Archive for the ‘Gifts’ Category

Hotwire, hot deal!

After researching several hotels (all 4-5-star properties, all at least $175-$200+ per night) for my parents, I decided to give Hotwire.com a try.

For those unfamiliar with Hotwire.com, it’s a travel site that operates on an “opague” or “blind” model. Hotwire.com’s reservation system tells you the general location of a property and its rating, but not its name or address. So instead of Fancy Hotel at 123 Ocean Street, you’d get the information such as 4.5-star hotel in Waterfront District, amenties include Spa, Tennis, Restaurant, etc. prior to booking.

This time, I got lucky. I managed to book the Omni Hotel for a Saturday night for $90(!). Add on another 15% in taxes and fees, and the total bill still comes to below $110. A quick look on the hotel’s website shows that the best available rate is $219/night.

My parents is getting a night at a luxurious hotel. I am paying a price that’s 50% off the published rate. This is what I call a win-win situation. 🙂

Hotwire.com is not for everyone. It’s certainly NOT flexible and NOT for someone who has an exact hotel in mind (the change/cancel policy is simple – there is none! It’s impossible to change your reservation once you’ve clicked “Confirm”).

If you are willing to be a bit more flexible with hotel selection and are sure about your trip, give it atry. I’ve booked rooms through Hotwire twice now, and both times have been satisfied with the hotels I’ve been received.

Do you use Hotwire.com? What has been your experience?


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How’s that for alliteration?! 😉

For June (combination Father’s Day and Dad’s birthday), I’m sending my parents to a weekend getaway.

Even though Mom and Dad explicitly told me that they “don’t need to stay in a nice hotel,” I feel weird sending them to anywhere that’s less than 4 stars.

It’s not that I’m a hotel snob, I’d stay quite happily at budget hotels or a hostel. But this is supposed to be a gift. To my parents. It’s suppose to be luxurious.

I don’t think they’d mind staying at a nice, 3 star place. Yet, a night at the local inn just doesn’t say “present” to me.

So because of a self-imposed threshhold on quality, location, and service, I’m looking at hotels in the $200/night range.

Thank goodness it’s for only one night!

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That’s right…. another giveaway is here. 🙂

From the nice folks at TJ Maxx and Marshalls:

This spring, we are inviting you to join shoppers everywhere in a national spending intervention (“Spendervention“) to stop spending too much on fashion and beauty products.  T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are hoping to show people that there is a better way to shop for spring! You don’t have to sacrifice quality or spend tons of money to get designer goodies and beauty products. Especially this season, it’s going to be easy to look on a budget!

I’ll be moving into my own place soon, and I can’t wait to decorate (but prudently, on a budget, i.e. my own spendervention). That’s why I’m so excited about TJ Maxx and Marshalls, two great discount stores with lots of housewares and home products. I’m thinking: new towels, bathroom accessories, maybe some decorative pieces such as mirrors and vases. There’s also a bright new kitchen to furnish, so plates, utensils, and cookery are on my to-buy list as well!

I’m giving away one $25 gift card to TJ Maxx for a reader to enjoy his/her own spendervention experience.

To enter, please leave a comment in this post on what deals you’d like to get with the $25. Please only leave one comment per person. All entries are due by 7 PM PST or 10 PM EST Wednesday, May 27.

Thanks, and good luck!

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Mom’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Dad’s birthday all in a span of less than two months.

We’re not a big gift-giving family, so when I was younger we didn’t really exchange gifts in the family (I did get cash for birthday/Christmas). But now that I’m working, I feel a responsibility to actually give, you know, real gifts. $5.99 picture frames, which I brought with my allowance (i.e. Mom’s money), will no longer cut it.

But my parents aren’t big shoppers – and Mom hates clutter. So I’ve found that the best gifts are experiences that they wouldn’t spend on themselves.

So in June, in time for Father’s Day and Dad’s birthday, I’ll send them on a weekend getaway (paying for the hotel. Same system as the Christmas present). In the meantime, I checked hotwire.com to see what deals I can get. My budget is $125/night. A quick search reveals some 4 star hotels that fit my price range. Perfect!

You know what’s really exciting? I think I’m done figuring out what’s a good gift for my parents. EVER. There is always a weekend getaway or a bed-and-breakfast retreat or a vacation or a cruise to go on. I am now set for life with my gifting ideas. 😉

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Thanks to one of Marshall’s awesome PR reps, I am hosting my FIRST EVER blog giveaway with a $50 gift card.

If you haven’t heard of The CUBE, you should check it out. It’s a “boutique” section built right inside Marshalls with shoes, accessories, and clothes.

Marshalls and The CUBE has teamed up with Kelly (aka Liam) of “OMG Shoes”. Kelly’s latest song will be available to download for free on this CUBE Facebook application: http://www.facebook.com/CUBE. Here’s the link to the video itself:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_YvesLycys

Marshalls is one of my favorite places to shop (and where I got these cute Nine West heels), so I’m very happy that one of my readers will get to go shopping… for free! 🙂

To enter:

1. Post a comment here about your favorite find at Marshalls. Or, if you haven’t shopped there before, tell us what you would LIKE to find.

2. Please be sure to include your email address (it will be private – only I can see it) so I can contact you if you win.

The winner will be determined by lottery (i.e. random selection) in a week. All comments must be in by 7PM Pacific Monday, May 4. I will announce the winner Tuesday.

Good luck!

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One of my favorite coworkers (who is not only smart and funny and great to work with, but also has amazing style) just moved into a new apartment, and I’d like to get her a little something to celebrate her new place.

