Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page


In budget, Your Giveaways, Your World on May 31, 2010 at 8:57 AM

By: Jennifer Brown Banks 

Image Courtesy Carlos Koblischek


When most people think about ways to have more money, they immediately think of cutting back expenses or adding an additional income source. True?  

While these strategic measures will produce good results when used properly, there are other ways to build your bank account that don’t require a great investment of time or sacrifice.  

These small efforts won’t take away from your quality of life or your sanity either. 

As one man once wisely stated, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  

With this in mind, here are a few ways to have more money with less effort!  

  • Don’t get “squeezed” by fees—Whether they’re the result of library fines for late items, credit card fees for late payments, or nuisance fees charged by banks for convenient ATM withdrawals, keep them to an absolute minimum. Little things add up quickly. For example, a while back ago I slipped up on the date to return some “free movies” that I lucked up on at my local library by just one day!  Twenty-four hours later translated into paying $12.00 in fines. Ouch. You can bet that won’t happen again soon. I could have bought the movies for less!  


  • Be attentive to scanner errors and oversights—Most people mistakenly assume that computerized processes can never be wrong. Not true. Even though the nature of the error may be of “human origin” like data input mistakes, they still happen. How does this affect you as a consumer? Scanner errors at the grocery store are more frequent than one might imagine. In fact, I have been able to reap the benefits of these mishaps many times. For example, Jewel Food Store has a price scan guarantee. Did you know that? If an item scans incorrectly you get it free. (This does not apply to alcohol or tobacco products.) The next time you’re out shopping, make sure that your items are being charged to you correctly. In today’s economy, every little bit helps.


  • Comparison Shop—Even when items are on sale, chances are, you might be able to get them somewhere cheaper. Of course you’ll never know if you don’t do your homework. Here’s something I discovered recently. It used to be that Aldi’s had the lowest prices across the board, as far as supermarkets were concerned. Not anymore. Items like catsup and cereal can be bought cheaper at your local Dollar Bills Store.  Always make sure to look for online deals and also the various “brick and mortar” sales advertised in Sunday’s edition of your local paper. Become an educated consumer to get the most bang for your buck! Remember, “Haste makes waste.”

Follow these timely tips and you’ll discover that there are little (almost effortless) things that you can do that will add up to BIG savings for you and your family. 


Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, columnist and professional blogger.  Visit her blog  Pen and Prosper , and her column at .


Military-Friendly Family Attractions: Active Duty and Retired Get in For Free!

In budget, Your World on May 27, 2010 at 9:23 AM

Image Courtesy Robert Linder


Businesses across America recognize the valuable contributions our active duty and retired military families make by offering free admission to museums, water parks and other family attractions.   For those traveling near a military base, make (down right cheap 🙂 ) reservations for space-available accommodations by calling  the following phone numbers:  

Army: 1-800-GO-ARMY-1  

Air Force: 1-888-AF LODGE  

Navy: 1-800-NAVY-INN  

 Happy Memorial Day!



Image Courtesy Helen Bobis


 Kings Dominion – FREE admission to active duty and retired military personnel on Sunday and Monday of both the Memorial Day and July 4th weekends as a part of its Tribute to the Armed Forces program.  The exact dates are May 30, 31 and July 4, 5, 2010  

Valleyfair Amusement Park – Free admission to members of the armed services, active or veteran. Must show military ID. May 30th and 31st.  

Carowinds Theme Park– FREE regular admission ticket to any active or retired military personnel on Sunday and Monday of both the Memorial Day and July 4th weekends.  

Queen Mary – Offering free admission to veterans and active U.S. military personnel over the 2010 Memorial Day Weekend.  

The New Orleans Zephyrs – Offering free admission for all military personnel and their families for the Memorial Day game on Monday, May 31.  

Blue Star Museums – Over 600 museums will offer free admission to Military & their families from Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, through Labor Day, September 6, 2010.  

Colonial Williamsburg – Will hold a free commemorative program and free admission on May 31st from 10am – 10:45am  

Alabama Adventure – Active Military admitted free with Military I.D. May 29th – 31st.  

Gilroy Gardens – “Gilroy Gardens Salutes our Heroes with FREE ADMISSION to the park. This offer is for all Military, Police and Fire Personnel. Guest must present a valid Military, Police and Fire ID to receive one (1) FREE complimentary ticket.”  

