Friday, September 19, 2014

Savvy Saving: how to save big at Target

When you first start seeing the “you saved…” numbers at the bottom of your receipt creep up and up, you get a tingle of excitement and pride. The more they go up, the happier you are with your saving habits. You’re encouraged to clip more coupons, scour ads for sales, and hit the web in search of the ever-elusive double coupon. But you don’t want to compromise quality too much, or you may end up spending more to replace the items. For instance, if you buy the cheapest paper towels but have to use twice as many, you’ll end up spending more to buy twice as much.
Target is known for having quality products at an affordable price. Once you add in coupons, Red Card savings and sales, you can save, save, save. There are three main components to shopping at Target successfully: have the weekly ad, use coupons wisely, and put your smart phone to use. With these combined tactics, you’ll shave ten to twenty percent off of your total off each time.
Target releases their weekly ad on Sundays, like most major retailers. It can be found in your Sunday paper or for free on their website,, and in their mobile app. Each week, they have a variety of items on sale. Be wise about what time of year you shop for certain products. No one should wait until the first week in January to buy exercise equipment; the horde of New Year’s resolution makers will hit stores like a wave, spending hundreds of dollars to buy clothing and equipment. If you hold off for a few weeks, all the unsold fitness merchandise will go on clearance. The glory of clearance at Target is that the clearance tag itself can tell you so much: the upper right corner has the amount of the discount. Depending on the popularity of the item, you may be able to wait out the price drops as the clearance goes from 15%, to 30%, to 50%, to 70% and the rarely seen, elusive 90%.

The ad doesn’t just show you what will be on clearance soon; you can use seasonal cycles to buy what you need. Back to school means sheets, towels and housewares are on sale for all those college freshmen heading off to school-- and the savvy saver who waited to buy until the sale rolled around. But my favorite part of the ad is the grocery section.
Yes! Target has groceries! Some Target stores carry more than others. Mine has refrigerated produce, frozen meat, dry goods (like pastas, sandwich bread, cereal, juice, soda), ice cream, and even a small baking section. Each week, some items will be on sale. One week it may be bread, milk and eggs. The next week may discount cereal, pasta and pasta sauce. As you scan the ad each week, make a note of what’s on sale. Within six weeks, you’ll be able to identify your stores’ sales cycle and know when to stock up and when to wait.
A bonus to shopping at Target is that you can combine offers. If you clip coupons from your newspaper, which I highly recommend, you can combine them with coupons. Yes, Target offers coupons on their website, for a variety of products. My favorite Target coupons are for the generic Target brands like Market Pantry, Simply Balanced,  and Up & Up. The generic brands are always more affordable and I have yet to find a generic Target product inferior in quality. If you prefer name-brands, Target offers coupons for those products, too. If you really love a product, like Pillsbury crescent rolls, visit their company website. You can print coupons directly off their website.

Target jumped on the mobile coupons early. You can install the Target app to your smart phone for free, and every week they add new mobile coupons. Have a manufacturer coupon, a Target printed coupon, and a Target mobile coupon? You can use two of the three, as they now only allow one Target coupon, one cartwheel, and one manufacturer coupon per item. The only caveat is that Target mobile coupons can only be used once each. So if you buy juice every week and have a mobile coupon, you can only use the mobile coupon once, or until they update the barcode (typically every week to ten days). Target also recently unveiled its Cartwheel app and website, which links to Facebook. The more you save and share, the more coupon spots you earn. So if you already have the triple savings mentioned above (Target mobile, manufacturer coupon and coupon), you can add a fourth savings: Cartwheel. All four coupons overlapping is a joyous event that takes planning, but is oh so worth it. You can also link your debit account to a Target Redcard and save an additional 5% off each receipt, plus get free shipping from orders at
Love shopping at Target? Want to earn a gift card just by walking in the door? Double up on your smart phone skills by using the Shopkick app. You open the app, walk into Target, and earn kicks. The more kicks you earn, the higher gift card you can redeem them for. 500 kicks will net you a $2 Target gift card. But Target isn’t the only place where you can earn kicks. Other retailers, such as American Eagle, Aerie, Sports Authority, Wal-Mart and more also participate. Often, you can scan items in the store to earn additional kicks.
So shopping at Target doesn’t have to be a splurge. If you use the ad, coupons and your smart phone, it can actually help you spend less, and save more. Happy Saving!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pixar's Best Moments

I'm currently reading Ed Catmull's Creativity, Inc., a nonfiction book on management and the founding of Pixar Animation Studios. I'm learning quite a bit about their history, and getting a behind the scenes look at each film. It's a little like taking a walk down memory lane, with the person who built memory lane.

