Entertainment Tips for the Family

Christmas is not only the time of the year where you give gifts to friends, family, relatives and colleagues, but it is the time of the year where family members have longer time to bond and to share precious moments together.

Because of the busy and hectic schedules that parents and children have from January to November yearly, seldom can they have enough quality time to share their thoughts, laugh together or have picnic or dine out together.

However, Christmas is not as luxurious or expensive event compared to previous years due to the onset of economic crisis worldwide. The tough economic condition not only impacted finances and operations of companies and organizations, but it also affects the budget and activities of families.

If you plan to spend quality time together, parents should plan ahead and should allocate money several months beforehand, like saving 50 to 60 dollars per payday. Economic crisis should not mean boredom to your you and your children. Just like everyone else, you and your family needs to relax, to have fun and to get way from all the hassles of city life. During recession, it is where your resourcefulness and creativeness comes in, by planning entertainment and recreation with your budget. You must find resourceful ways to beat the high cost associated with modern family entertainment.

You do not have to limit yourself within the four walls of your home due to the meager money they have, but you can have other means of entertaining yourself and your family by organizing cost-efficient and meaning events. Some ways to keep your family entertained without putting too much of pressure in your budget.

Suitable bonding activities for your family:

  • Gardening. It is considered one of the most productive and cost-efficient way to entertain yourself and your children. With gardening, you can teach your children ways of growing fruits and vegetables, which you can use for your meals. Through it, you can spend quality time with your children and promote family life and good health.
  • Camping. It is not only limited to outdoor areas, but you can camp at your backyard, thereby saving you money on transportation and travel time. Your garden or backyard can be the inexpensive and less-stressful alternative to have camping with friends and family. You can cookout and campfire during the night.
  • Watch Ball Games with your children. You can buy football or basketball tickets and watch them together with your wife and your children.
  • Community events. By letting your child participate in community voluntary works helps instill in them the importance of cooperation, voluntarism and helping other people in the community.
  • Hosting a Garage Sale. Aside from having fun, you can teach them an inexpensive way to earn additional money.
  • Renting DVDs and CDs. You can save money by renting DVDs and CDs than watching movies in theaters because you can do away with dining out and buying snack foods inside theaters.
  • Online Games. With the millions of online games available in the Internet, you can play games with your children.

Stop Giving Away $200 or More Each Month!

Stop Giving Away $200 or More Each Month!

We all know how the economy has zapped our wallets over the past decade. The percentage of those having to declare bankruptcy is on the rise. People are unsure how they can cut back any further than they already have. Families of all income levels have to cut corners in order to make ends meet, while others are merely living paycheck to paycheck. Higher cost of living, higher utilities, higher taxes, higher food prices, higher housing costs…the list goes on and on and on…

So what is the average family supposed to do in order to avoid losing it all? I’ve spent the past 10 years researching areas were I could cut down and maintain a decent budget. Here are tips on things I’ve found most helpful in my own battle with budgeting:

1) Groceries:

a) Have a plan before you go to the store and never go hungry. Make sure you eat a good meal prior; it will cut down on the spontaneous purchases that you truly do not need.

b) Plan your weekly meals and list what you will need for each meal. Knowing what you will need and what you are going to make early on prevents items being forgotten or things being purchased that aren’t needed for the week’s meals adding to the food bill.

c) Go to the store ONCE per week or per payday. When we make those “I have to run to the store real quick” trips, we tend to buy more then what we went to the store to buy to begin with! Some people claim they like buying 1 – 3 nights’ worth of groceries at a time, saying the food is “fresher”. This isn’t true, unless you are purchasing produce (and depending on the store you frequent, not even then). The ONLY thing shopping like that accomplishes is driving up your grocery bill anywhere from 25%-50%! Cut OUT those between payday trips!!

d) Use coupons! Believe it or not, the little here and there with coupons can add up to significant savings! Especially when you go to a store that offers “double coupons”. Sources of coupons: Sunday paper, shopping flyers in mail, online sources like local newspaper’s online websites, groupon.com are a few examples of where to look.

