Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fancy Pants is closing. 50-80% off everything.

Fancy Pants is closing! See the details on their Facebook page here.

We've been big fans of the place for many years. We've sold a lot of used kids' clothes and toys to them and have shopped there regularly. I'm quite sad to see it go, and hope they're able to reopen somewhere else at some point.

I went on Tuesday and they still had a lot of things left. I got some baby items and such to give to people. I got pretty much an entire wardrobe including a jacket and shoes for about $100 for a kid who suddenly has nothing that fits. There were also a ton of books if people need them; they generally only stock really young books -- just picture books and board books -- but the selection is good and they're at least 50% off their usual prices, which are decent to start with. 

Oh, and they have a good selection of (mostly new!) winter hats and gloves all winter, which I've always appreciated about them, since most stores stop selling winter things in about October. There was still a lot of winter stuff left on Tuesday. I got a bunch of fleece balaclavas (is that the right word? Bank-robber masks, not gross Russian desserts) for $3 each since we are crazy and bike all year round when possible. 

They're open until the 22nd, so hit em up soon. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Check your phone number here to see if you can get $1200

If your phone number is on this list, DISH Network owes you $1200 for unscrupulous telemarketing tactics.

None of our family's numbers were on the list unfortunately, but this one is definitely worth checking out. Who doesn't want a free $1200?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

$25 via PayPal for taking this survey. Must have insurance through the connector.

I just did this survey. You must have insurance through your state's connector (not straight Masshealth/Medicaid, not insurance through an employer or school) and you must text or upload your insurance card. It took about five minutes. They send you $25 via PayPal, and I get $25. Then you refer your friends, and you get $25 each time they take it. It's pretty sweet. Their Facebook page is here if you run into any troubles and want to contact them.

EDIT: The study paid me. It's legit. They sent me an e-mail asking me to upload a screenshot of the connector page to confirm current enrollment, but after that they approved it. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Happy 7/11

Gotta love free Slurpee day. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

More random free money

I went online to check the interest rates on some credit cards that don't have balances, to see which would be best to float some expenses for a few months.

Two of them, both Chase cards, gave me things saying I had some sort of points to redeem. I figured these would get me stuff like $5 off coupons, but whatever, those are useful. 

Turns out one card's points were redeemable for $30 direct deposit and one for $40. I'm not sure what the points are or how I got them, but hey, free money. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Attention! Some class action checks don't look like checks


This check came today, to compensate me for having been caused severe emotional damage. Or something. 

The postcard you see on the left showed up like that, with my address on the other side. Looks like junk mail. Fortunately, it was clear who it was from, so I opened it up and got the check out. But be on the lookout for checks that don't look like checks. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Old Navy is 30% off online only right now

Check it out. There's also a lot of stuff marked down. Like, swimsuits, because they're already out of a number of sizes and colors. In March. While it's snowing.

Monday, March 13, 2017

There are a lot of good class action suits up right now

This site and this one both have lots of good ones right now -- Method, Ecover, Seventh Generation, Quorn, several other food products that don't require proof of purchase. Head on over, and rack up some free money!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

There sure are some crazy mofos on eBay

Someone bought something after business hours last week. E-mailed me the next business day stating it hadn't been shipped, asking "is there a problem???" My policies say I ship within two business days. It was still the first business day. Also, if they had used their adult words and just told me they really needed it quickly, I would have happily upgraded the shipping.

Speaking of, I've discovered that most buyers don't read the seller's policies or read the description of the item. Part of this is due to eBay hiding the description. On mobile you have to click into it, and on the computer you have to scroll all the way down. So when I'm selling anything with an open package, not in package, doesn't include accessories, scuffed, ripped, blah blah blah, I've been putting it in the title and then printing out the packing slip and enclosing it. (I don't usually include packing slips; hardly anyone seems to.) So then they get the packing slip right with the item, and they see that the item they bought is "Ralph Lauren hoodie with wear on cuffs," and they're less likely to complain.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Has anyone gotten their MA or federal tax refund yet?

Both of mine are saying they were received mid-January and are being processed. I know federal refunds with EITC or child credit can't be disbursed until after February 15 this year. Not sure what's going on with MA refunds. Last year I got state on February 2 and federal on February 10.

I'm thinking that federal will be about 15 days later than last year, since they're operating off of February 15 instead of February 1, so I'm expecting it any day now. I don't know what's going on with the MA refund. I hope this doesn't mean I got audited or some crap.

Which reminds me...I'm not sure I ever posted about that time I did get audited by the state. I can't find it through a search, and I don't seem to have a "MA DOR is a trainwreck" tag. Anyway, I got audited, sent in all the stuff. In addition to W-2 and 1099 work, I had done an odd job for someone one time, the person paid me about $1000, and I declared it and paid taxes on it. The DOR kept insisting I didn't have a record of the income, and the record of the income showing up in my bank account wasn't enough. I had to talk to several people on the phone and explain to them that if they weren't satisfied with my documentation, I could just delete that income and they could give me a bigger refund. It took probably 10 people before one finally got it. Amazing. OK, I'm making a tag for DOR just to be safe. I'll probably need it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Good Neighbor Energy Fund, for people who make too much for fuel assistance

I just got a call from the Good Neighbor Energy Fund, asking me if I wanted to apply, since we have done so in years past. For the past few years, we've qualified for fuel assistance, but Good Neighbor is a great program if you make too much for fuel assistance. The website has the income limits listed right up front on the page, so if you didn't qualify for fuel assistance and still need help, check it out. It works basically the same way, where you bring in your documentation and they pay the utility company directly. It's administered by the Salvation Army, which, yes, I know is problematic in many ways. The people who administer the program are much much more user friendly than the people at ABCD fuel assistance.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Swagbucks has this new MyGiftCardsPlus thing that gives you free money

I just signed up for this and got 975 Swagbucks ($11.08 if you redeem in batches of 2200 SB for $25 Amazon gift card).

