Archive for March, 2017:
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I’m busy (aren’t we all?), but also kinda lazy (maybe it’s just me). Here are three things that are saving me sanity, time, and in some cases money, and I’m super-thankful they’re in my life right now:
I’m now on Fix #4 and I’m obsessed!
I tried this styling service once back in 2014, but I wasn’t ready for it. Of the five items I received, I liked two. I sent them back because I thought they were a bit pricey for what they were (I think $48-58, if I recall?), and I ended up regretting returning them. I liked that top and cardigan, and I didn’t find others in store that were quite the same, either. Whoops.
On a whim this year, I scheduled my second Fix. I changed my style profile to reflect my current aims, and I went into it with the understanding that yes, these items are going to cost more than I would pay at Target. I’m paying for a styling service and their algorithm the mega convenience factor, and some nicer-quality items. I ended up keeping all 5 items in my second Fix and received a 25% off discount for doing so. A $20 styling fee with each Fix covers shipping both ways, and can be used as a credit toward any purchase in that Fix. Return it all and you lose your $20, though.
My total with 7% sales tax and minus the styling fee was $196. Yikes! Comes to about $40 per item. Some of these were Stitch Fix (affiliate link, thank you!) house brands, and others you can find at places like Nordstrom. I was glad to see “made in USA” on the label of one of my tops.
If you bank with PNC, activate the Stitch Fix offer on PNC Purchase Payback. I jumped in on one offer before it expired and got $10 back on my $20 styling fee, and activated a new offer that popped up for an additional $10 back (which applied toward my purchase). The timing of both worked out to $20 off that Fix, plus 1.75% cash back on my purchase by using that PNC Visa. If you don’t bank with PNC, try Cash Back Monitor to see current extra offers for new customers. Oh, and I would certainly appreciate it if you used my referral link! I’d get $25 credited to my account. Thank you!
I left feedback for my stylist, requested her again, and I turned around and scheduled my 3rd Fix since my wardrobe really could use some help. I was more picky about what I kept. I received pants, a scarf, and three tops. The pants were too tight and I didn’t like the color, the tops were cute but not on me, but I liked the scarf a lot. The scarf was the only thing I kept. You have the option of exchanging for a different size at no charge. The size was fine but I just didn’t love the tops or pants.
For Fix #4, I requested the same stylist. This Fix was another 5/5! I don’t expect that all of the time; I think 1-2 items kept is still doing well. I received white Kut from the Kloth jeans, Henry & Belle skinny jeans in a teal color, two tops (both USA!), and some denim shorts. Nothing was from my Pinboard specifically, although I had very similar styles pinned. The Kut pants are priced the same or better as what I’m seeing on Nordstrom.
I like the clothing I’m receiving and that I’m trying things that I wouldn’t think to pick out on my own, but still feel like me. I like that I do not have to set foot in a store. I really don’t have time to do that on my own, and if I brought kids along…I wouldn’t have the greatest outcome in terms of what I selected for myself. Shopping for clothing in a store just overwhelms me and I don’t enjoy it.
Further, in a store or online, I tend to gravitate toward huge sales and the clearance section because that’s my nature. In doing so, I might miss out on nicer things that sell out quickly. For example, my stylist sent me white cropped jeans, since she saw that I had pinned some similar and she said white sell out fast in their inventory. I believe that, as I have never been able to find white jeans that I liked on my own.
So typically, I browse online and order from some retailer and either keep it or return it on my own. I will still do this for some items, but it does take time to find what I want. Working with a Stitch Fix stylist and their data has them take care of that part, too. Oh, and have you seen the style cards that come with each Fix? They are yours to keep, and I think they are really helpful.
Check out my Stitch Fix Pinterest board to see some of the items I’ve received and what I’m saving as inspiration.
P.S., Stitch Fix now has a wider range of sizes: maternity, plus (as of February), and men’s.
My Instant Pot
Is the Instant Pot worth the hype? Oh, yes ma’am, it is. I got one when it was on sale last year for around $70ish, and if you set a price alert on CamelCamelCamel, you can be notified the next time there’s a price drop.
I haven’t yet found a cookbook that I love, but check your library to see if there are any good options for you. Here is a chicken and wild rice soup recipe that is delicious (my cousin shared this one with me). Keep your owner’s manual handy for a quick reference to cooking times.
I’ve used it to make rice, soups, stews, and just cooking up meat in a faster way. Frozen chicken breasts can cook up fast, and it regularly saves a day when I fail to plan ahead for dinner time. It is particularly good for inexpensive, tough cuts of meat. I could never get stew meat as tender as I can get it in the Instant Pot when cooking it in my slow cooker or on the stove.
I make hard-cooked eggs in it, and what’s magical about using the Instant Pot is the shells peel without drama. No matter what tricks I try on the stove, peeling eggs ends up taking forever and makes the eggs look battered. Not so with the Instant Pot!
Mine is a 6-qt model, but if you have a large family, I think it is probably worth getting a larger size so you won’t run into capacity issues for really big cuts of meat or a big ol’ pot of soup. I tried doubling the chicken and rice soup recipe and the results weren’t as good. Do not overfill.
