Swap clothes your kids have outgrown for ones you need with ThredUp

ThredUP boxKids outgrow clothes so fast that it seems like there is always a closet full of clothes that they can’t wear anymore and a long list of new clothes you need to buy.  ThredUp  is a website that allows you to swap those outgrown or unwanted clothes with other parents. 

Here’s a brief overview of how it works:

Select a box that you want to receive from the online community and pay the box price, which starts at $9, plus $11.35 for Priority Mail shipping.  According to ThredUp, the average box has more than 15 items in it which makes your cost less than $2 an item.

ThredUp Community 

To fulfill your half of the swap you’ll need to prepare your own box of items which you will list and on the community forum and send to the person who selects it.  You are not necessarily sending your items to the person you received items from, but the person who selects and actually needs the styles and sizes you have to trade.  I have to say, ThredUp makes this portion pretty easy.  They tell you which free Priority Mail boxes to use and you can either order them online or pick them up from the Post Office.  Because you are using Priority Mail you can request a free pick up of the package so you don’t have to leave home to ship it unless you want to.  AND you don’t have to pay for postage because the person who selected your box pays for the shipping. 

When you list a box yourself you will receive $10 for every box you send out that receives a 3 or 4 star review from the recipient.

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to put together a box, list it on the forum and ship it, ThredUp now offers a concierge service.    They will send you a postage paid bag that you can stuff full of clothes (visit the website for details on what they will and won’t accept) and set by your front door/mail box to be picked up by the mailman.  You earn money for every piece of item that meets their quality standards.  The cherry on the sundae is that they make a cash donation to Coats for Kids for every bag you send in.

I have not used ThredUp, but I see rave reviews about it on their Facebook page and in other places.  Let me know what you think if you give it a try or are already using it.

Have fun swapping!

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Wal-mart offers contest to get your product on their store shelves

Get on the ShelfHave you ever dreamed of having your product sold at Wal-Mart? Well, now is your chance. Wal-Mart has launched a program called “Get on the Shelf” where they are giving companies and individuals an opportunity to submit their product and an accompanying video to be voted on by the public. You can submit any type of product in the categories that Wal-Mart carries (which is most everything these days). Three winners will get an opportunity to sell their product on Walmart.com and free marketing support. According to the website the grand prize winner will get:
• featured placement on Walmart.com
• valuable marketing support
• advice on scaling up
• and a spot on Walmart store shelves!

Go to www.getontheshelf.com to enter by fill out the form and submit your video or to check out the video overview of the program for more details. The contest deadline is February 22nd, but try to submit your entry as early as possibly to give your product maximum exposure. Voting will take place March 7th to April 4th to narrow it down to 10 finalists. The final round of voting will be April 11 to April 24th to select the lucky three. You can use any means you’d like to get the word out to vote for your product. If you enter, please let us know in the comments so we can vote for you!

This is a great opportunity to get your product noticed even if you don’t win. Good luck!

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Shopkick app is an easy way to get discounts and free gift certificates

If I can earn “free money” while doing things that I normally do or with a small amount of additional effort, I’m all for it.  I found the free Shopkick app (available on both Android & iPhone) a little while ago and after giving it a good test drive, I’m quite pleased with it.  Basically you have the opportunity to earn points in several different ways that can be redeemed for gift certificates to places like Best Buy, Target,  Restaurants.com, Old Navy, Toys R Us and several others.  Here’s how you can earn points or “kicks”:

  • Instant Surprises
  • Walk-ins
  • Scans
  • Linking your Visa card
  • Watching

You can use any combination or all of the options to earn kicks.

INSTANT SURPRISES
This is one of my favorite ways to earn kicks.  On the “nearby” tab look for stores that have a green bubble or balloon on the far right hand side.  If there is a number in it that’s how many points you can earn by walking in or scanning products (more about that later) or if it has a dark green star in it there is an instant surprise.  If you see a number on top of the dark green star that means you have the opportunity to earn points by walking in or scanning AND there is an instant surprise.

Shopokick instant bonus

Instant surprises are great because you don’t have to be in a store to collect them.  Shopkick randomly assigns “instant surprises” (well it’s random to me, I’m sure they have some method to their madness) to stores that show up in the “nearby” tab.  These range from a single kick, sometimes more, or one of three pieces in a collection.  Once you collect all 3 pieces you get a bonus.

This is an easy way to collect kicks.  Before I leave home I go through the “nearby” tab and collect all the instant surprises which only take a couple of minutes.  When I get to work, I do the same.  This tab is populated by your GPS location so you should have new instant surprises available when you move to a different location.  When my boyfriend and I are in the car traveling and he’s driving, I love to collect the instant surprises and refresh as we go along to get more.  I’ve been known to collect more than 100 kicks at a time this way. It would also be a good task for a child to keep them busy while you drive.

