Monday, March 15, 2010

Consumer Protection

Last week was National Consumer Protection Week.  This site shows you how to avoid scams as well as more information on banking, credit, debt, health, investing, money and identity theft issues for consumers. 

Hope it helps with any answers that you might be facing.

Have a happy St. Patrick's day!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Last Minute Travel Deals

Here are some ways to get great last minute travel deals:
  1. Make sure that you search the various deals on the internet.  I have listed many websites below that you can find deals from.  You can also go to the actual airline's websites since they might have some deals there.
  2. The best and maybe the hardest way to secure last minute deals is to actually be available at any moment to travel.  If you are looking to get extremely cheap last minute flights you can't be too picky with the departure timings you want. You have to be flexible and ready to board the plane at any moment.
  3. The last thing that you need to do to secure last minute travel deals is to be aware and vigilant in searching for them. You have to keep looking on these sites if you want to find the deal that is right for you. 
Web sites with great travel deals...


Monday, February 22, 2010

Spring Time Watering

I know that it's hard to think about Spring time, especially in the MD-DC-VA area when all you see is snow and cold weather but I read about this new concept and thought it is better to share it early rather than getting it to you too late.

This concept is for a "smart" sprinkler system called Cyber Rain.

Instead of using a manual adjuster for your sprinkler system, Cyber Rain lets you do the programming on your computer. It gets weather reports off the Web, then transmits that information to the controller in your garage or basement plus it helps you to save 30-70% on your water bill...not bad, right?

Your water amount gets adjusted automatically, so you know for sure that you are watering only when your lawn and garden really need its.

I think it's something worth trying, plus the idea of saving money monthly sounds really good to me. 

Enjoy your day everyone!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Best Deals for February

Here are some items that can be found at great prices for the month of February.
  • Valentine's is over but check out what they have for next year
  • Christmas ornaments and decorations should be even cheaper now for next year
  • Bicycles
  • MP3 players
  • DVD players
  • Cameras
  • Perfumes and colognes
  • Outdoor grills
  • Luggage
  • Air Conditioning Units
  • Humidifiers
Have a great week!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Help in the Snow

With all this snow that we have received in the Maryland-DC-VA area, I hope that this blog will come in handy.

When going out in the snow, make sure to keep the following with you in your car (you never know when you might need it):
  • Sand or cat litter- to help create some resistance on your tires when you are stuck
  • Floor mats - these also help you get unstuck and give you traction (use the rubber side)
  • Shovel - to help dig you out of a snow ditch
  • Car Wax - put on your headlights so that snow and salt can't stick to it
  • Vinegar and water - 3 parts vinegar to one part water sprayed on your windows will help prevent your windows from freezing overnight
  • Cooking spray - spray it around your car doors so they don't feeze
  • Shaving cream - spraying it on your windows and wiping it off with a paper towel, helps it from fogging up your windows
  • Rubbing alcohol - use a cloth and wipe this on  your windshiled wipers; this prevents them from squeaking and creating streaks on your windows
  • Hand sanitizer - this helps with de-icing your lock in seconds (make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol, otherwise it might not work)
  • Gloves - keep an extra pair in your car, you don't want to be stuck in the cold without them
Also, just for fun...for those of you that have kids but don't want them out in all the snow, grab some snow from outside and bring it indoors.  Have the kids make snowmen on a plate inside your house and get creative with the face and clothes.

Have some hot chocolate and stay warm everyone!


Monday, February 1, 2010

Limit Your Spending in the New Year (Get out of Debt)

Every year, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling counsels close to two million American households nationwide. Whether they seek financial advice or choose to enroll in a debt-repayment plan, many of these families or individuals carry thousands of dollars in debt, often more than their annual income. Check with them first if you just don't know where to turn.

