Monthly Archives: November 2015

15 Awesome Gift Exchange Ideas

December is right around the corner, and with every holiday season comes the often dreaded workplace gift exchange. Whether your job does a more structured Secret Santa or an unpredictable White Elephant gift exchange, these gifts are bound to fit into any spending limit and make you an office favorite. Some of them are so nice, you might want to get them for someone you actually like!

TECH AND GADGETS

1. PORTABLE CHARGER

A low phone battery is one of the many things a New Yorker will NEVER be caught dead with, along with scrunchies and crocs. But let’s face it, most smartphones can’t keep up with the amount of texting, hop stopping and google mapping that the average New Yorker does in a typical night out (I’m looking’ at you iPhone).

Enter the portable charger.

Many of them are about the size of a tube of lipstick so they fit easily in a purse or pocket. They come in all different colors and you can find them on amazon for less than 20 bucks! Most of them are universal, so they will be equally as useful to Galaxy and iPhone users. It sure beats fighting over the outlets at the nearest Starbucks!

2. PHONE LENS KIT

Help your co-workers up their Instagram game with some awesome smartphone lenses. Many of them are less than 20 bucks on Amazon with free shipping if you have Prime (if you don’t have Prime you should really look into it). They clip on to basically any smartphone, look very easy to use, and have received very good reviews.

3. RETRO iPHONE CASE

Encourage your co-workers to channel their inner Zack Morris with this retro iPhone case! At the very least it will get a laugh – and if your co-workers won’t actually use it then can regift it to friends or family.

This retro Gameboy case is another fun option.

4. TOUCHSCREEN GLOVES

NY winters can get really cold, and there’s nothing worse than having to choose between responding to a text or keeping your hands warm. If you’re wearing touchscreen gloves, you can text to your heart’s content, while keeping your fingers nice and toasty. Some brands can be kind of pricey, but it is possible to find them for $20 or less!

5. CREDIT CARD TOOL KIT

Never be caught at a party without a bottle opener again! This incredibly useful gift has multiple tools all combined in one credit card shaped gadget. My co-worker has one of these, and said it was the best gift he never knew he needed. And at well under $20 (some for less than $10!), it’s sure to fit in your gift exchange budget.

FUN & QUIRKY

6. ADULT COLORING BOOKS

Coloring books aren’t just for kids! They’re a great way for adults to unwind, de-stress, and get their creative juices flowing. They seem to be everywhere these days in a variety of themes. Personally, I’ve got my eye on the Color Me Crazy coloring book, the 1990’s coloring book, the Outside The Lines coloring book…oh who am I kidding, I want them all! And for about 10 bucks each, why choose? The low price also means you can throw in a nice set of colored pencils to go with it.

7. MUGS

 

 

 

 

 

Mornings suck, but having a fun mug to drink your morning coffee (or tea) out of can make them a little better. A Darth Vador mug is a must if you have any Star Wars fans in the office. As is this holiday themed Star Wars mug (as long as they release it on time for your exchange).

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mug with a lid on it is a genius idea – and an amazing gift! Part travel mug, part cup – this lidded mug is a great way to keep your drink warm and free of debris while you’re getting work done. As an added bonus, the lid can serve as a coaster! If you have any co-workers that are interested in photography, this lidded lens mug will definitely be a gift exchange favorite.

8. MINI FOOT HAMMOCK

You might not be able to take a midday nap at work, but at least you can give your feet a rest with this mini footrest hammock. It attaches to your desk, so just be sure it works with the desks you have at your workplace before you purchase them.

ALCOHOL THEMED

9. TRAVEL WINE OR BEER MUGS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A travel wine tumbler is the perfect gift for any vino loving New Yorker. Great for a picnic in the park, a drink on the beach, or the next tailgating party. Don’t have many wine lovers at your job? They make them for beer too!

10. FOLDABLE TRAVEL WINE BOTTLES

While the tumbler is perfect for a glass or two, this foldable wine flask is great for numerous people. It holds an entire 750 mL of wine and it’s reusable. It’s not only convenient for travel – it also works great for smaller fridges that are often found in tiny NY apartments.

