‘Helpful Articles’ Category

Recipes for Homemade Laundry Soap

Friday, March 30th, 2012

It’s pretty easy to make homemade laundry soap, and can save you some money!  I’ve been doing this for a little while now, and have liked the results!  Here’s a website with some recipes.

Recipes for Homemade Laundry Soap

Free phone services to reach Japan

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Free phone services to reach Japan

In the wake of the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, most telecommunication companies are offering free phone calls and text messages to Japan. The details for each company and plan vary, so read the details carefully to understand what your carrier is providing.

Of note, a post-paid mobile customer is one who receives a monthly bill for service. This is different than a prepaid customer who buys minutes in advance and does not have a monthly contract.

Your turn: Are you aware of other free services Americans can use to reach those in Japan?

AT&T Landline. Now through March 31 AT&T landline customers can get up to 60 free minutes of international calling to Japan. The free minutes will come in the form of a credit. When the customer receives their bill with the international charges, they need to call AT&T to request an adjustment.

AT&T Wireless. Now through March 31 international long distance usage from the United States and Puerto Rico to Japan, as well as text messages, originating from an AT&T wireless number will be free.

Sprint Wireless. Sprint is waiving fees for wireless calls and text messages to and from Japan for post-paid Sprint wireless customers retroactively from March 11, running through April 10, 2011.

T-Mobile. Post-paid T-Mobile customers can make free calls and send free text messages to Japan now through March 31. T-Mobile is retroacting this promotion to March 11, so any calls or texts made between March 11 and March 31 will be free.

Verizon Landline. Verizon residential landline calls from the US to Japan will also be free until April 10th and that Verizon Prepaid Phone Card charges for US to Japan calls will be waived until April 10th.

Verizon Wireless. All Verizon Wireless post-paid customers will receive free calling to Japan from March 11 through April 10. In addition, Verizon Wireless post-paid customers in the U.S. will receive free text and multimedia messaging to Japan for the same time period.

Vonage. All calls to Japan from a US-based Vonage line are free through 7:30 pm CST on March 18.

Comcast Digital Voice is also offering free calls to Japan through April 10th for both “Xfinity voice” (digital voice) and business class customers. Charges will automatically be removed from your bill! This applies to calls made to both landlines and cell phones!

Article from Pocket your dollars.com

Get Local: Glitz! at MOA

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Glitz! isn’t waiting until after prom season to offer discounts. On Friday, the Mall of America special occasion retailer will open a sale store called Glitz! On Sale with nearly 1,000 gowns, separates and accessories for 30 to 50 percent off. The store, third level, east side at MOA, will be open through March and possibly into early April.

From: AliShopsBlog

Walmart’s New Coupon Policy

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Walmart’s New Coupon Policy

Walmart has a new coupon policy.  They now accept coupons for over the value of the item you are buying. That means you will receive cash back or you may use the overage towards the rest of your purchase.

Here’s a great article about Home Energy Efficiency

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Here’s a great article about Home Energy Efficiency.

Making your home more energy efficient will save you money ~ says Nifties!

Here are a few easy things you can do to cut your home energy use. Convince the entire family to follow these steps, and you may find that it doesn’t take any time or cost any money to improve your home’s energy efficiency.

Home Energy Efficiency

Great Article – Things You Should Always Buy Green

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Things You Should Always Buy Green

1. Paint
Why: Most paint contains VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which evaporate into the air, creating health hazards for people.
What to buy: Low or, ideally, no-VOC paint.

Find safe paints in the National Green Pages™ »

2. Paper
Why: 38.9% of waste in the average American household is paper. Paper made from virgin materials contributes to deforestation and global warming, and often ends up taking up landfill space.
What to buy: Paper products (including printer paper, notebooks, paper towels, etc.) with a high post-consumer recycled content. It takes 60% less energy to manufacture from recycled stock than from virgin materials, and saves trees in the process. Also, use cloth alternatives when possible, such as cloth napkins and dish towels.

