Beat the Heat This Summer

The FreePriceAlerts 8 Ways to Beat the Heat this Summer:


With summer coming in full force it is crucial to stay cool. Here are some great tips for beating the heat without breaking the bank.

Outdoor Pools – Check out this awesome 12 foot backyard pool for the whole family. Great for kids who want to swim around and adults to have a place to go cool off.  Its sturdy construction will last and last.
http://vbo.bz/4ku

Slushie Makers – Quench your thirst with a sweet homemade slushie. At just under $25 it’ll pay for itself in no time. The kids and adults alike will love it!
http://vbo.bz/403

Pool Toys – What better way to stay cool than hanging out in an igloo! An inflatable igloo, that is. Your kids will be sure to love this fun pool float. Just add one of those slushies and they’ll feel like they’re in the Antarctic.
http://vbo.bz/4kh

Air Conditioners – Get rid of that old clunker and upgrade to a new, quiet and energy efficient, A/C unit.  Check out this great Air Conditioner for just over a hundred dollars.
http://vbo.bz/40O

Fans – Circulate that fresh air with this great twin window fan!  The price history says it is a great time to buy!
http://vbo.bz/40g

Stay Cool Clothing  - Beat the heat with these shirts that will keep you cool. They’re made from a special fabric which transfers heat faster to keep you feeling cool.
http://vbo.bz/40a
http://vbo.bz/401

Hammocks – Check out this portable and affordable hammock. At under $100 it’s a steal that is sure to leave you relaxed.
http://vbo.bz/40r

Sunblock – No matter what outdoor activity you might be participating in this summer, make sure to protect your skin with this sunblock from Neutrogena which offers both  UVA/UVB protection.  This lightweight, waterproof sunblock double pack is a great deal, get 2 for the price of 1!
http://vbo.bz/40Y

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10 Tips For Saving Money On Airline Tickets

Summer is a hot time to travel – especially to destinations like Europe, Florida, Hawaii, California, Alaska, China, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean. It’s a good year for travelers who need to travel by air too. Just recently, Delta announced they’ll be purchasing their own Pennsylvania oil refinery to keep prices low, despite the rising cost of gasoline. Also, a new set of rules has come down the pipeline, forcing airlines to publish more transparent fares. Despite these small victories and the burning desire to travel, you may find that airline tickets and baggage fees can get pretty high.

Here are some tips to help you save money on your next flight…

  1. Know how far in advance to book.

For summertime domestic flights, shopping three months ahead is a good idea, but you can often still find competitive rates 6 weeks in advance. The best time to book a trip to Europe was 21-22 weeks in advance. For the Caribbean, booking 11-12 weeks in advance yielded the best rates. A good place to look for historic trends and data is the Airlines Reporting Corporation.

  1. Book on the best day of the week.

Generally, the best day and time to book your ticket will be Tuesdays at about 3 pm ET. Early Tuesday morning is when big airlines like Southwest, Air Tran and Jet Blue make their new sales announcements. After a few hours, American, Delta, United and US Airways get around to price-matching some of those flights. By mid-afternoon, you’ll have full access to all of the best deals.

  1. Book the best departure and arrival days / times.

Statistically speaking, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. However, during the summer, these days can be expensive if they fall near a holiday like Independence Day or Memorial Day. Flying overnight or early in the morning will be your best bet.

  1. Consider the shoulder season.

You can save money traveling to Europe in late August or early September. In the Caribbean, December and mid-April offer lower prices. Often times, you’ll get the added benefit of less crowds as well. Just make sure to look at weather data to make sure you’re not cruising in Hurricane Season or planning to hike during Monsoon Season.

  1. Know your airports.

Larger airports are always cheaper to fly in and out of, thanks to industry consolidation and capacity cuts at smaller and mid-sized airports. It stands to reason if more flights are taking off, there will be more competition from carriers and your rates will be lower. If you’re flying to Europe, make sure you fly into an international gateway city like Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Madrid or Vienna.

