Christmas Gift Guide: Economic Academic Style

I love love love Christmas. I love the decorations, the cookies and the excuse to wear cherry-red 24/7 for an entire month. I love wearing red for Christmas, but I hate being in the red when it comes to holiday shopping. Christmas is supposed to be about love and holiday cheer, but many have a blue Christmas as the credit card statements come rolling in. This year I am budgeting $25 tops per person. Seeing as I only have four family members and my friends and I do Pollyanna, this should not be a budget busting Christmas for me. So how do you give a great gift without spending a ton of dough? It’s super easy if you just know where to look! Here are a few of my favorite frugal gift finds/suggestions! (Believe me there is more coming so be sure to watch out in the next few weeks!)

For Dad:

Vosges Mo's Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix $12...be the best daughter/son ever and make him the pancakes too!

For Mom:

Etsy Print $18, Great for a home office or the kitchen...I don't understand why more people don't give art for gifts

For Brother:

First Season of Dexter on DVD $17.49 on Amazon

For Sister:

Scented Gummy Earbuds $18.... because who doesn't need those?

For BFF:

Anthropologie Gold Pinnate Necklace $28

For Me (hi Mom):

Stackable Lunch Pot $22...Oh the culinary possibilities!

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Guest Post: Drinking on a Dime in NYC

WordPress just informed me that my last post was my 21st post (yay!) and to ring in my 21st post, I decided that my next post should be about one of the pluses of being 21: legal drinking. Now, I’m no lush, but I have to be honest, I love a good margarita (It’s all about the salt baby) and a great glass of dry red wine. Unfortunately, the price of a drink in New York is about the same as my college tuition. Luckily, my fellow blogger Kylie has some great tips on how to stretch your drinking dollars. Here are some of her suggestions!
Times are hard but that doesn’t have to stop every college student breaking the bank when it comes to going out and drinking, despite living in one of the priciest cities in the nation. Here are some ways to enjoy going out (or staying in) without there being plastic liquor bottles involved (queue reactionary gag)

1. Pick your liquor carefully: The $10 bottle of Tequila may be tempting, but save yourself the hangover. Good, cheap booze does exist.

Unless you want to party with these guys, I suggest buying liquor that you won't be embarassed to take out of the brown paper bag

Gin: Gordon’s London Dry Gin $15, 80 proof
Great for mixing cocktails and with tonic water.

Vodka: Pinnacle  $12.99, 70 proof
They have every flavor from Apple to Le Double Expresso but, my favorites are the Whipped and Cotton Candy. The sweetness masks the alcohol incredibly.

Rum: Bacardi, $16.99, 70 proof
Mix with punch, coke, or pretty much any beverage and your cost per drink is so low, you’re practically stealing.

The earlier you get there, the better the deals

2. Happy Hour: It’s your best friend

Session House, Barcelona Bar (after seeing they have Harry Potter shots I am totally trying it), G-50 Bar and Grill, O’Neill’s Irish Bar all have drink specials and are minutes away from Lincoln Center and/or Grand Central Station.

3. Coupon It

Travelzoo’s Local Deals is one of my favorite and right now they’re offering this deal for six cocktails at the Dream Hotel for $39. Assuming you’ll split that between a friend, that’s 20 bucks for 3 specialty cocktails which would normally cost $45. Or take all the drinks for yourself and have a dreamy night. Groupon also occasionally has specials on wine and liquors.

4. BYOB

Pick restaurants that are BYOB, just make sure to find out before arriving if they have a corking fee.

5. Watch your intake: Just because you’ve saved a ton of cash on liquor doesn’t give you the excuse to get absolutely blitzkrieged drunk. Also, keep the embarrassing pictures to a minimum. Your Facebook with thank you in the morning.

Makeup Markups and Drugstore Favorites

A designer makeup compact can cost an arm and a leg….or at least a night out on the town, and as a college student I’m not willing to sacrifice my social life for a tube of lipstick. In high school when I had a part-time job and my only big expense was gas for my car, I could afford to buy the “good” stuff. Chanel eyeliner, MAC eyeshadow and Yves Saint Laurent Mascara were essentials in my makeup bag. That isn’t the case now. I am a drugstore convert. Here are a few of my makeup case necessities:

1. Eyeliner

Maybelline Lash Stiletto Eyeliner in Black...I like to use this for nights out

Almay Pencil Eyeliner in Dark Brown...This is my go-to, everyday eyeliner. It stays on all day and there is no sharpening required!

2. Foundation/Powder

Maybelline's Fit Me Pressed Powder...Lightweight, it is a great everyday powder

3. Eyeshadow

Maybelline's Expert Eye Shadow Quad

5. Moisturizer

CVS Night cream (I actually use this during that day because my skin gets so dry in the winter)

6. Lips

Tinted Nivea Lip Care (If you're not a big lipstick/lipgloss person this is a great option!)

