How to Save

Easy Valentine’s Day Desserts

Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Stack of heart-shaped pancakes with syrup and strawberryThe traditional Valentine’s Day date involves going out to dinner. You can cut down on the cost of the meal if you have dessert at home. Here are a few simple recipes for lovely Valentine’s Day desserts.

Crimson Pears
Betty Crocker has a recipe for sweet, bright red, pears from five basic ingredients. You will need:

* 1/4 cup of sugar
* 1/4 cup of water
* 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
* 6 fresh pears
* 1 package of frozen raspberries in syrup (thawed) (10 ounce package)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a 2-quart casserole dish. Stop when the sugar is dissolved. Peel the pears. Don’t remove the stems and do not core the pears. Cut a little slice off the bottom of each pear so they will stand up. Arrange the pears in the casserole dish. Coat them with the sugar mixture. Cover the casserole dish and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Place one pear on a dish and pour more of the sugar mixture over it. You can each have a second, or third, helping!

Romantic Brownie Sundaes
There are several recipes out there that explain how to make this dessert from scratch. A quicker way would be to use your favorite brownie mix. Follow the directions on the box. Instead of cutting the finished brownies into bars, use a heart shaped cookie cutter. Place one heart shaped brownie on a plate with a scoop of your favorite type of ice cream. Feel free to add whipped cream, chocolate syrup, or slices of fresh banana.

Heart Shaped Pancakes
Martha Stewart has the perfect recipe for the morning after Valentine’s Day. Make some heart shaped pancakes for breakfast! You will need:

* 1 cup of all-purpose flour
* 2 tablespoons of sugar
* 2 teaspoons of baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon of salt
* 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
* 1 cup milk
* 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (melted and cooled slightly)
* 1 additional tablespoon of unsalted butter for the griddle.

Preheat the griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the egg, milk, and butter. Whisk until combined. The batter should have some small lumps in it. Test the griddle with water to be sure it is ready. Water should bounce off it and spatter. Use a paper towel to brush 1/2 teaspoon of butter onto the griddle.

Martha Stewart suggests using a pastry bag to drop the batter onto the griddle in a heart shape. Those who are artistic may be able to spoon it on. Flip the pancake until it is done and golden brown. Repeat the process for the next pancake.

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Ways to Save on Your Cable Bill

Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2014 at 8:00 am
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Watching tvIf there is one thing you could cut from your monthly costs that has a serious impact on your spending what would it be? One of the major expenses we’re going to focus on is your cable bill and how you can cut costs without sacrificing your entertainment.

1. Free Streaming Services

If you want to scrap your television altogether it’s easier than you think. There are plenty of free streaming options that you can use on your computer. Instead of upgrading your television or paying for a cable service you can get many of the same shows for free by watching them online. Many of the major networks, NBC, ABC, FOX, etc., stream their shows on their own sites.

However, if you’d like a one-stop-shop for a wide variety of television shows and movies, we recommend you checking out Hulu. Hulu is a site where you can stream popular television shows, from major networks like ABC, ABC Family, NBC, etc., and movies for free. In addition to free streaming, Hulu offers a paid subscription called Hulu Plus. Hulu plus offers a wider variety of shows and movies in addition to a smaller number of commercials when you’re watching videos. If you’re contemplating a Hulu Plus subscription be sure to check it out first with a free trial before making the jump.

Also, if you haven’t checked YouTube.com lately, they do offer free movies and movies for a small charge. The features that do cost money have a small fee, such as Last Vegas for $3.99, which is way more affordable than a Pay-Per-View option.

2. Paid Subscription Services

Similar to Hulu, there are  streaming services you can take advantage of that are a fraction of the cost of cable. Some of our favorite options include Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Price wise Hulu Plus and Netflix are on the more affordable side (both costing $7.99 a month). However, with Amazon prime, in addition to getting streaming movies and television shows, you’ll also receive free two-day shipping on millions of items, and over 350,000 Kindle titles for you to borrow. The current price per year is $79, but Amazon recently stated it may raise prices by as much as $40 to combat higher shipping prices.

3. Free Rentals

Another way to get great prices on your favorite movies or television shows is by renting them for free! Join the Redbox Text Club, by texting SIGNUP to 727272, to get discount or free rental codes. Or, if you love the library, there are plenty of quality rentals of television shows and movies for you to enjoy.

