The Best Items to Shop for in the Winter Months

MomsGetReal Contributor Norman Fong

Winter seems to be the busiest time of year for shopping. It would seem like finding a sale when nearly everything is in demand would be difficult, but just like the early bird catches the worm, the smart shopper catches the sales.

Saving big in the winter requires a bit of extra know-how about when to buy what:

Best Items to Shop for in December

shutterstock_121339153Every store advertises huge sales from the day after Thanksgiving right up until Christmas. But you have to be savvy during this season. A lot of stores hike up prices and then offer 25-50% off so it looks like you are saving big when you’re really saving very little, if anything at all.

December is a great time of year for gift card offers. Certain companies like California Pizza Kitchen, Barnes and Noble, Kohl’s and Toys ‘R Us will offer you vouchers and gift cards if you spend a certain amount. The best time to buy toys for the little ones is mid-December and the worst time is days before Christmas, because the stores are fully aware of supply and demand on those days.

Tools and hardware start going on sale in November and run through December so it should be easy to check Dad off your list. If you are shopping for the women in your life, you may want to avoid buying jewelry this time of year because you will be hard-pressed to get a good deal. Lastly, the best time to purchase Christmas decorations is the day after Christmas – likely the exact moment you are boxing up your current ones.

Best Items to Shop for in January

This is the perfect month to take advantage of last year’s models. As soon as manufacturers start to release 2014 models, the 2013 ones go on sale. Cars, electronics, and appliances are ready to be purchased at a discounted rate.

Toward the end of this month you can get a great deal on what’s left of the 2014 calendars. You can also find bargains on exercise equipment, which will be a huge bonus for those weight loss resolutions. If you missed the late December Christmas decoration sales, fret not because in early-to-mid-January they are practically giving the stuff away.

Buying for other seasons is a great deal in winter months, so fans, air conditioners, and summer gear are items you should keep an eye on. Now is the time to get your swimwear at a fraction of the retail price. It is also the perfect time to buy winter clothes, since most have already purchased theirs earlier in the season.

Best Items to Shop for in February

This month is going to be your last chance for winter deals. The sales that started in December are going to be at their close-out best this month. Big name TVs such, as LG, Panasonic, and Samsung that are left over will be dropped to even lower prices. All winter gear is on its final way out so they can make room for spring products, so stock up on clothing, boots, and heaters.

Outdoor recreation and furniture items go on sale in February to get the consumer in the mood for spring. Now is the time to buy patio furniture, grills and outdoor toys for children before the prices spike for spring and summer.

The weeks before Valentine’s Day you will find promotions on candy, jewelry and flowers. And you can always depend on Presidents Day sales for clothing, appliances and even travel deals.

There is no need to go broke this winter as a consumer when it’s so much fun being frugal and shopping smart. Your saving grace is to stay informed and shop around. Some stores will even match any advertised price, rewarding the hard working shopper; you simply need to pay attention to the restrictions that apply. It may take you a bit more time but you can rest assured knowing you’ve gotten the best deal around.

Norman Fong is Co-Founder of, an online, Android and iOS App smart shopping service that lists reputable products from top online stores, at the best price available. By downloading the BuyVia Android and iOS App to their Android Device, iPhone or iPad, consumers can be alerted to the best deals on the most popular products, anywhere and anytime.

How to Prepare a Holiday Meal for Guests With Dietary Restrictions

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

It’s that time of year again: time to deck the halls, trim the tree and attempt to make a holiday dinner that everyone can eat. This gets tricky if you have guests with special diet restrictions. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, food allergies are a serious medical condition that affect around 15 million people in the U.S. Of course, millions of additional Americans choose not to eat certain foods for moral, health or religious reasons. With the myriad dietary restrictions folks have today, it’s a wonder we can enjoy a holiday meal together at all.

