Fidget Spinners: Harmless Fad Or Mega Distraction?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen them practically everywhere. Thefidget small plastic gadgets don’t do much, but they’ve completely overtaken the toy industry.

Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a sensory toy for children on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD or sensory processing disorder. Within days, though, the hand-held gadget experienced a wild surge in popularity and became a must-have for every child and teenager across the county – and plenty of adults, too.

The basic fidget spinner is built with three prongs centered around a circle. Flick a prong, and the triangle shape becomes a blur, almost like a ceiling fan. The toys are manufactured by several companies and are sold virtually everywhere – airports, gas stations, grocery stores and, of course, toy stores.

If you’re wondering what the great appeal behind the fidget spinner is, you’re not alone. Just like you, many parents are scratching their heads in bewilderment. After all, the toys don’t make much noise; they don’t beep or flash or do anything too exciting. And yet, the fidget spinner and its cousin, the fidget cube, now dominate 49 of the top 50 rankings on Amazon. They’ve all but invaded classrooms and hundreds of videos have already been posted on YouTube by self-proclaimed “fidget experts” demonstrating dozens of tricks that can be done with the small toy.

And it’s not just kids – the fad has spread to adults, as well. Fidget spinners are showing up in college classrooms, on train rides and at the workplace. In fact, Forbes magazine has already named the fidget spinner the official office toy of 2017.

While toy fads constantly come and go, there hasn’t been a fad of this magnitude since the hula hoop craze of 1958, when an estimated 25 million were sold in just a few months.

Parents and educators are on the fence about this fad, though. The price tag is conservative and it keeps the kids occupied, but some claim it’s a tremendous classroom distraction that should be banned.

While the novelty of the fidget spinner will fade with time, it’s anyone’s guess if they will become a classic like the Rubik’s Cube, or soon lay forgotten in a dusty corner of the playroom, never to be played with again.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about the latest fad:

1.) No scientific backing

Fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-reliever and a self-care tool for ADHD and autism. Parents of diagnosed children have eagerly purchased these toys in the hopes that they will help their child concentrate in class and perhaps alleviate some of their symptoms.

It’s important to note, though, that there has not been any scientific evidence backing this claim. While some might find that they do provide temporary relief from symptoms, they should never be used in place of therapy or medication.

2.) Choose cheaply

One of the biggest selling factors of this fad is the modest price tag – most go for just a couple bucks. Like every popular fad, though, opportunists have been quick to cash in on the craze. The market boasts luxury spinners with flashing lights, or with more ball bearings to supposedly guarantee a longer spin time. These deluxe versions come with a price tag of a few hundred dollars or more.

Kids are thrilled with the cheaper versions, though, and they fulfill their purpose perfectly. Don’t get sucked into shelling out big bucks, because this fad may be over in a few weeks. By then, your child may never look at a spinner again.

3.) Classroom chaos

A lone spinner produces a low, almost indistinct whir. Multiply that by 25, though, and you’ve got quite a racket. Now imagine trying to teach over that din.

Fidget spinners might look like the perfect classroom toy; they’re small enough to fit under the desk, and make hardly any noise. But some teachers and principals have found them to be too distracting, and many schools have banned them completely. Aside from the collective hum of the gadgets spinning, the toys often go clattering to the floor or are used to demonstrate tricks, further adding to their distraction.

Other teachers don’t mind the noise, though, and claim they support concentration while providing a legitimate sensory aid for those who need it. Make sure your child’s teacher is OK with the fidget spinner being used in the classroom before your child brings it to school.

4.) Smartphone substitute

While no scientific studies have backed this claim, many posit that the fidget spinner’s popularity is linked to its vibrating motion, which mimics that of a smartphone. They theorize that the toy serves as a salve for the smartphone-addicted child, who loves the feel of a screen throbbing.

Whether this is true or not remains to be proven, but if it’s a choice between a phone and a fidget spinner, remember that the toy won’t mess with your child’s attention span or internal clock the way screen time does, making it the better choice.

Here to stay, or gone tomorrow? It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, though, make smart, informed choices about the latest toy fad.