e) Read circulars (in mail/local paper) to find out what’s on sale that you need and where–plan shopping accordingly. Go over your list of planned meals and compare to items on special. Plan your travel route in a circle so you do not waste gas traveling all over in different directions. If you are driving across town to save 50 cents – you are spending more than that on gas alone to get there and back. Chose wisely.

f) STOP “status” shopping. Going to the higher-end stores because of the “status” feel is crazy! Save your money for other things. Go to a store that at least offers the MVP (or whatever stores offer “membership” cards that do allow some savings), ask the cashiers at the stores you frequent if they offer something along those lines. You want to keep your shopping to more “warehouse” type stores. Places like Sam’s Club, BJ’s, Costco’s or Super Wal-mart for example, buy in bulk passing the savings on to the customer. I’ve found the best meat prices to be in clubs. Many claim those stores have too much per package for their needs so they end up missing the savings found there. Buy in bulk and break the packages down to serving sizes suitable for your family and then freeze! Meats are too expensive to buy for “convenience packaging”. Invest in a box of freezer bags and break things up! This one alone can save you $60+ per month.

g) Kids’ lunches (or yours for that matter) that are being made with those cute little single size things they sell – like little packages of chips or Lunchables ™ – are running your bill up even higher, check “per unit” pricing the next time you go shopping. The difference is amazing. STOP convenience-package buying. Again, it’s much cheaper to buy the bigger bag of chips and put some in baggies for lunches…make your own sandwiches or take leftovers! Cutsie things like Lunchables™ end up costing you quite a bit more then just making your own lunch. You can make your little one’s lunches special by using various shaped glasses to cut the sandwiches into funky shapes. Small kids love things like that so it makes their packed lunches even better! Instead of those pricey cookies you buy – buy the mixes and make your own cookies!! This is saving you about $40+ per month!

h) STOP going on those daily lunches with co-workers! Plan your meals with leftovers in mind, using the leftovers for lunches the next day or for another night’s dinner. For example, for leftover chicken, make chicken salad and use for sandwiches that week. Soups and stews can be used for 2+ nights for dinners…I’m not sure when this happened or why, but people now seem to be allergic to having leftovers! If anyone jokes you for “brown-bagging it” simply remind them that they are spending an average of $8+ per day in lunches x 5 = $40 per week/$160 per month (and even more if eating at nicer places). These figures do not include any tip that may be required in the sit-down restaurants. If THEY can afford to toss away $160+ per month on nothing but lunch – let THEM do so. YOU have better things to spend your money on and you will have something to show for yours other than an expanding waistline.

2) Utilities:

a) Electricity:

1) Turn off all TVs and computers when not in use. Video game sources not only need to be shut down, they need to be UNPLUGGED! Video game consoles are power vampires and continue drawing a lot of power even when turned off! Xboxes and PS3’s are the very worst power vampires. This is a fact few are aware of but many are finally figuring out. Also unplug any appliances/electronics (toasters, can openers, spare TVs) that are not used often or don’t need to keep a clock running. Try this for 1 month and see what difference it can make!

2) Turn off all lights in rooms you are not currently using.

3) Close doors (and a/c – heat vents) in rooms not used. This saves on the amount of time the unit has to be on to maintain a set temperature in the house.

4) Change over to an a/c or heating control panel that allows you to program it to different temperatures at different times of day (lower at bedtime or during day when no one in the house). If you have one already but haven’t set it to do so–DO IT! The savings can be measurable.

5) Check your insulation and weather stripping around doors and windows each season to make sure you don’t need to replace them. Windows and doors with poor seals cause your heat or a/c units to run constantly in order to compensate for the hot/cold air seeping into the home. This not only runs up your bill, it wears on the units themselves and can cause them to freeze up – costing you a house call by your favorite repair person!

6) Never do laundry or dishes until you have full loads. This not only saves electricity but in water usage as well. Better yet, do your dishes by hand or have your kids do them as a chore.

7) Set your water heater unit to a lower, more energy-efficient level of 120 degrees. This not only saves in energy, it prolongs the life of your water heater by slowing down build up of minerals in the tank. Refer to http://www.energysavers.gov for more energy saving tips.

8) Use the cold water cycle for more of your clothes washing–either the full load for colors or whites that are not very soiled, or at least for the rinse cycle.

