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Don’t Fall for It!

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 21st November 2014

The folks at SingleHop provided some expert advice  to help spread the word about how people can keep themselves, their families and their information safe online.

To help you, they have put together some useful information.

Hacking methods

Online scams: Scam attempts have gotten way more sophisticated than the stereotypical Nigerian Prince trick. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov) lists dozens of variations on email and online scams – from fraudulent automobile auctions to online dating schemes – in its annual Internet Crime Report. In 2013 alone, more than a quarter of a million complaints were submitted related to online scams. And if you think it only happens to older people, think again: One fifth of scam victims last year were younger than 30.

Phishing: One particularly nefarious form of online scam uses legitimate-looking websites to trick a victim into sharing their username, password, or other sensitive information. Phishers will design their sites to look exactly like the website of your bank, credit card issuer, or another financial institution. The hope is that you won’t realize you’re on the wrong site, and just punch in your password like you normally would. Then, they use it to log into your real accounts and transfer out your money.

Massive data breaches: The above methods are all aimed at getting information about individuals. However, there’s a whole profusion of hackers who are looking for the big score. Recent hacks of Home Depot, Target, and other major retailers have led to millions of credit card numbers being compromised. Hackers turn around and sell these numbers on a black market website for anyone who might be willing to buy them.

Staying Protected

Vigilance: Look carefully at a website before giving any information, especially sensitive data like passwords, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers. Especially look out for slightly misspelled words or words that use unexpected characters, such as substituting a “0” (number) for an “O” (letter) – for example, H0ME DEP0T. If something looks even a little bit fishy, delete the email or close the site immediately.

Browser bookmarks: Rather than clicking on links in emails, create bookmarks in your browser to commonly used sites, like your bank, insurance company, etc., and use those bookmarks every time you visit the site. That way, you know you’re always going to the right website, rather than trusting in an email that could’ve been sent by anyone.

Two-factor authentication: More and more sites (especially those of financial institutions) are using two-factor authentication. With such methods, after logging in with your password, the site will text or email you a single-use code that must be entered. Only the registered phone number or email address will receive the code, making it that much harder for hackers to gain unauthorized access to your accounts.

Protected servers: Consumers may not have direct control over how companies store their information, but with larger and larger hacks occurring regularly, you have a right to demand that companies take more responsibility for securing your personal information. For example, SingleHop embeds security features into their dedicated servers at the physical access level all the way down to the network, server, application, and account levels. Close monitoring along with antivirus protection, application patching, private networking, and firewalls all work to ensure that company data is protected and isolated.

Thank you Single Hop!

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Veteran’s Day Deals

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 10th November 2014

In honor of Veteran’s Day, Slickdeals has pulled together the best freebies/deals.

Freebies

·  Restaurants

·  Other

Deals and Discounts

·  Kohl’s

o $10 off Orders Over $25

o valid from 11/7 through 11/11

o http://slickdeals.net/f/7283886

·  Amazon

o 20% Off Select Clothing, Shoes, Jewelry, Watches and Luggage

o valid through 11/11

o http://slickdeals.net/f/7306734

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Free Shipping and More

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 20th October 2014

Sure we all love free so try out this 30 day free trial. If you do all your shopping online this site just might be the answer for you.

FreeShipping.com gives 10% cash back on all purchases at a massive network of over 1,000 major retailers including Victoria’s Secret, Kohls, Best Buy, Macy’s, Target, Walmart, Sephora, DSW, Sears, and many, many more. Freeshipping.com is a subscription based online shopping portal that was founded back in 2002. Unlike Ebates, which gives you a different amount of cash back depending on the retailer, FreeShipping.com gives shoppers a consistent 10% back at every retailer, along with stackable coupons, free shipping and return shipping, and price protection.

With FreeShipping.com’s portal, shoppers can go directly to a partner retailer’s website to make a purchase, or they can search through over 100 million SKUs to find the very best price for an individual item at any of the retailers on the network. No matter how they shop, subscribers receive significant savings through their FreeShipping.com membership, including 10% cash back on all purchases.

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Frugal Cleaning Tips

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 23rd September 2014

Guest Post

Thank you Heather Roberts for these great tips!

