Shop Lazy. Earn Money.

We all think of shopping as splurging. A new video game. A television. Some clothes. A puppy. But even buying groceries and needed toiletries constitute shopping.

Shopping can be a dangerous act: you go in with a well-crafted list of things to purchase, but as you walk around, you start grabbing fun “bonus items” dispersed throughout the store. At the end of your hour, you’ve spent far more than you intended thanks to impulse shopping, and you’ve likely forgotten a few key items along the way.

Shopping is a necessary evil, but as we near the second installment of the roaring 20s, new fun abilities are coming to light to make shopping a more pleasurable and less wallet-killing experience.

Enter eBates, the best cash-back service around. I’ve been using eBates for a few years now, and I absolutely love it. There are no gimmicks; simply shop with their browser extension installed and save money.

eBates works for popular sites like Target, Walmart, JC Penney, Home Depot, Etsy, Macy’s, and more. So, what does this mean for you?

Online shopping + in-store pickup = more moolah in your bank account.

Here’s how it works: let’s say you need to purchase some toothpaste, toilet paper, a pillow, Tylenol, and some bananas. For the sake of easy math, let’s say this totals $20.

Open target.com on your browser with the eBates extension installed. A notice will appear at the top of the screen asking if you want to “Activate x% Cash Back”. Make a note of this number.

Now, open walmart.com in another tab. See what % Cash Back that Walmart is offering today. Repeat this process until you determine which store near you has the highest Cash Back for the day. Activate the Cash Back on that website, and close the other tabs.

Now, search on the website and add your items to your shopping cart. Select “in-store pickup TODAY” for all of the items.

Once you are done, check out. Within the hour, your items will be held for you at the Guest Service desk of your selected store, meaning you can simply walk in the store, grab your pre-paid items, and leave. No impulse shopping. No hours spent looking for items. They are bagged and ready to go for you.

And the Cash Back? If eBates offered 5% Cash Back on your $20 Walmart purchase, you’ll receive $1 in your eBates account. Once you hit $10, your balance is immediately transferred to your linked PayPal account.

Keep in mind that most shoppers spend $50+ per visit, and this money adds up quickly. I got paid $13 last summer for buying a $130 lawn mower from Walmart. I hunted for the mower I liked while on my lunch break via computer, and I skipped into the store to grab the box as soon as I was off work, essentially only paying $117 for the device.

Keep in mind that many hotels and airlines also have deals with eBates, so that money adds up super quick when booking a travel destination.

In-store pickup is becoming incredibly popular, so why not take advantage of this and also earn some money back?

Sign up for eBates today FOR FREE (no gimmicks, I promise), and when you sign up with my link, you’ll earn $10 to your account after making your first eBates purchase.

Don’t Just Get Schwifty. Get THRIFTY!

I understand the need to portray an image on social media. No one posts a picture of themselves looking miserable in bed with messy hair and crusts on your eyes unless it’s for a good reason (either to accompany a humourous caption or to raise awareness for an issue ongoing). You always put your best face forward on social media, no matter what, in order to build your personal brand.

But sometimes, that desire to portray a certain image is just not attainable, nor is it smart. If you can attain great results for less money, then what’s the big deal?

I know so many people who will say, “I refuse to buy clothes from Amazon/Wal-Mart/Target/Ross/etc.”

Why?

Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, and Ross (and other similar stores like TJ Maxx and Payless ShoeSource) have name-brand, high-value, and downright adorable clothing options. For less.

Yes, these stores all have the stigma of being “cheaper”. Because they are. And your wallet will thank you for it.

Whether you’re saving $1 or $5, money adds up quick. You’ll be surprised at what you can get when you reduce the cost of your haul.

I get complimented often on my wardrobe choices (when it’s not a day where I grabbed the nearest thing on my nightstand). They want to know where I got my jeggings or yoga pants. They love my boots and ask where they came from. They find my shirts adorable and ask how to get their own version.

And so many are shocked to hear where they came from.

I refuse to spend a lot of money on clothing. It’s just not worth it when there are the same options for cheaper. The most expensive article of clothing that I’ve purchased is a bridesmaid’s dress for $170.00. The only article of clothing I will likely ever purchase that costs more is my future wedding dress (the styles I like run around $400-$500). But seeing as many bridesmaid’s dresses go for $300, and many wedding dresses go for $1000+, I guess these figures aren’t so bad.

