So remember when I made an announcement to the blogosphere, way back when, about how I was going to run the Broad Street Run? You know, that race that’s 10 MILES? Well I did it! And guess what? It wasn’t even that bad. Does that mean I want to run 10 miles every weekend? Absolutely not. But do I think I am going to do again next year? Yeah, probably. I know – craziness!!
I had an initial goal of running the race in 1:40. Well, spoiler alert, I beat that time by a whole minute and a half! My final finish was 1:38:25 which equates to an average page of 9:51 minutes per mile. I’m not going to lie – I was pretty proud of myself.
Here is the obligatory photo of me at the start line before the race began.
Since the race is so large (40,000 runners), the runners are divided into corrals based on each runner’s expected finish time. Since I was one of the slower runners, my corral was towards the back so it took me a half hour after the race started just to cross the start line!
Initially I was feeling pretty good! At the beginning, I found all the buildings and architecture in North Philadelphia pretty entertaining since I hadn’t really been to that part of town before. Around mile 4, Temple University’s marching band was performing on the sidewalk which was really cool!
Look at all the people in front of me! The photo below was taken towards the beginning of the race.
Around mile 5 I started to feel a little exhaustion and got a side stitch slowing me down to a walk for about 30 seconds. At mile 6, though, I saw people I knew which helped give me that little extra push I needed to finish. The last few miles weren’t that difficult physically, but mentally I was just getting bored! I don’t know how people run marathons for 4 hours because honestly I would just get so bored and impatient. I started tweeting things, taking pictures on my phone and changing up the songs on my playlist to distract me from thinking about how much time I had left to run. Below is a picture I tweeted during the race. Soooo many people!
By mile 9 I was ready to be done! I started sprinting as fast as could (which was probably not fast at all) to the end. Once I crossed that finish line I was so happy. I knew I had beaten my goal and was just proud of myself that I had achieved a goal I had set back in September.
Another obligatory photo of me post-race – excuse my appearance. I had just run 10 miles.
If you’re interested (which you probably aren’t but I’m going to tell you anyway), I didn’t really follow any training plan. I knew that I needed to run at least 8 miles the week prior to the race and basically did what felt right leading up to that. I typically ran about 3 times a week. Two of those weekly runs would be anywhere from 2 to 5 miles typically falling into the 3 or 4 mile range. On Saturday I would have my “long” run which started off at 3 miles and typically increased by a half mile every week (i.e. week 1 – 3 miles, week 2 – 3.5 miles, week 3 – 4 miles, etc.). I definitely did not follow this exactly, though. Like I said, I did what felt right. For example, I went to St. John for vacation for about 5 days 2 weeks before the race and did not run at all. Was that the best decision? Probably not. But I wanted to enjoy my vacation and not feel obligated to work out.
Overall I’m super glad I did it. Running in races is TOTALLY different than running alone. The adrenaline of the race definitely helps! I think I am going to keep running races because a) it is a really good form of exercise and b) I think I will enjoy the satisfaction of finishing them. I am going to look into running shorter distances. I’m thinking a 10k? That would probably be the ideal distance for me – challenging but not too long to get bored. Anyone have any good recommendations for a 10k? I’m willing to travel! Also if anyone wants a running buddy let me know! Running these races with other people would probably keep my boredom at bay and help keep me accountable.
It’s time for another Pinterest Challenge, sponsored by Sherry, Katie, Emily & Renee. After going back and forth between a garden project and jewelry storage I went with the latter – I’m moving in a few weeks, so I don’t want to set up my garden quite yet. Plus, I’ve run out of space in my current necklace storage method and really need something new.
I was searching through looking for some great pinspiration when I stumbled across this mason jar/jewelry holder combo that looked awesome. Even better, I was pretty sure I could figure out how to make one myself.
The only question I had was how to connect the ring to the wall backing. So I headed out to Lowe’s and bought:
- A 2′ x 4″ piece of wood which I had cut into two pieces, one 13″ and the other 11″ (I used the 13″ for the project but can make another with the shorter one if I want)
- A pipe clamp, something used to attach pipes to walls
- Some screw-in hooks
- Metal screws
I used leftover stain from my last Pinterest Challenge and a pint-size mason jar I already owned. The total came to $11.62. If you had to purchase stain and other supplies it might run you closer to twenty dollars, but you’d have tons of leftovers afterwards.
