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7 Ways to Lower Winter Heating Costs


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.




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.



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.


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.


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.


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.



8 Ways You Are Running Up Your Electric Bill

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


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.


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.


According to, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



20 Fun Ways to Entertain the Kids for Free

If you've ever been stuck wondering what to do with your kids on the weekend, this list is for you. You don't need to spend a dime to entertain your family and bond in the process. Sometimes the best things in life really are free! (See also: 47 cheap, Fun Things to Do This Weekend)


We frequent our local library at least every week for free storytimes. Plus, you can pick up books, DVDs, and other materials to entertain your child for free. Many libraries also arrange toys in their children's section, and it's a great place to meet other parents to set up play-dates.


While you're at the library, check your local paper (or click online) and any bulletin boards for any and all events going on in your area. Very often colleges, universities, and other community centers will host family events that are free and open to the public.


Sometimes book stores, grocery stores, craft stores, toy stores, and other merchants will host free activities. More often than not, these events are intended to get you to come into the store and buy things. So, consider leaving your cash and cards at home and sticking to the zero dollar budget.


Spend a Saturday afternoon in and use your baking powers to mix up a big batch of sugar cookies. Take your time and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Then frost them. Get artistic. Encourage your child to take the lead. Small activities can turn into big learning experiences.


Start a weekly tradition of playing board games with your kids. I've seen games that allow kids as young as three to participate. You can also try charades with older kids, and a deck of cards is useful in a pinch.


Skip all the site fees and other camping costs and set up the family tent in your backyard. What I love about backyard camping is that you don't necessarily have to sleep outdoors to enjoy all the fun. And you can fire up the grill for a good old fashioned cookout! (See also:This Is How You Grill Pizza At Home)


The youngest children get a kick out of homemade sensory bins. Fill a shallow plastic container (choose one with a top) with rice, corn kernels, uncooked noodles, and anything else that boasts some interesting texture. It's like a cleaner version of a sandbox that you can play with indoors.


Many museums are either free or donation-only. Those that do charge admission sometimes have admission-free days each month or season. Check the museum's website or call ahead for more information.


Take all the cardboard boxes you intend to recycle and turn them into something great. You can make race cars, boats, robots, and even entire houses! We often do our grocery shopping at Aldi and use the boxes they stock to transport our food home. Our daughter gets hours of enjoyment! (See also: What You Should Never Buy From Aldi)


Have you heard of Little Free Libraries? They are tiny "houses" you place books into for your neighbors to borrow. (They can leave books for you to read, too!) If this concept sounds cool to you, take a weekend to build and decorate a structure. Then identify a few old books on your shelf that you'd be willing to share. (See also: Free Books: Little Libraries That Build Community)


Take all those odds and ends of your child's crayons and turn them into neat shapes with swirled colors. You just preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, place crayons in a silicone mold, and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before using.


Head to a local park or hit the sidewalks for a family bike ride. You can have a destination in mind, like a playground, or just wander the streets. Sometimes you'll discover more free things to do — street performers, festivals, neighborhood gatherings — on the go.


It may seem like a chore at first, but getting the whole family involved with raking leaves will get the job done faster. Or maybe not. Half the fun of completing this chore with your kids is jumping in them. Make sure you drink a warm mug of cider when you're done.


If you have store or restaurant loyalty cards, take a weekend and use as many free meals, ice creams, pizzas, doughnuts, and whatever else you've earned. I like to store my coupons and cards in a plastic zip pocket inside a three-ring binder. That way, I don't lose anything and can quickly check there before heading out the door.


Take your family on a real life treasure hunt using your GPS device. You'll navigate to specific coordinates and look for clues to get you to your next destination. Little explorers are sure to love this activity.


Save yourself the high ticket and concessions costs and watch a movie at home. Make it legit! Have the whole family wear their pajamas, pop some popcorn in your microwave, and turn out all the lights. You can even make it a double feature for the same $0.00 price tag.


Grab a bag or container and head into your backyard or local hiking trail. Have your child collect small plants, leaves, nuts, flowers, and any other natural treasures. Then bring them home and identify them. Your little scientist might also like to make his or her own terrarium and add to the collections as weeks go on.


Well, now that the weather is getting colder, you won't go to the actual beach. Instead, have an indoor beach party. Turn the thermostat up a degree, fill up the tub with water and some floatation devices, and have you kid put on his or her swimsuit. You can lay out on the living room floor, pack and indoor picnic, and slip into your sandals.


You don't need an expensive subscription service to do crafts with your kids. Gather up all your crayons, markers, glues, glitters, stickers, pipe cleaners, and other supplies and create DIY Craft Kits. Whatever you group together doesn't have to make anything specific. The magic is in the creativity.


Invite a couple of your child's friends over for a sleepover using some of the activities above. You can make homemade pizza versus getting takeout. Play hide-and-seek with flashlights. Build forts. Play board games. If you kid is a little too young for a whole night, make it an afternoon!



10 Types of Bargains You Should Skip



Take care these aren't run by a liquidation firm that is trying to get as much money as possible for the products. You'll find products marked down that are actually marked up from the original selling price, but are now being compared to a Suggested Retail Price.

