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Category: Personal Finance

LTW Reviews: Quicken Software

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Product Review: Quicken Money ManagementWe have been using Quicken products for over 20 years, as a companion to our own budget plan and forms.  This is an incredible piece of personal finance software, an all-encompassing program to manage your every day finances. We couldn't imagine life without it.

In short, Quicken will automate the steps involved with our budget forms, at a reasonable price, and add numerous tools and features.

Key Highlights:

> Link, organize and automatically import transactions from all of your accounts: Checking, savings, investments, mortgages, loans and credit cards.  There is no longer a need to go to each one of your financial web sites to see your activity.

> Reports: Spending by Category, Spending by Merchant, Actual vs Budget, Outstanding Checks, Net Worth and many more. All of the reports can be run for any period: week, month, year, etc. and are completely customizable to suit your specific situation.

> Scheduling and reminders for all of your bills, whether paid by hand or automatic direct debit.

> Planning: Set up a plan to save for college, a new home, retirement, etc. Set up a plan to pay down your current debt as quickly as possible.

> Year-end income tax summary, updated as your transactions are recorded.

> Ease of use: The Quicken checkbook looks and acts like a real checkbook. View loan amortization schedules for all of your current loans at the touch of a button.

> Free credit score built into the program.

> Secure: 128-bit and 256-bit data encryption.

> Smartphone app to view your data on the go.

There is a Starter Edition and a Deluxe Edition. Both are currently available at Amazon for lower prices than at the manufacturer's site:

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How to Budget and Save Money: The Right Way

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Real Help for Real People - Front Page2

Welcome.  The link to our free spreadsheet is at the bottom of the page. It includes all instructions and examples. Please read this page thoroughly. It is critical to fully understand our method and mindset, to get the most out of your experience. There are no gimmicks or strings attached, just real help from real people, based on 30+ years of actual experience with this plan.

How to Think the Right Way About Personal Budgeting:

Some of the most frequently asked personal finance questions during this difficult economy revolve around "how to save money", "how to make a budget" and "how to live on a budget". Budgeting your money successfully is crucial to flourishing in any type of economy, much less a tough one.

There is a common misconception that good budgeting depends upon fancy forms, financial expertise, expensive software programs and/or solely on one's income. All of these false notions completely circumvent the only true goal of any personal budget: Getting the utmost value for each of your hard-earned dollars.

Those misguided beliefs above are the key reasons why many people are much worse off than they should be, regardless of income levels or familiarity with financial software. There are many people who are much "better off" with a lower income, a simple budget form and the right path, than those with greater salaries and top-notch computer programs.

These successful folks are the ones who have learned the secret: Keenly stretch your dollars WITHOUT sacrificing quality or "good living". This is the foundation for our budgeting method and it is the best method. It is the most effective method because it combines the three critical budgeting elements:

How to Budget graph

> Easy, accurate record-keeping

> Cost-slashing, WITHOUT SACRIFICE (the key component to getting ahead)

> Timing your cash outlays for maximum effectiveness

The net result: Much more money in your pocket without earning an additional dime or sacrificing a single thing.

We have been successfully managing a household budget for 30+ years and have survived many unforeseen "bumps and bruises" along the way. During that time, we paid off our mortgage early, put two children through college, paid for two weddings, managed to save a good deal of money and maintained a nice standard of living.

There were no magic tricks involved, just common sense, a few simple forms that we developed many years ago and a little effort. We have read countless "How to Budget" books and articles over the years and while a select few were beneficial, the majority we simply dismissed out of hand.

Unfortunately, too many budget or personal finance "experts" approach cost-cutting from the standpoint of scaling back on items and niceties as a first choice, as opposed to a last resort, as it should be. One author for a popular financial web site even suggested eating a sandwich or a snack before going out to dinner because you would be less hungry and therefore save some dollars.

Taking this "logic" just a step further, why not just stay home and save even more? It is this type of lazy journalism and advice that keeps people meandering on the path to mediocrity. We had a good chuckle and moved on.

