Friday, January 24, 2020

Are Credit Cards The Best Finance Solutions?

Whether you're just starting out or you've been here for a while, you've probably received a "Pre-Approved Credit Card" envelope in your mailbox or you were at your favorite store when the cashier says, 'Oh, you could save 25% off of your total today if you apply and get approved for our store card!" I've been there. A million times it seems and yes, it is so very hard to not give in and take the usually very hefty discount and start collecting 10,000 points to receive a rewards gift card to use on my next purchase! I have turned many down but when it comes to a shop I actually buy from, even if just for a big purchase once a year, I will take it! But, is this a smart move? That all depends on you and how much you can handle. It can turn into an extremely dangerous game if you fall into the traps.

Are Rewards Cards Worth It? 

They sure are! OK. Well, they sure are IF you will actually use the rewards and the rewards don't require you to spend a fortune just to collect a measly $10 gift card. They also aren't too worth it if you have to pay an annual fee . Especially when the annual fee ends up costing more than what your reward redemptions are. 

If you have the time to spend on your credit cards each month or even each week and you aren't going to go crazy shopping until you've used up your credit limits, you could be taking advantage of some very serious rewards and getting the most bang for your buck! This will require checking in with your accounts and reading the fine print. Lots of fine print. It's probably a wise idea to be able to understand the fine print too. 

Card A is offering no interest for the first 12 months AND they are offering double rewards points for your purchases. Besides that, you just saved $150 on your very first purchase because you opened this account. But, your interest rate will be 24% after your introductory period. If you don't use it again until today's shopping trip is paid in full and you pay the balance off before your 12 months expires, you could earn an additional $100 in gift cards for this retailer. Not to mention, having the extra available credit sure would bump your credit score up a few points! So far, everything sounds great! You just need to have self-discipline and be sure to stick with your original plan. It's OK to maybe use it a few more times just to gather another $50 rewards card just as long as you can still cover that balance before the 12 months period is up. (If you can't afford to cover the full balance, your card will charge you interest on the original balance and all at once. This could lead to even bigger problems. It could end up putting you over your credit limit.

Card B features the same, no interest for 12 months (again if you do not pay your balance off in full by the due date, they will pile all of the interest from the entire 12 months for the entire balance onto your bill.) There is also an annual fee of $39 unless you spend $1000 a year and reach their "Platinum" rewards level. You just have to be cautious when reading the fine print that comes along with your card. They will tell you about the highlights of their program but it is up to you to find out that you have to spend a certain amount each year before you get the ultimate rewards points and the extra free gift on your birthday and anything else they throw in there to make it sound good. Depending on how often you will use the card and how often you already shop there, you might want to skip this card or you might want to go ahead and accept it so you can take advantage of the initial savings but pay it off and send it back afterward.

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have? 

This is entirely up to you. It all depends on how much you can handle and how much time you have to be sure your bills are paid on time each month and you are reading everything that is on your contract. If you're well versed on credit cards and are quite savvy (and responsible!)  when it comes to getting cash back from your online shopping, earning rewards, not paying interest or paying minimal interest, and you aren't going to go nuts and spend to your limits and only pay the minimum, go for it! You still need to be careful because applying for too many credit cards or having too high of a balance could end up damaging your credit score

Everyone's situation is different but one thing is for sure, applying for too much credit at once could make you appear to be a "risky" borrower. Along with having too many "hard inquiries" on your credit, banks may turn you away because you seem too desperate since you just applied for 8 lines of credit. One credit card application usually results in about 5 points being removed from your score. Typically, you'll have those few points back in about 6 months as long as everything else goes well. If you're planning on house shopping or even car shopping, those few points could affect you so you may want to plan and schedule applications responsibly. 

Credit card debt affects 30% of your FICO score so you will want to keep those balances down. Most experts recommend using only 10% (max) of your available credit. Having credit available to you helps your credit score and will show lenders that you are a responsible borrower. 

If you're not a fan of credit cards but would like to build your credit up so you have more options in the future when buying a home or another big purchase, you should at least apply for 2 credit cards. Ideally from 2 different networks. Make the most of it by researching the best rewards plans that best suit your lifestyle! I don't personally fly so I never bother with any sort of card that offers airline miles. There are so many perks and bonuses tacked onto credit cards it can seem overwhelming when looking for the best option but, it's well worth it to find rewards you would actually use. 