I’m thinking of scented candles, tea samplers (but not really sure what kind she likes), teapot & cups, or maybe a throw for her couch (but then I don’t know her color scheme).

I’m hoping for something $15-$20.

What says you?

Edit: Thank you for all your suggestions! I decided on a set of ceramic Japanese tea cups painted with different designs (flowers, a boat, etc.). My coworker seemed to really like them – or she’s just super polite!

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas long weekend! Me? I’m already looking forward to New Year’s!

There’s something about the holidays (all that generosity and goodwill towards men?) that makes me want to splurge on loved ones and – I admit it – myself.

So I was a good consumer this weekend, even I only bought a pair of pants and a pair of tights from The GAP (both of which I can pretty much honestly say I needed). Every store was screaming deals Deals DEALS!, so much so that I think I’ve come down with a case of deals fatigue.

But what I lacked in purchasing stuff I more than made up by splurging on experience: a facial! The day after Christmas, I bypassed the malls and headed to a dermatologist’s office, where I underwent my first facial. There was warm steam and scrubs and treatment creams. The technician used some type of invigorating mask with “oxygen plasma” in the ingredients list.

So indulgent, but it’s a gift to myself.

Even though I’ve been spending more than usual this month, I can put $500+ from my last paycheck of the year and meet my stretch goal. I’m also expecting a bonus from work. So that makes me feel better about spending more money here and there. Less guilt = more spending.

Even the recession can’t provide much deterrent. To be honest, I’m also feeling the recession fatigue – yes, it’s all going downhill faster than you can say “global economic crisis”, but I can’t control that.

So instead of wondering about my portfolio, I threw on a cheery coat, got a facial, and then had tapas with one of my oldest girlfriends. We spent 3 hours talking, laughing and commiserating – my Sex and the City day, I call it. 😉 And the best part is that I know, 20 Christmases from now, we’ll still be a couple of girls women delighting in good food and great company.

What was/will be your holiday indulgence this year? Do you feel more inclined to spend on yourself during the holidays?

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2 nights at Mandalay Bay for my parents over Christmas: $300

Being able to treat my parents to a nice hotel? Fully awesome! (if you do not get this reference, you need to see Bolt.)

I haven’t expected to give such a big gift this year, but when I was talking to Mom over the phone last night, she mentioned that she and my dad are going to Vegas for a weekend after Christmas.

Now, this is a pretty big deal for my parents. From the time I was 12 to the time I graduated college, I don’t think they’ve ever taken more than a couple of days for themselves. They saved vacation days for family visits / caretaking duties overseas. They saved their money for my college education expenses and down payments and retirement funds.

So when I heard about the Vegas trip, I was so excited. I decided that the best gift I can give this Christmas is to treat them to a nice hotel. I originally thought about putting them up at the Venetian, but Mom vetoed the idea because it was too expensive (over $450 for the same two nights). The Mandalay Bay is still nice, just a little far from the center of the Strip, but Mom said she didn’t mind the drive.

So, Mandalay it is.

And the funny thing is? The part that really makes me smile? Is that I know my mom will tell her relatives and friends about this, and that in addition to all the enjoyment she will get out of her luxury hotel, she will also get to feel like she raised a good daughter.

And that? Is money well spent.

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Ever since I first sniffed at a bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume at a department store makeup counter, I’ve coveted the lush fragrance. The scent reminds me of a huge bouquet of gardenias floating on water. I kept thinking maybe I should just get it for myself, but the $80 price tag always held me back a little. Every time I go into Sephora I’d dab some on my wrists.


Well, last week when CB and I were at Marshalls, he saw a Marc Jacobs gift set marked down to $35. It’s the exact same as what’s retailing at Macy’s right now (3.4 fl oz Eau de Parfum Spray, 5.1 fl oz Body Lotion, Deluxe Mini Perfume – minus the tote).

So of course I was excited that CB showed me the set. He said he was going to get it for me for our anniversary – which means I have to wait until February to get it?! (But it’s okay. That will give him a chance to wrap the gift). He was a bit disappointed because he wouldn’t be able to surprise me, but it would’ve been quite difficult for him to smuggle the box out of the store without me noticing!

I am happy because:
1. He remembers our anniversary.
2. He remembers from our past conversations (or my hint-dropping) that I like Marc Jacobs perfume.
3. I’ll be wearing “lush gardenias and creamy musks” for our anniversary dinner!
4. It’s a fantastic deal.

In one fell swoop, CB won over both the romantic AND the bean-counter in me. Love – ain’t it grand?

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Christmas shopping

Many people worry about gift-giving during Christmas time, but I never do. My entire extended family is pretty small, and they all live outside of my city, and many live outside of the country. My immediate family is not very big on the whole holiday celebration (I think we’ve stopped having a Christmas tree after I turned 13 or 14).

As for friends, I usually only send Christmas cards – there hasn’t been a tradition of gift-giving among us (except for Secret Santa during college). Even for my birthdays / Christmas, I’ve received cash as opposed to gifts from my parents.

So Christmas for me is usually fairly low-key in terms of gifting. I usually buy 3-4 gifts: something for CB, something for his mom (usually a Starbucks card), something for my parents (maybe some movie tickets so they can finally go on a “date”), and… maybe something for my aunt. But really, that’s it. Christmas shopping rarely costs me more than $200-$300. Actually, I don’t think it ever has.

It’s nice not stressing about buying gifts for the holidays.

How much do you usually spend for the holidays? And do you ever stress about buying the perfect gift for a loved one?

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