Monday, March 28, 2016

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Part 2: FOOD

"I'm hunnnngry Mommy....."

We didn't eat lunch before we got in line to embark, so our first stop after going to our room was to go in search of food.  Like most cruises, "basic" buffet food and some specialty restaurants are included in the price of your cruise, with some of the nicer restaurants incurring an upcharge.  With Big One's egg allergy still a factor for less cooked eggs (i.e. no mayonaise or other egg-containing sauces, egg pastas, and no little egg bits in fried rice), we opted to spend most of our time at buffets, so my info about the specialty restaurants is limited.  But hey, this is also Sue the Bargain Hunter, so why would I spend extra on food anyway, right?

So Day 1, after briefly wandering aimlessly, we found one of the restaurants that is buffet during the day and nice restaurant at night (Moderno, Deck 8 Aft if I remember right).  The buffet was "meh", but was enough to tide us over until we wandered the ship more and found additional options.  We discovered the Uptown Bar & Grill (Deck 15 Forward) - Think nice, big Five Guys type burgers, but with different options.  Here's a photo of my burger from the last afternoon of the cruise - same burger I got the first day.  Turkey burger with mozzarella cheese on the Italian roll.  Mmmm.... burger...

Just beyond Uptown Grill is the Garden Cafe, a.k.a. the mega buffet.  Honestly, we ate most of our meals there just because there was something for everyone and convenient - just five floors up from our room.  Little One pretty much lived on cantaloupe and soft-serve ice cream for the week.  Big One tried just about one of everything protein or carb (other than eggs and things containing mayo or custard of course).  Hubby hit the omelette station nearly every morning.  

 The beauty of the buffet is that if you don't like something, just grab a new plate and try something else. The buffet is a giant square with the central kitchen in the center.  Some stations are repeated on multiple sides like the "grill" section (where you can pretty much always find burger, hot dogs, and fries at any lunch or dinner), but there are more specialized sections where there was one corner where the food tended to be more Indian/Middle Eastern vs. the Asian section and of course the carving station at dinner time.  Alas, I only discovered the last day that if I didn't want to stand in the omelette station line, that there was a separate spot that had pre-made omelettes (e.g. I got a Denver omelette that morning).

And yes, as noted, Little One was hooked on the soft serve ice cream machines.  They are both located at the end of the buffet closest to the mid-ship exit that heads toward the pools.  Yes, there's a real ice cream section to the buffet as well, but the kids LOVE getting to make their own soft serve cones.

So we didn't eat EVERY meal at the buffet.  Other places we tried:

  • O'Sheehan's is the "pub" - Their bar overlooks the Atrium area where a lot of activities take place so you can drink/eat and be entertained.  Since we ate two meals the afternoon of the first day, we thought we'd just get appetizers at O'Sheehan's as "dinner".  Keep in mind the appetizers you order are single person size, not table size, so the "nachos" were a one person supply.  They also came with the sour cream already poured on them (*Yuck* IMO).  We did go back for lunch later in the week and tried the burgers and fried fish though, and were happier with our choices for lunch.  The fried fish was a thicker cut of proper fish (like you could see the layers separated vs. minced fish of Gorton's).  If you want a view of the activities in the Atrium, plan to come at least 15-30 minutes before the event to grab a chair that directly overlooks if it's a busy cruise week.  We also thought we'd try eating breakfast there one morning, but the fixed breakfast menu was pretty much all egg, no pancakes/waffles.  (Uptown Grill had a small breakfast menu as well that was also very egg-heavy)

  • Taste, Savor, and The Manhattan Room are the complementary (no upcharge) nicer restaurants, and all have the same menu.  We ended up in The Manhattan Room the one night, which differs from Taste and Savor because it has a giant window for an ocean view, and they have a band with dancing after 7:30.  The kids opted to try "grown up" food rather than eat off the kids menu.  Big One has developed a fondness for red meat, and enjoyed his NY strip (although he did snap at me to stop trying to cut his meat for him after he was complaining about grizzle).  Little One tried the rotisserie chicken, but was frustrated that it came slathered in gravy.  For those seeking healthy kid options, they do give the kids the option of a fruit plate as their appetizer or dessert.  For myself, I forget my appetizer but I got the shrimp fried rice which was good.  Yeah, we didn't go back for "fancy" food though because it just wasn't fun with my kids.

