Archive for December, 2012

Save Money When You Fly The Friendly Skies

December 12, 2012 Travel on the Cheap

Comments Off on Save Money When You Fly The Friendly Skies

It is Possible to Save Money on Airline Tickets

There are some time-proven axioms that you can follow to put the odds on your side in helping you save money on airline tickets. These include:

#1 Change the Time You Travel
If you want to save money on airfare, don’t be rigid on the time of day you want to travel. Going between New York and Los Angeles, for example, may have one airline offering as many as seven or eight flights on a particular day. If you want to leave in the morning, investigate the three or four departures offered during that time period. Moving your departure time by just one hour, on your departure or return, may save you significant money on the airline ticket price.

#2 Change the Day You Travel
Even if you require traveling on a particular airline or time of day, look at moving your desired departure or return day by one or two days. It is often the case that a particular flight may be cheaper on a Tuesday than a Wednesday, or a Saturday instead of a Sunday. The side benefit of this might be a free one-day “vacation” as the savings in airfare can more than offset the additional cost of a hotel room and meals.

#3 Change the Route You Travel
Yes, we all like to travel directly from where we are to our destination as quickly as possible and without changing planes. But how much is this worth to you? Airlines often make connecting flights from your origin to destination less expensive than their non-stop flights. It may add a couple of hours to travel time but it may be worth the hundreds of dollars you could save on airfare. Airline websites, unfortunately, are designed to show you the most direct and shortest time between the cities you request. If they have an option to “search by fare” use that option with maximum number of results possible and drill down deep in the results to make sure you see all the fares available. Changing the route you travel could be the best way for you to save money on airfare.

#4 Change the Airline You Use to Travel
Competition is a wonderful thing when it comes to saving money on airfare! Many routes are highly competitive and it can force an airline with traditional dominance in a market to drop its airfares, sometimes dramatically, in response to a new competitor or fare sale from other competing airlines. Often times these “sales” will happen on a moment’s notice and may only last for a few days. If you have a favorite airline you wish to use, subscribe to their email alerts for your favorite cities so you can be kept up to date on any fare changes. But, don’t limit yourself to just one airline. Do it for all the airlines in your market.

#5 First Class Cheaper Than Coach?
No discussion of ways to save money on airfare would be complete without talking about the new currency for airfares: the frequent flyer mile. More and more of us are accumulating these frequent flyer miles that pay for airline tickets. Our first inclination when trying to redeem these miles is to seek out a coach seat using the lowest amount of miles, typically around 25,000 miles. However, it is usually the case that the airline does not have any seats at the lowest mileage redemption level when you would like to travel but may have them if you use twice the miles. Before giving in to this requirement, ask about business or first class awards. You may be surprised how many times discounted business or first class awards may be available to and from your destination for the same or less or slightly more miles than for double mileage coach awards. The extra comfort and perks are the icing on the cake!

What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine…

December 1, 2012 Money Saving Ideas

Comments Off on What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine…

What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine…host a clothing and accessories swap!


For many of us, watching our budget can seem doable until that cute pair of shoes or sparkling pair of earrings catches our eye. A moment or two of rationalization later, and we’ve dropped another $20, $30 or $50 on something we probably didn’t really need in the first place.

When we were children, we outgrew clothes year round. Our parents provided us with new clothes, and before we could tire of them, we had outgrown them and it was onto a new wardrobe. As adults, we no longer have that excuse to buy a new wardrobe each season. It can be so tempting to go hog wild when we see new things in the stores, however, or even when we see a particularly great outfit on a friend.

The funny thing is, our friends feel the same way. The solution? Get together and have a swap meet! No, this isn’t a bunch of guys trading used car parts, this is you and your favorite fashionistas gathering to trade things that are old to you, but new to each other. Let’s face it—having these items sitting around collecting dust in the closet isn’t doing anyone any good. On the other hand, someone else could make good use of those items. Chances are, the scarf that you have tired of will be very appealing to one of your friends. The almost new jacket that never quite fit right may be perfect for someone else.

To start, have everyone go through their closets and purge them of everything that they no longer wear. Don’t feel limited to just clothing—go through scarves, costume jewelry, shoes, belts, headbands, barrettes, handbags. If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s likely you won’t use it again. Just make sure you’re not getting rid of things you can’t part with.

