A Little Bit of This & That

The Random Things We Love to Make and Do

5 Things – Blogging Resolutions January 2, 2011

Filed under: 5 Things — Lizz @ 8:27 am

Happy New Year Everyone!

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I promised myself that this year I wouldn’t make a resolution.  I find that I make resolutions, and don’t really seem to follow through.  Then I thought again.  I have recently started this blog, and spent the first few months getting my feet wet.  I am still a novice, and I know that I have tons of room to grow.  So I’ve decided to set a few goals for myself.

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#1 – Post a little more often

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When I originally thought to start this blog I figured that 2-3 times a week seemed like a good interval for posting.  But…I think I could do a little more.  Something like 3-4 times a week.  This will require some advanced planning at times, but I think it is a reasonable goal.  I found that over the holidays, finding time to write posts was very difficult.  Hopefully I can use my experience over the last few weeks to be better prepared in 2011.

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#2 – Improve my photography skills

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The easiest way to do this would be to get myself one of those fancy shmancy camera.  But those are pretty darn expensive, so until that is a possibility, I would like to learn how to use my little point and shoot digital camera a little better.  I’ve taken a photography class before, so I do understand the basics of photography.  However, the camera I had for that class was an SLR camera that used real, old school, 35mm film.  Digital is a whole different concept.  Perhaps I could find a good class on digital photography or something, but in the end, I just want to show you all the best pictures I can.

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#3 – Post some hairdos

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My original intention when starting this blog was to do a lot of hairdos with a smattering of everything else we do.  What has actually happened is everything else we do, with 1 hairstyle!  I have found them much more difficult to record that I thought.  Basically, I am using both hands to do hair, leaving no hands for photo-taking.  Plus, if we are on our way somewhere, like school and work, there isn’t enough time to stop at each step and taken tons of photos.  Here is where planning ahead will help.  I need to find days where we don’t have much going on (good luck there), so I can do a ‘do without time constraints.  This way I can take photos (or even videos) as needed, and get the post written.

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#4 – Try to be less wordy

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This post is yet another example of how I can use too many words when I write.  I am also a process blogger, and a general over-explainer.  I need to learn to condense what I want to say into the fewest words possible.  Maybe I should start using Twitter.  Being limited to 140 words would be a real challenge for me.  I’ll just leave it at that.

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#5 – Get the word out

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I would love to see my stats increase.  I get super excited when I have a day with lots of people coming to read about whatever we have done.  But not every day is like that.  I don’t get paid for this blog.  I simply get a rush from knowing that other people enjoy the projects we do.  Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE giving advice, or recommendations, or suggestions, and this blog is a great way for me to do that.  I am wondering if any of you wonderful bloggers out there have any suggestions on how you got yourselves out there.  What was the best way you found to connect yourself with new readers?

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Thank you to those of you that continue to follow this blog.  I look forward to making improvements in 2011.  Here’s to resolutions I actually intend to keep!

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Lizz

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5 Things – Holiday Shopping Money Saving Tips December 2, 2010

Filed under: 5 Things,Tips — Lizz @ 1:13 am
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I had a recent request for some tips on saving money.  I will happily oblige by giving some tips for holiday shopping.  Here are a few things I do to help keep my holiday shopping under control. (Warning…tons of info ahead…)

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1)  When shopping online, utilize coupon codes, free shipping codes, and email lists. There are tons of websites out there that will give you coupon codes for discounts at popular online stores.  For example:

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On couponcabin.com, I found a coupon for $7 off a $70 online order at Target.com.  Nobody walks out of target with less than $100 worth of stuff, so this one seems really easy to use.  I really like that this site will tell you the last time someone tested the coupon.  This way you know that it is still valid.

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On bradsdeals.com, you will not only find good coupons, but also great sales and deals that are going on right now all over the web.

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Couponmom.com is a great way to find manufacturers’ coupons for grocery store items.  This is even easier than clipping paper coupons.  Just click the coupons you want, and print.  You can also look up what sales are happening at individual grocery stores.   The site will notate items that are both on sale and have a coupon available, for the biggest savings!  We all know that one of the big, but overlooked, expenses of the holidays is the food.  This is a great way to keep the grocery bill in check.

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Want free shipping?  Try out freeshipping.org for all of the great free shipping codes you will need for your internet shopping.

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If you have any stores or restaurants that you frequent (or wish you could), ask if they offer an email list.  This is a great way to get first notification of sales, and coupons.  Many of these places will offer specials only for their email list members.  Example:  I love Texas De Brazil.  This all-you-can-eat brazilian steakhouse has the most amazing meat, and a ridiculously fabulous salad bar (which doesn’t really have what I would normally think of as salad).  This is not the Sizzler.  Meals are $50 per person, before drinks, dessert, tax, and tip.  That’s currently a little pricey for me, but after signing up for their email list, I get tons of buy one get one free meal coupons.  Now we’re talking!  (**Sidebar note here…as a former server, please remember that when you use a coupon at a restaurant, good service should be tipped based on the amount of the check before the discount.  Bad service?  That’s totally your call.)

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2) If you plan on shopping in person, consider using cash only.