The deal requires you to buy a $50 gift card. They have a ton of options, though most of them are things like mid-price/high-price chain restaurants where we wouldn't generally be spending money. They do have several places where most people would spend money regardless, like Lowe's, Home Depot, clothing stores, etc. I noticed that the GAP gift card earns you a larger number of Swagbucks than Old Navy, even though you can use the gift cards at both places since they're the same owner. So I bought a $50 GAP gift card, because I typically spend that much at Old Navy a few times a year.

If you haven't checked out the huge Old Navy clearance section at South Bay mall, do it! It's the biggest one I've found so far. Women's and men's is in the back corner of the store, and kids' is in a separate section in each kids' section. Old Navy tends to sell things for a very short time before they're out of season or out of style, so there's always a lot on clearance. The stores have more than the website does, because they also seem to move things to clearance as soon as they're low on certain sizes or they want to take down the display. If something stays on clearance very long and they're down to only a few of them, they'll often mark them down to a couple dollars. The stuff is often cheaper than thrift stores, and you can get things that wear out quickly and don't usually make it to thrift stores, like tanktops and leggings. 

Also, Old Navy is one of the furthest ahead in terms of seasons; right now they mostly have swimsuits and sundresses. This means that the place is pretty useless if you suddenly need snow boots or swimsuits during the correct season, because they'll likely all be gone, but it means things go on clearance before you actually would need them. We've gotten coats and gloves at a major discount when they clear them out in October or so, and swimsuits when they clear them out in about May.

So, get yourself a $50 GAP gift card (plus $11 in Amazon money), and go check out the Old Navy clearance section. And if you don't have Swagbucks yet, click the Swagbucks label to find all my past posts, which explain how to use it and contain my referral link so we can both get extra free stuff. Thanks!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Make a lamp shade for your thrift store lamp for about $2

So, a few days ago, I was trying to figure out what to do with a broken IKEA floor lamp. Could the pieces be recycled, or could someone use it for something? The hollow threaded part that connected the bottom section of the, uh, stalk? Stem? Post? Pole? to the base (I think this part is called a nipple. Seriously.) had broken off and broken in half, and of course it was an unusual size, because IKEA. I actually had a package of these in graduated sizes, because I once fixed a ceiling fixture I got from a thrift store, so 1) I was able to try them and see that this fixture was in between two adjacent standard sizes and 2) while they were no longer in the original package, I'm pretty sure they're called nipples. Hurr hurr.

I eventually realized I could just take out two of the three sections and make a table lamp. How would I do that though, when the post sections are threaded onto the cord? Oh, easy. Unwire the whole thing, reassemble, and then rewire! Some friends on social media were placing bets as to whether it would work and whether they would need to call 911. Assholes.

It did work, and on the first try. But then I needed a lamp shade. Of course lamp shades often cost more than the lamp, when we're taking about basic stuff like this, and thrift stores never have shades because lamps last longer than the shade. I started looking around for something I could make a lampshade out of. I was thinking I could probably use poster board and reinforce it with coat hangers or something, but then I saw this wastebasket that I got for a dollar at Dollar Tree.

The lampshade was the perfect shape and size, was lightweight, and the mesh made it even easier to sew fabric to it than it would have been with a cardboard shade. So, what I did was:

1) Cut the bottom out of the wastebasket. I guess you could actually leave it on if you like, as it wouldn't be in the way and light can of course pass through it. I cut mine off because lampshades don't typically have a top, and it made it easier to attach fabric later on. I used wire cutters. Heavy-duty scissors or a utility knife would work well too.

2) Find something that has a hole in it that is slightly larger than a lightbulb base. This seems to be the most secure way to attach a lampshade to a lamp, and is what IKEA lamps use. It also allows for any type of bulb. I used a closet pole socket like this one, since I had one lying around in a drawer. Mine were cheaper, I think $1 for the pair. You could also make something similar out of a fairly sturdy piece of plastic, like a plastic lid out of the recycling. It just needs to fit around the bulb and be able to have holes drilled in it. The closet rod hardware was perfect, since it already had three holes. If I were building it from scratch, I'd probably put four so it would be easier to get it centered and taut. 

3) Attach the middle part to the basket. I used wire to do this. The wire I had is thin craft-type wire, so I twisted it and wrapped it until it was fairly rigid. If I were purchasing wire, I'd probably use something a bit heavier, but not quite as hard to bend as, say, a coat hanger. The basket made it easy to get centered and level, because I could just count how many diamonds down from the edge and count how many diamonds were around the basket and divide by three. Measuring would also work, but that would involve getting up and finding one more thing, so I didn't do it.

