Usually I host family get-togethers at my house.  It is easier on Ben (the Autism just doesn’t make it easy to travel to other houses).  I always make a TON of food and anyone who wants to take home leftovers is more than welcome to take some home.  This brings up the issue of what to put it in.

A few years ago I noticed that whenever I was getting ready for family dinners, since I was making so much food, I would have several plastic bowls with lids that would normally go into the garbage (sour cream bowls, cottage cheese bowls, cool whip bowls, etc).  While I don’t like to keep these for storage here at my house (I tend to use more heavy duty storage containers), I realized that it would be great to have them on hand for whenever someone wants to take home leftovers from my house!  No need to worry about returning the bowl, they can either keep it for themselves or throw it away!  Plus, at least they get used at least one more time before going into the trash 🙂
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I worked hard last year to make sure that I had enough money to buy nice gifts for my family for the holidays.  I researched purchases, earned some Amazon giftcards through swagbucks (you can see here how to get a free tv like I did from swagbucks) and saved a little cash each month so that I would not have to worry about how to pay for gifts.  All of this planning paid off!  I got some really great deals!  One of the deals I was most excited about were some Beyblades that I bought for Ben and my nephew.

They were super cool!  They lit up!  They spun!  The packaging said “Let it Rip!”  I kept thinking how neat they were that they lit up when you pulled the strip and how cool they would look when they were spinning in battle!  I knew the boys would be thrilled!

Christmas day went off without a hitch. Sure enough, the boys were excited about the super cool, new Beyblades! “Wow!  They light up!  Yeah!”  They had so much stuff to play with that they didn’t actually open the Beyblades until that evening. My sister called and asked if we had opened the Beyblades yet.  Nope. Not yet.  She said that they didn’t work.  What?!?!?!?!?  I tried them in the store !  They light up great!  They spin great!  She said “Yeah but they are just flashlights.” WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?

Sure enough I tried Ben’s Beyblade and all it did was spin and light up.  Nowhere on the packaging that it came with (it has since been changed) did it say that it wasn’t a “real” Beyblade.  It was only a flashlight. How disappointing.  I immediately emailed the LARGE toy company that owns the Beyblade name.  They sent me a response that they don’t manufacture ALL the Beyblade items and they couldn’t help me.

I emailed them back again saying (name of LARGE toy companies deleted where ***** are):

“So, although ***** is all over the Beyblade name, and I bought a Beyblade branded product, there is nothing you can do for me as a consumer? How is that possible? That is insulting. I have never even heard of ***** ****** ********** and they certainly aren’t mentioned on the Beyblade website (where it says ****** everywhere). I am beyond irritated. This is NOT right! I would think that a toy company that manufactures the Beyblade items would want their customers to be satisfied? How can I get a resolution to this issue? There must be something you can do. It is hard for me to accept that a company as large as ******, who makes the Beyblades items for children, just doesn’t care that they disappointed children on Christmas day and that they are not interested in correcting the issue? Seriously? ESPECIALLY since the EXACT ITEM that I purchased was listed as a selection under Beyblades on the subject of the email I previously sent you (you know, where I am supposed to select the product I am emailing about. WHY would the EXACT ITEM be listed there if you don’t provide customer support for it?) There must be something you can do to make this right. Please let someone else review my complaint and come up with an alternative solution because your previous response is unsatisfactory. Thank you in advance for your help with this matter.”

Long story short, they apologized and sent us two REAL replacement Beyblades.  Don’t take NO for an answer.  Be polite but state your case.  You have the right to complain if you aren’t satisfied with an product or service you have purchased.
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The wishlist is a very important part of my family life.  With four children of my own and my first grandchild on the way, holidays and birthdays tend to always function on wish list overload.  Right now there are so many toy catalogs and flyers out and about and Ben seems to find them all!  That sometimes makes it difficult to decide what to purchase when the “i wants” are changing on a daily, if not hourly basis.

I am an active list maker.  I find myself writing down gift ideas all year long.  This includes writing down things that I want.  Of course, most of the things I want are books, movies or cd’s.  Here is how I handle and organize all that information into a FREE and easy to use format that allows me to get the most for my money, no matter who I am buying something for.

  • Family members make their wish lists for birthdays and holidays and we make sure that everyone gets a copy of all the lists (email, facebook, website posting, text, phone call, whatever)
  • I tend to research gift ideas on my childrens wish lists in advance of when I actually am going to purchase them.  This is so I know what the regular price of the larger items are and so that I am able to recognize a good sale when I see it!
  • I go over to Amazon.com and log into my Amazon account.  I keep a wish list over there that I am constantly adding and deleting items from.
  • I will add the larger items to my wishlist so that I can easily look at the wish list and see what all the current prices are with one click of a button.
  • In the case of books, cd’s, movies and video games:  I use a wishlist over at Half.com     If you have never been on Half.com  let me give you a brief intro.  Half.com is owned by Ebay so if you have an Ebay account, you use the same info to log into Half.com  Over at Half.com you are able to get dvd’s, cd’s, video games, books, and even vhs tapes for as little as 75 cents each (plus shipping)!  Half.com is the FIRST site I visit if I am shopping for any of these types of items.
  • Once it is close enough to the actual holiday or birthday I check my online wishlists again to see how the prices are and plan my buying strategy, make my purchases and have them sent to the house. This really eliminates SOOOOO much hassle and overspending and I usually have money left over!
  • If I am just looking for some books or things I want for myself (no holiday or anything) I will pull up my Half.com wish list and then look to see which of those books my library has.  Then I place them on hold at the library and delete them from the wishlist.  That way I can read them for free! If the library doesn’t carry the book that I am looking for then I will compare prices on Half.com and Amazon.com to see which one is the best price.
  • POINT OF INTEREST:  I also tend to sell books, cds, dvds, video games, etc that we are done with on Half.com  it works a little bit different from Ebay but I actually like it better!  There are no “listing fees”.  They just take a commission off the item when it sells.  They also have a set shipping amount that you get credit for, etc.