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I have found that when I have cash in my hands, I am very reluctant to let it leave my hands.  This is even more true when I have $50 or $100 bills.  When you pay with a credit or debit card, it doesn’t always feel like you are spending money, and is therefore very easy to overspend.  Swipe the card and regret it later.  Around the holidays, this is even more pronounced.  If you give yourself a budget and take out that much in cash, you will find yourself considering your purchases more carefully.  You will likely end up with more thoughtful quality gifts, as you literally see what you get for the money.

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3)  Consider off-brand products

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This technique works best with smaller children.  Many times, they will see something on TV, or at a friend’s house, and they must have it.  If your child is anything like mine, they are going to shoot for the moon (mine asked me for a real house).  In some cases, you might be able to get away with an off-brand (and therefore less spendy) version of their request.  This American Girl doll looks a whole lot like this doll from Target.  They are the same size, wear the same size clothing, and have the same sort of accessories.  The biggest difference?  $75.    Personal example:  When I was 5 years old, I wanted the big trendy toy of the year, a Cabbage Patch Doll.  My wonderful mother did everything in her power to get one, but there were none to be found that first holiday season.  What did I get that Christmas?  Douglas, the cutest bald baby boy Cabbage Patch-esque doll.  I didn’t know he wasn’t a real CP doll until my mom told me as an adult.  I had many real CP dolls after Douglas, but he is the only one I remember.

(Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that a branded product is bad.  I just know that not everyone can afford it, and there are some great alternative options.  Make sure you look carefully at the alternatives as well.  Sometimes they are not quality, and you will need to weigh your options there.)

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4)  Use your smart phone apps. (I have a Droid, so I can only speak on personal experience as a droid user, but I know that all of the other phone have similar apps with different names)

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I use an amazing app called ShopSavvy (also available on iPhone).  This app is a barcode scanner.  While shopping at a store, you can scan the barcode with your phone to see what that exact item is selling for both online and at nearby stores.  Practical application:  You are at Store A.  You find an amazing gift.  You use ShopSavvy to scan the barcode, and it shows you that you can buy it online for a much better deal.  The app can take you to the website, and you can purchase it on your phone while still standing in Store A.  You find another gift and scan it.  You see that Store B has the same item for a much better price.  The app can then open a map, and (using the phone’s GPS), show you where the closest Store Bs are located, and then navigate your way there.  You leave Store A, realizing that they are overpriced.

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Droid users can scan this QR code to find the app:

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This could also be handy after the holidays, if you have received a gift without a gift receipt.  You can now find out where that product may have come from.  Many stores (i.e. Target, Babies-R-Us) will take back an item without a receipt in exchange for store credit.

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5)  Have a plan

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I tend to overspend when I don’t have a solid shopping list in place.  If I go to a store to buy gifts without at least and idea of what I want to give a friend or family member, I am in serious danger.  I don’t always go with my original idea, but having a place to start seems to center my concentration.  I start by making a list of all the people I need to buy gifts for, including any grab bag gifts.  Then, I usually to do some internet surfing to collect ideas.  I will write down ideas for each person.  I like to have a few ideas, because you never know what will be out of stock.  Then I hit the stores, and try to satisfy my list.  When I find something that I didn’t think of before, I ask myself: Is this a better gift than my original idea? I find that being prepared before entering a store makes the holiday shopping process easier, and I can concentrate on my spending habits better.  (If you love your smart phone, like I do, there are also apps out there for creating lists.  I hate when I have spent all that time to create a list and I leave it at home.  A list in your cell phone is very likely to stay with you)

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I think that holiday gift buying should be fun and rewarding, not stressful.  When I use a combination of these strategies, I don’t have the financial panic I used to around this time.  I feel good that my gifts are well thought out, and that my wallet isn’t smoldering.  I wish you all luck in your holiday shopping.

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Do you have any holiday money-saving tips you would like to share?  Add a comment below.  I would love to hear from you!

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Lizz

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**Please note that none of the websites I mentioned in this post are compensating me to promote them.  These are simply sites that I have used, and think you might like them as well.

 

5 things September 14, 2010

Filed under: 5 Things — Lizz @ 11:31 pm

In honor of the fact that I am currently out of town, I have thought of a few things to help you pass the time.  I will put up another food post tomorrow that you will really enjoy.  Until then…

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5 things I will not travel without:

1)  Gum

2)  Camera

3)  Music

4)  Snacks

5)  A book

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5 things Skylar can’t travel without:

1)   Gum

2)   Teddy bear

3)   Crayons

4)   Mommy’s DS or phone

5)   Something soft to lay her head on

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5 Things I hate about hotel rooms:

1)  The towels

2)  Noisy ice machines

3)  Low water pressure

4)  Pools that close at 11

5)  Receptionists that forget to tell you that your wireless internet is free if you enter a special code, and you wait for 2 days to learn this information

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5 reasons I love this hotel room:

1)  The cool square undermounted sink

2)  Free shampoo/conditioner

3)  Fridge AND microwave

4)  Amazing view of Orlando

5)  Unlike home, the bed is magically made when I am gone!

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Happy Travels!

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Lizz