Your Old Nike Sneakers Might Be Eligible for a Refresh or Refund

Chances are you’ve owned a pair of Nike sneakers at some point in your life. The iconic swoosh has been around since the 70s, the company itself even longer. But even the most brand-loyal consumers might find their sneaks are falling apart a little earlier than expected, and if that’s the case, you may be able to save them (or at least get some store credit) thanks to Nike’s fairly generous return policy.

You can easily check if your sneakers are still covered under Nike’s two-year manufacturing warranty by looking at the tag located on the inside of your shoe. In addition to your size, you’ll see two dates printed on either side. The date on the left is the purchase order date, or when the retailer decided to order some kicks from Nike itself. On the right is the actual manufacturing date, which will determine your return window.
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Nike recommends checking the return policy of the store where you purchased them before shipping your shoes out, as authorized Nike retailers are also able to accept returns due to workmanship or material flaws. Purchases made at actual Nike stores should be returned to any Nike retail location. If you purchased from Nike.com you’ll have to use this return form to process your order. Also, you should hold onto that receipt, or at least snap a photo of it for safe keeping later on. You’ll need to include it with your sneaker shipment should you be forced to mail them out. If you jump through the requisite hoops and decide to send them to Nike, be prepared to wait at least a week while they process the return and discern whether it’s worthy of a refund or replacement. The worst part, after the waiting, is that you’re also on the hook for shipping, regardless of whether you end up getting that refund or not.
As with all good things, there are bound to be those attempting to game the system. Don’t think you can just send in your damaged kicks every year and expect a posh refund or a brand new pair of Killshots. Nike’s return policy must deem the shoe flawed before you get a return or exchange. The company keeps its definition of defective and flawed products vague, so it might be difficult for consumers to determine whether something is the fault of the manufacturer or just a part of the sneaker’s normal wear and tear.

The company can and will deny your return should you try to abuse the policy, and it doesn’t accept returns based on normal wear and tear. So runners, don’t consider this a freebie option for replacing your worn-out shoes every year. In this case, maybe you shouldn’t just do it unless absolutely necessary.

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred is Still the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card for Most People

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best for travel rewards credit card, and whether you’re a seasoned points maximizer or just dipping your toes in, you should have a Preferred in your rotation.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is part of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program. Ultimate Rewards is an ecosystem of several credit cards that when taken together, grant industry-best returns in most shopping categories. We’ll be covering all of the Ultimate Rewards cards in greater detail in future guides, but today we’re focusing on why the Preferred is a great entry point.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is worth getting for its sign-up bonus alone. You’ll net 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months after opening, plus another 5000 for adding an authorized user (free) once they make a purchase. That’s worth around $1200 by The Point Guy’s latest valuations, or to put it another way, you’re getting around a 30% return on that $4,000 you were probably going to spend anyway. The Preferred’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year, so you can treat your first 365 days as a trial period.

With the Preferred, you’ll earn 2X Ultimate Rewards Points for every dollar spent on Dining (including things like Seamless), and Travel (including things like Uber), which are likely two of your biggest spending categories if you’re a frequent traveler. 2% is the baseline return I recommend everyone earn on every purchase they ever make, but by maximizing your Ultimate Rewards redemptions, these points are worth far more.

It’s unlikely you’ve managed to miss out on the fervor surrounding Chase’s step-up version of the Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Reserve bumps the travel and dining rewards of the Preferred to 3X, and offers a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you apply at a physical Chase location by March 12. After that, it drops to the Preferred’s 50,000 point level. The Reserve’s $450 annual fee isn’t waived the first year, and while it’s offset by things like a $300 annual travel credit, if you didn’t already pull the trigger, you probably aren’t going to in the next few weeks. Either way, you’ll want to get a Preferred for its sign-up bonus.

Ultimate Rewards is the best and most user-friendly travel rewards system out there, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred is your step one.

What to Do If You Were Affected by the Equifax Hack

Equifax’s “security incident” earlier this week affected 143 million Americans. That’s a huge number of people, which means that the chances that either you or someone you know being affected are pretty high. Equifax’s site was even providing positive results for fake social security numbers at one point.

If you were one of the millions affected by the attack, then you have to figure out what to do next. CNET put together a pretty good step by step for people. Here are a few of its suggestions:

Enroll in TrustedID

Equifax is offering a free year of TrustedID to everyone. The credit monitoring service “includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers.”

