FTC Disclosure:

I am not paid or compensated in any way to write product reviews posted to this blog. There are affiliate links posted throughout this blog. So, when you click through on links and buy something, I may receive a commission. I pay for the products with my own funds. Product reviews always reflect my own experience with and honest opinion of the product as a consumer.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review of Gain Ultra Antibacterial Hand Soap/Dishwashing Liquid

Gain Ultra Antibacterial Hand Soap/Dishwashing Liquid
I am a satisfied longtime user of Gain laundry detergents, which is manufactured by Procter & Gamble. When I saw that the company made a hand soap available, I was immediately intrigued and decided to give it a try. Well, I must say that it was am happy with the product. The product was purchased at a grocery store for about $2- $3 dollars. The variety of Gain Ultra antibacterial hand soap/ dishwashing liquid that I bought is Lemon Zest. It comes in a 28 oz. transparent, easy to handle bottle, filled with a yellowish colored semi-liquid. To me, it doesn’t smell like lemons, but it does have a pretty, a citrusy, floral-like fragrance.

The hand soap is very gentle, and it does not leave the skin dry or irritated. Gain Ultra antibacterial hand soap/dishwashing liquid contains triclosan as its antibacterial, active ingredient and the product can also be used as dishwashing liquid. The consistency is not as thick as other competing brands of dishwashing liquid. It does not produce as much lather.  Psychologically, you sort of feel as if you need to add more soap to your dish water to get the same cleaning effect. I do not like my dishes feeling greasy after washing and I want them squeaky clean. Gain Ultra Antibacterial Hand Soap/ dishwashing liquid works very well at removing food residue and cutting grease from pots and pans.

I am not too picky when it comes to dishwashing liquids, but most of the time I buy Ajax Antibacterial dishwashing liquid, or Dawn with Hand Renewal and Olay beauty dishwashing liquids. I think that I will continue to buy these products and buy Gain Ultra hand soap/dishwashing liquid for occasional use. I have always loved washing dishes ever since I was a kid and Gain Ultra antibacterial hand soap makes it just as fun (Yeah, I am weird).

The idea that the soap contains germ killing triclosan, makes me feel better about the product. I think that this is a safer way to kill germs on dishes than exposing yourself to chlorine containing products. I think that the biggest advantage of using the product is in the unique scent. It is a cheaper priced product compared to some other brands. As far as cleaning power, other brands do as good a job. So, I am not really wowed by Gain Ultra hand soap's cleaning power. Still, I would recommend this product to anyone, provided that it is reasonable priced.

Copyright 2011- http://www.thewhimsicalmusingsofsusan.com/

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is Going to College a Good Idea in a Bad Economy?

About thirty to forty years ago, a college degree was almost an automatic guarantee to a comfortable middle class lifestyle. From elementary school, we have all heard the rhetoric about college education being the key to prosperity and happiness. However, times have drastically changed and this seems to be more the exception to the rule. Consider these starling facts:

  •  College tuition costs are increasing at an average of twice the rate of inflation. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the inflation rate for August 2011 is 3.8%. Between 1958 and 2001, college tuition inflation has fluctuated between 1.2 and 2.1 times the general rate of inflation, annually. FinAid.org puts the college tuition inflation rate at between 7% and 8%.

  • The national unemployment rate for the college educated, with bachelors degrees, age 25 and over is about 4.3% (August 2011-seasonally adjusted). This number looks very low compared to the national unemployment rate average of 9.1%, but it does not account for people under age 25 with bachelors degrees. I suspect that the unemployment rate for those under the age of 25, who possess a bachelors degree, is closer to the national unemployment rate.

  • The figure put out by the College Board that college graduates make $1 million more in their lifetime than, people who don’t have a college degree, is largely a myth. This statistic is skewed by a small segment of educated billionaires in the U.S. population. In fact, Sandy Baum of the College Board changed this figure to more accurately reflect that college graduates make about $450,000 more in their lifetime, than others without the education.

