5 Ways to Save on Your Christmas Shopping

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Dear Rich Lifer,

With two of the biggest shopping days of the year behind us, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it might seem like there are no more deals to be had.

However, malls and retailers know this is just the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

According to Sensormatic Solutions, 8 out of the 10 busiest days for in-store foot traffic this year will take place in December:

  1. Black Friday, November 29
  2. December 21, the last Saturday before Christmas
  3. December 26, the day after Christmas
  4. December 14, two Saturdays before Christmas
  5. November 30, the Saturday after Black Friday
  6. December 22, the last Sunday before Christmas
  7. December 23, the Monday before Christmas
  8. December 28, the Saturday after Christmas
  9. December 27, the Friday after Christmas
  10. December 7, the first Saturday in December

Sensormatic based this list on stats collected from previous years showing peak in-store traffic periods.

Although mall and in-store foot traffic is declining overall in America, this is expected to be a big year for holiday spending.

The annual Deloitte holiday survey predicts spending will grow by 4.5% to 5%, and top $1.1trillion.

But with in-store shopping shifting to online, it’s more important than ever to know how to score the best deals wherever you shop.

To help you out, I compiled a short list of some of my favorite online and in-store shopping apps. I’ve mentioned a few of these before, in various issues, but with the Holidays rapidly approaching, I want you to have the best ones all in one place.

These are a mix of internet browser extensions (aka plug-ins or add-ons) and apps for your smartphone or tablet.

If you’ve never heard of browser extensions before, don’t worry. They’re easy to use. You simply go to the listed website, click “install” on the add-on, and it will automatically be added in your internet browser.

The next time you’re shopping online, the extension will pop up and work its magic. The best part is all these apps and extensions are free, and can save you a bundle.

Here are my top five shopping apps to save you money this holiday season:

Honey

Gone are the days of clipping coupons. The Honey browser extension literally automates couponing for you.

Once you add the Honey extension to your internet browser, whenever you check out at any online retailer, say Amazon.com or Walmart.com, Honey will scour the internet for digital coupons and automatically apply them to your order.

With the click of a button you can save yourself the hassle of searching coupon sites and having to type in confusing coupon codes. Honey also will send you alerts for price drops.

It can provide you with price histories on items in your digital shopping cart and tell you whether to buy now, or hold out for a better deal later.

Fakespot

The Wall Street Journal recently published a story exposing fake online reviews.

According to the story, more than one third of online reviews on major websites, including those on Amazon.com, Walmart, and Sephora, are fake, meaning they are generated by robots or people paid to write them.

If you’re worried about buying something with an overhyped review, Fakespot.com’s browser extension will help.

Fakespot flags both reviews and products it suspects are bogus and grades product reviews to help you avoid being duped by fake 4- and 5-star reviews.

The app also summarizes the most helpful reviews, which can save you a ton of time if you’ve waited until the last minute to get your Christmas shopping done.

PriceBlink

If you like to price shop online, then you’ll love PriceBlink. Instead of opening up multiple browser tabs with different retailers, you install PriceBlink and visit one major retail website.

For example, say you shop at Amazon.com, a yellow bar will pop up from PriceBlink, you click on “Compare Prices” and you’ll get a list of prices for that same item at other stores.

The browser extension checks prices at 11,000 stores. Because there’s no PriceBlink mobile app, if you want to quickly price shop in-store, you can use the app ShopSavvy. Or, use the Amazon and eBay apps.

When you tap the camera icon in any one of these apps then point your phone at an item’s barcode, the app will find competing prices.

Rakuten

Formerly known as eBates, Rakuten is an app and browser extension that allows you to earn cash back on your purchases.

How it works: once installed, you shop as you normally would online and you’ll earn cash back on qualifying purchases at more than 3,500 stores.

Once you’ve collected at least $5 in rewards, Rakuten will send you a check in the mail. You’ll receive a check quarterly with whatever cashback rewards you’ve earned.

If you choose to take your earnings as a gift card instead, you can earn more rewards faster. You can also link your credit card to the smartphone app and score cash back on certain in-store purchases, plus 5 percent cash back on meals at more than 10,000 participating restaurants.

RetailMeNot

Next time you head out shopping, add the RetailMeNot app to your phone. The app supports a wide selection of stores and food chains. The app supplies barcodes to be scanned at the register with your order.

Simply search for the retail store you’re shopping at and see if there are any coupons or sales. Similar to Rakuten, you can earn cash-back offers both in-store and online.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Black Friday or the last Saturday before Christmas, with these five apps and extensions installed, you can score the best deal no matter what time of year.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post 5 Ways to Save on Your Christmas Shopping appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Turkey Day Confidential

This post Turkey Day Confidential appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

There are many wonderful things to be thankful for this holiday season: family, friends, our homes and jobs, the delicious food…but what about our health?