Kings Island – Free admission to military personnel Memorial Day and July 4th weekends.  

 Lowry Park Zoo – May 31, any active duty, activated, retired or drilling reservist, or National Guardsman is entitled to free admission.  

 Knott’s Berry Farm and all three Southern California Knott’s Soak City water parks –Palm Springs, San Diego and Buena Park are offering FREE admission to active and retired United States Military personnel on Sunday May 30th and Monday May 31st AND  Independence Day (July 4-5) weekends as part of their Tribute to the Armed Forces Program.  

 Hawaiian Falls Waterpark in Texas is offering free admission to all active duty military personnel to their three area waterparks, including parks in Garland, The Colony, and Mansfield, from 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Memorial Day, May 31.  

 Thank you Free Sample Momma for providing this list!  

Are You Ready for Emergencies?

In Your Health, Your Home, Your World on May 27, 2010 at 7:17 AM


Emergency Escape Route


Preparing for the unthinkable isn’t something most people think about.  After all, bad things only happen to other people – right?    

Wouldn’t it be great to receive a cautionary note the day before a crisis occurred?     

Unfortunately, tragedies don’t understand the rules of fair play.     

While we can’t control Mother Nature, Acts of God, or accidents, we can make sure our families are prepared to survive when a crisis erupts by making preparedness a daily watchword and having  household emergency plans.    

Read the following tips, then download and copy the complete  Family Emergency Kit (PDF)   

Family Emergency Kit


A Few Things to Think About     

Click Image to Enlarge 



Make sure every family member (including children) knows your emergency plan.  Share it with co-workers, neighbors, friends, and extended family members, in and out-of-state.  These folks act as relay systems when you need help.  Is there an infant or family member with special needs in your home?  Make your health department and emergency response teams aware of this and ask how they can help.      

Coordinate Emergency Plans    

Know your city, and hospital emergency plans, locations and warning signals.   Coordinate these plans with those at work, and your children’s schools.    

Grab and Go Bag     

If you need to evacuate your home, have a bag of essentials that you can quickly picked up and take with you.  Use a check list to make sure you have the proper items.
  • General Supplies:  First aid kit, medicine, battery operated cell phone charger, crank or battery operated radio, camp stove with fuel (only use outside), water filter, pens, paper, games and activities for your children and you.  
  • Cash and Important Documents:  Have at least $200.00 in small bills like ones, fives and tens.  It’s also important to have access to a national bank in case your local branch  or home town bank is closed. Make copies of important documents, (birth certificates, passports, deeds, insurance policy numbers, social security cards, etc.)  to keep in your Grab and Go Bag. 

Escape Routes    

Plan escape routes from your work place and home.  Know transportation routes out of your neighborhood, and city, and plan alternatives. Determine a specific meeting place in and outside your community for family members who are not at home.     


Always have enough non-perishable foods, drinking water, and essential supplies  if  you are forced to stay at home.  A generator is helpful if the electricity and gas is out.    

Technology   Use available technology to keep informed and to let others know that you are OK – text messaging, internet, email, cell phones, and radio devices.     

Even though there are many national and local agencies that offer support when they are able; create your plan with the idea that no support is available.      


Additional Resources   

Free Med-Id Wallet Cards   

Free Pet Emergency Preparedness Information and Decals

Bodie Island Lighthouse

In Your World on May 24, 2010 at 8:53 PM

Bodie Island Lighthouse - Courtesy Danie Pratt


It’s often said that Bodie Island Lighthouse got its name from the many shipwrecked bodies that washed ashore – it’s often spelled Body Island Lighthouse!           

I used this image in 10 Reasons Kids Love North Carolina, an article I wrote for Fun Place DataBase.   In your search for entertaining places to take the kids this summer give them a try.  They’re a  great resource to find fun attractions across America that you and the kids will enjoy. 🙂

Classic Wisdom For The Professional Life

In Your Books on May 21, 2010 at 10:50 AM



by Bryan Curtis



What secret do Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Lee Iacocca and J. K. Rowling share?        

Bryan Curtis’ book, Classic Wisdom for the Professional Life is in its simplest form – a book of quotes.  But not just any quotes from anyone. Through a series of quotes from Ulysses S. Grant to Giorgio Armani, John D. Rockefeller to Jeff Foxworthy, Curtis shows that the happiest and most successful folks are those having a love affair, with the way they earn a living.    