  •  Due to the increased costs associated with getting a college degree, the average student graduates from college with $24,000 in debt. This begs the question: “Is college is worth the effort?”
There are some very important questions to ponder in determining whether it is worth it to go college in a poor economy. What is it going to cost attend college? Will I have to incur debt to pay for college? How long will it take to pay off this college debt? What impact will this college debt have on the ability to do other things in life like, invest, get married, and buy a home or car? How much will it take for me to survive and create the lifestyle that I want in the future? Although no one knows how much their starting salary will be, you should have a range for expected starting salaries in the intended career field. There are obviously other questions to delve into and the answers to these questions will vary from person to person.

Prospective college students should examine their reasons for even wanting to go to college in the first place. If you are going just because it is what is expected of you, then you are already setting yourself up to fail. Know that you don’t need to get a college degree in order to be successful in life. Don’t go to college to major in something for which a college degree is neither practical nor required (for example, ethnic studies). Unless you are planning on teaching as a career, most liberal arts degrees are not worth pursuing, at least in an economic sense.

Another important point to consider is that, some people just are not meant to go to college. Some of these people are probably better served by vocational-technical training or entrepreneurship. Vocational training for careers in auto mechanics, plumbing, and cosmetology, often lead to lucrative careers or enterprises. We sometimes thumb our noses at people with vocational training, but at least these people are earning a decent living, without a college debt burden.

College is not the place for you to discover yourself. The best way to get to know yourself is by living, working, self study, and interacting with others. If you are not sure and confident in what you want to major in, I would suggest that you take a year or two off to work, save, and explore. Go to the library and checkout some books on subjects and careers that you are interested in. I highly recommend books that help you to acquire skills that will serve you well in your life, such as managing personal finances, how to communicate and work well with others, and time management. You might also want to read some self-improvement type books like “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. Jump headlong into books about career advancement, entrepreneurship, and networking. You can literally get an excellent education at a library and through surfing the internet.

Given the horrible state of the economy, a job is not a sure thing upon graduation from college. New graduates are competing with an older, more experienced crowd. New graduates are also competing with more experienced folks, who are unemployed or underemployed after earning a bachelors or masters degree. Indeed, there are individuals who were unfortunately, trapped in a cycle of incurring more debt to return to college in order to earn a higher degree, because they were unable to find a job. Most of these people will inevitably need to come to terms with a mountain of debt.

This all leads to an environment where there are too many college graduates, and not enough jobs to go around, thus diluting the value of a college degree. Employers can effectively choose the cream de-la-crème and refuse all others. Often when a new grad does find a job in his or her selected degree field, chances are likely that an employer will want to start that person off at entry level wages. If the college degree is not required or relevant to the job, then the college degree might be downplayed by the employer. As far as so-called annual “merit increases”, many employers aren’t willing to pay much more than “cost of living increases”. And how many instances have you heard about an educated employee who works in an office somewhere, who makes far less than his or her highly paid, uneducated supervisor?

A few experts in education and economics are calling college a scam. Gerald Celente of Trends Research Institute, says that people are majoring in degrees in “worthlessness.” This argument is certainly cogent, since problems such as declining quality of education, corruption, collusion, and many unethical practices exist within the higher education industry. However, I don’t completely agree with a blanket sentiment that college is a scam. We don’t want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

For prospective students who have taken due diligence and planned thoroughly, a college degree can put them on the road to a great career and financial independence. The caveat is that you have to choose the right major and the right school. College students who have chosen a major in a career field which is in high demand, and in which a college degree is required, can come out ahead of the game. Also if you are ambitious, driven, and know how to sell yourself, a college education will no-doubt pay off in the long run. Otherwise, a college degree may not be the best bet for now. It might not be a good return on some college students’ investment of time and money.

Related Posts:

Words of Caution For Anyone Thinking About Going to College

Thinking About Taking out Student Loans For College? Think Again.

What Happens When you default on a student loan? Some of the Consequences of Student Loan Default

Copyright 2011- http://www.thewhimsicalmusingsofsusan.com/

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is Like a Breath of Fresh Air

The Occupy Wall Street movement started as a call to action by the website for Adbusters magazine on July 13. It is inspired by the “Arab Spring” uprisings in Egypt, Libya, and Syria earlier this year. The actual protests began on September 17, with just a few dozen people near the New York Stock Exchange, but quickly grew to thousands. The Occupy Wall Street Movement has spread to other cities across the United States and parts of Europe and Asia, as well. Their slogan is, “We are the 99%”. One of the reasons for the movement seems to be an overall discontent with political corruption, corporate greed, and lack of true representation for the common citizen.

