Black Friday and Cyber Monday: A Look Behind the Holiday Shopping Madness

With the holidays fast-approaching and Black Friday only 2 days away, retailers (not to mention shoppers) are in full-on savings mode.

And while there was once concern that Cyber Monday deals would destroy the Black Friday tradition, the 2 have seemed to only strengthen each other over the past few years, creating a holiday shopping frenzy that keeps shoppers coming back for more.

So when did camping out in front of Walmart after a delicious turkey dinner become a thing?

From humble beginnings to holiday shopping madness

Crazy as it seems, when the term Black Friday first came to fruition, it wasn’t in reference to a sale at the Gap.

The origin of the name is twofold. In Philadelphia in the 1960s, “Black Friday” described heavy post-Thanksgiving traffic, which made things grim for the city’s police and public transportation. The phrase eventually spread throughout the country during the 70s. It’s also been suggested that the term was used among retailers to describe the point in the year when they finally stopped operating at a loss and started to be “in the black.”

In both scenarios, Black Friday represents the start of holiday shopping madness — massive crowds and traffic, all rushing toward early-bird specials and half-priced digital cameras.

Since 2002, Black Friday has been one of the busiest shopping days of the year … and it’s not showing any sign of a downturn. Last year, spending for the Black Friday 4-day holiday weekend skyrocketed with a record $59.1 billion in sales — a $6.7 billion jump from 2011.

Holiday shopping hits the web

In 2005, Black Friday’s little sister, Cyber Monday, came along as a way to help online retailers get in on the action. By 2009, Cyber Monday was right behind Black Friday as the second-highest spending day of the year, bringing in over $800 million.

As online and mobile shopping become more popular, retailers continue to create new ways to capitalize on internet traffic. Amazon offers Lightning Deals throughout the day on Cyber Monday, updating and adding new sales every 10 minutes, and Walmart now celebrates Cyber Week, stretching sales over 7 days.

Mall maniac or worshiper of the web?

No matter what kind of shopping you decide to do this weekend, there are 2 things to remember. If you’re headed to the mall, give yourself enough travel time. Crowded shops mean hectic parking lots, so if you need that 7 a.m. door buster, leave early and try to practice patience.

Helpful holiday tips

Looking for other ways to save this holiday season? Check out these 5 super-simple steps for saving some cash (and some green) during the holidays.

Not only is it shopping season, it’s also deer mating season. Yikes! Find out how to avoid costly accidents with deer and save some serious bucks (in repair costs and, well, literal bucks)!

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39 Million Reasons You Need Car Insurance Today

According to AAA, 38.9 million people will hit the roads this weekend between November 27 and December 1. That means nearly 39 million people merging onto freeways, changing lanes, looking for their exits, breaking up sibling spats in the backseat, and trying to make sure the stuffing and gravy don’t end up all over the freshly cleaned floor mats. The potential for chaos is extraordinary over Thanksgiving weekend, and if you don’t have car insurance, you’re nuttier than a pecan pie. Honestly.

There are 3 main types of car insurance coverage: vehicle, liability, and medical. Let’s take a look at how each of them can help protect you from any number of Thanksgiving mishaps.

Coverages that protect your vehicle

At its most basic, your car insurance is designed to repair or replace your vehicle should the unexpected (and unfortunate) occur.

  • Collision coverage will help either repair damage or replace damaged parts of your car if you happen to get in an accident with any one of those 38.9 million other drivers on the road this weekend.
  • Comprehensive coverage, on the other hand, will help pay for repairs if your car’s damaged by a natural disaster, vandalism, theft, fire, or a falling tree branch. If you get caught in a freak hailstorm on the way to grandma’s house, for example, comprehensive will help smooth out those dents.
  • Emergency roadside service (ERS) coverage (called towing and labor coverage in some states) helps pay for roadside services if a breakdown leaves you stranded on the side of the road. Instead of spending Thanksgiving Day in the ditch, ERS coverage helps you get back on the road and on your way to pumpkin pie.

Coverages that protect your passengers

In addition to fixing your car after a covered accident, your car insurance can help pay to “fix” you and your passengers.

  • Medical payments coverage is designed to pay for the medical care of you and your passengers after an accident. Let’s say you and your 3 best friends get into a fender bender on your way home from a crazed Black Friday excursion to the mall. If anyone’s injured (hopefully not), medical payments coverage could help cover their expenses.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage can help cover medical expenses for you and your passengers after an accident, regardless of fault. Offered (and sometimes required) in no-fault states, PIP coverage could help you out even if you weren’t to blame for the Black Friday fender bender.

Coverages that protect your bank account

As a whole, your car insurance is intended to help protect you from the expense involved with recovering from an accident. Liability coverage is no exception and generally breaks down into 2 main categories: bodily injury and property damage.