There is a Better Way...

How to Budget - A Better Way

The Dining Out Example:

The basic idea behind going out to dinner is to escape your stresses for a bit, have fun, relax, enjoy a change of scenery and forget about cooking and doing dishes for the evening. If you are going into it overly concerned about the financial aspect, you are nullifying all of the good intent. A self-defeating exercise, from the start.

Our approach for "cutting back" on dining out expenses is quite the opposite: Cut only the bill, not the quality or quantity of dinner items. How so? By using Restaurant.com, (See our Review) anyone can save 60% every day and 80% with their Specials. A no-brainer.

Bonus Tip: Combine with a free BeFrugal.com account (See our Review) and you get additional cash back on purchases from Restaurant.com. 

This is a much more effective approach and no one needs to worry about filling up on pretzels on the way to the restaurant.

While seemingly well-intentioned, it is this narrow-minded, defeatist assertion of the author and many like-minded peers that we reject. Cutting back on products, services and enjoyment to save money is not getting ahead, it is trading off. And trading off is not the path to better living. We fully support frugality, with the added feature that you can be frugal AND attain a higher standard of living,  simultaneously.

Certainly you shouldn't waste money on items which return little value but nor should you unnecessarily deprive yourself of the fruits of your labor. Break away from the antiquated "You can't have your cake and eat it too" crowd. A cake has only one purpose and the trick is to find the cheapest high-quality "baker".

It is this simple dining out example upon which our entire budgeting principle is based:

Why spend more for something when it is not necessary?

We take it to an extreme, however, and raise the question to:

Why spend MUCH more for something when it is not necessary?

Knowledge is power. Thus, we show pathways to similar savings in many areas of consumer spending (See our How to Save Money Cheat Sheet).  Some of these sites will even give you cash-back for doing exactly what you are doing now.. buying things that you need and want... WHERE you want.

Much like visiting the local market and discovering that Joe is selling a bag of apples for 10 dollars while John is selling an identical bag for 3 dollars, the choice is simple. These "supplier-replacement" and "supplier-rebate" cost-cutting techniques, combined with our simple forms, is the backbone of our budget plan. It works.

Furthermore, in many cases, the "3 dollar apples" highlighted are of higher quality than those in the "10 dollar bag". This is the underlying secret to truly getting ahead.  This is our practiced philosophy and is reflected throughout our site.

Our mindset on How to Budget and Save Money is clear:

1) Slash costs for the same items
2) Pocket the difference
3) Keep simple, accurate records

The old adage is true: "A penny saved is a penny earned". The real goal, though, is to multiply the benefits of that adage over time into "thousands of dollars saved are thousands of dollars earned", while not skimping or cutting out life's enjoyments.

This is the key to increasing your standard of living, net worth and happiness.

Download links:

Note: The spreadsheet files do not contain any macros, they are completely safe to use. If you see the following message at the top, it is ok to click the Enable Editing button to enter and save your data.

How to Budget - enable editing

Download: How to Budget and Save Money.xlsx (Microsoft Excel current version)
(See our Interactive Online version to preview.)

Download: How to Budget and Save Money.xls  (Microsoft Excel 97-2003 versions)

Bonus Download: Loan Amortization Schedule.xlsx (Microsoft Excel current version)
(Use our Interactive Online version)

Bonus Download: Loan Amortization Schedule.xls (Microsoft Excel 97-2003 versions)

Note: If you do not have access to Microsoft Excel or wish to automate and speed up the "bookkeeping" part of our plan, see our Full Review of Quicken. This is an inexpensive, powerful program with many great features.

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LTW Reviews: BeFrugal.com

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BeFrugal.comBeFrugal.com is one of our favorite and most valuable web sites to use. They are a welcome gift to the world of personal finance help.

With a free and quick signup process, you are on your way to banking extra cash, simply by shopping as you did and where you did before. This web site is a no-brainer for us and should be for all.

