Watch For Prices To Rise On Gold And Silver Jewelry

When the financial markets are in flux, as we saw earlier in this month, the good old standby of  liquid commodities such as gold and silver rise as investors fear devaluation of paper currency.  This amounts to scooping up large quantities of gold and silver.  Subsequently removing and hoarding it against any financial instability.  Recently, the Asian markets have felt jittery with the economic slowdown in China and the result has been scooping up gold and silver from the marketplace.

Can there be a real shortage of gold and silver?  Chris Marchese  suggests not, at the same time recognizing that  supply and demand are not the only  factors that comes into play in his article “The Gold and Silver Shortage?”

What  does  this mean to the fashionista?

Expect to pay more for jewelry made of these precious materials and jewelers and designers to use less and less of the real stuff and more of the gold/silver “embraced™ bronze.”  In essence a coating to give the appearance of solid gold or silver.

 

SUNDAY DEAL: SAVE LIVES OF ALS PATIENTS BY SUPPORTING "Expanded Access" TO TREATMENT

Once in awhile, an issue comes along of such gravity, that it demands our utmost attention and immediate call to arms, and for me this one hits close to home. MarkdownMom asks that you read the following post and act as quickly as possible:

30,000 people die from influenza in the U.S. and they call it a pandemic. 30,000 people die from ALS  and they call it an orphan disease.

Feeling good about the ALS Bucket Challenge?  Well, you should—-and you shouldn’t.  That historic amount raised for ALS is greatly needed money for research, but it doesn’t  go into treatment.  Patients must fight everyday to live, struggling each day to hang on, waiting, hoping… For some eating, speaking, even breathing on your own becomes a luxury.  Quality medical care, necessary to remain alive while the cure or any significant treatment goes through the scientific hoops of clinical trials, becomes impossible to find, to coordinate, and in the case of Cheryl Sweeney, downright dangerous (see previous post).

The disease progresses very fast at times and patients soon find that they are in a medical subclass, too advanced to participate in potential life-saving clinical trials—-for them, it is denied.  Cheryl Sweeney, like other ALS patients, finds herself in such a situation.  The struggle plays upon her mind, the cost of finding qualified care, the problems of scheduling care 24 hours around-the-clock, the stress and toll on family members, feelings of dependency, and the limitations of her body—all creating a sense of despair that can be seen in her eyes and in the limited conveyance of words by her on a computer.

She is one of many in the U.S. and around the world in this position.  Some are doing better, like Stephen Hawking whose celebrity makes available resources that most with this disease do not have access to; some are doing worse in countries where medical resources and equipment are more limited than in the U.S.

But what good are advanced and sophisticated  medical equipment, breakthroughs in medical research, and the most talented physicians and researchers if you don’t have access to them?

However, Cheryl does have something as powerful—a loving family and loyal friends who won’t give up on her and other ALS patients facing this predicament . And now there is real hope, there is the means for inclusion and extension of a breakthrough medical treatment for her and other ALS late stage patients from stem cell treatment with NurOwn(tm) by Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics. However, because she and others are late stage ALS patients, this is not an option.  So close and, yet so far.

But, through the social media, you can help them to gain expanded access to this life-saving treatment.  You can support her and others like her by signing the petition to include them in this new treatment at change.org When could you  with just a click, taking only a second, possibly save so many lives?

Do it right now. Do it for Cheryl. Do it for all ALS patients! image

Why Are All The High End Fashion Stores Leaving Downtown Areas In The Twin Cities?

Well, it’s official, the last vestiges of Saks, Saks Off Fifth, has left the Nicollet Mall.  First to leave the Twin Citiess was Neiman Marcus, next Bloomingdales–even from their location at the Mall of America, and now Saks Outlet Downtown Minneapolis store.  Now one can understand the former stores leaving during the economic decline, yet, one would have thought Bloomingdales would have kept their MOA store with all its’ international traffic, and Saks Outlet is a popular chic, designers bargain basement store–perhaps the downtown location was not the most advantageous, but hopefully we will see them return at a more strategic location in the Twin Cities.  As of now, its’ location will be filled with another super Walgreens store as part of the city’s downtown revitalization.

Perhaps this is yet another sign that the sick economy has not fully recovered.

Biggest Profit Maker For Retailers

CNN reported today that retailers make almost $4 billion dollars from gift cards and that this form of gift giving is the biggest loss for consumers.  Why? The $4 billion dollars is not from items purchased using  gift cards, it  is the   value amount of unredeemed gift cards each year.