  • Bodily injury (BI) liability coverage can help pay accident-related medical expenses for other drivers and passengers. So, if you cause a 3-car pileup rushing to the store for cranberry sauce, BI can cover the drivers and passengers in the other 2 cars. It can also help pay your legal defense fees if the injured party decides to sue for further damages. (But let’s hope that never happens.)
  • Property damage (PD) liability coverage can help pay for other drivers’ and property owners’ expenses after you’re found at fault in an accident. If, say, your teenage daughter accidentally backs over the neighbor’s lighted turkey lawn decorations, your PD coverage will kick in to help replace them. Give thanks!

We hope you have no use for any of these coverages over Thanksgiving weekend … or ever. But, if you do, you’ll likely find that they’re more than worth the investment and can make a stressful time more bearable by protecting you from sometimes-exorbitant expenses. And keep in mind that car insurance varies greatly by state, so make sure you get the specifics about car insurance in your state.

Most importantly, please drive safely this weekend. And don’t forget the cranberry sauce.

Are You Making This Huge Homeowners Insurance Mistake?

Congratulations! You bought a home — your dream home — a Victorian, complete with crown molding, porticos, bay windows, turrets, a mansard roof, and all the flourishes of that era. It’s the kind of home that would’ve graced the silver screen in a Hitchcock flick or inspired an architect’s envy. Naturally, you want a great homeowners insurance policy to protect it.

But maybe you’re new to insurance and aren’t sure how much coverage you really need. So, you figure it’s safest to get as much coverage as your home’s market value (what you just paid for your home, which factors in the cost of the land as well as the home itself).

Unfortunately, you’d be making a costly homeowners insurance mistake. Here’s why.

How homeowners insurance works

Home insurance is designed to safeguard your home from theft, fire, wind, hail, and just about everything in between. A suite of different coverages work together to give you well-rounded protection.

Of all the coverages that come standard, the most important coverage is dwelling protection, which is designed to repair or rebuild your home to its pre-disaster condition if the worst occurs.

Since rebuilding a home depends on the various materials, labor costs, and features of your home, insuring your home at market value could leave you improperly insured.

Why insuring your home at market value is a mistake

Let’s say your Victorian is in San Francisco, where property value is astronomical. You insure your home at its market value — a cool $1.5 million.

But, even with all the trimmings and period detail, the estimated cost to rebuild (known in insurance lingo as replacement cost) is only $750,000. In other words, you’re paying for more insurance than you need. Regardless of how much coverage you may have, your policy will only pay to restore your home to the way it was before.

On the other hand, if that same Victorian is in Wisconsin (where property is less expensive) and you insure it at its market value — let’s say it’s $500,000 — you could be underinsured. Since the cost to rebuild is $750,000 and you only have $500,000 in coverage, you’d be responsible for the rest. (Ouch!)

How much coverage you really need

To figure out the amount of insurance you need, consult a few reputable home appraisers or builders. Have them do a thorough walk-through to determine the cost to rebuild your home from the ground up. Their estimate should factor in your home’s unique characteristics, labor costs, and the cost of materials in your area.

You can then use their estimate to determine your dwelling protection limit. In general, it’s wise to get coverage that equals the estimated rebuilding cost of your home, but it’s up to you to decide.

Esurance homeowners insurance

At Esurance, our goal is to make insurance easier from quote to claim. If you live in a state where we offer home insurance (like Wisconsin) and you get a quote, you’ll automatically see a reconstruction cost estimate.

The estimate (acquired from Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, a leading property specialist) factors in your home’s characteristics as well as the current cost of labor and materials in your area. You can then use the estimate as a starting point or pick a level of coverage that suits you.

Automatic dwelling protection updates at renewal

Reconstruction costs, like most things in life, change. To make sure you have the best level of coverage, we’ll automatically check once a year to see if the rebuilding cost has changed in your area.

If the cost has increased, we’ll update your policy. (Of course, we’ll always let you know how the change affects your premium.) If the cost has decreased, we’ll notify you so you can update your coverage if you’d like. It’s just our way of looking out for you.

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Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Hosts and Travelers

Some Thanksgivings are more memorable than others … like the time my family forgot to open the fireplace flue and ended up with a 3-foot layer of smoke in the dining room. Then there was the year the turkey looked a bit “off,” so my sister had to rush out and buy a very pricey ham at the only open grocery store.

Fortunately, all ended well and now those mishaps are just family folklore — but Thanksgiving can have some surprising dangers. Read on for tips about staying safe this year whether you’re visiting family and friends or your guests are coming to you.

Thanksgiving safety tips for hosts

As the host, most of the meal prep falls on you. This is a day for home cooks to shine, so go for it! But, because cooking causes around 69 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires, we’ve compiled a few ways to avoid a kitchen disaster on Thanksgiving (or any other day).

