Tag Archives: referral program

National Home Ownership Month

for sale

It’s no secret that the housing market – and the explosion of bad mortgage loans – was a major contributor to the Big Crisis of 2008. Things SEEM to be improving, maybe kinda sorta. And yet I still hear radio ads for “low interest, zero-down” loans that will only perpetuate the problem. Ehh, what do I know? I’m just a guy who waited until I could actually afford a house, paid the required down and never missed a payment!

Anywayz… it’s National Home Ownership Month, where people from all perspectives come together to boldly agree, “Something should be Done about All the Problems!”

Here are some links for NHOM 2013:

National Association of Homebuilders

Protect Home Ownership

USDA Home Ownership Page

Financial Education is Key

Realty.com Celebrates NHOM

NAACP Celebrates NHOM

Free Homeowner Education from CCCS

So, what do you think? Is the American Dream of home ownership still alive and well – or at least alive? Have you experienced any difficulty getting a loan? Let us know, and have a great weekend!!

Wedding Season by the Numbers!

You're going to need more quarters...
You’re going to need more quarters…

Wedding season is upon us, so grab your checkbook (and the form for that home equity loan!) The CNN.com headline says it all: Brides and grooms spent more on their big wedding day last year than they have since the beginning of the economic downturn.

Wedding spending took a dive – relatively speaking – in 2008. Since then it has been slowly crawling back, according to CNN and TheKnot.com. So, let’s take a fun Friday look at Wedding Season by the Numbers – 2013 edition!

$28,427: The average cost of a wedding in 2012…down $1K since 2008

$76,687: Average cost in NYC…the highest

$15,504: Average cost in Alaska…the lowest

$204: Average cost per guest

26%: Number of couples who say “the economy” forced them to cut back on their plans…which is an improvement from 34% in 2009.

25%: Weddings that include shuttle buses between the ceremony and the reception.

27%: the percentage of weddings that include extra entertainment like photo booth or caricature artist – double the previous year!

There are many more statistics at the original story…so check it out!

Is your (or your kid’s) big day approaching? What do you think of these numbers? Let us know! And have a great weekend!

Consumer Secrets: Household Edition

As a follow-up to our last post, here is another sampling of Consumer Reports 101 Consumer Secrets. I think many of these tips share a common trait: that we have forgotten common sense, old-timey “home remedies” in favor of the constant need for something to be NEW and IMPROVED! Hey, I’m in marketing. I get it. Anyway, here are some tips. As they say, your mileage may vary.

  • Refrigerator: The area around the vent is the coldest, the shelves on the door are warmest, so store accordingly.
  • Rice: May contain arsenic. So cook it twice the amount of time the package recommends.
  • New and Improved? Maybe not. Moldy oldies like Pine-Sol and Fels Naptha are still tops among cleaners.
  • Coffee: Clean coffee pots with dissolving denture tablets. Weird!
  • Carpets: That super-low setting is great for getting out dirt and sand. For regular use, however, it will really wear out your carpet.
  • Fire! That fire extinguisher under the sink has an expiration date. Learn it!
  • More fire! There are 2 types of smoke detectors – ones that detect fast-moving flames and ones that detect slow-smoldering fires. You might need both, but at least be sure what you are getting.

Of course, not all common sense solutions are created equal. I remember one such piece of advice: “Did you know Coca-Cola will clean your toilet just as well as Comet?” The part they left out: “Did you know Coca-Cola is about 3 times as expensive as Comet?”

More tips at the original article, so check it out. And have a great weekend!

Mother’s Day by the Numbers

 Pause while all the dudes say, “Wait? Is Mother’s Day coming up!?”

Yes, children of mothers, Mom’s Day approaches (2 days, gentlemen.) Whether we have planned well in advance, or begin scrambling right after reading this post, recognizing Mom is a wonderful tradition – and a big consumer event!

