Thursday, November 24, 2011

Frugal Thanksgiving 2011

Free/Frugal things to do on Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

  1. Be thankful - say grace and give thanks for all the blessings in your life. There is always something to be thankful for. Play a 'thankful game' with kids or adults....write on your paper cup what you are thankful for and go around the table and share what everyone wrote down. This is a great way to also not lose your cup during family gatherings.
  2. Be lazy and chill out with your friends and family. There's always football and those 'feel good family movies' on during Thanksgiving! Grab some cozy blankets, tea or hot chocolate and cozy up on the couch with your loved ones! (Pets count as loved ones too!)
  3. Check out some new Christmas/Thanksgiving movies by swapping DVDs with a neighbor. My favorites are Elf and the Chicago-based original, Home Alone.
  4. Burn off some of those pie calories with a jog or run around the neighborhood. Invite family members to join!
  5. Look through the Black Friday Ads online and in the newspaper and carefully plan your retail attack on your favorite stores. If necessary scope out the floor plans at Best Buy and Walmart in the evening with fellow shoppers after the meal - this is a family ritual for us!
  6. Volunteer at a senior home - visit seniors who are alone on the holiday.
  7. Learn to cook; There's not better time! For Thanksgiving tutorials I recommend Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray's "How To" videos online.
  8. Learn and attempt to carve the turkey. Some one's gotta do it! Learn how to do this from Martha Stewart,...she knows everything! There's a free online tutorial.
  9. Go Christmas Caroling in your neighborhood! Hey, it's early, but the radio started playing Christmas tunes already! I say go for it!! Sing the classics, Joy to the World, Let it Snow, Away in the Manger, Frosty the Snowman and all your other favorites!
  10. Play a game with your guests. It could be anything from 'Apples to Apples, 'Freeze Tag' to 'Texas Hold'em'.
  11. If you're flying Southwest Airlines and over 21, treat yourself to a free beverage!
  12. This is a great day to start Christmas projects or to start decorating for Christmas time!
  13. If you're a guest, volunteer to help with dishes and clean up - it's a way of saying thank you to your host, without having to say any words at all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do you have a 1st Gen Ipod Nano?

Did you know they've been recalled due to battery issues? Well it's true - see here!

Contact Apple and they'll send you a box to ship it back to them for either a new refurbished version or a brand new battery or a brand new iPod - the jury is still out on what you will receive, but either way, especially if you had battery issues with it, send it back in for a new replacement! The New York Times wrote up a little article about the issue as well...check it out!

This is actually the iPod that I still use I have the white one. My husband's version in black broke via a battery issue about 2 years ago. We're going through the replacement process which begins here on Apple's Support website.

Here's a quote from the website: "Apple has determined that, in very rare cases, the battery in the iPod nano (1st generation) may overheat and pose a safety risk. Affected iPod nanos were sold between September 2005 and December 2006.

This issue has been traced to a single battery supplier that produced batteries with a manufacturing defect. While the possibility of an incident is rare, the likelihood increases as the battery ages.

Apple recommends that you stop using your iPod nano (1st gen) and follow the process noted below to order a replacement unit, free of charge.

Note: This battery issue is specific to the iPod nano (1st gen) and does not affect any other iPod."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Frugal Christmas...Shopping

Many people don't have time to make homemade gifts - and that's okay! You can be frugal, give with joy and still shop at the mall or online! I mean, this year I work over 50+ hours a week and while I'd love to make a personalized homemade quilt for everyone on my list, I do not have anywhere near the time, and also I am really terrible at quilting.

START PLANNING
Shopping and saving during the Christmas Season is an art! When time is tight like it is for most people, I recommend starting now (as soon as you can) and estimating who you want to buy for, brainstorming ideas for gifts and estimating what you can spend on each gift.

CASH BACK PROGRAMS
Once you have some ideas, do some internet research (aka Google) and find places for free shipping, lowest prices and definitely sign up for free cash back from places like Ebates or FatWallet. Ebates is one of my favorite places because they have all the current online coupons on their site as well as offering cash back. To sign up for Ebates, just click on the link provided or on the button below! It's worth it for getting a percentage of your spending back after Christmas! Jon and I to date have received over $90.00 back to us!


GOOGLE ALERTS
Also it is a good idea to watch an item via "Google Alert". Set up a Google Alert for the new hot toy of the year to monitor prices and other news about the item. Set up your own Google Alert here.

BLACK FRIDAY
If you're going to do Black Friday...do your research and recon ahead of time to find specific items on your list. Keep in mind, if it's not on sale on Black Friday, don't go out! Many shoppers are so crazed, dazed and sleep-deprived, it's dangerous and common for many parking lot car accidents on this day! Be sure to refer to my Black Friday tips from 2010.







Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dominick's New App - Frugal (and a chance to WIN!)

Today, I'm using a new tool as I'm making my shopping list today for Thanksgiving and looking through the weekly Dominick's Ad - on a APP (from the iTunes Store!!)

