7 Frugal Ways To Treat Yourself On Valentine’s Day

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winebookFeeling pathetic on Valentine’s Day isn’t just confined to single adults. This festive form of inadequacy begins as early as middle school, when class is interrupted to deliver flowers or artificial leis to the popular kids. We learn a little something called “perspective” in our adult years, but some of those residual feelings bubble up when we find ourselves without plans on Feb. 14.

Though I don’t believe one’s self-worth should be evaluated based on the company he or she keeps during a random evening in mid-February, I do appreciate the compulsion to make plans. With that in mind, consider the following frugal ways to treat yourself this Valentine’s Day.

1. Host a Girl’s Night In
A popular alternative to kissy-kissy couples on Valentine’s Day is a crowd of rowdy girls proudly and publicly declaring their singlehood. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with this, hosting a girl’s night in is financially friendlier and will result in fewer cringe-worthy photos on Facebook. Create a theme — like wine or champagne-tasting — to make the evening more special, and ask friends to bring their favorite bottle of bubbly to cut hostess costs.

2. Try Something New
Skip the Jane Austen movie-marathon in favor of something a little outside your comfort zone. Peruse Groupon and LivingSocial for daily deals on activities you’ve been dying to try. Whether it’s a Thai cooking class or glass-blowing workshop, challenging yourself at a new skill will be far more productive than watching Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy duke it out yet again.

3. Paint ‘n Sip
One of the biggest trends to hit the United States since fondue, “paint ‘n sip” represents a fun and relatively inexpensive way to spend an evening. Get your fellow singletons together for a little canvas time, with a dash of liquid courage to help you make the first brush stroke. These events are designed to be relaxed and unintimidating, so don’t worry if you artistic masterpiece is more Pollock than Picasso.

4. Volunteer
If you find yourself wallowing in self-pity come Feb. 14, consider brightening someone else’s day to improve your mood. Soup kitchens, nursery homes and other establishments welcome volunteers to assist in everyday operations or simply visit with patrons. You’ll likely find the experience much more rewarding than an overpriced dinner-for-two. Check out VolunteerMatch.org for current opportunities in your community.

5. Indulge in Some Retail Therapy
A little retail therapy can go a long way, but that doesn’t mean your credit card balance has to suffer. In addition to coupons and clearance racks, you can buy online gift cards at a discount through GiftCardGranny.com to save some cash. E-cards are delivered within 24 hours and can save you up to 10 percent for both online and in-store purchases to places like DSW, Express and Anthropologie.

6. Pamper Yourself
Schedule a mani-pedi. Drop by your local studio for some candlelight yoga. Curl up with your favorite bestseller and a glass of red wine. As cheesy as it may sound, the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. So go ahead: blast Beyoncé and celebrate all the reasons you love being you.

7. Disregard It
As you listen to your hitched buds swoon about their romantic Valentine’s Day plans, keep in mind their significant others are likely cursing the corporations responsible for this made-up holiday. My husband’s disgust for the event is so strong he refuses to acknowledge it by name; instead, I wake up to “Happy Hallmark Holiday!” along with an ironically non-Hallmark card. Ultimately, it’s best not to dwell on other people’s plans and focus on making yours unforgettable.

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This has been a guest post by Kendal Perez, a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the marketing coordinator for Kinoli Inc., site manager for a family of money-saving websites, Kendal has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as People StyleWatch, CNN Money, FOX, ABC, NPR and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com.

10 Tips to Cut Gym Costs

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Working toward a goal this year requires planning. For those who vowed to lose weight or get fit, finding a gym is likely at the top of the to-do list. Luckily, January is the busiest time for health clubs experiencing an uptick in membership sign-ups, which means you can find a number of deals around town. Before you jump at the first offer though, consider these tips to help you save even more on gym costs.