This is not to say that gift cards /certificates do no have their place.  However, with 25% of recipients failing to use these cards before the expiration date, recipients should take these measures to insure that they don’t lose  out:

  • Do not shelve these cards in a drawer.  Put them  immediately in your  wallet where  you keep your credit cards–same is true of your rewards  cards.
  • To get more bang for you gift card buck, use your cards immediately and take advantage of retailers  After Christmas Sales when sales and clearance are 70% off or more. Low inventory may pose a selection limitation right now ; but wait a couple of weeks and try again after shelves and racks have been restocked.
  • When using gift cards, consider buying something more extravagant that you have wished for–better to supplement gift card with cash, then to leave a forgettable balance, as 40% of gift.card buyers find out.

Remember, the longer you hold unto gift cards, the longer retailers  have to use your money interest free–and unless you are a stock owner can you afford to subsidize them?  Use it or lose it has particular meaning to this gift!

Warning: Study Shows Plastics #3, #6. & #7 May Lower Children's IQ's

This month CNN reported that common household items may cause lower IQ’s in children.  Researches at Columbia have found that a plasticides  found in food storage containers, toiletries, laundry products and, yes, even dolls .lower IQ’s in children significantly.

Phthalates have been banned in children’s toys , products and in cosmetics in Europe for some time  and now researchers are recommending pregnant women also should limit their exposure and should use glass containers instead of plastic for cooking in microwaves.

Read more by clicking here!

What To Buy And What Not To Buy At Warehouse Clubs

A MarketWatch  post today  reminds us all that there are advantages and disadvantages to buying in bulk.  One advantage is saving money by cutting the cost of the unit price.  However, as MarkdownMom has pointed out, the savvy shopper needs to look at the unit price and consider if buying from stores that routinely offer sale prices and coupons is a better buy.

Another important consideration in this article is to really analyze your family needs.  Unless you have a large family or extended family to share the large quantities, it doesn’t make sense to buy perishables since it is unlikely that you’ll use a large quantity of this item prior to their expiration date.  A gallon of catsup doesn’t make sense for two people, etc.

Also remember that certain stores known for a particular item will have better prices  than the warehouse stores.  CD’s, DVDs, etc. are often lower in price at Target, Amazon, WalMart, etc.

However, warehouse stores are excellent for lower prices on meat, tires and batteries, medications and buying in bulk can often save you time, gasoline, and inconvenience and  necessity of multiple trips to keep items in stock for your family.

Fiber Content & Why It's Important To Your Fashion Budget

Vintage designs of bygone eras are often recycled by fashion designers.  With the retro look, consumers have been able to shop the thrift stores, vintage clothing stores, and even tag sales to get that chic old is new again at bargain prices.

Part of the reason that these clothes have withstood the wear and tear of time is that good fashion design is tweaked and recycled but essentially doesn’t  go out of fashion, items  were preserved by proper laundering and storage, and that quality fabrics endure despite the ravages of time.  Fabric content is important especially if you look at your clothes as an investment and equally important as a designer label.   For instance:

ACRYLIC v. COTTON

Acrylic is not a natural product, but one produced by combinations of chemicals.  First produced in the 1940’s by DuPont under the name Orlan, acrylic is a polycrylonitriles, a possible carcinogen.  Acrylic in apparel is often used as a substitute for wool especially for those who are allergic to wool, and is considered warm,  soft, stain and wrinkle resistant, and takes and hold colors well.  In 2013,  India, a producer of the world’s least expensive cotton, sought to raise its’ price by placing a cap  on the production and export of cotton.  This fueled a price hike that sent the fashion world scurrying since it required manufacturers to buy cotton at higher rates.  From that date, many items in the fashion industry began selling designs blended with acrylic, or totally made with acrylic to keep their retail prices at a level acceptable to customers still dealing with the economic recession.

Although acrylic produces an incredibly soft cloth widely used also as a substitute for cashmere, it does require quite a bit of care.  Despite improvements, its’ surface is vulnerable to pilling and. wear.  It is susceptible to heat, shrinkage and stretching, and to static.

Be sure to remember, that this product is relatively inexpensive, more so than the natural organic sources of cloth, and when buying, prices should reflect that difference.  Designers have been able to maintain lower prices to the consumer by using this substitute,  and that is why MarkdownMom recommends only buying if you want it to last for a season or two and it’s at an incredible markdown.  Otherwise, pay a  little more for a sale item that is 100% organic.

