Category Archives: Reviews

CouponChief.com: A Fresh New Coupon Website (Review)

coupon chief

An easy way to save money while making online purchases is to use coupon codes. Taking a few moments to search online before checking out can usually shave a few dollars off your order. CouponChief.com makes this process even faster by aggregating coupon codes from thousands of stores into one easily searchable database. Although this is admittedly not a new concept, Coupon Chief has a special twist that really sets it above the competition—you can get paid for submitting new coupon codes!

Here’s how Coupon Chief works: Every time someone makes a purchase through a coupon code that you submitted, you receive 2% of the purchase price of their order. When your earnings reach the minimum threshold of $25, you’ll receive the money via Paypal. Amazingly, there are no rules to stop you from buying products with codes that you’ve previously submitted. So let’s say you find a hot new coupon code for Old Navy jeans, and decide that you want to buy a pair. You can submit the coupon code to Coupon Chief, click through the code on their website, purchase the pants, and earn 2% of your cash back. That’s a pretty good deal for doing a minimal amount of work.

In a giving mood? Coupon Chief’s Coupons-4-Causes program has got you covered. Simply select the charity that you want to support before clicking the coupon code and making a purchase. Coupon Chief will then donate a portion (up to 20%) of your order’s purchase price. The best part is that the money comes straight from Coupon Chief, so you can shop ’til you drop with the knowledge that you’re supporting to a worthy cause.

While the charity option is nice and the moneymaking opportunity is even better, the real meat-and-potatoes of Coupon Chief are the coupons. How does Coupon Chief stack up against the competition? Fairly well, in my opinion. You’ll find most major retailers on there, including Amazon, Newegg, Target, and Kohl’s. The coupons themselves are fresh and useful. At the time of this writing, for example, there are coupons for free shipping at Kohl’s and $5 off a $50 purchase at Target. Coupon Chief users can rate the coupons based on freshness, so that expired coupon codes are easily avoidable.

Between the wide variety of coupons, the chance to make some extra cash, and the ability to support your favorite charity, I feel that Coupon Chief is definitely worth checking out. With over 15,000 stores represented and over 50,000 coupons posted, there’s savings there for everyone.

Disclosure: I received monetary compensation from CouponChief.com for writing this review. The words and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Book Review: The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook

The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook

Reading The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook by Erin Chase is the first time I’ve ever actually gotten angry from reading a cookbook. Chase claims to have spent five years living abroad, but the experience she conveys in The $5 Dinner Mom Coobook is that of a woman who has never mentally left the confines of suburban America. Her recipes, rather disappointing and rarely under $5, lack diversity and an understanding of what resources are available to a poor American. This book is clearly written for the middle-to-upper class suburban mom demographic. Anyone outside of that group will surely find this cookbook confusing, disappointing or just plain useless.

One way Chase’s suburban mentality exposes itself is that her recipes largely rely on resources that don’t exist in lower income neighborhoods. For example, in her “Greek Pasta Salad” recipe, Chase directs her readers to purchase “kalamata olives with Greek seasonings” from the olive bar at their local grocery store. Other recipes call for ingredients like “canned organic tomato sauce.” Obviously, Chase has never lived in a low-income American neighborhood, nor has she visited a supermarket in one, otherwise she would know that finding an olive bar or organic tomato sauce in a low-income supermarket is an impossible task indeed. As someone who once lived in such a neighborhood, I am safely saying this from experience. I never even knew what an olive bar was until I made my first trip to a supermarket in a rich neighborhood.

Another major complaint I have with The Under $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook is that the prices Chase uses to determine how much each meal costs are off. Very off. So off that I’d wager that few of these recipes truly are under $5. $1.36 for two avocadoes? Maybe in Texas, but not in the Northeast. Two cups of shredded Mozzarella cheese for $1.50? Perhaps in 1999 prices. Now readers may argue against these points by pointing to regional price variations, and that super-rare, high-value coupon that reduces the cost of Kraft shredded cheese to $1.50. These points, however, do not excuse other trickery Chase uses to keep her recipes under $5. For example, she relies on homegrown ingredients like “fresh tomatoes from the garden” or “fresh basil from the garden” because these are conveniently priced as “free” in her calculations. Even buying these ingredients cheap at a farmer’s market would put the recipe over $5. Once again, Chase is relying on the idea that everyone reading her cookbook lives the same comfortable suburban lifestyle where everyone has a yard, patio, or balcony to grow plants. More to the point, a cookbook aimed at a general audience should not rely on homegrown ingredients.

