Mail-order food is big business – according to David Sprinkle at Packaged Facts, online/mail-order sales of food and beverages will hit $12.8 billion in 2013, and the winter holidays are high season: 48% of Americans order some form of food gift around the holidays. Here are some tips for getting it done right.
Order now. If you want to order a food gift, start thinking about it now and look for cut off dates so that you know your food will get to its destination by Christmas, says Karen Blakeslee, research and extension food scientist at Kansas State University. If it’s perishable, ship it same day or overnight. “For non-perishables, like coffee, tea, dried meats and cheeses, you’ll be able to choose the less expensive shipping options,” explains Blakeslee. And, if the website can’t specify exactly when your gift will land (for instance, if you want it fresh for New Year’s Eve or Christmas Day) don’t hesitate to get on the phone with customer service and order through them.
Give the recipient a heads up. Especially if you’re dealing with perishable food, Blakeslee suggests letting the recipients know that it’s coming so that it doesn’t sit out all day. (I often send ice cream and let the recipient know that “something” is on its way — no need to be specific). “I know it’s nice to surprise people, but when it comes to food, you want to call and tell them it’s coming,” Blakeslee says. Baked goods are often less of a risk, unless they are intended to be refrigerated or frozen.
Get what you paid for. Have the recipients of your gift tell you whether or not the food came on time, if it’s of good quality, and if everything that you paid for is there. If the shipping fell through or the product shows up ruined, then don’t be afraid to bring it up…shipping companies need to know, and so do the food companies.
Understand how to go DIY. If you’re shipping a food item yourself, then you really need to talk to the company you’re shipping with, says Blakeslee. Have them spell everything out for you — the folks at UPS, FedEx and the Post Office deal with this on a daily basis this time of year, and they’ll have suggestions for how your item can get to its destination in tact. And it never hurts to compare prices by shipping method — you’d be surprised at the large variations.
How do you choose an executor when you have a blended family? Previously, we made wills and named executors of our wills and healthcare. How do we assign someone to be executor and not offend the other family. Any tips on how to be fair?
I think you’re looking at this situation the wrong way — I don’t think you want to consider how to be fair. You want to pick the best person for the job. This is a heavy responsibility. It’s complex and time-consuming, and family politics shouldn’t come into play.
So I would start by simply making a list. I find it’s the best way to sort out any difficult decision. Write down the names of people you might choose, then list the qualities that would make each person a good executor. List negatives, as well — you’re essentially making a pros and cons list about each candidate. You’re looking for someone who is organized — there is a lot of paperwork involved — honest, and understands your intentions. You want to select only one person, which as you noted, can be difficult for parents who are selecting among children. But it may be easier than you think — parents often assume that everyone is going to fight over this role, but you’d be surprised by how many people would rather avoid the pressure altogether. In the end, you want to settle on one executor and a couple alternates, then ask those people to take on the job. You don’t have to explain the reasoning behind your decision.
Finally, I want to point out that you don’t even have to select a family member. You can select a close friend you trust, who may be able to act as an outsider in this situation. And if you can’t find someone within your circle, you can name an accountant or attorney to the job, though it will cost you a few hundred or thousand dollars, depending on the complexities of the will.
This morning on TODAY, relationship therapist Argie Allen and I spoke with Willie Geist and Natalie Morales on what financial bullying is, and how to stop it in your relationships. For more information, check out the clip below:
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Considering groceries are one of the largest discretionary expenses for the average consumer, and that the couponing craze is still going strong, it comes as no surprise that new grocery and coupon apps regularly launch. In fact, you can choose from over 1,200 varieties in the Apple store right now.
As a single twenty-something with an always-changing schedule, I’m horrible at grocery shopping. With no plan to adhere to, and little motivation to cook for one, I either waste money on groceries that spoil, or spend too much of it on dining out. While I’m keeping myself full each week, I can’t say the same for my wallet. That’s why I decided to take a look at one of the newer grocery savings apps – Favado by Savings.com.