  • Alas, we never made it to Shanghai's Noodle Bar - While also complementary, it's was only open for dinner and had an hour wait the night we tried to go.  We promised the kids we'd try to find something similar near home.

  • While we didn't go because, well, we were being frugal, my sister-in-law and her husband who previously traveled on the Breakaway thought it was worth it to do the upcharge for Cagney's Steakhouse, which they described as being Ruth Chris-esque.

  • We did decide to take the kids to the Cirque Dreams & Jungle Fantasy dinner show.  I'll comment on the entertainment portion separately, but the food, while limited menu, was good.  The only entree choice except for asking for the kids' menu was a beef tenderloin (filet mignon) with shrimp billed as "surf and turf" with a mozzerella / tomato / prosciutto plate as an appetizer and selection of mini desserts.  Big One was happy but Little One again wanted to head up to the buffet for a snack after dinner (She again didn't want to eat off the "kids" menu, so I give her credit for trying it!)
Outside of the Breakaway, one meal we ate on our excursion was lunch at the Blue Lagoon Island Beach.  Our excursion price included our lunch:

While not the burger from Uptown Grill, not a bad burger.  You had your choice of beef or chicken burger or I think a veggie burger, fried plantain, French fries, beans & rice, plus grabbing fruit / salad and a single cup of drink.  Plenty to eat and it hit the spot after some beach frolicking, but I'll spend more time talking about Blue Lagoon later.

So in summary, we all came back a little rounder, even with all the stair climbing we did all day on the cruise, because of all the tasty options!

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Part 1: Cruise Purchase, Packing, Embarkment

Since there are plenty of friends out that that might be considering cruising on the Norwegian Breakaway, I thought I'd just put the gory details into a blog post for easy reference rather than answering, "So how was the cruise? Any suggestion if we want to go too?" whenever it comes up.

Sooo...  Why did we go on a cruise?
Our kids have been asking ever since their cousins came back from their trip on the Norwegian Breakaway a few years ago, and my response had always been that such a travel opportunity would be challenging with Big One's egg allergy.  So I always said it was off the table until Big One was cleared for "baked eggs" (muffins, cookies, pancakes, rolls, etc.).  Well, just before Christmas, the allergist cleared him, so their big Christmas present was finding out that we were going on the cruise!

Cruise Purchase

You'd think that Sue the Bargain Hunter would be oh-so-frugal about cruise purchasing, but no - In hindsight, purchasing a cruise Christmas Eve night was a bad move.  We definitely could have paid less about two weeks later.  I went through BJ's Wholesale Club's travel website, which seemed to be the better deal at the time.  So my suggestion is to stalk the Norwegian site for a good deal, or perhaps work with a human being travel agent to help navigate you through finding the better deal.

Oh, an in terms of "what room should I pick" since for most reservations you are picking your exact room, I think our room choice (room #10266) worked out pretty well for us, but some criteria to consider:

  • Balcony or Interior:  We opted for the balcony, which was nice for opening to check temperatures, and sitting when the kids had their "we just want to rest and watch TV" moments (will discuss the minimal TV options later).
  • Forward (front of boat) or Aft (back of boat):  Aft puts you closer to the primary buffet restaurant (Deck 15 Aft) as well as the Breakaway Theater if you are a bingo nut.  With a bottomless stomached tween boy, proximity to the buffet was good!  Forward puts you closer to the waterslides/pool/ropes course/ping pong table (Deck 15 and 16 forward), and the kids club (Deck 12 Forward).
  • Size-wise, we opted for the cheaper balcony room rated for 3-4 people.  I was nervous when we first walked in that I got the wrong room, because all I saw was the "king" sized bed (technically two twins strapped together) and the little couch.  But fear not, your room steward will come each night and pull out a magic top bunk bed for your 4th person to sleep on (see photo below)