**HELP**: I still have yet to find a great mascara to replace my beloved Yves Saint Laurent. For some strange reason I seem to be allergic to all Covergirl Mascara, and I have tried many Maybelline mascaras including Lash Stiletto, Great Lash and others and I’m not a fan. Anyone have a great, clump-free lengthening mascara that I can get at Walgreens or CVS? Also, I’m almost finished with my moisturizer so does anyone have any suggestions for a new (preferably with SPF) moisturizer? Let me know!

Indecision 2011: Netflix v. Amazon Instant Video

And you thought the Dems vs. GOP debate was bad....

Ah the great debate: Netflix v. Amazon Instant Video. Now, with all the crap Netflix has been getting (some of it VERY well deserved), you may think I will automatically side with Amazon Instant Video. Wrong. Each service has its pros and cons, so I think I’ll let you decide this one…

Netflix Pros: It has a much larger selection than Amazon Instant Video, it is very easy to use, Instant Queue>Amazon’s Wishlist

Netflix Cons: More expensive than Amazon Prime at $7.99/month or $95.88/year, I have had some streaming issues, the site has crashed on occasion, and you can’t buy/rent a new movie directly from the site.

Amazon Instant Video Pros: With a student-discount Amazon Prime account video streaming and free shipping is only $39/year (FYI: You can sign up for a free student Prime account that just includes free 2-day shipping for one year), it has many of the same titles as Netflix, you can rent newer titles online instantly

Amazon Instant Video Cons: It USED to be included in the free student Prime account (I’m not bitter I promise…), I can’t stand the look of it and find it difficult to use, the suggested movies/shows section just doesn’t make the cut compared to Netflix’s.

I personally prefer Netflix because of their selection (oh hi Twin Peaks) and user-friendly system, but if you just want an instant video service for occasional use, I’d go with Amazon Instant.

Current Obsession: Pinterest

For the last week and a half, whenever I go on my computer I do three things. Check gmail, Check Facebook, and go on Pinterest for hours upon end. If you haven’t heard of Pinterest, it’s essentially the greatest thing to happen to the internet since I decided to start blogging (I kid, I kid…kind of).

So here is the deal on Pinterest. You request an invite and a few days later you can sign up for an account which then installs a tab on your book marks bar titles “Pin It!”. Whenever you see something online you like say, a recipe or DIY tip, you hit the “Pin It” button, and it automatically takes the image from the site and adds it and the link to one of your categorized boards. I know it sounds confusing but seriously, you’ll thank me later. Additionally, you can browse through other people’s boards and follow members and “repin” things that they put up.

An example of users' "pins"

For me, I like to use Pinterest to find new recipes to try, and new workouts to do after I try those new recipes. You can create your own board categories like Fitness, DIY, or Cheap Recipes to name a few. It’s a great way to organize your favorite things on the internet without having your bookmark bar look like a James Joyce novel.

If you want an invite, tell me! Or if you are already on Pinterest, follow me!

Frugal Food: Potluck Dinners

Potluck dinners are a great alternative to dining out

One of my favorite things to do in college is making dinner with friends. Frugal and fun cooking with friends is the perfect way to spend a weeknight in or to ring in the newest episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (yeah, I’ll admit it). But dinner parties can go downhill if people don’t pony up the cash to pay back the cook, or don’t help cleaning up. That is why I’m a huge fan of the potluck dinner. With potlucks, everyone is responsible for bringing a dish, preventing anyone from feeling like they’ve made more effort than others, and it’s a great way to show off your culinary skills. With that said, there are some guidelines you need to set to ensure a positively perfect potluck.

Potluck Rule #1: Unless cat haz cheezburger, leave him off the diner list

1. BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET: Before anything, establish a per-dish budget for the potluck, and make sure everyone is comfortable with it. Usually I find $8-10/dish is a good price point for the college student.

2. Assign courses: Remember in elementary school at Christmas parties when somehow everyone brought 400 plates of cupcakes or 5,000 bags of chips and salsa? Well, at potlucks it completely defeats the purpose of a potluck if everyone brings the same item. To avoid this, assign different courses to friends, and stick to it.

3. Create a theme: How about Mexican Mondays, Southern Saturdays or Thai Tuesdays? Themes are a great way to experiment in the kitchen and ensure that all the dishes work perfectly together.

4. Make sure it is a team effort: This applies mostly for after the meal. Make sure everyone pitches in a cleans up. Not only will it cut down on cleanup time, but it prevents any one friend from being stuck with a pile of dishes at the end of the night.

5. Keep it small: More people complicates everything. So just keep it simple, and small (about 4-5 people)