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sane spending

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I really wish I had known about this service before Christmas, but that’s what I get for falling behind in my Google Reader. Here’s the deal: many items on Amazon qualify for free shipping if your order total comes out to over $25. But if you’re a dollar short, or $2.01 short, or whatever, you’re out of luck. Well, not if you have the filler item search for Amazon, which will find an item to make up the difference exactly (or close to it). Genius. (Via Frugal Hacks.)

5 Tips For Cyber Monday Shopping

by anna on November 30, 2009

Well, folks, it’s Cyber Monday, and chances are that you are going to be one of the eleventy billion people taking advantage of downtime at work to troll View definition in a new window the pre-holiday sales online today. Personally, I love shopping online, particularly when it allows me to avoid the holiday crowds at the mall, and the Cyber Monday deals available make everything more appealing. But if you’re not a veteran of online shopping like I am, then you should probably keep a few things in mind before you venture out into the world of online shopping on its busiest day of the year.

  1. Be Wary Of Deals Sent Via Email. Sometimes online retailers will send out special deals via email, and they might redirect you to a retailer site and instruct you to enter a code. If you receive a deal via email that you want to use, be wary of using links provided in the email: online phishing schemes will often involve impersonating large retail outlets and ask you to enter in credit card information to a site that looks like it is the larger retailer. To avoid any problems like this, always go directly to the retailer site by entering their address into your browser’s url window. Legitimate offers will ordinarily include a coupon code for you to use during checkout, and doing it this way can safeguard you from scams.
  2. Only Enter Information That Is Required And Reasonable. There is no reason you should ever have to enter your Social Security Number in order to make an online purchase. You might have to enter your billing address or the three digit number on the back of your credit card, though. When giving information to retailers, even retailers that you are certain are legitimate, you should always operate on a need-to-know basis to the extent that it is possible. Look for the little asterisks beside fields that tell you which pieces of personal information are essential to making your purchase. If you feel uncomfortable revealing all of the required fields, then don’t make the purchase — even large, legitimate companies are the victims of security breaches and information theft on occasion, and as usual, you are better safe than sorry.
  3. Consider Getting Temporary Account Numbers From Your Bank Or Credit Card Company For Online Purchases. Many financial institutions feature a service where you can get a temporary account number that is good for just one purchase online. Taking advantage of this is a good way to feel extra safe that you will not be overcharged or have your account emptied by online theives.
  4. Make Sure You Are Buying What You Think You Are Buying. Online shopping is awesome for a variety of reasons, but it does offer some challenges in making sure the item you want is the one you are ordering. Make sure to check things like quantity (e.g. you only want one CF card for your digital camera, not a pack of 10), versions (i.e. did you mean to buy the hardcover copy or the paperback?) and condition (i.e. is that used book that you are buying from Amazon really “like new” in the sense that it’s appropriate to be given as a gift, or is there an inscription inside that will be difficult to explain later?). Online shopping is so quick and easy that it’s doubly important to double-check details whenever possible.
  5. A Deal Is Only A Deal If You Were Planning On Buying It Anyway. This year, it is reported that 87.7% of online retailers will be offering some kind of special Cyber Monday deal. These deals range from free shipping offers to special heavily discounted offers that change every hour, and the time limitations involved all contribute to a feeling that if you don’t buy now, you will miss out. But the rules for Cyber Monday are the same as they are for any other purchase: a deal is only a deal when you are planning to buy something all along and manage to get it for a better price. Stick to your list, and you’ll wake up on Morning After Cyber Tuesday feeling like a winner.

5 Ways To De-Stress For Less

by anna on November 23, 2009

If there is one thing the holidays are good for, it’s to make you feel like you need a vacation. Since it’s unlikely you’re going to get a vacation any time soon, you are probably looking for ways to get rid of stress. Here are some tips for reducing your stress level at home and abroad for less money and less hassle, some of which I’ve shared before, and others are completely new and improved. I also hope you guys will chime in with your ideas for how you are able to control stress

  1. Get A Massage Done At A Place That Specializes In Massage. If you book a massage at a spa, you’re going to be paying a premium for the use of the amenities there. Sometimes, it can be worth the extra cost to take advantage of the jacuzzi, sauna, et cetera and a spa. But for a quick destressing massage, you might consider going to a smaller establishment that only does massages — you will pay much less for the same treatment in a slightly less chichi environment. (To clarify: I’m talking about reputable establishments that offer lower-cost massages by certified massage instructors, not the “massage parlors” that offer happy endings.) When you’re just trying to fix a few knots in your neck in between appointments, there’s no need to pay a 50% premium for more Enya music.
  2. When You DO Get A Spa Massage, Choose A Shorter Length. If you’ve got enough time to really take advantage of the spa amenities and have decided to go the spa route for your massage, consider going for a shorter-length version of the massage. Unless you’ve got some kind of injury that needs special attention, you’re probably just going to fall asleep on the table with a 60 minute massage. Go for the 45-minute or 30-minute option and use the extra time in the jacuzzi.
  3. Use At-Home Remedies For Puffy Eyes. Are you tired? Do you have puffy eyes? Don’t waste money on spa solutions or expensive department store creams to solve this problem: the best solutions for puffy eyes from lack of sleep can be found at home for little to no money. Put some spoons in the refrigerator (or, if you really need help, the freezer), and use them on your eyes in the morning to reduce swelling. And for extreme cases of sleep-deprivation, you can remove the bags under your eyes by dabbing a bit of Preparation H (the cream version, not the petroleum version) under your eyes — it will reduce the swelling. No, I’m not kidding, and yes, I do it myself, all the time. That’s right: I put butt cream on my face. Get over it.
  4. Aromatherapy At Home. I’ve mentioned before that you can make the same eucalyptus-oil-scented towels that you find at spas at home fairly easily. just get a few washcloths, wet them, and put a couple drops of eucalyptus oil on them. Roll them up, wrap them in saran wrap, or throw them in a ziplock, and put them in your refrigerator for later. You can experiment with using different essential oils for different purposes.
  5. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. I know you don’t want to hear it, but exercise is the most effective form of stress relief on the market, and it’s relatively free. Unfortunately, there is no easy way of deploying this method of stress relief: you just have to do it. So do it. Now.
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