Thursday, December 19, 2013

Target Hacked: Are You Safe?

 The better question to ask is your debit card safe?

Perhaps you’ve heard about shoppers who used debit and credit cards at Target for their holiday shopping having their data hacked. To learn more here is the full article. People who suspect they could be victims are to call credit card agencies and change their ATM numbers. This is a consumer’s worst nightmare especially so close to the holidays.

Trust me; I know the feeling. My debit card number was hacked at a routine refill at a Meijers' pharmacy. I heard about it on television before I found out I was a victim.  Foolishly, I thought those card readers at the register were so much safer than the old fashion carbon paper slide device for credit cards.

I stood transfixed watching the reporter explain that a ring of Meijers' employees downloaded the credit card numbers from the machine each night. This was standard procedure. Then eight employees would charge gift cards for either $25 or $50. Most people could accept they spent that much at Meijers and didn’t question the charge.

Of course, once they had the number and the pin number. They would go back and charge more gift certificates. That was their downfall.  Apparently, some people wondered about the mysterious charges and contacted Meijers. My phone rung as the news story continued only to find out I was a victim.

I quit using my debit card with the numbers. If I use it, I run it as credit.  My credit card company protects me more. Often refusing to run a charge when I am out of state, I have to call and verify it’s me. Of course, that wouldn’t have helped at the local Target or Meijers, which are both in my town.

The message I received from this retail disaster is that cash is your best option. You don’t spend as much. Some gas station and groceries have started adding a surcharge for using a debit card. All these little charges add up. Right now, I am glad I didn’t go to Target. However, online Target purchases were safe because of the encryption used.

Think about everyone who handles your credit information. This process happens at gas stations, groceries, retail stores, even credit card agencies. I had a friend who had her identity stolen by a credit card employee. Another lost her identity to a travel agent who planned her honeymoon. 

Knowing all this, check out who gives out your information easily. It could be you! Discover card never ever uses your entire number. It isn't on you card or even in your account. You are identified by your last four numbers. 

Many credit cards uses your entire number on your statement. This is important because felons are shopping your mailbox for this information. Some companies try to make your statement look less like a statement. Still, the greatest culprit is the consumer who throws the stub into the garbage can. People do search your trash and dumps for this type of information. This is the reason for paper shredders. As bad as someone getting your credit card number is, getting your debit card is worse.

If someone gets your ATM number your bank won’t reimburse you for the money shifted out of your account. Not knowing what happened immediately adds on overdrawn fees, which makes the situation even more dire. 

Remember the bank telling you never to give your pin number to anyone? A close friend lost her entire savings due to using an ATM in front of an alleged friend. While she didn't give him the number, he paid attention, then lifted her card later and cleaned out her account. Be paranoid about your ATM number.

Another thing about the dangers of debit cards is charges don’t show up immediately. Some businesses will take up to a week to post. That money you think you have as available balance might not be so available at all.

It’s something to consider.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Black Friday Vs. Cyber Monday

Bagged any bargains on Black Friday?  A cartoon circulating on Pinterest has a woman touting Black Friday is for amateurs. Real professionals shop year around. It’s good for a laugh, but how true is it?

Secrets Behind Black Friday Sales
1.       Prices started going up in October, so they could be slashed on Black Friday.
2.       Some of those great prices offered included a rebate. Over 60% of the people never even do the paperwork to fill out the rebate form. Another 8-12% do it wrong and do not get the rebate. This is a pretty sweet deal for the manufacturer. They offer a sale that few cash in on.
3.       Limited quantities. Ask my parents about that who stood in the cold at 4am to get a computer, that the story only had four to sell. Unfortunately, they were number five in line.
4.       Knock off brands. The amazing price is on a cheap version of the original manufactured exclusive for Christmas. Quits working shortly after, surprise, you cannot get it fixed or replaced.
5.       This was no great sale. It was the price that the manufacturer set to make a profit.
6.        Refurbished items often masquerade as new items. The ad may not mention it, except in six font buried somewhere in the description. It depends on how you feel about refurbished items.  My stepfather prefers them because he insists they went back to be refurbished because of an issue. The refurbished item has the issue worked out. This is especially good if it comes with a warranty. (I bought a refurbished camera that lasted for years until I lost it in a move.)
7.       The store may intend to slash prices even more it you can wait.

