Category Archives: Uncategorized

Buying a new car in 2013? Check out these top safety picks

If you’re starting the new year by shopping for a new vehicle, I highly encourage you to examine safety ratings before you fall in love with a “dream car” (see my previous post for details). New selections from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) offer a good starting point for your vehicle hunt. The IIHS announced the following mid-size vehicles as winners of its 2013 “Top Safety Pick +” awards; most are moderately priced, while the last two are more on the “luxury” side of things:

The IIHS evaluates vehicles for five criteria. To be a Top Safety + pick, vehicles must earn the highest possible score in four of those five evaluations. In the fifth, they must earn at least an “acceptable,” which is the second-highest rating available.

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Filed under Buying a new or used car, Product recommendations, Shopping tips, Uncategorized

Made in the USA: Dishes, dinnerware and serving pieces

When my  husband and I moved halfway across the country last year, we decided to leave our old dishes behind and buy new ones. It was important to me to buy lead-free dinnerware made in the USA. The shopping process proved harder than I’d expected. Not many companies sell dinnerware manufactured in the United States. I did find one whose plates I liked, however: The Homer Laughlin China Company. It’s been making dishes in America since 1871. The company is best known for its Fiesta line of dinnerware, which comes in a rainbow of colors.

I bought my Fiesta dinnerware from Macy’s. For online shoppers, the store seems to have the best prices and selection. Wait for one of their sales, and you’ll get very competitive prices. Fiesta’s dinnerware line offers you serving pieces and accessories, including platters, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers and cream containers. You can also buy baking dishes, flatware and glasses. While the company is best known for its solid-color dinnerware, it also offers diner-style and Christmas patterns. Plates are dishwasher, oven and microwave safe.

What about other manufacturers? Here’s what I’ve found:

Corelle: According to its parent company, World Kitchen, all Corelle dinnwerware are made in Corning, New York. However, the company indicates some of its dishes with decorations contain “low-lead enamels.” The company has not answered the email I sent a week ago asking whether its entire product lineup is made in the USA or only its dinnerware.

Pickard calls itself “America’s oldest fine china company” and says it has manufactured in the USA since 1874. The company’s china patterns are a mixture of understated and color options. While beautiful, they may not be an option for those on a tight budget. The company told me, “We use a low lead glaze system that is fully FDA compliant.”

Lenox says its fine bone china is made in Kinston, North Carolina. The company’s Made in America Web page features a dozen patterns with classic styles.

HF Coors says its dinnerware is lead-free, with all products made in the USA. While cheaper than Lennox and Pickard, its dishes seem to be more expensive than Fiesta.

Pfaltzgraff did not respond to my email asking where its dinnerware is made, but a variety of online sources indicate the company stopped manufacturing in the United States in 2005.

All Louisville Stoneware products are made in Louisville, Kentucky. The company has been in business since 1815 and bills itself as the “oldest handmade pottery dealer in the USA.” Its product lineup includes 19 dinnerware patterns, and a representative assures me all its products are lead-free.

Do you know of another source of dinnerware and accessories made in America? Please leave a comment so others can learn of additional options.

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Free shipping on printer ink

In celebration of World Peace Day on Friday, Sept. 21, InkJetSuperstore.com is offering free shipping on all printer ink this week. Use promo code PEACE to get this deal. It ends on Sunday, Sept. 23. I’ve found this website to have good prices and customer service. To comparison shop, check out the price for the ink cartridges you need on Newegg.com as well. That’s another site I’ve had good experiences with. Happy printing!

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Get one-cent prints from Snapfish

Through Sept. 12, you can get 99 prints from Snapfish for 99 cents. Use promo code PRINTSFOR99 to get your snapshots for a penny each.
The special offer detail page doesn’t say you have to buy 99 photo prints, so you should be able to get a smaller quantity for the same low price.

Snapfish was the winner of my photo print quality comparison test, with Mpix making a strong showing for second place.

Start your Snapfish shopping at Ebates.com, and you’ll get 10 percent cash back on your order. Happy printing!

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Filed under Cheap and free stuff, Sales and promo codes, Saving money, Uncategorized

How to stop unwanted phone calls from unrecognized numbers

While sitting with a friend waiting for a meeting to begin recently, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. Since it was not from a toll-free number (which could indicate a telemarketer), I decided to answer it. A woman introduced herself and asked me how I was doing. Immediately, I realized she was someone I didn’t know, and she wanted to sell me something. I told her I was about to go into a meeting, so she said she’d call back later.

During the next couple of weeks, I got several more calls from this same person, but I never answered them, and she never left a message. Tired of running for my phone only to see this unknown number displayed, I decided to find out where she was calling from. I put her phone number (402-593-7107) into Google and found a Web page where other people complained of a similar calling pattern. They revealed the identity of the offender: Omaha Steaks.

I did order a Christmas gift from Omaha Steaks in 2011, but I am sure I never gave the company permission to market to me by phone. Normally, I consent to email marketing so I can receive promotional codes for future orders, but I would never give a business permission to call me in an attempt to sell me products.

I went to the Omaha Steaks website and sent the company a message. I included my name, the number at which I was receiving the calls and a request that they stop the telemarketing efforts. I also mentioned that my phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry.

I was pleasantly surprised by the response I got from Omaha Steaks. The company responded to my  email in about an hour and said, “We will be glad to honor your request to be removed from our phone list.” That was a week ago, and I haven’t received any calls from the offending number since. I appreciate companies that honor customers’ wishes immediately, and their action increases the chances they’ll keep my business. If I receive additional calls from Omaha Steaks, I’ll be sure to update this post.

If you’re receiving calls from an unrecognized number, try an Internet search to track down the source. If that doesn’t work, you can also try MSN’s reverse lookup tool. Keep in mind you may have inadvertently agreed to telemarketing if this is a company you do business with, such as a bank, insurance firm or credit card company. Politely ask the company to stop the calls. If they continue, warn the company you will move your business elsewhere if it can’t stop the telemarketing.

To protect yourself from telemarketing efforts by companies you don’t do business with, be sure to sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. Put your home and cell phone numbers on that list. If telemarketers call you after your name has been on the list for 31 days, you can report them to the Federal Trade Commission.

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How to stop receiving junk mail and telemarketing calls

If you’re like me, you view most of the sales offers you receive in the mail as a nuisance which adds to your recycling pile. Telemarketing calls present the unwelcome challenge of trying to politely end a conversation quickly with someone trying to sell something you don’t want.

You can greatly reduce your piles of junk mail and the number of telemarketing calls you receive by taking advantage of these three tools:

1.  National Do Not Call Registry: The federal government offers a website where you can register your home and cell phone numbers to alert telemarketers that you don’t want their calls. Just go to the registration page, enter your phone numbers and email address, and then click on the confirmation links that arrive in your email inbox. Telemarketers then have 31 days to remove your numbers from their calling lists. If they call you after that time period passes, you can register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.donotcall.gov.  Once a number is on the list, it remains there permanently—unless it is reassigned to a new customer after an account is closed.

2.  Direct Marketing Association (DMA): Register on the DMA’s website, and you can choose which companies you wish to receive catalogs, magazine offers and other sales pitches from. There’s an option to block all offers, or you can select certain vendors from which you want to receive materials. Your marketing choices apply to the 3,600 companies that belong to the Direct Marketing Association and remain in effect for three years.

The DMA website also provides a link to a site maintained by the nation’s three leading credit bureaus—that site offers you the opportunity to stop receiving credit card and insurance offers.

  • Important note: Keep in mind that companies you do business with can still send you catalogs and offers or place telemarketing calls to your number, even if you block them via the methods above. To stop receiving sales pitches from these businesses, you must contact the company directly and ask to be removed from its marketing lists. Also, calls from political organizations, charities and survey companies are not blocked by the “Do Not Call” list.

3.  Privacy Notices: Pay close attention to those annual privacy notices you receive from companies you do business with. They may be mailed to you as a standalone document or be included in a billing statement. These notices offer you the opportunity to limit how your information is shared with affiliated companies who may solicit your business by phone or mail. Follow the steps outlined in the notice to limit the sharing of your information.

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Give the gift of your time this Christmas

This blog usually focuses on shopping-related topics, including ways to save money on gifts during the holidays. I’d like to change course just slightly today and encourage you to give the gift of your time this Christmas season.

Maybe you want to give to charity this year but don’t have the extra money in your budget. Any easy way to solve this problem is by donating a couple hours of your time to ring the red kettle bell for the Salvation Army. My husband, a friend and I did this last night, and it was a very rewarding experience. We got to greet and chat with people coming in and out of our neighborhood grocery store. In the slow periods, we talked with each other. During the two hours we stood there ringing the bell, we collected around $75 for the Salvation Army. The only cost to us was a few bucks to pay for our fuel to and from the bell-ringing location.

For me, the evening ended with a sense of satisfaction, knowing that the money we raised will provide much-needed meals, shelter or other assistance for those who are struggling during the holidays.

Have two hours to spare? Contact your local Salvation Army today and sign up for a shift as a bell ringer. You can find the Salvation Army office nearest you by visiting the organization’s website. Take a friend or family member along to share the joy of helping those less fortunate.

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