Only a few months ago, I told you about what was happening in the world of Chromebook—a laptop computer that runs Chrome OS as its operating system and is designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet. That in fact, Chromebooks had just (and for the first time in the U.S.) outsold Apple’s range of Macs.

111716image1Chromebooks have become so popular, manufacturers are competing like crazy to expand functionality while at the same time lower the price. You know who wins that game, right? Consumers—and just in time for Christmas!

If you go online or walk into a store’s electronics department to purchase a Chromebook, prepare to be hit with a serious case of FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. That’s because there are hundreds of Chromebooks from which to choose; from dozens of manufacturers with hundreds of options. But not to worry. I do not expect you to slog through all of this technical stuff to figure out your best inexpensive option. It’s my job to do the hard work so you won’t have to! Read more

Take a little time from your busy day to check out these six websites—all of them fun, free and designed to help you save time and money … every day!


RECIPES THAT CROCK is a website created by the slow cooker obsessed blogger Cris Goode. There are a ton of fun, tummy warming recipes to fire up your slow cooker this autumn and beyond. Simply search for recipes at Recipes That Crock, or sign up for the newsletter which arrives a few times per week.

CHECKY. Technology can be a good thing, but when you’re spending too much of your valuable time checking your smartphone every five minutes, it’s just down right distracting. To get insight into how often you’re checking your phone use the Checky app. By discovering how extreme your actual checking habit is you’ll become more mindful instead of mindless when it comes to your smartphone. Also Available for iOS and Android.

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It’s the number one request that shows up in my inbox—“Can you give me the recipe for that magical soap and scum cleaner?” Well, yes I can! And here it is. (Please make sure to read all of this and follow instructions carefully.) You’re welcome!

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments near a big university, and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants.

Homemade shower and tile cleaner

He told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details up to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds. And that’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets and doors to their sparkling clean and sanitized condition.

I gave his unbelievably simple recipe a try. Since that day more than 20 years ago, I’ve used nothing else to clean tubs, showers, sinks, toilets, patio furniture—just about anything that will stand still long enough to get sprayed and can be rinsed easily. This product must be rinsed off. Read more

You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the turmoil and economic agitations going on in the U.S. And the growing debt. Who ever imagined that the word “trillion” would just roll off our tongues, not causing even a flinch. Too bad we can’t do much about it. The truth is that we are powerless.

But I have to say that it’s kinda’ fun, if not momentarily empowering, to think about what we could do if anyone would let us. I’d be wickedly effective as Governor of Colorado. Oh, the things I would do.

21933498 - state capitol of colorado, denver

First, I would abolish state income tax. The state would exist rather on fee-income. Coloradans would pay fees for the services they want and use.

I’d adopt a scorched-earth policy in going after government waste and abuse. I’d place a freeze on hiring while I cleared out off the “dead wood” and identified all areas of workplace redundancy within the state government.

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Learning toys do more than sit there and entertain—they stimulate and teach kids important skills like critical thinking, problem solving, logic and even coding. Learning toys—open-ended games, kits, toys and crafts—make for great Christmas gifts.

To help you get past the shock of realizing Christmas is fewer than six weeks away, here’s my list of the best learning toys. I love them because they’re fun but at the same time stimulate learning through creativity and mind-challenging play. I think the kids in your life are going to love them, too. Enjoy!


1. Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker.  This early learning center for babies who are not yet walking, is just adorable. It’s a clever toy that encourages and teaches a baby how to move from sitting to standing position and then walking, all the while encouraging interactive play. The learning walker has 70 sing-along song onboard, sound effects, and fun phrases. Meant for babies and toddlers from 9 months to 3 years. About $25.

2. Chat and Count Smartphone. There’s some kind of magnetic attraction between babies and mobile phones. Have you noticed this? Now you can separate little ones from your phone without stifling their curiosity by giving them their own smartphone! This adorable “phone” from the folks at LeapFrog mimicks the real thing with more than 15 phone activities, a music button to sing along to tunes about counting and phone manners. Skills to learn: numbers, pretend play, social interaction and conversational skills, as well. Ages 18 months to 3 years. About $12.

3. Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register. This working register encourages imaginative play while teaching measurements, basic math and early money skills. Kids will easily learn currency denomination and have fun handling life-size money and this working cash register. Features a solar calculator, pretend credit card, play bills in various denominations as well as plastic coins and more. This realistic toy will give children endless hours of fun pretending, playing and developing math skills! Ages 3 and up. About $28.

4. Little Apps Tablet. This kid-size toy tablet keeps little ones busily learning for hours on end with its color-changing screen, letter buttons and piano keyboard. Includes 12 learning activites with progressive learning levels. Thankfully, it also features volume control and automatic shut-off to conserve on battery life. And if that’s not enough, check out just how adorable it is! Ages 2 years to 5 years. About $15.

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To me there’s nothing quite so lovely as soft, supple, beautiful leather. I’ll take it in a handbag, shoes, car seats, jackets and furniture, too. I love fine leather.

