Valentine’s Day Gifts They Will Love

Chocolates and teddy bears are passe and waste of money. Sure, Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday, but it doesn’t mean you have to waste your money chatskis that nobody needs. In America, the holiday has come to be known as the day that you show someone how much you love them–or simply that you care about and appreciate them. I’m not convinced that a box of chocolates says “I love you.” And just think, so close after a new years resolution to lose weight!

Instead, try these gift ideas on your loved one, sweetheart or not. We promise that you won’t break the bank, and they’ll appreciate the outside the box thinking.

1. Photo Book

Snapfish, Shutterfly, and other similar sites make this so easy. The photo book is super easy once you upload the pictures, and it’s a really nice
touch to add personal comments in text boxes. You can add notes, mementos, dates, speech bubbles and other cute stuff.

2. Activities

Get tickets to Something HE OR SHE likes to do. Simply, show that you’re paying attention, and that you care what his or her hobbies are. Try indoor rock climbing, movie passes, tickets to a concert, or something else that you can do together that pays special attention to the interests of your significant others.

3. Dinner or Brunch

Cook, and do it up nice. Use the good china, a fancy tablecloth, candles, and napkin holders. Put water in a pitcher and champagne on the table. Nothing replaces good of fashioned togetherness–and show that you’ve put some time and thought into your gathering. Even if there is no significant other in your life, this is a great idea for friends. And you can write a special note on each place setting to show them you appreciate them.

4. Scavenger hunts

Put cute notes and small gifts about the house or around town, even. Notes should be thoughtful and remind her or him of something you once did or plan to do together.

5. Something he or she actually needs. 

I got tired of seeing watches all over my dresser, so I bought my husband a case for his watches and persoanlize it. He appreciated the gesture (for his collection), and I appreciated a place to put his stuff!

6. The Love Jar

Buy a mason jar and fill it with little love notes–they should be personal things that you appreciate about your loved one. He or she can open
one note per day–spreading the love for months to come. A variation of this is to leave notes around the house, with no real rhyme or reason (unlike a scavenger hunt). Your loved one will find them by surprise when he opens the fridge, his computer, the cabinets, etc.

 

Spring Trends You Should Know About

The runways are alight with color and pattern. No big surprise there, as these tend to be Spring staples, anyway, but they’re getting funkier. Frankly, the runways are looking like a cartoon come to life this year–very young, a little silly, and definitely risky. Bold patterns and color combinations are harder to pull off in real life, so we’re going to narrow down the upcoming season’s must-haves and figure out how to translate it to real life. According to PopSugar, here is a glimpse of how your closet will shift this year:

Gingham

  • In all sizes and colors, gingham is making a comeback. Go classic, sexy or cool with gingham. Small black and white checks will take you from day to night, big bold boxes give you standout status, or classic gingham in beige or navy or great for your first picnic of the year. We also love the fact that this could go casual with sneakers or sexy with wedges and a statement necklace. Gingham does whatever you want it to for your overall look. This print is seen on casual shirt dresses to dupioni silk nightwear.

70s

Because who doesn’t love the 70s? This is where the bold prints and patterns are coming from. Also popular are some more subtle 70s reminders like wide lapels and wide-legs (as opposed to a full flare). The pants actually look more John Travolta than Olivia Newton John. Masculine touches make the look less obnoxious and actually wearable. Think lots of denim, high waists and funky belts.

  • Safari

And we don’t just mean a belted trench and cool hat. Think animals. Think animals painted on your clothes. This look is being done for statements, especially on traditionally sweeter looks, like silk dresses. Unusual critters are plastered on otherwise demure pieces. It’s fun and a little creepy.

Sporty minimalism

This doesn’t mean you should wear your sneakers to work. This means that your look mighthave “sporty” edge, meaning sticking to neutrals in soft, comfortable fabrics. Think of it as “athletic influenced” with touches like lace ups, drawstrings, and racing stripes, but in a high fashion, yet wearable way. This look says that you’re down to earth and physical but still feminine.

