Here a happy snap of the first time I went to a military ball with the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot. You have to love that 80’s hair, don’t you?
Valentine’s Day is a few days away, and according to the National Retail Federation, the average consumer will spend more than $115 for Valentine’s Day this year – up more than 11 percent from last year. Coupled with the money spent during the holidays, many will carry extra expenses over the coming months – particularly if a credit card is the chosen method of payment.
On Valentine’s Day, we all like to do things for our significant other to make them feel loved But while buying a beautiful piece of jewelry or spending a fortune on dinner may make them feel special, creating a mound of debt in the process is not very loving. Today, let’s look at creative ways to keep that date cheap without being a cheap date.
For Valentine’s Day, you might feel the need to pull out all the stops, but it’s not necessary. Sure, some people want to celebrate the holiday in a lavish way, but others prefer to go the low-key route. Whether you fit into these descriptions or fall somewhere in the middle, there are a romantic date ideas for Valentine’s Day or the weekend before that suit every budget.
FLOWERS When it comes to flowers, you usually get what you pay for and one way to cut costs is to hand deliver, this can save anywhere from $8 to $20. You could look at localliving.com or other group buying sites in your area which has been offering great deals on flowers. Another option is to get a potted bowl of blooms that she will see everyday. Treat them right and they will survive all year or longer for the price of cut flowers.
THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS – One kind of fun option reminds me of one of my favorite romantic comedies, “Kate and Leopold” and that is to give flowers with specific meanings. Go to TheFlowerExpert to find out the meaning of different flowers. For example, red roses mean romantic love while a bouquet of mixed roses means “I don’t know my feelings about you yet, but I’m sending you roses anyway.” Carnations are a less expensive option and a red carnation conveys love pride, beauty and admiration. Daisys are also inexpensive and convey “loyal love.” A sunflower symbolizes pure thoughts and it’s one that my 16 year son is getting his special friend-who-is-a-girl. So you can select a cheaper flower if, and only if, you write a note explaining the meaning of the flower and why you chose it for your true love.
DINNER – Eating out for Valentines is really important and there are quite a few ways to save a lot in this area and still have a nice time together. Lunch or brunch can be half the price of dinner and you could go on the Sunday before the big day. In fact, some restaurants are offering prix fix menus for the weekend or entire Valentine week. Go to your favorite restaurant’s twitter or facebook page and see what specials they are offering to get the best value. Some of these values are only offered to social media friends. You can also go to www.restaurant.com where gift certificates have gone on sale this week. You can get a $25 gift certificate for your favorite restaurant for as little as $2. Check community billboards at your local chamber of commerce website. For example, in our area, a local Greek center is offering a romantic, candlelight dinner for two with champagne, flowers, dinner and dancing for $50 a person. While this may not seem like a bargain at first, when you add up the cost of the individual items like the food, flowers, bottle of bubbly and a cover charge you would have to pay to dance, it’s an all inclusive deal that is sure to please. Plus, you can learn how to dance the Kalamatianos, a traditional Greek dance.
A SHOW – If you have a little more to spend, and want to take in a show, then go to broadwaybox.com or goldstar.com to find great prices on tickets. Remember that you don’t have to attend on Valentines week for it to count, you only have to have purchase the tickets and presente them as a gift! We saw Phantom on Broadway for 50% off and got great orchestra seating. Or, if you want to give a gift that will cost less each time you use it, buy a season’s pass to a museum at www.museumca.org and not only can you visit your local museum whenever you want for the year, but you also have reciprocal privileges at 400 other museums. The same applies to zoos and aquariums, go to www.aza.org (association of zoos and aquariums.)
Send me your questions or your ideas and I’ll answer them in my next blog!
America’s Family Financial Expert ®
With so many people unemployed or underemployed this year, it’s easy to ask the question: Is it possible for consumers to emerge debt free this season, and how can they do that? This is a great question to ask, and I believe that the key is to simplify your holidays by developing a strategy for your purchases and executing that plan throughout the entire season rather than waiting until the last minute. We have seven children and have seen our finances run the full gamut of possibilities. When we were first married, we were essentially paupers and didn’t even have enough money for groceries for a few weeks. Now, we’re debt free in every area, but we still want to be purposeful with our money. So my plan works whether you’re flush in cash or your cash has been flushed!
Once you’ve decided to develop a Christmas spending strategy, you may be wondering where to begin. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you shop to save:
Specific – Set aside a specific “cash” budget—don’t use credit cards unless you know you can pay them at the month’s end.
