Tuesday, June 9, 2015

6 Places to Get Free Stuff Online

Dear Friends of the Internet,

A few years ago, I discovered a beautiful corner of the web: sample sites. Yes, companies all over the country are willing to send you free samples. Like, full-size, legit, free samples. And there's no catch. Despite my initial fears, I have gotten zero junk mail as a result of signing up with these sites.

See, companies need consumer testers who will try out the product, give honest feedback, and write Internet reviews. They use these sites to target consumers who could be future customers.

How It Works
1. Company needs to find consumer testers and spread awareness about a new product
2. They hire one of the sites below to find interested customers
3. Customers (you!) select and try out products you find interesting
4. You share honest feedback with the company, and (maybe) tweet or post about the things you like.
5. Everybody wins!

Last month alone, I received about $20 in free products AND $105 in Amazon gift cards. $105! As a result, I thought it was time to share, so that others can take advantage of these fun offers.

A Tip Before You Begin
Set up a social media site just for sampling products. A few of these sites ask that you promote the product in exchange for receiving the free sample. This request is much easier to satisfy when you aren't worried about your friends judging you for pimping out your profile!

I've arranged these based on how long I've been a member. Feel free to peruse the sites and sign up for those that interest you. Happy sampling!

(You'll note that some of these have referral links - but don't worry. I'm not getting paid! If you sign up using my referral link, I will receive fake internet points, which will put a smile on my face :) )

1. Crowdtap

Member Since: June 2011
Sample Quality: varies
Social Media Requirement: Optional
What I've Received:
$110 in Amazon giftcards
Fast-Acting Advil Tablets

How It Works:  Crowdtap allows each brand partner to set up a page with simple questions to answer.

Every time you answer a question, you earn points. For every 100 points you earn, your name is entered into a raffle for gift cards to various stores. At the end of the month, winners are drawn. Although there are only a few cards with substantial value, there are thousands of cards in the $5 range - and these can add up fast!

The questions you answer can also qualify you for product missions. Mission often include an offer of free products to try out and review.

My Thoughts: This is easily the most lucrative of the sites. I spend a few minutes every other day answering survey questions and earning points. At the end of each month, I nearly always win one or more gift cards. Last month, I won $100! Social media pimping on this site is also totally optional.

2. Influenster

Member Since: November 2012
Sample Quality: full-sized, store-quality samples (often before release)
Social Media Requirement: Optional, but recommended.
What I've Received: 
Tide Febreeze Pods (10 pack)
John Frieda Beach Waves
SkinFix Hand Lotion
AdoreMe Lingerie
Crest Optic White Toothbrush with Whitening Pen
Optic White Toothpaste
Carefree liners
Loreal Paris Ultimate Straight 4-Piece Hair Care Set

How It Works:  Influenster uses snaps (short questions) to determine if you might fit a product. If you are a match, they email a link to a qualifying survey. If you're a match, then you're in! Once you receive the box, you check in and complete various tasks to earn a badge. However, only the end-of-campaign feedback survey is required. Influenster also gives preference to users who write reviews, earn badges, and connect their social media accounts. 

My Thoughts: This is the site that I've used the longest. Influenster is also the site with the best samples, hands down. They often send out products before their official release and they send out full-sized products rather than hotel samples. Easily my favorite of the bunch!

3. Swaggable

Member Since: April 2015
Sample Quality: coupons, small samples (think hotel shampoo)
Social Media Requirement: No
What I've Received: nothing

How It Works:  Swaggable uses surveys to match users to products. However, you can also mark products that you want to try, increasing the likelihood that you'll receive those products. If you're chosen for a product campaign, you'll receive free samples. Then you'll be asked to review the product on their website.

My Thoughts: I joined Swaggable at the same time that I joined BzzAgent, and I have yet to receive anything. I get the impression that they cater more to parents and pet owners. But, they also seem to be a relatively new company, so I'm hoping that if I stick around there might be more products to come!

4. BzzAgent

Member Since: April 2015
Sample Quality: coupons, small samples (think hotel shampoo)
Social Media Requirement: Yes
What I've Received: nothing

How It Works:  BzzAgent uses surveys to match users to products. Once you're matched to a product, BzzAgent allows you to accept or decline a product campaign. If you accept, you'll be sent samples, then asked to review the product on their website.

My Thoughts: I've been a member of this site for several months now, and I have yet to be offered any product sampling. They've only sent me one qualifying survey (for an epilator of all things) and I never heard back. Their website is also a little confusing and difficult to manage. However, BzzAgent seems to have a good reputation among established users. I get the impression that their selection and service has declined considerably over the past few months and years.

5. PinchMe

Member Since: April 2015
Sample Quality: travel-size (think American Girl doll scale)
Social Media Requirement: Nope!
What I've Received:
Olay Strawberry Bodywash
Kraft Parmesan Cheese
Playtex Tampons
Gold Bond lotion.

How It Works:  PinchMe displays pop up questions when you visit their site. Then, once a month, they release new samples for you to choose. You select the samples you are interested in trying, then they send you a personalized box with your chosen samples. If a product is out of stock, you can add it to your wishlist. When it becomes available again, PinchMe will give you another chance to order it. All they ask in return is an honest review on their site. No need for social media pimping!

My Thoughts: Of all the sites I've tried, this is one of my favorites. They offer many brands I care about, they don't require me to pimp out my social media, and I can select and order only the samples I'm interested in. The only downside: there is about a 4 week delay between ordering your samples and receiving your samples. However, they are working to shorten this wait time.

6. Smiley360

Member Since: April 2015
Sample Quality: full-sized, store-quality samples
Social Media Requirement: Yes
What I've Received: nothing

How It Works:  Smiley360 uses surveys to match you to product campaigns. Once you receive a campaign product, you are required to share your feedback on their website and on social media.