Your Turn: Do you think fidget spinners should be allowed in classrooms? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://www.npr.org/2017/05/14/527988954/whirring-purring-fidget-spinners-provide-entertainment-not-adhd-help
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.usatoday.com/story/100737096/#scso=uid_WRjMWAAEI3oKY-9KBg83Jg_1:865
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/jplafke/2016/12/23/fidget-spinners-are-the-must-have-office-toy-for-2017/amp/
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/the-fidget-spinner-explains-the-world/526521/
http://www.abc15.com/news/national/toy-takeover-whats-behind-the-fidget-spinner-fad

How To Get Your Spring Break On


Spring break isn’t just for party-hearty college students anymore. These days, families are also taking a break from winter and jetting off to sun-drenched climates to frolic on warm beaches. 

Spring break for college students spans the first few weeks of March, while families are more inclined to take their spring vacation to coincide with the long Easter weekend, which runs from April 3-5 this year, orPassover, which is April 22-30 this year. The fact that college and public school holidays don’t overlap should ensure that PG-rated co-eds don’t intrude on a G-rated family vacation. 

Although toasting spring’s arrival goes back to Greek and Roman celebrations, its modern incarnation is blamed on a Colgate University swimming coach bringing his team to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for training back in 1934. 

Sensing a marketing opportunity, Fort Lauderdale organized an annual swim meet, and the rest is history. Buoyed by the 1961 movie “Where the Boys Are,” starring George Hamilton; and the 1983 “Spring Break” with Tom Cruise and Shelley Long, the annual ritual has exploded. The 1986 arrival of the annual “MTV Spring Break” hasn’t hurt either. 

South Florida is still the center of the college spring break universe. So, if you can find a cheap flight and some friends to share in the cost of a hotel room, grab your bathing suit and beach towel and you’re in. Beaches in Florida cities such as Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach quickly become oceans of tanned bodies once spring break hits, with crowds as large as 400,000 people. 

While large crowds are considered a plus for college spring break celebrants, they can lead to frustration and annoyance if you’re a family seeking relaxation while having a few young kids in tow. 

Orlando, home of Disney World and other resorts, is a surefire hit with both kids and budget-conscious parents. But spring break is also the second-busiest time of year, behind Christmas and New Year’s. Granted, you cansurvive long lines by arriving early and packing your own snacks. But if you go to Orlando for spring break, be prepared for company. 

One popular strategy for guaranteeing family fun without blowing the budget is vacationing in an all-inclusive resort. Familyvacationcritic.comhas a list of the top 50 all-inclusive resorts for families in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Cayman Islands and other exotic Caribbean locales. Rates during peak times start at about $300 per person for a five-day stay. Resorts typically feature pools, beaches, fun-filled activities, and meals-all in a safe family-friendly environment. 

Cruises are another popular option, offering activities and services for the whole family, including movies, swimming, waterslides, varied dining options and more. 

But spring break doesn’t have to be all about the beach, especially for families. Visiting a budget-friendly city with inexpensive airline flights can be both entertaining and an educational option for the entire family. 

Los Angeles was the Fiscal Times’ top family spring break destination due to the number of attractions and places to visit. In addition, airfare prices to the city generally don’t experience a spring break surge due to the high volume of flights. Five new hotels, a strong U.S. dollar and a nearby adventure park helped make Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the second most popular spring break family destination. 

Las Vegas, Quebec City, Phoenix and New York are other great destination cities for family vacations. Norway also landed on the list due to competition among air carriers that has driven airfares below $200, and Spain was suggested because airfares to Barcelona are on par with flights to South Florida this time of year. 

For college students, eight of Kayak’s top 10 spring break destinations for 2015 are within the continental United States and four of those are in Florida. 

Home to the annual SXSW Festival, down-home rib joints, great Mexican food and walkable avenues lined with jumping live-music venues, Austin, Texas topped the list. It was followed by Fort Lauderdale, with its beaches, beachside bars, warm weather and manatees. 

Los Angeles was No. 3 on the list, with median airfare at just $352 in late April. Southern California is home to magnificent beaches such as Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice. In addition, plenty of culture can be found in downtown Los Angeles. But be advised that spring is the wet season, and a powerful El Nino is in the forecast this year, so your chances of rain falling on your spring break parade are fairly high. 

Miami, or SoBe for South Beach, has a lot going for it as a spring break destination. Its chic Art Deco hotels, fun atmosphere, packed beaches and club culture helped it reach No. 4 on Kayak’s 2015 list. But timing is everything. Median airfares reach a high of nearly $600 in early April, but fall to below $400 later in the month. Try to avoid the Winter Music Conference, scheduled for March 21-24 this year. South Beach hotel rooms will fill up and airfares soar during that time. 