BeFrugal simply hands you cash back as you shop at over 5,000 merchant sites. As well, they feature coupons for over 50,000 locations. It is a double-dip savings bonanza, with extra bonuses.

Key Highlights:

> Ease of use: Simply install the browser add-on and as you shop your at your favorite locations, your cash-back deal is locked in. Examples: Amazon: up to 6% cash back. Sears: 10% cash back. Dell: 12.5% cash back. Bed, Bath & Beyond: 8% cash back.

> Alphabetical store listing, with associated cash-back deals. A real time-saver.

> Separate Coupon section, featuring thousands of deals, to cut your costs even further.

> Separate Deals section, with savings over 75%.

> Separate Restaurant section with coupons for many of your favorite places.

> Refer a friend program. $15 to you for each referral and a $10 signup bonus for your friend. A "Post to Facebook" button automates your announcement to your friends, as well as an automated "Email your Friends" feature.

> Guaranteed highest cash-back rate. If you find a higher rate elsewhere, they will match it, plus 25%.

> All coupons are guaranteed.

> Smartphone app to shop on the go.

We rate this site an A+ and an integral part of our personal budgeting plan.

See also: How to Budget and Save Money: The Right Way | LTW Reviews: Quicken Software

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How to Own a Digital Products Store for Free

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How to Earn a Digital Products Store for FreeWe rate this opportunity to earn spare cash as an A+.

Key Features:

It costs nothing. There is an option to upgrade to the Pro Level, for a one-time cost of $39.95. This offers many more benefits (you will earn commissions on all of your sales, as opposed to only half, with the free version). We recommend the Pro Level version for this reason. It is a small investment with huge benefits. A single sale can could recoup the lifetime $39.95 fee. Thereafter, you earn full commissions on all of your sales (double your earnings, as opposed to the free version).

You do not need a web site or any experience, whatsoever.

All of the work is done for you. You simply need to tell people your store's web site link, which is provided to you. You earn a very high commission rate, as they buy (up to 75%).

The process is very simple (about 20 minutes to set up).

The potential for earnings is unlimited: Your store offers over 13,000 digital products. This is a wonderful way to passively earn money. That is, you earn while you are doing other things. There is no need to "mind your store", as there is no maintenance or follow up required on your part.

Step by Step Instructions:

Sign up for an account at CBProads.com

They will lead you to sign for a free Clickbank account (the digital products provider).

Fill in your data, personal information, your preference for how you would like to be paid, etc.

That's it.

What you will receive: A personalized link to your professional Digital Info Products store. Your store is categorized by interests, so that potential buyers can easily locate desired items.

Below is a screenshot of your new store:

Digital Products Store

Additional Features:

Your commissions are automatically tallied and paid to you, per your preferences.

The commission rate is one of the highest in the industry.

You have the option of putting your own personalized logo at the top of your store.

You have the option of owning a complete store or a specialized store, suited to your own interests.

Example of specialized Womens Ebook Store:

Womens Ebook Store

There are many tools available to help you promote your store, via social media or other avenues.

New products are automatically added to your store. There is no need to update or adjust anything.

In summary, this is an excellent opportunity to start earning spare cash for yourself, after an initial setup of less than one half hour. And at zero cost.

Tips for getting visitors to your new store:

Social Media: Let your new store be known and ask your friends to spread the word on Facebook. Instagram, Twitter and Pintrest offer similar types of "free advertising" opportunities for you.

Personal Word of Mouth: Still one of the most effective ways to spread the word about any topic. Through personal contact or a bulletin board at work or social club, this method can be invaluable.

Internet forums: You may already belong to some, favorite sports teams, interests, etc. Many will allow you to put a link to your site in your signature.

Guest blog: If you are already a regular visitor to blogs in your areas of interest, begin to participate. This is a great way to link back to your store.

LinkedIn: If you already have a profile, simply add the link to your store. LinkedIn is a massive community. This is a big potential market.

Use your own imagination and creative skills to spread the word to as many people as possible. The larger your customer base, the stronger potential for earnings.

