Yellow armpit stains on white shirts are a problem if my inbox is any indication, which I believe it is. And I’ve been avoiding the subject because honestly, it’s kinda’ gross.

Upset girl looking at tshirt with yellow armpit stain after laundry

 

I can’t begin to estimate how many email messages I’ve received asking for help with getting rid of these stains, but it’s a lot. And now it’s time. Today we’re hitting this topic head-on.

What are these stains?

Curious, isn’t it that ugly yellow stains show up only in the armpit area? Left untreated, these stains can cause the material to become stiff as if just being yellow isn’t disgusting enough. And crunchy.

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What’s behind your closet door? Orderly rows of shoes, stacks of folded t-shirts and hanging clothes arranged by color and season? Or do you have a situation that could be declared a national disaster?

If the latter, you might ask the President for federal disaster relief funds or you could just get organized.

woman-standing-in-front-of-organized-closet

Knowing you would feel guilty taking funds from earthquake, fire,  and flood victims, here are simple steps to find calm in all that chaos. By the way, these same principles for organizing a clothes closet apply to linen or utility closets, too.

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Over the years, I have learned an important lesson about getting the best deals on just about everything. Extreme bargain hunters have something in common: timing. No matter what they’re trying to save on, they’ve got it down to a science, knowing specific days (and even the exact time of day) when a bargain is at its best.

Pen and money on calender

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some of the tops experts in their fields (love my job), and oh, what I learned. I’ve tested these secrets and they’re for real.

Want to save like an expert? Learn these deal-hunting secrets. 

Hotel Rooms 

Best time to book a room? 4 p.m. local time on a Sunday, says CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. Calling then can save you significantly, but the process can be tricky. Forget everything you think you know and follow these steps: 

1. Call the hotel’s local direct line, not the 800 number. The 800 number will connect you to a clearinghouse that books rooms for hundreds of locations. “The people who answer those phones don’t have the power to give you a better deal,” says Greenberg. Look up the local phone number for that hotel location.

2. Don’t ask to speak with Reservations—that will only get you routed back through to the 800-number clearinghouse. Instead, ask to speak to the manager on duty at the specific location. He has the authority to negotiate rates. 

3. Be courteous. Tell the manager that you’re shopping for a great room rate during a specific week, followed by, “What can you do for me?” If you feel hesitant, think of yourself as a valuable commodity. After all, you want to take an unsold room out of inventory. 

4. Say thank you and bask in your good fortune. 

Air Travel

There’s nothing more confusing and frustrating than buying plane tickets. One day you check ticket prices and think, Maybe I can get them cheaper if I wait. A few days later you check again—and the same seats have jumped $100 each. Arrgh! So how do you know when to buy?

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It’s been a few years since I’ve endured back-to-school shopping, all-school fundraisers, and parent-teacher conferences. Still, for me, the end of summer brings a sweet sense of excitement over September’s promise of a clean slate.

I can only assume that having spent so many years in school myself and then doing it all over again with my kids—and now my grandsons—my inner clock is stuck on the school, not the calendar, year.

Gone are the days when back-to-school meant a new pair of shoes. Nowadays, that simple three-word phrase is tantamount to the first domino that starts a chain of reactions into clothes, backpacks, supplies, fundraisers, after-school care, sports, clubs, school parties, nutritious breakfasts, loads of laundry, carpools, mobile phones, parking passes, lunch bags, teacher gifts and on and on it goes.

The challenge for all of us is to find practical ways to save time and money every day in all areas that relate to our kids, school and family life.

MORE: Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

Today, I want to share a story with you to demonstrate a way that you can get your kids’ clothes (yours, too!) and or school uniforms at huge savings—not from the thrift store and not the clothes your kids don’t want but they’re going to get, just because they’re on sale! I’m talking about the stores and style you and the kids love.

Here’s what happened: I asked my daughter-in-law if Eli (the cutest newly-minted fourth grader on earth) needed any school clothes. The answer was “Yes, please!” which gave me a wonderful reason to go shopping. Online. At home from my computer. Eli’s school requires uniforms—for the boys, it’s basic polo shirts and slacks.