Three other Florida beach towns also made Kayak’s top 10, including West Palm Beach (No. 5); Fort Myers (No. 6), and the family-friendly Tampa (No. 10). 

The two top spring break destinations outside the continental United States were Los Cabos, Mexico, with beaches, bars, and ocean activities; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, which boasts beaches and rainforests. 

Although the typical beach party spring break remains a popular rite of passage for many college students, some are craving alternatives. A group called Break Awayoffers active citizenship and leadership conferences for college students during spring break. Similarly,Projects Abroad promises an opportunity to make a difference by participating in volunteer projects such as rebuilding homes for the poor in Jamaica, protecting endangered turtles in Mexico  or providing educational support for underprivileged children in Costa Rica, Belize, or Fiji. 

One thing is certain: Whatever your preference for marking the arrival of spring, there’s something fun and affordable you can try, alone or as a family.

Shop Local!


Your credit union is built on the idea of people helping people.  You already know we can do a better job looking after your money than a mega-chain bank that answers to shareholders, because we know you and our community.  So why give that up when you find a bargain online?  Shopping locally is better for the community, better for the environment and the best way to find something unique that can make all of your friends say “wow.”  

Shopping locally benefits your community. 

When you shop locally, the money you spend stays in the community.  Buying a new pair of shoes from a local shop takes dollars out of your pocket and puts them into the pockets of a local resident, of course.  What you might not consider is that those dollars get spent by the business owners as well, and they’re also likely to spend their money locally.

American Express estimates that about 68 cents out of every dollar spent in local shops stays at home, and if that dollar is spent locally three times, it means that – for every dollar you spend at local shops – $1.45 goes back into the community.  It’s what economists refer to as the multiplier effect, and it’s very powerful.

Fun fact:  The multiplier effect is why the government is still willing to make pennies, even though minting them costs more than one cent.  The multiplier effect is powerful enough to justify all that loose change in the jar next to your bed, and it’s powerful enough to make shopping locally a force for change.

Of course, that money doesn’t just go to shopkeepers and restaurant owners. The local government takes out its share in local taxes.  Even if you hate the idea of taxes, and we all may grumble in April, local taxes go to schools, firefighters, and other services in the area.  Buying dinner at a local bistro can be the reason the town has enough money to fix the potholes on your street. Not a bad dessert.

 Shopping locally is better for the environment. 

You already know about the danger of greenhouse gases and the effects of global warming.  If you don’t remember anything else, you probably remember Al Gore’s visual of a polar bear floating away. What’s easy to forget is that everything you buy had to come from somewhere.  If you’re drinking imported spring water from Fiji, that water flew halfway around the world.  If your new pants were made in China, they racked up frequent flyer miles, too.

It’s really hard to avoid foreign manufacturing, but many local businesses have locally made goods for sale, which eliminates at least one flight your product might take, saving on fuel and greenhouse gases.  Even if the product you’re buying was manufactured overseas, buying it locally can shave a flight or two off the product’s carbon footprint.

Shopping locally is the best way to find hidden gems. 

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of finding something your friends have never seen before. Whether it’s jewelry from a local metalsmith, a purse from a local boutique or pottery from a local artisan, local shops have the best potential for one-of-a-kind, where-did-you-get-that, I-love-it-so much uniqueness out of any shopping you can do.  Anyone can get on Amazon or check out a department store.  It takes a real connoisseur with a real eye for style to shop locally and find the best products.  Show off your personal style with buys from local artisans. The Parkville Towne Fair or the many ethnic festivals are great places to look for local crafts.

One final benefit of shopping locally is that many of your finds come with a story.  Those earrings might be from a local artist who got the inspiration from the nursery rhyme her mother told her, or those plates might borrow their pattern from the artist’s love of pop art.  Whatever the story, local artists will tell you how they came up with their unique designs.  Part of the fun of local shopping is the connections you can build with local artists, and hearing their stories is part of it.

San Francisco started recognizing the historic contributions of local businesses by listing important shops on its historic registry.  Looking around Parkville and Baltimore, which businesses would you nominate for historic status?


And, don’t forget to keep your banking local.  Destinations Credit Union (along with many other credit unions and local banks) is right here in Parkville offering world-class financial services and access wherever you travel.  We’re owned by our members and the money is invested back into our residents and our communities.