1. Max Out Trials
Before you sign up, make sure the gym is a good fit for you. Evaluate classes and instructors and take note of crowds and availability of equipment during the time you plan to use the facility. Most health clubs offer a free week so take advantage of as many complimentary memberships as you can. While sales associates will pressure you to commit after your first day by offering a limited-time discount, don’t fall for the trap. Ultimately, you’ll lose money by taking the deal if you realize the gym isn’t right for you. Stick with the free trial until you’re ready to commit, or move on if the facility doesn’t meet your needs.

2. Practice Haggling
Signing up for gym is very much like buying a car. Membership associates have quotas to meet and often use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to commit for the long haul. While the new year often brings lots of new member deals, nothing is set in stone and there’s always room for a better deal. While scoring a lower monthly rate and waiving the initiation fee should be your primary negotiating priorities, there are other ways to add value to your membership. Ask the associate for the first month free, more guest passes, extra personal training sessions, free towels, complimentary childcare and discounts on spa packages (if offered).

3. Punch It
Paying a flat monthly fee typically works out to less money per visit than a punch pass. However, a recent study by Berkley found members who choose a contract with a monthly fee over a 10-visit pass paid $600 more annually. So if you don’t have time to hit the gym everyday or you prefer to be active outdoors, paying per visit may offer a better value and will also save you potential early-termination fees if you want to cancel the membership before the contract is up.

4. Resist the Commitment
You can get a lower monthly rate when committing to a two-year contract, but you’ll pay more overtime if you don’t use it or want to switch facilities. While you’d like to become a fitness devotee overnight, creating new healthy habits takes time. Before you sign up for a year, try the membership on a month-to-month basis. This way you can determine if the health club meets your fitness needs and if you will actually use it on a regularly basis.

5. Stretch the Definition of Family
Many health clubs provide family membership deals that aren’t limited to blood relatives. This means you can sign up with a few friends to benefit from the discounted offer. Find trustworthy friends and designate one individual to make the monthly payment and come up with a reimbursement plan that works for everyone. Whether each person sends the payee a check, transfers money via Paypal or sends one lump sum for the year, work this out ahead of time. It will help you avoid any rifts in friendship that may occur due to financial issues.

6. Track Coupons & Daily Deals
Before you sign a gym contract or enroll in a new fitness studio, look for deals online. CouponSherpa.com offer coupons and free passes for health clubs including 24Hour Fitness, while daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial provide deep discounts of up to 70-percent on local memberships and personal training. You can jump around from gym to studio to bootcamp by taking advantage of new monthly offers. For example, you can get a three-month membership to Studio City Fitness Gym in Los Angeles for $48, compared to the standard $149.

7. Review Warehouse Clubs
Warehouse clubs typically offers deals on local gym memberships. You usually have to spend more upfront and buy a one-year or two-year membership, but for those who go to a health club regularly, this is a great way to save money in the long run. For example, Costco features a Gym Membership and Wellness page with deals like $369.99 for a two-year all-club membership to 24-Hour fitness. That comes to approximately $15 per month with unlimited use of this national chain of gyms.

8. Don’t Limit Yourself
In recent years, speciality fitness studios that focus on one type of activity like Pilates, indoor cycling and yoga have popped up everywhere. While these facilities undoubtedly offer great classes, the exercise is limited. As experts explain, changing your workout every three to four weeks shocks your body and muscles to work harder. Those who stick to the same routine will see less results over time. Don’t limit your options by signing up to a speciality studio if your budget is tight. Look for a gym that offers a variety of group classes, including the workout you enjoy most, plus cardio and weight-lifting equipment.

9. Train One-on-One for Less
For newbies, personal training is a great way to get acquainted with a gym and the equipment, plus learn exercise moves based on individual goals. However, one-on-one sessions are pricey. One way to keep fees down is to split the cost of sessions with a friend at the same fitness level. Some trainers may even be willing to meet outside of the facility for a less expensive session. Otherwise, turn to your mobile device for motivation via such apps as Digifit iCardio, which tracks heart rate so you know how hard to push yourself, or GAINFitness, which designs a routine based on equipment you own and sends push notifications if you miss a workout session.