Learn more about our WoodWise Program »

3. Light bulbs
Why: Conventional light bulbs use much more energy and release more CO2 than energy-efficient alternatives.
What to buy: Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. The compact fluorescent bulb will last 10 times longer, while producing half the amount of CO2 in its lifetime.

Learn more about green energy and energy efficency »

4. Batteries
Why: Americans use two billion batteries each year, and most of them end up in landfills. Batteries contain dangerous toxins, cadmium and mercury in particular, and need to be treated as hazardous waste.
What to buy: Rechargable batteries and battery chargers. Rechargeable batters can be recharged hundreds of times, saving you money and preventing toxic waste from entering landfills.

Find rechargable batteries in the National Green Pages™ »

5. Diapers
Why: Disposable diapers take up 2% of all American landfill space. It takes around 80,000 pounds of plastic and over 200,000 trees a year to manufacture the disposable diapers for American babies alone, and the waste from the diapers risks contaminating ground water supplies.
What to buy: Try out cloth diapers (look for non-bleached organic cotton). You will use more water than with disposable diapers, but the water will end up in the sewer system, and you won’t be contributing to landfill waste.

6. Produce
Why: On average, when food arrives on an American’s table, it has already traveled 400 miles.
What to buy: Look for local, in-season produce. You can save money, and sustain your local community. Go the extra mile and look for organic produce- organic produce guarantees that your family, and the farmers you’re supporting, are safe from dangerous chemicals.  Also look for Fair Trade Certified™ fruit such as bananas, mangoes, pineapples and grapes.  Fair Trade Certification guarantees that farmers were paid a fair price for their harvests.

Learn more about Fair Trade »

7. Clothes
Why: Many clothing manufacturers are seeking cheaper labor overseas in developing markets where few labor laws exist to protect worker rights.  Sweatshop and child labor a are a major problem in the clothing industry.
What to buy: Look for sweat-free clothing, products that guarantee a living wage for factory workers. Look for clothing that carries a union label, or buy clothing made by a Fair Trade or green business such as those listed in the National Green Pages™.

Learn about our work to end sweatshops »

8. Transportation
Why: If only 1% of car owners in the US did not drive for one day a week, we would save an estimated 42 million gallons of gas a year and keep 840 millions pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere. If one in ten Americans used public transportation regularly, US reliance on foreign oil would be cut by more than 40% (the amount imported from Saudi Arabia every year).
What to do: Make an effort to use public transportation at least one day a week, or arrange a carpool. When the time comes to get your next car, look for the most fuel-efficient model or a hybrid. Think about all the ways to cut your car out of your life. Join a car-sharing program. Ride a bike or walk whenever possible.

Learn about green transportation »

9. Appliances
Why: The power required by US households results in more pollution each year than are put out by cars, and less energy efficient appliances cost you more money in your electric bill.
What to Buy: Look for appliances with the Energy Star label- these are energy-efficient models tested and approved by the EPA and Department of Energy. Using energy-efficient heating and cooling systems could cut your annual energy costs by 20%, and switching to energy efficient appliances, like washers, dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers, can cut hundreds of dollars of your annual electricity bills.

10. Showerheads

Why: Conventional showerheads and faucets release more water than you need.
What to buy: Look for faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads, which will reduce water use by 50%. A typical family of four can cut their water usage by as much as 280 gallons a month.

11. Coffee
Why: Coffee is the second most heavily traded commodity in the world after oil, with over 25 million farmers and their families dependent on coffee for their livelihoods. Most farmers, however, receive less than 1% of the price of a cup of conventional coffee.
What to Buy: Look for Fair Trade Certified™ organic coffee. Fair Trade certification guarantees a stable price for coffee ($1.26/lb. compared to around $0.14/lb. on the conventional market), and supports democratically run farming cooperatives. Nearly 85 percent of Fair Trade coffee in the US is also organic.

12. Energy
Why: Burning fossil fuels for energy is one of the leading causes of global warming.  Reducing our national reliance on fossil-fuel energy sources is crucial for creating a secure and sustainable energy future.
What to look for:  If your utility offers green energy, sign up today. Home solar units are growing in popularity, and some states offer incentive programs for homeowners looking to install solar on their homes.