Power Shoulders

Hit the gym, because shoulders will be your next accessory. We’re loving exposed shoulders, in the most fierce and sexy way. Whereas designers once hid women’s shoulders and padded them for a more masculine look, we’re not seeing power in femininity.

The Money Saver’s Guide to Cheap Wine

When you are living on a budget, it’s important to still be able to enjoy a luxury now and then. The trick is figuring out how to do it cheaply. For example, getting a manicure on days when they offer a discount (Mon-Wed for many salons), or getting your next massage through Groupon. Wine is no exception–you can do a good wine on a budget, but you have to know how and where to look. 

Liquor stores (or package stores, as we call them in the Northeast) can be overwhelming. You walk in and are surrounded by hundreds, maybe even thousands of bottles. What to do? One strategy is to pick up the cheapest possible option. Not a good strategy. Anoth
er is to go with one that looks pretty (also not a good option). You really only have two options: 1.) Ask for help 2.) Follow our advice. Better yet, do both.

 

Buying

  • If you’re going to ask for help, shop at a local boutique-y shop. These people are more likely to be in the business because they know the business and like what they do. Think of them as professionals. Don’t assume they want to give you something expensive because you don’t know better. Assume they give you what you want so you’ll come back.In fact, they will often let you do a taste test. Conversely, if you shop at a SAV RIT Liquore store, some 18 year old kid behind the register more than likely doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
  • Wines from Spain Portugal are the best values for wine. The grapes are richer and more complex. Look for “old vines” on the label, making the wine the most concentrated and hence, tasty.
  • Do a quick Google search. There are hundreds of pages devoted to wines and most of them offer a guide to inexpensive wine, organized by type of wine (red versus white, Malbec versus Pinot Noir).

Serving

  • Don’t assume that a cheaper wine doesn’t deserve to be served well. Decant your wine to aerate it, giving it more oxygen, maximizing
    the flavor.
  • Be sure to stock up the right glasses (and you can get cheap glasses at Target, Walmart, or anywhere else! The shape is most important. Red wines get bigger glasses, allowing the more complex flavors to breathe. Swishing unlocks all fo the flavors. White wines are in smaller glasses to keep the aromas in the glass, improving the taste. Sparkling wines (with bubbles) go in the flute so the bubbles stay in the glass.

Tips to Save on Furniture

Decorators say that you should redecorate every seven years. For those of us who live on a budget, this can be unrealistic. And if you do splurge and spend $3k on a couch, it better see you through the good times and the bad, ’till the end of time. But still, five years later, you must admit it would be nice to update your look, if only because you’re tired of looking at it. That doesn’t mean you have to get a new couch, but how about some new accents? A new console table? New lamp shades? Leave the big stuff and replace the more affordable items, by doing one of two things. Shopping at Homegoods, where the merchandise is quality merchandise (much of it, not all of it), but is past season or overstock, OR, shop online for the best prices.

Sure, there’s always Target, or even Walmart, and that’s fine for an apartment, but when it comes to your home, you want your stuff to last, and you do not want it to look cheap. Target’s great for a trendy pair of shoes, but not the staples in your home.

Here are a few tips for shopping at Homegoods:

  • Check for damage. Often, there is scratching or chipping, which is they the item ended up there in the first place. Assess whether it’s fixable, or hideable. Also, ask for an extra discount. They’ll give you another ten percent if it’s not already on clearance.

    Lane Recliner
    You can often find Lane Furniture at Homegoods. Quality, American Made.
  • Check closely for quality. I was looking for a bar cart for my dining room and was trying to find a deal. Those run you $350 and up from places like Home Decorator’s or Ballards. I found one for $150 at Homegoods. Great deal, right? Wrong. When I looked closely, there were obviously flaws in the manufacturing. It was rickety and lightweight, and upon inspection, I realized that this thing isn’t worth $50. It was also around the holiday season, when prices were definitely marked up.
  • Ask them to check other stores for a particular product. You are looking for three barstools, but they only have two. Most stores have similar merchandise, so ask them to find you another one. It’d be worth it for the good price.
  • Don’t waste money on knick knacks. Homegoods has shelves full of knick knacks, or chatskis. They’re cheap and it’s easy to get into a frenzy and grab everything, but reconsider. Is this what you came in here for? Is your house going to end up looking like a museum? Avoid.
  • Buy it and try it. They have a great return policy if it doesn’t work.

