Tag Archives: tips

8 Essential Black Friday Shopping Tips

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Shopping on Black Friday is clearly not for the faint at heart.  You’ve undoubtedly seen hideous videos of the masses literally trampling each other at various ‘Marts’ around the country, but the unfathomably succulent savings still call out to you, siren-like.  So, if you truly are ready to face the hordes of rapacious sale-mongers, please abide by these money, time (and possibly, life) saving tips.  

Know why you’re there.

Under no circumstances should you just saunter into the mall to “browse”; you’ll be shoved to the gleaming floor like a sack of leftover sweet potatoes.  Read up on the internet (and whatever promotional materials were mailed to you) about what sales are happening where.  Like a thrifty Santa, make a list and check it thrice; compare and contrast what certain stores are offering, online and off.  Here are some sites that actually compile the best Ebony Day After Thanksgiving options for you: bfads.net, DealNews.com, gottadeal.com, theblackfriday.com.

Get an early jump on it. 

Since the whole idea behind this day is for the stores to do stellar business (they’re obviously thinking quantity over quality), many businesses try to get a leg up by offering supreme deals before Friday even hits.  At this very moment, there are tons of shops that are offering beyond competitive deals in an effort to pre-beat out their competitors.  Do a quick search right now and possibly do some pre-emptive consuming; you may get the same low prices as on Friday and you won’t need to wear full contact football equipment to remain unscathed.   

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Even if a price looks good, it can be beat.

Don’t just fall prey to the first low marked item you see; just Google that guy and check if there are any better prices in the near vicinity.  You may be shocked to see that a competing retailer across the street is offering a way better deal – and even more surprised to learn that the store you’re currently in has a ‘match-price’ policy.  That means that if a warring chain offers an identical piece of merchandise at a lower price, they will meet that price right there on the spot, so you don’t have to burn precious gas and/or calories chasing it down.  Score! 

Loyalty pays.

If you have any shops that you frequent, there’s a good chance you can rack up points (aka ‘discounts’) by enrolling in whatever sort of rewards program they have.  If you’re the type of person who, understandably, doesn’t like filling out boring forms and receiving annoying promo emails, perhaps you should temporarily reconsider your position on the matter when dealing in this particular Black Friday milieu.  Rewards Members typically are given first dibs on B.F. deals, via discount codes and the like. 

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“Like” ‘Em.

Aside from mailing lists you may be on, you can also bolster your B.F. amalgamation of sale options by following and ‘liking’ certain brands on social media.  There’s a host of companies that offer extra special savings codes when you like, heart, retweet, tag, pin, hashtag, hashmark or hashbrown them.  

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Stick to it. 

Just as mentioned in our Holiday Savings Tips post, create a budget with strict limitations and do not deviate from it.  This is not the time to ‘see what’s out there’ and, heaven forfend, make impulse purchases.  

Don’t Accessorize. 

One of the ways that stores recover the money ‘lost’ during the feeding frenzy of low-priced B.F. items is by the inevitable ‘additional’ purchases that people make while in the store.  You’ve just saved 200 hundred smackers on a TV – but then, high on the adrenaline of having ‘saved so much,’ you turn around and buy a superfluous rotating wall mount that costs 300 dollars.  Be smart.  Know when you’re victorious and leave on a high note (like after winning a big hand in Vegas).  No extra items!

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Cheapest is sometimes just that…

Just because a particular piece is at a jaw-droopingly low rate doesn’t mean it’s going to be an intelligent purchase.  The manufacturers are acutely aware of what goes down on B.F., so they sometimes create products specifically for the day that resemble their fully functioning brothers, but are blatantly inferior in quality.  You’ll notice these can take the shape of electronics that do not come with all the features that their regularly priced counterparts offer, or dolls that are missing limbs.

So, prepare yourself for a whirlwind shopping experience for the ages.  Registers clamorously clanking along to the merry holiday tunes inundating your eardrums, elderly shoppers elbowing your ribcage and tryptophan infused lethargy will be no match for you if you stick to these tips.  Happy deal-sealing; let’s make this the blackest friday yet!  

