How To Avoid Black Friday Mistakes

How To Avoid Black Friday Mistakes

Black Friday brings with it some terrific deals but also terrifying mistakes to avoid. I’m not saying there will be pits to jump over or fire to avoid; rather, these hazards are of the shopping-mistake variety.

With some tips and tricks and a little planning, you can avoid these easy-to-fall-for mistakes people make every year on Black Friday, saving you valuable time and money. Here’s what not to buy, places to avoid, and alternatives to both.

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Decluttering With Kids: Helping Them Let Go of Stuff

Decluttering With Kids: Helping Them Let Go of Stuff

Every time you step on a minefield of Legos, you probably think “these kids have too many toys”. You’re also probably right, but telling a kid that they have too many toys is…well just try it. Our kids are the first to talk about what they’re going to get for Christmas while the birthday wrapping is still on the floor.

The point is, it’s hard to convince kids that they should maybe get rid of some of their stuff. Their frame of reference is far shorter than ours as adults, so to them, this is ALL their stuff. But as they get new toys and games, there’s got to be some compromise lest your entire house explode like a cartoon.

Going into the conversation in the right mindset, with the right tools and a solid plan will help you immensely. Your kids might be resistant at first, but if you follow these steps you should be victorious in the long run.

How to Get Kids to Help You Declutter

get kids to help declutter

Ask them how they feel about the idea

If you approach it with a “it’s time we give your toys away” attitude, they’re going to balk. Talk to your kids about how they would feel about giving some of their toys away. They’ll still probably be quite resistant, but a discussion is better than an ultimatum.

Address each of their concerns thoroughly and don’t dismiss them. Again, these are their things, and when you’re 5, ownership is a weird concept. Explain that there are some toys that they simply don’t play with anymore, that giving anything away would be their choice and that you’re not forcing anything. This will allow them to consider and come to their own conclusion at first, making it more likely they’ll be receptive to the idea.

Appeal to their sense of being “grown up”, and that letting go of old toys is a symbol of that.

Explain to them that if they DO give away toys, you will donate them to kids who don’t have any. Especially around the holidays when there are kids who won’t get much of any presents, your kids will feel good about helping other children.

Reiterate that it will still be their choice and that you won’t get rid of anything unless they say it’s okay.

Bust out the totes

Once your child agrees, the best thing to do is to get a handful of big storage totes and sit down in their room with them. You can go through their toys with them, sorting them into a “keep” and a “donate” tote. Once you’ve gone through everything, take the “donate” tote and put it up somewhere; your garage, attic or a closet are best. Leave it there for a few months just in case your child changes their mind about something. If they haven’t said anything about the toys after a few months, you can safely donate them.

Embrace sentimentality (to a point)

If you have a stuffed animal that was yours and you gave it to your child, then obviously that can stay. Their first blocks, or their favorite pacifier can still be used for any other kids you might have, so keep them, too.

If your kids are getting into the trenches about a Ninja Turtle they found in the back of the closet they haven’t seen in 3 years, that’s a different story. Additionally if they have a lot of baby toys that hold a lot of emotional weight but that won’t get used, store them in a safe place until your kids have kids of their own. I personally have multiple books that were owned by my mom when she was a kid that she read to me, that I now read to my babies.

Storing – not donating – of sentimental objects functions similarly to decluttering, but without the emotional loss of donating.

Make them into little entrepreneurs

If you are planning on having a garage sale, explain that they could make money on their old toys by selling them. Make sure they know that by selling a lot of old stuff they don’t use, they can pick up new stuff. While the ultimate goal of decluttering is to get rid of extra stuff, selling old toys to buy new ones has a distilling effect. Rather, the volume of stuff they get rid of will be much larger than any new stuff they buy. This also gives them some control over their domain which is always new and exciting.

Establish a “too big bin”

My daughter loves clothes – she changes outfits more than a Superbowl halftime singer. The problem comes when we go to dress her and every outfit I pull from her dresser is too small. The solution for us was a “too big bin”.

Essentially as your child goes to get dressed and finds that the clothes they’re putting on are too small, they take them off and into the bin they go. This can be a clothes hamper, box or (if you’re like me) a tote. The clothes can then be donated or sold. It keeps clothes that don’t fit from popping up when you’re 15 minutes late to dance.

Plus selling clothes is a great way to then re-invest in “new” ones, thereby getting kids’ clothes basically free!