If green energy isn’t available in your area,  you can still offset your carbon dioxide emissions through programs such as NativeEnergy’s WindBuilder program.

Article from:  http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/shopunshop/buyinggreen/whattobuy.cfm

Article: Best Places to Get Free Books

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Article:  Best Places to Get Free Books

Get Local: Two Days of Free Dental Care “Give Kids a Smile” (St. Paul/Mpls)

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Get Local: Two Days of Free Dental Care “Give Kids a Smile” (St. Paul/Mpls)

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Good news for parents struggling to get their kids to the dentist in this tough economy.

The Minnesota Dental Association is offering two days of free care to thousands of children, through a program called Give Kids a Smile.

Early Childhood educator Jamey Iovino often refers families in her Building Bridges program at Somerset Elementary in Mendota Heights to the free service. She said her young students are usually sparkling with enthusiasm. Which is why it was obvious when little Lizeth Gutierez seemed painfully distracted.

“When you can’t eat and you’re losing weight and you need to get dental care fast, it’s really invaluable to have this resource,” Iovino said.

Give Kids a Smile combines 3,000 volunteers, including about 500 dentists, with thousands of children in need. Woodbury dentist Dr. Kyle Edlund is one of the volunteers.

“Because of language or economic reasons or (because) their parents don’t know much about dentistry… they have not had a chance to get into the dental office,” Edlund said.

The families helped by program really cover the spectrum, from those living in poverty, to those hit by layoffs or financial hardship.

“I think for a lot of families when you have to choose between, rent or food or fixing your child’s tooth … the difference (made by a program like this) is huge,” said Iovino.

Lizeth’s mother Laura Lopez-Guteierrez, a Mexican immigrant, said her daughter is all smiles these days, with dreams of college and a focus on enjoying school again.

“I don’t know how to thank you for the help for my daughter,” she said. “I appreciate all the help.”

Dr. Edlund said the help is as easy to get as making an appointment.

“We’re providing care for any children 1 to 18 years of age. They just need a parent or a legal guardian,” he said. “There’s no questions asked.”

To make an appointment for a child Feb. 4 or 5, call United Way at 211, or click this link.

The Good Life For Less: Finding The Best Travel Deals

Friday, January 21st, 2011

The Good Life For Less: Finding The Best Travel Deals

-Alison Lorge is a web producer and consumer blogger at WCCO.

January in Minnesota may mean you are feeling the stinging bite of winter winds, lack of sun and the need to just see green again. And if the season continues this way, February and March will bring even more of a desire to soak up some rays of sun.

So where do you go to spot some of the best travel deals? There are lots of options and they may seem overwhelming if you don’t know where to start.

You can try your hand on one of the many online travel vendors. They are all good in their own way and each has things that stand out better than others when it comes to incentives for booking with them (I will get to those more later).

My personal favorite place to start is Kayak.com. I have been using this site for years because it is a pretty simplified looking site that allows you to play around with trip options in a very easy-to-see manner. No flashy graphics or floating palm tree pictures here!

It stands out to me because it searches hundreds of online travel vendors for you and compares them. My favorite part is the fact that you can narrow down options and make it fit your exact preferences by playing with the easy-to-use slider bars for things like the price, departure and arrival times. And use the check boxes to narrow down the amenities you want, class of the hotel, the landmarks you want to be near.

However, Kayak is the site to find deals and compare them, and it’s not the best place to look at photos of the hotels and landmarks. (I’ll tell you what the best place is for that later.) Kayak sends you to other sites to book your trip, but this is a good place to start.

Now on to some of the big online travel vendors:

Travelocity – The company with the traveling gnome. They have all the major airlines. They have a low price guarantee. They allow you to daydream and find the perfect trip with their Experience Finder. This allows you to play with maps, photos, pick themes for your vacation and browse through activities and events to plan your trip around

Priceline- The company with William Shatner as the Priceline Negotiator. The good news is they let you name your own price to bid on hotel rooms, flights, vacations and more. There are also no booking fees. The bad news, they have gotten many complaints about being lax with customer service, so buyers beware if you are making complicated travel plans. I would use them if you need to find a last minute flight for cheap. If you just can’t get enough, download their app.