9) Try to save all chores using major amounts of electricity, such as laundry, for OFF PEAK hours (after 8pm). You are billed at a cheaper rate.

b) Phone:

1) Renegotiate your contract with your telephone provider. With “Magic Jack”, “Vonage” and cellular phones out now, your landline provider should be more than willing to renegotiate your monthly bill. For example, I was able to take my “Verizon” landline from over $75 per month down to $40…including UNLIMITED FREE long distance! If they refuse to offer you the bargains they are offering only for “new customers”, then DROP your service for a few days and re-open the account – explain you can do this to the rep. when you speak with them. Either they can cooperate and have a satisfied customer, or you can dump your service and re-apply another time to get the bargains…or WORSE – NEVER use them again and go for the alternatives. Be sure to check details of the other options first. I tried the “Magic Jack” for a while and though VERY cheap, it does not support a fax machine and you must have internet with the computer on 24/7 in order for it to work.

The calls often have poor quality and break up.

2) If you have both a landline and a cell phone, check into how much more it would cost to upgrade your cell to unlimited use verses your monthly landline bill. If you can – drop the landline entirely. Keep in mind cell phones do not accept collect calls nor can you run a fax machine.

c) Water:

1) As stated previously, never do partial loads of dishes or laundry unless you absolutely have no other choice.

2) Repair defective toilets and faucets that run or drip. They sell repair kits in hardware departments or home repair stores. In the majority of cases, it is a simple fix of a new gasket or washer – no repair person 

3) Make sure your kids turn OFF the water completely after showers, brushing teeth, washing hands, etc. If this is difficult to do – replace the washers/seals in the handles.

4) If you have a pool and have to fill it, make sure you notify your water company because they will not charge you the “sanitation” part to “sanitize and recycle” the water. Every little bit helps!

d) Cable: 
This one is simple. We all understand cable is no longer a luxury, per say, but for many of us it’s replaced going outside the home for entertainment. Who can afford $60+ for a family of 4 just to go see a movie? There is no such thing as “affordable family outings” any longer. Cable has replaced that for many of us.

1) CANCEL your paid movie channels! These are often so repetitive that we end up seeing nothing but the same movies in different times for a month at a time. WHY? It’s such a waste of money. Instead, order NETFLIX at $9 per month..$12 if you opt for the blue ray option (first month trial period is free). You will wonder why you didn’t do this sooner! You have in excess of 100 movies in over 10 categories to choose from, totaling approximately 17,000 titles. The movies you cannot watch instantly – they will mail to you and you will receive them in 1 day. Keep them for as long as you need and return. Once returned in their pre-paid envelope (it comes in), they then forward the next movie on your list. You can use Netflix via computer or thru your gaming device (wii, xbox or ps3). You must have internet in order to use that way, but it’s so worth it! I’ve saved $30+ per month by doing this. If you don’t have or don’t want internet, you can order the DVDs to be mailed to you instead.

e) Gas (car):

1) Plan your errands wisely. Instead of running here and there several days per week, pick 1 day to run all errands and plot a course that takes you in a circle. Everything is done in 1 day plus gas usage at a minimum by planning your routes better.

2) NEVER “price hunt” for gasoline. I know so many who will drive 10 miles to save 3 cents! Where is the logic in that? You blow that much in gas getting there and back! If you happen to be in the area already – wonderful, if not – either wait until you will be or get bargains closer to home.

3) If you have a friend who has errands on one side of town and only a few things on your side (or visa versa) divide and help each other out! What is closer to you – you handle…what is closer to them – they handle. Then meet in the middle for a nice cup of coffee with the money you saved in gas – not to mention in time. 

1) Insurance premiums. If you are paying over $600 a year in homeowner’s insurance you are paying too much! That is, unless you have a mansion! Go over your policy with your agent and find out WHY it is so much – chances are they are valuing what you have inside way too high and/or you have a $0 deductible. Getting it knocked down to a more sensible rate can save $100+ per month. If you have a good driving record and aren’t driving a Mercedes – go over your auto insurance as well. If it seems high, odds are there may be claims listed under your name by mistake or your deductibles are very low! I had this happen to us once. Our NEW insurance agent was kind enough to inform us there were over 14 claims listed under our policy that did not belong to us! The names nor cars matched us nor anyone we knew!!! This “clerical error” on the part of our old insurance company caused us to have to pay hundreds more over the years than we shouldn’t have had to!!! ALWAYS QUESTION!