Click for More Ways to Save on Clothes

Give them options for where to donate

The blanket concept of “donating” your old stuff is pretty broad, and it’s especially broad when you’re 5. Sit down and explain the many different places and people that can use their toys and clothes and why. For instance:

– Hospitals

– Preschools

– Family shelters

– Homeless shelters

– Resale stores that employ the homeless, disabled or other at-risk individuals

– Churches that have programs to serve the less financially stable in your community

You can also suggest they sell their stuff like we talked about above, but then show them charities to which they can donate the money. Programs for animals and kids are the ones our children are drawn to, but there are as many charities out there as there are causes to champion. You’ll find one that appeals to your kids.

Enable empathy

Your kids are little blank slates; if you show them that hoarding wealth and possessions is good, they’re going to grow up believing that. The same thing goes with showing them that they can help other people by donating their time, money and stuff.

We’re a family that’s big into volunteering with children, including making blessing bags for the homeless every year.

Most children look at their possessions as simply what they are, and they interact with them accordingly. If you show them that they can help other people, make money or contribute to the housework by donating or selling their stuff, suddenly they gain a new level of autonomy over their lives. You’d be surprised at how motivating a feeling of control and efficacy can be, especially for kids.

Have you decluttered your kids’ room? Did they help, were they resistant or did everything go better than expected? Let us know in the comments what worked for you!

Get Started with Mystery Shopping

Get Started with Mystery Shopping

If you’ve ever considered mystery shopping, you know it can be kind of…confusing. There are companies that claim to be mystery shopping firms but are really scams. Then there are mystery shop companies that never have any offers and just wastes your time. The fact is that if you’re doing it right, mystery shopping can be fun and earn you some free meals, items and actual cash. The trick is getting into it the right way.

Using this tutorial, you should be able to get started with mystery shopping, avoid predatory companies and start enjoying all the cool perks of the gig.

Earn Freebies and Cash By Mystery Shopping

get started mystery shopping

How to start with mystery shopping

The first thing you want to do is ensure that you know what mystery shopping entails. Most shops will require you to purchase goods or services for which you will be reimbursed down the line, and usually compensated on top of that. With that said, it can be a month sometimes before you’re paid out, so setting aside some funds for the sole purpose of this gig is a great idea.

Open a separate bank account or simply keep a ledger of mystery shopping expenses. This way you can see what you’re spending on shops and set aside some of your earnings to pay for future shops. For instance, we went to a local restaurant a few weeks ago, a shop that reimbursed us for the dining experience and paid us, but we won’t get paid for that until the end of the month. Dining out can be expensive with kids, so reinvesting into your side gig can keep costs from spilling over into your normal budget.

Check out the MSPA Americas’ website. Basically the who’s-who of mystery shopping partners and programs, the MSPA will get you started with companies and opportunities in your area, and help you avoid scammers.

Avoid Mystery Shop Scams

Once you know how to avoid scams, start finding opportunities. We were only signed up with Bestmark for a long time, and it allowed us a handful of jobs a month, usually restaurant visits, but hardly enough to really make money. Once we started to really look for local gigs, we found that we could actually earn additional, relevant income from mystery shopping. A few places to look are:

  • The best is always going to be Google. Search for your area and find quality companies with shops in your area.
  • Craigslist is another place where you might find companies scouting your area for shoppers, but be especially wary and only go with these opportunities if you can verify it’s from a reputable company.
  • Bestmark is a A+ Better Business Bureau company and is the largest, most reputable mystery shopping business there is. We’ve had dining, electronics shopping, cellphone shopping, and service opportunities through them and they always pay.
  • Market Force is another tried and tested name in mystery shopping. You can sign up and like the others, you’ll get paid out monthly for your efforts. Typically these are more retail shops than dining or services, but not strictly.
  • A Closer Look is another company that hosts mystery shops. They’re open to shops in both the US and Canada currently, but they are more selective on their shops. This means less opportunities overall but better incentives when you do get one.
  • Secret Shopper is last but not least in our list of reputable, online mystery shopping groups. They also have global opportunities if you’re not in North America.

Take Notes as a Shopper

Keep track of your shops, the companies you worked for and dates you went. This provides you a sort of resume from which you can solicit your own shops. If you know a company in your area is more selective about which shoppers they hire, this can give you an edge.