When instructing everyone to comb through their fashions, you may want to have a deadline. This will help keep everyone on track! Otherwise the date of your swap could be indefinitely postponed while waiting for the procrastinators to finally get this crucial step completed.

Once everyone has had a chance to clean out their closets, choose a date and place to get together for the swap. Ideally, you want to have a good sized location to display all the wares. You’ll also want to set up tables and/ or racks, depending on what everyone has to bring to the swap. In addition, have mirrors handy, as well as a spot for clothing try-ons.

Make sure you give yourselves some time for the swap. Once everyone is together, you’ll want to plan on spending a few hours together. One of the bonuses of the swap is that it is a great chance to socialize, as well as breathe new life into your wardrobe.

Let everyone browse through the various offerings, trying things on and asking for opinions as they go. To keep things fair, you may want to draw numbers, one through however many guests attend. If there is an item that two people want, whoever has the lowest number gets that item. Once they have used that “turn,” their turn is forfeited until everyone has had a “first” choice, if necessary. Usually these things are able to be resolved on their own, but it’s nice to have a backup plan—just in case.

To top off the swap, have everyone choose their favorite “new” outfit and model it for everyone else. And it doesn’t have to be an entire outfit—maybe it’s a great hat that frames someone’s face just so, or a great pair of shoes that one of the ladies loves to strut her stuff in. This is supposed to be informal and fun, so have a great time with it!

Make sure you have a camera on hand to take pictures of the “models” as they show off their new treasures. If possible, have someone take a picture of the whole group together donning their new duds, or set a timer on the camera—you want to make sure you have everyone in the photo.

Hang onto that group photo and use it to make a great invitation—you may want to make this swap a yearly event!

Get Serious…and Get out of Debt!

December 1, 2012 Financial Freedom

Comments Off on Get Serious…and Get out of Debt!


It’s time folks…time to talk about that dirty little secret you’ve been hiding. Yes, it’s tough to talk about, and it’s embarrassing to admit for sure, but it’s time to bring up that secret you’ve been hiding behind closed doors. No, it’s not that secret stash of chocolate you keep for “emergencies” while you insist to your friends at the gym that you’re eating clean, or even the dirty dishes you hide under the sink when company comes over. This is more serious than that–it’s that mountain of debt you keep “meaning” to pay off.

Even if you have all of the trappings of wealth—the fancy car, the designer clothes, an enormous home—if you still owe on these things, your wealth is a façade. If you’re in debt, chances are you’d like not to be. If you’re ready to get serious about it, you CAN dig your way out of that mountain. It won’t be easy, it probably won’t be fun (although seeing your total debt amount go down actually IS pretty fun!), but it is doable.

Here is the key: the money you bring in from these ideas MUST go toward your debt! Making an extra $100 does not give you license to buy new shoes when you are facing a pile of bills. It gives you the opportunity to bring those bills down to a manageable level—and to eventually get rid of them altogether. Need a little motivation? Think about how fantastic it will feel not to have to pay those monthly bills. Wouldn’t it be freeing not to be chained to that pile of debt? If you weren’t paying off a car, a mortgage and credit card debt, you would certainly have a lot more disposable income, PLUS you would have money to put into savings and put towards retirement. Can you imagine how wonderfully free you would feel? That’s the feeling you need to remember when you feel like paying off debt is too much work. And none of these things are things you have to do forever.

Ready? Here are a few ways to bring in extra cash to pay off debt:

SELL SOME STUFF: Take a good, hard look around you. What do you own that you don’t need? Stop letting these things clutter up your life and get rid of them! Use the cash to throw at your debt. Whether it’s an extra car, too many clothes, toys the kids no longer play with or collectibles that collecting nothing but dust, if you once used them, someone else will to. You will be amazed at the amount of unused items you have in your home. Not only will you bring in extra money, you will also love how it feels to get rid of the clutter. There are all kinds of ways to get the word out: put an ad on Craigslist, in the local newspaper or on the bulletin board of your local grocery store.

SELL YOUR SERVICES: What are you good at? Which of your skills are marketable? Think about things that you can do that other people either can’t do, don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. The list is endless…babysitting, elderly care, lawn mowing, personal shopping, errand running, chauffeuring, home organizing, tutoring, marketing, dog walking, pet sitting, housesitting, car detailing. You would be amazed at the number of services people are willing to pay for!