Cyber Monday: What's Good about It?

1.       No taxes if you should a store that is exclusively online.
2.       Free shipping. (If you aren’t getting it today, shop elsewhere)
3.       Home delivery
4.       Flash sales. Some people might not think these are great, but you have the option of low discounts for a couple of hours. (Amazon at least lets you know what is going to be on sale and when.)
5.       Shopping from your home or office
6.       Low prices—last year I bought popular blue-ray movies for $3 each.
7.       Safety-no fears of being trampled or involved in a shoving match

Shopping online today, check out Ebates and Retailmenot for additional discounts. It always helps to get a little extra off.

Reflecting back on my first Black Friday, I was barely nineteen shopping at the Fashion store and I had my hands on a pair of purple jeans for my sister.  The jeans would be perfect for my stylish sister and the price met my meager budget too.  As I admired the jeans, a small elderly woman grabbed onto them. She shouted at me that she had them first and she was a great grandmother.  Shocked at the woman’s behavior and determination, I gave up the jeans.  Technically, I knew I had my hands on the jeans first, but refused to get in a tug of war with an elderly woman. I can’t remember what I bought my sister that year. Whatever it was it wasn’t worth getting into knockdown fights over it. Maybe this is one of the reasons I am embracing Cyber Monday.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Gift-Giving Double Whammy

You'll Want to Avoid this Reaction

If you’re a man, you might start getting nervous because of the holiday decorations on light poles, Christmas trees in stores, and gift commercials on television. If you are married, in a relationship, or just dating, your significant will expect a gift or probably gifts. You have a higher than 50% chance of screwing this up. Men break up before the holidays just to avoid this torture.  Don't despair, I am here to help. Why is the gift so important?

Answers may vary according to women.
What Your Gift Means
1. It shows how important the woman is in your life.
If you made the mistake of popping into a store on Christmas Eve and grabbing some prepackaged gift set, she will realize she isn’t important at all.
2. It demonstrates where the relationship is going.
Often women in relationships expect a ring at Christmas.
3. Your gift shows how well you know your beloved.
Yes, you are supposed to magically know what she wants. Failure to know shows you never loved her. Those in long-term relationships will get hints.

With all this said, you might fall prey to a commercial that tells you a woman wants diamonds. You go out and drop a bundle only to be told that diamonds represent death and oppression of those who mine them. Here are gifts not to give. This list came from a bunch of angry women.

What Not To Buy
1.       Any item used for cleaning. No vacuums, no carpet cleaners, and definitely no mops or buckets.
2.       Cookware (exception: a chef or gourmet cook may actually want the $200 blender or mixer, but can’t rationalize paying that much.)
3.       Something the man wants or will use. That reciprocating saw might come in handy when you’re building a new bedroom.
4.       Workout videos, weight sets, gym membership, which all imply a need to get in shape.
5.       Sexy Santa lingerie
6.       Electric razors
7.       Christmas-themed clothing. Even if she pretends to like it, she can only wear it once a year.
8.       Animal slippers
9.       Shaping jeans. It’s okay if the woman buys this herself.
10.   Plastic surgery. Imagine the conversation at work after the holidays. What did your sweetie get you?
11.   Fake designer handbags. It’s okay if she buys it herself.
12.   Leggings-one size does not fit all. Those clothing tags lie.
13.   Shaping underwear-nothing says unhappy holidays like Spanx under the tree.
14.   Anything linked with 50 Shades of Grey is never a desired gift.
So what does your sweetie want?  Most women will take pity on their husbands or boyfriends and tell them out right what they want. Others give hints. Pay attention, she might be dropping hints even now. If unsure, ask.  Always save the receipt. What one woman likes, another won’t. Don’t assume if your last girlfriend wanted Obsession perfume that she will too. Don’t compound the problem by mentioning that your former sweetie loved it.

