"cash back apps"

Every time I turn around there are tons of new fancy cash back apps promising to save you time and make you money. There are so many of these cash back apps that’s it’s nearly impossible to test them all and find out which ones are really worthwhile. Well, I did my best, and I tested twenty cash back apps to figure out which ones (if any!) are actually worthwhile. Read on to find out which apps to download and which ones to skip. 

A quick word on referral links

I have included my referral link for the cash back apps that I highly recommend (if the app offers it). Some of the other cash back apps also have referral bonuses, but I didn’t include my link because I’m not a fan of the app. I’m not going to try to get rewards from having you download something that I don’t personally recommend! 

Download these cash back apps!

Ibotta

I’ve reviewed all twenty of these cash back apps and Ibotta is still my favorite. It’s easy to use and there are tons of offers available every week, on stuff that I actually buy. After about six weeks of using Ibotta, I’ve earned forty bucks cash back – on stuff that I was going to buy anyway. That’s a pretty big win. For more information, check out the Best Guide to Ibotta on the internet. If this short review is good enough for you, sign up using my referral code so we can both get some extra money!

Trunow

Trunow is the only cash back app that is exclusively for gas. The great thing about the app is that you don’t have to go to a specific gas station to reap the benefits – you get 1% cash back on all gas purchases. You just have to upload your receipt. Trunow does partner with some gas stations though, and you get 2% cash back on gas purchases with their partners.

Another great thing about Trunow is that it shows you all the gas prices in the area. There’s a little map that shows every gas station with their price per gallon. This will help you find the cheapest gas near you!

As a bonus, Trunow offers rewards on some gas station purchases, such as snacks, coffee, and cigarettes. These offers are only redeemable at certain partner gas stations, but it was cool to see these items thrown in the mix. Most other cash back apps don’t include gas purchase, and almost all of us need gas.

You also can get $1 for referring friends (you both get a $1!) so if you want to use Trunow, use my referral code so we each get a buck!

The one thing that annoys me about the app is that the stupid little location services icon wouldn’t go away from the top of my phone. I had to disable notifications from the app to get it to go away.

Coupons.com

I like coupons.com because it’s main focus is groceries, and that’s the thing I’m generally shopping for. It is very similar to Ibotta, but unfortunately there aren’t as many offers. One cool difference is that you can link your store loyalty card to your coupons.com account and earn rewards when you use that rather than uploading your receipts – but it still accepts receipts which is awesome. You earn cashback with coupons.com and get paid via paypal.

Coupons.com also offers printable coupons. I don’t like this because I’m not going to print coupons, but it’s a great feature for people who enjoy doing that. There are tons of grocery store coupons available for printing.

There are no referral bonuses for sending your friends to coupons.com. But now you know I’m not just supporting the apps that I get referral bonuses from!

Shopkick

Shopkick is slightly different from other cash back apps in that you don’t actually have to buy stuff to earn points. You can earn points by having a scavenger hunt in the store and scanning the items on your list. This is also a great option for parents. You can set your kids free in the store to do the scavenger hunt while you finish your shopping! It’s a win-win! But be sure your kids are old enough and behaved enough to explore a store on their own! I don’t want anyone telling me they lost their toddler because I told them to have their kids go scan stuff!

You can also earn points with Shopkick by simply walking into certain stores. But the best way to earn, like with most cash back apps, is to purchase the items on offer and scan the receipts. The downside to this is that there aren’t nearly as many offers on Shopkick as there are on Ibotta – or on coupons.com for that matter. Most of the stuff available on Shopkick is stuff that I don’t need (but your mileage may vary, we all need different things).

A disadvantage of shopkick is that you don’t earn cash back. You earn gift cards. This may be helpful for lots of people, but personally I prefer cash. The rewards system is pretty straight forward – you need 1250 points to earn a $5 gift card. You can get to that level fairly quickly if you buy the things they have offers on, but if you are just scanning items in stores it will take much longer.

Another disadvantage is that there are different rules for different stores. Some stores offer you rewards points if you shop there with a linked card, while others allow you to upload a receipt. There are also loads of stores on Shopkicks, but some of them only have a few offers. For example, Bed, Bath, and Beyond is on Shopkick, but only has offers for two very specific items.

If you want to try shopkick, use my referral code so we can both get 250 points towards rewards!

Spent Money App

Spent Money App is a great app for online shopping. There are tons of stores available and they offer 2-10% cash back. You can also get cash back at certain retailers by linking your bank card. Then, when you shop at that store with that card, you automatically get 1% to 2% cash back through the app. It’s very similar to Ebates in the way that you earn rewards.  

I prefer Spent Money to Ebates because it’s more than just a cash back app. It’s also a financial app! Spent Money is the only one of all these apps I tested that tracks your spending for you. It’s like a personal finance app and cash back app all in one! You do need to link your debit cards to the app in order for this feature to work though.

One limitation of the Spent Money app is that you can’t upload receipts, either for cash back or for tracking purposes. If they found a way to incorporate uploaded receipts into this app, it would be my absolute favorite.

Spent Money does not have any type of referral bonus, but it’s a cool app and you can check it out here

"cash back apps"
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Cash Back Apps that are Worthwhile if you shop a lot

Ebates

Ebates is probably the most popular cash back app on this list. Everyone has heard of Ebates, right? One huge advantage of Ebates is that it has tons of participating stores. I’ve seen offers from Macy’s, Kirklands, Big 5, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and way too many other stores to list. Another advantage of Ebates is that it offers a mix of cash back rewards and coupons.  This is a great cash back app for people who love to shop at major retailers.

One limitation of Ebates is that you can’t upload receipts. In order to get cash back when you shop at these retailers, you have to link your card to your account and play with that card at the store. This is great for people who use debit or credit cards for all of their purchases. However,  for people like me who prefer cash, there aren’t a lot of options for getting cash back.

Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards is a little different because you earn points when you buy certain brands. This is kind of nice, because you don’t have to worry as much about getting the exact right item (that’s one issue with Ibotta: is this the right size of cereal?? But at least if give you the option to scan the barcode and check). There are a few items that are more specific though, so you do have to be careful.

Fetch Rewards isn’t exactly a cash back app. You don’t use your points to get cash, you use it to get gift cards. I prefer cash because I don’t want any limits on where I can spend my rewards. Fetch does offer Visa gift cards, but you need tons of points to get them. You need almost twelve thousand points for a ten-dollar Visa gift card. Store gift cards start at $1; and it comes out to about 1000 points per dollar.

A limitation to Fetch rewards is that you don’t know how many points you get for buying a certain brand until after you buy it. I had one item on my list and I only got 24 points for it. It definitely wouldn’t be worthwhile to switch brands for 24 measly points, but I was already buying that particular item so it wasn’t a big deal. It doesn’t hurt to check the brands you buy and try to get some points though.

Fetch rewards makes it really easy to start earning points, but harder and harder to earn them after that. You get 750 points for the first receipt you upload, but fewer and fewer points for each subsequent receipt. My second receipt only earned me 500 points, and my third will earn 250. I guess you can earn a one-dollar gift card just by uploading three receipts though, so that’s a bonus.

Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is very similar to Ibotta and Coupons.com; but it has fewer offers and rewards than those two apps. There are some offers that are available on both Ibotta and Checkout 51, and I haven’t seen anything that says you can’t double dip. I’ve also noticed that there are more offers on snacks with Checkout 51 than there are on the other two apps.

If you only want to deal with one receipt uploading app, I’d definitely go with Ibotta. But if you want to double dip and catch all of the available savings, you can use all three.

Coupon Sherpa

Coupon Sherpa is an app that collects coupons. This is a great app for restaurants, because you can use most of the restaurant coupon apps from the app itself. You just go to the restaurant and show the coupon form the app when paying.

Coupon Sherpa offers both in-store and online coupons. Whether an offer is available in the store or online is dependent on the retailers. Some have in store only coupons, while others have online only coupons. But most of the retailers offer both, which is nice.  A lot of the coupons available on Coupon Sherpa are for specific items, but large retailers do have some general “10-20% off entire purchase” coupons.

