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Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

What is Mystery Shopping? A Complete Guide to Mystery Shopping Companies & Jobs

By Kira Botkin

Escalators at an indoor mallHave you ever seen advertisements for work as a mystery shopper and wondered if they were legitimate? Have you worked in a store that received reports from mystery shoppers? Did you ever want to know more about your mysterious patrons?

Mystery shopping, when done right, is a legitimate way to make money and visit new businesses. I work as a mystery shopper in addition to my full time job. I like the work because it is flexible and often, it helps me to save money on my purchases. I’m writing this piece in order to help take the mystery out of mystery shopping. If you’re interested in getting involved, or just want to learn more, you will find a lot of answers to your questions here.

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Top 5 Group Buying Sites for Daily Deals and Online Coupons

By Kira Botkin

group buying sites shoppingIf you read my Groupon review and have become a fan yourself, you won’t want to miss out on these sites. Group buying is growing like crazy and there are lots of new sites bringing you deals every day.

In addition to Groupon, these sites are particularly useful if you are looking to save money on holiday gifts for your loved ones – or yourself!

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Men’s Fashion Tips and How to Shop for Men’s Clothing – A Woman’s Ultimate Guide

By Kira Botkin

mens shirts deals on mens clothingShopping for affordable and stylish men’s clothing can be a real challenge for most guys. So here is a handy guide – by a real live girl who has helped real men shop – for how to pick out clothes that won’t make you look like a “doofus,” and keep you looking sharp so you can dress well with high quality clothing on a budget.

Women are generally better at this sort of thing anyway, so guys, listen up! Here are 10 indispensable clothes shopping and wardrobe fashion tips for men:

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The Grocery Game Review – Match Coupons to Sales For Maximum Grocery Shopping Savings

By Kira Botkin

Limited Time Offer: Click here and sign up for The Grocery Game using coupon code SAVINGS2012 to get a six-week free trial for new members.

The companies who produce coupons are counting on you to buy things you don’t need by luring you in with a discount. But you can substantially reduce your grocery bill if you step up your extreme couponing skills, and learn how to match coupons to sales on items that you use most often. But since this can take up a lot of your valuable time, is it worth all the effort?

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The Coupon Clippers Review – Find & Buy Grocery Coupons Online

By Kira Botkin

If you’re new to the world of extreme couponing, you probably don’t have weeks of coupons saved up yet, but you’re taunted by listings on The Grocery Game for sales on items you use frequently. “Oh! If only I had the coupons for those items!” you lament. Well, some industrious ladies in Florida have got you covered.

The Coupon Clippers gathers a vast array of coupons and provides them for purchases that can be used towards thousands of different items. Prices are very reasonable at usually about 10-20% of face value of the coupons. There are also usually over a thousand of each individual coupon available, so you can stock up big time! I’ve made two purchases from them and received the coupons very quickly with no issues at all.

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4 Tips & Tricks For How to Lose Weight Fast, Safe, Cheap, and Easy

By Kira Botkin

woman with measuring tape around her waistI will freely admit that being frugal is not something that comes to me easily. When I decided to lose weight, I was daunted by the potential costs. I don’t like carrots and I hate walking in the rain, but I also didn’t want to pay hundreds for a specialized meal program or expensive gym membership. So what did I do? Here are the three steps I followed which put me on track to getting healthy and losing weight:

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Camping in Line for Black Friday Shopping Deals & Doorbusters? 9 Crucial Camping Supplies & Gear You’ll Need

By Kira Botkin

black friday lines at targetIt’s going to be a mite chilly waiting for that 5am opening this Black Friday! Here are 9 supplies recommended by veteran Black Friday shoppers to keep you fed, warm, and entertained while camping out in line:

1. Tent
A small tent helps keep the wind off and contain body heat.

2. Sleeping Bag
The insulation of a sleeping bag keeps the cold ground from sucking out all your body heat.

3. Warm Clothing
If you’ve got snow pants, you’re ultra-prepared! Otherwise, several layers of clothing are a must. Don’t forget thick socks, and make sure all your joints (ankles, wrists, knees) are covered as those are major points of heat loss.