I haven’t used my slow cooker since getting the Instant Pot. Not quite ready to get rid of it, but…I think its days could be numbered around here.
Kroger Click List
I’m trying out Kroger Click List as a time and money saver. The first three pick-ups are free and after that, it is a $5 charge. I’m on my 4th pick-up and plan to continue.
You make your list online, use digital or physical coupons, choose your pick-up time, and pull in to a designated parking spot during that time frame. Call the phone number on the sign post in front of you, and someone will wheel out your groceries and load them in your vehicle.
I. Love. It.
I’m an Aldi regular, but when you think about how many times you’re handling an item at Aldi, it just is a bit time-consuming: Grab item from shelf, put in cart, load onto conveyor, bag items, put in vehicle, bring into house, put away. Ugh. Contrast that with Kroger’s service, and I’m bringing in the groceries from my garage I’m putting the item away.
Kroger’s prices are generally pretty competitive, and if I take care to schedule a pickup for when I’m already out running errands, it is a huge time-saver and sanity-saver. Not having to take three kids inside a store? Yeah, there’s cost savings there, too, when you factor in the impulse things that inevitably make their way into my cart.
One weird thing — I ordered one pack of 12-ct chicken drumsticks. They gave me 3 packs, and charged me for all 3. I contacted customer service to let them know (and haven’t heard back). I can handle substitutions since they clear it with you when you check out, but I just don’t need that many chicken legs at once. Hopefully this was an anomaly.
Bonus time-saver: I can access previous purchases and quickly add regulars to my next cart.
How about you? Any sanity savers you’re loving right now?
At first, I dismissed the Chase Freedom cards. The sign-up bonus was ok, but nothing spectacular (15,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $500 in 3 months). The 5x points in rotating categories sounded ok, but did I really want to mess with that? The Freedom Unlimited card has a flat 1.5x points on all purchases, so at least there’s no categories to keep track of. But, is 1.5x all that special, especially when I can get 1.75% on my PNC Visa?
Oh, self. I should have grabbed the Freedom card years ago.
For starters, these cards have no annual fee, so it makes sense to get them, keep them, and use them long-term.
On their own, they are decent cards. But when you also hold a premium Chase card (so yes, that means a card with an annual fee), you can get some crazy high redemption values out of your spending. Even when you factor in the annual fee, this combo gets you a much higher rate of return than you could get with no-fee or straight cash back cards.
I basically blogged in the comments section at Miles for Family, but I want to flesh out those examples here to demonstrate why the Freedom cards are so much better than even a 2% card.
Let’s say I spend $1,200 in three months on groceries during the 5x bonus period quarter (coming up this April-June). At 5x per point, I would get 6,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for that grocery spending. I could cash it in for $60, but I wouldn’t do that.
Since I also now have a premium Chase card, a Sapphire Reserve, I can pool all of my Ultimate Rewards points across my cards. I can also then transfer my points to participating partners. Let’s look at the Southwest points I needed to book a round-trip ticket to D.C.
I needed 5,997 Southwest points (which I had on my account already). If I didn’t have those points, thanks to having the Reserve I could transfer 6,000 Ultimate Rewards points to my Southwest account at a 1:1 ratio.
The cash fare for the same flight was $118.
So, a flight for $118 could be mine for spending $1,200 on groceries. $118/$1200 = 9.83% value back on that spending. Wow!
For the Unlimited, to get enough points for that $118 airfare, I’d need to spend $4,000 on something (4,000 x 1.5= 6,000). That puts the rate of return at 118/4000= 2.95% which is still pretty good. $4k in a year is pretty much my electric, gas, water, cell phone, and internet bills.
Let’s look at what I might get if I want to book a free night at a category 1 Hyatt. I chose a Hyatt Place near the airport and picked a weekend night in April for my example. I’d need 5,000 Hyatt points to book a room with several room types available, or I could pay $203 for the cheapest room available.
To get 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points to then transfer 1:1 to Hyatt, I’d need to spend $1,000 on 5x bonus categories on my Freedom card. That’s $203/1000 = 20.3% return on that spending. TWENTY PERCENT. What in the world! If you wanted to factor in the annual net fee of the Reserve, that’s still getting 17% on that redemption ($203/1141 = 17.7%). I’m figuring a $141 net fee in that calculation, assuming you use the $300 travel credit in full.
For Freedom Unlimited, I’d need to spend $3,333 to get 5,000 points. $203/3333 = 6% return.
Depending on how you redeem your points, you can spend very little and still get tremendous value. Would I spend $203/night at a Hyatt? No, I’d pay less at some other hotel or shift my dates perhaps. But sometimes, you need to stay at a certain area on specific dates. Sometimes your options are limited, and if you have 3 kids sometimes cheaper hotels in your path simply won’t fit a family of 5. That leaves you with getting two rooms, or get a room that can fit you all.
Would I redeem 5,000 points to stay at a Hyatt? Yep. Getting those points for spending only $1,000 during the grocery quarter? Easy decision.
Do you have these cards? Did I help persuade you of their potential? Do you see why the annual fee is worth it? Let me know if I can send you a referral :)