Not only is it free to download, but the first 100,000 people that download this app also get free Ragu pasta sauce! I love freebies!

So here's what I got on my list thus far,...Turkey, Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, ingredients for Pecan Pie, GBC (Green Bean Casserole)...so with this app you can build a real shopping list and check out your local store's weekly ad. And,...there's coupons in the app for extra savings!

Since Dominick's is awesome - they asked me to see how I like the app, and will provide one of my lucky readers with a $50 Gift Card! I know this could really help someone this Thanksgiving!

First get thee to the iTunes Store to download this free App from Dominick's. Then comment on my ChicagoNow blog post (found here) about how this awesome app will help you in shopping over the holidays! You can also leave a comment about your favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas recipe. I'll choose a lucky winner randomly and Dominick's will mail you your prize!

Frugal Christmas...Advent

Frugal Christmas...Advent

As Christmas approaches, I find this is the most inspiring times to think about personal finance.

This season many people are suffering in financial woes and think that has to curb their Christmas celebrations. I want to encourage you to enjoy the frugal things about Christmas season, the Nativity scenes, the free Christmas pageants at your church, the free music concerts, (my favorite at Christmas is Handel's Messiah!), the Christmas festivals and more!

THE FIRST FRUGAL CHRISTMAS
Well let me tell you, the first Christmas was frugal! I mean, think about it, Mary and Joseph gave birth without health insurance mind you, to their baby boy Jesus in an outside barn in Jerusalem! They were not in a fancy hotel, or even a hospital - they were in Jerusalem, to be counted for the census and to pay taxes. It sounds like an awful trip, they were not in their hometown with their usual doctor, they were not on vacation, they had to take a government-enforced business trip to pay taxes. Think about how it would be if you had to travel back to your hometown every year just to pay taxes, instead of the 'quick and easy' online TurboTax every April! And not only that, you have to bring your pregnant wife - not on a plane or car, or train, but on a donkey! And yet, in this dire situation of desperation and frugality, Mary still gave birth to the Savior of us all!

ADVENT CALENDARS
As Advent draws closer, I want to share some free/frugal advent calendars that I enjoy to keep your heart centered on Christ through this season. You will be bombarded with commercials that tell you your life will be better once you buy this amazing thing. Let these scripture-based Advent calendars remind you that you don't need to feel the weighty pressure of going into debt just to share your joy about Christ's birth with your friends and family.
Christmas Scripture Advent Tree



Saturday, November 12, 2011

Free Performance of The Christmas Carol

Take your family and friends to the classic Christmas Carol! It's a wonderful opera production put on by Northeastern Illinois University for two nights only on November 18 and 19th.

Northeastern Illinois offers a wonderful variety of free performances from students within their stellar music program year round! More information can be found here!

On Friday, Nov. 18 and Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m come and enjoy this delightful version of A Christmas Carol, the original story by Charles Dickens, set to music by Chicagoan and Opera Divo, Ron Combs. It's free to all, and spreads the message of Christmas!

Secrets of a Retail Associate for Black Friday

Here's a special bonus from my good friend and guest contributor, Theresa Egan. She wrote this great article last Thanksgiving, and I figured it was worth a re-post for "pre-Black Friday". Here's her helpful advice to keep in mind while you're out shopping! Remember retailers are people too, so be nice to them as they are helping you get those Black Friday Bargains! Thanks Theresa!!

Secrets of a Retail Associate by
Theresa Egan

My husband and I have nearly 20 years of retail experience between us. Needless to say, we have both seen our fair share of Black Fridays. The following is a list of things that we wish the customers who shopped in our stores for Black Friday knew. If you are a customer, avoid some of the following things and learn the others and you will receive the best customer service possible on a day that is pure chaos. As you are shopping for those great discounts, please keep the following things in mind:

1.) You probably look forward to Black Friday for weeks. I have been dreading it since I was hired. Black Friday is a nightmare for retail employees. It is completely overwhelming and so crowded that you can't breathe. The difference is that you get to leave whenever you want, but I am stuck here all day.

2.) You arrived before dawn to grab all those irresistible deals right? Well, I had to get here at least one hour before the store opened. That puts my wake up time around 2am. I'm exhausted. Yes, I am getting paid to be here, but would you be happy about going to work in the middle of the night?

3.) I know that it bothers you when I "pounce" on you the second you walk in the door by bombarding you with sale information. Guess, what? I hate it too, but my boss is standing right over there, so will you please do me a solid and just listen for ten seconds? I promise I won't bother you again.

4.) If I am wearing a lanyard with a sale badge around my neck, don't ask me if I'm for sale. It's not funny and neither are you. PS---It wasn't funny the first 100 times I heard it today either.

5.) No, I will absolutely not model the clothes for you. That's creepy. If you offer to pay me for it, I'm calling security.

6.) You know that impossibly long line that you have been standing in for a half an hour? That's how it has been all day and will be all day, and guess you has to ring you all up? On a regular day I ring around 25 transactions for my 8 hour shift, on Black Friday I will ring 350 transactions by the time I go home. Stop whining.