Favado aggregates all of the ongoing sales in your nearby grocery and drug stores. You can either plug in your zip code or manually search for a store, and if it’s in the app’s database, you’ll be presented with a list of the store’s current sales. In addition to the search component, you can create shopping lists derived from what’s on sale, “heart” products as your favorites and even be notified when those flagged favorites are on sale in the future.
I downloaded the free app to my iPhone (it’s also available for Android) and searched for the nearby Favado-friendly stores. My local Walgreens made the list.
When I took Favado for a spin in my Walgreens shopping cart, I was pleased to see consistency between what the app said was on sale, and what was actually on sale in the store. One of my go-to cleaning products, Clorox Wipes (originally $2.99), was on sale for $2.50 (two for $5). For my new bad habit, diet soda, the app had a special of three Pepsi 12-packs for $12 (originally $4.99 each) correctly listed as on sale for $4 each.
For extra savings, the app also has a coupon feature that shows you which coupons are available for your sale items. But as I pulled it up in the cereal aisle, I was disappointed to learn that the coupons are print-only. If you’re a planner when it comes to groceries – unlike me – then perhaps Favado’s coupon feature will be useful for you. But it’s a bust if you’re already out shopping. The more time I spent with Favado, the more I realized I’m not the type of shopper who’s going to get the most out of this app.
“We built it so that there are different kinds of people, there are the super-couponers, who want to do all of the work, find out what’s on sale, match up a coupon to it and only buy what’s on sale…but, not everybody wants to go through all of that,” said Loren Bendel, CEO of Savings.com. “Other people might just want to show up at the store and see what’s on sale right now, and make sure you don’t miss a really great sale.”
While Favado claims its “secret sauce” to be its ability to gather all of the sales in nearby stores, allowing you to compare store prices against each other, I think the app is particularly interesting because of an old-school meets new-school tactic. Behind the app are 80 plus grocery bloggers scouring the circulars and aisles for the best prices and “secret sales.”
“By secret I mean it’s not advertised,” Bendel said. “When you get your circular from a grocery store that shows all of the sales, that’s only about 20 percent of what’s on sale in that store – the rest is not advertised and people don’t know about that unless someone is walking the aisles and finding those sales.”
Knowing that actual people are walking up and down the aisles to get the information – not just robots extracting it from the Internet – is rather comforting.
Overall the app is easy to use, and I can see how it could save a certain kind of shopper both time and money in the aisles. The key phrase here is certain kind of shopper. But though I haven’t mastered the art of planning ahead when it comes to groceries (yet), this app did spark my interest in being a more proactive shopper. If you’re working toward the same goal — or you already have meal planning down to a science — this free app is worth a try.
My ex-husband and I were divorced via a mediated settlement agreement in June. Our daughter is a sophomore in college and our son is now in his first year of medical school; he got his own loan to help pay for school and most of his living expenses. I’m a 52-year-old woman who has been a stay-at-home mom for about 22 years. I have health issues, and even though I have a master’s degree, my employability remains an unknown. I will receive a lump sum/alimony buyout when our house sells, and for the time being I am living off of savings which were augmented through the settlement agreement. My ex continues to receive his $300,000 a year salary. We have been splitting the costs for our kids and mutual dog in half, but I wonder if there is a more equitable way to split these costs until I can hopefully have some kind of salary or income. Do you have any suggestions?
I would place my aim on getting back into the workforce, as hard as that may seem. Start working on your resume, maybe meet with a career counselor, brush up on your skills with a few classes if need be. While you do that, speak with your ex-husband and your children about how you are going to share costs. Yes, that means your children should be footing some of their college expenses — the freshman, in particular, should be taking out loans and working at a part-time job on the side.