Take a look at these stats, courtesy of StatisticsBrain.com:

  • $671 million: Total amount of money spent on Mother’s Day Cards annually
  • $126.90: Total average amount of money the average person will spend on gifts of their mom on mother’s day
  • $1.9 billion: Total amount of money spent on flowers for their mothers on mother’s day
  • $14.6 billion: Total amount of money that will be spent for mothers on Mothers Day
  • 96%: Total amount of consumers that will take place in mother’s day in some form
  • 24%: Total percentage of all transactions on holidays that take place on Mother’s day
  • 69%: Total percent of all gifts bought on mothers day that are flowers
  • 13%: Total amount of flowers bought on mothers day BY mothers that are for themselves

Awww, that last one is a bit sad. Please don’t be that dope whose mom has to buy her own flowers! But seriously, what are you planning for Mom’s Day? We want to know!

Have a great weekend and a HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!

(photo: hdwallpapersonly.com)

Awkward Money Moments are Awkward

That awkward moment when you have no money and someone writes AWKWARD! on your blouse.
That awkward moment when you have no money and someone writes AWKWARD! on your blouse.

It’s no secret that money sometimes brings out the weird in us. The triggers can vary but there seems to be a few that we all share, according to CouponCabin.com. They conducted a survey, and here is their “Top 5 Money Moments that Make You Feel All Oogy” (my title) followed by some personal observations.

  • 34% – Feeling pressured to donate on behalf of a co-worker, family member or friend. (Author considers making a crack about mandatory United Way participation, then reconsiders.) 
  • 29% – Saying no to a panhandler or beggar. (Back home, some group gave the homeless newspapers to sell, so it wouldn’t feel like charity. So you got the self-satisfied bump of Giving but, since the paper was about homelessness, it was a real buzzkill.)
  • 25% – Feeling pressured to chip in on a group gift at work, like for a baby shower or wedding shower. (This is my wife’s job at her office. She is merciless. “You vill GIVE! You vill LIKE it!”)
  • 25% – Sharing salary/wage amounts with co-workers. (When somebody does this, just say a higher number. It will kill them.)
  • 17% – Splitting a dinner bill or check with a large group of people. (Never be the one collecting the money, unless you like chipping in an extra 10 because your friends are such bad tippers!)

So, what’s YOUR oogy money moment? One of the above, or something unique? Let us know. There’s much more at the original article, so check it out. And have a great weekend!

Slash Your Grocery Bill!

Tip #17: Instead of Hundreds, try eating only Fives and Tens!
Savings Tip #17: Instead of Hundreds, try eating only Fives and Tens!

A while back we talked about stretching your food budget by eliminating food waste. And of course, it’s common sense that cutting back on dining out can save you plenty.

But, what if you have already made these cuts, and you’re still feeling the pinch? Take a closer look at your grocery habits!

There’s a pretty interesting article at Money Talks News called “16 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half.”

Here are some highlights:

  • Buy Discounted Meat: If you’re like me, you plan to eat pork chops, and then go buy them. Instead, see what’s on sale, and then plan your menu around that. This might not work if (like me) you can only cook 4 things!
  • Meatless Monday: Not as a moral or political statement, because YAWN. Just to save money! At my house, we have a big salad at least once a week.
  • Only Buy Food: At a Publix or Kroger or whatever, things like laundry detergent can be crazy expensive. Save that for Walmart!
  • Buy Generic: Store brands, yo! You can save up to 30% on things like pasta, salt, etc.
  • Embrace Inconvenience: If it comes in snack size, you don’t want it. Buy the big box of pretzels and some baggies. Cut your own fruit salad. Spend your life combing through circulars for coupons. Convenience is pricey!

There are 11 more tips of varying awesomeness at the original article, so check it out!

Death of the Family Portrait


“Treasured” memories like the above will soon be a thing of the past. Out of the blue, the company (CPI) that runs thousands of portrait studios inside big retail stores such as Sears and WalMart is closing its doors.

In fact, go to Searsportrait.com, and this is ALL you see:

After many years of providing family portrait photography, we are sad to announce our Sears Portrait Studios are now closed. We appreciate your patronage and allowing us to capture your precious memories. If you currently have an album or have had a recent portrait session, you can order products at searsphotos.com thru April 18, 2013. If you have had a recent session, your portraits may be available at your local studio.

