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Summer savings through Groupon coupons

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Groupon coupons is a popular site for families to save on activities, restaurants and consumer goods. As a family of four, we look to save money where we can. It’s exciting when you can find a sale for a much-need product for the home or your children.

My husband and I have used Groupon coupons at some restaurants in the past, but not yet for household items. Since we need some items at Home Depot, we are going to review this link before we go to the store: Groupon.   

I’ve always been impressed with the deals at Walmart. Our local Walmart in Philly is always crowded with parents and kids. Walmart is a great store to find birthday party gifts and school supplies. You can’t beat Walmart prices on baby necessities like car seats, strollers and high chairs.

Check out this link and you will find over 100 coupons available at Walmart, either in-store or online: https://www.groupon.com/coupons/stores/walmart.com.

Groupon has 4th of July sales through “star spangled” merchants including Home Depot, Target, Kohl’s, JCPenney and Levi’s.

Have you browsed the Groupon coupons site yet? You will be surprised at the deals you can find.  

Career Wardrobe offers deals on clothing to empower people to work

Earlier this month, I attended Career Wardrobe’s annual reception and silent auction #HopeOntheMove. Last year, I enjoyed networking with other local women professionals and supporting this worthy cause. I decided to attend this event again.

Career Wardrobe is a non-profit that uses clothing and professional development to empower unemployed individuals to work. The Boutique provides professional clothing to individuals in transition. Job seekers can shop at no cost with a referral or for a small fee if they are not receiving government assistance. In Philadelphia, the Boutique is open to public where shoppers can find deals on women’s designer and modern clothing with sales supporting the non-profit.

Career Wardrobe recognizes that everyone may need help at some point in their working lives, and thus expanded their programming to meet the needs of the community. In 2015, they opened their doors to men with the Make It Work for Men program, providing dressing services to men in order to assist them in presenting a smart first impression.

The annual evening event includes a Hope Walk of community leaders and local media personalities modeling professional outfits on a fashion runway.

I realized my own wardrobe was in need of an upgrade, as I meet with clients or prospects on occasion face-to-face. So on my birthday, I left my kids with my husband and walked over to The Boutique at 1822 Spring Garden Street to do some shopping.

What a pleasant surprise. I tried on some outfits and in under 40 minutes, I left with three dresses, a pair of jeans and a dressy top. The price tag was a bargain for these five items. I was happy to find this deal on my birthday. The staff was super friendly as well.

I now feel prepared for when I have a future meeting. Yeah! I don’t have to scramble at the last minute for a suitable outfit. I encourage women seeking a wardrobe upgrade—both working and stay-at-home–to check the store out.

I’ll definitely return to The Boutique in the future!

Career Wardrobe partners with community and government agencies to reach those in need of its services throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. The social enterprise is the regional provider of the PA WORKWEAR program, giving women on public assistance access to professional clothing for job search, training, and work.

Career Wardrobe operates Boutiques in Philadelphia, Chester, and Bristol, PA. Clothing donations are accepted Monday through Saturday in Philadelphia, Fridays in Chester, PA and monthly at partner locations in East Falls and Haverford, PA.

Interview with ROC United’s National Research Director

Due to the power of the National Restaurant Association, the federal tipped minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991. As a result, tipped restaurant workers — overwhelmingly women — use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the nation’s workforce, and are three-times as likely to live in poverty.

A dismal 20 percent of restaurant jobs pay a living wage, and women, people of color, and immigrants are often excluded from these living-wage positions, as reported by Anya Sacharow (April 26, 2013), “Why Don’t More Foodies Care About Restaurant Workers?” Time.

Seventy percent of servers are women. Since a living wage is not guaranteed, and women are forced to depend on tips, they frequently have to put up with sexual harassment from customers, coworkers, and management. The EEOC has targeted the restaurant industry as the single largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women with a rate five times higher than other industries. See more at: http://rocunited.org/one-fair-wage/#sthash.ETQZGHse.dpuf.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United’s mission is to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce. Teofilo Reyes, ROC’s National Research Director, said that in general, ROC sees a very high rate of wage and hour violations for immigrant workers — individuals not being paid overtime as high as 60 percent and individuals who are forced to work off the clock without pay, and work eight hours straight without a break, each in the 40 percent range.

“For immigrants who tend to work in the back of the house (kitchen) in major cities, there really is no such thing as a break. Even more broadly in the restaurant industry, the people who take breaks are the people who smoke and there is this unwritten acceptance of smoking as a way to take a break,” said Reyes.

Reyes acknowledged that ROC sees restaurant owners accumulating wealth while their employees are not paid a living wage — either the minimum wage or slightly higher depending on the local market. Nationally, the median wage for restaurant workers is $9.20 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are times when there are overtime violations when the minimum wage goes below the hourly rate or when employees are forced to work off the clock. “A lot of work is done off the clock — when they come into work before their shift starts and then they clock out at the end of their shift and then there is work required to do before they can leave. Overtime and minimum wage violations come from that,” he said.