  1. Make a connection.

If you’re willing to make a connection, stop and have some lunch, and then continue on your travel, you can often save a lot of money, versus flying direct. According to The New York Times, there is a whole new breed of traveler who has beaten the system by booking a flight to a cheap destination – only to deplane at the connecting hub… which is actually the traveler’s true destination of choice! For instance, one passenger found that a flight from Des Moines to Dallas was $375, but a flight from Des Moines to Los Angeles — with a stop in Dallas — was only $186. Note that many airlines expressly forbid this practice in their ticketing rules (except for South West), but the risk of detection is low, says NYT.

  1. Don’t check your bags.

As you may have heard, Spirit Airlines is now charging $100 for checked luggage. So now is the time to reconsider whether or not you can honestly cram your life into a backpack or a small carry-on. The time and money saved might make it worth doing a little laundry on vacation – or even shipping some of your supplies by mail!

  1. Choose “Flex-Search” options.

If you are not absolutely committed to specific dates, you can save hundreds of dollars by using the Flex-Search option. Orbitz and Travelocity allow you to search 3 days before and after your ideal travel date, but Hotwire will let you search 30 days before and after, and CheapAir.com has a massive 330-day search window (but, unfortunately, this is only for domestic flights). For international flights, you may find better flex-searches direct — through a site like Iceland Air.

  1. Use social media.

Airlines often advertise time-sensitive information and exclusive promo codes on social media pages, so you can keep abreast of the latest deals on Twitter and Facebook. Yet, some passengers have also reported tweeting their discontent in real-time to find that the airlines responded right away with free vouchers, meal credits, and other compensation.

  1. Access the best online tools.

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What Are People Buying Mom This Year?

This year Mother’s Day is coming later and Easter came earlier, so people have a little extra time to ponder what they’ll buy Mom this year. Of course, there will still always be the last-minute rush. “It never ceases to amaze me that people forget Mother’s Day is in May,” Nick DeSantis, owner of De Santis Florist, tells The Columbus Dispatch. He adds, “It’s always a last-minute purchase whenever men are involved.”

What Are People Spending?

The BIGInsight and National Retail Federation’s 2012 Mother’s Day survey found that the average person will spend about $152.52 on gifts for Mom, which is better than last year’s $140.73. Total spending is projected to reach $18.6 billion.

What Are People Buying?

  • 66.4 percent of shoppers will buy flowers. (Total Spending: $2.2 billion)
  • 54.3 percent of shoppers will take Mom to brunch or dinner. ($3.4 billion)
  • 32.8 percent will buy Mom a new sweater, blouse, or other article of clothing ($1.6 billion)
  • 12.7 percent will purchase a tablet, digital camera or other electronic device ($1.6 billion)
  • Consumers will also shell out $1.8 billion in gift cards and $1.3 billion in day spa services.

Where Are People Shopping?

  • 36.3 percent will go to specialty shops like jewelers, florists or electronics stores.
  • 35.6 percent will shop at department stores.
  • 30.2 percent will shop discount stores.
  • 8.2 percent will go to specialty clothing stores.

What About Online Shopping?

Also, 25.6 percent of shoppers will buy gifts online… which is up from 21.5 percent last year. About 4 in 10 smartphone owners and 51.2 percent of tablet owners intend to research Mother’s Day gifts on their devices this year.

  • 35.7 percent of tablet owners will research gifts and compare prices on their mobile devices.
  • 24.4 percent will buy online with their tablets.
  • 19.6 percent will look up retailer information like store hours or locations.

The Bottom Line

According to BIGinsight Executive VP Phil Rist, “Many will use the opportunity to comparison shop and research products to save a few bucks, utilizing their mobile and tablet devices at home and in stores as they look for gifts and other ways to celebrate.

No matter what you choose to buy Mom this year, remember that Free Price Alerts is an absolutely FREE app dedicated to helping you comparison shop easier than ever before! Simply click to download the tool bar in mere seconds and shop as you normally would on all your favorite sites like Walmart.com, Amazon.com and Buy.com. If a better price is found, you’ll receive a discreet notification in the upper left-hand corner of your screen, showing you just what you can save.

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Can Google Wallet Save The Day For Mobile Shoppers?

A recent MasterCard study of more than 2,000 shoppers found that US consumers are more confident shopping online and they’re fully on-board with using their mobile devices to make purchases, but they feel the experience could be improved. Here are a few of the most interesting findings…

  • 58 percent of shoppers (3 in 5) say that they would prefer to have one place where their account information could be safely stored and accessed to simplify the check-out process.

