Monday, August 31, 2009

Mr. Poncho: Untangle Your Headphones in Style

Image Courtesy of Mr. Poncho

Item: Mr. Poncho iPod and iPhone covers

Price: $18

Where to Buy: Mr. Poncho

Review: I love my new iPhone.

What I don't love is digging my headphones out of my purse and untangling them on a crowded subway or platform. What's more, my husband goes through several earbuds a year for his iPod, and I think it's partly because they always get smooshed and jostled in his pocket when he's not using them.

Enter Mr. Poncho.

"The birth of Mr. Poncho came after being so fed up with our tangled headphones," Sandy Hyun, half of the Mr. Poncho team, said by email. Hyun and her boyfriend, Roman Pietrs, make each poncho in their Manhattan apartment.

Just slip your iPhone, iPod, or even your Zune into the pouch, and wrap your headphones around the easy-to-use holder in the front.

I came across Mr. Poncho this year at the Renegade Craft Fair, where the poncho was introduced in 2007. After there was a run on the the stock that year, Hyun said they understood that there was an appreciation, particularly among do-it-yourselfers, for "handmade clever inexpensive goods."

Sounds good to me.

The Mr. Poncho website offers a variety of designs, from Day of the Dead skeletons to musical notes to '60s-inspired flower patterns. Or customize your own poncho for $35.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fast Food: From Cheap to Fancy

Quiche. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Burger King Croissan'wich. Not so much.

But wait. According to Fancy Fast Food, you can make two mouth-watering mini-quiches purely by deconstructing a Croissan'wich meal and a few other items you can buy at BK.

At least the picture looks mouth-watering. I haven't been brave enough to try.

Fancy Fast Food does exactly what the name promises. The site has directions and images on how to recreate typical fast food meals into something special.

Domino's Pizza becomes chow mein.

Popeye's Chicken becomes sushi.

And unlike the "before" photos, the after shots look not only edible, but good.

Inspired? Submit your own fast food creations to the site!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keeping Drinks Cold in Style

Item: Spherical Ice Tray Set

Price: $16

Where to Buy: MoMA Store Online

Review: Not much of a bartender? With spherical ice cubes, the star of the show isn't the liquor but instead what's keeping it cold.

No more humdrum square cubes or crushed ice that quickly waters down fine libations. But talk-of-the-town ice cubes come with a price-- namely, time. Since each tray molds only two spheres, you're either going to spend two weeks making enough cubes for your backyard barbecue, or you're having one small party.

Image from: MoMA

Monday, August 24, 2009

Money Opposites Really Do Attract

I proudly proclaim that I'm thrifty, but even I have to admit that sometimes I go too far.

I fret over even small purchases and, at times, needlessly sacrifice fun and good eats for a few pennies. My husband, on the other hand, doesn't hesitate heading to the ATM for a good meal.

We knew our views on money differed long before we got married.

One of our earliest tiffs concerned ordering soda in restaurants, which I consider a waste of money. We long ago agreed to disagree on that one-- he orders his Coke while I opt for water.

Our first major fight also revolved around money. He wanted a new car, but I thought we should only consider used. I won that one (and, seven years later, we still drive the Saturn).

But despite our occasional, um, conversations about money, I think we're good for each other. I rein him in, he loosens me up.

More couples are in our situation than you might think. Tightwads and spendthrifts tend to become man and wife, according to a study reported on in the New York Times.

While people are attracted to those who are similar to themselves in every other way, opposites attract when it comes to spending habits.

On a thriftiness scale of 1 to 10 (1 being reserved for Mr. Scrooge), I'm probably a 3. I would rate my husband as a 6. He's not using $100 bills to light bonfires or anything, but we're far enough apart to cause many a disagreement.

But I'm making progress. I've even been known to order a Thai iced tea for supper. Shhhhh.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Scream, You Scream for Customized Ice Cream

Item: Customized Ice Cream

Price: $49.99 (half gallon)

Where to Buy: eCreamery

Review: I began to appreciate gourmet ice cream only after a trip to the Ben & Jerry's factory in Vermont earlier this year. After I sampled the strawberry cheesecake ice cream at the end of the tour, generic five-gallon ice cream tubs were never the same again.

So it was with interest that I watched a rerun of the Food Network's "Unwrapped" focused on ice cream. One of the featured items: eCreamery's customized ice cream.

You not only choose from more than 60 flavors like avocado, saffron, cheesecake and all of the classics, but you also pick the percentage of cream (8, 12 or 14 percent) and and design of the packaging. You even get to name your own concoction.

Your sweet, personalized treat is delivered in 5 to 10 days.

The ice cream does come in under 50 bucks for a half gallon, but shipping is a pricey $30. Full gallons are $79.99, and mix-ins are $5 each, with a limit of two. Another option: Choosing two flavors intermixed for an extra $10. Blueberry Mocha anyone?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Too Good to Be True $10 HDTVs

It seems I'm always reading a story about the good deals other people get.

You know: the $10 bus tickets that are sold out when I try to book them, or the $9 airfares for routes that never happen to be mine.

That's why I would have been thrilled to snag an HDTV recently from Best Buy's website for the low, low price of $9.99.

But I also wouldn't have been too surprised when Best Buy backed out of the $1,690 errors and decided not to honor the purchases. Nothing in life is free-- and especially not an HDTV.

Some of the customers, however, aren't willing to walk away empty-handed. They're threatening a class-action lawsuit.

Get real. Frugality is one thing, but cheating others (even big box stores) is quite another.

Today's lesson:

Thriftiness: Good.