Family GatheringSo what is a good host to do when Uncle Richard wants a traditional Christmas feast while Cousin Alex needs a nut-free meal and Aunt Rachel’s gone vegetarian? To help you prepare, be aware of a few of the most common culprits. Common food allergies include eggs, peanuts and other nuts, seafood/shellfish, milk and lactose, and wheat/gluten. If you’re going to take care to choose recipes that cater to dietary restrictions, here’s a few you may not be as familiar with:

  • Pescatarian – Eats fish only
  • Pollotarian – Eats poultry only
  • Ovo-Vegetarian – Eats eggs but does not eat dairy or meat
  • Lacto-Vegetarian – Eats dairy but does not eat eggs or meat
  • Paleo – Consists mainly of fish, eggs, vegetables, grass-fed pasture raised meats, fruit, and nuts
  • Kosher – Eats foods that follows a set of Jewish dietary laws

Here are a few more tips to make the holiday meal and good experience for all:

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than spending all day in the kitchen only to find that many of your guests either can’t or won’t eat it. Reach out to guests in advance and ask about any diet restrictions they may have and plan accordingly.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Dish)

Ask those with special restrictions or preferences to bring their own dish to share. This way, you can be sure they have something they will enjoy and others can learn more about their lifestyle’s food choices.

Do Your Research

Many foods are naturally gluten-free, vegan, kosher, etc., and usually everyone can share and enjoy vegetable platters and fresh fruit salads. Do your research and be sure to focus on those dishes. Visit for a list of the 19 best allergy blogs to get great ideas for what to serve your guests.

Offer a Little of Everything

A simple solution: Hold a buffet and let your guests choose what they want to eat. This works especially well if you want to try out some recipes for Christmas appetizers for those with no restrictions and ask everybody to bring their favorite dish to share as well.

Label Your Dishes

Be sure to label your offerings so everyone will know exactly what they are eating. Include the name of the dish and what it’s free of. It may take a little extra effort, but you will find that it is so much better than explaining every dish over and over again to guests.

How to Lower Your Weekly Spending

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Jessica Watts

Lowering your overall spending begins by monitoring how much you spend in the short term. Creating weekly and even daily budgets will result in an overall reduction in your spending habits and an increase in your savings. By examining where you waste cash and taking actionable steps to start better habits, you can be on the road to saving money in no time. One of the main places where people spend cash on a daily basis is food. Here are three quick and easy tips to lowering your weekly spending on meals and getting your finances on track for the long haul.

penny pinching momsgetrealCut Coupons

You might think that only stay at home moms cut and use coupons, but these cost saving squares can add up to big savings for anyway. Free monthly circulars and grocery store mailings can offer a variety of different coupons that are catered to you based on your spending habits. You can also search online for coupons related to specific products. While each coupon only saves a few cents or dollars, over the course of your weekly meals you will notice a difference in your spending. By the end of the year, you may have saved hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Rethink Your Shopping List

Refine your shopping list to include only the essentials. When you cut back on even a few items you will see a difference in your long term budget. During your weekly grocery shopping trip, consider buying the store brand of your necessities instead of a name brand. You may be able to save at least a dollar on each item just by getting the store version of a food item, and the ingredients are usually similar or identical to the name brand you’re used to.

Plan Ahead

Make a weekly schedule with the meals you will prepare. Having a solid plan eliminates your need to eat out, which is usually far more expensive than preparing a meal at home. You can enjoy fresh produce and ingredients every night of the week by using your own groceries instead of getting food to go, and save eating out for special occasions. Make it a habit to sit down on Saturday and make a list of meals and shop for the ingredients. When you stick to it, you can avoid most mid-week grocery store trips and the need to purchase meals from restaurants. Planning also lets you send your kids to school with meals instead of having to pay for a meal plan in some cases.

Lowering weekly spending will ultimately lower your overall spending. By sticking to these few tips, you can create new habits for your family that allow for more saving and the ability to spend your extra cash elsewhere. Don’t feel guilty about splurging on a nice meal for a special occasion – changing your weekly budget doesn’t mean you can never indulge, just that it shouldn’t be done every day if you want to lower your expenses.


Jessica Watts is a finance expert. She loves writing about saving money on personal finance blogs. She recommends Sumo Coupon website for money saving tips and fascinating vouchers and coupons.


The Language of Savings: How to Avoid Being Misled By Coupons and Rebates

Contributed by BuyVia

When it comes to coupons and rebates, the savings are in the details. What seems like a great deal in large, bold letters may no longer be as appealing after reading the fine print. Mail-in rebates require following instructions closely, while coupons can be misleading if you don’t have a grasp on the language used.