Did you know that the average American gains up to five pounds in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas? While there are many factors that can lead to this weight gain, overeating is easily a key factor.

Throughout the holiday season, it seems as though our main focus is food! Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas cookies, eggnog and cocoa, Christmas dinner…and of course all the leftovers! How do we balance these delicious treats while keeping an eye on our health and avoiding those pesky pounds?

Fortunately, I have a few no hassle ways to tighten your belt this holiday season, without feeling as though you’re sacrificing tradition and all the fun of Thanksgiving.

Load Up on the Veggies (No, Mashed Potatoes Don’t Count)

While stuffing and mashed potatoes are delicious, your carb-filled side dishes should only take up about a quarter of your plate. Fill another quarter with delicious turkey (or ham if you go the non-traditional route), and the other half of your plate with veggies.

Vegetables are loaded with fiber, which helps you feel full faster. Remember, everything in moderation. Don’t worry about restricting yourself during one of the most treasured meals of the year, cutting carbs during the Thanksgiving meal is a lost cause. Instead, take a smaller portion size so that you can still enjoy the meal without going overboard.

After your first plate of food, wait about twenty minutes before grabbing seconds. That will give your brain enough time to process whether or not you even have room for more food. This is a mindset you can apply to all of your meals and snacks.

Slow down to give your body time to process and really focus on enjoying your meal. Which leads me to my next point…

Take Your Time

During a delicious Thanksgiving meal it is only natural to –gobble– down your food quickly, but did you know that this habit is a huge factor in weight gain? If you eat slower, you end up consuming less food by the time your brain tells you you’re full.

If you eat too quickly, you consume more by the time your brain can process how full your stomach is. So take slow, small bites and enjoy being a part of the conversation at the dinner table.

Cut Back on Butter

I recently came across a video tutorial for prepping “The Tastiest Thanksgiving Turkey of All Time”. I was halfway through the video (and drooling) when I realized that what was making this meal unique was that the chef was quite literally stuffing his turkey with butter.

Butter was coating this turkey inside and out. While butter is a way to enhance to just about any meal, there are significantly healthier alternatives to experiment with this holiday season. Try flavoring your turkey with fresh garlic and onion, and herbs like rosemary.

Your food will taste amazing, and your arteries will thank you!

Skip the Extras

It is not unusual for a Thanksgiving host to provide appetizers before the holiday meal begins. Who doesn’t enjoy a spread of cheese and crackers, mini weenies, or chips and a fancy dip while watching the Thanksgiving football game?

Unfortunately for us, when we load up on pre-dinner snacks, we can end up consuming tons of extra calories before the big meal even begins! If given the option of a veggie plate, indulge to your heart’s content, but try and let the dips and spinach puffs go this year.

Ditch Canned Pie Filling

Arguably the best part of Thanksgiving dinner: Dessert. Approximately 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten on Thanksgiving each year. Even with those staggering statistics, pumpkin pie is still comes in second when compared to America’s favorite pie: Apple.

Look, I don’t expect anyone to pass on the pie, especially on Thanksgiving day. But consider some simple ways to healthily freshen up your Thanksgiving desserts without compromising flavor.

Donate your canned pie filling to the nearest food bank and make your own! Canned pie fillings are loaded with sugar and syrup. Use fresh ingredients to make a dessert that your friends or family will remember.

Additionally, baking your own desserts will get you up and moving, which will burn a few extra calories and help you enjoy your holiday meal, guilt-free.

Does One Meal Define Your Diet?

At the end of the day, no one is asking you to skip your Thanksgiving dinner. Becoming more aware of what you’re eating is a crucial step to making healthier choices.

One meal does not a diet make, nor does one meal a diet break. With days growing shorter and nights longer, it becomes very simple to fall into habits of overeating and avoiding exercise. The reason that so many Americans gain weight throughout the holiday season is not because they indulged in one Thanksgiving dinner, but instead, because they develop unhealthy and sedentary habits.

After that Thanksgiving meal come Thanksgiving left-overs, and then the Christmas cookies and baked goods, and so on and so forth until we find ourselves thawing out for spring heavier than we were before. Don’t let yourself become a statistic this holiday season.

