Monday, November 28, 2011

Money: How to Save the Most on Cyber Monday

Savvy shoppper Andrea Woroch
Even though the philosophy at 40licious is to be more spiritual than material during the holidays, and to not add our karma and our crap to the waste cycle, we do realize that sometimes you need to shop. And when you shop, you should get the absolute best deal for your dollar -- we work too hard for our money. Andrea Woroch is a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert who brings us today's tips about shopping on Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday sounds like the title of a futuristic sci-fi movie; an event triggered when robots gain consciousness and attempt to take over the world. Your imagination could run wild if you don't know that last year, Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping event in history. With the promise of so many bargains, it's still tough to keep visions of iPads and big-screen TVs at bay. As you prepare to load up your virtual cart with discounted gifts and gadgets, consider some of these Cyber Monday shopping strategies.

1. The Wish List The most elementary element of any smart shopping strategy is a list. It keeps you on track and prevents unnecessary impulse buys. As with Black Friday, many merchants announce their online offers well in advance. At sites like CouponSherpa, they have a roundup of deals available from popular merchants to help you compile your list ahead of time. They also have special coupon codes available to enhance your Cyber Monday savings.

2. Pre-Shopping Clever marketers can make a reasonable regular price seem like a steal. They bank on shoppers being swept up in a bargain frenzy, desperately buying to make sure they're one of the lucky few. Before you start loading up your cart, do some comparison shopping. Sites like allow you to easily compare prices across the web and at local stores.

3. Use Protection Online shopping has become so commonplace we rarely consider the risks. With tons of shoppers eager to transmit credit card information over the Web in one day, scammers are salivating. One easy way to protect yourself is to download the latest updates for your anti-virus and spyware software. Also, confirm any page during checkout is secure by looking for the "https" in the address bar before giving the e-retailer your billing information.

4. Read Up on Rules Though this online shopping day is considerably more casual than Black Friday, each Cyber Monday offer has different guidelines about when it starts and how many items are available. Being aware of such details ensures you won't sleep through a deal that begins at 12:01 a.m.

5. Under Review Many of Monday's markdowns are nothing more than attempts to unload junk and make room for something better. When you're shopping for high-priced items like TVs, go to stores and compare features you can't view online, such as picture and sound quality. Try for in-depth, credible reviews of everything from cell phones to slow cookers. When you start to notice a pattern, it's best to pass, even if the deal seems exceptional.

6. Fast Friends Though there's some debate as to whether or not corporations are people, don't feel bad about taking advantage of their cyber friendship offer by liking them on Facebook. In the days leading up to Cyber Monday, stores post additional offers exclusive to followers. Tracking feeds for a few days keeps you from missing anything critical.

7. Find Free Shipping When you're shopping online, steep shipping and handling costs quickly cut into your cyber savings. Luckily, merchants are starting to respond to customer demand for free shipping. Best Buy announced in late October that it would offer free shipping on everything over the holidays, and is the latest retailer to offer site-wide free shipping.

8. Keep Your Eye on the Prize You'll likely be bombarded by a slew of offers for accessories and add-ons as you search for a special sale price on a particular laptop. Typically, the savings on these items are minimal, so buying them later won't make a big difference. Plus, spending an extra $100 on items you otherwise would never have bought quickly counteracts your discounts.

9. Preparation Pays When you're getting ready to run a marathon, it's essential to prepare with a good warm-up. The same goes for shopping on Cyber Monday, and we're not talking about stretching your mouse-clicking finger. Get ready by bookmarking your favorite sites in advance. Keep them open in different tabs so switching from store to store is easy. If a merchant requires you create an account to make a purchase, do it ahead of time.

10. Read Up on ReturnsWith deals flying around furiously throughout Cyber Monday, make sure you don't get stuck with any items that don't meet your expectations by brushing up on online return policies. Some major retailers allow you to return online orders to a local store at no extra cost, while other smaller merchants might charge you for return shipping as well as a restocking fee. Return windows are often limited, so it's important to act soon once you've determined an item won't work.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spirit: How to Change Your Inner Monologue

This post comes from author Kim Malchuk, a motivational coach, speaker and award-winning author of "Tasting Rain." Her book is about her personal journey of loss, healing and hope. 

Kim Malchuk
A shift will occur at some point during our 40s. It will come into our life quietly with no fanfare or parade; yet, it will leave behind a powerful gift. People will notice a difference in the way we walk, talk and look at life. They will be intrigued and want to know our secret. When we tell them...they won’t believe it! Why? Because it sounds too simple to believe that by simply altering the way we talk to ourselves can bring about tremendous change in our lives.

The conversations that we have with others are important and should not be taken for granted. These interactions are necessary in order for us to function in society; however, the most critical conversations we will ever have are the ones we have with ourselves.

Do you remember growing up and having our parents teach us that if we don’t have anything nice to say to someone then don’t say anything at all? That golden rule would hit me on the side of my head when I was 37 years old and realized that I was the one standing in my own way of having a better life. My pessimistic and negative internal chatter was holding me hostage from life’s many possibilities. The thought of living out the next 50 years in this state came to an end when I decided to sit down and give myself a good talking to. I needed to focus on what was in my control and a good place to begin was by changing my inner vocabulary.

Words are the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. We need to be very careful with how we choose to aim and fire them at others but, more importantly, how our word selection can destroy our own self-confidence and keep us prisoners from reaching our true potential. I think it would be safe to assume that I am not the only one who talks to themselves on a daily basis. We all do it. Actually, I find that the older I get this activity is more frequent than not. It’s okay to have these consultations with ourselves but only if our words are positive and encouraging.

After having this meeting with myself I came up with a new plan. Going forward, instead of being the school-yard bully in my mind and thoughts, I was going to become my own personal cheerleader by choosing to use more active and positive words. The first order of business was to immediately stop using words like "can’t," "won’t" and "shouldn’t." Those "n’t" words are stagnating and damaging. Every time we use them we have already convinced ourselves that we will "not" be able to do something. I wanted to change all of that and focus my thoughts on what I could do. It was amazing how quickly opportunities started to appear when I eliminated using those types of limiting words.

The second challenge for me was to mind my own business. How others chose to live out their lives was no longer any of my concern. When I placed my attention on fixing me (and let me tell you, that was a tall order) it was manageable and achievable. It’s not our responsibility to change others. Change begins and ends with ourselves. All we can do for others is to love and accept them for who they are. Re-training my thoughts and dialogue is an on-going daily exercise. I compare it to an athlete preparing for their sport. Without training and practice they cannot expect to be a superstar when stepping into their arena. It takes time, dedication and patience but the results are priceless. The payoff is freedom.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Relationships: November is National Adoption Month

Hey 40licious ladies, and those approaching 40licious, and those who love us: I'd like to take this space to remind everyone that families are made in a lot of different ways. Some of us have struggled and suffered through infertility, with good and devastating results. Some of us marry into families and we become instant mommies or stepmonsters. We also choose are families from the people we've met along the way, who aren't necessarily blood-tied to us.

Personally, my family is made from all the above.

November is National Adoption Month. Today and every day I celebrate because this is another way our little family was made. Last June, we got a call on a Friday about a possible situation with some birthparents. We met them, hit it off, and our sweet baby Grace was born four days later. We took her home from the hospital. To her home. I can't imagine having another person as my child. We love her profoundly, as you love your children, no matter how they came to you. So please let's keep talking about adoption, and foster care, and all the other ways families come about. Let's remember that infertility might just be the beginning of the journey to your family, but in no way does it have to be the end.