Archive | Tips & Ideas RSS feed for this section

Save Money Monday: Sign Up For Customer Rewards Programs!

Free Customer Rewards/Loyalty Programs are now being offered by many different types of businesses. If you are a frequent shopper, or if you think there is any chance you will be returning to the establishment in the future, then it is worth the few minutes it takes to sign up for a Free Customer Rewards/Loyalty Program. This week’s Save Money Monday post from Dottie Hobbs at PennySaverUSA.com will explain all the advantages of signing up for these Customer Rewards/Loyalty programs.

First off, what is a Customer Rewards/Loyalty Program?

  1. It gives consumers what they want, the incentive to frequent a business.
  2. It also gives merchants what they need, profitable customers who keep coming back.

The practice is common among book and music retailers, and ranges from large chains to independent retailers. In some instances, the customer purchases the card and receives a percentage discount on all purchases for a period of time (often one year), while in other instances, a customer receives a one-time percentage discount upon reaching a specified purchase level. (For example, a bookseller’s loyalty card program might provide a customer with a 10% off coupon once the customer has spent $200 at the bookseller.) Major retailers Best Buy and Sears offer loyalty programs that offer points redeemable for dollar-amount discounts after accumulating a set number of points along with other discounts from time to time. Independent hardware stores such as Ace Hardware and True Value added customer loyalty programs in order to compete more effectively against larger chains.

Three easy steps to help you save money when you use a Customer Rewards/Loyalty Program:

  1. Sign up for any free business rewards program offered to you.
    Even if you are a rare customer, having a rewards card for the business will eventually net you some coupons, discounts and maybe even freebies.
  2. Create a Gmail address just for your customer reward programs.
    It is very important to be cautious about giving out your personal information, and if you want, you can always make up an email address. In most cases the programs benefits are “virtual” meaning they do not require contact with your identity.
  3. Check that Gmail account for coupons and offers when you are ready to shop/or purchase a service.
    If the thought of keeping track of all these cards or bulking up the size of your wallet is overwhelming, then try using justoneclubcard.com to cut down the size of your wallet by up to 87% by literally combining up to eight rewards cards onto a single card.

Customer Advantages:

Some personal examples of rewards programs are the local fast food frequent buyers card. After five lunch entree purchases get $1.00 off the next one and after ten lunch entree purchases get one free. The local car wash has a frequent wash card, after eight get the ninth free, (I love that one!) After spending $100.00 at a local department store, either spent all at once or a combined total, I have been emailed a $10.00 reward coupon good toward anything I purchase on my next visit. Movie theaters often offer a free popcorn or drink after so many movie tickets are purchases. These are just a few examples of what you can save/receive if you ask for a free customer card or sign up with the rewards program. Sometimes you are given a bonus at the time you sign up, 10% off your immediate purchase, or a free gift.

Business Advantages:

These programs are a potent tool to attract new customers, reward existing customers, move inventory, increase spending and gather the data needed to make better business decisions. Statistics show that customers who belong to a Reward/Loyalty Program visit a business twice as often, and spend four times as much. It is a powerful means for a merchant to mold consumers’ purchase habits as well as capture, process, manage and report consumer demographics and transactions data. A merchant’s brand is reinforced and the customers are likely to buy more and more often.
It pays to build loyalty. In a well constructed loyalty card program, a customer will spend between 20% and 25% more each visit. By retaining just 5% more customers, a company can double its profits. 68% of consumers say that they spend more when participating in Loyalty Programs.

The 5 Best Reward/Loyalty Programs:

  1. Starbucks
  2. Best Buy
  3. Neiman Marcus InCircle
  4. National’s Emerald Club
  5. Intercontinental Hotels Priority Club Rewards

The 5 Worst Reward/Loyalty Programs:

  1. Celebrity Crusie Lines’ Captain’s Club>
  2. Subway
  3. Amtrak Guest Rewards
  4. Any Supermarket Card
  5. Sofitel Hotels A Club

Dottie Hobbs, Customer Service RepresentativeDottie Hobbs is a Customer Service Representative at PennySaver USA, California’s leading resource in print, online, and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, local coupons, classifieds, and business listings.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

4 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft During Tax Season

Protect Your IdentityTax season isn’t just the money-making season for accountants and tax experts, it’s also when identity thieves cash in. According to MSN Money, the IRS has stopped nearly 15 million tax returns suspected of being fraudulent since 2011. But the government’s efforts to catch tax fraud aren’t foolproof: Over that same time span, Americans have suffered $3.5 billion in losses due to tax fraud. Tax scams are a pretty common means of trying to dupe consumers into handing over their personal information, so much so that the IRS releases an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the top tax fraud methods. Consumers need to be vigilant of these efforts and protect themselves from common fraud attempts. Here are four tips to keep your personal information secure. Follow these tax time tips from PennySaverUSA.com to keep your identity from being stolen.