A shirt should not cost more than $25. Trousers should not cost more than $35. Sneakers should cost no more than $40. Boots should cost no more than $50. To spend more than that is honestly just a waste.

Dude-bro looks good in both shirts. He could buy 10 of the white shirts for 1 of the black shirts. (Or, most likely, two white shirts and two green jackets for the price of the black shirt).

I own boots that were purchased from Payless ShoeSource for $29.99 during their 2013 Christmas sales that are still staples in my closet a full five years later, and they’re cute as hell! I also own boots purchased for $99 for cosplays that left me blistered and tore up within a few conventions. What a waste.

When I hear someone say they’ve spend $400 on a jacket…it’s truly shocking to me. Sooo many things could be purchased with that $400. That’s half of a new iPhone. That’s a wedding dress. That’s two months’ electricity bills. That’s a over a third of my mortgage. When fantastic jackets are listed on Amazon for under $70, to spend $400 just seems like a…waste.

It’s a known fact that higher prices are bad for an economy. Everyone wants to walk away with their endorphins screaming that they just got a great deal. Higher prices mean less people shopping, and less frivolous shopping. Events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Prime Day, and Steam Summer Sale are all enormously successful for a reason: they allow people to save up money in order to spend it in a large chunk on multiple needed items.

Real talk: I am currently running low on my staple body spritzer. It is the scent that I’ve used since I was 12. I am 28 now. I could buy some right now for full price, or I could wait until the holiday season and get it for cheaper. Hmmm… Looks like I’m just gonna conservatively spritz for the next month and a half.

While researching this article, it turns out that Bath & Body Works actually sells their spritzers for $13.00 on Amazon.com while leaving them full-price in the stores. And y’all wonder why I’m an Amazon addict? Looks like I’m stocking up early this year!!!

Lower product cost also typically results in higher sales overall. I worked at Spencer’s Gifts as a manager for the first seven years of my professional life. I would see little Sally Jane turn up her nose that “Ugh, they want $14.99 for a pack of nose rings!” Then, less than a month later, Sally Jane would see our Buy one, get one half-off special on body jewelry and would buy four packs of the nose rings.

Sally Jane is unwilling to get five nose rings for $14.99. Sally Jane is more than happy to get twenty nose rings for $44.97 (full price would have been $59.96). Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

There have been times where I’ve gone to a concert and begrudgingly spent $50 on Band A’s tees; a month later, I’ve gone to another concert and purchased five tees for $20 a pop from Band B. Band B made twice as much money off of me, I have five times as many tees, and I post my haul onto Instagram to advertise for Band B. Everyone wins!

Note: Serious props to Incubus, 30 Seconds To Mars, Andrew W.K., MSI, Trapt, Judah & The Lion, and Chevelle for consistently keeping your prices low! I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $30 on a tee or tank from any of those bands. Yes, a few are available, but most of their merch is affordable!

The moral of the story is…no matter how much you love to showboat, don’t let your showboating burn a hole in your pocket. Look for deals. Look for cheaper options. There’s so many great ways to look and feel like a million bucks without actually having to spend a million bucks.

Even if you have the million bucks to spend, why not still purchase the week’s haul of clothes from Target and spend the rest of your money on a yacht and some Lamborghinis (or whatever millionaires are buying these days)?

Look, y’all, I LOVE glitter and sparkles, but this is a damn waste.

Spend wisely. Live wisely. Economy wisely.

Adventures In Minimalism: iOS App Deletion

Something that I have been trying to do since purchasing a house in March 2018 is to live a more minimalistic lifestyle. This is very difficult for me, as the only child of a pack-rat and very generous parents and grandparents, but in an attempt not to junk up the house, this is a necessary evil.

…And oddly satisfying!

Part of the minimalism push was watching my long-time blogging buddy, Georgie Luhur, do the same thing in her life. Georgie is awesome, so definitely give her some love <3

Today, I decided to go more minimalistic in regards to my iPhone 7. I have been an iPhone user since July 2009 and love them dearly. However, in recent years with such a large amount of storage space on my current iPhone, I have gone crazy with my apps somehow. I’m not sure how this happened, but lately, it seems like I have 10 new app updates each day. I rarely update my apps daily, so this has led to me having 60-100 app updates each week.