Check out the Parkville/Carney Business Association to see many local businesses who support our community.

Sources: 

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2011/10/28/how-consumers-and-communities-can-benefit-from-buying-local

Take Your First Steps Before They Take Theirs: Financial Planning For The New Parent

The first few days after you bring your baby home is an exciting time that can also be a bit stressful. So can the first few weeks. Many parents also find the first few months stressful, while others are stressed over their parental commitments a while longer. It’s easy to get caught up in sleepless nights, organic baby food, and reading every book you can find, but sometimes parents forget an obvious priority: teaching and helping your child to save money as they grow up.


1.  Set up a savings account for your child and make regular deposits.

You don’t have to know what you want to do with your child’s savings yet. However, the first step is as simple as opening a savings account for your child. Studies show that young adults who had savings accounts as children make better financial decisions, are more prepared for financial emergencies and plan better than their peers who didn’t grow up with savings accounts. So, for now, open a savings account, put a few dollars into it every paycheck and invite your child to participate by making deposits of their own when he or she is old enough. Destinations Credit Union offers savings accounts specially designed for kids. They offer dividend rates and we have educational resources so your child can learn to be smart with their money. You can find out more here: http://www.destinationscu.org/accounts/savings/youth-accounts.html.

2.  Start saving for college now.

Most parents know they need to save for their child’s college education, but few seem to realize how much college will cost. Education costs have been rising much faster than inflation, and if you’ve been out of school for a few years, you might be shocked by the costs. To make matters worse, and more expensive, many universities are receiving fewer public dollars, and getting a larger portion of their income from tuition, thus passing the cost on to students.

All told, experts expect four years of public school to cost around $250,000 by 2030. It could be even higher. While it’s difficult to imagine saving that much money, don’t give up or neglect to even try. First, think of college costs as a pie that’s been split into thirds. The first third will be paid for by your loans and awards your child earns. You’ll pay for the second third using the income you earn at the time. Only one-third needs to come from a college savings fund. Granted, one-third of $250,000 is $83,333.34, and that’s a lot of money. Take a deep breath, because you have decades to save it, and you have a secret weapon: compound interest, which Einstein called the most powerful force in the universe.

Destinations Credit Union offers Coverdell Education Accounts, which allow you to contribute up to $2,000 a year and withdrawals are tax-free.

3.  Focus on what you can control.

If you’ve been a parent for more than a few minutes, you’ve had at least one moment of pure panic while thinking about the future. Perhaps, on one of the few nights your baby allows you to sleep, you decided to keep yourself up by listing every terrible thing that could happen to you, your partner or your child. There’s so much you can’t control, of course, so place your focus on the things you can control.

Disaster sometimes strikes, and when it does, it’s usually unexpected. But there’s nothing you could do to prevent it. We don’t like to think about life ending, but it is inevitable. Instead of panicking over it, plan for it. While you’re at it, start planning for some of the less dramatic problems that might crop up. Start with life insurance, then look into other savings products and programs that are designed to protect your family.

One mistake many new parents often make is to immediately start throwing money at college savings while ignoring their overall financial picture. If you read the numbers in the previous point, it’s easy to see why. Start by building a nest egg that can carry you through 6 to 9 months of lean time, and then build your retirement fund. Money market accounts are a good way to build your short-term nest egg, because you can access your money if you need it.

As for retirement, you may not have given it much thought since your initial conversation with HR. Now is the time to see what else you need. Remember, you can take a loan to pay for college, but you can’t get a loan to retire. Even if you want to put college money away now, you can still get tax incentives if you contribute to your retirement at the same time. Browse Destinations Credit Unions‘s retirement options, or call us at 410-663-2500 if you want some help figuring out what’s right for you.
Sources:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-toddlers-savings-accounts-much-170151606.html

College Credit: Where will you live?


Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union

Top on the priority list for high school graduates is often, “Move out of mom and dad’s house.” And while sometimes mom and dad can’t agree more, this is not always the best financial move for teens.


