How to Shop with CASH at Amazon

I can’t think of many things worse than waking up on Dec. 26 with a raging debt hangover—an all-too-common after-Christmas condition.

The only reason you paid for everything with a credit card is that it was convenient. Besides, it’s not safe to shop online with a debit card, so what were your options?

Of course, you promised yourself that you would be paying the balance in full the minute the statement arrives, but who are we kidding here?

You were already carrying a balance on every card in your wallet, so now all of those new purchases will exacerbate the problem by plunging you even deeper into debt. Worse, you don’t even know for sure how much you spent because who keeps track when you pay for everything with a credit card?

Just imagine if you’d kept your promise that this year would be an all-cash Christmas—that you locked those credit cards away where they were safe from you. You’d be heading into the New Year with a much different attitude. No excuses, no hiding the holiday bills; no worries and no regrets.

I’ve got some good news for you. This year really can be an all-cash Christmas. You can do it and make your cash stretch even further when you take advantage of the lower prices when you shop online. You really can shop with CASH at Amazon, absolutely no credit card or debit card required.

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Ask Me Anything: More Laundry Stains, Jewelry Cleaner, Ugly Toilet Ring

There’s an old proverb that says, teaching teaches the teacher. Not only do I believe this, it was proven to me once again only recently in a way that has me doing the Happy Dance! The best part? Now I get to teach this simple yet very useful tip to others.

Dear Mary: The Fuller/Stanley company recently informed me that after many years, they have discontinued their wonderful product, Original Degreaser. I use it mainly for laundry stains but is also wonderful for greasy spots in the kitchen. Do you have a recommendation for a similar product? Lisa

Dear Lisa:  I do, but first let me tell you a story ….

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All Things Considered, the Best Way to Re-sell Used iPhones and Electronic Devices

If you’ve ever wondered where old mobile phones and electronic devices like iPads and tablets go to die, it’s pretty simple.

Some get tossed into a recycle bin somewhere to be parted out and melted down. iPhones are often passed down to children to be used as iPod touch substitutes. A large number of mobile phones are simply abandoned and misplaced due to neglect. Thankfully, a growing number are finding a next life with a new owner.

As a result, the secondary market for electronic devices is on its way to becoming as robust as the primary market.

So let’s say you’re ready to order the new iPhone 8 or X. You paid a lot for your current phone and it’s still in great condition. Your plan is to sell that old phone to help pay for the new one. You have options:

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Fabulous Solution to the Breakfast Dilemma

Mom was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Recent medical research says we cannot afford to miss it for many reasons:

  1. People who lose weight and keep it off are breakfast eaters.
  2. People who eat breakfast are better equipped to fight off colds and flu.
  3. Breakfast boosts metabolism all day and fires up your brain cells for faster, clearer thinking.

SIMPLE BREAKFAST GUIDELINES

  • Eat when you can but within two hours of waking.
  • Eat what you enjoy. You are more likely to create a lifelong habit if it’s something you enjoy.
  • Have “grab and go” breakfast items available that are healthy, tasty and affordable.

I have a great solution for your breakfast dilemma that meets all of the criteria above: Baked-from-scratch muffins! What? You don’t have time to bake every morning?

Not to worry! I’ve got a great method that will leave you excuse-less and make you your household’s Breakfast Hero.

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6 Ways to Outsmart Picky Eaters

Got picky eaters? Don’t get mad, get clever! Use these simple techniques to get your kids to eat a greater variety of healthy foods without resorting to mealtime confrontations or worse, force-feeding.

BE PREPARED. Keep a cooler in the car that you stock with carrots, pretzels, yogurt, and water when you’re out with the kids. This trick will head off the “I’m starving to death!” syndrome that can cause an otherwise reliable automobile to veer off into a fast food drive-thru lane.

PLAN DINNERS. If planning menus for a full week is too daunting, start with only two or three days. Keep it simple but balanced. Whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta; a fruit or a vegetable; and a protein source like lean meat, cheese, or beans.

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How to Maintain a Reasonable Toy Inventory and Other Great Reader Tips

If you have kids, you might be dreading how many new toys you’re going to have to find room for come next month. Reader Beth has a great toy inventory balancing system that’s sure to please everyone, even the kids.

Photo credit: Too Many Toys, by David Shannon

Family friends of ours have a great system that solves the problem of an ever-growing inventory of way too many toys—most of which the kids no longer play with. Their children know that each year after Christmas each child is required to count and create a list of new toys they received as gifts. Then the kids go to their rooms and find the same number of toys that are still in good condition that they no longer play with, which they need to give away to create space for the new ones. Of the toys they designate to be purged, they are allowed to select one to be put away and kept in a memory box.

As a family, they load up the car and drive the toys to a local charity that accepts donations (many churches, preschools, and shelters are grateful to receive toys). Doing this each year helps to keep their house less cluttered but more than that, the kids learn a valuable lesson about making choices and allowing other children to benefit from things they once enjoyed but have outgrown. Beth

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Spooky Tales of Extreme Debt

Scary stories and fiendish tales are all part of Halloween fun. But the last thing you expect is for those spooky stories and tricks to be played out in real life.

Debt has become the American way. So has denial. Super-high debt levels paired with serious denial can be downright terrifying. While not all debt situations reach critical levels, when they do, the response must be equally severe.

Kevin, 24, has $19,000 credit-card debt, drives a heavily-financed $45,000 fancy high-performance car ($580 monthly payments) and still lives at home because he cannot afford to move out. He can barely afford to eat because, in addition to his debt, he pays $2,400 a year for car insurance and $3,000 on gasoline—all on less than $32,000 annual income. Extreme debt.

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Ask Me Anything: Programmable Thermostats, Column Archives, Retirement Plans, Cottage Businesses

As I write, it is very early in the morning. I just peeked out to see that it’s snowing! As you may recall, we are new to Colorado, having moved from Southern California. I must be still in that wide-eyed, child-like phase of transition because I am all giddy with excitement and wonder. Snow!

How fitting it is that our first reader question is right on-point with wanting to keep warm and cozy without breaking the bank.

Dear Mary: A coworker had a programmable thermostat installed in her home. She says the temperature is always perfect and her utility bills are lower. Hers cost over $200, plus installation. Is it really worth it? Martha in Vermont

Dear Martha: Programmable thermostats that control a home’s central heat and air conditioning can return many times their original cost in lower electricity bills. You can set your timer to turn off the AC about the time you leave for the day, and to turn back on a half hour before you get home.  Contrary to popular belief, this does not use more electricity than having the heat constantly maintain a warm temperature; it uses less. In the summer you can program your air conditioning similarly.

Programmable thermostats like the Lux Products TX500E-010 Smart Temp Programmable Thermostat are available online or at local home improvement stores and start at about $35. All programmables come with installation instructions, which I’m confident you could follow easily. Or it’s a quick job for an electrician if you’re not comfortable doing the installation yourself.

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