Thursday, May 30, 2013

StyleMint Review & Mystery Box Reveal

A few weeks ago I won some credits to StyleMint from the fabulous blog A Cup of Jo (Thanks, Joanna!). StyleMint is a subscription site with great basics and an ever-changing inventory. The stylists behind the site are Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen - and love their style or hate it, they've got a great eye for classic basics and flattering tops. When you make your first purchase on StyleMint, your account is activated and you get a credit every month to use towards a purchase unless you choose to skip the month. It's nice because you really don't have to buy something every month, but it can be kind of a pain to go in to the site and remember to "skip" if you don't want your credit card charged $29.99 (the cost of most tops on the site).

I loved the two pieces I got with my free credits: the Grace Tee in Navy and the Turner Sweater in Cream. Both are flattering, and the tee shirt is the softest I've ever owned. The sizing is a little strange on StyleMint - You choose from sizes 1-4, but I've found going by their sizing chart is pretty accurate. I chose to order my items in a 2. The pictures on the site normally tell you what size the model is wearing so that helps as well.

So, after being happy with my original choices, I thought I would be adventurous and get one of the StyleMint Mystery Boxes they offer every so often. I chose the "Summer Escape Mystery Box" for $34.95. I was guaranteed at least 3 items but could receive up to 10 items at a $300 value. I'd been planning so much for our upcoming Seattle trip that I haven't really gotten a lot of summer items, so I figured this would be a good time to do so, and I'd have some fun while doing it.

Now for what I received... We'll start with

The Good
Item #1 was a brightly colored headband. This will be great during those summer days when I don't feel like doing my hair and want to keep it off my neck.

Item #2 was... a black longsleeved turtleneck? Well, nothing quite says, "Summer Escape" like a black turtleneck. Although it's a very soft and lightweight quality. It will be good for the fall. I'm not usually one for taking "selfies" but I thought I would for this exercise to give you an idea of how things fit.

(I had to do some serious cropping so you couldn't see my dirty bathroom. Also, self portraits in the bathroom make you realize how dirty your mirror is).

And now onto...

The Bad
Item #3 was exactly what every woman who's ever given birth needs... a crop top! Don't worry, I didn't do a self portrait for this one. I guess at least it fits with the summer theme? I don't think I will ever wear this. Maybe under a top that's too low cut? I dont' know. If anyone has any suggestions for how to style this to disguise it or de-slutify it, feel free to let me know!

and finally

The Ugly
Item #4 was at least a tee shirt - the bread and butter of StyleMint. However, with this tie die pattern and flutter sleeve and flimsy tie at the top, it resembles something I wore in 7th grade circa 1997. Unfortunately there are no refunds or exchanges for Mystery Box contents. I'm also open to any suggestions on how to style this one.

So, needless to say, I probably won't be ordering anymore Mystery Boxes from StyleMint. The only top I could still find at the site was the turtleneck, and it was on sale for $12. I'm pretty sure I just barely got my money's worth. I'll stick to picking out my own items from now on. If I could have built my own "Summer Escape" Mystery Box with my own picks, I would have loved to have received Orion Tank, the Marconi Scarf, the Richmond Shirt, and the Keen Shirt. Now those are true summer essentials!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Taking Advantage of Corporate America... free sample at a time.

That's right. I like free stuff. How many times have you come across an ad like this on the internet:

"Free Samples! Sign up today, no obligation!" or "Make $2000 a month just for giving your opinion!"

They're pretty ubiquitous, right? And many of the times, they seem too good to be true (and they often are). But there are a few gems out there. As a mom with a lot of unexpected expenses, I love finding ways to save a buck and cut corners. In my spare time this year, on lunch breaks, weekends when the baby is napping, etc., I have filled out forms, clicked "like" buttons, retweeted, taken surveys, and more. I have gotten free samples and full sized products from:

• Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
• Oil of Olay
• Ponds
• International Delight
• Quaker
• Goody Hair Products
• Dove
• Pantene Pro-V
• Several Free Pizzas from Red Baron, Freschetta, and Totinos
• Perfume Companies
• Chocolate Companies
• Bear Naked Granola
• And a whole lot more

Yesterday I received a package of over 50 diapers, just for agreeing to give my opinion on them. I've also made over $300 in paypal cash and gift cards. I've also won free StyleMint credits and earrings from blog giveaways. My husband jokes that now I get a package every week. It's all about knowing which sites to use for the greatest reward for your valuable time, and I'm here to share which ones I think are top notch.

