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black friday survival guide

Posted in Money, Style by

black friday

So you’re taking on Black Friday shopping for the first time. It does get a lot of hate: all these people who have to work rather than spend time with their families, the gross display of American consumerism, blah blah blah. There’s some truth to the arguments, to be sure – but Black Friday in my family is just as much of a tradition as the Thanksgiving day turkey. Lots of great memories from it as well – like the year I was sick with pneumonia and still insisted on going out, and promptly passed out at the outlet mall, or the year I was on crutches and wheeled around Walmart (full disclosure, these were the same year, but still.)

Over the past ten years that we’ve been attacking the stores, we’ve gotten pretty good at getting in and getting out with minimal damage – to ourselves, others, and our bank accounts. If this is your first year heading out, or even if it’s not, here are some of my best survival tips! Read more…

November 24, 2016
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how to book last-minute travel cheaply

Posted in Travel by

travelcheaply

After declaring last year the “year of travel” (successfully,) I was really trying to put the brakes on it this year and instead focus on paying my student loans way down and building up my savings. That hasn’t quite panned out – I’ve taken two last-minute trips back home to Michigan, and also impulse bought a flight to Boston ($150 round trip to see my bestie? Yes please!) But this year I’m only doing it where my budget feels comfortable. On my last (very important) trip home, I wasn’t going to go unless I found a flight under $300. I ended up finding a really great deal and four days later, I was in the air. Here are some of the tips I’m using to travel for less this year! Read more…

August 10, 2016
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Black Friday survival tips

Posted in Money by

blackfri

So you’re taking on Black Friday shopping for the first time. It does get a lot of hate: all these people who have to work rather than spend time with their families, the gross display of American consumerism, blah blah blah. There’s some truth to the arguments, to be sure – but Black Friday in my family is just as much of a tradition as the Thanksgiving day turkey. Lots of great memories from it as well – like the year I was sick with pnuemonia and still insisted on going out, and promptly passed out at the outlet mall, or the year I was on crutches and wheeled around Walmart (full disclosure, these were the same year, but still.)

Over the past ten years that we’ve been attacking the stores, we’ve gotten pretty good at getting in and getting out with minimal damage – to ourselves, others, and our bank accounts. If this is your first year heading out, or

  • Hydrate: if you’re just now reading up on how to prepare, you’re a little bit behind – you want to go into Black Friday with a clear, well-hydrated head. Spend the week before drinking enough water, and know where you can find coffee late into the evening. My protip for Black Friday: stop drinking water around 6pm on Thanksgiving. You want to have a fair bit of dehydration so you’re not jogging for the bathrooms.
  • Have a plan: when you’re going through the ads, triage your list store-by-store. When I shop for my grandparents, their list always goes first, so this year I traipsed through Walmart with their 32″ TV and tablet, then ran around in search of a inflatable air mattress for my house.
  • Go big first: this is perhaps an obvious one, but pick the #1 thing you “must” have, and make that your first stop and first target. Once you’ve checked that off your list, hit the rest.
  • Communicate: if you’re going out with friends or family, be sure you have a communication plan. Cell phones have always been fine for NP and I, but if other family members are joining you, be sure they share your philosophy. I’ve seen some hardcore (read: crazy) groups head out with walkie talkies – whatever works out for you, because you’ll want to split up in order to better conquer the deals.
  • Go off the beaten path: your best luck to get all your buys is to pick a store or shopping center that won’t be hugely trafficked. If you’re in a bigger city, pick a less popular store to cut down on the crowds. If you’re in a small town where Walmart is the only thing to do… get to a bigger city.
  • Ask for a map: at big box stores, doorbusters will be strewn about the store at random. Staff should have maps that will help you find your big scores.
  • Have a budget: it’s easy to go overboard on spending with so many great deals being thrown in your face. Be sure to steel yourself against any impulse buys, and you’re all set for success!

Are you a Black Friday shopper? What are your feelings on shopping as a family tradition?

November 21, 2015
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helpful holiday shopping hacks

Posted in Money by

holidaysave

Holiday shopping season is in full effect now, and it can be an expensive for last-minute shoppers. I thought I’d share some of my new and old favorite ways to save both online and in-store. These tips are great all year – no need to save just during a few winter months each year!

