Monday, March 31, 2014

A Year of Bzz

I first told you guys about BzzAgent back in my post on how to get free stuff.  Now that I've been in the program for a year, I thought I'd do a little look back so you can see what I got and decide if it's worth the time and effort. 

Personally, I love BzzAgent.  I don't feel pressure to use my social media to talk about stuff - if I think you guys are interested, I'll post about it, otherwise, I restrict my Bzz to face to face conversations.  Coworkers, family, and book club people are always willing to talk about a product in exchange for a decent coupon.  The programs are usually pretty great, and I feel like I have been introduced to a lot of quality products I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.  I love filling out the little surveys and Bzz reports, so it doesn't really feel like work to me.  I realize I may be unique in this - my mom hated it and dropped out after her first campaign.  If I remember right, it was the Dr. Scholl's, and she just didn't think a shoe insert was worth the time spent talking about it.  I agree to some extent, but I also think of it as a necessary evil.  I don't mind spending time writing reviews about yogurt or foot care if down the road I'm offered a sweet camera for my kids. 

Side note: As an ex psychology major and a current businesswoman and user of social media, I am fascinated by the whole concept of programs like BzzAgent and Influenster.  Even if I'm not super impressed by a product, I am amazed by my positive feelings towards a brand after a campaign ends.  I notice the products more when I'm out and about and I'm much more likely to end up with one in my cart.  Basically, I am a marketer's dream.  Even if no one listening to the Bzz second hand actually buys the product, I'd think that there is a real benefit from having everyone directly involved in the campaign support your brand going forward.  So good job, BzzAgent creators. 

 
My first campaign was Tigi's Bed Head products.  I received some shampoo and conditioner packets and a full size of On the Rebound which I talked about here.  I still like Miss Jessie's better, and scored more in a Black Friday deal, so this is just sitting around gathering dust.  It was not at all a bad product, just not holy grail status. 

 
Next I tried a Dr. Scholl's for her high heel insert.  I ended up taking it out of the shoe I originally had it in because there simply wasn't enough room for my big old foot and an insert.  However, the campaign wasn't a total bust because I learned about the Rub Relief Strips from someone I Bzzed to, and I still use those today. 

 

This campaign involved a free one month trial of redbox instant (which you can get anywhere, you don't have to be in BzzAgent) and a free dvd credit.  From June until like 2 weeks ago, we were paying $8 to get 4 dvd credits, and were only using the streaming to watch Ant Bully over and over again.  The streaming service just doesn't have enough new releases.  But I'm super glad we were in the campaign because I had somehow actually never used redbox before.  I'm now a GIANT fan of the dvd service and don't know how I ever lived without it. 


BzzAgent didn't send yogurt in the mail, just coupons for a free cup.  I used some, gifted some, and ended up buying more because I like the stuff.  I still get it about once a month.  This is the perfect example of a brand I would have never paid attention to if it weren't for BzzAgent. 


I forget what all I got in the mail - I think 3 cups of different flavors of the hot cereal and 3 of the bars?  I really liked the Special K nourish products (especially for work), and would totally buy it again if I saw it right in front of me at the store.  The problem is that I rarely go down aisles that aren't in the perimeter of the store, and I just don't think to go out of my way to pick some up.  Good stuff though.  Maybe I'll remember to pick some up now. 


Concannon vineyards is another product that I don't go out of my way to buy, but if I saw some in front of me the next time I'm buying wine, I'd pick it up over a different brand because I've tried it and I know it's good.  It was SUPER affordable too, even without the $8 off coupon I received. 


The Playskool Show Cam gets the award for the coolest thing I have received AND the award for campaign I slacked on the most, which is so unfair!  God, I'm such an ingrate.  My kids LOVE LOVE LOVE their showcam, and I have bought it as a Christmas present for family members since.  HIGHLY RECOMMEND. 