Expecting something for (nearly) nothing: Bad.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Good Gift with a Cord: Immersion Blender

Item: Immersion Blender

Price: $39.99

Where to Buy: Sears

Review: An immersion blender might be the best gift my husband has ever bought himself.

He loves to cook, so he considers it a toy. I love to eat, so I get to enjoy the butternut squash bisque, fruit smoothies and other concoctions he whips up.

Immersion blenders come in different styles and price ranges, so do a little research to find the best for you or the recipient. Our immersion blender is easy to store and easy to clean-- I love kitchen gadgets that are dishwasher-safe!

Image from: Sears

Friday, August 14, 2009

All-You-Can-Fly for One Kind-of-Low Price

JetBlue moved one step closer to becoming like a pizza buffet this week. And I'm not talking about the airline's in-flight snacks.

Instead of pepperoni pizza, gorge yourself on travel with JetBlue's all-you-can-fly pass for $599 for travel between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8 to and from any of 56 destinations.

Passes must be purchased by Aug. 21.

But before you sign up, remember to look at the fine print.
  • Flights to Puerto Rico and international destinations are NOT included.
  • Change or cancellation = $100 fee
  • No-show = $100 fee (and no more flights until the fee is paid)
But if you live near a JetBlue destination and feel like exploring the country, here's your chance for some cheap(ish) weekend trips.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eating Safely ... In Any Language

Item: Food Allergy Cards

Price: $8.50

Where to Buy: SelectWisely

Review: When you have food allergies, the scariest place in a foreign country can be its restaurants.

It's hard enough to get some servers in the US to understand that my husband is deathly allergic to nuts. Now imagine trying to express it in another language.

That's where these food allergy cards come in. Available for dozens of allergies, the cards describe the allergy in any of 15 languages. And they're laminated for easy conveyance in your wallet or purse.

Relying on pantomimes isn't a good idea when it comes to food allergies. A food allergy card can make the difference between a relaxing vacation and one spent in the hospital.

Image from: SelectWisely

Monday, August 10, 2009

How I Got My New Coffee Table

I'm no dumpster diver. I swear.

But when I saw a nice long coffee table on the sidewalk not even a block from our apartment, I did a double-take.

I wasn't the only one. Another woman stopped at nearly the same time, but luckily her eye was on another table that was sitting with the trash. She wheeled that one (yes, it had wheels) to her place while I called Paul.

In a few minutes he had the table in our living room while our old "coffee table" (really just a wooden trunk, filled mostly with our financial papers) was dismissed to the corner of the room.

It's not the best table in the world-- it certainly has a few scratches, and the top is certainly not real wood. But the price was right for something I expect will be left behind whenever we move out of this apartment.

So to recap: Yes, I will take a coffee table from the side of the road. No, I will not pick through garbage. For anything.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Old School with the Rubik's Cube

Item: Rubik's Cube

Price: $9.45

Where to Buy:

Review: I had all but forgotten about the Rubik's Cube. Then I got two reminders within just a few weeks of each other.

#1: I was on the subway and a man entered the train selling something out of bag. Usually it's some kind of booklet or piece of junk. This time it was small Rubik's Cubes for a dollar apiece. Demand was so high, he ran out of them and had to turn away at least one customer in our car.

#2: Jon Stewart razzed astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson of the American Museum of Natural History for completing the Rubik's Cube in the green room of The Daily Show. That guy's a genius.

So while I haven't picked up a Rubik's Cube in years (a decade? More?), I wouldn't mind trying. And I'm guessing you know a few people who would too.

Image from: Amazon

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

5 Favorite Fast Food Deals

I'm a brown-bagger at lunchtime and generally steer clear of fast food restaurants at nights and on weekends.

But sometimes I succumb to the siren call of the value menu. But that's not the only place to get fast food deals:

1. McDonald's: Two pies for $1. There's not pies like grandma used to make, but they're not too shabby, either. I don't care for the apple, but I like the cherry pies and especially the pumpkin pies in the fall.

2. Au Bon Pain: Half-price baked goods. I've never been at the right place at the right time for this, but I'm anxious to get a discounted creme de fleur. Look for a sign at your local Au Bon Pain. The discounts usually start an hour (or more) before closing.

3. Fazoli's: All-you-can-eat-breadsticks. A friend and former co-worker showed me during our lunch breaks at work that you can order from the kid's menu and get a soda instead of the toy. The ravioli is OK, but I'm really only there to eat those garlicky, buttery breadsticks.

4. Subway: $5 footlongs. Yeah, these are hardly secrets. But I like them even more since they sponsor one of my favorite TV shows, Chuck. When Chuck fans were scared the show wouldn't be renewed, they organized a campaign to buy $5 footlongs on the evening of the season finale and let the restaurant know what they were doing and why. In any case, Chuck was renewed. Ain't it grand when food mixes with entertainment?

5. Papa John's: $1 slices. It's possible that this is just at the pizzeria next to my workplace, but the $1 pieces of cheese pizza are popular at lunchtime. Worth a call to see if your Papa John's does this too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Last Chances for Free Coffee, Chocolate & Ice Cream

Christian this the summer of free food. But unfortunately summer is winding down.

Luckily you still have a few more weeks to get your fix. Here's a rundown of the three best giveaways that Thrifty Under Fifty has highlighted, along with their expiration dates:

  • Free Mocha from McDonald's: Today, Aug. 3, is the last day to get your 7-ounce iced mocha or 8-ounce hot mochas. The drinks are available for the asking between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at participating McDonald's.