Nowadays prices of products tend to gradually grow in many areas, which often puts a serious strain on the wallets of many households. This becomes especially troublesome in terms of cleaning, so
you would often need to find ways to alleviate the situation and to bring something good to the table to survive a hostile economy. No matter how hard things look however, there is always a cheaper
alternative to choose from out there. The same thing goes for any cleaning products you need to work with. Although it may seem like an easier task to hire a company to do it all for you, in the end chances are you will not be able to afford such a service on a regular basis if you’re barely scraping by. The following tips will give you more information you can work with to make your frugal cleaning efforts possible:

• Using water and dish soap

There are quite a few ways cleaning can be done with the simplest of solutions, such as dish soap or even nothing but water. In many ways commercials have taught us that nothing can be done unless you use [insert name here] for your cleaning needs and that nothing else will get the job done. This, however is not always the entire story. Simple dish soap can do a lot more than just clean dishes, so you would do well to consider it when cleaning carpet stains, windows or even doing laundry if you have nothing else on hand.

• Cleaning often

Doing a bit of cleaning on a semi regular basis is one thing, but cleaning more often will eliminate the need to clean with expensive cleaners and to deal with tough spots. We all know the difficulties in cleaning old spots, so they will need a lot more work than usual. Most stains can be easily dealt with by using laundry or dish soap and water, assuming the area is cleaned right after the stain occurs. You can spare some time to prevent them if you act quickly and decisively. A little bit of work every day or two will ensure you have things under control.

• Avoiding expensive products

A lot of times people buy only products they have tried before and they know they can trust. This is mostly because they are advertised as reliable, but for the most part you can find their equivalent in your local stores, often offering the same benefits at a reduced price.

Reusable cleaning supplies

If you want to save a good deal of money, you will have to rely on items that are not disposable, but reusable instead. Mops, cloths, rags and more are needed of you want to make things happen. This will help you save a good bit of money in the process, since you can use them for a longer amount of time.

Thank you Heather Roberts for these great tips!

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5 ways to say “I wuv you.”

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 22nd September 2014

Easy ways to pamper your pets

No matter what kind of day you’ve had, a little love from your pet is an instant pick-me-up. Spent two hours ensnarled in traffic? A little nudge from a wet nose will fix that. Boss isn’t cutting you any slack? Your furry friends think you can do no wrong.  Your soon-to-be-spouse suddenly got cold feet? You’ve got two big brown eyes gazing up at you with unconditional love.

So how do you say thanks to the furry friends who’ve made your life complete? Here are five easy ways to pamper the dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, gerbils, reptiles and other adorable animals you adore.

  1. Walk this way. Grab a leash, open the door and the world is yours: just you and your baby and the great outdoors. A walk with your furry friend is about more than just quality alone time with his or her favorite person. It’s also an opportunity for both of you to burn some calories! If your pet isn’t the outdoors type, you can still offer plenty of opportunities to exercise. Outfit his or her tank or cage with a complete workout suite: treadmills, wheels, posts to climb, exercise balls and more.
  2. Spoil them silly. Throw a new toy in front of your pet and turn off the TV: seeing your furry friend chase around his new possession will provide better entertainment than anything on television. You might even want to grab a video camera so you can capture the fun!
  3. Don’t cheap out on the chow. Pets are expensive—we all know that—but one thing you don’t want to skimp on is a high-quality, species- and animal-appropriate pet food.  Check with your veterinarian about what’s best for your furry (or slimy, or feathered) friend. Then find your pet a comfortable place to eat—preferably near where the whole family dines so he or she can be part of mealtimes. Worried that ugly plastic food bowl clashes with your china? Choose a gorgeous food bowl like this one instead so your chum can chow down in style.
  4. Spa day for Spot. Pamper your pet by giving him or her the royal treatment: shampoo, coat care, a nice, fluffy brushing and a “pet-icure.” Your pet will enjoy the attention, and a well-groomed animal is a healthy animal!
  5. Don’t forget about the vet! Even if your dog or cat is as healthy as a horse, don’t forget those well-visits with the veterinarian. Your pet’s health care professional will be able to address any concerns you might have and administer recommended vaccines. Plus, a thorough check-up will allow the doctor to detect any problems that might be developing before they get serious.

Vitacost.com has been selling discount vitamins since 1994. Since then we have grown into one of the biggest online marketplaces for healthy living essentials-with vitamins and supplements being just one of our many helpful categories! Get the best price on vitamins, nutritional supplements, pet products and other products like cranberry beans. Our customers mean the world to us, and it’s our goal to provide you with the best nutritional supplements, health foods and sports nutrition to help with your health and wellness.

