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Friday Faves: Must Haves for My New Apartmen

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Happy Friday!  Today we’re talking all about the ways I’m decorating our new apartment.  Can I still call it new if BF and I moved back in October?  I think so.  I’m going to call it our new apartment for a year.  I’m happy to say we finally started decorating our apartment and we’re doing it on a budget which is nice.

Decorating our home on a budget

Of course I would love our apartment to look like something out of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but unfortunately that’s not our reality.  I’ve learned that it’s the small things that really make an apartment stand out and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  As long as we spend money wisely on quality items instead of filling up our apartment with cheap knick-knacks it will be all good.

I like adding character and color to our apartment through accents because it’s a lot easier and a lot cheaper to change the accents and statement pieces than it is to redo the entire decor if you want to redecorate in a year or two.

Here are the budget-friendly ways we’re decorating our new apartment.

Fresh cut and fake flowers

I love the smell of fresh cut flowers, but unfortunately keeping them in the house can be very expensive.  Instead I purchase good quality fake flowers from Michael’s craft store.  I paid $20 per bouquet because they were on sale and I had a coupon.  Now I keep one vase of fresh cut flowers in my kitchen (when I can afford it) and fill my house with colorful fake bouquets in the other rooms.

Plants and greenery

Plants are a lovely alternative to buying fresh cut flowers, they’re cheaper and live longer than fresh cut flowers.  They still add color and life into a home without having to spend too much money or dish out money regularly to replace flowers when they die.

Pillows

I’m sure you probably know this about me but I love pillows. My personal motto is that a home can never have enough pillows.  It makes your home welcoming, it adds color into a room and it’s comfy when you’re laying in bed watching a movie or sitting on the couch chatting with guests.  I don’t think you can ever have enough color in your home.

Candles

You may remember that my mother taught me to always keep my home smelling good.  We always have oil burning, Wallflowers plugged in or candles burning.  I think nice smells are comforting and there’s nothing better than a little apple cinnamon to brighten up your day.  Candles don’t have to be expensive you can get great ones at Target and Wal-Mart.  Sometimes even the pharmacy has deals or liquidations on last season’s scents.

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Cutting the Cord: 7 Legal Ways to Drop Your Cable Provider

1649ff72d3cd4bd585048a0dce14cc25You’re tired of paying for cable services every month. You want to cut the cord, desperately, but you want a legal alternative. Sure, you could scour bittorrent sites to find the newest episode of your favorite T.V. show, but that avenue is usually illegal and always carries a serious risk of a phone call, a visit from law enforcement, or a nastygram in the mail from a network threatening to sue you. We advise against that. Here’s how to stay on the right side of the law, and still satisfy your viewing needs.

Get Hulu

Hulu is probably the most well-known service for free T.V. and movies. That’s because it was one of the first to arrive on the scene to offer free T.V. Sure you have to endure the commercials, but you aren’t paying for anything on this site. You just watch and enjoy.

If you ever do get tired of the commercials, you can upgrade to Hulu Plus, cut down on the commercials, and get a lot more content in the form of back episodes for your favorite shows. One peculiarity of this site that stands out immediately is the fact that some shows aren’t actually hosted on the site. Instead, the company links out to the network’s website where you can watch the show. Another criticism of the site is that you don’t get the freshest content, and the selection is somewhat limited.

Finally, the biggest complaint voiced by users is that, for Hulu Plus, even though you’re paying for the subscription, you still have to put up with commercials. You cannot speed through them either, unlike standard cable with a DVR. 

Get Netflix

Netflix has gained a lot of traction over the years and is now integrated into a lot of devices like smart T.V.s, Apple T.V. and other electronics. There’s a good reason why. This mail-order-video-turned-streaming-movie service has worked hard to create a strong brand and solid programming. They’re also a lot cheaper than most services you’ll find out there. No, it’s not free, but you’ll probably find them to be a steal compared to your current cable provider. A few dollars compared to $50 or more. It’s no contest.

While Netflix also suffers from some dated content choices (i.e. the full Knight Rider series, starring David Hasselhoff), and it often takes a long time for the company to secure the rights to newer series (i.e. The Walking Dead), it’s also not a second-hand company aiming to be the best “content curator.” It spends money developing its own original programming like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. And, it secures tier-one talent for those shows too, like Kevin Spacey. Netflix is currently responsible for a third of all Internet traffic, so clearly they’re doing something right.

Get Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime costs $99 per year, and you get access to several thousand movie titles and over a million songs. You also get free 2-day shipping on just about anything you buy on the site – a nice bonus. Finally, the service comes with, of course, books.

Of all of the services out there, this is probably the most unique. The Amazon Interface can sometimes feel a little cluttered. But, the company’s 4-service offering at a very reasonable price makes it hard to ignore.

Rent Movies

You can always rent movies and T.V. shows on iTunes or similar services (i.e. Amazon). At $3.99 to $5.99, the rentals aren’t the cheapest in the world, and buying a T.V. show might not appeal to you, but it’s often cheaper than paying for a year’s worth of cable if you only watch a handful of shows.

Redbox is also an alternative to the online renting scheme. This company has cornered the market that Netflix left behind. If you live in a large city (or even a small one), it’s not too difficult to find a Redbox location. These machines dispense DVDs for a $1 per night of rental. There are no late fees, and you can usually find all the new or newer releases and sometimes even older ones. It’s uncomplicated, and that’s why we love it.