 

WALK-INS
When you select a store and see points for walk-ins all you need to do to collect these points is simply walk in the store, open that store on the app, wait for the app to locate you and it will instantly award your points.  If I’m in the mall shopping or shopping next to a store that offers walk-in kicks, often Best Buy or Old Navy, I take the couple of minutes to walk in and collect my kicks and then I walk right back out.   You do actually have to be inside the store to collect walk-in kicks.  Shopkick is far more precise than Foursquare in determining your location so you won’t be able to score kicks by trying from the parking lot or even in front of the store.  Still, it only takes a couple of minutes and is usually worth 50 or 60 kicks.

Shopkick Walk In Instsructions

SCANNING
Scanning products is another easy way to earn kicks.  Have you noticed that these are all pretty easy?  When you select a store on the app in the “nearby” tab it will show you if there are any scans available.  Select the line that shows the number of scans and it will show you a list of the scans available and the number of kicks each scan is worth.

Shopkick scans

Locate the products in the store, scan the barcode, and you are instantly awarded the kicks.  Sometimes you will be asked to scan a QR code instead, especially for consumer electronics that are usually locked away like cameras.  I usually pass by these items as I’m shopping so it’s no big deal to stop for a second and scan the bar code or QR code.  This is a quick way to rack up kicks.  See, easy!

LINK YOUR VISA
The newest way to earn is by linking your Visa through Shopkick.  I’m sure this is perfectly safe, but I try to put my credit card information out there as little as possible, so I am not currently using this option.

WATCHING
You can also earn kicks by watching commercials and other videos on your phone. 

I only use Shopkick when I am out shopping anyway and I’ve been able to quickly collect the points for 2 $5 Target gift cards.  In addition to the gift certificates you can earn, many stores offer special deals and discounts through Shopkick.  Take this recent Christmas discount from Toys R Us. 

Shopkick Exclusive Offer $10 off at Toys R Us

Here’s a few tips for using Shopkick:

  • Collecting instant surprises should be your first priority, but if you have the time and the inclination, click on every store in the “nearby” tab.  You will earn a point for every store you click on that will help you move to the next “level”.  The higher your level, the more opportunity you have to earn kicks.
  • When you select a store and are looking at the special offers and instant surprises make sure you scroll all the way to the right.  There are often instant surprises hidden there that you would otherwise miss.
  • If there is more than one person in your family with a smartphone, have everyone use Shopkick.  This way you can rack up points faster (you’ll have separate accounts but you’ll each be earning points towards gift certificates)
  • Mark the stores you go to most frequently as a favorite on the “faves” tab.  If you’re in the store for a walk in or a scan and it says it can’t locate you, go to the “faves” tab and select the store you’re in from there and you will be able to access the scans or walk-in.  I don’t know why that works, but it has worked for me every time.

Ready to give Shopkick a try?  Shopkick is free and you can download it here and you will get 50 bonus kicks (and so will I, thank you!).  You can also download it through the iTunes App Store or Android Market, you just won’t get the bonus kicks.

Happy shopping!

 

 

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Free Online Language Learning Courses

I love finding ways to accomplish my goals (and help other people accomplish theirs) without having to spend a lot of money to do it.  I was delighted to find a twelve week online language learning course that is FREE and easy to use.  The BBC (that’s right, the British Broadcasting Company) has a surprisingly robust offering of materials to help you learn several different languages. You can choose from Spanish (including a section on slang), German, Portuguese, Chinese, Greek, Italian, and French (or take them all!). 

BBC 12 week language course home page

Take advantage of the course itself, a video series, phrase of the day and other “extras” as well as email reminders so you don’t forget. You’ll even get a certificate of course completion from the BBC.

BBC Language Learning Course - Spanish

If you don’t have the time, or the inclination, to take a full 12 week course, they also offer “quick fix,” a guide to essential phrases in 40 languages, which is perfect if you want to learn some basics to get around on vacation or to start in a language that the BBC doesn’t offer a full course in.

If learning a language is one of your goals for 2012, this is a great way to do it.  It’s also a great, free way to expose older children to learning a language.

Enjoy!

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Make a difference with Blessing Bags

A few days ago I mentioned my love affair with Pinterest.  One of the great things I found that I love is a post that someone pinned from Kids With a Vision (KWAV) with the idea of creating “blessing bags” that you can give to the homeless. If you’re looking for a way to help the homeless without just giving them money, this is a great way to do it.

