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Freebie Corner: Last minute gifts made from items at home

The one thing kids like better than giving the gift is making them. Below are a few easy last minute craft gift ideas for kids to make. All of them are easy, (adult supervision recommended of course), and they are great for parents, friends, siblings and other family members. You probably have many of the items on hand. My favorite is the Easy Hair Pins, they are great gift for a favorite aunt or older sister. Another one is the 'green' game. You can have the kids use an old board game that they don't play with anymore and refurbish it. Not only will it be a lot of fun creating their own games but they can exchange them at Christmas with siblings.Idea #1: Easy Hair Pins - All you need are some bobby pins, glue and vintage earrings that can be picked up at second hand stores. Idea #2: Board Game - Turn your old board game no one plays with anymore into a new board game! Let the kids create there own games to give to each other! Idea #3: Photo Cube - Great gift for grandparents when you add the child photo. Idea #4: Tissue Paper Sun Catcher - This could easily be made from popsicle sticks too, and everyone loves a cute sun catcher.Idea #5: Create your own Chia Pet - The kids can will love this idea, they could actually decorate it any way they want.Idea #6: Keepsake Box for Dad - If you have an old hinged box around the house, let the kids decorate it.A gift doesn't have to be expensive to be great, it really is the thought that counts. Have a Merry Christmas! Jackie lives in Seattle, her blog is Free Hot Samples. Where there are hundreds of freebies and deals up for grabs.(Source: Savings.com)

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Freebie Corner: Free video message from Santa and more

Christmas is sneaking up on us, it will be here before you know it. Everyone is going to be spending money on gifts, wouldn't it be nice to score some things for free? How great would it be for your child(ren) to get a free video message from Santa. When your done watching the video, take them to get a free picture with him! I personally love the 'Hand" Made Ornament, this is a great idea to do every year! Freebie #1: Let the kids make some homemade Children's Hand Made Ornaments from items you have at home. The instructions call for clay, but I don't see why you couldn't use some felt and glue it to cardboard for stability.Freebie #2: Free Elf Yourself Video and Wall Calendar. Click on 'Upload Photo," then agree to the terms and conditions. Go through the process of creating your video. After you're done making the video, view it. The "Free Calendar" button will appear at the top right of the page while you're viewing it. Click on that to have your free calendar code created. Print the code and take it to an Office Max Print Center to get a free year at a view calendar. $6.99 value. You can also post the video to your Facebook page for free.Freebie #3: Stop in at the free Bass Pro Shop Winter Wonderland. At Bass Pro Shops. Get a free picture with Santa, free crafts and play free games. Check the schedule for events. Tabs for the events are on the left of their page.Freebie #4: Santa's Guide to Easy Christmas Crafts for Kids. Crafts include; ornaments, special holiday pocketbook, glitter stockings, ribbon wreath and more.Freebie #5: Another freebie for kids are tons of Christmas printables. Includes: Advent calendar, word search, coloring sheets and more.There are always tons of free stuff during the holiday season. These are a few Christmas freebies to get you started, keep an eye on future post for even more! Jackie lives in Seattle, her blog is Free Hot Samples. Where there are hundreds of freebies and deals up for grabs.(Source: Savings.com)

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Freebie Corner: Free Frankenweenie tote and glowstick at Subway, plus more

Here we go again, it's time to grab your free stuff and some great deals. You can also get easy free instructions on how to make Halloween decorations in time for the big day!Try making the pumpkin luminaries from items you probably already have in your house. If that isn't crafty enough for you, try making purses, backpacks and cases out of duct tape. That should keep you busy for a while.If your over 21, you can get a free drink shaker to use for the holiday season get-togethers. If you want to do some holiday shopping, try going on a Monday or Tuesday to take advantage of the free food deals listed. Don't forget to pick up a free Frankenweenie Halloween tote bag the kids will be sure to love. It even comes with a free glow stick!

Freebie #1: When your shopping at Ikea keep these days of the week in mind and get some free food while your there.

  • Monday: FREE breakfast until 11:00am Regular price 99¢. Limit one per person. 
  • Tuesday: Kids Eat FREE! 11:00am to close. Kids 12 and under choose one combo meal valued at $2.49. Limit one per child.
  • Wednesday: FREE dessert (up to $2.99 value) with a purchase of any hot entree ($4.99 and up). 11am to close.

Freebie #2: If your crafty you'll love this free ebook. Learn how to make bags from duct tape! Use "Duck Tape Bags" to make a messenger bag, camera bag, back pack and more. Offer for Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle you can download the free ereader for your computer or mobile device to get the book.    

Freebie #3: Get a free drink shaker from Black & Mild. You must be 21 or older to enter this site (tobacco products). Log in or register then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "My Offers" to claim yours.Freebie #4: "17 Halloween Props & Decor Crafts" free ebook. Includes; plastic pumpkin luminaries (made from plastic soda bottles), pumpkin patch garland, witch teapot Halloween pumpkin and more. You have to enter your email address to access the ebook.

