Agent Anything

Ali Bar

If you’re a student living in New York City, you may have seen an advertisement for something called Agent Anything. The premise is that people in the city come up with missions for college students to accomplish for pay. I was certainly somewhat skeptical of the Agent Anything website, because I can see ways in which it could be abused.  However, a friend of mine accepted a mission to help move some boxes. I went with him as a safety precaution. I'm really strong and can scare people away (sarcasm -- in case you didn't get it). But it turned out to be a good experience. The guy offering the job was nice and friendly. On top of the $40 he offered for the job, he gave us a $20 tip. At first we refused but he insisted. A few days later my friend accepted another mission, moving boxes once again, for $60. This time he got a $10 tip.

Of course, not all the missions are as fruitful and some are definitely strange. One rather weird one is reading a bedtime story every night to a man whose only other requirement is that once he falls asleep, the reader locks up and leaves. You can ask questions about the missions before accepting them. Someone asked the bedtime story man, “Is this serious?" The answer was a sincere yes.

I'm still a little wary, but most of the people we’ve been in contact with so far just seem to want to help students out. It’s nice that these jobs are only offered to students. To sign up for Agent Anything, you must use your college e-mail address. To get paid, PayPal sends an e-mail that you link to an account. Once you finish a mission, you go to the Agent Anything site and mark a mission as accomplished. The person who requested the mission also must mark it as accomplished. Then you get paid. :) I think I might start a profile and maybe do some missions.

If anyone has had any experiences with Agent Anything worth mentioning, let me know (good or bad). Click the image below to check it out.

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A Walk Filled with Art

Ali Bar

Nothing beats autumn in New York. A little bit ago, on a day with a deep blue sky, a couple friends and I wandered from gallery to gallery in the Tribeca/Chelsea area.  First we made our way over to see the Gerhard Richter show at the Drawing Center on Wooster Street (Still up and I recommend it -- if you like Richter). We also stopped by a Rob Pruitt exhibition. All that art reminded me sadly that, once again, I will miss Art Basel in Miami Beach. But at least there is a plethora of things to do in New York City vs. my college town, Ithaca, N.Y. So I guess I shouldn't complain. The great thing about galleries in and around the Tribeca/Chelsea area is that most are open to the public for free, or they ask for a small donation, which depending on your financial situation, you can choose to give or not. On this lovely day we ended up along the water’s edge where we chatted on an old pier that had been converted into a park. We made our way up the island and hit the Frying Pan, a bar on three boats linked together. I didn't spend any money at the bar, but it was really nice in the late evening sitting on a boat in the Hudson River. Oh so nice.

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A piece from the Richter show.

If anyone knows any good galleries -- beyond the usual suspects -- in and around Miami, feel free to share. I’ll take recommendations for New York too for that matter.  Here’s just a list of a few of the New York museums where you can avoid paying the full admission price:

Frick: Pay what you wish Sundays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Whitney: Pay what you wish Fridays 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Jewish Museum: Saturday Free!
MOMA: Friday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free!
Guggenheim: Pay what you wish Saturdays 5:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
New Museum: Thursdays Free!

Here’s another tip: Lots of people already know about Target free + reduced price events, but just in case you don't, Target teamed up with various arts and cultural centers to provide cultural events one day of the week that are either free or reduced in price. In Miami, for example, you can go to the Miami Children's Museum for free on the third Friday of the month. That'll save you the $12-$15 admission price. In Fort Lauderdale, you can go to the Young at Art Children's Museum for free on the first Friday of the month.

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Free for all!

Name barA long while ago, I pledged to try to spend a whole day doing only free stuff (that involved not sitting on my own sofa and watching my already-paid-for basic cable).

I never quite got around to that. But that's what friends are for. 