By: +Jorie Mark: writer for Vitacost.com

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Feed Fido Like Family with Natural Pet Food

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 19th September 2014

Mommy guilt isn’t limited to children. Fido is family, too—so when you’re  choosing what your tail-wagging baby will eat, it can feel pretty awful lugging home a big bag of kibble you know isn’t the best. Sadly, healthy, organic food options, for both people and pets, bump up numbers on the grocery bill, making it more likely you’ll buy generic than GMO free.

But many pet owners are shuffling budgets to make room for better-quality pet foods, with sales of organic varieties increasing in the U.S., despite the down economy. According to the Organic Trade Association, Americans doled out $84 million for organic pet food in 2009, a tenfold increase in the amount they spent in 2002.

Knowing organic foods are better for their own health, and for the environment, people are looking for the same safe, chemical-free options for their pets. A quick glance at any commercial pet food label is reason enough for many to make the switch. While manufacturers claim quality and wholesomeness, most pet foods are loaded with questionable ingredients, from animal by-products and cheap fillers to artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

Luckily, increased demand for natural and organic pet foods has led to better availability—and better prices. But before you grab any bag with “green” or “healthy” on the label, know that not all natural pet foods are created equal. Here are some things to look for when making your purchase:

USDA Organic seal
Just as with human food, pet food must meet strict standards set by U.S. Department of Agriculture to carry the official USDA Organic seal. To be labeled “Organic,” a product must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Those with 70 to 94 percent organic ingredients can state “Made with Organic Ingredients” on the label.

Natural label
According to the Pet Food Committee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials, the term “natural” is acceptable on a pet food label as long as none of the ingredients are synthetic, or chemically made. All content must be derived from plant, animal or mined sources, with the exception of added vitamins or minerals (if the product is not intended for use as supplement).

Essential nutrients
Whether pet food is organic, natural or conventional, it’s usually processed, which means important nutrients may have been stripped during production. Look for products labeled “complete” or “balanced,” to be sure they have the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your pet needs for best health.

Vitacost.com has been selling discount vitamins since 1994. Since then we have grown into one of the biggest online marketplaces for healthy living essentials-with vitamins and supplements being just one of our many helpful categories! Get the best price on vitamins, nutritional supplements, pet products and diet products. Our customers mean the world to us, and it’s our goal to provide you with the best nutritional supplements, natural foods and sports nutrition to help with your health and wellness.

By: +Rebecca Chopin writer for Vitacost.com

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When to Splurge & What to Save Money on for Your Pets

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 19th September 2014

Today we have a guest post from Jeffrey O’Brien who blogs about food and entertainment. When he is not writing about the latest and greatest, he is hiking or fishing in Howard County, Iowa.

Americans have a love affair with their pets. So much so that in 2011 they were willing to drop over $50 billion on pet needs. Almost two-thirds of the spending was on basics: food and medical bills. Services for pets made up almost $4 billion of the splurging. The other third went to toys, accessories, and beds. Why not let them sleep on your comfy mattress from Sleepys.com instead of spending money on their own. As both families and their pets get older, this particular service segment is expected to grow in 2012, increasing spending overall.

The spending begs the question how much is enough? There are plenty of areas for saving, but some make more sense than others.

Potential Savings

Training is a big service cost that many pet owners will pay just to get some peace of mind. That puppy or kitten is so cute when it first comes home, but six months later when the $10,000 couch is destroyed, it’s another story. Because we tend to be a convenience society, we want quick solutions. So we pay people to train us to care for our pets. With a bit of studying and researching, many owners can learn what’s needed to self-train. That alone saves $25 to $50 an hour for training sessions at a minimum (private lessons reach $100 an hour).

Toys are a cheap, addicting expense, especially if an owner takes his pet with him to the pet store, which many now allow. Keep in mind, dogs especially and cats will stick their nose in everything new; it doesn’t mean they want that toy! But we think they do, so we buy them. Savings are easy here; buy the cheapest toy possible. If it squeaks and rolls, good enough, doggy or kitty will be more than happy with something new. They don’t care if it came from the 99 cent bin either.

Cleaning supplies in the form of cat litter and puppy pads are necessities which add up over time. The big box stores tend to have the best discount deals for bulk purchasing, allowing a pet owner to save up to 30 or 40 percent on retail cost. They also have good pricing on dog chew toys, pet beds, and bulk pet food. Alternatively, a pet owner can save further money on his dog or cat by letting them sleep on his own mattresses or floors rather than a distinct pet bed.