Then I would have a rational conversation with your ex, separate from the kids, about how you might do this fairly until you get a job. Explain what you’re doing to work toward that goal, and point out that you’re in this position, in part, because you stepped away from the workforce to be a stay-at-home mother to your children. Perhaps he can shoulder more of the burden now, and you can make up for your share later when your income increases. Or take my advice for married couples with disparate salaries: Get a handle on the amount of expenses you’re going to assist with, and then figure out what percentage of each of your income will need to be contributed to cover those costs. This is instead of simply splitting 50/50. So maybe you each contribute 5% of your income, but his chunk is larger because he earns more.
Today’s post is by Joy Loverde, author of The Complete Eldercare Planner. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, as many as 42% of employed Americans have provided eldercare in the last five years; 17% are currently doing so. This is an issue that is likely to affect all of us, and for today’s post, we asked Joy to pull together a list of her favorite resources, with explanations about how they can help. The list below will help both caregivers and those who need care.
Eldercare. This time it’s different. In addition to taking on the myriad responsibilities associated with parent-care, we can now expect to add aging spouses and life partners to the equation. At the same time, we have entered the era of “Unmarried America.” One in three baby Boomers is unmarried.
No matter what your lifestyle situation may be currently, well-being in later life depends on gathering resources and making better choices now. To help you get started in the planning process, check out my recommended list of resources below:
Next Avenue. Geared for people 50 and over, sign up for their weekly newsletter to receive articles, blogs, and videos that address a wide range of financial, caregiving, health, and lifestyle topics.
Aging in Place Technology. Provides thought leadership, analysis, and guidance about technologies and services that enable older adults to remain in their home of choice for longer.
Elderweb. This award-winning research site offers professionals and family members information on aging, eldercare, and long-term care including legal, financial, medical, and housing issues.
Benefits Checkup. Enroll in public and private benefits programs. You will also have access to an online application for Medicare’s Extra Help.
Eldercare Locator. A public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, this site connects you to services for older adults and their families. You can also reach them at (800) 677-1116.
Golden Reviews. Make better care decisions by taking a look at eldercare from the inside out. By bringing transparency and accountability to senior care, this resource creates a platform of open dialogue between care providers, their residents, and families. Browse through a directory of hundreds of thousands of care providers.
Support Groups Clearinghouse. This resource brings people together around life’s challenges by providing concise, up-to-date-information and meeting places for individuals, their friends and families, as well as professionals who offer pathways to help.
National Association of Senior Move Managers. A professional association of organizations that assists older adults and their families with downsizing, relocating, medical transporting, and home modifications.
Alzheimer’s Reading Room. This one-stop shop offers extensive information on dementia, mental health, memory loss, and treatment. The goal of this resource is to educate and empower.
Well Spouse Association. This national nonprofit membership organization gives extensive support to wives, husbands, and partners of the chronically ill and/or disabled.
EldercareABC Blog. A visit to this website provides access to thousands of insightful and informative blog posts; a library of articles and resources; tele-classes around the most pressing caregiving issues; interviews with experts and authors; special community events; group chat sessions, and products reviews.
Restart Retirement. This interactive online resource incorporates knowledge on wellness, travel, finance, and the passions and pastimes of mature adults.
The Wright Stuff. Established by knowledgeable and extremely helpful health care professionals, customer services is what separates this online store from the rest.
National Academy of Elder law Attorneys. Membership is comprised of attorneys, judges, professors of law, and students dedicated to improving the quality of legal services to seniors and people with special needs. The website also features a “Find an Attorney” option.
About Joy: Joy Loverde’s best-selling book, The Complete Eldercare Planner (Random House, 2009) reflects the depth of her understanding for the needs of older Americans. “The book is the best we saw…” says the American Medical Association. Joy’s media credits include the Today Show, CBS Early Show, CNN, and National Public Radio among others. Joy also serves as a consultant and spokesperson for corporations, professional advisors, associations, healthcare organizations, senior housing, manufacturers, and other members of the fast-growing mature-market industry. Find Joy on her website: www.elderindustry.com.
New research indicates children are developing life-long money habits by the age of seven. Check out the video below to see me break down the important money lessons by age groups and activities with Al Roker and Willie Geist on TODAY.
