Going, Going, Gone! How to Win on an Online Shopping Auction

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by tophatter.com. All opinions are my own.

Anyone who knows me would agree that I can sniff a good deal a mile away. It's a skill that has served me well now that I am a bargain-hunting mama, always on the look out for ways for the family to financially save and spend wisely.

Much of this value-hunting skill was developed when I worked as an editor for the shopping guide section of a local daily, hunting down bargain deals, writing about second-hand stores and profiling small-business owners.

Although I have a propensity to window-shop more than to sit in front of my Macbook and shop online (I always joked window-shopping is my "poor man's version" of a workout!), I always manage to control my expenses by staying away from impulsive purchases. So how in the world did I end up ferociously bidding on an online auction website if impulse-buying is not my cup of tea? 

Believe it or not, as I've discovered after my first-ever online auction experience on tophatter.com, auction websites can actually be a great way to save money—as long as you shop with a strategy.

1. Research the products offered on the auction website before placing a bid.

Think of it like you are going to war—you want to be armed as much as possible. In this case, being armed with product information is winning half of the auction battle. Browse the product gallery of the auction website and click on products to read more on product descriptions and specifications. This is very important when buying gadgets to ensure it is compatible with your other devices. 

2. Set a bid limit.

Similar to live auction events like Tophatter where you have less than 90 seconds to bid, it is easy to get swept in the moment and make the rookie mistake of overbidding on a product for fear of losing the bidding war. To avoid this, compare prices in other stores once you've determined the product you'd like to bid on. By comparing prices, you can wisely set a bid limit for yourself and ensure that you are always bidding with a mindset to save while shopping. 

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3. Sign up for bidding alerts and reminders.

Because products in auctions can easily come and go, set a bidding alert and reminder to ensure you get notified when products you are eyeing on are up for bids. For instance, I wanted to surprise the little one for her upcoming birthday with an old-school Mario Bros. handheld gaming device which was one of the featured products on the auction website. Instead of staying on the computer all day to wait for it to go on the live auction, I simply set up an alert. It was a smart strategy—I ended up winning that device as a birthday gift for the little one! 

4. Refrain from getting emotionally attached.

Easier said than done! It is expected that the competitive spirit will kick in when in the midst of a bidding war. It can get competitive fast and even personal at times, but the only way to truly win on an online auction is to detach yourself emotionally from the idea that you must win every bid, every time. In fact, in order to shop wisely, you must be willing to lose and walk away from a bid. There will always be another opportunity.

5. Study the bidding pattern.

Visit the auction website during different times of the day and be observant. Are there more bidders during the day? Are you more likely to get less competitors at night? Whatever that bidding pattern is, work it to your advantage. 

Eager to get into the bidding war yourself? Click HERE and enter CODE: a850f2 to receive a $10 credit when you sign up at tophatter.com . Happy bidding!

Gift Ideas, With Love: 20 Uber-Cool Valentine's Day Gifts for Him

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Ah, the day of hearts! Cupid has a way of sneaking up on us. In fact, it feels we've just barely caught our breath from the mad dash and last-minute holiday gift shopping for loved ones and here we are again, going through the same motion of online shopping for Valentine's Day. We feel your pain, it's never easy to find the perfect gift for a loving dad, husband or lover. Well, guess what? Amazon does have several neat gifts if you know where to find. Here are 20 uber-cool Valentine's Day gift ideas for every man in your life:   

1. StudBucket

What man doesn't need a stud bucket? Get him a gift set with a flask for his favorite bourbon, a sleek headphone, a 4-in-one bottle opener and a $10 Best Buy gift card.

2. Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphone

Is he a music lover? Elevate his listening experience with this Beats wireless headphone that is as gorgeous as it is functional.

3. Bodum Pour-Over Coffee Maker, 34 oz.

Who's grumpy in the morning? You can help change your man's morning mood by getting him this elegant pour-over coffee maker so he can easily get his daily caffeine fix, whether at home or in the office.

4. Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App-Controlled Robot

Here's every Star Wars geek's fantasy: To have his own Star Wars droid. Indulge your man's adorable geeky side with this fun collectible that can roll around like a real droid using an app-controlled remote.

5. Mixology Dice

Is your man a fan of DIY happy hour? Make blending signature cocktails even more fun for your bourbon- or tequila-loving man with this Mixology Dice which comes with eight laser-engraved dice and an instruction booklet.

6. Ray-Ban Andy, 55mm non-polarized

What's cooler than a super dad? A super dad sporting a cool Ray-Ban!

7. Vintage Canvas Backpack

When it's time to retire your man's backpack, get him a travel rucksack that's equal parts classy and manly. Bonus nachos: It is waterproof and can fit a 15.6-inch laptop.

8. Yeti Vacuum Insulated Rambler Colster

The trusty Yeti---every real man needs one. This Yeti colster keeps his drink cool while football tailgaiting or camping outdoors because no one likes a warm beer. 