I stained the plank, which took no more than 10 minutes, on a piece of newspaper and let it dry overnight. Because this was the same stain I’d forgotten to mix properly last time, it was a little thicker then I would’ve liked. All I did was wipe over it with a paper towel (you can see it in the top of photo below) to get it to thin out a little.
Then I attempted to attach the ring to the board. And failed about 29,038 times. It all boiled down to not having the right drill bits – I was trying to drill the screw directly into the ring and no matter how hard I tried or what special screw I used it wouldn’t even leave a mark. So I resorted to a measure I’m certain will end in disaster very soon; I super glued the heck out of that ring and let it dry for about 12 hours. For now it works, but I’m hoping to purchase the proper tools and secure the mason jar with screws later. When it’s filled with some water and a few flowers it gets pretty heavy, and I’d rather not be woken up in the middle of the night to a shattering mason jar.
I made small indents with my drill before screwing in the hooks, and measured to make sure they were spaced out correctly. I then added holes for where the final screws will go when attaching the entire jewelry holder to my bedroom wall in my new apartment.
Just like last Pinterest Challenge, I’m very happy with the results. I have enough supplies to make another holder, as a gift or just to put somewhere else around the house. And it isn’t just great for jewelry – keys, scarves or anything else you can think of would work. I think I’ll use my other wood plank and try whitewashing it, or maybe a brighter color. I’ll be sure to post pics when it’s done.
So what’d you end up making for this season’s Pinterest Challenge? Let me know in the comments!
It’s that time again…time for another Pinterest Challenge! I’ve been thinking about what I want to make (or attempt to make, I should say. wouldn’t want to assume success), and have narrowed it down to two options: something garden-related or something to organize my jewelry. I currently use a blue egg crate made by Rachael Ray to hold necklaces and rings, but it’s completely out of space. As for gardening, besides buying a few small planters from the Target Dollar Spot and a $1 cilantro plant I’ve got nothin. I love gardening and am planning on growing a few herbs and veggies on my roof deck, so I definitely could use something there.
Here are a few ideas I may tackle this weekend:
I’m leaning towards the last one – the mason jar & jewelry holder combo – since it is sort of a mixture of both. But I’d also love to have some garden markers. Help me decide! Which do you think I should choose?
Many credit cards have annual fees, and nearly any card worth having carries some sort of charge to keep it in your wallet. Oftentimes this fee is waived for the first year, so signing up for the card is a no-brainer. But what happens when your anniversary rolls around and it’s time to actually pay for the card?
Normally I ask myself the same series of questions when the one year free period ends:
- Is the card worth the fee? This isn’t such an easy question. For instance, the American Express Platinum card charges a whopping $450 a year. However, with that you receive $200 of airline reimbursements, airline lounge access, SPG Gold status, preference at 3 major rental car companies, $100 towards Global Entry and many other fantastic benefits. Even after the airline credits the fee is still $250. But to frequent travelers simply the lounge access may be worth it alone. But if you don’t travel much, or have access via other means, it may not be sensible to keep. On the other hand, the Barclay’s US Airways card carries an $89 fee but awards 10,000 miles on each anniversary. Those miles are worth well over $89, so for anyone who travels on US Air there’s not much of a question there. See how different each scenario can be? If you’re sure the card isn’t worth it, then ask yourself:
- How much is the card worth to me? Call up the phone number on the back of your card and tell the representative that you’re going to cancel your card because the fee is too high. 9 times out of 10 they’ll offer you some sort of consolation to stay. Think of how it goes when you call Comcast and they lower charges and offer free HBO to keep you on as a customer. Sometimes it’s the whole fee (of course keep it then), sometimes it’s points worth more than the fee (ditto) & sometimes it is a portion of the charge. Go into the call knowing what your bottom line is, and don’t be convinced if the offer isn’t good enough. If you’re not pleased with what they have for you, then ask:
- Is there a fee-free option I can downgrade to? The phone rep may offer this to you. If you aren’t willing to pay the fee or accept any retention bonus, the next best option is to downgrade to a free card. Even if you’ll throw it in your sock drawer and never use it again doing this will help keep your credit score healthy. Two factors in your score are the average age of your credit lines and the total credit offered to you. Both of these numbers will be hurt if you close a credit card. Even so, don’t keep a card simply for this reason. We aren’t sure how much it affects your credit exactly, but it isn’t worth paying to keep a card you won’t use. Nearly every paid card has a lesser, free option connected to it. If you can’t downgrade but you have another card with the same issuer, ask if you can move the credit to your other card before closing it down. Not always an option, but worth a try.
