Category: Shopping

Guide to End-of-Summer Sales

The end of summer is marked by mixed feelings. Come the end of summer, vacations may be coming to an end as children ready themselves for a new school year. But shoppers know the end of summer is an ideal time to find great deals on an array of items. Although back-to-school sales flood the marketplace this time of year, plenty of other sales take place in the final weeks of summer — and consumers can save substantial amounts of money if they know where to look.

Outdoor furniture

As stores clear out their seasonal items, shoppers can score big deals on patio sets and other outdoor furniture. Retailers need to make room for snowblowers, rakes, shovels, and holiday merchandise, so shoppers are bound to find discounted tables, chairs, fire pits, umbrellas, and chaise lounges. Individuals can use this opportunity to update worn-out patio furniture and other seasonal items they can store over the winter.

Camping/hiking equipment

Only the most devoted campers camp out when the temperatures begin to dip, so consumers can use this opportunity to grab camping equipment before it’s gone for another season. Tents, flashlights, cooking gear, backpacks, outdoor recreational items, such as kayaks or fishing tackle, water bladders, and heaters may be available at steep discounts.

Grills

Backyard barbecues are a staple of summer. If your barbecue or outdoor cooking equipment experienced heavy use throughout the summer, now is a great time to shop sales on grills and outdoor cooking gear.

Travel

Consumer Reports says that prices tend to drop on airfare, hotels and theme parks after Labor Day. Deals on luggage also can be had once summer travel season ends. Tuesdays are a great day to book airline tickets because they tend to be cheaper on Tuesday than other days of the week. Travelers can use this information to their advantage, booking trips to destinations that have super weather throughout the fall, such as Hawaii or the Mediterranean. Caribbean destinations also are good choices, though travelers should consider travel insurance to protect against hurricane-related cancellations.

Vehicles

Many dealerships tend to begin discounting cars when new models begin to debut in August and September. The longer a dealership holds on to a vehicle, the more money it tends to lose. Prospective car buyers may be able to negotiate a good deal this time of year, ultimately walking away with a brand new vehicle with a solid warranty. It’s not unheard of to receive a discount of 15 percent or more on previous year models.

Spa treatments

Many spas have begun discounting massages and facials at the end of summer, according to the International Spa Association. Shoppers can use this opportunity to try out new spas and save some money in the process. In addition to these discounts, bathing suits, summer clothing, lawn and garden equipment, and pool/spa items may be discounted come the fall.

The Benefits of Shopping Farmers Markets

Farmers markets have grown in popularity in recent years. Nowadays, consumers interested in farmers markets can likely find one near their homes whether those homes are in rural communities, the suburbs or bustling cities.

People who have never before shopped farmers markets may be curious as to why many people find them so appealing. The following are a handful of benefits of shopping farmers markets that might turn market novices into full-fledged devotees.

• Freshness:

Many people visit farmers markets because the fruits and vegetables sold at such markets seem to taste more fresh than those sold at chain grocery stores. People are not mistaken, as the produce available at farmers markets often comes from local farms, meaning there’s no long-distance shipping necessary. Locally sourced foods need not be frozen en route to the market, meaning foods purchased there tend to taste especially fresh.

• In-season foods:

Some grocery stores may sell fruits and vegetables even when those foods are out of season. Farmers markets only sell in-season fruits and vegetables. To grow fruits and vegetables out-of-season, farmers may need to rely on chemicals or other unnatural methods. No such means are necessary when farmers stick to growing foods in-season.

Environmental benefits:

According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, food in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to consumers’ plates. Such journeys burn natural resources, pollute the air and produce sizable amounts of trash that ultimately ends up in landfills and/or the world’s oceans. Because food sold at farmers markets is locally sourced, considerably fewer natural resources are necessary to transport the food from farm to table, and the relatively short distances the food travels translates to less air pollution.

• Biodiversity:

Many farmers market shoppers find unique foods not readily available at their local grocery stores. This is not only a great way to discover new and delicious foods, but also a way to promote biodiversity.

