Secrets of a Savvy Shopper

Good Morning! I hope your Thanksgiving holiday, if you celebrate, was a pleasant, relaxing and overall enjoyable one! Mine was filled with lots of laughs, good food, and relaxation as my family and I gathered at my sister and brother-in-law’s house. The highlight of the meal was the beautiful pumpkin pie accented with maple whipped cream my sister ordered from a locally-loved bakery. I was fortunate enough to remember to snap a photo of it, as you can see below!

Pumpkin Pie

Along with the Thanksgiving holiday as we all know, is the famed Black Friday shopping excitement! To me, this year seemed/felt quite different given the rampant online sales before the holiday even materialized. That being said, it is still important, whether you choose to shop online, in-store, or a bit of both, to be able to save the most money possible and believe me, it IS quite possible! For years, I’ve scoured stores and online websites in order to achieve the best deal – in my mind, why spend significantly more for an item when you can find it for dollars less elsewhere, or through utilizing the right tools? Even if money isn’t a particular issue for you, why spend more than you have to?

Shopping Bags

Well, fear not, today, I’m here to provide you with some of my favorite insider tips, so you can be a savvy, frugal shopper this holiday season and beyond!

How to save on BEAUTY items (i.e. hair, face, skin, nails & fragrance):

CVS logo      Ulta    QVC

  • CVS Pharmacy: Since childhood, I’ve been an advocate for CVS. It is one of the most popular pharmacy chains within the country and for good reason. Since beginning their ExtraCare program numerous years ago, their sales and promotions have drastically improved. To join the ExtraCare program, it takes merely minutes. Easily sign-up for free in-store or online (via http://www.cvs.com) and watch your savings start to multiply. Each week, check your online account to instantly add in-store coupons to your card and also be sure to scan your card with each visit in-store to see what new coupons you may be entitled to. In addition, CVS offers the ability to combine (or in coupon lingo – “stack”) their CVS store coupons and manufacturer coupons for the SAME item! This to me, is one of the best benefits and features a store can offer! It allows shoppers to maximize savings and potentially purchase items for pennies! Plus, there are always promotions running in-store that allows shoppers to earn “Extrabucks,” which is free money you can choose to spend on anything you like. Plus, CVS offers a vast array of items – everything from health care, beauty, grocery, and beyond.
  • ULTA: Anyone who knows me, knows that if they are looking for a beauty item, I will steer them to either CVS or ULTA. At each store, the savings is palpable with the ability to stack store and manufacturer’s coupons. At ULTA, they offer customers a free ULTA Rewards program, where you are able to sign-up either in-store or online (via http://www.ulta.com). After joining the rewards program, you are entitled to specifically tailored coupons and will receive a catalog each month or so. Additionally, via their website, you are able to print a $3.50 off $10 purchase coupon (sometimes these printable coupons will be 20% off of one item, or your entire purchase, or on a rare occasion, a whopping $5 off a $10 purchase). Plus, as with CVS, you are able to use ULTA store coupons and manufacturer’s coupons. In-store and online, there are often promotions such as buy 2, get 2 free, on certain items and free gifts with purchase! This time of year, they have lots of fun stocking stuffers for dollars each (such as lip gloss/balm, nail polish, body lotions, nail files, etc). Plus, with being an ULTA Rewards member, you accumulate points which can be redeemed for free items depending on your points level!
  • QVC: Some of you may be wondering why I am mentioning QVC as being the ideal spot for beauty items, but after catching a couple of shows while cooking in the kitchen, it IS possible to score great deals at QVC! Often times, they will feature select items from companies such as Philosophy and Bare Minerals in package deals, where you are getting numerous items for considerably less than what you would pay for one item at a typical department store or via the brand’s website. Plus, shipping is often eliminated entirely or reduced and there is a customer easy pay option, where you able to pay a small amount each month as opposed to paying for the items in one lump sum. Also, their return policy is simple and generous, allowing you to fully try out the items beforehand and if it is not to your satisfaction, return it for a refund or exchange. At QVC, they also make the ordering process simple and painless, providing countless convenient options, such as phone ordering, online ordering, ordering through an app, as well as ordering by text! Plus, the QVC hosts are friendly and engaging, often answering questions and exchanging tips via their social media pages!