After this segment aired this morning, a viewer wrote asking me this: “Can you elaborate on the debit card system you mentioned for 11-14 year olds on the Today Show this morning? Is it an actual debit card linked to their own account that is linked to the parent account? Any articles on it or further information on the best way to make it work? Thanks for any information you can provide!”
It’s hard to get all the details on in 4 minutes, so I wanted to elaborate for this viewer and others: I opened accounts at my bank for my kids linked to my checking account. Since I maintain the minimum balance they don’t have to worry about it. The accounts each came with debit cards. Then I set up automatic transfers into the accounts every week for their allowances. They’ve learned to monitor their balances online (they have separate passwords), all about the fees when you use an ATM other than your own bank’s, and how fast money can go when it comes automatically out of a machine. Before they have their licenses, you may have to be the bank for them. So, when they need cash, you give it to them, then have them watch you transfer the money back out of their accounts into yours. It’s worked really well. And when my son took off for college, I didn’t have to add this to the skills he needed to learn.
I hope that helps!
My wife and I will be a first-time grandparents in six months. We’re very excited, as you can imagine. It is our desire to start a college fund for our grandchild. If it is within our means we would like, over the years, to grow the account so that the entire college education will be paid for. What recommendations do you have regarding investment vehicles and amounts to save so that we will have enough in 18 years?
What a nice gesture. You probably want to look at a 529 plan, which is offered by every state and gives you a tax-advantaged way to save: money in the account grows tax-deferred, and distributions are tax-free if they are used to pay for the beneficiary’s college expenses. In addition, you may get a state tax break for participating in your own state’s plan — though you don’t have to contribute in state, if you find that your state’s plan doesn’t cut it, performance-wise.
That said, you have to be careful as a grandparent because this kind of plan can impact their financial aid eligibility. The plan itself when owned by a grandparent isn’t considered an asset, but when the child is the beneficiary and a distribution is made to pay for college, that distribution can count against him or her when the FAFSA is filed the following year. Note that this is NOT the case with 529 plans that are owned by the parent.
To solve that issue, perhaps your best bet, if you’re willing to do this, is to have the parents open up a 529 plan and then simply contribute to it each year. You will, of course, lose control over the money, so that has to be a risk you are willing to take. As far as how much to save, SavingForCollege.com has a “the world’s simplest college calculator” which you can use to get a ballpark. They also have information on each state’s plan, so you can compare performances and ratings across the board.
One final note: No matter what number a calculator spits back, I want to urge you to save what you can while keeping your own retirement needs front and center. Your grandchild will appreciate this money, of course, but there are also loans available for college expenses — no one is going to lend you money for retirement.
Feeling the itch to go on vacation, even though you decided long ago that it’s not in the budget this year? It happens. Sometimes, the backyard just doesn’t cut it. But a staycation might. This week’s guest poster, Sean Bryant from One Smart Dollar, is here to share ideas for cheap or free ways to relax this summer. I’m not going to say you won’t miss the beach, but you will get the same sense of rest and relaxation.
Since the great recession, the idea of going on vacation has almost become thing of the past for a lot of families. Unemployment is still at an uncomfortable level and most would prefer to have a healthy bank account rather than a week on a sandy white beach. If I didn’t need a little rest and relaxation every now and then, I would probably agree.
My wife and I have a passion for traveling and have made it a life goal of ours to try and see as much of the world as we can. Lucky for us, I have been learning a lot of new tricks that have allowed us to start traveling for free. To be able to do this, it requires signing up for travel reward credit cards. For some of you this might not be something you want or can do.
If traveling isn’t in the cards for your family, a great alternative is a staycation. A staycation is a way for you to relax and spend some time with family without even leaving your city or house if you don’t want to.
Before you do anything, turn off your phones, put a vacation reply on your email and put all possible distractions out of reach. Once that is done it’s time for the staycation to begin. Here are some ideas that will help you stay within your budget and also allow you to spend some quality time relaxing with your family.