• Hormone-free animal products:

Farmers markets do not exclusively sell fruits and vegetables. Many farmers markets also are great places to find meats, cheeses and eggs. Animal products sold at farmers markets are typically antibiotic- and hormone-free, which is both more humane to the animals and healthier than animal products produced with hormones or antibiotics.

Farmers markets are more accessible than ever, and the benefits to shopping such markets are endless.

How College Kids Can Save When Dining Out

Dining halls may be the eatery of choice for college students, but that does not mean students don’t enjoy dining out. Tight budgets may make it difficult for some to dine out very often, but there are various ways for students to make dining out more affordable.

Take advantage of your student status.

Many restaurants in the vicinity of college campuses offer student discounts to patrons who present their college identification cards to their servers or cashiers. Students who patronize such restaurants can save substantial amounts of money.

Look for discount nights.

Just like many college-area restaurants offer discounts to customers who present their student ID cards, others may host discount nights when certain items on their menus are offered at substantially discounted prices. Such discounts are traditionally offered on nights that would otherwise be slow nights for restaurants. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be slow nights for many establishments, and students might be able to find great meal deals on these nights.

Abstain from alcohol.

College students who are of legal drinking age can save money on date nights by abstaining from alcohol. A bottle of wine tends to be considerably more expensive in a restaurant than it would be if customers were to purchase the same bottle at a nearby liquor store. College students who still want to enjoy a drink during their next dinner out can save money by visiting BYOB restaurants.

Embrace food sharing.

Some restaurants offer food sharing or “family style” options to parties that exceed certain sizes. This can be a great way for college students to dine out and save money, as the cost per person might be less when sharing plates than it would be when each person is paying for his or her own entrée.

Tight budgets may prevent college students from dining out too often, but various saving strategies can make dining out more affordable for college students.

The Benefits of Hiring Local Wedding Vendors

Local vendors are often a go-to choice when couples are planning their wedding ceremonies and receptions. As the “shop local” movement grows in popularity, weddings present a prime opportunity to embrace this movement. Couples may have different ideas regarding where to tie the knot, but local vendors can be hired regardless of geography. Brides magazine says the biggest factor influencing wedding location is the size of the guest list and the number of people who wouldn’t be able to attend if the wedding was in a particular locale. Hometowns might be the traditional choice regarding wedding location, but the XO Group says one in four couples now host destination weddings. Once couples choose a town or city to host their weddings, they can begin exploring the benefits of working with locally-based vendors.

Familiarity

Local vendors will be familiar with the area and possibly even the location where the wedding will be held. That can help couples avoid having to give directions, discuss venue protocols, and handle other tasks that must be worked out with non-local vendors. For example, local photographers familiar with a particular venue will know all of the best places to get shots, and some vendors may have preexisting relationships with venue representatives that could ensure wedding day operations go smoothly.

Proximity

Local vendors can meet with brides and grooms more readily throughout the planning process, making things less stressful on the happy couple. This also makes it easier to drop off deposits, attend meetings, make fitting appointments, or attend styling sessions.

Savings

Couples who travel for their weddings and employ local vendors will not have to pack as much. Using local vendors eliminates the need to bring along bulky dresses, decorative items, flowers, and much more. Plus, couples needn’t pay to transport and house vendors brought along from back home.

Environment

Individuals who take great strides to conserve resources by reducing their energy consumption and protecting the environment often find that shopping local is beneficial. Local vendors are more likely to source their materials from other local businesses, reducing their carbon footprints along the way. For example, local caterers may rely on local farmers for their foods, affording couples the chance to host eco-friendly or even farm-to-table weddings.

Holiday Gift-Wrapping Tips and Tricks

After all the holiday presents have been purchased, the task of wrapping can begin. Although some people find wrapping is relaxing and provides a chance to embrace one’s artistic flair, many others find wrapping gift after gift becomes tedious quite fast.

While there are no statistics on just how many gifts the average person purchases over the course of the holiday season, the National Retail Federation says the average consumer will spend around $800 on all things holiday. That means there will be a lot of gifts to wrap before the big exchange. Those who want to make gift-wrapping less tedious this holiday season can consider these ideas to streamline the process.