Here are some ways to know how much you’ll actually be saving and how to make the deals a reality.

Translating coupon language

shutterstock_130416152Before you get too excited about how much money you’ll apparently be saving from coupon, you need to take a moment to consider what these following bargains really mean:

Buy One, Get One Free
If you purchase the exact product that is part of a Buy-One-Get-One-Free Deal, then you truly will get an additional one for no extra cost. The catch is that a price limit is usually put on that additional item. For example, the fine print may read something like “item may not exceed $4.99.” If the shelf price of the item is higher than this, you’ll be responsible for picking up the difference.

Buy One, Get One “X%” Off
These offers are designed to entice you to buy a second item when you were only planning on buying one. The most common deal here is “Buy One, Get One 50% Off,” which boils down to saving 25% on each item.

Don’t be misled by the picture
Don’t be fooled by the picture on coupons. Often times, the most expensive item in the product line will be shown, implying that the coupon can only be used for that item. If you read the fine print, you’ll most likely discover that the coupon is also valid for other, less-expensive products.

“One Per” Coupons

  1. Per Transaction – No matter how many copies of a coupon you have, you can only use one for each time you go through the checkout line. Of course, you can ring up multiple times and use a different copy of the coupon each time.
  2. Per Visit – You can only use these coupons once each time you visit an establishment.
  3. Per Purchase – You can use one of these coupons for each item you buy. For example, if you purchase three rolls of paper towels you can use a separate coupon for each one.
  4. Per Customer – You and everyone in your party may each use a separate coupon.

Expiration dates
Pretty much all coupons have an expiration date, so make sure to keep an eye out for it. The coupons are good until midnight of the expiration date.

“Redeemable at…”
Some coupons may say something like “Redeemable at Mega-Mart,” but this doesn’t mean that you have to go to Mega-Mart to use it; rather Mega-Mart is just one of several places where you can redeem it.

“Only at…”
If the coupon says “Only at Mega-Mart” then you must go to a Mega-Mart store to use it.

“Available at…”
These coupons can be used anywhere. This is simply the store’s way of advertising itself.

Mail-in rebates
You see it all the time: offers of saving hundreds of dollars on items such as computers or TVs through a mail-in rebate. But statistics show that less than 50% of customers who purchase these items actually follow through with the rebate, and the percentage is even lower for rebates offering savings that are less substantial. This is because redeeming your rebates require filling out a lot of tedious paperwork that takes a while to process. Here’s what you should keep in mind when considering a rebate:

  • Is it worth all the trouble? – Many companies make it as difficult as possible to successfully fill out your rebate. From requiring the UPC bar code, receipt, and multiple pages of confusing paperwork, these companies are in the business of making you not want to follow through with the rebate. If the rebate is only for a few dollars, it’s probably not worth your time.
  • Turnaround time – You need to make sure you’ll be getting your product in time to submit the rebate. If you’re ordering your product online and the rebate expires in two days, you won’t be able to submit it before its expiration date. Also, after you’ve mailed it in, don’t expect to get your rebate right away. It can take up to two months to receive it. You can call the company’s 1-800 number to check on its status.
  • Your personal information – Many times, companies will use your personal information that you put on the rebate form for data mining studies of consumer behavior.

Do you have any other suggestions for understanding coupons or rebates?

Norman Fong is Co-Founder of, an online, Android and iOS App smart shopping service that lists reputable products from top online stores, at the best price available. By downloading the BuyVia Android and iOS App to their Android Device, iPhone or iPad, consumers can be alerted to the best deals on the most popular products, anywhere and anytime.

Young Environmentalists: The Eco-Friendly Classroom

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

The days of casually throwing things “away” are long gone.  Many adults have begun incorporating sustainability into their daily lives in the form of recycling and consciously using less energy.  Kids can also begin forming good habits at home and at school. Teachers and students can work together to reduce their collective carbon footprint, adding valuable lessons in sustainability to the standard curriculum of reading, writing and arithmetic. Some sustainability lessons can be combined with fun projects, while others can be taught as good habits for students to carry out at home as well as at school.