How to save on General Merchandise (i.e. clothing, grocery, beauty, entertainment, electronics, etc):

Target Kohl's Macy's

Bloomingdales

  • Target: Since Target’s arrival in my area many years ago during my childhood, I’ve been a huge fan. Given it’s wide assortment of items and high-quality store-brand items, it is almost impossible to leave Target empty-handed. That being said, it is also one of the best stores to maximize savings and get the most for your dollar! Though I was hesitant at first, several months ago, I started using the Cartwheel app and have become a huge advocate for it! It is a quick and simple download to your smartphone and it allows you to add several different cartwheels for various items (listed by category). Plus, as you continue to use Cartwheel, more spaces become available to you, so you are able to take advantage of even more cartwheel deals! The cartwheel deals often change each week, so definitely be sure to consistently check and see what new offers are available to you. Also, Target is another store where you able to print store coupons (via http://www.target.com)  and combine them with manufacturer’s coupons for the SAME products! Additionally, Target offers mobile coupons where through a simple text message, you can receive instant mobile coupons that can also be combined with other store and manufacturer’s coupons. If you’re a Target Redcard holder (their store card), you will also receive 5% off of each purchase, plus there are special shopping days and events throughout the year (i.e. I recently heard that on December 10-24th, Target Redcard members are entitled to FREE select beverages at the Target cafe!)
  • Kohls: Given I live a mere 5 minutes or less from a hugely-popular Kohl’s location in my area, I’m there quite frequently always looking for the best deals. Thankfully, at Kohl’s, it isn’t a difficult challenge to land the greatest deals, as they are one of the most generous companies out there, consistently providing coupons and promotions. On an given day, it isn’t rare to find a 15-30% coupon lurking, plus if you are a Kohl’s credit card holder, you are provided with even more chances to save as they often send coupons in the mail, or other offers such as a free $5 to spend in-store. In addition, there is also a Rewards program that is free to join, where you accumulate points to eventually earn a free $5 rewards certificate or more! Plus, there are often opportunities to to earn Kohl’s cash (i.e. free money to spend – usually $10!) when you spend at least $50 in-store. This past weekend, there was the opportunity to earn $15 Kohl’s cash for spending $50 in-store or online. As another option, if an item you’re looking for isn’t available in-store, it is possible to order from the in-store kiosk and receive free shipping to your home! Also, when ordering online, if an item is currently available in your local store, you are provided with the option to pick it up in-store! Ordering online is easy with Kohl’s and there are often coupons/promotions to combine (check http://www.retailmenot.com)
  • Macy’s: Though some items at Macy’s can in fact be costly, it is still possible to score excellent deals with the right coupons and promotions. Frequently, there are coupons offered such as ($20 off a $50 purchase, $10 off a $25 purchase and beyond!). If you are a Macy’s credit card holder, you will often be entitled to additional sales and promotions send to your home, or offered in store (i.e. an additional percent off already discounted merchandise if you use your Macy’s card to purchase). Plus, the sale and clearance racks are typically bursting with deals, with even designer brands such as Dooney & Bourke and Michael Kors offered at some the lowest prices I’ve ever seen! Also, Macy’s offers the ability to buy online and pick up in-store, if the items ordered online are in-stock at your local Macy’s. As always, be sure to check my go-to resource (www.retailmenot.com) for all of the latest offers and deals.
  • Bloomingdales: Okay, so you might be thinking, Bloomingdales, really? How would I ever be able to get great deals at a luxury department store? Well, allow me to reassure you, it IS possible! Like other department stores, Bloomingdales offers a unique rewards program called the Loyallist program, which is free to join! Plus, ALL Loyallists program members receive FREE SHIPPING on everything, everyday! That makes for great savings, given shipping can be a nuisance expense, especially when the item you’re purchasing isn’t all that expensive! Plus, with each purchase made, if you’re a Loyallist member, you’ll accumulate points and eventually earn a rewards certificate. There are also frequent sales and discounts, even offered on designer merchandise and apparel items.

