Towards the end of 2018, Dunkin Donuts announces a dramatic rebrand to just Dunkin’. The word ‘donuts’ was to be eliminated. Here is a blog post I wrote describing this change and some visual that demonstrate what it would look like.
The polishes colors are “Cocoa Mocha, Caramel Craze and Blueberry Crisp, inspired by Dunkin’s new Signature Lattes, as well as Butter Pecan, Pistachio Almond Fudge and Banana Split in honor of our seasonal Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Flavored Coffees. Or, fans can rep our iconic orange and pink colors with the vibrant Slam Dunkin’ and Pretty in Dunkin’“. These vegan-friendly polishes are available only in select salons across the country. In other words, they cannot be purchased at retail locations, to the disappointment of many. But with Dunkin’ Donuts, I mean Dunkin’ who knows what will come next.
My handmade crafts historical exploration started out with the intention of distinguishing two major handmade crafts categories, hard and soft crafts. The distinctions are not absolute. This is because the differences are not always clear cut. In addition to that, these terms have no official documentation or recorded definitions.
In spite of that, these terms may be helpful in clarifying some of today’s complicated, definitive distinctions, Handcrafted vs. Homemade and Art vs. Craft for example. In this blog post (series), which is actually a soft crafts project, I will travel through history to illustrate what are contrasts and comparisons between hard and soft crafts as well as explore other crafts related gems.
HANDMADE CRAFTS HISTORY
An explanation of the term handmade crafts as we ponder it today needs to come way before a distinction between hard and soft crafts can be made. Even before the Industrial Revolution which brought about the Industrial Age, when most things were pretty much made by hand, the term crafts was employed. In fact, there were highly regarded Crafts Guilds.
The Purposes of Crafts Guilds
Crafts Guilds served several important purposes in the Middle Ages lasting even to this day. Most significant is this quote from, The Purpose of Crafts Guilds in the Middle Ages. Gaining Elite Membership in a Guild: “A man would have to work through three phases to become an elite member of a Medieval Guild during the Middle Ages – apprentice, journeyman, and master.” How similar is that in today’s world of true craftsmanship?
This soft crafts project was inspired by and is dedicated to a craftsman I greatly admire, Eric Gorges. He is the TV host and writer of A Craftsman’s Legacy. The continuation of this story, a soft crafts project itself, will be more chapters or blog posts about the history of crafts and craftsmanship.
“Do grammar and spelling matter any more?” I wonder about this when I read how other people write online. Whether it is an email, a blog post, a website or even an eBook, so many people make grammatical and spelling errors. Don’t even mention texting. That is a digital language all it’s own that has destroyed the English language, completely.
WHAT I LEARNED IN THE 8TH GRADE
I studied grammar and spelling in the 8th grade. Because it stuck with me, I can spell and write with some degree of intelligence.
But even if I couldn’t, there is no excuse for my writing to not be correct. This is because programs like Grammarly have come upon the scene. The result is that no matter how poorly I spelled or used grammar, I could still come out looking like a pro.
Grammarly doesn’t compensate me to say this. In spite of that, I have to mention this topic because it is important. Not only that, I think it matters that people write correctly. It is a reflection on a writer’s intelligence related to an entire piece of writing.
For example, I read an article on a topic that really interests me. But it was a real disappointment because the author did not know simple junior high school grammar. Since that annoyed me so much, I tried to write to him to let him know how bad it looked.
But my email bounced. So out of frustration, I decided to write this blog post instead. Even if the author this message was meant for doesn’t see it, at least other people will find out how to have correct grammar and spelling thanks to my friend Grammarly.
WHAT I LEARNED THIS YEAR
The 8th grad was a long time ago. In addition, I am more accurate with a pen than I am with a keyboard. So I needed some help when the latter became the tool of necessity. Because of Grammarly, my grammar is top notch and I can still spell like a pro.
In this digital day and age, anyone can become a published author. That is why proper grammar and spelling are crucial. As a result, tools like Grammarly are indispensable for writing to be professional, as well.
There are still human editors for those who can afford them and those who have time to wait for their corrections. Personally, I like to publish what I write quickly and inexpensively. The basic Grammarly program is free and it is immediate. That’s good enough for me and I am not alone in my evaluation.