11. FULL BOTTLE OF WINE GLASS

Subway commutes and busy work days can really burn a person out. After especially stressful weeks, a full bottle of wine might be in order. Save your co-workers the hassle of those pesky refills with this jumbo wine glass which fits an entire bottle of wine! Personally, I can tell you I own one – and it’s amazing! And for only 10 bucks you might be able to get a bottle of wine to go with it and stay within your limit!

12. ICE ALTERNATIVES

A cold alcoholic drink is the perfect way to unwind after a stressful week, but unless you’re a fast drinker your relaxing drink can become ruined with by melted ice cubes. Enter the whiskey stone (and it’s newer cousin the wine pearl).

13. BROOKLYN WINE BOOK

If you work in Brooklyn, or have a lot of co-workers who live in Brooklyn, this Brooklyn Wine Book might be a great gift. It’s $20 and gets you 2 for 1 drinks at over 20 spots around Brooklyn.

SUPER LAST MINUTE

If you waiting a little too long to order one of the previously mentioned gifts, you can still get a great gift to be proud of.

14. WELL THOUGHT OUT GIFT CARDS

Starbucks gift cards are a great option, but if you want your gift card to look a little more thought out, try to get a card to a great lunch or dinner spot near your job. Fandango bucks are another great option, especially for those co-workers who have children and might be in need of a date night. They work in various locations, so they’re even great for co-workers who commute in from the burbs!

15. SCRATCH OFFs

Whatever your spending limit, you can grab a bunch of fun holiday themed scratch off tickets to give as a gift. Just make sure you add a little something extra in case your scratch offs are duds. A bottle of wine might be a good option – celebratory in case they win, and something to drink away the pain of still being broke if they lose. Just kidding…kind of.

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Frugal Fun: 11/30 – 12/6

**This will be my last “Frugal Fun” post for a while. Instead, for the month of December I’ll be focusing on holiday themed posts to help you get through a month of gifts and parties without completely draining your bank account. 

 

A list of free or low-cost events happening around Brooklyn and NYC this week. As always, if you know of any other fun events that won’t break the bank, please feel free to contact me!

MONDAY 11/30

  • MOBILE MONDAYS – FREE

mobile mondays

Dance away a case of ‘the Mondays‘ with Mobile Mondays “New York City’s Premiere 45’s night for vinyl music lovers.” Each week is often themed (this week is FUNK), but according to the website, the genre doesn’t define the party. Listed as a Time Out New York critic’s pickMobile Mondays is sure to make the worst day of the week just a little bit better.

Located at The Bowery Electric (327 Bowery Street, New York NY), show starts at 10pm.

  • BIG PONY SHOW – FREE

Dancing not your thing? Start the week off with some laughs at the BIG Pony Show. It’s a FREE weekly comedy show located at Leftfield Bar in the LES (87 Ludlow Street, New York NY). Show starts at 8p.

TUESDAY 12/1

  • TRIVIA NIGHT AT BERG’N – FREE

Every Tuesday is Trivia Night at Berg’n Beer Hall. Show off your knowledge of random trivia while drinking from a great selection of beer and munching on food from a rotating list of food vendors. There is no cover to get in and it’s a really spacious location with a chill vibe, so even if you don’t want to participate in the trivia, you can go have a drink and marvel at how much useless information a person’s brain can hold. Located at 899 Berg’n Street, Brooklyn NY.

WEDNESDAY 12/2

  • BRYANT PARK SKATE-TACULAR – FREE

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Head to Bryant Park for their Tree Lighting Skate-tacular and the premiere of the holiday tale The Lights Before Christmas. The story was written specifically for the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park by award winning playwright Jon Caren and will star world-famous skaters including Nancy Kerrigan and Brian Boitano! The event is FREE and starts at 6pm. Head there early and enjoy dinner at a Winter Village restaurantt, or some holiday shopping at one of their over 125 boutique-like shops. Located at 41 W 40th street (behind the NY Public Library)

 

From the blog: As this year’s Tree Lighting SKATE-tacular coincides with Giving Tuesday and World AIDS Day; Bank of America partner, VISA, is contributing $.30 to (RED) for every purchase made at participating Winter Village merchants with a Bank of America credit or debit card, helping us sustain the season of giving at Bryant Park and spotlighting (RED) and the impact of their efforts to eradicate AIDS.

