Posted in Couponing, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Circle with Disney

Thanks to McCormick Spice company, I was gifted a $50 Amazon gift card for taking part in their online customer advisory surveys on Christmas morning! Bonus points for the perfect timing but I’m still partial to Epicure at this point.

I went on Amazon.ca after seeing a Facebook advertisement for Circle. I was super surprised at the genius in what it said it could offer: a simple plug-in and go device that can control the internet for every other device in your house.

I don’t think I’m alone in this battle: I am constantly nagging my kids (ages 11 and 14) to get off their electronics. Even though I limit their screen time, it seems like as soon as I allow it there is this turn. It’s like crack for kids. (Disclaimer: Not that I really know what crack is like!) This drug-like system that takes them away from this physical world and transforms them into comatose hybrids that look like my children. They then react quickly when I tell them to remove themselves from their alternate realities (how many tabs and screens can you have open at once – no wonder the internet is dragging!!!) It seems easier to let them have it than fight for their attention to real life (dinner, chores, homework, lessons, appointments etc.). Yet being the good mom that I am, I don’t back down from a challenge most times. I’m here to raise good people on planet Earth – not some Matrix they are not old enough to choose to be in at their every whim!

So being the frugal person who doesn’t drop dollars like it grows on trees (or falls like snow in Canada these days!), I went on to Circle’s website to really discover if I could entrust them with my money, internet and sanity.

Features

I was delighted to discover that not only can I limit the internet for each device, there were SO MANY problems that were solved with this little square box (love the irony of it being called Circle!).

Here’s what I thought were some super cool things Circle can do:

  • Everything is controlled by an app on my cell phone
  • Every device can be assigned to a specific family member or user (kids’ friends beware!)
  • Each user has their own “rules” that you can assign
  • Rules include limiting internet times per day and for bedtimes
  • Certain apps/websites (Facebook, YouTube, Minecraft, Netflix, Instagram, etc.) can have set limits per day – that means no binge watching Vampire Diaries all night kiddos
  • Limits can be different on weekdays and weekends
  • Ultimate pause button exists on the app & for each user – When I call for dinner, I will definitely get a quicker response!
  • Rewards can be granted such as extra time, later bedtimes, etc.
  • Chore apps can be linked to Circle to ensure that beds get made before electronics are allowed (I’m going to enroll in a few of these apps too – what a super great discovery!)

So I figured – what the hay!  I have $50 in free “play money” & I have free Amazon Prime 2-day shipping, so for out of pocket $62.99 I was willing to gift myself some possible sanity.  (Currently Circle retails for $129.99 Canadian but is on sale for $99.99 on Amazon.ca)

Set Up

It arrived in the guaranteed time and I quickly tore open the package.  It was so cute and somehow in a Tiffany blue box.  (Good play Disney, good play for those moms you target so well!).

The best thing is that it is literally a plug-and-play device.  The installation was so simple and it walks you through everything on the app.  It was the easiest thing – exactly what was promised.  Within 3 minutes, Circle was working, app was installed and the basic setup had begun.

How many devices do you have in your household?  Be a little patient as Circle will recognize them all (Apple or android, it doesn’t matter, plus printers and more I discovered!).  The names they come at can be cryptic but that’s not Circle’s fault.  I figured out the printer by looking at the manufacturer (Canon).  Honestly I really didn’t have to do anything – this little square box had already won my heart for how much work and think-less process / system it has.  Thank you on behalf of parents everywhere!

A bonus feature the actual device has is temporary backup power. Not for power outages, silly!  If your kids are smart, they might think to pull the power cord in order to deactivate Circle and gain some extra screen time behind your back (oh because your kid is such an angel…..).  Don’t tell them, but it sends a message to the app letting you know it happened.  Ha ha!  Good play Disney, good play!  Win for the parents again.

As parents, we can get caught up in the internet too.  So we can actually be a user and set limits (“rules”) for ourselves as well.  Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram/etc. won’t suck us in for more than ____ hours a day if we set up limits in our user profile.

So as I sit with my morning coffee, I’m waiting for the bustle of my children to start.  8am on weekends is when Circle allows them the internet (they need their sleep!) and I expect my 14 year old won’t venture out of her bed until she hits her limit and gets upset that she doesn’t know how this episode of Riverside ended.  Well, it’s her own darn fault… maybe looking at nail polish designs on Pinterest for 10 minutes beforehand wasn’t such a great idea now, was it?

I’m raising good people, and part of that is letting them discover within limits how to make choices for themselves.  It’s kind of like teaching them the currency of time: you should budget accordingly so that you don’t end up with a zero bank balance before the end of the day (or pay period /month) wondering where it all got spent.

With Circle, I think my family will have definitely less arguments over screen time plus it will give my mind and voice a much needed nag-break.  It’s a great tool to separate the rules, rule maker (um, parent) and the choices and self-control growing kids have themselves.  Well done, Circle.