It’s a book about getting good at doing what you love.  This is the secret of success and the answer to my question; Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Lee Iacocca and J. K. Rowling are happy working in their professions.  Curtis’ book points out that many folks spend eight hours a day, five days a week at jobs they don’t enjoy …  

If you don’t find a way to do something as work that is fulfilling and enjoyable, then your life is going to be really sad.    


Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it.  The time will pass anyway we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.EARL NIGHTINGALE   

and that the road to happiness is lined with toll booths, construction zones, roadblocks, and potholes along the way.  

Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged.  That’s not the  place to become discouraged.THOMAS EDISON   

Classic Wisdom For The Professional Life gives you the courage, the inspiration, and the moxie, to believe in yourself and the wisdom to understand that you should be happy in the work you do. The book’s message is clear, insightful and presented in a simple style that is enjoyable to read.    

5 Bags



This is the perfect book to give new grads, bosses, co-workers, friends and family, and those who are, and definitely those who aren’t, happy in the work they do.   

What about you? Are you the type who wakes up dreading that it’s a work day?  Or are you one of the luck few having a love affair with the work you do?   Be good to yourself. Pick up a copy of Classic Wisdom for the Professional Life. You’ll be happy you did.  

Book Sneeze – I receive books free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I’m not required to write positive reviews; the opinions I express are my own.  I’m disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 


In Your Freebies on May 17, 2010 at 9:44 PM

A quick post to update you on a few of the latest and greatest Freebies.   Please feel free to share your “free” finds; we’re happy to post them. – Enjoy! 


Print and Save!  Bring this coupon to your  JC Penney Sephora counter and receive a free sample-size mascara.

Daily Worth is a free daily personal finance email for women. We deliver practical tips, empowering ideas and the occasional kick in the pants. Our tips cover self-worth, net worth, saving, spending, earning, investing, taxes, entrepreneurship, financial feminism and lots of other things. ” – Taken from their site.

Just in time for the planting season, Burpee is offering a Free Vegetable Garden Guide


Got skateboarding or BMX riding kids?  Give them a free living on the edge poster from Fringe .

Download Sun-Maid Raisin’s free Recipes For Healthier Eating booklet and discover the naturally sweeter side of healthy eating.

Receive a free organic notepad from Solar Energy Pittsburg.

Introducing WysongEpigen; creators of the first starch-free kibble for your pet. Receive a free sample of their revolutionary dog food. 


Budget Friendly Summer Fun!

In budget, You, Your Guest Writers on May 14, 2010 at 7:32 AM

by:  Kristl

   The Budget Diet

Image by Jeremy Doorten


Be prepared for the “I’m bored” syndrome this summer with a few budget friendly summer fun ideas! 

Field Trips:    Plan a field trip every week this summer!   Here’s how…

            #1.  Start by taking your kids to the local library to find some books on your area.

            #2.  Do a simple search:  Free Things to do in (my city).   You’ll be amazed what comes up!

            #3.  Let each child make a list of what they would like to see & do!  Set a budget limit!

            #3.  Think beyond museums and amusement parks…think budget friendly fun like:  a visit to the farmer’s    market,  berry picking, check out different area playgrounds & rate them or take a tour of an area factory! 

            #4.  Pack a picnic lunch!


Summer Book Swap:   A fun way to kick-off a summer of reading!  Here’s how…

            #1.  Invite friends (in the same grade) to bring 3 used paperback books at their current reading level.

            #2.  After the children arrive, display the books on a large table or two.

            #3.  Draw numbers for the order in which the children will choose a book.  If there are 10 children at the party, put numbers 1 – 10 into the drawing.

            #4.  Round 1 begins!  The child that drew #1 picks a book, then #2 takes a turn and so on.

            #5.  Before beginning Round 2, draw numbers again.

            #6.  After the final round, make bookmarks (using scrap paper, markers & assorted stickers) & let the children make their own ice cream  sundaes.

            #7.  HAPPY SUMMER READING!


Fun at Home:

            #1.  Start a summer tradition of having sundaes on Saturday!

            #2.  Family Game Day

            #3.  Family Puzzle Day

            #4.  Taste Test…try different brands of frozen pizza & ice cream, eat & vote for the family favorite!

