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.

 

Tip Of The Week: #74 Comes From Martha & Rachael

Okay, we have all had it happened–suddenly we get an inspiration to bake, rare though it is, and unless you have a professional pantry like Martha Stewart or specifically planned to bake a particular item and you  bought everything ahead of time at the grocery store–like we’re all so-o-o organized, right?  You may be out of a particular item–say powdered sugar or super fine sugar.  But don’t  dismay if you have regular granulated sugar.

Both Martha and about food suggest using granulated sugar and processing it with a metal blade for 5 minutes–use more than recipe calls for because some will turn into powder–and process for 5 minutes.

Without and need powder sugar?  Rachael says do same thing, but longer.  Choosing Voluntary Simplicity suggests using a blender for better results since it breaks down the sugar crystals easier and in less time.

Did you know commercial powdered sugar contained cornstarch???

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!

Cookie Exchange: Good Deal or Not???

The Holidays are an endless source of approved indulgences.  A time to make merry, and to sample all the goodies this special season can offer–and, oh my, yes there are many! Ho, Ho, Ho!!!  For example, Christmas cookies, so many to choose from and don’t they look wonderful and colorful on a sideboard.  But to get a nice assortment from a bakery, it’s easy to spend $50-$75 for these confections.

You can, of course, save money by  baking your own, but in order to have a variety that captures the eye as well as the palate, you have to plan in advance, your materials, your kitchen to go into full production, and have time.  Groan–so much work, so little time…

The light bulb turns on with a bright idea:  A Cookie Exchange!  The Cookie Exchange was born to answer the call of hostesses with the mostest for creating that last pièce de resistance for their buffet table–with less fuss and small muss.  Great idea, win-win, right?

However, not all Cookie Exchanges are created equal and may be more work than you expected.  The idea is to make 1-2 dozen of one type of cookie for each participant –the more participants, the more variety of cookies.  In theory, if you have 12 participants, you make 12 dozen cookies of the same recipe to exchange and you receive 1 dozen each of 12 different holiday cookies creating a beautiful assortment for your table.  Right??? Maybe not!

Follow these Guidelines from Markdown Mom to avoid the pitfalls of a Cookie Exchange, and there are pitfalls, Virginia:

  • Know the baking abilities of all participants. Just like planning  a family potluck dinner–there is always one kitchen challenged relative you ask to bring either an hors d’oeuvres tray or the green leaf salad.  Look for Pillsbury Bake-Off Winners!
  • Know ahead of time the cookies they will bring to avoid duplication.   Additionally, you do not want to spend oodles of time and expensive ingredients and exchange for cookies of less effort and quality.
  • Cardinal Rule:  no substituting homemade with store bought  if that happens, you  either keep her/his portion of your cookies, or depending how insulting that store bought cookie is–say an Oreo–you pelt them with their share of your cookies  and blacklist them from future Cookie Exchanges.
  • No cookies made ? Even though you agreed to participate,  save yourself the embarrassment, call in sick.
  • A successful Cookie Exchange should be photographed and accompanied with recipes–in a number of years,  you’ll have a book!
  • Give ribbons for the best decorated, flavorful, etc.–a quality control incentive.

****Better yet, sign up for a Cookie Exchange offered through Community Education of your local school where you can go and make and exchange cookies in one night.  This way, you get an assortment, somewhat smaller, but you don’t have the clutter and disruption in your kitchen, you meet new people, plus you may  gain a a few tips and baking shortcuts, and you can always blame the instructor!

Tip Of The Week #72: The Fail Safe Finger Test For 50 Shades Of Red–Lipstick!

We all have done it.  We want to be trendy and adventurous and try the latest runway look.  Red lipstick never goes out of style and like the color orange really can look terrible if you get the shade wrong. The trouble is that you have different tones in your skin and what may look spectacular on the back of your hand may not even resemble that test shade when applied to your lips.  So, how can you get a more  accurate reading on how the lipstick will look on your lips without contaminating it?

The tip of your fingers are closer in texture and hue than the back  of your hand.  Add the lipstick color to the tip  of a finger.   Then place your finger next to your mouth, look into a mirror to judge if it accomplishes the desired effect you wanted to achieve.  Easy, peasy right?

Did You Know???

So many deals, so little time.  Many of the high-end retail stores have developed their own “deal” sites where they are able to sell their out-of-season merchandise, odds & ends, or slow moving items.  For instance:

Nordstrom has Nordstrom Rack and Haute Look

Neiman Marcus has Last CallPreview

Sak’s has Off Saks Fifth

But did you know that for the larger deals shop the “Clearance” or “Sale” categories within these sites?  Even discounters such as Groupon have a clearance section where the deals may only fit  a select few, but they are tremendous.  Also MarkdownMom recommends that you take advantage of further discounts by waiting for their additional promotional discounts or the Last Call Dash and Daily Deal at Neiman Marcus Last Call held at various times during the day.  But MarkdownMom warns it’s important to know the lowest price offered by these sites since promotional discounts are sometimes taken on a previous higher price and not necessarily reflect the lowest price you could have bought this item.

