Guest Post: 6 Things to Consider When Donating Gift Cards to Charity


Andrea Woroch

The season of giving isn't quite over, as Americans make last-minute deductible donations to a wide variety of non-profits. Unwanted gift cards received during the holidays have happily emerged as a popular contribution, and for good reason.

According to the National Federation of Retailers, eight in 10 consumers bought at least one gift card this year, for what BigResearchestimates is a total of $27.8 billion in sales during the holiday season. Naturally, not all those cards aren't exactly well matched to the recipients, which means a lot of plastic goes unused; thus the trend towards donating unwanted gift cards.
Before you contribute your card, however, here are six caveats to consider.

1. How Much Are You Actually Donating?
What percentage of your gift card will be directed towards the charity's stated purpose and how much towards overhead? Ascertaining this fact may require reading the fine print or contacting the non-profit directly.

2. What is the Minimum Balance You Can Donate?
Some charities will accept any balance, but others don't want the hassle of processing a card that's worth less than $10 or $20.

3. How Will the Charity Use Your Donation?
Gift cards sometimes end up being given directly to the charities clientele, while other non-profits resell the card for a percentage of the face value and use the cash.

4. Should You Simply Resell the Card Yourself?
Not many non-profits accept gift cards, but there's a way you can still make hay out of this sunshine. You can exchange your gift card for cash on such websites as, then donate the proceeds directly to your preferred recipient.

5. Would the Charity Prefer You Donate Purchased Items?
Check with the non-profit to see if they would rather you purchase groceries, clothing, etc. and donate these items, instead of the cards or cash. If your gift card comes from a merchant selling products the charity doesn't need, some stores allow you to exchange gift cards for those from another store. Look for a kiosk near the cash registers that contains a variety of cards from different merchants.

6. Can You Donate the Gift Card to a Silent Auction?
One way to make sure cash goes directly to a non-profit is to contribute your card as a biddable item for a silent auction. If the buyers are feeling charitable, the non-profit might end up with more than the value of the card.

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert and has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more

Guest Post: Getting a New Years Eve Sitter

Here's what to do if you can or can't find a babysitter for New Years Eve.

Amanda Dundess, Contributor

When Gina Linss and her husband Alex were invited to a New Year's Eve party last year, they were pretty excited. "It was going to be a really fun party, like the kind we used to go to before having kids," says Linss. But then the couple realized they had a problem that they never encountered in those pre-kids days: No sitter. "All of our babysitters had plans of their own," says Linss. "Even my mother-in-law wanted to go out with her friends."

It's a common problem on this festive night. New Year's Eve is one of the hardest nights to find a sitter, and those who do usually command a premium for working. But having a hum-drum evening at home isn't the answer, says Carol J. Bruess, co-author of What Happy Parents Do. "New Years Eve is a great excuse to have a special time with your spouse," she says. "With a little extra effort and some creativity, your New Year's can be as fun-filled as it was before you had kids." Not sure what to do? Just follow these expert ideas:
Find a new sitter. Okay, so your favorite college sitter has left for December break. But a slew of college kids have just returned to their hometown (aka your hometown), and are likely looking for some holiday cash. Create a new babysitting job post as far in advance as possible and be specific about how late you think you'll stay out -- if you need your z's, you might be home in time for your social sitter to go out too!
Celebrate family-style: If you can't ditch the kids, include them in your plans, says Chelsea Gladden, co-founder of the blog. This San Diego-based mom of four has a "New York New Years" celebration with her kids by watching the ball drop on television at 9 p.m. her time. "Then it's off to bed for the kids, and a little champagne toast and some alone time for me and my husband," she says. If you're already on east coast time, Google "London ball drop" and you'll easily find news organizations showing the British festivities at the even more child-friendly hour of 6 p.m. eastern time.
Arrange a babysitting swap: Dying to go out for New Year's but happy to celebrate Valentine's Day on a different date? Ask a friend if she wants to watch your kids on the 31st and you'll take hers on February 14th, says Gladden. Get creative - you can also offer up three nights of babysitting in exchange for this big one. For friends who don't mind a New Year's in, it may be worth the trade.
Throw a party for neighborhood kids: No, we don't mean a kegger. But you may find some teenage friends who are willing to babysit together. Arrange to go out with a few friends, leaving all your kids together at one house. Your kids are happy because they're with their friends, the sitters are happy to hang out together, and you're out with your friends - it's a win-win-win situation.
Throw a huge slumber party. The problem with getting together with another family is that you still have to head home early to get the kids to bed, usually well before midnight. "Renting a house with friends lets you keep the party going long after the kids have to go to sleep," says Gladden. "Or, designate one house the 'slumber party' house and let everyone spend the night." If you can hire a sitter to put them all to bed, even better.