GET A SECOND JOB: Yes, working 40 hours each week can be daunting enough, but pulling in a second income can help you topple that mountain of debt. A word of advice? Try to find a second job that entails something you may enjoy. That will make it much more likely that you will be able to stick with it long enough to make a difference. Plus, you don’t want to make your life miserable. If you enjoy people, maybe retail or customer service is for you. If you like working independently, try data entry.

DONATING PLASMA: This can actually be a pretty quick way to earn extra money, and you are doing a worthwhile service for the health care community at the same time. Typically you are able to donate twice each seven days, and many plasma donation centers offer bonuses for new donors. Plus, you get a little free time to yourself. If you like to read, bring a book or an e-reader and pass the time, or play a game on your phone.

“EXTRA” MONEY: Since you should currently have a budget in place with your bills all accounted for, any additional extra money should go towards your debt. A few examples would be money from a raise or bonus, rebates and tax refunds.

Paying off your debt is hard work, but with the right attitude and a good amount of fortitude, you can get it done. And when you do, enjoy the freedom it brings—you deserve it!


A Room Is Just A Room….Or is it?

December 1, 2012 Travel on the Cheap

Comments Off on A Room Is Just A Room….Or is it?

To save money on hotels, you can start with the internet. Be careful relying solely on travel web sites, however. The ones that find the cheapest plane tickets work pretty well, but you’ll never find the cheapest hotel rooms online. Of course, you probably don’t want the cheapest room, but you do want to know what your options are, right?

It seems that the web sites which locate cheap hotels for you only work with those that have a decent marketing budget. Or perhaps they assume for you what kind of room you want, and so exclude the ones that they don’t think are appropriate. This is speculation on my part, but what is not speculative is the fact that I have often found cheaper rooms than the ones listed on these web sites. How? By doing the following.

1. Start with sites like, but don’t stop there. This just gives you an idea of what is available – and sometimes you will find a great deal.

2. Find a online phone book for the town you are traveling to. Look up hotels and motels in that, and call them directly.

3. When traveling by car, take the hotel coupon-books available at gas stations, rest areas and visitor’s centers. These will often save you $10 or $20 at hotels you might have stayed at anyhow.

4. Ask for AAA and other discounts that you may qualify for. I saved $15 recently just by showing my business card to get the corporate rate. There are sometimes senior discounts as well.

5. Negotiate. This won’t always work in the United States, but we occasionally have an owner drop the price when we start to walk away. Also, we have paid cash for several days in advance to get a discount. This negotiating tactic has worked for my wife and I from Ecuador to Montana and California.

6. Plan ahead and call ahead. When making a multi-day trip by car, you have some flexibility in where you stop for the night. Check hotels in various towns online before you leave. Sometimes the rooms in the next town will be $30 less just because there are more hotels. Why not drive the extra forty minutes today (or tomorrow) to get the cheap hotel rooms?

Brown Bag Blues

December 1, 2012 Money Saving Ideas

Comments Off on Brown Bag Blues

One of the biggest money savers for those who don’t have the opportunity to eat lunch at home is to pack a lunch. This applies those who work away from home, students, or even those who have a long day of errands but don’t want to blow their cash on fast food.

Eating out every day can be a HUGE drain on the budget. Most folks spend an average of $5 to $15 a day for lunch out. Based on a 5-day work or school week, that’s anywhere from $25 to $100 each week just to eat lunch. In some cases, school lunches for kids can actually be LESS expensive, but if your kids have an a la carte option, that can add up fast too.

There are a number of things you can do to keep the cost down and the interest level up.

First, think about the containers you use to pack lunch. If you are buying disposable bags and bottled water, stop wasting your money! Make a one-time investment in re-usable containers and wash and re-fill them. A number of things that many people already buy come in containers that lend themselves quite nicely to this as well. Plastic lunch meat tubs, empty frozen whipped topping containers, glass jars, etc., can make fantastic containers to use and re-use. Also, if you aren’t able to keep your lunch refrigerated until it’s time to eat it, purchase re-freezable ice packs to keep your lunch cool.

To avoid brown bag burnout, vary your lunches. Think outside the “lunch box.”

If you have access to a microwave, last night’s leftovers can make a tasty lunch. Some entrees—chili or lasagna for example—can often taste even better the next day when the flavors have had more of a chance to meld. As you are cleaning up dinner, add in one extra step and package up leftovers in a single serve container so it’s ready to grab in the morning.