            #5.  Water Painting…it’s painting without the mess!  You’ll need a bucket of water, a big  fat paint brush & let your child have fun “painting” the driveway, the fence or the picnic table!

            #6.  Lemonade Stand!

            #7.  Teach your children to cook!  Have “cooking school” one day each week, and let your children choose the recipes!  If you don’t have a children’s cookbook, a trip to the library is in order!

            #8.  Plant a garden!

Bonus Feature

Celebrate your child’s next birthday with these creative and budget friendly party ideas!

Garden Party 

1st Birthday Party

Amazing Race Party

Carnival Birthday Party

The Budget Diet is a diet for your wallet…not your waistline!  You’ll discover new money saving tips everyday to help you slim down your daily spending!  The Budget Diet girl Is not a financial planner or an accountant…just a mom that knows how to live the good life on a budget!  Follow The Budget Diet on Facebook and Twitter .

Sunglasses: The Ultimate Fashion Necessity

In You, Your Fashion on May 12, 2010 at 8:53 AM

We all know how the perfect hair-do, handbag or belt, makes a so-so outfit pop.  And we’ve all seen how rundown heels make even the best that haute couture offers a flop. The same fashion sense holds true for that key accessory that compliments your face. 

Sunglasses are the “it” accessory of the season.  And while, Katy Perry can rock a pair of aviator shades, the same style may not work for you. 

Finding the perfect pair of shades doesn’t have to be like Ponce De Leon’s quest for the Fountain of Youth; but if you don’t choose wisely, you’ll end up with the same results!  Truthfully, there’s nothing mystifying about it and it’s a lot easier than you think.  It’s simply a matter of knowing the shape of your face.

Follow the simple guidelines listed below and you too will be set to be this season’s hottest sunglass wearing diva!

Find the face shape that is most like yours, then look below for a description and frames that match. (Click image to enlarge)


Oval:  Lucky you!  Any style works well with your face.  For maximum “wow” power look for frames that are at least as wide as the broadest part of your face.

Suggestions:  Any Style 🙂

Rectangle & Oblong: Try frames that have embellishments or contrasting colors at the temples.  Round or square shapes that accentuate the center of your face play down long and narrow features.

Suggestions:  Curvy, Rounds, and Squares

Inverted Triangle & Heart: Play down a narrow forehead and wide chin by selecting frames that are brightly colored and oversized.  Splashes of color and wide frames balance out your face.

Suggestion: Cat Eyes

Square & Pear: Look for curved frames to soften and contrast the angles of your face.  This style also serves to slim and add a little length.

Suggestions:  Cat eyes, Ovals, and Rounds

Round:  Opt for frames that make your face look slimmer and longer. Straight or angular frames make a nice contrast by minimizing curves and adding definition. 

Suggestions: Angular and Rectangular styles

Diamond:  Your face is defined by high cheekbones with a slender forehead and chin. Soften your angles by choosing frames that are oval, or curvy. Take it to the next level by going rimless! 

Suggestions:  Oval, Rounds, Rimless

The secret to finding the perfect pair of shades is self-reflection. This season, make sure you put your best face forward by wearing shades match the contours of your face.  With a little know-how you too will be a fashionista!  🙂

Having trouble decided your shape?  Check out Len’s Crafter’s interactive “What’s Your Face Shape” finder.  For best results, upload your photo, or if you’re feeling a bit shy, select one of their models instead.



eBay Basics: Learn How to Sell on eBay in 7 Easy Steps

In You, Your Guest Writers on May 10, 2010 at 10:51 AM

by Sandra Schmidt

Do you have extra items sitting around in your house? Or do you have a collection that you would like to get rid of? Unwanted items can make money for you on eBay. Do you want to sell on eBay but don’t know how? I am going to talk about the basics of eBay selling. 

Step 1 Research: The first thing that you should do is research what your item has been selling for on eBay. In the eBay search box, type in the key words that describe your item.  You may need to increase the number of words or change words until you find your item. Then check the box for completed items. Now you can see the prices that other sellers have received for the item. Pay attention to whether the item consistently sold high at auction or if sellers sold their items using a Buy It Now/Fixed Price. 

Tip: remember that you can change the sorting order of the items. On the right hand side of the page, right before the auction listings, there is a sort by box. You have a choice of sorting items by different criteria. I like to sort my items by “Highest first”. You can see it on the screen shot below. (Click image to enlarge.)


