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Category — Frugal Living Tip

Now That’s Low Cost Entertainment

Frugal living does not have to mean living without enjoyment. Entertainment is important to release tension and stress, and to remain close to those you love. Whether you are trying to spend some fun time with the kids, host a pleasant visit with extended family, neighbors and friends, or share a private night with the one you love, there are many options to plan an unforgettable get-together without breaking the bank.

At Home with the Kids
Fast-paced lifestyles and technological advances have left many families feeling detached. The kids are in their rooms playing computer games or texting their friends while Mom and Dad are in the living room, often doing the same. Scheduling family night at least once a week helps to solidify relationships and bring family values back to the table.

Turn in the computer games for a great board game. Although high-tech games can be a fun diversion, losing the graphics and sound effects will allow more interaction between family members. There is a wide array of fun board games on the market today, many costing under $20, or you can find printable games at www.family-games-treasurehouse.com/printable_board_games.html. Charades or card games should not be overlooked, either. The only reason they have been around so long is because they still prove entertaining and fun.

Bring on the Neighbors, Friends and Family
Spending time with friends and extended family members is a great way to bring back the feeling of community. If you live in a rural neighborhood, an old-fashioned block party can be fun. Check with the town to see about obtaining a gathering permit, and inquire about blocking off the street for an afternoon. Have neighbors make their favorite dishes, especially those that are specific to their cultural heritage, provide music and games for the children, and spend some time getting reacquainted with your neighbors.

Another fun way to visit with extended family and friends is to have a backyard cookout in the summer, or a progressive dinner in the colder months. When hosting a cookout, provide activities such as horseshoes, Frisbee, water balloon tosses and sack races to keep everyone entertained and make the day memorable. Progressive dinners do just that-they progress from one home to another. They allow people the chance to visit each home while spreading the cost of the meal among several household budgets. Carpooling with fellow progressive diners will save on gas and let you spend more time with loved ones. For more information and tips on how to organize a progressive dinner, visit http://www.essortment.com/planning-progressive-dinner-41365.html.

Romance the Frugal Way
Spending time alone with that special person can be quite costly. However, with a little planning and ingenuity, romance does not have to break the bank.

Send your sweetheart a formal invitation for a romantic evening. Use paper, not electronic media, for a more personal touch, and employ fancy fonts, hearts and flowers to set the mood. If you can cook, prepare a meal of your sweetie’s favorite foods. If cooking is beyond your skill set, order food from his or her favorite restaurant. By eating in instead of dining out, you will save tip and beverage expenses, and are able to provide a more romantic, personalized setting. Get out the fancy tablecloth, pick up a single rose in a bud vase, get out the candlesticks, and play soft music in the background. Lay a trail of rose petals from the door to the table for an extra special touch.

Looking for something a little less fancy? Discount movie theaters are popping up in many areas that show major motion films just before they leave the cinema and become available on DVD. The prices can be as low as 40% of what other theaters are charging, so as long as you can wait for the new release to reach these venues, it can be a great way to spend a night while saving a buck.

If you have any useful, low-cost entertainment ideas, please share them below.

February 28, 2011   No Comments

Business Owners Save Money With Balance Transfer Offers

This is a guest post by Jeff Weber

Consumers have taken advantage of balance transfer offers for years. The opportunity to move high interest credit card balances to an account with more favorable terms can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The same concept can be used by business owners looking to manage their credit card debt. Small business owners in particular are susceptible to credit card debt as in many cases this is the first source of funding for business expenses.

Banks are not always willing to work with a start-up or untested business, therefore many entrepreneurs find themselves using their credit cards to pay for business expenses. Doing so can quickly result in a balance which even a successful small business is unable to pay off in full. Debt can destroy a business just as quickly, if not more so than an individual’s personal finances. For this reason, all credit card users would benefit by learning how to lower debt balances with balance transfer offers.