Ouch.

I decided to check to see how many apps I currently have and to delete the unneeded ones. I plan to upgrade to an iPhone X in a month, and there’s no sense in bogging down a brand-new phone with useless fodder.

To start, I needed to see what I’d be dealing with.

Maybe I should prune this thing more often… Oh yeah, the notifications. I’m a busy person, and NO I am not cleaning out that inbox xD

218 iPhone apps.

Welp.

To boot, four of these apps aren’t even usable on the current iOS 11. I can’t bring myself to delete Flappy Bird because that shit is a classic, but I’ll be taking care of the other poor blokes.

I currently have four pages of apps. My first page is my most-used apps. All of these are used daily or semi-daily at minimum, so they all get to stay.

The second page is the most daunting. For years, I only had two pages of apps, thank to making several folders on the second app page. I don’t remember when I got to four pages of apps…but I guess this is the problem.

Deleted from page two: GarageBand, iMovie, iTunes U, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, iBooks, Tips, Stocks, Xbox, TV, TextPics Free, iTunes Store, RMaker, PocketLife, Waze, News, UploadnRoll, Photo Flipper, PS Express, Image Editor, ProCam, AirBrush, Twitterrific, Watch, Find Friends, Pebble, FMHmobile, Rosy Writer, FamCal, Speedtest, Script, Nonjoro, Oevo, V2, MyChallenge, Toggl Timer, TweetList!, Ipsy, Zen Planner, iFruit, Files, GoodBudget, SongKick, Gorillaz, E!, GetColorBall, Love Live!, Magikarp, Pocket Camp, Ukulele Tuner, Ukulele, Sing True

I’m surprised that Apple allows me to delete base apps now. I literally had a folder called “Apple Fodder” with the apps like Keynote and Stocks that couldn’t be removed only two years ago.

174 apps left.

Deleted from page three: Flexmis, Unfriended, Adobe Scan, Lomograph, Rokumotee, WeChat

I actually really like WeChat, but I’m currently locked out of my account and can’t get back into it, so away it goes!

168 apps left.

Deleted from page four: SimpleContainer, Instacart, AirMEasure, My Account

Not much to be removed from this page.

164 apps left.

So, 54 apps are gone. …This is oddly less than I wanted to delete, and not very gratifying, especially since I now have to reorganize my apps. Time for a second pass!

More Fallen Soldiers: MyFitnessPal, Countdown, Papa John’s, BeyondMenu, Panera Bread, Pizza Hut, InstaSave, GIPHY, InstaSaver, Expedia, Ultimate Ears, FedEx, UPS, Sarahah, Cleaner, Twilist, Flikes, Scope Booster, Fiverr, Spectrum TV, Pandora, FreeTube, BUKnights, Pooped, Vine Camera, MakeAMeme+, Patreon, Ebates, Nutrition+, Get Subs, Face, Face2,

133 apps left! 85 gone >:)

I gave it one more pass and can’t find anything else to remove, but I like the way this looks. I rearranged what was in each folder, and now it’s super easy to find what I need! I also freed up 8gb of storage space. My original two iPhones only had 8GB of storage space, so I essentially freed up an iPhone 3Gi’s worth of apps.

I’ll definitely try not to let my app-load go overboard again. I like only having two pages of apps, so I’ll try to make myself a rule that I have to delete an app in order to install a new one if it’s going to push me over the 2-page limit.

What about you guys? Any recent app purges? I’ll be doing more minimalism posts soon, so stay tuned 🙂

Marketing Indie Books For Dummies

Last Thursday, I released the first book in my four-part series The Belle Âme Chronicles. Not only did this mark the start of a new series that I am madly in love with (and plan to submit for my graduate school application), but it also marked the end of my previous saga.

My initial two novels were based on a short story series written from late-2002 through mid-2008, known as the “Fab Gang”. Featuring a plethora of characters loosely based on my favourite anime protagonists and antagonists, Fab Gang was a hodge-podge of chaos that only a teenager’s mind could manifest. Still, you can’t write something for so long without giving it a proper ending, and The Banana Avenue Chronicles did just that.

But my high school pennings are in the past. In their place are new, mature books that I am extremely proud of as an adult. Enter: The Belle Âme Chronicles.