Did some research ahead of the cruise and read a few "insider" packing suggestions.  Here are a mix of the ones that helped us the most and ones I'm adding as FYIs from our lessons learned last week:

(1)  Having now spent a week using one of these over the door shoe organizers for sorting toiletries, I will never travel for an extended period with my kids without it.  It's awesome for keeping all the toiletries sorted without taking over the counter space.

(2)  I didn't know ahead of time, but from what I know now:  Just a heads up that they DO have 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner and a separate liquid body soap in dispensers in the shower.  So if you're happy with standard hotel toiletries, it's a few less things to pack.

(3) While talking about the shower area, we grabbed a few big suction hooks that attached perfectly to the glass shower enclosure or the mirror near the sink.  Why would you want suction hooks?  They were perfect for drying bathing suits in limited space!  Another cruise item that is good for use for dry land vacations as well!

(4) Yes, there is a fridge in your room, but it's 80% full from the mini bar.  Enough room for a few mini bottles of Coke or bottled water from home though.  Note: We drank plenty of tap water from the buffet/bars, so personally, other than excursion days, the cases of bottled water that folks bring on board seems silly to me!  We did skip any of the drink "packages" in order to encourage ourselves to drink primarily water.  If we needed non-alcoholic and non-water, there was always lemonade, fruit-flavored waters, iced tea, coffee, and select juices in certain locations that were "free" (built into the cost of the cruise).

(5)  Don't be afraid to use a massive wheeled suitcase - There was a ton of space for storing bags under the one bed.

(6)  They have an deal where if you fill your laundry bag before Thursday morning they will return it Friday with your clothes cleaned.  We actually couldn't find the laundry bag in our room, so we didn't take advantage, but definitely helpful if you didn't pack enough clothes or had an "oops".  They were charging only $19.99 on Norwegian Breakaway, but searching the internet, Norwegian charges $24.95 on some of the other ships.

(7) So one suggestion was strong magnetic hooks like these.  Yes, it's true - The room walls are metal and the magnets can be attached to the wall easy-peasy!   We found that weight-wise though, the hooks we had were just good for lightweight bags and kids' lighter jackets.  We did not get a lot of use out of them, but others might.

(8) I saw a friend had towel clips on a previous vacation, so I looked around on Amazon and ordered a lower fills set of clips as well.  If you haven't seen them, they are like giant clothes pins for keeping your big beach towel on your chair while you're in the pool.  They do come in handy and help for identifying "your" chair, but I must admit the the set we got, multiple clips didn't survive the trip just do to things like kids wanting to use the beach bag as a chair (so they sat on the contents).


So Day 1 of the cruise finally arrived!  My father-in-law has a pickup truck that seats 5, so he generously offered to be our limo driver to/from the cruise terminal.  Driving from NJ, it's maybe 15 blocks total driving from the Lincoln Tunnel.  I am quite far from being a "city" girl, but I think even I could have handled driving the small amount required.  Some mental notes I made:
  • The "scheduled arrival time window" they ask you to register for is not checked as far as I could tell.
  • I think higher class cabins have the option of pre-printing luggage tags.  I saw no such option for our cabin.  So we got tags to write our name/room number on from the baggage guy at the baggage drop off before you enter the terminal.  We even checked an open reusable shopping bag that had about 8 mini-Coke bottles and 6 water bottles in it without a problem.  The bags you checked are brought to your room later that night.  I'd suggest keeping the bag with any medications with you.  If you are cruising out of a port where the temperature is warm enough to swim, you might as well keep the swim suits handy as well.  There will be beach towels available in your room when you get there, so no need to bring your own.
  • Pack a pen, as you are expected to fill out a pre-boarding health questionnaire.  Thankfully Big One's random stomach bug was outside the 48 hour pre-boarding window, or he would have been quarantined the first few days :-(
  • If one of your checked bags does not make it to your room, fear not!  It happened to us.  Just walk down to the guest services desk (Deck 6 Mid, across from the Atrium) and they'll take you to the secret room where the bags that lost their tags go.  I quickly found ours and headed back up to the room.
Will share more about the trip in separate posts, so stay tuned!
Referral Disclaimer:  Nope, no kickback from Norwegian for this.  However, I did include some Amazon links above that will give me a tiny kickback if you purchase through my links.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hillsborough Favorites - Nominations

