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10 Reasons To Visit The USA, ASAP!!!

10 Reasons To Visit The USA, ASAP!!!

I’ve been chipping away and brainstorming this post on reasons to visit the USA for a while. Not only is it a critical piece of my entire blogs identity, it also speaks to my cultural spirit and reason for living the last 10 years of my life. I don’t have children, I have travel and a connection with the country I now call my home. As a proud citizen and resident, I invite you to come and see America the way I see it, as an amalgamation of cultures with a fierce independence and a determination to always be a place that allows people freedom and a reason to dream.

 

flag - visit the USA

 

  1. Its like SIX countries in one! To say the very least, the USA could be comfortably divided up into six countries all culturally, environmentally and geopolitically different and distinct. You have the South-West, North-West, Mid-West, South-East, North-East, oh and then Texas, which technically could be divided into two because its vastly different from east to west. No other continent can compete with our different landscapes and regional variations.
  2. Everything you could ever want is here. We pride ourselves in having the best of everything no matter what you are into. Now you might argue that we don’t have the best skiing or the best food etc, but when you put everything together, no other country can offer you what we can. Sure other countries have ski slops 2 hours from the beach, but a Disneyland as well? Unheard of! ūüôā
  3. National Parks. Americans realized early in the piece, that in order to preserve natural beauty, certain areas who display distinct and beautiful flora and fauna, need to be cordoned off and preserved for the benefit of future generations. No matter if you are into mountains, beaches, deserts, or just wide open plains, the American National Parks system has something for you! National Parks are always a great place to start off your vacation planning. Aim to add a few of them into your holidays and enjoy a real untouched American experience. national parks - visit the USA
  4. Great Highways. There are many engineering marvels that I truly admire about America, and the Interstate Highway system is one of them. Thanks to the forethought of President Eisenhower, we have an elaborate yet coherent system of controlled-access road infrastructure running east and west and everywhere in-between. It’s something that all of us here take for granted, but America wouldn’t be the awesome place it is without it. It’s not until you go overseas and see what other countries have that you actually admire and appreciate it.
  5. Great food. Thanks to post world war II industrialized food production techniques, America has a really bad reputation for producing chemically infused, plastic, boring food, but that’s not the whole story. The real food you find cooking in peoples homes and in diners and restaurants is something to be treasured, and the best part? Every region has it’s own distinct specialties that are truly unique and local to that area. These regional fares are even more varied these days with the influx of multiculturalism. Everything new and old is fused together to make every dining option imaginable. Broaden your mind and include a little bit of everything in your vacation meal planning and you will¬†be better for it.Southern food - visit the USA
  6. Friendly people. I’ve never felt at home anywhere like I have in America. Even in urban places that have a terrible reputation for rudeness and bad manners, I’ve always encountered kind people who are willing to take their time to help me without question. Forget what preconceived notions you have about the American population as a whole and come and experience it for yourself. It’s great to know that when you’re traveling, help is available at every turn, all you have to do is ask.
  7. History and Attractions. Ok… So America might be way behind Europe as far as history is concerned, but what we do have we fought mighty hard to keep, and for that we have a strong and proud tradition we love to share with the rest of the world. My favorite part about traveling America is all the living history museums and reenactments. It’s one thing to go to a museum, it’s quite another to step back into time and amerce yourself in yesteryear. We can’t move forward into to future until we acknowledge and respect the past.
  8. Great for kids. Great news for parents, America is very kid friendly. In fact whole industries are built around providing your children with a great vacation and memorable experience. Of course Theme Parks are the obvious contenders here, but everything from child friendly restaurants, to easy transportation and accommodation, ensure that no matter what vacation option you choose to take, there’s something available for everyone.¬†theme parks -visit the USA
  9. Affordability.¬†What I love about traveling America is that some places still are dirt cheap to visit AND live. While It’s true that some cities on the East and West coasts require you to take a second mortgage out just to visit, the Midwest and South are completely budget friendly and affordable. You can still get a hotel room in this country for $20 and a meal for under $2. No matter what your budget, there’s options for everyone. No excuses for not getting out there and seeing this great land!
  10. Sense of Community. There are not many countries you can visit in the developed world still have such a strong sense of community. Even in this technological age where communication is largely digital, Americans still band together and form strong bonds within their geographical regions. This is most evident during times of crisis when people extend help and generosity to others, but even during the day to day, I always feel a huge sense of acceptance and belonging. Everywhere I have lived and traveled here I have felt welcomed and wanted. This is the reason I chose to become an American, and this is the reason I choose to stay.

 

small town USA

 

So, after much thought and deliberation these are my top 10 reasons to visit America. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you here soon!

Feel free to share your American vacation stories and what you loved most about your visit.

 

Couch Surfing – Is it really worth it to be a guest or host?

Couch Surfing – Is it really worth it to be a guest or host?

couch surfing

 

Couch Surfing…It’s the latest craze, and the promise of traveling the world for very little money is appealing to all. Accommodation is a huge expense on any trip and unless you have family or friends to stay with, you will undoubtedly be spending a small fortune on a bed for the night. Couch surfing is an online community linking travelers with people willing to take them into their home for free in exchange for company, language help and the promise of cultural enlightenment with a new friend.

The program is not without problems and here we will examine the pros and cons of being a guest and a host, and you can see for yourself if the Couch Surfing community is really something you would like to be involved in.

