Christmas Shopping On A Budget – 9 Easy Tips

According to ABC News consumer counseling agencies see a 25 percent increase in the number of people seeking help in January and February, and most of that traffic is propelled to their doors by holiday bills that haunt consumers like the ghost of Christmas past. Christmas shopping on a budget can help.

For many of us, while we have the lights up and the tree decorated, there isn’t anything under the Christmas tree yet. You may not have bought a single present or even budgeted for presents. Here are nine easy, last-minute Christmas shopping tips for busy people trying to do their shopping on a budget.

1. Make a shopping list

Write down the list of people you plan on buying gifts for. Critically consider who should be on your gift list and don’t be afraid to trim it. Start with your immediate family and close friends, and selectively add to your list from there.

2. Set a spending limit

Many people overspend on Christmas gifts by letting their emotions get the best of them. It’s easy to feel guilty when it comes to holiday spending. Do you need to spend $50 on every one of your nieces and nephews? Definitely not.

Figure out the total amount of money you want to spend on presents, and divide it up among each person on your list.

For example, if you decide to spend $400 on presents, that might be $150 for your spouse, $50 for your parents, and so on. And if this is the season to pop the big question, there are ways you can save money on an engagement ring.

It’s the thought that counts, not the price tag.

3. Pay in cash

The easiest way to not go into debt is to use cash instead of credit to buy gifts. You’ll be forced to stick to your b

udget. When you use a credit card, it’s way too easy to lose track of how much you’ve spent and on who. Plus, an extra $10-$15 here and there go unnoticed but add up quickly.

Use the cash budget – you’ll thank yourself in January when you don’t have any Christmas debts to pay.

4. Shop by yourself

If you shop alone, you’ll likely spend less money, especially if you have friends with poor money habits. A shopping partner in crime can distract you from your plan by convincing you to buy something unplanned and unnecessary.

It’s very easy for someone else to spend your money.

This would look great on you!

You know what you should buy is…

Haven’t you been looking to get one of these?

5. Tis the season to give, not buy

Guilty! I love buying myself things I want, when I want them. And my wife Katie hates it because it’s one more thing she can’t get me for Christmas for the man who’s impossible to shop for.

In December we institute the ‘no shopping on Amazon for yourself rule.‘ If I want something, I can add it to my wishlist or ask for it for Christmas. Our rule also helps avoid splurging and spending less.

This is the season for giving, not receiving. If you find something you can’t live without, add it to your wishlist. If nobody buys it for you, pick it up on sale after Christmas for yourself.

6. Shop for sales at discount stores

To get the most out of your holiday budget check out the discount stores where you can find discounted items and great deals. To save even more look to buy discounted gift cards to pay for your purchases.

  • Kohls
  • TJ Max
  • Marshalls
  • Dollar Stores
  • Costco / Sams Club
  • Big Lots

If you shop exclusively online, remember Amazon may not always have the best price. Be sure to check out eBay, Walmart, and specialty stores.

7. Don’t go crazy on the kids

How many toys can a child play with at once?

You got that right – one

Try this gift-giving idea where each kid gets four presents:

  • a want
  • a need
  • a wear
  • a read

There are a lot of ways to save money on babies and toddlers too.

8. Wrap a lot

My wife Katie loves having many presents to open. And she loves socks. Instead of wrapping six pairs of socks in one box, I’ll divide them into a couple of boxes. Or if I buy her only three pairs of socks, I might wrap each pair individually.

If you are giving a Christmas gift that has several parts to it – tools, an outfit, kitchen utensils, – wrap up each item individually. Your recipient will have more to unwrap and a fun time doing it. If you care about doing an awesome wrapping job, learn how to wrap a present.

9. Buy a combined gift

You can save money while still giving great gifts by giving a slightly more expensive gift to two or more people instead of buying individual gifts for every person.

For example, if we purchase a Barbie Dream House for my three nieces they can all enjoy it, instead of buying a Barbie Corvette for each of them.

  • For kids – video games, board games, play sets
  • For couples – an experience, weekend getaway, new T.V.
  • For parents – framed family photo, tickets to a show

Christmas Shopping On A Budget Reduces Stress

It’s a stressful time of year for many people with money being tight or having a lot of people to buy presents for. To avoid the big credit card bill that will be due in January and to keep from paying for gifts from now until next Christmas, have a shopping plan and a spending budget. Know how much you’ll spend on each person, what you’re going to buy them, and pay in cash.

Give yourself the gift of starting the new year with less debt and more money in your pocket!

Artivle Source:scottalanturner.com/christmas-shopping-on-a-budget/

Colder weather highlights importance of indoor air quality

When most people think of “air quality,” they think of the outdoors; the smog, haze, even pollen.

But what many people don’t realize is that factors inside the home can also lead to poor air quality, causing potentially serious health risks.

10TV found out why indoor air quality tends to become more of an issue when the temperature drops.