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-Joe Leone

Thanks-parting: Dealing with Divorce on Thanksgiving

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If you’ve been through a divorce recently, you are certainly more than aware of how different (and sometimes difficult) each day can be.  This goes tenfold for the holidays.  

The first Thanksgiving that you spend away from your ex-partner is bound to be a trying time.  A day synonymous with familial joy and “coming together” will naturally seem a little heavy when on your own.  Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to keep the painful memory pangs to a minimum and the glorious gravy enjoyment to a maximum. 

Ring in the new

It’s obvious that this day will inadvertently drudge up memories of previous Thanksgiving celebrations.  Some of these memories may be quite pleasant, others can be the utter opposite.  One way to combat these ghosts is to change things up.  By creating new habits for the day and devising fresh traditions, your mind will be focused on the tasks at hand, rather than languishing in previous experiences.  One potential benefit, right off the bat, is that if you used to spend the day with your ex’s fam, you’re now entirely free of that shackle.  You can visit with your own clan, or a specific group of friends, if you choose.  Forget cooking and go out for dinner.  Even better, really relish in what the holiday is all about; thank your lucky stars that you have what you have and volunteer at a homeless shelter, doling out seasonal food.  Whatever you do, the past customs that you and your ex engaged in will be a faint memory as you create entirely new moments this year. 

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Talk turkey 

Granted, this is a time of thankfulness and grateful reflection, but you’ve been through a rough year and can’t be expected to simply grin through the pain.  It’s actually the perfect time to pull that special relative or comrade aside and let your emotions flow freely.  With the abundance of caring people conveniently assembled, odds are that there will be a trusted someone (or several) that you can talk to.  Not suggesting to turn this whole event in a pity party, but go someplace private and unburden yourself.  You’ll feel some of that emotional weight instantly lifted so you can fully enjoy the rest of the festivities.  Remember, this may be an overwhelmingly hard time for you, but you should be considerate of other people’s feelings too; it’s their day as well.

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The Kid’s Table  

As with many divorce related issues, the hardest aspect can be if children are in the mix.  One thing that can assuage the troublesome topic of how to divide their time (between you and your ex) is to be calm and ready to compromise.  Maybe you have to relinquish them for the actual day, but then get to spend Black Friday with them, shopping with glee.  The point is that arguing with your ex about who goes where and when will only acerbate the situation and make everyone feel tense.  Just be reasonable and think of your kids’ feelings; nobody wants to hear about how mom/dad is ruining the holiday by _______; your ex is still your child’s parent, a pivotal person in their lives forever, and badmouthing them always makes you look bad.  

Give thanks

Whether your family is the type that goes around the table before the turkey is cut and everyone states what they are thankful for, or if it’s just tacitly implied, a large component of this holiday is the expression of gratitude.  Take a few minutes to sit down and write out (or type) what you personally have to be thankful for this year.  Go through everything you can think of, big and small.  This simple exercise will soon have you seeing just how bright the silver lining in this divorce cloud is, as a bevy of wonderful things flows from your mind and on to the page.  By assessing all of the gifts you have in your life, you can crystalize a plan for the future, or just sit back and revel in the positive mindset you’re now in.  

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No matter what anyone says, this may be a particularly hard time for you to get through.  Try to relax and follow the aforementioned steps to the best of your ability.  Just remember that life truly does go on, and once the day is done and everyone has returned to their prospective homes, there still will be the scrumptious leftovers to feast on later.  

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 -Joe Leone 

Trick Yourself into Saving More Money

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While you may not have gotten a raise, you can still save more money if you introduce smart saving habits into your daily lifestyle. Being able to save really just means you take a closer look at the ways you manage and spend your money, then find avenues for putting cash away. Creating rules to follow and developing smart habits will change the way you think about your cash flow, and can be a great way to trick yourself into saving more money.

Use Cash

Striving to use only cash will cause you to force yourself to pay closer attention to how much money you really spend every time you go out, to the grocery store or clothes shopping. The trick is to put your plastic away so you feel like you don’t even have it to use. You may also want to consider removing your credit cards from easy pay and 1-Click settings from your online accounts to make it harder to make purchases. You might be surprised at how much less you want an item you see online when the added difficulty of typing in your 16-digit credit card number is in your way.