FRIDAY 12/4 – SATURDAY 12/5

  • BAMcafe LIVE SERIES – FREE

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Every Friday and Saturday night, BAM has free live music and performances as part of their BAMcafe Live series. The performances are different every night and have been a mix of all different styles of music, including rock, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, world music, and more. It’s located in the bar and lounge area on the top floor of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. Performances start at 9p*, but there is limited seating, so it might be worth it to get there early.

*Show starts at 9:30 this weekend

FRIDAY – Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio 

(From the BAM website) Intoxicating Romany rhythms meet thrilling jazz improvisation in the boundary-pushing sounds of Paradox Trio. World music woodwind virtuoso Matt Darriau (of Grammy-winning ensemble the Klezmatics) leads the outfit, performing intricate, shape-shifting melodic lines on the traditional gaida, a Bulgarian bagpipe; the flute-like kaval; and the driving Balkan beats of the dumbek.

SATURDAY – American Candy 

(From the BAM website) Part sketch comedy spectacular, part raucous musical satire, AMERICAN CANDY, created by Hollie Harper, is a Brooklyn-based troupe that irreverently skewers the absurd side of American pop culture. Taking inspiration from groundbreaking series like In Living Color and The Carol Burnett Show, AMERICAN CANDY brings together a diverse group of comedians for a special performance to celebrate their tight, naughty grasp on musical comedy.

SATURDAY 12/5

  • PARTY LIKE IT’S 1999: ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS MARIAH EDITION – FREE

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Get into the holiday spirit by dancing to the best hits from one of the greatest Christmas albums of the 90’s (or ever really). DJ’s will play the best songs from Mariah’s Merry Christmas album and some of her other hits, as well as the best pop, rock, R&B and Hip-Hop from the 90’s. Starts at 10p. Located at 149 7th Street, Brooklyn NY.

 

Decorate Your Small Space For Thanksgiving

Hosting Thanksgiving can be stressful no matter what size your living space is. If you live in a typical shoebox-sized NYC apartment, it can seem almost impossible! But living in the city doesn’t mean you can’t host an awesome dinner party. Here are some tips for making your small space work for Thanksgiving.

  • REARRANGE YOUR SPACE

Move any furniture you won’t need for the evening. If you live in a one bedroom or bigger (definitely something to be thankful for!), move furniture into other rooms. It’s kind of a pain, but it will make a big difference in space. You can even go as far as moving your TV into your bedroom – you probably won’t need it for the party and it might free up some space for drinks, desserts, or decorations. Rearrange any necessary furniture to better accommodate the party needs.

Need more seating? Brooklyn Party Rentals offers chairs and tables in various sizes for really great prices.

  • DECORATE YOUR SPACE

Spice up your apartment with a few festive decorations.  Here are a few ideas for any budget and apartment size.

FESTIVE BALLONS

Nothing says “party” like balloons! If you have the wall space, you can spell out a festive message with these letter balloons. They’re super cute and pretty inexpensive, depending on what you want to spell. “Give Thanks” will only cost you about $27. It might be a little late to get them in time for Thanksgiving, but it’s still possible to order for Christmas or New Years!

This site has similar balloons for a little more money, but they have fast shipping!

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If you don’t have the wall space to hang a balloon message, you can always get some plain helium balloons in your party’s color theme and place them in bunches around the apartment.

TABLE DECOR 

Decorate your table and counter space with really simple decorations. These leaf mason jars are quick, easy, cheap – and perfect for the fall. If you don’t feel like gathering (possibly urine soaked) leaves from the streets of New York, grab some fake ones from a local craft store or online from amazon. You can also buy tissue paper and cut it in the shape of leaves for a similar effect.

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Buy large glass candle holders, fill them with a pillar candle and unpeopled popcorn – and you have beautiful center pieces for less than 6 bucks!

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Print out pretty images or sayings and put them in nice picture frames. Click here or here for DIY tutorials on how to make your own frames.

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Want more decoration ideas? Click here.

PICTURE TAKING AREA

No party is complete without the pictures that document how amazing it was! If you have the space, decorate a corner of the room or small section of wall as a picture taking area. Keep it in the Thanksgiving/fall theme by covering kraft paper with leaves and pin or tape it to the wall. Spray the leaves with glue and dip in glitter for some added shine.

Don’t have the time to paint and tape leaves? Make a wall full of balloons! You can either blow them up on your own and tape to the wall, or get a bunch of helium balloons and tape the string to the floor.

Click here for more DIY backdrop ideas.

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No space for a picture area? Buy or print some fun photo booth props to have on hand to make those Instagram pictures a little more interesting.

 

 

Frugal Fun: 11/23 – 11/29

A list of free or low-cost events happening around Brooklyn and NYC this week. As always, if you know of any other fun events that won’t break the bank, please feel free to contact me!

MONDAY 11/23

  • MOBILE MONDAYS – FREE

mobile mondays

Dance away a case of ‘the Mondays‘ with Mobile Mondays “New York City’s Premiere 45’s night for vinyl music lovers.” Each week is often themed (this week is FUNK), but according to the website, the genre doesn’t define the party. Listed as a Time Out New York critic’s pickMobile Mondays is sure to make the worst day of the week just a little bit better.

Located at The Bowery Electric (327 Bowery Street, New York NY), show starts at 10pm.

  • BIG PONY SHOW – FREE

Dancing not your thing? Start the week off with some laughs at the BIG Pony Show. It’s a FREE weekly comedy show located at Leftfield Bar in the LES (87 Ludlow Street, New York NY). Show starts at 8p.

TUESDAY 11/24

  • TRIVIA NIGHT AT BERG’N – FREE

Every Tuesday is Trivia Night at Berg’n Beer Hall. Show off your knowledge of random trivia while drinking from a great selection of beer and munching on food from a rotating list of food vendors. There is no cover to get in and it’s a really spacious location with a chill vibe, so even if you don’t want to participate in the trivia, you can go have a drink and marvel at how much useless information a person’s brain can hold. Located at 899 Berg’n Street, Brooklyn NY.

FRIDAY 11/27 – 11/28

  • BAMcafe LIVE SERIES – FREE

IMG_1407

Every Friday and Saturday night, BAM has free live music and performances as part of their BAMcafe Live series. The performances are different every night and have been a mix of all different styles of music, including rock, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, world music, and more. It’s located in the bar and lounge area on the top floor of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. Performances start at 9p, but there is limited seating, so it might be worth it to get there early. As an added incentive to show up early, they occasionally have happy hour between 6p and 8p – and this Friday and Saturday happen to be two of those occasions.

Akim Funk Buddha will be performing on both nights this week. “A dancer, a beatboxer” and an “all around hip-hop visionary, Akim Funk Buddha has performed at Central Park Center Stage, and appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman.

SATURDAY 11/28

  • THE RUB – $10 before Midnight ($15 after)

The Rub is a dance party held every last Saturday of the month at The Bell House in Brooklyn. It started in 2009 a party with “great dance music mixed well, affordable drinks, and real people; no dress code, no bottle service, and no celebrity DJs.” The Village Voice has called it the “best party in Brooklyn to dance sweatily to smart music.” Cover charge is $10 at the door before midnight and $15 dollars after. Located 149 7th Street, Brooklyn NY.

Thanksgiving Dinner Delivery

Thanksgiving is considered the big kick-off to the holiday season, and nothing says “holidays” like food and family.  But the cost of traveling can be expensive, and the fact that the majority of New Yorkers are not actually from New York means that many people living in the Big Apple and surrounding boroughs might be celebrating a “Friendsgiving” with their chosen family instead.