Holiday Gift Ideas
1.       A night out on the town, especially to a restaurant or a movie she has talked up. Yes, you can wrap this in a box. Print out the reservations and put it in a decorative box.
2.       A spa certificate to a place she likes. However, this isn’t the time to try out a spa called Oriental Delite.
3.       Sentimental gifts-has she been wanting a string of pearls just like grandma’s?
4.       Coffee—was a suggestion in a magazine. I don’t drink coffee so it would bomb with me.
5.       The newest book by her favorite author. Check to see if she has it first. If you could get it signed that would be even better.
6.       Vacation- who couldn’t use one in the dead of winter? Remember this is her gift.  A golf resort may not be her dream trip.

Ask. If she tells you she doesn’t need anything, make outrageous suggestions about what you might buy instead.

Remember to tell her how much you love her. That’s what the gifts are supposed to say. Often, it's very sweet to make her something too. One of my most treasured gifts is a poem my husband wrote for me. Good luck.
Never a Good Gift Idea

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November & Black Friday Bargains

Many of you already started shopping for Christmas, but there are still some bargains to be picked up this month.

Cookware-many people are ready to cook up a storm. There is no better time than to pick up a set of cookware often at 50% off. Turkey roasters, platters and even dishware are on sale in many stores.

Tools are on sale too- Go to your favorite stores for tools including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, even Sears. While you’re there, you might poke around to see if they still have any patio furniture, grills or fire pits.

Need clothes and shoes? Many stores will offer coupons that you can stack onto already low prices. Don’t forget you can shop online and still use the same coupons.

Surprisingly, don’t hold your breath for a Black Friday tablet stunner. Companies feel they’ve already slashed prices low enough.

Wedding in your future? Wedding dresses are at their lowest prices in November & December.

Turkey is on sale. No surprise, there. You can buy two and save the other.

HD Televisions will be a good bet, if you planned to buy one.( non name brand/big screen)

Black Friday Deals worth Considering

Kindle Fire w/ $20 card at Toys R Us for $179.99

Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack for $37.49 at Toys R Us

Leapfrog Leappad 2 Explorer for 39.99 at Toys R Us

Sony 8GB Memory Card for PS Vita for Vita for $10 at GameStop

Cultured pearl necklace and earrings set for $29 at Macy’s

Drill Master 18V 3/8 Cordless Drill Driver and Flashlight for $18.99 at Harbor Freight Tools

3-piece bistro type dining room set. $109 at Lowe’s

Shopping  Online?

Amazon and Wal-Mart have the most and best deals. Kohls will have 20% off the site plus free shipping.

What Not to Buy on Black Friday
1.       Christmas Decorations
2.       Name Brands HDTV
3.       Toys
4.       Bedding/blankets
5.       Wine/gourmet food
6.       International Airfare
7.       Kindle HDX
8.       Apple iPad mini w/Retina
9.       Jewelry & watches
10.   Exercise equipment
11.   Winter clothes
12.   DSLR Cameras
13.   Game Consoles w/o a bundled item

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Dilemma

Thanksgiving is coming. You need to decide what you are going to do. You have several options.
1.      Eat at home. According to Today Money, the average dinner will cost you about $50 to prepare for your family. Think family of five at the most. Each extra person is about $5 more. There is preparation time and cleanup to consider.
2.      You could go eat at grandmother’s or mother’s house. You might save on food costs, but there are travel expenses, and often prying questions you might not like.
3.      Pick up your dinner already made. I did this once when the kids were all sick. We couldn’t go anywhere and I wasn’t up to fixing a full feast. It is less expensive than doing it yourself. The only downside is you might not have some of your family favorites. Here is a sample menu from Krogers. 

