you should pounce on this month.

Gift Cards

If you're smart, you can grab yourself some free money by buying select gift cards that come with incentives. You can get $25 to $50 in free gift cards by spending $150 to $200 on them. If you were planning to shop at those stores anyway, you've just bagged free money. Even places like Chipotle will give you a free burrito for buying a certain amount in gift cards. If you eat their food often, you're golden.

Thanksgiving Merchandise

When Thanksgiving ends, the stores are desperate to dump their stock to fill the shelves with Christmas goodies. Make a space in your basement or attic for the killer deals you'll find on decorations, cards, cookware and much more. There are also going to be huge discounts on Thanksgiving themed food and drink. It's still fresh; it's just got a dated theme. Who cares?!

Thrift Store Goodies

If you aren't shopping in thrift stores, you're missing out on some unbelievable bargains. Most people are too busy with the upcoming holidays to bother listing unwanted items on eBay or Craigslist, so they drop them off at the local ARC or Goodwill. Not only will you find some items in like new condition, you'll also get incredible bargains on items you can resell on eBay for a massive profit. One great find could pay for your whole shopping list, if you know what you're looking for.

Christmas Decorations and Goods

Wait a second. Don't go rushing out for these now. You need to wait until after December 25th. But after that, go hog wild! The stores do not want all that merchandise clogging up their shelves. Expect to see 50% to 90% savings on everything from trees and lights to yard decorations, cards, and gift-wrap. Remember, Christmas will be here again next year, so buy now to save later.

Champagne

It's odd, putting champagne on the discount list when this is the peak month to buy it. But, liquor stores are smart. They know that by making champagne a loss leader, they'll make it back on the other booze you'll buy. However, you don't have to buy anything else — just grab the cheap champagne and celebrate in style.

Cars

As the year comes to a close, and the bad weather comes rushing in, car dealerships are clearing out inventory. They'll drop their prices to do it, and offer huge incentives. If you don't mind braving the weather on those cold, open lots, you could drive into 2014 with a great bargain. However, it's always better to buy used, even if it's just a year old. New cars depreciate quickly.

Homes

Just like car dealerships, sellers of homes have it tough at this time of year. Most just take their homes off the market to ride out the winter months. So if houses are on the market, the sellers are very motivated. Now is the time to do some home hunting, and dare to undercut asking prices by a chunk.

Kitchen Supplies

Manufacturers know this is the season for cooking impulse buys, and they'll do what they can to lure you in. A nicely timed discount will tip people from "maybe next month" to "I'll take it." So with all the different holidays and events coming, you can stock up on new kitchen gadgets and save more than a few bucks. Also, consider wedding gifts, which may be coming up in the spring.

Toys Go Cheap

Deals on lots of toys pop up in December every year, even though they're in high demand. There is insane competition between all the different toys, and so manufacturers are cutting prices to grab your attention. It's good news for you and the kids, but there is a catch — you'll have to wait until Mid-December.

Tool Prices Are Cut

It's not a great time to be doing DIY, but it's a great time to stock up on the essentials everyone needs to get the jobs done. You'll see prices cut on all sorts of tools and equipment, from power drills (go for Lithium batteries) and bench saws to screwdrivers, wrench sets, and sanders.

AND, WHAT TO AVOID…

With the exception of Cyber Monday, there are some deals that are too good to be true in December. With 2015 quickly approaching, you may see some good offers on older equipment, gadgets, and appliances. Make sure you're okay with dated products before you dive in. Here are other things to avoid this month.

Gym Memberships

I said it last year, and I'll say it again. Gym memberships and subscriptions hit a peak in the New Year, and they are starting to see those increase in December. A lot of people like to have the membership in place, so that they can get straight down to the hard work in the first week of January. It's going to be this way for a while, so just find another way to stay fit. Craigslist will have some killer deals thanks to new equipment for Christmas.

Electronics

Aside from Cyber Monday, the best deals for your electronic gadgets have come and gone. What's more, any deals you may find will be on the 2014 stock that retailers are trying to clear out before the 2015 goodies arrive in the New Year. Do yourself a favor, and wait it out.

Jewelry

People love giving jewelry at this time of year. And when people love doing something, retailers love charging them top dollar for it. So unless you really have to drop some of your cash on rings, necklaces, and other sparkling items, wait until next year for that pricey item.