4) Find fabric to cover the basket with. I unfortunately didn't take measurements or photograph every step, but you'll need roughly a foot by three feet maybe of fabric. If you wrap it around the basket and it fully covers it, you're good. Any material should work. If you aren't the type to own fabric waiting to be used for projects, use a good part of a worn sheet/blanket/pillowcase, or a shirt you don't need any longer.

5) Attach the fabric to the basket. The easiest and most secure way by far is with a needle and thread. Wrap the fabric around the basket so it covers the whole thing, trim it so you have a seam that runs straight up the shade (parallel to the pole), and then sew it to the basket. This part will be hidden, so no need to stitch neatly. Then, once one end is attached, stretch the fabric all the way around until it overlaps where you just sewed. Trim it so you have a straight edge with about an inch overlap. Fold the fabric under to make a nice seam. Then stitch through all three layers of fabric and around the basket wires. I did one diagonal stitch around each diamond.

6) Next, trim the top and bottom of the fabric so it barely overlaps the basket. If your fabric has pretty much no stretch to it, overlap about half an inch. Fold the fabric over the basket. Go around the edge and stitch it so the basket is between both layers of fabric, stretching it taut as you go. A whipstitch/overcast stitch/whatever you want to call it (shown in the picture) is going to work best at holding the fabric taut and looking the best. The sewing involved here requires really no skill; it's basically the same as those wooden sewing cards my kids had when they were preschoolers. The equipment needed is just a needle and thread, found in any drugstore sewing kit. If you're really opposed to sewing though, it should be possible to do this with hot glue or duct tape or something, or ribbons covering the edges, or whatever works for you.

Have I mentioned that the cat is an asshole?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Banana French toast

This was a surprisingly easy recipe I invented. Fair Foods gave us two bunches of slightly bruised/browning bananas and a loaf of what I thought was sandwich bread when I took it, but ended up being cranberry walnut bread. None of us are particularly crazy about the nuts-and-dried-fruits category of foods, so I tried to think of things I could do with it. I figured it would be improved if it were sweet, and this led me to French toast.

I knew bananas are often used by themselves as a binder/thickener in a lot of vegan cooking, so I figured this would work. I blended the bananas using an immersion blender, then added some vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. If using fresher bananas, you'd probably need to add some liquid to get it to a thinner consistency, but this was correct since these were rescued bananas. I then soaked the slices of bread in the stuff and fried them in a nonstick pan with a little oil. The result was normal textured French toast with a bit of a banana/fruit/nut flavor. We served it with maple syrup (Amazon has the best prices usually, FYI) and everyone enjoyed it. It's probably one of the simplest things I've ever cooked. Will definitely make again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Heads up for people who use the MA DOR free webfile for income tax

Apparently the state's own tax website is no longer active. They now are publishing a list of sites that will file your taxes for free based on income.

OLT will file them for free if you make between $13,000 and $62,000 AGI. However, if you've already filed your federal taxes elsewhere, you can't use this site; it only will file federal and state at the same time. You can pay $7.95 to file your state return alone on this site though. If you make more than $62,000 AGI, I'm not sure why you're reading my site*, but they will file it for $7.95 for state and $7.95 for federal.

1040NOW will file just the state return (or both, if you don't file federal elsewhere) for free if you make under $32,000 AGI. Be sure to use the link with "freefileMA" in it.

MA Department of Revenue doesn't list them, but Turbotax will also file for free if you are eligible to file 1040A or 1040EZ (income under $100,000, don't itemize deductions, no self-employment, no unusual credits or deductions besides the common ones like Earned Income Tax Credit and child credit.)

If you google free e-filing and your situation, you will find more companies that do free e-filing for students, people with disability income, military families, or whatever your case may be.

You can also print out the form and mail it for free. It takes longer to get your refund, but it's free. If you want to make sure you don't make any errors, most of the commercial tax websites (TaxSlayer, etc.) will let you do everything but file the return without paying. You can let it do all the calculations for the credits and everything and then transfer it to a paper form.

(*That's a joke. I realize of course that there are people with high incomes on paper who are supporting relatives, have high disability expenses, are trying to save a failing home business, and so forth.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

About that "Save $70 by opening a credit card" thing

I've been getting this Amazon promo every time I buy something, and have been ignoring it. First, I already have the Amazon Store Card, which I got about a few years ago. It gave me $50 off my first purchase, which is why I opened it, and no interest for six months on purchases over some amount, which I also why I purchased it. (At the time I needed car seats that would fit three-across in a compact car.)

I was assuming this offer was the same thing, and would reject me since I already had one. But then today I went to purchase something and a full-screen ad came up on the way to checkout, showing an image of an Amazon Visa Card, with an actual credit card. (The store card only works on Amazon and is a floppy membership-type card with no chip or strip, since you wouldn't be swiping it anywhere.) Hey Amazon, good advertising there. This actually got it through my thick skull that it's a different product, and I applied.

I was approved in 60 seconds, and it credited the $70 to my Amazon gift card balance without me having made the purchase yet. Even better, since this means I can just take the free stuff and throw the card in a drawer when it gets here and never use it.