Just because you can’t make it home for Mom’s turkey and stuffing doesn’t mean you have to eat cold cuts or Chinese food as your Thanksgiving feast. Here are some places around the city that deliver full Thanksgiving meals right to your door!

  • FRESH DIRECT – DELIVERY AVAILABLE 

Feed 2-12 people with small, medium, and large Thanksgiving Dinner options from Fresh Direct. Pre-order for delivery anywhere between Monday 11/23 and Thanksgiving Day. According to the website, meals go from “fridge to table in under 3 hours.” Rolls and desserts aren’t included, but you can add them to your order for an additional cost. Added bonus: Fresh Direct also sells wine and liquor…so you can literally get everything you need for an amazing Thanksgiving dinner without leaving your apartment. Meals come with turkey, gravy, stuffing, cornbread and sides; cost between $89-$219 without any delivery fees and tips.**

They have a $10 off deal going on for those who order early, so you might want to hop on it!

 

  • WHOLE FOODS – VEGAN OPTIONS!

 

 

 

 

Serve anywhere from 2-12 people with different full meal options from Whole Foods. You’ll have to pick them up yourself, but that will still take less time than shopping and cooking the meal yourself. Especially if your culinary skills are less than stellar. They also have vegan options! Cost ranges from $18.99 – $279.99.

  • FAIRWAY MARKET

Fairway Markets have Kosher and Non-Kosher holiday meal options for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. You have the option of ordering items a la carte if you’d prefer. They also sell wine, liquor and beer, and offer pre-made cocktail mixers, disposable plates, and disposable utensils for a cost. Their pricing list was a little confusing in my opinion, so you’d be better off just calling to inquire.

  • ZABARS – DELIVERY AVAILABLE!

Zabars delivers Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas meals for 6 or 10 people. According to the website, shipping is free for orders over $49. Costs is $275 for a 6 person meal and $375 for a 10 person meal – not including tip.**

 

**The delivery people are working on a holiday so that you can enjoy yours – show them a little love with a nice tip!

 

Frugal Fun: 11/16 – 11/22

A list of free or low-cost events happening around Brooklyn and NYC this week. As always, if you know of any other fun events that won’t break the bank, please feel free to contact me!

MONDAY 11/16 – SATURDAY 11/21

  • COLD WEATHER BIKE RIDING AND MAINTENANCE CLASSES – FREE

Just because the weather is getting colder doesn’t mean our bikes have to go into hibernation. The Get Women Cycling (GWC) program, Citi Bike, Ride Brooklyn, and Mr. C’s Cycles are hosting free classes on bike maintenance and cold weather riding at various locations through out Brooklyn.

MONDAY 11/16

  • MOBILE MONDAYS – FREE

mobile mondays

Dance away a case of ‘the Mondays‘ with Mobile Mondays “New York City’s Premiere 45’s night for vinyl music lovers.” Each week is often themed (this week is FUNK), but according to the website, the genre doesn’t define the party. Listed as a Time Out New York critic’s pickMobile Mondays is sure to make the worst day of the week just a little bit better.

Located at The Bowery Electric (327 Bowery Street, New York NY), show starts at 10pm.

  • BIG PONY SHOW – FREE

Dancing not your thing? Start the week off with some laughs at the BIG Pony Show. It’s a FREE weekly comedy show located at Leftfield Bar in the LES (87 Ludlow Street, New York NY). Show starts at 8p.

TUESDAY 11/17 – THURSDAY 11/19

  • ICE SKATING IN BRYANT PARK – FREE ADMISSION / $15 SKATE RENTAL

Ice skating at Bryant Park always free to get in, but up through Thursday, November 19th, skate rentals are only $15. After that, the cost of rentals go up to $19 through the peak season (which still isn’t bad). Make sure to bring your own locks to keep your things safe otherwise you’ll have to pay to rent one. (Rink is closed on Monday 11/16). Located at Bryant Park

TUESDAY 11/17

  • TRIVIA NIGHT AT BERG’N – FREE

Every Tuesday is Trivia Night at Berg’n Beer Hall. Show off your knowledge of random trivia while drinking from a great selection of beer and munching on food from a rotating list of food vendors. There is no cover to get in and it’s a really spacious location with a chill vibe, so even if you don’t want to participate in the trivia, you can go have a drink and marvel at how much useless information a person’s brain can hold. Located at 899 Berg’n Street, Brooklyn NY.

