Monthly Archives: May 2012

Save big on paint during Memorial Day weekend 2012

First and foremost, Memorial Day is a time to honor the service of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. I’d like to offer my thanks to all who have sent and continue to send loved ones to the battlefield, knowing they may never return. For those whose soldiers did not come home, no words can express the debt our country owes you.

While many will attend Memorial Day observances taking place this weekend, others will also use the long weekend to tackle indoor and outdoor home-improvement projects. If painting is on your list, be sure to check out these holiday weekend specials:

Home Depot: Get $5 off one gallon or $20 off a 5-gallon container of Behr, Martha Stewart Living or Glidden paint. The deal is available by mail-in or online rebate and applies to interior and exterior paint, stains, primers and specialty finishes. Kilz, Zinsser and Flood products are also included. Rebates apply to purchases made through Wednesday, May 30. Home Depot also has a great deal on blue painter’s tape: two 180-foot rolls of 2-inch Scotch tape for $6.37. By contrast, one roll of the same tape at Lowe’s in the 1.5-inch width is on sale for $7.87.

Lowe’s is offering $5 off one gallon or $20 off a 5-gallon container of Valspar or Olympic paint, but the offer is only good on paint-and-primer-in-one and stain-and-sealant-in-one products. The Lowe’s rebates are mail-in-only offers. There’s no limit to the number of gallons for which you can claim a rebate. These offers end Monday, May 28.

Ace Hardware is offering a $7 rebate per gallon on its Clark + Kensington interior and exterior paint, which includes primer. There’s a limit of four rebates per customer.

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Filed under Sales and promo codes, Saving money

Car shopping? Put safety research at the top of your list

I admit it—I love cars. I am probably the only woman in my neighborhood (and perhaps in my county) with a subscription to MotorTrend. I watch the American and British versions of Top Gear and can name most makes and models of vehicles on the road from a distance. My dream job is to be a long-term test driver for an automotive magazine so I can report on the performance of the new vehicles I am given to drive.

As much as I love the looks and features of some vehicles, they are not what I consider first when shopping for a new or used car or truck. I encourage you to join me in making safety the top criteria you use to start car-shopping expeditions. A couple of online resources make it easy for you to compare the safety ratings of vehicles.

Safercar.gov: This is the government’s online source for data from its crash tests of new vehicles. You can find test results for vehicles dating back to 1990 by using the 5-Star Safety Ratings link. Data is available by model, class or manufacturer. Most vehicles have an overall safety rating, plus individual ratings for frontal crash, side crash and rollover crash tests. Be sure to click on the linked name of the vehicle to see more detailed results broken down by passenger and to view the vehicle’s side-barrier and side-pole ratings. You can also see if potential safety issues have been reported for your make and model and even view video of the car’s crash tests. Tests are conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS): Another great source for crash test results and safety ratings is the IIHS website. In addition to seeing the organization’s top safety picks for the current model year, you can find data on specific vehicles dating back to 1997. Instead of rating automobiles on a 1-to-5 star scale, the IIHS assigns a rating of good, acceptable, marginal or poor to each vehicle. Cars and trucks are rated on front and side crash safety, roof strength, rear crash protection and head restraints.

The IIHS is a nonprofit research center funded by auto insurance companies.

Be sure to check both websites when car shopping—results may look promising on one site but not as good on the other. For example, the 2012 Chevrolet Colorado crew cab, a mid-size pickup truck, had only one government rating posted in May 2012—three to four stars for rollover safety, depending on the drivetrain selected. A look at the vehicle on the IIHS website, however, yields more concerning results: acceptable in front crashes, poor in side-impact testing and marginal in roof strength. The 2012 Mazda3 sedan gets good marks for front and side crashes and roof strength from the IIHS, but the government gives it four stars overall, and it merits only three stars for side-crash safety in NHTSA testing.

Why the differences? NHTSA and IIHS test vehicles using different testing methods and speeds—another reason to consult both sites before shopping.

Vehicle shoppers can take their research a step further by examining insurance loss data. I’ll cover that tool in an upcoming post.

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Filed under Buying a new or used car, Shopping tips

Kodak Gallery shutting down—what are the best remaining options for photo prints online?

A recent email informed me that Kodak Gallery, my source for online photo prints for many years, is shutting down. Kodak has sold its Internet-based photo-printing operation to Shutterfly as part of its efforts to recover from financial woes. Kodak plans to transfer customers’ images to Shutterfly at no charge, and it will close the virtual doors to Kodak Gallery on July 2, 2012.

