Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tricks of The Trade: Holiday Sales Tricks


It's enticing. You can get everything you want or need this season by placing it on layaway. The draw is that the average person either doesn't have the credit or room on their credit card to purchase goods outright. This allows you to buy now and pay later. The trick, not all layaway plans are created equal. Ten years ago, if you placed something on layaway and it went on sale, you would receive the lower price, even if you have paid more than the new sale price. Many times, people went to make their final layaway payment and found extra cash in hand. Those days are long gone. Now, if the item goes on sale while on layaway, you don't get the discount. This is especially irritating if you chose to start a layaway option to avoid Black Friday.

Hot Items

You open the sales papers and see that big, flat screen t.v. you've always wanted. It's finally on sale for a price you can afford. You jump at the chance to buy it. It's only after you've made the purchase that you realize that the same t.v. is available with a higher resolution and other improvements (such as 3D and internet) that your t.v. doesn't have. The trick, distraction. Your eyes are fixated on the price and the basics of the item. Find out more about the item in comparison to the ones that are not on sale. The difference between the two may be inconsequential to you. But then again, you may be left feeling duped when you realize the difference. Sometimes there is no difference. Sometimes the trick is in the model number. Sometimes the item is discontinued even before the sales are over.

Falling Prices

You see the commercials, receive the mailers, and save the sale dates on your calendar. You have a list of what you want so you can get in and get out. You're ready to take advantage of that 50% off, 75% off, 90% off sale. Just the thought of it makes me a little tingly. But then you realize that the regular price of the item was so overpriced to begin with, you're actual only paying what the item was worth 5 months ago. It's not really a sale. Some items such as video games are advertised as special bundles that are practically a steal. But look carefully, the reality is that it's an outdated item coupled with a newer item which is set to be re-released by spring. Remember, just because it's on sale, doesn't mean it's a great price. Often times a massive sale item is a discontinued item with a substandard warranty, if any.

Believe it or not, the best way to save money and get the best deals is to shop throughout the year. There are sales every weekend and every holiday. True, the biggest sales are at the end of the year but what are you really getting? Consider this, the freshest meat at the grocery store is never on sale. It's always the meat that will expire within 24 to 48 hours that goes on sale. The same is true, in a way, of electronics and toys. The end of the year is when stores and warehouses clear out their inventory to make room for the new improved models in the spring. Something to consider.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Do's & Dont's of Holiday Weight Loss

It's that time of year again when people gorge out on all of the holiday foods they possibly can. Shortly thereafter, those same people spend the first three months of the year feeling guilty about how much weight they've gained. It's inevitable that someone in your home, office or family will fall prey to the vicious dieting cycle. Since there is nothing you can do to prevent this from happening to yourself or your loved ones, the best thing to do is to try to ease the self-inflicted trauma.

  1. Start now - Diet and exercise is a lifestyle change. If you were a master at it, you wouldn't have gained unwanted weight in the first place. Once you have lived an extended period of time eating poorly and failing to exercise, your mind and body become content with it. So why wait until after the holidays when you've packed on more pounds and developed a deeper self-hatred to start your diet? That's unnecessary torture. Start now. Use online resources like to determine how many calories per day you need to achieve your weight loss goal. By giving yourself a running head start, you settle into the routine of exercising and monitoring the food you eat. You're less likely to overeat just because it's November or December. You're also more likely to be successful in your new year's weight loss resolution.

  2. Set a 30-day goal - Another reason diets fail is because people focus too intently on the final goal. Depending on how much weight you want to lose healthily, your goal may be months or years away. It's easy to become discouraged and quit. Weight loss is not a steady journey. There are fluctuations. By setting 30-day goals, you allow the little victories that keep you motivated. 

  3. Skip the gym - The biggest hurdle in weight loss is self-confidence. It takes time to feel comfortable enough to go into public, despite how beautiful you don't realize you are. Even those most motivated take a serious blow to their egos the moment they see thinner, more athletic women flouncing around the gym. Skip the gym until you have at least 90 days of consistent exercise under your belt. Otherwise, you're sabotaging your diet and wasting your money. 

  4. Play semantics - Beverage companies will have you believe that diet soda is healthier than regular soda. The fact is that soda by its very definition is unhealthy for you. At no point does the term "diet soda" imply health. It implies zero calories. Ask yourself, how that was accomplished. You can drink the regular soda with tons of sugar and go work it off, or you can drink the soda filled with brain damaging aspartame. The same goes for the terms low fat, low sodium, reduced fat and reduced sugar. These labels cause you to focus on what they took out of the product rather than what's actually in it. 

  5. Learn to be alone - There are few things as irritating as being abandoned by your diet partner. It's subconsciously as traumatizing as a romantic break-up. You start out on cloud 9 and before you know it, you're alone, trying to work up the nerve to go it alone. It's better to start out on your own. If your friends choose to join you on your journey, welcome the company. If they drop off, you'll feel motivated to carry the torch. 

  6. Don't ban bread - Any diet that encourages you to abandon one of the food groups is not a wise diet. Focus more on eating the recommended servings in all of the food groups. This increases your health which is more important than your weight loss. Your body is more likely to let go of unhealthy cravings when you're providing a steady flow of healthy food.

