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living on less

Getting the Best Black Friday Prices with #LessStress

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 21, 2014 · 1 comment

We've seen a number of store release their Black Friday ads this week... Have you started planning your Black Friday shopping trip, yet?

I actually have a very short list of items that we're considering braving the crowds for this year, but I'll be honest, it's been many years since we've done the whole shop-till-you-drop Black Friday thing. I've witnessed some crazy behavior, including a couple of grown women fighting over some Fisher-Price toys that, in my opinion, weren't even that spectacular of a deal...

To be fair, I've also seen incredible kindness from perfect strangers. But the thing is, the retail landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years, and I'm not convinced that hitting the stores on Black Friday is necessarily going to net you the biggest discount in all cases.

So what's changed that can help us all save money while avoiding some of the craziness???

Stores are offering Black Friday prices earlier.

Many stores are choosing to start offering Black Friday-esque pricing well before the day after Thanksgiving -- and many are continuing the deals on through Cyber Monday. For instance, Staples is offering two full weeks of Black Friday deals this year, starting on November 16th. You'll also find many stores are opening the evening of Thanksgiving Day to give shoppers an early start on their shopping.

Create your own pre-Black Friday deals with these just-released Staples coupons:

  • 20% off everything you can fit in the bag, in-store only. Exclusions apply. Valid Nov. 23- Nov. 25.
  • 25% one full priced item, in-store only. Valid only on Nov. 26.

Stores are offering Black Friday pricing online.

If you can’t find the time to get out, you can always shop online! If you're using this strategy, be sure to search for free shipping codes and discount promo codes on Google! And if you're a member of any cashback sites, check them as well to see if you can earn an extra discount. Another little known tip -- some stores allow you to purchase online and pick the item up in stores, allowing you to skip those long checkout lines!

Shop these hot Staples deals both in-stores and online:

  • Kaspersky Internet Security (1 user) $0.01 after Easy Rebate (reg. $59.99, customer pays $45.01, Easy Rebate for $45)
  • $79 APPLE TV (reg. $99.99)
  • $39.99 Android 7-inch tablet from JLab, 8GB (save $30)
  • $99.99 Samsung Galaxy Tablet Lite (save $40)
  • $25 Visa Prepaid Card by mail with purchase of wearable tech (including Fitbit and Jawbone)

Stores are extending Black Friday pricing through the weekend.

I know many of you prefer to be able to actually see and feel products in person, so shopping online might not be for you. Or maybe you just really want to be able to talk with a knowledgeable associate to assist you in making an informed decision. Many stores will be extending Black Friday pricing or introducing new sales all weekend long, and you might have better luck in being able to get some personal assistance if you skip the big day and head into stores then!

I'm not sharing any of this to discourage you from shopping on Black Friday -- there are definitely some big savings on the agenda. But if you're looking for a less stressful approach to Black Friday shopping, consider some of these alternative strategies that will help you stretch your holiday budget while saving your sanity!

I'm so pleased to be partnering with Staples again this holiday season as part of the Staples Holiday Council! Their ultimate goal this holiday season is to "make less stress, more savings happen." Staples will be offering great deals (including exclusive offers!) throughout the holiday season, helping you get more for less!

This post is brought to you by Staples. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Empowering Girls with CoverGirl and Walmart #GirlsCan

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 20, 2014 · 0 comments

Let me tell you a little story... Shortly after graduating from college, I took a position as an account manager with a company that produced resume databases for university MBA programs to sell to recruiters. We're talking top notch programs -- Harvard, Yale, and Cornell among them. Schools that turn down more applicants than they accept and command a hefty price tag for enrollment.

One of my responsibilities was to proof the scanned resumes of graduating students to ensure that the formatting was preserved during the conversion process. In doing so, I learned a great deal about what comprises an appealing resume, and I also learned a lot about what not to include -- like details on your extensive baseball hat collection (true story).

But the one thing that I noticed that really bothered me was that the vast majority of the women in these programs, obviously brilliant, hardworking, and deserving women, used only their first and middle initials on their resumes. Because it's a sad fact that even in this day and age, there are still recruiters that will automatically screen a woman out of the running for a position based solely on the fact that she's female, without even considering her qualifications.

Though I wasn't ready to have a family at that time, I remember thinking that there's no way any future daughters I might have would ever have to hide behind their initials for any reason. And so when I did eventually have two girls, I gave them both names that are pretty gender neutral.

I don't ever want them to be told that they can't do whatever it is they want to achieve simply because they were born a female.