What are some options for room and board while you are in college? There are plenty. Weighing the financial and personal benefits and downsides to each living situation can help you find the best possible option. Here are some possibilities for you to consider:

  • Staying at Home. This is often the most affordable option, especially if your parents will let you live in their home rent-free. If your college is within driving distance, you can live for free, eat for virtually nothing, and have the moral support of your parents nearby. The downside is being an adult and living in your parents’ home. This is not always an ideal situation for some new college students.
  • Living in the Dorms. The dorm life will help you meet people on campus and make it easier to get involved. However, the convenience comes with a price tag. The cost of living in the dorms varies by college and you often have at least one roommate in a very small room. There’s also the added cost of campus meals plan to consider.
  • Finding an Apartment. An apartment provides you the privacy of a home but at a lower cost than a house or some dorms. Finding a roommate will help defray some of the cost so you don’t have to foot the bill all on your own. The downside is that apartment living can be more expensive than a dorm room when utilities and other expenses are added in. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of food as well.
  • Live with Family. If your college is away from home, living with other family members that reside in or near the college town is a great option. You’ll get to know your extended family a bit more, plus live at a relatively low cost. Perhaps you can babysit for younger cousins to help cover expenses. The downside, again, is living in someone else’s home. If you’re looking to reconnect with family, though, this could be a great option.

Whatever housing option you choose during college, make sure you do your research and find an option that works for you-both financially and personally.

Eating Out … At Home!

Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union.

There’s something magical in a kid’s mind about going out to eat in a restaurant. They ask for their favorite food and it appears as if summoned by a magic wand. Most of them probably don’t even notice the bill at the end, making for an even more enchanting experience.

Tired of financing these family outings? Believe it or not, it’s even more entertaining to have a restaurant right in your own home. Besides providing oodles of imaginative fun, this activity can be used to teach skills such as setting the table, preparing food, setting prices, paying the bill and getting the right change.

You can tailor the activity to different ages and make it as elaborate or simple as you want. Deciding ahead of time on a special that everyone will choose to order is highly recommended. They can peruse the other menu items to their heart’s content, but the special will be so irresistible, the entire family will choose it that day. Have your child help prepare the special ahead of time so that they will be more invested in ordering it later. You don’t want to have to make two or more different dishes!

This doesn’t mean you can’t come up with a menu with all the options. Have your child help design it using a free online template. An older child can help with pricing. If you have time, it can be especially useful to look up the actual cost of making your menu items at home. If you have less time, look up the costs of making your special. Then, explain how restaurants charge diners a lot more for the same dish.

You can teach your child that menu items can typically have a 300%-500% markup of the dish’s actual cost. This is easiest to explain with the example of a $5 glass of soda. Point out that, because they need to pay for delivery of the food, preparation, serving and cleanup, restaurants need to charge customers a lot more than the food is worth to make a profit. Keeping that in mind, figure out the cost of your dinner special.

Provide your child with real or play money. They might want to take the role of waiter and actually set and wait on the table. Of course, in your restaurant, waiters will also have a chance to eat. The waiter will tally up the bill at the end for all the restaurant guests, take payment, and calculate the change that is due.

Alternatively, you can play server. Bill your child at the end of the meal and have him or her pay the bill with the fake/real money you provided them. An older child can be taught to calculate the tip as well.

At the end of the day, everyone will be fed, entertained and hopefully a bit wiser. After all, there’s nothing like eating out, especially when you can do it at home.

Finance In The Classroom: Tools For Talking To Kids About Money

Getting kids interested and involved in finance can be a real challenge. There’s a gap between what they may want to know and what they have the experience to understand. Finding age-appropriate reading materials, activities, and discussion topics to keep them engaged is a complex problem. Whether you’re a teacher, a church leader, a baby-sitter, aunt, uncle or a parent, being able to engage kids in these conversations is an important skill.
  
Fortunately, the Utah Department of Education has created a set of resources for all of these groups. The website, Finance in the Classroom, can be found at financeintheclassroom.org. It’s a solid collection of resources for kids of all ages.
  
For younger children, the site features a wide range of fun flash games that help them get used to counting money, saving and budgeting. Most of them will respond well to mobile devices and touch screens, meaning that kids can learn valuable lessons on their devices instead of playing mindless games that teach very little in the process. Some games are slightly more advanced and tackle topics like credit card management, investing and even macro-economic policy making! The interactivity is a great way to keep kids entertained and serves as a starting point for financial conversations.
  
Older children may be interested in the various calculators on the site. These include applets that help kids see how much college might cost, how much they should save, and how inflation might affect them in the future. There are also a list of book recommendations for further reading and education.
  
