Monday, October 15, 2012

Extreme Dancesport in Cambridge

The Deal $29 for Four Salsa Lessons*. 

I may have mentioned this before, but I’m very lazy.  I don’t particularly enjoy working out.  So, to trick myself into doing things that are active, I have to buy deals for lots of fun and exciting activities that have a side effect of burning questions.  Enter, Salsa at Extreme Dancesport!

These classes are a ridiculous amount of fun.  I am really, really enjoying myself.  You do have to sign up for a full series of four classes in a row, so I had to make an effort to actually find four Tuesdays where I didn’t have any other plans.  I’m glad I did.  The instructor is fun and vivacious.  It’s a big class, so she has an advanced student helping her.  She takes time to make sure everyone can get close enough to see her feet to follow what we’re doing.  She goes through the steps slowly, with and without music, and makes sure that everyone gets it before moving on.  So, I’m learning how to dance, I’m burning calories, and - it’s fun! 

I’m assuming that I am not the only person who bought this deal, because the classes are huge.  We have so many people that the instructor was surprised to walk in and see us all the first time.  That’s good and bad - it’s good if you want to hide in the middle and hope no one notices how bad you are (except when you rotate to the front).  It’s good because I suspect it’s a gold mine for the studio, and they’ll offer more deals in the future - after all, 40 students for a four-class series at $29 earns them more money than 10 students for the series at $60 per person - and they’ve got the space to hold a ton of people.  I’d be tempted to go back at some point, if the timing were right.  I will note that there were far more women than men (not surprising) and that most of the men were there with their fianc├ęs to learn to dance for their wedding (and, by “most”, I mean “all but one”).  The instructor is really good about rotating us around so everyone gets a partner, but, if you’re female, be prepared to spend some time dancing alone.  Either way, be prepared to have a blast.

Cost:  $29
Value:  $60
Savings:  $31
Total Estimated Deal Savings, to Date: $1,379.92.

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* This link is to Amazon, because I couldn't find the Living Social link, which is where I bought it.  However, the deal is the same.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fun Fact - Airline Reward Miles

Many frequent flier programs have special shopping websites where customers can earn additional miles by making purchases through their websites.  I know that Living Social and Groupon have deals with both Delta and United (I don't know about the other airlines, but it's easy enough to check).  So, if you're planning to buy deals anyway, and you usually fly on the same airline, check it out - you can get one mile per dollar spent, which can add up over time.

Nothing earth-shattering, but, hey, why not?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bites of Boston Food Tour - the South End

The Deal$33 for Bites of Boston Food Tour of the South End

I admit, I was much more interested in the food here than the history.  However, I learned a lot.  I hear this deal is also offered fairly regularly, which is good, because I want to get another one when I have company in town.  I actually think everyone on the tour had bought the same deal.  The vouchers aren’t valid on Saturdays, though, so keep that in mind if your guests are only in the area for a limited time.

We started at The Parish Cafe II for bites of chipotle meatloaf sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Much like the owner of the cafe, I grew up with a large family that ate a lot of meatloaf - and I hated it.  Needles to say, this sandwich was far better than the meatloaf I remember from my childhood.  Next, we had bacon wrapped figs, stuffed with almonds at Orinoco Kitchen (YUM!).  The vegetarians got what I believe was a  cheese-stuffed plantain?  It also looked pretty good.  On to Flour, which was great, because my friend had just told me how awesome it was.  We got a Chunky Lola cookie, which was really good, even though it has ingredients that I ordinarily don't care for (that's the point, right?  Branching out?).  We also got fried clams from Morse Fish Company, then we got to sample two cheeses at South End Formaggio.  The cheese was amazing - I'm going back.  Finally, we wound up at the Upper Crust Pizzeria, which was delicious, as usual.  As you’re trying all these delicious things, you’re also walking around the South End, learning about the history, and the culture, and the people who live there.   I was pleasantly full at the end, but not stuffed.  There's a good amount of food, but ti's not overwhelming.

Even if you have food issues, they worked with people to get them substitutes for things they couldn’t eat.  They also send out information in advance re: what to wear, where to park, bring water, and things like that.  They have a website that makes signing up easy. 