Ultimately, that's what Alex and Gina Linss did. "We were invited, along with another family, to a friend's summer house on the Jersey shore," says Gina. "The kids had a blast having a huge sleepover, and we got to hang out and celebrate after they were all asleep." While it wasn't the night they had originally envisioned, it wound up being a lot of fun. "We were so bummed at first to not being going out," says Alex. "But this ended up being our favorite New Year's celebration, and we already made plans to go back this year."

New Years Eve Safety Tips

New Year’s Eve is a great time to let loose and have fun, but unfortunately, criminals are out there waiting for an opportunity to take advantage.

To help you stay safe this New Year’s Eve, Marcia Peot, full time police officer and Chief Safety Officer at StreetSafe, offers the following safety reminders:

Ø      Don’t let your guard down.  Holidays, including New Year’s Eve, are not an excuse to throw caution to the wind.  Be careful not to leave your drink unattended and don’t become intoxicated.
Ø      Stay in groups or use the buddy system – you are more likely to become a target if you are alone.  Select a place to meet should you get separated, and check that your buddy got home safely at the end of the night.
Ø      Have a plan for how you will get home.  Don’t find yourself stranded!
Ø      Don’t use the festive atmosphere as an excuse to do something you wouldn’t normally do or put yourself in an unsafe situation.
Ø      While out, be careful what you post online.  Don’t alert others that you are not at home.
Ø      The beaten path is the better path.  Don’t take short cuts and familiarize yourself with the area before heading out.
Ø      Take extra precautions.

 StreetSafe is a new mobile personal security system that uses your smart phone’s GPS technology to instantly connect to help before a situation turns into an emergency. Street Safe’s “Walk with Me” service offers a live connection to a professional Safety Advisor to keep you safe when walking in unfamiliar or threatening surroundings and instant access to 911 if needed.

Guest Post: Holiday Slackers Can Save Too: Last-Minute Shopping Tips


Andrea Woroch

With just a few days remaining until the holidays, shoppers with gifts left on their list feel the pressure to spend. But even if you've waited until the eleventh hour to pick up those last few presents, you don't have to buy the first thing you see or pay an absurd amount of money.
Check out these shopping tips to stay within budget even when the clock is ticking.

1. Re-gift
It's a dirty secret, but lots of people just put a new bow on an old gift. In fact, says 23 percent of U.S. residents re-gift. The most popular repeats are wine, candles and, of course, the perennial fruitcake. For some useful re-gifting do's and don'ts, check out this recent article from ABC News.

2. Free Expedited Shipping
Some retailers will offer free rush shipping in the last few days leading up to the holidays, so check for codes before paying expensive overnight delivery charges. While you're there, check out their list of shipping deadlines to find out which retailers can send gifts in time for the holidays.

3. Ship-to-Store Offers
For those who want to avoid long check-out lines of crazed shoppers or the shame of offering your gift post-holiday, quite a few retailers these days -- including Searsand REI -- offer free delivery to their brick-and-mortar stores. Usually, you'll receive an email notification when purchase is ready for pick up. Best Buy even boasts some items can be picked up in under an hour.

4. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Another way to avoid rush charges is to purchase a present online and print out a picture, which you then wrap up for under the tree. After all, it's the thought that counts and your recipient doesn't have to worry about lugging the gift around town.

5. Magazine Subscriptions
There's a magazine for every interest, even for rodent fanciers. (Seriously. There's a magazine called "Rat & Mouse.") Surely you can find a monthly publication desired by that hard-to-buy-for loved one. Websites like and offer cut-rate deals, and the recipient will never know you paid such a great price.

6. Gift Cards
GIft cards are sold at almost any type of retailer including drugstores, supermarkets and some gas stations. Since most of these will be open late on Christmas Eve and some on Christmas, you can pick one up on your way to the festive holiday celebration. Otherwise, e-gift cards are life savers in a pinch. Send one via email directly to the recipient's inbox or print it from your home computer.

