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Scarlet's Web - #3

(Published Nov. 2008, The Spirit newspaper, Philadelphia)

I don't think I'll ever really understand why so many Americans rise at dawn from their post Thanksgiving slumber to trek in droves to local shopping malls to celebrate Black Friday. Call me insane, but I cannot think of anything more hideous than wading through crowds of eager shoppers at 5:00am in the morning in search of a bargain!

Black Friday signals that the Hannuchrismanzaa festivities are upon us! And unfortunately, the essence of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa has become gift buying for our nearest and dearest, and our not so near and dear - our shampooers, mailman, parking garage attendants…For most of us, this is the time of year when we abuse our credit cards and behave worse than a pissed off bull - Charge! Charge! Charge!

Well, thank the Lord for online resources such as www.lowermybills.com. The mission of the site is "simply to help every American house-hold save money for the important things in life. "Like holiday shopping perhaps? Lowermybills.com allows you to enter your zip code and phone number, and then shows you an array of deals for everything from auto insurance to wireless plans. The crux of the site is to offer comparison services to consumers, saving many people thousands of dollars a year. You'd be stupid not to take advantage of this great resource.

Did you know that the typical U.S. family spends close to $1,300 a year on their home's utility bills? "Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted," according to the US Department of Energy's Web site (www.eere.energy.gov/). Following their guidelines, you can reduce your energy bills by 10% to 50% and, at the same time, help reduce air pollution. As heating and cooling your home typically eats into 44% of your utility bill, it is well worth following their tips to help keep your heating bill down this winter.

Finally, before you head out to the mall to do your holiday shopping, you might want to consider shopping online instead. Some online outlets offer better deals than traditional stores, and you may save on tax and shipping. Plus, you can shop in the comfort of home at your own thoughtful pace. However, if you prefer actually touching and examining your gifts up close, at least go online prior to heading out to the mall. There are many sites (MySimon.com, BizRate.com, PriceGrabber.com and FatWallet.com) that allow you to comparison shop for the best prices, saving you time and money going from store to store to find that illusive bargain. Good luck!

Comments/Questions: email scarletweb1@hotmail.com