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Frugal Tips for School Valentine’s Day Parties

Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Kids laying in circle with hearts in their handsWill your child be attending a classroom Valentine’s Day party? Not every school will have them. Those that do typically will request that parents spend some money on Valentine’s Day cards and treats. Those “extras” can be difficult to fit into your budget. Here are some frugal tips to make school Valentine’s Day parties financially easier to cope with.

Frugal tips for Valentines
* Make use of the many printable valentines that are available online. They are free to download. The only cost is some printer ink and paper.

* Repurpose last year’s valentines. Glue them onto a piece of construction paper. This will completely cover up the name of your child, and the name of the classmate who gave him or her the valentine. It also provides a place to add the name of a current classmate.

* Buy valentines from the Dollar Store. A box of valentines from a dollar store will cost less than a box that came from the grocery store.

Frugal Tips for Treats
* Skip the holiday themed treats. They tend to cost more than the “regular” treats. In other words, buy the box of chocolate chip cookies from the bakery at the grocery store, and leave the heart shaped cookies on the shelf.

* Bake your own cookies. Before you do this, it is a good idea to ask your child’s teacher if you can contribute homemade treats to the school Valentine’s Day party. Some schools will only accept the store bought treats.

* Split up a box of treats. Open up a package of snack cakes, cereal treats, or gummy fruits. Inside are several, individually wrapped, portions. It may cost less to buy a couple of boxes of individually wrapped treats than to buy cupcakes from the bakery.

* Make some popcorn. The night before the Valentine’s Day party, pop a couple of bags of microwave popcorn. Split the popcorn into small portions that fit inside a small, resealable, plastic snack bag. This is going to cost less than the sugar laden treats that will be offered.

Consider Opting Out
The school Valentine’s Day party is not a requirement. You can choose to have your child opt-out of the party without sacrificing their grades. Some parents have their child opt-out of all school parties, for religious reasons. It is also acceptable to have your child opt-out because he or she is overly anxious or uncomfortable about attending a Valentine’s Day party.

Pick up your child shortly before the party will start. Spend the afternoon together as a family. Go get some ice cream. Watch a fun movie at home. Opting-out will help fit Valentine’s Day into your budget. It also gives you an opportunity for family fun.

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Back to Basics: Couponing and Saving Online

Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2014 at 8:00 am
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Online CouponYou may be surprised, but couponing doesn’t only happen when you’re grocery shopping or shopping in-store. In fact, there are plenty of online resources for couponing and saving that you may not even know about!

1. Amazon Coupons

Pretty much everyone that has ever used the internet has heard of Amazon. What not so many of you know about is their coupons. Yep, Amazon has their own set of coupons! Amazon has coupons for household items like toilet paper, food items like V8 Juice, and even discounts on items like wireless routers! When using Amazon coupons you’ll have to “clip” them by selecting them before your purchase. Once you’re ready to checkout your discount will be applied to your purchase. Remember to check if any restrictions apply to your purchase before making it final.

2. Coupon Codes, Promo Codes, and Newsletters 

If you’re doing some online shopping at a specific online store (like Kohl’s or Macy’s) we suggest you check out our Coupon Code section on the site. There you’ll find ways to save even when you’re shopping online. These offers may come in the form of promo codes or coupon codes which are words or combinations of words and letters that you enter before you checkout. Keep in mind that in our Coupon Code section you’ll also find ways to save by signing up for store email newsletters. Not only will some stores give you an online discount for signing up, but you’ll also receive exclusive content and sales for being a loyal reader.

3. Cash Back Sites

Cash back sites should be your last resort in regards to saving online. If you can’t find coupons, promo codes, and you don’t want to buy an item used, using cash back sites will give you a certain percentage of your purchase back in either cash or points that can be redeemed for gift cards. Some great examples include Ebates and Swagbucks. With Ebates you create an account and click on your favorite stores that have a relationship with Ebates. For example, if you love shopping at JcPeneny you can get 6% cash back!

Another option for being rewarded for shopping, which has more earning options than just cash back, is Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a system that rewards you for completing certain activities or shopping at certain online stores. Once you’ve completed a particular activity or shopped at a participating online store, you’ll be given a certain amount of Swagbucks which can be redeemed for gift cards to your favorite stores.

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Frugal Kids Events in February

Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Childrens hand with pencil draws the heartLooking for something fun for your children to do? Kids that love to make and build things will enjoy these events! Most of them are absolutely free to attend. Others are frugally priced. Several of the events include the creation of a Valentine’s Day themed project. Which ones will your kids do?