With that in mind, try to imagine this scene from just a few of days ago: Me in my comfy chair, my favorite handbag on the floor next to me and a hot cup of coffee on the table to my left.

I stand up and somehow—I could never re-enact this feat in a million years—I turn to the left in such perfect form, I launch that entire large cup of coffee into the air where it makes a flawless entry into my purse. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like a 100-year flood in my Dooney. Everything inside was bobbing up and down, gasping for air.


I credit a conversation with a friend who owns a used car dealership with the fact that my favorite leather bag (I’ve had it for almost 20 years) came through unscathed, following my heroic emergency rescue.

He told me the secret for how his dealership cleans, conditions and protects leather car seats and interiors to make them look like new. Since then, I’ve been treating this bag like the interior of a fine Italian sports car. I had no idea I was also protecting it against the stains and torment of future flooding. Read more

Generally speaking, I pretty much detest talking on the phone. But if a 15-minute phone call could net the kind of financial reward Matt writes about, I could manage a change of heart.


Dear Mary: I don’t have cable TV in my house but I do have Internet. I’m one year into a two-year contract (which is fine with me since I’m happy with the service) and noticed this month’s bill went up $20 since I’m no longer in my first year promo period. I called the company and told them I was looking to cancel because “I found a better rate.” I must have said the magic words because the rep forwarded me to the retention team.

After speaking with the retention team member I was able to negotiate my Internet bill at the original monthly promo rate for the next two years (I did have to agree to extend my contract for two years from that day, which really is fine with me). And they also gave me a $75 credit spread over the next three billing cycles.

So all in all, that 15-minute phone call saved me $25 over the next three months plus $20 a month over the next two years, for a total savings of $555 over the two year contract period!

I am pretty proud of myself. It just feels good to take control of my expenses as opposed to feeling like a pawn on my service-providers’ chess board.

Now I’m thinking about ways I might be able to use this tactic to rein in other expenses. Matt Read more

Layaway, for those not old enough to remember, is the way lots of people shopped for Christmas back before credit-card debt was fashionable. Or shall I say, tolerable.


With layaway, instead of bringing all of your purchases home and then paying on the credit-card bill for many years to come, you leave your selections at the store, making a down payment at time of purchase.

Then you make regular payments to the store (no interest). Once you’ve paid in full, you get your stuff out of layaway. The benefit is that you can shop early at your leisure, make regular payments, and pick up items once they are paid in full.

Years ago layaway programs were designed for people who could not get credit cards. And as plastic became more available to the masses, layaway became unnecessary so many programs disappeared.

As the economy has been going through such an upheaval, causing so many to flee from using credit, other smart retailers like Sears have dusted off their layaway programs in hopes of attracting customers like us who would enjoy that debt-free convenience. And to shore up their bottom lines.

TOYS R US. Not only makes layaway possible for the hottest toys and game consoles of the season, but also holds items for you so curious children can’t find them in your closets. When you deposit 10% of the total cost of your purchase and the $5 service fee will be waived. All payments can be made at any register or online, 24 hours a day. Make your final payment in store, and take your items home right away. Or, if you make your final payment online, you will be notified of the earliest time you can pick up your items.

WALMART No set-up fee, but there’s a $10 or 10% down payment (whichever’s greater), and a $10 fee if you cancel. Individual items must be $10 or greater, and your total purchase must be at least $50. You can’t layaway wireless phones that require contracts, and you can’t put anything on layaway 11/24 (Thanksgiving 2016). Layaway is available for Electronics, Toys, Infant Toys, Infant Furniture, Small Appliances, Large Furniture, Auto Electronics, Select Sporting Goods, and Jewelry. You can use coupons on layaway items at Walmart.

SEARS.  For an 8-week layaway contract, pay $0 down in-store, $0.01 online, a $5 set-up fee, and a $15 fee if you cancel. For a 12-week layaway, pay $0 down in-store, a $10 set-up fee, and a $25 fee if you cancel.The only items available for layaway online will be marked as “Available for Layaway” on the individual product page.

KMART. For an 8-week layaway contract, expect to pay a $10 down payment, $5 set-up fee, and a $10 fee if you cancel. For a 12-week layaway contract, you’ll have to pay $10 down, a $10 set-up fee, and a $20 fee if you cancel. No down payment is required when you start a new contract between 9/15 and 11/26, and only one penny is required down for online layaway.

BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY.  Offers 60-day layaway for clothing and household goods, and 90 days for Baby Depot items like baby furniture and strollers. Buyers must stick to a payment schedule, deposit at least 20% and pay a $5 service fee. There is a $10 cancellation fee if the layaway purchase is canceled and not completed.

TJ MAXX AND MARSHALLS.  Only offer layaway at certain locations and have quite a few rules and restrictions. Where available, you must make a 10% down payment for layaway on brand-name and designer items. Jewelry and clearance items cannot go on layaway. The payment term is 30 days and because the program is only offered at certain locations, it’s best to call ahead to inquire.

Question: Have you ever used layaway programs? Will you this year? Do you know of other stores offering layaway programs this year? What is your favorite? Respond using the comments feature below.