Monday, July 21, 2014

Are You A Target?

Stick Figures Tell Total Strangers with Criminal Intent Too Much
Find out Why. Read More

Ever wonder how robbers pick homes to rob? It usually isn’t impulse. The important thing is to avoid being a target.  What are the ways we make ourselves a target?

*Checking in at various locations via your smart phone. Anyone with social media knows where you’re at and it’s not at home.

*Broadcasting your vacation plans before or while you are on vacation via social media. Plenty of time to post after you get back.

*Big events announcements such as a wedding, funeral, even graduation can lure a burglar to your house. A house sitter or a neighbor would be helpful on these occasions.

*Bought a new television or computer? Cut up the box as opposed to leaving it whole beside the trash can. You might be excited about your new toy, but no reason to advertise to would be burglars.

*Do you have sliding glass doors? If so, use the pole stick in the door to keep uninvited guests out. This is the number two method of burglars entering a home.

* The favorite entry is through unlocked doors. Many people, especially those with children, leave doors unlocked when they leave. Not on purpose, the children who have been running in and out of the house left them unlocked.

* Lock second stories windows do not assume they’re unreachable.

*Change your garage code if it is 000, 1234, 2345, 9999, etc. An enterprising robber can go through a quick series of common numbers.

*Know your neighbors. Bold burglars showed up with a moving van systematically robbed a swanky neighborhood. They would occasionally change out the moving van for a white panel van. The neighbors never expected anything even though they watched the robbers load all the goodies into the van. Staying current with the neighbors would have alerted them of any moving plans or not.

*Got vanity license plates on your car? Con artists are very fond of these because it demonstrates a strong need for attention and the belief that the owner is special. These are key elements for a face to face con.

*Stick people on cars, especially if they include sports figures. Your son’s football helmet with his name identifies that he’ll be at practice or games. It isn’t hard to look up school games and knowing when the family will be gone.

*Pedophiles can use the stick people to shop for potential targets, especially if emblazoned with the child’s name. (Of course, a mini-van is hint enough you have children.)

*Being nice & talking to strangers. Remember your mom always warned you about strangers. Con artists approach people who are nice to them. Those who rebuff them are saved the trouble of trying to get out of a too good to be true deal.

*Don’t Expect a Free Lunch. Ever found yourself in a resort city and been approached by timeshare rep offering you free or reduced tickets for a few minutes of your time. First, it will a daylong ordeal, leaving you little time to use the hard-earned tickets. Using your AAA discount is a better solution.

*Secure Your Valuables- This no brainer is true for any time.  Traveling-hide your valuables, lock your car, and use the hotel safe. Often robbers aren’t always strangers. With this in mind, keep your valuables locked up. Often prescription medicine can be the item targeted as opposed to grandmother’s pearls. Be aware of who is in your house from maid service, handy men, etc. Once something is missing, it’s gone. A high deductible would cancel out any benefit of even registering a claim. Often insurance companies refuse to pay, especially if the house was unlocked or you have no proof of purchase of the stolen item.

Your best bet is try not to be a target.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Freebies for Bored Children

Summer Freebies & Almost Free Activities for Bored Little Ones
It’s summer and the children are bored! If you are a work at home mom, dad, or even grandparents. It’s hard to know what to do with children during the summer. Here’s some ideas that work well with the under 12 set.

Library Book Club-Not only can the children improve their imagination by reading, but the library offers incentives and often in-house programs.

Free Movies- Many local theaters will offer morning children’s movies one day a week during the summer. This is a time the theater wouldn’t normally be open. Look in your paper or online for details. Many parks also have outdoor movie night.

Museums-Most museums have one free day. You’ll have to research the ones around you. (Indianapolis Museum of Art is free, except on Monday when it is closed.)

Parks- There are usually trails and playground equipment.

Picnic-Eat lunch outside

DVDS- You can borrow them free at the library. Get Christmas movies and have a Christmas in July marathon.

The Sprinkler- Introduce the children to the old fashion fun of running through the sprinkler. At the most, it will only be on for 20 minutes. You can also put it close to anything that needs watering.

Sidewalk Chalk- This is a dollar at the Dollar Tree. If you have a budding artist, this will entertain for a long time.

Time Capsule- All you need is an old popcorn tin or even a good size coffee can with a lid. The children find items they think represents right now. It can be items they’ve cut out of the newspaper. Have the children write letters to their future self.  Make predictions. Seal the can with tape and bury it.

Bubbles- If you don’t have any, these are also a dollar at the Dollar Tree. Make nighttime bubbles by cutting open glow sticks and pouring the liquid into the bubbles. Glow sticks are also available at the Dollar Tree

Board Games- You may have to supervise a few before the kids get the hang of it.

