Hunting for Black Friday Deals

‘Tis the season for Black Friday deals, nearly a month in advance of the actual event!

For online shoppers, that’s great news, but it can be a bit daunting to suddenly receive a flood of emails in your inbox,  with each one trying to sell you something.

To help you navigate this tide of temptation, I’ve decided to share some things I’ve learned that help me to find the best online Black Friday deals now.

Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week – Deals Everyday on Amazon!

Black Friday Deals:  All Month Long

Just finished with Halloween and looking at buying holiday gifts?  That’s what the retailers are hoping you’ll do!  Both online and off, this is when most of the large retailers make or break their year, so Black Friday deals are available now.

From my stand point, this is good.  It allows me to make a gift list and budget, and start picking up gifts over the course of a couple months.

 I know that holiday themed items ( candy, lights, decorations, and similar) will be half off almost immediately after Thanksgiving.  If I have gifts I want to give that include ornaments or decorative dinnerware, I wait until after Thanksgiving to buy them, expecting to pay at least 50% Off.  Kohl’s, Target, and Macy’s have all had tremendous savings on holiday items like these, immediately after Black Friday.

Big ticket items like electronics can be a bit more difficult because it’s tough to know when to pull the trigger. Low deal prices are available now, but wanting to get special bundles, gift card promos and knowing that the included warranty coverage starts the day I purchase it, I wait as long as possible to buy.  I research the items I want to buy, taking note of their current prices and what I want to pay when deal shopping.  I also choose an alternative item, just in case I don’t find the first one at the right price.

If you’re looking to buy newly released electronic items like the just released Apple iPad or the Xbox One, expect to pay the price for the latest and greatest.  No great deals will come around on these items, but shortages or shipping delays may occur, so feel confident that whenever you buy it will be OK.

This year the best Black Friday deals online regarding electronics will undoubtedly be in that $200-$400 range, with laptops, 40″ plus HDTVs, PS3 and XBox 360 bundles leading the pack.

Getting started earlier, means a more leisurely shopping experience for you, with Black Friday deals available from now through the end of the year.

Tips for Happy Hunting

1. Sign up for newsletters at your favorite retailers online, to receive info on sales and promotions.  Use a web-based email like Gmail for these sign-ups to eliminate receiving large amounts of ad laden emails in your primary inbox.

2. Use free apps to learn about new Black Friday deals.

3. Make a gift list with possible gifts for your family and friends, and use it as a guide. (I do a spreadsheet in Google Drive and fill it in as a shop.) This will help you avoid buying things you don’t need just because they were such a great deal!

4. Research big ticket items. Know what the current sale prices and specs are, and decide what you’ll be willing to pay for the item.  If possible, have an alternate item in mind and be aware of warranties. Black Friday deals will be available now through the end of the year on items like furniture, vehicles and electronics.  If you’re spending a lot and may have the opportunity to haggle, you need to know the specifics.

5. Be open to factory refurbished items for greater savings.  Works well with electronics and small home appliances. The Apple Store is my favorite for these items, as their factory refurbished items are like brand new with the same warranty as new.  You can also purchase these deals in advance of Black Friday, and get the same pricing as on that day.

6. Make a budget, and stick to it.  This is the toughest part for me, but having specific amounts assigned to each person helps a lot.  I see it as a challenge.  How do I get the most for my money and still give a gift that I’d be happy to receive myself?  Having no debt after Christmas with a little bit to play with at the year end sales events is a nice perk.

7. Don’t forget to check the Daily Deals.  Many sites have them, and the Savvy Sleuth has easy access to several that you can check in one convenient place!

8. Keep it real.  While it’s nice to give extravagant gifts, it shouldn’t be what the season of giving is all about.  Make sure that in your hunt for bargains you also pick up a few gifts to give to those in need and be grateful that you have the means to do so.  Satisfying the soul and the urge to hunt at the same time!

My iPad and iPhone Update iOS 7

My iPad and iPhone Update iOS 7

The Time Is Now

apple iphone update

You’ll either love it or hate it, but there’s no doubt that the newest Apple operating system for mobile devices (iOS 7) is making its presence felt as the latest and greatest iPad, iPod Touch and  iPhone update.