The site also features some tools for adults, like mortgage calculators and credit checklists. There are also quizzes and other tools designed to test adult financial literacy. More than that, though, the site offers discussion-starters and in-home activities designed for parents and children to undertake together. The activities are broken down by grade level and organized around themes like “scarcity” and “supply and demand.” Most of the activities don’t need much in the way of supplies or planning and can help solve the rainy Saturday afternoon problem of what to do.
  
This site is not without its flaws, though. The amount of information can be overwhelming and it doesn’t appear to get regular updates. Some of the information is specific to Utah laws, like specific college savings programs. Still, as a collection of free tools and games, Finance in the Classroom is a great place to start.  

For teens and young adults, Destinations Credit Union offers “On Your Way” – a social network for those interested in learning how to manage their money.  There are interesting blog posts, contests and videos to help this group better cope with new financial responsibilities.

The 4 Hidden Dangers Of Membership Club Shopping

If you’re feeding an army or just a hungry family, you’ve probably been considering the benefits of membership in a shopping club like Sam’s Club, Costco or BJ’s Wholesale. On the surface, the membership decision seems like a very simple calculus. You take your projected savings from buying in bulk and subtract from that the cost of a yearly membership ($45 for Sam’s Club, $50 for BJ’s, and $55 for Costco). If that works out to be positive number, you should sign up.

This simple math, though, overlooks some of the more serious hidden dangers in signing up for a club membership. The availability of bulk goods can encourage different spending habits that may not be in your financial best interest. Before you sign up, remember these hidden costs.
1.) The extra cost of impulses
One of the most tempting Costco items is a drum-sized container of peanut-butter pretzel bites. In most stores, this might be an impulse item. It would be the kind of snack you’d pick up because you’re a little hungry or because you might have company later in the week. At ordinary snack food quantities, this indulgence will cost you a dollar or so. Because you’re buying in bulk, though, this splurge could easily run you $5. It’s a savings if it’s something you need, but for extra items, it’s just extra cost. Add up those extra costs over a whole shopping trip and ordinary impulse buys could eat a significant part of your grocery bill.
If you’re not used to shopping with a list, the extra costs involved in ordinary impulse spending can add up quickly. More than in other stores, you need to make a list and be a diligent, informed shopper before you set foot in a wholesale store. Do your research, make a plan and stick to it.
2.) The extra cost of cheap goods
Most people wouldn’t buy a big-screen TV on impulse. Something changes in the brain, though, when one appears on an end cap for a bit cheaper than they are at a conventional retailer. After an entire shopping trip of saying no, the willpower gives up and the credit card comes out. Suddenly, there’s a TV in the car.
The wholesale club model is to get people in the door with savings on everyday goods, wear down their resolve with an incredible array of goods, and finally hit them with high-margin goods like clothes or electronics. It works surprisingly well, even on smaller-ticket items like giant candy bars and holiday decorations. It’s a technique psychologists call “confuse and reframe.” It works quite simply.
The confuse part of the operation is the volume and price of goods. Most people have no idea how to adequately value a 20-pound jar of mayonnaise or a pack of 35 frozen steaks. Nor do most people have easy ways to categorize the thousands of products available at these stores. The brain’s natural response to this confusion is to look for shortcuts and the store provides them: price tags offer comparisons to other brands, shops, and products, showing the considerable savings available if the shopper buys now. That’s the reframe part of the operation. Having convinced the shopper that the appropriate frame is amount saved, that becomes the decision-making procedure.
It’s easy to say that those tactics won’t work on you, but studies say differently. These companies have spent lots of money designing a retail experience that gets you to spend big. They wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t work.
3.) The cost of missed sales
It can be easy to see an item advertised in one of these stores and assume it’s the best price you will ever find for the item. It’s frustrating, then, to go back the next week and see the product on sale for $25 cheaper. Yet this is very common, particularly with seasonal goods that need to be sold by a certain date.
In many cases, these stores will be happy to honor the sale price and refund the difference — but only if you ask for it. Because all transactions are linked to a membership card, it’s far easier for the store to see that you purchased an item and issue a refund. They’re counting on the bulk effect to create less frequent trips so customers won’t see these new sale prices. Shopping at a conventional retailer means more chances to price-check goods.
4.) The cost of waste
If you’re trying to encourage your family to try new things, you know there are going to be some foods they just don’t like. If you’re shopping at a conventional retailer, you might waste a half-pound of asparagus when it turns out your youngest just can’t stand it. If you tried that same experiment while buying from a wholesale store, though, you might end up throwing out several pounds of fresh produce.
Even when buying tried and tested staples, beware the perishable item. If you’re buying something that can spoil in bulk, you’re taking the risk that you’ll have something to do with it before it goes bad. You can minimize this risk by having a plan in place to deal with the surplus. This plan can be as simple as putting it in the freezer or sharing excess with neighbors, friends, and family members.
You can also focus your stock-up efforts on non-perishable goods. Buying things like medications, spices and paper goods in bulk can let you take advantage of the economy of scale without worrying about spoilage. Many of these goods also offer the deepest discounts.
Wholesale stores offer the chance for incredible value, but they also invite some risk. Whether membership is worth it to you or not depends on the kind of shopper you are. If you’re a diligent planner and a seasoned researcher, you can save a lot on things you need. If you tend to make impulse buys, then let the buyer beware.
SOURCES:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/6-rules-shopping-warehouse-stores-152550021.html

