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Michelle Fern

Michelle Fern

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Thursday, 28 June 2012 11:12

This year's 2012 Grand Marshals

Maine Discovery Museum celebrates their first decade

Independence Day is a day of remembering our heritage, and part of the Greater Bangor Region's history has much to do with the businesses that helped sustain it.

The 4th of July Corporation, organizers of the annual parade and fireworks celebration, selected the Maine Discovery Museum as this year's grand marshal in recognition of the museum's successful decade since first opening to the public.

For families living in the greater Bangor area, MDM has become one of the major activity centers for children since it began operating in February 2001. For the city itself, the museum has become one of Bangor's major tourist destinations that attracts an average of 60,000 visitors a year.

Thursday, 28 June 2012 07:24

There's still time to grow a garden

We finally planted our vegetable garden this past weekend. I was getting anxious because I hear gardeners say Memorial Day is the "do or die" critical garden planting day as if it was written in stone. However, we've had some really chilly days and nights (mixed with some heat as well) and the month of May and first two weeks in June simply didn't pan out for us to plant it.

Well, it sounds like a good excuse.

My husband built the raised bed about a month ago and my son finally picked up the compost last week. It was becoming a 'do it now or don't do it at all' scenario, so I bought some really nice plants at a couple of local greenhouses. Incidentally, it was actually a great time to get some discounts - $10 got me 13 plants. Area greenhouses begin to shut down by the end of June, so they start to clear out their leftover stock by the second week of June.

Wednesday, 06 June 2012 17:42

Are free samples worth it?

I used to disregard free samples, often wondering what I would do with such a small quantity. However, I found such samples really handy when I travel or if a family member became sick and we'd try one of the over-the-counter medication samples to hold me over until I could buy the full size.

As funny as it sounds, today I submit every free sample offer that comes my way, tucking it away for future needs.

Free samples are a way for companies to entice you to buy their product. This gives you a chance to try a product you wouldn't normally purchase. They conveniently fit in your purse or car, and are great for emergencies or travel. I even saw a post online where some frugal soul put together great little teacher gift baskets using free samples, which apparently turned out amazing.

Thursday, 24 May 2012 00:45

Graduation party on a budget

My oldest is graduating high school this year. Along with the realization that my kid who just yesterday was a little baby is now grown up and I've grown older along with him comes the fact that there has to be a celebration.

And yes, between him and his friends there will be party after party. And with the economy still in a slump, you'd think that people would be scaling back on their graduation parties. However, according to GraduationParty.com Americans will spend an average of $983 on cap-and-gown parties this year.

Here are some tips on having a great grad party without breaking the bank.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 18:14

Date night on a budget

My husband and I have been together for 25 years. We spent a lot of time together in the beginning, but as we progressed in our careers and the kids came along we found it increasingly difficult to find time for each other.

We worked. We ate. We went to bed.

I'm not sure how we even found the time to fit the kids in over the years. There was also a period during our marriage when he traveled quite a bit and we barely saw or talked to each other. And as the kids grew older, our schedules were pressured even more due to activities, sports and the many other things kids do.

Wednesday, 02 May 2012 23:00

Spring into cleaning

Spring has sprung and now that it's May, the cold weather will soon be behind us. With the warm weather on the horizon, we all look forward to heading outdoors and enjoying nature. But before we can go out and play, the warmer temps will likely throw many of us into cleaning mode.

I don't want to clean. I don't like to clean. However, the last thing I want to see when the weather warms up and the windows open to sunshine is those little dust particles flying around in the sunlight. I know I can't get rid of them all, but it doesn't hurt to try and have a nice clean home to start off the summer.

Now I could write a book on cleaning and organizing, but I only have a 30-minute attention span. Instead, I'm going to condense my thoughts into a short list of tips to help you get started:

Wednesday, 18 April 2012 16:25

A pain in the (g)as pump

As gas prices rise, so does my anxiety. We are planning a trip to New Jersey this summer to visit family and based on current prices, it seems the most expensive part will be the fuel to get there. While there is speculation that gas prices will rise to $5 a gallon by summer, I'm not totally convinced since the same claim has been made albeit unsuccessfully for the past three years.

However, I could just be in denial.

But what has caused gas prices to skyrocket? One consumer myth is that gas station owners and operators are making a killing at the pumps. In reality, most operators make their profit from selling snacks, sandwiches and soft drinks inside the store rather than from fuel sales. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), a trade group representing gas station and convenience store owners, the markup on motor fuel sales averaged 18.5 cents per gallon in 2011. However, profit margins in 2011 typically were 3-5 cents per gallon, which sets the average breakeven on fuel sales after expenses at around 14 cents above the wholesale cost.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012 20:33

C'mon Walmart: Practice what you preach

In October 2011, Walmart announced its price match guarantee where if a customer bought an eligible product there between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 and found the same product advertised for less at another store, the retailer would give the customer a gift card for the difference. Since then, the company has taken what was originally a competitive Christmas marketing campaign and launched their everyday Ad Match Guarantee that operates under the same guidelines. The only difference is they'll match it right at the register.

The concept sounds rather simple: If you see an item advertised for a cheaper price at a local competitor and you have proof, they'll match it. Yet as simple as it sounds, sometimes the retailer doesn't always practice what it preaches.

The first time I tested their program, I didn't have any problems. They gave me the lower price of the item and accepted all my coupons. In fact, it was great not to have to travel all over town to shop that day and I thought this could be my new shopping strategy. However, I tried to use their ad match guarantee a few weeks later and when I handed the cashier the coupon, she said, 'Sorry, we don't price match and take coupons on that product; it's one or the other.' I explained the success of the prior transaction a few weeks back and she said their policy had changed. She did say she would do it for me this 'one time.' Yet I thought why would I even bother? I can just go to the other store and use my coupon with their sale price.

Thursday, 29 March 2012 12:39

Companies ending distribution of coupons

EDITOR'S NOTE: (This story is from The Maine Edge's annual April Fools Day edition. As such, you can safely assume that most of it - if not all of it - is totally made-up.) 

NEW YORK In a series of announcements that shocked consumers and advocates across the country, major manufacturers said this week that all were ending their distribution of coupons.

The announcements, timed minutes apart that appeared to some as having been well planned, essentially stated the companies felt the time had come to end the longstanding tradition of couponing, Citing both distribution costs and a desire to push up product margins, the consensus in the announcements by Johnson & Johnson, Proctor and Gamble and several others spelled doom for an industry that distributes over 300 million coupons a year, which last year saved consumers $4.6 billion.

And some are crying foul.

'There appears to be collusion among these companies in ending couponing, and I'm not sure if that's legal,' said William Pletnau, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney General's office. 'The fact that these announcements were so close together with no knowledge beforehand, it certainly doesn't pass the smell test for us.'

Wednesday, 21 March 2012 16:55

A candy-less Easter basket

There's little doubt that kids love holidays. From Halloween treats to the goodies on both sides of the Christmas season, kids and adults alike consume a lot of sugar from the various sweets that accompany such times of the year.

While Halloween reins supreme in candy consumption, Easter is the second most important candy-eating occasion of the year for Americans, who consumed 7 billion pounds of candy in 2011, according to the National Confectioner's Association. In fact, we spent nearly $1.9 billion on Easter candy last year, while Halloween sales were nearly $2 billion. Christmas weighed in with an estimated $1.4 billion, while Valentine's Day was just over $1 billion.

Here are some other neat Easter tidbits:

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