File Your Tax Return Early

According to USA Today, tax experts recommend filing your tax return early just as a matter of avoiding increased fraud risks. The earlier taxes are filed, the less prepared or capable scammers will be to take advantage of you. Since many scammers will try to file a fake return ahead of you in order to receive the fraudulent return funds, early returns reduce the likelihood of this happening. The IRS receives your legitimate return first, making fraudulent returns sent in later very easy for the agency to identify. Search listings on PennySaverUSA.com to find a tax center near you.

Prepare and File Taxes Over Secure, Private Wi-Fi

Thanks to online tax preparation tools, many individuals are now able to complete even complex tax returns on their own. This saves them money while putting the quality of their return in their own hands. But how you prepare and file these returns makes a big difference in how exposed you might be to tax fraud. According to USA Today, public Wi-Fi networks can make it easy for scammers to steal your personal financial information. When preparing and filing taxes, make sure you use a secure, private Wi-Fi network that cannot be accessed by strangers.

Use Identity Theft and Credit Monitoring Services

Taking the necessary precautions will drastically reduce your risk of being victimized by tax fraud, but even a careful approach can’t guarantee you won’t be targeted by scammers. In some cases, it could be months before you are made aware of the fraud that has occurred to you. By then, the damage has already been done.

To make sure you are notified of any fraudulent activity attached to your name, it’s wise to invest in a credit monitoring or identity theft monitoring service. Companies like Lifelock specialize in providing comprehensive monitoring services to stop identity theft before it strikes. And if you are victimized, these services will let you know right away, minimizing the damage and helping you respond proactively.

Never Sign a Blank Return

If you choose to have your taxes completed by a tax preparer, one key tip: Never sign a blank return. If you do this, you basically hand over to the tax preparer the ability to do whatever they’d like with your return, including sending it to another address, falsifying documents or other attempts to commit fraud. Wait until the return is completely finished and put your name to paper only when it’s ready to be delivered to the IRS.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

3 Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

Tips for Hosting Your Next Garage SalePutting together and hosting a garage sale can be a daunting task. That being said, it can also be fun and profitable when one lays out a fantastic plan. Here are three common sense tips to help you when planning a garage sale, courtesy of PennySaver’s very own, resident “garage sale expert”, Jim Sampson.

  1. Be Sure to Advertise!

    Once you’ve picked the date of your garage sale, you need to get the word out. By placing a classified online at PennySaverUSA.com and in print in the PennySaver, you’ll be letting all of your closest neighbors and garage sale enthusiasts know about your upcoming garage sale. PennySaver USA will also send you free garage sale signs, or you can download them from the Garage Sale Resources on PennySaverUSA.com. Place the signs around your neighborhood to pull in passersby, and you’ve got the trifecta of advertising your garage sale. Remember, you need as many people to show up as possible otherwise you won’t find new homes for your treasures.

  2. Organize Well in Advance

    Decide what you are going to sell. Look through your garage, closets, jewelry boxes, attic, basement, tool shed, way back in your kitchen cabinets . . . everywhere forgotten treasures may be hiding. Once you’ve got them corralled it’s time to clean and spruce them up so they look their prettiest when shoppers are checking them over the day of your sale. When you’ve got all of your items, you can create an “Inventory List” so you know all of the items that you’re hoping to sell, and you can keep track of what is sold throughout your garage sale.

  3. Price Every Item

    Putting little price stickers on your items is easy, it’s deciding what to ask that can be challenging. The one thing to keep in mind is people shop at garage sales for BARGAINS. If you’re looking for the actual value of your used item then selling it your garage sale is not the place. Also, be ready to haggle.

Remember, these three common sense tips will put you well on your way for a fun-filled day of meeting people and making some extra cash to boot!

Check out some of the current garage sale listings on PennySaverUSA.com.