Pet daycare has become a hit service for pet owners, but it costs a pretty penny. If you like to see your dog running around with other dogs, find a dog park in your area. Dog parks are popping up as cities are finding they are good resources for spending tax dollars on recreation. Dog parks are far cheaper to use, your dog is happy as can be, and most parks tend to be free to use.

Potential Splurging

Yes, there’s a lot of cheap pet food out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best, healthy option for the ol’ pooch. For a long, healthy life in a pet, the best food mixes tend to be a better path. A bit more in food spending could save hundreds or thousands in vet bills later on in the pet’s life. Cheaper foods tend to include a significant amount of filler material that is eventually unhealthy. More expensive brands tend to have direct, organic food components which digest far better.

When working with a vet, the right pet care is essential. With a serious condition, trying to go cheap could permanently disable a pet or worse when treating a condition. However, directly paying vet bills can be expensive. For example, an eye scratch in a dog with surgery and drugs can run upwards of $2,500. So consider pet insurance to lessen the financial hit. Still pay for good care, but with an insurance plan you can offset some of the bigger hits at least partially. In some cases, the insurance can cover as much as 40 or 50 percent of treatment cost.

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Pet Insurance and Matters of the Heart

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 18th September 2014

Insurance is a gambler’s game. You and the insurance company are playing the odds. You can be sure, the game is rigged in favor of the insurance companies. When it comes to health insurance, the deck is stacked against you. There is no way most people can afford to risk the possibility they will suffer a chronic illness or catastrophic accident that will be financially devastating. So health insurance is pretty much a necessity. Automobile insurance is required as is homeowner’s insurance if you have a mortgage. Life insurance is the biggest gamble of all, and the only way you win is by dying.

Now, it is possible to buy health insurance for your pets. Of course, the standard concerns apply. Does it pay? You have to ask yourself some pertinent questions:

  • How much is the monthly premium, and how does it change over time and with respect to the age of your pet when you start the coverage? How does it change if you use the policy especially if you end up with a chronically ill pet?
  • Can the policy ever be cancelled by the insurance company because you have used it too often?
  • Are there limitations on the amount of the payments and acceptable fees? Does it take into account where you live? A specific operation might cost $1,000 in a big city and $600 in a smaller community. The insurance company might only allow $400 and pay only 80% of that.
  • What is the deductible and how does it affect your premiums?
  • What is covered and, more importantly, what is not covered?
  • How long has the company been in business, and what is their track record?
  • What does your vet think about the different companies and pet insurance in general?

In the end, it comes down to one thing. What will you do if your pet comes down with a chronic illness or has a serious accident? If you think you could let your pet go, you might be wrong. Faced with the prospect of losing your companion, you might not be able to do that. You might find yourself spending the thousands of dollars it will take to care for the loving creature that keeps you company and accepts you for who you are, warts and all.

That is the big question and, ultimately, the one that matters the most. If you are certain you would do whatever was necessary to take care of your pet, then insurance is probably a very good idea. If you are absolutely sure you would not and have had the experience that allows you to know this is true, insurance may be a waste of money.

Here is a suggestion. Sit on your couch and call your pets. While they are busy wagging tails, snuggling up and purring, make your decision. If your heart melts, and you can’t imagine life without them, pick up the phone and start to learn everything you can, so you can make the best decision. Otherwise, take a look at the numbers and make your decision based on the cold, hard facts. Regardless of why you choose to take out a policy, if you do, remember to read the fine print.

Guest post by Nancy Richardson who writes for Key Insurance Quotes.com and has four dogs and two cats. They were all rescues that didn’t even make it to a shelter. They were street rescues, and she loves them all.

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Shopping Tips For The Fall

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 19th August 2014

The Frugal Diva wants to share a great guide for fall shopping tips.  Check out what is most cost effective for October.  Who knew that wine was a good buy in early fall. I like this guide because it not only tells you what is a good buy, it tells you why. Let me know if your experience bears this out.

FreeShipping.org’s “Best Time to Buy Guide”

Fall Highlights:

Air Conditioners
The price of air conditioners rise and lower with the temperature. Most old air conditioners expire when the temperature goes up which creates a high demand in the summer months.

If an air conditioner is a must buy right now, then begin looking for discounts today on last years models. If you have a unit that can make it through another season, then the best option is to wait until stores are clearing their inventory at the end of the summer. As temperatures cool the prices will drop and you can find great deals to keep you cool next year.