One disadvantage of Coupon Sherpa is that some of the coupons need to be printed. Most of the grocery store coupons fall in this category, and since that’s where I do most of my shopping, I’m not a fan.

Receipt hog

This is the only app that made me “request” to join. I wonder if they actually have eligibility criteria or if it’s a marketing ploy to trigger people’s Fear Of Missing Out. Either way, I was accepted immediately.

Receipt Hog is pretty straight forward with just wanting your data. In order to start using points, you have to take the survey that asks about your income and shopping habits. It wasn’t that invasive, and they gave me 30 coins for doing it.

One thing I don’t like about receipt hog is that you have to verify your device before you can even see the awards, and you can’t do that until you get to 300 coins. Also, you can only earn up to 100 coins per week for uploading receipts. I don’t like being limited. If I’m doing a lot of shopping so you can have my data, you should reward me for all of the shopping that I do! Am I wrong? But I digress. You can also earn a few extra coins by playing their little slot machine game, which is kind of fun. You earn pulls at the machine by uploading receipts.

I was able to find the rewards system with a google search, and it’s pretty similar to most of the other cash back apps. You need 1000 coins to earn $5, which can be redeemed via Amazon, Paypal, or Visa gift card. One bonus about receipt hog is that if you save your coins, you need a few fewer coins to earn greater rewards. You only need 2900 rather than 3000 to earn $15, and 4300 rather than 5000 to earn $25.

If you are going to use an app that just wants your data, I’d recommend this one over Receipt Pal (reviewed below). The rewards system is more-straight forward, the interface was more user friendly, and it was more fun to use.

Skip these Cash back apps

Receipt Pal

One cool thing about Receipt Pal is that you earn rewards with any receipt.  It’s not store or item specific. On the downside, you need to upload way too many receipts to earn rewards, and there aren’t a lot of options for using your rewards. The options are limited to Amazon gift cards, restaurant.com gift cards, and Visa gift cards.  

Unfortunately, receipts aren’t worth that many points, and it takes a lot of uploaded receipts to earn a gift card. You get 100 points for every four receipts that you upload. You need 400 points to cash out to a $1 Amazon gift card – so that means you have to upload 16 receipts to make just one dollar on the app. Visa gift cards cost even more points. You need 7500 points to get a $25 Visa gift card. That’s 300 receipts!! It’s just not worthwhile to me.  

I guess Receipt Pal realizes that the point system by itself is just not worthwhile, so they also have a sweepstakes feature. The sweepstakes feature offers you the chance to win extra points when you upload receipts. You are automatically entered into the weekly sweepstakes when you upload your first four receipts for the week. If you upload more than eight receipts, you can get multiple entries. Some people may enjoy having the opportunity to win, but I’m not going to waste my time giving companies my data for just the “chance” to win. It’s not worthwhile.

Savings Catcher

I tried the savings catcher app, and I was not a fan. First, it’s way too much work to get your savings when compared to the other cash backs apps on this list. You have to scan the item’s bar code and upload the receipt. Why can’t I just upload the receipt like on the other apps? Who knows.

Another issue I have with the savings catcher app is that there aren’t a lot of products available on offer. I guess that’s because it’s so much work to get your rewards for each item? You’d think that you’d get way more points or rewards for all this extra work; but that’s not the case. The rewards are pretty similar to the rewards you get from all the other apps.

A final issue I have with the Savings Catcher App is that a lot of the offers are only available if you spend a certain amount of money. It’s those “get five dollars when you spend thirty dollars” types of deals. This works if you were planning on spending that much in the first place, but stores often try to tempt you to buy more with deals like that.

Retail me Not

I wasn’t a fan of Retail Me Not. First, there weren’t any deals on groceries and I’m not a big shopper. But my main gripe against Retail me Not is that it’s basically just a collection of coupons that are eerily similar to the coupons you see in spammy circulars. There are lots of deals for percentages or cash off of purchases, and you can get cash back on certain items from certain retailers (but there aren’t a lot of cash back offers).

The one advantage to Retail Me Not is that there are tons of participating stores. There are coupons for Best Buy, Macy’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot, Lowes, and many more. But you don’t get cash back on most of the purchases from these stores, you basically just get the coupon. 

The coupons app

The coupons app was the hardest app to use on this entire list. I’m still not entirely sure if I got it right. From what I’ve figured out, it’s just a storage place for all the coupons you can find in the circulars (Similar to retail me not, but worse because I couldn’t find any cash back offers). The coupons aren’t exclusive, you can find them pretty much anywhere. One thing that I didn’t really like is that I couldn’t find a way to use the coupons at the retailers on mobile. The app wanted me to print the coupons. Why not just use the circulars if that’s the case?

One advantage of the Coupons app is that there are tons of stores and restaurants. There are also designer and outlet brands. I saw coupons for DKNY, Aldi, the Gap, and Express. Talk about a wide range of options!

Yowza

I found Yowza annoying. The app is built mainly for online shopping, which is not beneficial for me because I do most of my shopping in stores. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any in-store offers to use.  Another issue I had with it was that the pages took a long time to load. It could have been that my internet decided to stop working just when I was reviewing this app, but I didn’t have any issues with the other apps I tested that night.  

Another major issue I had with Yowza is that some of the offers didn’t even seem like legitimate offers. It seemed like companies just advertising on Yowza to try to get you to visit their website.

Yowza does have one cool feature that I didn’t see on any other app, and that was the local offers section. I think the point here was to get offers for smaller, locally owned shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, it needs a lot of work. I put in Savannah, Ga as my address, and I was shown offers for restaurants in Houston and in Michigan. I think the app just shows you all the smaller companies nationwide that are Yowza partners, but that makes it really difficult to use. I’d rather they just have a message stating that there are no local offers available in my area than show me cool restaurants in different states.

Krazy Coupon Lady

Krazy Coupon Lady seemed like a great cash back app at first glance. There were lots of coupons for household items and toys, which would be great for people shopping for gifts or specific items. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of coupons for necessities. I did find a coupon for Tide, which is the only laundry detergent that I’ll buy, but it had already expired two weeks ago! Why was it still on the app? I guess Krazy Coupon Lady doesn’t believe in updating regularly.

Another disadvantage to Krazy Coupon Lady is that it was difficult to search for a specific item at a specific store. I searched for Tide, but couldn’t search for Tide at Walmart. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to five different stores to save a few bucks.

Grocery IQ

Groceries are the main thing that I shop for, so I was super excited to try Grocery IQ. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The only way to use coupons is to email them to yourself and print them out. That’s just not something I’m willing to do. I like saving money, but I don’t want to work that hard to save a few cents (have you noticed a theme here?).

One cool thing about grocery IQ is that you can write your grocery list inside the app. I’m old fashioned and I like my pencil and paper list, but I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate the ability to type everything in an app.

Punchcard

Punchcard had such a fun concept. You get to punch in rewards for every store that you visit like you would at a salon or local sandwich shop. You also get to spin a cool little wheel for rewards every time you upload a receipt. Pretty neat, huh?

Another advantage is that lots of stores participate, and some even give you awards for getting your six punches in! Subway offers you a free sandwich after you get your six punches. Not all stores offer these types of rewards though, and this is where Punchcard loses its appeal.

Punchcard acts like you will get points for uploading receipts and spinning the wheel. But when I went to the points screen to view my rewards, it was unavailable. Lots of the reviews stated that Punchcard discontinued the points system. Why the option to visit the page is still available is beyond me, maybe it’s a bug that Punchcard is working on fixing? I’m not entirely sure what the deal is, but without a points system cash back apps are pretty pointless. 

TopCashBack App

I still have questions about Top Cash Back App. It claims to have the best rewards of all the cash back apps, but it has terrible reviews on Google Play. Some people even claimed that it wouldn’t grant the cash back because it thought you already got rewards through a different app.

From what I saw of the app, it is very similar to Ebates. You earn most of the rewards through online purchases. A limitation to the app is that you can’t just browse a store, you have to browse categories. Walmart offers up to 5% cash back through the app, but you have to shop a specific category, such as sports, clothing, jewelry, etc. in order to get it. I’m not a fan of that limitation.