My Thoughts: Of all of the sites I've tried, this is the site that demands the most social media pimping. For their intro mission alone, they requested that I share info on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. Yikes!

Have you tried any of these sites? Are there any sites you'd like to add? I'd love to hear about your free sample experience!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Stitch Fix #3: June 2015

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Hello, again, everyone! Apparently Stitch Fix is becoming a regular staple in my life. It helps that you guys keep signing up for fixes yourselves! I'd love to hear how they're going - I hope you're having good experiences!

I have to say, when I saw the order summary for this month's box, I thought my stylist, Angie, must have bombed. A tab sleeve blouse with mesh? A jacket covered in zippers?? I thought Angie must be crazy. But she is not crazy, my friends. She is a genius. And my third box from Stitch Fix is close to flawless. I think I'm in love. (No one tell Kenny.) Tragically, my budget didn't allow me to keep everything, but trust me. If I could have kept it all, I definitely would have. Check out the pics below. Let me know if you think I made the right calls!

1. Analeigh Crochet Detail Dolman Knit Top - $48

I was initially surprised to see a Dolman blouse in my fix, since I left negative feedback for the Dolman shirt I got in my first fix. But Angie explained in her note that she thought this would go well with my thrifted coral skinny jeans - and she was right! 

But, even though I liked this blouse, it was the easiest one to send back. I'm not a huge fan of the Dolman cut because it tends to obliterate my arms and waist - the parts of my body that I like to show off! I will give this shirt bonus points for comfiness. 

And here is where I demonstrate how much fabric there is between the edge of the shirt and my waist:

Verdict: Returned

2. Elissa French Terry Striped Moto Jacket - $74

I never would have guessed that one of my favorite pieces in this fix would be a striped, terry-lined jacket covered in zippers, but...oh man. I have a serious crush on this jacket. Unfortunately, in the end, I couldn't justify the price.

Verdict: Returned 

3. Breyson Pleated Tab Sleeve Blouse - $58

You know how Angie totally gets me? Angie totally gets me. It was clear that she has scoured my Pinterest page and spent a lot of time picking out items for me. I mentioned in a few pins that I'm obsessed with coral right now, so this was a great pick on Angie's part. I really love this blouse (noticing a trend?) but I couldn't justify keeping two tab blouse, and I when I saw the other one...

Verdict: Returned (again, reluctantly)
4. Shanon Mesh Detail V-Neck Top - $68

My heart was stolen. Few things beat coral blouses in my book, but this royal blue blouse was wonderful. It is slightly fitted on the sides, so it defines my waist and body shape a little more. I was very skeptical about this piece when I saw it had mesh. MESH?? I do not wear MESH. Well, ya do now, Ellen. 

What really sealed the deal on this particular blouse for me was how well it dresses up. This can easily be a casual piece when paired with jeans, or an office top when paired with trousers (and my favorite gold pumps from my April thrifting trip!). 

Verdict: Kept!

5. Delora Hammered Leaf Earrings - $28

I asked Angie for a pair of dangly, gold earrings, and these were a perfect fit. When I saw pictures on Pinterest of these earrings in other people's fixes, and I was worried these would be cheap. But they are actually very well made. They feel very solid and substantial without being too heavy. I knew these were perfect from the moment I pulled them out of the box.

Verdict: Kept


1. Analeigh Crochet Detail Dolman Knit Top - $48: Returned
2. Elissa French Terry Striped Moto Jacket - $74: Returned
3. Breyson Pleated Tab Sleeve Blouse - $58: Returned
4. Shanon Mesh Detail V Neck Top - $68: Kept
5. Delora Hammered Leaf Earrings - $28: Kept

So what do you think? Did I send the right items back? What are your favorite pieces? Will you be pinning anything for your next fix? Let me know below! :)

Wait, What Is Stitch Fix?

Never heard of Stitch Fix? Stitch Fix is a stylist service that delivers hand-selected clothes straight to your door. When you sign up for a box, you fill out a style profile, request certain items and, if you choose to, share a Pinterest page full of styles you love. To complete your order, you pay a $20 styling fee, which covers shipping and can be applied to any items you want to keep from the box. 

Then a StitchFix stylist chooses five clothing or accessory items based on your info and sends them to you. You can chooses your preferred price range, but items generally run around $50-$55 per piece.

When the box arrives, you have three days to try on the items, pair them with other clothing in your wardrobe and decide which pieces you want to keep. You pay online for the things you keep and send back (free of charge) anything you don't want. And if you keep all five, you get a 25% discount! 

You choose how often you get a box (I've been doing about one box every two months), and there's no requirement that you schedule more than one box. You can start and stop at whim. 

If you'd like to try it out yourself, please consider signing up with my referral link: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/4748652.  (Affiliate links are included throughout this post

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Our First Apartment: A Farewell Tour

As many of you know, I'll be starting a new job in just a few short weeks. And while Kenny and I won't be leaving the Twin Cities, we will be leaving our apartment. My new position is live-in so, while we've only lived in our current apartment a few months, we'll be relocating (and downsizing) at the end of June. We're both very excited about the move, and I'm looking forward to decorating a new place, but I'm definitely sad to leave our first apartment behind. Before I begin disassembling and packing up, I wanted to capture our first shared home at its best. Take a look, then let me know what you think in the comments! (Please excuse the wonky lighting and iPhone quality photos.)

Entry Way

Living Room

We're really going to miss our beautiful view. 




I'm  in love with these flowers. Please excuse their presence in nearly every room.

Guest Bedroom

I never really got to spruce this up as much I had hoped to, but I'm still pretty happy with where this ended up. 


Thoughts, dear friends? What should come with us to the new apartment? What should head to storage?