Perhaps that is why Amazon has become so popular! Their one-click purchase option has made checkout as easy as blinking or breathing. Likewise, shoppers who use Paypal enjoy an expedited check-out procedure as well.

  • 1 out of 4 shoppers abandon their carts at least once a month due to an awkward checkout process that makes it difficult for shoppers to complete their purchases.

“Online and mobile shopping puts a host of new options at consumers’ fingertips, but the current checkout process needs improvement to fully realize the potential of these important retail channels,” said Geoff Iddison, Group Executive e-Commerce and Mobile, MasterCard Worldwide. He adds that what consumers want most is less time filling out forms.

Is Google Wallet The Solution?

Google Wallet works as both a mobile app and an online service. In brick-and-mortar stores, you can simply tap your phone at the point-of-sale to pay for goods using credit card, coupon and bonus card information stored in your mobile device. Online, you can select “Google Wallet” at checkout to pay merchants with your card information that has been stored “in the cloud.” All this sounds groovy, but has it really caught on?

Troubles On The Horizon

Well, here’s one problem… according to this website, two Foot Locker locations are the only merchants that will accept Google Wallet in my zip code. Supposedly, select locations of Toys R Us, Old Navy, CVS Pharmacy, The Gap, Walgreens, Banana Republic and Sunoco are using Google Wallet, but none near me.

According to ZDNet, a larger problem with Google Wallet is the fact that most mobile devices do not even support the system. Verizon and AT&T have been slow to adopt the technology due to security concerns. In addition to the Nexus S 4G, Sprint recently added the Galaxy Nexus, LG Viper and LG Optimus Elite to the list of supported devices.

An article in The Gainesville Sun speculates that the hype of Google Wallet does not match the reality – for now, anyway. They put it this way: “So, if you have a MasterCard and a Google phone on something other than the most popular carrier, you are good to go, right? In theory yes, but you would need to have a retail outlet equipped for such a transaction. They are growing but still few and far between. Have you noticed any?”

But the foibles are more than just skin-deep, says Digital Trends magazine. According to the source, “Google Wallet has internal strife, a fragmented market, and a variety of competitors from all angles biting at its ankles. This is a troubled ecosystem, a hard one to change, and Google Wallet is running the risk of getting lost in that chaos.”

The Bottom Line

It all seems so simple, doesn’t it? Consumers just want an easy-to-use app that stores their credit card, bonus card, gift card, rewards program, and coupons in one convenient place – and they want that app to be secure and able to be used everywhere they shop. Is that so much to ask for? With so many eager players in the market and so much expense for merchants to adopt these new systems, we are certainly years off from resolving this technology issue.

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Are You Guilty of Abandoning Your Shopping Cart?

If you’re one of those indecisive shoppers who constantly abandons online shopping carts, then… congratulations! You drive e-commerce pros and business owners crazy! While you may never think of abandoning a cart full of groceries or clothing in a brick-and-mortar store, it’s all too easy to do online, isn’t it? Studies vary in their statistics, but the average documented shopping cart abandonment rate is said to hover around 65.23 percent! So you needn’t feel so bad about dumping your virtual goods because you’re just behaving like the majority of online shoppers.

Why Do People Abandon Shopping Carts?

According to a study by PayPal and ComScore:

- 37 percent of consumers abandon their carts to comparison shop.

- 27 percent left to look for coupons.

- 24 percent left to find better payment options.

- 22 percent could not find contact information and did not trust the website.

According to eConsultancy:

- 44 percent of shoppers abandon their carts due to high shipping costs.

- 41 percent leave because they’re not ready to purchase yet.

- 27 percent leave to peruse prices on other websites.

- 25 percent ditch their goods because the prices were too high.

- 24 percent wanted to save their products for later.

Occasionally, Forbes tells us there are also design flaws where the shopping cart is confusing and not user-friendly or the sales process is too complex and lengthy for shoppers to follow.

What Can Companies Do To Avoid Abandonment Issues?

- Be In Touch: One of the “Best Practices” among companies with low shopping cart abandonment rates is to hire a virtual sales clerk to IM shoppers during the cart process to answer any questions consumers may have – particularly with regard to shipping charges or coupons.