Visit a Water Park. Grab your swimsuit and sunscreen and head on over to a water park near you. If you have kids, this is probably going to be one of the best ideas you will have all summer. Visiting a water park is a fun way for the entire family to enjoy a day out together. You might want to check your local grocery store because many of them run specials where you can save a little money on tickets.
If you don’t have a big water park where you live, then check out the community pools. My wife and I took our daughter to a pool just north of Denver a couple of weekends ago and I could have spent all day going down the water slides.
Catch up on Movies. I love watching movies, but now that I have a little one it’s hard to find a couple of continuous hours to watch a movie from start to finish. A staycation is the perfect time to get caught up on all the recent blockbusters that you have missed. To cut down on the cost of rentals, I love to get movies from Redbox. Usually, you’ll be able to find Redbox coupons available for free rentals. Each of these codes can be used once for each debit/credit card.
Take Advantage of Free Museum Days. Museums are a great way to spend time with family and learn something at the same time. On the first weekend of each month, Bank of America customers can get free admission to one of over 150 different museums across the United States.
Unfortunately, I don’t have Bank of America here in Colorado, but most of the museums offer a free day at least once a month. This is something that you can schedule your staycation around, because it’s a great family activity and completely free.
Create Your Own DIY Spa Day. Noting is more relaxing than going to a spa, however it can really set you back financially. Instead of going out, bring the spa to you. By doing a little online research, you will find handfuls of recipes that will allow you to replicate the composition for facials and other spa treatments.
Start a “Fun” DIY Project. When I say DIY I am not talking about finishing something that has been on your to-do list for years. I am talking about something that you enjoy. Beer lovers would love spending an afternoon brewing up their next homemade concoction. If you have a love for gardening and canning, you could spend the day canning up your freshly picked produce.
About Sean: Sean started his career as a banker and after being laid off in 2008 became a full-time blogger focusing on personal finance and the art of couponing. He takes great pride in being able to help families save money and live a more comfortable life. You can connect with him on Twitter or Google+.
My daughter has asked if her little family and two dogs can move in with us next year when their lease has expired because they can’t afford to live on their own right now and they live in a bad neighborhood. It’s supposed to be temporary until they pay their debt, build their credit and save for a new place. They think it will take one year, but I know better. I am looking forward to them moving in, so I can have more time with my grand baby, but I’m worried that my marriage will take a toll or my daughter will put us in the middle of hers.
Carmen, this is a tough situation. I want to start by saying that I think it’s okay to say no, if this is a situation where your home and your marriage just cannot accommodate them in your house. You need to be up for the impact — she likely won’t be happy — but you can carefully explain the reasoning behind your decision.
If you do that, I’d soften the blow by offering to help out in other ways: maybe you can help them find another living arrangement, help out a bit financially if it is within your means, or offer a few networking connections if she is looking for a better-paying job. You might also talk to her about how she might pay down her debt quickly, by transferring balances to lower-interest rate cards or using her money more effectively by paying off the cards with the highest interest rates first (my calculator can help run the numbers on that).
If, on the other hand, you decide to allow them to move in, you need to agree upfront to a few hard-and-fast guidelines. Get them in writing if you need to, so there’s no confusion later. First, the timeline. If she says a year, it needs to be a year. At that point, she’ll be expected to move out so you can resume your life — this is not a long-term solution to her problems, but a stop-gap measure. Next, sit down with her and go over her budget, figuring out how much moving in with you will save her each month and how she can use that savings to her advantage. Help her calculate how much she can put toward her debt, how much she can sock away to save for a new home, and how much she can contribute to the household. Lay out specific things you would like her to help pay for — perhaps groceries, or the electric bill (and definitely dog-related expenses). And give her family not just financial responsibilities, but chores — if your grandchild is old enough, he or she should be helping out around the house as if it’s home — because for the next year, it will be.