Lowe’s Build & Grow
Lowe’s offers Kids Clinics where your child can learn how to build a wooden project. Kids will also receive a free apron, goggles, and patch. Parents must register their child in order to have him or her attend the event.

Saturday, February 8, 2014: Love Note Holder
Kids will learn how to put together a cute, wooden, Love Note Holder. It can hold all of their valentines. This event will begin at 10:00 in the morning.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free kids craft events every Saturday. They begin at 11:00 in the morning and end at 3:00 in the afternoon. The events are designed for children that are ages 3 and up. No reservations are necessary.

Saturday, February 1, 2014: Love-To-Read Bookmarks – Kids will create and decorate their very own bookmark. Avid readers will get a lot of use out of it!

Saturday, February 8, 2014: Heart-Shaped Card Holder – Kids will create a heart-shaped “mailbox” that is perfect for holding valentines.

Saturday, February 15, 2014: My Collage Picture Frame – Kids will decorate a photo frame with sequins, sparkles, and other craft materials.

Saturday, February 22, 2014: Jester Hat – Kids will make their very own Jester Hat to wear.

Michaels Kids Club
Michaels offers kids craft events that are done in 30 minute sessions. It costs $2.00 (per child) for one session. They begin every half-hour from 10:00 in the morning through 11:30 in the morning. The Kids Club events are designed for children who are ages 3 and older.

Saturday, February 1, 2014: Crafty Valentine’s Day Bags – Kids will decorate a treat bag for Valentine’s Day. It will hold lots of valentines.

Saturday, February 8, 2014: Sweet Treat Card – Kids will make and decorate a card for someone they love. The decoration looks like a cupcake.

Saturday, February 15, 2014: Heart Painting – Kids will make a heart shaped painting.

LEGO Club
LEGO Club events are held in LEGO stores. They begin at 5:00 in the evening. Kids will have the opportunity to build an exclusive mini model. These events are free. They are also “while supplies last”, so you may want to get there early!

Saturday, February 4, 2014: Build a Micro Manager Mini Model – It looks like a small robot, or, possibly a robot used in outer space.

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Frugal Gifts for Valentine’s Day

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 at 8:00 am
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smiley couple sitting on the floorInstead of investing in overpriced candy, chocolates, flowers, jewelry, etc. for the typical Valentine’s Day celebration why not be smart with your money and thoughtful with your gifts?  Frugal and homemade gifts not only say to your loved ones that you put in effort, but it also adds a personal touch too!

1. Coupon Book of Activities

The coupon book of activities is the ultimate frugal gift that keeps on giving! Filling a booklet with homemade coupons for activities like “a night on the town”, “a massage”, or other activities,  allows you to customize your gifts and get creative. Realistically all you need is paper, a pen, and creativity, or a computer, a printer, and paper. If you’d  like to create your booklet on the computer check out these free printables from blog Life as a Mom.

2. Mix Tape or CD

Yep, we’re doing a high school throwback. A good ol’ fashioned mix tape or cd is not only a classic, but it’s affordable too! Since you know your loved ones best it should be no problem choosing some of their favorite tunes. However, if you don’t feel comfortable choosing songs yourself, try checking out their Spotify or iTunes accounts to see what they’re listening to! Don’t be afraid to make multiple cds or tapes either; try making one for each day of the week or one for each genre of music they enjoy.

3. Baking and Cooking Favorites

Nothing says love like food! Create a meal full of your loved ones favorite foods and desserts to show how much they mean to you and to demonstrate how well you know them! Try classing up a dinner at home with a  menu and candles!

4. Make a Date Jar

Just like the coupon booklet the date jar is a gift that keeps on giving all year! Buy a package of popsicle sticks or tongue compressors and write fun activities or date ideas on each popsicle stick or tongue compressor. Put these ideas in a mason jar, any jar would work, and pick an activity every weekend!

 

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More than Appetizers for your Super Bowl Party

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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ChiliSuper Bowl parties require food that is easy to eat while watching the big game. Some of your guests may prefer something more substantial than appetizers. Here are some tasty recipes that use inexpensive ingredients and that can feed several people. Offer these along with the appetizers.

Super Bowl Chili
Good Housekeeping has the perfect recipe for a Super Bowl party. Let the heat of the chili warm your guests after they come in from the cold weather. You will need.