- Inquire: If abandonment is a big issue, companies would be wise to create a quick pop-up when visitors try to close the browser tab, which will ask why they are leaving.

- Remind: Others may want to send out an email reminder within 24 hours to let the shopper know they can come back to make the final purchase – but most do so by a certain deadline before the contents of the cart are emptied.

- Incentivize: Some of the best e-tailers offered an incentive to customers who abandoned their carts – like a certain percentage off.

- Redesign: It’s also a good idea to have a web design / e-commerce consultant take a look at the process to see if there is some way to create a more user-friendly alternative.

- Market Research: Take a look at the websites of your biggest competitors and make note of what they’re doing. If they are offering free shipping and you’re not, that could be a problem!

- Thank Them: Studies consistently show that shoppers who are thanked and sent special offers or customized recommendations on future purchases do come back – and buy more too!

One Last Piece of Advice For Online Retailers:

Lastly, online retailers may choose to work with Free Price Alerts. Our technology is supported on a number of websites — from Amazon and Wal-Mart to Toys R Us and Barnes & Noble — to let their shoppers comparison-shop within the same browser window, which prevents them from leaving the site.

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What’s The Big Deal About Android’s “Ice Cream Sandwich” Operating System?

Ice Cream Sandwich is the next best thing since Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Gingerbread and Honeycomb! No, we’re not talking about food… believe it or not, we’re talking about Android operating systems! As we’ve mentioned previously, Android phones aren’t the only gadgets making use of this brand spanking new OS: Google’s tablet is rumored to be using it and so is the Lenovo Smart TV. You may be wondering what all the hubbub is about, so here’s a quick guide to what features make the Ice Cream Sandwich system so delicious.

· New Unlocking Methods: Traditionally, people have used a slide lock system, but this OS allows you to also unlock using a pattern, pin code, password or even facial recognition!

· Easier Multitasking: You can run a ton of apps and widgets at the same time and use the “Recent Apps” feature to view thumbnails of recent phone calls, messages, browser tabs, games and applications for quicker navigation. This button is located near the “Back” and “Home” buttons at the bottom of your screen, so it quickly becomes a staple.

· Better Organization: You can create folders to group similar apps or documents together. This feature becomes especially handy when you’ve got multiple versions of “Angry Birds” saved on your phone! You’ll also see a Google folder that contains Gmail, Maps, Calendar and Google+.

· Photo Editing: You can rotate, crop, remove red eye, add color effects, highlight and doodle on photos to save in a special “edited” folder.

· Screenshots: By holding down the volume and power buttons at the same time, you can also take screenshots, which will be saved in the Gallery app “screenshots” folder.

· Sharing: Anyone with NFC-enabled phones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus will be able to share apps, contacts, documents, music and videos with others on compatible smartphones. This technology is dubbed “beaming” and is accessible by opening the item you’d like to share, touching your phones together, and tapping your screen to send the link instantaneously.

· Data Tracking: You can now view charts to see your data usage for the month. You can set default warnings to let you know when you’re approaching your limit. You can also see a list of apps and which ones are using most of your data.

· Fun: Like all other Android operating systems, Google has hidden something called an “Easter Egg.” This OS has a dancing robot wearing an ice cream sandwich costume. You can find this mascot by clocking Settings à About Phone àAndroid Version 4.

 

If you’re not in the market for a brand new phone, you may still be able to upgrade your OS to Ice Cream Sandwich. Motorola customers can check here. Verizon has a list here. PC Mag also has a helpful list of phones that can handle the upgrade, including some from AT&T and Sprint as well.

 

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Victoria Beckham Talks Online Shopping

Celebrities are known for their privileged access to stores after-hours, their personalized tours of the back rooms of stores, and their access to high-end shops that only allow shoppers with American Express Centurion cards through the doors. Yet, more and more celebrities are confessing that they are addicted to the convenience and sheer joy of online shopping!

“I like to shop online,” former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham confesses. “I love Net-A-Porter in particular. Being a working mum with four children… having the ability to shop online is wonderful.” This luxury fashion site offers everything from Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Donna Karan to Miu Miu, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino. As can be expected, you won’t find “discount” online pricing for these mega-designers. Yet, there are J Crew tees for as low as $25 for the frugal shopper.