 

8×10 Area rug on sale at Wayfair for $260. Other sizes available.

Shopping online can be a great alternative. Lots of online furniture stores have popped up, with great prices. You’re taking a risk at having to face expensive return shipping costs and the general hassle of having to return. Pay attention to measurements and read reviews if available. Remember that colors can be slightly off in pictures, so if color is a going to be an issue, skip it. Here are some stores we like and recommend for great selections and prices.

  • Joss and Main–this is a sample sale site, which means that items are only available for a limited time. It may not be the best way
    to shop for furniture, unless you know exactly what you want. They have high end items at good prices, but still may be pricey for some.
  • Hayneedle–literally everything you can possibly need or want is at Hayneedle. Hence the name. They have a huge selection at every price point. Worth a look. Bonus: We have Hayneedle promo code, and
    Boraam Augusta 24 in. Swivel Counter Stool
    $99 At Hayneedle

    Hayneedle coupon codes right now here. Plus, they’re having a sale right now (no Hayneedle coupon needed, but we have a bunch of codes). 

  • Wayfair.com is an exclusively online contemporary furniture retailer. Great selection and good prices. Get up to 70% off right now, actually.

Red, White, and Blue is the New Black (Friday)

Martin Luther King Day is coming up and PromoPro is scouring the web for deals. We found a few, but not much outside of winter clearance
deals that are going on anyway. Some retailers are changing their codes to something like “LNGWKND” and rightly avoiding a politically incorrect notion to offer sales on the birthday of an assassinated civil rights activist. Instead, what we found was tons of hype leading to the next big sale day: President’s Day

According to Forbes, new research shows President’s Day has better saving opportunities than Black Friday–the biggest shopping day of the year. One of the reasons is probably that retailers are trying to get rid of inventory, willing to part with it at an even lower price.Much of the “President’s Day Sales” exist well before then, as right now, there are winter clearance sales at every retailer. Don’t be fooled that discounts aren’t offered before and after that special Monday. Retailers are more likely to remove the “extra 20%” for a few days before the big shopping day only to put it back in effect so it feels new. That said, there are some stores that really do offer the deepest discounts on this rare Monday–a day that people are off with presumably nothing to do…besides shop. When sales were analyzed for an entire year in 2013, the study showed that President’s day was the holiday with the deepest discounts.

If you’re shopping on President’s Day, look for the following: 

  • Discounts on new arrivals. Snatch them up for Spring now–they won’t be on sale for awhile (though, if you live in a colder climate, you won’t be wearing these clothes until well into April, at which time, they will be on sale).
  • Codes on already discounted items for end-of-season sales. By this time, stores will be giving it away.
  • Free shipping codes. Most people are shopping online this day and retailers will be competing for business. You should have no problem finding a free ship code.
  • As always, visit our site for the most up-to-minute printable coupons and codes. 

Here are a few teasers:

Nordstrom–Shoe Clearance! Markdowns up to 40% off.

Last Call by Neiman Marcus–Extra 35% off everything

Loft–40% off full priced items and 60% off sale items

Puma–Extra 25% off sale items

Express–40% off entire purchase

 

 

 

 

Cosmetics–Save or Spend?

When it comes to makeup, are the drug store brands enough? Are we wasting money by shopping the high end counters at Macy’s, or do the extra bucks matter? Are we really getting what we pay for? Here’s a rundown of a few items you will want to SPLURGE on:

Lipstick

When it comes to lipstick, there a few reasons you may want to splurge. One reason is better ingredients, which promote softness and lasting wear. In general, department store quality cosmetics use higher quality ingredients, which cause the products to glide on more smoothly, last longer, crease or crack less often, and be gentler on skin.