That's why I adore the #GirlsCan campaign that Walmart and CoverGirl are collaborating on! If you haven't seen the commercial, you can watch it above. It's all about promoting the empowerment of women and is packed with strong women that I would totally encourage my girls to look up to as role models, women who have stood up in the face of adversity and said, "I can do that!" Together, we all need to encourage girls to break down barriers and turn "can’t" into "can."

But the program is actually about more than that. Both Walmart and CoverGirl have committed to donating $50k each to Dress for Success, a not-for profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help. Since their start in 1997, Dress for Success has helped more than 775,000 women worldwide! Learn more about Dress for Success, at

So how can you help support this movement? Look for specially marked limited edition packages of COVERGIRL Flamed Out Mascara and Pro Mascara on the #GirlsCan tower at your local Walmart, and share your #GirlsCan moments on social media!

Has anyone ever told you that you couldn't do something just because you’re a girl?

Walmart Moms Disclosure


This holiday season you can pick up FREE holiday cards while you're shopping Staples' amazing Black Friday deals! All part of Staples' Make Less Stress, More Savings Happen commitment, they're definitely taking Black Friday to a new level this year...

Staples FREE Holiday Cards w/ Purchase

Make any in-store purchase on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday, and you'll receive a voucher for 25 FREE 5x7 matte holiday photo cards! You'll receive a voucher for your free cards at checkout, which can be redeemed through December 13th.

Need more than 25 cards? Of course, you can count on Staples to have you covered! Customers will also receive an additional 30 percent off any orders over 25 cards, and you'll receive your photo card order the same day when you order in stores.

If you haven't had a chance to take a peek at Staples' new holiday card designs, you should do so now. They have a seriously impressive and beautiful selection of cards just waiting to be customized.

Staples Black Friday Deals

Staples is launching an unprecedented two weeks of Black Friday deals! The first-ever Black Friday Week for Business starts on November 16 with amazing deals in store and online. Deals for the week of November 16 (while supplies last) include:

  • $499.99 after easy rebate HP 14” touch screen laptop with i3 Intel Processor (save $150), and in-store.
  • $399.99 Dell Inspiron Windows 7 Desktop with i3 Intel Processor (save $150), and in-store.
  • $89.99 2 TB Toshiba Hard Drive (save $20), and in-store.
  • $21.99 after easy rebate case of Hammermill Copy Paper (save $32), in-store only.

For those of you who are really just here for the Staples Black Friday deals, I won't make you wait any longer... Check out these hot deals that will be available November 27-28 in stores and/or on, while supplies last:

  • Kaspersky Internet Security (1 user) $0.01 after Easy Rebate (reg. $59.99, customer pays $45.01, Easy Rebate for $45), and in-store
  • $79 APPLE TV (reg. $99.99), and in-store
  • $99.99 Asus laptop with Intel Inside Processor (save $150), in-store only
  • Free Kindle e-reader after easy rebate (reg. $79) with any laptop purchase over $399, in-store only
  • $39.99 Android 7-inch tablet from JLab, 8GB (save $30), and in-store
  • $99.99 Samsung Galaxy Tablet Lite (save $40), and in-store
  • $25 Visa Prepaid Card by mail with purchase of wearable tech (including Fitbit and Jawbone), and in-store

Check out the Staples Black Friday ad for dozens more incredible deals on laptops, tablets and more!

Not sure what time you need to be in line to snag these awesome savings? Visit for local store listings and hours.

Staples Beyond Black Friday

Even after Black Friday is in the books, Staples will be helping you make less stress happen every day with:

  • Extended holiday hours in most locations. Visit for listings and hours.
  • Price Match Guarantee both in-store and online.
  • Risk Free Purchase with an extended holiday return policy.
  • New Staples Mobile App is faster with redesigned Weekly Ad page to showcase the best in-store deals and ability to view deals by category.
  • Daily Deals on the online storefront.
  • Free Shipping from for Staples Rewards members plus up to 5 percent back in Staples Rewards on everything including technology.
  • Ship 7 Days a Week with package drop off and associate assistance.
  • Shop from kiosk for items not found in store.

So which deal is going to have you lining up bright and early to shop at Staples this year?

I'm so pleased to be partnering with Staples again this holiday season as part of the Staples Holiday Council! Their ultimate goal this holiday season is to "make less stress, more savings happen." Staples will be offering great deals (including exclusive offers!) throughout the holiday season, helping you get more for less!

This post is brought to you by Staples. All opinions are 100% mine.


Virgin Custom Mobile: Parental Controls That Work

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 12, 2014 · 1 comment

I got my first cell phone when I was 20 years old... And do you know what I did with it? Well, besides playing Snake when I was bored -- I called people. That's it. There was no such thing as instant access to the World Wide Web. I couldn't text message 24/7 with my friends. Heck, it barely got voice service most of the time!