Calendars

Unless you absolutely have to put a brand new calendar up on the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, you should steer clear of calendars. They are expensive right now. Full price, everywhere you look. But come a few weeks into 2015, the prices will start to fall like the rain in Seattle. You can expect to save at least 50%, and when February comes around, stores everywhere will be almost giving them away. Really, with the smartphones and tablets, does anyone really need them as reminders anymore?

Winter Gear and Clothing

It's cold out there. Snow shovels, big coats, hats, gloves, boots, and all the other winter gear is marked at full price for the next few months. If you really need them now, consider Craigslist or thrift stores to save some cash.

Source: Wisebread.com

Wednesday
Dec032014

7 Ways to Lower Winter Heating Costs

1. TAME DRAFTS

The best way to keep the warm air in is to make sure it isn't flowing out. Take a tour around your home and examine windows and doors for any drafts. Our front door had a sizable gap at its base, so we installed weatherstripping and it took care of the cold air problem immediately.

There are many ways to fill in voids, including stripping, insulator kits, foam, silicone, etc. If you're in an apartment or just want a temporary fix, you can also use one of those draft guards. Here's a DIY tutorial using an old pair of tights, polyfill, and only a few stitches.

2. LOWER THE THERMOSTAT

How low can you go on your thermostat this winter? Start just one degree and you couldsave up to 5% (or around $10 per day) on your overall heating bill according to an analysis released by EnergyHub in 2012. The EPA recommends settings on 70 degrees during the eight hours most people are home turning it down to 62 degrees for the 16 hours when people are away or sleeping. And if you can get away with keeping your thermostat on lower (we keep ours on 67 during the day), that's great, too. Using a programmable thermostat also helps you save by taking out the manual temperature changing.

3. COVER YOURSELF

Feeling nervous about taking the plunge? Keeping comfortable at lower thermostat levels isn't difficult. Wear more clothing! Long sleeves, pants, thick socks, and layers are the fashion statements in our house during the winter. We also keep a fleece blanket on the couch to ward off chills in the evening. Our beds are topped with flannel sheets and wool covers for the nights when our thermostat is at its lowest setting. You don't want to be frigid all season long, but some common sense is employed here.

4. ZONE IT OUT

My family lives in a 4-bedroom home, but we're currently only using two of those bedrooms on a daily basis. So, we've closed the hot air vents in those rooms to redirect the heating to the spaces we're living in and keep the doors shut most hours of the day. If you have baseboard heating, see if there's a localized switch in your room so you can turn it off and shut the door. The savings here are hard to quantify because so many factors are involved (room size, etc.), however — the less area to heat, the more money that stays in your pockets.

5. USE CURTAINS

During the day, take advantage of the sun's rays by opening your curtains to let the light in. Even on the coldest days you'll get a boost, especially with those south-facing windows in the afternoon rays. Then in the evening, close your curtains to help keep the heat indoors. If your windows are bare (or you only have sheers), consider purchasing someinsulated curtains, which protect your home from heat loss through conduction, infiltration, convection, and radiation. They come in all colors and patterns, too!

6. SERVICE YOUR FURNACE

It's one of those annoying home maintenance tasks you don't think you should need to do, but getting your furnace cleaned and evaluated each year can help save you cash and unexpected breakdowns. (It's also a safety thing, as furnaces can leak carbon monoxide into your home without your knowledge.) You'll also need to change out the filter at least once per season — or whenever it's dirty — to keep everything flowing as it should. Check your local coupon books to see if any HVAC providers are offering promotions.

7. ADD INSULATION

If your house is still feeling quite cold, take a trip to your attic to assess the insulation situation. In our last home, we were surprised to find only a few inches of the stuff keeping our heat from flowing out the roof. (Insulation acts like a hat does on your body.) We added a thick fiberglass roll to the entire attic ourselves and could tell the difference in our second floor level almost immediately. How much insulation you add and where you add it is going to depend on your home. If you plan to stay there for quite a while, it certainly makes sense to evaluate and correct any issues that might cost you big dollars as the years go on.

Source: Wisebread.com

Tuesday
Dec022014

Keep the Memories With These Clutter Free Tips

Luckily, in the age of technology and how-to articles, there are brilliant compromises to be made that ensure that you're preserving some of the touchstones of your existence without tripping on them all over the place.

