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Free financial webinars


If you've ever wished for help with your personal finances, it's here.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service offers a full schedule of free, live Web seminars  on an array of financial topics.

"Recession-Proofing Your Finances," will stream Tuesday at 9 a.m. followed by "Consumer 101: Knowing your rights," at 12:30 p.m.; "Couples and Money" at 6:30 p.m.; "Vision Quest: Setting your goals," at 8 p.m. and "Surviving Financial Crisis, Dealing with Divorce," at 9:30 p.m.

A full day of webinars is scheduled Wednesday and Friday, including seminars on debt, retirement, budgeting, renting, home ownership, credit scores and a fun one called "Grocery Shopping and Coupon Savvy."

The free, live seminars continue during the month of September and throughout the year.

To view a calendar listing of seminars, click here.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free kids' haircuts at JC Penney Salon


During the entire month of August, JC Penney is giving away free haircuts for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Just sign up to be a JCP Rewards member, find a JC Penney store with a salon and make an appointment.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Kids Eat Free July 4

Applebee's will let you fill your babies' bellies for free this Independence Day.

The restaurant is giving out two free kids' meals per adult entree purchased July 4. Kids must be 10 years old or under and dining in the restaurant (no takeout).

Meal choices include chicken fingers, mini cheeseburger, grilled cheese, Kraft macaroni and cheese, fried shrimp and hot dog. Each child's meal comes with choice of a side dish and drink.

Find your nearest location here.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free Money Course for Teens

What teenager couldn't use a better understanding of personal finance?

Starting June 29, a five-week course called Money & Me will teach teens about financial responsibility. The free course will cover such basics as budgeting, credit advantages and pitfalls, responsible checking account habits, how to save for a big purchase and investing for the future.

The class will meet from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 29, June 30 and July 1,8 and 9. Meetings will be held at St. Anthony's Church, 160 Court Street in Buffalo.

Graduates of the course who attend all sessions will receive a $10 savings account deposit and a $10 iTunes gift card. They will also receive a letter of reference that can be used for college and employment applications.

For more information, call 847-6960. The course is open to teenagers age 14 to 18.

The class is a product of the New York Credit Union Foundation and is sponsored by the Buffalo Metropolitan Federal Credit Union.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Amherst ranked a retirement paradise


Hey, Amherst retirees--did you know you were living the dream?

Amherst came in ninth in a feature from Consumer finance site and real estate Web site ranking the top 20 "retirement dream areas." The survey specifically cited the neighborhood near Transit Road and Renaissance Drive as desirable.

The list was compiled from the neighborhoods with the best "overall combination of housing options, beautiful surroundings, a vibrant mix of educated seniors and other age groups, very low crime, peace and quiet and amenities for every taste."

This Amherst neighborhood, called "stunning," was specifically chosen for its parks, safety, housing stock, value, waterfront, medical facilities and its suburban setting near a metropolis, among many other things.

Other neighborhoods making the list were in Santa Barbara, Calif.; Sedona, Ariz. and Fort Meyers, Fla.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

The most and least expensive cars to insure

Insurance has put together a list of the most and lease expensive cars to insure. The figures estimate national average annual insurance premiums for a 40-year-old male with a good driving record.

The least expensive 2010 models to insure:

1. Mazda Tribute I, two-wheel drive four-door utility, four cylinders: $1,070.25.

2. Honda Odyssey LX, five door, two-wheel drive, single overhead camshaft van, 6 cylinders: $1,095.26.

3. Mazda Tribute I, four-wheel drive, four-door utility, four cylinders:$1,103.29.

4. Chrysler Town & Country LX, two-wheel drive, four-door 3.3 liter wagon, six cylinders: $1,119.83.

5. Jeep Wranger X, four-wheel drive, two-door 3.8 liter utility, six cylinders: $1,124.38.

The most expensive 2010 models to insure (no big surprises here):

1. Porsche 911 Carrera GT2, two-door coupe, six cylinders: $2,943.78.

2. Mercedes S65 AMG, four-door sedan, 12 cylinders: $2,863.03.

3. Dodge Viper SRT-10, two-door coupe, 10 cylinders: $2,851.89.

4. Porsche Panamera Turbo, All-wheel drive four-door sedan, eight cylinders: $2,837.39.

5. Dodge Viper SRT-10, two-door convertible, 10 cylinders: $2,815.90.

And here are some average car insurance premiums for the top 10 selling vehicles:

1. Ford F-Series pickup: $1,492.71.

2. Toyota Camry: $1,274.61.

3. Chevrolet Silverado pickup: $1,383.10.

4. Toyota Corolla: $1,302.68.

5. Honda Accord: $1,301.20.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Make your own pre-packaged mixes to save time and money

In today's Discount Diva column, MoneySmart reader Bronwen Battaglia shared an idea for saving time and money when it comes to feeding her three hungry sons.