What it boils down to is times have changed dramatically in a very short period of time, and the average age that kids start getting cell phones these days is decreasing rapidly. I swore that my kids wouldn't get phones until they were at least 13 years old, but then we moved to a new neighborhood and the walkie-talkies we had used previously weren't cutting it anymore. So all but my 6 year old have them, and not one of them is 13 yet...

Cell phones are powerful gadgets, and getting one for a child should not be taken lightly. Ground rules must be set on everything from when they have permission to use it, who they can interact with, how much data/messaging they can use, and on and on. Thankfully, many cell phone providers have been listening and are now providing parents with tools they can use to manage their children's devices.

One such provider is Virgin Mobile, who recently sent me the LG Unify phone, which has their parental control software preinstalled. The LG Unify is an Android smartphone, available exclusively at Walmart. Reasonably priced at $129.99, it runs on the Sprint Virgin Mobile prepaid network.

What I really like about the Virgin Custom Mobile service, is that it's truly customizable. While most prepaid plans offer a package deal, with Virgin's plan, you load the phone with a prepaid card, known as a Top-Up card, and you're then given the option to build a monthly plan by choosing your minutes, text messages, and data separately.

The Virgin Custom Mobile base plan starts at $6.98 and includes 20 minutes of talk and 20 text messages. Adding talk minutes and text messages is pretty reasonable -- 250 minutes is an additional $3 per month and unlimited text messaging is only an additional $10. Data is where you'll take a hit, with a 3GB plan coming in at $34, although this is competitive with other carriers.

By installing the Virgin Custom Mobile app on your phone, the primary user has complete control over each member's plan usage. Change it throughout the month as your needs change, and you can even create a monthly shared plan that can cover up to a total of five members. And you don't even have to be a Virgin Mobile user yourself! I have an iPhone with a plan through AT&T, and I was able to download and manage the LG Unify phone via the app, which is available for both iOS and Android.

In addition to managing your plan, what I found to be particularly compelling is the parental controls section. Virgin has really given parents a ton of flexibility here, allowing you to set a curfew or restricted hours for usage, determine who can call or text your child, and even drill down to the app level, allowing you to to set which apps can be used and when.

Parental controls are no substitute for having an ongoing open dialog with your kids about Internet safety and limits, but they definitely provide a little extra peace of mind!

Virgin Custom Mobile currently offers parental controls preinstalled on the LG Unify, LG Pulse, and ZTE Emblem, and all of these devices are currently available exclusively at Walmart. You can also purchase Top-Up cards starting at $6.98 (the cost of a Virgin Custom Mobile base plan).

So what's the bottom line? If you're in the market for a good starter phone with stellar parental controls or just a decent budget-friendly phone with a customizable plan, these offerings from Virgin Custom Mobile are an excellent choice!

Does your child have a cell phone? And if so, how are you currently monitoring their usage?

Quick purchase links:

Walmart Moms Disclosure

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Thank a Veteran Today on the Walmart Wall of Honor

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 11, 2014 · 0 comments

Do you have a veteran you'd like to thank today? Last year, Walmart created an online Wall of Honor to support and share about the veterans in their lives. They've continued the Wall of Honor this year, and it is now the largest virtual community of its kind!

If you'd like to thank a veteran today, Walmart has made posting photos, videos or text to honor your favorite veteran really easy. Simply tag Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts with the hashtag #WallofHonor and it will automatically aggregate on the site:

But don't worry if you don't have one of these social media accounts! You can also navigate directly to the Wall of Honor site and upload a photo or submit text directly. There's no need to create an account or jump through any hoops!

If you haven't heard about Walmart's Welcome Home Commitment, it's a great complement to the Wall of Honor. Walmart will hire any honorably discharged veteran who wants a job with them in his or her first 12 months off active duty. In addition, they've stated that they intend to hire 100,000 veterans by 2018. That's a pretty amazing number, isn't it?

But even more amazing is that, in the past year since this initiative was announced on Memorial Day of 2013, Walmart has already hired 67,000+ veterans, putting them on the path to reaching that target number in 2015! And in addition, over 5,000 of those veterans that have been hired have already been promoted to higher positions.

Keep in mind that Walmart isn't just about being a retail associate! They're offering positions in transportation, logistics, management and more, so if you know a qualified veteran who's searching for a position with long-term potential, please point them to the Careers With A Mission page and follow on Twitter @WalmartVeterans.

Have you thanked your favorite veteran for Veterans Day today?

Walmart Moms Disclosure