I always feel like a rock star when I publish a new book. As I should! And so should you! Be proud of your hard work!

This quartet of murder-mystery thrillers has been my pet project for the past year. The May 17th release of “Down The River” is a testament to my hard work, and I am so thrilled to see the feedback it’s received in just one week!

As an indie publisher, all of the marketing for “Down The River” and the entire The Belle Âme Chronicles series is solely on me. If I keep quiet, my books don’t sell. Indie publishing has a lot of benefits that traditional publishing does not provide, but it also has its weaknesses.

Like a lack of marketing.

Marketing will make or break your book. Literally. I’m 100% serious.

For anyone that is thinking about, in the process of, or already has indie published a book, here are my tips to ensure a successful release and a happy writing career:

  1. Edit, edit, edit! As an indie author, you are in complete control of your manuscript. Whatever you submit as the final manuscript to your publisher is what hits the shelves. While you might see great success like Rich Dad, Poor Dad or The Secret, you may also publish a blunder like My Immortal. Your typos live on in print. Forever. Proofread. Edit multiple drafts. Outsource to a professional editor. And then proofread some more. No matter how good your plot is—and while most readers will forgive occasional typos—a cacophony of spelling errors and grammatical fallacies are the quickest way to lose your audience and ruin your reputation.
  2. Choose a professional cover and title. Many indie authors avoid this advice and play around with Microsoft Paint to create their covers. This is why many indie authors (myself included) wind up rereleasing their books with new covers years later. The old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” may be polite…but its simply not true. A potential new reader will absolutely judge your book by its cover (and its title) from the time they lay eyes on it. An amateur cover significantly lowers the odds that they will even open your book. Many readers already do not take indie authors seriously. Do not give them another reason to consider you an amateur. Better covers = better sales!
  3. Gear up (quietly) for your release (pre-scheduled). You want the news of your novel to be a pleasant surprise, with a call-to-action to buy your book immediately available. If you have been screaming about your book for months, people are going to tune out your posts. This means they will also tune out your “It’s finally here!” post. Post a teaser once per week for #1LineWed on Twitter. Go at least one week without mentioning your book leading up to its release and then…BAM! Advertise at 10am local time on your release day on ALL of your social media channels. Pre-schedule these using services like Hootsuite to make your life easier. Create a professional advertising graphic to accompany these posts, and have them link directly to your sales page (i.e. The Amazon page).

    Here is my current ad for “Down The River”. You can find templates like these on Google Images, and you can edit them all together with some intermediate-to-advanced Photoshop skills! Don’t have those skills? Commission someone who does 🙂
  4. Collab with other authors and their newsletters. Creative pursuits are unique in that its success directly stems from who you know and who knows you. For this reason, most indie authors are more than happy to promote you as long as you promote them, too. Join online groups like AAYAA and 20BooksTo50K, and befriend other authors in your genre. Start a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletter to send out to your readers. Advertise other authors’ books in your newsletter in exchange for them advertising your book in their newsletters. A little bit goes a long way, and the more places a reader has seen your book’s cover appear, the more likely they are to finally take the plunge and check it out.
  5. Be LOUD! Don’t be obnoxious and post about your new book five times an hour, every hour. That’s how people unfollow/unfriend you. But don’t be afraid to post about your new work of art! Make a day-one announcement on all of our social media, and post “Thank you” to anyone who shares the post. The following day, thank everyone for their support. Purchase a one-week ad campaign to keep your book in the public’s eye for a week, and then do another thank you post after the campaign ends. Remember, the key is getting your book out there, while also keeping the public from being annoyed. Don’t make posts that say “I guess I should share this…” Be confident! “My new book is out, and if you like [genre] books, then you definitely need to check it out today! :D” You’ve got this.
Local bookstores and libraries are also your friends! Reach out to them and let them know that you want to do a book signing. Few will say no, as you are bringing in patrons 😀

Do you consider yourself a writer (whether a novelist, poet, journalist, etc.)? If so, let me know in the comments, and leave a link to where I can check out your work! And don’t be afraid to reach out if you need any help publishing or require any other publishing tools to reach your endgame.

The 2020 Census’s Big Win For The LGBT Community

Every ten years, a Census is held in the United States, aiming to count the entire population of the country and determine the location of each resident. Questions asked include 1) how many people live/stay in each home, and the sex, age, and race of each resident. The goal is simple: to count everyone, at least once, only once, and in the right place.