Tip Of The Week #71: Electrical Home Maintenance

Remodeling and updating often requires changes to the electrical system.  Some changes are easy and not prohibited by local ordinances.  DIYers can often do these changes provided that they research the project and take the necessary safety precautions.  This is especially true when dealing with electrical wiring.  Homes that are completely finish may require more than just a sensor to find where the wires are hidden in the walls.  Older homes can hide old wiring even gas lines for lighting.  And you can never be sure if the previous changes to the system met code or are safe.  MarkdownMom has found lamp cords used to extend outlets for light fixtures, junction boxes hidden in the wall, and wiring that did not follow any known schematic plan.

1.   Major renovations are those that require deconstruction to the bare walls unless you have a current electrical plan with your home plans  that is fully updated and includes any recent renovations.

2.    Outfit yourself with the necessary tools before starting any project.  Even replacing a regular outlet with a GFI can hold dangers.  Testers that will indicate if the outlet is properly grounded or “live” are a must.

3.  When in doubt about the electrical layout, MarkdownMom always shuts down the entire system at the box to insure that you won’t run into an unknown “live” wire.  It’s important to have adequateht  lighting, so be sure to have flashlights available.  A must have  light MarkdownMom prefers is one that has an elastic band and is worn on your head leaving your hands free to do the work.

4.  Take as many CEE courses offered from technical schools or  DIY stores and suppliers and  adult learning classes offered by the public schools.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Read references books.  Old reference books can give you an idea of what you may encounter when renovating vintage properties.

5.  Draw up a plan and run it by your local expert at the hardware store or home supply store or if you’re lucky a friend with extensive knowledge and experience.

5.  Call in professionals as dictated by your local ordinances and get necessary building permits if required.  MarkdownMom views herself as a somewhat savvy diyer, but would not attempt to do projects that require dealing with the major power line coming into a dwelling and this includes providing power to a new building,  replacing an electrical box with a larger one, carrying electricity to an unattached garage or out-building, even to using 240/30A or 240/40A wire commonly used for electrical dryers and stoves.   And when necessary get the building inspector to sign-off on any of your work.

MDM Says:  Remember Safety Is Always  #1  In Cost Savings!

Lint Lizard Review — Buy 1 Get 1 Free (UPDATE:YES–The Lint Lizard is in Stores! Find Out Where…)

A cool new product — you may never look at your dryer the same!

Fact: Dryers become clogged — even if you change your lint filter before and after each use .

Yes, the lint filter catches most lint. But lint remains. Some of the lint falls into the nooks and crannies of the dryer’s internal ventilation ducts. Over time this buildup may prevent hot air from escaping. If the hot air cannot escape, there is a greater risk of fire.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that in 1998, clothes dryers were associated with 15,600 fires, which resulted in 20 deaths and 370 injuries.

You’ll need something to enter the internal ducts of your dryer and suck up remnant lint. The Lint Lizard may help.

Lint Lizard

There is an As Seen on TV infomercial for a dryer lint cleaner. It’s called the lint lizard.

Basically it is an extended hose for your vacuum that is designed to fit in your lint trap. After you attach it to your vacuum, you feed the hose in the nooks and crannies of the dryer. It sucks trapped lint out of the dryer. The amount of lint it collects depends on many factors. First, experts recommend you give your dryer a deep cleaning every year. If you haven’t done this for a while–you’ll probably find more lint than you’d ever expect. Second, it depends on how often you clean your removable lint filter. If you don’t clean this filter before and after each use; you’ll likely find a lot of lint in the dryer’s internal ducts.

Advantages/Disadvantages

The the pros are that you will have a clean dryer. This in turn cuts drying time, increases dryer performance, prolongs dryer’s life and reduces the risk of a vent fire. The lint lizard with it’s suction abilities will collect more lint than any extended bush. These are all good benefits.

The cons are that you really do not know if you are getting all the lint unless you dismantle the dryer. (Or get an optic hose with a video camera to probe). You will, however, get a good feeling when you suck up more lint than you imagined. If you get the lint lizard and your dryer is not running with increased performance–you’ll likely need a local professional to diagnose.

Does the Lint Lizard Work?

The feedback for the product is overwhelmingly positive. Most people I’ve talked with collect more than they ever imagined. The only way to find out how much lint is hiding in your dryer is to get the product. One person I talked with has an industrial strength vacuum and the Lint Lizard did not fit. However, it does fit all standard vacuum sizes with a hose.

Where to Buy

Buy at Bed Bath & Beyond. Check for alternative Kits Online at Amazon for $16.00!

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.