Trading Debt for Debt

How does moving the debt on one card to another help you eliminate your debt faster? The same way a consolidation loan can help you reduce your debt quicker. By moving your balance to an account with lower interest rates and more favorable conditions, more of your payment will be applied to the principal, thus reducing you debt faster. To be successful using this strategy, you must take the time to crunch the numbers to make sure your new account offers a significant savings.

Comparing Offers

To gain the maximum benefit from balance transfer offers you must first understand the basic principles of credit card management. High interest rates result in higher monthly interest charges. It is the addition of high interest charges to an existing balance which makes it difficult for credit card users to pay off high balances. Keep in mind that transferring balances generally comes at a cost, to include balance transfer fees, account set-up fees, annual fees and any of the other fees typically associated with a credit card account. The fees and interest rates will vary from offer to offer, therefore careful consideration must be given to each before deciding if this is the right move for your business.

Drawbacks of Moving Debt Balances

When done correctly, accepting a balance transfer offer that provides better terms and conditions over your current account can certainly help eliminate debt faster. As with most matters concerning money, there are potential drawbacks to this strategy. Individuals who transfer high interest debt to a new, lower interest account must avoid incurring debt on the old high interest account. The purpose of moving your balance to a new account is to gain the benefits of a lower interest rate. Unfortunately, some credit card users have been known to transfer the balance to a new account, only to turn around and rack up new charges on the older account. This of course defeats the purpose of a balance transfer offer in that the user has effectively doubled their debt.

Business owners who are looking to reduce interest charges and take control of their credit card debt may find their solution in balance transfer offers, as long as they are not trading in one problem for another.

Jeff Weber writes about saving money with balance transfer credit cards at SmartBalanceTransfers.com, a website designed to educate consumers about the benefits of using a 0% APR balance transfer to reduce debt expenses.

February 15, 2011   2 Comments

Top 5 Gifts Not To Give Her For Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and, as usual, most guys are getting ulcers wondering what to give their lady that she won’t throw at them. Some guys have a problem thinking romantic, which is what their lady wants to see on this one day given to romance. Ideas are all around, thanks to retailers, but many guys want to think of something personal and special for their lady and still need ideas. If asking other women for advice, such as the girls in the office for instance, beware you might get what they would like to see instead of an idea for the woman you know so well. Here is a list of things not to give her and hopefully, an idea will occur to you.

1. A pink tool set. Okay, so she’s always yelling at you to bring her a screwdriver; she’s trying to get you to do the honey-do stuff instead of getting exasperated and doing it herself before the cabinet door falls off. No woman knows what a ratchet is, much less how to use it and including it in a tool set that is pink is a sure-fire method of making sure she throws it at you. If you get her things like this in bulk, you could get seriously hurt.

2. Things to do with round.
Ultimately, the romantic thing leads to, well, romantic acts. What you don’t want to do is give her round things that don’t remind her of, well, romantic assets. Things such as ped egg refills, nutcrackers and bottle openers, dryer balls, plant watering globes, tomato planters, you know, things like that.

3. Size matters. Women are touchy about their weight and if she thinks you think her un-thin, she’ll be shattered. For your own sake, do not give her waistband stretchers, bra extenders, waist-trimming belts, or workout equipment of any kind. If she asks, by all means work out with her, but don’t give her workout gifts.

4. Body items. Bath products are good, but if the idea is to get her into a mud-wrestling scenario, better get her used to the idea by slathering her with body oils and lotions and painting a picture of a beach in the Bahamas. Wrestling, mud or otherwise, goes over better with that kind of scenery.

5. Health items. It is absolutely legal to hurt a guy who gets his lady a bubble bath mat or a heat wrap for her neck, because she’ll think you’re saying she’s a pain in the, well, neck. Guys, romance consists of giving her a foot rub, massaging her neck and, well, you get the idea.

Whomever thought up Valentine’s Day was trying to bring some romance into lives beset by mortgages, work stress and kids. God bless him, it was a good idea, but some folk are challenged by this. Forget the bills and the job and tuck the kids away for one night and dedicate yourself to her and she’ll love it.