Now, before you blast Sears or Walmart, remember that CPI, in business for 60 years, is just a vendor for the retailers. They are deeply in debt, and their time has come.  CPI says that much of the blame goes to the proliferation of camera phones.

Their employees are shocked, to say the least, and more than a little worried that CPI might not make good on their current orders. Some are taking matters into their own hands. One employee “hastily burned as many undelivered portrait packages as she could onto compact discs on Thursday. By Friday, she tried to spread the word to those customers that she’d be at a nearby pet store’s parking lot Saturday with those CDs.”

So, if you have a pending portrait order with a local CPI, you might want to pick up the phone. To CALL them, not to take pictures!

So, what do you think? Will you miss the old portrait studio? Hey, I never used one, but it is kind of sad to lose a minor American tradition such as this.

On a brighter note, here are some bad family portraits from around the web!  Awkward Family Photos, More Awkward Family Photos

Acts of Random Suspended Kindness

coffee2I think people want to do good. They mean well. As the Wizard of Oz said there at the end, “Back home we call these people well-meaning do-gooders!” or something.

But this one has me skeptical. You be the judge…

There is a movement afoot (translation: a Facebook page) to “Pay it Forward” at your local coffee shop. It goes like this…

When you order your morning (coffee), you also order additional items, but ask for them to be “suspended.” When a person who can’t afford their own beverage comes in, they can ask for a “suspended” coffee or food, and receive one for free. The Consumerist

Poverty solved! I am AWESOME! (Sorry, I said I would let YOU judge.)

Now, with a headline like “Why Ordering ‘Suspended’ Coffees For The Needy Is Stupid And Inefficient,” it’s as if The Consumerist is giving us a vague hint as to its opinion of this practice. You can read their criticisms in the original article. Meanwhile, Starbucks Melody, an “unofficial blog of the Starbucks brand,” has some suggestions to help people more efficiently.

But what do YOU think? Is this an efficient way to help people? Is a little kindness better than nothing? Is this just an example of (well-meaning) people finding the easiest, cleanest way to feel like they are helping? Have you done it? Would you? Let us know!

Cheap, Frugal or Both?

Get it?
Get it?

It’s kind of a slow consumer news day, other than the persistent economic gloom. So I thought we would surf the web for money saving ideas! See if any of these make sense for you and your family. Follow the links to savings! or something…

As a counterpoint: 5 Household Items Worth the Splurge

Also, a question: has the downturn “educated” us to the point that we no longer need coupons?Read: Coupon clipping declines as shoppers get savvier

What do you think? Any good tips here? Do you have any to share from your personal experience? Let us know!

The Death of the Price Tag?


They say the price tag is dead.

Price tags have become an endangered species in the 21st century American economy. Can you say how much you spent on your cellphone bill last month? Or pay television? I’m sure you can’t say how much you paid in fees on your investments. NBC Redtape Blog

The thing is, you see price tags everywhere. What they really mean, I believe, is that the stated price has no MEANING anymore. Car loans, mortgages, cable TV offers, data plans, etc. Sometimes, spotting the offenders is easy. You see “Just $99 a month!” followed by an asterisk, and 500 words in tiny print. You know something’s up, even if you have no idea what it is.

What sorts of things are lying in wait behind that (*) ? According to Yahoo Finance:

  • Free-to-Paid: Free trials that become paid after a length of time
  • Unknown Subscriptions: Watch for boxes that are already checked, forcing you to UNCHECK to avoid extra charges!
  • Unwanted Auto Renewals: Unless you state otherwise, you will be automatically billed at renewal time.
  • Zombie Subscriptions: You cancel and the charges stop. You stop paying attention, and the charges start again.
  • Cost Creep: “Prices subject to change without notice.” Grr!

So, what’s the real damage?

This (confusion) hurts consumers, but it hurts industry too — with clear pricing, the best companies with the best products and the best value are rewarded over time. Without clear prices, companies that create the most confusion win, and honest companies slowly fade away. NBC Redtape Blog

What do you think? Have you noticed the death of the price tag? Are you confused and distrusting? What’s the answer? Read the original pieces, and let us know!