Step 2 Selling Fees: Now you should have an idea of a price range of what your item is worth. See how much you have to pay in eBay and PayPal fees. There are several sites that let you calculate how much your fees will be. The great thing is that you can play with the different options such as Fixed Price or Auction and see what the difference is in fees.

Here are my two favorite eBay calculator sites are:

Tip: remember that PayPal fees are based on total amount of sale which includes the shipping cost. 

Step 3 Evaluate: Now you know what you can expect to receive for your item and the fees that it will cost you when you sell the item. So you need to evaluate if your item is worth selling. Personally, I try to not sell an item that is worth less than $10. 

Step 4 Photos:  A good photo can help sell your item. You can a make a backdrop by covering a large box with a sheet. If your item has any defects then make sure to take photos of the defect. People want to see the damage for themselves. 

Tip: If you have a large amount of items, cover a smaller box with a sheet and set some items in front of box and other items on the top. See the example photo below. 


 Step 5 Shipping:  Before you list your item, you need to decide on your shipping method. Shipping costs have increased so much that an incorrect shipping amount can really decrease your profit. Find a box that your item will fit in easily with some room for packaging. Add your item and packaging then weigh the box. 

Tip: Flat rate boxes are great for small heavy items. You can get free Priority Mail boxes from the Post Office. 

Step 6 Return Policy:  eBay now requires that you state your return policy. There is a special section on the eBay selling form that will help you with your return policy. You need to consider if you want to accept returns or not.

Step 7 Sign up for PayPal:  Most people need a PayPal account in order to sell on eBay. According to eBay policy: “All sellers offer at least one of the approved electronic payment methods—PayPal, ProPay, Moneybookers, or Paymate—or accept credit card payments through their merchant credit card account.”

Now you have the basic elements to list your item on eBay. Just click on the “Sell An Item” and you will be able to start!

Ssandra Schmidt is a blogger and an advid lover and collector of Trolls.  To learn more about her and Trolls, please visit her site, World of  Troll Dolls .


In Your Food, Your Guest Writers on May 6, 2010 at 8:54 PM

By: Jennifer Brown Banks

With today’s frantic pace, few divas have time to devote energy to making home baked goodies like our moms made back in the good old days. 

Who can forget that sweet aroma that filled the kitchen air when we arrived home from school? It seemed that a glass of cold milk and a warm slice of pie or cake made everything right with the world. 🙂 

Enter year 2010. Between work, P.T.A. meetings, household chores, other obligations, and paying bills, today’s “Super woman” is super tired! 

But that doesn’t mean that you have to deny your “sweet tooth”, or deprive your family and friends baked treats, and a feeling of being fussed over. 

Here’s the good news.

Times have changed. Store bought baked goods don’t have to taste like cardboard, or have that “fake” kind of taste. I’ve discovered quite a few offerings that would appeal to even the most picky of eaters. 

But before I reveal these culinary treasures, these are a few pointers to keep in mind.

  1. Presentation is important. Foods must appeal to our visual sense before they satisfy our taste buds. Pretty cake plates and platters, and creative display should serve as your “canvass” for your masterpiece.
  2. Go a step further by dressing your plate up with colorful fruit slices around the borders of your plate. Try a combination of orange slices and strawberries. The red and orange contrast is simply lovely.
  3. Add to the texture and pleasure by topping your treats off with garnishes like confectioner’s sugars, whipped cream, ice cream, candy sprinkles, or melted caramel.

Now, without further adieu…

These are the brands that fared well when tested in my “kitchen laboratory,” and I believe that they’ll soon become favorites of yours too!

  • ENTENMANN’S—Lemon Crunch Cake
  • PEPPERRIDGE FARM—Chocolate Cake, Chessmen Cookies
  • JEWEL’S—Sweet Potatoe Pie, Strawberry Cake w/whipped creme
  • SARA LEE—Cheesecakes (frozen) Sweet Potatoe Pie
  • BURGER KING’S—Dutch Apple Pie

With summer months ahead, these tasty treats would be a welcome addition to your next barbecue, reunion, or graduation celebration as well.  Here’s to adding more richness to your life!  Bon Appetit!

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, relationship columnist and Blogger who believes in “living well for less”. Visit her blog  Pen and Prosper  and her column at