What it really comes down to, according to Alisha Hopkins, a certified nurse practitioner with the Breathing Association, is the simple fact that when it gets colder outside, people tend to stay in their homes for longer periods at a time.

That means more exposure to all the particles, molds and bacteria inside the home.

“Your home is your safe harbor and then all of a sudden, now, it’s this area of just triggers everywhere,” Hopkins said. “So no matter where you go there’s a trigger. …We always think of the outside but we forget that our home is one of the places that we literally lay our heads down, we relax in, and if you’re relaxing in a bunch of dirt, relaxing in pet dander, the fur, that too will make our breathing that much worse.

One woman told 10TV she notices a difference in her breathing as soon as the holiday decorations come out.

“I just start to get the stuffy nose, the watery eyes and then my asthma really kicks up,” said Cindy Groeniger, vice chair for the American Lung Association local leadership board.

Groeniger has suffered from asthma since she was just 10 months old, she said.

“Every fall season it’s bad because I decorate and then you have, you know, mold or dust maybe on your decorations so I have to watch that,” Groeniger said. “Sometimes I have to increase my medicine for the holidays.”

Tips for improving indoor air quality can be simple, Hopkins said.

  • Vacuum your mattresses, carpet, couches and chairs inside to get ride of dirt, particles and pet dander that could build up over the year.
  • Groom pets heading into the colder months. Many pets tend to shed more in the fall but grooming them can decrease the amount of pet dander in the air.
  • Use air filters and humidifiers, making sure to clean them out regularly to avoid mildew and mold buildup.
  • Wipe down handles, door knobs and surfaces, keeping them free of germs. Because people tend to stay inside more through the winter, illnesses can spread easier from person to person.
  • Replace furnace filters before cranking up the heat.

Fall is also a good time to make sure that furnaces are carbon monoxide-free, Hopkins said that. Double check carbon monoxide detectors in the home to make sure they are working properly.

For more information on indoor air quality, click here.

Article Source:www.10tv.com/article/colder-weather-highlights-importance-indoor-air-quality

Previous photo credit: https://precondo.ca/

Deciding Whether or Not to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

Knowledge about the potential benefits and possible problems of air duct cleaning is limited. Since conditions in every home are different, it is impossible to generalize about whether or not air duct cleaning in your home would be beneficial.

If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.

On the other hand, if family members are experiencing unusual or unexplained symptoms or illnesses that you think might be related to your home environment, you should discuss the situation with your doctor. EPA has published the following publications for guidance on identifying possible indoor air quality problems and ways to prevent or fix them.

You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should occasionally be cleaned. While the debate about the value of periodic duct cleaning continues, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental, provided that it is done properly.

On the other hand, if a service provider fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause indoor air problems. For example, an inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dust, dirt and other contaminants than if you had left the ducts alone. A careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements.

You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:

checklist

There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  • If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  • If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.
checkmark

Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects)

checkmark

Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

Original Article Source:https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/should-you-have-air-ducts-your-home-cleaned

Helping Families Sparkle in 2018

It is wild to think that in 2004 I started this crusade with Samantha the founder of the Sparkle foundation. I was 26 years old and want to help make a difference. I helped her with 2 families by donating gifts and wrapping presents. Now, fast forward to 2018 here we are.

The Sparkle Foundation, located in the received 107 nominations this year for single mothers needing assistance over the holiday season. The Sparkle board worked tirelessly to narrow the list down to 50, 50 women we knew we could make a difference for. We’ve taken their stories and shared them with you this year. Some of the stories will hit home. Some of the stories will move you, and some of the stories will leave you in tears. We share these stories, for I firmly believe that it is important to know who you are assisting and why.

These 50 women have beat incredible odds illness, financial difficulties, all struggling to raise children on their own. If you’re looking for a way to give back to the community this holiday season I encourage you to check out the DreamLists. Hear the stories of women that are just like many of us, or someone you know.

I always say living a life of purpose is what it’s all about and being a part of something bigger than yourself is what drives a person. Be a part of changing someone’s life this holiday season, whether it be with a pair of socks, toys for their children, tires for a mother’s car or the gift of food to put a holiday meal on a table.

Sparkle is a recognize 501(c)(3) nonprofit by the IRS. The biggest thing that sets us aside from other charities is that 100% of every dollar, 100% of every gift, and 100% of every volunteer hour goes to the families that need it the most.

Be a part of the Sparkle, for it is a part of you.

Visit:  http://funguyinspections.com/contact-us-sparkle-now-holiday-gift-drive/

http://www.sparklenow.org/holiday-gift-drive-2018/

(if you plan to donate money – please indicate that this is for the Los Angeles area

Sincerely,

Robert

 

10 TIPS & TRICKS FOR A HARMONIOUS THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday responsible for bringing family and friends to the table year after year. Young and old alike come together to share delicious, mouth watering food and express gratitude for everyday blessings and triumphs. A beautiful holiday, sure, but a beautiful holiday that will do some temporary damage to your pristine home kitchen. Eek!