For reference, if you're wondering if your credit score is sufficient, I have a lot of debt, but no negative items. I generally qualify for store cards with a low limit, but my unused Visa/Mastercard accounts also send me letters saying they're lowering my credit line due to high amount of total debt. I got the lowest interest rate they offer and a limit in the mid-four figures, so I'm thinking this card is probably a good one for people without great credit to try.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Trying out this Wikibuy thing that supposedly gives you better prices than Amazon

I accidentally stumbled across this on one of those sponsored Facebook posts, and it looks worth giving a try. So far I've installed it and poked around a bit. I haven't found a price that's better than Amazon, but I haven't had it installed very long. So far it seems more legit and less gimmicky than things like the Swagbucks toolbar. I'll update once I've used it more. Does anyone else use it and have any reviews or tips?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Oh, or, instead of getting $5 free, you could get $30 free

So I did the Dollar Shave Club Swagbucks deal, and it worked flawlessly -- $1 was charged to my debit card, I got credited 600 Swagbucks three days after I did the deal, and the razor and cartridges showed up today, which is six calendar days after I placed the order.

I decided to look on eBay and see whether people buy these razors and cartridges. (Helpful hint: If you want to know what people are actually willing to pay for something on eBay, rather than what people are trying to make you think it goes for, go into the sidebar and select "sold listings only.") Yeah, so, the starter package ("The Executive" razor plus four six-blade cartridges, in a carton with some shaving product and some leaflets) sells for $20-$25. Dayum. Yes, I sure would like that much free money.

Just listed my Dollar Shave Club starter package on eBay. I'd suggest ordering one and selling it on eBay even if you don't do Swagbucks. Because dayum.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Donating used items helps low-income families. So why are so many low-income folks against it?

From Vox: "A lot of the advice I hear about what to give, and what not to give, is well-intentioned, but it's rarely informed by the experience of the people who actually rely on thrift stores to keep their closets stocked and their budgets balanced."

As someone else who does a lot of shopping at thrift stores and on eBay, I will say that this is largely on point. Yes, people like me will buy things that you think should be thrown out rather than donated. I have no superstitions about using something that may have touched who knows what; we wash everything. And stuff that's got some slight wear? It's going to get that way anyway the first time it's used.

The one thing I think this article does get wrong though is the suggestion that it's mainly wealthy people who think no one wants something slightly worn. As a long-time resident of a mixed-income, racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood, I actually notice that my friends who tend to be the most meticulous about things needing to be new and flawless are people who have grown up in intergenerational poverty.

I get why this happens. I've written before about how my family, despite being poor, has enough educational and other privilege that people think "resourceful" and "hippie" when they learn that we eat a lot of rice and beans and most of our belongings are from thrift stores, rather than thinking "can't afford hats and gloves for their kids" or "better call child protective services." A lot of families don't have these same protections as we do. I absolutely get why people without a lot of privilege feel the need to clothe their children in new and spotless garments and to go into debt to have brand-new matching furniture sets in every room. Many people, unfortunately, need to live in such a way that no one can question that they can provide for their families properly. My poorer friends who do shop at thrift stores, barter, hand items down among their families, and so forth tend to be people who have more protection against potential bias, generally through things like education, housing stability, and participation in community organizations.

What I don't really get is people's tendency to shun being a part of people reusing items even on the giving end. I frequently observe friends of mine living in poverty stating that they absolutely won't donate used items to charity, typically because, "that's nasty." Stacks of brand-name, barely used clothing and shoes go into the trash. Even some of my friends' teens, who love to make money selling electronics and similar things locally or online, want no part in the reuse of clothing or household items. Now that know firsthand that people will buy absolutely anything on eBay, I wonder if I would get anywhere letting them know they can make money with the clothing they would ordinarily throw away.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dollar Shave Club offer on Swagbucks: One razor plus $6.81 Amazon money for a dollar

I just did this offer. I'm getting one razor shipped to me for $1 (paid by credit/debit card), and 600 Swagbucks (worth $6.81 on Amazon if you redeem in batches of 2200 points for $25) credited to my account within 3 days. After the free trial, Dollar Shave Club doesn't actually seem to be a good deal, so I'm going to cancel; I'm only in this for the better-than-free deals, obviously.

If you need a Swagbucks account, this is a good time to sign up using my link. We both get even more free stuff than usual, since they're doing a promo right now. And then you can get your friends free stuff, and they can get their friends free stuff, and since this is a damn pyramid scheme like all of these things are, the people who wait too long don't have anyone to refer to get free stuff. But even without referrals, anyone can still do deals like this razor thing, so go do it!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ship Goodwill donations for free if you can't drop them off

I'm not sure how green this actually is, in terms of using up a box and taping it up and printing a label and all that rather than just walking over and dropping off donations in overflowing trash bags like we tend to. But for people who live in rural areas, or who can't always leave loved ones to do errands, or aren't physically able to get out as much as they'd like, Give Back Box sounds pretty great. It's definitely better than tossing perfectly usable items in the trash, which I see far too many people doing.

How it works is: You put your things in any box you have lying around (they're partnered with businesses like Amazon and REI that are specifically encouraging people to use their boxes for this purpose, but it can be any box), print a label from their site, and arrange for UPS/USPS to come get it. It then gets shipped to Goodwill.

