Bargains on Stuff Kids Need for School

Most people aren’t paying attention in the middle of summer when stores like Office Depot and Staples go crazy nearly giving away school supplies with their one-cent sales. How can they do it? They’re willing to bet that most customers will grab up the bargains and then add a few full-priced items as well before they get to the checkout. 

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The way to really save on all of your kids’ back-to-school needs is to start early so you can cherry pick all the stores. Load up as you can to last the entire school year because you won’t see these kind of bargains again until this time next year.

School supplies. The Grocery Game has added a school supplies category to its lineup. Check it out: First log in at TheGroceryGame.com (you can get a 4-week free trial, and you should), then in the upper left select all stores in your area. Above the list items, click your mouse in the “Search” box, which will open up a “Category” box with drop down menu. Select “School Supplies.” Just look at the bargains! New items and deals constantly change, so log in each week and pick up the deals as you do your regular shopping. 

The Hardest Part is Showing Up

Recently, I underwent that procedure no one my age likes to talk about. As much as I dreaded the exam, it was nothing compared to what I went through to get ready for it. Just seeing those words on the office door made me want to cut and run: Certified Financial Planner.

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But we did it. My husband and I showed up and spent several hours planning our estate which is a pleasant way to say we talked about getting old and dying.

Here’s the question that started the ball rolling: “When would you like to have the option to stop working?” Selecting a date gave the planner a frame of reference to begin creating a plan that will allow us to do that. 

Chop the High Cost of Outdoor Grilling

In that your humble blogger has recently become the proud owner of a respectable outdoor grill (it’s a honey), you can pretty much count on more columns devoted to this subject starting with today. 

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But first, I must admit to a momentary lapse of good judgment. Wanting to initiate this bad boy in a manner consistent with its awesome capabilities, I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “the best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.” Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! One 16-oz Porterhouse steak: $118.98—plus overnight shipping. 

Retailer Discounts Can Have Strings Attached

Dear Mary: Recently we purchased a new stove at Sears. My husband agreed to sign up for what we thought was a Sears credit card to save 15% on the price. I was surprised by his decision because that’s not our normal practice. We use credit, but pay the bills in full every month. What arrived in the mail was a CitiBank MasterCard, not a monthly statement from Sears. 

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We do not want this card and will not use it again, so what’s the best way to handle it? If we ask to close the account, will it hurt our credit rating? Laurie

Dear Laurie: Buyer beware! Any time you agree to put an item on credit with a retailer, whether it’s to achieve monthly payments or to get a 15% discount, you can be pretty sure that retailer is very happy. Can you say, “Gotcha!”? 

Random Household Hacks

You know what makes me smile and feel smart at the same time? When I know how to perform some random act that makes it easier to accomplish little things around the house. Or on a trip. Or in any area of life. Enjoy some of my favorites:

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Grape ice. Frozen grapes work like ice cubes to chill white wine without watering it down.

Speedy re-heat. When reheating something dense in the microwave–like pasta, potatoes or a casserole, make a well in the middle of the food. It will heat up more quickly.

Quick release trash bag. To avoid suction, which causes resistance, when removing bags from a trash can, drill holes in the bottom of the container. 

What You Must Know if You Insist on Using a Debit Card

How do you pay for stuff? Do you hand over cash? Write a check? Pay with a credit card? Or do you  use a debit card because the payment is automatically deducted from your bank account?

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Most people use a combination of paper, plastic and electronic payments. However, debit cards have now surpassed cash, checks and credit cards for the way people pay at the point of sale. Personally, I do not have a debit card, never have and never will. I have an ATM card.

Simply having a debit card tied to your bank account is an invitation for trouble. I would love for you to get rid of yours, but if I cannot convince you to do that, do not become complacent. Get proactive. The odds are stacked against you which means you will become a victim of fraud. Determine right now to know your risk then create every safety net you can think of, such as:

Secure Your Future Before Assisting Others

Reading the email message from Joann reminded me of the safety speech flight attendants give before takeoff. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

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“… In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you…. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.”

That is an instruction with universal application because the foundational truth is rock solid. You cannot rescue someone who is drowning if you are injured or cannot swim yourself. Joann’s letter brought all of these images to mind.

“My mom is 85 years old and widowed. Mom has raised three of her grandchildren and now is trying to help raise a great grandson.

How to Rescue Those Kitchen Disasters

Last night I suffered a kitchen disaster. I hate when that happens. I ruined an entire pot of pasta because I got busy and was not paying attention. By the time I realized, the pasta had cooked way beyond al dente, all the way to total mush. It killed me to dump the whole thing down the disposal, but there was no way to undue that damage. Thankfully, that’s not true for every kitchen faux pas. This is a list you’re going to want to keep handy just in case. 

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TOO MUCH SALT. If you’ve added far too much salt to a sauce or soup, peal and cut a raw potato into two or three pieces and add it to the pot. By the time the pieces of potato become translucent they will have absorbed a lot of the excess salt. Be sure to throw them away before serving. Another trick is to add a bit more unsalted water to the mix, provided this will not also dilute the flavor.

OVERCOOKED VEGETABLES. If you’ve overcooked the broccoli, asparagus or similar vegetables don’t despair. Just tweak your menu a bit to include a lovely creamed vegetable soup. Place the mushy vegetables in the food processor, add hot chicken broth or stock, spices and fresh cream. Process until smooth. Chopped vegetables could also be combined with chicken, butter and cornstarch and placed in a prepared pie shell for a pot pie. If it’s carrots or sweet potatoes you need to rescue, whip them together with raw eggs and pumpkin pie spices to create a soufflé.