Life happens and sometimes no matter how responsible we are and how excellent our credit is, things can happen that are completely out of your control. It happens to almost everyone at least once (some of us more than once!) Of course it's always best to make sure you can pay for what you're spending and always make your payments on time and even try to pay more than the minimum each month. (There do seem to be disagreements as to whether it's best to keep paying your balance in full each month or paying just more than the minimum. I believe this is also a personal preference. I usually opt to pay double the minimum for most of my cards.) But don't be so hard on yourself if you hit a rough spot. There are options and finance solutions. Just keep your head up and plan on bouncing back as soon as you can!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Allergic In A World Full Of Dogs

Dogs seem to be everywhere people are nowadays and while dog lovers are thrilled to have their best friends along with them everywhere they go, allergy sufferers tend to have a hard time finding any actual “dog free” zones. There are restaurants, campgrounds, even hotels who will accommodate dogs but, where do people go if they can’t bear to be near them? Of course, service dogs are extremely important and it’s great they are accepted in so many places. People who rely on them deserve to go about their day to day lives and they should be able to come and go freely. But what do people do who can’t breathe around them? Worse yet, what would someone do who would require a service dog and is allergic to their own service dog at the same time? I imagine allergy medicine or a series of shots would have to suffice. But, do we just take allergy medicine every day before we head out just in case we run into a dog?

It’s almost a taboo subject considering you can’t find too much online about this topic. When I search for dog allergies and phrases such as “Can dogs and dog allergies make me sick?” the majority of the search results are about dogs who have allergies and dogs that are sick. It seems you have to dig and dig to even find any kind of help or possible tips on relief! Premier Allery & Asthma has a great blog with lots of advice for people with peanut allergies, cat allergies, even sesame allergies.

You may have heard the phrase, “But, people can’t be allergic to dog hair!” or they may have tried to explain that there are breeds of dogs that nobody is allergic to. (Hypoallergenic dogs!) But that’s not entirely true. Besides the fact that the majority of allergy sufferers actually have a problem with dander than they do dog hair, the real source of allergies is often a protein that is in the saliva or urine of cats and dogs. This protein sticks to the dead, dried flakes, which is dander. So, while you may be able to find a hotel advertised as having “allergy-free rooms” not only will you most likely pay a lot more money for your room, if it’s a hotel that regularly accepts dogs in other sections of the hotel, there could still be dander floating around.

Oh yes, and as for these magical hypoallergenic dogs, they simply do not exist. Your friends might tell you absolutely cannot be allergic to their dog or you could have a dog of your own if you spend the money on one of these mythical creatures. It’s just not how it works. Sure, there are some dogs that are often advertised as being “hypoallergenic” but this is typically only because they don’t shed as often as other dogs. Could someone who is allergic to dogs still have a dog for a pet? Sure thing! This will require some potential changes in your home but people do successfully keep a pet or bring a new pet into their home even when they’re sneezing and rubbing their eyes. (Allergies can also cause dry, itchy skin and quite a few other concerns. People with allergies have oversensitive immune systems so there are several ways our bodies can react to what it thinks is a virus or bacteria.)

First, if you haven’t already had an allergy test to determine the actual underlying issue, you could contact Premier Allergy & Asthma and schedule a consultation. (If there isn’t a location close to you, you can find a local allergy specialist or clinic in your area.) If you find that you are indeed allergic to your furry friend, there are a few ways to help manage the dander in your home. Your doctor will be able to help with any suggestions and you can also start here:

I'm allergic but I refuse to give up my pet!

1) Keep your pet out of your bedroom and other rooms you spend a lot of time in.

2) Keep your pet outside a little extra but only when weather permits!

3) Remove your carpet and choose some nice hardwood flooring. If you must keep your carpet, start stocking up on carpet cleaner because you should do this frequently.

4) Bathe your pet weekly.

5) Room air cleaners with HEPA filters can help remove dander from the air.

6) Plastic mattress covers could help at least keep dander out of beds.

