Main Street Meltdown
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Main Street Meltdown

  • More Employees Getting Scrooged This Christmas

     Depending on what type of business you work for, chances are you're getting Scrooged this Christmas.  Due to the tough economy, more companies are skipping their annual Christmas parties this year.  

    According to CNNMoney,  just 81 percent of 108 companies taking part in Battalia Winston Amrop's annual survey said they will have a company-sponsored holiday celebration this year, compared with 85 percent last year.  

    This is nothing new of course.  Whenever the economy has a downturn, or a company has a bad year, the frills such as free snacks, sodas and company-sponsored celebrations are the first things to go.  It's all part of a company tightening its belt.  

    It could be worse, of course.  The company could choose to cut costs by laying off employees, which many businesses are doing.  Faced with that option, doing away with the company Christmas party doesn't seem so bad.  

    That's not going to do much for morale at the office.  Lower morale at the workplace could lead to lower productivity, which means the company becomes even less profitable.   Although the company may have saved money by cutting out the Christmas party and other perks, it evenutally pays in other areas.  Fortunately, there is a happy medium.

    1.  Scale back.  There is no law that says the Christmas party has to be held at the Four Seasons.  Scale back the extravagant party plans to something less formal.  Instead of a full four course meal and open bar, have a wine and cheese affair with a gift exchange.  

    2.  Pitch in.  If you work for a small business and times are tight, the employees can all pitch in a few dollars to help defray the cost of the holiday festivities.  The company could give in other ways, such as an hour's worth of open bar, a certain number of free drink tickets, or entertainment for the event if it's an alcohol-free function.  

    3.  Go family-friendly.  Instead of a big formal evening that's adults-only, make it a family-friendly affair.  The company could host a night at the local ice rink and serve hot chocolate, or rent out a movie theater and host a Christmas movie night.  If there is a professional sports team in town everyone could go out and catch a game, with the boss picking up the tickets.  The possibilities are endless.

    4.  Keep the spirit.  Still can't splurge for the company Christmas party?  Do something completely different and do some giving instead of receiving.  Co-workers and managers could band together and volunteer for a specifc charity, serve or deliver meals, wrap gifts for needy children or hold a toy drive.  Nothing will make you (and your company) feel better than doing something for someone whose needs are greater than your own.  Besides, isn't that what Christmas is really about?


  • Are You Really Saving a Buck at the Dollar Store?

     I love shopping at the Dollar Store.  What's not to like?  Right away, I know the price (everything is a dollar...sometimes two for a dollar!), there is a wide variety of items, and I'm saving a lot of money.  Or am I?  A dollar for each item seems cheap enough, but is it really a bargain?  The real answer is:  it depends.  

    Most of the items I buy at dollar stores are either food items that I know I'm getting for a steal, or cleaning products, if it is something that I don't make at home myself with vinegar and lemon juice.  However, there are items at the dollar store where you could be paying more than you need to...even for a dollar.

    First, when buying cleaning products or toiletries, check the size.  Many items in those aisles are actually smaller than the regular sized packages.  That is how the store can get away with charging only a dollar for them.  What you are actually getting in some cases is a glorified sample-sized package.  

    Check the food packages.  Is the item expired, or will it expire within a day of purchase?  The same goes for pet food. If it is expired, it's not really a bargain.  Check the sizes on these items, too.  

    It's best to skip the toys. More often than not, the toys and lunch boxes are made in China, and they could contain lead-based paint.  Also, check electrical items.  Make sure they carry the UL, or "Underwriters Laboratories"  seal.  This certfies that the item is safe to use with U.S. electrical outlets.  If the item doesn't have the UL seal, skip it.  You are just risking an electrical fire.  

     Before stocking up on items at the dollar store, shop around.  You might be surprised that you can get many of the same items for even less than a dollar at other discount stores such as Family Dollar, Dollar General or Wal-Mart.  Dollar stores do have some great bargains, but they are able to offer these bargains because they are able to get the items they sell in bulk at a lower price, they are able to purchase close-out items from other stores at pennies on the dollar, and they sell some items for a dollar that really would sell for less than a dollar at many other stores. 

    As always, keep a price book, shop around, and make sure that you really are saving a buck at the dollar store.  



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