Please Note:  No company sponsored this post.  The money was spent by me and was an actual personal purchase.

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Posted in Couponing, Healthy, Home Economics, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Service Review: Loblaws Click & Collect Grocery Service

NOTE: New blog post coming soon on my second attempt at using Click & Collect. Here’s a hint…. Use this code to receive $10 off your groceries with the service: https://share.realcanadiansuperstore.ca/x/tldVjG

Loblaws’ super idea of Click & Collect might send consumers walking right back to the Superstore.


Having to drive by Loblaws each week, I have noticed that these pick up parking spaces are completely empty.  Being someone who is picky with selecting the perfect peach (PHEc Tip: Smell them, if they don’t smell like a peach, put it back!), I was hesitant.  Cue in a super busy day, some staples that are needed (who can screw up picking out a carton of milk), and I go online before 6am to see if this can help with a stressful life.


It looked so easy: “Shop Online. Pick up in Store.” I set up an account easily, hopefully to add my PC Points/Plus at the end upon checkout.


So “click” I did, and the webstore was beautiful.  It had a billion items (probably) and a tab for Flyers & Deals.  Swoon…. I was in love.

Then I tried finding my 2% Natrel Lactose-Free milk.  It’s not their best seller so then I had to go into the Milk & Dairy section.  There were still 78 items/options so I discovered “Search” in the top left corner.  That made it way easier.  Next item for me, butter.  (Yes, I know you are going to say something.  Everything in moderation and a good baker knows the value of butter at times.)  That’s when things really started to make me rethink:  $6.99 for 454g of salted butter. I know butter has increased in price over the past 5 years.  But a frugal PHEc wouldn’t pay that unless company was coming and I was in a pinch.

This showed me one complete downfall to this Click & Collect personal shopping service: No price matching!  Then I wondered….. I bet there is no couponing too!  Gasp!


For the average consumer in London, Ontario (one of the wealthiest cities in Canada, I think), this is definitely a “First Class Digital Experience” (seen on the back of the paper flyer I picked up in-store). Add the unadvertised $3-5 fee that the web store requires you to pay for the service to the Loblaws luxury (um, higher) shelf prices with no options for price matching/couponing, and I emptied my virtual cart.  This just wasn’t for me.  It could be for you. Here’s a list to summarize my thoughts so you can decide yourself:

Pros:

Convenience – For busy nights, parents with screaming children, and for rushed lifestyles.

Valet for Groceries – Easy for people with mobility issues but can use a car.

Fun – Yes shopping online seems to be a hobby of some these days.

Cart Starter Options – Have a personalized shopping list ready every time you log on. It makes it easier to search and select the items, so even less time “shopping” for the items you usually buy.

Payments upon Pickup – No payment ahead of time but you do need a credit card to “secure” the order.  You can use debit instead of a credit card since you don’t technically pay when ordering.

Sales – Clearly marked and the same prices as the flyers.

Prices – Option to view products from Low to High prices to find a cheaper alternative of a similar food.

Personalize Pickings – You can specify if you want ripe fruits, or certain details to make sure it’s just how you’d pick it out.

Social Sanity – For those who hate busy times or crowed places, it can make grocery shopping peaceful.

Substitution Options – Allow substitutions or not.  If you do, you can specify if it has to be from the same brand, or never for a higher price.  You can decide at your car to take the item or not (it says). This personal preference can be saved on your account for each category – Milk vs Fruits & Veggies.

Cons:

Cost – Higher prices are usually at Loblaws compared to its sister stores like No Frills & Superstore.  (Consider using Superstore instead which traditionally has the same products for a bit less.)

Minimum Purchase Required – You need to spend at least $30 to use the service.

Fee – Additional fee of $3 at less busy times and $5 after 5pm and on weekends.

Price Matching – No option for this, leading to an increased cost for the money savvy shoppers.

Coupons – No option for this.

Bags – It does ask in a text box (not a more visual drop box) if you are using your own bags. Obviously if you do not specify you could be charged the 5 cents per bag.  Another added cost.

Substitution Options – If you gave permission for them to substitute, you wouldn’t find out until you “collected” your order.  Plus if that was a necessary item, it might be not worth the extra costs, when you realize you went home with an unavailable item and the rest of the required $30 minimum of food.

Select Locations – Definitely not available at it sister store, No Frills. I’m not sure if EVERY Loblaws has this option. (Let me know if it’s available at locations near you.).

Personally, I’ll just keep sticking to the “Go & Grab” method of grocery shopping instead of “Click & Collect”.  It might be a busy day ahead for me, but at least I will get some walking and weight lifting (carrying the bags myself) in for my daily physical activity.  I think I’ll save my family a lot of money, since I’m not choosing the “First Class” experience.

Frugal Tip: Sign up for an account, check your email and you receive $5 off your “next” order. Consider it free valet (the Click & Collect fee for busy times) for one day!

*Please note that I have not used this service, as explained above, to completion.  It is possible that some details might change if I had been able to complete the entire service.