Keep in mind that if you see a charge for your annual fee on a credit card statement, you can still have it refunded to you. Most cards allow you to call in within 90 days for a full refund and will prorate it after that. So don’t see it and think it’s too late. Again – call the number on the back of the card and see if you can get anything to keep the card or, if you must, close the account.
Now I’m off to plan what I should make for the Spring Pinterest Challenge. Wish me luck!
I try my best to keep up with what’s happening in the world, whether it be politics, sports, pop culture or whatever. And when I say keep up I really mean quickly peruse the headlines once a day on the websites of CNN, People & ESPN. Honestly, this strategy has been pretty successful over the years – I’m able to kind of know what people are talking about, but really just let them tell the detailed story while I nod along sort of aware of what’s going on.
And then I found Daily Skimm, which was made with people like me in mind (people like me being those who want to be able to take part in any conversation happening around them without sounding like an idiot). Every morning around 6 am you get an email with a roundup of news stories from the day before, spanning across all subjects. The coverage is pretty detailed, with a paragraph or two about each item (or more for much larger news stories). While you won’t hear about every single thing going on in the world, you will get enough info to hold a conversation with someone who spent 30 minutes reading one article on each topic. And even better, you’ll sound like you know exactly what you’re talking about!
And that’s all folks. Sign up, and if it isn’t for you you can always unsubscribe…it is free after all. I think it’s fun getting the email every morning and catching up on the news. I still head over to other websites to get more detailed information on world events, but if I’m having a busy day and don’t have time Daily Skimm‘s roundups are enough to keep me in the loop.
Oftentimes the credit cards with the best perks and rewards programs, as well as the best signup bonuses, come with annual fees. These fees can range from $65 to upwards of $450 a year and are a very important factor in deciding if the card is worth getting. It’s also important to note when the annual fee is waived for the first year and when it isn’t, since that can drastically affect the desirability of the card.
Even with all that being true there are some great no-fee cards to be had. The signup bonuses tend to be fairly unexciting but the everyday benefits can be great. Not to mention you won’t ever have to cancel the card (even if you completely stop using it), which is great for your lifetime credit score.
Long story short, here are my top picks for credit cards with no annual fees, as well as links to their best-available signup bonuses:
- Chase Freedom – earning 1% cash back on all purchases is alright, but the rotating 5% categories rock. Right now it’s Restaurants, Movie Theaters & Lowe’s, which are all great. You earn the rewards in the form of Ultimate Rewards points. With just a Freedom card you can only redeem them for pure cash back or giftcards (100 points = $1 value), but if you have any relevant Chase credit card you can combine your points and transfer them to United Airlines, Amtrak, and many other partners. This is HUGE value…we’re talking 5 pts/dollar in certain categories, which is at least an 8% rebate! So get this card, and then get the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold. And do it now.
- Chase Sapphire (not preferred) – same goes here as with the Freedom, though you earn 2 points per dollar on every food purchase. This includes takeout, delivery, fast food & traditional restaurants. A fantastic option for dining when you aren’t earning a special 5% the one quarter a year Chase offers it. I would suggest signing up for the Sapphire Preferred (1st year free), and then downgrading to this card when the annual fee comes up. That’s exactly what I did and it worked fantastically.
- American Express Blue Cash – one of the only no-fee Amex cards out there. Getting this allows you to participate in all the fun promotions American Express runs, including Small Business Saturday and Daily Getaways. You also earn 3% cash back at all grocery stores, 2% at gas stations and department stores and 1% at all other locations. You can redeem for cash on your account at a rate of 100 points to $1.