  • Most cooking fires are the result of unattended cooking. While there are always distractions when hosting (guests arriving, appetizers to serve), don’t walk away from a stove or appliance in use.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy in your kitchen and make sure everyone in your family knows how to use it.
  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing while cooking since the fabric can ignite. And be especially careful of your sleeves — make sure they’re short or tightly rolled.
  • The stove can be a major source of carbon monoxide, especially if it’s being used for several hours at a time. Turn on your kitchen fan or vents, open windows periodically, and make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are in good working order.
  • If a fire starts in a pan on your stove, turn off the stove and cover the pan with a lid (or use your fire extinguisher to put it out). Never try to douse a stove fire with water, flour, or similar substances since they can cause a flare-up.
  • In case of a fire in your oven, turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and call 911. Stay out of the house until firefighters arrive.
  • If you are deep-frying your turkey, I’ll be right over! In all seriousness, this cooking method (while delicious) poses a number of safety hazards. Never use the fryer indoors, keep it a safe distance from buildings and flammable objects, be sure your turkey is completely thawed and dry, keep children and pets away, and be mindful of splashing or spattering oil.
  • Never dispose of hot grease in the garbage. Instead, let it cool and then discard it in a covered metal can (like a coffee can).
  • Before going to bed, make sure the oven, turkey fryer/BBQ, and stove burners are off, candles are extinguished, and the chimney damper (if you have a fireplace) is open.

Thanksgiving safety tips for travelers

According to the American Automobile Association, an estimated 43.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over Thanksgiving weekend — and 90 percent of those will travel by car. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re headed out on the road.

  • Leave yourself extra time — especially if the weather is bad. With so many cars on the road, slow traffic is a given. But, if you aren’t in a rush, you’ll be less stressed and more patient. And if you happen to arrive early, you can help your host with meal prep or a run to the store.
  • Make sure items in your car are secured so they won’t become a hazard if you have to brake suddenly. If you’re transporting food, use containers with tight-fitting lids to keep you from lunging to prevent spills or protect your homemade goodies.
  • Properly secure your pets with a harness or a crate and provide kids with enough activities to keep them entertained. Remember to pack snacks, water, and clean-up supplies.
  • Food poisoning can be a risk when food sits out for more than a few hours at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. If preparing a hot dish to bring, cook it completely the day before and refrigerate it overnight. Then, transport it in a cooler and reheat it at your destination. Or, if you make the dish on Thanksgiving Day, use an insulated container to keep it hot.

If you’re going away for the weekend …

Take some precautions before you go so you don’t come home to an unpleasant surprise. Thieves like privacy and don’t want interruptions, which means they’re more likely to target a place they know is unoccupied.

  • Don’t announce your travel plans over social media. A study of ex-burglars found that 4 out of 5 used social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to identify unoccupied properties.
  • Make it look like someone’s home. Put your lights on a timer, for example. You can also have a trusted friend or neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers and move your car occasionally.
  • Clean leaves and debris out of your rain gutters to prevent flooding if there’s storm while you’re gone. Just be sure to put the ladder away afterward so a thief can’t use it to access your upper windows or scale your fence.
  • Don’t forget to lock all windows and bolt all exterior doors. One-third of home burglaries happen through unforced entry, where thieves are able to get in through an open door or window.

Thanksgiving should be memorable for all the right reasons, so follow these tips to help keep holiday hazards at bay.

Helpful holiday tips

If you’re traveling this year, check to see if you’ll be near one of these 6 amazing holiday light displays. They’re definitely worth a visit, and will have you circling the block just to get a second look.

And if you’re hosting, make sure to winterize your home before your family and friends arrive. That way, mother nature will be less likely to interrupt your holiday dinner (or maybe more importantly, the post meal digestion session in the living room).

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How to Winterize Your Car (Infographic)

Here in San Francisco, winterizing your car basically means firing up the defroster in the morning. But, for most of the country, winter casts a slightly more potent spell. Though powder-white snow and gleaming ice crystals make for beautiful scenery, these elements can cause dangerous road conditions and wreak havoc on your car.

With that in mind, our friends at SpareFoot (who offer car storage services around the country) have created this helpful infographic with 7 simple steps for getting your car winter ready.

Chock full of useful winterizing tips — like checking your fluids and keeping kitty litter in your trunk — this infographic is handy for anyone currently (or soon to be) experiencing the cold shoulder from Jack Frost.

how-to-winterize-your-car-infographic (2)

More tips for winter

First, make sure you’ve got your winter car kit ready (don’t forget the kitty litter). Then, check out some all-star winter driving tips (including how to avoid skidding). Once you’ve pulled into the driveway, winterize your home to avoid these 6 nightmare scenarios. And when it comes to winter prep, you’ll definitely want to know the best way to de-ice the driveway.