1. - this one is pretty easy. It lets you earn "SwagBucks" for doing things you would normally do online like shop, search the web, and participate in special offers and surveys. Just using their search engine as my home page lets me earn SwagBucks. Generally 500 SwagBucks = a $5 gift card. Pros: a lot of different ways to earn points. Cons: can take a long time for your rewards to be redeemed and a while for the points to start adding up.

2. - This site sends you emails when free samples are available for practically anything - beauty products, coupons, baby stuff, and more. This is how I've gotten free Bobbi Brown mascara and a free tumbler. They advertise pretty heavily on facebook. Pros: no time commitment, just let the offers roll in. You can pick and choose which samples you want. Cons: Every time you click on anything it opens a new tab in your browser (this is just a pet peeve of mine). They send a LOT of emails, so if you don't like receiving a lot of emails, this one is probably not for you. Also, a lot of the offers are for in-store coupons. Aint nobody got time for that.

3. - The premise of this site is to write, read, share, and discuss about products you have used in the past. This one probably takes the most time to earn any tangible rewards. You can pick the categories of products you feel you're an expert on - beauty, fashion, games, movies, drinks. There are quite a few "badges." Each time you review a product or complete any of the tasks assigned to you, your Influenster "score" goes up. The higher your score, the more likely you are to receive products to test in the mail. If you have a high influenster score, you can qualify to receive what are known as VoxBoxes. These are similar to subscription boxes, usually with a theme, full of 4-5 full sized products that are shipped to your home. You test the products, give your feedback, and perform additional, optional brand challenges - which let you have a chance to win more products from one of the brands in your VoxBox. I've received one VoxBox so far - the 2012 Holiday VoxBox which included Quaker Real Medleys, NYC Lipgloss, a Goody QuickStyle Brush, Energy Drink Mix, Face Masque, and a coupon for SoleSociety. I've also competed in brand challenges and won products from Ponds and Ferrero Rocher. Pros: Really good rewards for being an active participant. Not hard to give reviews, and there's a lot of categories for you to review products from. Cons: They can be pretty selective about who gets a VoxBox. You have to dedicate a lot of time to writing reviews and tweeting to be selected, and REALLY like talking about products.

4. - By far my biggest money maker. I can usually earn anywhere between $20 - $50 a month depending on how many surveys I qualify for and take. This one is simple - you sign up for an account, fill out a profile so they can match surveys to your profile, and then start earning points by taking surveys. Points for surveys usually range between 5 - 40 points, but sometimes there are higher paying surveys available. 10 points = $1. You can cash out your points for Paypal,, Itunes, or donate your money to the American Red Cross. Pros: points can add up pretty quickly, and I love the ability to redeem for cash. Also, a lot of the surveys are for in-home market research. I love getting products to test in the mail and then report back on. The funniest one I did was a perfume survey where I had to wear a different perfume every day for 5 days. Cons: most of the actual surveys come from other sites and can be a little buggy with technical issues. However, I've found the support team to be incredibly helpful and they always credit my account when something goes awry. The biggest con is spending time taking a survey only to find out you don't qualify for it towards the end. It can be frustrating, but I just plug away and try to find another one I will qualify for.

The thing to remember is: nothing is really free. You may be paying in time or in personal information. Since signing up for all these programs, I have received a LOT more spam email and telemarketing calls. That's fine with me, I knew it was part of the deal. But just be aware, you are throwing a lot of personal information out there. I would never recommend signing up for any site that wants access to a credit card or bank account. If you think you can just sign up for a site and then do nothing, you'll be disappointed. It is possible to get a lot of free stuff online, but it takes time and patience!