Freebie #5: Mrs. Dash is giving out 20,000 samples per day at noon EST until 11/29/12. Giveaway includes 4 Mrs. Dash sample packets of the same flavor, of either Original, Table Blend, Garlic & Herb or Extra Spicy [net weight .02oz (.6g) each] and a coupon for 75¢ off any Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blend good through 3/31/2013. There is a limit of one sample offer per household.Freebie #6: Get yourself a free sample of Pantene Pro-V Silky Moisture Whip. Log in or register atVocalpoint to get your 2-oz. can of Pantene Pro-V Silky Moisture Whip. I recommend registering with them since they offer great freebies several times a year.

Freebie #7: Get a free Frankenweenie tote and glow stick! Grab lunch at a Subway , when you buy a Subway Fresh Fit for Kids meal you get a free tote and glow stick. Offer valid while supplies last.Rebate Offer: Get $5 from Totino's! Buy 4 specially marked items and enter the codes on their site.Unique codes are located inside specially marked packages of Totino's® Party Pizza. You can have a $5 check mailed to you or have it sent to your PayPal account. One offer per household and you have to enter your codes by June 1, 2013.

Upcoming Freebie: If Sbarro reaches 100,000 likes on Facebook by November 1st they will donate 50,000 lunches to food banks. PLUS they will unlock a free pizza day to all of their fans. "Like" them and watch their wall for updates on the offer.Don't forget about that rebate offer if you buy Totino's. They are usually about $1.25 each so using the rebate would make your 4 pizzas free. We all like free! Jackie lives in Seattle, her blog is Free Hot Samples. Where there are hundreds of freebies and deals up for grabs.

(Source:Savings.com)

Save money with tips from department store employees

Love to shop? Join the club; in 2011 we spent about $4.7 trillion (yes, trillion!) in retail sales, according the U.S. Commerce Department.And who hasn't overspent at one time or another? With new merchandise refreshed every season, every month–or, at discount retailers like Target and T.J. Maxx, every week–department stores can be a minefield if you go in uninformed. Especially since stores are designed to make you drop as much cash as possible.Floor layouts, salespeople's strategies and even storewide sales tap into our most basic consumer impulses. But not this fall: To help you engage in smarter retail therapy, we asked two former department store employees to reveal their juiciest secrets so you save more.1. Start at the Back of the StoreOne evergreen retail strategy is to bury the best discounts–clearance items, especially–in the rear of the store, so you'll encounter racks of beautiful new merchandise before you get to the real nuggets.

Furthermore, stores will try to influence your purchases by advertising their current sales, even the smallest ones, heavily throughout the store, says Abby*, a former salesperson at a high-end New York City department store. "A lot of times, the best deals are not during the big advertised sales," she says. "Usually the best sales items are on a rack toward the back or slightly hidden."

2. Befriend Your Salesperson

Salespeople aren't just trying to make sales on the spot. They're motivated to keep customers apprised of future deals, too, because they have sales goals to meet during those promotions. Ask a clerk to put you in her client book and to call or email you about other sales as they happen.

A lot of stores will let even let you come in a week or so before the actual promotion and hold the merchandise you're interested in, then email you when the sale begins. That way, you get the item at a discounted price before the sale officially starts; the industry term for this is a 'pre-sell.' "They'll swipe your card, save the info, keep your merchandise packaged up in a special area, and give you a claim ticket to come back once the sale begins," says Abby. Of course, the secondary motivation for a pre-sell is to get you back in the store to spend more, so make sure to return armed with the will power to pick up only what you already purchased.

3. Aim to Save at Least 30%

"Generally speaking, a sale isn't really worth it unless you're saving at least 30%," says Abby. "And there's always a sale happening in which you can save at least 30%." So if you're the type to cringe when you have to pay full retail, wait for the stuff you're coveting to be introduced into the sale rotation. (Again, getting extra chummy with your salesperson means you might get tipped off to just when that is.)

4. Request a Price Adjustment

If you spent more on a full-price item than you're comfortable with and having retail remorse, go back within seven days and check to see if that item's been marked down, says Lisa*, a former high-end department store manager. Most stores will honor a price adjustment within that time frame, as long as you've kept your receipt and it's a hard markdown (meaning the sale price is clearly indicated on the tag). The most foolproof way to avoid losing your receipt? Ask to have it emailed to you, and pull it up on your smartphone when you need it.

5.  Beware of Bundled Promotions

Avoid buy one, get one deals (known in the industry as BOGOs) and similar bulk sales that are designed to encourage you to buy more merchandise than you ordinarily would. If you're spending more than you intended to, you're not really saving, Lisa reminds us.

6.  Don't Look to the Right

Research shows that most shoppers are right-handed and instinctively look to the right, so that's where stores put the newest and most expensive stuff. To encourage that instinct, stores will often add extra lights and music to that area to entice you to come closer. The answer? Go into the store with an idea of what you need, and don't get distracted by display tricks!

*Names have been changed

LearnVest is the leading personal finance site for women. Need help managing your money? Our free Money Center will help you create a budget. Our free bootcamps will help you take control of your money, cut your costs or get out of debt. And our premium financial plans—managed by LearnVest Certified Financial Planners—can help you chart a course for the future you want.