How to save on SHOES/FOOTWEAR:

DSW

  • DSW: Quite possibly one of my favorite stores around, DSW is my go-to shoe haven! For me, simply walking into the store or browsing online is like paradise! Offering everything from athletic footwear, to slippers, to sleek stilettos for a night out or work attire, to everyday boots, slip-ons, and flats, DSW is bursting at the seams with options and style! Not only do they offer excellent shoes and footwear, but they recently started offering unique jewelry, in addition to handbags and other accessories like belts, wallets and beyond. Not only are lower priced brands offered at the store, but also designer brands, so whether your budget allots for lower-priced merchandise or higher-end, there is truly something for everyone! The customer service at DSW from what I’ve encountered, is always top notch. They are quick to respond to online/email inquiries, online chats, and phone calls, in addition to providing helpful service in-store. Returns/exchanges are always simple as well and you can easily return or exchange items purchased online in-store, if you choose to. There are frequent sales/promotions (right now, there is a buy two pairs, get 30% off and a FREE blanket scarf!), plus if you join the DSW Rewards program (free to join in-store and online via DSW.com), you are entitled to earn reward certificates throughout the year with every purchase made and on your birthday, as well as random surprises here and there! It is important to note that you CAN combine reward certificates with coupons and other promotions!

BASIC Insider Tips:

Retail Me Not Social Media

  • Be sure to consistently check Retail Me Not’s website (via http://www.retailmenot.com) or download the app to your phone. The website and app are frequently updated to feature the latest deals and promotions for countless stores. Simply type in the store you wish to shop and you’ll instantly see the sales/promotions available. For me, this is my go-to resource.
  • Follow the brands/stores/companies you love on social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest). You will often see lots of pop-up deals, sales, promotions, contests, coupons and other offerings.
  • Don’t be shy about reaching out to companies for advice, questions or concerns! Companies are often generous with their responses and more than happy to answer questions or concerns. If something’s bugging or concerning you, be sure to ask away!
  • Check to see if Price-Matching is available: I can’t begin to stress this enough! (From what I know, Best Buy, sometimes Amazon, Walmart, and potentially other stores will price match with similar competitors’ stores, so be sure to double-check pricing before you pay face value for items.) If you’re a frequent Walmart shopper, it pays to download the savings catcher app to your smartphone, where you simply snap a photo of your Walmart receipt, press submit on the savings catcher app and voila, in a couple hours or days, you should receive money via Walmart gift card for the difference in price for the items you purchased when compared to store competitors’ pricing (the app does all the legwork for you!)

Happy Shopping!

 

 

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Perspective by the Quote

Good Morning! I hope your weekend has been a pleasant and relaxing one, thus far. A couple of days ago, I had every intention of posting this very post, but unfortunately, several unfortunate occurrences seemed to interfere.

Never Quit

Between the issues related to the wireless network/router and my laptop, to the minor settings issue with my iPhone, it was frustrating and difficult to feel as though it wasn’t my fault, or beyond my control. When I found myself becoming stressed and overwhelmed, I turned to what I most often do – quotes. For those who know me well, or have been reading my blog for even a brief time, quotes are something I highly value and feel it helps me keep situations and life, in general, in perspective. Needless to say, I managed to stumble across several quotes this past week (most were tweeted by one of my favorite TODAY Show anchors, Hoda Kotb) which I found to be inspiring, motivating and comforting. The last quote I found (which you’ll see pictured, below) is from a necklace I happened to spot while browsing at Kohl’s with my sister and niece. Initially, I spotted it a couple weeks ago and then several days ago, we visited Kohl’s again and since the quote had been on my mind since first seeing it, but I couldn’t recall the specifics of it, I was able to locate it and snap a quick photo to share.

Quotes of the Week:

  • “And suddenly you know… It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
  • “People grow when they are loved well. If you want to help others heal, love them without an agenda.”
  • “With the right music, you either forget everything or you remember everything.”
  • “You’re the wish my heart made.”

Disney Necklace

 

 

 

 

Pour on the Sweet: Let Torani Sweeten Your Day!

Good Morning! This weekend was a bit rough, but on a positive note, the other week, I had a pleasant delivery arrive at my home from one of my favorite companies: Torani! It’s a company you may or may not be familiar with at this point in time, though it’s popularity and presence is rapidly expanding. Active on an array of social media platforms (including, but not limited to Facebook, Twitter (@Torani), and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/ToraniFlavor), plus a very comprehensive website – http://www.Torani.com), Torani is a family-owned, San Francisco, California based company and one that is as friendly as it is delicious! Every interaction I’ve ever had with the Torani company is always a positive and friendly one, making the experience even more appealing and so it is without question, I am a loyal customer, frequently replenishing my supply numerous times each month. Though, if you’re not familiar with Torani, you might be wondering what the company offers and what it is all about. Read on to learn more about this exciting company and its offerings:

Torani Logo

According to the official Torani website (www.torani.com), Torani was founded by Rinaldo and Ezilda Torre in 1925, after visiting family in Lucca, Italy. Given their love of Italian sodas, the Torres’ sought to introduce the special beverage to the US and did so with the creation of flavored syrups. With a wide assortment of syrups ranging from fruit flavors, to classic Hazelnuts, Vanillas, and a wide array of other eclectic flavors, the Torre family went on to create the world’s first flavored latte with syrup, we all know and love!