The more common threads on the local chat groups people looking for recommendations for doctors, restaurants, and other types of business in the greater Hillsborough area (neighboring areas OK, but just keep Hillsborough centric in mind).  The database programmer/analyst has always found it painfully inefficient that folks have to keep asking this stuff over and over. So I thought it would be easier if there was one central place to look up information.

I have created a folder on my Google drive that contains multiple workbooks based on business type.  I will expand the number of files over time, but for the time being, here are the links to the files - Just click the link to add your favorites:

Google Doc Sheets work similar to Excel workbooks, except that, stored up in "the cloud", we can all edit at the same time!  If a cell is being edited by someone else, it will be highlighted and not accessible to you.  Once you leave a cell, your entry is saved to the cloud.  No save button required.

If you are tech savvy enough and want to copy tabs to add more categories, feel free!  This is a collaboration.

You will need to enter data from a PC or download the Google Sheets app to your phone/tablet (Download Android  or iOS here).  You can only read the files on your phone without downloading the app.  Working with it on a PC is easiest if you want to enter data.

I have put in some examples in the Sheets for everyone to get the idea of what I had in mind.


I do not have time to transfer everyone's thoughts myself, nor do I have time to merge multiple rows.  In the positive / critical comments columns, the idea is to group everyone's thoughts in one box, not one row per person.  So just add your thoughts to what is already in the cell.  Do not delete other people's comments.  

I do reserve the right to edit the comments for space and/or inappropriate language - no cursing and keep criticism constructive please even if you really hate the business).

Once there are a good number of entries, I'm planning on setting up some SurveyMonkey surveys so we can then vote on the different categories.  So these spreadsheets are not just a resource reference, they are also nominees for later favorites voting :-)

Have fun!

If you have ideas for other categories, please add them to the comments below.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Koko Fit Club - 50% off 30 Day Trial through Sept. 15th

Hi Everyone!

Wow - It's been ages since I wrote a true blog post.  It's been a busy summer, including my new "hobby".

You see the Koko FitClub Hillsborough Facebook Wall every once in awhile runs a giveaway where they give away 30 and 90 day memberships. Back in May, I won a 30 day membership.  I had seen the vague flyers references to digital trainers, I was intrigued by the flyers, since I'm a computer geek by nature, but as the good bargain hunter than I am, I was leery of any gym that didn't actually have prices published somewhere.  After a spring of feeling weak and out of shape, and years of just not finding other exercise options appealing, I knew it was time to think outside the box.  I'll explain later, but I'm an introvert who also had MAJOR gym class traumas as a kid, so just the idea of a traditional fitness class is really one of the seven levels of hell for me.

So I scheduled my first appointment for June 1st - There were 30 days in the month of June, so June 1st seemed like a logical day to start, right?

So the Koko FitClub fitness side has a few parts:

  1. You start with the eBMI / lean body mass machine - No scales of actual weight here.  Just put your hands on the grips and your bare feet on the pads, and it measures your BMI and your lean body mass.  The bad news is that this method is generally erratic based on the food in your stomach, hydration, etc.  I'm not a huge fan of eBMI, but it is in the ball park of my actual BMI using traditional scale/height based calculations, so I do hop on every once in awhile to see where I am, but honestly, I skip it most of the time.