Recycling & Reusing

learning environmentalism at schoolElementary school children enjoy crafts and projects they can work on with their friends and take home to share with their families at the end of the day.  Recycling materials that would wind up in a landfill accomplishes dual goals of allowing kids to exercise their creativity while helping maintain a healthy environment. Kids can bring the needed materials from home or use materials from the classroom.

For instance, plastic milk jugs can be cut to create durable bird feeders that will stand up to any weather conditions.  Bottle caps from soft drinks can be converted into magnets that can be used to post notes on the refrigerator.  Old magazine photos, calendars and holiday cards can be combined to create a colorful collage worthy of hanging on a wall.

Older children can be encouraged to volunteer in their neighborhoods for recycling drives or cleanup campaigns. For instance, students can spend an afternoon cleaning up a local park or planting trees.  Start a blog on sustainability in your school, with students serving as writers, editors and photographers.

Students can also practice recycling beyond creating crafts. For instance, old one-sided documents can be turned over and used as scrap paper for calculating math and science problems. Students can also be encouraged to make double-sided copies for their school reports and other school-related documents.  Teacher and administrators can set up recycling bins around the school and encourage everyone, students and teachers alike, to recycle paper, aluminum cans and other materials.

Electronic Books

These days many kids have access to Smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. Nearly every library also has computers that are available for patrons to use. Assigning electronic books for classroom reading saves the resources necessary to produce paper and book bindings. In addition, with electronic books, students have the advantage of interactive texts with live links that can provide information from related sources. Students can also more easily share their notes with friends for group assignments.

Smart Classroom Practices

Many students, along with their parents, employ conservation practices at home. Teachers can encourage students to carry over those good habits in school by encouraging students to be environmentally conscious in the classroom.  Instruct students to turn off lights whenever they leave a classroom. Instruct them to open windows when the weather is pleasant, rather than depending on air conditioning or heating. In rooms that have good natural light, turn the lights off and allow the light of the sun to illuminate the room.


Visit Alberta electric providers  for more eco friendly information.

Smart Shopping for Fall Savings

Created especially for MomsGetReal from the people at BuyVia

The end of summer can be a mournful time of year for some: students and teachers head back to school, while the rest of us see an end to backyard barbecues, lazy days by the swimming pool, and cocktail parties on the deck. On the other hand, fall also brings an end to 100 degree days, mosquito bites, and parents’ worries about how to pay for babysitting or summer camp for their kids during the months-long vacation.

Another thing fall can bring is savings for consumers savvy enough to take advantage of its many seasonal sales. Having the patience to wait to purchase back-to-school items, Halloween costumes, and Thanksgiving electronics can enable you to take advantage of sharp discounts as stores become anxious to get these season-specific products out of the store in order to make room for the next big thing.

Here are some tips on the top items to purchase during the fall, from a savings point of view.

1. Buy summer items inexpensively:

2871972520_bebec39743Now that summer is over, stores will be left with bicycles and gas grills and even pools that they need to unload in order to make way for more seasonally appropriate items. That makes this a great time to get good deals. This type of shopping is especially sensible for those who plan to travel to warmer areas like Florida or the Southwest for vacation, or even to spend the entire winter there. Similarly, you can stock up on discounted summer clothing items like sundresses and swimsuits and shorts for the future, as well.

2. Buy older versions of big-ticket items once the newer models are released:

Apple often releases new models of big items like the iPhone in September or October — just last week, the release of the iPhone 5S underscores that consumers can now get the iPhone 4S for free with a two-year contract. Likewise, Samsung is currently offering great deals on the Galaxy SIII, now that the fourth generation model is out.

Similarly, new models of cars generally come out in September. Once these heavily-marketed new cars and phones come out, the older versions will drop in price, even though there is rarely a significant difference in quality between them and the newer versions. Generally, the new models simply offer a few extra features or a fancier design. Buying the older model is a good choice to save big while not sacrificing much in terms of actual utility.

3. Plan holidays and vacations in advance:

Once fall starts, it’s a good time to look ahead to holiday travel. Whether you are going to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving or flying college students back home for Christmas, the earlier you book your tickets, the cheaper they (generally) will be. Remember that planes aren’t your only option – look into Amtrak and Greyhound as well. Travel by train or bus often offers more flexibility with regard to dates. Whereas you may pay big bucks to change the day you fly, you can often change the date you take the train or bus for free. No matter what type of transportation you choose, planning ahead will save you money and reduce your stress level.