With tipped workers, ROC sees a lot of tip shaving, “workers needing to provide a certain percentage of their tips to management so they are not allowed to retain their tips. That is where the greater wage and hour violations come from,” said Reyes.

A small group of restaurant owners bring workers over to the U.S. themselves. Some undocumented workers qualify as victims of human trafficking.

There are places that force people to come in and live at the restaurant — “workers accumulate a certain amount of debt to the restaurant to come to the U.S. and then have to pay that debt off to the restaurant. Many of these workers will sleep in housing paid for by the restaurant, and have to work around the clock,” said Reyes.

There is a much higher percentage of undocumented workers working in the industry but that would not necessarily qualify as victims of trafficking. Trafficked workers are “a very vulnerable population, if owners themselves have been involved in bringing them in or helping them pay their way to a trafficker to get them there. The workers have a debt they are required to pay; if they are not able to pay, their families at home might be liable to pay what the owners see as their debt,” he said. This does occur, but the majority are undocumented workers who don’t have documentation and might not speak out about bad working conditions and more common forms of exploitation. This is a different exploitation than the trafficking cases.

Reyes shared these national tiplines for reporting immigrant abuse: National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights: 510-465-1984; an OSHA hotline: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888 3737 888; National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233. Unitedwedream.org is also a good resource.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Fight for a Higher Minimum Wage

The New York Times recently published a powerful opinion, Can We Finally Treat Food Workers Fairly? by Mark Bittman. He pointed out “how deficient our values are when it comes to the treatment of the lowest paid workers in our economy, the largest portion of whom are employed in the food chain.”

I take my kids for lunch at local fast food restaurants, on occasion – like many parents do. I’ve met or spoken with some parents who work in the industry, like you probably have. Mothers or fathers who work hard to support their families.

The Fight for $15 has become a successful labor movement in the country. Last month, the Los Angeles City Council set itself up to raise its minimum wage from its current level of $9 per hour to $15 per hour in 2020. While the bill faces a final vote, it’s expected to pass. This will be a major win for labor unions and liberal organizations.

Los Angeles followed Seattle and San Francisco in setting its minimum wage at $15 per hour. And last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he would establish a “Wage Board” that allows him to determine whether workers in a set industry in New York deserve a higher minimum wage.

“Through the Wage Board, New York can set fast-food workers on a path out of poverty, ease the burden on taxpayers and create a new national standard,” Cuomo wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

Many restaurant owners are accumulating wealth at the expense of their employees. Unfortunately, many employees nationwide–especially immigrants–accept horrendous working conditions in restaurants for fear of losing their jobs. So they are paid less than the minimum wage, work overtime without additional compensation and forfeit a portion of their tips to chefs and owners.

Let’s hope other cities follow suit and workers continue the Fight for $15.

As Bittman wisely noted, “But if you run a business that’s dependent on labor at the poverty level or worse, and that business doesn’t work if you pay workers something approaching a living wage, it isn’t a viable business, from either the moral or practical point of view.”

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Raising The Federal Minimum Wage Key for Struggling Families

This holiday season, many Moms across the country find it hard to be festive when they are struggling to put meals on the table for their children or pay their utility bills.

A single mother of five may work long hours in a restaurant for meager pay and need assistance from a local food bank to help feed her kids. This is just one example of a low-wage worker who has not – like many other Americans – seen the “economic recovery” reported in the news media.

Between 2009 and 2012, 95 percent of the income gains have gone to the top one percent of earners. The majority of new jobs created have paid low wages, and many middle-income jobs have been eliminated. Middle-class families saw about 30 percent of their wealth disappear over the past decade, while the cost of goods and services they rely on steadily increase.

In the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

Raising the minimum wage nationwide would increase earnings for millions of workers, and boost businesses’ bottom lines nationwide. In fact, 25 million Americans would get a modest raise if Congress raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour—where it’s been held since 2007—to $10.10.

New research on the working poor in the US released by Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that despite the stereotype that low-wage workers are teenagers, 88 percent are not. The report shows that more than 35 percent of low-wage workers, or nine million of them, are parents. These six million mothers and three million father care for 15 million children, and these workers are the primary breadwinners in families that include spouses, aging parents, siblings, and other relatives.

Restaurants across the Philadelphia area continue to violate employee wage and tip laws – even following a multi-million dollar settlement by Chickie’s & Pete’s, the sports bar franchise.

In February, Chickie’s & Pete’s agreed to pay out about $8.5 million to compensate employees for failing to pay them minimum wage and improperly taking a portion of their tips, federal officials and the company announced.

Many restaurant owners think they can get away with stiffing their workers, and they often do. The industry-wide practice of not paying employees the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, not paying overtime for working more than 40 hours per week or taking a portion of their tips and distributing among owners or chefs is a violation of state and federal laws. It just stinks.

Perhaps the Chickie’s & Pete’s settlement will make restaurant owners reevaluate their employee compensation plans. It’s time for hard working Americans to be paid a higher minimum wage.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Living Well on Less while Juggling Kids and Career

These are trying financial times for countless working mothers in the US and their families. As of summer 2011, eight million former US workers are searching for jobs; an astounding six million have given up. Corporations have matched earnings reports from 2006, but with 2.5 million fewer workers. Most workers who lost their jobs during this recession have been unemployed for over six months – a majority over 12 months – and are fearful they will never recover economically. And the companies that show the most dramatic increases in profitability also add the fewest workers.