Be persistent. The best gigs and most opportunities go to the shoppers who are on-the-ball, respond quickly and complete shops regularly. Apply for as much as you can reasonably do, but don’t apply for things you will likely flake on, as that will impact your ability to get future jobs. Finally, complete the exit surveys and questionnaires as thoroughly as possible. Use good grammar, write in-depth, and do a fantastic job and you’ll be much more likely to get more work.

Other things to consider when getting started with mystery shopping

If you’re diligent, you’ll make extra money fast with mystery shopping. That said, be aware of a few things:

  • You will need to apply to forums, look for jobs regularly, and complete tasks to the best of your ability to make good income this way; no being lazy!
  • There will be some weeks where there doesn’t seem to be anything going on and you might get discouraged, but the best season for mystery shopping is around the holidays. This is where your diligence pays off, because by slogging through the summer, you’ll be one of the first people picked for good opportunities around Christmas and the New Year.
  • Never EVER get with a company that requires you to “make a deposit” or send them money to get you on a list or get started. These are always scams. A reputable company will only ever pay you out directly and will never ask for money from you. This is different, however, from shops that require you to make a purchase of dinner or a retail item and then reimburse you later on; these are often how you shops will go.
  • If you can’t get out to locations, some companies like Bestmark and Market Force have “phone shops”. These opportunities allow you to call a company and ask a few scripted questions. They’re quick, and usually pay $3-5 dollars each, which isn’t bad considering you can do them from home in your pajamas!
  • If the payment comes before the shop, or it seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are scammers that will pose as representatives of actual, reputable companies that will send you a huge check in advance of a shop, or just a big payment for a mundane task. These are scams, and you’ll need to be wary. Nobody is paying $100 to walk into a Best Buy and look at televisions!
  • If you get offers through text or phone calls, chances are good it’s not legit. Market Force has a tightly controlled app that they communicate with their shoppers through, and Bestmark communicates via email which links to their secure forums. Each company is different, so learn the channels of communication through which they operate and you’ll be safe.

Mystery shopping is a fun, simple way to earn some nice rewards

With a little effort, attention to detail, and persistence, you can get continual cash flow on the side for shopping at places you’d normally go. Free or cheap meals, discounts on goods and services or freebies are all part of the gig if you’re good at it, and seasonal upticks in business can mean some awesome potential around the holidays!

Be diligent and wary of scammers, write great reviews and make sure you’re applying for everything you can find and you’ll get the hang of mystery shopping in no time.

Do you have any experience mystery shopping, either in-store or on the phone? Do you make good money doing it? Let us know in the comments; our newbies would love your tips!

Is Euzema Revival Cream Worth Using For Eczema?

Is Euzema Revival Cream Worth Using For Eczema?

Natural ways to fight eczema aren’t easy to find – at least not ones that actually work. My daughter and husband both suffer from eczema, so we’re always on the lookout for something that can help with the itching and rashes. We’d picked up various skin calming lotions from Walgreens or other pharmacies and it always worked just okay to relieve itching. My husband has shampoo specifically for flare-ups that again does an okay job at relieving his symptoms.

I’m not a fan of “just okay” though, so when a family member recommended Euzema Confidence Revival Cream as a better solution, I decided to check it out. Right off the bat I noticed that they’re really pushing that it’s all natural and traditional ingredients that they use. I’m not suggesting this is good or bad, but it is their focus.

I picked some up and decided to do some experiments to see if it really was worth using compared to the stuff we already had.

Consistency

The first thing I noticed is that it’s got an interesting smell. It’s not bad, but it’s very potent. There’s frankincense as an ingredient, but it doesn’t come across as strongly once applied. The consistency of the cream is something like paste, but it goes on silky smooth without an oily residue. A little goes a long way on rashes, as my husband used what he thought was a conservative estimate and found that it was almost too much.

The jar we got is small, but realizing it doesn’t take much made me feel better about the product size.

Is Euzema only for eczema?

The package claims to be useful for psoriasis, rashes, bug bites and allergic reactions, including just dry, flaky skin. While I wouldn’t want to use it just as a lotion for dry skin, it does appear to be useful if you’ve got an eczema-similar skin condition and need something. We wanted something without steroids, especially for our daughter and Euzema’s all-natural formula was a big selling point.

The fact that it’s supposedly useful for things other than clinical skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis is great. We have terrible mosquitoes around our neighborhood and we’re not without bug bites every evening during the summer. Having another tool to in our arsenal to combat the mind-numbing itching from summer bugs is always welcome.