The Foreo LUNA mini is probably the second best campaign I've been invited to.  I paid $35 to get a LUNA mini, which usually retails for something like $135.  I think I probably do prefer my Clarisonic Mia for every day use, but I'm glad I own both.  I love the LUNA for travel because it stays charged for a year and because it's so wee, and the silicone nubs are very gentle on my rosacea. 


Oh, Schick Hydrosilk.  I just don't like you and your moisture strip of doom.  It gunks up my shower, goops up the razor, and makes it impossible to get a close shave, which is a waste of your five blades.  But you (and a replacement cartridge or two!) were free, and razors are expensive, so whatever. 


I got to test out two whole boxes of the fiber one meal bars, which was pretty exciting.  I loved taking these to work on days I'm too busy or cheap to hit up the cafeteria.  The only problem is that I can't find these for sale ANYWHERE, even amazon.  I will totally buy them again if I ever see them though. 


I am currently in the campaign for Tone body wash, which is another brand I would have paid no attention to if it weren't for BzzAgent.  While I don't love the new petal soft scent with peony and rose oil, I have done a lot of research on the brand and there are definitely scents I'm looking forward to trying out next time I run out of body wash.  It's a nice, inexpensive, moisturizing body wash.  I received a full sized bottle. 


I am also in a campaign for Starbucks Blonde roast.  I got to pick between a regular bag of coffee or a pack of k-cups.  Our Keurig never got unpacked after our move (ahem 4 years ago) so I went with the regular coffee.  We are going to brew it today, I'll instagram it and let you know how I like it.  I'm definitely excited to try the Blonde roast, and the $4 off coupons are going like hotcakes.  Yay, Starbucks!

That's all, folks!  Are you in BzzAgent or a similar program?  Do you like it?  Are you a sheep like me who has brand loyalty long after the campaign is over? 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More School Decisions (Or Rather, Life Making the Decisions for Me)

I have been planning on sending Adriana to the local Catholic school for Pre-K for basically forever.  I scheduled a tour last month and was all set to hand over the registration check when I found out that they are getting rid of after care for the early childhood education building next year.  Which is completely stupid because they let the Pre-K kids go over to the main (K-8) school for after care this year, as long as they are 5.  Adriana will be 5 in October, so my parents could have helped out for a month or two if they were still allowing that, but no.  I guess it was offered this year only.  Adriana can't go to Kindergarten yet because the school has a strict August 1 cutoff.  I briefly thought about forcing it, but then she'd be in my nephew's class and I don't think that would be the best for either of them.  While my parents can help some, I wouldn't want or expect them to watch her every day from 2-6, so we are kind of stuck unless we magically find a super reliable, super cheap baby sitter. The school's after care was REALLY affordable and nothing else is really going to be as convenient, easy, or cheap.  Plus I don't really dig strangers hanging out at my house.  

I thought about sending both kids to the Jewish center instead, but after looking into it, I think it's too expensive.  It looked like it was comparable until I realized that the summer session is twice as much as the rest of the year, plus there are other little charges that add up  We would also completely lose the flexibility we currently enjoy so I don't know.  It might be easier to just keep them where they are, even though I don't love it.

When I was seriously considering the JCC, I took a tour of both the early childhood education center and the K-8 school attached to it.  I wouldn't have normally even looked at the school, but since the JCC was getting so many calls from people who were shafted by the Catholic school not offering after care, they were thinking about adding a class for kids who were too advanced for preschool, but not yet the right age for Kindergarten.  The K-8 school was basically the school of my dreams - SUCH a better fit for my family than a Catholic school would be.  It's super diverse.  Kids there are either on the Hebrew track or the Spanish track, since I think less than half are actually Jewish.  The Spanish track is focused on learning about cultures from around the world.  Kids there seem super tolerant and worldly and cultured.  I loved the classrooms and the philosophy and basically everything I heard until they told me the price.  It's exorbitant.  Dreams dashed.  So that's a bummer too, because now I'm always going to feel like our original school of choice is a let down.  