7. Beat the Masses
If in-store shopping is your only option, then don't let the stress of other shoppers get to you. Head to the stores at odd hours to enjoy less crowds and take advantage of last-minute sales. Select locations of stores like Toys R Us will be open 24/7 and others like Macy's, will stay open until 2 a.m. Through Dec. 23, Kohl’s will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight and Best Buy will welcome customers from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert and has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoneyand many more.

New Coupons

Resource: ChoozOn - Deals and More...

ChoozOn brings you deals and offers matched to your current interests, featuring your favorite brands, loyalty programs, deals-of-the-day, private (flash) sales, and the products you may be searching for. Think of us as your personal shopper for deals. Range of deals. We’re working with more than 1500 major national brands, local daily deal services, coupon sites, flash sales, and loyalty programs.

Our Mission – Help busy Moms to get the most value, for the least possible effort, from the brands they love. ChoozOn has just released a beta-test version of its new service, which is open for customers to try out and provide feedback.

Resource: Manilla - Free Online Account & Bill Organizer

What is Manilla? Manilla is a free web based service that helps consumers better manage all of their household accounts, including financial, utilities, subscriptions and travel rewards programs, in one secure place online. Under a single password, Manilla provides customers with an automated, organized view of all of their account information, text and/or email reminders to pay bills and unlimited storage of account documents that Manilla has seamlessly retrieved for the consumer.

Why is Manilla necessary? Most people have more than 20 different household accounts, including three to four credit cards, several travel and hotel rewards accounts, multiple magazine and newspaper subscriptions, plus cable, phone, and other assorted utility bills. In order to stay on top of all this, people have to manage daily incoming paper mail, an array of online usernames and passwords, and websites in order to access important account information and take action. Manilla seamlessly retrieves all your account information – current balances, previous payments, upcoming bills due – and stores it for you in one secure place. Most importantly, you need only one password to view, manage and organize it all.

FTC:This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Manilla.

Community Coffee: Free Ground Shipping on Orders of $10 or More!

Trying to finish up all of your holiday shopping? Community Coffee has a GREAT deal going on right now.

Get FREE ground shipping on all orders of $10 or more! Use promo code Rudolph to take advantage of this offer. Free shipping available on ground and USPS standard shipping in the contiguous U.S. Offer valid until midnight, December 21, 2011.

Gift Card Exchange Day Scheduled for Dec. 26

Gift cards are the most frequently requested gift during the holiday season, yet not all cards are as highly prized as the giver might hope. In fact, an estimated $60 billion worth of gift cards go unredeemed each year.

Rather than toss Aunt Edna's thoughtful present into a dresser drawer, a recipient can bring it out into the fresh air forGift Card Exchange Day. Scheduled for Dec. 26, this one-day online event (developed by the creators of Gift Card Granny) will help consumers exchange their unwanted gift card for cash, or for an Amazon gift card. The date was selected because cardholders typically receive the best rates from resellers who want to encourage sales and restock depleted inventories.

"We also created the holiday as an annual reminder for cardholders," said event founder Luke Knowles. "They're less likely to forget unwanted cards if they have an opportunity to exchange them for cash."

Here's how it works: The day after Christmas consumers can visit; enter the card value and the merchant's name; click on "Get Offers" and instantly receive bids from companies interested in purchasing the card.

Once the cash arrives, shoppers can either use it to offset their holiday spending or purchase something they really want. 

7 Must-Have Holiday Apps

Whether it's running to the mall for that last-minute gift for Aunt Phyllis or getting the kids' letters mailed to Santa, the holiday season can get quite hectic! appSmitten makes your life easier with a list of must-have apps that will help you get organized and keep you on budget this holiday season. 
1. Easy Gift List
An easy way to keep track and budget
Easy Gift List 
Why we like it: All those wish lists and present ideas at your fingertipsPut the old-school, easily-lost pen and paper away because this app is definitely the better way to go. It’s very basic but easy to use – create ‘events’ such as a birthday, anniversary, holidays… then add the person (or people) you need to buy for plus your gift ideas.  The app is great because it also lets you set a budget and track your purchases. Now you can have your niece’s and nephew’s clothing and shoe sizes at the ready when you find yourself at the sale rack. Mark the item’s status as  ”bought,” “wrapped,” “mailed,” etc. Now if it could only do the shopping for us…FREE on iPhone:
2. Find My Car!