Outside Games- This can be anything from catchers to bike riding. Teach the kids a few of the games you loved when you were a kid.

4-H- This club is more popular in rural areas, but it kept my children busy for a couple weeks preparing their project they should have been working on all year for the 4-H fair.

Cooking- Let the children to help you cook or allow them to think up a meal. I will admit the peanut butter sandwich & pudding banquet was decent.

Create Books- Small ones can draw a book with crayons or cut images out of magazines or newspaper. This does wonders for the imagination. Older children can write or type their stories.

Science Experiments- Here a site that uses items you probably already have at home.

Gardening- A packet of seeds is all you need to start.

Exercise-it is important to set goals. Your child might want to try to walk a mile.  Start with increments to build up endurance and a sense of accomplishment.

Have a Yard/Garage/Tag Sale- This is a sneaky way to get things cleaned out and earn a little spending money for all the things that aren’t free.

Puppet Theater- Socks without partners and a permanent marker equal sock puppet. Remember you do have to watch the show.

Summer Camp- Many scouts and church organizations have camp scholarship for those who can’t afford to pay. You do need to apply early.

Vacation Bible School- If you’re okay with the idea of church this is a great summer activity. Some are better than others are. The emphasis should be on fun as opposed to forcible conversion.

Once you start thinking outside the television box, you’ll be surprised what you’ll discover. J

 Read your local paper or website. My kids entered a free riding lawnmower contest with the prize being a trip to Disneyworld. They didn’t win, but a neighbor kid did. They still had fun.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Zulily Review

If you spent any time on social media, then you’ve seen Zulily ads. What is it? I thought at first, it was only a larger woman clothes site. It isn’t. Sure, they do have a large variety of women’s clothes, along with children’s, shoes and household items.

The items that interested me the most are the clearance or LAST DAY items. These items go fast. I ordered a pair of pants, a maxi skirt, a tank top, and a sundress all for $68. Shipping was free.

When the items arrived, I noticed they ran a bit small. I currently wear a 10/12. I ordered size large, which they specified would fit a 12-14.  The lightweight sundress and pants would require constant ironing. Thankfully, the skirt and tank would not.

The quality was cheap not anything I would expect to last more than a season. It was similar quality to the current summer fashions available in Macy’s, Dillards and Kohls at less than half the price.

The pants didn't fit. A shame since they were cute. I called to find out how I could exchange them. No exchanges are available on last day/clearance items because there aren’t any more left. The helpful customer service rep advised me to give them to someone they would fit and credited my account.
I went back to last day clearance and ordered another sundress since I knew how they ran. I’d give Zulily two thumbs up. You can also earn $20 in merchandise credit by telling your friends. Haven't tried it yet, so I can't report on the procedure 

The only drawback to the company is shipping is not fast. Expect it to take at least two weeks.

Want to check it out on your own? Here's the link.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Do You Really Get What You Pay For?

Ever heard the expression you get what you pay for? It’s a common expression to warn people to beware of cheap, shoddy goods. A recent article I read about shopping at dollar stores advised people what was good to get at the store or not so great. Truth is you only spent a dollar do you expect it to last the rest of your life?

When does it not pay to lay down the big bucks? Usually on big ticket items or services. Let me explain, often companies have figured out splashy ads or boasting they’re the favorite of customers will get people to buy assuming costlier is better. Remember they have to pay for their ads and do not have to offer any proof of being customer’s favorites.

Twenty years ago, I wanted the house painted. Several people came and gave us estimates. Two brothers who had painted several houses in the neighborhood gave us a modest estimate. My ex-husband reasoned we should go with the expensive one because it had to be the best. After all, the company had a brand new shiny van with their company name across it, and the guy who gave us the estimate arrived in a suit and tie. It ended up being a horror story. For three thousand dollars, we had our house trashed for an entire week while two inept painters listened to loud music and took lengthy smoke and lunch breaks. In the end, they painted the living room and hall the wrong color.

The smart thing would have been to go with the brothers who did work I could actually see and had the ability to talk to previous customers. Word of mouth is usually your most reliable reference. Keep in mind, some companies require their employees to write up good references.

Another item that cost more than it is worth is special order items. It is more of the cachet of having something made especially for you. Keep in mind, you will never get a special order on sale and probably won’t get what you want anyhow. If you walk into a store, you can handle the merchandise even try it out, to see if it is what you want. When you special order something, you wait forever for a needed and desired item and receive something that is similar to what you ordered, but never exactly, what you did order.