10. Build Your Own Gym
Recent stats show that 67 percent of people who sign up for a membership don’t use it. Considering the average monthly fee is $58, you could potentially waste up to $700 a year or more! You may be better off building an at-home gym to use in the morning before work or in the evening while watching your favorite shows. Though this costs more upfront, you’ll end up saving money in the long run. Plus, you don’t have to buy everything at once. Start with dumbbells and a mat and tap into free workout videos online to get tips and ideas on new moves.

Guest post by Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized shopping expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Kroger I Can Make History Contest

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In honor of Black History Month, Kroger is launching its eighth annual “I Can Make History” competition for students, and the grocer will award $71,000 in scholarships and prizes to winners.

The contest begins this week and is open to students in grades 4 through 12.

Entrants can submit their best work in any of these four categories: art, essay, music and poetry.

Martin Luther King, Jr. stated: “We must use time creatively.”

Kroger invites Michigan students in the 4th through 12th grades to use their time creatively and enter the eighth annual “I Can Make History” contest celebrating Black History Month.

The competition launches this week and will award $71,000 in scholarships and other prizes to winners in four categories: art, essay, music and poetry. Kroger will also present a $3,000 Best in Show Award and a $5,000 School Leadership Award, the latter recognizing the school with the most winning entries overall.

“Thousands of African Americans forever changed the course of our nation’s history by helping to ensure equality and opportunities for people of all races,” says Jayne Homco, president, The Kroger Co. of Michigan. “We challenge students to enter the ‘I Can Make History’ competition to honor those individuals and to explore how they can make a positive impact on their own communities.”

Students are invited to submit original works, with an entry deadline of 5 p.m., Friday, February 27. Entries will be judged by an independent panel of judges and category winners notified by March 27. Kroger will hold its annual “I Can Make History” recognition dinner on Saturday, April 18.

All entries must focus on one of the following themes:

  • Tell about any African American past or present and why you want to be like that person.
  • How are you making history in your community/neighborhood?

Category guidelines

Entries must be submitted to I Can Make History, c/o CBS Radio, 26455 American Drive, Southfield, MI 48034. Students must submit an original copy of their entry; faxes, scans, email or online submissions will not be eligible for judging. Contestants are allowed only one submission per category but may submit entries in the other categories. They can only win in one category.

Category guidelines follow and more details are available at www.icanmakehistory.com.

Art: Entries may be created using any two- dimensional medium including drawing (pencil, crayon, markers, graphite, etc.), painting (pastel, watercolor, spray paint, oils, etc.), paper collages and or original photographs. Artwork is limited to 24” x 36” in size and must be mounted on foam poster board (or any rigid surface) and accompanied by a 75-word essay explaining the work and theme.

Essay: Entries must be a minimum of 500 words (but may exceed 500 words) and typed on 8 1/2” x 11” paper. Handwritten essays will not be eligible for judging.

Music: Entries should be a minimum of one minute and not exceed four minutes. Students may submit music on a CD or as an MP3 file, with the entry a recorded performance of the original piece or a written work using music notation software (an MP3 sound file should be included). Lyrics should be typed, if applicable, on 8 1Ž2” x 11” single-sided paper. Entries submitted without lyrics must include a 75-word essay explaining how the music relates to one of the contest themes,

Poetry: Poems should be a maximum of 30 lines and highlight one of the contest themes. Submissions must be typed on 8 1/2” x 11” single-sided paper. Handwritten poems will not be eligible for judging.

How to enter

Contestants must complete “I Can Make History” application and authorization forms available at local Kroger stores, many Michigan schools and at www.icanmakehistory.com. Authorization forms provide Kroger permission to promote winners to the media and to display winning entries at various venues throughout the year.

“Kroger is very proud of the creative and thought-provoking entries we received from Michigan students in the past,” Homco says. “We look forward to this year’s entries from aspiring authors, poets, musicians and artists.”

About The Kroger Co. of Michigan

Incorporated in Michigan in 1909 and headquartered in Novi, The Kroger Co. of Michigan includes 17,000 associates, 124 Kroger stores, 64 fuel centers, 102 pharmacies and the Michigan Dairy.