  2. Koko Cardio - The recommended cardio regimen is 15 minutes of high intensity cardio training on either the ellipticals or the treadmills in the club.  While you can always do your own thing, if you bring your ear buds, you can take one of the MP3 players preloaded with varying options of workouts where you are coached along by Michael Woods, Chief Fitness Officer of Koko FitClub (not to be confused with Mike Woods, the very fit Fox 5 NYC morning weatherman), or one of the other Koko FitClub fitness coaches.  They talk you through the actual stages of your 15 minute session, but also pass along tidbits of info to help with your general fitness, discuss current research in the area of wellness, as well as motivational thoughts on your path to health.  Sometimes, they are just taking you through a plain old workout, but you can also opt for ones where they are talking you through hiking up a certain hill in a town in Italy, or sprinting up the steps at Harvard Stadium (Koko FitClub HQ is in Boston).  You just pick the level (Moderate / Intermediate / Advanced) and then find the workout you want on the playlist.  Fun, but nothing you can just find elsewhere on iTunes, etc., and use at your own gym.

  3. The Koko Smartrainer - This is where is gets interesting, in my opinion.  I've described the Koko Smartrainer to friends/co-workers as WiiFit on steroids.  If you've used WiiFit with the balance board, think of the screen that displays when you are doing a yoga move where it senses where you are and tells you that you're not quite in the right spot based on your weight.  Well, now take the big multi-purpose nautilus equipment you might see in your neighborhood gym, and integrate in a swinging touch panel screen and a computer that senses what position each piece of the nautilus equipment is in at a given time, and you have the Koko Smartrainer.

The Smarttrainer programming includes walking you through the steps of each exercise with little self-help videos you can watch for form.  Your first appointment or two, one of the trainers at the Koko FitClub location you're at will help walk you through new exercises until you get the hang of it yourself, and, if you're at the gym during hours where there is a trainer on-site, then you can ask someone at any time to help you with a particular exercise, not just your first day.  For example, I'm thinking that I haven't been doing my underhand lat pulldowns correctly as it's bother my left wrist, so I may ask one of the trainers the next time I'm in during trainer hours to help me make sure I'm doing it right.

So you may be saying, "So Sue, how's it's going?  Is it working?"

Those who know me in real life know I certainly have weight to lose.  I'm up about 30 pounds from what I weighed when I became pregnant with kid #1 (thank you underactive thyroid that I self medicated with caffeine and chocolate to keep me awake), and that pre-kid weight was already 10 pounds more than "wedding weight" (thank you "traveling consultant eating out too much" weight gain).

First, the not so good news on how I'm doing:  After three months of Kokotraining, I accept that the scale isn't going to significantly until I change my eating habits as well, but I also know that eating habit changes weren't going to work this summer (No lectures, motivational memes, etc. please!).  My kids are actually on the bandwagon, so I think new school year = new menu is coming.  I definitely have noticed better improvement the weeks that I remember to bring salad to work vs. Weight Watchers "Smart Ones" frozen meals.  So I'm trying to stick to the salad.  Koko does have Koko Fuel as part of the program (recommended eating plans).  However, I'm picky eater with an egg allergic kid.  So I need to just sit down and take tidbits from a variety of sources to make something that will work for me and the family.

The good news?
  • My clothes fit better than they did the beginning of the summer.
  • My calves may be as toned as they were in my high school field hockey days - my memory is fuzzy though LOL.  I was a goalie, so I ran around with 10 pounds of leg pads on my legs all season.  So you can imagine my leg muscles weren't wimpy.
  • I think for the first time in, well, ever, I can actually feel the muscles on the underside of my biceps.
  • I'm starting to have abs again as well, although they are still hidden under blubber (We hypos have a hard time losing belly fat!).
  • Rather than huffing and puffing my asthmatic lungs through hilly Busch Gardens Williamsburg last week, I was rarely winded with the exception of climbing 5 flights of stairs up to our hotel room (slow elevator + daughter that loved an excuse to move more).
  • We also went to one of those ropes courses with ziplining.  The one course my rising fourth grade daughter and I did together was definitely rough on the arm muscles.  I actually had to hold onto a trapeze bar and glide down for one of the obstacles.  I never would have had the arm strength to hold myself like that this past spring, but I actually held on the whole way!
  • Looking at photos from last week's vacation, I think I'm finally losing some of the facial puffiness I have had the last few years (which made me hate to see myself in photos).

