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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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holiday gift guide: this is a man’s world

Posted in Living by

forhim

We’re just a few weeks out from Christmas, and in the crunch for wrapping up the holiday shopping lists! If you’re feeling stuck on gift ideas, I’ve put together a week of ideas to help you get inspired! Today we’re shopping for the men in your life.

Ladies aren’t the only ones who get the nice, luxe hair products these days. Lockhart’s Authentic, a Michigan company, creates their product based on customer feedback, improving them as they continue to produce them. Get your man in the holiday spirit with this Black Christmas hair pomade, or opt for their Goon Grease.

A candle might not be at the top of your man’s list (or even register on that list at all,) but it will certainly go a long way in his studio, office, or man cave – a little decor and plesant (but still manly) scent makes it more inviting for the ladies. I’m a fanatic of this Amberwood Fire candle from Target, and buy it like an addict any time I find it in store.

This is a really fun one, and an idea I’m tucking away for my friend’s birthday present in February. ManCrates will send a wooden crate with gifts surrounding a theme (like video games, beer, or sports). If you’re feeling truly brain dead on ideas, or just looking for an extra special gift, their crates range from $19.99 to $179.99 for the man who wants to be truly prepared for the zombie apocalypse!

Craft cocktails are gaining in popularity right behind craft beers, so if someone in your life is jumping on this trend, let Wolfmoon Mixers help you stock their bar! I’m a fan of their Pineapple Jalapeno – perfectly sweet and spicy and begging for tequila or rum.

Many guys take pride in their facial hair, and well they should! Help him keep his beard and face fresh (and keep him away from your expensive face wash) by getting him Kalamazoo from Lush. One wash for both face and beard cuts down on maintenance for him, plus the fresh scent and moisturizing ingredients are great to ward off dry winter skin.

And if you’re looking for a free idea to load on his iPhone, Newman is really into this podcast Uhh Yeah Dude. Hosted by Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette, they riff on current events, news, and more. If he needs some new comedy for his commute, he’ll thank you for this suggestion!

Do you have any great gift ideas for guys? Let us know in the comments below!

December 7, 2015
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on the (treadmill) again

Posted in Work Out by

After accidentally taking a year off from regular runs or workouts, I started pounding the tread again in my apartment gym fairly regularly in mid-September. After being pretty committed for awhile, and not having bought or been fitted for new shoes since April 2012, I thought it was high time I got my tail in to a running shop. I took myself in to Fleet Feet Brentwood and got fitted for new shoes! (For anyone curious, I highly recommend going on the day before Halloween – people start celebrating early here, so the store was empty when I walked in.)

The fit specialist took a look at my beaten-down running shoes and asked what size I wear. She measured my feet and broke the most upsetting news I’ve possibly ever heard: this size 11-cursed girl has now crossed the threshold into size 12 running shoes. I considered walking out then – who on earth has ever seen cute size 12 running shoes? Certainly not me, and certainly not the size 11, April 2012 version of me who was reduced to ugly blue and gray Asics. She assured me that things have gotten better, and was confident we’d find something comfortable and pretty for me.

The first pair I tried on were Asics GT-2000s, and they felt good. To be honest, I didn’t want them to – I don’t particularly like the look of Asics, and though my last pair did treat me well, I was hoping for a cooler (and prettier) pair. She had me run up the sidewalk to watch my gait before we moved on to the next pair, Mizuno Wave Inspires. These felt even better than the Asics, and I definitely liked them more – the bright, pretty coral color was a vast improvement over my old, dull grey shoes. They felt great on my feet, and I could really feel the support for my slight overpronation.

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The last pair I put on, and the ones I definitely wanted to be the winners, were the Brooks Ravennas. For some reason, I’ve always been attracted to the design of Brooks shoes, and these ones even came in my favorite colors: turquoise and hot pink. Even though the Mizunos felt better, I knew I was going to pick the Ravennas before I even put them on.

$130 later after the shoes, a new pair of Feetures, and a tube of Nuun, I’m back on the treadmill again, hoping to be in shape for a 2:45 St. Jude half marathon in the spring.

Have you ever had to switch your shoes because your model was discontinued? What’s your favorite brand of running shoes?

December 4, 2015
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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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