Take a look at these nine clutter-free ways to preserve your memories, and see if you can't preserve who you are while getting rid of all that stuff.

1. SNAP PHOTOS WITH STUFF YOU'RE TOSSING

For tangible items that you're sending into the afterlife, a great way to remember the good times you had with it is to take a photo with that item in it. Perhaps it's a favorite piece of clothing that you once cherished, board games that made many memorable nights, or musical instruments that helped cultivate your love of culture. Set up a nice photo up — perhaps a snapshot with friends with the discarded item as the centerpiece — so you can look back on it with fondness whenever you want.

2. SCAN PICTURES, LETTERS, AND CARDS INTO YOUR COMPUTER

Reduce that pile (or massive box, as they case may be) of beloved photos, letters, and cards that you've accumulated throughout your life by scanning them into your computer. You might find it hard to part with the original hardcopy documents, but try to remember that it's only paper that you're tossing out. By scanning these items, you're preserving the thought that went into them when they were originally given to you — and that's what counts. Plus, this way they can never be destroyed, whereas the original versions will eventually deteriorate over time and are at the mercy of fire, water, and other elements that can destroy them completely.

3. TRANSITION TO DIGITAL PICTURE FRAMES TO ELIMINATE PAPER PHOTOS

If you're anything like me, each of your single picture frames is home to about half a dozen photos. I keep the old photos in the frames when I update a picture by simply laying the replaced images behind the new one. While this method reduces the clutter I see, it only allows me to enjoy one of the photos opposed to all of them (even though rediscovering the old ones during the swapping process is a welcome surprise). Nowadays you can enjoy many photos without fussing with any paper by digitizing them and adding them to a digital frame. These frames rotate images automatically so you see multiple pics — and relive the memories — on a regular basis.

4. TRANSFERS OLD VHS TAPES AND DVDS TO COMPUTER FILES

My husband has a huge cabinet full of VHS tapes from his wrestling days that — mark my words — he will never do anything with until they're so old they've deteriorated beyond repair. I even bought him one of those VHS-to-DVD thingamajigs a few years ago that I recently sold on Amazon new, in-the-box. Hey, I tried. In any case, if you want to ensure that your old VHS tapes and DVDs stand the test of time, consider transferring them to computer files that you can save in your cloud. There are plenty of companies that specialize in this service, but you also can DIY it if you're fairly tech-savvy.

5. REPURPOSE USELESS LITTLE THINGS INTO ONE USEFUL BIG THING

Before you donate all that extra clothing, think of ways you might be able to use the fabric to make something new — like a blanket, tablecloth, or shower curtain. For instance, you can turn a bunch of old T-shirts into a rad quilt if you've got sewing skills (or, ya know, send away for it if you don't). You may not think about it a lot, but many items in your closet — especially the really old, ratty stuff — hold a special place in your heart; repurposing these thrift-shop-ready beauties lets you keep them a bit longer without becoming a hoarder. (See also: 20 New Things You Can Make With Old Denim)

6. TURN A SPECIAL MOMENT INTO A BEAUTIFUL TATTOO

One of my buddies gave me this idea, and I thought it was very interesting. Computers — and especially the cloud — help us preserve many of our tangible memories while cutting the clutter, but what about adding those memories to our own bodies? Thus, a tattoo is an awesome way to recognize an important event or time in your life. The result is a permanent reminder of that particular memory, and you're bound to be asked about it over and over again, allowing you to tell the story many times over.

7. CREATE SENTIMENTAL ARTWORK OUT OF ATTIC-BOUND ITEMS

I recently came across a Buzzfeed post that I thought was really cool. There were lots of great ideas in author Mike Spohr's 26 Incredibly Meaningful Gifts You Can Give Your Kids,but I thought the framed teddy bear was kind of genius. Expanding that concept a bit further then, you can basically take anything of sentimental value that's perhaps tucked away in a box and turn it into a treasured family heirloom that will serve as a reminder of a special time as well as a conversation piece. It goes without saying that it'll be super fun to go through the attic to see what resources you have to work with when creativity strikes you.