When it comes to pigment, the high end brands tend to have a higher ratio of pigments to fillers. The pigment is probably  also finely ground, allowing the color be bolder, to glide on more smoothly and last longer.

While many of us have our go-to makeup staples, it’s imperative to be able to experiment if you’re trying something new (like the complicated nature of picking out the right red). At a department store, you can get a professional opinion and take home some samples. At the drug store, you have to look around in stealth mode before yanking off the cap to try the pigment on the back of your hand, only to quickly replace it, hoping no one noticed.

Foundation and Concealer

The same as lipstick, these items come with higher quality ingredients, causing the product to glide on more smoothly, look more natural, and provide the longest lasting wear. They also tend to be the easiest on your skin. Another upshot is the fact that you have more to choose from other than “light to fair” and “fair to medium.” If the shade is even slightly off, it will look cheap and clownish.

The powder version are more finely ground, going on the skin more evenly and are less likely to contain irritants, like talic.

Brushes

Softer bristles make a huge difference. The makeup goes on more evenly, they are easier on your skin and trap less bacteria. Try both–a high end one, like Urban Decay and a lower end version. You will feel and see the difference.

SAVE on yellow eye shadow

In general, this is what you should save on:

  • Lip gloss
  • Nail polish
  • Mascara 
  • Daily Cleanser
  • Daily moisturizer 

Lip gloss and polish contain generally the same ingredients at any price point. Mascara should be replaced every few months, so it’s not worth overspending. Finally, if you’re going with an electric blue shadow, don’t splurge. There’s a good change it will be out next season.

And finally, if you use anti-aging creams, save on the daily cleansers and spend your money where it counts for the best vitamins and ingredients. If you want to REALLY save, check out some coupons HERE for BH Cosmetics free shipping code.

We have a BH Cosmetics coupon code, and several others. Whatever you do, don’t splurge before checking PromoPro.com

Are You Ready For Tax Season?

Did You Know…

  • The IRS receives about $950 billion per year in taxes from US Citizens and about $325 billion dollars is paid out in refunds. If you are getting a refund, you are paying too much in taxes. You do NOT want a big refund. The government does not need an interest free loan paid out by you.
  • The top 1% of earners actually only make about $370,000. The top ten percent make about $117,000. Ninety percent of people make less. About 275,000 tax returns showed adjusted gross incomes of at least $1 million. Over 40,000 of them are in California and the least are in Vermont.
  • Ninety percent of tax returns are filed electronically. About half are done by a paid professional.
  • Itemize and claim the standard deduction. The average standard deduction is $7-8,000 dollars.
  • The US Tax Code is an ever changing 4 million word document.
  • Those who earn $100,000 to $200,000 pay an average federal tax rate of only 12%, while those earning $200,000 to $500,000 pay 19.6%.

Ever wonder where it goes? Check out this chart from money.cnn.com:

uncle sam spend taxes

Here are some helpful hints and reminders when filing:

  • Remember to deduct donations, including your church and Goodwill, the two most popular.
  • Deduct professional expenses, including union dues. Just be prepared to justify these deductions. You don’t want to red flag yourself.
  • Deduct childcare expenses, including daycare (the biggest expense).
  • Increase IRA contributions for 2015. These are tax deductible.
  • Take an opportunity to refinance your home. When begin a paying a mortgage, you pay out much of the interest up front, which is tax deductible. When you refinance, you go back to that stage of front loading interest, creating a bigger deduction.
  • Use current tax laws. Have there been any changes to energy efficient homes and cars? You may need an accountant to be sure you’re totally up to date and reaping every possible advantage.
  • Withhold more in 2015 if you’re getting a large refund. The government shouldn’t be holding on to your money.

Pros and Cons to Sample Sale Websites

It used to to be that you had to be invited to exclusive sites, like Gilt GroupeRueLaLa, or Hautelook. (Don’t they sound fancy with French qualities in the title?) These were the original big three, becoming mainstream in about 2008. Now, sample sites are literally everywhere and you can just join, no invitation needed. But are you really getting a better deal? In many cases, yes, but it may not be worth the potential inconvenience of it.