If you wish to begin your new earnings venture now, this is the link: CBProads.comSeeSave

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Affiliate Advertisements:


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The Lean Belly Breakthrough System

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Shoeline.com

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Dollars for Your Thoughts: Paid Online Surveys

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Dollars for Your Thoughts: Paid Online SurveysOne of the most fun ways to earn spare cash at home is by completing surveys. Everyone wants to have their opinion heard, for self-fulfilling purposes and to shape consumer products in the future.

When you add the extra income going into your pocket, it is a WIN-WIN situation. This can be done entirely on YOUR schedule and at YOUR pace. The following is our top recommended site for doing such. It comes with a 60-day iron-clad money-back guarantee (small set-up fee of $39), thus removing all of your risk.

Note: LifetimeWords.com has purchased this program. It offers a legitimate opportunity to earn money online, at one's leisure. As with most earnings opportunities, the amounts to be earned are directly related to the time and effort spent by the user. The simple equation is this: More time and effort=More earnings.

TakeSurveysForCash Merchant's Description: "Large multi-billion dollar corporations need your feedback and suggestions about their products and are willing to pay huge sums of money to get it. Enter your name and email and be shown how to take your first $50 paid survey."

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How to Earn Money from a Hobby or Interest

 

How to Earn Money from a Hobby or InterestDo you have a penchant for a certain topic? Examples: Your recipes are the best. You have a real skill for finding great deals. You know more than all of your friends about fishing, camping, music, movies, etc.

These hobbies and interests can earn you some spare bucks and depending on the effort involved, many bucks. Bluehost offers web sites starting at $3.95/month. GoDaddy is the world's largest registrar, with incredibly low prices (1 cent for your first year).

Even if you have no design experience, whatsoever, it is still a simple process, using the free WordPress platform. WordPress powers 28% of the internet, for good reason: They're great.

Their tools, layouts, tips and help are designed for absolute beginners.

The key is to set up, put out your thoughts and then monetize it. What does this mean? "Affiliate Marketing" is a fancy term for earning commissions on someone else's products. How is that possible?

The basic principle is identical to this: You have a friend that owns a small store or boutique. She asks you to go and spread the word and if anyone comes in and buys an item based on your recommendation, she will give you 5% or 10% of the sale. A great deal for a little bit of effort.

Now imagine that you have thousands of friends who offer you this same deal, at no cost. Big friends: Amazon, Best Buy, Ebay, etc. All of these vendors (and thousands more) do indeed offer you this deal.

The steps:

  1. Set up a simple blog or web site
  2. Apply to the Affiliate Marketing programs of your choice.
  3. Place their ready-made ads on your site
  4. Earn cash

Obviously, you need visitors to your site to earn money in this way. The more, the better.

These are but a few of the ways that we have used to get free traffic (visitors) to a web site or blog:

Social Media: What a gift this is! If I were to tally up all of my Facebook friends and their friends, it would literally go into the tens of thousands. What a great place to start! Let your new site be known and ask your friends to spread the word. But DO NOT SPAM!

Instagram, Twitter and Pintrest offers similar types of "free advertising" opportunties.

Personal Word of Mouth: Still one of the most effective ways to spread the word about any topic. Through personal contact or a bulletin board at work or social club, this method can be invaluable.

Internet forums: You may already belong to some, favorite sports teams, interests, etc. Many will allow you to put a link to your web site or blog in your signature. Again, DO NOT SPAM!

Guest blog: If you are already a regular visitor to blogs in your areas of interest, begin to participate. This is a great way to link back to your own site. Remember the spam rule!

LinkedIn: If you already have a profile, simply add the link to your web site or blog there. LinkedIn is a massive community. This is a big potential market.

The possibilities are endless and we have listed just a cursory review of the process here. If you are an absolute beginner, do not fret. We recommend Lisa Irby's web site, "How to Create a Web Site". Lisa is a highly successful online entrepreneur who began with nothing. She is as down-to-earth as they come and will be a great companion, every step of the way.