Nowadays, the Torani company maintains an active global presence and following with their product lineup and assortment rapidly expanding and responding to customer need and inquiries. Today, their product offerings are impressive, offering more than 100 flavored syrups, sauces and beverage bases. With Torani, the sky is the limit when it comes to food and beverage creations (often used to flavor coffees, sodas, teas, smoothies, cocktails, and both sweet and savory food recipes), given the unique sampling of flavors and options.

At this point, you might be wondering, okay, sounds great, but where can I purchase it? Well, you’re in luck, Torani products are available for purchase through the following (but not limited to):

  • The Official Torani website (www.Torani.com)
  • Amazon.com
  • Area Grocery Stores
  • Select Bed, Bath and Beyonds

*Note: For more specific location offerings central to your home, please consult the Torani store locator on their website (http://www.torani.com/#/store-locator)

Unique Torani Facts:

  • Remains a family business today and prides itself in answering the questions and requests of customers. Every time I’ve contacted Torani, I’ve always received a personalized, customized and honest response, with my needs and inquiries attended to.
  • Recipes are featured on their website specific to each product offering! For instance, find that you purchased a flavored syrup/sauce because you liked how the flavor sounded, but are unsure as to what to create with it? Fear not, Torani’s website maintains a plethora of recipes for easy access and reference (http://www.torani.com/#/recipes), so you never have to worry about what to create. Plus, you can search for recipes specifically for the product you have on hand!
  • Active in the Community: As a unique and attractive attribute, Torani prides itself in maintaining an active community presence in the area it calls home – San Francisco, California. The company’s volunteerism efforts spill into after school programs, community-wide parades, cleaning Golden Gate Bridge Park, Boys & Girls Clubs, in addition to a wide assortment of other activities and ventures. Also, Torani encourages the public to reach out to them for support in causes they are interested in, making it known, they are a company who truly cares about the needs of their customers, both product and community-wise.
  • Sugar-Free Friendly: Adding to it’s uniqueness and accommodating nature, Torani features a wide assortment of sugar-free offerings, sweetened by Splenda brand sweetener! (Fact: My favorite way to use Torani syrup, is by adding it to my coffee, typically using a sugar-free variety – most often either sugar-free vanilla or classic hazelnut!)
Use Torani syrup to create a makeshift latte by adding Torani syrup to your coffee or espresso!

Use Torani syrup to create a makeshift latte by adding Torani syrup to your coffee or espresso!

Torani Product Line-Up:

Given the number of products currently offered by Torani, it would be impossible to list all the available flavor and variety offerings, but for easy and direct access, here is a link to the product offerings on the Torani website: (http://www.torani.com/#/products) That being said, the following are some of the newest offerings by Torani:

  • Bourbon Caramel Syrup (Recently, I had the opportunity to sample this particular flavor and was absolutely delighted by the mild, buttery flavor and the complement/contrast of the bourbon to the caramel syrup! Used in coffee to create a makeshift latte, or to a tea latte, the possibilities are endless and of course, delicious! It is a smooth and sweet flavor and adds just the right amount of flavor to whatever it is added to)

Torani Bourbon Caramel Syrup

  • Ginger Lemongrass Syrup
  • Lemon Tea Syrup
  • Peach Tea Syrup
  • Raspberry Tea Syrup
  • Salted Chocolate Caramel Sauce: (Much to my delight, I was also provided with this sauce to sample! What a wonderfully sweet treat it was to add to ice cream! The combination of chocolate and caramel is one I deeply enjoy, so I was thrilled to learn it was being offered as a sauce by Torani. It was a syrup with texture, not too thin, not too thick, provided in a squeezable bottle, so whichever amount I wanted could be easy released. It was an instant sundae and added a sweet dose of flavor!)

Torani Salted Chocolate Caramel Sauce

Use Torani syrup to create a unique frappuccino, frappe or other frozen beverage of your choice!

Use Torani syrup to create a unique frappuccino, frappe or other frozen beverage of your choice!

  • Spicy Kola Nut Syrup
  • Sugar-Free Belgian Cookie Syrup
  • Sugar-Free S’mores Syrup

Torani Sauces

Sweeten and customize a milkshake with Torani syrups/sauces!