Jim Sampson, Private Party Advertising Manager at PennySaver USAJim Sampson has been the Private Party Advertising Manager at PennySaver USA for the last 10 years, and is PennySaver’s resident “Garage Sale Expert.” PennySaver USA is California’s leading resource in print, online, and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, local coupons, classifieds, and business listings.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Tips for Re-Homing Pets

Tips for Re-Homing PetsUnfortunately, there are a number of reasons you might have to let a pet go: you’re moving to a place that doesn’t allow pets , you can no longer afford to take care of your pet, behavioral issues, allergies, etc. If these issues can’t be resolved (e.g. getting your new landlords to let pass their pet policy, getting your pet trained for behavioral issues, taking allergy medication, etc.), then perhaps you should re-home your pet.

Should you decide to re-home your pet, the following basic guidelines from the ASPCA should help your search for a new home and make your pet’s transition to its new home smoother.

Preparing For the Search

  • Prepare your pet before getting started (spay or neuter). Also, make sure your pet’s vaccinations are current, and have your pet’s veterinary records handy for the new owner.
  • Snap some color pictures of your pet focusing on the pet’s most adorable qualities and favorite things to do.
  • Prepare a written description about your pet, and discuss why your pet needs a new home.
  • Then, spread the word that you’ve got an available pet for a new home (send e-mails with the photos and description to all your friends, put up posters in your neighborhood at the local pet store or dog park , walk your pet in high traffic areas where it will be seen by other pet owners, etc.),

Choosing the New Home and Owner

  • Interview potential owners and ask them why they’re interested in your pet and how they’ll care for it (where will the pet sleep, stay during the day, activities for the pet, etc). Ask the potential owners for references (employer, landlord) to check on employment and whether it’s okay to have pets where they live.
  • After interviews, invite potential owners to meet your pet in person. Observe how the pet and potential owner interacts.
  • Visit the pet’s potential new home to see what the environment is like and whether it will be a happy and safe place for your pet.
  • If the potential owner has a pet, ask to speak with the pet’s veterinarian to see how the owner cares for it.
  • With potential owners unfamiliar to you, ask them for a re-homing fee to put a value on your pet to see if the person can afford the pet and is willing to do what’s necessary to own a pet. A re-homing fee should also discourage predators who are looking for free pets for a variety of reasons.

The Transition

  • Take your pet to the new owner’s home over a series of visits if possible (for an afternoon, then overnight, and finally permanently) to do the transition. When the pet seems comfortable, the transition can be completed.
  • Make the final handoff as calm and uneventful as possible.
  • Give the new owner all your pet’s toys, favorite snacks, and sleeping items to lend some familiarity to their new home.
  • Also, give the new owner enough pet food to last at least a week. Changing a pet’s food can upset its stomach and cause digestion problems. The switch to a new food should be made gradually.
  • Finally, ask the new owner if you may call in a few weeks to check up on how the pet is doing. This will help ease your mind and the new owner will be aware that you’re following up.

By following the above guidelines, you can make your pet’s transition to its new home smoother and less stressful. Going through this process should also help set you at ease knowing that you made a solid effort to find a good home for your pet.

Check out some of the pets looking for good homes on PennySaverUSA.com.


Ken Sereno has been a GIS/Marketing Specialist at PennySaver USA for the last 7 years, and is a proud father of two boys and a fan of the USC Trojans. PennySaver USA is California’s leading resource in print, online, and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, local coupons, classifieds, and business listings.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Save Money Monday: Start Using Coupons NOW!

It’s no secret that everyone wants to save money. It may seem like a difficult feat, but with these tips from PennySaver USA, saving money will no longer be just a dream, but will soon be reality, all it takes is 30 minutes.

Learn to coupon like a proJust set aside 30 minutes each week to prepare and plan ahead, and you’ll start to save some serious cash on products you use everyday. Coupons can be used not only on food, but things like shampoos, paper products, pet food, cleaning supplies and more. Once you start using coupons and see the savings, you will more than likely want to continue using coupons on a regular basis. For this installment of Save Money Monday, here are a few helpful ideas to help you become a couponing pro:

First you need coupons, and there are many ways to collect coupons:

If you plan on a serious coupon career, (which might take longer than 30 minutes a week), a good filing system will also help:

  • Coupon Files
  • Binders
  • Shoeboxes
  • Recipe Boxes
  • Storage Containers

Listed below are a few ways to keep your coupons in order, but you really want to use whatever works best for you:

  • Categories
  • Store
  • Store Aisle
  • Expiration Date

Helpful Hint: Remember to purge your coupons about once a month to get rid of all expired coupons, creating more space for new coupons.