One Midweek Night in a King or Queen Room
There’s travel too…On the River Inn in Woodstock VT $129 (RueLala)

In most cases, what you’re getting is past season stuff deeply discounted. Sites like Rue La La have seasonal “blowouts” too, where stuff is basically given away. In these cases though, shop fast. You have no time to consider, change your mind, or fill your cart for the fun of it. Stuff gets sold out within hours or even minutes. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush, but a little bit stressful when you’ve realized you just bought a lot of stuff you can’t return.

Read return policies carefully. Sometimes an item might be returned for a refund, sometimes credit, or sometimes not at all. This can cause a problem if you’re shopping for furniture, or from a brand you don’t know. If you don’t know how to gauge the sizing, you can be taking a huge risk if it’s a big ticket item and you can’t return it. You don’t get the benefit of reviews from users to offer advice on fit.

It’s worth doing a quick search on the item, if you need to know that you really are getting a deal. Usually you’ll find it elsewhere already on sale, but sometimes you can’t find it at all. What I’ve found to be true is that the item is well past-season and you won’t find it anywhere. If this is ok with you, shop on. But if you’re concerned about being totally up to date, move on. Depending on how you see it, you’re not getting that great of a deal if the look is from two years ago.

Another potential drawback is that there are rarely coupon codes available. But then again, you are getting a great price.Still, it’s a little mocking when there is a box for a coupon code and you never have one. A rare occurrence, check out this link now for a Gilt promo code. By some miracle, there are a few different options. Or search our site for gilt free shippingor gilt.com promo code).

If you can get the Gilt free shipping code, use it. The shipping rates are always flat (and never free), which means if you buy a $15 piece of jewelry that ways an ounce, you’re still paying $7 shipping in some cases. Which is annoying.

Finally, most sites have incentive programs, Gilt’s being the most attractive. Get $25 per friend when they make the first purchase.

 

With so many to choose from, let’s outline the most popular:

The Best Luxury Brands: Gilt Groupe has the most exclusive brands. Find Burberry, Katharine Malandrino, Helmut Lang, Lanvin, and so much more. These items still feel very high end, according to the price tags. But still, it’s fun to look. Gilt has more affordable brands, also that are a bit more realistic to most. If you love designer diggs but need to score a deal, here is a great place to start.

Silk Draped Bow Neck Dress
Go big with this $2,000 Giambatista Valli dress, or scale down to a top for under $50, also available at Gilt.

The Best Men’s Selection Most sample sale websites have men’s selections, but RueLaLa has the best and widest selection. Their brands tend to be mid-tier, like Calvin Klein or Tahari, but they do boast the occasional Gucci sale. Their men’s selection tends to be the most versatile with the most to choose from. You can also find a decent deal on appliances at RueLaLa, since you’re already there, and all…

15 pc Knife Block Set @ RueLaLa $69

The Best”EVERYTHING” Selection Hautelook, owned by Nordstrom, is your one stop sample sale site. Hautelook has literally hundreds of sales going on at once. In fact, it can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, you can shop by category. Find everything on this sight from a tube of lipstick, to an area rug or a curling iron to a set of puzzles for your little ones. The fashion brands tend to be new-ish designers trying to make a name and more or less caters to a younger audience. For fashion, think early twenties, but for everything else…think toddler to senior.

The Best Furniture Collection Joss and Main has some great fun and contemporary furniture that feels IKEA-esque (but perhaps better quality), as well as more substantial classic pieces. Most is modern in design, with fabrics featuring modern trends like brightly colored florals and chevron patterns. Distressed furniture is also very big this season, according to Joss and Main.

Chinese Laundry Jinxy Bootie
Boot Blowout at Hautelook. Chinese Laundry, $64

Best Overall Discount 365Hangers guarantees a 70% discount. What’s unique here, though, is that not all dresses are available in all sizes. But, this allows you to search easily (by size) and the bonus is that you get to see models actually wearing your size! No more trying to imagine how a dress will look on a 145lb you versus the 95lb model.