One thing to remember…EVERYTHING is NEGOTIABLE if they want to keep your business!

2) Going out in general 
If you do decide to take in that movie you just cannot wait to see, purchase just the tickets at the theater and skip the drinks and snacks (you don’t really need them anyway); or carry a big purse and bring some or your own! With tickets being as high as $10 in some areas and just a medium drink being $5 or more – who can afford to buy all of the other goodies? Go to Wal-mart and buy those same big boxes of various candy they charge over $5 at the theater for $1 or less. You don’t have to advertise to the entire theater you brought your own. I am of the opinion that if they truly wanted you to purchase from them, they wouldn’t charge such insane prices!

If you go out for dinner, keep the appetizers to a minimum (as well as cocktails). Instead, have maybe 1 cocktail before dinner — if you are into that sort of thing, I’m not much of a drinker myself…especially when the kids are around. Make a pan of brownies, banana pudding, cake, etc. and have coffee with dessert at home after. I enjoy this part myself, it’s like extending the family outing – you get home and everyone gets comfy. Pop on a Netflix movie and have family movie night with dessert!

3) There are places you can go for family fun that are absolutely free. Check your local parks and recreation offices or local visitor centers. We love going on nature walks along the Great Dismal Swamp here in my area–lovely view and always plenty of wildlife to snap pictures of. We are also blessed in having the beach very close by for long walks and nice views.

4) Buying business clothing or even play clothes: Try searching in your area for “Consignment Shops”. These are very different from “Thrift Shops” in that their items are high-end and excellent quality. In fact, I’ve found many treasures with the price tags still on, things never worn! For example, I found an Armani jacket – reg. $300 – for $65!!!! The best time to find these bargains are just prior to season changes and Christmas. That’s when most go through their things to make room. You can still look like a million without having to spend a million! A bit of altering if needed — a trip to the dry cleaners and voila, perfect fit – looks brand new…at a fraction of the price!

5) If you enjoy entertaining friends and family at home, make it “pot luck”. With grocery expenses up, this method allows you to entertain more people more frequently without having to take a second mortgage out on your house.

6) Babysitting: Barter services with other parents. You watch their children for a night out and they in turn watch yours for you to go out. $0 spent on babysitters.

7) I’m a firm believer in bartering. Not just with babysitting, but with anything else you can! No one is good at everything, but we each have our strengths and can trade friends, neighbors, family those services for things they are stronger in. For example, that neighbor who always has their kids’ computers crashing. They know nothing about computers but are mechanical geniuses with cars. Trade your services in repairing computers for their services in giving you a tune-up. Of course any parts or supplies needed would be paid for unless one is offering something of higher value. It’s a win-win situation that costs $0. This is how people used to do things years ago and made for tighter relationships/communities. “It takes a village…”

8) This is a VERY IMPORTANT tip: NEVER keep beyond $20 in cash or you will end up spending it all without realizing where it went. Use a debit card instead. This way you have a good record of where you spend the most and how often.

9) Have a coin jar: Put your change in a jar at the end of every day. Once a year add it up and see what mini-vacation or family outing you can splurge on with that little nestegg.

Check to see if your bank offers a “rounding up savings account” for every debit/check, they round it up and put the change in a savings for you.

Now you have a great start on saving cash! Try as many of these tips as you can for a couple of months, then compare to your old methods. You will be stunned at the amount you save! You can add more of them over time or as they come up to continue to see even more savings.

I can also help you save money if you own a small business and are tired of watching advertising prices get higher and higher. Contact me at the email listed below and in subject line enter – How does having a VA save me money?

Stop giving away $200 or more per month! I can show you how to save money by using my simple budgeting steps I use in my own household. Not only can I help you save money at home, but if you are a small business looking to expand without spending a fortune, email me at the address below with subject line: How can a VA save me money and valuable time at the office and at home.