I also didn’t see a way for you to link your card to the app to earn rewards through in store shopping. Therefore, if you are looking for a cashback app on pretty much all of your online and in-store purchases, I’d stick with Ebates.

And a Bonus Specialty Cash Back App

Makeena

I love the concept of Makeena. It incentivizes healthy eating. Most of their offers are on organic products and produce, which tend to be more expensive than the less healthy options. The brands they support tend to be health conscious brands which I think is a great way to discover some of these products.

My issue with it is that some offers are limited to the “first 2000 shoppers” or something like that.  I guess the app is still small, so lots of users will get the offers, but if it continues to grow the app might not be useful to a lot of people. Also, how am I supposed to know if the offer is still available? I may choose organic broccoli over non-organic broccoli expecting the rebate only to be told that I’m shopper #2001, thus not eligible. I know it’s only a few cents, but I don’t like that kind of bait and switch.

Which Cash Back Apps do you Use?

Well, there you have it folks. An honest review of 20 cash back apps that you can use to decide how to earn rewards. I hope you find it useful!

Have you tried any of these apps? Which is your favorite and why? Do you know of one that isn’t on the list? We’d love to hear about it!

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"barista fire"

There are so many different ways to be financially independent. Lot’s of people are pursuing lean fire, retiring off of less than 40K per years. Others are looking at Fat fire, being financially independent with tons of money to do whatever they want. I wrote an article about all the different types of fire in the long ago, but  after careful consideration, I’ve decided that barista fire is the fire for me.

What is Barista Fire?

Barista Fire is a form of financial independence where you don’t actually quit working. You do get to quit your high stress job, so that’s a win, right? With Barista Fire, you still work, but at an easy, low stress job; or at a job that you’re passionate about but that wouldn’t pay the bills under other circumstances. Barista fire is a step between being financially independent and being tied to a job.

Advantages 

 There are tons of advantages to being Barista Fire.  One of the biggest ones is the benefits.  Granted, most companies don’t offer benefits to part time employees, but Starbucks does! There are tons of other companies that offer benefits to part time employees as well. You can find a short list of these companies here. This is a great place to start if you’re only hanging onto your high stress job for the benefits.

Another benefit is that you keep money coming in. Even with solid investments, it can be terrifying to quit a high paying job. Barista Fire can help you bridge that gap. It can give you a little piece of mind. Obviously, you won’t be making as much as you did before (that’s the whole point, right?) but having a little bit of income coming in would be a great way to ease your worries about the next financial downturn. You might even be able to find a part time job that pays most of your living expenses, so you wouldn’t have to withdraw anything from your investments in bad years! 

But the biggest advantage to being Barista fire is that it gives you the opportunity to explore your passions!  If you are interested in the Arts, you can work part time at an art museum. Love kids? Work at a day care or as a tutor. You can even work part time at a job you don’t necessarily like to have time to do other things in your newfound free time; such as work on your side hustles or volunteer. Being barista fire can give you a lot of freedom.

Why I want to Be Barista Fire

I want to be Barista Fire because not working was never one of my goals. I don’t really want to retire in the traditional sense. I want to work. But here’s the catch:  I want to work at things that I’m passionate about. I would love to be a zookeeper; but they only make about ten bucks an hour! That’s not going to cut it for me until I achieve Barista Fire. I also want to work on all of my side projects and my bucket list (I mentioned all of those things when I wrote a post on why I want to pursue fire – I have way too many life goals!).

Is Barista Fire the Fire for you?

Whether or not Barista Fire is right for you depends on a whole lot of things. The first thing you have to ask yourself is whether or not you want to work in retirement. Some people don’t want to work at all, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Some people like working, and that’s fine too! Another thing you should consider is how badly you need to quit your job. If your job offers a high income in return for a terrible work/life balance or is detrimental to your mental or physical well being, you may want to quit sooner rather than later. Money isn’t everything, and if your job is hurting you, Barista fire might be a better option.

On the other hand, if you hate your job because you hate the entire idea of working, barista fire probably isn’t right for you. Why trade one job you hate for a lower paying job that you also hate? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. In that case, it might be better to stay at the high paying job long enough to achieve financial independence in the traditional sense.

If you aren’t sure about being financially independent, Barista fire might be an excellent option for you. You get to dip your toes in, but you don’t have to dive in if you don’t want to. Like I said before, it’s an excellent way to bridge the gap between working full time and taking the plunge into financial independence.

Are you going to pursue barista fire? Tell me why or why not in the comments!

 

"barista fire"
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"gift giving guide"

Hey folks! Transparency Disclosure- Some of the links in this gift giving guide are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra!

It’s the holiday season! And you know what that means – time for mass consumerism! Oh, I mean it’s time to show your loved ones how much you love them with all the presents! A lot of writers will publish a gift giving guide that tells you what to get your husband or mother or best friend when the author has no idea what types of people they are. Oh, they are a mom so they’d love this! Well that isn’t always true. That’s why I decided to write a gift giving guide based on what people like to do! It’s a crazy idea, but I hope it helps you find that perfect gift for everyone in your life! So what should you get your best friend whose a bit sentimental? This handy gift giving guide has the answer!

Gift Giving Guide 

For the Adventurer

I’m an adventurer, and I have to say the best gifts ever are experiences. If you have someone with a lust for adventure in your life, get them something they can do! If you want to give a lavish gift, book them a trip somewhere (and as a bonus, you get to go with!). Even a short weekend get-a-way will be a huge win for the adventurer! If you want to do something special but not trip special, get them tickets to a concert, sporting event, or theme park. Experiences are way more important than things to the adventurer.

 

Viator 

If you can’t arrange for a new experience; get them something that will fit with their favorite type of adventure. Do they enjoy hikes? Get them a new ruck, new shoes, or a tactical coat. Or just search for hiking gear on Amazon for thousands of ideas. Have a SCUBA diver friend? Get them the best new snorkel or face mask. There are loads of gift giving ideas for whatever your adventurer’s favorite activity is.

For the Gamer

Clearly you must get the gamer in your life this season’s hottest new games! My boyfriend is a gamer, and he’s big into the new Pokémon game, Super Smash Brothers, and Red Dawn Redemption. If they already have enough games, you can try getting them some new gaming accessories. Maybe they need better headphones, or a new controller/mouse. There are tons of options for gifts for gamers. You can even get them a fancy new gaming computer if you want to go all out!

For the Super fan

Super fans are the easiest people to buy gifts for. What’s their fandom? Get them anything that’s related to it. As you all know, I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s the best show ever.  I’d appreciate any Buffy themed gift – from t-shirts to mugs to action figures!

For the learner

Learners love books!! Find out what their favorite topics are and find books that are related. Do they love science? Look into books on astrophysics, anthropology, or new technologies. History lover? There are thousands of books on every freaking time period you can imagine. Into current affairs/politics? Lots of options there too. The learner in your life will love getting books on their favorite topics.

For the Hipster

The Hipster in your life doesn’t want something trendy from Amazon. Show him/her you know them well and give them a different kind of gift. Try custom apparel from Teepublic that showcases their favorite things. The hipster in your life would also appreciate something nostalgic, like a print or figure from one of their favorite childhood shows.

For the Jock

Sports Gear! You know your jock’s favorite teams, so get them something to commemorate it! You can’t go wrong with jerseys, pint glasses, dish towels – seriously anything with their team’s emblem on it is going to be an awesome gift. One of the best gifts I ever got was a cat bed made with Chicago Bear’s fabric. It was hand made too, which made it extra special. 

For the New Ager

The New Agers in my life are the hardest for me to shop for. This term can encompass so many different things, its hard to know exactly what they would like. Candles can be a big hit for most new agers – they are perishable and you can always use more candles. Depending on what they are most into, you can get them some crystals, meditation aids, incense or maybe even new yoga gear.

For the Homesteader

Even the homesteader who has it all could use more jars! With all the canning and juicing, those get used up fairly quickly. If the homesteader in your life doesn’t have it all, consider getting them a new composter or some garden tools. If your homesteader is into cooking and baking, you can get them some new useful cookware.