Simplify – Gifts don’t need to be elaborate, especially during a recession. Think “practical” for friends and family who have been hit by the recession and consider giving gift cards that they can use to purchase essentials like food and clothing. These can still be customized to be more personal but the practical aspect of this gift can be more far reaching than any other gift and it’s better than cash.
Strategize – Decide which gifts you’ll purchase and match them with seasonal sale ads. Check off the items on your list and make note of any special limitations (i.e. ‘price only effective for three hours, limit two Ipods per person, etc.). Prioritize the stores you’ll shop according to limitations and values.
Split It – Follow the old “divide and conquer” rule when shopping holiday sales by going with a friend or your spouse. If there are multiple purchase discounts, you can split it and take advantage. You might also have a “two for one” special and share the savings.
Stick to Your Guns – Be aware that you may be tempted to keep buying even when you’ve already conquered your list. Marketers are good at placing irresistible bargains in eye catching places. Remember the main rule of the shopping season: You can go broke saving money.
Steal It – Be sure to save some money in your budget for the after-Holiday sales. You can often get non-perishable gifts for next year’s list at anywhere from 50 to 75 percent off retail.
Since financial stressors are the number one source of arguments in most homes, getting a grip on holiday spending and trying to keep it on a budget makes sense. You may be wondering how to get other family members on board because sometimes you aren’t the one overspending—it’s your kids or spouse.
Having a plan and sticking to it not only simplifies your holidays, it can simplify your life. The recession is a good excuse to restructure the way you do the holidays, and it’s a good idea to have a family meeting. Set up a fun night with hot chocolate & marshmallows and everyone’s favorite holiday dessert. Then explain that with so many people hurting financially around the world, you are thinking that it’s a good ime to focus on the gifts of love that we can give and receive during this time of year. After you outline your holiday spending plan, ask everyone to contribute their ideas as to how they can stay on budget but still show their appreciation and value for the people in your world. We’ve done this with our children, and you’d be amazed at the creative ideas they initiate that also save us money!
In today’s economy—with the stock market looking more like a roller coaster than a steady climb, with gas prices hovering well above where they were in recent years, and with household expenses continuing to price families out of too-tight budgets—many families are looking for good ways to save money without injuring their lifestyles. I’ve put together a handful of quick tips that will pad your wallet without cutting corners.
One great way to save on everyday activities and outings is a coupon book. Entertainment.com offers a coupon book that is available for 150 metro markets and costs between $25 and $45. Preview the coupon booklet for your area (or an area where you will vacation) to see if the coupons are ones you will use. You’ll not only save on eating out, but you can also save on movie theaters, theme parks, dry cleaning, and local shopping.
Dining out is a necessity for some families with busy schedules or long commutes, and for some it’s a luxury reserved for special occasions. If you want to try out a new restaurant, but you don’t want to pay full price, you can go to Restaurant.com, a site that issues coupons and gift certificates for over 6,000 eateries around the country. Our family picks a spot and pays $10 for a $25 gift certificate—we save over 50% in the process!
Two absolute necessities for any family are Home Insurance and Auto Insurance. The average family can save a good deal of money with just a little homework and a short conversation with your insurance agent. For your home, you should raise your deductibles to at least 3% of the total value of the home and make sure to only insure the replacement value of the dwelling (usually 80% of the selling price of the home) because you’re insuring the home not the dirt.
For auto insurance, make a phone call to ask for all the discounts that your company may offer. Some companies offer discounts that include: combining homeowners’ and auto policies with the same carrier, non-smoker discounts, good student rates, car alarm systems, storing the vehicle in a garage versus carport or street, rating the most expensive car with a stay-at-home (or for pleasure only) rating, being between the ages of 30 and 60, and discount for driver’s safety course certificate (taken to keep a ticket from appearing on the driving record.).
One great place to save a few extra dollars that many families don’t consider is simple home updates. If you still have young children at home, you may want to wait to have your furniture recovered. By purchasing a quality slipcover for $65 instead of buying a new sofa for $850, you save $785. By placing a crocheted doily for $15 on the coffee table to cover scratches made by a speeding Corvette (Hot Wheels size!) you save $115 over buying a new table for $130.
One of the most draining line-items in a family’s budget are unexpected and costly repairs. These fixes can add up over time, but they can get a lot more expensive if not quickly addressed. My guiding principle is: Repair now, save later. Broken tiles and chipped grout in the kitchen and bathrooms should be fixed immediately in order to minimize water damage to tiles and the wallboard.
Armed with these tips and more to come, you can save money on every-day expenses. It’s simple to live rich for less; it just requires a little creativity, a little know-how, and a lot of savings!