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How to Earn Money Just By Being a Nice Person

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Real Help for Real People - Front Page2

There are hundreds of ways to earn money online and countless "How-To" sites. None would have an easier method, however, than this plan for earning spare cash. This meets our 4 criteria for being a great plan:

1: It is free to do.
2: It is incredibly easy to do.
3: It takes just a few minutes to do.
4: It helps others in the process.

Step by Step Instructions:

1: Sign up for a free account at BeFrugal.com. This is a cash back site which pays you up to 40% for shopping at over 5,000 merchants. (You likely shop at many of these stores already - See our Full Review of this site).

2: Once signed up, post your referral link on Facebook and Twitter (or by email) for your friends and followers to see. BeFrugal does most of the work for you. See their help screen below:

BeFrugal Refer A Friend form

That's it. The signup takes about 5 minutes and the posts to Facebook and/or Twitter take another 30 seconds each.

What happens next? As your referrals sign up and comply with BeFrugal's policy, you get $15 for each one. Everyone would like extra cash back for shopping where they already do. It is a no-brainer. You are helping folks easily put money back into their pockets and earning a reward for doing so.

Some Tips:

Ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers to share and re-Tweet your posts. The possibilities of reaching a very large group of people this way is quite evident. It is perfectly acceptable to re-post your link periodically (without spamming).

Use the email feature to reach friends and family who are not on Facebook or Twitter or who visit these sites infrequently.

Post your referral link on Instagram, as well. The potential reach is great.

Post your referral link on a work or club bulletin board, if allowed.

If you have a personal blog, post your referral link there, as well.

This is a great way to pick up extra money for a minimal amount of effort. The Befrugal.com site, itself is a reward, with cash back to you that you were not previously getting. Use this site to your full benefit.

More Ways to Earn Referral Rewards:

The following web sites feature similarly great rewards programs, with an easy "post to Facebook" and email tool. The set up is simple and these are additional ways to earn spare cash with just a few minutes time spent on each. Use these sites, yourself, as well. They all offer great deals and money back into your own pocket.

Ebates Free to join, $50 for 2 friends referred. $150 for 10 friends referred. $400 for 25 friends referred. Each friend gets a $10 welcome bonus.

TopCashBack Free to join, earn $10 for each referral.

Groupon Free to join, earn $10 in Groupon Bucks for each referral.

Restaurant.com Free to join, earn a $10 gift certificate for each referral. (See our Full Review).

Please read each site's terms and conditions for earning your referral rewards. Best wishes.

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How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

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How to write an effective cover letterI have seen thousands of cover letters and in one to two seconds, they ended up in the "probable" or "no way" pile, there was very little middle ground. Consider your cover letter not only as an advertisement for yourself, but as your first actual task for your prospective employer. It is the ultimate first assignment and your performance is likely in competition with many other applicants.

This one short document should set you apart in a clear fashion. It say much about your skills, experience, personality, focus level and work ethic, concisely. The words should jump off of the page, to get yourself in the "probable" pile.

Keys to an effective cover letter:

1: Keep it SHORT and RELEVANT. No one needs to know about your hobbies, interests or kids in this letter.

2: State how your talents (skills, experience, personality) will help THEM. Reverse the field and put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes. What do THEY want to see in a prospective candidate.

3: Have someone (preferably two people) proofread your letter. If you are one of those people who doesn't know the difference between "to" and "too", "your" and "you're", "there" and "they're", for example, make certain that your proofreaders do. There is no bigger turnoff than reading a letter from a prospective job applicant who cannot spell simple words. It screams carelessness.

4: Be friendly but factual. The letter should be an clear indication of the person that this company will see on a daily basis, if hired. Excessive wordiness and rambling is a no-no, just as it would be on the job. If there is a hint of annoyance, you likely will not get called in.

5: Specifically ask for a job interview. "I am respectfully requesting a formal interview to further discuss how I can help to move your company forward".