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Check Your Credit Card Statement Every Month

Your credit usage may have run away from you because you are like the thousands of other people who do not check their credit card statement every month. Looking at how much money you spend and the places you spend it is a good way to make yourself think about your choices in a more deliberate manner. Seeing that you spent $80 at the bar instead of the $40 you planned may shock you into being a little more careful next weekend, or realizing you spend half of your paycheck on new threads may encourage you to create a budget for your wardrobe.

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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Attorney Leslie Tayne who writes for Fox Businesses advises you wait five days before making a big purchase. While that hot tub sale is enticing, give yourself five days to ponder whether a hot tub purchase is really in line with saving for your kids’ college tuition. Thinking about what you want to buy is a great way to prevent yourself from spending too lavishly on items you don’t need. A bonus benefit of waiting to buy something is that it gives you a chance to find a better deal, whether you look online or in competitors’ stores.

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Ignore Extra Income

Even though your surprise income may look like it has “jet-ski” written all over it, try instead to imagine it saying “Save me!” and put it away into an account you don’t use immediately. Tayne advises that you only rely on the money you make regularly to make big purchases. That means you should take that big fat tax refund or even the $10 you found in the parking lot and put it toward debt or into a savings account. Extra income is anything outside of the realm of your weekly or monthly income, including cash you make from selling your unneeded wares, (like diamonds that you sell with us!) By putting that extra cash away, you’ll never be tempted to dump it down the drain on something you don’t need. The unexpected kind of money is best spent by not spending it at all.

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Automate Everything

Investopedia advises against taking care of your financial business on a day-by-day basis. Instead, get your employer to deposit portions of your paycheck not only into your checking account, but into your savings account and IRA as well. In addition, set up your credit cards to pay off the balance each month, not just the minimum. A penny paid off is a penny and a half earned in the credit world, because each time your balance equals zero, that means you don’t have to pay annoying off bank fees later in life.

Saving money is really just about changing the way you look at money. If you don’t let it burn a hole in your pocket and instead let it burn a hole in your debt or build your savings, you’ll be on your way to securing a bright financial future in no time.

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Things Only a Divorced Parent Understands

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Amicable or not, getting divorced is never going to be a picnic.

When there are children in the equation, things can be exponentially more challenging/maddening.  Aside from the initial concern of “How is this ordeal affecting my delicate offspring?” there are a variety of other issues sure to pop up.   There’s the time you will have to spend apart from your kids, their newfound perception of you and a host of other mentally taxing dilemmas only a single-parent can comprehend.

Here’s a list of the common conundrums that we’ve identified, and how they ultimately can translate into positive experiences in the end.

  • “You’re no fun!” – nothing can be as infuriating as hearing about how much FUN it is at your ex-spouse’s domicile of debauchery.  “Dad let’s me eat Count Chocula for dinner!” …sorry, guess you’re the über boring one since you care about your child’s health.

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positive spin:  When your children are older/grown, they will recognize they you were the parent who was truly looking out for their welfare, and not just providing easy/popular solutions.

  • It can feel a trifle lonely when your child is at your ex’s, ostensibly having a good time without you.  You used to be instrumental in everything they did – now you may feel like your watching from the sidelines.

positive spin: When your child comes home and tells you how much they missed you.  This will never get old.

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  • You now have to monitor every little word that escapes your mouth, as your spawn gobbles them up and giddily reiterates them to your ex.  Heaven forbid if you should accidentally let a remark specifically about your former spouse slip out…

positive spin: Realize that the exact opposite applies.  If your ex says anything about you, it is instantly recorded by your kids as well – so they need to watch their mouths too.

  • Living in constant fear of whose “side” your shared friends will be on.  Whichever parent these people pledge allegiance to will be perceived by the tykes and this inevitably causes them/you anxiety.

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positive spin:  Once things are settled, you then know who your real friends truly are.

  • Determining which rules will be steadfast and should be observed in both parents’ homes.  Is mom saying the kids can stay up to watch Jimmy Fallon, while you want them tucked in before the early edition news broadcast starts?

positive spin:  No matter how contentious your relationship may be with your ex, there will always be some common ground you can reach regarding your kid’s upbringing.