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Top 6 Free Black Friday Shopping Apps for Droid & iPhone

By Kira Botkin

Worried about losing track of the best deals and getting flustered as you shop during this Black Friday? Well, luckily for you, if you have a smartphone, there are some great phone apps to help you shop smarter and simpler this Black Friday. Organize your gift list, compare prices, and shop online with these free and low-cost apps for Apple and Droid devices:

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What is a SEP IRA Retirement Account for Small Business Owners – Rules & Contribution Limits

By Kira Botkin

Piggy bank and calculatorIn the past, we’ve talked about the traditional 401k, Roth 401k, Roth IRA, and traditional IRA. We must have hit them all by now, right? Well, if you’re a small business owner or you are self-employed, there’s another retirement fund option that you need to consider: the SEP-IRA.

When I started my own business, one of my goals was to save more for retirement, but the other plans’ costs were too excessive. After doing research, I quickly found that the best option was the SEP-IRA, which offered me a popular low-cost alternative.

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Best DVD Movie Formats to Buy? DVDs vs Blu-ray Discs, Full vs Wide Screen, and Special Editions

By Kira Botkin

DVD Shopping OptionsDVDs are a favorite shopping item – they’re great gifts, very portable, and frequently on deep discount. However, since many movies now come in multiple formats and editions, it’s become more and more confusing for the average shopper to know which type to buy.

To help reduce any buyer’s remorse you have the next time you go DVD shopping, here are 3 key things to consider when choosing what type of DVD is the best fit for your home or the person you’re buying for:

1. Standard DVD’s vs. Blu-ray vs. HD DVD

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7 Black Friday Tips For Safe Shopping

By Kira Botkin

Safe Shopping TipsWith the large numbers of shoppers expected to turn out at this year’s Black Friday sales, it’s easy to get separated from your group or end up in a sticky situation. Planning ahead will help keep everyone in your group safe while shopping. Here are some helpful tips to help you survive those crowds this year. Some are more obvious than others, but nevertheless, none of them should be overlooked!

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The 4 Best Cheap Online Grocery Shopping Stores

By Kira Botkin

Paper bag full of groceriesIf you’re too busy to get to the grocery store, there’s many ways for the grocery store to come to you! Online grocery shopping has been rapidly expanding over the past several years, with lots of different websites providing groceries shipped right to you. Online grocery shopping can save you time, stress, gas money, and expose you to new types of foods and brands you can’t get at your local grocery store.

To help you sort through the different online grocery shopping options out there, I’ve put a list together of my 4 favorite stores. To help you compare prices, I’ve also included the cost and shipping price of a 16oz package of regular Oreos to Ohio:

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Book Giveaway! Be Thrifty: How To Live Better With Less Book Review

By Kira Botkin

Cover of the book "Be Thrifty"Tightwads everywhere try to show each other up on how much their organic garden has grown, hipsters dress exclusively in charity-shop finds, and it’s practically “New York cool” to make your own pickles. But for most people, these frugal activities are just a small corner of their lives, with the rest of their lives displaying a significantly less disciplined financial lifestyle. So how does one begin to learn how to live a truly thrifty life?

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How to Spend Less When Buying An Engagement Ring

By Kira Botkin

Engagement ring on metallic hearts paperFellas, don’t believe everything you read. The maxim about spending two months’ salary on an engagement ring is absurd. You can get a beautiful piece of jewelry on a smaller budget! Besides, if you’re a regular Money Crashers reader, you probably know that it’s not smart to marry someone who actually believes you should spend the equivalent of a small car on a piece of jewelry unless you can amply afford it. However, there are lots of ways to get more value in an engagement ring purchase.

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8 Ways To Save Money By Keeping Produce Fresh

By Kira Botkin

Closeup of cherry tomatoesYou can take a big chunk out of your food budget by making your perishables last longer. Americans throw out about 40% of all the food they buy, so even a small dent can mean big savings.

Here are some great tips to follow to help you keep your produce fresh and save a ton of money:

1. Berries. If you’re up for a few extra steps, Cook’s Illustrated says berries can be rinsed with a 3:1 water-vinegar solution to remove any bacteria or spores and then carefully dried to extend their lifespan. If you’re not up for the extra steps, keeping them dry until you’re ready to use them will keep them from going mushy and moldy. Make sure to take out any that are already going bad first to prevent the spread of any disease or mold.

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