As for the recipes themselves, they’re disappointing and lack diversity. The Vegetarian Meals chapter is a perfect example of everything wrong with this cookbook. Let’s take a look at what Chase considers vegetarian cuisine. We’ll start with her BBQ Lentils recipe, which is essentially lentils cooked in bottled barbecue sauce. Or how about Potato Pizza Pie, which is a pizza made with a potato pancake crust. If Chase had ventured outside of the confines of middle-class Suburbia before she wrote this chapter, then she would have discovered the low-cost vegetarian wonders of Middle Eastern lentil dishes or Indian curries. Why torture your kids with lentils drowning in store-brand barbecue sauce when you could serve them Mujadara? Why make a potato pizza when potato curry is cheaper, healthier, and tastier? A wasted opportunity that will certainly reinforce unfair beliefs that vegetarian cuisine is strange and gross.

Additionally, Chase has a strange propensity for including fruit in recipes where they aren’t unnecessary. The weirdest example that I can point to is her Mediterranean Pizza recipe that calls for serving sliced apples as a side dish. I can respect Chase’s effort to create a balanced meal, but serving apples as a side dish to pizza is really stretching it. There are ways to eat healthy diet that don’t rely on unpalatable flavor combinations. People can get their daily fruit servings in other, more appropriate meals.

In the introduction, Chase claims that she spent five years living in the Dominican Republic, which makes all of the problems of The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook even more baffling. After spending so much time in an impoverished county with its own unique cuisine, she squandered an excellent opportunity to introduce Americans to some creative, low-cost ethnic food. Instead, we got pizza with apples and BBQ Lentils. Sad.

The Dinner Mom Cookbook: 200 Recipes for Quick, Delicious, and Nourishing Meals That Are Easy on the Budget and a Snap to Prepare (Paperback)
by Erin Chase

Price: $10.98
108 used & new available from $0.73
4.3 out of 5 stars (33 customer reviews)

Review & Giveaway: YouNeverLose.com

youneverlose.com

YouNeverLose.com is a gift card site with a fun twist. When you purchase gift cards through YouNeverLose.com, you receive an equivalent number of reward points in addition to your gift card. These reward points are then used to bid on penny auctions for other gift cards. If you win an auction, then you get the opportunity to buy the gift card at the winning auction price. The winning auction prices are often significantly lower than the gift card’s face value, so you end up getting a very nice bargain. For example, a $50 Whole Foods gift card recently sold for only $0.01!

I’m a fan of YouNeverLose.com because I enjoy getting rewards for money that I already planned to spend. For example, my plan for the upcoming summer movie season is to pay for all of my movie tickets by using AMC Theatres gift cards purchased through YouNeverLose.com. The shipping is free, so I don’t have to pay anything above the face value of the card, plus I get reward points and the chance to win more gift cards. Even if I don’t win, I’ll have lost nothing by trying. All in all, it’s a good, risk-free strategy to get more bang for my buck.

How to Win Auctions at YouNeverLose.com

youneverlose.comI should warn readers that the auction system at YouNeverLose.com is a bit different from what you may be used to at eBay. The most notable difference is that the auction time increases by 20 seconds each time a bid is made. The result is that bidding can get extremely competitive as the auction winds down. You’ll often see one or more users place their bids in the last ten seconds of the auction. When I first tried my hand at the auctions, the bidding went on for over 20 minutes before there was finally a winner.

Indeed, the “place a bid and ignore it” strategy that occasionally works on eBay isn’t going to work here. You’ll need keep a watchful eye on the auctions you’re interested in, and develop fast reflexes for hitting that Play to Win button. YouNeverLose.com has a few tips for beginners that I recommend you read before bidding away your points. Thankfully, most of the auctions are timed to end during the US’s afternoon and primetime hours, so don’t need to camp out at the computer until 5 AM hoping to win that one auction; a wise decision on YouNeverLose.com’s part.