Easy, huh?

Giving your data to the government might sound like a bad horror movie in the making, but its actually quite beneficial 🙂

The results of each Census determine the Federal funds, grants, and support allocated to each state, meaning that communities benefit the most when everyone is counted and reported accurately. Census data also helps businesses decide where to build factories, offices, and stores to maximize profit and create new jobs. Developers determine where to build new homes and when to revitalize neighbourhoods. Local governments use the data to prep for public safety awareness and emergency situations.

But what about when it comes to relationship data?

For the first time ever, the 2020 U.S. Census will ask couples to define their relationship as “same-sex” or “opposite-sex.” Talk about a huge step for the LGBT community! These extra few checkboxes go a long way in accurately recognizing same-sex relationships and the percentages of those engaged in them.

Holy history-in-the-making, Batman!

Thomas Jefferson created and led the first Census in 1790, one year after President George Washington’s inauguration, and shortly before the first United States Congress’s session ended. Jefferson’s version posed few questions: the name of (or the relationship to) the head of household, gender, race, and the number of slaves owned. A relationship status question was not added until 1880, and it took until 1990 to receive an “unmarried partner” option (y’know, since premarital cohabitation was frowned upon back in the day).

Now, the Census’s relationship options will shift again for accuracy’s sake, in order to gain a fair glimpse into current relationships in the United States.

The most-recent 2010 Census only gave citizens the options of “husband or wife” or “unmarried partner”. Luckily, the 2020 Census breaks down the relationship category into more-detailed options: opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse, opposite-sex unmarried partner, same-sex husband/wife/spouse, and same-sex unmarried partner.

Since most states did not recognize same-sex marriages at the time of the 2010 Census, those who were in same-sex partnerships were ultimately marked as “unmarried partner,” whether they were actually married or not. As someone who knows many happy same-sex partnerships and same-sex spouses, this was a big flub.

This marriage is valid. ALL marriages are valid. …Unless you’re a pedophile married to a child. That’s a no-no. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go STRAIGHT TO JAIL.

If you have a marriage certificate, then you are a married individual. Your genitals and the genitals of your partner do not influence this. A marriage is a marriage. My friends that are in same-sex relationships experience all of the same milestones as opposite-sex partnerships. They buy their first homes. They handle their finances. They have/adopt children. They flourish under the umbrella of true love.

To mark someone experiencing the joys of marriage as an “unmarried partner” invalidates the entire point of a Census: to gain an accurate look at the citizens of the United States Of America and how their lives are lived. As a result, any survey based on 2010 Census data that spewed the headline “The number of unmarried partnerships in the United States has grown!” is inaccurate and false (sorry, fellow journalists!).

It will be interesting to see how the percentages of married, unmarried, and single populations changes with the 2020 results. The simple addition of these new options provides a more accurate look into the breakdown of relationships in the U.S., and it portrays those relationships with detail, unlike the years prior. The LGBT community will finally get the recognition that it deserves in the form of an official survey from a government organization.

Wow.

Not only is this a huge step for same-sex couples, but for their children as well. According to the data planned for the 2020 Census, “a question about the relationship of each person in a household to one central person is used to create estimates about families, households, and other groups”.

In other words, this allows the government to understand if a household needs additional assistance.

The purpose of the relationship category is to dictate how much money the government can allocate to programs that provide special funds or services to families in need. By finally recognizing same-sex couples as married couples, the government can use these results to determine money allotment more accurately and factually throughout a neighbourhood or district.

No one is naïve enough to think that people aren’t still out there who see same-sex relationships as illegitimate, sinful, and/or “just plain wrong”, but it is great to watch as equality slowly rolls out toward all human beings. Whether a religious leader agrees with one’s relationship or not should have no bearing on how they are allowed to live their lives.

LOVE IS LOVE. Be on the RIGHT side of history. Jesus wasn’t a bigot, and you shouldn’t be either.

We’ve seen interracial relationships become the norm. We’ve seen unmarried partnerships become the norm. Now, it’s time for same-sex relationships to finally achieve that same recognition so that all love can truly foster.

This isn’t “liberal psychobabble”.

This is equality.

And the changes coming to the 2020 Census are definitely a step in the right direction.