Archive of ‘Tips’ category

Twenty White Elephant Gift Ideas Under $25!

One of my favorite fun games at holidays parties is the white elephant gift swap. I wanted to write an updated post with some new budget friendly ideas for your 2017 holiday swap, all under $25!

white elephant gift ideas under $25

White Elephant gift ideas under $25

Beauty

Beauty items are some of my favorite budget friendly swap items.

Face Masks are always a hit. This set at Sephora includes 6 different ones. I also love Korean masks like Innisfree and The Face Shop and they are so affordable.

Sephora also carries a bunch of mini sets that would be a fun gift like this one from NARS which is a blush and lipstick duo and this one from Bite Beauty which is a small collection of lipsticks.

L’occitane hand creams are my favorite and they are a great winter gift since our hands get so dry with the heat! This L’occitane gift set includes 4 different scents.

Odds and Ends

Voluspa scented candles are amazing. My personal favorite is the Panjore Lychee scent. Heavenly!  Plus the glass jar is so, so pretty.

I’m always a sucker for plaid in purple/blue so naturally I love this scarf! This leopard scarf is also really cute.

Powerbanks are such a necessity these days! My favorite brand is Anker. I love the durability and this one is priced right.  They also make a variety of other accessories like selfie sticks and power port plugs.

These magnetic twist ties look really useful!  They also get great reviews.

Whimsical Gifts

This Mug by the Unemployed Philosophers Guild reveals the constellations in the night sky when you pour in a hot drink. How cool is that!?

Tea Flowers are so cool. It’s not something I’d normally buy for myself but I think this would be lovely to receive!

Adult coloring books have been so popular the last few years. This one is Harry Potter themed!

The Pie Face game is so fun. We played this at a friend’s house and we had a blast!

Kids

Target has a few classic kids games in “rustic” series made out of wood.  Connect 4, Candy Land and Jenga are all favorites at our house.

Elephant and Piggie books are a hit with my kids. We got this book within a book last year and loved it!

Where to Shop

While you can always shop online, if you’re just buying 1 small thing shipping costs can add up quickly.  I find that going to places like TJ Maxx or Marshall’s is a good place to find budget friendly gifts.

There are also a number of retailers who have a list of items that ship free without any minimum purchase. Here’s links to each one:

Amazon — Amazon Prime members have access to free shipping on 100 million items. If you aren’t a member of Amazon Prime yet, you can sign up here for a free 30 day trial.  You can cancel at anytime.

Sephora – everything on this page ships free with the code HOLIDAYSHIP

Pottery Barn Kids Ornaments – all ornaments ship free

Nordstrom – all purchases ship free

Crate and Barrel – everything on this page ships free

Target – everything ships free if you have a Target RED card

What are your favorite items to receive at White Elephant swaps? Do you prefer a useful gift, a funny gift or a heartfelt one? 

How To Keep Your Digital Photos Safe

Soon after my daughter was born, we booked a newborn shoot which yielded some amazing photos that I will cherish forever. I also took massive amounts of photos of my new little one with my own camera. I wanted to make sure that these photos would be safe and protected from various threats and disasters. Hard drive failure is one of the most common things to happen to a computer. I also worried that someone may break into my home and steal my computer.

Cloud Backup for Photos

To mitigate these threats, I started looking into a cloud based backup service. I wanted to find a solution which was:

  1. Affordable
  2. Dependable
  3. Secure
  4. Provided automated backups
  5. Provided an easy way to retrieve data

The solution I found that met all of my criteria was CrashPlan!  I love the service so much I’ve recommended it lots of times to friends and family

CrashPlan Best Cloud Backup For PhotosCrashPlan offers a free and paid version of their service. The free service will backup to other computers, and to the CrashPlan servers, but files will only remain there for 30 days.  The paid service will back up your data from 1-10 computers (1 computer is an Individual account, 2-10 requires a Family account) to CrashPlan in the cloud. Backups stay on their servers as long as you have an active subscription, and they will also keep multiple versions if the file has changed.

To get started, you download the CrashPlan desktop client and start configuring it. After that, it starts the process of uploading your data to their servers. The application will monitor your hard drive for new files and changed files and upload to the CrashPlan servers (labeled below as CrashPlan Central). It is also nice to see how much data will be uploaded and how long it will take. I also receive an email on a weekly basis telling me how many files/how much data has changed.

CrashPlanClient

CrashPlan encrypts your data before uploading, so even if their servers are attacked, your data won’t be exposed. You can restore your data via any browser or the CrashPlan desktop client.

An Individual account is very affordable, at only $59.99 per year. This really gives me peace of mind that my photos and data are safe.

Multiple friends recommended Dropbox. While I do love Dropbox, it didn’t meet all of my criteria. Dropbox Pro only provides up to 1TB of storage and is $9.99/month (or $99/year). I have a massive collection of photos and video that I wanted backed up, so Dropbox was out.