7) Frequent vacuuming may actually be worse than you think. Your vacuum may cause the dander to fly around the air for quite a while longer which could cause allergy symptoms to be worse. You could go the extra mile and grab a newer vacuum with a HEPA filter but, this could still cause a cloud of dander to float around the air.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Don't Stress Over Customer Success Over The Busy Holiday Season

Customer success is hugely important at any time of the year but it is vital to succeeding during the holiday season. I feel like an expert after the issues and problems I’ve had over the past couple of months, especially during the big sale days such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday. I frequent most of the same shops online and offline and I am always in the market for new businesses. If something new catches my eye (or my kid’s eyes) or I see a brand who brings something new to the table. (Typically on social media.) I love to seek out new, unique brands and products and depending on their “attitude”. I may or may not make a purchase and I may or may not come back year after year, month after month. If I fall completely in love with the brand or whatever it is they’re selling, I’m probably going to tell everyone I know about them whether online or offline. Being a business owner myself, I try to reverse the roles and fix what I need on the business end.

Attracting customers is essential if you want to stay in business! This is where your marketing comes into play.  A social media presence is a must these days and if you throw in a customer service team or a customer service representative to operate online, you’re golden!

There are so many companies out there with active social media accounts and then there are some who are nowhere to be found. Personally, I prefer a company that is active online, available to help with questions and maybe even troubleshoot any technical issues. A little sense of humor or your brand’s own personality also wouldn’t hurt! I’m sure you’ve seen Tweets from some of the extra hilarious brands. (Mainly Wendys) While there are a few others out there who emulate the Wendys Twitter account, some failing, some holding their own, there are others who are doing their own thing and doing quite well. Of course, this isn’t necessary to survive but, it does get people talking and sharing online… 

Wendy’s isn’t just a funny account. They are there every single day, replying, advertising, tackling customer complaints, and fixing any problems that may pop up. If you ever read their Tweets and replies, including those to customer complaints, you’ll find that they take a very friendly approach and this satisfies the customer, more often than not. It seems they’re sometimes, “too cool” for many to really want to flip out or argue. The customer just wants the situation resolved so they can get back to eating their fries and reading and Retweeting their Tweets. There are a lot of brands out there to take lessons from and they all share the same thing in common. They are often there, never too busy to respond to a customer and they resolve the problem swiftly and with grace. Thes interactions aren’t just being noticed by that one customer but by many others who are aware of the type of personality your brand has. New customers are interested in knowing how hard it will be to get in contact with you and how simple resolutions will be. 

Of course, not everyone is on Twitter or Facebook. You’ll still need a team to respond to emails, calls, even letters. The most important thing is to stay on top of your customers and make yourself as available as possible so that they and others can see how much you actually care. Make your customer service availability public information. One of the most annoying tasks for a busy customer, especially during the holiday season, is having to chase after a brand just to ask a question. If you don’t already have an email newsletter or a blog, now is a great time to start one! You can make these things easy to find directly on your website and at the bottom of every email. 

Unless you are a brand who makes the only one of it’s kind with absolutely nothing to compare it to and positively nothing at all in this galaxy comes anywhere close to whatever that thing is, you’re going to need to retain your customers. In other words, keep them. Win them over and make sure they won’t ever be tempted to leave. No, there is no need to hand out millions of dollars in free products to keep them. This is also where special sales or discounts come in but, for the most part, selling a quality product, standing out from the rest, listening to concerns, complaints, resolving issues, letting your customer know you’re grateful. Customer success plays a vital role in any business. No matter how big or small.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

5 Tips For Younger-Looking Skin

Over time, your skin can go through changes. For example, it may lose its elasticity and no longer hold moisture as well as it used to. When this happens, it is easier for wrinkles and other age-related skin issues to occur.

Wrinkles, age spots, crepe-y skin, and so on not only change the way you look. They can also change the way you feel about yourself. However, there are ways that you can keep your skin looking younger, longer.

1. Aesthetic Treatments

Facial rejuvenation services and other aesthetic treatments can help to prevent lines and wrinkles from forming and even to minimize the appearance of those that are already there. With a wide variety of such treatments available from a dermatologist, you are likely to find one that works for you.

2. Sunscreen

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can have adverse effects on your skin, such as wrinkles or hyperpigmentation. You should get into the habit of using sunscreen on a daily basis whatever the weather. Choose one with an SPF of at least 30.

3. Hydration

All the cells in your body need water to function properly. Dehydrated skin cells are more susceptible to wrinkling. However, your body rations water, sending it to the vital organs first. Your skin is not a high priority, so you need to drink a lot of water to keep your skin hydrated. Additionally, you should also use a moisturizer after bathing to keep moisture on your skin where it will do it some good.