Gather all supplies

When the time comes to wrap gifts, there’s nothing more frustrating than hunting for wrapping supplies. Have paper, bows, bags, tissue, pens, tape (double-sided tape streamlines the process), scissors, ribbon, and any other wrapping accoutrements at the ready. Set up a folding snack table near your wrapping area to hold the supplies so they don’t get in the way.

Choose the right location

Always wrap on a large, flat and sturdy surface. Avoid wrapping on a carpet, which will give gift wrap a wrinkled look and increase the amount of time needed to wrap.

Square it up

If you are a master at wrapping rectangular or square gifts but fail when presents are oddly shaped, place misshapen gifts into boxes and then wrap the boxes. Gift bags also can be used for such gifts, but wrapped boxes may look more appealing under the tree.

Fabric over paper

If you think gift wrap is wasteful, think about repurposing fabric into beautiful wrapping for presents. A square of leftover fabric, a piece of a t-shirt or even a portion of a sweater that has seen better days can be transformed into an innovative package for gift-giving. Tie the gathered ends into a bow and skip the tape as well. Dress up with ribbon and a tag for extra flair. Fabric bends and moves, making it more forgiving for oddly shaped gifts as well.

Stock up on paper shopping bags

On your next trip to Trader Joes or Whole Foods, bring home more than organic produce. Walk away with paper bags and free gift wrap. Craft a DIY stamp roller or handmade stamps to dress up plain brown bags. Or wrap the gift in twine and add a sprig of evergreen for a rustic look. Children can even use markers or crayons to create their own designs on gifts, personalizing even further.

Diversify gifts

Identify each recipient’s gifts by wrapping in a different color or style. Just jot down the key to decoding the wrapping, and you’ll save time on individual gift tags.

Wrapping presents doesn’t have to be a chore. With some time-saving tips and tricks, the work can be a breeze.

Experience Gifts Are Out-of-the-Box Exciting

The holidays are a season for decorating, entertaining and, of course, figuring out what to get all of the special people on gift lists. Instead of navigating crowded stores to find a gift that may just take up space in their loved ones’ closets, more and more people are giving the gift of an experience.

According to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, new belongings will only be exciting at first, but then people adapt to them. If shoppers’ goals are to prolong those feelings of excitement, then personal experiences can be more effective than material goods.

When shopping for those who seemingly have everything, a gift of an experience may be a smarter choice, especially if the experience is something the recipient may never have done before or wouldn’t think to get for him or herself. For those who need a little inspiration, the following are some ways to treat loved ones to special experiences.

· Wine tasting: Find a local winery that offers tours and other wine-tasting experiences. Many areas of the country not particularly known as meccas for wine are still homes to local wineries. Treat a loved one to a day at a nearby winery or vineyard, bringing along some snacks, such as bread and cheese, to pair with the wines.

· Fitness class party: Enable fitness enthusiasts to try out new and trendy exercise classes by giving the gift of a class or membership. Consider tagging along to a class so the recipient doesn’t have to go it alone.

· Head in the clouds: Book a trip aboard a sight-seeing plane, balloon or helicopter for the high-flying thrill-seeker on your holiday shopping list. Contact a nearby airport or sightseeing company to find out what is available. Some tours circle national monuments and points of interests, providing more bang for the buck.

· Action and adventure: There’s adventure to be had on land as well. Racing fans can sit behind the wheel of a race car and lap the racetrack like their favorite NASCAR® stars. Those who prefer getting a little wet with their wild may enjoy a whitewater rafting excursion.

· The choice is theirs: If you’re stuck on what to get, let recipients choose their own experience. Companies like Cloud 9 Living enable individuals to choose their experiences from a wide variety of options.

Giving experiences can equal a year of entertaining and enjoyable memories for gift recipients.
 
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Travel Gifts for the Holiday Season

Vacations create memories that last a lifetime. But across North America, surveys indicate that fewer people are cashing in on all of their vacation days. Some may be too busy to travel as much as they would like, while others might not be able to afford to travel. A gift of travel removes much of the expense of traveling and can serve as a catalyst one needs to go and explore.

Escaping to warm climates can be just what the doctor ordered when winter weather sets in at home. Although that first snowfall can make for a picturesque holiday season, there’s a good chance that after several storms and navigating icy roads, a getaway to sunshine and sand can help beat winter blues. When gifting travel this year, consider these great places to travel in January and February.

· Anguilla: Anguilla is a British territory in the Eastern Caribbean, just east of the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s known for its long sandy stretches of beach and pleasant winter temperatures, which average 83 F. There isn’t much hustle and bustle, so this island destination can be the ideal place for relaxation.

· Australia and New Zealand: January and February are summer months in the southern hemisphere. These vibrant countries offer everything from costal charm to remote plains.

· Costa Rica: An abundance of wildlife, unspoiled beaches and rain forests draw visitors to this Central American locale. Travelers can hike active volcanoes or surf warm turquoise waters. The “dry season” arrives in December along with moderate temperatures.

· Honolulu: The weather in Hawaii tends to be beautiful year-round, but February can be an especially good time to travel to this U.S. island chain. Travel & Leisure says that hotels often slash their rates by up to 40 percent in February. This makes it much more affordable to gift a stay in Honolulu.

· Orlando: While holiday crowds peak in November and December, visiting Orlando and its main attraction, Disney World, is much easier when the crowds thin out in January and February. The slower season means affordable hotel rates and shorter lines for attractions.

· Montreal: Those who don’t want to escape the snow but embrace it might find a vacation in Montreal a welcome diversion. This cultured city offers Old World charm plus modern amenities.

· Puerto Rico: American travelers can vacation in Puerto Rico without needing travel visas or passports. While all of Puerto Rico is a sight to be seen, the capital of San Juan has thriving arts and culture.

· St. Martin: Also known as St. Maarten, this paradise offers two different cultures for the price of one. The island shares French and Dutch territory status. Visitors who like to eat well and party into the morning often find St. Martin an ideal destination.

Gifting plane tickets, hotel reservations or upgraded meal plans can make winter vacations that much more enjoyable.

Gifts That Pamper and Rejuvenate

Stress can be bad for the body, contributing to depression, anxiety, hypertension, and even obesity. Unfortunately, more than half of working adults and 47 percent of all Americans say they are concerned with the amount of stress in their lives, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association. Canadians, too, are feeling stressed. The North American research company Ipsos found that stress affects 76 percent of the Canadian population.

Reducing stress can be especially important during the holiday season, which, thanks in part to its hectic nature, tends to produce extra feelings of stress. Gifts that pamper, relax and rejuvenate might be the ideal fit for those who need a little rest and relaxation.

· Aromatherapy: Studies have shown that aromatherapy, or breathing in certain scents, can trigger reactions in the brain and affect emotions, mood and memory. Specific essential oils can help relieve stress, induce relaxation and even promote better sleep. Scents such as lavender, lemon or yuzu, bergamot, ylang ylang, and jasmine can promote relaxation in many people.

· Candles: The combination of subtle, low flickering light and relaxing aromas can make candles soothing gifts. Put together an entire gift package with decorative candle holders or a nice tray on which candles of various heights can be placed.

· Plush robe: Sometimes lounging around the house is all that’s necessary to create a soothing atmosphere. A plush robe that is luxurious and comfortable will help that someone special unwind after a long day or after sleeping in on the weekend.

· Home aquarium: Stress can melt away watching underwater life flick and flitter through the aquarium. Combined with soothing bubbles and the gentle hum and splash of the filter, it is easy to see how having a fish tank in the home can alleviate stress. Make sure the gift recipient is able to care for the fish and select low-maintenance species.

· Bed linens: Treat someone special to the gift of added relaxation in the bedroom. Buying bed linens is often a chore and an expense that people put off. Pima cotton, silk, satin, or sateen sheets can be cool, comfortable and soothing.