Investigators at ABC news found on "product after product we could peel back the surface price tags to reveal the old prices below. For example, the surface price tag on a Calphalon saucepan said $124.99. But the one underneath said $109.99. Rachael Ray cookware? $199 on the new label, $179 on the old. The tag on a curtain scarf said $39.99 on the top, but peel it back carefully and there was another price tag for $27.99 below."

In some cities, stores have been "going out of business" for years. Even when Blockbuster went out of business, the prices they were charging for used DVDs were comparable to the prices of new DVDs online.


They may look decent enough, but your feet deserve good support, and any shoe or sneaker under $20 is going to have some major quality issues. A lot of these shoes are made in very undesirable places by impoverished laborers, and the emphasis is always about making the cheapest product possible. Not only will they give you back problems and cause blisters and other foot maladies, they'll also disintegrate within a few months of wear.

Unless it's a genuine quality shoe that was marked down by 80%-90%, you should avoid cheap footwear at all costs.


There's a caveat to this one. If you are someone who is meticulous about paying bills, and know with absolute certainty that you'll never miss a payment, you should consider it. Otherwise, don't bother. Free credit comes with a ball and chain of legal documentation that is designed to jump on you should you miss a single payment, or not pay off the loan in full within a certain time frame. The interest is calculated throughout the life of the loan, often at an exorbitant rate (think 25% and greater) and it's all added on if you make one mistake. Zero-interest financing can be great for a select few, but for others, it can be a nightmare.


Black Friday is coming, and you'll see adverts and flyers advertising insane "doorbusters" deals. Just be careful with these, and do your research. Doorbusters items are often old models that the store wants to dump, or are not even bargains at all. The Wall Street Journal found that many of these doorbusters were available at lower prices at other times that year, and pricing research firm Decide Inc. found that "nearly one-third of the products had been sold at lower prices this year." It may say doorbuster, but it doesn't mean it's a deal.


BOGO used to mean Buy One, Get One free. Now it means anything from Buy One, Get One 50% off, to Buy Ten, Get One free (which is technically BTGO). The BOGO offers can be great money savers, if you want two or more of anything you're setting out to buy. But they are often designed to coax you into buying more of a product than you really want; and often, more of a product that the store is trying to get rid of. Just remember to average out the cost of the product, and if you can use all of it (especially if it's a perishable).


Stores like Best Buy will often let you buy floor models at reduced prices, but beware. First, you have no idea how long the floor model was actually on display. This is not a big deal for a dishwasher or fridge because they aren't in use. But for HDTVs, Blu-ray players, laptops, and other electronics, it's significant. You can ask an employee, but usually they don't know. Being on for 18 hours a day is wearing out the life of the product, and you don't want to take that risk. You also have to consider factory warranties, any missing accessories, and return policies. Then, look at the price of a new product (it may be on sale), or one that is "open box." The latter is a much better deal as it will be a reduced price for something that's simply missing its packaging. Floor models are often too big of a risk, despite the hefty discount.


Also called service plans, these are sold to you as a bargain. "It's just an extra $50 to cover your product for three years," says the store clerk as you're checking out with a $200 printer. Well, it's $50 you don't need to spend, and it adds a significant cost to the item you're buying. Consumer Reports says, "Our data show that products usually don't break during the two-to-three-year period after the manufacturer's warranty expires and the service plan is in effect." To put it bluntly, you're paying for something that won't be needed until it's expired. Don't bother. It will be money down the drain.


Banks want you to skip the free checking and earn interest on your money. But it is often just a way to get you paying a monthly fee for a return that's almost insignificant. You will often need to keep a minimum balance in that account to earn a paltry rate of return, and when you look at the statements every month you'll see your banking fees are greater than what you're getting back. Unless you've got a ton of money in a regular free checking account (which is unlikely), you should stick to traditional free checking.


It may sound cheap enough at the counter when you're signing the paperwork; especially when you compare it to the hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars you may have to spend should someone even ding the car while it's in your possession. But the truth is, most people don't need it. Your current car insurance policy will usually extend to a rental car. If you pay with a credit card, it will almost certainly offer rental car coverage in the transaction. The sales clerk will scare you with bug numbers and what-if scenarios, but seriously, skip the "bargain" that's "just a few extra bucks for a lot of protection."


Federal law now states that you have to opt in to overdraft protection (it used to be an opt out clause) but you really need to stay away from it.

The pros of overdraft protection are weak to say the least. Sure, you won't have your card declined at the register, or be humiliated in a restaurant. But to be honest, you really should have a better handle on your money to avoid that ever happening anyway.

The cons? They're huge. A simple $4 cup of coffee can cost you $35 in overdraft protection fees. In fact, a study by Moebs found that "the average customer who took out a $100 loan from a payday lender paid about $17.97 in interest and fees, compared to the $27 average for overdraft fees." When something is looking bad next to a payday loan, you know it's awful! See if you can link your checking to your savings account. It's your money you're using, not the bank's.