Credit Card Debt
  • Limit the amount of cards you use. If you are really scared to use them, cut most of them up and keep one stashed away and keep one in your wallet/purse. It's best to only keep your debit card with you, so when the urge arises, you know that you can only spend so much from your bank account.
  • It's best not to close all your cards, since you still need to keep your credit looking good, and in order to have it look good you do have to spend and use your cards; just pay them off in full when you get the chance.
  • Transfer your balance from a high rate card to a low rate card.
  • Try to negotiate a lower rate. This is certainly possibe if you have good credit.
  • Vist Credit Card Nation, this site estimates the time it will take to pay off your credit card debt.
Home Debt

  • Contact your bank or financial planner to discuss your situation and options. They maybe able to help you with money management issues.
  • Refinance. It seems harder right now to do, but if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), it doesn't hurt to find out if you can refinance it to a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • If you are in danger of foreclosure, research to see if you have any alternatives. You may be tempted to cut your losses and move on, but visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s  site to research other options.
Handle Student Loans
  • Consolidate your student loans. Try to lock in a reduced interest rate to make your monthly payments more manageable.
Budget your finances. This might seem obvious but it's a tough thing to do. You may have to be strict for a while; but being strict for a short while might be all the difference in the world to improve your life for the better in the long term.
  • Do you have to go out to eat every day/week? Pack a lunch instead.
  • Limit shopping sprees to once every few months, except for your essentials (i.e. groceries, paper products, medicines, etc).
  • Instead of spending money on going out, stay in and rent a movie.
  • Instead of formal family pictures at a studio, set up your camera in your home and send it to picture developing site; it's a lot cheaper and more relaxing (trust me!).
There are many ways to eliminate unnecessary spending. Think of what is essential and what is extra and then eliminate/reduce the extra to 1-3 times a month/year.

Please also note that with all of the scams out there, be very careful with whom you deal with. Do your research before signing up and giving money to anyone. Go with your gut instinct and to be safe, go with a reputable (well known) bank or lender.

Here's to a wealthy 2010 for us all!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Re-decorating Your Space for Free

You can make your rooms over without spending too much money or can even do it for are some ideas to get you thinking...

For a small price:
  • Buy throw pillows to change your couch or bedding appearance
  • Paint can change a room dramatically, even if it's only on one wall
  • Buy an interesting lamp to add light to a room to bring out a new glow
  • Flowers - buy various kinds of grocery store flowers - and put in unique holders to add a changed look of beauty every week to your home
  • If you have interesting articles or pictures from magazines that you already recieve but don't want to toss them away, why not buy some inexpensive frames and change up a wall by displaying them as a piece of art work - makes for an interesting conversation piece as well
  • Change your dining table immediately by adding seat cushions or a new tablecloth and placemats
  • If you have blinds on your windows, why not add some curtains to soften up a room or two
For free:
  • Put a decorative shawl or blanket on your sofa or bed to make it look revived (I have a curtain panel on our piano that didn't go so well on the window and it simply looks like a runner rather than a curtain, so there are all kinds of ways to be creative with fabrics)
  • Make your own art work, if you are creative, create your own art piece and hang it up
  • Take items from other rooms (art work, chairs, etc.)  and place them in a new room to make it look as if you bought new items (you just bought them from your other rooms)
  • Rearrange the current furniture in a room; if it seems impossible, just try to angle it differently to add instant dramatic flare
  • Take rugs from different areas and put it down at an angle to see how you can easily change the appearance of any room
  • Take fruit and place them in interesting canisters or vases to show them off; it's also a way to change up a drab kitchen every week
  • Use your current books or photo albums and stack them on top of each other in a corner to add interest to an otherwise dull area 
  • Add your children's artwork to a blank wall space (just get some string and clothing pins or put them in frames that you already have)
  • Display items that you own that are too pretty to be put away.  Place them in a bowl or other clear container and display them proudly and then change them up whenever you want (jewelry, beautiful cards, pretty soaps, etc.)
Look around your home, I'm sure that you have interesting items that can be placed elsewhere to add immediate sparkle to dull areas and/or rooms.

Have a good week everyone!


Monday, January 18, 2010

So Many Vases...What Do I Do With Them?

Over the years I had collected many vases, most from my darling husband who showered me with floral arrangements on a monthly basis, and I had collected so many that it was time to let them go. 