4. Gentleness

Avoid the use of harsh chemical products and hard scrubbing to remove makeup. Instead, use water-based soap and oil-based cleansers. This will help prevent wrinkles by preserving the collagen in your skin, which can break down with harsh treatment.

5. Vitamins

Vitamin C and antioxidants derive from vitamin A help to prevent wrinkles by either fortifying skin to prevent damage or reversing certain types of damage when it does occur. You can include these vitamins in your diet by eating certain food or using supplements. You can also use skin serums that include them.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Family Traditions For The Holidays

One of my very favorite things to look forward to during the holidays as a kid was a brand new, cozy, warm pair of Christmas pajamas. Every Christmas Eve we would visit relatives and eat and open gifts at my grandparent's house. We were always excited to get back home because we would have pajamas waiting for us and sometimes even a new pair of slippers! This was always one of my most favorite family traditions so of course, I kept this one for my own kids. We are also fortunate enough to have the Official Santa Norad Tracker so we always have this on one of the laptops in the kitchen. (If you haven't already included this into your family's traditions, your little ones would be thrilled to track where Santa is and play some games and learn about other parts of the world!

When my daughters were a bit younger, we used to find matching Christmas PJs for them and their dolls. Unfortunately, I was only able to find the cute sets for girls and their favorite dolls in toddler sizes and sometimes up to a size 6. (Why don't these pajama companies think of bigger sizes and our favorite teddy bears or Snoopy stuffed toys?!) Really though, there were a few times I found some adorable matching sets for mom and daughter. I even found matching pajamas for dad and son! I did order those a few years back but they only ever wore them at the same time on Christmas Eve!

Along with matching PJs from Lazy One, cookies are a must! I must admit, baking cookies on Christmas Eve goes much more smoothly if you make some of the dough ahead of time. I usually make the sugar cookie dough ahead of time because those are always the cookies that need the most time for the little artists to decorate. If I didn't cheat a little bit, we'd be up all night. Or at least I would be!

We live in a rural area so this may be odd to some people but we have Santa parades through town thanks to our local Lions Club and fire departments. Each fire department brings Santa through on a Saturday night during December and then the biggest and final parade is on Christmas Eve! It's the most fun tradition of all! The fire trucks are decorated with lights and at the end of the parade, you'll see Mr. and Mrs. Claus! Their elves run around to each of the houses dropping off popcorn balls and Hershey's Kisses for all of the kids and then it's time to get letters to Santa written and finally, off to bed.

This is when I can make a fresh pot of coffee and start preparing the gifts and stockings for Santa to fill.

I'd love to read about your family traditions for the holidays! Please leave a comment and let us know what your family will be doing in just a couple of weeks while they wait for Santa!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Stella & Dot Gift Guide

** This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. **

I found a few of my most favorite things on the Stella & Dot website for the holidays! (This is way too hard considering I kind of made a list for myself and for family and friends. My list is a little longer. OK. A LOT longer!)

I love all pinks, fuschias, glitters, and shimmers when it comes to lip products. Especially lip glosses and lip stains. I started scrolling down the Stella & Dot Ultimate Holiday Edit and the very first thing that popped out at me was this stunning shade of fuschia! It is a limited edition shade so it's kind of a big deal and crucial that you snag it ASAP! Fuschia is a gorgeous color for anyone no matter who you are!

This is Ever Forever Longwear Liquid Lip Color so yes, yes, indeed there are more shades! You can find them all when you shop the Ultimate Edit Collection! These lip colors glide on like a gloss but dry down to a matte color that lasts all day and all night long. In this day and age with a gazillion liquid lip colors and formulas, it seems not many stand out in the crowd but, Stella & Dot have managed to do exactly that by adding their signature antioxidant Magnolia Oil to this lip formula to help condition and protect your lips! I've tried at least 2 dozen different types of liquid lip colors and have yet to find the one brand that fits me 100% so, I'm thinking this one is it.

One thing I learned (and this probably isn't new to everyone. Just me.) But, I have a tendency, no, an addiction, to lip glosses and so I am constantly reapplying throughout the day and night. I only use very light touchups when wearing liquid lip colors but I either dab white eyeshadow and in the center of my lips and then shine it up with gloss or add glitter or mix colors up. However, Stella & Dot recommends wearing their lip colors alone since adding anything over the could make your long-wearing lip color into short wearing lip color! It made sense after I thought about it and it answered some questions I've had about some of the so-called all day all night long-wear colors. This will be a hard habit to break but if it means keeping lusciously, smooth, bright, fuschia lips, I'm so doing it! 

