27 May 2011


^What happens when my sister and I get bored and decide to use the Internet and our limited Photoshop skills.
(This is also now my desktop background.)

Original image:

Personally, I think outer space is way more fun ;-)

24 May 2011

summertime soc

For me, summertime has always been a time for thinking.  The only time of the year when I am essentially free to do whatever I want.  Or, to do nothing at all.  There are no obligations creeping up behind me (or at least, way fewer than during the rest of the year).  On one hand, it's great.  I can be much more relaxed.  Instead of worrying about making sure everything gets done that needs to, I can breathe and take a break.  On the other hand, it leaves me too much time to think.  Free from all the stresses of school, my mind wanders.  And being the kind of person that I am, it wanders to everything that could possibly stress me out during summer vacation.  The thesis application that I really should have just gotten done during the semester.  MCAT and GRE prep.  Booking airline tickets and train tickets and hotels for my upcoming study abroad/Europe trip.  Besides that, being home in itself is stressful.  My parents aren't used to having three kids at home, and I'm not used to having to answer to my parents about everything I do.  Things have always been...tense...at my house, and while me going off to college should have at least helped prove to them that I'm an adult and can take care of myself, it's seemingly done the exact opposite to my parents.  Now that I think for myself, they're slowly losing the control over me that they so enjoyed for the first 17 years of my life.  Yes, I've finished three years of college now, and I've been living away from home for three years, and while I have a rational view of the world, I'm not afraid of it.  No, my parents haven't really accepted any of this and so things are especially tense.  More thinking...what can I do so this will all calm down?  In some ways, I miss the stresses of the semester, where I was forced to stay focused and not let my mind wander in all these different directions.  Maybe that's what gets me through the majority of the year- the sheer fact that, if I get too distracted, I'll fall.  And I can't let that happen.

18 May 2011

Freebie How-To: Free Product Coupons

In order to save money on shipping costs, some companies opt to send free product coupons instead of mailing an actual sample of their product.  Once the coupon comes in the mail, you simply take it to the store and 'buy' the product for free.

There are definitely some advantages to getting free product coupons, even though it takes a little bit more work to get your freebie.  The main advantage is that you will get a full-sized product for free instead of a sample-sized one!  Because many products are not available in travel sizes at major retailers, your coupon will be valid for a full-sized product.  Another advantage is that because most products are available in different varieties (ex, different scents or different flavors), you have more of a say in exactly what you get for free.  This in turn helps the brand, because you are able to pick out a product that you're interested in and that you might purchase in the future if you like the freebie.

It's really up to each individual brand whether they choose to send a coupon or a product sample.  As such, there are not many specific websites that I can list here where you can find free product coupons.  One website that does make free product coupons available, however, is Kraft First Taste.  If you sign up for this website, Kraft will occasionally make coupons available to get their newest products for free.  The only disadvantage is that you'll have to install a coupon printer to get these coupons as most of them are not available by mail.  Other companies will send coupons by mail- so if installing a coupon printer is not something you want to do, don't worry!

Other free product coupons may be available as prizes from instant win games.  You may also be able to get them by writing to companies whose products you (1) use often and love, or (2) have had a problem with.  The companies may send you coupons to either thank you for your comments or to appease you if you've had an issue with their product.

Here is a small list of some free product coupons I've gotten recently:

Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo or Styling Product
Pampers Kandoo bathroom wipes
Clairol Nice 'n Easy Color Blend Foam
ThermaCare Heat Wraps
any El Monterey frozen food product

11 May 2011

Freebie How-To: General Free Samples

General free samples are the easiest and most common kind of freebies available.  Companies offer trial-sized samples of their products in order to promote their product to as many customers as possible.  These samples may come directly from a company, or from a major retailer that sells the product.

Stores such as Walmart and Target regularly offer samples.  Their availability and specific offers vary, but you can usually find something on these sites.

The P&G Brand Sampler from Proctor and Gamble is similar to the trial-sized free samples that you can find, but when you register for the Sampler, you actually can get a small box of trial-sized products, and occasionally coupons as well.  This is available approximately four times per year.

When companies offer free samples, they will often announce them on their Facebook pages.  This means that if you like a brand or use it often, you should "like" them on Facebook!

Other times, smaller brands (as opposed to the well-known ones that you see all the time in major retailers) will offer free samples of their product in order to try and expand their consumer base.  It's not easy to come across these samples yourself, as some of the websites might be pretty small, but websites like It's All Free Online (FB:  Free Samples, TW:  @NewFreeSamples) and Free Stuff Times (FB:  Free Stuff Times, TW:  @fstimes) will list these samples as they become available and are found.  They will also list samples from the major retailers, if you don't feel like searching a bunch of places for them yourself!

