Taking Care of the Lawn of Life

I’ll let you in on a little secret (no, not that one). I like to work in the yard. Mowing, planting things, you name it, I put my earphones in and can easily spend more time on my hands and knees than [fill with totally inappropriate joke here]. What I really love the most though is weeding. Pulling weeds, especially that satisfying yank when you know you’ve got it by it’s little roots, feels as close as I will probably ever get to being a sniper.

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How to Hack Groupon

I’m a Groupon addict. Seriously. I’ve been able to track my Groupon purchases as far back as May 2009 (Flatwater Grill, Chicago, $5 for $20 towards brunch – a steal!) but am pretty sure it’s a little older than that. My efforts have landed some pretty sweet deals that have opened my eyes (and stomach) to a lot of new and interesting experiences that I may not have taken advantage of otherwise. And, while my loyalty has been rewarded by Groupon over the years (a beach party, Camp Groupon) I’m not above criticizing them when things go wrong or seem off-kilter from what I believe makes them so great.

So as I sit here planning some Groupon adventures to whittle my stash down before the end of the year, I though I’d share some things I’ve learned that may help your Groupon experience.

Follow Multiple Cities

This is a simple one that is very often overlooked. The deals you see are typically based on the city you selected in your profile. Mine is Chicago. However, you can select multiple cities to track. There are 2 reasons toimage do this: #1, when Groupon announces national deals (say, The Body Shop or Gap) you may have difficulties purchasing using the link in your email. If that’s the case, go to the Groupon website and select another  city. If you see the offer there just make sure it’s not localized to that city in the fine print. If it isn’t, you’re good to go! #2 is to search Groupons for deals on restaurants and cultural activities in cities you plan to visit for work or on vacation. Obviously, you want to make sure not to go hog wild and end up with a bunch of expired Groupons for a city you won’t be back to for 6 months.

Plan Your Groupons

I’ve gotten a little lax on this, so this hack is meant for me too. When you purchase a Groupon, make a point of selecting a date on your calendar to use it. Otherwise, you’ll likely find yourself either rushing to use it before the expiration date (no fun if it’s a popular item) or lamenting the lost savings when you use it for the value purchased.But if  Which brings me to a very important hack.

Use it even after you lose it

imageI can’t emphasize enough how great Groupons are for saving money and discovering. But sometimes you can’t get around to using them. Don’t fret, because by law your Groupon is always worth the original purchase amount. Most businesses will recognize this, and allow you still use the voucher after it expired. If they don’t, you can point this out to them or just contact Groupon for a credit. I’ve used both methods successfully.


Make it Fun

Like a couponer, I love to double & triple up my Groupon uses. For example, using Groupons for a show or event, along with one for a restaurant and a dessert place not only can save you some serious dough but makes a triple-header of unique experiences. Note to Groupon: It would be neat sometimes to be able to join other Grouponers in redeeming vouchers together, say at a restaurant or cultural event. Just sayin’.

Tip, Tip, Tip!

I bring this up not as a hack but a friendly word on behalf of the small businesses owners that make up the majority of Groupon businesses. Tip on the actual value of the services rendered ok? I recall talking with a waiter at a restaurant I was frequenting via Groupon, and they were frustrated by the customers who were not only tipping on the discount but also trying not to spend any more than necessary to get the full value of the deal! If you’re paying anything less than full price, it’s a deal, ok? Don’t be cheap.

I’ve directed this post to Groupon, but most of these tips can be applied to Living Social and other group buying sites I suppose. Just be sure to read the fine print and know what recourse you have should you not use the voucher.

How to Survive a Movie Marathon

I love a great movie, and when it is serialized into a trilogy or more I find struggling to remember details of past movies or making the time to find them and rematch. For a long time I wondered why theaters didn’t capitalize on what I felt was an interest I was not alone in. Well this year AMC Theatres did just that, with not one, not two but four movie marathons already this year. Sensing that this will become a more common theatre event, and having participated in 3 myself, I thought I would share some learned wisdom on surviving 6+ hours in cinema heaven.

My Badges

20121124-153856.jpgThe Ultimate Marvel Marathon

  • Iron Man
  • Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Captain America
  • Avengers

The Dark Knight Trilogy

  • Batman Begins
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Dark Knight Rises

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Temple of Doom
  • The Last Crusade
  • The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Rest up
As great an experience it can be, remember that we’re talking 8 or more hours in a darkened room in a comfortable chair. Relaxed, you may find yourself dozing ( as I did during the 2nd and 3rd Batman movies). That’s perfectly reasonable. But try to get a good 6+ hours of sleep the night before because depending upon the total length you may end up getting shortchanged the next night too – I didn’t get home from the Avengers Marathon until 2am Friday morning and had 4hrs sleep before heading back to work.

Dress comfortably
This isn’t a date night, so where something comfortable and loose. Dress in layers, as the theatre may be cool at the beginning if they haven’t adjusted their thermostat for early morning business.

Pack well
Bring a day pack, purse or jacket with deep pockets. This is NOT about bring in snack foods – I’m not a fan of cheating theatres out of their profit driver. But, you may want to think about items you’d like to have with you if your on a 1/2 day flight: mints, gum, hand lotion, Chapstick. If you where contacts normally, consider wearing glasses instead. I like to bring a Colgate “Wisp” disposable toothbrushes, a nice treat after 4 hrs of snack foods. Also, if you have an extra battery for your phone or a wall charger, bring it – nothing worse than realizing your phone has died and family, babysitter, etc can’t reach you.

Pace yourself
Most marathons will have 15-20 minute breaks between features, perhaps 30-45 minutes for a lunch break. You will get the urge to eat and drink a lot, and could end the day $25 lighter and 2lbs heavier if you’re not mindful. My diet starts with a coffee ( AMC has been cool about me bringing in a cup from St.Arbucks) and buying a Sambra mini pack of crackers & humus dip. I’ll then get a bottle of water and a popcorn for the 2nd feature, soda & sandwich for the third. After that I will nurse my bottled water and maybe get a snack to hold me until the final feature, for which I will refill me soda and popcorn for free. Again, AMC is great about giving marathoners a couple of perks that ultimately can keep your refreshment expenses to about $10-$15 dollars.

Enjoy Yourself!
In addition to the chance to experience the full arch of a movie series, you’re sharing it with maybe 100 other people who have this in common with you. Between movies there may be trivia contests and additional giveaways, but beyond all that is being able to laugh and share favorite moments with some pretty cool people.

What’s next?

Recently there was the Twilight Movie Marathon, which I declined. But there are a few series I’d love to see, so if you’re listening AMC Theatres, here are my suggestions:

  • Die Hard (there’s another Die Hard currently being filmed, so….!)
  • The Godfather
  • Star Wars (duh)
  • Lord of the Rings / The Hobbitt (double duh)

There are probably a few more I’d consider, but these come to mind.