For the Sentimental

Sentimental folks love gifts that you put a lot of thought into. If you are crafty, use your craft to create something unique for them. If you aren’t crafty, you can also make them a photo album or get them a framed photo of the two of you together – that will definitely brighten their day! Sentimental folks will also appreciate nostalgic gifts just as much as the hipsters; so, if you can’t put something together, get them something that will remind them of you in a different way.

For the Creative

If you have a creative person in your life, get them something that they can use in their craft. Get the sewer/crocheter some new fabrics or threads. Painters can always use more canvases and paints. You could also go an easier route and get an adult coloring bookand some  colored pencils. Many creative people would love to just zone out with some simple coloring. 

For the Busy Parent

The best gift you can give a busy parent in your life is a night off! Offer to take the kids for an evening so they can do something for them. You can get the parents a certificate for a spa day so they can pamper themselves while knowing their kids are in good hands. If you aren’t into watching kids, think about gifts that will make the parents lives easier. Maybe they could use a new Keurig to make their morning coffee ritual easier, or a crock pot to make dinner easier. There are tons of options!

You do need to be careful here though. Unless your busy parent is a neat freak; don’t get them cleaning supplies. My dad always used to buy my mom vacuums and mops and stuff like that for holidays. Maybe she enjoyed those things, but I’d be pissed if my boyfriend got me anything like that as a gift. Know your loved ones! This is just a gift giving guide with tons of ideas, but I don’t know your loved ones like you do. 

For the kids

Ok, no gift giving guide would be complete without a general section for kids. Kids generally like anything that they can open up, but I prefer to give them fun yet educational gifts. You can find tons of children’s microscopes, telescopes, and experiment kits on amazon! Get the future engineers erector sets, Legos, or Lincoln logs. These types of gifts can lead to hours of enjoyment, and the kids don’t even have to realize that they are learning something. Wins all around!

For the Person who has everything

I guarantee that the person who has everything doesn’t have this:

Funny Mug

Am I wrong? You can get it at Teepublic! But seriously, if you don’t know what to get someone because you don’t really know their style or they seem to have it all, you can’t go wrong with a gift card (unless you are super close to them!). You can either get them a gift card to their favorite store, or get them a general visa or amazon gift card. Either way, that lets them get whatever they want. I don’t advise this for someone you are close with though, because you should absolutely know the style of your closest friends or partner.

So there you have it folks – a gift giving guide that will cover pretty much anyone in your life. I really hope this helps you find that perfect gift for everyone who is special to you. But if I missed an important type of person, please let me know in the comments, and let us all know what types of gifts we should get them!

 

"ultimate gift giving guide"
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Hey folks! Transparency Disclosure- Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra!

Partner’s in Fire is officially one year old! I’ve been celebrating for a few weeks now. I wrote a special blogiversary post completely unrelated to finance and a 12th month update. But now I want to talk about all the things I’ve learned from my first year of blogging.

Lessons Learned after one year of blogging

Blogging is Hard Work

“I can write that! How hard can it be to put a few words on paper and post them online? Anyone can be a blogger, it’s nothing special.” I’m sure we’ve all heard or thought these things and more prior to starting our blogs. But blogging is so much more than writing a post! Honestly getting the words on paper is the easy part!

Blogging also includes designing your website, creating beautiful blog banners, and ensuring your blog can be found. I’ve had to become a graphic designer, web developer, SEO expert, and social media manager this year to just keep my head above water in this blogging game! But on the plus side, I’m developing awesome new skills! I’ve been using my newfound graphic design skills to make t-shirts! How awesome is that?

Getting People to your blog

After one year of blogging, I’m still struggling to get consistent traffic. Although I’m seeing small improvements on my traffic month to month (generally, some months are outliers), I still haven’t been able to get to 1000 users per month organically. Over the course of the last 12 months, I had a little over 8000 users. I don’t think that’s bad for a first year, but I know I can do better.

 I’m learning about SEO and getting a few people from organic searches every day. That’s a win for a small blog like mine! I’m still working on building my social media presence on the big three (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram). My communities on those sites are all growing fairly consistently.  I’m learning how to design compelling pins with calls to action on Pinterest, and using to Tailwind to ensure that my pins get seen. Tailwind is a lifesaver when it comes to Pinterest, if you aren’t using it already you need to check it out.

Blogging is time Consuming

 It may only take me an hour to write a blog post, but it takes about five total hours to get that post published. It takes another few hours to market the post correctly. All in all, I probably spend 8 hours per week on just one blog post.

But that’s not all! In order to stay relevant on social media and ensure I’m creating an engaged community, I need to do much more than just promote my blog. I need to share my blogging friend’s blogs and comment on their posts. I need to maintain a social media presence by posting engaging content that isn’t necessarily related to my blog. Although I enjoy doing all of these things (Blogging is a labor of love, after all), it’s incredibly time consuming. I probably spend about five hours per week on social media, just engaging with people and posting things to help build my community.

Blogging is NOT easy money

There are so many posts about “How I made 10K my first month blogging” that it seems easy to the casual observer. It’s not easy. Sure, some people get lucky and blow up right away, while others have experience in related industries that give them a leg up – and Kudos to them! However, most people aren’t going to make money during their first month of blogging. That’s just not how it works!

It takes most bloggers over a year to really start seeing progress on their blogs (or maybe I just want to tell myself that so I don’t feel bad that I haven’t gotten there yet). But seriously it takes a long time to build your Domain Authority – which is what search engines use to rank the relevancy of your website. It takes a long time to build a community and a social media following. And you need to build both of those things before you will see any income through your blog. I’ve been blogging for a year now and have only made a few bucks through affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing

A lot of bloggers make a good portion of their incomes off of affiliate marketing. This is where you post a link to a product or website and earn a commission if someone uses your link to buy something. I’m only a member of a few affiliate programs – Amazon is the big one – but I barely made enough money via affiliate advertising this year to cover the cost of my domain (that was like 12 bucks). I made a grand total of $13.37 on Amazon for the year. Go me!

But if you do some research and read income reports from established bloggers, you will notice that Amazon is not a huge money maker for anyone. Yeah, they get between $300 and $500 a month from it, but that’s really just a tiny portion of their incomes. There are tons of other affiliates that pay way more, and I’ve only just barely dabbled in them.  One of my goals for this year is to find other profitable affiliate programs that fit in well with the blog, so I don’t rely on Amazon as my sole source of income.

Flex Offers and Share a Sale

I’m also a member of both Flex Offers and Share-A-Sale affiliate programs – both of which I’ve made a big fat zero on so far. I think your success with these programs will depend on your niche and how much of the program you explore. As a personal finance blogger, there are very few companies on Flex Offers that fit in with my niche, and of those there are even less that I believe in enough to share with my readers. My first goal as a blogger is always to stay authentic, so I’m not going to promote products that I don’t believe in. I haven’t searched for many partners yet with Share-A-Sale, but they do partner with Tailwind. I’m going to focus more on that platform this year to see if they have any relevant partners.

But if you are going to make money from blogging, which is something that I definitely want to do, finding awesome affiliate partners is a must. I just signed up for a few different ones, so I’m hoping that my 2019 affiliate sales can beat my 2018 numbers ($15 isn’t much to ask, is it??).

Blogging is Awesome!

So if blogging is difficult, time consuming, and so far not profitable, why am I doing it? Because I love it! I’ve always loved writing, so writing for an audience (regardless of how small) is always fun. I also love learning new skills. Who would’ve thought I’d be able to reach three thousand twitter followers, or learn how to design t-shirts, or figure out how to drive (even a small few) people to my site view SEO? I learn something new about myself and about the industry pretty much every day, and it’s all been amazing!

If you are considering starting a blog, I have to say go for it! It’s actually a fairly inexpensive hobby! You can start for under $5 a month with BlueHost (and yes, this is one of the new affiliate programs I signed up for, but they are awesome, especially for new bloggers!). It’s not easy to make an income off of it, but with grit and dedication it really is possible (hopefully!). But even if you don’t make money off of it, any opportunity to develop yourself and learn new skills is a good thing. So give it a try! I’m so glad I dove back in to the blogging world with Partners in Fire. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m excited to see what my second year brings!