The tour guide was friendly, interesting, and informative.  I intend to look and see what other tours they offer in other locations.  I don’t know that it would be worth spending full price, but with the discount, I had a very nice afternoon, and I felt like I really got good value.  Plus, I now know all the good places to eat in the South End!  (and even went back to try a different one yesterday.)

Cost:  $33
Value: $52
Savings:  $19.00
Total Estimated Deal Savings, to Date: $1,349.82.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Newport Dinner Train

The Deal: $99 for a Dinner Train for Two Newport Dinner Train

I’m going to file this one under “Not sure I actually saved any money,” but I had a lovely evening.  The deal stated that, for $99, you could get a dinner train for two people, with an ordinary price of $168 (for savings of $69).  The fine print states that this does not include gratuity - fine.  Whenever I use a Groupon, I tip on the full price of the meal.  So, you have to pay $23 on top of the voucher price (this is the amount they tell you when you book the reservation).  I bought this awhile ago, but I usually do my research in advance, and I swear I went to the website to look up the full price before buying the voucher.  After all, it’s only a deal if you’re saving money, right?

So, the Newport Dinner Train has two options - Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, or Romancing the Rails candlelit dinner for two.   The reason that I bought the deal is that I have always, always, always wanted to go to a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater.  The addition of the train was really just a bonus.  The Murder Mystery Tour is currently$68.95 per person, so the total for two people would be $137.90, not the $168 printed on the website.  Again, I thought I looked into this earlier, so I’m not really sure where the discrepancy is.  Late season discount?  Maybe.  The Romancing the Rails Dinner is only $59.95 per person, so that’s $119.90 for two.  That’s only $20 more than the voucher price.
 
The people were very nice.  There was a scheduling mix-up, and they were really great about working with me to find a date that I could still go, even though it was something that was in no way their fault.  They returned phone calls and emails promptly.  They agreed to extend the vouchers through the end of October so we could still use them (that ended up not being necessary, but I appreciate the gesture).

Onto the tour.  We wound up on the romance train, instead of the Murder Mystery.  The ambiance was good.   The ribs were absolutely delicious.  I can’t speak for the chicken, because my boyfriend ate it so fast he forgot to offer me a bite, but that seems like a good sign.  The salad was simple, but something about it was very satisfying.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but - no need.   It was delicious, and I really enjoyed it.  The green beans and mashed potatoes were also excellent.  Dessert was cheesecake with chocolate sauce.  I’m not a huge fan but, as cheesecake goes, it’s tasty.   As we were eating, we took a train along the beach at sunset - absolutely beautiful views.  We also learned about the history, economy, and geography of Rhode Island (Wait.  It’s really an island???  Seriously???)  We had a lovely evening.  I don’t know that I would recommend driving all the way to Newport to do it (even at a discount), but if you’re going to be in the area, anyway, it’s definitely something to consider for a different experience that is more interesting than just getting dinner somewhere.

Cost:  $99
Estimated Value: $119.90
Estimated Savings:  $20.90.
Total Estimated Deal Savings, to Date: $1,330.82

Monday, September 17, 2012

New England Dessert Showcase

The Deal$20 for VIP Access to the New England Dessert Showcase

Now, this event has some pretty low reviews on Yelp, but I actually had a nice time (Note:  I did not have the problems getting in that many people reported.  There was no line).  Then again, I do understand that the VIP access really turned out not to be all that it was cracked up to be.  First, it includes admission to a kick-off party the night before and a wrap-up party the day after.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t really have an entire two days to devote to delicious desserts (although I wish I did).  Also, I didn’t appreciate being automatically subscribed to the Anthem Entertainment Newsletter when I signed up for the deal - I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have checked a box agreeing to that.  Anyway, my bigger issue was that, apparently, so many people RSVPed to the kickoff party that they split it into two locations - which means that my friends and I were separated, and the end result was that most of us chose not to go.  That’s OK, though, right?  After all, I’m still getting a bunch of delicious desserts for $20, and a VIP gift bag.