Kroger, one of the world’s largest retailers, employs more than 375,000 associates who serve customers in 2,640 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Harris Teeter, Jay C, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s. The company also operates 786 convenience stores, 320 fine jewelry stores, 1,240 supermarket fuel centers and 38 food processing plants in the U.S. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and grassroots organizations. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 200 million meals a year through more than 80 Feeding America food bank partners. A leader in supplier diversity, Kroger is a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber’s Million Dollar Club.

Money Resolution Makeover: 8 Ways to Succeed

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If you’re among the millions who rang in the New Year with the promise to spend less and save more money, you’ve taken the first important measure toward achieving that goal. Creating a new habit starts with admitting a certain behavior is a problem and choosing to change it.

Though you’ve taken the first critical step, learning how to ride it out for the long haul is the biggest battle. Typically, only 8 percent of resolution-makers actually achieve their goal. You can avoid the fate of the majority of New Year’s resolution makers by following these seven savvy tips for sticking to your savings goal.

  1. Define the resolution.
    “Spend less and save more” is among the most popular resolutions. However, this goal is vague and undefined, and will leave you with little direction. Get on the right track by determining what it means for you to spend less by analyzing your spending over the last several months. Where can you cut back? What purchases or buying habits are you willing to give up? Identifying a list of actionable items and writing down the concrete steps you need to follow to reach your ultimate goal will help you succeed.

  2. Be reasonable.
    The key to effective goal-setting is being realistic about what you can accomplish. This will help you stay motivated and keep frustration at bay. For example, if you want to pay down your student loan debt by $5,000 this year, determine how much you need to save each month and ensure it’s reasonable. You’ll quickly find out if squirreling away over $400 a month is realistic for you. If it’s not, determine a more practical goal including the amount of money you can comfortably set aside.
  3. Start small.
    In your eagerness to reach your savings goal, you might start cutting every discretionary expense you can find. You’ll quickly find this level of austerity is not sustainable. It’s a lot easier to commit to a small-level change than a complete life overhaul. Start small and avoid failure by finding one or two easy behaviors to change until it becomes a new habit and move on from there. For example, if you typically dine out four times a week, try cutting it back to twice per week and put the amount you save towards your goal. Over time, your habits might make eliminating weekly takeout a much more manageable task which will avoid you from burning out and giving up.
  4. Track progress.
    An immeasurable goal won’t allow you to track your degree of success and visualizing your progress is essential for staying motivated. Use specific dates and numbers (like debt reduction and savings figures) to identify milestones you want to reach throughout the year. By reviewing your progress and realizing your success, you will feel inspired to continue working hard.
  5. Get online help.
    Mint.com helps you setup and track your savings goal, all while tracking your spending. SmartyPig.com also helps you track your savings goal by offering online accounts categorized specifically for your goal, whether it’s a vacation or child’s college fund. ReadyForZero helps you manage debt all in one place and creates customized plans that show you the fastest way to get out of debt while minimizing interest fees.
  6. Do the same thing every day.
    Making a singular savings goal is great, but creating a lifelong habit should be your ultimate goal. One way to make your money-saving routine a habit is through repetition. Whether that means making your next day’s lunch as soon as you get home from work (to save on dining out) or checking for coupons before making a purchase online using sites like CouponSherpa.com, these things should be completed every day around the same time so they become part of your regular routine.

  7. Get a savings buddy.
    One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable is to get a savings buddy. Share your financial goals with a trusted friend or family member and ask them to help keep you on track throughout your journey, and confidently put you in your place if you start to stray. Ideally, this person is working toward the same or similar goal. If you can’t find a savings buddy, use an app like Beeminder which will keep you accountable by taking your money if you don’t keep up with your goal! HabitForge is another app that provides daily check-ins and progress reports, and a community to encourage you.