Equifax faced a bit of backlash via social media when it made the offer, one because you have to wait to sign up on a specific date the company doesn’t plan on reminding you of, and two, because a clause in the terms of service of the company’s site dedicated to the hack added an arbitration clause that seemed to imply you were waiving your right to sue the company for the hack if you took advantage of it.

The clause really only applied to suing them specifically for the site itself, not the hack, but the company added an opt-out feature Friday, which allows you to opt-out of giving up your right to sue by sending a letter.

The tool on the site that tells you if you were hacked might also be broken right now, so there’s that.

Check Your Credit

This breach actually happened three months ago, so there’s a chance that your information is already being used. Check your credit report and make sure there’s nothing out of the ordinary happening.

Freeze Your Credit

CNET suggests freezing your credit, which is a suggestion we made last week as well. If you freeze your credit, then anyone who wants to use your credit to open an account with needs a special PIN.

If you’re not planning on making any big purchases soon or opening any new credit cards, then it can be a good preventative move in keeping your credit safe.

Set a Fraud Alert

Setting up a fraud alert is another one of those things that will make using your credit a bit of a hassle, but can keep you protected. If you set up a fraud alert, then a company will have to verify your identity before they can open an account in your name.

You set one up by contacting a credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), and they last 90 days.

Keep an Eye on Your Taxes

CNET brings up a good point about watching out when you file your taxes this year. Sometimes people will use personal info to file false tax returns to get refunds. That means if you file your taxes after them, you might get a message from the IRS saying your taxes have already been filed.

If you can, make sure to file your taxes on the early side this year.

YOU CAN MAKE AN EMERGENCY COOKIE IN TWO MINUTES

Do you ever have those moments when you just need a warm chocolate chip cookie, but you don’t feel like making several dozen? I know I do, which is why I am happy to have found this 2-minute cookie recipe from Epicurious.

Thanks to the magic of the microwave, this cookie can be whipped up in a jiffy.

Click the link below for all of the tasty details, but it’s really just a matter of melting some butter (vegan or reg) in the microwave, then stirring in flour, brown sugar, vanilla, nuts, and (of course) chocolate chips. The little pile of deliciousness is then placed on a plate, and microwaved for another minute and a half. You then have a hot and fresh cookie to comfort your soul and bolster your spirits.

2-Minute Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookie | Epicurious

How to Stock a Spice Cabinet

Stocking a spice cabinet can be a little overwhelming, simply for the reason that there are so many spices out there. It may be tempting to stock up on every exciting seasoning in sight, but these things do have an expiration date, and you can end up with a cabinet full of flavorless, expensive powders that need to be replaced.

But nobody likes bland food, and there are a few spices that I recommend everyone have on hand. Once you have these basics, you can supplement with the other spices that routinely come up in your favorite recipes.

  • Salt: Salt makes other flavors pop. Get a box of Kosher salt for cooking and a box of Maldon for finishing.
  • Pepper: Skip the pre-ground stuff and get a grinder with whole black or rainbow peppercorns. (Extra credit: Get another one with white peppercorns for times when you need to increase the funk.)
  • Cinnamon: You’ll need whole sticks for infusions and teas, and ground for baking and sprinkling into savory dishes. It may sound weird, but adding a pinch of cinnamon to my beef stew changed my life.
  • Whole nutmeg: Freshly ground nutmeg is my “secret ingredient” in a whole slew of recipes. Yes, it’s great in baked goods, but it’s also fantastic in any sort of cheesy dish and pairs well with hearty meats and starchy vegetables. I also love it grated directly onto a rum cocktail.
  • Ground cayenne: Cayenne pepper is a versatile heat-bringer used in a variety of cuisines, and just a pinch can add a nice kick to a vat of beans or take your spice rub up a notch.
  • Paprika: Paprika is the bright red pugent powder you may have seen on top of deviled eggs. Paprika can be mild, sweet, or hot, but it should always be Hungarian. Beyond deviled eggs, you can use it to finish any dish that needs a bit of pungency, or use it in spice rubs, marinades, and dressings.
  • Cumin: I am obsessed with cumin and it’s sweet, earthy, warm flavor. It makes meaty dishes taste “complete,” and absolutely sings in both Tex-Mex and curries alike. When I taste a dish and think it needs “an extra something,” that something is usually cumin.
  • Dried thyme: Fresh herbs are great when you can get them, but you should enjoy thyme’s woodsy flavor all year round. It’s a staple in Mediterranean and Italian cooking, and adds subtle flavor to a whole slew of savory dishes.
  • Dried oregano: Like thyme, oregano has year-round applications, and my spaghetti sauce wouldn’t be the same with out it.
  • Bay leaves: Bay leaves are like the perfect back up singer, and provide harmony without being distracting. Their subtle, savory and vaguely medicinal flavor makes rice, soups, and stews taste better without making them taste like much at all.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: Made from a blend of dried, crushed chilies, these spicy little guys add a slightly fruity spiciness to anything you sprinkle them on, such as pizza, pizza, or pizza. (I also use them in my marinated mushrooms, but c’mon, we all know crushed red pepper is made for pizza.)