Sweeten and customize a milkshake with Torani syrups/sauces!

A Sampling of Classic Flavors (here is a brief synopsis of some of the more “classic” flavors offered by Torani):

  • Caramel Syrup
  • Classic Hazelnut
  • French Vanilla
  • Raspberry

Torani Sugar-Free Syrup

Exotic/Unique Torani Flavor Offerings (again, here is a brief sampling of some of the more unique Torani syrup flavors):

  • Chai Tea Spice Syrup
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Syrup
  • Cupcake Syrup
  • Peanut Butter Syrup

Torani Syrups

Well, there you have it! It’s easy to see I’m a big fan and supporter of Torani and have been so for numerous years. With Torani, we’re given the ability to make each experience a unique and different one. Add a little syrup or sauce or a lot to any recipe, drink or food and it’s a guarantee it will taste satisfying each time!

*I’d like to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to the Torani team for their hospitality and for providing me with the unique and incredible opportunity to sample their sauce and syrup; It is very much appreciated and was put to good use!

Fall Through the Lens

Good Morning! It’s not often I post photos I’ve personally taken, but I felt that today was as good a day as any to provide a quick glimpse into my iPhone camera album! Some of the photos I’ve taken are unique in my opinion and unlike anything I’ve taken before and though they may be simple, I thought I’d share them. Before I share these photos, I’d like to share a quote I stumbled across this morning, which was said by one of my favorite authors/poets, the late Maya Angelou:

“We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility.”

In reading this quote, I thought, what an appropriate sentiment for a day like today, a day in which people are constantly faced with judgment and criticism, a world where so many people each day ruminate in the past, wishing they’d made different choices. Why not make a different choice today? A choice to see the past differently and offer acceptance/forgiveness to ourselves, what we have been through and encountered.

Today, I’m making a choice to share the photos I’ve taken myself. They aren’t professional, they aren’t monumental by any means, but they are a snapshot into my life and in simple terms, the “Fall season through the lens.”

An apple tree from a local orchards from last month.

An apple tree from a local orchard from last month.

A closer image of the apple tree.

A closer image of the apple tree.

Another angle of the apple tree.

Another angle of the apple tree

A horse at a local farm store I recently visited.

A horse at a local farm store I recently visited.

Horse 2

Horse 3

Horse 4

My first Starbucks holiday cup of the season.

My first Starbucks holiday cup of the season.

Power of the Paw

Last night, as I typically do, I had the TV turned to ABC’s World News Tonight hosted by David Muir as I prepared and then ate dinner. Sometimes, I find it is merely background noise, something to fill the house with the sound, but occasionally, there will be a story on air that truly speaks to me. Little did I know, however, how much it would impact me in particular, last night. At first, I was barely listening, watching the TV screen, but not actually absorbing what was airing, until the image of a small child named Bella and a large, 131-pound Great Dane, named George graced the screen. At first glance, what a pair they were, walking side by side, albeit the same height, but a significant difference in weight and body shape. Though, as the story continued to air, I quickly realized how significant of a relationship they actually have; well beyond that of a traditional pet.

Bella and George

For those of you who might have missed the story last night, here is a link to the video: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/special-bond-young-girl-rare-genetic-disorder-service-34980708

For Bella, George is not only her dog, but her constant support, teacher and guide. Born with a rare genetic disorder and diagnosed at age 2, she was unable to walk and potentially confined to a wheelchair. However, enter George, a Great Dane service dog, who has been by her side now for years, aiding her in walking, serving as her constant companion from the moment she wakes until she sleeps, with George still by her side, providing comfort, guidance and a watchful eye. As I watched Bella and George’s story on TV, I was overcome with emotion, true, raw emotion. Sitting beside my mom as I watched, tears filled my eyes and then down my face, as the bond of Bella and George was one evoking an emotional reaction behind words. As a dog owner myself, for over 13 and a half years, I know firsthand of the bond between a human and their dog. The journey of Bella and George is an incredible story of how dogs can truly change lives, not only as companions, but as a true guide and helper. Each day, George is beside Bella, aiding her in mobility and the everyday activities of living. He helps her live her life as a child her age should be able to live – with the freedom of movement and the ability to explore. Watching them walk beside each other, with George in step with her every move, brought not only tears to my eyes, but also a smile, so proud to see dogs being honored and embraced in this way, giving them the spotlight, they deserve.