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What Buffy taught me

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is obviously my favorite show of all time. I even wrote a post about how amazing it is! But not only is it a great show, it’s also holds tons of valuable life lessons. Buffy taught me so much about life, and surprisingly enough, it also taught me a few things about finance. And if you’ve never see Buffy before, watch it for free with Hulu or buy the seasons with Amazon Prime.

~Spoilers Ahead~

What Buffy Taught me about Life

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is basically one giant metaphor about life. Almost every episode has an overarching theme that involves real life struggles. The show covers growing up, surviving high school, fitting in, finding your place in the world, coping with family drama, and dealing with less than healthy relationships. There are so many life lessons to be learned that it’s hard to focus on just a few, but I’ll try to pick the ones that resonated with me the most.

Life is hard

“The hardest thing about this world is to live in it.”

It seems dire, but it’s true. Life can be hard. It’s not easy to get up every day and deal with the struggles of adult life. There are so many different priorities to juggle, sometimes it’s a win when we make it through the week! Buffy illustrates this struggle in pretty much every episode. In the early seasons, Buffy juggles school, keeping her mom’s approval, being a normal teenager, and of course her slaying duties. In the later seasons, she juggles a career, caring for her sister, taking care of the house, and being there for her friends with her slaying duties. It’s not easy for her, but she’s strong and she keeps fighting.

This lesson isn’t limited to Buffy. Buffy’s first love, Angel, was struggling so much with the guilt from the things that he did that tried to kill himself.

“Am I thing worth saving? Am I a righteous man? The world wants me gone!”

We’ve all had low points in our lives. I’ve struggled with depression, and I’ve struggled with wondering if it was all worthwhile. But it is. And it gets better. Buffy was right.

Strong is fighting

But it’s worth it. Angel lived, and ended up saving the world on numerous occasions. I doubt any of us will do anything that hard core, but we all make our little corners of the world better every day. And that’s worth the struggle.

Be comfortable with yourself

Throughout the series, Buffy struggles with relationships. She’s pretty terrible at them, which is one of the flaws that makes her such a great character. She actually realizes that in season five though, and rather than pursue another losing relationship, she decides that she needs to get to know herself before she will ever be happy in a relationship. She has to be comfortable with Buffy first.

buffy taught me to be comfortable with me

This is the truest lesson you can ever learn. The only person who can ever make you happy is you. The only person responsible for your happiness is you. If you are depending on a significant other to make you happy, you will surely be disappointed.

If you learn to be comfortable with yourself, you will find happiness with yourself. And when you do that, you will be able to find happiness in a healthy relationship.

No Man is worth your life – ever!

Buffy pretty much hits you on the head with the fact that no man (or woman!) is worth your life. Although there are plenty of examples in Buffy of the main character’s choosing their own health and well-being over a significant other, the best example is in season seven’s “Him”, where Dawn literally lays down in front of a train to prove her love for some dude (Love spells are dangerous folks!).

Obviously most real-life examples aren’t this drastic, but it’s way too easy to lose yourself in a romantic partner. I was losing myself when I was stuck in a relationship with an alcoholic. I was becoming an angry, bitter shell of myself. Buffy taught me it was ok to still be myself, and not get wrapped up in his drama. Buffy gave me the strength to finally end a toxic relationship for good. If Buffy can kill her lover to save the world, I can break up with a toxic boyfriend to save myself.

Its all about Power

“Power. I have it, they don’t. This bothers them”

When it really comes down to it, life is all about power. We all strive to have power over ourselves and our own lives, while others seek to exert power over us. We often fall into the trap of letting others have power over us, whether it be our employers (or the Watcher’s Counsel in Buffy), our families, our friends, or even our partners.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer explores the theme of power over and over again throughout the seasons. In season three, the Watcher’s Counsel takes away her power to put her through a barbaric and unnecessary test, and in season five that same counsel tries to trick Buffy into giving up her power.

its all about power

Buffy also explores the dark side of power. In Season six, Willow becomes addicted to powerful witchcraft. She uses her magic to change the world to her own liking, rather than to help people. Her abuse of power is so out of control that she erases her girlfriend’s memory, effectively taking away her ability to be an equal partner. Willow’s lust for power eventually leads her down an incredibly dark path, one that puts the entire world in danger.

Power doesn’t have to be dark. At the series end, Buffy decides to share her power with thousands of other girls; empowering women across the globe to take control over their own lives in one of the most compelling scenes of the entire show.

“I say we change the rule. My power should be our power. Every girl who could have the power will have the power. Are you ready to be strong?”

Buffy taught me that I have power, and I shouldn’t be afraid to use it. She showed me that I can be strong, even in the face of adversity. But she also taught me not to abuse that power; because that only leads to pain.

What Buffy Taught me about Finance

Weird that a teenage drama would inspire money lessons, isn’t it? But Buffy didn’t shy away from any topic! In fact, it was one of the first shows to talk about investing in stocks online! Sure, it was a one-off remark, but I’m impressed it even happened! Fortunately, since I discovered Buffy in 2015 and not in 2002 when that episode aired, I was already well versed in the world of online trading. Buffy’s financial lessons may be a little more sparse than it’s life lessons, but it definitely had a few gems.

Sometimes you Have to take a Crappy Job

You gotta do what you gotta do to pay the bills, even if that means flipping burgers at the Double Meat Palace. In season six, Buffy takes a terrible low wage job because she has to. Slaying doesn’t pay the bills, and unfortunately, she doesn’t have the job experience or time for anything else.

Xander is the poster child of crappy jobs on the show. He delivers pizzas, drives an ice cream truck, and trolls employment boards while he struggles to find his place in the world. His hard work does eventually pay off though! He finds a temporary position working construction, which he is able to parlay into a career.

Xander taught us that it pays to dabble in a few things in order to figure out what suits us. He also taught us that it’s ok to work at terrible jobs while figuring things out.

Houses Need Maintenance

Things get rough for Buffy in season six. With her mom gone, it falls on her to fix everything that gets broken in the house. For some reason, monsters keep barging in and breaking all her things – lamps, doors, tables, even pipes! A major plumbing disaster (that came with a giant bill!) is what drove Buffy to get her crappy job in the first place.

expensive lamp

Things get broken in my house all time, but luckily, it’s mostly wear & tear stuff rather than monster damage. But Buffy’s struggles did resonate with me. She owned a single-family home and was responsible for all the maintenance – monster related or not. If you don’t have protections on your home, that can get incredibly expensive. Luckily, I bought a home warranty with my home, so most repairs are covered after the first $100 initial inspection fee.

Get rich schemes are never the answer

In season six’s “As You Were”, Buffy is still working her crappy low wage job that we talked about above. Enter Spike, the notorious vampire. He didn’t understand why Buffy was “lowering” herself to take such a degrading position. After she sadly tells him that she needs the money, he hatches a horrible scheme to get money. Spike decides to trade in expensive but incredibly dangerous demon eggs. Of course, his plan is foiled, and his home is destroyed in the process.

 Although I would never try to trade in something as dangerous as demon eggs; Spike’s failure offers a valuable lesson. Don’t take the easy way out to make money. Easy money is a myth, and usually a scam. If something seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Capitalism is Awesome

“But I have their money. Who cares what kind of day they have?”

Anya is an awesome character. She starts out as a vengeance demon, but loses her powers and takes a job in retail at the magic shop. Anya talks about how great making money is every chance she gets. She loves the idea of being a cog in the giant wheel of capitalism, and extols it’s values every chance she gets.

dance of capitalist

Although many of Anya’s one liners about money are used for comic relief, she’s not always wrong (though she’s often a bit too blunt about it). Money is incredibly important. It can’t buy happiness, but it can give you options and control over your life.