Here is a small list of some samples that I have gotten recently:

Maybelline NY FitMe Foundation
Secret Natural Mineral Deodorant
Degree with motionSense Deodorant
Zapzyt (an acne treatment)
Orville Redenbacher's Pop Up Bowl popcorn

09 May 2011

Freebie How-To: Part 1 ~ An Overview

I'm going to do a series of blog posts about free stuff.  The more people I talk to about my free stuff obsession, the more people I find who are surprised that it's even possible to get things for free.  This first post is a general overview of different types of freebies that are available.  Each of these categories will get its own post later on.

1) General free samples
These are the typical free samples that you can get in the mail.  When companies want to promote their products, you can usually get a small sample of the product.  This often also comes with a coupon so that if you decide to buy the product, you can also save money!

2) Free product coupons
Instead of mailing out samples, some companies opt to mail you a coupon good for a free product.  You take the coupon to your local store and redeem it to get your free item.  This saves the companies money (since it is cheaper to mail a coupon than a sample-sized item), and, you get a free full-sized product out of it!

3) Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing samples
Sometimes, you can get free full-sized products to sample.  These samples often come from word-of-mouth marketing sites.  In exchange for the free product, you are expected to talk about the product to friends and family once you have used it.  The hope is to not only create a new customer out of you, but also out of people you interact with.

4) Instant Win Games (IWG)
Instant win games are one way to get more expensive things for free.  While a lot of IWG come out around holidays, there are always some out there.  While it's not a guarantee that you will win anything, when you do win, the prizes are typically worth a lot more money than anything you can get for free by other means.

5) Facebook/Twitter
Brands have Facebook and Twitter pages as a means of interacting with their consumers.  These brands often provide coupons to their fans/followers, and even will have contests for bigger items from time to time- such as gift cards or product freebies.

6) Hosted Parties
Another vein of websites, similar in a way to WOM, is hosted parties.  Companies provide products for the host (you) as well as samples for your guests and sometimes, activities for your party as well.  Then, you host a party which incorporates the product you are acting as an ambassador for.

7) Free Books
I'm listing this separately from the other types of samples because there are publishers and bookstores that will mail readers new releases for free in exchange for a short review.  These are geared towards both children and adults.  While the options of books to choose from is not always huge, it's a fun way to try something different.

8) In-Store freebies
Occasionally, companies will offer in-store promos where you can go into their store and pick up a free product.  While sometimes you have to purchase something to get the free item, this is not always the case.  There are plenty of times where the item is totally free, no strings attached!

9) Miscellaneous
Other ways to get things for free include calling or writing to companies and asking for coupons or samples, and using coupons while you shop.  This last post of the series will include a variety of other ways that you can easily get things you use often for free (or almost free).

I will probably post this series as 1-2 posts per week for about 6-8 weeks.  Enjoy!

07 May 2011

Trying not to think ahead

In just under 36 hours, I will finish my last final of junior year of college.  I'm actively trying not to think about the fact that next year will be my last year at Rutgers, that a year from now I will be the one thinking about graduation and looking forward to the rest of my life.

On one hand, I'm excited and thankful to be in this place.  Since getting to college, I've been worried about not being able to complete my majors on time due to the sheer number of credits they take.  Now, I'm down to three classes and two one-credit seminars, plus a thesis.  And that's it- then I am done.  A part of me is really happy about this.  I am finally sure that I can finish both of my majors on time, so, no more worries about not finishing in four years, and having to worry about paying for a fifth year of school.

On the other hand, I can't believe that I've already been at Rutgers for three years.  The time has just gone by so quickly.  I volunteer as an academic adviser for incoming students; the past two weekends I have helped these students pick their classes for their first semester at college, and think ahead about their major options and career goals.  As I talk to these students, experiencing a small taste of the college life for the first time, I can't help but think about when I was in their shoes three years ago.  Like them, I was overwhelmed and apprehensive of all the choices in front of me, and struggling with the freedom that Rutgers was shoving at me.  Now, I am on the other end of that spectrum.  I know what classes to take, what I am interested in, and I have ideas in place for my future.  It's amazing how much can change in just a few years.  Suddenly, I am the one people are asking for advice.  I know something about all the craziness that is Rutgers University.  And one year from now, it will all be over.

I don't want to think about it too much; after all, I still have a year left that I want to take full advantage of.  I'm excited to continue working in my lab, and give a greater time commitment to research.  I can't wait for marching band season to start up again in just a few months- and the fact that it will likely be my last ever just makes it all the more special.  And even now, I am looking forward to seeing my friends again in September that I won't see all that often over the summer because South Jersey is too far away from everything else in this state.

At some point, I'll have to come to terms with the fact that next year is the end of my Rutgers undergraduate career.  But...not right now.
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