The company will often insist it is what you ordered or offer to replace it while keeping your money while you wait a couple more months. The best example of this is customized computers. This has happened to me more than once. You might has well go into an electronics store and pick out one that has the most features you want. It will be easier and cheaper than waiting for one that isn’t quite what you wanted.

Many companies will not refund your money because it was a specialty item and they can’t sell it to anyone else. This is untrue, but is the usual excuse.

Any special order item is an inconvenience to the seller. It is also a green light to jack up the price. People special order cars, bridal and formal wear, even furniture. If price doesn’t matter go ahead and special order it. I used to work in a furniture warehouse, when a special order came in the employees would walk through acres of furniture to find the most similar item. Often it would look exactly like the desired item, but without the requested cushioning or finish. In the end, the customer never knew because they assumed it was what they ordered. Consider that the next time you want something made specifically for you.

You’ll have to pay up front. Often there will be a no return policy too. Once you have your not exactly right expensive item, you’ll stuck with it.This is a case of not getting what you paid for.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Frugal Dieter

Maybe your health or the thought of swimsuit season demands you make a change in your eating habits. The number one issue is people don’t like change or expending too much effort. The second issue is money. Diets or weight loss is expensive.
They can be. My sister lost a great of weight using a commercial method they delivered a week’s supply of food every week. The dehydrated food wasn’t exactly tasty and ran about thirty dollars a day. Since that was over twenty years ago, the price has probably gone up.
How can you lose weight while maintaining your budget? It is do-able. First, think of it as a lifestyle change as opposed to dieting. There will be many side benefits including more energy, ease of movement, improved skin tone and hair texture and self-confidence.
1.                   Decide on the approach you’ll take either counting carbs or calories. Don’t switch back and forth.

2.                    An average woman must walk for at least thirty minutes a day to MAINTAIN her current weight.

3.                   Dump anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. Check your jelly, soda, ketchup and salad dressings. Not only is it bad for you, but it plumps up your fat cells preventing weight loss.

4.                   Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Water helps moves the fat out of your body. It also helps you eat less because your stomach feels fuller.

5.                   Avoid alcohol because it slows down your metabolism up to 80% especially when consumed while eating. There is a reason they call it a beer belly. Although, some mixed drinks can pack as much as 800 calories a cocktail. Unfortunately, many people usually do not stop at one cocktail, either.

If you feel you can’t avoid it, then limit yourself to one beer or a glass of wine on the weekends. Think you can’t do this, then, face it you don’t really want to get in shape.

6.                   No fast food. Healthy & fast food don’t go together.  There are sit-down restaurants that offer healthy options including TGIF, Denny’s and Applebee’s. The simple strategy is to avoid fried and breaded food, sugary sodas, and pasta and potatoes. A nice steak, chicken breast, even a burger without the bun, works. Throw in a salad or vegetables and you have a meal.

7.                   Portion control. I remember episode of The Biggest Loser television show where Bob the trainer made a visit to a mother and daughter who were eating healthy, even using Biggest Losers approved recipes, but were not losing weight. They were eating about five servings of everything per meal. Know what a portion is. Measure it. You’ll be surprised that the plate spaghetti is more like four servings.

8.                   Prepare your snacks ahead of time. It is easy to make small packages of nuts, berries, carrots, or dried fruit to grab when you’re in a hurry. A lite string cheese stick works well too.

9.                   Diet food can be convenient too since it is pre-measured, but often it is expensive. I stock up on diet deals when I see them at Big Lots, Deals, or even The Dollar Tree.

10.               Raise you own veggies. The prices of spaghetti squash made it a luxury. I decided to grow this simple veggie in my backyard.

11.               Your freezer can be your best diet friend. Stock up whenever there is a sale on diet entrees to lean meat. It is also useful to make healthy meals in bulk and freeze part of it.

12.               Look for  no calorie alternative treats. Instead of a trip to the all you can eat buffet, how about a pedicure instead.

13.               Step up your activity level by taking the stairs, not parking near the store, dancing while you do simple home chores, even lifting weights while watching television.

14.               It also helps to have a friend or family member making a life style change with you. Often the ones we love seem the most determined to throw obstacles in our way.

15.       Write down your starting weight and measurements. It won't melt off overnight, but it is great to see positive change.