Life is Expensive

The biggest lesson on finance that you can learn from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that life is expensive, and you need to find a way to pay for it. The different characters in the show face this challenge in different ways. They deal with unemployment, low wage jobs, moving away from their parents, and trying to apply for loans – all real-life stuff that everyone deals with. And it’s freaking expensive! Being an adult is expensive.

It’s ok though. Life may be expensive, but there are tons of options available to help us pay for it. We can do all the things that the characters in Buffy do – and more since using the internet to make extra money wasn’t even a thing back then! Buffy taught us that life is expensive, but it’s also manageable.

What did your favorite show teach you?

I can write and talk all day about how great Buffy is and the life lessons that it imparts, but I think two thousand words is enough. I want to hear from you! What is your favorite show, and what did it teach you about life and money?

 

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Twelfth Month Update

We made through our twelfth month of blogging!  Partners in Fire is officially one year old! I’m so excited to finally reach this milestone. Unfortunately though, our numbers for this month weren’t as great as I had hoped. We didn’t make it to that coveted 1000 users mark; in fact we took a huge step backwards on total users for the month. But we are still trekking along! Let’s see what happened this month to find out where we lost users.

Posting

We stuck to our posting schedule during our twelfth month blogging, publishing a post every Thursday and Sunday like clockwork. We also managed to post a weekly episode of “My Boyfriend Sucks with Money”, which has been great fun.  I did a bonus post on my one-year blogiversary which was completely unrelated to finance but I thought it would be fun to write about. It’s my birthday and I can write what I want to, right? I actually got decent page views out of that too. Weird.

twelfth month graph

Readership

Our readership really took a hit this month. We went from an average of 30 users a day to under 20. We didn’t get any big features this month, so that may have contributed to our decline in users. I think some other factors played a part as well though. I didn’t comment on nearly as many blogs this month as I did last month, and I wasn’t as active on social media. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have time, as I am getting ready for another big move. I would like to say that I’ll do better in December, but I’m actually moving in December so I doubt that will happen. My goal is to at least stick to my consistent posting schedule.

Traffic Drivers

Direct Hits

Direct hits were still our number one source of traffic this month. We had 276 users via direct hits this month. Most of these are coming from our email subscribers who are super awesome and visiting whenever we post. We love you subscribers!! And if you aren’t yet subscribed, just fill in your info to get updates directly to your inbox!

Organic search

Organic search was our second biggest driver of traffic this month. Maybe I’m starting to figure out this SEO thing! We had 190 users from organic searches this month, which is very similar to the last few months. The same keywords “Barista fire” and “Coast FI” are driving traffic. Maybe I should write about those topics more! 

Social Media

I failed at social media during my twelfth month. In month 11, I was posting older articles every day, posting to Instagram every day, and posting relevant content to Facebook to increase my following there. I hardly did any of that this month, and my lack of effort shows with my users. We only had 174 users from social media this month, almost 100 less than last month. I really need to find time for social media to get those numbers back up.

Pinterest

Pinterest is still a work in progress. We only had 66 users from Pinterest this month, which is a small decrease from last month. I did just recently sign up for Tailwind’sSmart Loop feature, so hopefully I’ll start seeing results from that in the next month. Other than that, even with tailwind, my traffic from Pinterest has been fairly stagnant.

Facebook

I did not work on my Facebook presence like I wanted to this month. I did cultivate some good content to share, but unfortunately other things get in the way and I forget to do it on a regular basis. Still, I did get six new likes this month on Facebook, and I got ten more page views from the platform during my twelfth month than during my eleventh. It’s the only social media platform that gave me an increase in page views this month, so I’m going to count that as a win!

Twitter

I failed the most at Twitter this month. I only had 47 users from the platform this month, a huge decrease from the 114 of last month. Why did this happen? I have a few ideas. First, I wasn’t posting as much older content to Twitter. Last month, I tried to share an older post at least once a week for fresh views. Second, and more importantly, I wasn’t as supportive of other bloggers on Twitter as I was last month. I rarely shared content or retweeted, and I just wasn’t as active on the platform in general. When it comes to twitter, giving love is super important. I’m definitely going to try to do better next month!

Instagram

Instagram was a complete failure this month. Although I did post regularly for the first half of the month, I failed at posting during the second half. I only had nine users visit the website from Instagram. My following even decreased – I was close to 1300 and now I’m back down to nearly 1200. Instagram users are super finicky, aren’t they? I want to do better on the platform, but I don’t think I’ll have the time to create compelling photos this month. I will post a bit, but I’ll focus more of my energy on Twitter and Facebook until I get settled in my new job and house.

Referral Traffic

We had 52 users coming from referral traffic this month, which is fairly in line with what we saw last month. However, the referral sources look pretty spammy, so I’m guessing most of these users were bots. I’m going to try to do some extra guest posts in the coming months to get better referral traffic (and increase my DA as a bonus!).

Content

I think the content I posted this month was unique and engaging, but the lack of users to the site tells me otherwise. I tried to write for a general audience interested in saving money on basic things and normal life stuff (pets, giving thanks, groceries, etc). I don’t know if this has just been written about so much that it’s no longer relevant, or if I did a poor job of marketing my content. I guess I’ll find out this month when I post more super exciting content and do a better job of sharing it!

Monetization

I actually made a few bucks off of Amazon this month! Isn’t that exciting? I’m still not making enough money on the blog to pay for anything, but it’s nice to see a few more clicks and purchases every month. We are monetizing slowly but surely! I’m going to try to dabble in sponsored posts and research more affiliate programs in the near future. Hopefully I’ll be able to turn this blog thing into a decent income generator some day!

What’s Next?

We are going to stick with our goal of trying to get over 1000 users, even though we were pretty far from it this month. I know it’s doable! It is going to be hard this month though, I plan on moving in mid-December, so a lot of my free time will be dedicated to packing, cleaning, and getting ready for the move. Unfortunately, that won’t leave a lot of time available for blogging, but I’m going to stick to my Thursday and Sunday posting schedule! It won’t be easy, but I can do it.

What are your thoughts? What else can we do to improve our readership? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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It’s my Blogiversary! For this very special milestone, I’m giving myself (and all of you!) a blogging treat. I’m going to write about whatever I want, regardless of whether it’s in my niche or not (Hint: it’s not). So today, I’m writing this bonus post on Why Buffy is the Greatest Show of all Time. 

Why Buffy is the Greatest Show of All time

There are so many reasons why Buffy is the greatest show of all time, I mean have you seen it? If you haven’t yet, get Hulu and watch it, then come back and read this. There will definitely be spoilers in this post! I also must warn you – the first season isn’t the greatest. It’s full of 90’s campiness and terrible PSA’s. The second season is about 50/50. It offers some of the best episodes in television history, but they are followed up by terrible campy episodes. It’s worth it though! The campiness pretty much goes away in season three, and by that time the genius of the show really shines. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s delve into why Buffy is the greatest show of all time.

The Characters

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a character driven show. There is a plot, and it’s entertaining, but the plot is a device used to explore the different personalities of the characters and to help them develop. I have never seen a show do such a great job of fully developing characters. The four main characters, Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles, all have very human strengths and weaknesses, which are all expanded upon throughout the course of the show.

All four have very human flaws. Buffy is terrible at relationships and communicating with her significant other. She also struggles with finding a balance between her calling (being a slayer) and her normal life. Willow is afraid that she will never be more than that “nerdy little girl”, and struggles with controlling her lust for power. Xander comes from a broken family, doesn’t know how to treat women, and struggles with the transition to adulthood. Giles has a shady past and struggles with feeling needed. These weaknesses lead all of the characters to bad decisions, and bad decisions in the Buffy verse tend to get people hurt.

Related: What Buffy Taught Me About Life and Finance

However, even with the bad decisions and character flaws, they are all good people at heart. You want to root for them, because although they struggle, they all really want to do good in the world. Their flaws make them human, and that makes them relatable. The characters on Buffy feel more real than the characters in any show I’ve ever watched. They are a huge part of what makes Buffy so great.

The supporting characters, Cordelia, Angel, Oz, Spike, Anya, and Tara, Dawn and Joyce are all completely developed as well. Each character on the show is three dimensional, with their own goals, hopes, dreams, strengths, and weaknesses. None of them exists solely as a plot device to the others.