Media outlets have rebuffed the Occupy Wall Street claim that 1% of the population in this country, have the most power and wealth here. Well, whether this number is 1%, 10%, or 20%, is really besides the point. One of the real issues, is that it is wrong for a small segment of the population to have the ability to manipulate politics and the economic system in this country, at the expense of the rest of the population.

I am very glad to see that the American people are finally waking up from their long slumber. They are coming to the realization that the system is damaged. People who were formerly distracted by American Idol, Harry Potter, and ipods are learning that the American dream is waning and our rights are slowly getting taken away. The main culprits behind the destruction of this great system founded by our forefathers, is greedy corporate officers and the complicit actions of politicians.

Corporations have made billions of dollars in this country through illegal activities and kickbacks, in addition to campaign contributions to politicians. We have started wars in the Middle East for the sake of making money for defense contractors. Of course, the U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for the wars. Many of the politicians (across all party lines) are corrupted by their relationships with the mega corporations and corporate lobbyists. 

Huge corporations like GE can get away with not paying any taxes to the United States. Jobs are getting outsourced overseas to workers in India, China, and Mexico, where those workers are being exploited. The corporations have far reaching influence on what we see in the biased media and the types of laws that are created and amended by Congress and how the laws are interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. The corporate lobbyists are pushing our Congressmen to craftily construct laws which will reduce our rights as consumers and citizens of the United States, while boosting corporate profits.

How could people like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney say that there is a class warfare, with an attack on the rich? Well, reality check: In the United States, there has been class warfare against the middle class and poor for decades now (The rich don‘t want to pay their fair share of taxes). Herman Cain has said, "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks, if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself. It is not someone's fault if they succeeded, it is someone's fault if they failed" (I can’t believe this guy is running for president). Bill O’Reilly made the comments on his show, The O‘Reilly Factor, “All [the protesters] have to do is take a shower and get a job”. ( Who‘s the real pinhead here?). What in holy hell is wrong with these guys?

Obviously, the aforementioned people are delusional and completely out of touch with reality. There is the implication in their statements that the middle class and the poor are anti-capitalist, lazy, and jealous of the rich. It just shows what conniving, condescending, insensitive, and elitist jerks they really are. I think that Michael Moore pretty much hit the nail on the head with this subject matter. During an interview on Current TV, with Keith Olbermann, Mr. Moore stated that “They have taken our democracy and formed it into a ‘kleptocracy’ ”.

Some of the super rich and politicians in the U.S. are turning a blind eye to the economic injustices and disparities going on in this country. It is as if they think that if they feign ignorance, the rest of the population will follow suit.  Some of them could care less about the state of the impoverished and jobless masses, because it has little or no impact on their lives. There are people who were formerly upper middle class, working hard their entire lives, only to end up in the twilight of their lives as destitute, homeless, with no retirement, and seemingly no hope. I can’t believe that in the world’s richest nation, there are human beings that work two or three jobs who still can’t afford safe housing, a quality education and health care.

Although hundreds of the protesters were arrested and/or pepper-sprayed, the movement has been peaceful, for the most part. I would like to see the movement organize and continue, provided that it remains peaceful and civilized. While it is not clear whether it is legal for Occupy Wall Street protesters to pitch tents and campout, these people have a right to be angry and frustrated. They have a right to exercise their first amendment rights to freedom of speech and their fourteenth amendment right to peacefully assemble.




 Copyright 2011- http://www.thewhimsicalmusingsofsusan.com/

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Got a Free Bayer Contour USB Blood Glucose Meter with The CVS ExtraCare Program

CVS ExtraCare rewards is a rebate program that allows CVS shoppers to receive credit or cash back to spend at CVS. The credit that customers receive are in the form of ExtraCare bucks or ECBs. ExtraCare bucks are rewarded on certain advertised items. For instance, there may be an ad in the CVS circular which states: “Spend $10 when you buy these Wrigley’s or Mars candies, and get $3 extra bucks.” This is an instant reward and the ExtraCare bucks will print on the bottom of your receipt, when the transaction is complete. You can also earn 2% cash back on the money that you spend at CVS. The 2% cash back is rewarded every four months. This reward will print at the bottom of your receipt during the period when rewards are made. There is also the option of having the 2% cash back reward sent to your ExtraCare card.