But DOES it work?

Euzema Confidence Revival Cream Review

Purple and white box with Euzema written on it

Does Euzema actually work?

We did a couple of experiments to make sure it was:

1 – not going to cause a reaction itself and

2 – would actually work for rashes, bug bites, eczema, etc.

First my husband and I both tried it on our normal, non-itchy skin. We rubbed in a pea-sized amount on our arms and waited and had no adverse reaction.

Next, my husband put some on an eczema flare on his face, and this was where he started with too much. It wipes off easily without a gross residue, though, so we finally dialed in the perfect amount. He said the itching calmed down almost immediately and within a few hours the redness had subsided significantly. The next morning it was starting to clear up, which put a smile on his face because flares are unbelievably itchy and obnoxious.

We tried it on my daughter’s itchy, dry eczema patches next and again, it quickly stopped the itching. The areas were significantly less red within a few hours. We also tried it on various bug bites we all had and it seemed to help calm the itching down.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) we didn’t have any other rashes or bites to try it on, but the small sample size we do have seemed to indicate it works!

What’s in Euzema?

There are many natural herbs used within Euzema. First, there’s licorice root – famously known for its use in traditional Chinese medicine. Licorice root is great as an antiviral and really helps moisturize the skin.

Next there’s something called Aquilara Agallocha. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how to say that, let alone what it was before using Euzema. A bit of research, though, shows me that it’s another name for Agarwood. Agarwood is often used in incense and it’s bark is turned into a paste for many skin conditions, including eczema.

Another one I had to look up was Trichosanthes Kirilowii Fruit. As expected, this fruit is another one common in Chinese medicine. It has many anti-inflammatory properties and is known for treating ailments both outside and within the body.

Lastly there’s the bamboo extract (yay one I didn’t have to look up!) Bamboo extract has natural anti-inflammatory properties and contains minerals such as: iron, Vitamin C, and calcium. Euzema even utilizes the natural wax of the bamboo to create the base of this ointment!

euzema skin ingredients

Is Euzema worth the cost?

My husband said it was much more pleasant than the calming creams we have. He said they typically almost hurt when first applied to itchy, inflamed skin but the Euzema didn’t and worked almost immediately. My daughter’s itching stopped almost immediately, too, so she had no complaints.

It’s somewhat expensive, around $50/bottle, but the effective dose is small enough that the bottle should last you a while. It does seem to be more effective than over-the-counter creams, it’s all-natural. Given that it definitely does work, there’s plenty of “pros” to account for the cost.

As for cons, I’m not a big fan of the scent and again, the price is a bit steep, at least at face value. If it works for you as well as it appears to have worked for us, though, it’s well worth it. In particular if it works for psoriasis or for stubborn rashes, it’s definitely worth not having to use steroidal creams.

Euzema skincare claims that it also works on small cuts and pimples, and also on freckles by diminishing their appearance. The most useful aspects do seem to be on rashes, allergic reactions and chronic skin problems.

Have you been dealing with chronic, itchy skin problems and do you have a go-to product that helps?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments, especially if you have experience with Euzema yourself.

The 12 Absolute Best Money Saving Apps and Extensions

The 12 Absolute Best Money Saving Apps and Extensions

There are apps for everything now, so it makes sense that coupons are going the digital route. From grocery stores to fast food, there’s a discount app or several out there that will scratch whatever particular itch you’ve got going on. Some take some planning to make the most of them and some are automatic but no matter what, each of these are worth the time investment in the money you’ll save.

The Best Money Saving Apps and Extensions

money saving apps

Apps to Help Save Money

Ibotta

I’ve written an Ibotta review in the past and I use it every time I go to the grocery store. It’s a handy little application that allows you to save on things on your meal plan (you are making a meal plan, aren’t you?). You simply search, find what you’re looking for, and then buy it! Sometimes there are caveats like needing to buy something else as well (for instance, pizza with soda) but generally they’re things you were going to buy anyway, and you get a pretty amazing amount of cash back.

Simply snap a photo of the receipt and then the bar code on the purchased product and voila! The savings appear in your Ibotta account.

What’s more, you can use the Ibotta app when you’re shopping online to get automatic savings on the purchases you make through the app on the retailer’s store. Sign up through this link and get $5 deposited into your Ibotta account automatically!