Orbitz- They offer price assurance and no flight booking fees if you fly with a single carrier. They also have a search bar (I know, sounds simple) to help you find exactly what you are looking for — something not all sites have. One thing to know is that the “Price Assurance” only applies to flights booked on Orbitz, so they say “if another Orbitz customer books your same flight or prepaid hotel room for less, they’ll send you a cash refund for the difference.” This is another good place to find last minute flight deals.

Travelzoo – Many travel deal junkies subscribe to their newsletter — 21 million to be exact! The company actually employs people to work in the “Test Booking Center” where they test all of the deals you see on the website. The thing that makes Travelzoo stand out is that they will not recommend a travel deal that they wouldn’t book themselves and their reviews are all done independently — not affiliated with a hotel or airline. Basically they sift through the best deals for you in something they call the “Top 20.”

Hotwire- This site stands out for its “Trip Watcher” feature which lets you know when the price on a trip has dropped. It is comparable to other sites when it comes to finding deals, but it does let you search flexible dates in case you find a cheaper flight leaving the day before. However, you do have to pay a fee if you book with them and the price can vary.

Expedia- No Expedia Change or Cancel fees on hotels, cruises, cars and more! They don’t charge booking fees for flights and are in the process of creating a new travel rewards program where you can earn points to go towards your trip. This is a nice site to book a hotel on because all the information they provide to help you easily narrow down your search for the perfect place to lay your head at night. It’s also easy on the eyes. Once in a vacation search, promotions and deals for hotels are easy to spot in bright green font.

Of course, the big discount travel vendors may not hold a candle to what’s offered directly on airline web pages, so make sure to double check there before you book to get the best price.

Whatever you choose, once you’ve narrowed down your search and found a few different options, I recommend always cross-referencing your hotel picks with TripAdvisor. To me, this is hands-down the best site to find real reviews from people who just got back from the same place you are planning on going. You can also get ideas for things to do nearby and see photos uploaded from people’s actual trips, not just the fancy staged resort pictures. There are forums and also tips and hints on things you shouldn’t miss or should make sure to pack.

I hope these tips help you start your search for the perfect destination, but you may not want to book that flight just yet. I’ll be doing another post on the pitfalls and things to avoid for when looking for travel deals later this week.

-Alison Lorge is a web producer and consumer blogger at WCCO.

Article: Doctors share money-saving tips

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Doctors share money-saving tips

By JOHN EWOLDT, Star Tribune

Doctors share their money-saving tips

Most doctors like to do a little chitchat before they get down to business. I like the ones who share money-saving tricks of the trade.

Dr. Richard Wyatt, an allergist at Park Nicollet in St. Louis Park, had a quick response when I complained about the high cost of Advair, an asthma medication. Go to Advair’s website each month and print a coupon for $10 off (www.startribune.com/a142), he said. The coupon can even be credited toward a co-pay of $10 or more. (The coupon cannot be used for mail-in programs.)

Wyatt said that uninsured patients can find a generic version of Advair for about 65 percent less at Canadian sites such as www.canadadrugs.com (1-800-226-3784).

“About one-third of drugs have a coupon that can be printed from the website,” he said. Just do a search for the name of the drug and “coupon.”

Dr. Spencer Holmes, a dermatologist at Park Nicollet, doesn’t practice cosmetic dermatology but encourages patients to shop around for a dermatologist with experience in the procedure they want and to look for a good price. Patients should not be afraid to ask for a deal or introductory offer, he said.

For a cheaper alternative, Retin A is still a good prescription for reducing wrinkles, smoothing skin and stimulating collagen. Start with the generic Tretinoin available by prescription for about 70 percent less than Retin A. The price at Costco for 45 grams of 0.1 percent Retin A cream is $196.51, but the generic equivalent is $57.18.

Finally, ask your doctor for free samples of prescriptions you take regularly or are just starting. A few freebies can almost pay for an office visit.