* 2 tablespoons of olive oil
* 2 pounds of boneless beef for stew (cut into 1/2 inch chunks)
* 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
* 2 red peppers (cut into 1/2 dice)
* 2 jalapeno chiles (seeded and minced)
* 1 large onion (chopped)
* 1/3 cups of chili powder
* 2 cans of whole tomatoes in puree (28 ounce cans)
* 1 can tomato paste (6 ounce can)
* 1/4 cup of sugar
* 2 teaspoons of salt
* 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
* 2 cans of red kidney beans (rinsed and drained) (15 to 19 ounce cans)

Heat half the olive oil in a 8-quart sauce pot until hot. Add one-third of the beef. Cook until browned on all sides while stirring. Remove beef to bowl, and cook the rest off the beef the same way. Add the rest of the olive oil to the sauce pot over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic, red peppers, jalapenos, and onion. Cook ten minutes while stirring. Return the beef to the sauce pot. Stir in the tomato puree and tomato paste, sugar, salt, oregano and 2 cups of water. Reduce heat to low. Cover it and simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and cook for 10 to 30 more minutes. Serve!

Vegetable Quesadillas with Fresh Salsa
This recipe came from Epicurious. It is a tasty option for the vegetarian guests at your Super Bowl party. You will need:

* 4 medium plum tomatoes (diced)
* 1/4 cup red onion (chopped)
* 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
* 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 can of low-sodium red kidney beans (rinsed and drained) (15 ounce can)
* 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chilies in adobo
* 4 flour (or whole-wheat) tortillas (8-inch)
* 1 avocado (thinly sliced)
* 4 cups baby spinach
* 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro, juice, cumin and salt in a bowl. Put beans in another bowl and mash them. Stir the chipotle into the beans. Top half of each tortilla with 1/4 avocado slices, 1/4 bean mixture, 1 cup spinach, and 4 tablespoons of cheese. Fold tortilla in half. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 quesadilla and cook it, flipping once. Remove when both sides of the tortilla are brown and crispy. Repeat process for all tortillas. Cut each tortilla into 3 wedges. Serve with tomato salsa.

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Frugal Super Bowl Party Decorations

Posted on Monday, January 27th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Excited Football FansThe most important part of every Super Bowl party is the TV. People are going to be focused on the game. They aren’t really going to be paying much attention to the decorations at the party. If you want to decorate, the key idea is to keep things simple. Here are some frugal Super Bowl Party decoration ideas to try.

Stick with Team Colors
What colors are on the uniform of the team you are cheering for? Let that guide your choice of decorations. You can get a solid color plastic tablecloth, paper napkins, and paper plates from the dollar store or a party store. Pick colors that match your team. Put the tablecloth on the table or counter that will hold the “finger food” you are serving.

Ask your guests to wear team colors. Those who happen to have a jersey should wear it. This is a really easy way to add to the decoration aspect of your party without adding unnecessary clutter.

Football Field Tablecloth
Want to get a little bit fancy with your decorations? Get a roll of Con-Tact Chalkboard Paper and use it as your tablecloth. Use chalk and a ruler to make straight lines. When you are done, it will resemble a football field. Strategically place the snack foods on the “field”.

Football Banner
Uncommon Designs has step-by-step directions that will show you how to make a football banner. It can be draped along the edge of the table or hung up on a wall over the TV. The banner consists of several, small, footballs that have been cut from a brown vinyl. Glue them onto a sturdy string (like jute) and let them dry.

Football Labels
Hostess with the Mostess has a decorative solution to a common problem. Everyone is focused on the game, and may lose track of which cup was theirs. Use a football label to instantly solve the problem!

Choose your favorite website that prints labels. Or, you could use regular labels that adhere like stickers. Draw a football on them. Write the name of the guests and stick the label to his or her cup or bottle. No more guessing!

Astroturf Carpet
Your guests can feel like they are standing on the football field as they watch the game! This idea came from the MarJennings Blog. Place the Astroturf Carpet directly over your carpet. Let the Astroturf catch the spills and dropped food (instead of your carpet).

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Simple Super Bowl Party Food

Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Super BowlWhat will you be serving at your Super Bowl Party? Ideally, you will want to serve “finger foods” that are easy to eat while watching the big game. Here are some recipes to try that are very simple to make and that use inexpensive ingredients.

Kielbasa for the Super Bowl
This incredibly simple crockpot recipe came from AllRecipes.com You will need:

* 4 pounds of kielbasa (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
* 1 jar of grape jelly (18 ounces)
* 2 bottles of barbeque sauce (18 ounce bottles)

Put the cut kielbasa into your crockpot. Add the grape jelly and the barbeque sauce. Stir. Cook on medium heat for about 2 hours (or until hot). Serve!