Supreme Turkey Dinner

(Turkey serves 8-10)
1 13–16 lb. Private Selection Fully Cooked Oven Roasted Turkey
 2 24 oz. Wholesome@Home Mashed Potatoes
 2 32 oz. Dressing/Stuffing
2 24 oz. Gravy
2 32 oz. Broccoli, Rice and Cheese Casserole
 1 32 oz. Sweet Potato Casserole
 1 16 oz. Wholesome@Home Cranberry Celebration
 2 10ꞋꞋ Pumpkin Pie
 1 12 ct. Dinner Rolls
(You can get this in a smaller size or with ham.)

4.      Then there is dinner out. Many hotel restaurants put on a delicious holiday buffet but it may be pricey.
Here are some chain restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving and many are serving the traditional meal: Bob Evans , Cracker Barrel, Ponderosa, IHOP, The Claddagh Irish Pub, Boston Market, Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurants,. Ryan’s, Hometown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, Country Buffet, Granny’s Buffet, Fire Mountain, Bugaboo Creek Steak House, Denny’s, Golden Corral, Houlihan’s, Huddle House, Lone Star Steakhouse, Luby’s, Max & Erma’s, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks, Mimi’s Cafe, Mitchell’s Fish Markets, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Shoney’s, Ted’s Montana Grill. Waffle House, Whataburger
Call ahead because some locations may be closed and others require reservations.
5.      You can always volunteer at the local soup kitchen. You’ll get to dine with folks who are truly grateful for what they are about to receive.
6.      There is my old standby as a single person: The Frozen Turkey dinner. It is usually a dollar from Banquet. You can dress it up with a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce if you so desire.  
7.      Remember that Chinese buffets are open too.

As for me, we are going over the river and through the woods to my mother’s house.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October Deals

Warning: Blogger wants to cap everything. I guess it wants to shout the deals at you.
Every month has a few items that are worth looking at in October.
If you were planning to buy a car, now is a good time to snag 2013 model. Now to December, dealers will keep slashing prices to get the old cars off the lot. No one considers a 2013 car a new car in 2014, even if it’s never been driven. Dealers know this.  Don’t rush out and buy a car if that wasn’t your intention.
 Vacations and Cruises
October is the time between the summer vacation rush and before the start up of the holiday vacation. If you are in the position to not have to plan around school schedules, this is the time to vacation. Resort are less crowed and cheaper.

Cruises are cheap for the same reason as vacations. Sometimes, you can book in October at a discount for a later cruise. Others choose to cruise in what they consider a childfree month. If you are looking for a romantic cruise, avoid Carnival who always seems to have a plethora of children who appear never to attend school.  Newsday explains a repositioning cruise. This is a one way cruise.  You’ll fly in one place and fly out another. You can get super cheap rates, but this only works if your flights are equally cheap.

Broadway Shows 
Planning to go to New York City soon? If so, Broadway is slow in October that means cheaper tickets for you and more availability. Many tourists have been disappointed to find the show they wanted to see sold out. This isn’t usually a problem in October.

School Supplies

Sick of looking about school supplies? So are the stores and they need the shelf space for holiday merchandise. You can pick up some real deals now in the clearance section. Yes, your child will need paper, marker and pencils for the upcoming year. Stock up now before they return to full price.

Camping Gear

Are you a cold weather camper? If you are you’re different than about 80% of the other tent campers. Now is the time to stock up on your camping supplies. Those minus thirty-eight degree sleeping bags might not be marked down, but everything else will be.

Yep, you heard me right. The garden centers have to get rid of their perennials, bushes and tree. You can plant them now, water and feed them to ready them for the coming year.
Outside Gear
This includes patio furniture, flower pots, garden statues, wind chimes, table umbrellas, grills, and coolers. There will only be a few at each store. You might even run across pool supplies and the occasional air conditioner all at discount prices.