4. Re-purpose seasonal items or save them for next year:

Once the back-to-school rush is over, most school supplies are steeply discounted. Know which items tend to go right away and which tend to stick around. You can buy the basics in early fall (whatever your child needs right away) and stock up on the rest once they go on sale. You can also buy items that are always needed – paper, folders, notebooks – and save them for next year, while re-purposing other materials for arts and crafts throughout the year.

The same goes for Halloween items. Once the holiday is over, their sales value and price will drop dramatically. Buy and store non-perishable items like decorations, makeup, and even one-size-fits-all costume items like hats and masks, and save them for the next year or two’s holidays. Likewise, although the big draw on Black Friday is the $100 iPad or the newest model of flat-screen TV going for what seems like virtually nothing, there are very few of these items available and most will be gone ten to fifteen minutes after stores open. Take advantage of the next few days when stores try to unload the stock that didn’t go during the big sales.

A little creative thinking can go a long way. What are some strategies you use to save big during the fall?

Norman Fong is Co-Founder of BuyVia, an online and iOS App smart shopping service that lists reputable products from top online stores, at the best price available. By downloading the BuyVia iOS App to their iPhone or iPad, consumers can be alerted to the best deals on the most popular products, anywhere and anytime.

Dinosaur Fossil Fun for Kids

If your children are interested in dinosaurs, then they will love this fun educational activity. Let them dig for dinosaur fossils in your own backyard. For this project you will need some small inexpensive plastic dinosaurs that you can find at the Dollar Store. You can find Plaster of Paris at any craft store.

Supplies needed:
Small plastic dinosaurs
Plaster of Paris
A plastic storage container
A bucket

Older children will be able to do this entire activity themselves. You will have to help younger children with the Plaster of Paris.

Preparing the Sand

First you need the plastic storage container. It doesn’t have to be a large container, even a shoe box sized container will work. Fill the container with a couple inches of clean sand. This sand is used to create the shape of the dinosaur fossil.

Note: Don’t leave this container of sand laying around or your cat might be tempted to use it as a litter box!

Creating the Molds

Have your children use the plastic dinosaurs to create imprints in the sand. If it doesn’t turn out the first time then just wipe them out and make them again. Make sure the imprints are deep enough to pour the Plaster of Paris into. You should be able to clearly make out the shape of each dinosaur.

If you have large toy dinosaurs, try making dinosaur footprints in the sand.

Preparing the Plaster

dinosaurPour a small amount of the Plaster of Paris into the bucket. Add water slowly and mix until the mixture is the consistency of brownie batter. The mixture should be damp but not wet. Help your children carefully spoon the Plaster of Paris into the imprints in the sand. Let the fossils dry for several hours before removing them from the sand.

Removing the Fossils

After the fossils are dry, carefully remove them from the sand. The thicker the fossils, the less fragile they will be. Your kids will love the “fossils” they have made. For extra fun, you could also bury the finished fossils in the sand and have your kids dig for the fossils. Give them popsicle sticks and small paint brushes to unearth and “clean” their fossils.

Note: When rinsing out the bucket, do not pour any Plaster of Paris down the sink. When it dries it can be very harmful to your plumbing. Rinse it out with a garden hose instead.

Alternate Dinosaur Activity

For another fun activity, fill a small plastic storage container with water and freeze some of the small plastic dinosaurs inside. You can also add food coloring to the water, if desired. When the water is completely frozen, gently remove the block of ice from the container. Place the ice on the back patio or in a small wading pool and let your children use little hammers or kitchen table knives to break the ice and “discover” the dinosaurs.

These dinosaur fossils are a really fun family project. Your kids can pretend they are Paleontologists searching for ancient dinosaur fossils. Check out a few library books about dinosaurs, and you can turn this into a great easy science lesson for kids of any age.

Timothy Olsen is a professional blogger that provides information on dinosaur collectibles, dinosaur crafts and dinosaur history. He writes for Dinosaur Corporation, where you can find the best Dinosaur party supplies.