Buying salads at the local café is pricey! Purchase your favorite ingredients and you’ll have enough to make a few gourmet salads of your own. Add in extras such as hardboiled eggs, black beans, chunks of chicken or beef (another great way to use up leftovers!), chickpeas, chopped veggies, nuts or fruit to give you some interesting options. Put salad dressing in a small individual container (baby food jars are perfect for this!), and you have a salad that’s just as good—if not better—than one you could get in a restaurant.

Try variations on a sandwich. Sample a variety of breads—pumpernickel, rye, honey wheat—to give your sandwich a new kick. Visit your local bakery or try your hand at making your own. This would be a great opportunity to break out the breadmaker that’s been collecting dust in the cabinet.

Mix it up with different fillings. Lunch meat and good old peanut butter and jelly are good old standbys, but try egg salad, tuna salad, ham salad, fried eggs and hummus. And you don’t always have to use bread as a wrap—try pita bread, tortillas or spinach wraps. Another way to add a new flavor is to add different spices (think Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano), spicy mustards or even a tablespoon of salad dressing in place of mayo.

When you’re adding extra snacks to your lunch, remember to buy family size portions of chips or veggies and then divide them up into individual portions so they are ready to pack. If you have a sweet tooth, how about making your own cakes, brownies, cookies or granola snacks to divvy up into serving sizes? Not only will you spend less, but you’ll be eating fewer preservatives too!

Don’t forget to bring something to drink. If coffee is your beverage of choice, brew your own and pour into a thermos or a to-go coffee mug. Buy a couple of beverage containers that are suitable for traveling with. Fill with water, ice tea or lemonade. If you prefer soda, buy a case when it’s on sale and bring one with you.

If you do find yourself suffering from brown bag burnout, allow yourself the treat of eating out now and then. If you are only eating out one day every week or two, that’s much less likely to send your budget into the red. Once you’ve figured out how to keep your lunches varied, you may just find that you prefer your packed lunches to restaurant fare anyway!


Is it time for a financial fast?

December 1, 2012 Financial Freedom

Comments Off on Is it time for a financial fast?

Is it time for a financial fast?

How many of us have started a new diet by fasting to quick start our weight loss? It’s amazing how motivating it can be to lose those first few pounds. Losing those first few can get us in the mind set to lose even more. That’s one of the reasons many people utilize fasting as a jump start tool. One of the problems with fasting, however, is that it’s really easy to gain that weight back, since often what you lose is water weight.

What if fasting could have long term effects? Well good news—it can! But instead of fasting from food, how about fasting from spending? Here’s the good news—a financial fast won’t lead to weight gain down the road, but it can have that same motivational effect.

Pick a time frame—a day, a week, a month—whatever you realistically think you can handle. During that time, do not spend ANY money. Not a dime. That means no grabbing your favorite coffee from the local barista or even so much as picking up a pack of gum. This is an exercise in control, and it truly can be a great way to kick start a financial savings plan (or give you the money to use to begin a debt repayment plan).

As consumers, we tend to buy without thinking. A financial fast puts this into perspective incredibly quickly. Think about it—if you aren’t allowed to spend any money, you will still have the urge to do so. You will be forced to think about each and every one of those potential purchases very carefully. More importantly, you will definitely begin to see the difference between your wants and your needs. If you can get through a day (or a week, or even a month) with zero expenditures, you will begin to notice how many things you typically buy that you don’t actually need. Think about how much money you could save if you only bought things you truly needed!

Try to go into this exercise with the mindset that this is a bit of a game. Have fun with it. See what inspired sorts of things you can do to make up for the things that you want to buy, but now aren’t “allowed” to.

To get prepared, think about your daily routine. Do you usually grab a latte or breakfast on the run in the morning? Not any more—make your coffee at home and eat a bowl of cereal. While you’re at it, take a few minutes to pack a lunch—you’re not going to be able to stop at the local café if you’re not spending money, so you better have a plan or you’re going to end up very hungry at the end of the day. Do you usually head to the vending machine for an afternoon snack? Yep, better pack that too.