If you have too many of your own collecting dust in your home, here are some ways to re-use or get rid of them safely and efficiently. 
  • Send to a local thrift store for re-sale
  • Recycle them (although I have heard some say that it was not ok, but my recycling unit took them)
  • Buy or gather new flowers and put them in the vase to give to a friend for their birthday or if they are not feeling well
  • Try your hand and creativity at faux floral arrangments (you can always give them as gifts later or arrange them around your home)
  • Take them to the office, for others to use
  • Give them to a local nursing home
  • Give them to a local community center (for flower making workshops)
  • Give them to a local hospital
  • Give them to local event or wedding planners (this is especially handy if you have many of one style)
  • Give them to your school (art teachers could use them for crafts)
  • Use them as candy dishes
  • Use them to showcase pretty shells or stones
  • Use them at your child's next Lemonade stand to make Lemonade
  • Use wide shaped vases to hold household items, such as keys, wallets and other odds and ends
  • Use them in a craft room for buttons, paper clips, ribbon, scissors, etc.
  • Use them as centerpieces for your table (add lemons, pinecones, ornaments, anything eye-catching)
  • Use them as utensil holders, if they are tall enough
  • Buy a Beta fish and use the vase as an aquarium
  • Log on to Freecyle (this site allows you to give away items, in your area, for free), someone else might be in need of a vase(s) for a small wedding or other event
As you see the possibilities are endless. 

Just remember not to get rid of all of them, keeping some vases in various sizes and textures can certainly come in handy.


Monday, January 11, 2010

De-Cluttering Your Life

I found an article on WebMD that makes this year even more worth it for you to de-clutter your life.

I have added it below as well.

Clear the Clutter Out of Your Life - Organize and simplify your life for better emotional health.

By Jennifer Nelson
WebMD FeatureReviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Simi Nwogugu of Brooklyn, New York, felt that her life was filled with clutter. Her drawers were filled with old notes and books from business school and years of paid bills. Toys that her sons had outgrown still littered the house. In fact, she felt so mentally cluttered that she couldn’t do the one thing she wanted: write.

To get out from under the clutter, the founder of HOD Consulting rented an expensive New York City office. Problem was, the clutter followed her. Finally, she stopped trying to escape clutter and began to organize it.

“I know where everything is and it is so much more pleasing to work from home. Most of all, I am writing again,” she says. Even her aching back and shoulders feel better.

When you can’t find things, you can feel frustrated, angry, and unproductive, says Kelli Ellis, an Orange County, Calif., design psychologist who’s appeared on TLC’s Clean Sweep television show. “You see that person who has papers flying out of files, or you see their handbag, and you say, 'I know exactly what your car looks like or what your home office looks like.'” Clutter spills over into every aspect of life.

Clutter, both mental and physical, can do a number on our productivity and eat away at our time. Think of all the minutes we waste looking for items that aren’t where they should be. Plus the sheer stress of a cluttered life means we may miss deadlines, work longer hours, and lose important stuff. Clutter equals stress. Where to start simplifying?

The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Clutter

Between a zillion to-dos, work and family life, errant worries, and obligations, it’s no wonder you have a cluttered mind. Start by learning to let go.

“To be truly happy, sometimes you must eliminate unhealthy people and situations from your life,” says Alex Lluch, author of Secrets to Love Life and Be Happy. For instance, if you feel stuck in a dead-end job, resolve to make a change.

Or if there’s someone in your life who constantly brings you down with a negative attitude, find a way to disentangle yourself. “It may take some courage to eliminate this stuff from your life, but you will feel much more fulfilled once you are able to concentrate on the people and things that do make you happy.”

Lluch advocates clean sweeping your thoughts with a hot bath, a meditation practice, a long walk, a phone call to a friend -- whatever works for you. Spend at least 15 minutes a day in a pursuit that allows you to decompress, clear your mind, and rid your thoughts of the mental chitchat that clouds your creativity, passion, and productivity.

De-Clutter Your Desk and Work Space

Whether you work from a home office or a tiny cubicle, there’s no way you can be totally productive in a space that doesn’t function for you. “I have never actually met anybody who is extremely successful who works in absolute chaos,” says Ellis.

Sure, everyone has a junk drawer or a messy desk on occasion, but if your clutter is taking over, it’s time to scale back.

When Nwogugu tackled her home office with a very organized friend, they compiled three separate stashes: what to keep, what to shred (sensitive information), and what to just throw away.

Follow a similar routine working from desk to files to shelves. Clear everything off and sort into appropriate stacks. Use file folders, three-ring notebooks, or magazine sorters to hold important papers. And immediately pitch what you don't need. Get creative with containers. Coffee mugs and decorative boxes hold everything from paper clips and tacks to business cards and pens.