Of course, spice cabinets will vary from person to person, depending on the type of cuisines one cooks, and that’s a beautiful thing. What spices can you absolutely not live without, and what have you found to be skippable?

A Rain Garden Can Stop Spring Storms From Wrecking Your Yard

Spring means getting your garden or yard ready for the most lively time of the year for your plants, but spring showers can drown your efforts. A “rain garden” can help divert overflows of water from spring showers so the rest of your yard stays in shape to bloom.

A rain garden works by directing water into a specific area in your yard and then absorbing that water like a sponge. Installing one takes a bit of work, but if your area is prone to heavy rainfall, it can be worth spending a weekend and renting a digging machine for a fix that will last years. Here are the key elements of an effective rain garden:

  • A site that is able to drain water at a rate of at least half an inch per hour. This article from This Old House runs you through how to test different areas in your yard.
  • Pipes to direct water from gutters to your rain garden.
  • Sandy soil that will absorb and drain water well. You may need to mix this in with the soil you remove from the rain garden site to make room for plants.
  • Stones to prevent soil erosion. You don’t want your special soil to erode away in the rain!
  • Plants that can tolerate being in standing water. You should have three categories: plants that like drier conditions, plants that do okay in occasional standing water, and plants that are okay in standing water.

You’ll need to dig out the soil in the area for the garden as well as routes for pipes that will direct water from your gutters into the garden. This is easier if you rent an excavator, but you can also dig by hand. Once you’ve dug out your rain garden, filled it with the right soil and plan where the stones and plants will go. Place the stones around the edge of garden to stop soil from eroding over time. The plants that can stand wet conditions should go in the center since that’ll stay wet longest after rain. It’s not the simplest of yard projects, but it’ll pay off as the spring storms start rolling in.

Image from Blue Thumb

Build and Mount Your Own Floating Shelves for About Seven Bucks

Floating shelves are a great way to add some shelving to your house without taking up a ton of space. YouTuber DIY Creators shows off how to build one for about seven dollars.

This is a pretty easy project to do and doesn’t require much in the way of power tools.
It’s pretty much just locking four pieces of lumber together with glue and dowels, painting, then mounting to your wall. Since it’s made from just a small bit of wood, it’s also super cheap. Home Depot usually has scraps of wood that they give away for free, making this project a whole lot cheaper.

You’ll find a list of everything you’ll need over on YouTube.

$7 Floating Shelf | YouTube

Shelves image from Etsy

The Car Brands With the Highest Maintenance Costs Over Time

The true cost of owning a car goes beyond the sticker price. Maintenance is an expense that can add up quite a bit over time. However, your mileage will vary depending on the car.

Vehicle service site YourMechanic.com analyzed their own data to find out which car brands and models require the most maintenance over time. They explain:

At YourMechanic, we have a massive dataset of the make and model of the cars we have serviced and the type of maintenance done. We decided to use our data to understand which cars break down the most and have the highest maintenance costs…First, we looked at which major brands cost the most to maintain over the first 10 years of a car’s life. We grouped all years of all models by brand to compute their average cost by brand. In order to estimate annual maintenance costs, we found the amount spent on every two oil changes (as oil changes are generally done every six months).

According to their data, BMWs were the most expensive to maintain by far, with a 10-year cost of $17,800. They found the luxury brands were the most expensive in general, but many budget vehicles ranked high, too. Saturns were 6th on their list with a 10-year maintenance cost of $12,400.