The thing to remember is who has to sell the item the most. Usually stores that do not normally carry the item have to get rid of it. Store that always carry the item can  mark it up to full price. Case in point: school supplies on the clearance table at Krogers

Friday, October 4, 2013

DIY Halloween Costumes

I came from a family that recycled Halloween costumes and made them out of things they could find around the house. If you have more than one child, Halloween costumes can get expensive.
Fairy Princess- Goodwill is my go to place for discarded prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses and even wedding dresses. Yard sales work too. Want extra glitter. Buy a can of spray glitter. Wands can be made or bought at the Dollar Tree.
Angel-buy a pair of wings at the Dollar Tree. White dress or even an oversized white t-shirt will work. Spray with glitter.
Animals- you can usually get away with this by dressing the child in clothes in the color of the animal. Get an animal headband ears at the Dollar Tree. It is better to create the face with makeup as opposed to a mask. The makeup is available almost anywhere.
Zombie-rip up some clothes already destined for the trash.  Create a decaying face look by darkening the areas around the mouth and eyes. This makeup can be bought almost anywhere. Warning: some children are allergic to it.
Vampire-all you need to buy is cape and fangs. (Go to the Dollar Tree.) Dress your child in black and whiten his face with powder.
Witch-black again with the dollar hat you bought at the Dollar Tree. She could carry a stuffed cat if she wanted too.
Grandparents- kids dressed as their grandparents can be cute. Glasses with the lenses out, a cane, and a pocket book are nice accessories. Usually they can get these from their own grandparents.
Appliances- a large box with arm holes and head hole cut out of it can transform your child into anything from a washing machine to an I-phone with a little paint or markers.
Robin Hood or Peter Pan-Cut bottom hem of a large green T-shirt in a zigzag pattern, pair with green or brown tights, leggings or sweat pants tucked into boots.  A feather hat or quiver of arrows can be purchased at the Dollar Tree too.
Men in Black character-dress in a black suit or all black and wear dark sunglasses. (Only put the sunglasses on at the door for safety.)
Thrift stores are great places to get costumes too.  Costumes can be recycled through families. Several children wore the tiger costume my sister painstakingly made. Costumes from plays can be re-used again.
Here are more places to search for ideas.
1.       Real Simple- sixteen simple costumes for your children.
2.       Homemade Halloween-children’s costumes
4.       DIY Adult Costumes
5.       Pinterest-this is the DIY Costume landing page.

Don’t stress too much over this. Remember the purpose is to have fun.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stocking Stuffers to Buy Now

It is almost October and have you done any Christmas shopping? I’ve picked up a few items on sale    and put them away. Adults like my siblings, even husband, are the easiest to shop for because their interests don’t change. I can keep my eyes out all year along for Gone with the Wind merchandise or 1000 piece plus puzzles. 
What can you buy in October that would be good for Christmas or stocking stuffers?
  •           Art supplies-basic supplies are on clearance everywhere since the back to school frenzy is over. Michaels and Joann Fabrics also offer coupons in the Sunday ads that allow you to buy one item 50% off. If you start doing this now, you can get a half price item per week.
  •            Socks- Depending on the recipient you can go for zany ones if they’ll  be appreciated. You are looking for sales or clearance items, not full price.
  •  Small games-not the electronic type.  These can be found often are the clearance table of book stores and discount stores.
  • Jewelry- cruise the jewelry section every time you shop for bargain basement finds. Earrings are usually the most popular.
  •  Toiletries-this can work for both young and old. The Dollar Tree will yield fizzy bath balls and bubble bath.  Higher end is Bath and Body Work. Keep your ear open for the buy free, get three free. You can even use the coupons you made have form the store. I’ve walked out with $90 of toiletries for $30.
  • Wind-up toys-I actually found a few in Kohls that I applied my 30% discount too. 
  • Gloves can be amazingly expensive. You can also order them online. 
  • Candles—I am always looking for these on clearance. Krogers usually has a few on clearance.
  • Kids Toy and puzzles-do you have a ton of stockings to make? Try Oriental Trading and order items in mass. Often, you get free shipping.
  •  Unusual or quirky items-can be found everywhere from yard sales, street festivals and curio shops.
  • Design a photo mug on Vista Print or
  • Ornaments are popular, especially personalized ones. Create your own on They are always running specials. Be sure to take advantage of them.
  • Quality headphones can be picked up for less at T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. I used a Groupon to buy Skull Candy headphones.
  • Gadgets-A foodie would appreciate corkscrews, garlic press, or even a food thermometer.
  •  DVDs-these go on sale on a rotating basis. Amazon as flash sale of popular movies that may last only minutes.
  • Lottery tickets
  •  Book marks
  • Match box cars or similar
  • Key rings- fun or sentimental.
  • Book lights.
  •  Toothbrushes
  • Fake tattoos and stickers
  • Glowsticks
  • Harmonica
  • Nail polish, lip balms and hand cream
  • Individual face masks
  •  Batteries
  • Jerky
  • Barrettes, combs, ribbons
  • Disposable camera
  •  Wallet
  •  Journal
  • Pens, pencils, erasers
  • Tape measure
  •  Golf tees
  • Puzzle book
  • Flash drive
  •  Hand warmers
  •  Canned nuts
  • Car air freshener
  • Fishing lures
  • Phone chargers
  • Craft kits
  • Stamps & ink pad
  • Legos
  • Action figurines
  • Hot sauce
  • Individual drink mixers
  • Kazoos
  • Balls, tops, balloons