There are numerous credit card categories and signup incentives available. For example, some credit cards offer hefty signup bonuses. Others have top cash rewards. Then there are travel points. Finally, there is balance pay down cards. You just have to know what you need, go over the details, see what you qualify for, and apply for the best card in that category. Because there is so much to cover, this blog post will focus only on one time sign up cash incentives and ongoing cash rewards.
Credit Card Sign Up Incentives and Ongoing Cash Reward
There are basically two ways that credit card companies entice new customers seeking cash rewards as their priority. First, there is a single signup cash back bonus. This is accomplished by offering a set amount of money to be charged on a new credit card within a given amount of time. In addition or instead, there can be ongoing cash rewards.
Bank of America® VISA or MC Cash Rewards Card
This particular card is a very good deal all around. It offers a number of excellent credit card signup incentives. In fact, it is ideal for someone seeking a credit card with cash rewards:
• $150 cash reward bonus
• cash back on every purchase, every time
• no annual fee†
• your choice of a 3% cash back category, 2% and 1% categories
Comparing Credit Card Offers
Let’s compare the Bank of America VISA Cash Rewards Card with some of my other favorites. In fact, I have several other favorites. Determining which are the best cards or even single card depends on a person’s credit card charging needs or spending profile, as I like to call it. For example, I always aim to get the maximum cash back on every purchase I make. Therefore, when I signup for a card, I like to make sure it fits into my spending profile. For example, these are my major credit card charging categories: • GROCERIES
• DINING (EATING OUT)
• HOME AND PERSONAL PURCHASES
GROCERIES: The Amex Blue Cash Everyday® Card
Here is how my system works. For example, the American Express Blue Everyday card offers 3% cash back so that is my card of choice for groceries. It has a similar profile to the Bank of America® card with a few differences.
• $150 or $200 cash reward bonus
• cash back on every purchase, every time
• no annual fee†
• 3% cash back on groceries
Numerous credit card accounts provide charts like the this one to provide of breakdown of categories of expenses or vendors within a particular category.
DINING OR EATING OUT: Capital One® SAVOR Card
This card offers 4% for dining out. It even includes McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, etc..
The chart below compares values of dining out cards. The Savor Card is close to the highest and charges less than others with higher or similar % bonuses.
UTILITIES: The New Credit Card Sign Up Sweet Spot
This is how I break in a new credit card to receive their one time sign up bonus. If I use it to charge my monthly utility bills such as cable, cell phone, and contents insurance, I charge about $275 a month on it. That easily covers a requirement of $500. in charges in two months. A requirement of $1000 in charges in three months can also be covered with a few extra charges are added in. I have fulfilled the requirements of a number of very useful cards with this method. In addition, I also get monthly cash rewards this way because I use the new card for charges and pay it the following month from my checking account. This technique is a real winner if I can remember which month I am supposed to do what task.
GAS: Get 3% With the New ‘Choose Your Category’ from Bank of America®
Because Bank of America® Cash Rewards Cards now offers the option of choosing 3% on their new ‘Choose Your Category’ plan, we use it to pay for gas. That is the best cash back rate I have found to date for gas.
HEALTHCARE AND BEAUTY: The CareCredit® Rewards Master Card
The CareCredit® Rewards Master Card pays 2% on health related and other charges that the above and below cards do not cover for more than 1% or 1.5%
“Whether you use your healthcare credit card to cover your deductible, or to pay for treatments and procedures not covered by insurance*, CareCredit helps make the health, wellness and beauty treatments and procedures you want possible today.
*Subject to credit approval.” Quoted from CareCredit® Card’s application material.
CAPITAL ONE® QUICKSILVER CARD: For Everything Else
1.5% cash rewards available at all times
HOME and PERSONAL PURCHASES
Store cards have certain advantages and disadvantages. They often offer 3-5% as their regular cash reward or as special promotions. For example, Target always offers 5%. But remember to carry your PIN number to use this card in their stores.
MORE HOME and PERSONAL PURCHASES
TJ Maxx which includes Home Goods, Marshalls and Sierra have special promos that can triple their usual ratio of points for each dollar spent. On the other hand, Home Depot has a $25 signup bonus which is deducted from the first purchase only. There is no cash reward bonus for their card.