I'd show photos, but that ropes course beat me up - Lots of bruises!  Maybe if I do a follow up post...

I intentionally didn't take measurements when I started, because I honestly didn't care about those numbers - I cared more about how I felt.  And I can happily report that I *feel* way stronger than I was when my husband, kids, and I went hiking at Hacklebarney this past Memorial Day weekend.  That uphill hike kicked my rear... :-(

Oops, I neglected to mention that the magic computer system tracks all data about you (eBMI, lean muscle mass, cardio workout, and strength training workout history) on a little USB thumb drive.  You plug your thumb drive in a machine in the back that uploads everything to the central system.  Starting with that first appointment your first day, every 12 workouts or so after that, you do a strength test.  The first one is your baseline so the computer can calculate what weights to specify for future workouts.  For your future strength tests, it not only updates the computer on how your doing, but let's you know how far you've come since your baseline.  Also, every 24 workouts, you shift into different regimes.  Your personal profile also includes critical things that may impact your ability to workout.  I don't remember the exact list, but I remember there's a separate routine tract for those who are breast cancer survivors, for example.

So for me, as of my last strength test earlier this month, I'm 33% stronger now than I was.  They have a TV screen in the back of the club that runs motivational quotes plus the current top ranking members.  There are women members with 100+% strength increases though!

I can log onto and see what workouts I've done, as well as check out the details of upcoming workouts.  This is great if you're traveling for work and have access to nautilus equipment in the hotel, as you can just follow one of the workouts on the website.

Yes, the data nerd in me loves the online portal.

Here's what my main portal screen looks like - Yeah, I'll put my BMI out there for the world to see.  It's not shocking if you see me in person that my BMI ain't great.  Just not sharing my actual weight though!

To keep you motivated on your path to fitness, each month that you complete 12 strength training sessions in the club, you get a medallion.  Each training session you complete in the club also earns you points.  Once you hit different point milestones, you earn additional lanyards that your thumb drive hangs off of.  I've earned two medallions (just did my 12th workout for August today, even after being away all last week, so I should get my next medallion in a few days).  I also earned my orange lanyard (50,000 points) just before vacation too (photo of my lanyard below).

I mentioned above that there were times where you can workout when the trainers are there.  And there are times that you can workout where the only people in the room are other members, no employees.  So while the club is open to members from 5 AM - 11 PM, only some of those hours are staffed.  Other times, members like me with all hours access just use a key fob to let ourselves in.  Some people may find this disconcerting from a security perspective.  While the club here in Hillsborough is small (I think seven Smartrainer machines, two ellipticals, and four treadmills), I've rarely been there either by myself or even with just one person.  It's actually pretty hoppin' at 10 PM, because yes, thanks to work and kids, I've been there that late sometimes.

So I mentioned earlier my introvert status - While I'm sure there are extroverts out there that like Koko too, the introvert in me likes that it's smaller and relatively quiet compared to a bigger gym.  I've realized over the years that I actually get overstimulated / anxious when I have to go to busy, loud, or crowded places.  Introvert Sue has also been petrified to walk over to the weight lifting side of the Y for years, even though I've known I should be doing weight training.  If you suggest that going over to an unknown side of a gym should not be a big deal, then you're not an introvert, especially not an introvert that was the chubby, uncoordinated girl in grammar school/junior high gym class.