So yeah.  Another year of daycare.  The good news is that Adriana really loves both her current teacher and the Pre-K teacher.  She is learning all of the things I'd expect her to learn at this age, and she is really maturing and listening better.  The bad news is that Lucy will be in the class of the teacher Adriana HATED for at least part of next year if we stay.  Plus we just had another one of those minor annoying incidents that keep adding up and souring my opinion of the place.  You ready for this one?  

We were driving home from daycare yesterday, and Lucy kind of pouted and said "Miss Brandy called me a baby."  I was like well, you'll always be MY baby.  Lucy then said "Miss Brandy said I'm not a big girl anymore."  Hmm.  "What were you doing when she said that, sweetie?"  "I pooped." (Pronounced "poopted", heh).  So basically the teacher's aide shamed my two year old for having an accident.  The worst part is that I have told both the teacher and the aide MULTIPLE TIMES to sit L on the potty at 4 every day, since she was pooping in her pants between 4:05-4:30 nearly every day.  They are doing all of their end of day stuff and moving rooms at that time, so I think that they basically just let the kids run rampant and don't pay attention.  So of course, that's when little miss reliable needs to poop.  This has resulted in a major backslide for her potty training - she went for a few months with very few accidents to basically not pooping on the potty unless she's at home.  Grrrr.  You'd think they would want to work on it just as much as I do - no one wants to clean up poop, right??  So ridiculous that they would SHAME A KID because they were too busy/lazy to follow my instructions.  I was not pleased, to say the least.

Stuff like this is so frustrating to me.  There are just not enough good options around there, or at least not enough AFFORDABLE good options.  It seriously feels like we are the only family with two working parents who can't seem to find a school situation that is a good fit, which CAN'T be the case, right?   Maybe we should have looked harder at the public schools, but then we'd just have be switching the affordable house / unaffordable school situation for an unaffordable house / affordable school (plus adding a ton of inconvenience).  And I think a more structured school setting is better for my particular children than getting a nanny.  I might feel differently if I had different kids, but I don't.  I like the current mix of parent/grandparent/school time, just wish I didn't feel like I was stuck with a school I don't love by default.

I don't know, it's just Pre-K right?  No need to stress this much about it?  In what will feel like a microsecond, L will be in Kindergarten and A will be in 2nd grade and this will all be a distant memory.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to Save at Target

So, I'm probably the last person in the universe to know about this.  Feel free to make fun of me in the comments.  But in case this helps someone, I'm going to go ahead and post it.

My lovely friend D came over to give me an amazing Target coupon because she already had one on her phone ($15 off a $40 up & up purchase).  I mentioned that 90% of what I own was purchased at Target but that I'm lazy and hadn't taken the time to figure out the Cartwheel app or to get any coupons other than the book that gets mailed to me every few months.  She quickly schooled me in Target Couponing 101, and now I have to tell all of you.

The Cartwheel app is pretty self explanatory; go to the app store, download it, sign in, browse offers of different categories.  Right now I can save 10 of the 581 offers, but D says that your number gets increased over time (she is up to 20).  You can sort by discount, and D said she gets free stuff from time to time when combining it with other offers.  The trick is to use your paper coupons FIRST, and Cartwheel LAST.  

I had heard of Cartwheel, but never knew the wonders of Target Mobile Coupons.  First, you text "offers" to 827438.  Then you click the link, sign up, agree to some things, and reply "Y" to confirm you really want Target to text you.  Then the fun begins.  There are other words you can text to that number to get even more offers.  I texted "clean" for a bunch of laundry coupons, "spring", "thanks", and "storetrip" for food and cleaning products, "apparel" for $5 off any $25 clothing purchase, "baby4" to subscribe to baby coupons, and "upandup" for the aforementioned $15 off $40 of up & up items.