· Facial treatment: A massage session can be relaxing, but so can a facial. There’s something serene about having a professional apply products and rub areas of the face and temples. Stress will slip away in an instant.

Pampering gifts can help ease anxiety, tame stress and help anyone feel more relaxed and happy.

Set and Stick to Your Holiday Budget

The chance to give gifts and spend time with loved ones makes the holiday season a special time of year. But for many people, the holiday season often leads to overspending.

A 2016 survey from the American Research Group found that American shoppers anticipated spending an average of $930 on gifts that holiday season. Data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending between $400 and $500 per child each year. In 2015, CPA Canada conducted a random phone survey of 1,004 adult Canadians and found the average adult planned to spend $766 on holiday gifts.

Although these numbers can reflect an overwhelming sense of generosity, many times excessive spending is based on a desire to outdo gifting from the year prior – sometimes at the risk of personal finances. Some people are taking drastic measures to make holidays over-the-top, with some delving into emergency savings while others withdraw prematurely from retirement accounts. Budgeting for the holiday season can help shoppers keep their finances in check.

Determine spending patterns

An examination of receipts and spending habits from previous holiday seasons can help individuals establish budgets for the current year. Make a list of all expenses – even the ones that extend beyond holiday giving. These may include expenses such as gym service fees, homeowner’s insurance, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, and more. Extra costs can add up and should be factored into holiday budgets.

Try to recall if your spending last year felt comfortable or if you were paying off credit cards long after the holiday season had ended. If it’s the latter, resolve to make adjustments.

Establish a budget that fits

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget. Figure out if there is extra money this season or if times are tight. This will help you plan accordingly and avoid overspending. Shifting priorities can help free up some cash. If children are interested in this year’s hot (and likely expensive) gift, cut back on holiday travel or entertaining. Instead of buying gifts for coworkers, buy a drink during a night out.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to sell

Collectibles, gently used toys, video games, action figures – all of these items may be collecting dust at your home, but they might be coveted by other shoppers. Rely on the season for spending to make some extra income that can be cashed in for your own holiday purchases.

Set up an account and track spending

Establish a separate account strictly for holiday spending. This can include a credit card only used for gifts and entertaining or a savings account at a bank or credit union. You won’t know what is going out of your account unless you keep careful tabs on it. Tracking spending is the biggest key to sticking with a budget, according to the financial advice group The Balance.

Holiday budgeting can be challenging. But with some effort, it is possible to avoid debt and still enjoy a happy holiday season.

Holiday Budgeting Tips for Savvy Consumers

Sticking to one’s budget is important all year long, but doing so during the holiday season can be especially tricky, when expenses run high and festive cheer makes it difficult to put the brakes on over-spending.

To get a better handle on your spending this holiday season, consider the following simple tools and tips.

Make Plans

Decide exactly what your plans are for this season. Will you be traveling? Will you be hosting a dinner party? What does your holiday shopping list look like? Add budget line items for all the associated expenses and put a price cap on each one.

Add it Up

Seek out tools that help make the logistics of staying within budget simple, such as desktop and printing calculators like Casio’s HR-100TMPlus, a 12-digit printing calculator with a large, easy-to-read display. It is especially well-suited for organized budget planning, as it offers special keys for tax calculations and has two-color printing, enabling shoppers to color code positive entries as black and deductions or purchases as red. For additional information on Casio’s portfolio of calculators, visit Casio.com.

Take Steps to Save

Make more space in your budget during the holiday season with smart strategies. Use free apps to help you score deep discounts on favorite retailers. If you’re crafty or handy, consider DIY-ing certain gift items and greeting cards. Suggest a day of volunteer service at your workplace in lieu of a gift exchange.

Don’t Get Impulsive

When you’re in the store aisles, it’s easy to make impulse purchases, particularly during the holidays when every display is designed to make you spend. Make a shopping list and then adhere to it.

To start 2018 on the right foot, spend no more than what you intended to using tech tools and smart strategies.​​​​​​ (StatePoint)

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