Once you have clipped your coupons, check the local stores in your area. Not just grocery stores, but drug stores such as Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid also have weekly offers already in place to match the weekly coupons offered, and they offer extra store incentives for customers with a free store membership. It is like they have done most of the work for you. Some stores also offer BOGO. (Buy one get one), double coupon offers and rebates for even more savings.You will find that sometimes buying name brands using coupons and store incentives, are often less expensive than buying the generic brands offered.

There are a few downsides of coupon shopping, often the savings are so good the product sells out very quickly leaving the shelf empty, but most stores will offer a raincheck on the items sale price if you ask and will honor the coupon as well. You can even ask the store when they receive shipments and if possible, plan your shopping accordingly. Believe it or not, stores want you to use coupons, because they benefit as well by often earning a handling fee from the manufacturers. Stores have been accepting coupons for so long that the checkout process is not as time consuming as it once was. Many stores now even accept mobile coupons, and will scan the coupon right from your mobile device. If you are worried about the line behind you getting a little long and impatient, it could be because they have just realized they are going to pay full price for the same product you just bought for half price or less!

The first one cent–off coupon was issued in 1895 by C.W. Post to promote his new cereal. According to WomansDay.com,

“a coupon is still one of the single best ways to get people to buy a product. Even if you forget to bring it to the store, clipping the coupon jogs your memory and you’ll likely buy the product anyway.”


Dottie Hobbs, Customer Service RepresentativeDottie Hobbs is a Customer Service Representative at PennySaver USA, California’s leading resource in print, online, and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, local coupons, classifieds, and business listings.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Cheap and Easy Spring Cleaning

It’s almost time for spring cleaning. It can be an exhausting and expensive activity that induces dread. But it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and some clever tips from Pennysaver USA, you can breeze through spring cleaning and save money to go out and celebrate the new season.
Cheap and Easy Spring Cleaning Tips

Get Your Cleaning Supplies Together

Gather all of the cleaning supplies you’ll use and find a pail or basket to carry them from room to room. You’ll save having to run around the house looking for that glass cleaner or dust rag. Woman’s Day suggests using microfiber cloths for cleaning instead of paper towels. They can be used dry for dusting and wet for wiping down almost any surface. You can also reuse them after machine washing and hanging them up to dry. They come in inexpensive packs and you’ll save on paper towels that just get thrown away after a single use.

Top-Down Approach

Start at the top of the house at one end and work your way down. Finish one room completely before going to the next. This gives you a feeling of accomplishment even if you haven’t finished the whole house. Take your basket of cleaning supplies with you and leave the vacuum outside of the room for the final touch.

Use the top-down method when cleaning individual rooms. Start by dusting high places, including blinds and ceiling fan, to allow dirt to fall to the floor to be picked up by the vacuum. Work your way down the shelves and walls. As you clean, pick up everything off of the floor so you’ll be ready to do a quick vacuum of the room.

Organize Now or Later

Spring cleaning gives you a chance to do some major organization. Start by cleaning out closets, the garage and basement, recommends House Beautiful. If you have kept up with those spaces, you can work on other areas as you move through the house. If you’ve ignored those areas, you’ll want to set aside time to organize them separately.

If you find that the garage and basement have a lot of junk that should just be thrown out, save money by renting a dumpster instead of hauling away multiple loads to the landfill. Every city has services that offer quick to-your-door delivery of dumpsters. For example, if you live in or around the Denver area, Next Day Dumpsters can deliver a small unit that is the equivalent of six pickup loads. The company will take it away when you’re done so you don’t have to deal with the landfill.

While you have the dumpster in your driveway, take advantage of it to haul away that yard waste accumulating in the backyard. Pick up a cart at rental place in Denver so you don’t hurt your back as you collect the limbs and leaves, wood scraps and old flower pots from your yard.