It may be very tempting to grab a pizza on the way home, but during your financial fast, this isn’t an option. Raid your refrigerator and pantry and make dinner at home. If you are doing this for a long period of time (a week or a month), some of those meals will begin to get very creative. And remember—just because a recipe calls for something doesn’t mean you always have to use it. There are lots of substitutions you can make. If you are wanting spaghetti but you are out of spaghetti noodles, but you have penne on hand, use that pasta instead. One night when I discovered I was out of spaghetti sauce, I made my own using ingredients that I had in the pantry—diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and some spices. Whoever said “necessity is the mother of invention” was absolutely right! This exercise is also a great way to use up things in your kitchen and clean out your cupboards. If you are craving dessert but don’t have any sweets on hand, that can of pineapple in the back of the cupboard might start to look pretty tasty.

Instead of buying things, see if you can borrow them instead. There are lots of projects that may call for a tool you will use that one and only time. See if anyone you know has one you can borrow.

If it’s a service you need, try bartering. Maybe you need an appliance repaired, and you have a friend who repairs appliances. Possibly you have a skill that you can “trade” for that repair.

If you have a special occasion that comes during your financial fast and you’re dying for a new outfit, don’t give in. Go into your closet and put what you already own together in a new way. Accessories can go a long way to breathing fresh life into an outfit you feel is tired. Possibly you have a friend or relative who would let you borrow something as well.

You might be surprised at the end of your fast by the things you realize you didn’t actually “need.” You should also be surprised by the amount of money you have saved. Keep track of what you didn’t spend, and either use that money to pay down debt or to put into savings. If your budget needs a little kick start now and then, try this exercise again. You might surprise yourself and find yourself really enjoying it!

Turn Your Leftovers, over

December 1, 2012 Money Saving Ideas

Comments Off on Turn Your Leftovers, over

Ah, the sad little leftovers, remnants of a delicious meal that have a tendency to make their way into plastic containers and shoved to the back of the fridge, never to be thought of again. It’s a pitiful existence for a meal that once was the grand centerpiece of your nightly feast, but their lives don’t have to end this way! With a little creativity, you can turn these once shunned meal remnants into brand new meals. The best part? Half of the meal prep work is already completed for you. How does this magic meal transformation take place, you ask? Here are a few suggestions to get you started.


Leftover taco meat: The great thing about leftover taco meat is that it’s already cooked and pre-seasoned, which gives you fantastic options to create new meals. Roll the leftover meat in tortillas, spread with enchilada sauce and cheese, bake and voila! You have quick, easy enchiladas. Another option is to throw it in a stock pot, add diced tomatoes and chili beans, simmer and you have a steaming pot of chili ready to go. You can also layer it into Mexican lasagna. Just mix the meat with canned diced tomatoes and chiles, layer with tortillas and cottage cheese (a couple of layers of each works well), sprinkle with shredded cheese of your choice, bake and you have an easy Mexican lasagna.


Leftover meatloaf: Leftover meatloaf can be the base for quite a few great meals. Crumble it into spaghetti sauce, and you have a hearty meat sauce for pasta. It also works very well in casseroles that call for cooked ground hamburger—crumble the meatloaf and use in place of the burger. The flavor of the meatloaf will give a new twist to your hamburger casseroles. You can also make a super quick meal by using the crumbled meatloaf in conjunction with pre-packaged, boxed “helper” meals, and you’ve made the convenience foods even more convenient.


Leftover roast: “Day after” roast can sometimes end up dry, but you can revive it by making a hot beef sandwich. This is especially great if you have leftover mashed potatoes. Toast a piece of bread, place it on a plate and cover it with shredded roast. Add the mashed potatoes if you have them. Pour canned gravy (or homemade, if you have it) and heat it the microwave until hot. Delicious—you can’t go wrong with this one! Leftover roast is also perfect for use in burritos or barbecue.


Leftover chicken: Chicken in just about any form—baked, fried, roasted—gives you a head start on a number of meals. Again, you can use it in any casserole that calls for cooked chicken. You can also shred it and make chicken salad sandwich filling—simply add mayonnaise and add whatever additions you like (relish, garlic salt, seasoned salt, chopped celery, chopped onions—use your imagination to change it up). If you mix shredded chicken with barbecue sauce, you have the instant makings of delicious barbecue chicken sandwiches. Another option is to chop the chicken and add it to a salad to transform from an appetizer into a main course. You can make an awesome fiesta salad this way—add some rinsed canned black beans, a little salsa and ranch dressing and you have a salad that’s restaurant worthy.