A WINNING HAND
As a result of careful planning, almost every charged purchase can earn a cash reward of between 1.5 % TO 5%. One exception is HOME DEPOT. They don’t offer cash rewards. So, from maximum to minimum, this is what a winning hand of credit card cash rewards might look like.
HOME, OFFICE AND PERSONAL: 5% Staples, Target*
DINING AND EAT OUT: includes McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, etc. 4% Capital One® SAVOR Card
GROCERIES: 3% American Express® Blue Everyday Cash Rewards
GAS: Choose 3% on the new BoA ‘choose your category’ plan
HEALTH-RELATED, PET AND SOME BEAUTY: 2% CareCredit® Rewards MC 2%
EVERYTHING ELSE: 1.5% Capital One® Quicksilver card *Special offers triple points at certain times of the year
Keeping Track of A Winning Hand
Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks has the best trick I’ve heard of to remember which card offers what. Write it directly on the card. For example, on the Capital One® Savor Card write, ‘DINING 4%’. Just one word to describe the category and the % reward. It works very well when you have three, four, or even five cards in your wallet.
SOURCES & RESOURCES
Wallet Hacks Target Staples
TJx Credit Cards
Capital One® Savor Card
Capital One® Quicksilver Card
American Express® Blue Cash Everyday Card
Bank of America® Cash Reward Cards
CareCredit® Rewards Card
Credit card cash rewards can offer added benefits to credit card owners. But sometimes it can be confusing to claim them. In addition, not all cash rewards are the same.
Types and Distribution of Credit Card Cash Rewards
There are several types of credit card cash rewards as well as different ways they can be distributed. It is important to know when and how they can be made available to make the most of these rewards.
Types of Cash Rewards
There are between three and four types of cash rewards. The most direct is the statement credit applied directly to your credit card statement, illustrated above. But which statement is the question. Is it your current statement or your next statement? I often find that a call into the credit card company is needed to clarify this question.
The other types of cash rewards are illustrated here. They are gift cards, merchandise and friend referral rewards.
Distribution of Credit Card Cash Rewards
This is where things can get confusing. Distribution has several options:
• anytime by request online or by phone
• with a minimum of $25 in rewards by the same methods
• in increments of $25 in rewards by the same methods
Option One is the simplest and most direct. Capital One and now Bank of America credit cards both offer this service. See the illustration above,
Option Two is where things can get complicated and there are drawbacks. This is because you can’t withdraw cash rewards at any time. There has to be an accumulation of at least $25 to do so. American Express distributes cash rewards this way. Read the fine print inside the red outline.
Then there is Option Three, the least desirable way to cash in cash rewards. They can only be made in increments of $25. As illustrated below, cash rewards can be distributed only in increments of $25.
Reading the fine print is important to understand what types of credit card cash reward exist and how they can be distributed. You can also learn more about credit cards on this blog by going to the search bar and typing in credit cards.
SOURCES AND RESOURCES
Capital One Cash Back VISA Credit Cards
Bank of America Cash Back VISA Credit Cards
Wells Fargo Credit Cards
American Express Credit Cards
Recently, I began my Recycled with Love Collectables hobby. It is a hobby because it is just for fun. In other words, it is no longer a business venture requiring specifications for clients. With this in mind and because I had already covered a lot of acreage with painted decoration and had developed a high level of skill, I wanted to try something new, new tools and different techniques.
Here’s my latest project. It is a small one drawer and open storage area part. It’s good, solid wood with dovetailed drawer. Height is about 27″ high, 12″ deep and 18″ wide. It fits perfectly into my kitchen corner nook. So I am creating a usable conversation piece in an otherwise dead corner.
How It All Started
This video describes how it all started with my 5-step decorative painting process that has now evolved into my Collectables hobby.
I had neither the patience nor the skill level anymore for intricate decorative painting. As a result, I decided to use other decorative media. It turns out that there are so many things to use for decorating. They include DUCKTAPE®, knick knacks, ribbon, buttons, erasers, plastic flowers and much more.
Seasonal and Themed Collectables
To The Next Level
Recycled with Love Collectables have been revisited and taken to the next level as a hobby. The bottles I painted and decorated have become part of our 2018 holiday greeting cards. Who knows what will come next?!