8. START A BLOG DEDICATED TO YOUR MEMORIES AND TREASURES

Maybe I'm speaking for myself here, but I like to share many of my fond memories with, well, basically anyone who'll listen. I mean, who doesn't like to reminisce about the "good ol' days," right? I bet we're of a similar mindset, which makes starting a blog dedicated to your memories and treasures a decent idea. You can write about fun times that you've had, post pictures of moments you never want to forget, and then share them with the world so you can bring joy to it.

9. KEEP YOUR TREASURES IN THE FAMILY BY PASSING THEM ON TO LOVED ONES

You know that old saying — one man's trash is another man's treasure? Absolutely true, and it provides a great opportunity for you to unload some of your cherished items that are perhaps taking up too much space on family and friends who want or need it. With this tactic, the clutter is out of your way, but the things and the memories they conjure are still part of your life, which makes this easy option the perfect compromise.

Source: Wisebread.com

Monday
Dec012014

GoodNites TRU-FIT Review #UnderwearCompare

 

Night-time bedwetting can be a problem. But solving that problem doesn't have to be hard! My son Cam has had bedwetting issues, so when we were offered the chance to try GoodNites* TRU-FIT*, we took it!

We had tried other solutions like bed-alarms, bed pads, and waking him up in the middle of the night, but nothing ever seemed to work.

With Cam having bedwetting issues, especially with traveling this summer and him staying overnight at his grandmother's house, we always had a supply of GoodNites* TRU-FIT*. We really liked how discreet GoodNites* TRU-FIT* are. They fit in very well underneath his pajamas, so he wasn't embarassed. It looks more like real underwear, as you can see!

So if you are dealing with this issue, try out GoodNites* TRU-FIT*. You will be very impressed! GoodNites* TRU-FIT* come in many colors and patterns for boys and girls. A GoodNites* TRU-FIT* Underwear Starter Pack includes 2 GoodNites* TRU-FIT*, along with 5 absorbent inserts.

Don't forget to print off your coupons here before heading out to the store!

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of GoodNites. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

 

Tuesday
Nov182014

Zep Cleaner Review #ZepCleansters

The holidays are coming and it's time to clean! I recently tried out Zep cleaners, courtesy of Crowdtap and loved them. I am doing a lot of deep cleaning for the holidays and these really did the job.

I had to tackle a guest bedroom and bathroom and whether it was soap scum or tackling the toilet, these were hard-working cleaners.

 

  • Zep Commercial products are to the rescue.  They offer a variety of products that can help you achieve commercial-quality cleaning power in your own home. Here are some of their products:
  • ·         Zep Commercial Heavy Duty Foaming Degreaser-for consumers looking for one degreaser to rule them all, this is it. It’s strong enough for bike and car grease, but safe enough for grills and ovens.
  • ·         Zep Commercial Garbage Odor Eliminator-warmer weather can mean smelly outdoor trashcans that attract bugs and other unwanted creatures. Not only does this product eliminate odors, it also helps with insect control around the can and can soak up spills and leaks.
  • ·         Zep Commercial Hardwood Floor Refinisher- This product cleans AND shines floors, covering more square feet than other commercial products.
  • ·         Zep Commercial Citrus Garbage Disposal Cleaner-this product uses an organic solvent to clean, deodorize and degrease the garbage disposal
  • ·         Zep Commercial Leather Cleaner & Conditioner-maintaining leather just got easier with a product that cleans AND protects (most other products on the market do one or the other—not both). It moisturizes and protects expensive leather with natural oils and even helps protect it against the sun’s harmful rays.

 

Sunday
Nov022014

What to Buy (And Avoid Buying) in November

The big, big shopping day of November is Black Friday. So called because it was traditionally a day when stores went from being in the red (or in debt) to being in the black (or profitable), it's now synonymous with large crowds, crazy shopping sprees, early morning doorbusters, and those inevitable fights after standing inline for four hours. But you don't have to wait until Black Friday for great deals. Look out for these starting November 1st.

Halloween Everything

The day after Halloween (and sometimes the evening of Halloween) the stores will start clearing out their stock of spooky merchandise. That's great news for anyone who is celebrating Halloween on Saturday or Sunday night this year, as you can bag a last-minute costume for at least 50% off. Stores like Target and Walmart will start slashing prices after a few weeks, with $50 and $60 costumes going on sale for less than $10. If you have plans for a costume for 2015, see if you can grab a bargain now. You can always store the really cheap ones, and sell them for a profit before next Halloween.