How to Teach Kids About Green Entrepreneurialism

You have green dreams for your children. Chances are, they have their own dreams as well – most kids want to grow up and make something of themselves. However, they might not see the big picture. They probably don’t realize that they can make a difference in the world AND make a name for themselves, and that not making conscious decisions to better the world might lead to them actually hurting the planet. If you’re intent on making sure your kids lead a green lifestyle in their professional endeavors, you should know a few things. The following is what I learned when my child told me he wanted to start his own business.

Decode The Terms
For many children, a phrase like “green entrepreneurialism” is really overwhelming. They probably don’t have a full understanding of what these two words mean by themselves, let alone when they’re meshed together! Explain exactly what both the green movement and entrepreneurialism are. Show them in real life what being green means and what it takes to go into business for one’s self. Once you have mastered the definitions of the two separate terms with them, work to blend them together into one.

Green Volunteer Projects

In order to inspire a love for something in children, encourage them have hands-on experience in it. Therefore, you need to check out some green volunteer projects in your community. The town might be getting together to clean up a local park, or a movement to encourage more recycling might be ripe for the taking. Whatever the case may be, explain to your children how the plan started and how it’s going to continue to bring the neighborhood success.

Craft Unique Plans
Once your children have participated in an earth-friendly project, incorporate entrepreneurial tasks in to the mix.  Remember, when kids are young, you need to break things down. Even for a middle school or high school student, all of this at once can be a little bit overwhelming or confusing. Ask your children if they have any ideas that could be used to create a greener environment. They might want to propose a small business, or they may wish to tackle another project in the neighborhood. Help them to craft a plan in the early stages of this inquiry, from start to finish.

Taking it Further
If you really want your children to get a taste of how entrepreneurship works, guide them through the process. Start by contacting the appropriate authorities to see if the project can be put into action. If the answer is yes, then you can work with your child to put together a task force to accomplish the goal. Sometimes, the answer is going to be no. This can be an important lesson for your children to learn. In certain cases, they’ll have to revise their plans or seek out a new avenue for implementing them.

School Connections

Check to see if any similar programs are available at your children’s school (or another nearby one). They might have a club that focuses on volunteer efforts, or your children may be able to take courses that prepare them for a world of environmentally-friendly businesses. Stretching those connections as much as you can is a great way to provide all of the necessary information to your children.

Joseph Rodriguez writes about all things related to green living. His recent focus has been on identifying the best online colleges with environmental science programs.

Why Carpooling to School is Important for Families

It’s back to school time, and a great time to teach your kids about making good choices – for themselves AND the environment!

Carpooling to school is one of the best ways that parents can save money, promote Eco-friendly living, and interact with the kids on a daily basis. Plus, it also saves on gas and time for everyone involved in the pool. If you’re on the fence about pitching this idea to neighborhood families, the following will show you why it is essential that you carpool with other families to school.

It Saves Gas
This is an obvious advantage. You will be able to save on gas everyday because you will be going on alternate times instead of every morning. If you want to keep your costs down, then this is one of the best ways to do it. Keep everyone in a fair rotation and your kids will be more likely be picked up in a timely manner everyday.

Green Living
Carpooling is a great way to show your kids how to protect the environment with one simple act. For example, show your kids a picture of what a single car’s pollution can do to this city. You will be instilling them with good ideas for their future well being (this will also save you money down the road, if you decide to buy them a car of their own).

Quality Time
Believe it or not, carpooling can help you bond with your kids and their friends. Your kids are more likely to talk when their friends are around, and you can also learn more about what their friends are like. Your friends and you can compile scoop and compare how your children are acting at school. Plus, it lets your child’s friends get to know you better. It will forge a better relationship for the community of the entire school.

If you’re a working parent, then a carpooling schedule is a great way to make the most of your day. You can drop off while someone else picks up. You won’t have to put your child in daycare if another parent is willing to keep them for a few hours either (but you need to be willing to take a shift too). This can be especially true if your kids want to participate in after-school activities but can’t because of your schedule. With carpooling, it might be an option!

Ultimately, you want carpooling to be a benefit to your family. Just think of all the great advantages that it offers. You’ll be able to spend more time with your kids, OUT of the car!