I’ve no doubt blogged about Swagbucks ad naseum at this point, but it’s because it’s my favorite way to save not only on Christmas presents, but on every day purchases all year. When you use them as your search engine (or take advantage of their other points-earning opportunities, like taking surveys, watching videos, playing games, or online shopping) you have the chance to win points, which you can then redeem for gift cards, cash back, or prizes. I almost always go for the Amazon gift card (although I do occasionally opt for a little Starbucks treat) and use my gift card balance to buy gifts or groceries (PrimePantry is a must-have, folks!) Start searching at Swagbucks now – when you sign up with a referral code, you’ll get additional points added to your account.

Paribus.co this is a newer one for me, and to be honest, I’d forgotten that I’d even set it up until they sent me a message letting me know that there had been a price drop on the laptop stand I ordered at Amazon. It works by scanning your email inbox to look for online prices, then reaching out to the retailer on your behalf when there’s a lower price available for a product you’ve purchased. I was a bit surprised that it took so long to see a refund because I order from Amazon fairly regularly (but maybe because I often use camelcamelcamel, I order when the prices are low anyway,) but hey! A few more bucks back in the Amazon gift card bank to churn somewhere else.

eBates is my first stop when online shopping, because it’s a super easy way to get cash back on purchases just by starting your shopping trip through eBates’ link, rather than the retailer’s direct website. Because they’ve started airing commercials on TV, this one isn’t such a little secret anymore, but it’s still a great one – I’ve gotten nearly $200 back over the few years I’ve been using it! They also display lots of promo codes for additional savings as well. (If you’d rather accumulate this to be wrapped up in your Swagbucks balance, they offer a similar “points”back system when starting your shop through their search.)

RetailMeNot has gone downhill a bit for me in the past year or so, or maybe stores aren’t offering as many discounts as they did previously. At any rate, it’s easy to whip out your phone while waiting in line to do a quick search on their mobile app or website for an in-store or online coupon!

What are your favorite ways to save, at the holidays or anytime? I’m always looking to pad that savings account!

November 9, 2015
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March Recap & April Goals

Posted in Living by

RABBIT! What does that even mean? I didn’t know it was a thing until I went to college and people were shouting it out their dorm room windows. It’s still confusing to me. Anyway, on to the recap!

March Recap

  • Work out four times per week how about “work out precisely 0 times during the entire month?” I achieved that!
  • Blog three times per week nope, but definitely getting back there!
  • Make an extra $1,000 beyond my day job check. Since my “primary job” changed early in the month, I’m not sure of the exact amount yet, but it was over $1,000!
  • Track all spending the day it is spent and input into budget calling this a soft pass, because I did manage to input spending at least once a week
  • Finish & launch new blog layout clearly no, but I did a lot of good prep work for it
  • Read two books
  • Sell car
  • Make 5 year plan and vision board and I did it in Trello!
  • Do yoga five times per week see above re: working out.

This was a rebuilding month, and a month where I went out and Did Things. I rang it in by being stuck in DC and working from the airport, trying to fly home after a very quick trip back to Michigan…

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Then I toasted to new beginnings and said goodbye to a friend as she moved off to LA to live the dream.

Of course I went off to Charlottesville to see Fleetwood (and eat at my favorite burger place with my best friend):

IMG_0952

We also said #GoodbyeGlee with unlimited pasta and breadstix, Slushies, and lots of tears.

But that brought a happy hello from my favorite Michigan summer sign, Bell’s Oberon (I might have made a trip to Kentucky with a friend to buy some. That makes me feel like a bootlegger. Am I a bootlegger? Is this illegal? It’s too delicious to care.)

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Looking forward at April, I’m ready for some spring energy and color to come back to my life!

April Goals

  • Go to karaoke (ya, I know, but I love it)
  • Save & earmark $500 for when mama llama comes to visit next month
  • Set up direct debit on my student loans (again) and car payment
  • Check one thing off my Nashville bucket list
  • Actually launch new blog layout
  • Actually sell car
  • Clean out closet & do a massive purge
  • Work out three times per week

And that’s it. I think it’s important (and I definitely learned in March) that I’m still being too overambitious with a lot of things because my middle name is clearly Overextend. NP and I signed up for a Flying Pig race, though, so I definitely need to get on working out otherwise the hills of Cincinnati are going to get the best of me! Mama Llama is coming in May, so I really want to have enough saved to treat her to some fun and go on a shopping trip. Plus she really wants to head to the Smokies for a weekend, so I need to sock away enough cash to stock up on my favorite wines. Now that I think about it, maybe I should up that $500… 🙂

What’s on your priority list for April?

April 1, 2015
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