January 26, 2011   No Comments

Make Her Valentine’s Day Special Without Spending a Bundle

Making do with less is a sign of the times, but when it comes to your sweetie, you really want to make her Valentine’s Day special to show her how much you care. How can you do that when you’re on a budget?

Spend more time and effort instead of spending lots of money.

Carefully arrange for a fabulously romantic dinner at home. Show her how much you care without buying anything but the food and the wine, it’ll be less expensive than a restaurant, and if you take the time and care to set the mood, there will definitely be romance in the air!

How? Tell her she has to disappear for the later afternoon or early evening on Valentine’s Day so you can prepare for her surprise. That will have her anticipating something special, and set the stage for your evening.

Before the big day, do the preparation. Make the arrangements to farm the kids out to grandma or a friend, scope out the linen closet for the right tablecloth and napkins, make sure there are plenty of candles and candleholders to create the atmosphere, have the silver and glassware polished, and check out what might be available for dinner. If you’re not yet married or living together, give your space a good cleaning the day before, and make things shine. If you don’t have nice linens or china or glassware or good silver, borrow them from a friend or family member.

If you aren’t the best cook in the world, see what’s available in the gourmet section of the local supermarket that can be simply popped in the oven and cooked for a set amount of time, and supplement it with fresh greens, some prepared and ready to heat side dishes, and a killer dessert. Pick these up the morning of Valentine’s Day so they’ll be fresh and tasty. Keep her preferences in mind, and buy the seafood she loves even if you prefer the steak.

If you can cook, make the effort. Keep it simple and elegant.

Whether you buy prepared foods, or do the cooking yourself, remember that presentation is as important as the content. Take the time to make things look wonderful. How? Check out http://gourmet.com or http://epicurious.com and look at the images of the dishes. How do they garnish? How do they use the sauces on the plate? Now use your imagination and do something similar. It’s amazing what you can do with a sprig of fresh herbs and a couple carrot curls, or a dash of wasabi across the plate before placing the entree.

Valentine’s evening, meet her at the door, showered, shaved and dressed nicely. Take her coat. Make her feel pampered. Kiss her passionately, then lead her into your carefully prepared candlelit table setting. Have the lights low. Have some soft music playing, and make sure it’s a song that means something to her. Pull out her chair. Then tell her you love her. The rest will come easily.

January 18, 2011   No Comments

Five Tips For Saving Money On Gas

Gasoline prices continue to rise. This may seem frustrating to most of us. However, there are some things you can do to save money on gas. Here are five tips to help limit your visits to the pump.

1. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. The proper tire pressure should be listed on the tire or on door of your car. Over time, tire pressure decreases. In addition, tire pressure suffers even more during the cold months. If your tires aren’t properly inflated, you will see a decrease in your gas mileage. For a couple of dollars, you can buy a tire gauge. It is a good idea to check your tire pressure every couple of weeks. If you find they are too low, you can use an air pump to fill them up. If you don’t have one, most gas stations have air stations that cost a dollar to fill your tires.

2. Empty your trunk. People have a tendency to load their trunks up with stuff. It is always a good idea to empty your trunk after each shopping visit. Do your best to limit what you keep in the trunk. If you have a lot of stuff in it, the weight will add up. That leads to problems with your gas mileage. If your car weighs more, you are using more fuel to run it. By keeping it clean, you will see a lot of savings.

3. Plan your trips. This may seem simple, but it has a major impact on how much gas you use. If you are grocery shopping, make a list of what you need. This will prevent you from forgetting something and having to go back out. In addition, consider what errands you can combine. If your bank is located near the grocery store, try to do your banking and shopping tasks in one trip. That will save you time and money. The fewer times you have to run to the store, the more you will save on gas.

4. Avoid leaving your car in an idle state. A common misconception is that it takes more gas to start a car than leave it running. That is only partly true. If you are waiting in your car for someone to run in to a store, you might want to consider shutting it off. If it’s a matter of a few seconds, leaving your car on is a smart move. However, shut off your car if it’s going to be any longer. You waste a lot of gas when you leave your car running.