9. Wacaco Company MiniPresso GR Espresso Maker

Is he an espresso man? Surprise him with this MiniPresso so he may enjoy a cup of energy-boosting espresso while on the go.

10. Chemist's Spice Rack, 14-piece

Does daddy or your beau loves to experiment with new flavors in the kitchen? Get him his own spice rack so he can easily mix and blend sauces and seasonings of his own culinary creations.

11. Clocky Alarm Clock on Wheels

Is your man not a morning person? Give him a little more motivation in the morning with this wheeled alarm clock that runs away to persuasively get him out of bed.

12. YUMQUA USB Wireless Bluetooth Waterproof Roll-Up Foldable Keyboard

Is he often on the go with his job but also needs to stay connected? A foldable keyboard would ensure he packs light on his way to his next sales or business meeting.

13. RAVPower Luster Mini 3350mAh Portable Charger Battery

Nothing could be more frustrating than running out of mobile juice when you need it most. Be his hero and get him this elegant portable charger battery so he can stay connected anytime, anywhere.

14. ICE Portable Wireless Floating Bluetooth Speaker

Wow, talk about giving him one to talk about! A sure conversational piece, this wireless floating speaker makes a wonderful addition to his man cave and one that he can brag about to his friends. 

15. FRYE Logan Antique Flap Briefcase

In case your man needs to look sharper than usual, get him this antique flap briefcase in cognac color so he can always report to work looking like a boss.

16. LBFEEL Cool Watch Movement Cufflinks

The devil in the the detail. Get him a pair of watch-inspired cufflinks so he can accessorize in style the next he goes to a big business presentation.

17. OURAI 13-inch Laptop Sleeve Case and Notebook Carrying Case

Help your man take care of his mobile devices with these briefcase bag and carrying case that protect his gadgets while in transit.

18. Amazon Echo

YOU: Alexa, how do you make a man as happy as a kid in a candy store? ALEXA: Get him an Amazon Echo.

19. Crosley Ranchero Retro AM/FM Tabletop Radio

Looking for a gift for your dad or husband that may touch his soft, nostalgic touch? Let him walk down memory lane with this retro radio. Oh, so Mad Men!

20. Garmin Vivosmart HR Activity Tracker

Is he a health and gym buff? Motivate him to stay active with an activity tracker which records the number of steps he has taken, calories lost, activity intensity and distance covered. It also receives texts, calls and email or social media alerts so he could stay connected while working out.

Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All content in here, however, are my personal and honest recommendations. 

Holiday Shopping: Ultra-Cool Gift Ideas

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Oh goodness, it's nearly Christmas and you are hardly done with gift-shopping! I share your sense of mad rush. Like you, I have been scrambling while playing Santa and checking off the shopping list. Generally, I prefer the full malling experiencethere's something exhilarating about being surprised in every shop you step into and being able to smell a scented candle or touch a pashmina shawl. But have you seen the malls lately? Holy guacamole, good luck finding a parking spot!

So, in desperation, I turned to online shopping. Often, if I want some adorable gifts, I would visit Papyrus, Brookstone or AHAlife online. Imagine my surprise when I discovered ultra-cool gift ideas from Amazon! I've pulled some of my favorites in case, like me, you need last-minute holiday gift recommendations. Happy hunting for the perfect gift!     

Even for a non-coffee drinker like me, this one is super adorable! Like coffee and cream, this case cover makes for a perfect combo for your Starbucks-addicted friend's Apple iPhone 6. Venti latte with an extra shot of cuteness?

Sleep tight, sleepyhead! Nothing's cuter than an emoticon plush pillow. It's also a sneaky way to say: Sweet dreams, baby love!

Sure, we may no longer need a watch to tell time as we often have our multi-tasking smart phones to do that, but that doesn't mean we should no longer accessorize the wrist. If you have to delight a watch-loving hubby, do it stylishly with a unique, wooden watch.  

I have a pen. I have an apple. Pineapple! Shake off that viral song in your head and turn your attention to this chic Hawaiian Pineapple tumbler instead. Pina colada, anyone?

Ah, this one is as pretty as the blooming cherry blossoms! Surprise a tea-loving mother-in-law or aunt with a no-spill glass teapot.

Purrr...too cute! Nothing says cozy more than a pair of plush slippers while you sip a cup of hot chocolate by the fireplace. 

Ready, camera, action! Get your YouTube videos in HD with an ultra-cute Polaroid Cube camera.

OMG, I want one! Add humor by giving this Whatever Wall Clock to a friend or cousin who is notoriously late during after-five social meetings or family events.

Elevate selfie-taking with this INSTAX mini camera that instantly prints polaroid photos, which would later make for a lovely wall gallery.

Do you feel the force? Surrender to Master Yoda's wisdom and surprise a Star Wars superfan with this adorable Star Wars pillowcase. Now who's ready for Rouge One?