YouNeverLose.com Free Coupon Code

Want some free YouNeverLose.com points? You can receive 5 bonus reward points each month by opting into their weekly survey. This option is available when you first register.

YouNeverLose.com has also generously provided a free coupon code for 10 bonus reward points when you register and purchase your first gift card. The coupon code is LAUNCH10. You can apply it to your account by going to “My Account” on the menu bar, and then clicking “Coupons” in the sidebar.

Giveaway: 25 YouNeverLose.com Reward Points + $25 AMC Theatres Gift Card

YouNeverLose.com is giving away 25 reward points and a $25 AMC Theatres gift card to one lucky reader.

Enter your information into the Rafflecopter for a chance to win. The winner will be contacted by email. Winner must respond within 48 hours of receiving the email or a new winner will be chosen. The giveaway ends on 12:01 AM EST, March 5th. US readers only.

Book Review: The Complete Tightwad Gazette

The Complete Tightwad Gazette

In the days before momblogs and widespread internet use, Amy Dacyczyn doled out frugal advice for years through her monthly newsletter The Tightwad Gazette. Ms. Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”) became a self-proclaimed “Frugal Zealot” in order to support her vision of buying a New England farmhouse while supporting six children on her husband’s military salary. After achieving her goal, she decided to share what she learned from this experience through her newsletter and books. The Complete Tightwad Gazette is the corpus of her life’s work, including all issues of The Tightwad Gazette, plus her three additional books. Altogether, it’s over 900 pages of frugal advice, cheap recipes, and quick household tips.

Slogging through a 900-plus page book is an understandably daunting task for many readers. Fortunately, The Complete Tightwad Gazette is organized in such a way that allows readers to easily read a few pages at a time without losing continuity or momentum. Think of this book as a long series of short blog posts, as each essay and article is rarely longer than 2-3 pages. Quick tips and frugal recipes are scattered in easily digestible bits throughout the book. Readers who are looking for recipes or specific advice can quickly find what they’re looking for in the comprehensive 30-page index at the back of the book. So do not be scared of this 959 page behemoth—it’s a very easy read that can be finished at your convenience.

What to Expect from The Complete Tightwad Gazette

Ms. Dacycyzn’s mantra about frugality is “do sweat the small stuff.” Her overall philosophy is that it’s easier and far more beneficial to save a few cents here and there over time than it is to save a big chunk of money at once. With this belief in mind, the main focus of her newsletters are on things that anyone can do right now to save money. This is not a book full of financial and investing advice about finding the best mortgage or how to manage credit card debt. This is a book where you learn how to fix up old shoes found at garage sales to save money, turn old jeans into potholders, and re-purpose a plastic milk jug into a pooper scooper. Hey, it isn’t called The Tightwad Gazette for nothing. Ms. Dacyczyn has some incredibly creative ideas and methods to cut household costs, reuse items that would normally go in the trash, and extend the life of stuff you already own. Readers who are less extreme in their frugality will still find some useful and valuable information. For example, her lengthy guides to saving money on holiday celebrations and kids birthday parties will be welcome advice to many.

What elevates Ms. Dacycyzn’s frugal advice above other frugal experts and bloggers is that she takes the time to thoroughly research her articles and put her advice to the test before sharing it with her readers. For example, while doing research for a newsletter article about septic tank systems, she “spoke with septic pumpers, the local extension service, the EPA Small Flows Clearinghouse, and health-department officials in several states” as well as reading “three books and six magazine articles.” To test a myth about whether letting bars of soap sit unwrapped before use will increase its lifespan, she devised several experiments that included different brands of soap and an additional friend of her’s running her own soap bar experiment (spoiler: the unwrapped soap bars lasted marginally longer). This is one of the main reasons why I highly recommend the The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Ms. Dacycyzn’s advice is thorough, tested, and trustworthy. This is not the work of a tired journalist or blogger pumping out barely researched content to meet a deadline.