THURSDAY 11/19

  • SCAVENGER HUNT AT THE HOLIDAYS SHOPS – FREE

Bryant Park is having its fifth year of scavenger hunts at the Bank of America Winter Village Holiday shops. They give you the clues and the first person to find all 10 items wins. While only one person can win the grand prize, but all participants are able to spin the prize wheel for a consolation prize (while supplies last). Sign up for the scavenger hunt is at the Park Shop and Info Kiosk, and the event takes place from 6p-8p.

FRIDAY 11/20 – SATURDAY 11/21

  • BAMcafe LIVE SERIES – FREE

IMG_1407

Every Friday and Saturday night, BAM has free live music and performances as part of their BAMcafe Live series. The performances are different every night and have been a mix of all different styles of music, including rock, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, world music, and more. It’s located in the bar and lounge area on the top floor of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. Performances start at 9p, but there is limited seating, so it might be worth it to get there early. As an added incentive to show up early, they occasionally have happy hour between 6p and 8p – and this Saturday happens to be one of those occasions.

FRIDAY – Awesome Tapes From Africa

Brian Shimkovitz, writer of the blog Awesome Tapes From Africa (so popular, it has become a record label of sorts) will be spinning “some of the best of the folkloric pop, left-field dance-floor gems, and hip-hop bangers from his massive collection of ultra-rare African cassette tape finds

SATURDAY – Gato Loco

(From the BAM website) Gato Loco fuses Latin mambo and modern rock firepower for a bold, exuberant sound. Saxophonist Stefan Zeniuk (of New York Howl) leads the brass and bass-heavy ensemble through rousing reworkings of classic genres, updating the traditional Cuban Son with dashes of salsa, 70s punk, and avant-garde jazz. The result is a fist-pumping, celebratory explosion of Latin ballroom music at its most raucous.

I mean…the name means Crazy Cat, so it’s bound to be great time.

Designer frames on a dollar store budget

City apartments might be tiny, but decorating them can put a big hole in your bank account. When it comes to decorating your walls, you can save money on expensive picture frames by making your own! Just buy some cheap frames from a dollar store and paint them to match your decor. It takes a little time to complete (this project took a few hours total), but you can make the most of your time and get some errands done while you’re waiting for the coats of paint to dry.

First, find some frames that are the shape and size that you want. The colors and designs don’t matter since you’ll be painting over them anyway.

You don’t want to lose your deposit by getting paint all over your floors or rugs, so you’ll want to put something down to protect them. I use a garbage bag (cut down the middle). You can also use a cheap tablecloth or shower curtain.

You’ll need some primer to make sure that the paint sticks regardless of the material the frames are made out of. This also helps you get the truest color of the paint you choose.

Primer is really important. I’ve skipped this step before and had to repaint them because the paint kept peeling off.

Save money on paint by buying sample sizes of the colors you want instead of buying the larger containers. These small sample sizes last a long time and will definitely be enough to paint picture frames – and you can save the left overs for your next DIY project!

You’ll also need paint brushes. Stores like Ikea, Target, and Amazon all have some really cheap options. If you’re thinking of doing some patterns or designs you might need some painter’s tape.

Tape off any designs you want on the frames and start priming! I used two coats of primer and waited about an hour in-between each one. Read the directions on your particular brand of primer for a more accurate wait time.

If you’re planning on doing this over the course of several days, you can save time cleaning brushes by wrapping the used brush in plastic wrap and putting it in a ziplock bag. This will keep it from drying out until you’re all done with the project.

Once the last coat of primer is dry you can start painting your frames! Keep them on the plastic until they are completely dry. There’s nothing worse than spending hours on something only to have it ruined by impatience – and I’m saying that from experience!

And that’s it! Create beautiful expensive looking picture frames for a fraction of the price.