Candy

Hot on the heels of the costumes and accessories, Halloween candy gets slashed early this month. Remember, this is all perfectly safe to eat, with expiration dates months (or even years) off. Of course, the pumpkins and ghouls make it seasonal, and it has to go. So, if you don't mind some out-of-date wrappers (and who does?) grab yourself some sweet treats.

Laptops and Notebooks

The smaller the better, as far as pricing goes. This month, you will see stellar savings on laptops and notebooks. If the sales are anything like last year, you can expect to pick up a decent 13" laptop for around $200 including taxes. Just a few years ago, these laptops would have been double that price. Apple typically sells their stock a little cheaper this month, but don't expect amazing deals. Even with the company floundering compared to its Steve Jobs days, it still doesn't like putting bargain prices out there.

Sneakers and Summer Footwear

If you're a sneaker and sandals fan, November is your month. The winter shoes are coming out, and the summer stock is being cleared fast. But, people are still going on vacations to sunnier places, and it won't be long before the warmer weather is back here again. Do a little online shopping and expect to see the price of great sneakers drop by at least 50%.

Wedding Dresses and Paraphernalia

When it's cold and grey outside, those wedding day photos can look pretty grim. Very few people like getting married in the winter months, and so they're not going shopping for the wedding dress and other accessories. Even if your wedding is in July or August, pick up a dress now. The bridal stores get large stocks of wedding dresses in at this time of year, ready for the rush after the Christmas and New Year engagements. Take advantage of that, and browse the empty stores with a bargain in mind.

Turkeys

Thanksgiving month is turkey month. So you'd think, with turkeys being in high demand, that the prices are high, too. Well, far from it. The turkey breeders have been preparing all year for this month, and it's when a glut of turkeys hits the market. It's cheaper to buy turkey at this time of year than any other, and if you plan wisely, you can even pick up a decent one for free. Yes, some stores will be offering free turkeys to people spending a certain amount of money. It varies by store, so check your local papers and online ads.

Toys Are a Strong Bet

As we noted last year, you no longer have to wait for until Black Friday, or early December, for the toy bargains. As Black Friday is now more focused on electronics, computers, appliances, and loss leaders like DVDs and Blu-rays, toys are getting overlooked. So the retailers are dropping the prices earlier. Also, Saturday, November 8th is Neighborhood Toy Store Day. You'll see a lot of promotions around that.

Kitchen Gear

As the season of cooking and eating comes into full effect, you'll notice bargains in the kitchen and appliance aisles of your local retailers. Last year saw a record number of deals in these departments, particularly pots and pans and baking dishes, so now is the perfect time to stock up on essentials, before the holiday rush.

HDTVs

At this point, there won't be a month that goes by without HDTVs being hot items. Yet again, prices are dropping, this time fueled by the Black Friday madness. And it's not madness to tell you that on Black Friday itself, you will be able to pick up 60-inch 1080p sets for just over $400. Actually, I take it back… that's just nuts. You'll also be able to pick up a 42-inch 1080p set for under $200, which is just as crazy. Remember though, these deals come with long lines, and the inevitable pushing and shoving. Don't get caught up in the insanity.

And, What to Avoid

November is actually one of the best months for shopping. There are not a lot of landmines, or shopping traps, to avoid. But based on the last few years, there are a few so-called "deals" that you should stay away from. Here's what to avoid.

Travel Deals

The travel season is just starting to heat up, and so the deals are not yet worth looking at. You'll see modest price reductions on a select number of vacation packages, but as demand for booking vacations is so high, the prices stay high as well. Wait a while. However, you should see some nice deals on hotel rooms around this time, especially if you fancy booking a fancy suite in Vegas on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day. Hey, some people do it, and they save a bundle.

Winter Clothing and Gear

It's a no-brainer. Avoid the brand new selections of outerwear, including coats and jackets, skiing equipment, boots, winter shoes, gloves, scarves, and the usual rosy-cheeked accessories. This is not the time to go shopping for the upcoming winter season. Wait until January, and the prices will plummet.