Perhaps another reason Victoria loves Net-A-Porter.com is that they’ve agreed to showcase her brand – from the $450 sunglasses to the $4,525 stretch gown. Yes, that’s right: Mrs. David Beckham has launched her own upscale clothing line, which has become all the rage among celebrities and online shoppers who want a dress that fits like a glove. You’ll find a lot of sixties-inspired shapes, paired with contemporary colors like blue, gray, white and beige.

She’s making great use of Twitter and Facebook to “provide a sneak peek at the world of the Victoria Beckham brand” with “exclusive photos, video and behind-the-scenes content.” You can learn more about Victoria’s shopping preferences on her Twitter feed. For instance, she talks about Lancer face moisturizer, Ken Paves conditioner, the Hunger Games books and Marc Jacobs umbrellas. She also posts pictures of celebrities donning her brand’s dresses – like Beyonce, Julia Roberts, Katie Holmes, Emily Blunt, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Biel – to name a few. People who prefer a more visual layout can gravitate to her Facebook page to learn more about her upscale brand.

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Buying Gadgets Online: Best Practices

Purchasing electronics online is standard procedure these days, given the deals, convenience and selection. Yet, there is a right way and a wrong way to buy gadgets online. The downside of buying online is evident when you have to make a return and go through the hassle, often biting the cost of shipping without compensation. You also shouldn’t just assume that you’re getting the lowest price because you’re buying on the Internet. Chances are, you can get even lower prices by following a few best practices of savvy shoppers.

Compare Prices. In the old days, you used to have to drive to several different brick-and-mortar stores to compare prices. Or perhaps you would get on the phone and call around. Nowadays, you can just open multiple tabs – or, better yet, use your Free Price Alerts app to alert you to lower prices elsewhere online!

Track Price History. Free Price Alerts can also track an item over time to show you the historic highs and lows. Another website, Decide.com, can give you a “buy” or “wait” recommendation that clearly lets you know if it’s a good time to buy the object of your desire. For instance, if you’re in the market for a gas grill, the best time would probably not be right before Memorial Day or the start of summer in June. Instead, wait until mid-summer (July) to find the best deals.

Use Promo Codes. Every good e-commerce site has a space for coupon or promo codes at checkout. If you’re not already on the inside track for a brand, receiving text or email promotions, then visit sites like FreeShipping.org, RetailMeNot.com, FatWallet.com, Ebates.com or CouponCabin.com to find the latest offers. More often than not, you’ll find something!

Consider Used, Refurbished or Open Box.

You can often find decent deals if an online retailer is offering used, refurbished or open box electronics that come with a warranty. Many times, you’ll also get new parts, upgrades and accessories thrown into the deal too – and all for much less than a brand new item.

Skip Extended Warranties.

Many an online shopper has been seduced by the idea of extended warranties, but you’ll find that the manufacturer’s warranty is almost always more than sufficient. Retailers are great at up-selling features like this, but they’ll find every excuse and fine print in the book to avoid helping you should you need it. It’s just like rental car insurance!

Avoid Sites That Are Not “HTTPS” Secure.

When you’re ordering a gadget online and entering your credit card information, make sure you see “HTTPS” in the browser window (rather than the typical “HTTP”). Otherwise, the site is not secure and your financial information could be in jeopardy. Also, be sure your anti-virus software is updated and running in the background to catch any malware that could be lurking in the background.

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Mother’s Day Gadgets

Slowly but surely, gadgets are weaseling their way into every holiday’s recommended gift list. Just as cards have become the standard way of saying “I care,” so are more expensive high-tech offerings becoming more commonplace ways to treat that someone special. Moms are not immune to the technology craze, after all. She’ll never admit that she would greatly enjoy reading her Jackie Collins novels on that Kindle or that she’d really love a new Canon camera so she could take better pictures of her grandchildren. Yet, you know mom is only human. Here are a few Mother’s Day gadgets if you want to go over and beyond her expectations for this year.