Unlike many of my friends I waited a few days to attempt to update my iPad 3, iPad mini, and iPhone 4S with iOS 7.

The primary reason was that with any new operating system there are a few glitches to be worked out, and I didn’t feel like being a guinea pig with this one. Second, to try and get this update off the servers which were being bombarded by eager Apple addicts would have led to a great deal of frustration, and who needs that?

With the launch over and the weekend here, I began the process of updating to iOS 7. This is my review of the process and the outcome.

iOS 7 update complete

How To Update To iOS 7

On each Apple mobile device (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) you have an app icon called ‘Settings’.  Touch it and then within Settings touch ‘General’ and finally ‘Software Update’ to begin a process than can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending upon your WiFi connection and the number of users seeking the update off the Apple servers at the same time as you.

Your device will restart at least twice and then a Welcome screen will guide you through the rest of set-up.  Data (apps and settings) should remain the same as when you left it.

For me, this process worked flawlessly on all of my devices.  I did run into one issue with my iPad 3 when I was told that the update would take up 3.3GB  when installed (despite saying 700MB for the download), and that I needed to lose a few apps on my 16GB iPad before it could install.  (Yet another reason I wish iPads had microSD slots!)

NOTE:  If you want to back-up your device to iCloud following your update (previous back-ups using iOS 6 or earlier won’t work so you’ll want to do this immediately after upgrading), you’ll need to make sure you have the current version of iTunes (11.1) installed on your PC.

iOS 7 update

First Use iOS 7: The Good

I didn’t want to be overly impressed based upon a new look.  What’s under the hood has always been more important to me, but I was pleasantly surprised when I began using iOS 7.

Faster app performance, smoother transitions when opening and closing apps, and the addition of fun features, most notably – iTunes Radio.

To keep new features from zapping battery life I immediately turned off Location Services, and nixed a few items in the Notification Center.   In General I turned off ‘Background App Refresh’ too.  Brightness settings were at about 30% and stayed that way when the iOS updated.

A cool feature that allows for automatic updates of music, apps and updates can be found in Settings, iTunes & App Store.  Sort of a ‘set it and forget it’ solution to those annoying update reminders for apps.

TIP: I highly recommend playing in Settings every now and then.  It’s a great way to figure out tweaks that help you to customize your device so that it’s most useful to you.

First Use iOS 7: The Bugs

Ok, so it’s not all good. I did note that some apps shut down unexpectedly and that tapping on the screen sometimes resulted in nothing happening. Frustrating when using the camera, but  I expect those bugs will be resolved with future iOS 7 and app updates.

I also noted that on my PC when I went to view the Photo Stream (now in iCloud Photos), I couldn’t view the file name to grab a file.  I had to open My Pictures on my Windows PC to get them from there.  

Would I Recommend It?

Yes, I’d recommend updating your Apple devices to IOS 7. Despite the bugs, iOS 7’s look is brighter and it offers fun, useful additions. It’s also the one that Apple is currently working diligently on so you know any quirks will be quickly addressed.

Being able to put an unlimited number of apps in a folder, enjoying moving wallpapers, changing up how you hear your notifications with additional sounds, and pull up menu for easy access to your camera and often used settings are my favorite new features, with more to come I’m sure.

As mentioned before, iTunes Radio is a sweet addition that works like Pandora Radio, but better!   It’s free and saves your customized stations, to be listened to on all your devices – including Apple TV with a new software update, found on your Apple TV Settings menu.

I find that for me, there’s far more to like about iOS 7 than to grouse about.  I’m glad I chose to install the update on all my Apple iOS devices, and I look forward to enjoy new features and zippy performance with iOS 7 under the hood.

iPhone 5, 5S, & 5C Accessories on Amazon

 

Hair One Cleansing Conditioner Review

hair one hair

If you’re like me and are constantly on the hunt for the perfect hair care products for your fuzzy hair, you’ll appreciate Hair One and their line of cleansing conditioners.  Used like a shampoo, these products are similar to the Wen hair care line that sells for 4 to 5 times as much.