Save Money on Supplies

You can also make your own cleaning solutions and save money, says HGTV. They are less harsh than commercial cleaners, and easier on the planet. Some of the DIY cleaners they recommend include:

  • White vinegar diluted in water — Cleans floor and wall scuffs, countertops, tubs and sinks
  • White vinegar undiluted — Cleans toilet bowls, sinks, tubs, and any surface stained by hard water deposits
  • Baking soda — Cleans tile, grout and porcelain when mix with a little water to use as a scouring powder
  • Rubbing alcohol — Cleans windows, mirrors and chrome surfaces
  • Ammonia — Cleans stubborn surfaces when rubbing alcohol isn’t enough

Carissa Rogers is the Marketing Specialist at PennySaver USA, California’s leading resource in print, online, and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, local coupons, classifieds, and business listings.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Don’t Blow Your Tax Refund – Do One of These Smarter Things Instead

Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax RefundEverybody loves getting a tax refund. But before you go out and spend the whole thing, stop to consider some other, wiser things you could do with it. The suggestions below from PennySaver USA may not be as exciting as getting the latest tech gadget or some brand new clothes, but they will pay dividends for years to come.

Pay Down Debt

Large balances and high interest rates cost you big bucks and may end up damaging your credit. Use your refund to pay down your debt, especially if you are having problems making payments on time. You could save hundreds to thousands in interest and improve your ability to get good loan rates in the future.

Save It

Deposit your refund in a an income-bearing account, such as a money market account or a certificate of deposit, or buy savings bonds with it. A couple of years of saving your income tax refunds this way will create a solid nest egg. If you’ve nothing saved for retirement, this is the perfect opportunity to open an IRA.

Invest in Home Improvements

A mortgage is the biggest investment many people will make. Use your income tax refund to make improvements that will protect or increase the value of your home. It’s a better alternative than borrowing to make improvements or letting the value of your property slip. Energy-efficient upgrades improve your home’s value and save you money over time by reducing heating and cooling costs. Search the home improvement classified ad listings on PennySaverUSA.com.

Use It for Education

Consider using your refund to finance tuition for a certification or professional conference that will improve your employment skills and career opportunities, which in turn increases your earning potential. Or if you have a child or grandchild, consider depositing it in an education fund. Some states offer taxpayer credit for contributing to a 529 plan that helps someone go to college.

Start a Business

If you’ve always dreamed of opening your own business, now may be the time. Apply your refund to startup costs. If you need additional funds, apply for a loan through the Small Business Administration. Or, if you receive regular income from a structured settlement, sell your future payments for a lump sum of cash now.

Get Insurance

If there is some type of insurance you want or need but haven’t been able to afford, use your income tax refund to get it. Life insurance, flood insurance and renter’s insurance protect your family and property and provide peace of mind. If you spend it on expensive shoes or a down payment on a new car, you’ll get some enjoyment, but insurance will protect you and your assets.

Book Your Vacation

Use your refund to book your summer vacation. Buy airline tickets and make hotel reservations now, and then bank the rest for spending money. If you already have a vacation fund, add your refund to it, so you can spend time on a tropical beach without going into debt. Start your search now and browse through vacation rentals on PennySaverUSA.com!

Rating 3.00 out of 5

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying A Used Car

used-car-blowoutShopping for a used car can be exciting and scary at the same time. The prospect of driving away in a flashy new (to you) ride is intoxicating…but if you aren’t careful, you can make mistakes that cost you money, or result in buying a car that you’ll be “stuck” with for a long time. Here are some tips from PennySaverUSA.com on 5 mistakes to avoid when buying a used car.

#1: Not Thoroughly Inspecting The Vehicle

Don’t let a shiny paint job fool you. Potential problems can be hidden, and you owe it to yourself to be diligent and tough with the seller so you don’t get ripped off!

David Hays, a 25-year automotive industry veteran and former owner of Wrenchmasters in Rockville, Md., says that even if you aren’t a mechanic, you can inspect the car yourself, and there are specific things you should look for.

“On the exterior, look for oil or other fluid leaks under the car, odd wear or worn-out tires and new or different paint,” Hays says. “A car that has been painted indicates crash damage and is a red flag. Crash damage can be extensive or minor but always affects the value negatively. Look for ‘orange peel’ paint on body panels, paint fading at different rates on different parts of the car, irregular gaps in between body panels and overspray on weather seals.

“Pop the hood and look for cracks on the back of drive belts, excessive black crud under the oil fill cap, which indicates a lack of oil changes, and stickers under the hood,” Hays says. “If there aren’t any stickers, the hood panel may have been replaced, a red flag that the vehicle was in an accident.

