Friday, August 8, 2008

Party Supplies & Oriental Trading Company Substitutes

Arranging kids' parties puts most parents, myself included, into a feverish frenzy of planning. Whether everything comes from CostCo or is made at home with painstaking care, all parents seem to be caught in the fervour of trying to do as much as possible as frugally as possible.

Normally in these situations, I would turn to Oriental Trading Company. They offer a powerhouse of inventory from party supplies to do-it-yourself craft kits plus scrapbooking supplies and more. Plus, if you order through, you get 3% of your purchases back in cash. But, not only did they require me to purchase in increments of 12 for what I needed, but they were going to charge $8.95 for ground shipping (12 calendar days). Shipping alone was about 15% of my total purchase, and all that extra stuff purchased would've just been wasted. Now it's not such a good deal after all!

Then I found Celebrate Express. First, they have a coupon good until 12/31/2008 for free shipping on purchases of $50+ (MWAT2008). Score! Next, they allow you to purchase many things individually. Hooray! Finally, a totally unexpected perk, they have a Thomas Play Tent available for $14.99 - normally $40. Bonus!

So, while I'm still an OTC customer, Celebrate Express is definitely getting some of my business.

How about you? Are you aware of any good alternatives to OTC or Celebrate Express?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Reduce Clutter, Create Time...Costs Nothing!

Whether related to losing weight, saving money, or cleaning house, 'tis the season for making resolutions. Here are a few that will help you create time and reduce a bonus, they also have positive environmental impact and may help you protect yourself from identity theft!

1. Do you really need that phone book to be connected? Two to three times a year, a big fat phone book comes unsolicited to my home - and, with the Internet, I never use it...ever. Instead of chucking it (or recycling it), place a quick call to your local phone company and ask to be removed from the delivery list.

  • Yellow Book: Call 1-800-YB-Yellow. Don't press any numbers, just hang on the line for a human to pick up the call.

  • DEX: Call 1-800-422-1234, and press options #4 and then #2 to speak with a "delivery support representative."

  • Verizon: Call 1-800-888-8448 and dial 0 to speak to a human.

  • Local Phone Directories: If you have last year's, open the cover and look at the first page or two for the publication information. There is generally a Web site URL or phone number to contact, intended for advertisers...but either way you'll get to a human who can help you out.

2. Get on the National Do Not Call list - it's free! Stop receiving irritating, unsolicited solicitations. It takes about a month for all the lists to update and for you to stop receiving calls. Remember that you may still receive calls from companies with which you do business (credit card companies, newspapers if you have a subscription, etc.). If you're not sure whether your number is registered for "do not call," visit the Web site to check.

3. Stop credit card solicitations (and reduce temptation!). Many of us receive pre-screened credit card offers in the mail weekly, and all that paper gets tossed in the mail. Not only is that an environmental waste, it leaves you vulnerable to identity theft and credit card fraud. So opt out of receiving these offers by visiting or make a phone call to 1-888-5-optout. Opting out doesn't negatively impact your credit score or eligibility at all.

4. De-list your name and stop junk mail. Some studies report that the average consumer receives 11-15 pieces of junk mail weekly. Not only is that taxing on the environment (and possibly your garbage bill), but it's time out of your day to sift through the stuff and toss it, not to mention the risk of information about you being readily available in your garbage for anyone to find. Here are some ways to stop the junk mail flow:

  • Direct Marketing Association: Visit http:// complete the form to be removed permanently from mailings sent by association members.

  • Catalog Choice: This free Web site at allows you to opt out of unwanted catalogs. Once you register with the site, you can choose the catalogs you wish to stop receiving, and opt-out requests will be sent to those catalogs on your behalf.

  • Abacus Marketing Association: Send an e-mail to with "remove" in the subject line and your name and address in the message. You will stop receiving mail from all association members within a reasonable period of time (30-60 days).

It is still okay for companies to send mail addressed to "Resident," as well as to send mail to those individuals with whom they already have a business relationship. So, for example, if you purchase regularly through, you may continue to receive an Eddie Bauer catalogue unless you ask to not receive print mailing.

Have a great 2008!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Your Christmas iPhone Gift Could Still Come!

Okay, so you kept dropping hints for an iPhone Christmas gift, but jolly ol' Saint Nick was either not paying attention or didn't want to give you the sad news that the elves are all iPhone'd out this year. Either way, it's December 26th, and you're iPhone-less.

Well, fret not because you can still get one free as a gift from a benevolent (and profitable) blogger!

Lara Saad, author of I Make Money on, is sponsoring a "win an iPhone" contest just for visiting her site. There are three ways to win entries into her contest:
  1. Visit and leave a comment on her blog post.

  2. Subscribe to her blog via e-mail; you'll then start to receive e-mail updates on her blog. (Want to manage e-mail clutter from various sites? Read here!)

  3. Post about her competition on your own blog. (Clearly my preferred option!)

And do it quickly! Entries are only being accepted until January 10th. May the force be with you!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Search for a Cause:

Every day, probably, you turn on the computer, check your e-mail, read about some tawdry B-list starlet's escapades from the weekend before, maybe read the news, and then spend the rest of your day off and on searching the Internet. Need a restaurant's phone number? Search. Looking for a place to buy Christmas rubber duckies?Search. Want to find what your ex is up to? Search. While you're at it, why not check on what the Internet says about you? Search.

Search is huge, which is why Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google and others (although those are the three biggies) put a ton of money into search technologies, knowing that the better the search results, the more likely you'll use their engine and they'll be able to plaster your eyeballs with their sponsored links and advertisements.

Personally, I have no problem with that. They're providing a service for free, and I don't mind having a link try to distract me now and then. But, it'd be great to know that instead of supporting some corporation, those ad revenues were going toward something a little more meaningful.

Look no more! is a Yahoo!-powered search engine that allows you to choose your favorite charity. For every search, about a penny (50% roughly of's revenue) gets donated to your charity of choice. That may not sound like a lot, but multiply it over enough users, and it is.

So if you use search, and particularly if you use Yahoo! search, make your search engine of choice. (P.S. It also has a search toolbar download.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

eShop with eBates

For the past year or so, I've been a member of, a nifty little online service that gives you cash back on your purchases to select vendors. Here's how it works:
  • Go to <-- use this link please; it is a referral link.

  • Create an account (nothing is required other than your e-mail address and a created password).
  • Search for vendors at which you like to shop (Old Navy, Expedia, 1-800-CONTACTS, Frederick's of Hollywood, iTunes, etc.).
  • Click on the link for your selected vendor and shop as you would normally.

For each purchase you complete, you'll get a percentage of that purchase back in real cash to your ebates account. What percentage you get back depends on the vendor. See picture below.

Once you hit $5.00, you receive a check (or PayPal transfer). In addition, you also get to use coupons, gift certificates, whatever form of payment that vendor normally allows, and any other kind of promos you would normally use when shopping.

In addition, when you sign up, you get an automatic $5 credit that is sent to you after you complete your first purchase. If you sign up and make your first purchase by Nov. 30, you get $10 after making your first purchase. (Disclaimer: By clicking on that link above, I also get a $5 credit when you complete your first purchase as a referral bonus.)

Ebates doesn't store your credit card information although it may track your shopping preferences (just like most Web sites do) for the sake of promoting to you and its partners. Also, I do not have any idea whether you've purchased anything via ebates or what you might've purchased, either.

(Side note: I am a NetFlix member and I am steamed to learn that if I'd signed up for NetFlix via ebates, I would've gotten $18 smackeroos! Man!)

Anyway, so far, just from the occasional shopping we do at Old Navy online and the huge amount of shopping we do at iTunes, we've gotten back about $45 to date. Not bad. Not riches but more than we would've had otherwise.

By the way, the Kingston flash drive deal for $0 via that's listed below? Well, is an ebates partner. So when I purchased it via ebates, I got back 2% of the original $10 price (which was the price before the Google Checkout discount). Okay, okay, that's only $0.20. But the point here is that I just got paid $0.20 to receive a 1 GB flash drive. I like that.

Friday, November 2, 2007

TIP: Managing Promotional E-mail

Okay, first, what I want you to do is go find a big stick, the largest one you can wield. Then, go stand in front of your computer and shake that big stick at all of the promotional e-mail you receive: coupons and coupon codes, online catalogues, and invitations to increase (or decrease) the size of your genitals, waist, hips, feet, nose, or ear hair. Clearly, shaking a stick at all that received e-mail is as futile as the expression "more e-mail than you can shake a stick at" is ridiculous.

Spam filters help manage some of it, but there's a lot of this stuff you want to get. E-mail filters can help you direct it into various folders, but most e-mail applications (whether Web based or not) have a limit on how many filters you can create -- plus it's a lot of effort and not everyone is that comfortable with the technology.

So, whaddya do?

My suggestion, in this age of prolific and free e-mail accounts, is to simply create an "advertising only" e-mail address. I have one of my own (roughly named and this is the account I use for any Web based subscription service, whether it's Coldwater Creek, the Creekside Inn, or In-and-Out Burger. Everything comes to this single account and I look through it at my leisure and delete things freely, never worrying that I might delete that one terribly important e-mail from a family member. (You know the important e-mail I'm talking about. It's the one that warns against eating too many oxlips because the middle toe on your left foot could grow unreasonably large ... and be sure to forward this to everyone you know!)

Once having done this, be sure to use your "real" e-mail address only for "real" people (real people being humans rather than Web servers and grungy guys you met at the bar who you don't plan on giving your phone number to).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

TIP: Older Electronics + CostCo = CostCo Cash Back

Are you eligible for this?

1. Do you have a CostCo membership or know someone who does?
2. Do you have older electronics?

If yes to both, then consider the CostCo Trade-in Program through which you can send in eligible electronics and receive in exchange a CostCo cash card/store credit. If your item isn't eligible for cash back but you still want to recycle it and reduce the environmental impact of your electronics, this program will help with that, too.

To learn more, visit CostCo's trade-in Web site.