In terms of Goodwill Industries, I am aware that the charity is problematic in some ways. Their stores are run as a sheltered workshop program, which means that individuals with significant disabilities are paid less than minimum wage to sort, tag, wash, and display merchandise. Employees with a higher level of independence get paid minimum wage to work the cash registers and interact with the public. Some disability advocates believe that no one should be a subminimum wage, even people with severe disabilities who aren't able to work without constant supervision and assistance, who would be watching movies all day in an adult daycare program if sheltered employment wasn't available. Other advocates have raised concerns that Goodwill continues to pay some folks a subminimum wage even after they've progressed and have demonstrated that they can complete a typical amount of work with minimal extra support. Be aware though that a hoax post is going around stating that Goodwill is a for-profit company and the CEO makes $2.3 million per year, and this information is not in fact accurate. They are a nonprofit and Charity Navigator rates them highly.

In the Boston area, if you are able to donate in person, or you have a donation large enough for them to send a truck, I would suggest donating to Boomerangs. They support the AIDS Action Committee and are completely legit. Their website also has a list of charities where you can donate items that thrift stores don't take. But if you have a smaller amount of items and would otherwise be putting them in the trash, please check out Give Back Box and help those items get reused by struggling families instead of ending up in a landfill.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Taxpayers claiming EITC won't see refund until late February

From the IRS website:

"The IRS reminds taxpayers that a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15. In addition, the IRS wants taxpayers to be aware it will take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions. Factoring in weekends and the President’s Day holiday, the IRS cautions that many affected taxpayers may not have actual access to their refunds until the week of Feb. 27."

Well that's annoying. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Graze box: It was free, but eh

My Graze box showed up today. I got this through a Swagbucks deal in which I paid $1 shipping for a free trial of Graze, then earned a couple dollars' worth of Swagbucks.

The concept is really more of a novelty than utilitarian. The snacks are small, definitely more of a tasting than an actual snack. I was thinking they'd be nice to take for lunch on the go or send with the kids when they don't have time for real meals between activities (like I often do with homemade muffins or energy bars I get with coupons), but they're not substantial enough even for that. The snacks list the calorie content, and most are not even 100 calories.

I haven't tried the snacks yet, but they look good. They're basic enough I can't imagine they'd be bad; mostly assortments of dried fruits and nuts and things. One of the ones I was sent is a "flapjack," which is their term for something like an energy bar, only shaped closer to a square than a bar. I also got a Tom Yum dried-soup-in-a-cup-type thing, which sounds promising. So, sure, it was a fun little thing to receive, considering it was free, but overall I'm not impressed. In fact, given that the actual subscription is quite expensive, it seems downright frivolous. You can get normal portions of wholesome snacks at Trader Joe's or from Annie's or whatnot for a lot less money.
Box pictured here with junk mail for scale. See? SMALL.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

MA DCF foster adoption subsidy payment schedule 2016-2017

I scanned this and am posting it here for other families who foster, have guardianship of relatives, etc. DCF typically is almost a year behind in posting it on their site. As of today, they still have last year's up. I couldn't find my paper copy and tried to google and see if it was posted anywhere. I found a ton of people looking for it, but didn't actually find it.

So, here it is, the 2016-2017 MA Massachusetts DCF Department of Children and Families Foster Care and Adoption/Guardianship Subsidy Payment Schedule, which runs from July 2016 through June 2017 and includes the dates for foster payments, adoption subsidies, guardianship subsidies, clothing checks, and holiday bonuses from the aforementioned Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. (Hey, just trying to make this findable on The Google, OK?)

Click here to see it full size. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ways to reduce food waste

I thought this link might be useful to many. It seems quite relevant to those of us who use Fair Foods and end up with a ton of produce we need to use up quickly.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Good site for comparing prescription costs

A friend told me about GoodRx. I haven't played around with it much, because we are super fortunate to have Masshealth, but the site works, and various interwebs reviews tell me the information is accurate. Apparently the out-of-pocket cost for various meds can be a few dollars at one pharmacy chain and a few hundred at another. So definitely check it out before paying if you're ever told something isn't covered.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Free book giveaway

Thanks to a generous donation of Disney inventory from First Book and the AFT, the BTU and BTU-PAC will be giving away 25,000 FREE Disney books!
When:   Tuesday, December 13, 2016, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Where:  Boston Teachers Union, 180 Mt. Vernon Street, Dorchester, MA 02125
Parking Available: Use 80 Day Boulevard, Dorchester for GPS directions.
MBTA Accessible: Less than a 5 minute walk from the JFK/UMass Red Line.

Click here for more information.
Also, the person who sent me the invite mentioned that there will be books for all reading levels, up through highschool. Typically these events tend to only have preschool or early elementary books, so this is nice to see.

I can't find additional information as to whether the books will all be Disney-themed, or whether it's just a partnership. I checked out the First Book website, which has a lot of great information and resources, and it seems to indicate that they receive a lot of funding from Disney, but doesn't suggest that the events center around Disney books. It's possible someone misunderstood, or it's possible that this will be Disney books. It seems worth checking out even for people who stay away from Disney for social reasons, because Disney also owns Star Wars and a bunch of other media that most people find less problematic.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Today I Learned: Socks and underwear are not clothing least at Target anyway. They have this sweet deal right now on "clothing, shoes, and jewelry" where you can get $10 off of $50 or $25 off of $100 using checkout code STYLE. The fine print didn't list any exclusions, but the promotion didn't work for the underwear and socks I was going to order. Pajamas were included though, and a lot of things, especially Cat and Jack and the other house brands, are already on sale.