Aside from my first session when the staff trainer worked with me to make sure I understood the equipment, I've been able to figure out the exercises myself for the most part with the text and videos on the trainer (I only grabbed a trainer once for one exercise because I just couldn't visualize it in my head).  So I just quietly go in, do my thing, and go, with occasional low key chat with whoever is there.  If you're anxious that someone is watching you workout (see my gym class phobias), the reality is that we're all staring at the computer screen either attached to the treadmill/eliptical for proper head position (They tell you to stare at the glowing light on your thumb drive to avoid looking down) or we're staring at the computer screen on the Koko Smartrainer tracking our exercise motion or seeing what the next exercise is.

The bargain hunter in me must admit, that Koko isn't cheap.  For the plan I'm on (full gym access, cardio, and strength training), it's running ~$105 per month with tax.  But it's also the first gym membership I've paid that hasn't been primarily "fat tax", and being healthy is way cheaper in the long term than being unhealthy.  I had to commit to a full year membership when I signed on, but in good bargain hunter fashion, I signed on when I could take advantage of getting 13 months for the price of 12 (an offer they give you two weeks into your 30 day trial membership).

So like the blog post title says, until September 15, 2015, Koko FitClub here in Hillsborough is running a promotion where can get the 30 day trial membership, normally $30, for 50% off if a member friend brings you in.  I'm more than happy to be your "friend" if you're interested in checking it out. I'm not 100% sure if I truly have to walk you in, or if you just have to say that I sent you though.  And if the regular monthly fee isn't in your budget, even doing the 30 day trial may help you up your game at your favorite less expensive gym.

Referral disclosure: If you start your trial membership as my friend, fall in love with it like I did and sign on for a full year, I do get a free month of membership for me for referring you.  But like my friends who discovered fitness regimes that clicked for them in the last year, I'm mainly sharing all this in case there's someone out there like me who hasn't connected with other kinds of gyms.  And because Introvert Sue doesn't feel like talking and explaining the whole thing in person some times, so this way I can just tell everyone to "see my post" ;-)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Virgin Mobile - New smartphone plans including $20 WiFi only plan

For years, my husband has kept his little clamshell flip phone from Virgin Mobile, even though most of our peers, including myself, had moved onto smartphones long ago.  Why?  Simple math.  He rarely used his phone for calling, and our old grandfathered Virgin Mobile plan was a straight 20 cents per minute, with only a minimum top up of $20 every 3 months.  So we were only paying ~$80 PER YEAR for his phone (plus tax), not $80 per month like some smartphone plans.

A few weeks ago, he declared he had finally given up and wanted to upgrade as his Christmas present.  The good news?  I had happened to be looking at Virgin Mobile's site that day, and they had revised their smartphone plans.  There was a new $20 per month "WiFi only" plan.  300 minutes of voice and unlimited texting, but no data plan at all.  95% of the time, my husband is at work (high school with WiFi) or home (also with WiFi).  With the growing number of businesses offering complementary WiFi, it's rare that he'd be wishing he had a data plan.  (Of course, he's not an internet addict like me.)  But this new plan made the decision a no brainer for us.

We'll keep you posted on how the new phone/plan go, but in case anyone else wants to check Virgin's new plans, click here.  If you join now, we BOTH get a $25 account credit!

And if you're wondering what phone we got him:

Merry Christmas Daddy!

Referral Disclosure:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Join me on ibotta and Snap by Groupon

The last few weeks, I've really embraced the whole "take a photo of your receipt with your phone and earn cash" apps, particularly ibotta and Snap by Groupon.   I just "cashed out" my $10 on ibotta (sent to PayPal) and am working my way toward the $20 cash out minimum for Snap.  It does take a little practice snapping photos of your receipts, but you get the hang of it!

If you haven't tried but want to, check them out here:


              Snap by Groupon

Referral Disclosure:

CHEAP DVD night: Amazon Lightning Deals Thursday 11/27/2014

If you're like me and the idea of Black Friday crowds is really unappealing, here's the list of DVDs coming up on Lightning Deal tonight. Based on my $4 acquisition of The Lego Movie, these DVDs are looking priced to MOVE!

7:20 PM ET:

8:20 PM ET:

9:20 PM ET:

10:20 PM ET: