Where to Find the Best Deals This Weekend

 

 

Everyone wants to get a deal.  We all take pride in showing off our shiny new things to our friends, neighbors, and other on-lookers only to say, “I only got it for…”  As a special gift to you and your family, this holiday season, I’m going to tell you where you can get the absolute best deal for any gift worth giving.  There’s one slight catch: I’m not going to reveal this nugget until the very end of this post.

Last year I wrote an article titled, Stay the Hell Home! where I observed the major retail stores in our country attempt to breeze past Thanksgiving and start the shopping season early.  I pledged not to frequent any of the stores who stayed open for Thanksgiving for the entire holiday season.  This became a personal mission of mine when a friend told me he would not be seeing his elderly grandmother for Thanksgiving because her employer, Walmart,told her she would be out of a job if she failed to report to duty.  In other words, she wasn’t asked to volunteer to come in and earn time and a half, she was being forced to work through the holiday.  This year I am dismayed to see retail stores continue this same trend and I am once again pledging to take my business elsewhere UNLESS the CEO’s and Executive Board are also working through Thanksgiving.  I have sent letters to the corporate offices of major retailers including Target, Walmart, and Best Buy informing them of my one man boycott.  While I doubt the Board of Directors will be behind the register when Macy’s opens at 6 pm tomorrow, hopefully I can inspire you to stay home.

Here are a list of facts you may want to consider before you leave your family at the dinner table:

  1. SHOP ONLINE – I realize I may be biased but my website, www.philtasticshopper.com is designed specifically to help you get the best deal.  There are specialized tools like comparative shopping and shop buddy designed to specifically save you money at your favorite stores.  Understand, I’m not trying to change what you buy, just how you buy it.  In exchange, many partner stores offer up to 50% cashback.  Money in your pocket for something you were already going to buy.
  2. You aren’t necessarily getting the best deal –  Stores have figured out how to work the average consumer up into a frenzy and then, through the power of marketing, direct your focus to the items allowing the most room for profit.  Due to the advent of social media, companies really didn’t lose any money on me ignoring the ad because some pixel addled person will line up to buy the expensive piece of plastic they really don’t need in addition to one or two games to go with it.
  3. Unless you’re waiting  outside of the store now, they are most likely out of it–  Stores tend to get limited quantities of hot items.  Unless you are one of the first people in line at the store, chances are you probably won’t be getting it.

The absolute best deal you will get this holiday season, as promised, is not found at any store or on any website no matter what time of day you look. The best deal ever is right in your home.  Once your done reading, commenting, sharing, and praising this post ( shameless yes) shut your computer or phone down and walk into the dining room.  Sit with your spouse, your children, and relatives- even if they don’t have anything in particular to say or if they’re sleeping.  I don’t remember the Christmas mornings where I spent all day burning my retinas while staring intently at a Gameboy.  As cheesy as it sounds, I remember moments like how my Grandmother’s cooking smelled, how my Mom made sure the house was meticulously decorated each year, and the time when my Dad wrapped my present in about 7 larger boxes like a Russian doll.  Instead of buying objects, make some memories.  The luster of the shiny new things will fade away in weeks but good quality family time will shine on in the recesses of our minds for years to come.  No matter how hard a corporation or store tries they can’t manufacture memories of time will spent with family.  In the end isn’t family what Thanksgiving is all about?

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.  Phil wishes you and your family a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.  

 

Guest Blog Post: The Shopping Annuity by Jeremy Slate

From time to time I like to spotlight a post from a fellow blogger.  This is one of my favorite recent posts from a great businessman, entrepreneur, personal trainer, and overall awesome guy Jeremy Slate.  If you enjoy this post, you can check out more of his work at www.jrslate.com. Enjoy! Turn Spending Into Earning? … Read more

There is No Morocco: What the Film Almost Famous Can Teach Us About Goal Setting

As many regular readers to my blog know, I am a film fanatic and believe motion pictures, as with any art form, have the ability to educate the viewer about the human condition and about them self in a way no scientific material  or textbook can.  The Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous is my favorite picture and one I hold close to my heart for this very reason. For those who haven’t seen it, be warned I will most definitely spoil the story of the film in this post.  If you were planning on Netflixing the film tonight, its OK to close this screen for now (I forgive you) as long as you promise to come back here later when you’re done.  The movie has several layers; it’s a coming of age drama, a love story, and a love letter to classic rock based loosely on Crowe’s youth.   I’m not writing about a nearly fifth-teen year old film to give you a review, rather I had a thought recently regarding the characters in the film I feel we can all use to reach our own goals.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

The characters in the film are dreamers, to one extent or another. William’s mother dreams of her son growing up as a respectful grounded and intelligent gentleman.  His sister dreams of freedom away from her mother’s over bearing behavior. The fictional band, Still Water, dreams of the fame, and Penny Lane dreams of visiting exotic locations.  The film’s main character, William, however, is a different kind of dreamer.  While everyone else in the film treats their dreams like a fantasy world they can close their eyes and think about with no real aim in to make it a reality William is actively working towards his goal of becoming a professional music journalist.  So what makes William different than all the others in the film?

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First and foremost, he’s tenacious. We learn early on the film he has been submitting articles he’s written in his spare time for years to his idol, Lester Bangs.  This connection prepares William for his big break, writing an article for Rolling Stone on his new favorite band Still Water.  William is intent on getting the article completed, so much in fact he misses his high school graduation while attempting to get interviews with all the members of the band.

Second, he’s not afraid to ask for help.  William wrote the aforementioned articles not only to get his work published in Bangs’ periodical, Cream Magazine, but to recruit the journalist as a mentor. This not only led William to start this life changing journey on tour with an up and coming rock band but also served as a support system when he ran into trouble with the piece, later in the film.  He also recruits Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson who received an Oscar nomination for her performance, to assist him in getting an interview with the elusive guitar player, Russell Hammond.

He’s willing to endure criticism.  William is very much an outsider and always has been in his life.  He’s too young, too smart, and at times too naive to embrace the world around him and its limitations.  Does he have tough mental armor made of steel and Kevlar?   Not at all, he is driven by his goal, amazement with creativity, and passion for music.

He’s not afraid to tell it like it is.  Throughout the film William gets distracted by the trappings of touring with rock stars, as I’m sure we all would.  The biggest and most charming scene in the film, typifies this perfectly.

At this exact moment, William realizes he is trapped.  He’s having a great time, feels like he’s one of the band, and even has the object of his affection, Penny Lane, leaning on his shoulder.  It’s a great, feel good scene, one that would probably trap any of us but William is focused on his goal. Several times during the film, when discussions with Penny Lane get a little too serious for her liking, she talks about her dream, going to Morocco.  What will she wear ? How will she speak? Until she meets William, however, she has no intention of actually going to Morocco, she just likes to daydream about it.  Towards the end of the film, William confront her about her diversionary tactics by loudly proclaiming, “There is no Morocco!”

It’s ironic in a film with characters who seem to be daydreaming about a life better than the one they have, the most grounded person is the kid who has the most impractical sounding goal.  The one major point of contention I have about William’s attitude toward his goals is hes too serious.  It’s been my experience if one takes their passion too seriously and doesn’t have any fun, they wind up hating it.  This seems to be something Penny Lane understood when she said, ” I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” Lucking, it seem like Crowe picked up this lesson sometime after the events depicted in this film.  To recap, here’s what we can learn from Almost Famous and reaching our goals:

  1. Be tenacious, don’t give up. If it’s important you’ll find a way to do it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a mentor or a college.  Everyone needs a leg up sometimes.
  3. You’re going to have critics.  They’re not living your life or paying your bills, you are.
  4. Tell it like it is- in my experience people often appreciate it when you’re blunt and find your honesty refreshing.

Remember these simple guidelines and work hard towards them every day.  Make each interaction and action prove to be one step closer in reaching the finish line.  Most importantly, never stop dreaming .  This can be easier said than done at times but dreams and ambition are the fuel that drives us towards our future.  These ideals will dramatically increase your chances of reaching your goals, whether they be visiting Morocco, losing weight, finding (or forgetting) love, or just being a better overall person.

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What are your tips for staying focused on you goals? Let me know in the comments and I’ll gladly respond and reply.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.  Oh, and like Russell Hammond, I am a Golden God. 

How Yoga Has Made Me a Better Entrepreneur

” Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind” – Patanjali  I’ve been practicing Vinyasa Flow yoga at my gym for close to three years now.  I initially started my practice at a personal low point.  I had just gone through a bad breakup leaving me depressed, stressed, overweight, and out of shape. … Read more

Stand Up Comedy: The Last Truth in American Entertainment

Earlier this month Chris Rock, arguably one of the funniest men alive, took criticism for his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live for discussing the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings and the attack on the World Trade Center.  Although the comedian made it abundantly clear he was not making light of the attacks nor the victims, some chose to criticize Rock claiming his jokes were awkward and insensitive.  In case you haven’t seen the opening, review the video below:

Although this is far from the first time stand up comedy has been scrutinized for taboo subject matter, it seems more now then ever comedy and our freedom of speech is continually under attack.  In most cases it seems the comedians jokes are taken out of context and then re-shaped to aide the argument of a special interest group or the news media.  Although I can give you countless instances where this is the case, I feel the best dissertation on this subject came from the late comic, Patrice O’Neil. Back in 2007 Patrice appeared on Fox News to discuss the suspension of the popular talk satellite radio show, Opie and Anthony,after a belligerent homeless man (a guest on the show) stated he wanted to rape Secretary of State Rice.  By the way, it was clear the man’s remarks were not a joke, nor did anyone construe it so.  A representative for N.O.W (National Organization of Women) saw the radio program’s suspension as a sign the public was sick of brash humor, even siting O’Neil’s act as offensive to women.  Perhaps Patrice put it best when he said, “..PC cops run a muck.”

The core of the discussion lies in freedom of speech, a sword everyone likes to swing through the air until they remember its a double edged blade and like any sharp pointy object one has to treat it with a measure of responsibility.  First, one must realize their message may be offensive to others and exercise caution in the manner they choose to express themselves.  Luckily, stand-up comedy has a sanctuary in the form of comedy clubs across the nation where people can choose to hear their favorite comic’s act whether it be a profanity laced set act or a guy with a puppet (or both). The medium of television and radio allows one to simply change the channel if they are offended or simply don’t want to hear what the comic has to say.  A key fact everyone seems to forget is the reality everyone has the freedom of speech in this country, including those who may not agree with you.  Just as you have the right to make your voice heard, so does everyone else.  Although one can choose to ignore the opposing or offensive perspective, they can also choose to argue it.  By argue, I do not intend to mean call for someone to be fired or be outraged, I’m talking about intelligent adult conversation. This is where stand-up comedy truly shines as the last truth in American entertainment.

The role of a truly great comic is not just to entertain but as Mel Brooks put it in the film, History of the World, the comedian (or as he calls it the stand-up philosopher) is to, “coalesce the vapor of the human experience into a viable and logical comprehension.”

What are comics if not modern day philosophers? Comedy legends like Joan Rivers, George Burns, Benny Hill, George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman juxtaposed the realities of modern day life with satire to create a message that was not only entertaining but unlike television can challenge the listeners way of thinking and expanded one’s perspective.  Their work paved the way for generations of comics to inspire and entertain millions.  Today there are some wonderful comics like Louie CK, Jim Norton, Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle, Nick DiPaolo, Robert Kelly, Vinny Brand, Jim Bruer,and Brian Regan (just to rattle off a few of my favorites) who simply put, take the art of comedy to another level.

Getting back to my original question:was Rock’s monologue out of line? Absolutely not.  His act, as he did point out, wasn’t about making light of the horrible terror attacks rather it was about the commercialization of our history and traditions to suit the needs of big business.  Days once reserved to commemorate important events and people are now used to sell mattresses, cars, and things people don’t need to and can’t afford.  Perhaps rather than focusing on being offended by the Chris Rock’s monologue, some would benefit by re-examining it keeping the commercialization of our nation’s traditions in mind.  If not and you are truly offended by his message, then remember you have the right to be and can choose to ignore it.

Do you agree or disagree? Who is your favorite comic? What do you think of the monologue.  Comment and let me know 🙂

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.   Phil’s favorite comedy club is The Stress Factory in New Brunswick, NJ and his favorite comic is Robert Kelly. No I haven’t been paid to say it- it’s a really great place!!! 

The Story of Two Monks – What Does it Mean to You ?

monkAssome of you may know, I regularly practice vinyasa flow yoga tohelp keep my back flexible as well as promote overall wellness.  At the end of one of my recent classes, my instructor read us a short story to meditate on during shavasana.

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her.

The senior monk carried this woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing.

They both were walking and senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and inquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”

The junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the bank, however, you seem to be carrying her still.”

Although I later learned this is a classic story from the Tao, it was new to me and I found it deeply interesting on a few different levels  After class a small group of us spoke about how it meant letting go of the past and either accepting situations for what they are or coming to a peaceful resolution.

Although I agreed with this translation of the story, I found as the week continued to march on, the story took on new meaning for me.  In terms of goals and decision making the story of the monks reminded me to focus on the bigger picture.  While the younger monk thinking all the reasons why he shouldn’t help the woman in distress, the elder monk realized this was an opportunity to work towards the purpose he has devoted his life to, the betterment of man.  Although I’m not a monk and have never aspired to be one, I assume the main objective of a monk is to reach enlightenment and commune with nature on a high level of consciousness. I’ve been reading, or more accurately listening, to Grant Cardon’s “10x Rule” lately and found his overall message is not unlike this interpretation of the monks’ story.  Although his unapologetic style meant to rile up the listener with a dose of equal parts inspiration and moxie is a far cry from the peaceful monks tone, both teachings remind us to focus on whats important in life.  Don’t waste your time and energy on coming up with reasons why something won’t work and focus on how you can make it work.

This past week also started and ran a fundraiser to benefit a friend who lost her home to a fire.  I’ve always had an altruistic nature and have been a member of several different charitable and community organizations in the past.  I set a goal of raising $1,000 and proudly touted my goal and my plan online.  I was initially surprised and almost dismayed when some people I had counted on helping out flat out declined to participate. I had to pause and tell myself I’m doing this not for my own benefit but to help out someone in need.  Perhaps these people who didn’t want to help were assisting in other ways and if not, it wasn’t a reflection on me or my friend it was a reflection on that person.  Needles to say, I re-focused on the task at hand and continued to plow ahead.  I didn’t hit my $1,000 goal but at the end I had raised money from sales and donations, which I originally hadn’t considered I would receive at all.  When I collect the donations and deliver them to my friend later this week, her happiness will have made the journey worth it.

Let’s look at this from the other monk’s perspective, one can always learn something new by looking at the other perspective.  In this case, the younger monk was confined by the regulations of his order.  I’m sure we’ve all felt confined by regulations and guidelines at one time or another. That being said, the monk in this situation should have focused more on what he could do rather than what he couldn’t do.  Perhaps he could have procured a boat or canoe to help the woman sail across the water.  Maybe he could have found a way around it by wrapping her in cloth so there was’t any skin to skin contact.  Either way this is a case of ambition, if the younger monk really wanted to help the woman he would have found a way.  The fact he didn’t help the woman doesn’t make him a terrible person; sometimes good people fail to act in good ways, but in his mind he knows he did wrong.  If not he wouldn’t be preoccupied with “would have” or “should have.”  He expected the other monk to ignore the woman as he chose to, the fact the elder monk acted differently bothered the younger monk, not because he failed to act but because he felt the actions of his associate made him appear like less of a person.

In summary, here’s what I took from the story of two monks:

  1. If you have a goal that is important to you, you’ll find a way to reach it or to stay true to your path to reaching it.
  2. Over-thinking, under-thinking,and not taking action doesn’t help anyone. and finally…
  3. When faced with adversity, don’t focus on why not, instead ask yourself how.

What are your thought about the story of the two monks?  What is your interpretation and how does it apply to a challenge you’ve faced or something you want to accomplish? I want to know – comment below and let’s chat.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. Phil is also all about that bass. 

 

 

Why is everyone mad at U2 ?

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I’m going to start this post by stating two facts about myself, which I want to make clear before diving too deep into the subject:

1. Although I am a fan of U2, I have never been a fan of their politics.

2. I am also a fan of Ozzy Osbourne.

Last week Apple unveiled a whole new bag of goodies including the newest I-Phone we’ve all been waiting to either praise or raze since last years. Ideal came out. To top it off, Apple announced all I-tunes users now own a free copy of U2’s new album, “Songs of Innocence“. All they have to do is pluck it from the cloud and enjoy. Everyone likes something for free right ? Apparently not. Many I-tunes users are reporting they resent the fact U2 has given their music to them for free. Some younger users complaining they don’t know who the band is, despite decades of sold out stadium tours across the world. My question to these people is: What’s all the fuss about ?

To those who don’t care for U2 – I get it. You’ll never listen to the songs, great I respect and celebrate your freedom of musical choice. If you’re a music enthusiast, like me, you’re I-pod is chock full of thousands of songs you consistently skip over. Most of that music you pass by you probably paid for in some way shape or form. Whats another 11 tracks of fast forward past ?

To the youngsters who haven’t heard of U2 – you have the most to gain from this. You get to discover a group of the most beautifully versed poets. If you don’t believe me, jump on You Tube and check out “One”, ““Stay”, or the 2002 Superbowl Halftime Show ( my personal favorite halftime experience). Try to expand your boundaries a bit. Yea they’re not jumping on stage singing about their clothing line or have rambling outbursts on how hard it is to be married to a Kardashian but give it a shot, you may like it.

To those concerned U2 has “sold out” – Where have you been for the last twenty years ? This band have always introduced their new projects in a huge fashion, whether it be on the rooftops of a building in LA or pre-loaded onto your $500 phone. U2 hasn’t been the band who played at the local pub for years now! They’ve had their music showcased in movies (including their own film, Rattle and Hum), television programs, and commercials for years now. They announced the tour for their album titled “Pop” at a K-mart ( it was supposed to be ironic). They appeared on The Simpsons and more recently on Entourage. The early I-pod commercials even portrayed silhouettes dancing to U2’s hit, “Vertigo”. They even had a special edition I-pod filled with the band’s music.

To Sharon Osbourne, who will probably never see this – Mrs. Osbourne, big fan of you and you’re husband’s work but, calling U2 a bunch of sell outs, with mediocre music, and stating Apple is responsible for making music disposable ? Come on now! Ozzy has more useless merchandise than any other artist. There’s the lunch boxes, action figures, lighters, bottle openers, shot glasses, and other oddities destined for the dollar bin at the local Spencer’s. Not to mention the appearance on South Park, video game soundtracks, Ozzy’s cameo in the Adam Sandler Opus “Little Nicky” or the fact “Crazy Train” blares through stadiums and arenas at sporting events across the country. Love him or hate him Ozzy has sold out over and over again. There is also the MTV reality series responsible for revitalizing Ozzy’s careers and attempting to launch the career of Kelly Osbourne, who I may add recently appeared in Sharknado 2. As far as the quality of music goes, I’ve bought plenty of Ozzy albums where only two or three tracks didn’t strike me as filler, including the Prince of Darkness box set ( all aboard the disco train). Although I love the guy, Ozzy’s not really experiencing a musical renaissance right now. Just sayin.

Music on a whole became a disposable commodity well before Apple or even the advent of the MP3. The truth is music became irrelevant when it became unaffordable. I can show you all my concert ticket stubs chronicling the gradual climb in ticket prices from something the 15 year old Phil could afford on his pt after school and weekend job to an investment 35 year old Phil has to plan and budget for. File sharing services stopped the record companies from gouging their customers but also made it extremely difficult for artist, both new and old, from enjoying the high sales the industry had become accustomed to. Tom Petty recently gave out copies of his last album for free to anyone who purchased a ticket to his shows. Generation Y doesn’t even buy music in any form anymore, most stream their tunes through services like Pandora and iHeart Radio. Keeping all this in mind can you blame U2 for jumping on the opportunity to put their music in the ears of millions of subscribers.

So to the naysayers who have loudly protested the album, I want to hear from you. What’s the problem ? What’s so terrible about getting a free download from Apple ? Is this really an issue or is it just media fluff ? I want to know what you have to say. Comment on the post and fill me in.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. But first lets take another selfie !

What Entrepreneurs can Learn From Batman

This artwork encompasses what makes Batman great and why we should aspire to be a little more like him ( minus the terrible childhood tragedy and obsessive compulsive nature forcing him into a life of loneliness). In this pic we’ve got 2 other beloved comic book characters and fellow members of the Justice League (the … Read more