Ok, I can't get over how adorably sweet this Santa Sack is! What a perfectly cute way to transport gifts this season! You can also add a pink rectangle engravable hanging tag. I just might buy a few of these so I can keep one for stashing and transporting gifts and maybe personalize a couple and fill with gifts so the recipients can reuse them for the same thing! 

I would also use this super cute bag for storing toiletries and other important and essential things when going on overnight trips! 

What do I spend more on than makeup products? Skincare! Especially since I've been in my 40's! I'm a total sucker for face masks, facial oils, creams, cleansers, eye creams, all of it! I also have 2 daughters so I feel like I'm constantly buying beauty products. 

I try my best to stay up to date on everything and anything skincare and I'm always anxious to try products that will help me with glowing skin. That's just what this Ever Glowify Skin Softening Metallic Mask will help you achieve. This will help immensely with late nights, little sleep, hectic schedules, late-night or all-night celebrations and of course, New Years'. 

Stella & Dot's Ever Glowify Mask can help to brighten and hydrate your skin, smooth fine lines, and wrinkles, and restores radiance. Some of the ingredients include wintergreen leaf extract, mineral-enriched water, kaolin clay, and lactic acid. 

You can purchase this mask by itself or together with a brush to help with applying. Of course, this would make an excellent gift for someone on your list but go ahead and grab one for yourself. With all of the busy days and nights coming up, you'll need some time to relax at home. Schedule an all-girl spa sleepover or spa day and bake some cookies, grab some slippers, a good movie, and get your skin all glowy and beautiful! (You may be able to add a bonus for yourself by either finding a consultant or signing up with Stella & Dot yourself and host a party while you're at it! This could be a great opportunity to earn some extra cash or products and help your friends "de-stress" during the holiday season and knock some gifts off of their own lists!) 

I love rings and pearl bracelets and silver! I've always wanted a charm bracelet but never seem to find one that screams, "That's totally me!" But, I fell in love with this charm the second I saw it while scrolling down the Ultimate Edit Collection. 

This is another one of those, buy a few, make sure you keep one for yourself, type of gifts. These custom cut, glass jewels will surely catch everyone's attention. I can't stop admiring it and I'm just looking at the photos! I can't imagine how pretty this will be in real life! I also love the name of this charm. I think it fits perfectly!

This charm fits on all mesh and leather bracelets, all multi-chain necklaces, and all pendants. 

What did you find on the Ultimate Edit Collection for yourself or your gift list? I would love to see what caught your eye! Please leave a comment and let me know if you found the perfect gift at Stella & Dot!

Three Ways Every Parent Should Plan Ahead

p>When you're caring for young children, it can be tough to balance all of life's responsibilities. While it's very normal and even expected to let some details fall through the cracks, failure to meet some deadlines could result in serious headaches down the road. If you're a parent, make sure you plan ahead for these important events so you don't find yourself in a tough or disappointing situation.

Child Care and School Enrollment

You should begin the process of searching for child care Tampa Palms and private school options approximately one year prior to the intended start date. This is especially true of schools and facilities in high demand. Be sure to inquire about the current number of available spaces and registration deadlines for the upcoming year. If you're unsure about your top choice, it may be wise to register at your top two or three options. While you may be out a few dollars in fees, it could be a much better alternative than being stuck with a location that isn't the best solution for your family.

Annual Medical and Dental Examinations

It's important to stay on top of annual medical and dental checkups for obvious health reasons. Additionally, many schools require proof of certain examinations, screenings and immunizations by a specific date in order to enroll or remain in class. Many pediatric offices fill up quickly, so schedule your annual visits as soon as possible. Some offices will allow you to schedule up to a year in advance. If your office does not set a reminder to call back the moment they'll set up an appointment for you.

Special Clubs, Classes and Sports

If your child is interested in participating in a special activity, start searching for options at least two months prior to the beginning of the class, club or sports season. These types of groups tend to fill up quickly, especially in highly populated areas. Register early to avoid disappointment.

For better options and more peace of mind, be sure to prioritize these important events in your child's life.