5. Keep your speed steady. Naturally, you will have to speed up and slow down at various times. However, keeping these habits to a minimum will help your gas mileage. If you’re driving on a highway, you are better served by maintaining a steady speed. Changing lanes to pass cars will only lead to wasted gas mileage. In addition, driving fast means a reduction in fuel efficiency. Not only is it safe to observe speed limits, it will also save you money.

January 13, 2011   2 Comments

10 Tips to Save Money When Grocery Shopping

The cost of groceries can eat into a well planned budget. You can make save money at the grocery store using these tips.

1. Make a list. Look at the store advertisements to see what the weekly specials are as you plan meals. The special deals are listed on the front page of the ad. Grocers call them loss leaders because they may not make any money on these items. They get you into the store. Go to several different stores to buy the special items.

2. Limit the amount of prepared or packaged food. The outside aisles of the grocery store contain the fresh ingredients such as meat, produce and dairy. The inside aisles are where most of the packaged food is found. Try to buy most of your food from the outside aisles.

3. Calculate the serving price or per ounce cost when comparing prices. The bigger package is not always the best deal.

4. Have a price list for items that you buy frequently. That way you know when a sale represents a good value and you can stock up at the sale price.

5. Buy store brands, especially for basics like flour or butter. Only buy a more expensive brand if you find a noticeable difference in the taste or performance of certain products.

6. Go to the store well fed. If you shop on an empty stomach you buy more. If you are hungry you’ll be tempted to buy more than you need.

7. Coupons are often for items that are prepared or packaged. If you wouldn’t buy it without the coupon then don’t buy it even with the coupon savings. Manufacturers’ are hoping you will develop a taste for their product at full price.

8. Learn to cook the basics. When you are confident that you can make your own biscuits or chili you won’t need to buy them in the store. When you shop you will be buying basic ingredients which are much cheaper, healthier and taste better.

9. Plan for some nonmeat meals. Try some Indian recipes or use eggs to make omelets for dinner. Meat can be expensive. Vegetables, beans, rice and eggs are great values for the money.

10. Buy food that you can make into snacks. Vegetables can be cut up and stored in the fridge for crunch snacks. Make a batch of homemade cookies or cut up fruit.

December 16, 2010   1 Comment

Warm Up the Holidays With Budget Friendly Spirits and Cheer

Holiday trends may come and go, but nothing makes them festive like tried and true cocktails and concoctions. Unfortunately, hiring a bartender or cocktail server for your holiday events can be prohibitively expensive. With a little help, though, holiday cheer can be easy to make, inexpensive, and the hit of the party, without the high price tag. When planning your next seasonal party, try some of these festive recipes to warm your guest’s senses and spirits on a budget that will leave room in your wallet for gifts!

Chocolate Cheer
Hot chocolate is not just for the little ones anymore. Try mixing three parts hot chocolate to one part Frangelico (or any hazelnut liquor) for a sweet and nutty dessert drink. Take some inspiration from the kids, and don’t forget to add marshmallows and whipped cream for an extra kick of flavor on a tight budget. To save time, this drink can be made in advance and kept warm in a coffee pot, or festive tea kettle.

Everybody’s Favorite Eggnog
Bring the holidays to life, without going broke. Although this holiday classic is great on its own, make your holiday beverages look professional by garnishing with a peppermint or <a href=“http://www.dollardays.com/i391133-wholesale-spice-supreme-cinnamon-sticks.htmlc”>cinnamon stick</a>. As an added bonus, just having these spicy sticks around will make your house smell like the spirit of the holidays without using expensive candles or sprays. There are dozens of pre-made eggnogs available at supermarkets, just add your own spirits and serve chilled.

Spirited Sangria
One of the best ways to concoct holiday cheer frugally is to make a bowl of Sangria. Generally thought of as a summer drink, give this cocktail a winter makeover with red wine and festive fruits and garnishes. To prepare, combine one 750 milliliter bottle of red table wine mixed with ½ cup brandy, 1 cup each of orange juice and triple sec, and ½ cup simple syrup. Add orange slices, apple slices, and grapes, and garnish with lime wedges to add some pizazz. Sangria should be made in advance and served chilled over ice. The festive red and green apples and limes will make your drink look and taste like a million bucks. For the frugal minded, this is also an excellent drink to make with a less expensive boxed wine.

