It’s Getting Chilly in Here

What if I told you there are some really sneaky ways you can cut the cost to heat your home that won’t require you to wear a down-filled, hooded parka 24 hours a day? Would I have your attention? Great, because that’s exactly what I have for you today.

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These easy tips could cut your heating bill by 20 percent or more, and none require more than 30 minutes of work. You will need to purchase a few inexpensive supplies but all are readily available. You will quickly recoup those costs in lower heating bills.

Replace worn weatherstripping. Open an outside door and look at that piece of “plastic molding” or strip of foam rubber that runs across the top and down both sides of doors and all the way around windows—designed to seal the air gap once closed. Is it torn, shredded, missing or otherwise not doing its job? Replace as necessary wherever it is allowing small drafts. Weatherstripping at any home center comes with sticky-back adhesive which makes it a cinch to install.

Door thresholds. Look under your front door and any other outside doors. See any daylight? That’s where precious warmed air is being sucked out into the cold. You may be able to adjust the threshold to close this gap. Look for four or five screws that when loosened will allow you to adjust the threshold height. You may need to replace it in order to get rid of all daylight.

It Really is the Thought that Counts

Are you worried that the gift your homemade gifts are never good enough?  Certain that your friends and relatives will write you off as cheap and no longer worthy of their love and friendship?

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The findings of a recent study might encourage you to think twice before you run out to buy gifts to replace those you’ve made.

Studies from the Stanford Graduate School of Business have found that when it comes to putting out money for gifts, less may well be more.

Researchers discovered that although most gift givers assume that a more expensive present will be more appreciated, receivers don’t appreciate expensive gifts that much more. In fact, the old saying is true: money can’t buy you love.

Researchers surveyed recently engaged couples and found that men consistently thought their rings were more appreciated by their fiancées the more expensive they were. But remarkably, the fiancées did not rate themselves as any more appreciative if the rings were more costly.

Still the Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift

It was just about this time last year that I started scrambling for Christmas gift ideas for my long list of friends, neighbors and colleagues. I have criteria when it comes to homemade gifts. The gift has to be made by me and easily mass produced. I prefer that it be consumable, attractive and appeal to a wide range of tastes. And above all, it needs to be affordable.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Faithful readers will recall that I made Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract, as pictured above.

What you, my dear readers were not aware of is that life being what it is, I didn’t get around to actually delivering my awesome little homemade gifts in time for Christmas. Thankfully, I have very understanding friends. No one seemed to mind.

Car Dealer Spills the Beans on Treating Leather Interiors

Dear Mary: I recently purchased a newer vehicle. The dealer tried to sell me a package where they treat the leather seats. Because of the cost, I opted not to purchase the package. 

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My question is, do you know the type of treatment that car dealers use to treat leather seats? Is it even necessary to do this? The car is an expensive purchase for me and I need to know how to take good care of the interior to make it last.

Thank you for your very enjoyable column.  I read it from top to bottom and always learn or find something I can use daily. Jan G.

Caring is Sharing But Hands Off My French Fries

If you have ever polished off an entire bag of those little tiny crunchy cookies in peace, you do not have small children. Or made a quick detour through you-know-which-drive-thru-I’m-talking-about to indulge in your very own large size hot French fries, for sure you’re miles away from the nearest kid.

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Because I can promise you—and I know this from personal experience—kids can smell a treat from miles away and they want in on it. I don’t know where kids get this sixth sense. It must be inborn.

Lucky for you, children haven’t figured out the value of fun and useful time- and money-saving tips, so consider this your lucky day. You can have these treats all to yourself.

PAY WITH CASH AT AMAZON. I use cash to purchase Amazon gift card at my supermarket. Then I use it to do my online shopping. This way, my identity is safe, I am not shopping on credit and I can’t over shop because the gift card is limiting to the exact amount that remains on it after each purchase. This guarantees I’m creating no new debt. That means happy and safer shopping. Lysa D.

16 Gifts College Students Want

Stressed out because you just don’t know what to give that 20-something or college student on your holiday gift list? Well, stress no more. I’ve got you covered with 16 great gift ideas that are sure to please and fit your budget, too.   

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A college student gift doesn’t have to be complicated, whether it’s for Christmas, birthday, or a special occasion. It just needs to be relevant and thoughtful. Some of the best gift ideas are surprisingly affordable.

The key to selecting a gift for college-age folks is to pick something that 1) they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves 2) fits their current stage of life and needs and 3) ranks high in cool factor.

Any one of these gifts will send a message loud and clear that you cared enough to put some time and thought into selecting a really great and useful gift.

Winter Comfort and Joy Depends on the Right Clothes

I have to admit to being somewhat agnostic when it comes to winter weather. Living in southern California, it’s something I hear about but do not experience.

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I am aware that it gets cold in some areas of the world. I’ve heard the term “polar vortex” and know the principle behind the windchill factor. But honestly, I just don’t care one way or the other. Well, I didn’t care until a couple of weeks ago.

I traveled to Colorado on business, booked into a nice hotel and settled in to get ready for a meeting the following morning. I woke to snow and temps in the low 30s F. There I was in open-toed shoes and a light sweater trying to break through some kind of frozen material disguised as ice and snow on the car’s windshield.

Normally, I would have chalked it up to poor planning and forgotten about it. But this was different. As I stood there in the snow, chipping away at the windshield feeling more foolish than cold, I kinda’ panicked. In just a matter of months, my husband and I, our business and all that we own will pack it up and move to Colorado! 

Free Gift Cards for the Holidays: Join Swagbucks

This is a guest post by Abigail Perry, a freelance writer whose work has appeared on MSN Money, Wise Bread, Insurance.com and CitiBank’s Women & Co. blog. In her spare time she blogs at I Pick Up Pennies.

Some of the presents I’m giving this Christmas won’t cost me a cent: Amazon will deliver them and Swagbucks is buying.

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This online rewards program gives users points (“Swag Bucks,” or SBs) for various tasks, from online searches to watching movie trailers. Those points can be traded in for e-gift cards.

Amazon, Target, Starbucks and Walmart are the most popular rewards, but more than 150 popular merchants are available.

Don’t want gift cards? Redeem your points for cold, hard cash via PayPal.

Incidentally, those gift cards aren’t necessarily just for giving. My husband and I cash in for Amazon cards that we use for everyday needs like toiletries, paper products and pet food.

You can win anywhere from six to as many as 59 points at a clip just by using the Swagbucks search engine instead of Google’s. Since joining the program there’s never been a day when I didn’t win at least one search. Even getting the lowest award once a day would earn you 180 SBs in a month, or 2,160 per year. That’s enough for almost $25 worth of Amazon credit.