Download Videos From YouTube

You can always find copyright-free independent films and videos on YouTube and download them for later personal viewing. A simple YouTube downloader like the one at http://youtubedownload.altervista.org/ is all you need for that, and the rest is free. Make sure that you’re not breaking any copyright laws. That point cannot be stressed enough.

Most of the original shows on YouTube are pretty flexible about this, but never make any assumptions. Contact the channel owner or scope out the channel’s page for details about downloading. Some channels actually encourage you to save it to your computer and pass it around – free publicity. Just remember to respect intellectual property.

Get Free T.V. Online

There are several places you can score free T.V. online, like Crackle. It’s a legit service owned by Sony, with licensed content so don’t worry about stealing or violating intellectual property laws. It’s ad-supported, but there are movies and T.V. shows on there for free, so what do you want? If you’re into Anime, Crunchyroll is probably the best site out there for Japanese T.V.

Ivonne Strauss loves technology for productivity and entertainment. She enjoys writing about maximizing potential without breaking the banks.

4 Tips to Help You Start Running

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So you want to start running?  I think that’s a great idea!  I love running for a variety of reasons: it’s a big adrenaline rush, you can get a great workout in 30 minutes, it helps with your posture and you feel like a million bucks when you’re done.

I am by no means running a marathon anytime soon, but I do love running.  I try to get in three runs a week at the gym.  For medical reasons (I have a weird spine) I am unable to run outside, but I hear it’s even better than running indoors.  I should also tell you that I’m not a size 2 so if you think running is just for skinny people I’m here to tell you that’s not true.

Here are four things that helped me start running and keep me motivated:

Get cute gear

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on high end gear, just get a few (three or so) outfits that you feel good in and can mix and match.  I invested in good running shoes ($89 Mizuno’s from DSW) but the rest of my gear is from Aeropostale, they have great shorts that don’t ride up when you run.  Long tank tops are also better because they tend to ride up when you run, at least mine do.

Start in intervals

This is how I run.  I do a 30 minute workout; combined I run for 10 minutes and walk at an incline for 5 minutes via intervals.  Part of the reason is because I hate doing the same thing for too long and the other part is having a deadline keeps me motivated.  Use blocks of five minutes to keep track, start by running for one minute and walking for four.  Then run two minutes for every three you walk etc.  It’s really helped me step up my running game.

Leave the water until the end

I used to drink water every time the treadmill was at walking speed but I found that when I started running again I would get a cramp – that sucks.  A friend told me to run through a cramp, but that’s easier said than done.  Now I go hard for 30 minutes and reward myself with ice cold water at the end.

Pick a focus point on the wall

When I tell you that I’m clumsy it’s the honest truth. If I look to the left or right or check out what the other runners beside me are doing I completely lose focus and break my stride.  Even a quick glance at the clock on the wall can cause me to completely lose focus.

When I run I have to focus on one point and stick with it for 30 minutes until I’m done.  I’m sure I look like a crazy stalker fixated on their prey but I can’t help it.  I’ve already had one injury where I messed up my knee because I was running out of stride.  I don’t want to go there again.

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Priceline 101: How to Travel for Cheap

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Good morning Loves.  If you’re planning a summer vacation or a weekend road trip you may be searching the web for a good deal.  That’s really the key to travel freedom, do it for cheap and you’ll be able to travel more often.

Where do you want to go on vacation?

I am lucky to live in Montreal which is close to several major American cities such as New York and Boston.  It’s also pretty close to Maine, although I’ve never been.  I like to get away but since Montreal Airport is not a hub it can be quite expensive to book flights.

I’ve found a way to travel for cheap without being totally inconvenienced or staying in a bed bug infested hotel.  It’s called Priceline.  You may have seen the commercials on TV with William Shatner and Penny from The Big Bang Theory.  Priceline is a discount travel website that offers really cheap deals on hotels, flights and car rentals.

I usually book my hotels on Priceline, but I’ve also reserved a rental car and booked flights occasionally.  Over the years I’ve become obsessed with trying to find the best deals so I can travel for cheap.  I honestly feel like I’ve mastered the art of booking travel on Priceline.com.  Today I’m sharing all my secrets with you!

4 ways to travel for cheap with Priceline.com

Book on Tuesdays

A lot of people like to search for hotels and flights on Saturdays.  This is a huge mistake.  Think of Priceline as life insurance, the cost changes with the supply and demand.  I find the prices to be substantially higher if you book on weekends.  Tuesdays seem to be the day with the cheapest deals.  I recently booked a flight from  Montreal to Charlotte, NC for $360 roundtrip.  That’s an amazing deal because on the United Airways website the flight was $500.  The more you save on travel the more you can spend on eating and shopping. Right?!

Use Express Deals

I have spent many days calculating the difference between regular deals, the name your own price option and express deals.  Priceline charges fees and taxes on hotel bookings and the cost is similar amongst all three price options.  I like to use the express deals because the prices are cheaper than the  regular deals.  If I can’t find a hotel in my budget I will try the name your own price feature but I’ve only used it a couple of times.  In March I booked a 4 star hotel in NYC for $89 a night.  It was awesome.

Get Coupons

Priceline is all about customer service.  After a hotel stay you’ll receive an email request to rate your stay as well as a coupon for 5% or 10% off your next booking.  It’s really a great service and I find the prices to be a lot cheaper than Travelocity or Expedia.  You can also join discount and cash back websites such as Ebates.com.  If you book your Priceline reservation through Ebates you’ll also receive cash back on top of the deal, now that’s smart shopping.

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