Create Elegance With A Simple Serving Station
To create an budget-friendly makeshift bar or serving station, cover a card table with a brightly covered inexpensive table cloth. Choose a washable fabric or disposable cloth in case of spills. Garnish, laid out in small bowls for your guests, looks beautiful and professional. Although nearly any fruit can be used as a garnish, lemons, limes, maraschino cherries, and olives are the most popular reasonably priced. Ice buckets and tongs can be as simple as you like, with a large bowl and ladle serving the purpose well.

With the holidays seemingly costing more money each and every year, remember to indulge and amaze your guests this year with a inspired, yet inexpensive spirits. These recipes, of course, are just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget to share your favorite cocktails or signature concoctions to keep this year’s festivities fun and frugal.

December 11, 2010   No Comments

Lighten Up, Dude, It’s Christmas! Part 1

The small business competes with some heavy hitters in the national mega stores. The personal touch, though, is lacking in the mega stores and here is where the small business can make Christmas a little merrier. By adding personal touches like small cards with Christmas figures and signed by the owner for each customer in their shopping bag or a Christmasy gift like a candle or a scented sachet, the small business can create a memory that will bring their customers back for more.

The mega stores have professional decorators "do" their stores for the holidays or they buy great amounts of stock decorations and keep them in the stockroom all year. It looks professional and is geared toward leading the customer’s eye to large ticket items. Decorations like these have no warmth, though, and seem ordinary to most people. The small business owner can’t match that but in that lies his strength. Decorations are decorations no matter how you arrange them but the personal touch is where the small business owner can create a market that will return throughout the year. Handmade garlands made of a few items sold in the business make a unique Christmas tree decoration and endears the customer to the imaginative decorator. This would work well with tiny cupcakes in a bakery, for example, or in a handicrafts shop.

Every small business owner makes an effort to learn his customers’ names. Asking about the customer’s baby’s cold or his wife’s sister in Seattle lets the customer know he’s not just another ch-ching on the cash register. At Christmas this can stand the owner in good stead when he decorates. Bells cut out of construction paper and outlined along the edges with customers’ names and hung throughout the store gives everyone a sense of belonging sadly needed in these days. Personal notes on personal stationery concerning upcoming sales mailed to customers instead of a cold email no one pays attention to anyway go far toward creating or retaining a market long after the holidays have passed.

Christmas is about more than just Santa madly dancing with Mrs. Claus in the window. It’s about more than just the lights. It’s about how the lights make you feel when you look at them in the store. If the lights showcase a nativity scene, for example, that creates a hush and a feeling of awe. If the lights form angels they make people look around them to find the angels dressed up as humans. If the lights form a sleigh, people think of playing in the snow with their children and they resolve to go home and throw a snowball at their kids. So lighten up, dude!

The small business owner has an opportunity to create here and reach out personally and that is one thing mega stores don’t do. In a world where technology rules and digital is king, the personal touch is slowly coming back through people who care about other people and light up their lives.

December 7, 2010   No Comments

Saving Money During the Holiday Season

Times have been difficult this year for many families. Money is in short supply and just being able to pay your regular monthly bills can be a big challenge. During this time of year as Thanksgiving approaches and Christmas awaits shortly thereafter, an even bigger strain on the wallet can be felt. Holiday gifts may be considered a discretionary expense, but no one wants to see the disappointment on a child who gets nothing more than a lump of coal in his stocking because there was no money this year.

Making some changes to your lifestyle today, can help put some extra money in your pocket to buy a few gifts for your children, family and friends. There are probably areas in your everyday life where you can cut back. It may be difficult, but cutting out a couple of those premium channels on your cable or satellite service can add $10, $20 or more dollars back in to your pocket. Instead of buying those $5.00 cups of fancy coffee every day on your way to work, buy yourself your favorite blend and make your own coffee each morning.