The Best Ways To Save Money On Lodging and Avoid Being Over-Charged

The Best Ways To Save Money On Lodging and Avoid Being Over-Charged

Whether you travel on business or just for vacations and special occasions like meet ups, weddings or family gatherings, you should not have to pay through the nose for a nice place to stay. I have spent a good portion of my life traveling by myself and with my family for both business and pleasure. I learned a lot of hard lessons along the way and am happy to share them with you. Keep an open mind and if you are new to traveling avoid the number one problem all new travelers face: Wishful Thinking. That comes from the double-edged sword of the excitement about being away for the first time and believing all the hype that hotel and attraction brochures, web sites and ads try to create for travelers. Use your head, keep calm and take the steps necessary to make any trip you take a successful one.

Some Simple Tips

Everyone who has tired of spending the big holidays with relatives eventually decides to visit one of the top theme parks or attractions in the USA during those busy times. In just Orlando alone that means that an extra four to six million people will invade that area and visit the Florida mouse house, as well as other well-known area attractions, during the weeks that include the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays. During these peak times everything costs more and that is Lesson One for vacationers: Visit these kinds of places during the off season and save a bundle. Not only will hotels and other rental choices be much cheaper, but you will also save on gas, food, attraction tickets and just about anything else you need to buy or spend money for on the road.

Experienced travelers know that hotels charge much more from Friday to Sunday. If you can stay during the Monday to Thursday corridor, you will probably get a better rate and might benefit from specials involving discount food, beverages or other amenities innkeepers throw in to attract travelers during the mid-week slump. Add to those savings by joining loyalty clubs or using discount cards that some hotels give out (Stay Two Days, Get One Free; Get A Free Upgrade and so on).

Check the social media sites of places where you might want to stay. Get promotion codes and then get on the phone. Call the front desk of the hotel where you are interested in staying and ask for their best or lowest non-refundable rate. Truckers usually get the best “rack rates” by making calls like these because all most of them care about is a bed and shower, so hotels can palm off their less then desirable rooms on them without many complaints. Vacationers or business travelers will likely end up with the sane rate and a higher quality room because these travelers expect more and tend to complain when they feel slighted or cheated. Today’s innkeepers fear bad online feedback more than anything else.

Check YELP!, the online Better Business Bureau and other similar web sites for honest reviews and assessments of hotels. If bed bugs are mentioned, stay away! Look for other important issues like excessive or unfair room charges or complaints about credit card fraud. I used to say that I would rather give my credit card to a complete stranger than to a front desk hotel clerk because I have been over-charged so many times over the years. For a while I simply paid cash until that became impractical, however, I still suggest using cash instead of credit whenever you can. And by the way: READ those room charges and fees CAREFULLY to make sure they are correct BEFORE you sign any final hotel bill upon checking out. Always check out in person even if it takes some time and question any charges that you do not recognize or understand. Dispute them there and then and get any billing problems resolved before you leave the property. Using automatic check out is a great way for some properties to overcharge your card and many will.

Start any journey with a strict budget if that is possible. Vacationers and new travelers often fall prey to impulse spending on deals and offers thrown in front of them. Fast talking tour and entertainment sales people often attack travelers waiting in line to check in and fast talk them into all sorts of deals. When you walk past those kinds of salespeople in kiosks or at desks in the lobby, keep walking! Save even more and stay smart by learning as much about the places you plan on visiting as possible. Sometimes you can save a small fortune, avoid crowd crushes and still get to where you need to go by staying a few blocks or miles away. That also tends to have the added affect of saving you on things like parking and food which go for premium prices in busy or very popular areas.

Save Money With Hotel Alternatives

Some people have been renting individual-owned condos or vacation houses for years as an alternative to staying in hotels. I began doing this in the early 1990s when I visited the Orlando, Florida area. I saved money and had what amounted to a complete home or apartment set up available to myself and my family. That often meant two bathrooms, lots of room for the kids to be kids, easily accessible or even in-rental laundry facilities, and a comfortable setting where you can kick back and relax after a long day of visiting the tourist traps. In many cases local calls are free, a pool is available nearby or (in the case of vacation homes) on the rental property and there is normally easy “pull right up to the rental” parking. Despite all these plusses, there can be down sides.