Leftover ham: Ham can be transformed into so many meals! It’s always a fantastic go-to when sliced for sandwiches, but you can also chop it to mix with mayo, etc., for a yummy ham salad. You can also mix chopped or cubed ham with a cream soup (mushroom, potato, celery, chicken) and pop the mixture into a casserole dish with sliced potatoes. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and bake, and you have a casserole that’s sure to be a hit. It’s also perfect for creating homemade ham and bean soup.


Leftover vegetables: Keep a re-usable container in your freezer, and as you find yourself with bits and pieces of various vegetables after meals, add them to the container. Once the container is full, add to a stockpot of beef, chicken or vegetable broth and simmer for a palette pleasing soup. If you like a heartier soup, you can prepare pasta such as rotini or macaroni according to package directions and add it to the soup, or you could always add bits of leftover meat, as well.


Leftover rolls, bread or buns: Don’t toss them! Instead, spread them out on a cookie sheet and let dry for a few days. Once dry, you can put them in a plastic zip top bag and smash them (a meat mallet works well for this) to make homemade bread crumbs. Keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them. It’s so much less expensive than buying pricy packaged bread crumbs at the store.


These are only a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. There are so many things you can do with leftovers—other than simply heat up and repeat the same old dinner. Do half the work, and serve up a new scrumptious meal by not banishing these morsels to the back of your fridge!

Wine About It

December 1, 2012 Ideas for Cheap Fun

Comments Off on Wine About It

So the economy is tight, and our budgets and tighter. We can get together with our girlfriends and whine about it…or we can get together with our girlfriends and wine about it. Yep, when the going gets tough, the tough…have a wine tasting!

Just because our budgets our stretched doesn’t have to mean that our days of great get-togethers with friends have to come to a screeching halt. Instead, it’s simply time to get creative and find new ways to keep things fresh and plan simple parties that don’t have to bust the bank.

There was a day when wine was reserved for special occasions only or seemed to be more of a “highbrow” libation. These days, however, it seems everyone is enjoying a glass here and there, so why not make it the centerpiece of your next party?

This doesn’t have to be a stuffy get together, and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive. Quite the opposite actually. Plan this party to be low-key and laidback, and your guests will find themselves relaxing and having a great time.

With a little planning, you can create one-of-a-kind invitations that set the perfect tone for your party. Save empty wine bottles—or ask others to do so for you—and steam the labels off the bottles. Once the labels have dried, adhere them to plain scrapbooking paper, cutting the paper to fit the label. On the scrapbook paper side, list the invite details for your party (the date, time, location and R.S.V.P. information), and also instruct each guest to bring their favorite bottle of wine in a plain bag. No two invites will be exactly the same, and this kind of invite gives your guests the hint that this will be a fun, informal get together.

Set the stage for your party by lighting some candles in the area you are entertaining in. Don’t worry about making sure everything matches. Eclectic is in, so take advantage of it! Candles of varying heights and shades look fantastic when grouped together.

Keep the menu light for the party—crackers, cheese, olives. You don’t want anything heavy or anything that will interfere with the wine tasting, but you do want to give your guests a little something to munch on.

Once guests arrive, discretely spirit away the wine they have been instructed to bring, and quickly jot down the name of the wine each guest brought as well as who brought it. Cover the labels so that guests can’t see them—a piece of dark or heavy paper works well for this. Label each bottle with a number (one through however many bottles you have). Have a table set with small, inexpensive plastic cups. Since this is a “tasting,” there is no need to break out your expensive wine glasses.

This is where the fun begins. Open the various bottles and choose wine to begin. Pour each guest a small sample in a cup. Provide guests with paper and pens. Ask that each guest jot down three things about each wine they taste: what kind of wine they think they are drinking (merlot, cabernet, pinot noir, chardonnay, etc.), the brand name or wine maker if they can guess it, and the name of the guest they think brought the wine.

Once you have made your way through all of the wines, have the guests tally the number of points they have to see who was the evening’s best “winer.” Each correct answer gets one point. It’s all in fun, but if you wish, have a small token “prize” to give to the guest who had the most right—a set of wine charms, a funny wine refrigerator magnet or a decorated wine glass. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can be fun to provide a token prize as well.