Some stores also allow you to connect your customer loyalty account with the Ibotta app so you can circumvent the entire process of scanning receipts, which is very handy.

Find&Save

Find&Save is an interesting website that partners with local newspapers, media outlets, and retailers in your area to bring you solid deals. While it started as a website, it’s now also added an app as well. In addition to constantly updating their deals and coupons, they also have great leads on back-to-school and holiday sales at over 500 major retailers.

ShopKick

This one is an interesting blend of useful app and fun technology. It’s a points-based rewards program and a discount app all mushed together that sends you deals based on your shopping preferences. One big difference here is that ShopKick uses your GPS to reward you for simply going into a store. If you walk into a brick-and-mortar store with your GPS on using this app, you don’t even need to buy anything to get rewards points. Finally, it uses your location data to ping you with nearby deals, which is especially nice around the holidays when certain stores might have short windows of very juicy sales.

Fetch Rewards

This is an interesting one. You download the app and scan in every receipt, every time, and you’re given an amount of points based on each item from participating vendors. You can then use those points at a huge variety of other vendors like Sephora, Best Buy, AMC Theaters and many, many more. The best part of Fetch Rewards is that it might pick up some items that your other apps can miss, so definitely give it a try.

More Money Saving Apps

Savings Star

SavingsStar works a lot like Ibotta – you can link in your participating grocer’s rewards card directly to the app. Then you select whatever rebates are relevant to your purchases and shop, checking out and scanning your rewards card as normal. Instead of the discounts being taken off your bill, they’re added to your Savings Star account and once you hit $20, you can cash out through Paypal or your bank. You can also upload receipts too, just in case your store doesn’t have a rewards card.

Checkout51

In the same vein as Ibotta and SavingsStar, Checkout51 scans your receipts for savings you might have missed. Essentially it compiles a wide variety of coupons and then applies them in reverse, giving you money in your account rather than taking it off your total at the register. These various apps are useful independent of each other because some will definitely be better depending on where you like to shop and where you live.

KeyRing

KeyRing is great because it’s a decluttering app and a coupon app all in one. Download KeyRing and start scanning in all of your store loyalty cards and then throw them away because the app holds them for you. Then you can browse discounts specific to the store and have the cashier scan your phone rather than a clunky piece of plastic hanging from your car keys.

Coupon Sherpa

This app allows you to search your local area for great discounts on dining, shopping, or entertainment. One thing that differentiates Coupon Sherpa from other apps is that you typically need to print out these coupons to use them, which is helpful for people who are making grocery lists and trying to avoid impulse purchases. At the same time, the app has digital savings and gives you location-based savings information, so it’s win-win either way.

InboxDollars

InboxDollars is such a great way to make and save money! Not only can you access coupons via the app, but you’ll actually get paid to download those coupons!

Check Out Our InboxDollars Review!

Browser extensions to Save Money

Honey

Honey is a free browser add-on that simply discounts whatever you’re shopping for online. Click through to a store, and it will automatically scan for available discounts and pop up a little box asking if you want to apply them. It’s really super easy, and with their rewards program – Honey Gold – you can get rewards points, even if the store doesn’t have coupons available. Check out Honey and get started earning rewards and saving money on the online shopping you already do!

Rakuten

I’ve spoken at length about how much I loved Ebates and just because it changed its name to Rakuten doesn’t mean I love it less. This site allows you to get great discounts at various retailers online, as well as returning some of your purchase back to you in the form of quarterly payouts. Some retailers offer 1% cash back but some like Dell have 5-10% back, and when you’re making a sizeable purchase, that can translate to a lot of money. Check out Rakuten through our referral link and earn $10 back on your first $25+ purchase in addition to whatever you get back naturally from Rakuten.

RetailMeNot

Similar to Rakuten and Honey, RetailMeNot offers another way to find discounts at online retailers through their app or browser extension. Having several of these will allow you to figure out the best possible savings for your needs by comparing and contrasting available discounts.

Find the discounts, wherever they might hide

Using these apps – particularly together – along with making a shopping list and meal plan will help you save a tremendous amount of money. Some give rewards, some save directly on your receipt, and some give you a nice payout each month. Regardless of how you use them, there’s at least a few that will benefit you, so check them out!

Did we miss any great coupon, savings or rebates apps and extensions? Let us know in the comments which are your favorites and we might add them in!