In celebration of her boyfriend's recent birthday, one of my astute friends ferreted out a least a half-dozen deals linked to the special day. They scored a free Grand Slam at Denny's, a free sub from Firehouse Subs and a free entree at Moe's. There are deals waiting to be cashed in -- some good for the rest of the month; some just a few days after the big day, including a free handcrafted burger at Ruby Tuesday, treats from Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery and Starbucks. The big cahuna of birthday meal deals: a coupon for $30 off a dinner check at Benihana. Discovery Cruise Lines offers a free cruise to the Bahamas during your birth month. (My sister and I once joined forces on this deal, snagging my dad and my brother-in-law, who share a birth month, free cruises.) And thanks to Real Simple magazine, I just learned about a host of other birthday treats, including from Aveda and IHOP. You can find more deals in their October issue along with tips on saving money every day, including taking your own cup to the coffee shop (Einstein Bros. will give you coffee for $1 if you bring in your own mug -- but I can't tell if it must be one of theirs in the first place) and taking your own bags at Target and Whole Foods, which can save you five to 10 cents per bag. Birthday money 2

Some of these deals require signing up online, getting an e-mail and printing out a coupon (all of which may be followed by all sorts of offers, deals and ads.) Denny's and Firehouse simply wanted to see an ID on the big day.

Whether or not it's your birthday, free stuff awaits us all, apparently. Every year, Kiplinger puts out its list of best freebies. This year, while there are some things you're likely to think of on your own -- including getting free books at the library, if only for a short while -- there are some truly innovative suggestions, including a tip on getting free (and not fugly) passport photos. Check out item 14 on this year's list. They also suggest visiting freeshipping.org for deals on shipping when you're buying online, offer links to free deals for kids and free help with completing and filing your tax returns.

So whether it's a birthday or another occasion that sends you out eating or shopping, I'm guessing it's one you can save money on. Please let me know about other deals you know of -- birthday or otherwise.

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Reading (under a) rainbow

Name bar This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there is no admission fee at nearly every Florida state park. Just bring your library card, a library book or a book you'd like to donate and get in at no charge.

The occasion: September is Literacy Month. Some parks will host special events related to reading, including stories by campfires and story time for kids. At John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, there's a book exchange going on all month. There are details on the state parks website

Consider this post a preview of a whole host of freebies I've been gathering with the help of friends and other publications lately. If you have any great ones you can't resist sharing, please do.

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MAM For Free

Ali Bar

Fortunately while I was absorbing Miami culture before heading to New York City, I was delighted to find out that students get in free at the Miami Art Museum (MAM).  But if you're not a student, a freebie still awaits. Through October 17, if you "bring a photograph of anything around Miami that you consider art," you get in free. That’s a pretty interesting challenge – and your photograph might become a part of the New Work Miami 2010 Visitors Gallery.  So get those cameras out.

Here's what I would submit.  It's a photograph I took while taking a tour of the Miami River.

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A Weekend of FREE Museum Visits Awaits

Ali Bar

When I was home in Miami at the beginning of August, I wanted to see an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in North Miami.  I was expecting to pay the $3 student admission price.  I handed the woman at the desk my debit card, which she promptly returned.  She then proceeded to explain the Bank of America Museums on Us program.  Every first weekend of the month Bank of America card holders can get in free.  So nice.  It not only works for MOCA, but I also went to a Latin American art exhibition I wanted to see at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale -- for free. That would have normally cost $10.  I managed to avoid paying $13 for both museums.  Now that I'm in New York, the first weekend in September will be filled with museum adventuring. The program is available at various museums across the country.

Other South Florida places you can visit for free this weekend and subsequent first weekends include:
Miami Art Museum
Miami Children's Museum
Miami Science Museum
Bass Museum of Art (Miami Beach)
Young At Art Children's Museum (Davie)
Museum of Discovery & Science (Fort Lauderdale)

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(Even more) Spa savings and meal tickets

Name bar I've been remiss in failing to mention Miami Spice, the two-month promotion by restaurants in Miami-Dade that create three-course meals for a set price -- prices lower than usual. About 130 restaurants are offering deals, but it's worth checking the website to see which days they are available and whether they apply to lunch or dinner.

My colleague Elaine Walker offers some details in a story about the promotion, including that at participating restaurants, lunches are $22 and dinners are $35. There are still about five weeks left to spice up your next dining out experience. The deals last until Sept. 30.

Right after that, Broward gets in on the action, with Dine Out Lauderdale. Those $35 three-course meals are around until Nov. 11.

And I just learned that Sept. 20-26, there's a promotion called SpaFinder Deal Days. There are savings on spa treatments and yoga and pilates classes. For example, at Bikram Hot Yoga Miami, a week of unlimited hot yoga, usually $140, will cost $50. You may need to book your treatment or classes in advance. Search for other deals here.

And here are even more deals to watch for in October that I just learned about today. Spa Week, Oct. 11-17, will feature $50 price tags for treatments that usually go for a lot more. The list of places that will offer deals goes live Sept. 13. Some of the spas that will participate include Elizabeth Arden Red Door, Clarins Skin Spa and Sleek MedSpa.

It's hard to find money in the budget these days to pamper myself. I just got a beauty-school hair cut last week and haven't been to yoga since my inexpensive community education classes ended for the summer -- in early July. Meals out lately have been mostly by the slice and individual sushi roll, neither of which is particularly pricey. Or I've been content to cook at home and have friends over.

But since these prices are pretty all right, maybe it's time to pretty myself and my social calendar.

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This week's Good deal

Name barHere's a few deals -- and others who know about them, for this week.

A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Perricone's Marketplace & Cafe near Mary Brickell Village in Miami offers all of its pasta dishes for $10 on Thursday night. I was there with friends and ordered the vegetable lasagna, which is usually $15.95. The leftovers turned into my lunch the next day. Two $5 meals? Good deal for sure, especially when accompanied by their fresh bread and a delicious tomato-and olive-oil spread.

At Jungle Island, Florida residents can get a free barbecue lunch with their admission price ($33.12 for adults, including tax) through Aug. 22.

And if you're not a coupon clipper, but do like to shop, I just learned about some sites that do some of the work for you, no scissors required. Courtesy of Gregory Karp at the Allentown Morning Call, I found CouponCabin.com, for thousands of coupon codes for stores you actually go to. GetInvisibleHand.com really is invisible, until you're shopping online and it finds a better deal on something you're thinking of buying.

Happy deal hunting!

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OK, that was a bad deal

Name barSo calling something "it's-two-days-til-we-can-shop Wednesdays" thoroughly confused my significant other. Maybe it was simply idiotic. Better choice for my weekly attempt at sharing was "Good deal."

Speaking of, here are some gems I found this week: 

Courtesy of Miami FL on the Cheap, The Westin Colonnade Coral Gables is serving a full breakfast for a donation of $5 bucks FRIDAY -- that's the 16th -- from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to raise money for the children’s charity Give Kids the World. The hotel is paying for the food so the donations will go to the nonprofit group.

If you've never used Groupon, it's worth a look (unless it makes you buy things you didn't need or weren't already thinking of, however.) A deal is offered every day for most major cities -- Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and so on. A minimum number of people have to sign up for the deal for it to become reality. If the deal doesn't meet its threshold, you don't pay for the deal. Today, they were offering three yoga classes for $10. Now that IS a deal.

Finally, you can pay about $60 and get unlimited visits to the Miami Seaquarium, Zoo Miami, Wannado City and Lion Country Safari through the end of September.

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Updated! Introducing It's-only-two-days-til-we-can-shop Wednesdays

Name bar So after months of scrimping, obsessive coupon clipping and sweating because I don't dare turn the a/c below 82 degrees, I've decided it's time to take up a little shopping again. Only for stuff I need and that's truly a good deal, of course. Not as therapy for any particular emotional wound that results in a trunk full of bags. Not as a way to pass the time. But because there's finally a little wiggle room in my budget -- even though I'm still a piggy-banking girl at heart -- and because some of my clothes have become so large they are simply too unprofessional to wear anymore. (Fringe benefit of eating most of my meals at home to save money: eating better, skipping most processed foods and eating normal portions.)

Until now, I haven't used this blog to post some of the really great deals that find their way to me. But two I came across recently seemed really worth sharing, although I'm sure I'm going to incur the wrath of some nutritionists. (If it helps, I'm drinking a spinach-strawberry-blueberry-nonfat yogurt smoothie as I write this.)

Chick fil-a is offering free meals Friday to people who show up at their restaurants dressed like cows. To celebrate Cow Appreciation Day (you know, to prove that you're no chicken, their website says) they are giving some chicken-fried love to those sporting a bovine look. (Just make sure you don't end up looking too much like the real thing by eating there too often.)

In Davie, at Schakolad Chocolate Factory, there is a menu of items now available for a dollar through the end of August. Mondays are a 12-ounce iced drink. Tuesdays are for two medium chocolate-dipped pretzels. Wednesdays are chocolate dipped strawberries. And so on.

And finally, 7-Eleven is giving away 7.11-ounce Slurpees on the day that shares their name, Sunday, July 11.

If you check out any of these deals, or find other can't-not-share coupons or steals, let me know and I'll post them here, every Wednesday.

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