Holiday Gift Guide

eNews-GiftGuide

With the holidays right around the corner, everyone seems to be filled with joy and cheer. But if you haven’t done your holiday shopping yet, the mantra, “It’s better to give than to receive” is probably repeating over and over in your head. And if you’ve exhausted earrings for mom or ties for dad, holiday shopping can turn stressful.

Don’t fret: Below are several unique present ideas that are sure to satisfy every mom, dad, or kid this holiday season.

Gifts for Mom

Book pillow – How often does your mom curl up on the couch with a good book — and then has to re-angle herself repeatedly to find a comfortable position? A book pillow is specifically shaped to help you prop up a book when reading — no matter if you’re at a table or on your bed. The pillow does it all — even holds the book — so hands remain free to have a snack or even take notes as you read.

Jewelry armoire – Does your mother always seem to be untangling her necklaces or wondering where the matching earring is her favorite pair? A jewelry armoire mounts directly to a bedroom wall to open up more space on the dresser. It features tons of hooks and drawers for jewelry storage, and sometimes a mirror is included, so Mom can easily see which piece you’d like to wear that day without going too far.

Spa gift card – Every mom deserves to get pampered from time to time. Give her the gift of stress relief with a prepaid massage, manicure/pedicure or skin treatment. Take it a step further and get yourself a spa card as well so that you and Mom can relax together.

Gifts for Dad

Remote control cooler – What father wouldn’t want the beverage of his choice delivered right to the couch he’s sitting on? Up to 60 feet away, Dad can use a remote control to operate a cooler, which glides directly to you on its four wheels. The cooler holds up to six bottles as well as ice to keep them cold, and it can be used both indoors and out.

A good razor – Chances are, Dad hasn’t invested in what most men should — a good razor where blades stay sharp, nicks are scarce and one that will help make a close shave a breeze. Introducing King of Shave’s razor with Hyperglide. The razor’s hydrophilic self-lubricating cartridge creates a HydroGel on your face when it makes contact with water, so there’s no need for any shaving creams or gels — and the shave is as close as it gets. Other options for good razors include Gilette or Schick.

Front-pocket wallet – Does Dad ever complain of back pain? A unique culprit could be from wedging a wallet in his back pocket and sitting on it. A front-pocket wallet is uniquely designed to be kept in the front pocket of any type of pants, making grabbing a license, money or credit cards even more convenient than before. This thin, compact wallet will also help eliminate the risk of Dad being pit-pocketed.

Gifts for Kids

TV buds – If your kids are into watching TV, it may get pretty loud in the house sometimes. With TV buds, a personal TV listening system, they’ll be able to hear the TV clearly, but you won’t. It’s not just a gift for you, though, as these buds make the TV watching experience even better for the youngsters. TV buds offer sound enhancement, added range, and quality, plus they’re super comfortable and lightweight to boot.

Kid-approved coupons - You don’t need to spend hundreds on a popular toy — especially when you can make your child a gift they’ll really appreciate. Create an envelope of coupons that they can use whenever they please  —things like “stay up a half hour after bedtime” or “get out of a chore free card.” You could even make the coupons about hosting a movie and popcorn night or doing an activity the child is interested in. They’ll love getting to use their gift over and over again.

Hooded towel – For children ages 2 and up, bath time may not be their favorite time of day. Make it fun with a hooded bath towel that comes in different characters. The kids will love taking a bath knowing that they get to put on an adorable, comfy towel afterwards.

With these holiday gifts, you are sure to see some smiling faces. Head to the stores now to beat the holiday rush!

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Do You Have a Spending Problem?

How to know and how to fix a spending problem.

How to know and how to fix a spending problem.

If you’ve ever checked your bank account and wondered where all your money went, or how you could possibly have such a small sum, you may have an unintentional spending problem. And that’s harmful because overspending can lead to mass amounts of debt and dissatisfaction with yourself.