“During the test drive, listen to the exhaust,” Hays says. “Does it sound normal and not overly loud? Make sure the blower (fan) works, and the power windows and locks are functional. Check to see if engine lights or other dash lights are on. On a level road, does the car track straight if you were to remove your hands from the steering wheel? Does the car drive to one side or does the brake pedal pulsate when braking?”

#2: Not Getting A Vehicle History Report/Mechanic Inspection

Services such as CarFax or AutoCheck can provide you with a complete vehicle maintenance record and accident history for the vehicle (provided the previous owner kept proper records of course), which can alert you to any potential problems the seller may be keeping from you. And if the seller doesn’t allow you the opportunity to have a qualified mechanic inspect the vehicle for any potential problems, that should be a red flag to you that they may be hiding something, and the vehicle might be one to avoid.

#3: Not Doing The Research To Make Sure The Price Is Right

The internet has made shopping for a used car a LOT easier than it used to be. You can do a ton of research before you ever go look at a car…finding out what common issues that model might have, or getting a firm idea of what people are paying for the model you’re looking for. Websites like Kelley Blue Book allow you to input the features and mileage of the vehicle you want, and find out what the fair market value is. Having this information in hand when you go talk to the seller can make a world of difference when it comes to negotiating a price, and how you feel about the transaction afterwards.

#4: Don’t Find Out How Much The Insurance (And Other Extra Items) Will Cost Before Deciding

A very common mistake people make before deciding on which car to buy is not finding out how much it will cost for other things like insurance and “wear and tear” type services. Insurance costs can vary widely from one vehicle model (or insurance company) to another, so do your homework and find out how much you’ll be spending every month for insurance, and get some idea how much typical services will cost.

#5: Exceeding Your Budget

According to FortheFirsttimer.com, even if you did your research, evaluated your needs, arranged the financing, there’s still the possibility of entering the dealership, only to let yourself get talked into the kind of car with a price tag that is much more than you have budgeted for. So stay with your budget, and ensure that you can really afford the vehicle you want to buy, thus avoiding buyer’s remorse or getting in too far over your head.

If you do your homework, and walk up to the seller’s house or a dealership armed with the information you need to make an informed, wise decision about the vehicle you’re interested in, you’ll have the power! And when you drive away in your spiffy new ride, you’ll know you made the best deal you could, and that a few months later you won’t be kicking yourself for a bad choice!

Don’t forget to check out some great used car listings at PennySaverUSA.com!


Andy Poston is the Marketing Services Manager at PennySaver USA, California’s leading resource in print, online, and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, local coupons, classifieds, and business listings.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Score! 5 Tips for Maximizing Your Holiday Shopping Savings

5 Tips to Maximize Your Holiday Shopping Savings

The 2013 holiday season is in high gear. But before you work off your Thanksgiving turkey by doing an all-night-standing-in-line endurance challenge to grab that latest gadget, you’re going to need to know the hottest trends of the season so you can plan your shopping warm-up and workout effectively. From retailers’ plans to the best days to find bargains, PennySaver has got your holiday shopping marathon mapped out.

1. Caffeinate to counteract the tryptophan and warm yourself by the glowing light of the Internet

According to the Adobe Digital Index Online Shopping Forecast, millions of shoppers will be flocking to the Internet on Thanksgiving Day to take advantage of online shopping deals. Sales of merchandise online on Thanksgiving will most likely bring retailers into the black. Forecasts predict online retailers to rake in a collective $1.1 billion in sales that day. Expect deep discounts from large shopping sites as well as the smaller mom and pop operations. All of the major department stores want in on the cyber action, so places such as Macy’s for example, will be jumping into the online Black Friday discount scene. Be sure to log on as early as possible. Have the kids do the dishes while you enjoy uninterrupted shopping. Fight the food coma with the thrill of scoring deals.

2. Make sure those electronics are in working order and load up on apps (the sans calories kind)

Much of this year’s holiday shopping will be done remotely, so you’ve got to make sure your electronics are up to the task. Grab spare batteries for your cell phone so you don’t miss important discount alerts. Get a cover for your iPad to reduce the chance of any damage to your shopping companion. If it’s time to update your chargers, go for it. Some retailers are planning on offering mobile-only discounts that can’t be found in stores. The mobile app Swirl will send you exclusive markdowns in exchange for access to your personal data. They’re going to do it anyway, so you might as well make the most of it. Another useful app, The Access Mobile Discount and coupon app, provides information on more than 100,000 retail locations offering bargains.