These all have expiration dates and certain restrictions apply, but basically it opened up my eyes to the world of easier couponing.  I may never open a newspaper, but I dick around on my phone ALL DAY LONG.  I can definitely take a few minutes to check my texts before I shop to make the most out of my target experience.  So much of the items I buy on any given Target trip were on sale, it was almost embarrassing to think of all of the money I could have been saving.

So, yeah.  Coupons.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Enabler Alerts: IT Cosmetics, PopSugar Must Haves, New Beauty Test Tube, and Kohl's Beauty Box

Hi, everyone!  I can't believe I took such a long blogging break, I don't think I've ever missed a whole month since I started.  I missed you guys!

I just wanted to give you guys a heads up on a few purchases I have made recently, in case you are interested too.  I'm sorry, project 25 pan :(


Screenshot from QVC.com
First, today only, IT Cosmetics is today's QVC TSV; the CC Your Way to Beautiful Skin Anti-Aging 4 piece collection is $59.98 plus $7.22 S&H.  As you may know, I am a huuuuuuuuge fan of IT Cosmetics.  The Bye Bye Redness color correcting cream is probably the best beauty find of my entire life, and that is not an exaggeration.   I have never been much of a BB / CC / DD cream person since they typically don't give me enough coverage, but Jamie Kern-Lima has rosacea too, and that makes me think like this one might be the magical CC cream that works for me.  I watched the QVC video, and it looks like you get a pretty decent sized tube.  I got it in light, since IT Cosmetics means business when they say Fair.  I LOVE every IT Cosmetics brush and lip gloss I own, so I am excited to add those to my collection.  Finally, IT Cosmetics recently sent me the Tightline Full Lash Length Black Mascara Primer, and I'm excited to have a backup of this really unique product.  



These pics aren't the greatest, but you should be able to see what a great product it is.  The first eyeball is with no product, the second is with Tightline alone, and the last is with a coat or three of the IT Cosmetics Hello, Lashes over Tightline.  I feel like the Tightline primer is great for natural "no makeup" looks or to get those pesky bottom lashes (the tiny wand is perfect for that!), but when combined it with the regular, super black IT Cosmetics mascara, it's AMAZING.  I feel very va-va-voom with this combo on.  Plus you really can skip the extra step of tightlining if you want (I do it anyway, and find that the primer makes it last longer).  

Next up is the PopSugar Must Haves box.  You may remember that even though it's my all time favorite subscription service, I quit in order to justify my Naked 3 purchase.  Welllll, apparently I just need PSMH in my life, because I saw the spoilers for this month and resubscribed in a heartbeat.  I am planning on doing my review today / tonight, but I wanted to include it here since I think the March boxes have almost run out, and the MARCH10 / IKAT10 promo code might not be good after today.  Those codes get you $10 off the March box, which includes a GORGEOUS $72 Brokedown scarf that is perfect for spring, as well as some other adorable goodies.  Here is my referral link, if you are interested!

I also caved on this month's New Beauty Test Tube, another old favorite.  I quit both this version and the QVC version because I had too much stuff and needed to save money, not because I don't love both subs.  I intend to only resubscribe for this month, but we'll see.  I couldn't pass up a tarte blush, glam glow, AND it's a 10.  What an amazing box!!!  There is no referral link for that one, but if you want to go through the hassle of sending me your email address so I can "invite" you, that would be sweet.  If not, just go here, it's much easier.  

Finally, I was chatting with Kelly on twitter about missing the Target beauty box, and Kohl's surprised us both by offering to send their beauty box for free.  It's not a subscription at this time, but if you follow @kohls on twitter and talk crap about other beauty boxes (ha!), they might surprise you with a box!  I'll probably post pics / review mine on here too, but I don't want to spoil it for Kelly so I'll wait until she gets hers.

Finally the second, some of you have been asking about when the Allure Box next goes on sale.  It should be in April, and this is my best guess for the link.  Check it often :)  I will update when I know more, of course.  

Have you found any good deals lately?  Comment below for everyone else.  Not for me, since I am now banned from purchasing for a while :)