Some of the condos we rented were not as clean or well kept as moderately priced hotel rooms. Others had to be paid well in advance and were made available through a broker who only collected the money, had you sign the rental contract on the dotted line and handed you a key all before you even got to inspect the property. That meant that if there were any sort of problems like a lack of cleanliness, no towels or kitchen supplies, bugs or even air conditioning that was not operating correctly, you had to contact the owner directly and good luck doing that. And there can often be some other un-welcomed surprises as well…

The first time I rented a vacation home in Orlando we found out that it had a pool, but that we had to pay an extra daily charge for the pool heater to be turned on. Since it that happened in the fall, it was a real problem. In another case the owner had scheduled extensive landscaping and some basic upgrades to his home while we were renting it. Almost every time we wanted to go into the pool there was dust and loose grass flying around everywhere as the Landscaping Crew did their work. The kitchen and one bathroom out of two were unavailable to us for several days of our rental while contractors performed the upgrades.

Some lessons I learned through all this was to never pay cash for vacation rentals, never give the broker or owner a large cash deposit and avoid “cash only” vacation homes. Those who wanted cash or debit cards normally had something to hide; or charged extra or excessive fees for things like heated pools, cable, basic phone service or things that others provided for free like towels and kitchen supplies (pots, pans, utensils). By using a credit card you can always dispute the charges if you find things are not the way you expected them to be. If you plan on disputing any charges make sure you take lots of photos for evidence and provide your card company or issuer with copies of all the documents you signed before you checked in (get copies of those immediately) or that you might have received when you turned in your key. NEVER leave your key at the property. There is almost always an extra fee for that. Read the fine print at check in. Most of these types of rentals offer no housekeeping services and require you to leave the property clean (many ask you to wash all the linens and make the beds before you leave or face more charges) which may be deducted from your cash deposit or credit card.

Time Shares are still popular with many people despite all the complaints and hassles covered by any number of reliable travel reviewers and writers. Let’s face it: Time Shares are more about making money (or trying to save money even if you don’t) than satisfying the people who stay in them. I could talk until I was blue in the face and list any number of disadvantages that people who use Time Shares as places to stay face and they would still would believe that they were getting the deal of the century or a free vacation property to use at their leisure. So I will simply say that I do not recommend Time Shares as places to stay in our modern world of so many lodging choices.

Hostels have been popular for years outside of the USA. Now they are starting to make a dent in USA travel and tourism as well. The important thing to do is choose a Hostel wisely by checking as many online reviews as you can find. If you do not choose the right Hostel, these places can be just as expensive as moderately-priced hotel rooms without any of the privacy, amenities or comforts. Hostels are more for the younger, backpack crowd than anyone else. Definitely not for family travel. However, if you are looking for work in other areas and do not have a lot of cash to spend, Hostels can be a real value as a place to stay while you job hunt. Some of them are used to financially strapped travelers and will go the extra mile by doing things like posting local employment opportunities, providing meal discounts at local restaurants, offering cheap food choices like brown bag meals and taking as many messages as they need to for folks who have used up all their monthly cell phone minutes.

Credit Cards can be your best friends or worst enemies. When it comes to lodging deals you can sometimes strike gold by paying attention to any offers they send to you. You can even call and ask if they have any current hotel, vacation or travel deals and offers. Sign up to receive online travel, vacation, lodging or attraction coupons and promotions. When you do choose a place to stay beware of hidden charges. The more you do for yourself, the more money you will save. Doing your own laundry, cooking your own food or planning your own itinerary can save you hundred of dollars a week. Avoid most entertainment packages sold in hotel lobbies at all costs because they offer little for a lot. Watch for extra fees for things like wifi, pets and even housekeeping fees. Yes, some discount hotels offer you an extremely low rack rate and you think it is the deal of a lifetime until you find out there is a fee for daily room cleaning, towels, bathroom sundries (soap, shampoo, shaving kits, etc), ice and all those goodies that hotels place in the fridge or mini-bar.

Suites Verses Hotel Rooms and Other Rentals

It is easy to get taken in by the promise of a lavish hotel suite with comfortable furniture, cooking facilities and lots of amenities. In most cases you pay a lot and do not get what you pay for when it comes to suites. Many are one room, studio style set-ups that are not much larger than a normal hotel room. A few still deliver, especially older properties with the bedroom, living room, kitchen and hallway separate. However, many of those are pricey and showing their age. If you plan on staying anywhere for a few days you will have to do your homework before you make that reservation. Most modern suite hotels are very expensive even if you pay by the month. Value hotels that offer long term rental suites are unlikely to be very uncomfortable, offer little or no amenities and may not even be all that safe.

Check out the best to moderately priced lodging choices in the area you will be visiting. Look at the photos they offer, then call and ask if the photos actually represent the current state of their rooms or suites. With the economy being what it is these days most three to five star hotels that are not in areas where everyone is rich or business is great tend to offer some good and off season deals through discount hotel and travel web sites that compare prices and properties. This helps the hotels to keep their lights on during the bad times and may save you big bucks. However, call the property and ask any questions you have or try to get an even better deal before you book online. In some cases you may find that some of the well known and moderately priced hotels offer rooms that include most or all the amenities of a suite hotel at a much lower price. For example, many hotel chains now offer comfortable chairs and/or couches, microwaves, stove tops and a refrigerator, a small work area or desk with extra outlets and wifi, along with king or queen size beds in their deluxe rooms or mini-suites for a much better rate than suite hotels charge.

Some travelers prefer the room/rental sharing route that allows them to stay in someone’s home, apartment or other property (condos, cabins, luxury tents and even parked recreational vehicles) with or without the owners present. This works like Uber does for car service. You view properties listed on various web sites, book and pay. The downside is that you have no real idea whether you will get along with the people you are staying with (if they are home) or whether the property is what it appears to be (if they are not there). The best web sites that market these types of rentals are those which offer honest reviews and allow reviewer photos and videos. I would not recommend these choices for stays of more than one or two days.

These types of rentals are mostly for younger single people, some thirty or forty something couples without kids and the back packing set. These are generally not a good choice for families or folks who are retired or near retirement age. That is because parking is usually not very close to the rental since many of these choices are located in major cities and are actually apartments or condos. That means a lot of walking, carrying your own luggage a long way and possible parking fees which can be expensive in places like New York and San Francisco.

Too many travelers think of these choices as Bed and Breakfast-type rentals: They are not. On top of that people of all ages should know that there may be no or extremely limited access to laundry facilities and property owners that are present may not like it if you are a light sleeper who likes to watch their TV late at night instead of sleeping or flush the toilet at three in the morning. If you plan on watching the big game and must share a TV, that can be another problem. Some property owners are also a little too social and will bend you ears for hours even if you do not want them to do that.

If You Are Doing Business, Try Bundling

If you have to rent a hotel meeting or banquet room you should always bundle that with however many sleeping rooms you need. I did that a lot during my travels and always managed to get a decent discount on either the meeting room or sleeping rooms. Hotels have special rates and discounts that they will never tell you about unless you ask them. In other cases you can get a better overall rate by dealing directly with the hotel and/or banquet/meeting room managers. If you know others who will be coming to the area to rent meeting and sleeping rooms, play that card. Let the managers have their names and numbers (with permission). They will take their best shot at selling their facilities and services to people you recommend and you will get a discount. Your friends or business associates may also get a discount making you the hero both ways.

Digital Video – The New Face of Entertainment

Digital Video – The New Face of Entertainment

With the rate at which technology improves, it isn’t surprising that the entertainment world as we know it is changing. Traditional media delivery systems are finding there markets quickly eroding as many of us are turning to the internet for our entertainment needs. As pricing and infrastructure for high speed internet has improved, it has led to an explosion in online media.

Cable companies are beginning to see a decline in viewer-ship. That six o-clock news show that dad used to watch on the television each night can now be viewed anytime, on demand, from his home computer. When it comes time for junior to research his science project, online documentaries or other online media make it easy to find the information he needs. With services like Apple’s iTunes, which allows you to download movies, music, or television shows (at a cost), cable is becoming less of a necessity for our entertainment needs.