The Reader

 

If your mom loves to read, get her a Kindle Touch ($99) and show her how quick and easy it is to get her favorite books delivered wirelessly. The best thing about the Kindle Touch (versus the Kindle Fire) is that the screen looks just like a paperback and doesn’t bother the eyes in the least! Compared to the traditional Kindle, the Touch comes with easier navigation and faster loading time, so it’s worth the $20 upgrade.

kindle touch

The Memory Maker

 

the memory maker

The DXG Chelsea High-Definition Camcorder ($150) is great for the mom who wants to “be there to catch it all on camera.” She’ll be able to record video or take stills and it even comes with a luxury clutch carrying case, so mom will look posh while she’s snapping her shots.

The Couch Potato

 

Does your mom hate to miss her favorite shows? TiVo Premiere ($149) will give her up to 75 hours of HD recordings. She’ll be able to schedule her shows online, on her mobile phone, or on her TV. If you want to show mom the latest YouTube video, share a podcast with her, or show her your Photobucket pictures, you can do all that with TiVo too.

  • Bonus: Mom might prefer the Roku ($59) for easy streaming of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video and Pandora!

The Busy Chef

 

the busy chef

The SmartShopper SS-301 Grocery List Organizer ($149) quickly creates, organizes and prints shopping lists to save time. Mom can scroll through 2,500+ pre-loaded items and press “select” or she can press “record” and recite what she’d like to add. When she presses the print key, the list will be churned out, already organized into categories.

  • Bonus: Or perhaps your mom would like the Demy Recipe Reader ($199) instead if she is all about cooking.

 

The Mom Who Has It All

 

the mom who has it all
If your mother is already privy to the miracle of the iPad, you can surprise her with a thoughtful custom iPad case ($49) that you design yourself! Add text, images and clip-art. You can also make covers for iPhones on this website.

  • Bonus: Get your mom amped-up speakers with the Jambox ($159.99), which will wirelessly play music from her iPod, iPhone, iPad, laptop or other media player device. 

The Bottom Line:

According to FatWallet.com: “There will be a stronger focus (than in past years) on tech items as moms desire the conveniences of being more connected, more mobile and saving time for themselves and the kids.”

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Mother’s Day: How To Buy Flowers Online

If you want to buy your dear old mum flowers on Mother’s Day, opt for orchids, tulips or roses, says Consumer Reports after sampling arrangements from several online florists. Hyacinths and lilies are other safe bets for spring bouquets. Carnations and Gerbera Daisies will live for one to three weeks, giving you more bang for your buck. You can expect to pay an average of $75 for a high-end arrangement.

Online Retailers

 

The study found that 1800Flowers.com did the best job at matching the online description and photograph closely. The size, color and quantity were good, said the Consumer Reports judges, and they felt “fairly satisfied.” Although, they were surprised about the unexpected addition of white roses in the mixed bouquet, even though they were not pictured.

ProFlowers.com weren’t as good as 1800Flowers, but the bouquets were closer to their expectations than FTD.com. FTD sent orchids with few blossoms and a hue that looked white, rather than pink as promised. The mixed bouquet from FTD was the least colorful and full, which prompted judges to say it was the “least satisfying.”

Tips

 

  1. “Avoid ordering a mixed bouquet,” says Consumer Reports spokesperson Melissa Valentino. These arrangements are least likely to resemble the photograph. Often, the flowers pictured in these fanciful bouquets are out-of-season or do not ship well.
  1. Order plain roses or tulips, rather than specific varieties like “Dutch tulips” or “French tulips,” where you never really know what you’ll be getting for sure.
  1. Whenever possible, order from a local florist who delivers to avoid online retailer fees.
  1. Always cut about an inch off the bottom of the stem at a 45-degree angle to allow water absorption.
  1. Fill the vase with 100-degree warm water (never cold.)
  1. If you did not get a preservation packet, mix 1 Tablespoon of vinegar with ½ tsp. of sugar to warm water and add to your vase.
  1. Never place fresh flowers near a heat source like a TV or heat vent, as this will cause aging.
  1. Clean the water every three days. Most flowers die because of the bacteria built up in the stem.
  1. Remove any decaying or loose leaves to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  1. Spend your money on getting the most / best flowers, rather than the vase.

Remember, what is most important is that you demonstrate thoughtfulness for your mom, so don’t give her anything that is “boring” and take her preferences for flower type and color into consideration too.

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