Friday Fun: Shopping, Shopping, And More Shopping!

Totebaggers are thinking of holiday shopping, including what to buy and smart strategies for finding good values.  Today we’re combining three submissions, with slightly different takes on this topic.  Let’s break the Internet with our shopping discussion!

Black Friday by Finn

With the upcoming arrival of Thanksgiving also comes the arrival of Black Friday and the extended shopping season into which it has evolved.

What are your shopping plans for the extended Black Friday season?

Please share whatever shopping strategies you’re willing to share, as well as any particularly good deals that would appeal to your fellow totebaggers.

Are you looking for something in particular?  Bring it up, and your fellow totebaggers are likely to have suggestions and guidance for you.

Christmas Gifts by Louise

Totebaggers – post your favorite gift suggestions. Websites, pictures and links are welcome. Recently I’ve had good luck with Some of the things I have purchased include hand-made ties and glass ornaments. These are a few of their kind pieces and the recipients of these gifts have received compliments on them.
Totebaggers share your gift suggestions. If it is too late this year, we’ll take notes for next year.

Holiday Shopping Ideas by saacnmama

It’s that time of the year when we wrack our brains for something our loved ones don’t already have but would really like that is in our price range. Have you started shopping yet? Here’s where I am so far:

Big-ticket item for the kiddo:  a support structure for his basketball hoop/backboard
Fun “side” gifts and stocking stuffers:  I clearly need help, and hope that some of the engineers or people close to engineers on here can give me  suggestions. He is oddly not interested in Arduino, maybe because we haven’t found the “right” project for him yet.

My sisters:  Clothing tends to be a hit, because I get their sizes and styles right, but it’s hard to find good clothing in our gift price range of $20-$30. One sister loved the candle lanterns I got her. I’ve lost weight using a Fitbit this summer/fall, and recently saw an article about the launch of a $12 fitness tracker that supposedly has all the features of the higher-priced ones. I’m considering it for the other sister, but don’t want her to feel insulted by the insinuation (even though it is obvious) or by the price.

Nieces & nephews:  My Christmas gifts to college-age relatives are care packages. I am clueless for the early teen girls. One has a minimalist sensibility, and the other loves hair accessories, make-up, and similar things that make me uncomfortable. They both play soccer…

My parents:  Recent hits include visitor cards with Midwestern contact info on one side and Florida info on the other; wine accessories including a stopper that is linked to my dad’s profession and a “Corksicle”; a pen holder decorated with seashells, from the brides’ section of a stationary store–it is displayed with the guest book in their snowbird home; a small Bluetooth speaker they can use at the pool; books related to their interests. Most of those things are idiosyncratic and directly related to a need I saw. Darned if I can figure out anything they need now! Maybe I’ll get them iPhone cases with chargers in them, but that isn’t very exciting.

For me:
  The one thing I know I want is a massaging chair topper from Brookstone, but I can’t think of anything in “sister” or “auntie” price range.

Where to shop?  I’m planning to do my shopping either at local stores (there is a FB group of them, and they are having a fair-type event where many of them will be represented, making it easier) or at the stores on the right side of this page They will all be closed on Thanksgiving Day, which I want to support.

So Totebaggers, where are you in this? Does your family exchange gifts at this time of year? If so, have you started your shopping? What are your best “finds” so far, and who are you still looking for something for? Are you requesting things for yourself? Let’s exchange ideas and maybe help each other out a bit with the shopping. Happy Holidays!

Coffee Talk: The Power Of PowerPoint

by saacnmama

How often do you use written long-form communication vs oral communication in your work? In the 1800s, it was common for huge crowds to gather to listen to speakers deliver hour-long orations. Audiences now are accustomed to receiving information visually as well as orally. The following is a set of tips, half organizational, half technical, for creating effective presentations.

10 tips on how to make slides that communicate your idea, from TED’s in-house expert

What is your opinion of the importance of such communication? How do you think it should be integrated in education?

Coffee Talk: A Question Of Taste

by Louise

What does your home decoration say about you ?

Is your home immaculate, cushions and throw pillows just so – a candidate for a catalog ? Does your home fall into the bohemian, shabby chic or as the author nicely puts it – the impoverished aristocrat category ? or is it just dull and screams – decorator required. Totebaggers – discuss your homes and plans for home improvement.