It doesn’t stop there though. What about that weekly call to Grandma’s house? Traditional means of communicating would have you dial a number on your phone, and then pay for the long distance charges on your monthly phone bill. With many services like skype offering free video calling features, internet video is even beginning to compete with traditional phone services. Instead of incurring that monthly bill to talk, suddenly you are on a two-way video conference with grandma, and best of all; it’s free!

What about that great new movie that you missed in theatre? No longer is it necessary to run down to your local movie store to rent it. (If your anything like me you probably will forget to return it and incur late charges anyway.) There are a wealth of online services that will allow you to rent or buy that blockbuster hit through digital download. Services like; Amazon’s Unbox, CinemaNow, and Movielink, are beginning to take a bite out of traditional video rental business. If you spend more of your time on the go, you can even download the movie through the internet connection on your cell phone.

The internet has changed the way we communicate, the way we learn, and now it is changing the entertainment industry as a whole. As sites like YouTube, or any of the other aforementioned sites, begin to change the way we are entertained, traditional media companies who are not open to change are going to be left behind. Although there are many unknowns as this new method of content delivery grows — such as regulations, copyright protection, and a host of other issues — traditional methods of media delivery are suddenly being challenged by digital video online.

What will become of traditional methods of entertainment delivery is yet to be seen, but today in this beginning of the online media explosion, this is where the future of communication and entertainment starts. Already it is being said that online video is responsible for ten percent of all internet traffic. In the next decade I think we will begin to see the move to all media being delivered through the internet.

Save Money On Bills

Save Money On Bills

It seems like an uphill battle most of the time. You try cutting costs on gas, on food, on entertainment and yet you’re still finding it harder and harder to pay the bills. It seems like you’re getting less service for more money but nobody is making it any easier to make more money. It’s like quicksand; the more you struggle the deeper you seem to sink.

Of course you’ve tried everything. We all have. Getting a new job with higher pay seems like a great idea at first until you realize that you’re now in a higher tax bracket and are making less then you were originally. Getting a more fuel efficient car seems like a great idea too but then the cost of gas keeps rising so you’re still in the same predicament you were. You try to save money on groceries but, of course, the price of food is going up everyday because shipping is more expensive thanks to the gas hike. It seems like no matter what you try, no matter how much you work, you always end up back at the kitchen table staring at a stack of Past Due statements.

And it’s not just you, is it? Your friends, your family, even people you’ve just met are feeling the same pinch. It seems to be a planet wide epidemic. The news doesn’t mention it though, or the newspapers for that matter, they’re all too busy reporting on Paris Hilton or some other celebrity who has never known what it’s like to go without a meal. It seems like everything is falling apart and the system that is supposed to help you does nothing but treat you like a resource. You feel tired and used and all you want to do is stop thinking about money for just a little while. I know, because I want that too.

Yes, things are bad. In fact, they’re getting worse. I’m not trying to depress you, I’m simply being honest with you. Money is worth less everyday and costs are going up. But, despite all of that, there IS a bright side. There is a silver lining. People, when put under enough pressure, are amazingly intelligent. The human mind is endlessly inventive and there are a lot of people out there who have figured out ways to save money and stop worrying. Now, all you have to do is listen to what they have to say.

The “Living on A Dime” E-book collection is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a entire set of books that share tips and tricks on how to save money on your bills, save money on your groceries, and put some of that money back into your pocket. These books cover everything from Money Management tips to going on a Debt Free Holiday (which we both know you could use). Best of all, you don’t have to buy these books separately. You can buy them all at once for a fraction of what you would normally pay for them individually.

Getting excited? I was. In fact, I thought that the original price of $75 was absolutely fair (I’ve been in debt for a long time) but when I saw the $35 sale I was completely hooked. I’ve blown more than $35 on Internet Make Money Schemes, Envelope stuffing programs, or even just drinking my sorrows away. For $35 I couldn’t turn down the chance to hear some good advice from people who have been around longer than I have. People who want to save me money. People who know what its like to feel the pinch of a society that thinks of me as a bank account and nothing more.

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