But how can you know for sure if you have a spending problem? If you’re surmising the thought, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you having a hard time following a budget?
  • Do you feel the need to shop every day or more than once a day?
  • Do you buy things when you’re sad, angry or other emotion to justify feeling that way?
  • Are your friends and family commenting about your spending or telling you to stop?
  • Are you going over your credit card limit on a monthly basis?
  • Do you ever wonder, “Where did my last paycheck go?”
  • Do you have a hard time finding a place for all the items you buy?
  • Do you avoid looking at your bills?
  • Do you have a range of items you don’t use?
  • Are collectors and creditors on your case about past-due bills?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a spending problem. Follow these tips to take steps toward cutting back on your spending:

Get rid of your credit cards – If you know you use plastic for most of your purchases, it’s advised that you cut them up and only carry cash. Yes, credit cards are convenient, but research shows that you spend less when you only have cash.  According to a 2000 study, consumers are willing to spend more for something when they use a credit card rather than cash. So next time you’re out, test this theory by leaving your credit cards behind and only bringing with you a small amount of cash.

Track your spending – This is especially useful for those who can’t fathom where their money is going whenever they check their statement. Simply jotting down what you spend every day will help you identify patterns. Did you grab a coffee before work? Head to the mall on the weekend? Get a car wash? Every penny you spend should be written down and added up to see how much you’re doling out each day. If you’re a techie, you might like keeping an online diary or downloading a journaling app to your smartphone.

Purge – If it’s clothes that you buy a lot of, go through your closet and dresser drawers and make a pile of all the items you haven’t worn in the last year or those that you don’t like anymore.

“Identify the clothes you love, and get rid of everything else,” says author Donna Smallin. “If you haven’t worn something for a year, there’s something wrong — it’s not your style, or it doesn’t fit right — and there’s no point in holding onto it.” You might find that most of your clothing items are in pristine condition, and if that’s the case, head to a local thrift store, who will offer you money for certain items. You’ll feel better and make a little extra cash in the process. If any of the clothes you want to get rid of are slightly ripped or stained, then you may consider donating them to charities.

Purge — the online version – You know all those daily deal e-mails that are clogging up your inbox — Groupon, RetailMeNot, etc.? Unsubscribe to these. These e-mails are marketed to make you want to spend money, and you don’t need that kind of temptation. Doing this may also help you realize how many e-mail lists you’re on, which can be eye-opening to an overspender who wasn’t sure whether or not they had a spending problem.

Avoid situations that make you spend – If you’re aware of when you spend the most, try to skip those occasions as much as you can. For example, if you tend to overspend when eating out with friends, suggest to the group you’d like to have a potluck dinner party instead. Or, if you dish out money on clothes more than anything else, it’s best to keep away from the mall at all costs.

Seek help – There’s no shame in speaking with a professional about your spending habits. If your spending is too far out of control, then you’ll likely benefit from talking to an expert. Many psychotherapists are trained to help people with compulsive spending.  Also, ask your friends, family or spouse for their help as well. After all, it’s hard to change your ways without support from your loved ones.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How to Earn More Credit Card Points and More Rewards

Emily Buxengard, Credit Card Assistant

Emily Buxengard, Credit Card Assistant

You could be earning 2x, 3x, 4x or more points on purchases when you use your Visa ScoreCard Credit Card. Did you know that you can earn bonus points by making purchases with your card at participating retailers? “If you have a Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard Credit Card you are automatically enrolled in our ScoreMore program,” says Emily Buxengard, Credit Card Assistant. “It’s so easy to earn bonus points and there are thousands of retailers participating in ScoreMore.”

Here’s how to find out which retailers are participating and how to activate bonus points:

  1.  Go to www.scorecardrewards.com and sign in to your ScoreCard Rewards account. Or, when viewing your Credit Card account online through www.mycardstatement.com, click on the Rewards Points link at the bottom of your home screen.
  2. Click on the ScoreMore icon on the bottom left of your screen.
  3. Find a retailer by:
    • Using the Search function on the right side of the screen.
    • Clicking View all Retailers and then using the alphabetical retailer index above to browse.
  4. To activate bonus points:
    • For online purchases: Click on See Details under the retailer’s bonus points offer and then on Click here to activate. You will be taken to the retailer’s website where you can browse for products. When you complete your purchase using your Visa ScoreCard Credit Card, bonus points will automatically be added to your account.
    • For in-store purchases: Click on the blue Activate button on the right side of the screen. The button will turn green and show bonus points are active and display an expiration date for the offer. When you complete your purchase in-store using your Visa Scorecard Credit Card bonus points will automatically be added to your account.