Creating a blessing bag is easy. Just fill a gallon Ziploc bag with items that a homeless person (any person!) would need and keep them in the car to hand out when you see someone who needs it. Here’s a picture of my first blessing bag.

Blessing Bag

I included the following:
• Granola bars
• Small first aid kit ( I got this free from Target with a coupon)
• Travel toilet paper
• Hand wipes
• Packet of tissues
• Body refresher wipes (baby wipes would also work)
• Travel toothbrush
• Travel size toothpaste
• Travel size deodorant (I put this in a smaller bag in case it melts)
• Baby powder
• Trial size body wash packets (several)
• Trial size Head & Shoulders 2-in-1 shampoo & conditioner (several)
• Toe warmer packets
• Trial size icy hot packets (several)
• Feminine products (I am creating separate bags for women)

Other items recommended from the KWAV site that you could include in your blessing bags:
• Comb
• Soap (recommend putting it a smaller bag in case it melts)
• Crackers
• Trail mix
• Gum
• Band-aids
• Socks (you can get from the dollar store)
• Gloves (you can get from the dollar store)
• Starbucks gift card
• List of local resources such as homeless shelters, food pantries, etc
• Pet food samples as many homeless have pets
• Tokens or cards for mass transit
• Poncho or rain coat
• Sunscreen
• Plastic utensil packets
• Coins to make phone calls or make purchases from vending machines
• Travel packages of Tylenol, Advil, or other pain relievers
• If you are doing this with your children they could draw pictures or write notes that you can include in the bags.

You can get many trial size products for free after coupons and trial size items are perfect for blessing bags.  Just look for coupons that say “any size” or that don’t specifically include trial sizes.   Companies often make free trial size samples available to request online and they will mail them to your home. You can “like” on Facebook or follow one of the many blogs such as Mojo Savings  that will let you know when trial sizes samples become available.

Let me know if you decide to do this yourself. Other suggestions on what to include are welcome!

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Food Friday: “Skinny” Recipes

Eating healthy is hard for me because I like food.  I like yummy, tasty food and finding food that has flavor and is still low in calories has been one of my biggest challenges.  I stumbled across Skinny Taste and decided to give a few of the recipes a try and to my delight I’ve found food that is yummy, tasty and low in calories.

My absolute favorite is the steak and cheese sandwiches.   I deviated from the recipe slightly by deglazing the pan with white wine and sautéed the mushrooms in it.  It added a few calories but is delicious.  Other than that, I followed the recipe faithfully and my family loved it.  It’s 350 calories including the bread, but not my addition of the wine.

Skinny Steak & Cheese Sandwiches with Onions & Mushrooms The second recipe in my top three is the chicken & mushrooms in garlic white wine sauce. This recipe does call for white wine (hmmmm I’m sensing a theme here) and is easy to make and full of flavor.  Oh, and did I mention that it’s only 169 calories?

Skinny Taste Chicken & Mushrooms in White Wine Sauce Rounding out my top 3 is the baked chicken rollatini with spinach alla parmigiana .  My boyfriend is Italian and grew up with good Italian cooking, which let me tell you, is not light or low in calories.  I wasn’t overly hopeful when I tried this but we were pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was. Tasty Italian at less than 200 calories!  Woo hoo!

 Skinny Taste Baked Chicken Rollatini with Spinach alla Parmigana

 You can find “skinny” versions of recipes for most genres of food on the Skinny Taste site.  This is one of my favorite recipe sites.  I recommend subscribing to the blog so you’ll be alerted by email when new recipes are posted.  While you’re subscribing to blogs, take a moment to subscribe to Unsolicited Advice.

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Oh Pinterest how I love thee

A friend introduced me to Pinterest several weeks ago and what can I say, I’m in love addicted. The site lets you collect images from anywhere on the web and post them to online inspiration boards.  No more clunky bookmarking and it’s WAY better than ripping out pages of a magazine.  You can also see what other people have pinned either by topic (DIY & Crafts, Food & Drinks, Kids) or “everything” and “pin” what you like to your board. I love to leave it on “everything” and am always amazed at the cool things I find.

Pinterest

One of my favorite things is that it lets me keep all of the recipes I like from various blogs and websites in one place.  I’ve tried several recipes that other people have posted that have turned out great such as Taco Pizza, apple cider caramel cookies (these were a huge hit with my family!) and root beer float cupcakes.  There are also tons of crafts, DIY projects, fashion, organization tips, you name it – it’s probably on Pinterest.

You can follow other users (just specific boards they’ve created that you like or all of their boards), browse, like pins, and comment on other people’s pins.  You can create as many boards as you would like and the images all link back to where they were “pinned” from.  I will warn you, this site is highly addictive and so much fun!

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