Preparing a massive Thanksgiving feast for hoards of family members and friends alike is an overwhelming idea to many. Even if many of us are experienced Thanksgiving hosts and hostesses, the task of shopping, preparing, cooking, and cleaning an enormous meal in ones own house is an exhausting task for anyone to fathom. Although its never an easy feat to prepare an enormous meal by hand, there are a few organizational tips, tricks, and hacks that will make your holiday prep a little easier this year.

Want to simplify your mealtime preparation this holiday? These Thanksgiving tips & tricks will make difficult kitchen tasks a pinch. Bon appetit!

At the store:

1.) Split up your supermarket trips

An entire feast’s worth of grocery bags is a lot for anyone to carry, and if you try to buy all of your Thanksgiving supplies in one trip you’re bound to forget an ingredient, or come across supermarket shelves so bare you’d think the apocalypse was here. Plan your time and split your shopping trips up, which will save you the pressure of trying to cram everything in the trunk in one trip.

2.) Make a thorough list

Plan your Thanksgiving dinner menu in advance, then making a detailed list of what you’ll need to pick up. Divide your list into perishables (milk, produce, eggs) and nonperishables (spices, canned goods, flour). Buy your nonperishables first, then return for the turkey, dairy, and vegetables a few days before you start cooking your feast.

Kitchen prep

3.) Prioritize your refrigerator

Sure you can fit it all in the fridge, but can you successfully shut the door? Empty your refrigerator of everything that isn’t essential, like jars of jelly, salad dressings, or anything expired. Plan ahead that you’ll need the extra space, and try to use up as much leftover food as possible in both the freezer and refrigerator.

4.) Designate a place for dry/extra storage

Because refrigerator space is precious on Thanksgiving, anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated should be stored in a cool, dry place. Store hearty produce like potatoes, apples, and cranberries in the basement, garage, or trunk of the car. Any food that needs to stay chilled? Use a beach cooler filled with frozen ice packs to store the turkey, casseroles, or any other food that needs to stay cool. An iced cooler stored in a low temperature location should keep your food fresh for at least 24 hours.

Menu prep


5.) Create a prep list

A organized prep list lays out (in order) all of the tasks you need to accomplish two days prior to your Thanksgiving feast.

    • Identify what can be made a day ahead of time. Recipes like pies and gratins can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.
    • Identify which dishes will take the longest to make on Thanksgiving day, then prioritize your recipes and allow yourself with a little extra time with each one.
    • Look at cooking temperatures and see what dishes can go into the oven simultaneously. Use your smartphone or timers to set alarms to keep track of both the dishes in the oven and on the stovetop.

6.) Organize recipes

Nothing is worse than rifling through recipes when you’ve got hot food on the stove and six other things to do. If you make copies of your recipes in advance, you can then stick them on appliances with magnets, or tape them onto the cabinets at eye level. This will not only save precious counter space, but you can slip the recipes into plastic sleeves and file them away for next year.

Thanksgiving Feast

7.) Designate your help

Although many of your Thanksgiving guests genuinely want to help you put together a beautiful meal, the old saying holds true that too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth. To keep a busy kitchen from feeling too crowded, try to move as many activities out of the kitchen as possible. Set up a drink station in the living room, or a small prep table outside of the kitchen for extra work space.

8.) Time to Eat

Although you’ve planned your meal timing perfectly, there are a few helpful tricks to keep some tricky food items hot.

    • Keep your gravy piping hot? A thermos will do the trick just fine.
    • A cooler will retain heat, and can hold stacked foil dishes or covered pots.
    • microwave oven is insulated, and can be used as a resting place to keep a hot dish warm for a half an hour.
  • A Crock-Pot will keep your mashed potatoes, rice, or stuffing warm (you can even set it to low for longer periods or time).

The Finale


9.) Something sweet

Although you and your guests are ready for your famous pecan pie, it’s impossible to clear the dishes and serve dessert at the same time. Taking a coffee break between courses is the perfect way to give time to clear the table after dinner. Create a dessert station in the dining room with plates, forks, and coffee cups. Press the brew button when you (and your helpful guests) are clearing the table, and have the cream and sugar bowls ready in the refrigerator ahead of time. Your coffee will be ready and the table will be clear, making it the perfect time to present the dessert.

10.) The dreaded cleanup 

Dinner is finished and your want nothing more than to put on your house slippers and spend quality time with your guests, but you dread the mountain of pots and pans waiting for you in the kitchen. After dinner, fill big pots with soapy water and use them for soaking utensils and plates. The cooler can also be used for soaking larger items, and as long as everything is immersed your cleanup can be put off until you’re up to it. Set up a lined garbage can ahead of time so food scraps can go directly into the trash, and voila! Your mountain of dishes is a problem for tomorrow.