3. Don’t overlook Cyber Monday

Even some of the most tech-savvy among us have never heard of, or have simply forgotten about, Cyber Monday. This year, the Cyber Mondays in November and December are going to be epic. Your favorite major retailers will offer deals on all kinds of merchandise. You can sign up to receive alerts on the best offers through you go-to gadgets.

4. Gift cards are really OK

Great news for frazzled and overwhelmed shoppers. Gift cards used to signify an impersonal gift given to someone you didn’t know very well. Not anymore! We can all breathe a sigh of relief this season, as gift cards have become completely acceptable to give to even our closest confidantes. A majority of Americans now say they would rather get a gift card than anything else at all, according to an official survey of the National Retail Association. So go ahead with the guiltless gifting. They can be purchased nearly anywhere. Consider converting the majority of your gift giving into gift cards, and you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle this holiday season.

5. If you’re going in person, go early

You know what they’ve always said about the early bird, right? The old adage still holds true in this day and age. Nothing has changed with regard to arriving at the store early; in fact, this season it’s more pertinent than ever. Retailers are going to offer spectacular sales and savings, but sometimes when they run out of inventory, that’s it. Period. Don’t miss out on the best goodies by being a lazy bones. Double-check that your alarm clock is plugged in and arrange a back-up wake-up call from Wakerupper. No one can get the better of you when you rise with the sun.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

You Can Rent That? Who Knew?

It’s not always the person who owns the most toys that wins. In fact, that person is often broke and a hoarder. In real life, it is often better to rent what you need rather than waste your money on space-hogging things that you may only need once or twice in your lifetime. If you haven’t checked lately, you might be surprised to see the interesting list of items you can rent.

Musical Instruments

Your child has suddenly expressed interest in playing the piano or guitar and you don’t want to say no. At the same time, you’re not sure how long this new-found interest will actually last. Fortunately, there are a number of companies that will rent you that tuba or flute, often with an option to purchase the instrument if your child actually sticks with it.

A Horse

You’re an experienced rider who hates head-to-tail guided trail rides, but at the same time, you really don’t have time to get to a barn more than once a week. Besides, the monthly board, horse shoeing and vet bills are way more than you can afford on your limited salary. A better option is to lease a horse. You can lease or rent a horse from a private owner or even some barns for a day or more a week, depending on your needs, for a fraction of what it would typically cost you to own an equine.

Designer Bags

Some designer purses can set you back the cost of a small economy car. Take the Hermes Birkin bag, which retails for $16,500. A true purse aficionado would die to have one of these babies dangling from her arm, even if just for a month. Fortunately, purse rental companies, such as BagBorroworSteal.com, can lend you that Birkin for $600 a month or a $2,990 Louis Vuitton Melrose for $350 a month. There are also less expensive models to rent, as well. While you may know in the back of your mind that $600 for a month is still an outrageous amount of money to spend on a purse, it may be a way to scratch that handbag itch, if this is truly your one weakness.

Heavy Machinery

If you have construction or landscaping experience and want to do some big jobs around your property, such as digging a trench for a pipe or preparing the ground for a big landscaping or gardening project, then you’ll want to head to your nearest heavy equipment rental outlet. Outlets such as Neff Rentals can get all types of heavy equipment into your hands, including backhoes, compact rollers, mixers and grinders, that can help you complete your next big do-it-yourself project.

Motorcycle

Love to hit the highway on two wheels, but don’t really have the time to go riding very often? Then maybe renting a motorcycle on those occasions you do want to hit the road is the answer for you. A number of motorcycle dealers, as well as EagleRider, the largest bike rental agency in the world, rent out bikes to wannabe Easy Riders. In addition, Eagle Rider also carries dirt bikes and ATVs for those times when you’d prefer to go for a jaunt through the wilderness.

Margarita Machine

Unless you enjoy spending your entire evening running a blender, it may be worth it to rent a margarita machine for your next large gathering. These machines, which are available through national chains such as Margaritaman or often through local party rental stores, will keep your frozen concoctions mixing all night.

Rating 3.00 out of 5