You will be saving money without eating out as much, by consuming less alcohol and convenience food. The money you save might go toward a new wardrobe, just saying.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Art of Thrifting, Part Two

Deciding to Buy Clothing
·         The first thing you do in deciding to buy clothes is to look for stains, tears or underarms stains.
·         Washing will eliminate the smoke smell.
·         Ugly buttons can be replaced, but are you the type to replace buttons.
·         Broken zippers will add on another $15 to repair.
·         Try on the clothes if possible.  Even if it is pulling it, over what you already have on.
·         Will go with anything else?
·         Basic pieces are the best
·         Look at the cuffs, do they show signs of fraying?
·         Is it a current style? This doesn’t matter to some people
·         The quality and brand. You want to get the best items for your money.
·         Is it missing a belt?   Can you accessorize with one you already have.
·         Do you have any possible use for it? Sometimes it is okay to pick up a formal dress for a couple of bucks even when you aren’t intending to go anywhere.
·         Be very careful when buying for resale. The bottom has fallen out of the resale clothing market on Ebay. Most people have discovered they can thrift on their own and save money too. On higher end clothes and large sizes, it is still good, but the items have to be perfect.
·         Large clothing can be altered to fit. Keep the cost in mind, unless you are doing it yourself
·         Avoid any dry cleaning only items, unless you are willing to dry-clean them.
·         The same with items that need ironing, unless you are willing to iron
·         Some stains can be removed.  It all depends on what it is and if the item has been dried. Ink, marker and crayon are often removable. It is better if there is a pattern in case your removal attempt proves unsuccessful.
·         Avoid sweaters with holes or unraveling. This is not an easy fix problem. Undone seams can usually be repaired.
Other Items
·         Don’t buy cookware with scratched Teflon.

·         Try out all electronic items. If they don’t work, don’t buy them thinking you'll fix them. 

·         Do pay attention to prices.  Goodwill marks items individually. A glass might be a dollar, which makes six of them six dollars. You could have bought a new set of matched glasses from Wal-Mart for the same price.

·         Love an item, don’t just like it. The okay items merely  vacation at your house before making a return trip.

·         Before buying something for someone else, call them. They may not want the items as much as you think

·         Tarnished items can be cleaned, but you’ll also have to clear them regularly. Many will have already developed pitting or spots due to neglect.

·         Can you refresh the item?  Furniture can be painted. Lampshades can be changed on a lamp base, buttons changed on clothing.

·         Items can be recycled too. A large skirt can become a small tablecloth or a throw pillow. A friend buys oversized clothing for the fabric and uses it for costumes. It is much cheaper than buying material at a fabric store.

The one thing you don’t want to do is to buy something you have no use for.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Art of Thrifting, Part One

In a weak economy, more people are turning to thrift stores and yard sales to snatch bargains. They are discovering that you can get items for less than half the price new.

What Should You Buy Secondhand
·         Clothing, especially children’s or babies. Formal dresses that were worn only worn once often go for less than ten bucks.
            Dishes, tableware, pots and pans, small appliances
·         Furniture
·         Books
·         Gardening equipment
·         Lawn furniture
·         Games & toys
·         Pictures, mirrors, and other d├ęcor items.
·         Purses, shoes, jewelry
·         Pet items
·         Sporting equipment
·         Coins/collectibles (be aware of current prices. Smart phones are a big help to check this.)

Probably shouldn’t Buy Second Hand
·         Anything electronic you can’t test
·         Aquariums (Improperly cleaned aquariums or those used for reptiles can harbor toxins that will kill future fish. Cleaning an aquarium with any type of cleaner will also result in dead fish.)
·         Clothes that don’t fit, but you plan to lose weight.
·         Underwear
·         Mattresses
·         Food (even though it is in a sealed package, you can’t determine what conditions it was stored under.)
·         Toiletries (often used or old cosmetics carry bacteria, which causes infections)
·         Fire arms or fireworks (It is illegal to sell these in a store not licensed for this.)
·         Any broken item you think you can fix. ( I’ll explain more later)
·         Items that you don’t need and have no use for even if it is a good buy.
·         Personalized items. If it isn’t your name, why do you want it?
·         Open puzzles

The Art of Thrifting
·         People toss things because they no longer want them, never wanted them, they’re broken, or a reminder of a relationship.

·         Before you go thrifting, make a list of what you hope to find. This will reduce some impulse buying.
·         Research where you want to go. It will take a series of stores or yard sales to find your desired items.
·         Know your stores too. Goodwill often has .99 Sundays and half-priced holidays.
·         Leave your coat in the car and your money in your pocket. You need your hands free to handle the merchandise
·         Be prepared to spend a while looking. Think of it has a treasure hunt.
·         Don’t overlook stores like the DAV, Hospice Thrift, Salvation Army or Mission stores.

·         After Christmas and Mondays during the May through October are great times to visit thrift stores. People often bring their items they didn’t sell at their yard sale on Saturday and the items are on the floor by Monday.