Best Time to Bag a Bargain

Extreme bargain hunters have something in common: timing. They’ve got it down to a science and I’m talking about specific days and even the exact time of day to get great bargains.

These shoppers wait patiently and then swoop down to pick up bargains unknown to the novice shopper. Thankfully, they’re willing to share their secrets.

Best time to buy depicted with clock, second hand sweep and sticky notes

HOTEL

The best time to snag a great deal on a room is at 4 p.m., local time on Sunday, says CBS Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg. This is when you will have the best shot at speaking with an employee whose job depends on keeping rooms filled, who can also negotiate room rates. But this can be tricky, so here are the steps to follow:

Do not call the hotel’s 800 number. That will connect you to a big clearinghouse that books rooms for hundreds of locations. The people who answer those phones do not have the power to give you a better deal, according to Greenberg. Instead, call the specific hotel’s local direct line.

Next, do not ask for the reservations department, which will only get you routed back through to the 800 number clearinghouse you are trying to avoid. Instead, ask to speak manager on duty, who at this time of day on the weekend will probably be a lower level employee whose job it is to keep rooms filled—a person who has the authority to negotiate rates and book rooms. This is better for you than calling during the week when you will be connected to a “revenue manager” who is more interested in keeping the rates high.

Be very courteous. Say that you are shopping for a great room rate during a specific week, followed by, “What can you do for me?” See yourself as a valuable commodity at this moment because you will take an unsold room out of inventory, which represents job security for the person you’re speaking with.

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Trick Yourself Into Saving Money

Buying things when they’re on sale is a great way to avoid overspending. But unless you are diligent to take the difference between the regular price and the sale price and actually deposit that into a savings account, are you really saving money?

Nope. You’re just spending less. And you can “spend less” right through your entire paycheck. 

us currency rolled in jar

While being careful to keep spending under control is admirable, it’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you’re a money-saving genius, when in truth you’re just spending all that you earn, wishing you made enough money to save some of it.

Getting started with actual savings—and by that, I mean money that is put away in a safe place—can be difficult if you have a spending habit, a small budget or some of each. The way to remove the pain is to trick yourself into thinking you’re not really saving that much. Check out these tricks and get started today.

Call it a bill. This may sound silly but just go with me here. Create a new monthly bill that you are obligated to pay and call it “Paying Myself First.” Make it look like an invoice of $5, billed to you. I don’t care how little money you earn or how poor you believe that you are. Anyone who really wants to start saving has $5 they can devote to the effort. Put this tiny bill at the top—ahead of the rent, food or phone bill. Your smallest bill will soon become your favorite.

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Do You Hear the Bells?

The year was 1859 and Charles Dickens starts his classic A Tale of Two Cities with,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair ….

As I read this passage it makes me wonder: Was Dickens referring to life in 1859 or looking into the future to December 2017?

 

With this year’s devastating hurricanes, epic fires, horrific shootings and—just this past week—tragic train wreck so fresh in our memories, many are wondering about Christmas. Where, among all this, is our peace on earth and goodwill toward man? This feels like Dickens’ season of darkness, our winter of despair.

Recently, I heard the story of one of America’s most beloved poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 1861, his wife Fanny was fatally burned in an accident, but only after Longfellow attempted to save her and was severely burned himself. Too ill from his burns and grief, Henry did not attend her funeral.

The first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote in his journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” A year later in 1862, he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.” His journal entry that year reads: “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded. The Christmas of 1863 was blank in Longfellow’s journal.

But then on Christmas Day in 1864 Longfellow wrote the poem that would become the lyrics to I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

In the third stanza, Longfellow expresses with such honesty the pain in his heart:

“And in despair, I bowed my head;

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;

For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

But joy returns in the fourth stanza as Longfellow’s hope in the future and faith in God are renewed:

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

The wrong shall fail,

The right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

 

 

Suddenly it’s Christmas. It’s here! The day for which we wait with breathless excitement, for the joy it stirs in our hearts.