- Citi Hilton HHonors - earns 6 pts/dollar at Hiltons, 3 at supermarkets, gas stations & drugstores (remember: drug stores sell gift cards!) and 2 points everywhere else. Do keep in mind these points are not worth a penny each, but are still valuable. You’re also given automatic Hilton Silver status, which is somewhat worthwhile for infrequent Hilton travelers. The current signup bonus of 40k points aint too shabby either.
- Citi Thank You Preferred - redeem points at a rate of 1.33 points per dollar on airfare (so you’re earning about 1 1/3% cash back on each dollar). Not a great card, but wanted to give a second Citi option.
- Fidelity Investment Rewards – earns 2% cash back on ALL purchases that is then put into your Fidelity investment account (which can be immediately withdrawn without penalty; this is not a retirement account). This amount of cashback on every single item you buy is very impressive…the best out there actually. While you can earn bonuses at restaurants, while shopping for groceries or at pharmacies or while pumping gas, other purchases are very rarely earning more than one percent back. This is a great overall card to take all spending that isn’t in a special category, especially if you’re not interested in dealing with the hassle of redeeming points or miles.
So there you have it – my list of top, no-fee credit cards. Which will you be signing up for first?
Happy tax day everyone! Here’s to hoping you’re all getting a big, fat refund from Uncle Sam. And if you’re not at least there are some awesome deals and freebies to be had, including:
- Arby’s - head over here to get a Free Curly Fries or Potato Cakes
- Boston Market – offering a “Big Rib-bate” special, two rib meals for $10.40 with no coupon needed. You’ll get a 1/4 rack of BBQ Ribs with sides of mashed potatoes & gravy, sweet corn & delicious cornbread.
- Chili’s – free appetizer or dessert with the purchase of an adult entree for liking their Facebook page and saving the coupon to your smartphone
- Cinnabon – grab 2 free Cinnabon Bites at participating locations. More info here
- Livingsocial – 15% off any deal purchased before 11 am with code TAXDAY. Check out their deals here
- Office Depot – print this coupon to receive free printing of your tax returns, up to 25 pages (boring, but practical!)
- Sonic Drive-in – half-priced drinks & slushes all day. Details here
A while ago I wrote about my favorite ways to earn cash or miles back when purchasing online. Recently I’ve come across some companies that will pay you back for in-store purchases made on your credit card, which up until a few weeks ago I had no idea existed. So far the results have been great; just like with the online websites, I’m able to save money on purchases I would be making anyway.
Here are some of my favorite options:
- Plink - I only recently discovered Plink and have been happy with it so far. You link your bank or credit card company account directly to their site – they’re very much protected, but if that’s not something you feel comfortable doing I completely understand. Once you link your cards to your account, they can see where you make purchases. While they don’t know exactly what you buy, they do know where and how much you spend…Essentially they’re seeing your credit card bill for whichever card you link. If you end up spending a certain amount at a particular store you’ve chosen, you’ll receive points which can be redeemed for giftcards. It’s actually pretty easy to rack up points, and they are quite valuable.
- Linkable Networks - works the same as Plink, except Linkable Networks actually gives you cash back instead of points for purchases. They also have awesome offers, like Forever 21, lululemon, your local grocery store, etc. Again, you have to link your credit or debit card’s online account information to their site; I know this makes some people nervous, so of course only do what you’re comfortable with. Remember, these are almost always for in-store purchases only (though I’d bet online would work sometimes, there’s no way to know when).
- American Express Sync - you can link any of your Amex cards to twitter, Facebook & Foursquare. Then, when you make an eligible purchase, you’ll receive a rebate on your statement. You have to link each specific offer to your card, so make sure not to forget before going out and shopping. I’ve personally saved a ton of money with this, and sometimes they run free offers (in the form of $10 off any $10 or more McDonald’s purchase, for example) which are awesome. Who knew there was yet another reason to apply for an Amex?
As I always say: these are just some ways to save money on things you were going to buy anyway. I know I’m a broken record at this point, but why leave money on the table? Sign up for these programs, link the offers every month or so to your card & forget about it. If you happen to make a qualifying purchase it’ll be a nice surprise.