Happy Birthday

Do you love free stuff? How about free food? I sure do, and the best time of the year to get it is around your birthday. I always eat good (and gain weight) around this time of the year, although I can’t possibly redeem all the freebies coming my way! Some places are more generous than others, of course, so I try to stick with those.

Below is a list of the birthday freebies I received this month along with the expected time frame of the email coupon, plus redemption restrictions.

Note: The expiration dates here may vary depending on when your birthday falls within the month. My birthday is on January 7th so my guess is perhaps the coupons that expire at the end of the month might be valid for three weeks.

Buona Beef – Free original 7″ Buona Beef if you’re part of their Primo Club. Email comes 4 days before your birthday and offer is good until the 1st of the following month.

Classic Cinemas – Free movie ticket if you’re on their MovieTime Email list (which also sends other freebies throughout the year). Coupon arrives in your inbox the day before your birthday and is good for 30 days.

Culver’s – Free one-scoop sundae for being part of their club. Offer is good for 14 days from your birthday.

Half Price Books – 15% off entire purchase for being on their email list (they also send great coupons throughout the year). Email comes on your birthday and the coupon is good for 14 days.

Hooters – 10 boneless wings free for being part of their eClub. Email comes a couple of days before your birthday and the offer is good for 7 days following your birthday.

Houlihan’s – Complimentary entree up to $15 for being part of their eClub. Email arrives 4 days before your birthday and offer is good until 10 days after your special day.

IHOP – Free Rooty Tooty Fresh N’ Fruity (or menu item of equal or lesser value) for being part of the My Ihop Club. Coupon arrives a week before your birthday and is good for a week following your birthday.

Jason’s Deli – $5 off any item for being part of their Birthday Club. Email comes 5 days before your birthday and coupon expires 9 days after your birthday.

Kellogg’s Family Rewards – Free code worth 100 points for being part of the rewards program. E-mail comes in on your birthday and the offer expires at the end of your birthday month.

Noodles and Company – Free bowl of noodles for being part of their E-Club. Email arrives a week before your birthday and coupon expires at the end of the month.

Red Mango – 500 points ($5 value) is added to your Club Mango card. Email comes a couple of days before your birthday and the offer is good for 30 days.

Red Robin – A free burger is added to your Red Royalty card and is good the entire month of your birthday. Email notice comes in on the 1st of the month.

Smashburger – Free shake with the purchase of any entree for being part of their SmashClub. Email comes a few days before your birthday and expires only 4 days from your birthday.

Sonic – Your choice between medium Tots, a 14 oz. CreamSlush® Treat, or a medium Soft Drink for being part of the My Sonic club. Note: You will be asked to choose these before they give you a coupon to print. Email comes on your birthday and the freebie is good for 14 days.

Swagbucks – 50 bonus Swag Bucks added to your account. Email comes on your birthday. Expiration date is unknown.

Starbucks – A free handcrafted beverage of any size when you have an account and registered card on that account. Email comes 5 days before your birthday and offer is good until the 1st of the following month. In addition, there’s a 15% off code for orders made on the site. You can use both offers.

Check out this link for even more birthday freebies!

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Pocket

I recently wrote about the benefit of using an RSS feed reader to keep on top of content you’re interested in, and a perfect compliment to that is a great free program called Pocket. Available on the web and mobile devices, Pocket’s primary purpose is to house content you’re interested in reading. You can save your content from several sources directly into Pocket with just a few keystrokes.

For instance, let’s say you’re browsing your Twitter feed and you come across a tweet that contains a URL to an article that sounds interesting but you just don’t have the time or patience to read it right then and there. You could just hunt through your feed later and try to locate the link, or you could send that link over to Pocket and know it will be there when you have the time to read it.

I utilize Pocket as a way to keep on top of my Twitter feed and articles in Feedly that I’m interested in but don’t feel like dealing with at the exact moment they appear. When I’m at work with limited break time I’ll scroll through my feeds and just save articles to Pocket so that when I’m home later that evening I can log into Pocket and read all the articles at once. This works great for the deal sites I follow as well when I’m not near my computer and am able to print coupons immediately.

Once you mark an article as read in Pocket it still lives in your archive which is searchable (as is your inbox). It’s useful for saving stuff that you think you might want to reference later but don’t want to bookmark in a browser never to be accessed again.