Coffee Talk: How to Behave When Trouble Strikes a Friend or Colleague

by Honolulu Mother

This LA Times article is not new, but I just ran across it and thought it had excellent advice: How not to say the wrong thing.  The “comfort in, dump out” approach to dealing with someone else’s troubles is something I think and hope I’ve followed instinctively, but stating it as a rule is useful.

Totebaggers, do you have any quibbles with or additions to this approach?  How do you try to support a friend or colleague going through hard times?

Frugal Habits That Don’t Actually Save You Money

by saacnmama

Once my little one learned to use scissors, there was no stopping him. Snippets of paper overflowed his train table, and he still cut more. There was no rhyme or reason, just joy in cutting. He’d occasionally use a 3-hole punch or paper cutter, but scissors were his “thing”. This slowed down a bit, but returned in full force whenever he felt pressured over the next few years. As those years wore on, he learned about money. He dreamed up various schemes by which a 7-year-old could earn it. And then one day, just like chocolate and peanut butter making Reese’s, the two came together in the form of COUPONS–little pieces of paper he could cut to save us money.

His cutting activity increased dramatically, now with a purpose, covering the living room floor, and he soon had hundreds of coupons. We went through them together, separating those for things we used, those for things used by teachers, neighbors, grandparents, and those to be recycled. Then we headed to the store with our stack. We spent at least two hours, carefully comparing the unit prices of Venus razors at the coupon price, other similar razors, the quality of lower-cost razors, and dozens of similar comparisons. The Venus coupons didn’t make the grade. Some others did. This activity continued regularly over the next few months, as did his delivery of packets of coupons to those we knew. At one point he tried to change the “women’s hygiene” products i buy, because of a coupon. A few times he surprised some lucky customer at the store with just the right coupon for what they were buying. They were delighted. It was exhausting.

We’ve reached a happy medium with the coupons now. He cuts the ones he knows from experience we might use, and shows them to me for approval. Other times he waits until I’m done shopping, then presents the coupons and receipt for a price adjustment next time we are at the store. It’s basically his allowance. It is good practice in consumer economic: unit pricing, price vs quality, and similar concepts, and he knows that the coupon is not always the better deal.

That lesson in coupon pricing is one of several points made in this piece on “frugal” habits that don’t save you money. I think the author misses part of the point in DIY–the pride in being able to say “I made this”, but generally think it’s right on track. I am guilty of analysis paralysis (a phrase I learned from WFI) leading me from one store to the next, searching for the perfect device and the best price. How about you? Do any of these errors sound like your routine? Are there other things you started in an effort to save money or resources, only to find that they actually cost you in the end?

Coffee Talk: Traveling Solo

by Grace aka costofcollege

How do you feel about solo vacation travel?

Not counting add-on days to business travel or visits to friends or relatives, I can only remember one vacation trip that I took by myself.  It may not count in the strictest sense, since I traveled to a dude ranch with a built-in group of companions.  Still, I was the only single, so it gave me a taste of spending a week alone trying to have fun among strangers.  I had a great time.

Solo female travelers may have a concern about safety, but it turns out they actually travel on their own more than men do.

… whether they’re heartbroken nomads or gleeful road-trippers, solo women travelers are actually the norm. In a 2013 poll of travel agents (ok, I’m already a little skeptical because who uses a travel agent? but let’s roll with it), “agents reported that it’s much more common for woman to travel alone than men, with 73 percent of agents polled noting that more female travelers embark on solo trips than their male counterparts.” The average solo traveler is a 47-year-old female….

Many Totebaggers are too busy planning family trips to even consider the possibility of a trip on their own, but maybe not.  Have you ever taken a solo vacation?  Does it sound appealing, or a lonely and sad undertaking?  Have you planned your next vacation?  Any travel plans for the coming year?

Coffee Talk: Holiday Food And Drink

by LA Girl

Even though Costco has had Christmas decorations for 2 months, it is now officially time to start planning your holiday cooking and baking. Let’s start with the turkey. I’m leaning towards a crockpot turkey breast and lots of yummy sides.

How is everyone accommodating special requests? My sister has given up recreational sugar so won’t eat any dessert but I also have to make sure my sweet potatoes are sugar free. Has anyone suggested to anyone that they bring a dish that they can eat?

What are good make ahead dishes? Obviously dessert but has anyone else had success with side dishes and rolls?