My favorite is this one: Hair One Cleanser and Conditioner with Argan Oil for Curly Hair 12 oz, which I’ve used for the past year.

 

This product goes on more like a conditioner than a traditional shampoo, and doesn’t create a foamy lather. Instead it is worked into the hair; massaged into the scalp to the tips of the hair strands, and left on for a few minutes before rinsing it out.

At first it seemed like I was just slathering on heavy conditioner.  After about a week though, it was apparent that my hair was just as clean as when I used the traditional shampoo followed by conditioner, and much more moisturized.  It had been looking and feeling very dry, despite multiple conditioning treatments prior to using Hair One.

I was impressed with how smooth and shiny my color treated, forty-something, 30-40% gray hair became using this product after just a few days.  I had been experiencing hair loss and breakage, as well as frizzy, unruly, bad hair days with other products – even some very expensive ones.

Watching QVC one night I stumbled across Wen products. Intrigued by the maker’s promises, but taken aback by the high prices, I began to seek out a lower priced alternative and then I found Hair One.

This product comes in several scents that are geared towards different hair types. They are all sulfate free, and use herbal astringents with antibacterial properties to clean your hair and nourish it without weighing it down.

I did try and stop using Hair One and going back to traditional shampoos and conditioners, but found all the old hair problems returning, so I quickly headed back to Hair One to have good hair days once more.

Trial size packets are available, and are probably the best way to give this product a try and see if it works for your hair.  You may find that one product is perfect, or that two (switching off between them based upon the needs of your hair) is best for you.

I highly recommend Hair One products for their low price; compared to Wen hair care, and the wonderful results that can be obtained by using them.

 Hair One Cleanser and Conditioners at Amazon

Wildfires in Southern Oregon

Wildfires in Southern Oregon

Big Wildfires in the West: Why, How, What To Do?

The western U.S. has seen large, destructive wildfires on a daily basis this summer. Already in 2013, the acreage burned is more than three times the size of Rhode Island. What’s more, the worst may be yet to come. Large swathes of the western U.S

For the past week wildfires, set off by lightning strikes, have taken over the mountains within 25 miles of my hometown of Grants Pass, Oregon.  Evacuations are happening in smaller communities, and my bags are semi-packed – just in case.

It’s not uncommon for wildfires to be happening in Oregon during the summer months, but it’s very unusual for several of them to be less than 5% contained for over a week.

Even more uncommon is the extremely unhealthy air quality that is overtaking the Rogue Valley and drifting as far south as Napa, California.  A state of emergency has been declared in the Southwest corner of Oregon state due to the extreme nature of multiple wildfires.

From my house the visibility is about 1/4 mile.  What does that mean?  Thick smoke has taken over and it’s painful to breathe.  It looks dark, like it does in November when the fog rolls in.

You can’t help but wonder if you’ll see a glow on the hillside when night falls, but if you do, you know it’s time to evacuate.  It’s kind of tough to go to sleep each night wondering if the next day, will bring something more daunting.  At the same time, it also makes you extremely grateful for times that are not like these.

smoke masksDon’t Leave Home Without ‘Em

Smoke Can Make You Sick

Today my daughter and I attempted to go see a movie.  Feeling a bit caged in, we put on surgical masks and headed to the car.  Driving with our headlights on (so other drivers could see us through the fog-like haze), we arrived to an empty parking lot.  The movie theater was closed due to the high level of smoke inside the theater.

Not being able to fathom the idea of a wasted trip, we then headed to Wal-mart for a furnace filter.  Wal-mart  too, was filled with smoke, although it was busy as usual. 

Once home I had a headache, my eyes were burning and my chest hurt.  I’d been out for 45 minutes, with a mask. My dogs (who are inside), were coughing and sick to their stomachs.  This is with air purification going, so I can only imagine how other people, pets and livestock who have to be out in this air must be feeling.

It’s difficult to know when this summer of smoke will end, but I’m grateful for the firefighters who are coming from as far as Florida to help in the effort to contain Oregon wildfires.  

We truly appreciate the help during this crazy time.

If you want updates for the current Southern Oregon Fires, check out this Incident Information System website.