One of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is your own health. Take charge of your nutrition and do all that you can to keep your body moving and filled with the right kinds of foods.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

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Pirates Abound in Unwatched Waters

This post Pirates Abound in Unwatched Waters appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

As the weather gets colder here in the US, and the dulcet tones of Christmas music permeate the air in every store, you might start to get in the holiday mood…

You might even start shopping or planning your gifts a little early…

But if you’re thinking about buying online and having items delivered to your home, you might want to think again…

Because package theft (also known as “porch piracy”) is on the rise – big time.

In a recent report featuring data from 2017, the makers of the Ring doorbell tell us that 39% of people have had a package stolen over the course of a year. No small number, and not a cheap one either. The average value of these packages is $140!

This year, ecommerce and home delivery are expected to rise as much as 16%, so it’s likely that instances of package theft won’t slow down any time soon.

And this isn’t just limited to urban areas, either. It’s true that cities like San Francisco, CA, and Austin, TX have some of the worst instances of package theft, but according to CNBC, the mainly rural state of North Dakota reports more theft than any other state!

These thefts occur at night sometimes, but they mostly happen during the day – some even just minutes after your package is delivered.

Perhaps worst of all? The offenders almost never get caught. City-Journal reports that less than 10% of reported cases of package theft will end in an arrest – and of that group, only a small minority will ever get prosecuted or punished for their crimes.

The good news is there are a couple of easy things you can do to defend against porch pirates…

And instead of losing time and money, I’ll even tell you how you can save a little cash while doing it.

Defending Against Pirates

First, stay aware. Join an app like NextDoor so you can keep an ear on what’s going on in your neighborhood. If there’s an uptick in mail thefts or porch piracy, you’ll know you need to be on high alert.

Next, consider sending your items to a parcel locker instead of your home. Yes, it’s more convenient to have Amazon bring just about everything to your door, but with every package comes the risk of theft. If your items are sent to a parcel locker, you can arrange to pick them up every few days and have the peace of mind to know nothing is being stolen.

If you have to have something sent to your home, make sure you keep an eye on the delivery updates. Some companies will even text when an item is at your door, so you can go get your package before a thief can scoop it up.

Sometimes, you may be expecting a package at a time you have to head out. Ask a close neighbor to keep an eye out for you, and then return the favor when they’re away, too. The fewer times a thief is successful, the less chance they’re likely to return to your neighborhood.

Ask carriers to leave your package somewhere other than the front porch. Of course, this method isn’t foolproof, but it takes a much gutsier thief to sneak into your backyard than it does to just grab an item from the front door and walk away.

Finally, you should also consider investing in home surveillance equipment. With some of the new systems, you can catch thieves in the act and even confront them from afar as your surveillance system will alert you when someone comes to your door.

Here are a few ways to save when it comes to installing home surveillance equipment.

Know Your Needs

The mega-systems available at many big box retailers look great, but they’re truly overkill for properties that are on the small side. Why pay for cameras you don’t need and can’t use, right? In order to observe what goes on outside your home, you’ll need cameras for front door, back door, side and back windows, and backyard or side gate. This will help you keep an eye on the whole property – even beyond just the threat of porch pirates.

Buy Right

Big box stores have great pricing on sets of surveillance cameras, but they’re notoriously unhelpful when it comes to installation or troubleshooting. If you’re very comfortable with DIY, then go ahead and buy from somewhere like Amazon, Best Buy, or Costco, but if you want more assistance with the process, look for a smaller company that specializes in surveillance equipment only.

Understand the Available Features

If you’re not worried about package theft, you might not care if you can speak to people at your door remotely, but if it’s a big concern for you, make sure the system you pick has speakers, for example. There are tons of surveillance set ups out there, so do research to make sure you’re choosing the right one for you. You can use sites like Cnet.com to validate your ideas.

Pick the Right Brands

You probably don’t want to go cheap on this. Some low-end surveillance kits will offer everything they think you need, but you might need to add additional cameras or upgrade components in the future. If you pick a quality brand with a wide variety of equipment available, you’ll have the flexibility you need and durable equipment that will save you money in the long run.

Wait for Sales

Once you know what brands and components you’re looking for, you can start scanning for upcoming deals. With Black Friday coming up, you can expect to see deals galore, but if you decide to shop for your equipment later in the year, you can still find great prices by using sites like SlickDeals.net to scour for savings.

Call Your Insurance Company

Once you’ve got your home surveillance system installed, contact your homeowners insurance company and ask for a discount on your policy. Most of the biggest insurance providers will give you a break for having this extra equipment.

You may not be able to stop every bad thing that might occur, but with the right precautions and surveillance, you can deter package thieves and other would-be criminals from doing harm. Put the work in now – before the packages start getting delivered in droves. You won’t regret it.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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