There are dozens more sample sale websites for all of your online shopping needs! Do a quick Google search to start shopping and picking your go-to stops when you need something fabulous.

Keeping your Resolution to Save Money

At some point, this has topped all of our lists as a New Year’s Resolution. Come January 1st, we have money on the brain. After all, we’d just spend a lot of it on Christmas gifts, dusting off the credit cards, or just adding to a mountain of debt. Tax season is about to be upon us and we are looking forward to a possible windfall…or, a possible check made out to the IRS. However your year went, saving and spending smart is always a good idea. Saving is no fun, but we’ve compiled some tips to make it as painless as possible. 

1. Create an emergency fund. Ok, we admit that this might be the most difficult one to do, so let’s just get it out of the way. Suze Orman,
finance expert recommends that you accrue six months worth of living expenses, should you lose your job, or have some catastrophic occurrence in your life. We understand that this is easier said than done and in a perfect world, we’d all have a nice, fluffy savings account to ease the pain of worry that occurs when something awful happens. Make a reasonable goal for this year and then add to your goal next year. Put away a month’s worth of living expenses, and next year make it two.

2. Use cash. Take out an allowance once per week. You’ll have a pocket full of cash and will be MUCH more mindful of how you spend it. You might end up changing some habits, like making your lunch instead of forking over ten dollars daily.

3. Make a budget spreadsheet. You can use an excel sheet or download one off the internet. It’s no fun to do, but using even just for a few months will give you a handle on how you make versus how much you spend. Facing that pair of  boots you bought on sale but couldn’t really afford is much harder when the numbers are staring back at you.

4. Write a check to yourself. When paying your bills, put aside an extra monthly cash for yourself. Put this money into a retirement account.

5. Divide up unexpected income  equally in three ways: past, present, and future. Pay down debt, replenish your bank account and save some for the future.

6. Be realistic. Most people’s resolutions last only a month or two. Make manageable expectations that might result in a few changed habits. Next year, you can start again and add a few new goals to your list.

Cold Weather Sale-ing

The post-holiday season is upon us. And that means, what else, a bombardment of yet more sales, most of them better than pre-holiday/Black
Friday. If you held out for winter clothes during the month of December then now is the time to hit the stores for coats, hats, scarves, gloves, boots, and even shovels and sleds. If you live in a cold US climate, you have a solid three more months of winter activity, so you are certainly justified in these purchases, even though the retailers make you feel like apparel is now “past-season.” Go ahead and reap your deals with good cause. Remember, the retailers are desperate to reach their bottom lines, so now is the time to get out there.  Here are some of the hottest sales right now, both through PromoPro and beyond.

1. Best Buy 

  • Get up to 25 percent off “major appliances,” televisions and tablets
  • The minimum savings is 5 percent, according to Best Buy’s website
  • Save $50 on a Samsung 32-inch LED 720p HDTV for $199.99
  • Clearance items are up to 60 percent off. Get free shipping on orders of $35 or more (no code needed).

2. Walmart

  • Year-end clearance on clothing,  including $22 for a women’s wool-blend pea coat
  • $6 for a Frozen Elsa girls’ snowflake graphic sweater and other great Frozen deals
  • A “holiday savings” laptop value bundle starts at $289 with choice of laptop, case, flash drive and printer.

3 .Weathertech 

Get your Weathertech floor
mats coupon, or Weathertech promo code here. They’re offering deals on cold weather accessories like floor mats,
cargo gear, car covers and more.

4. North Face

Our favorite, and yet most expensive cold-weather wear company has prices you can swallow right now. Check out them out here.

  • Women’s fleeces as low as $55
  • Men’s jackets/vests as low as $65
  • Men’s and women’s boots as low as $55

And much more. TIP: shop kid’s sizes for lower prices, if you can.

Check out our homepage for tons more, especially apparel, like 60% off at the Gap with an extra 20% off online, 40% off clearance at J.Crew, up to 75% off at Bloomingdales and more.