You can save money on the purchase of a new air conditioner by having your current system serviced. Early in the season is the best time to find deals on service for your air conditioner. In the heating and air conditioning business, the summer months are the most profitable. Many companies will offer discounts on air conditioner service before the heat arrives to stay busy.

Best time to buy an air conditioner: October
Best time to have your air conditioner services: February

Big Appliances
The new models for large appliances roll out in September and October, so stores will be working to make room by discounting previous models.  Some stores will keep older inventory in stock through the holiday months and then reduce what ever is left at the beginning of the new year.

During the rest of the year look for holiday sales around Memorial Day and Independence Day.

Best time to buy big appliances: October and January

Cars
New model year vehicles are typically introduced in late summer. The end of a model year can be a great time to get bargains on a recommended model as dealerships are making room for new models. Vehicles remaining on the lot at the end of the model year are considered to be “leftovers”. They have been on the lot the longest and can generally be negotiated for considerable savings.

The end of the month can be a good time to buy a car also as many dealerships establish monthly quotas and salespeople may be willing to take much less than asking price in order to make a sale to earn their bonus. The best way to save on end of the month purchases is to walk onto the dealership with a good idea of what you want to buy. Some salespeople may try pressuring you into making decisions about a car you are not prepared to buy if you don’t know what you are looking for.

Throughout the year, manufacturers offer rebates, incentives and cheap financing which often coincide with a holiday, long weekend, or special promotion. Sales incentives can be worth investigating to see how much money you can save.

Best time to buy a car: October, and end of the month

Gas Grills
Gas grills are in high demand during the summer and prices rise to match the demand. This makes Fall and Winter the best time to buy a new grill. Companies like Home Depot and Walmart will cut prices on summer grills when winter merchandise arrives.

Best time to buy gas grills: October

Jeans
There’s a double bonus if you buy new jeans in October: You miss back-to-school crowds and can take advantage of clearance sales scheduled before holiday shopping season. You’ll also have less of an audience to squiggle into new jeans if the store has one of those communal dressing rooms.

Best time to buy jeans: October

Toys
Early winter is the best time to begin your wish list if toys are what you want for Christmas. Retailers will be trying to maximize holiday sales by reducing prices and pushing sales as early as October. Your chances of finding cheaper games and puzzles are especially good during this time.

If you simply can’t wait to buy toys but you still would like to find a bargain, then August will be the best time to look for discounts. With holiday shopping on the horizon, retailers will be reducing prices on current stock to make room for the seasons hottest toys. Retailers will be willing to let items go at huge discounts in order to make room to stock newer items.

Best time to buy toys: October and November

Wine
The best selection of wines will be available after fall harvest. The latest vintages are released by most vineyards at this time. This is also the best time to find good buys on “cult wines”.

Many wine retailers are trying to keep a low inventory in these uncertain times and are marking down prices to sell off overstock. There are great deals being offered on wines of all quality so today may be the best day to buy your next bottle of wine.

Best time to buy wine: Early Fall (though with the earthquake in Napa this might not be true in the coming months).

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September Is National Coupon Month

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 18th August 2014

Ironic, coincidence, or  just the inevitable star crossed event – September is National Coupon Month and the month The Frugal Diva was born.   How appropriate that my birthday falls in the month for celebrating savings.  Coupon usage continues to rise and as a nation we are very interested in keeping more of our hard earned paychecks.  When economists tell us to spend more they never tell us where to get the money.  For those who are not trust fund babies, lottery winners, or living off the grid, coupons and budgeting help keep us ahead of higher prices and able to maintain our lifestyles.

While they put up this site in 2013, all the rules still apply.  The I Love Coupons site is right in sync with the our philosophy for strategizing  coupon savings.  And the most important rule is number 4 – if you don’t need it, don’t buy it!  The most expensive item you own is one you never use.  Even if it was half off  with a 30%  discount, there is no point to buying an item that will sit in your closet, stay in your pantry, or be relegated to your garage.  Check them out every day this month for everything you ever wanted to know about coupons and more.

There are others out there helping you save and Daily Finance has some great tips. Before you shop, hit up my two favorites Coupon Cabin and Coupon Sherpa.

On September 6th this year I will be in Los Angeles enjoying brunch, some pampering, and being ever so grateful for my relationship with The Frugal Dude.

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