  • Having to hide the emotional lilt in your voice because you physically can’t give your baby a ‘goodnight kiss’ over the phone.

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positive spin:  Again, when you are reunited with your child, their hugs feel that much more magical.

  • Having to show up “childless” to certain extended family functions/holidays because your kid is enjoying the day with your ex and their bizarro family.

positive spin:  Secretly knowing that they have more fun with you and your (possibly equally crazy) clan.

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  • The stabbing pain of hearing your little one cry out “I need mommy/daddy!” …when that parent isn’t you.  It never was all that great before to listen to how you were unneeded in a situation of tantamount importance to them, but now it holds a truly acrimonious tinge.

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positive spin:  Undoubtedly, there are times when they are with your ex and shriek for you in that “end of the world” tone that only children not getting exactly what they want can attain.

  • When you have to ignore/feign that you don’t see the close-knit, smiley family (with both a Mom AND Dad in attendance) enjoying their Pizza Hut dinner feast, while you and you child somberly eat in solitude.

positive spin:  Having the time to focus all of your attention on your kids when you are with them (without the potential distractions of a partner who always seems to want to argue).

  • Not hearing your child’s laughter in the halls when they are at your ex’s for the night.

positive spin: Having license to engage in passionate, grunt-inducing intercourse with a new lover and not having to worry in the slightest that your kid will hear.

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  • When you finally have a new and possibly serious beau, deciding if and when the right time is to present them to your kids.  Will they instantly resent him/her?  Also, maybe this new partner is not good with kids? (Clearly, a deal-breaker – but truly stinks if you like them otherwise)

positive spin:  Inadvertently, your kids can help you quickly weed out people you may be looking at with rose-colored glasses, who are really not going to be great mates in the long run.

  • Feeling the inverse: does your child like your ex’s new “person” more than you??  Will you be “replaced”?

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positive spin:  When these type of questions unsuspectingly pop up in your brain, it’s a good time to take a moment and truly assess the situation.  When you remind yourself that these fears are completely unfounded and irrational, it gives you real clarity and peace of mind.

  • Trying to deal with/suppress feelings of supreme GUILT.  Do my kids think the break-up is my fault?  Are their new problems in school/ extra-curricular activities/PlayStation ultimately my doing??

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positive spin:  If you are really worried about these things, it’s always good to open the lines of communication with your child.  As long as you present any issues in a sensitive manner, your child may be forthcoming and tell you their own fears.  Then the two of you can come to a real place of resolution.

  • Fighting to stay awake at work the day after you had to stay up with your baby as they did battle with a scary cold through the entire night.  When it’s “your night,” being a single parent means having all the responsibly squarely on you.

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positive spin:  At least you get to sleep in when it’s “their” turn.

  • Worrying about how screaming matches with your ex may have negatively affected your children.

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positive spin: Finally letting out that built-up, monumental sigh of relief when you realize you can love and raise your child in a home without constant spousal bickering, mistrust and tension.

  • Staying up at night, wondering if you’ve been doing the right thing.

positive spin: When it finally dawns on you that your child will love you, no matter what.

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-Joe Leone 

Amazing Tales of People Who Got Out of Debt

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It can happen to anyone.

Everything in your life is going fine.  Good, stable job, appropriately priced living space, transportation costs under control, etc.  Then, one day, something happens.  Either it is traumatic and crushing (like becoming unemployed), something joyous (you have a baby – or, twins!), or something of such apparent inconsequence that it barely registers on your radar (…a new credit card arrives in the mail).  Whether monumental or seemingly minimal, an event occurs that steers you off your straight and sensible economic track.  Before you know it, you’re swimming, nay, drowning in debt.  Now what?

While there appears to be an unlimited resource of online articles, instructions and advice on how to climb out of the debt abyss (Solving the Credit Card Debt Enigma, Facing The Final (Bankruptcy) Chapter: 7, Divorce Yourself from Financial Woes), it’s one thing to read about how to theoretically do it; it’s another to hear from people who actually have.  Here is an assemblage of brave souls who tackled their debt head on, and the specific methods they used to remove the money owing albatross from their backs for once and for all.