The gift bag left much to be desired.  Honestly, it was nothing but ads for other businesses, and coupons for places that aren’t convenient enough to me that I’m likely to ever go.  The one saving grace was that it also included what turned out to be a $10 gift card for Finale - and I guarantee, I can use that.  Even better - I went with a friend visiting from out of state.  They don’t have Finale in her area, so she gave me her gift card, and I wound up with $20.  Since Finale does brunch, I’m pretty happy with that.  We did also each get a raffle ticket, although I won nothing.  Had I won Red Sox box tickets, I think I would be even happier with this deal.
 
On to the event itself - dessert, dessert, dessert.  YUM!  I wish I’d brought Tupperware (of course, that may not have been allowed).  They had everything your heart could desire - fruit tortes, parfaits, chocolate-covered strawberries, cinnamon rolls, brownies, cookies, candy, and, my personal favorite - warm lava cake topped with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and candy.  YUM.  It was amazing.  Even though I managed to stuff myself ridiculously in the first hour, all things considered, $20 for a delicious brunch is not a bad deal.  Also, I enjoyed the chocolate tempering presentation from Finale’s Executive Chef, even though she ultimately used the chocolate to make peanut brittle, which I didn’t get to try.  Ah, well.  Had I paid full price for this VIP ticket, I would have been pretty disappointed (not even a drink ticket, and the drinks were expensive).  But, for $20, I had a nice time with my friends, and enjoyed a new experience, and I was happy.

Also, when the whole thing was over, they had a promotion where the first twenty people to email them with their favorite dessert received free admission to Anthem’s next event - so I now get to go to their Spa Bar Event at the end of the month at no cost.  Not bad for $20.

Cost:  $20.00
Value: $40.00
Savings:  $20.00**
Total Estimated Deal Savings, to Date:  $1,309.92

**This total doesn’t include the value of the Finale gift cards, so, technically, I got back the $20 that I spent on the admission.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Starbucks

The Deal$5 for $10 at Starbucks.** 

This may be the greatest deal I’ve ever found.  I don’t like Starbucks.  I think it’s insanely over-priced, way too busy, and the coffee tastes burnt.  It’s not good.  Worse, once Sarbucks became so popular, everyone else started charging way too much for their coffee, because they can.  I am primarily a mocha drinker, and there is something very wrong with the chocolate they use.  I’m not the only one who thinks so.  (Thanks to my best friend for pointing out that their non-chocolate drinks might not make me ill.  Unfortunately, I only like mochas and regular coffee.)  Oh, and the drinks I do like?  Have roughly 400 calories, which means that I have to choose a mocha or lunch. 

I know what you’re thinking - why would you buy this, if you hate Starbucks?  Because everyone else in the entire world loves them.  My best friend goes there at least once a day.  My boyfriend goes there all the time.  People are constantly wanting to meet at Starbucks, stop at Starbucks, etc.  Plus, I travel fairly frequently, and they’re everywhere. In my hometown, it’s the only convenient place for getting work done when necessary.  I can’t avoid the place - as much as I hate it, and as much as I make the effort to look for smaller, privately owned coffee shops I can go to instead, So, if I’m going to be forced to go to a coffee shop that I can’t stand, I might as well get the coffee for half-price.  I guarantee I'll use the $10 without even trying.  So, thank you, Living Social, I am extremely grateful.

I do have the Starbucks app on my phone, because I get gifts from other people sometimes, and this deal loaded right onto the app, no problem.  It just lists two cards now, instead of one - $10 from this deal, and $4 left from a gift I got from Christmas last year (like I said, I don't go there often).  Just need to pick the right one to make sure this $10 gets used before March, and I'm good.  Easy.  Yay for saving on (mediocre) coffee (that I have to buy, anyway)!

Cost:  $5.00
Value:  $10.00
Savings:  $5.00
Total Estimated Deal Savings, to Date: $1,289.92

** Living Social doesn’t let me link to their vouchers, and I can’t see the deal itself, so I hope you enjoy this Forbes article about it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Service - Zozi

Just found another one of these sites - check it out!  It's called Zozi, and I just made my first purchase - painting classes, complete with wine, for $25.  I'll be posting the details soon.  In the meantime, you can get $10 in credit by using the following link and signing up for the service.
Yes, I want $10!

I've been lax, not because I'm not buying/using deals, but because I've been busy.  No worries - lots more deals to discuss, coming soon.