The Emotions

Buffy is amazing at playing off of your emotions. This show can make you laugh and then make you cry like no other. It has amazing one liners (Buffy’s silly puns when she’s slaying, Xander’s ridiculous quips, and Willow just being Willow) and also some hilarious comedic situations. Does anyone remember the Buffy Bot? She’s hysterical! But the show isn’t a comedy, and it can hit you so hard in the feels that you don’t even know what happened. The episode “Passions” in season two had the first shocking death of a main character. But it wasn’t her death so much as the meticulous way the killer set her body up that was the incredibly heart-wrenching. This show knows how to shock and disturb its viewers. I never expected to experience this much emotion while watching a silly teenager show about vampires.

sad buffy

The Stand-Alone Episodes

“Hush”

Buffy has some of the best stand-alone episodes in television history. Seriously, Joss Whedon is a genius. His first true masterpiece was season four’s “Hush”, an episode with strikingly little dialect. Everyone thought that Buffy’s success was only due to the snappy dialect. Whedon accepted the challenge, and wrote an episode where monsters steal everyone’s voice. The Gentlemen, as they were called, were some of the creepiest monsters ever to be featured on Buffy. The action sequences and the attempts to communicate without the spoken word were ground breaking – this had never been done in television. “Hush” is absolutely one of my favorites.

“The Body”

“The Body” is another stand-alone episode that is a cinematic masterpiece. In this heart wrenching episode, Buffy’s mother dies of natural causes. This episode captured the feeling of hopeless we have when a loved one dies like nothing I’ve ever watched. Every character deals with grief in their own way. Buffy imagines that she was able to save her mother. Willow, Xander, Tara, and Anya are angry, and unable to comprehend the loss. Giles tries to be strong for Buffy but is overcome with his own grief. And then, Buffy has to try to pull herself together for her little sister. The lack of music throughout the episode adds to the realism, and you really feel like you are there mourning with Buffy and her friends. This episode is so powerful that I can hardly even watch it when I’m on a Buffy re-watch.

“Once More With Feeling”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “Once More with Feeling” as the best stand-alone episode of the series. It does tie into the plot, so it might not actually be a stand-alone, but this is probably one of the best episodes of any show in television history. “Once More with feeling” is a musical episode – in fact Buffy was one of the first show’s ever to pull it off. The songs are fun and catchy, but are also powerful and give a peek into the psyche of the characters. It’s a masterpiece. I can’t really say more about it, you just have to watch it.

It’s Groundbreaking

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a ground-breaking show. It was one of the first shows ever to feature a strong female lead character, and a mostly female supporting cast. But part of the genius of Buffy is that it didn’t bill itself as such. Buffy was just a girl who happened to be chosen, and her calling turned her into a strong leader. It was an incredibly feminist show that didn’t pat itself on the back for being feminist. Buffy is a leader that anyone could look up to.

Buffy also featured the first normalized lesbian relationship on network television. Willow and Tara’s romance was one of the healthiest relationships on the entire show (until Willow got all crazy with the magics). They shared the first real lesbian kiss ever featured on a network show, and it wasn’t done to sexualize the couple. It was a sweet kiss shared in a moment of grief. It’s amazing that a television show could do so much to help normalize homosexual relationships.

Willow and tara kiss

The Over Arching Themes

The High School Years

Buffy is a show about life. It uses monsters as metaphors for things that we all deal with regularly. The overarching theme of the first three seasons is that high school is hell. This is portrayed with an entrance to hell directly beneath the high school. Buffy portrays common high school problems with monster metaphors (often in a super campy way!). There is an episode about a teacher who preys on high school boys, a girl who feels invisible, jocks who get away with anything, online predators, and trying to fit in with the cool kids. All of these things are common problems that many high schoolers deal with on a daily basis.

Transitioning

Seasons four and five deal with the transition from high school to adulthood. The girls go to college, while Xander tries to find his way through a series of terrible jobs. Giles tries to find his place in their lives as they grow up. The gang’s friendship is tested in season four, as they all grow and struggle to find their places in the world. In season five, they all start to gain a bit of footing. Buffy gains a sister, and after the death of her mother is thrust into the responsibility of caring for a minor. Talk about having to grow up.

Adulthood

Seasons six and seven are about coming to terms with adulthood. Season 6 is the darkest season of the show, and it’s my absolute favorite. The “big bad” of the season isn’t really a monster – it’s life. Buffy is struggling with severe depression and trying to keep things together for her sister. She fails more often than not. Willow becomes addicted to the power of witchcraft, because she feels that it’s the only thing she has to offer “if you could be plain old Willow or super Willow, which would you chose?” Xander and Anya’s relationship is on the rocks, because Xander is trying to decide if he really is ready for marriage. He ends up breaking her heart and leaving her at the alter – because he wasn’t ready but didn’t know how to tell her. All of the characters are a complete mess in season six, but that’s what makes it so good. Its gritty and it’s real. The first few years of adulthood are hard, and Buffy doesn’t hold back in portraying that.

Season seven is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Buffy overcomes her depression, Xander becomes a foreman at his company and learns to respect his friend’s decisions, and Willow learns to find balance in witchcraft. Many people hate this season because of the focus on the potential slayers, but I think it’s a beautiful end to an amazing series. The hell mouth gets destroyed for good, and Buffy finally has the chance to lead a normal life if she chooses. This season is about being an adult and making adult decisions, and I think it’s amazing.

The love interests

So we talked about some of the overarching themes and cinematography crap that makes shows great; but what really makes shows amazing is some awesome drama concerning love interests. That’s what kept us coming back to Friends, and (gag) Twilight, right? Well Buffy has the most compelling love stories of all time! She fell in love with vampires before it was cool! And I’ll try to be unbiased, but I’m clearly a Spuffy shipper.

Buffy and Spike

Buffy and Angel

The first compelling love story of the series is between Buffy and Angel – the Vampire cursed with a Soul. Angel is the mysterious older man who often comes to Buffy with dire warnings. He’s the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. It’s easy to see why she’s so smitten. Their relationship is full of drama – he’s drawn to her but doesn’t want to date her because of what he is. He lies to her about seeing Drusilla, and basically forces her to admit she loves him (although she specifically states she doesn’t trust him). When he eventually tells her the truth about how horrible he was without a soul, she forgives him and they move forward with their teenage romance.

But loving Angel comes with a deep price. His curse was meant to make him suffer. If he had just one moment of happiness, the curse would be lifted and he would lose his soul. Making love to Buffy was the one moment of happiness that caused him to lose it, and now Buffy is left to deal with one of the most dangerous vampires in history. Her world is turned upside down when she has to kill him in order to save the world. Talk about amazing story telling.

Buffy and Spike

The other amazing love story of the series is between Buffy and another notorious vampire, Spike. Spike is portrayed as a hopeless romantic vampire from his first introduction in season two, where he is shown to be deeply in love with the vampires Drusilla. He’s also a Slayer of Slayers, and hopes to make Buffy his third. Unfortunately for Spike, he falls in love with her instead.

The dynamic between the two characters as the show progresses is amazing. They go from sworn enemies to reluctant allies – to friends and then to lovers, with a lot of drama and heartache in between. They are horrible and abusive to each other in season six, but are able to forgive and trust each other by the end of season seven. Their journey is so real – it’s not a teenage fantasy of what love should be. It’s two adults who made terrible decisions but who both tried to make amends and move past it. The realism of it makes it my favorite relationship in the entire show.

So Yeah, Buffy is the best show ever

Clearly Buffy the Vampire show is my favorite show ever. But I’d love to hear your comments! Do you think Buffy is the greatest show of all time? Why or why not? And if you haven’t seen it yet, I hope I didn’t spoil too much for you – go watch it! And if you love it as much as I do, buy the complete set on DVD at Amazon!

tabula rosa

 

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Hey folks! Transparency Disclosure- Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra!