There's also 25% off cold-weather items, which is even more ambiguous and isn't clarified on the site, but likewise, when you go put it in your cart and enter the code, it will list "promotion code COLD applied to this item," so you can easily tell what to take out or how much more you need to spend.

Monday, December 5, 2016

HomeChef trial was definitely worth it

I'm finally getting around to posting about the two meals we got for $2.75 from HomeChef. So, it was easy to place the order, and we got to pick which meals we wanted out of a selection of meals available during that week. We chose a risotto and a calzone. The food came in a box with gel ice packs and lined with insulated sheets, which the website states is safe to be left outside if you aren't home when it arrives. I ended up refreezing the ice packs because free ice packs, and saving the insulation stuff for packing fragile eBay items, because, well, you know what blog this is.

The risotto ingredients
The boxes contained everything we needed for the recipes, including things like flour, rice, and butter. The only things we had to provide were oil, salt, and pepper. Everything was measured out and neatly labeled. I snapped a photo of the risotto package, minus the little bottle of white wine which apparently didn't make it into the photo. Oh, the meals also generally come with a few reusable-type plastic bottles, like the kind you buy to put travel toiletries in or pack salad dressing with your lunch in. Zing!

I assume HomeChef is intended for people who don't cook much, but have a basic familiarity with food and kitchens. The recipes include a lot of photos of what each step is supposed to look like and how you can tell when it is done. We don't fall into the don't-really-cook demographic, but I would say the recipes and the pre-prepped ingredients would be suitable for people who don't cook. Keep in mind you do need basic kitchen items though (pots, pans, baking sheets, knives), but nothing you can't get at IKEA or Dollar Tree. The recipes were simple and straightforward enough that a couple of elementary-aged kids were able to make the calzone without any difficulty.

I particularly liked the risotto recipe because it's something I've never made before, and actually didn't really understand how it's made. I've certainly made rice and kind of stir-fried it with whatever produce I had in the house, but it's not quite the same.

The "garnish" is only because I forgot one piece of kale
Risotto gets its texture (kind of overdone compared to how rice is generally eaten most places, but creamy and firm rather than sticky and mushy, sort of a mac-and-cheese texture) by frying the grains of rice in oil until toasted, then adding a small amount of water at a time and boiling it away until the rice starts to get sticky, then adding more and doing this for about 25 minutes until it's the right texture. This was intriguing to learn, and definitely something I'll try again. The rice that's used is arborio rice, which is typically expensive. Thrive Market has it though, so I added it to my most recent box of mostly free stuff. 

The other recipe was a calzone, which was also great and easy and fun to make. It uses that two-ingredient bread recipe that I've been curious about, but not curious enough to actually buy self-rising flour, which seems wasteful. It turned out so well though that I did actually cave in and buy self-rising flour, which I've been using to make pizza and rolls and things lately. The only downside is that the recipe requires yogurt and won't work without it, so it doesn't work if you have people who can't eat dairy even when cooked. In that case, use this recipe, which is a little more time-consuming, but still very cheap and easy.

Calzones are something I never think to make, but they're so easy and versatile. I really should just come up with a list of different foods to make with random produce. Basically what you do is saute whatever you want to put in it (this was mushrooms, red pepper, broccoli, onions, I think a few other things), mix in some cheese if desired, and stick it inside dough and bake it.

The meals were quite big. I ordered the smallest (i.e. cheapest) box available, which was two servings of each meal. They really are midrange-restaurant-type servings though, so two servings plus the salads we served it with was enough for a whole family.

Overall, the HomeChef recipes were quite fun. It allows you to put your subscription on hold indefinitely instead of cancelling it, so that's what I've done. I'm thinking I might order from them again as an alternative to going out to dinner. I think the standard price is about $10 per meal, which is much cheaper than going out, and in most cases cheaper than buying all of the ingredients, since they only give you exactly as much as you need. The way it shows up at your door and is a new recipe makes it feel to me like something that would be a better birthday dinner or dinner with company than just cooking something you usually make, without the expense of going out to dinner or ordering food.

Friday, December 2, 2016

70% off everything at Aeropostale

Everything is 70% off online and in stores. FYI their kids' pants start at size 4 and all have adjustable waists. Some stuff is ridiculously low, like $1 and $2. And there's a $20 off $100 deal if you use your Visa card, promo code VISA after you've entered the card number.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Free wine is back on Swagbucks

The Winc offer is back, and it's free/beyond free this time. Pay $32 for four bottles of wine with free shipping, then get 3200 Swagbucks ($36.37 in Amazon gift cards if you redeem in batches of 2200 Swagbucks). It's an easy way to have some snazzy wine on hand for when you inevitably get invited to holiday things and have nothing to take. I found it under Featured Ways to Earn.

And obviously, if you don't have Swagbucks yet, use my referral thingy, then refer all your friends, because we all know us broke folks love pyramid schemes. Thanks to the people who have signed up under mine recently. One of you needs to start actually using the account though so we can both get some gift cards!