  8. Reward yourself.
    Aggressive savings plans typically include an element of austerity, and this level of commitment is tough to stick to over time without a rewards system. If part of your savings goal includes giving up something you love — morning lattes, happy hour with friends, or catching the latest flick — incorporate these back into your spending plan in the form of rewards. When you successfully reach your three-month savings goal, for example, treat yourself to Starbucks or get together with friends to celebrate. You’ll have to find room in your budget to accommodate this expense, but doing so will make your overall goal easier to achieve.

Guest post by Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized shopping expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Old Navy Mix & Match Workout Wardrobe

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1.1 Old Navy Mix & Match Fitness Board VERTICAL DOLLARSSENSEOld Navy is a great place to find inexpensive workout clothes.

This Old Navy Mix & Match Workout Wardrobe is a great example of how buying a couple articles of clothing can be used to create several outfits.

  1. Canvas Duffel Bag – $24.50
  2. Wide Leg Compression Pants – $24.00
  3. Active Compression Capris, Grey – $22.00
  4. Terry Fleece Sweatpants – $20.00
  5. Color Block Sneakers, Merri Perry – $19.001.1 Old Navy Mix & Match Fitness Board 11-15
  6. Active Mesh Panel Leggings – $18.00
  7. Active Half-Zip Pull Over, Black – $17.00
  8. Zip Front Hoodie, Fan the Flames – $17.00
  9. Mesh Canvas Sneakers, Storm Front – $17.00
  10. Active Hoodie, Grey – $15.001.1 Old Navy Mix & Match Fitness Board 6-10
  11. Active Padded Sports Bra, Fuchsia – $14.00
  12. Seamless Cami-Bra, Parrot – $10.00
  13. Happy Is the New Black Graphic Tee – $10.00
  14. Everything Has Beauty Graphic Tee – $10.00
  15. GoDry Graphic Tank – $9.00
  16. Victorian Blue Active Tank – $7.001.1 Old Navy Mix & Match Fitness Board 1-5

Wendy’s National Frosty Key Tag Program Free Frosty Treats All Year Long!

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Frosty Key TagsWendy’s is bringing back the Frosty Key Tag Program again for 2015!

Buy a Frosty Key Tag for just $1 and you can use it to get a FREE Jr. Frosty anytime you make a purchase at Wendy’s throughout 2015!

Why is Wendy’s giving away FREE Frosty Treats?

“At Wendy’s, we believe that every child deserves a family and have worked tirelessly to help children find loving homes,” said Liz Geraghty, Wendy’s vice president of marketing. “Right now, there are more than 100,000 children in foster care in the United States waiting to be adopted. The Frosty Key Tag Program gives our customers a chance to impact the lives of these children in their own communities, while enjoying Frosty treats all year long.”

It’s no secret that I spent a good amount of my childhood living in foster care, so this is something that is still very close to my heart.

Although my time in foster care ended in being reunited with my biological mom, this was not the case for so many of the kids I met during my time in the system.

This has to be just about the easiest way to help those kids who want nothing more than to have a home filled with love and support.

You can also donate directly here.

About the Wendy’s Frosty Key Tag Program:

Wendy’s raised more than $2.9 million through the Key Tag Program last year.  Wendy’s hopes to help even more children this time around with ninety cents of every dollar going to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

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For every Frosty Key Tag sold for $1, ninety cents will go to help find families for children in foster care through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®.

Last year’s Frosty Key Tag Program raised more than $2.9 million and kicked off a four-part national cause marketing effort for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA). Started by Wendy’s Founder Dave Thomas, who was adopted himself, the DTFA works in communities across the U.S. and Canada to help dramatically increase the number of adoptions for children in foster care.

The DTFA believes that every child should feel safe, cared for and loved. Community support through programs like the Frosty Key Tag Program has enabled Wendy’s and the DTFA to help more than 4,570 children in foster care find homes. Doing good never tasted so good.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated to dramatically increasing the adoptions of the more than 134,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. Created by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, who was adopted, the Foundation implements evidence-based, results-driven national signature programs, foster care adoption awareness initiatives and innovative grant making. To learn more, visit davethomasfoundation.org, or call 1-800-ASK-DTFA.