Holiday shopping season is upon us! Now that Black Friday Weekend is coming to a close, online retailers are stepping up their games and offering amazing sales to entice you to finish your holiday shopping online. Welcome to Cyber Monday! It’s also a great way to support your favorite bloggers!

Cyber Monday and Beyond

After the craziness of Black Friday, don’t you just want to stay home and finish your holiday shopping online? All the online retailers are making that super easy for you, by offering fantastic sales. The best deals can be found on Monday, but great offers can be found throughout the holiday season. Online shopping really is a god send, isn’t it?

Support Bloggers

You might be asking how you can support bloggers during Cyber Monday and beyond, or how the two things even relate. Well that’s an excellent question!

Blogging isn’t free. It costs money to host a website, and it takes a lot of time. Many of us participate in affiliate programs to try to recoup some of those costs. The Amazon affiliate program is one of the most well-known, and one that tons of bloggers participate in.

In order to support bloggers while doing your online Christmas shopping, all you have to do is head to Amazon through your favorite blogger’s Amazon affiliate link. Just click the link and shop like you normally would! It doesn’t even cost you anything extra! How awesome is that? You can support your favorite blog by just shopping like you normally do. And, to make it extra easy, here is a google docs spreadsheet of some of the best small finance blogs! Now you don’t even have to search for bloggers to support! Oh, and if your favorite blog isn’t on the list, let me know and I’ll get them added right away!

I keep this list of bloggers saves as a favorite, and every time I go to Amazon to do some shopping, I pick a different blogger and use their link. It’s so easy!

Want to support bloggers but don’t know what to buy? Check out the 5 best things to buy online!

Other ways to Support Bloggers

I get that online shopping isn’t everyone’s thing. And that’s ok! There are tons of other ways to support bloggers! The best way is to just visit their websites and read their content. Bloggers love getting those sweet sweet page views!

Another great way to support bloggers is by sharing their content on your social media pages. It’s super simple to share a blog post on Facebook and Twitter, or to like a photo on Instagram. You can also support bloggers by simply following their social media accounts. Some bloggers are trying to make ends meet via sponsorship, and the more followers they have on a variety of platforms the better. Facebook is traditionally the hardest social media platform to build (at least it has been for me!), so do your favorite bloggers a favor and like and share their pages. Invite your friends to like their pages. If you love the content, your friends probably will too. (Shameless plug for my Facebook page!)

A final way to support (some) bloggers is to offer donations through Patreon. Not all bloggers have Patreon accounts, but those that do really appreciate any and all donations. I know that Bitches get Riches fully supports their blog with Patreon, and I’m sure that others do as well. If you are in the giving mood, look into whether your favorite blogger has a Patreon and offer them a one-time donation. I know they would really appreciate it!

No Pressure

Clearly you don’t have to do any of these things. As bloggers, we are just super happy that you stopped by! I can’t speak for everyone, but I truly do appreciate each and every person who comes by and gives my simple little blog a read. I’m writing for you. Partners in Fire wouldn’t be a thing without you. I really appreciate all of the support and I wish you all the happiness in the world this holiday season!

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my boyfriend sucks with money

Hey Partners! Welcome to Episode 7 of My Boyfriend Sucks with Money! Today, we have two special guest stars, my sister who also sucks with money and her boyfriend (who is super quiet). 

My Sister Also Sucks with Money

My sister has made some horrible financial decisions in her life, and she’s always able to justify these to herself. Her mental gymnastics are fantastic! The best illustration of how much my sister also sucks with money is her crazy truck payment, which we talk about on this week’s episode of My Sister Sucks with Money. Give it a listen and see what I’m dealing with folks!

Lessons Learned

Trying to do a podcast with four people in the same room isn’t easy. We have a hard enough time not talking over each other when it was just the two of us! We did tell them about the best practices and lessons learned before we started, and I think going over those rules really helped ensure it went smoothly. There are few instances of us talking over each other- win! 

We also learned that we have to work harder with the microphone settings when we have two loud people and two soft spoken people. My sister is even louder than Brian! Did you guys know it was possible for someone to be louder than him? Between that and how echo-y my dad’s house was, the sound quality on this podcast wasn’t the best. We did our best while editing it, but it still sounds a bit airy. 

Patreaon

Did you love “My Sister Also Sucks with Money”? Do you want to here the exclusive unedited version? Check out our Patreaon page! You can also get access to our discord channel and chat with us! This week, some of our exclusive content includes Brian trying to steal Mindy’s thunder! Entertaining stuff. 

 

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"Be thankful"

In the midst of our struggles to escape the rat race, or while we are complaining about how miserable our nine to five prisons are, we sometimes forget to take a step back and appreciate all the things we have to be thankful for.  I know I’m guilty of it. So today, instead of writing about finance and how it affects our lives, I’m going to write about all the things I’m thankful for. And amazingly, there are so many things in my life that I should be thankful for, I probably won’t be able to address them all in this one post.  That’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Things to be Thankful For

My Upbringing and family

I’ve written a few posts about my upbringing already- I talked about my lower middle-class background and what my mom taught me about finance. I don’t know if I mentioned it in either of those two posts, but I am incredibly thankful for my upbringing. My parents didn’t have much, but they always had our best interests at heart and did everything they could to make sure we were taken care of. My father drilled the fact that I was going to college into my head for as long as I could remember.

I recognize that there are millions of kids who didn’t have parents who cared that much. There are millions of kids whose parents worked so much just to provide their basic needs that they didn’t have time to offer the kind of support that I got. There are also a bunch of kids who grew up wealthy, and didn’t have to work to succeed. Although that would have been nice, I’m glad that my parents instilled a strong work ethic into me.

I’m not just thankful for my parents though. I have two awesome siblings, and a pretty fantastic extended family. We may not be able to see each other often, but when we get together it’s like no time has passed. It’s amazing.

My Job

I may not like my job, but I am thankful to have it. It pays well, it is slightly related to my college major, and the hours are good. I also have a fair amount of autonomy when it comes to how to run my section. And let’s be honest, having this job is what put me on the path towards financial independence in the first place. I know that there are tons of bloggers on the path with lower incomes, and I just don’t know how they do it. They are freaking super stars! I’m not sure I would have had the willpower if I didn’t make what I do. So although I complain about it on occasion, I really am thankful to have it.

My Honey Bunny

I know first hand what it’s like to be in an emotionally abusive relationship, and that makes me even more thankful to finally be with a person who loves, supports, and appreciates me. Our relationship isn’t perfect (what relationship is?) and unfortunately, he really sucks with money, but I’ve never been with someone who makes me feel so loved and supported. And he’s learning to be better with money! He’s even willing to discuss all his money issues on our awesome podcast. It’s so amazing to have a partner who actually wants to help me with my projects. He’s the best.

If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone who is struggling with an abusive partner it would be this: Leave. Life is short, and it can be so much better. I know how hard it is to leave, I really do. But it’s worth it. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life, and most of it is due to his support.

My Health

I’m very thankful that I’ve been blessed with good health. I’ve had a few minor problems, but nothing that would prevent me from working or perusing my dreams. I know that lots of people are able to excel while dealing with physical or mental ailments, and that just makes things a little harder. I’m fortunate that I haven’t had to deal with those things.

My Friends

Family doesn’t end in blood (Supernatural!), and I have some awesome friends who prove that. I have so many amazing people in my life that I know I will be ok no matter what happens. I have people that I can reach out to if I’m struggling, and you don’t really realize how important that is until you need it. My friends have helped me through tough patches and have been there to celebrate my wins with me. I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I didn’t have them in my life, and I’m thankful for each and every one of them, even if I don’t get to see them that often.

So Many Things

There are so many things to be thankful for, it’s impossible to list them all in one blog post. I hit on the biggest ones, but there are so many little things that I’m thankful for every day. I’m thankful for the food I can go buy at the grocery store, I’m thankful that I can safely drive through my country, I’m thankful for the opportunities available in my country, and I’m thankful for the internet.

Thanksgiving generally is the day that we pause to think about all these things, but lets try to be thankful for these big and little things every day. We all do have a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What are you thankful for?

"things to be thankful for"
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