  7. Build muscle first - Muscles burn fat. Building long, lean, muscle mass will help burn fat easier. Alternate between yoga and other stretching exercises and weight training for the first 30 days. Changing to a cardio-friendly diet will lower your fat intake, making less work for your muscles.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why Me? Reasons Thieves Target You In Public

As my readers and YouTube followers already know, I was once robbed at a Walmart store. The reason I do not return to Walmart is not only the emotional trauma, (I was with my 2 week old baby), but also it was the lack of concern by the Walmart employees. The only concern the manager showed was when I began demanding to see the surveillance videos and to see a police officer. He refused so I began shouting and bringing attention to myself. Cell phones everywhere came out and were handed to me. Suddenly, the manager cared, going so far as to intercept the police officer as he appeared in the store. To this day, Walmart has refused to surrender the footage of the camera that was directly over my head the time of the robbery. I will never shop at Walmart again. I also will never be a victim of this crime again.

As with any traumatizing event, I reflected on it once I was calm. I wanted to know what if anything I did to bring about this incident. I'm not saying being robbed is the victim's fault. There are however, certain things people do that make it easier for thieves to target them. These are the mistakes we all make while out shopping.

1. Your Purse - Ever notice how a man is almost never robbed in a store? The reason isn't the fear of a man's size or combat ability. The reason is that a man typically carries a wallet. Stealing a wallet requires close contact with the victim. Stealing a purse does not. Women wear their purses like giant, leather, colorful bull's eyes on their arms. Once you go the store, you need a place to put that behemoth. It always goes into the basket, the one thing you turn your back on frequently. If you must wear a purse to go shopping, plain is better. Carry a black or nude colored bag. It's less obvious. Smaller is the key. Something you don't even notice on your arm and therefore have no need to set it down. Go old school and use a shoulder strap and drape it across your body. You can remove the strap once you're done shopping. Empty out your purse. You don't need your make-up bag, your full sized brush, your snacks and your receipts from the last 8 months. You don't need your checkbook or your baby photos. All you need are the cards you used every week and your ID. Being a mom means you may be using your purse as a diaper bag as well. That's understandable. But if at all possible, carry a man's wallet when you go shopping rather than a purse at all.

2. Your Children - It doesn't matter if they behave or not, they make you a target. You care about your children more than you care about your purse, So you put them up front and your purse in the back. Instant target. How about the person looking to take your child and not your purse. They reach for the purse, you reach for the thief, a kidnapper comes for your child. It happened to me. I let the money go of course. Think of how your child begins to scream and yell and throw a tantrum? Your jacket pockets are now exposed. If someone is bumping into you you're not likely to notice while in the midst of ranging a 2 year old. How about when you get into your car. You open the trunk and your child is sitting in the cart. Which do you remove first, your purse, your child, your items? Most women remove their bags first since they are staying with the cart and they assume their child is too difficult to snatch. All it takes is the perception of taking your child to distract you from your purse and your bags. The best order to unload your cart is as follows. Remove your purse and child at the same time and put them in the car. These are the things that matter most to you. Your purchase receipts should always be in your purse and not your bags. You should always choose a store with video surveillance when possible. And when all else fails, maintain renter's or homeowner's insurance. Car insurance covers damage or theft of the car, renter's and homeowner's insurance covers the items that were inside. Therefore, if your cart is stolen with everything in it, you can have it replaced.

3. Your Heels - Thieves like to go for the quick and easy grab. No one likes to rob a man because it is perceived that a man can run faster, hit harder and is more likely to fight than a woman. You super high, platform heels are screaming, "I can't run after you if you snatch my purse." Granted, you shouldn't chase someone that is stealing from you because they may have a weapon, but consider the fact that the average thief is counting on you standing there doing nothing. If you give chase, even for a moment, they are more likely to drop the bag they stole from you.

4. Your Cell Phone - We all hate automated phone systems. But there is a more in-depth reason to hate them. You enter all of your information into the system and a representative comes to the phone. What does the representative do next? They verify you all over again by asking you information that is essential to ID theft. There you are dealing with a simple tech support issue while you shop, multi-tasking. Then without thinking you are speaking the last four digits of your social security number, the answer to your security question, your name, date of birth, address, phone number, etc. If you think for one second that there isn't someone ear hustling this information, you may have already been targeted. Also, consider the fact that you already entered this information using the keypad on your phone. If a thief gets hold of your phone, all of that information is right there on the phone. Stay off of your phone whenever possible when shopping.

5. Your Keyless Entry - I see it all of the time, and I still can't figure out why people do it. They are at least 12 feet away from their car when they unlock it with the remote. If you have a push to start car, the thief just hit the jackpot. If you don't they are in the car now, and can wait for you to climb in before the do as they please. Keyless entry also unlocks all of the doors on your car, but all you need is to get into the trunk. Wait until you are standing next to your car to open the door, lock it once the trunk is open to prevent anyone from climbing in while you load the trunk.

So, leave the purse at home and carry a wallet. If your children are being too wily, leave them at home. Stay off of your phone. Wear sensible shoes and don't unlock your car until you are standing next to it.