Christmas celebration at Martin Luther King Jr. health center

Three hundred kids received free toys during the annual tree lighting ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center in South L.A. on Dec. 13. Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. County Supervisor for District 2, talked about the joy of celebrating Christmas in one’s community. Meanwhile, attendees got a preview of the new outpatient center.

Click play to see photos and hear comments from Ridley-Thomas.

Holiday bargains at the Fashion District

The buzzing market that sprawls from Los Angeles Street to San Pedro Street between 9th and 12th Streets is home to some of the best bargains in Los Angeles, especially if you know how to haggle. Be prepared to do a lot of walking, and don’t forget to re-fuel with a bacon-wrapped hot dog for $3.

Santee Alley and the Fashion District are open during the week until sundown. Parking is available for $5 at various locations. On the weekend, prices for parking and goods tend to inflate, so for the cheapest deals, shop Monday to Friday.

Here are some of the everyday deals that are easy to find on every street corner:

imagePack of 7 men’s undershirts: $10

Simple, but useful. And at $1.40 per shirt, this bargain beats even the cheapest stores. Ross Dress for Less is currently selling undershirts at 6 for $19.99.

imagePack of 24 pairs of socks: $10

Socks may not be the most exciting of stocking stuffers, but the holidays are the time to replenish your supply. This deal works out to around 40 cents per pair. Take a walk around and you may even find 27 pairs for $10.

imageMix and match jewelry: 6 pieces for $5

The vast array of beads, rings, necklaces and headbands is one of the Fashion District’s biggest pulls. A couple of places offer 6 items for $5, while most sell their goods at $1 each. Jewelry and accessories are perfect stocking stuffers for girls and women alike.

imageToys: from $5 to $15

Find dolls, video games, backpacks, action figures and clothing for the little ones, for a fraction of the regular retail price.

imageBling rings: $1

Another great stocking stuffer for girls, these rings come in all shapes and colors, from “bling” to hippy chic. Most of the rings have adjustable bands too, so you’ll get the right size every time.

Found some bargains you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below:

Keeping Your Spending Plan Merry During the Holidays

Originally published in Prominence Magazine.

Nothing can blow that spirit of goodwill like taking a look at your credit card statements after the holidays. Here are a few tips to keep you merry this holiday season.

imageDecide who’s in
Think about your usual holiday spending pattern and decide who you would like to consider in your holiday gift giving. You get to choose how you spend your money. Don’t let anyone force your hand.

Open up a holiday account
I would guess that you have an amount you’d like to spend when you think about holiday shopping. Instead of waiting until October/November to start planning your budget, why not open a “holiday account” at your local credit union or bank? Add a specific amount every month and you’ll find that when the holidays arrive, you’ll be sitting pretty without going into debt. It may be too late this year, but it’s never too early to plan for Christmas 2011.

Shop online
There are many good discounts to be had online. Shop early and check prices often. Sign up for online notifications from manufacturers and/or businesses that have a tendency to offer good sales. A great place to find deals is www.SlickDeals.Net; check the forums.

Shop clearance
Check out the clearance page from the manufacturer you want to purchase from. Also, stop by the page for refurbished items if you’re purchasing electronics. Almost every business from designer clothes to cars has to get rid of older stock. Savings of 50% are common.

Follow these tips and you’ll be thrilled to watch your loved ones open their gifts knowing that you won’t regret any of your purchases.

imageShay Olivarria is a financial educator, speaker, and the author of Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook and 10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money. Visit her at

The meaning of Christmas, from Skid Row

imageKiera was easily singled out for stardom during her two months living at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. After stunning staff during a public speaking workshop, Kiera was chosen to tell the story of Christmas on behalf of the mission.

“The goal is to put a face to homelessness,” said Marketing Assistant Erin Hennings. “And to remind people of the meaning of Christmas.”

Kiera’s family had re-located from the Bay Area and found their way to the Union Rescue Mission while struggling to get back on their feet. A few weeks ago, Kiera and her family found a new home and moved away from Skid Row. According to Hennings, the family still returns for guidance and assistance, and to take part in community events such as the Thanksgiving feast.

From Union Rescue Mission:
Each night, an average of 145 kids call Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens Family Center home. And thanks to help from friends like you, we have rescued over 1,800 precious children from living on the streets of Skid Row in the last 2 years. Kiera is one of these adorable children. We hope you will take a moment to watch her tell the Christmas Story in her own words!