Monday, November 28, 2016

15% off nearly everything at Target today (online and in-store), plus another 1% off

Here's the official press release from Target. It even includes game consoles and Apple products, which is highly unusual. There are a few exclusions listed here (mostly just the usual ones, like alcohol and gift cards).

I totally just fished this out of the laundry someone didn't put away
Speaking of Target, we are loving the Cat and Jack line of kids' clothes. It's cute stuff, most of it's seriously cheap ($6 leggings, $12 jeans, $6 t-shirts, $10 hoodies), a lot of it's gender-neutral, and they have t-shirts with positive messages and science themes rather than the usual tough-guy/cute-and-or-sexualized-girl messages. They have infant, toddler, youth sizes, and the youth sizes go up to XXL in most items, which fits the average-sized adults in this household. Not to say that we've gone in the kids' department just because they have $6 t-shirts and $10 hoodies or anything like that. That would be silly, right?

There's also a deal on InstaGC right now, not sure for how long, where you can get 1% back on online purchases from Target. Target also has the Cartwheel couponing app, which you can now use online. Between that, today's sale, and the InstaGC thing, you should be able to get some serious deals on things. Like clothing. That you definitely didn't buy in the kids' department.

Here's the Target fine print
I just realized I didn't do a tutorial on InstaGC, but if you know how to use Swagbucks, it's quite simpler. It has the same TrialPay and OfferToro and all that that Swagbucks has. It also rewards you in Amazon gift cards, and allows you to redeem for $1 Amazon cards, which means you don't have to wait until you get to $5 or $25 or whatever like some of the other ones. Like the others, you can earn referral points. Sign up under my thing if you don't have an account yet, and then refer your friends.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Free Museum of Fine Arts admission every day

This doesn't seem to be well publicized, but the MFA is free for the last hour they are open every day. They also have $3 tickets for EBT card holders, if you want to stay longer. If you don't have an EBT card though, the last hour thing is such a good deal for people who are close by and can just come back another time to see more. Admission is ordinarily $25 for a ticket, which, wow.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Gourmet vegan cooking class and meal for $10

This looks pretty great. Cooking class and a whole meal for $10 per person ($5 if you're a member of The Trustees) at that new facility in Haymarket. Usually these things are ridiculously expensive, like, more than going out to dinner at a nice place. I unfortunately wouldn't be able to make it on Wednesday morning, but check it out if you're available and want some low-cost family fun.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Don't spend money on paper for printing coupons

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, I use coupons and stacked coupon deals to feed my family within my means. One of the things that's annoying about this though is that the manufacturer's coupons have to be printed out and handed to the cashier physically. I've heard that stores in other regions have systems of putting them on your store card like you can with store coupons, but this isn't here yet. So, for now, I'm using a lot of paper, which costs money and is wasteful.

Similarly, I am a professional stuff-getter-ridder-of-er. We have a large family in a small space, and I don't like having things sitting around that we might some day maybe use, when there are people who can use them right now, or ways they can be recycled.

The other day, I suddenly had a realization of how I could kill both birds with one stone. Speaking of which, I had a program director at a former job who would say "house two birds with one nest" so as to be nonviolent. I like this, except no one knows what it means. I probably should just do away with the birds altogether* and say I'm solving both problems.

Anyway, I need to print coupons, but paper is expensive and wasteful. And I have a folder of paper I don't want to recycle since it's blank on one side, but couldn't find a use for since it's too thin to use for art, and the stuff printed on it is mostly just too weird to use as eBay packing material or to print handouts on or anything like that.

Coupons though. They just need to be printed on paper in a way that's basically legible, and it doesn't reflect on me in any way that matters if they're printed on something strange. So, yeah, I totally just printed off 28 pages of coupons on the back of an outdated sexual harassment manual from a company I used to do some work for. Which was where I know Nest Guy from, actually.

Oh, and as far as ink for all this printing, I'm using some knockoff cartridges I got on Amazon for a few dollars for 10 of each color or something like that. The color sometimes seems slightly off from legit cartridges, and once in a while you get a dud, but I'm OK with that for paying $4.99 or something for something that would normally cost like $600. If you can't risk fake ink because you're an artist or need high-quality prints for your business or whatnot, get a free printer from OfferUp or Craigslist and use it for coupons. People are constantly giving away perfectly good printers, usually either because the ink costs more than a new printer, or because they don't know how to make an older printer work with their wireless network. Snag these though, because you can buy knockoff ink and there are ways to get pretty much any printer working wirelessly.

*Not literally. That would be violent.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I can't take you people, er, robots, anywhere!

I noticed the other day that I had a huge surge in page views, but I didn't dig further.

Then I got a comment in my moderation queue that suddenly made everything clear, and I dug deep into my stats, and sure enough...

Apparently a spambot search engine has decided that the word "stripping" in one of my home improvement posts means that the page is visited by people who would be interested in their unholy spam link, rather than people who are looking for ways to make thrift store furniture look snazzy.