If you decide to check out Pocket please feel free to come back here and comment on what you think about it. I love it and have been using it for a long time as it’s a perfect companion to Feedly. Sure, you can save articles in Feedly to be read later but I like Pocket as it’s the one stop place for all my articles regardless of their source (Feedly, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, the web, etc).

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Feedly

Have you ever heard of RSS feeds? RSS stands for real simple syndication. RSS uses a family of standard web feed formats to publish frequently updated information: blog entries, news headlines, audio, and/or video. Many websites, even personal blogs, have RSS feeds which you can subscribe to via a feed reader. Why would you want to do this? Why wouldn’t you? Instead of visiting your favorite websites manually to check for new content, the content is delivered to you via your feed reader.

Each reader has it’s own pros and cons. Prior to its demise, I was using Google Reader, and now I use Feedly. I’m subscribed to a ton of feeds – everything from personal blogs to self improvement & finance sites, to daily deal sites. Feedly is compatible with mobile devices and the data is synchronized across platforms so I can read feeds on the web, my tablet, or my phone and once that feed is marked as read it won’t appear in the application if I pick up my reading on another device.

In addition to having content delivered to you regularly, Feedly makes it easy to share content via social networks and email. If I come across an article I want my husband to read, I can email him the link straight from Feedly. Or I can post it to Facebook to share with with my friends (Twitter and Google+ are available options as well).

Feedly makes it easy to stay on top of my interests without spending a lot of time hunting down the content, and since it’s free, I highly recommend you give it a try. I’m willing to bet once you do you’ll never want to go back to using your bookmarks to visit your favorite sites again.

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camelcamelcamel

Have you heard of a website called camelcamelcamel? Perhaps not. This site gives you some fantastic insights into whether the price of something at Amazon.com is a good deal or not. All you have to do is the following:

1. Locate the item on Amazon.com
2. Copy the Amazon.com URL from the address bar of your browser.
3. Go to camelcamelcamel.com
4. Paste the Amazon URL into the search box.
5. Click the Find Products button.

Ta-da! Now you’re given a pricing history of that item you’re coveting and you can see whether the price Amazon is currently asking is really a good deal or not like in the below example (click to make larger). You can also gauge by the pricing history whether that item is likely to decrease in price anytime soon.

amazonpricehistoryexample

On top of that, you can have the site keep track of the price for you and email and/or send you a tweet via Twitter when the price reaches your desired amount. It’s as easy as filling out the Desired Price, Email, and/or Twitter boxes and clicking the Start Tracking button (click the image to make it larger).

trackpriceexample

You’ll get an email confirmation as well that leads back to your private tracking page so you can make adjustments or cancel the tracking once you’ve purchased the item.

I use this service all the time for big-ticket items to ensure that I’m not overspending on the things I want. You do have to have some patience, however, as sometimes it could be months before the item you want reaches your desired price. But it’s definitely worth it to save a few bucks on those items you don’t really need right away.

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If you’re anything like me, you might find it difficult to sleep after a busy day. Or heck, any day. You lie down and toss and turn thinking about everything you need to get done the following day. The next thing you know it’s so late you’re trying to calculate how many hours of sleep you’ll get if you fell asleep right now. But now you’re anxious, so you end up tossing and turning some more. Such nights are inevitable, but to reduce their frequency, here are some tips which have worked for me to help get to sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine, including chocolate if you’re sensitive, after 3 pm.
  • Eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime to allow your stomach time to digest your food.
  • Put away all electronic devices an hour before bedtime (the glow from TVs and electronic devices fools your brain into thinking it’s daytime and will make it difficult to fall asleep) and make sure your phone, if you keep it on the nightstand, is on silent (or in do not disturb mode) with the screen face down; if you don’t use a screen protector you can lay the phone on some black non-adhesive shelf liner cut to size (slightly wider and longer than the phone).
  • Establish an evening ritual – floss, brush your teeth, put on lotion, prepare your clothing for the next day, etc.
  • Try not to drink too much an hour or two before going to bed.
  • Keep a pad of paper and a pen on your nightstand so that you can write down anything that pops into your head while you’re trying to relax. This will prevent you from stressing about remembering it in the morning (or from grabbing your phone to record it there).
  • Read in bed but make sure it’s either a physical book/magazine or a device with e-ink like the basic Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook.
  • If after about a half hour of reading you’re still not sleepy, try taking 3mg of melatonin which can be found in the vitamin section of your favorite store. The great thing about melatonin is that it doesn’t knock you out like a sleeping pill and it’s safer because melatonin is a natural occurring hormone in the brain that triggers sleep. Disclaimer: always check the ingredients against any other medications or supplements you’re taking to ensure there won’t be any adverse interactions.