Instead of buying pre-packaged mixes, such as Bisquick and Swiss Miss, Battaglia takes time to measure out batches of her own scratch recipes and stores them in labeled containers. When it's time for pancakes or hot cocoa, she merely takes the dry mixes off the shelf and adds the wet ingredients as she would with any store-bought box mix.

Not only does this bit of advanced planning save money and add convenience, it allows Battaglia to control the amount of sugar and preservatives her kids eat, and lets her incorporate more healthful whole-wheat flour.

Here are two of the recipes she has perfected for her family:

Hot Cocoa:


4 cups nonfat dry milk
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon

Blend ingredients in a food processor until it resembles a fine powder. Store in air-tight container.

To prepare: Stir three tablespoons of mix with six ounces of hot water.



2 cups whole wheat flour (or a combination of part wheat, part oatmeal flour)
4 cups unbleached white all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ cup baking powder
1 tablespoons salt

To prepare a big batch (approximately 20 pancakes): In a medium bowl, combine: 2 ½ cups mix, 2 cups milk (or more), 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola, or mild olive). Gently stir ingredients together. Do not over mix. Let batter stand for at least 5 minutes. It will thicken up. Add more milk if necessary. Ladle 1/2 cup or so of batter on to hot griddle. Flip once bubbles are visible and edges appear dry.


Substitute buttermilk or sour milk* for milk and add 1 tsp Baking Soda to mix.

Mash a banana in bowl before adding other ingredients.

Add a dash of cinnamon or diced pear and grated fresh ginger.

While first side is cooking, drop a few fresh or frozen blueberries on to the pancake.

Add a few tablespoons of ground flax seed to the batter.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

How to get your "Baby Einstein" refund


Parents who bought "Baby Einstein" toddler videos or DVDs between June 5, 2004 and Sept. 4 found out last week they can return them for up to $15.99 in cash, exchange them for a "Baby Einstein" book or compact disc, or use them toward a 25 percent discount on "Little Einstein" merchandise.

To take advantage of the refund, click here. You will be prompted to print, fill out and mail a form, which must be postmarked by March 2010. There is a limit of four refunds per household. 

The upgrade to the Disney-owned company's return policy came after the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood raised concerns about claims the videos were educational.

Research has shown that watching an hour or more of "Baby Einstein" actually delayed development. Doctors suggest children under two years old spend no time in front of the television.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Come Home to Dinner


The wind is whistling, the temperature has dropped and we're all looking forward to our favorite fall comfort foods. Wegmans kept that in mind with its Come Home to Dinner Fall Meal Ideas, picking a perfect focus for the season--the slow cooker.

Its always helpful Web site offers all kinds of great tips on how to make inexpensive, delicious meals in the energy-sipping, lifesaving, cheapskate's-best-friend appliance, which take just a little bit of prep time and cook beautifully while you're at work.


Each menu selection (which includes such greats as Slow-Cooked Italian Sausage Agrodolce for under $2 per serving) even comes with a wine pairing!

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

More $10 toys at Walmart

Last year, deep discounter Walmart responded to consumer spending cutbacks by offering a line of more affordable toys in time for the holiday season. It put 10 different toys on its shelves, for which it charged $10 apiece. Following the success of that strategy, the chain announced it will do it again this year. Only this time around, it's bumping up the offering to 100 toys at the $10 price point.


Included in the list of toys are brands such as Barbie, Tonka, LEGO and Transformers, as well as popular board games such as Monopoly and Connect Four. Some of the toys will be specially produced to fit the $10 mark, others are already on shelves and will take a price cut of up to 50 percent.

In addition, Walmart said it will match any price advertised elsewhere for less than $10.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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