You know what though? A page view is a page view, right? The number of hits a page gets is in part what decides how much my ads pay me when people click on them. So, yeah, I'm fine with some perverted robot driving up my stats, though I do prefer views and comments from my lovely human readers. Stripper porn whores XXX viagra cialis.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hollar deal on Swagbucks: $15 worth of stuff for 80 cents

I just did the Hollar offer on Swagbucks. If you make a $15 purchase, it gives you 1250 Swagbucks, which is worth $14.20 if you redeem in batches of 2200SB for $5. This means you end up paying $0.80 once you get the Swagbucks, but you do have to front the $15 on your debit card.

I hadn't heard of Hollar before. It's a lot like Five Below, except online. They have pajamas, t-shirts, headphones, room stuff, drinkware, etc., and most of it is $2-$5. Some of it is more. Some seems to be closeout/overstock and some seems to just be cheap stuff. So, yeah, you're probably better off going to a thrift store if you want clothing and other items that will last, but this place was a lot of fun for doing some holiday shopping for the kids. I got this stuff for $1.12, y'all. Um, if you know my kids, don't say anything, k?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

If you have Masshealth managed care, you can get a bunch of free stuff

I just learned that the various Masshealth managed care plans (Tufts Health Together, BMC HealthNet, Neighborhood Health Plan) have reimbursements and freebies just like private insurance does.

Tufts Health Together offers $50 per year per member reimbursement for gym memberships, dance and exercise classes, or sports leagues. They offer $30 reimbursement for contacts or glasses purchased out of pocket. They also have reimbursement for childbirth classes and breastpumps. They send one free bike helmet per year per child or adult member via mail and vouchers for $25 off a booster seat or $50 off a convertible seat (this is enough to purchase the cheapest models on the market). They also will send you gift cards for doing proactive health tasks, like filling out an asthma action plan or going to diabetes visits. Check out their member handbook, pages 23-27.

Neighborhood Health Plan offers $50 per year per member reimbursement for gyms only, $15 off bike helmets for children and adults, childbirth classes, and breasts pump sent by mail.

Boston Medical Center HealthNet offers free car seats and booster seats by mail, a free box of disposable diapers for parents of newborns, $200 per year per family reimbursement for gyms only (it's unclear whether this is the limit per family or whether a single gym member would get this whole amount back), one free bike helmet per child member per size, and dental kits (which appear to be the stuff you get free at the dentist anyway).

The basics of these extras seem to be pretty much the same for the three plans, though they differ in terms of how much of a discount they give on particular items and whether you have to front the money for various costs. It seems like it would make the most sense to join BMC HealthNet if you have a baby or toddler, then switch to Tufts Health Together, which seems to cover the most stuff overall. Surprisingly, switching managed care plans once you're already enrolled in MassHealth is actually really easy.

Please, spread the word about these benefits! We've never been told about any of this in many years of having MassHealth and using community clinics. I actually don't think most of the providers know what's available to their patients, though they're happy to write down that we ignore their recommendations to join gyms and use expensive over-the-counter products. So, let people know they can get things through their MassHealth plan, and let them know about all the drugstore items MassHealth covers.

By the way, I've had mixed luck using the OTC program. When providers ask us to start using a vitamin supplement or ear drops or something, I ask them to write a prescription for it so MassHealth will cover it. So far none of them have been aware of this program. About half have seemed happy to hear it's a thing and have written the prescriptions. Others just insist "you don't need a prescription for that" and even "there's no such thing as a prescription for Benadryl."

Monday, November 14, 2016

Aaaand...the shaming people for shopping on Black Friday is in full force

So, I'm used to seeing the hashtags and images telling people to buy nothing on Black Friday, presumably to fight capitalist culture or something. Fortunately, in my circle of friends, there are usually people who beat me to pointing out that this is a really privileged viewpoint. I mean, come on, some of us can only afford things when they're on sale, and those of us in this boat are already doing less consuming than average throughout the whole year. But it apparently makes people who have a lot of economic privilege feel better to boast that they're making their purchases on a day other than Black Friday.

Today I saw on the REI website that they're closed on Black Friday. I find this admirable, that they're allowing their employees to have a longer weekend with their families, and avoiding having their store filled with people fighting over merchandise. That seems like a good choice for an individual business to make, if they feel it aligns with their values. But the hashtags, and encouraging customers to pledge not to shop that day? That seems a bit privileged and obnoxious.

I imagine much of REI's customer base is people who buy high-end products for hobbies rather than basic needs, and clearly their marketing folks know this. But there are also people (like me!) who shop there for winter wear and bike stuff, because they have some amazing deals for members. I'm not really fazed that the store is closed on Black Friday. I probably wouldn't be headed there anyway, since we don't need anything for our bikes or for winter right now. But I'm not too crazy about their "movement" to not shop at all on Black Friday. I too am quite turned off by spending the entire day buying tons of stuff because you can, but if I find a sale for something we need, yes, I'm going to duck out of eating leftovers and watching movies and go get something I wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.

The overall message is good, but I wonder why they couldn't have made it a more general plea to have a simpler holiday season and to gift experiences, secondhand items, and sturdy necessities instead of buying every damn thing. Because encouraging people with lots of expendable income to buy the stuff on a different day (and pay more for it!) doesn't actually change anything with regards to all this "stuff" affecting the environment and our mental health, and it needlessly shames people who already consume less for shopping when things are affordable. Right now it just seems like asking people to show off that they have the privilege to buy anything they want, rather than asking people to change their overall consumption.