Locate your parking spot
Find My Car!Why we like it: It reminds us of that Seinfeld episode where Kramer loses his car.
Parking at the airport…the shopping mall…the concert arena…can be daunting if you forget to take note of where you parked. Even worse – finding a rental car when you don’t remember what the car looks like! We’ve all been there, walking around in circles.  This app solves the problem by noting where you parked (using GPS) and then leading you back to the car when its time to go home.  It's a brilliant use of our smartphones! 
FREE on iPhone:
3. Postcards from Santa
Imagine their surprise 
Postcards from Santa
Why we like it: Personalized cheer from the North Pole! Amazing.

Do you remember writing “Dear Santa” letters and being somewhat disappointed that you never heard back? With this app Santa responds with a personal note written on a postcard that is actually delivered by a U.S. Postal Carrier. Choose your Santa image and app will incorporate your child’s name and hometown in the message. It’s free to download, but costs $1.99 to send. They are too darn cute to resist. Just imagine the surprise to anyone who believes in ol’ St. Nick!

FREE on iPhone and Android:

4. Pinterest
Visual Inspiration


Why we like it: Easy way capture and sort images that inspire you

Have you discovered Pinterest yet? They say it is the fastest growing phenomenon since Facebook. It took us a while to decipher the name, but it basically means Pin your Interests.
How it works: First you create “boards” or files for you to organize your interests. Then pin an image from anywhere on the web – shoes you want, kitchen-remodeling ideas, food or buildings, any kind of beautiful thing that inspires you. Browse other people’s amazing images and re-pin them to your boards. Whether you use them for wish lists or mood boards, you’ll find it is soooo addictive! With the app, you can pin photos you take with your camera. Add a location and others can find the same awe-inspiring places or things. Appy pinning!
5. Fancy
Beautiful things we love

Why we like it: Get inspired by beautiful things
Similar to Pinterest (why don’t they offer an app for Androids??), Fancy offers “ooohhhing and aaaahhhing” opportunities for the visual amongst us. Browse topic categories: Men’s, Women’s, Kids, Pets, Gadgets, Art, Food, Media and note whether you “Fancy” the images or not. Upload your own images for others to view and vote on. It’s like creating your own personal treasure folder (with followers). From innovative and stylish products to awe-inspiring images, you’ll be Smitten with this one.
FREE for iPhone, iPad, Anroid:

6. Red Laser 
High Speed Comparison Shopping 


Why we like it: You see an item you like but you’re not sure the price is right. Use RedLaser to scan the barcode and it will instantly tell you where else you can find the item and at whatprice including local stores and online retailers.
What can you do with a barcode? In addition to finding your favorite beer, shampoo or diaper brand cheaper, you can even see if your local library branch has a book and whether it is checked out. Don’t have a bar code? No problem. Type the brand you are looking for into RedLaser’s search box and instantly see online and local retailers who have the product, complete with easy access to the store’s web site, phone number and location. Comparison shopping has never been easier or more rewarding.

7. The Find 
Simple, savvy shopping 

The Find

Why we like it: More efficient internet and catalog shopping
We’re all bombarded with mailer coupons, catalogs and online discounts but they never seem to be there when you need them. With the Find, you can scan any barcode to see if another store is offering the same item for less money. Plus, browse hundreds of catalog like J.Crew, Athleta, Godiva or The Land of Nod. It shows you the items visually with prices attached for quick viewing. This app helps you stop the ‘hemming and haawing’ so you can just buy the darn thing already!
About the Brand: 

appSmitten helps iPhone, iPad and Android users discover, share and purchase great mobile apps. Each day, they deliver one recommendation to your inbox, highlighting apps that will make your life more productive, connected and fun.  Sign up for a free daily (or weekly if you prefer) app recommendation delivered directly to your inbox at

Book Clubs to be Acknowledged by Author

Ellen Meister, author of THE OTHER LIFE is doing something really fun for Book Clubs!  She just launched a program to thank book club members by name in the acknowledgments section of her next book.  She has a Book Club Guestbook on her site now and anyone in a book group that read or plans to read THE OTHER LIFE is free to sign up. All they need to do is visit her site at and fill out the form.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin

wibiya widget

Facebook and Twitter