My decorative design hobby is a result of my passion for Decorative Art & Design. That was my passion for long periods of my adult life.
My appearance on Lifetime Television’s Our Home show demonstrating my 5-step decorative painting technique
At this point in time, as a retired person, I have come full circle to revisit the blissfulness of creation as a decorative design hobby. Just to refresh everyone’s memory, be sure to take a look at the video of my visit to ‘the Our Home Show’. It introduces my original 5-step decorative painting process.
I had reached the height of my ‘decorative hand’. Therefore if I was going to revisit decorative art & design, I needed to find new tools as well as techniques.
Before I embarked on my new project, I wanted to refresh my and everyone’s memory of my wet decorative painting method. This is the kind of decorative painting I was doing professionally.
DECORATIVE DESIGN HOBBY: NEW PROJECTS, NEW MATERIALS
It is my nature to try new things. Going from wet media to obtain certain results is quite different from going to dry media. Each has its challenges as well as pros and cons. It may take some experimenting to see what works best for you with a decorative design hobby.
A combination here of even more new materials. By the way, I incorporated one of my favorites, oil cloth. As you can see, there is so much that can be used to create a novel reused furnishing as part of a decorative design hobby. Here’s the original post demonstrating how I reupholstered the stool.
I had come a long way from my early days as a decorative painter. So be patient with your own process. Whether you wish to try your hand at traditional decorative painting, a wet medium or work with the new ‘dry’ materials I have been using, you can have great fun. In addition, the results can be very attractive. So give it a try. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.
In our new Former Middle-Class Life, our weekly salaries and monthly investment incomes no longer existed. Instead, they were replaced by very limited monthly retirement social security incomes that had to last all month. To say the least, it was not easy. To put it bluntly, we became like feral children without the benefit of parents or teachers. We had to learn how to survive on our own and all over again. We had become part of The Former Middle Class.
Supplemental Survival Tools
What changed the most was our daily routine. Rather than showering and dressing in 9-to-5 Manhattan garb, we set out in old jeans or sweats to collect bottles on recycling days and cashed them in on other days. We also dress casually for the other parts of our routine. We frequent two food pantries once a week and one food pantry once a month. Between these tightly budgeted visits to supermarkets on senior discount days and doctors visits on other days, our weekday schedule is complete.
In between these activities we have our own indoor farm. We grow microgreens and sprouts to supplement our food pantry diet which tends not to have much fresh produce. In the warmer weather, these foods are not only delicious but super packed with nutrients. But here as well, indoor farming is time-consuming and can be hard work.
Once a day we do eat a substantial, home-cooked meal. The other two meals are more like snacks that include pantry scavenged food. I tried growing our own food, microgreens as well as sprouts, in our one bedroom apartment. I even got a food compost system to recycle food scraps into worm digested, super fertilizer. But that became arduous. We needed to discontinue these survival supplements and find easier solutions.
To this day, using credit cards for survival and profit is our most sophisticated undertaking. But it in itself has become a daily, part-time job. To keep on target financially requires hours each day checking online credit card accounts, going over spreadsheets, recording expenses, and tallying expenses by credit card and category of expense. At times, it is mindboggling. There are days when I even feel like it is ‘Greek to me’. In addition, I have accumulated a substantial number of credit cards that have to be rotated every few months to keep them active and viable.
With all the challenges involved in this system, we have managed to rise to FICO credit scores of over 800! When it was below that, I was able to find out why and quickly remedied the situation. I am very proud of this accomplishment and still apply for additional cards but much less often. This finally brings me to where becoming ‘a survey junkie’ came into the picture.
It is not a good idea to apply for new credit cards too often. It can raise a red flag with the credit card provider companies, resulting in denials and lower FICO® scores. In order to avoid that, it is necessary to introduce supplemental survival tools. One of my financial gurus, James Wang of Wallet Hacks, often has terrific suggestions on his blog. Here’s one, Surveys for Money.
Surveys for Money
Way back when we became part of the poor middle-class, we really struggled financially. We had to adjust to a much lower standard of living. Not only that, we had to find perks to survive and still live a somewhat healthy life. Taking surveys was an option that came up in our research. But at that time, I found the idea boring and unappealing.