Hopefully the wish list tips I have shared will allow you to get organized and get more for your money this holiday season!

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Alright, by all accounts I consider myself quite good at finding the BEST deals but I have to confess:  I do not shop Black Friday deals. Yes, it’s true.  I will not be shopping on Black Friday 2012.

I have only shopped on Black Friday two times in my life.  Once with my now ex-mother-in-law (over 20 years ago) and just last year.  I did not plan to shop on Black Friday either of those times, it just turned out that way.  Here is how I found out how to make sure that I am getting the BEST prices on the items I am going to buy:

The time I went Black Friday shopping with my ex-mother-in-law, I bought one item and then saw it on sale for a LOWER price the following week!  I was determined not to fall for that trick again!  Every year since that event, I look at the Black Friday sales fliers and circle and save the ones with items I want and sure enough, a week or so later, I find the same item for a LOWER price than the one that was in effect on Black Friday!

Last year, my kiddos were at their Dad’s house and I happened to look at the Walmart flier and saw literally two things that I thought were good deals that I could use.  So, I leisurely drove over to my local Walmart at about 3 pm to see if the stuff I wanted was still available. The parking lot was only half-full (I guess everyone else was already done shopping !) so I found a spot and walked in.  No crowds. I found the items I was looking for (a cell phone for my daughter and some tee shirts for Ben) and went to check out.  No lines! I was in and out of there in less than 1 hour.  And I got some really good prices!

For some reason most people think that the best prices are during Black Friday but every retailer will tell you that it is not true.  Even Consumer Reports says that the Black Friday 2012 deals “don’t seem so special.”  Even if the deals were good, is it really worth going out on Thanksgiving or waking at 3 a.m. to go to the store to deal with mobs of people to try to get an item that is just $5 less than it will be two days from now?  In my opinion, no.  I value my family and sleep more than $5.

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I LOVE lists!  They keep me on track, productive and organized.  They also make gift giving easier for me.  Whenever someone I am close to mentions items they would like to have I make a note of it.  That way when a birthday or holiday rolls around, I already have a list of gift ideas.  The great thing about doing this is that often times the recipient has long forgotten about the item they were admiring.  The gift becomes a wonderful surprise followed by “How did you know?”  because they often forget ever having mentioned that they liked the item!  I also keep a list like this for myself on the fridge so when someone asks me what I would like for my birthday, etc.  I don’t have to say “I don’t know”.  I just tell them a few ideas off my list.

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The holidays are a mere four months away, are you planning ahead yet?  I am in the process of getting all my online ducks in a row (swagbucks, e-rewards, and other incentives that I plan on using to purchase Christmas gifts).  I thought now would be a good time to share a personal, POSITIVE experience with regifting.

My best friend and I met through our sons.  Both are on the Autism “spectrum” and they attended the same school a while back and they became fast friends.  Soon playdates followed and she and I became close friends as well.  She is an avid purse collector.  She loves purses!  That is her “thing”.  Usually I notice her new finds when she uses them but there was one purse in particular that I really liked when I saw her using it.  Boy what a purse it was!  A bright pink, metallic, Ed Hardy purse!   It was not a “purse”…. it was a PURSE! LOL!

Anyhow, time went on and Christmas rolled around.  We arranged to go to lunch and she said she had a gift for me.  It was the purse!  She decided that she did not like it as much as she had thought she would and so she gave it to me!  The fact that she would give me this purse instead of returning it to get her money back just impresses me!  I love this purse and all it’s “bling-y-ness”!

If someone has told you in the past that they really admire something that you have and you are no longer using it, consider “regifting” it.  I think that as long as the item is in good condition and the person would really appreciate and use the item, it is okay to purposefully regift.  Obviously use your best judgement in this situation…. only you know how the people you are regifting to will react.

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Earning money from home is a very popular topic.  Usually if you do a search online with this phrase it will pull up all kinds of garbage and scams and very few legitimate links.

Being a stay at home mom with a limited income, I am always looking for new ways to earn a little extra cash.  I thought I’d just take a few moments and share some of the things I do.

I sell my used books, cd’s, dvd’s and video games on www.half.com   It is SO much easier than selling on ebay (even though ebay does own half.com).  If you have an ebay account then you have a half account (it is the same info).  Also, they provide a shipping allowance and they pay out twice a month.

I do online surveys.   I am trying to get in the swing of this online survey thing.  Right now I am actively using swagbucks and inboxdollars and plan on earning some gift certificates for Christmas time. 

Sometimes I sell miscellaneous things on craigslist.  Usually that is where I sell bigger items that people need to come pick up (like the treadmill I sold). 

Occasionally I will sell things for third parties.  If someone has things they want to get rid of but don’t have the time to sell them then I will do the listings and I get a percentage of the profit.

Mail in rebates are a good way to get some free stuff and sometimes extra cash.  If a product is on sale for $6 and you use a $2 coupon and then get a rebate for the full $6 you have made $2.

I save all my change in a change jar and every once in a while I cash it in for bills at my bank.  This is an easy way to save up some extra cash. Those pennies and nickles add up!

Again, these are not HUGE ways to make money, but they are simple little things you can do to get a little extra cash.

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