7.) Please, please, PLEASE read the fine print on the coupon. They always have exclusions and no I can't just magically override the computer for you. Companies purposely make it so I can't do that. It's called stealing.

8.) While we are on the topic, please, please, PLEASE read all sale signs. The exclusions are always printed on the bottom of the sign. If a sign is on a table with pants and shirts and the signs says " $19.50 Shirts" and you bring me pants and complain that they did not ring up at $19.50 then I'm going to suggest that you not buy anything and instead invest in some tutoring to learn how to read. I will never say this to you out loud because my boss is standing right there, but you know who you are.

9.) If I am talking with a customer, please don't interrupt. We are all in a hurry and we have all been up for hours and we are all tired. Just wait politely and I will help you in a moment. You are no more important than anyone else so stop pretending you are

10.) On that note, don't treat me like I am less of a human being simply because I work retail. I am not stupid. Where do you think surgeons and astronauts work to put themselves through school? I could write a lengthy novel about the abuse I have taken from customers over the years simply because I was a "shop girl." How would you feel if I came into your work and treated you like that?

11.) Yes, I do have that sweater in a medium in blue in the back. If you are polite to me I will go get it for you. If you are rude to me, then I suddenly will not have it anymore. If I honestly tell you I don't have it in the back and then if you are an absolute miserable human being to me, then I will tell you I am going back to look for it, but I will actually sit down at the break table and eat cookies and drink coffee for 10 minutes and then come out and tell you that I don't have it. Then I'll sell it to the person in line behind you as soon as you walk out the door.

12.) Remember how your mom taught you to say please and thank you when you were a child? There was a reason. A simple please and thank you can make my day. Please try to remember basic manners. It makes me want to help you and break the rules for you. I'm willing to bend rules for polite, regular customers. I won't budge for the disrespectful ones.

13.) I make more than minimum wage. Barely. There is only so much abuse that I can take before it really isn't worth it anymore, but who can leave their job in this economy? Don't make my bad situation worse by being disrespectful and demanding.

14.) Always get gift receipts. Explain to your friend that if they return it, they will only receive store credit in the amount that you paid for it. So, if you only paid $10 for that sweater, they are only going to get $10 in credit. If the sweater is now $30 it doesn't matter. You only paid $10. I am not going to give you $20 just because. I'm selling sweaters, not giving away money. Of course, if you want to exchange it for the same sweater, but a different size or color, it will be an even exchange regardless if the price has gone up or down and you will not get any money back, nor will you owe any. That's why it's called an even exchange. The same logic is true if you are returning with an original receipt. The amount you paid, is the amount you will get back.

15.) This one is actually really tricky. If a sale is a buy one get one free (affectionately referred to as BOGO) you can't return the full price sweater for the full amount and keep the free one. Otherwise we just gave you a free sweater. You will only receive half the amount that you paid back. For example: You buy 1 sweater at the BOGO price of $40 and get one for free. That means one was $40 and the other was free right? Wrong. This really means that you paid $20 for each sweater. Basically, BOGO is nothing more than half off, but way more problematic. Stores have to make a unit per transaction number each day and this helps them sell more items to each customer. Don't fall for a BOGO unless you really want 2 sweaters and understand that if you return one, you will only get $20. Only God can help you if you do a BOGO and give the sweaters to 2 different people and the person who received the free one wants to return it. Buy them a gift card instead of a sweater. If you return both sweaters, you will receive $40 back.

16.) Yes, if sweaters are 2 for $30 you must purchase 2. No, you can not get only 1 for $15. This process is known as a 2fer. If you could buy 1 at $15 then we would mark them at $15 and not 2 for $30. This is not a grocery store. I am selling sweaters, not cereal.

17.) If you have children with you, don't let them run around unattended and destroy my store. Do you know how long it takes to put up those displays and how long it takes to clean their disgusting fingerprints off all the glass in the store? They may be your precious angels, but to me they are screaming demon spawn sent to make my life a never -ending chore of cleaning Skittles off the merchandise. They are not adorable when they are using permanent pen to draw on our cashmere and silk sweaters and neither are you when you don't confess to it and try to take responsibility. We won't make you pay for it, just do the right thing and teach your children to be accountable for their actions. And no, you may absolutely not use the fitting room as a changing station and leave the dirty diaper for me to pick up. How would you like your workplace to smell like a bathroom? Seriously, in what world is this acceptable?


So as you are hurrying about scoring all those fabulous deals, be kind, be patient, be considerate and be understanding and it will be returned to you with gratitude and stellar customer service. We all want to feel appreciated and if I feel that way, I will do everything in my power to make sure you feel that way too. No, my job in retail is not hard. It doesn't take great wisdom to fold sweaters all day, but being mistreated by people day in and day out makes it unbearable and I go home upset every night. Help make this holiday pleasant for all and follow that age -old golden rule of treat others the way you want to be treated. Everything we really need to know in life we learned in kindergarten after all.