5 Low-Cost Holiday Family Activities


It can be difficult to find something everyone enjoys doing. Uncle Phil wants to watch the football game while Aunt Linda wants to decorate cookies. You’re trying to keep peace without making family time feel like a chore. What can you do to keep everyone happily spending time together without running up a huge credit card bill?
These five activities can help all of you keep the Christmas spirit in your hearts while spending time with your family this holiday season. Best of all, most of these options won’t cost you a dime!
1.) Caroling
It’s a tradition that spans generations. Family and friends get together to spread joy and good will with cheery music. Caroling is an iconic part of the holiday season. If you live in an area where you know your neighbors and the streets are safe, you can carol in your neighborhood. If you don’t, consider making an appointment with an area nursing home or assisted care facility. These homes are often in need of some cheer during the holidays.
You can find sheet music for most holiday classics for free online. You can also find “karaoke” mixes to download onto a smartphone or tablet to help keep your merry ensemble on key. Spending some of your together time practicing is also a good idea. What’s important isn’t how good you sound, though. It’s the fun you have and the joy you spread.
2.) Volunteering
Many churches, food kitchens and other outreach centers offer Christmas dinners for the less fortunate. Spending some of your holiday caring for those who have little-to-nothing can also help keep your family focused on what’s really important. After your kids have unwrapped their presents on Christmas morning, consider taking them to help out at a community pantry. It’ll help them treasure their gifts all the more.
There are plenty of other causes that could use your help. In the days after Christmas, many animal shelters are overwhelmed with “presents” that didn’t quite work out. The overworked volunteers at these shelters need help cleaning up and exercising scared, confused animals. Consider doing some good with your family this Christmas.
3.) Spit-paper
If you’d rather have some light-hearted fun with your family at Christmas, consider this easy game. Sit everyone down in a circle. Each person gets a sticky note or a small piece of scrap paper. On that piece of paper, they write a person’s name – a celebrity, a political figure, even a fictional character. Then, everyone passes to the right.
Without looking at it, every player sticks the piece of paper on their forehead. People take turns asking “yes-or-no” questions about themselves to the group, with the objective of guessing their “new” identity. Questions like “Have I ever existed?” or “Have I been alive in the last 100 years?” are good ways to narrow the range of options. It’s a fun way to have a conversation about current events in a general, light-hearted way.
4.) Re-watch old family movies
Someone in your family may have a huge cache of old tapes in a closet or basement somewhere. These tapes don’t do much besides gather dust for most of the year, but they contain a treasure trove of family memories. If you’re like most families, someone recorded treasured times to document them for posterity, but either never watched them or hasn’t blown the dust off them in years.
Make this Christmas a time to break that tradition. Pick a year and watch the Christmas or birthday parties. Think back to what life was like then and how much things have changed since. Embarrass the kids a little bit in front of their spouses or significant others. You might find it’s a great way to start a new family tradition!
5.) Check out community or school theatre events
There are a great many works of theatre that everyone recognizes as “classics” despite the fact that very few people have seen them. If you asked someone to name a piece of ballet, most might come up with “The Nutcracker.” It features songs that nearly everyone knows, like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.” Yet, despite its fame, most people have never seen it.
Many performing arts schools and amateur dance troupes put on productions of “The Nutcracker” around Christmas-time. This can be a low-cost way to see a high-culture event. The ticket price is usually low and some organizations even offer free admission with a donation of canned goods. You and your family can take in a fancy show while supporting young and emerging artists. Look for posters in your local grocery store or other community establishments.
No matter what you do this holiday season, it’ll be made special because you do it together. Have a safe and happy holiday!