The ExtraCare program also allows customers to enjoy sales on products, and store-issued coupons. Customers can also earn 1 ExtraCare buck for every 2 prescriptions filled at the CVS pharmacy or at cvs.com. If you understand how the program works, there is the potential to make tremendous savings. I have personally saved hundreds of dollars over the course of several months, so I can testify to this. The first time that I used ECBs, I was actually a little nervous and astounded at the small amount of money that I paid at the register.

To get started you will need to apply for a CVS ExtraCare Card. Applications are available at CVS stores or you can also sign up online at cvs.com. If you choose to sign up at the store, your ExtraCare card will be issued on the spot, and available for use immediately. If you take the route of signing-up online, it may take a few weeks for you to receive the card in the mail. It’s a fairly quick and simple process, and only your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address are needed to sign up.

You are not required to have an ExtraCare card in order to shop at CVS, but you will not be able to reap the benefits of the program without one. The customers are charged the regular price on sale items if the Extra Care card is not used. Another perk to using the ExtraCare card is that by scanning your CVS ExtraCare card at the CVS coupon center, oftentimes nice store coupons print out. Just scan the card and wait for coupons to print. Scan your card again until the coupon center display tells you that no more coupons are available. You may not like the fact that your purchasing habits are being tracked, but it’s a fair trade-off when you tally up all the money you will save with the ExtraCare rewards program.

How I got a free Bayer Contour USB blood glucose meter with the CVS ExtraCare rewards program

Last year, I purchased a Bayer Contour USB blood glucose meter and the original price was $75.00. The sale price was $30.00 and I used a manufacturer coupon from the Sunday paper during this purchase for $20.00. After the value of the coupon was deducted, it brought the transaction total down to only $10.00 plus tax. That’s a total savings of $65.00. This isn’t the end of my savings, because I received $10.00 in ECBs to use for future purchases. I basically got the blood glucose monitor for free. Just to reiterate:

Bayer blood glucose monitor

Original price                                                        $75.00

Sale price                                                             $30.00

Minus manufacturer coupon                              -$20.00

Equals out of pocket cost                                   $10.00 (plus tax)

Minus ExtraCare bucks                                     -$10.00

Net cost:                                                              Free

Bayer Contour USB Blood Glucose Meter that I got for free from CVS pharmacy

The contents of Bayer Contour USB Blood Glucose Meter package

This process that I just explained is what avid couponers (a person who uses coupons) would refer to as “rolling ECBs.” So therefore, rolling ECBs is making purchases of items at CVS that offer ECB rewards. You would then maximize your savings by using the ECBs to purchase other items that offer ECB rewards. Using manufacturer coupons and store coupons along with ECBs will further reduce your out of pocket costs. Ever since I joined the ExtraCare rewards program, I have not ever had a problem. The cashiers and management are pretty coupon friendly, provided that you follow their coupon policy. So, don’t be a money trasher: Use those ECBs and save some money.

Related Posts:

The Basics of Coupons: What are They and Where do you Find Them?

Coupon tips to help you save money on groceries

How to Get Free Coupons in the Mail

Thoughts on TLC's Extreme Couponing Series

Copyright 2011- http://www.thewhimsicalmusingsofsusan.com/

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review of Johnson & Johnson Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash

Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash

I have enjoyed using Purpose products since my adolescence. I started using this product back in my teens, when acne was a huge concern for me. My dermatologist prescribed Retin-A for my facial acne. Retin-A is a retinoid which can leave the skin raw and irritated. I needed a skin cleansing product that would not exacerbate the irritation and redness in my skin. My dermatologist recommended Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash for me because it is very gentle on the skin. Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash is not oily and it is not pore clogging. It cleanses the skin without removing the natural oils from it, leaving it soft. Since then, I am hooked on the product and mainly use it first thing in the morning.