I’m going indoor skydiving next week with a coupon that I bought from Groupon for only $35. I’ll get two flights, a DVD and bragging rights. I look at life as an adventure—especially when it comes to stretching my dollars and finding creative ways to make and spend money. Sometimes we need to have the ultimate adventure—a garage sale! Paying a dime on the dollar for a product still in its original box is a not only a thrill—it’s eco friendly because no new resources are made to create that product. Not only do garage sales simplify your life by helping you de-clutter, but they also provide a way to keep more change in your pocket and teach your kids the value of a buck.
Here are my top ten tips to host a successful garage sale. If you follow them carefully, you’ll find yourself flying high—without the bungee cord!
Collect – Throughout the month, throw stuff in a big box marked, “Garage Sale.” Not only will you relieve clutter, you’ll soon have enough diverse items to host a sale. Of course, you may have your husband keep taking things out of that box.
Location –It’s great to buddy up with a friend whose house has a better location than yours, in order to catch the attention of drive-by traffic. Or, ask a neighbor (or two) on your block to host their own sales—you could get three times the garage sale traffic with combined sales.
Advertise— When you create garage sale signs for the neighborhood, use brightly colored poster board and a good contrasting color. Keep the lettering brief and legible and tape some balloons on it. Go in with your neighbors on a small ad in your local paper, it will really help bring people to your sale.
Pricing – If you put a price your product, you are more likely to sell it. Most people don’t want to keep asking, “How much for this?” Even with the item marked, there will be some who will barter with you on the price—but that’s to be expected. Begin pricing items weeks before the sale, placing them in a “finished” pile in your garage.
Cash – Have at least $20 in coins, 50 one-dollar bills and 6 five dollar bills. Keep your money box in a safe location and never leave it unattended. Bring each $100 earned into your house for safekeeping.
Checks – Never take a check from someone you do not know. This isn’t just a matter of trust, it’s one of responsibility. Most people know to bring cash.
Hold – Never hold an item without a substantial non-refundable deposit. If you hold it for free, then the customer might not return and you’ve lost your opportunity to sell that item.
Marketing – Place furniture and bikes that will draw attention by the curb where people can see them. Try marketing ideas such as “buy three books/get three free.” It’s amazing how well this works—people respond to the word “free.”
Clean –If an item looks newer because it’s clean, you’ll be able to get as much as 50% more for it. Run sturdy plastic toys through the dishwasher, spot clean the armchair, wash and hang clothes on a hanger, and polish wood furniture—it’s worth it!
Expand – Let your kids get in on the action by selling lemonade on hot days or coffee and donuts on cool mornings. Let the kids go to the store with you to buy cups, donuts, napkins, lemonade and sugar. Be sure they understand how to make change and how to be courteous to customers. You’ll see the photo where one of my sons opened a “Cowboy Autograph” stand. Who knows? They may earn enough to fund their college education (or at least buy a new bike!)
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
If you save money by paying less on consumer items, you could “earn” anywhere from $100 to $10,000 a year. It’s just a matter of learning how to negotiate on everything from shoes to salaries. James 4:2b says, “You have not because you ask not.” The key to asking is to learn how to bargain without embarrassing yourself, your friends or your family. Here are a few successful strategies to try:
• Compare –Furniture, phone plans, electronics, jewelry and appliances are all highly negotiable. Find your desired item on a search robot such as Froogle.com, MySimon.com, NexTag.com and eBay.com or in sale circulars from the Sunday paper. Then print out the price, take it into your store and ask them to match it. Some stores, such as Walmart, will automatically match competitor’s ads (even on food items).
• Compensate – If the salesman cannot match the price, then ask for other freebies such as complimentary delivery, free accessories, or an extended warranty.
• Continue – If the salesman grants extra perks, don’t stop there. After you’ve secured these, ask for the manager and ask her to match the competitor’s price.
• Counter – It never hurts to counter a price, if you ask for 20% off and they offer 10%, then counter with 15%. When it comes to salary negotiations, you shouldn’t accept the first offer. Most salaried professionals ask for 10% to 12% more than what they’re offered, and often settle for 7% to 8% more. If you did this with your first salary, it could add up to $500,000 by the time you are 60 years old!
• Consideration – Don’t limit the odds of success by asking for too much. The store has to make a profit. Small appliances are usually marked up 30%, while larger ones such as washing machines are marginalized by only 15%. However, most large furniture items and jewelry are increased by a whopping 100%!
Communication – Learn to say: “Is this your best price?” “Was this recently on sale and can I have the sale price?” “Do you think you could ask your manager, I’ll be happy to wait,” “Hmmm, this item is a little damaged (makeup on the collar, an already opened box, a ding or scratch) could it be marked down?” and last but not least, “Thank you, I’ll be back!”
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
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