Are you living on less income? Here are five ways to live decently on less income while managing a career and active young kids:

  • Buy in bulk. Every six months, we go to BJ’s and buy bulk items to last us for half a year. The purchase then might be several hundred dollars, but it is worth it over the long haul. We buy necessities like paper towels, toilet paper, dish and laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, deodorant, tissues. Calculate the discounts yourself–it’s often half the savings over the long term. We have a BJ’s membership–my parents swear by Costco’s.
  • Buy items from discounted places. The Dollar Store or consignment stores are wise options for the thrifty. Do you shop at consignment stores? You can bring in hand-me-downs and exchange them for other needed clothes. Babies and kids outgrow clothes quickly, and this can be a major expense for moms. Consignment shops offer brand name items at a fraction of the original price. My mom has purchased clothes for the girls at a local store. They’ve been gently worn but I have been impressed with the quality.
  • Dine in! My husband Jason is a great cook and likes to take over on our meal preparation. Seriously, he should have been a chef. We rarely dine out in restaurants and have saved a tremendous amount of money over the years by his home cooking. Calculate the amount of money you spend on restaurant dining. If too high, you’ll want to spend more time cooking in your home.
  • Avoid impulse buys like designer suits. Place high dollar items also considered “wants” on a “watch list” for 30 days before purchasing the items. Perhaps a new suit for work or new smartphone can be placed on the watch list. After 30 days, revisit the items; perhaps you have passed on the new item because you spotted a suitable replacement at a consignment store. Or you may realize that your current smartphone is perfectly fine, and you don’t need the latest and greatest gadget.
  • Consider public education. Private schools in your area may be costly. For many families, it is a priority for their children to attend private school. I attended private school growing up; there is a good chance my girls may end up starting Kindergarten at a public school in Philadelphia. Have you considered your local public school? There are quality public schools children can be sent to for free; your tax money already goes there.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My Book

When I started writing this book, my daughters were ages three and one–challenging ages to say the least. I set out to talk to other moms who were struggling with the work-life balance as well as national experts who could offer solutions.

Mastering the Mommy Track is not a memoir, and I don’t share overly personal information about my family. I was fortunate to have no shortage of working moms who were willing to share their challenges during this down economy. My working mom contributors honestly shared their struggles and concerns. My expert contributors offered unique advice and knowledge. They helped me make this book a reality.

Research indicated no competitive books in this area, so I delved into it. I asked myself, “What are the 12 trigger areas that cause working mothers anxiety today?” These became my chapters. This was based on my personal experience, research, and feedback from friends and acquaintances.

I slotted the chapters into four core sections: (1) Home issues. (2) Health issues. (3) Parenting issues. And finally, (4) Work-Life issues. Then I arranged them so that the most fundamental issues came first: Mental health, communication, finances, and romance. These apply both to moms in committed relationships and those who are single.

I hope career moms across the US and UK will read Mastering the Mommy Track and take away insight that will help them improve all aspects of their lives–both personal and work related. It is a juggling act to balance home and work duties, and for a lot of women in 2012, it’s a walk on a tightrope–a fear their families will never experience the rewards (vacation, travel, time off) they so rightfully deserve.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Economic Recovery Slow

Many families across the country are still struggling to make ends meet, and parents are often too afraid to speak publicly about it. The middle class is facing poverty and many are fighting to survive. Our generation is very different than the one we were raised in. Your or your neighbors may be discussing unheard of topics now–food stamps and Medicaid, groceries from food pantries, and dwindling bank accounts and 401K’s.

A 2011 study by the Brookings Institute revealed that for the first time in U.S. history there were more poor people living in the suburbs than in cities. Based on the most recent United States Census data, the research showed that 15.4 million suburban residents lived below the poverty line last year, up 11.5 percent from the year before, and  that “by 2010, suburbs were home to one-third of the nation’s poor population—outranking cities (27.5 percent), small metro areas (20.5 percent), and non-metropolitan communities (18.7 percent).”

I started to envision my book, Mastering the Mommy Track, in early 2011. Every mother with a career understands the tension between raising children in a positive environment and putting in the time on a career.

I read a touching story in the Philadelphia Inquirer last January. Donna Oxford, a 53-year-old grandmother, was laid off in December 2007. She had worked for an e-commerce company. In 2008, she adopted her grandson to keep him out of the foster care system. In January 2011, she was still unemployed–36 months and counting. She wrote a moving poem, titled, “Today I Lost a Tooth.” It recalls her state of poverty, lack of medical and dental insurance, and so forth.

I read this in a local Starbucks with my two daughters, and I was moved to tears by her story. Millions of mothers–single and married–have found themselves in unfortunate situations today, concerned about how they will support their children. I wrote this book to address these unprecedented obstacles women were facing. We are used to industries shedding workers, and within six months, they would find another job. These times are different and more challenging than what we all had expected.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net