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You don’t have to get into Harvard to figure out that Harvard Business School isn’t cheap.  The businessinsider.com highlighted the intriguing circumstances of Joe Mihalic, a grad from said institution who left with an impressive diploma …and a student loan debt of $101,000.  After two years of making payments on this sizable loan, Joe wasn’t seeing any significant results ($22,000 paid back to the banks only saw an actual decrease of about $10,000 – because of the high interest fees).  He knew he had to makes some changes: “Joe took a two-pronged approach, decreasing his spending and increasing his revenue. He got a weekend gig as a pedicab driver, started a landscaping business with his friend, bought a flask to skimp on booze spending, got a roommate for his Austin home, temporarily stopped his 401(k) contributions, and did the usual lunch-eating, restaurant-skipping money-saving tricks. It worked. In under a year, he shaved off his entire debt-load.”

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In a story featured on time.com, Master Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, Rachel Gause explained the tactics she was able to put into place to eliminate her debt (which totaled $179,625), and which allowed her to control her future expenditures.  Guase explained “I use the envelope system. Before I get paid, I do my budget. Then I have 13 envelopes—one for groceries, one for clothes and shoes, one for charity, one for dining out, one for gas, and so on. I go to the bank, take the money out, and divide it between the envelopes.  I don’t spend anything that doesn’t come out of those envelopes. Debit cards are nice, but swiping is less emotional. Cash makes me more aware of what I’m spending my money on. If I run out of money for something that month, I don’t buy it. But I’ve never run out of money for something important—now I’m more aware of how much I’m spending.”

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Even if you make a lot of money, you can owe a lot too.  After a decade of healthy spending, Travis Pizel and his wife Vonnie (both of whom have high paying jobs) had collectively racked up a credit card debt to the tune of $109,000, according to the Pizel blog Enemy of Debt.  They realized the best way to combat the intimidating figure was to find a debt management plan that worked for them.  By condensing all of their credit card payments into one figure of approximately $2,500 per month, and adhering to a strict budget, they found that the new order and structure made things easier for them.  With 100k in the books, they are on the fast track to becoming entirely debt free quite soon.

College tennis star Ja’Net Adams was doing very well for herself after graduation, as reported by forbes.com.  She lost her job, however, in the dark days of 2008.  Soon after she and her husband were facing the precipice of a  $50,000 financial chasm.  Ja’Net knew she needed to land another full time job, but also was wise enough to focus on supplemental income as well.  She explained “I started coaching private tennis lessons for $25 an hour, and my husband taught basketball lessons for four or five kids at a time, at $25 per child. This earned us $500 a week.  Then I sought out easy ways to help reduce our expenses, like downgrading to basic cable, scaling back on our cell phone plans, and being conscious of how wasteful habits—like failing to turn off the lights after leaving a room—affected our utility bills. These simple adjustments saved us hundreds each month.”

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Maureen Campaiola was able to devise a three year plan to eliminate $79,500 in credit card and student load debt, states wellkeptwallet.com.  Her inspiring story involved a rollercoaster of economic ups and downs, but ultimately she came away with some extremely helpful wisdom in the debt management forum.  Here are some of the unapologetic tips that she cultivated:

“Cut up your credit cards and don’t look back. You don’t need them and you don’t need the points.

Track your income and expenses religiously. Evaluate it regularly and make adjustments to your spending plan to meet the financial demands month to month.

Be willing to make sacrifices. If you’re not willing, you won’t be successful. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is the truth.

Ask yourself if you need something, BEFORE you make the purchase. If you can’t honestly answer yes to that question, don’t buy it.”

If you find yourself in debt, even if the figure isn’t as astoundingly high as some of ones just listed, there are clearly a variety of steps you can take to help yourself become fully debt-liberated.  Along with the helpful suggestions supplied by the people above,  another method to reduce debt is to sell off any unneeded valuable items in your possession.  If you have diamond jewelry that fits into that category, check out diamondlighthouse.com.  We help people find the very best prices for their diamond jewelry, every day.  Whether you have a one carat sized engagement ring, or a set of diamond earrings totaling 10 carats, we will find the best price for you.  As evidenced from many of the debt eliminating stories in this post, every little bit can help.  Find out more here.

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-Joe Leone