Over the centuries bells have become a metaphor for hope, redemption, and peace on earth. I hear them now, and with their ringing, I feel the stress melt away. The noise quiets, fears vanish. All is calm.

Christmas … God’s annual reminder … luring us, pulling us, encouraging us that despite everything that may appear to the contrary, because of the Gift of a Savior, it is the best of times. For those with eyes to see, it is the age of wisdom, the season of Light—the spring of hope.

And bells. Those Christmas bells!


All of us at Everyday Cheapskate—my husband and I together with our family and the entire EC team—want to wish you and yours a wonderful day today filled with love and joy!

Here in Colorado, it’s a beautiful white Christmas with forecasts of it becoming increasingly so throughout the day.

Merry Christmas!

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Incredible Edible Gifts

Even if you still have 5 or 50 teachers, students, neighbors, co-workers, family friends, kids’ friends, classmates, cousins, uncles, aunts, employees or service providers on your gift list—don’t panic! You still have time. And don’t worry: You do not need a lot of money nor must you the gift of craftiness to assemble fabulous gifts in your kitchen. Yes, even at this late date.

You’ll never go wrong giving a gift that is meant to be eaten or used up. That kind of gift does its job to convey your love and best wishes without increasing the recipients’ stuff-factor.

 Photo Credit: TasteofHome.com 

You will need containers for these gifts and the possibilities are endless. My favorite: Clear cellophane bags for 10 to 15 cents each (some are printed with holiday motifs). Find these at craft stores like Michaels, JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby; at cake and candy supply stores. Think assembly line and you can turn out dozens of gifts in a single day. So gather your supplies, set up your production line and let the fun begin!

Santa Claus Cookies

  • 1 package Nutter Butter (or Vienna Fingers) sandwich cookies
  • 12-oz. white chocolate wafers or chips*
  • Red sprinkles or red-colored sugar
  • 32 vanilla or white chips, not melted
  • 64 mini chocolate baking chips
  • 32 red-hot candies

Melt the white chocolate. Dip one end of each cookie into melted chocolate. Place on wire racks. Quickly sprinkle red sugar on top part of chocolate. Press one vanilla chip off-center on hat for pom-pom; let stand until set.

Dip other end of each cookie into chocolate for beard, leaving center of cookie uncovered. Place on wire racks. With a dab of melted chocolate, attach semisweet chips for eyes and a red-hot for nose in the uncovered area. Place on waxed paper to set. Yield: 32 cookies.

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9 Random Time- and Money-Saving Tips

From frozen key locks to hazy headlight covers, today I have a handful of completely unrelated household tips to entertain but also make your life a little easier. Enjoy!

Double-Pic-cleaning-headlights-quck-thaw-lock

Organize household supplies. Use an over-the-door hanging shoe rack with clear vinyl pockets to organize and store cleaning supplies, one item per pocket. This gets them up and out of the reach of children. But even better, now you can actually see what you have.

Open blister packs. Use a manual can opener to open “blister packs” that take the strength of a muscle man to break into. The can opener will make a neat and safe cut to open the package so you can retrieve its contents and not slice your fingers in the process.

Remove headlight haze. Have your car’s headlight covers become hazy? You could spend a lot of money on a commercial product to remove that haze or grab some toothpaste and a soft cloth. Apply the toothpaste and vigorously rub the toothpaste over the entire hazy cover. Wipe off the toothpaste with a clean rag. Look at that! Completely restored to clear and bright. Toothpaste is abrasive. You are essentially sanding away the haziness. If you have a lens protectant, you will be sanding this away as well so you may want to replace it after doing this.

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Letters to the Editor: Lo-Bak Trax, Bad Hair Days, ID Theft, Freezer Tricks, Pay it Forward, Simplify Christmas

I wish you could see my email inbox. No, wait. What I really mean is I’m grateful you can’t see it.  It’s in chaos. I get so much mail and while I genuinely appreciate every single message, it’s the sheer volume of mail that has created such a challenge for me.