I hope these suggestions help. A good night’s rest is imperative to cognitive function and also helps your body maintain a healthy weight.

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Here’s a quick tip when you’re shopping online or getting ready to head to the grocery store – Google the product(s) you want to buy and add the word “coupon” or “deal” to your search. You’d be surprised what you might find! I do this all the time and while I don’t always get coupons for everything I need, I do find enough to make the task worth the time and effort.

Two examples from this year:

1) I had to give a foster cat some medicine and hiding it in his food was just not cutting it; he’d smell the smashed up pill and refuse to eat. I had read about these treats called Pill Pockets but knew that they’d be on the pricy side so I Googled the name along with the word coupon and found that if I signed up at the manufacturer’s website I could print a coupon for $2 off a package. So instead of paying $6 I only paid $4. It was a lot, yes, but these treat worked wonders and the cat finally got the medicine he needed.

2) My hard drive crashed. I went to Google and put in “hard drive deals” and the first hit was for a site called Tech Bargains where they were linking to a hard drive on sale at NewEgg.com for $80 (normally $100). In addition, they had a checkout code for an additional $10 off. So I got a replacement hard drive for $70 instead of $100. Talk about a deal! I had to get one anyway but I saved $30 just by doing some quick research.

Keep in mind if you’re shopping online make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. When in doubt, or if the price seems way too good to be true, skip it as it might be a scam. In any case, try this tip next time you’re getting ready to make a purchase and see how it works for you.

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Last Pass

Trying to remember all the logins/passwords to all the sites you visit, particularly those you don’t go to daily, can be a nightmare. This is why I recommend using a service such as LastPass. Not only can you have it generate passwords that are more secure than what you’d come up with, but you can have it log you into certain sites automatically. The best part? It’s absolutely free! In fact, my only complaint is that you do have to sign up for their premium service (which is currently $12 per year) to have it work seamlessly with your iPhone or Android phone. That’s not to say you can’t access your passwords using your phone, it will just be a bit more painful to do so.

A bonus to using LastPass, which I just discovered recently, is that if you use Firefox and have the LastPass extension installed, it comes with a very easy to use form filler which is great if you’re like me and enjoy entering online sweepstakes. I had installed multiple extensions that were difficult to use and all this time all I had to do is set up a profile for forms in my LastPass extension and now it prompts me when there’s a form to fill out (and you can make unique profiles for each site)!

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Pinterest is a great website for inspiration, and for me that usually pertains to food. One of my latest new recipes is below. I modified one I found online to suit my tastes and encourage you to do the same, but if you want to follow the original recipe, here’s a link to it.

Oatmeal Banana Breakfast Muffins

Ingredients
2.5 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup plain low fat greek yogurt (or a 6 oz container of the yogurt with an additional 2 oz of unsweetened applesauce to make 1 cup)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2-3 ripe bananas
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp of cinnamon sugar
optional: chocolate chips or other fruit such as blueberries (experiment on the amount to desired taste)

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray tin with non-stick cooking spray or line 12 muffin tins with silicone or foil liners (not paper ones as they won’t work as well).
2. Put the old fashioned oats in a blender on the grind setting, or use a food processor to grind it up until it looks similar to flour.
3. Put the ground-up oats in a large bowl and add your other dry ingredients. Wisk them thoroughly so they are combined well.
4. In a separate bowl, add your bananas and mash them real good. Then add in all your other wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
5. Now add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine thoroughly, but do this by hand.
6. Divide batter among cupcake liners, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Note: These come out pretty moist which means they will begin to mold after a few days. I suggest freezing them and they will last for many months. All you have to do is put them in the microwave for a short time or let them defrost overnight in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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