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 But look carefully, the reality is that it's an outdated item coupled with a newer item which is set to be re-released by spring.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.