Food and grocery shopping is an easy way adjusting your habits can save you money. Being frugal is easy. Weekly trips to the grocery store can be less painful on the budget if you follow a few of the suggestions listed below.

  • Buy store brands. You’ll probably save a few cents on each item that replaces a national brand. Store brand cereal, tomato sauce or cheese has the same basic nutritional content and tastes just as good.
  • Use Coupons. Why not take advantage of the savings. Today you can print coupons right at home by visiting any number of coupon sites on the internet
  • Take advantage of Buy one Get One Free Sales. Many grocery stores use this technique to draw customers in to the store. If the deals are on items you use, it makes sense to buy one and store the free one away for future use.

Another area where you can save and save big is when you go out to eat. Beverages seem to be the easiest way to save. Instead of rattling off your favorite soft drink when the waitress asks what you want to drink, just ask for some ice water. Every drink you don’t order will save you about $2.00. Making your own coffee every morning instead of stopping on your way to work at one of those $5.00 gourmet coffee enterprises will mean money in your pocket. Bag your lunch and you’ll increase your savings even more.

There are other common sense approaches to saving that are not too difficult to try. Plan less trips and save gas. Instead of running to the grocery store one day, the post office the next and the beauty salon the day after, consolidate your needs in to one day. Saving by using less gasoline can be a real money saver.

When it comes to saving, a little change in a lot of old habits can go a long way.

November 25, 2010   No Comments

Impressive Holiday Entertaining That Won’t Break the Bank!

While some people wait with anticipation for the snow to fly and holiday lights to appear, others get a knot in their stomach just anticipating the rush of the holiday season. Of course, there is always things for everyone to look forward to; few people are downright Scrooges. However, if you could have all the holiday cheer without worrying about how much you’re spending, wouldn’t that be ideal? Entertaining is an important part of many holiday traditions and you can impress family and friends without breaking the bank. Holiday entertaining doesn’t have to cost a lot to make an impact.

Deck the Halls
Whether you are hosting a holiday event or just want to get your home and family into a festive mood, your holiday decorations are important. However, when you’re entertaining on a budget, it just doesn’t make sense to go out and buy an entire new set of holiday decorations. The good news is that there are plenty of sources for free holiday decorations. If you need to trim your tree a bit, save the cuttings to fashion into a wreath. There’s no way you can consider this technique passe when it’s recommended by none other than Martha Stewart. If you don’t have enough leftover greenery to fashion an entire wreath, try stopping by a local Christmas tree farm; many will give away the cuttings and trimmings for nothing. Add in a few berries or decorative balls for Christmas, or some fruit for Thanksgiving, and you’re good to go. You can also arrange the greenery into a swag or lay it on a tablecloth for a centerpiece.

White Goes a Long Way
Creating a beautiful tablescape can be one of the hardest parts of entertaining. However, don’t go out and buy all new china just to host the event. In fact, you may be surprised to find out that most people can create a beautiful setting with what they already have. If you feel you really don’t have anything suitable, invest in one complete set of simple white china. White china can be mixed and matched with any theme and still stays fresh and beautiful. For Thanksgiving, pair it will deep oranges, red and gold tones with a pumpkin, fall floral arrangement or fruit bowl in the middle. Use the same dishes at Christmastime with a deep cranberry color theme. White always looks elegant and never gets old. Once you know how this works, it’s easy to pick up white dishes and serving pieces throughout the year at tag sales and thrift shops; these can particularly stunning when used as a holiday centerpiece. You can mix and match to your heart’s content using white as the base.

Entertaining is mainly about making the people you love feel cared about. Few people even bother to ask what you spent on the event, so the impact is much more important than the budget. Don’t be afraid to use the same supplies for several different events, especially if the guest list is different. Keep it simple and your holiday events will wow the crowd without causing you to hyperventilate.

We know you have your own unique way to save on holiday entertainment; share your tips and tricks by commenting below.

November 18, 2010   No Comments