This article originally appeared on LearnVest.com

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10 financial secrets of happy moms

I've been known to be a bit of a complainer about my family's financial situation.With my husband out of work and my freelance income in constant flux, my household exists in a permanent state of financial anxiety.At least we're in good company: it seems like all our friends are in similar straits, though some folks just seem to have a can-do attitude about money management. We're all scrimping and saving, but not everyone has the desperate, fearful attitude that marks my interactions with the cost of living.One thing I have done to reduce anxiety a bit is to ramp up my bargain shopping. I'm afraid of food-borne illness and passionate about ethical farming, so I still buy meat at Whole Foods--but I no longer get chicken breasts, only thighs (much cheaper!), and I buy in bulk.(We talked about whether buying organic is worth it more in this story.)My other shopping is parceled out among the stores that are cheapest: diapers, wipes, milk, eggs from Costco, weekly specials (organized with their new smartphone app) from Safeway, flour from the restaurant-supply store or Trader Joe's. I keep a constantly updated list that tells me where things are cheapest.Basically, I ease my anxiety by shifting my obsessing to a specific, hobby-like activity.Turns out, lots of other moms have systems in place to help keep them sane throughout the year, too. We've rounded up ten of the best ideas we've heard.(P.S. Those are my kids in the photo above! They're pretty happy all the time.)

  • Start With the Basics
"My husband and I nearly lost everything after a three-year economic crisis. A financial coach gave us four specific strategies: Set up a $1,500 cash reserve that's our "credit card" for emergencies. We budget, which means we pre-allocate our spending in each category and adjust as needed. We take out cash for all our needs and never use the ATM card--it gives both us and our kids a concrete visual about money. And we committed to paying off debt, which has gone quicker than you'd think. After just five months, this has become second nature, and I'm amazed at how much it has changed us."-- Lynn, 47, California (mom to Miles, 8, and Audrey, 6) Photo courtesy of Lynn
  • Get Friends on Board
"A long time ago, a friend told me to take care of the singles and the hundreds will take care of themselves. I think of that every time I want to make a small splurge."-- Jenifer, 39, Connecticut (mom to Frances, 9, and Kathleen and Woody, 6)"When friends ask us to go out to this or that fabulous restaurant, we tend to say, 'Come over, we'll make dinner, you bring some wine.' Too many times I've eaten some $20 pasta dish only to think, 'Wow, I could have made that at home for $2.'" -- Darien, 50, California (mom to Annika, 10)
  • Create a System That Works
"We got out of crazy debt by consulting with a debt-management expert and holding each other's credit cards. I mean that literally: I have his credit card in my wallet, and he has mine. So neither of us can make a big purchase without asking the other--er, I mean discussing it."-- Lea, 33, California (mom to Amelia, 2)"My husband and I keep separate accounts. We both pay into the household budget, and we have separate retirement accounts; whatever we have on top of that, it's up to us to decide how to spend it. This has cut down dramatically on nagging and judging each other."-- Judy, 39, New York (mom to Indy, 15 mo) Photo courtesy of Lea
  • See the Good in Simple Things
"The answer for me wasn't to just stop spending. When you have a kid, or even when you're single, you still have to pay bills. So rather than feeling like a jerk every time a dollar left my hand, I look at what I have to spend, decide how to spend it and know what credit is for. It seems obvious, but really, it took some doing to get here."-- Dee, 55, Idaho (mom to Angela, 25)"I navigated a Byzantine system to get both my kids into good public schools. I'm Queen of the WORLD!"-- Lynn, 43, New York (mom to Bess, 6, and Sam, 4)"When I stress out about finances--and believe me, I do--I stop and think about how I am this minute. I am fine. I have food in my belly and a roof and the kids are wearing clothes."-- Jenifer, 39, Connecticut (mom to Frances, 9, and Kathleen and Woody, 6)
  • Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
"Money and I are good friends because I refuse to feel social pressure to buy something simply because everyone else does. Here in San Francisco, you can feel like a freak if you don't own a Prius, but I've stuck to owning used cars that were fuel-efficient and donating some of the difference in price to green causes."-- Darien, 50, California (mom to Annika, 10)Photo courtesy of Darien
  • Save for What's Important
"I pay myself first. Since I work from home, I have a SEP-IRA, which is a tax-deductible retirement account, and a 529 to save for my daughter's college. I pay those first, and plan the rest of my budget based on that lower number."-- Judy, 39, New York (mom to Indy, 15 months)Find out more about 529s here, and we have more resources for retirement for stay-at-home and work-from-home moms here.Photo courtesy of Judy

Tell us--what are your money secrets that keep you and your family happy?

LearnVest is the leading personal finance site for women. Need help managing your money? Our free Money Center will help you create a budget. Our free bootcamps will help you take control of your money, cut your costs or get out of debt. And our premium financial plans—managed by LearnVest Certified Financial Planners—can help you chart a course for the future you want.

This article originally appeared on LearnVest.com

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