My goal in 2018 is to get on top of this situation with a killer organizational tool or better yet, perhaps a virtual assistant. Your comments, ideas, and general feedback are like pure gold to me. More than that, communication with my readers charges my batteries. That is something that I need and have come to depend on.

woman-at-desk-buried-in-mail

Today, I reached into the mountain of mail and pulled out a handful of comments to past posts  to share with you.

Comments to How I Spent Forty Bucks to Avoid Surgery

Thank you very much for bringing this simple device, Lo-Bak Trax to my attention. I have been using my Lo-Bak Trax only once a day, before bed, for almost three weeks, but what an improvement! I am walking longer, farther and with almost no pain. I will use it several times a day, as you recommend [after the holidays. That is my New Year’s resolution. Living in Italy, I certainly would never have heard of it were it not for your column. Peter

We ordered and received a Lo-Bak Trax. It came with no instructions for its use. Can you help? Betty

Oh, that is terrible! You need instructions, for sure. I suggest you watcho THIS VIDEO, which is very instructional and clear in how to use Lo-Bak Trax. And HERE is a link to the printed instruction manual. This is a wonderful device. However, it’s not an overnight fix. Truly you must commit to three weeks straight—at least 21 days in a row—using it 4 to 5 times each day to get started. It is not difficult and it doesn’t hurt. In fact, if feels great, so it’s something I want to do as often as possible. After three weeks you should see a HUGE difference. In fact, when I am faithful to do this every day (and for the rest of my life), I am pain-free. Love this thing! –mh

I have followed your hair routine for four months, and I have never had such reliably good hair in my entire life. This has saved me so much time and angst! Thank you so much for sharing this. Kathy in Indiana

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Keeping Holiday Party Costs Under Control

Most of us, when we think of the cost of Christmas, think gifts. But there are so many other expenses like travel, entertainment, decorations and mailing costs. And parties!

How can we be warm and generous hosts without breaking the bank? That the question today’s first reader asks.

Beautiful buffet set for Christmas

Dear Mary: This year it’s my turn to throw the family Christmas party. Last Christmas, my sister-in-law created a tough act to follow by having her party catered with expensive hors-d’oeuvres and top-shelf champagne. I can’t afford catering, but I want to put on a spread that’s as impressive as hers. How do I accomplish that without going into debt in the process? Natasha

Dear Natasha: Trying to upstage your sister-in-law puts you in a no-win situation. Turn your thoughts instead to making this your party—a special gift of your love to your family, not a competition to see who spent the most money.

Once you determine how much cash you have to spend, go online. Check out websites like FoodNetwork.com, RecipeTinEats.com, Epicurious.com, AllRecipes.com, and BarefootContessa.com. Do a Google search, typing in Top Recipe Websites or Top Recipe Blogs in the search bar. You will be amazed at the results. Pay particular attention to websites and recipes devoted to holiday fare, particularly hors-d’oeuvres.

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The Joy of Giving is Its Own Reward But a Tax Break is a Nice Bonus

Here’s a great way to let your children experience the joy of giving to others who may not be as fortunate this Christmas. Help them go through their toys, picking out those that are still in great shape, but they’ve outgrown.

Then let the kids go with you to donate the toys to a shelter or other charitable organization in your community that will be grateful to accept them.

Boy taking donation box full with stuff to donate

While you’re at it, consider you have only a few more weeks to make other tax-qualified donations. Even though you will have until April 2018 to file for Tax Year 2017, midnight on Dec. 31, 2017, is the deadline to actually make qualified donations. (Be sure to get a receipt).

Your bonus for donating to tax-qualified charities could be a reduction in the tax you owe or a nice increase in your refund check.

Figuring out the allowable market-value of your items can be tricky. If you value them at less than the IRS will allow, you could be leaving money on the table. But if you err on the side of valuing too high, you could be setting yourself up for a tax audit and no one wants an IRS tax audit! The solution is to use a valuation guide that is not only reliable but certified.

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