Purpose face wash comes in a rigid, transparent, bottle with a pump dispenser. It is available in 6 fl. oz. and 12fl. oz. size bottles. You can clearly see that the face wash is a clear, colorless soap, with a semi-liquid consistency. It is light weight, non-greasy and works well for cleaning your face with your hands or a buff puff. Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash has a very slight, pleasant odor and forms a nice lather during use. It rinses away fairly easily, without any residue, leaving your skin with a clean feel to it. You can apply any moisturizers, sunscreens, or make-up, without interference from the Purpose Gentle Cleansing wash.

This product can be purchased at grocery stores, mass market retailers, drug stores, or online. Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash will cost you about $6.00 for a 6.0 fl. oz. bottle. It lasts me about 4-6 weeks, depending upon how often I use it. The Purpose brand includes a Gentle Cleansing Bar and a noncomedogenic Dual Treatment Moisture lotion with SPF 15. It is designed for use on the face, neck and body. I think that it is well worth the price and is a good value for the money.

I have nothing bad to say about this product. I can't really say much about the product's ability to remove makeup, because I usually don't wear makeup. When I do wear makeup, I use wipes to remove it. The only critique that I have is in the packaging. I would be pleased if the product were also offered in a bottle with a flip-cap on it. I think this is better for controlling leaks and spills. This would also allow people to carry the bottle with them on the go. One time, my bottle of Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash leaked from the dispenser cap. I am not sure how it happened, because the dispenser was fastened securely and there weren‘t any cracks. Anyways, it's a great product, and it is highly recommended.

Copyright 2011- http://www.thewhimsicalmusingsofsusan.com/

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Another Reason to Hate Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Other Big Banks

Bank of America recently announced that starting in 2012, it is going to charge its debit card customers a $5 monthly fee, for using a BOA debit card. This is just another slick and slimy tactic of BOA to recoup all of the profits lost during the housing market bust and in the wake of the latest regulations in the banking industry. The amendments to the Frank-Dodd law that was passed, limits the amount of overdraft fees charged, and new regulations in credit card fees have come into play. All of these changes, no doubt, have affected Bank of America’s ability to siphon profits from companies and individual consumers.

Bank of America is blaming the Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection law for the new debit card fee. The law was implemented in order to place a cap on the amount of money that the banks can charge merchants for debit card transactions. The merchants’ fee was reduced from $.44 to $.24 per swipe. So according to Bank of America, since the government is limiting the amount that can be charged to merchants, the costs must be passed on the consumers. With 57 million customers, Bank of America stands to generate billions of dollars in revenue from the new fee, in spite of the Durbin Amendment. The Federal Reserve says that it costs banks pennies to process each debit card transaction, so although their earning potential is reduced by the Frank-Dodd law, there is still a large cushion for profit.

Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase already announced that they will test a $3 monthly debit card fee. Eventually, the debit card fee will become the norm. Until it becomes a norm throughout the banking industry, people should go ahead and close their accounts with these large banks and open up accounts with smaller community banks and credit unions, or banks that charge little or no fees like, Ally Bank. Granted, the large banks do provide a certain amount of convenience with 24 hour customer service, online BillPay larger ATM networks and branches all over the place,etc.  However, these new fees on top of the fees the customers are already paying are not reasonable. 

The taxpayers bailed the “too large to fail” banks out, and how do they repay us? The large banks merge with and buyout other banks like Countrywide, and after the banks got their billions in TARP and TALF money, the banks are still reluctant to loan money to the small businesses that desperately need the funds. The “too large to fail” banks foreclose on homeowners whom have financial difficulties, rather than trying to work out a loan modification. The bank would rather let a foreclosed home sit vacant for months and have a family end up homeless, than to make mortgage payments more affordable. It just proves that the large banks don’t give a damn about their customers, shareholders, or corporate ethics. I am so excited to see that “Occupy Wall Street” is demonstrating against the huge multinational corporations and banks, and their greedy, corporate goons.

Related posts:

Bank of America Settles a $410 Million Class Action Lawsuit for Overdraft Fees

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