5-Layer Mexican Dip
This recipe came from KraftRecipes.com. It is a dip for tortilla chips. You will need:

* 1 can of refried black beans (15 1/2 ounce can)
* 1 tablespoon of chili powder
* 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
* 1 cup of sour cream
* 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
* 3 green onions (sliced)
* 1/3 cup black olives (sliced)
* 1 tomato (chopped)
* 1 big bag of tortilla chips

Mix the beans, chili powder, and cumin together. Spread the mixture onto the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Top it with layers of the other ingredients. Refrigerate it for several hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

Easy Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches
This recipe came from Food.com. It is a really easy way to make pulled barbeque chicken sandwiches. You will need:

* 1 or 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast
* 1 jar of barbeque sauce (18 ounce jar)
* 1 medium sweet onion (sliced)
* 4 to 6 hamburger buns

Remove the fat from the chicken. Put the chicken into your crockpot. Place the onion slices on top of the chicken. Pour the barbeque sauce over the chicken and onions (enough to cover it). Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred the chicken with a fork and knife. Scoop some onto each hamburger bun.

Bacon Wrapped Cocktail Sausages
Our Best Bites has an easy recipe that will turn cocktail sausages into something spectacular! You will need:

* 1 package of Lit’l Smokies (14 ounces)
* 1 package of lean bacon (12 ounces)
* 3/4 cup of brown sugar.

Preheat your oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the slab of bacon into thirds. Wrap 1/3 of each slice of bacon around each sausage. Secure it with a toothpick. Place it on the baking sheet. Sprinkle brown sugar over the baking sheet of bacon wrapped sausages. Bake at 325 for 40 to 45 minutes (or until the bacon is cooked and starting to brown).

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Make Time for Reading: Tips and Free Books

Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 at 8:00 am
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Grandmother and granddaughter reading and smilingEveryone loves to sit down with a good book. In fact, one popular new year’s resolution we’ve been hearing is to read more. However, it’s tough to set aside the time to read and find affordable options. If these setbacks sound familiar keep reading for tips on finding free books and making time in your schedule.

1. Making the Time

When setting aside time to read it’s important to remember slow and steady wins the race. It’s not about how fast you read your selected book, it’s the consistency that matters. So, what we recommend is that you do your daily reading during  times you’d otherwise be mentally unoccupied. Try placing your favorite book in your bathroom, near you when your family is watching television, or read during the kids’ nap time. Otherwise, we recommend just carrying a book around with you wherever you go; you’re bound to find some downtime. When running errands there are countless times you’ll be waiting with nothing to do; i.e. DMV lines, waiting for the kids at school, etc. These waiting times are perfect for doing a bit of reading.

However, if you’re about multi-tasking we recommend trying audiobooks. Whether you’re on the morning commute or working out you’ll be able to get through a book easily without sacrificing any of the story line. If you’re wary of audiobooks try using Audible. The first 30 days are free and you get 1 free book when signing up. However, if you’re not satisfied be sure to cancel your account before the trial is over otherwise you’ll be charged $14.95.

2. Getting Affordable Books

If you’re struggling to find affordable books you’d be surprised at the number of resources available. Check out we’ve found:

  • Library – Although you won’t technically own these books, you’ll definitely have plenty of time to read them. The library offers a wide selection of your favorite authors and they’re all free (so long as you return them on time).
  • Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, or Yard Sales - It’s rare that anyone actually wears a book out. All you do is flip pages! So why not buy used? The price of books bought at yard sales, garage sales, or thrift stores are dramatically lower than what you would be paying when they’re new. Plus, if you go to garage sales or yard sales at the end of the day you may get them for free!
  • Book Swaps, Reading Clubs - Not only are book clubs and swaps a great way to spend time with friends, but they’re an affordable way to read new books! Try having a monthly book swap or reading club meeting with your closest friends to share your favorite reads. Once you’re done with each other’s books you can give them back or even negotiate a trade.
  • Free e-Books or PDF Books - If you’ve kept up with technology it’s likely that you have some sort of e-reader. Lucky for you there are plenty of free books you can download! Also, if you don’t happen to own an e-reader, there are still plenty of PDF books you can take advantage of. eReader Girl is a great resource for finding e-books and PDFs.

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