If you want, go online and find information on various types of wines and their suggested food pairings to give your guests a bit more information about wine. There are lots of tips on wine tasting out there, and although this is an informal tasting, it can be entertaining to learn more about the topic. Printing out some of these tips for guests to check out is a nice touch.

At the end of your evening, you may find that not only have you all had a great time, you may have learned a little more about wine and a little more about each other’s tastes as well.


The Power of No

December 1, 2012 Money Saving Ideas

Comments Off on The Power of No

Here are a lot of weapons in the arsenal of money-saving tips, but the most powerful, by far, is a mere two-letter word. It is also, however, one of the most difficult words in the English language to utter, especially when you have to say it to yourself—even more so when the war of “wants” versus “needs” has the “wants” always winning the battle.

That tiny little word is the word “no.” We all know this isn’t a state secret—if you want to save money, stop spending it! But if the average amount of average consumer debt is any indication, many of us struggle with the word “no” on a pretty regular basis.

Saying no isn’t easy—I’m not going to lie about that. But all the coupon clipping and deal grabbing in the world is not going to save you the amount of money that not spending it in the first place is going to do. No matter what the extreme couponers say, even if you only pay 15 cents after coupons for 100 bottles of body wash, you would have saved even more if you hadn’t bought them in the first place. Now, I’m not saying to not buy the things you need to get through your daily life. I am saying, however, that if you truly want to save money, you need to master the word “no” in relation to some of the non-necessities of life.

A good place to start is your grocery budget. If you grocery shop on a weekly basis, look at the contents of your refrigerator at the end of the week. How much food are you throwing away? How much does that food cost? That’s how much money should still be in your pocket—it’s as if you have literally thrown your money away. Make a grocery list based on the food you and your family will actually consume, based on meal plans you can actually stick to, and buy only the things on that list. It doesn’t matter how many tasty treats you find at the store—if it’s not on your list, don’t buy it.

Another instance when the word “no” is especially helpful is when it comes to eating out. Oh, it is so tempting,–pizzas, pastas, tacos…all made by someone else and delivered handily right to your table or car. Realistically though, the money that you spend to feed a family of four at a sit down restaurant could probably feed your entire family 3 meals a day for a week. Do you really want to blow an entire week’s grocery budget on one meal?

Going out with friends is another budget buster. No one likes being the party pooper when everyone is going out for drinks or to a show, but that night can put a budget in the red so very quickly. If you start feeling like a social pariah because you never say yes when the gang is headed out, invite everyone to your place instead. Host a potluck, be it indoors or a backyard barbecue, and you can still be social without draining your bank account.

Many of us have a weakness for a sleek, shiny brand new vehicle. A new automobile, however, is one of the worst investments out there. It depreciates the moment you drive it off the lot, and you’ll never recoup the full amount of money you paid for it. It may not have the new car smell, but a used vehicle will give you more for your buck, and many still come with a warranty. When you are looking for a new-to-you vehicle, skip the new car showroom and check out the vehicles on the used car lot or consider buying from a private party seller.

Clothing is yet another area where many of us spend too much. Do you really need more new clothing? Even if you have a special event coming up, you could always recycle an outfit you have worn before or possibly borrow something from a friend. If you absolutely must buy clothing, try checking out consignment stores or thrift shops. Many offer next-to-new clothing at a fraction of the cost.

Although it can be difficult, saying no to the bevy of school fundraisers and other charity sales can be a way to cut back on your spending. Not to say that there aren’t many worthwhile charities out there, but if you would like to give, give directly without buying the drivel that often comes along with fundraising efforts. The charity only sees a fraction of the money you spend on candy bars, candles, etc., so it’s really more cost effective to give them that money directly than to spend the extra on something you probably don’t need anyway.

This is the one that often gives people the toughest time—gift-giving. Realistically, do you really think that the people you love and cherish would like to see you go into debt simply to buy them a gift? People who truly care about you would certainly say no. Instead of spending cash on a trinket they could probably do without, offer to spend time with your loved ones instead. Choose an activity the “recipient” enjoys, and spend time with them doing that activity. Often this means more to the recipient than a tangible gift anyway, especially if you explain that although you would like to continue celebrating their milestones (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), you can no longer afford to buy expensive presents. Most people will be incredibly understanding, especially when you offer the gift of time instead.

If you are truly committed to saving money, make the word “no” your best friend. You just might be surprised at the things you can say yes to once your finances are in order again!