Friday, September 20, 2013

Making Money on the Side

Money is tight at your house. You need a way to bring in some more money. There are all sorts of work available, depending on your situation.
1.       Substitute Teaching – Always a good way to coordinate your schedule with your school age child schedule. The pay ranges from $70-$100 a day, depending on your district. Expect to attend a class and pay for your own background check.
2.       Tutoring - This is a great option for retired educators. The going rate for tutoring is $11-15 an hour. You can sometimes leave flyers at schools, community bulletin boards or even run an ad. What parents are really looking for is raising ACT/SAT scores.
3.       Lawn Care - This old standby of children looking for extra money can work for adults too.
4.       Snow shoveling - This works especially well if you have a snow blade on your truck. One man in my neighborhood cleaned up during an especially snowy winter by scraping people’s driveways before they went to work. It took him about five minutes with his truck.
5.       Pizza Delivery - It just isn’t for kids anymore.
6.       Ebay - A friend combs yard sales looking for good quality children’s clothes and collectibles to sell online.
7.       Childcare – If you are already staying at home with your child, another child shouldn’t make that much difference.
8.       Paper Delivery - This usually happens in the wee hours of the morning, allowing you time to get to your main job.
9.       Pet sitter - Most people prefer to have the pet “sat” as opposed to going to a kennel. A typical price is $25 for the first visit, $15 for the next visit and $10 for the third visit in the day.  Anything from walking the pet to getting the mail will make you the more desirable pet sitter.
10.   Give lessons - Is there something you are expert in from singing, piano, art, dancing, even bee keeping? If it’s music, you might want to leave flyers in an appropriate place or even become associated with a music store.
11.   Web Design - Many people have websites or want properly designed ones. You can become a web designer. Offer to do a few sample sites to have something to show prospective customers.
12.   Editing and proof Reading - Another pair of eyes does help catch mistakes. Be certain you have the background and genre-specific experience to take this one on. Starting price is a $1 a page on editing.
13.   House Painting - Most people would prefer not to paint. Most painters get business with local advertisements and word of mouth. Check out to see what the others are charging.
14.   House cleaning - You might want to start your business with friends, relatives, and neighbors. Later on, you’ll need to be bonded to assure new customers that you won’t steal from them while cleaning.
15.   Dog Walker - This is more popular in the cities, but plenty of people have dogs they do not have time to walk.
16.   Dinner delivery - You cook meals in your home and deliver to those who do not like to cook. It is nice to have a menu for them to choose from. Scout out the ingredients first to have a realistic idea what to charge.
17.   Party planner - Do you give great theme parties? Mothers with children would especially appreciate this.
18.   College Student Care - Live close to a college and offer to bring homemade goodies or care packages to students. The best way to advertise this is to get your flyer into the student registration package.
19.   Night shift jobs - Most people do not want to work the night shift. Even if you have no experience you can often pick up might work as a cleaner, delivery person, or waitress.
20.   Bartering services - This won’t result in actual money, but by not paying for a service that you do need, which would have taken actual money.