The 12 Scams Of Christmas


The holidays are a time of family togetherness and celebration. Scammers know you’re distracted, busy, and emotional. That’s why their schemes are so devilish. They get their own twist around Christmas time.

In the interest of keeping things in the holiday spirit, let’s look at 12 scams of Christmas. Don’t get taken in by these or similar schemes. Otherwise, you might be footing the bill for twelve drummers drumming and all the rest!

1.) Mobile malice

Be wary of “season-themed” apps that perform frivolous functions, yet demand top-level security access. An app that makes it look like there’s snow on your background image doesn’t need to send or receive texts. Such an app might send premium text messages and leave you holding the bill.

2.) E-card danger

Everyone with an email address will send these little flash programs. Scammers have designed some with malicious code. They can install data leaching programs on your computer and do untold damage. Don’t click links in emails unless you know the sender. Even then, if it looks a little out of the ordinary, it probably is. They may have already fallen victim and it would be good to let them know.

3.) Fake packages

You’ll be receiving unexpected packages this season. Scammers know this and will send realistic-looking delivery failure notifications. They expect you to follow up with them and reveal personal identification information! Head to your local post office or call the parcel delivery service to check with a clerk before you hand over information on the Internet.

4.) Hotel “Lie”-Fi

The FBI issued a warning to this season’s travelers about a malicious pop-up at hotel chains around the country. This scam requests people install a foreign program before connecting to a hotel Wi-Fi network. This foreign program turns out to be data-stealing malware. Remember, Internet connections you don’t own or control can easily be used against you. Before you use the Internet at a hotel, ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. If you do need access, be wary of what you’re installing–there shouldn’t be a need to install anything.

5.) Festive spam

We’ve all gotten used to filtering out spam in our email. Now prepare yourself for it to take on a more holiday-oriented theme. Messages will suggest that off-brand Rolex watches and cheap pharmaceuticals would make excellent gifts. Be careful, though, because these companies might just be in the market for your personal information.

6.) Bogus gift cards

There’s a bonanza of savings to be had buying gift cards through second-hand retailers. Be careful, though, because many of these retailers might be a front for scammers. Gift cards may be invalid, used, or forgeries, and you’ll be left holding the bill.

7.) Fake charities

These crop up every time there’s a major disaster, but they also show up at the holidays. Leaflets and phone calls from organizations with familiar-sounding names will soon appear. To be safe, don’t give to any charity with whom you didn’t start the contact. Do your research and give to charities whose values align with your own.

8.) Must-have gift scams

There will soon be an “it” gift. You’ll know it by the high demand, low supply, and hugely inflated prices. Almost on cue, websites will pop up offering the rare widget at unbelievably low prices. This is a scam – the advertiser doesn’t have the product and is only using the offer to harvest personal information or bilk you of your hard-earned money through sites like Craigslist or eBay, where they will seek payment through PayPal and never send the item you purchased.

9.) Christmas catfishing

“Catfishing” means pretending to be seeking a romantic partner on the Internet to dupe people. Scammers take advantage of the loneliness the holidays can evoke to trick people out of gifts or worse. As tempting as it is to believe in love stories at Christmas, keep your feet on the ground and practice safe Internet dating. A good rule of thumb: If you’re single at Halloween, stay that way until after New Year’s.

10.) Holiday vacation scams

If it’s cold and miserable where you are, it’s always tempting to go someplace tropical for a few weeks. If you’re thinking about getting away, be careful of unrealistic prices or “too-good-to-be-true” travel offers. Scammers have been setting up phony travel sites to harvest personal information. Only book through reputable websites.

11.) Devious Christmas games

If you’re facing a 5-hour flight and a 3-hour layover, it’s fantastic to have a distracting mobile game to pass the time. Be careful, however, not to download the wrong one. Mobile games can harvest data from your phone or steal password information. Always do a quick search to check the validity of the app you’re downloading and read the permissions carefully. A fun game should never ask for permission to send texts or send information to third parties.

12.) Free USB Tricks

Be careful with unsolicited gifts of “free” USB thumb drives. Security firm McAfee warns that many of these devices come pre-loaded with malware. Such scams often target company computers, so ensure you only use approved hardware on your work network. USB storage is cheap enough that you can pass on the freebies.

SOURCES:

http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams