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Frugal Living Tip – Discover Where Kids Eat Free

Children may be priceless to their parents, but the cost of raising them can be calculated.

According to the BabyCenter calculator, a baby born in 2010 to a Midwestern middle-income family will cost more than $230,000 to raise and send to a public college.

So moms, dads and other adult caregivers can surely appreciate any Frugal Living tips that help them whittle away at that hefty bill while simultaneously enjoying a dinner out and freedom from cooking and doing the dishes.

Here is where the Internet comes in handy with sites like Kids Eat For (available via app on iPhone and iPod Touch) and KidsMealDeals.com giving you zip code searchable information on restaurants where children eat for free or get dining discounts.

Kids Eat For advertises itself as the largest and most accurate collection of listings where children eat for free or get special meal deals.

Since meal specials can depend on the day of the week, clicking on any Kids Eat For city brings up a calendar with top meal deals for Sunday, Monday, etc. In Philadelphia, for example, there are 27 listed Sunday meal deals. You can click links at the bottom of the calendar to see all the meal deals for any given day. Check back often because deals may be time-sensitive. For example, a Boston Market kids-eat-free deal was shown as expiring three days after we checked the site.

It looks like Kids Eat For may indeed have more listings than some of its competitors. For example, KidsMealDeals.com did have the Boston Market deal listed on its site for Philadelphia, but it lacked listings for some of the local restaurants featured at Kids Eat For. The difference could be attributed to the fact that KidsMealDeals.com returned results only for Philadelphia proper, whereas Kids Eat For showed deals in the greater Philadelphia region. (You can get around this geographical limitation at KidsMealDeals.com by searching within the radius of a particular zip code.)

Of course, Internet sites are constantly changing. No doubt both these players will seek to improve their offerings and new competitors will enter the market. For example, a different site called Kids Eat Free (searchable only by state) seems to rely more on user-submitted content.

Want some more choices? You can also try searching the listings at My Kids Eat Free or Coupon Divas’ list of places where Kids Eat Free. Another good idea is to look at online forums such as the one at Mommy Savers where site visitors contribute suggestions for places where kids eat for free.  (Be sure to check the dates on some of the forum contributions though because certain deals are for a limited time only…)

It’s also important to look at the specific rules for each restaurant since kids’ dining deals may be limited to a specific time or a specific day.

Do you regularly seek out special dining deals for your children? What’s the best free or discounted kids meal deal you’ve ever encountered? Do you know another website or app that has good information on discounted/free meal deals for children? Share your tips in the Comments section below!

November 20, 2009   No Comments

Small Business Advice – Developing a ‘Free Soup’ Strategy

Unless you have some sort of exclusive patent, chances are that your business competes on quality.

This means that whether you run a dry cleaning company, a restaurant, an office supply retailer or a gardening business, your customer has a number of choices on where to go to buy essentially the same product or service.

So how can you stand out from the pack? Obviously, you should stake your reputation on quality, friendly customer service, professionalism, good prices and so forth.

But in addition to all that, John Jantsch, author of the Duct Tape Marketing blog, believes you also need a ‘Free Soup Strategy‘.

For Jantsch, ‘free soup’ is shorthand for an unexpected bonus that exceeds your customer’s expectations and leaves her not only satisfied, but so impressed that she raves about your business both online (email mesages, social marketing sites, review forums) and offline (conversations with her friends and family, casual recommendations to people who need a similar service).

In some cases, this unexpected bonus could literally be ‘free soup’. That’s what happened with Jantsch and his wife when they ate at a local restaurant and received a complimentary unexpected pint of soup to-go along with their bill.

In the comments section of his Duct Tape Marketing post, some of Jantsch’s readers chimed in with examples of ‘free soup’ strategies they use themselves or have experienced as customers – a house inspector who gives his customers a free re-inspection, a web design company that provides its customers with a bonus favicon as a surprise at the end of the project, a home decor company that gives soaps and candles to its clients.

Your ‘free soup’ doesn’t need to be expensive or elaborate, but it should relate in some way to the products or service you provide. If you sell bicycles, maybe you could provide a free 6-month maintenance offer that would have the added benefit of bringing your customers back to your store. If you do outdoor landscaping, you could give your clients a bonus potted plant for indoor use.

It’s also important to know the surprise factor in the ‘free soup’ strategy. If you sell bicycles with a 6-month maintenance offer bundled in, that might be an attractive offer, but it’s not exactly ‘free soup’. ‘Free soup’ is giving the customer something unexpected after the purchase so that he or she feels a sense of satisfaction at getting what he or she has paid for and more.

What are some of the ways you go above and beyond expectations for your clients? Do ‘free soup’ strategies impress you as a customer? Tell us about your experiences on both sides of the ‘free soup’ equation in the Comments section below!

November 16, 2009   No Comments

Frugal Living Tip – How to Get Rid of Credit Card Debt

Living beyond your means is always a bad idea — eventually the bills will get out of control and you’ll find yourself facing a mountain of debt.

Credit card debt can be especially destructive. Miss a payment and your interest rate could skyrocket. But even if you make all your payments, making just the minimum necessary payment could stretch out your debt for years and pile up heavy interest charges.

(One blogger for The Paycheck Chronicles recently calculated that it would take more than 25 years to pay off $5,710 in credit card debt while making only minimum payments!)

So the best Frugal Living advice is simply to avoid credit card debt altogether. Don’t buy something on credit unless you have the resources to pay the whole credit card bill when it arrives.

Of course, that’s easier said than done — especially if you already have credit card debt. Then the big question is how to get out of debt fast – paying off your outstanding balances and reducing interest costs.

That’s where a recent article on Cash Money Life comes in handy. Blogger Patrick boils down a get-out-of-credit-card-debt strategy into a series of easy steps including:

- Stop using your cards while you pay off the debt. You won’t save your financial ship from sinking by bailing unless you plug the holes that are letting more water flow into the boat.

- Transfer balance to a 0% interest card. If you can a zero percent promotional rate from a new credit card, make the switch. You’ll pay down your debt much faster if you can put a brake on interest charges for a little while. Just be sure to try to pay down as much as possible before the promotional period ends and interest rates kick in again on whatever debt you haven’t managed to pay off.

Patrick’s other ideas including getting organized, setting a budget and making multiple payments each period to pay off the debt just a little faster.

Of these suggestions, the budgeting one is especially important. If you don’t have a budget, it’s unlikely that you’ll stay out of debt for long simply because you won’t have a good handle on cash inflows and expenses. So take the time to map out how much you can afford to spend each month and then stick to living within your means.

Have any of these strategies worked for you? What approaches have you used to get out of credit card debt and stay debt-free? Share your ideas in the Comments section below!

November 13, 2009   1 Comment

Snuggies are the New Birth Control! Buy Fleece Blankets

Marc-Gold-Fleece-BlanketsThat’s right, you’ve watched the Snuggie commercials on TV. You may have probably heard co-workers, friends and even family members making fun of them. So do yourself a favor and save yourself from the ridicule and go with something more traditional.

Marc Gold fleece blankets are 100% polyester fleece offering maximum warmth through the winter months. You cannot find these blankets anyplace else other than DollarDays.

Our exclusive blanket is a warm and cuddly fleece blanket in a generous size of 50″ x 60″. Packed in 6 assorted solid colors: Royal blue, Hot Pink, Grey, Red, Tan and Light Blue. 24 pieces per case.
Our blanket is a 300 gsm weight – not too heavy, not too light. Just right for a cuddle on the couch or your favorite chair. Just perfect to keep the chill off!
The tight whip stitch on the edges will keep your blanket from losing it’s shape throughout the cold winter season.

Winter is here and nothing says warm and comfy like a nice fleece blanket. Get them while you’re cold and Start shopping now!

November 5, 2009   2 Comments

Show your World Series Pride

The World Series is in Full Swing, and they are as exciting as ever. Will the Phillies make a historic comeback? Will the Yankees pull out the victory?

As usual, the World Series is proving to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable championship series in sports. It could all end after game four on Wednesday, or we might all have to wait until Thursday’s game seven to crown a victor.

DollarDays features both Phillies team gear and New York Yankees team gear (we’re not biased). And we thought it would be fun to have a little contest of our own. So today, we dare you to flaunt your pride and taunt your rivals in our comment section.

Before the series ends, let us know who you think should win! One lucky commenter will receive their choice of one of the following fragrances (make sure to use your real email so we can contact you):
Tommy Girl Cologne
Tommy Bahama Cologne

November 3, 2009   17 Comments

Small Business Advice – Traits of Great Leaders

What makes a great business leader in your opinion?

The ability to inspire passion and excitement among colleagues and employees?

Amazing insights into what customers want and need?

An uncanny ability to discard background noise and identify important trends in the marketplace?

Adam Toren at YoungEntrepreneur.com polled his readers for their ideas on what makes a great leader and culled a Top 10 list of leadership characteristics.

His favorite was the one that a defined a leader as a person who “empowers his people to do their best by believing in them, guiding them and being an example.”

Other readers said an exceptional entrepreneur should lead, earn the respect of his team members, demonstrate flexibility and not be afraid to take risks.

Looking for some other ideas on leadership? Business Pundit has 12 quotes from Hall of Fame basketball player and coach John Wooden. Highlights include “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment,” and “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

Several business blogs, including Small Business Trends, are also buzzing over Susan Scott’s Fierce Leadership book. From the reviews, it sounds like Scott makes the case that leaders need to employ radical levels of honesty and transparency in dealing with their employees. In a brief interview on Amazon’s website, Scott notes argues that “If you want to become a great leader you must gain the capacity to connect with your colleagues and customers at a deep level.”

Finally, in her Power Speaker blog, Suzanne Bates talks about leaders can use storytelling to share leadership lessons. Bates says that stories can be a great way to communicate such lessons – as long as leaders avoid telling stories that meander, are too vague or go on too long. The goal is to keep stories brief, clear and to the point. If you’re having trouble developing the story, Bates suggests telling the story outline to a friend or partner who can ask questions and help you clarify the most powerful leadership lessons.

What do you think are the essential characteristics of a great business leader? What are some other leadership skills you admire in others or try to cultivate in your own leadership role? What are some of your favorite business quotes? Have you used stories as a leadership tool or been in the audience when a speaker delivered a great leadership story? Speak your mind in the Comments section below.

November 2, 2009   4 Comments

Frugal Living Tip – Use ‘utility fruit’ to save money

Supermarkets have conditioned us to believe that all fruits and vegetables should look perfect and pristine, shiny and round.

But in the real world (a.k.a. Nature), anyone who has a garden or a fruit tree know that fruits and veggies get bumped and bruised like the rest of us.

Often times, these slightly battered apples and tomatoes taste just as good as their prettier counterparts, but they can cost much less.

According to the savvy folks at All You, the key is to ask your grocer or local farm stand proprietor for any ‘utility fruit’ that may be hidden out of sight to keep up appearances.

Provided you’re not too fussy and are willing to take out the paring knife to trim away any truly inedible bits, you just might be able to bring home your weekly portion of fruits and veggies for far less than you’d otherwise pay.

The ‘utility fruit’ plan may not be the best idea if you’re putting together a fruit platter for a party or special occasion, but it could make especially good sense if you like to make fruit smoothies. After all, if you’re blending up cut fruit with yogurt, ice and other goodies, who would know if the original strawberry or banana wasn’t ready for its closeup?

How about some other ideas for using fruit that isn’t quite ready for its closeup? If life gives you bruised apples, you can always make applesauce! Here’s a recipe with appetizing visual instructions from Eating Cleveland.

And you don’t need cosmetically perfect fruit to make banana bread, pear butter or peach jam! As the author of the Food in Jars blog points out, with a good paring knife, you can quickly cut around the bruised parts (as long as the fruit isn’t too far gone) and make something delicious from ugly-duckling produce.

Of course, there are limits even in the pursuit of frugality. Work with a grocer you trust so that you can learn to tell the difference between harmless bruises and serious spoilage. Even frugal shoppers should put safety first. Remember that truly rotten fruit and veggies belong in the trash (or compost pile), not in your kitchen.

Have you ever tried the ‘utility fruit’ strategy? What other tactics do you use to keep the monthly food budget under control while still stocking up on nutritious and healthy choices? Share your ideas and experiences in the Comments section below!

October 30, 2009   1 Comment

Product of the Week – The DollarDays Top 100

DollarDays sells a lot of stuff and that’s not just bluster. We have over 45,000 items on our site, and we work to make sure that each and every one of them performs to the utmost. So if you’re wondering what we sell most of, you’re in luck. For one week only, we’re running a huge sale on our top 100 selling items. If you buy today, you can get 20% off great seasonal items like wholesale flip flops, holiday items like Christmas Reindeer Lapel Pins and health products like wholesale heartburn medication.
That’s right! This week’s product of the week isn’t just one product, it’s 100 of DollarDays best-selling products. So peruse the selection and see what you like. Because getting these products that are already being offered at closeout prices products at an even better rate only happens once in a blue moon.

So head on over to DollarDays to buy our top 100 best-sellers of 2009!

October 27, 2009   No Comments

Frugal Living Tip – Ditch the Disposables

Rumor has it that some rock stars only wear their clothes once before throwing them away.

Throwing out clothes after a single use sounds ridiculous. It isn’t just tough on the environment, it’s also a massive waste of money.

And yet this article at SavingAdvice.com makes the case that many of us practice the same economically foolish habits on a much smaller scale when we buy disposable paper towels, pack our lunch in paper bags or toss ordinary batteries into the trash.

Instead, we could use a washable cloth to clean up kitchen messes, carry our lunches in reusable tote bags and choose rechargeable batteries.

You may have to spend a little more up front, but choosing reusable over disposables (at least some of the time) can definitely save you money in the long term.

In fact, you can apply the same logic to other areas of your life and your business. Too often, we only look at the price tag when making a purchase decision. But sometimes the cheapest piece of furniture or equipment turns out to be much more expensive in the long run if it breaks easily or requires constant maintenance to keep running.

If you’re looking for hard dollar figures, check out this article at Green Research showing that a company using 200 cups a day could save more than $2500 per year by switching from disposable to reusable cups. The more cups the company uses, the greater the annual savings it can realize by moving away from disposables, according to the Green Research article.

Of course, reusable products also have some environmental advantages over their disposable counterparts. The sidebar at the Green Starbucks blog quotes an internal Starbucks document to make the point that if 50 customers in every Starbucks store bought coffee for their own refillable mugs, Starbucks would save paper equivalent to 300,000 trees per year (using 2007′s worldwide store count).

If you want to get really clever – and save money in the process – keep an eye out for ways to reuse products that were designed to be disposable. Rather that throwing out plastic bags after you’ve carried your purchases home from the store, try reusing those bags to line your trash cans. If you’re crafty, you can even turn a plastic water bottle into a miniature greenhouse for plant seedlings, as shown on the blog Pop Cloche.

Once you start rethinking the disposable mindset, you just might find opportunities to reuse almost everything – saving money and reducing waste at the same time!

What do you think? Have you found ways to save money with reusable products? Or do you prefer the convenience (and lower up-front costs) of disposable products?

October 23, 2009   No Comments

Small Business Advice – Avoiding Common Website Mistakes

Small Business MistakesThese days, pretty much every small business owner knows the importance of having a functional website.

But of course not all business websites are created equal. Some are better than others – and naturally you want your company’s site to be among the best in its category.

You can go a long way toward creating a useful, functional and attractive business website simply by avoiding four common site errors that Lisa Barone identifies on the Small Business Trends blog -

1. Bad design. Your site doesn’t have to look fancy, but it should look professional. Just as with the decor or signage for a brick-and-mortar store, you want to invest a little time and resources on your website to get good results.

2. Lengthy conversion funnel. The “conversion funnel” is marketing-speak for the process your site visitors go through when they want to buy anything through your website (presuming that you offer sales and not just information through your site). Barone is correct in saying that you want to make the purchase process as simple as possible. That’s why sites like Amazon.com pioneered 1-click ordering for repeat customers.

3. Strategy before design. Think before you build. What are the major goals that you want your site to accomplish? Just as you wouldn’t start building a house without having a blueprint and a plan, similarly you should have some detailed website objectives and strategy in mind before you start creating your business website.

4. Lack of dynamic content. Barone accurately points out that too many business websites have static content (address, phone number, basic information) that never changes. Your website gives you an opportunity to engage visitors and create some brand loyalty. Think of new material with which you can periodically update your site. If you run a restaurant, maybe you can post the weekly specials online or send out a recipe of the month to a list of email subscribers. If you have a pool supply company, you can create a blog with testimonials from satisfied customers, seasonal coupon codes or information about the latest and greatest pool supplies and chemicals. The exact content and techniques will vary according to your specific business, but the point is to publish new content at regular intervals that brings visitors back to your site for repeat visits.

How did you overcome these problems in building your own small business website? What content do you use to attract customers to your website for repeat visits? Tell your story and share a link to your site in the Comments section below.

October 19, 2009   2 Comments