6: Thank them for their time.

7: End it.

First impressions are lasting. Never is this more true than with a job seeking cover letter. Much can be said in a few words and NOTHING can be said with many words. Be ever mindful of this. The key is to get in the door, where you can then expand upon yourself and answer specific questions.

More Tips:

If the job ad requests references, make sure that you include them. I have received countless letters stating "References available upon request", although the request was clearly stated in the ad. This implies that you cannot follow simple instructions and that I will constantly have to follow up on you. No thanks.

If the job ad calls for a desired salary range, include it (see above).

The tone of this article may appear harsh. This is intentional. You only have a one or two second window to appeal to a hiring manager. It is imperative to be keenly aware of this beforehand, to give yourself the best opportunity to obtain your desired position.

It is Critical to Check your Credit Report

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Some years ago, we applied for a home equity loan to fix up some things in our house. To our shock and disbelief, we were denied, due to "the bankruptcy on my wife's credit report". My wife had no such bankruptcy. This turned out to be a clerical error, due to another woman having an identical name. The situation took weeks to correct and caused quite a bit of heartache. What a lesson to learn.

Everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report every 12 months from the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. This is a must-take action, as egregious errors can be discovered and corrected, before making that next big purchase.

Many banks and credit card companies already provide a free FICO score to customers but that score alone does not indicate if any errors are involved. Errors in your credit report can cause unnecessarily higher interest rates or cause your credit application to be denied, entirely, without explanation.

See details from the Federal Trade Commission's web site on how to obtain your free credit reports today.

LTW Reviews: Restaurant.com

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Restaurant.comRestaurant.com is a regular stop for us before going out to dinner. Just this morning, we purchased two $50 gift cards ($100 value) for $20. A whopping 80% off.

In addition to having every day huge restaurant discounts, they offer special deals on non-dining items: Events, concerts, vacation packages, physical products.

A separate section features big savings on Dine@Home meals. Here, you can order delicious chef-prepared meals and have them delivered to your home. Perfect for a romantic night inside. This site is a permanent fixture on our savings "cheat sheet".

Key Highlights:

> Free to join.

> Every day savings of up to 60%. Special deal savings of up to 80%.

> Ease of use: Sort restaurants by location or cuisine type. Simply print out your certificate and take it to the restaurant.

> Certificates never expire.

> Optional email updates: The best deals for you are delivered right to your inbox.

> Refer a friend program. $10 to you for each referral and a $10 signup bonus for your friend. A convenient "Post to Facebook, Twitter of Email" button automates your announcement to your friends. A great way to pick up some free bonuses.

> Deals Beyond Meals: Fantastic savings at many online merchants, apparel, electronics, jewel and health & beauty.

> Deep discounts on vacation get-a-way packages.

> Smartphone app to shop on the go.

We rate this site an A+ and an integral part of our personal budgeting plan.

LTW Reviews: Boxed.com

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Boxed.com is deep discount shopping site for groceries and household items. They feature wholesale prices, deep savings and free delivery on orders over $49. You can shop from the convenience of your own home.

In addition to grocery-related items, Boxed features tremendous savings in many areas of consumer spending: Bath & Beauty, Home & Office, Babies & Kids, Pets, Hotels, etc. It is a one-stop shop for particular items, without the hassle of driving, parking and loading.

 

Key Highlights:

> Huge savings over retail stores. Separate "On Sale" section for even greater cost-cutting.

> Free delivery, usually within 2 business days. Planning ahead can be a real time and hassle-saver.

> No membership fees.

> Bonus cash rewards, you earn 1% back on all purchases.

> Free samples of products with every delivery.

> Refer a friend program. $15 in Boxed credits to you for each referral. Your referrals receive 15$ off of their first delivery (minimum $60 order).

> Great savings on hotels, up to 45%, easy search tool for your destination.

> Optional email updates, featuring the very latest deals in all categories.

> Smartphone app to shop on the go.

We rate this site an A+ and an integral part of our personal budgeting plan.