This move does not come as a huge surprise to me. In a January blog post, I noted how customer service was going downhill at Kodak Gallery, and I began my search for a new place to print pictures and create photo books and gifts online.  My research led me to conduct a comparison test of four photo-printing sites: Shutterfly vs. Snapfish vs. Mpix vs. AdoramaPix. Snapfish came out the winner, followed by a strong showing from Mpix. Shutterfly did not receive a single vote. I recommend trying Snapfish and Mpix at least one time each to decide which you prefer.

If you’re a Kodak Gallery customer, I recommended declining the option to have your photos transferred to Shutterfly. You won’t be happy with the quality of photos and photo products you receive. You have until May 28 to opt out of the planned transfer, and you can learn more about the Kodak Gallery transition to Shutterfly online. If you have any unfinished photo projects you still want to order from Kodak Gallery, make sure you do so by noon Pacific time on July 2. Right now, Kodak Gallery is offering 25 percent off all orders.

If you have any photos stored on the Kodak Gallery website that you don’t have anywhere else, I recommend downloading them to your computer or another backup device, even if you are allowing Kodak to move them to Shutterfly.

Have you tried Snapfish or Mpix in the past? What did you think of their photo products?

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Is Angie’s List worth the money?

Is the value I receive from Angie’s List worth the annual fee I pay for access to it? That’s the question I’m asking myself as I approach the end of my first year of membership. You’ve probably seen television commercials for Angie’s List—it’s a subscription-based website where you can access reviews of local businesses written by consumers.

I joined Angie’s List early last summer as part of a half-price Groupon offer. Membership prices can vary by city, but for me to renew, there are three options:

  • Pay $12.50 a year to belong to the traditional version of Angie’s List, which focuses on services for the home, automobiles and pets, as well as beauty salons, accountants, real estate agents and other professional business services.
  • Pay $25.00 a year to belong to Angie’s Health & Wellness, which includes reviews of physicians, dentists and hospitals.
  • Pay $30 a year for a combo subscription to both sites.

My Groupon deal gave me access to the combination subscription, and over the last year, I’ve turned to Angie’s List often. Since my husband and I moved to a new city in 2011, the list has been a resource for finding vendors for a variety of different services. However, Angie’s List is only as good as the data it can offer, which varies by category. For example, I can find a lot of reviews of landscaping and home heating/air conditioning companies, but it’s tough to find many customer comments in other areas, such as septic system businesses and car detailing shops. Finding comments on a specific physician can be difficult, but more data seems to be available when you look at a group of physicians operating under a single practice.

I know the staff at Angie’s List is trying hard to expand its library of reviews. When I log into my account, I receive messages asking if I’ve used any of the services I recently researched and encouraging me to review those I tried. I also receive occasional phone calls from Angie’s List with staff offering to take my reviews over the phone.

As my membership year ends, I will probably renew my subscription for the traditional Angie’s List so I can access reviews of home-focused and other non-medical services. I am not sure the value is there to pay an additional $17.50 for the combination subscription.

Are you an Angie’s List member? If so, please post  your thoughts on whether this website is worth the price you’re paying for it.

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Promo codes and other discounts for Mother’s Day gifts and more

You have eight shopping days left until Mother’s Day, so now’s the time to start looking for the perfect item to bring a smile to your mom’s face.  It’s also a good time to take advantage of sales, promo codes and shipping specials being offered by a variety of retailers. Check out these offers:

You can get $40 worth of flowers or gifts for $20 with this FTD offer from Groupon. If your mom doesn’t like flowers, you can use it for another special occasion, because it doesn’t expire until Sept. 10. You can buy up to two of these deals. Be sure to visit the FTD website before purchasing to confirm FTD delivers to the recipient’s ZIP code.

Take an extra 20 percent off your purchase at Kohl’s online with promo code FF20MAY. You can also get 99-cent shipping per item or free shipping on purchases of $75 or more.

Bed, Bath & Beyond is offering free shipping on a variety of items, including silicone prep bowls, silver-plated photo frames, bath salts and wall art.

If your mother likes to read, take advantage of a 15 percent discount online at Barnes & Noble. Use promo code K4H4K9L.

If you’re planning a group gift for Mother’s Day or splurging on an item for mom or yourself, you can save 15 percent at Meijer.com when you spend $125 or more. Use promo code COUPON. Gift options include jewelry, clothing and electronics.

Would new window coverings make mom’s day? Get 30 percent off and free shipping through Sunday, May 6 when you shop online with Select Blinds. No coupon code is required.

Does your mom have a fondness for things that sparkle? Get $100 worth of jewelry for $50 at Blue Nile with this Living Social Deal. Act now–the offer ends Monday.

Another Living Social deal offers you a two-year subscription to a variety of women’s magazines for just $7.

Finally, get bubble bath, fragrance mists, candles and other items 20 percent off at Bath & Body Works when you use promo code BathBodyGarden.

What gift will your mom receive on Sunday, May 13?

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