Grocery Wars Part 2: Less Choices

Retailers learned their lesson following 2008 crash that controlling inventory became key to improving sales. What they did not count on was a continuing decline, not only in the purchasing power of consumers, but also the on-going decline of the middle class that began in 1980 and continues today.

Food always has been competitive with narrower profit margins than most other businesses; however, it was somewhat recession proof since consumers could forgo buying a new car or the latest fashion, but everyone has to eat, right?  However, now grocery stores have begun to control inventories beyond seasonal items and what this means for the consumer is a decline in the number and type of selections a store will carry.  Add to this natural causes such as drought, floods, and shorter growing seasons, that have increased prices substantially on beef and pork, and the consumer increasingly is being placed between a rock and a hard place.  As the middle class keeps losing ground coupled with higher prices, grocery stores are scaling back the volume and variety they offer in almost every department.

How many times have you experienced going to either a warehouse store or local grocery store for a staple that you have been buying for years, only to find that it isn’t being carried by the retailer anymore?  Are these products no longer being supplied?  In some cases, yes—some businesses have closed either through competitive attrition or retirement in family-owned businesses, but not all.  Stores are cutting back on what they consider gourmet items but also on staples if price is prohibitive and sales are limited due to the makeup of their clientele.

What this means is that many of your favorite items will be harder to find and indirectly will affect the type of meals you will be able to offer your family.  Additionally, prices will increase as competition declines.  What this means in the long run for the overall nutrition of your family is difficult to determine.

MarkdownMom does recommend increasing community gardens and individual gardens to the level of WWII Victory Gardens, and continuation of developing relationships with local farmers, local farmers markets, and learning canning and other food preservation methods.  Until the middle class starts to see signs of an economic recovery, going to the grocery store will require employing all the savvy consumer skills you have to survive sticker shock!

Size Is Important-The Ongoing Grocery Wars Part 1

Summer customarily has been a time of plenty and ease when we treat ourselves to relaxation in the sun, lazy days, and all that wonderful fresh, seasonal food!  Okay, so during this time of bounty, at the beginning of the harvest season, why are consumers paying more, but filling fewer grocery bags?

Well, several factors are at play here and one represents a significant change by manufacturers of our food that has required a major investment by them in retooling their factories and may signify a continued slow economy for some time to come.  Employing a merchandising trompe l’oeil, a fooling of the eye, manufacturers have kept prices down by reducing the contents of the individual item. Actually, this was done purposely to hide price increases since this is an inflationary action with the consumer paying the same or more,  but getting less.  Over time, this smaller sized product was incorporated into the inventory, but now every item stocked is the smaller size.  MarkdownMom recently visited WalMart and the shelves are shockingly full, row by row, with these miniature cans.

Additionally, packaged goods have reduced weights and less items included.  For instance, the consumer will pay the same price for an item as before–a good deal, right?  But instead of getting, 6 items in the package, there are only 4; instead of a dozen, there are 10.  Do the math, that’s an inflationary rate over 10%.   Meanwhile, the average consumers pay has stagnated after a steady decline beginning in the 1980’s.

It’s hard to say when this incredible, edible shrinkage will stop.  The only thing the consumer has in common with the food industry is that the $1 is worth less as well.

Tip Of The Week #70: Outlets & Deals

Designer brand name apparel and accessories, professional culinary cooking pieces, name brand shoes, latest hot cosmetics and fragrances–yes you can get these and more at outlet stores, but are you getting the best deals?  MarkdownMom has written on this before recommending that you look for the clearance racks in the outlet stores for the best deals–yes, they do have them.

Buyer Beware:  Not everything is on sale compared to retail stores. Initially, outlet stores were used to sell not-in-season merchandise, slightly flawed items, etc.  Now many retailers produce special lines for outlet stores such as The Gap has  Nike® and Adidas®.  These may be of lesser quality in workmanship and materials.

However, not all retailers are following this trend.  Le Creuset® cookware is same quality, but may have flaw or chip.  Apparel shops like Dress Barn carry the same items as in their stores.  Remember the percentage off is based by manufacturers suggested retail price which is seldom sold at that price.

MDM Says:  Be sure check with clerks at the stores and do your homework to find out if merchandise is the same as the original.