To redeem your points for everything from movie tickets to a Caribbean cruise, shop our selection of items at http://www.scorecardrewards.com. For help activating ScoreMore bonus points, contact our Credit Card Department directly at (507) 457-1160. After bank hours, weekends, or holidays, please call 1-800-854-0790. Click here for more information on all of Merchants Bank’s Visa Credit Cards and how to apply today. All credit cards are subject to credit approval.

* Qualifying ScoreMore Transaction shall mean: 1) a purchase transaction made with Your Account; 2) a transaction that takes place at eligible, participating Retailer locations (“In-store Purchases”) or through eligible links to participating Retailer websites accessed via the ScoreMore link on http://www.scorecardrewards.com (“Online Purchases”); 3) a transaction that meets Retailer qualifications as disclosed in the Retailer Offer (“Retailer Offer(s)”) on the ScoreMore web pages. PIN purchases do not qualify for ScoreMore Point earnings. Only signature transactions qualify for ScoreMore Point earnings when made with Your participating Account.

*ScoreMore Points for qualifying In-store Purchases are typically awarded within seven (7) days of transaction posting; Points for Online Purchases are typically awarded within thirty (30) days of transaction posting. Awarding of Points for some Retailer Offers may require additional processing time. Points for Travel Retailer Offers are awarded when travel is completed.

Seven Ways to Save at the Supermarket

7-14 SupermarketFood shopping is an essential part of living for every family. But over the years, prices on fare have increased steadily, causing households to spend more and more on their weekly groceries. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average American family shells out nearly $540 a month on food, with an average of approximately $312 for groceries.

But unlike your mortgage or gas bill, what you spend on food is flexible. Start with these tips to reduce your supermarket spending today:

1. Scour store sales and stock up. While many people think it’s the coupons that save families in groceries, it’s more so store sales — and combining a store sale and a coupon is one of the best money saving things you can do. Also, when something nonperishable that you use is on sale, it’s a good idea to stock up. It may seem counterintuitive at the time to spend more money (since you’re buying more), but in the end, you can save hundreds. Meats are also good to buy in bulk when they’re on sale, as they will freeze well.

2 …But don’t be fooled by said sales. Many times, a store will list a product for something along the lines of “buy five for $10” when, if you do the math, you may only be saving a couple cents. Also, keep in mind that when sales like these are listed, many times, you don’t need to buy five products, or whatever amount listed to get the sale price. So, for example, if a sale is for “two for $5,” buying one will cost you $2.50. Retailers are just listing that price in hopes that you’ll buy more. Don’t fall for it!

3. Clip coupons. Search your Sunday newspaper or visit websites such as Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and Redplum.com where many manufacturer coupons can be found and printed for free. There are also sites such as CouponMom.com, LivingRichWithCoupons.com and TheGroceryGame.com that offer up-to-date sales-tracking services for most states and grocery chains. In addition, it’s a good idea to shop at the stores that double your coupons (usually under 99 cents).

4. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Even if you know you’re on a budget, a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that you’re likely to spend more money if you don’t eat beforehand. So, before you hit the market, have a meal or take a snack with you if you’re on the go.

5. Use cash. “It’s psychologically more difficult to fork over cash than a credit card,” says Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com’s household savings expert. It’s said that using cash when grocery shopping will cut your spending by about 25 percent. Before going grocery shopping, stop at an ATM so that you’re fully stocked up on cash. You could also start a “grocery jar” and drop a few bucks into it each day or week, and use it solely for food shopping.

6. Keep your focus. Does a product ever catch your eye so much that you evidently stop and examine it, mulling over whether you should purchase it? It turns out that the more you interact with a product, the more likely you are to buy it.

“Virtually all unplanned purchases…come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment,” says Paco Underhill in the book Why We Buy. Another way to avoid impulse buys? Ride your bike or walk to the store.

“It’s amazing how focused you can be when you are limited to one shopping bag full of groceries,” says Ross Williams, writer at simplemindedinvestor.com. “Once you are very conscious of each purchase, it seems to carry over even to the small items where space isn’t really an issue.”

7. Check over your receipt. Just because a product is on sale doesn’t mean the register will automatically ring it up correctly. Always watch your products being scanned and if something trips you up, don’t be afraid to ask politely if that price is correct.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.