The iPad Mini 3

It's slightly new and improved. But not really. For the extra money you'll pay for it, you won't see much of a difference. Save your money, you can bag some huge bargains on Black Friday, and the iPad Mini 2 is just as good. Is Apple going to do anything innovative anytime soon? It doesn't look like it.

Souce: Wisebread.com

Friday
Oct312014

8 Ways You Are Running Up Your Electric Bill

Here are eight ways you're probably wasting electricity without realizing it.

1. PLUGGING, BUT NOT PLAYING

Forget about the zombies; it's much more likely that your home is filled with vampires. Energy vampires are those devices and appliances we tend to leave plugged in 24/7 whether we're using them or not. And — on or off — every item that's plugged in is sucking power vampire-style. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, vampire energy can add as much as 10% to a consumer's monthly energy bill.

Let's use your microwave as an example. How often throughout the day do you use it to prepare food? And yet, it remains plugged in, digitally displaying the time and silently sipping electricity in the process. It's a like a 30-pound clock with a motor and rotating cooking tray. Any appliance that uses energy to do virtually nothing should at least pay you a sincere compliment every time you walk by it (a feature that industrial engineers should diligently be working on, in my humble opinion).

Help drain energy vampires by unplugging electronics and appliances you seldom use. And if you're a gadget hound, read up on the Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor. For around $30.00, this handy little product calculates the energy consumed by keeping any electronic appliance plugged in and forecasts your related costs weekly, monthly, and yearly. Just plug it into an outlet, plug your device or appliance into it, and get a digital read-out. Once you see how the numbers add up, it'll be difficult to leave those vampires alone.

2. CRANKING UP THE OVEN

When it comes to cooking a single item, an oven is often the "nuclear option." That single-serving pizza or leftover tuna casserole could be warmed up in the microwave and then finished in the toaster oven. For little jobs, consider how to cook in stages using smaller appliances that sip electricity instead of automatically gravitating toward the power-sucking behemoths.

3. GETTING IN HOT WATER

According to EnergyStar.gov, simply heating the water accounts for 90% of the total powerit takes wash a load of laundry. That's a whole lot of wattage. For regular loads, switch to cold water for a month and see if you notice any difference in the cleanliness of your duds. Reserve warmer water settings for fighting oil-based stains. Your budget will thank you for it.

4. DISH-DRYING

Hot water helps your dishwasher do its job, but drying with heat is added energy drain that's largely unnecessary. Today, most dishwashers feature a heated drying option that you can simply choose not to use. And though heated drying does help avoid spots on dishes, you can get the same benefit by adding a rinsing agent.

5. FIGHTING THE FLOW

As obvious as it sounds, if your home features a central air-conditioning and heating system, check your vents. Vents have a way of blending into the background of our homes; many get closed inadvertently and that can result in systems that have to work extra hard to do the job. While you're at it, make sure vents, ducts, and any filters are clean and installed properly. If you find dirt or debris that's unreachable, or if you see visible signs of mold, it may be time to have your air ducts professionally cleaned.

6. LIGHTING UP FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Still using your dad's old string of holiday lights from 1975? Well, those incandescent bulbs are using just enough electricity to drain your gift-buying budget. Ditch the old and switch to new LED lights. You'll get hours of twinkling for a tiny fraction of the electric output.

7. FRIDGE-GAZING

It's a popular pastime, but standing in front of that open fridge trying decide if you have enough ingredients for a decent turkey club isn't doing your electric bill any favors. Ponder before you open the fridge or after you've quickly scanned its contents and shut the door.

And while we're on the subject, make sure you're doing all you can to help your refrigerator last for years.

8. IGNORING POWER HOURS

Though it might not cut your electricity consumption, reserving energy-intensive tasks for off-peak hours can reduce the rate you pay. Since many power companies offer discounted rates after 8:00 p.m., focus not only on how you do things, but when. Check with your local power company to determine if it offers an off-peak discount and when off-peak hours begin and end. Then, whenever possible, schedule your laundry and dishwashing tasks to fit within that period.

It's easy to think of electricity as a mysterious force coursing through power lines that magically illuminates all we do. But in reality, it's a concrete resource that we have direct control over. Luckily, we don't need to understand electricity to conserve it. So the next time you plug in, charge up, turn on, or warm up, think of ways to do each smarter.

Source: Wisebread.com