As someone who moved around a lot, I often found comfort in books and movies. Disney and Pixar aren't just super successful film studios; they're the gatekeepers to this wonderful, magical way to make any place feel like home. Since I'm feeling nostalgic about my favorite Pixar films, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite Pixar moments.

Toy Story
    I've always loved this one, because I spent my childhood truly believing my toys came alive when I left the room. How else would I keep losing and then finding them? When Toy Story was released, I had validation for my theories. Other people thought it happened, too! I wasn't alone! Each time I re-watch this favorite, I notice something new. There are so many funny moments to choose from, but my current favorite funny line is Woody's witty reply to Buzz on their first meeting, "The word I'm searching for I can't use because there are preschool toys present."

Monsters, Inc
   I can't watch this without crying. The friendship, the little girl…It's just too much. I love it. Spoiler alert! The end is my favorite moment, with Mike's hands covered in splinters. Then we see Sully open the door, and we hear Boo's voice, and his face…it just lights up. It's the best. Cue tears. Tissue, anyone?

Again, with the tears. The first ten minutes of this film are beautiful, poignant, gripping, and sprinkled with funny moments. I just love the romantic story, the old fashioned news reels, and the geriatric humor. This is one of those films that just stays with you, forever. I still remember the night I first saw it. I was with my husband, and we walked out into the humid Florida night air afterwards, equally stunned by the amazing story we'd just watched unfold. Sporadically over the next few days, one of us would bring up another part that particularly touched us, or made us laugh. One of my goal's in life is to make a mailbox Carl and Ellie style. The simplicity of their relationship is part of what is so great-- they're so different, yet they always work together. Whether it's cleaning or just sitting side by side, reading and holding hands…it's just beautiful. Their love felt so real, so tangible. We, as viewers, had to fall in love with their relationship so that later, when Carl personifies the house as Ellie, we don't think he's lost his marbles.

 When Pixar first announced they were doing a Princess movie, I was ecstatic and a little nervous. I know, silly me. Of course, everything Pixar does is amazing. I wasn't disappointed by Merida. I love her spunk, and her courage. I think it's so important to teach young girls that individualism is a gift, and that women can confidently do anything, even something perceived as masculine. Merida is an excellent archer, climbs the fire falls, and out-shoots everyone to win her own hand and change her country's customs. She also has to work up the courage to admit when she's wrong, another important lesson. The score is amazing, and my favorite part is the initial sequence when it's her day to do with as she chooses. This is the first glimpse of her adventurous spirit, with the horseback riding and the archery and the climbing of the gorgeous fire falls.

Toy Story 2
  Any scene with Bullseye the horse ranks in my top scenes, but Jessie takes the cake with her song. When She Loved Me is exquisite, both the song and the storyline. The Jessie backstory sequence is heartbreaking, but it explains so much about her character. The plot twist--who turned the TV on and ruined Woody's escape plan-- was also a shocker the first time I saw it.

Toy Story 3
  I'll admit, I've only watched this one twice. I love it, but I cry my dang eyes out every time. From the desperate plans in the beginning to the incinerator to Andy's choice to Woody's decision, I'm just a big ball of sad panda. It's just too heart wrenching. I wanted Andy to save the toys for his kids, and us to see them get played with generation to generation. But that would mean years and years of loneliness in between… When there isn't a happy ending to be had, at least you get a good one.

     When it comes to a favorite part, I'd have to say the interchanges between Ken and Barbie. It's just too funny, and this crybaby needs the funny bits! Not to mention Spanish Buzz, who makes my sides hurt from laughter.

   WALL-E is the only film that's ever made me sympathetic to the fate of a cockroach. I love not only how WALL-E saves Eve, but how she saves him back. Awe, robot love.

Finding Nemo
  Confession: the first time I saw this movie, I didn't like it. Put down the torches and pitchforks! I was too crushed at Coral's death to enjoy the rest of the film. It was like a punch to the gut. I loved their interactions, I adored her mommy worries, and when she sacrificed herself to try to save just one of her babies…oh, the feels. It wasn't until a second viewing I truly appreciated the rest of the film. I still try to avoid watching the beginning it at all possible. I mean, I won't fast forward, but I will conveniently need to use the restroom and not want it paused.