Well, things change over time and one’s perspective on what is acceptable and or distasteful have to adjust. Therefore surveys started to look interesting. They really didn’t take much time and they could actually be fun. In fact, I began to feel like I was part of the population that helps determine marketing procedures for products. I even felt special. The main thing is to take as little time doing it and make it a game rather than a nuisance.
James Wang has suggestions for technique as well as actual surveys. He puts Survey Junkey® first on his list. It is my preference and the only one I use. That is because there are too many available to make it time effective for me to participate in. It is also because I know it has the James Wang seal of approval. I have found that I can comfortably have a survey bonus of about $10. a month. It is possible to get much more. But my Survey Junkie® addiction is satisfied with by that. Stick around for more supplemental survival tools and other helpful topics.
Seasons Greetings 2018 is the most fitting thing to say at this time of the year. Even better than saying Seasons Greetings 2018 is showing it.
Each year Phil, my husband and I like to create or choose from our artwork something we feel would make a fitting greeting card. This year is a double winner. I had begun a decorative art & design project, bottle painting and decorating. They turned out so good that I created 9 of them to make into a Hannukah menorah.
The same 9 bottles were then transformed by my husband into Christmas tree ornaments. The result was our Christmas Card for our Seasons Greetings 2018 project.
Seasons Greeting 2018 to all. Whether you celebrate(d) Hannukah, will be celebrating Christmas, Kwanza or any other holiday at this time of year, we wish you a good one as well as a Happy New Year!
I check my credit scores everytime I check my credit card balances. The scores are stable, fairly consistent and fluctuate a few points at most. The chart below is a clear illustration of that stability.
An Untypical FICO® Score Situation
So when I got a notification last month that my best score had dropped 12 points, I was shocked. The charts below mentions the 12 pt decrease in red.
Because I pay such careful attention to my score, I usually have a pretty good idea why it might change and by how much. As I mentioned, I usually have a fairly stable FICO® score. Therefore a decrease of 12 points was a red flag to me. Something was wrong. But I had no idea what it was. It was time to investigate.
Five FICO® Score Factors System
There are five or six main categories that go into determining a credit score. They are illustrated in the three examples below.
Six FICO® Score Factors System
Primary Credit Factors
The wording may vary slightly and the scoring may as well. But it comes down to basically the same thing. Scoring may be based on a letter system like A, B, C, D or words like, Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average. In my case, my monthly grades have enough excellents that my score remains around 800 for these six categories:
• Payment history (On-time Payments)
• Credit Utilization (Credit Used)
• Age of Credit (Oldest Credit Line)
• Credit Inquiries (Recent Inquiries)(New Accounts)
• Total Accounts (Available Credit)
• Negative Marks
Searching for the FICO® Score Factor Red Flag
The above grades are good enough to rank me around an 800 FICO® score each month. Previous to last month, no action I took lowered my score by 12 points. But I knew that once I found what category was off and why this had happened, my decrease would be explained. In fact, what it was turned out to be kind of humorous.
The Solution Turned Out To Be in the Credit Utilization Category
On an average, I use between 1% and 2% of my credit utilization category. This means that if I have a $100,000 credit limit on all my credit cards, I only charge $1000 to $2000 dollar a month total. Two months ago, I had gotten a new promotional credit card. It offered a cash back reward of $200 if I charged $1,000 on it within three months. I was so excited about the cash reward that I charged the full amount within two months. That reflected a very unusual credit utilization percentage for me. It was much more than normal.
Glancing at the chart above, one can see that my normal credit utilization is 2%. But the new card that I purposely charged a large amount on had a credit utilization rate of 22%. Here’s the irony. In order to fulfill the requirements for the promotion, I charged much more in a month than normal. It did not significantly damage my credit. But it did throw both the credit rating company and me for a bit of a loop at first. I am sure that by next month everything will be back to normal since that kind of utilization is atypical for me. In addition, I will have a statement credit or a cash reward of $200. to ease the pain. Not a bad FICO® score lesson in my book!
I was fortunate in this case that nothing serious had happened to my credit. I did not need to contact any of the credit reporting agencies. They are Transunion®, Experian®, and Equifax®. If there is a situation that does not seem right and that you cannot figure out on your own, do not hesitate to call the particular credit card or one of the three agencies. We live in a time when we have easy access to these agencies and we should be careful as well as protect ourselves from errors and fraud.