Look toward vertical wall space as a new storage solution. “We tend to make piles,” says Ellis. But piles are hard to address and papers within them become hidden. You can’t pay a bill or return an important message if it’s hidden at the bottom of a stack on your desk.

Instead, option wall space. Set bills in a hanging bin, keys on a hook, magazines in wall hangers. Now you can see and reach items easily.

Clean Out Clothing Skeletons in Your Cluttered Closet
If closets are your nemesis and yours could rival Vogue’s accessory closet, you’ll need to spend some time getting down and dirty. The first step to cleaning a closet is to take everything out. Then you can see what you have. Often you’ll need to purchase storage boxes or organizing bins, shoe holders, or shelving. Don’t forget plastic garbage bags for trash and donations. Have a few bins or boxes for items that don’t really belong in the closet but will be moved elsewhere. Be realistic. Do you really need or want each item?

Ellis’ mantra is, “If you haven’t seen it, needed it, or worn it in one year, get rid of it.”

Nwogugu’s friend had three questions when they came to every piece of clothing: Does it fit? Have you worn it in the last 12 months? Is there some sentimental value strong enough to keep it? If the answers are no, toss it in one of three options -- in a bag for charity, to sell at a garage sale or on eBay, or for the trash heap.

Nwogugu went through the same procedure for her husband’s clothes and shoes as well as her children’s. “By the time we were done with clothing, we had over 15 hefty trash bags of stuff for Salvation Army.”

Organization Tips for Your Clutter-Free Action Plan

Here are more steps to help you clear clutter from your life:

Organize in bite-size bits: If the thought of getting organized completely overwhelms you, set a timer for just 15 minutes a day. Knowing you won't spend hours working on an organizational project might make working in small nuggets easier to manage.

Mainstream email: Instead of checking email with each ding of the inbox, read your emails on a regular basis only twice a day. When you open an email, answer it immediately and don't save it for later.

Handle snail mail only once: Create a special time and place to read your snail mail regularly. During the appointed time, open the mail and immediately take action on it. File it with bills, shred it, toss it in the trash, etc. Commit to touching each piece of mail immediately and only once.

Avoid horizontal piles: When possible, avoid putting paper in horizontal stacks in your home or office. Save time and frustration by categorizing and finding a home for paper as soon as it comes through the door.

Purge regularly: This applies to every room in the house but don’t forget the kitchen and bathroom. Check expiration dates regularly on medicines, vitamins, supplements, and cosmetics. Stick to the “when in doubt, throw it out” rule. If you can’t remember when you purchased it, let it go.

The first day after Nwogugu de-cluttered she walked around her apartment, remembering why she loved it. She no longer felt the need to escape. She looked forward to writing. "All around, I feel much better,” she says.

I hope this article helped some of you to make some changes in this new year.
Here's to your emotional health!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Storage for Holiday Decorations

Now that the holidays are over, here are some ideas to store your items.
  • Clear plastic containers - I use curtain containers for bows, fabric napkins, tape, gift tags, small ornaments, things that are difficult to store elswhere, etc.

  • Gift bags - I use gift bags to hold other gift bags and rolls. 

  • Clear box containers - we use these to hold similar items such as all mantle items (i.e. stockings, stocking holders, garland, etc.)
  • Apple or egg containers and cartons - you can easily store ornaments in here
  • Ziploc bags - you can place ornament holders (the metal ones) or other small items in here so that it doesn't get lost in a bigger container
  • Hanging organizer - these are the kind that have clear pockets and therefore could hold small ornaments and the like 
  • Coffee or vegetable cans - you can string lighted garlands around these, so that they don't get tangled
  • Shoe boxes - line the boxes with tissue paper to hold delicate items
  • Large trash bags - these are great to hold wreaths if you don't have a specific container for them
  • Zippered garment bags - these also work nicely to hold wreaths
  • Plastic grocery bags - these come in handy when you need to protect items that could get scratched up, such as Santa Clauses or Nutcrackers.  Once wrapped, simply put them in a bigger container
  • Cookie tins - are a great place to stash those items that are decorative but could make a mess if placed elsewhere, such as pinecones or items with glitter on them...

Another quick tip is to keep similar items together (i.e., keep the wreath with the wreath holder, keep the stockings with the stocking holders, table linens with napkin rings, etc.)

Happy New Year!


Whatever It Takes