Use your photos to create quick calendar gifts

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Homemade gifts are always hit. There are a million and one different ideas for what to make, but really, unless you started making them last March, do you really want the stress that goes into making a bunch of last minute holiday gifts?

There are several sites that have taken the stress out of it all by allowing you to just upload photos, create a calendar and VOILA! Instant gift giving! And don’t you even dare think that these are cheesy ideas. What family member WOULDN’T love receiving a calendar full of your smiling family?

Here are some of the good ones:

Big Huge Labs: great prices; order before December 14th for Christmas delivery.

Vista Prints: BIG variety of styles – from posters, to desk calendars to magnet calendars. They have 3-day rush shipping for any procrastinators.

Create Photo Calendars: they also offers fundraising calendars. $5 flat shipping fee.

Kodak: You know that the original photo paper people will have these. They offer volume ordering as well.

Shutterfly: lots of cute layouts; currently offering 20% discounts.

Snapfish: you receive 20 free prints when you start your account to create your calendars.

If you are feeling really brave and organized, create some at home on a word processing program, save to a flash drive and take them to Kinkos/Staples/OfficeMax etc for printing.

Ask Deals: weed out the junk and find real savings

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Even though the economy is showing signs of improving, I think that all of us have realized the need to be smarter with our money. We’ve all seen too many people suffering from the consequences of careless spending and not enough saving.

The thing is, sometimes, it’s just hard to find the deals that are relevant to us. There are a lot of sites who post coupon and discount codes, and I love writing about them and sharing them with you. One common problem, however, tends to be the need to wade through a bunch of expired junk in order to get to the current deals.

Ask.com has launched Ask Deals to help remove that obstacle. Now, you have a place to find current and relevant deals. It does the searching and scanning and puts any current deals in one place, under organized categories.

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There are several ways to locate deals: by zip code/location, by category, by store, offers with only free shipping, offers expiring soon etc.

Each category also features a “deal of the day”, which you can sign up to have emailed to you daily.

It really is as simple as that. All of those savings will add up, so you can be prepared for a future rainy day.

Do you have a site that helps you save money? Share it with others in comments. I’ll highlight them all in a future post.

Saving Money on Your Cell Phone Bill

I usually feel like an oddball when it comes to this topic, because I am one of the few people who doesn’t seem to have unlimited text and calls on my cell phone. I have a really basic phone (It does take photos) and a prepaid calling plan. It helps us stick to our budget.

But if you are have to have something other than a prepaid plan but also need to fit it into your budget, I would suggest trying out the following sites and tools to see if you can bring down your cell phone bill.

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Bill Shrink: Find the out if you are getting the best price on cell phone plans, but also check on gas prices and credit cards. (free)

Over My Minutes: Want to make sure you don’t go over your minutes, but are too busy to keep track? Sign up at Over My Minutes and you will receive an alert on your phone when you are getting close. (free)

Or, you can go all crazy like me, and just use a prepaid card. Frankly, I can’t stand being on the phone all of the time, so it suits me fine. Maybe it will work for you too.

Sound off: How do you save money on your cell phone bill?

Newest Version of Kindle Set to be Released

If you are an avid reader, you probably have bookshelves overflowing with books. Stacks of books in the corner. Piles of books on your bedside table. Boxes of books in your attic.

While there is sometimes nothing like holding a book in your hands – the feel of the pages as you turn them, the sound of the pages as they crinkle – the stacks of books eventually become something of a hassle.

Have you heard about Kindle? Amazon is releasing Kindle 2, the newest version of its wireless reading device. Release date is February 24th, but you can preorder them here.

Check out some of its features:

  • Slim & Lightweight: Just over 1/3 inch and 10.2 ounces
  • Books in under 60 seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required
  • Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for crisp images and text; even reads well in bright sunlight
  • Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging
  • More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books
  • Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns
  • Read-to-Me: Text-to-Speech feature means Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud.
  • No Wireless Bills: No monthly wireless bills, data plans, or commitments. Amazon pays for Kindle’s wireless connectivity so you won’t see a monthly wireless bill.
  • Large Selection: Over 230,000 books, plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines and blogs available
  • Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise
  • Read in the sunlight with no glare

It seems like a pretty amazing little device (and it is little!)

For more information, including videos and reader thoughts on it, visit the Kindle shop at Amazon.

Save Money Using Discount Codes

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photo: Iain Farrell

I bet that these days you are more actively looking for ways to save money.

What about when you shop online? Did you know that most sites offer deals and discount codes? You can sign up for every newsletter available and have them delivered into your inbox. Or, better yet: check out the following sites before shopping.

Each site is updated regularly.

RetailMeNot.com: find discount codes for things from clothing to printing to toys to garden supplies. The site is easy to use and locate codes. And the codes are easily copied to your clipboard to paste into your order form when you place your order. There’s even a helpful tutorial for getting the most out of the site.

DealLocker.com: discounts to stores such as Best Buy, Amazon, and Kohl’s are available. Also, you can rate your shopping experience and product on the site. Be sure to check out the reader reviews.

CouponCabin.com: an animated demo for learning to use the site is available.

CouponCodes4U.com: rebates are also listed.

Don’t pay full price. All it takes it a couple of moments to check these sites and locate savings.