Toyota was the best value for maintenance, according to the list. Scion and Lexus were the second and third most inexpensive brands, respectively (both are part of the Toyota group).

For maintenance costs on all the brands, check out their graphic below. Then head to the full post for more detail on how costs change over time and how they vary by model.

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The Most and Least Expensive Cars to Maintain | YourMechanic

Eight Foam Rolling Techniques to Loosen Up Your Muscles

To the untrained eye, foam rolling can look extremely awkward (just watch someone foam roll their glutes or hip flexors). For someone who knows what they’re doing, though, they’re massaging tired and tight muscles and treating their hard working muscles right.

This infographic by Greatist shows you eight techniques that can work your most common trouble spots. You can foam roll any of your muscles, though you should avoid directly rolling your lower back. You’ll need to contort your body and get in various positions that’ll allow you to apply the most pressure to certain sensitive spots. If it gets too much, you can transfer your weight off by placing one leg on the ground; or conversely, place your leg on top of the other to increase pressure.

 If you’re just starting out, foam rolling can be excruciatingly uncomfortable. Foam rollers come in varying degrees of stiffness, so start off gently with the blue or white-colored foam rollers.

How to Foam Roll Like a Pro | Greatist

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Featured Image courtesy of Coal Creek Therapy 

Everything Your Chromebook Can Do Offline

When Chrome OS first appeared, it was practically useless without an internet connection. Now there are dozens of web apps with offline capabilities. Here’s everything you can do without online access.


Create and edit documents

As you might expect, Google is at the forefront of adding offline features to Chrome OS. Google Drive had offline support for a while, and it’s great to use. You can create, view and edit files, with changes automatically synced back to the cloud as soon as connection is restored.

You need to set this up ahead of time, though. From the main Google Drive interface, click on the cog icon on the right, then choose Settings. Tick the box next to the Offline heading and the sync starts with a pop-up notification. There are some limitations, but most Google Drive features are still available.


Search through and write emails

With Gmail Offline and its optimizer extension installed on your Chromebook, you can compose new emails and search through a cache of older ones, though obviously you can’t do any sending or receiving until you’re back online. First, select the Allow offline mail prompt to start downloading messages.

You can choose to sync a week, two weeks, or a month’s worth of emails using the simple settings pane, and all your labels and inbox categories are carried over as well. You can move, archive, and label messages using Gmail Offline too (these actions are synced to Gmail when connectivity returns).

Catch up on your reading

Pocket has an integrated offline mode available, which mean you can catch up on your read-it-later queue on your Chromebook without even a hint of WiFi. The syncing happens automatically when you launch the Chrome app, although it doesn’t work with videos for rather obvious reasons.

There’s no such offline functionality for Instapaper, unless you load up all the articles you want to read in separate tabs before you lose connectivity. Google Keep can work without the web, and syncing is done automatically. You can use either the Keep website or the Chrome app to get at your notes.

Play games

Plenty of Chrome OS games work offline. To find them, go to the Chrome Web Store, and choose Games, then Chrome Apps, then Runs Offline from the left-hand pane. Once you’ve installed the games of your choice, they’ll load up on Chrome OS with or without an available internet connection.

Cut The Rope is one of the best known offline-ready titles, while there are several versions of Solitaire available, and an awesome Free Rider HD Offline Editor to play around with too. Bear in mind that more complex games are going to use up more of your Chromebook’s local storage.

Edit photos

If you have photos stored locally on your Chromebook that need editing offline, then Pixlr Touch Up from Autodesk is one of the simplest options out there. There are plenty of other alternatives. Take a look at Polarr Photo Editor 3 or Piconion Photo Editor, for example, which come with more advanced features.

Open up Pixlr Touch Up and you can apply a range of quick fixes, from cropping to blurring, as well as a number of Instagram-style filters and effects. A text overlay tool is included in the app too. As yet, there’s no offline support for the powerful Google Photos, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Google added it.

Play movies and music

You can open movie and music files from local storage, but there’s more than that. In the Google Play Movies app, for example, each of your purchased titles shows a small download button you can use to sync it for offline viewing later on (head to the settings page to configure the download quality).

Songist plays tracks from local storage and doesn’t need an internet connection to load or run. Just make sure you download the songs first. Google Play Music doesn’t have an offline mode at the time of writing, and nor does Spotify’s web player, but as we’ve mentioned there is a native player for local files.

[Image via Google Store]