2016 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Shopping Tips

Early Access for the 2016 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale starts TOMORROW!  OMG I can hardly contain myself.  According to the online chat customer service, the website will be updated at midnight PST with everything available in the sale.  I will definitely be staying up to see what they unveil!  I also have a shopping appointment tomorrow during the day with one of my friends.  We go every year together and its now an unofficial tradition of ours :)

After shopping the sale for a number of years now, there are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that I’d like to share.

1. Know what goes fast and go for that first

Nordstrom Hinge Victoriana Jacket

This Nordstrom Hinge Victoriana Jacket sold out instantly on the first day.

There are always 1-2 hot items from the sale that will sell out immediately.  One year, it was Tory Burch boots.  Another year it was the beautiful jacket above that was featured on the cover of the catalog.  This year, I’m not quite sure what it will be.  Perhaps the Veronica Beard Jacket (page 4, item #5159429) or maybe the Vince color block coat (page 12, item #5149611). If you aren’t able to shop early access, or if the item you want sells out, don’t worry, there is separate stock allocated to the public sale as well.

2. Be a Nordstrom Card Holder!

Nordstrom Visa Signature Card

Nordstrom Visa Signature Card

Nordstrom card holders get to shop Early Access which starts 8 days before the public sale.  This is great for the impatient shopper like me who wanted to see the catalog in June!  Haha!  Nordstrom card holders also have special perks like free alterations and when you shop enough to be in the higher levels, there are things like invitations to the holiday party and private parties.  I’ve been to the holiday party and it is SO MUCH FUN.  Not to mention, the past few years it has been 10 points per $1 spent on your Nordstrom card!  You can choose to use your personal triple points day when you make your big order too, for extra points.

3. Make an appointment with a sales associate

If you typically shop with a stylist all year round, then this will be easy. I’m sure your sales associate will have already called you to make an appointment!  If you’re like me and don’t normally shop with a sales associate then you’ll have to just find someone to book with.  I called my favorite department a few weeks ago and booked an appointment with someone.  Working with a sales associate is great because they can help you track down your favorite items and they can also help pull all of the items you’re interested in and put them aside in a room for you so that you don’t have to deal with the chaos of the first shopping day if you don’t want to.

4. Make a list of what you want from each department

In preparation for your shopping appointment, make a list of all the must-see items from each department you want to visit so you don’t forget anything.  If you’re shopping the first day of early access or the first day of the public sale, it gets pretty crazy in the store.  If I don’t make a list, I tend to forget about things and I will blow my budget and forget to buy some of the essentials I came for!  I try to mark down department by department what items I want to check out in the catalog.

Will you be shopping the sale on Thursday (or next Friday)?  I will be online at midnight eagerly awaiting the site re-opening with the Anniversary items, then at the store on Thursday bright and early!  Can’t wait to see what you all get! :)

 

Tips for Travel Planning with TripAdvisor

Trip-Advisor-logo2

Whenever I’m planning a trip, I make extensive use of TripAdvisor.com to figure out which hotel I want to stay in, what interesting things I want to put on my to do list and how to handle some of the finer points of logistics of traveling.

For instance, when I planned my trip to Maui last year, I read many complimentary reviews and critical reviews of the property I was interested in staying at. TripAdvisor even has a way to filter out reviews for travelers who are similar to you.  I generally check out what Families have to say since that is who I am usually traveling with. A business traveler often has different needs — for instance, no requirements for a kid friendly pool or activities!  I also noticed that they have added “Time of Year” as a filter since that is also critical–high season travel will often be crowded and you want to know if the resort has sufficient amenities to accommodate all travelers!

TripAdvisorReviewFilters

Another great feature of TripAdvisor is the FORUMS! I love being able to ask other travelers questions and I’ve picked up some amazing tips here. For instance, one of the most memorable parts of my trip to Italy was visiting the Vatican. It was in the forums that I learned about the Scavi tour, a little known underground tour of the Vatican catacombs. This was an amazing experience and one that I would have never read about in a guidebook.

I’ve also been able to ask on the forums about how train strikes work in Europe. Again, on our trip to Italy, train personnel were scheduled to strike on a particular day. We were scheduled to travel to Switzerland on that day and I was wondering if the train would make it to Switzerland or if it would stop at the specified time, or if they would stop at the closest station and walk off the job. The wonderful contributors on the forums assured me that my train would make it to Switzerland and it did!

I always try to write up a review of the hotel I stayed in — particularly if I’m able to help out another traveler. I just feel like its a great way to pay it back to the community that helped make my trip a success!

Target.com Now Carries Premium Skincare Lines

Here’s something interesting that I just discovered.  Target.com now carries some nicer skincare lines through its Subscribe & Save program!

Clarins, Laneige, Vichy and La Roche Posay are now available.  Even better, these are all 20% off this week.  You don’t typically find Clarins on sale anywhere besides special events at Sephora, but at 20% off that is a great deal!

I’ve noticed that Laneige, Vichy and La Roche Posay aren’t readily available in my part of the country, though I have seen that Duane Reade carries it in NYC.  I’ve seen these brands in Canada at Shopper’s Drug Mart.

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