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I blame my suspicious nature on my neighborhood grocery store. The store used to be a logically arranged market with bright lights and clean floors—a basic, friendly, functional place to shop.

Then the bulldozers morphed it into a big fancy supermarket complete with clothing, mood lighting and cushy chairs. And hidden cameras.

I have nothing against beautiful spaces and modern conveniences, but I’m no fool. I knew all of this effort was to one end: to get me to spend more. Take the “Three for $6!” special of the week. “Why not just say $2 each and drop the exclamation mark?” I muttered to myself as I placed one jar of spaghetti sauce in the cart. Before I could wheel away I had my answer: I saw several customers dutifully place three jars in their carts. Not two, not four, but three jars.

That response was no accident. In fact, that’s a simple example of how retailers use tricks to persuade consumers to buy more.

It’s been a few years since I had the privilege to interview Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping. Retailers hire Underhil’s company, Envirosell, to follow thousands of shoppers a year in person and on videotape, observing their every move.

Using this information, the stores find ways to get people to shop longer, spend more and return often. Underhill and his crew are so good at what they do, they can tell retailers what will entice people to enter the store, which way they’ll look once they’re inside, and more.

How important is consumer persuasion to the marketplace? “If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something,” Underhill told me, “and if once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse. Boom.”

No one wants the economy to get any worse, but we don’t want to overspend either. So our defense as consumers is to educate ourselves. Here are 7 tricks together with easy ways to outsmart those sneaky  retailers.

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There exists in the average American household a rather common malady wherein no-longer-needed clothes, shoes, boots, coats, pants, shirts, toys, games, seasonal decor, sports equipment, electronics, appliances, computers, kitchen utensils, dishes and other useful items seem to reproduce in the dark of night filling cupboards, closets, attics and basements to the brim and beyond.

I call it Stuffitis—a condition for which there is an easy, and surprisingly profitable, treatment. Should your home have contracted this malady, there are two effective ways to treat it: a) Sell the stuff or b) Donate the stuff.

SELL THE STUFF. There are several ways to do this, none of which guarantee success. I hosted my final Garage Sale several years ago, to great disappointment. Having carefully cleaned, priced and displayed every item of which there were many—and being met with way too many offers of, “Would you take five bucks for everything?” at the end of a very long, hot and disappointing day—we hauled all that was left to a donation bin, which was most of it. Read more

Your money is limited and time is short. Here is my best advice to make sure back-to-school clothes shopping doesn’t send you to the poorhouse.

Set spending limits. Time to get real. How much money (not credit) do you have available for school clothes? Write it down.

Take an inventory. Sort through your kids’ clothes and decide which ones you want to keep and which ones they don’t wear due to wear and tear, or because they no longer fit. This gives you a clear idea of what you have, and what you need to buy.

Sell the old to buy the new. If you have gently used clothes in good condition, sell them and use the money towards the purchase of back-to-school clothing. You can sell on eBay or on Craigslist, at a garage sale or by taking them to a resale consignment shop to sell or use as trade items.

Assess needs. Not every child will have the same needs when it comes to school clothes. What is reasonable? Now divvy up the money you have against the children’s needs then moving on to wants until all the money has been appropriated.

Start with new shoes. There’s nothing like a new pair of shoes to get kids in the mood for the first day of school. Shoes are so satisfying, this will take the edge off the raging case of the “I wants” that your children may have picked up somewhere. And a new pair of shoes even make last seasons’ clothes perk up. Read more

Consignment shopping is an excellent way to purchase kids and baby clothes, often brand new and for less than one-third of the retail price. Most cities these days have specialty consignment shops for babies, children and teens, too.

The consignment process is simple. If you are a seller, the store sets its criteria for accepting merchandise, and sets the price—usually 50 percent of the new retail price.

Expect a consignment shop to have very high standards for what they will accept: Must be a current style, must be brought in clean and must have no visible wear, holes or stains. You bring your items to the store to be reviewed and submitted for sale. Because most stores have limited hours for this process, be sure to call ahead. Read more