In addition to her moneysaving tips and articles, a sizeable portion of The Complete Tightwad Gazette is devoted to cheap recipes and ways cut costs on food. The recipes themselves are simple, familiar, and don’t require advanced cooking skills. A sample of the recipes in the book include lentil-rice casserole, whole-wheat crackers, yogurt, and chili. Although the recipes aren’t adventurous, it’s the accompanying articles about saving money on groceries that are especially insightful. Preceding the recipe for homemade chili, for instance, is an article exploring the costs of making chili with just ground beef versus chili cut with dried beans and TVP (textured vegetable protein). The chili recipe is then followed by a lengthy four-page article entitled, “Are Bread Machines a Good Value?” Don’t buy this book for the recipes; buy this book for its valuable advice on cutting grocery costs and consider the recipes a bonus.

Conclusion

Perhaps the book’s greatest strength is that it has relevant and useful information for people from all walks of life. Unlike many recent frugal books and blogs, this isn’t a book aimed at a highly-specific audience such as mothers or beginners to frugality. This is book that anyone can pick up and learn something new, no matter what their life experience or level of frugality. Thanks to its timeless advice and easily accessible approach, The Complete Tightwad Gazette will certainly remain a frugal classic for years to come.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette (Paperback)
by Amy Dacyczyn

Price: $17.31
79 used & new available from $4.45
4.5 out of 5 stars (294 customer reviews)

Review: Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser

Burt’s Bees recently launched a new product line called Burt’s Bees Natural Skin Solutions for Sensitive Skin. This product line, consisting of facial cleanser, daily moisturizer, eye cream, and night cream, was designed to be hypo-allergenic, fragrance-free, and extremely gentle on the skin. I recently received a sample of Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser, and put this product to the test. Did it live up to Burt’s Bees claims of being a gentle skin care solution?

Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser Product Features

  • Hypo-allergenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • No parabens, phthalates, or petrochemicals
  • Dermatologist-tested and allergy-tested
  • 99% natural; made with cotton extract, rice extract, and aloe
burt's bees sensitive facial cleanser ingredients

Burt's Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser Ingredients

Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser Product Review

Burt's Bees Sensitive Facial CleanserI suffer from extremely dry and sensitive skin during cold weather, so this product could not have come at a more perfect time for me to test them. I need a strong moisturizer during this time of year to protect my skin from drying out. The Sensitive Facial Cleanser did a formidable job of keeping my skin moisturized in this tough, cold weather.

The Sensitive Facial Cleanser is the most gentle facial cleansing product that I’ve ever used. It has a very faint odor, presumably from the materials used to make the product, but it’s not very noticeable or irritating. I definitely feel comfortable calling this product “fragrance-free.” The cleanser itself is just the right texture—not too thin, but not too thick. I could easily apply it to my face, and quickly work it into a good lather despite the notoriously hard water in my area. I didn’t need to scrub or work it into my skin to feel clean and moisturized. The cleanser was easy to wash off my face, and didn’t feel greasy.

What impressed me most about the Sensitive Facial Cleanser was how well it kept my face moisturized. I usually have dry and irritated skin after washing my face, complete with flaking dry skin and redness. Not this time. The Sensitive Facial Cleanser left my skin feeling smooth, very fresh, and well-moisturized. Even more impressive was that the product kept my face moisturized throughout the entire day. Despite my long walks in the cold and the dry heat keeping my home warm, my face didn’t dry out and start flaking. In fact, since I started using this product every day, I haven’t experienced dry skin on my face at all.

Conclusion

Overall, Burt’s Bees delivered on its promise to create a very gentle, but effective facial cleanser. People seeking a truly hypo-allergenic and fragrance-free skin care solution will be quite pleased with the Burt’s Bees Natural Skins Solutions for Sensitive Skin product line. The fact that this product consists mainly of natural ingredients is just icing on the cake.

The Burt’s Bees Natural Skin Solutions for Sensitive Skin product line can be purchased through their official website, or through retailers such as Walmart, Target, and drug stores.

I received a Burt’s Bees Natural Skin Solutions for Sensitive Skin sample kit through BzzAgent. The words and experiences in this review are my own. Please see my disclosure policy for further details.