The sharks and Dory really make the film for me. I love watching all of the characters grow, as well. Pixar organically matures their characters, and it's beautiful to watch.

   Rats. Ugh. Am I right? But much like WALL-E's cockroach, I really came to care of the rats in this film. The moment when Remy sees the rat murder shop will never leave me, but I doubt I'll remember it if I ever happen to see a non-animated rat. I would't kill it (I wouldn't get close enough!). But I would be terrified.

My favorite moment would have to be when Remy and Linguini are learning to work together, and when the rats get cleaned in the dishwasher in order to cook! Too funny.

   I've always remembered how detailed everything is in Cars. Even the bugs are VW Bugs! But my favorite scene is the nostalgic flashback to the glory days in Radiator Springs and the Wagon Wheel hotel. The whole drive, when Lightning McQueen and Sally are getting to know one another. It's unexpected, a romance in a car story, but enjoyable.

The Incredibles
  There are so many great moments in this film. The opening is informative and hilarious, but with meaning. I've always loved the line. "You didn't save my life; you ruined my death!" It's a reminder that not everyone wants to be saved. But my favorite part is when Elastigirl and the kids are in the cave on Syndrome's island, and she warns them that these bad guys won't take pity on them because they're children. What a wonderful way to say that yes, there is great evil in the world, and you just can't give it the opportunity to let it hurt you. You have to choose the good side, and be prepared to fight for it.

That wraps it up. What are some of your favorite Pixar moments? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The cable free life

When we moved to Alaska in 2011, we cancelled our cable plan. After finally finding an apartment after a month of living in a hotel, our budget didn't have room for cable. Since then, we've just never added it back in. My husband likes not having cable, but sometimes I miss it. Okay, I always miss Disney channel (especially since not all Disney Channel shows are on Netflix, and the DCOM "Alex vs Alex", the Wizards of Waverly Place follow up, is two years old and still not on Netflix). But, for the most part , the cable free life isn't so bad. After all, there aren't any commercials to deal with and we can pause and rewind as much as we need to when our toddler decided it's noise-making time in the middle of a crucial plot moment.

There are a few times of year when I genuinely miss cable, though. Here's a handy dandy list of things you, too, may miss if you've recently gone, or are thinking of going, cable free. Bonus: the list is in chronological order of TV events.

1. The Super Bowl. Sometimes they live-stream it, but it's slightly delayed and messes up frequently. 

2. The Oscars, and all other awards shows.

3. Summer reruns. Especially of old shows, like Boy Meets World.

4. Game shows. Just be glad this post isn't titled "An Ode to Jeopardy," because I miss Jeopardy, y'all. For real. Yes, I know I'm a dork.

5. TV specials. The Story behind Frozen: making a Disney animated classic aired last night and it was just put online a few hours ago, so I had to wait 12 hours and watch several YouTube clips to hold me over. Obsession at it's best.

6. Fall TV. New shows, new episodes of favorite shows. Sigh. Also? I STILL haven't seen the last season of How I Met Your Mother, and was subjected to several spoilers.

7. SPOILERS. Beware them. They're terrible, and people post all over Facebook about plot points.

8. ABC Family's 13 days of Halloween. Casper, The Addams Family, Toy Story of Terror (which came out on ABC last year and I still haven't seen!). The list goes on. Non-scary Halloween movies for those of us who love the lighter side of Halloween.

9. College football. Sigh. Kind of like the Super Bowl, college football is an event that unites our country into one community, albeit a community obsessed with winning and beating our rivals. But it still brings us together. Missing out on these nation-uniting moments sometimes leaves me feeling isolated and disconnected.

10. Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Just... Sadness.

11. ABC Family makes the list again with 25 days of Christmas. 25 days of birthing but Christmas movies and, for some inexplicable reason, Harry Potter movies? Count me in! Oh, wait. Never mind...

12. Disney channel, year round. Nothing makes the holidays more real than seasonally appropriate episodes.

13. Movie trailers. Most of the time, I just don't know what movies are in theaters. I often feel out of the loop, pop culture wise.

14. Jimmy Fallon is hilarious, and I wish I had cable so I could tape his Late show (because, honestly, I can't stay up that late anymore! Oh, yes, I'm old now. Blame the toddler).

15. Watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve.

So those are my major 15. What do you miss about having cable?