Being A Host

Pros:

  • Meeting new people. I think this is the number one reason why anyone would open up their home to a stranger.
  • If you can’t afford to travel or don’t have the time, hosting international guests is the next best way to get a cultural experience.
  • Patriotism. Some people are proud of their heritage and want to show their country off to the world.
  • Being a nice person. Knowing how expensive travel is and trying to pay it forward.

Cons:

  • Having strangers in your home is a HUGE risk.
  • It’s not free for hosts. Guests use electricity, water, do laundry and then you have to figure out the food situation.
  • It’s a huge time expense. Most people expect you to spend time with them and show them around.
  • They are using your house and belongings and damage does occur.
  • There have been a few reported incidences of theft.
  • Some guests have no intention or interacting and have even invited other people back to the hosts home.

 

Being A Guest

Pros:

  • A free place to crash! what could be better?
  • Meeting new people and making new friends.
  • Free tour guide and first hand knowledge of the city and culture.
  • If you are lucky your host might offer¬†free dinner or breakfast.
  • Language help if you are into learning the hosts language.
  • Invitation to local festivals/weddings/family functions etc.

Cons:

  • Safety. This has been a huge concern since the beginning and rapes and assaults do happen.
  • Unmet expectations. There are a lot of people on CS that use it for the explicit purpose of a free hook up.
  • People are unreliable, they cancel last minute and you must have a back up host or plan.
  • popular cities such as Paris and NYC are extremely hard to find a host in.
  • Discrimination, women are chosen over men by hosts of both genders.
  • What people offer might not necessarily be what you get when you arrive. (i.e people lying about sleeping arrangements).
  • You are in somebody else’s house and must follow their rules.
  • You might be asked to help out with household chores or pay for things that were not originally agreed upon.

 

 

 Tips, Observations and Concerns:

 

  • At the time I’m writing this there is no host or guest verification processes. Yes you can get ‘verified’ by the Couch Surfing site, but this is just a way for CS to make $20. In the past week I have opened 5 profiles in 5 major cities and have been inundated with requests to host and come and stay as a guest with no verification and nobody knowing if I was even a real person or not. This is extremely scary and my advice to that is, do as much research as you can about people before agreeing to meet. Reviews can also be fabricated by friends and family, so don’t base your opinions solely on those.
  • You might not be the only one they are hosting at that time. You might be in a house with 3 other couch surfers. I must be getting old, but to me that’s just weird. May as well go stay in a hostel if that’s your thing.
  • I hate to be judgmental, but I really worry about the mental sanity of people who have tons of references and make CS into a permanent lifestyle. What’s their motive for doing all this for free? Are they so lonely that they need to open their house to complete strangers and act like a taxi driver/tour guide? no disrespect, but it just seems like really odd behavior.
  • Unfortunately a lot of men use Couch Surfing as a way to get free sex. They prey upon the vulnerability of women being in a strange country in a strange house and use that for their own sexual gratification. Don’t believe me? check this opportunist out then: How to seduce naughty couch surfing girls.
  • For the aforementioned reasons, if you are a single man with no verification or references, you will have a really hard time finding a host. Men usually prefer women for the possibility of a ‘hook up’, and the women will choose other women for security and safety reasons. I’m not sure what the gay/lesbian scene is like on CS, but I’m sure it’s the same across the board.
  • Crime is real my friends. There have been countless reports of rape, stabbing, assault, theft etc resulting from CouchSurfing. People are under the misguided assumption that because CS is a legit website, and these people who join have agreed to abide by the terms of service, that it’s safe and it’s just not. If fact it’s the perfect breeding ground for problems. Strangers + vulnerability + unmet expectations + the possibility of alcohol = absolute disaster. Now I’m not saying everyone is like this. There have been countless wonderful examples of human kindness and generosity, but your safety should be your number one concern.
  • Don’t expect reciprocity. Just because you host someone doesn’t mean you will be hosted back someday. A lot of these travelers live in remote areas of the world, live with family and/or simply are not interested in hosting for whatever reason. If you agree to host, take it for what it is, and don’t expect a new best friend, a place to stay or even to stay in touch. Some do and some don’t.
  • Be wary of scams! Six times now I have been asked to buy expensive electronics (laptops, GoPros, PS4’s etc.), and told I would receive payment as soon as I arrive. Really? Ummm NO.
  • Expectations. Nothing is free in this world right? and this goes for CouchSurfing. You will often be expected to help out with household chores, provide food/drinks, give language help or whatever it may be. Now this might be perfectly fine for some people, but if you really can’t be bothered, your better off paying the $50 and staying in a hotel.
  • Along with worrying about the motive of some of the hosts, I seriously wonder about the motive of some of the guests. I’ve received requests from people offering to buy me dinner and drinks in exchange for crashing on my couch. Now I’m no math expert, but if they can afford to buy me a $50 dinner they can afford a hotel.
  • On a positive note, If you use CS as a place for just hanging out and meeting locals it’s fantastic! Chances are these people have experience with foreign guests and cultures, know where all the good tourists spots are and the best places to eat. That kind of knowledge is invaluable and it’s free! Make use of it and meet up with locals wherever you go.
  • Host availability is solely dependent on location. You might have a real hard time finding a place in Paris or New York City, and no trouble at all in countries that have been a little bit cut off from the tourist track as of late, such as Iran, Egypt and Turkey. Most of these people are longing for tourists and interaction from foreigners.
  • Before traveling, look at the Couch Surfing community at the place you are going. CS is totally accepted in America and Europe, but some countries, especially in the middle East and Asia, operate on a whole different dynamic. Some Arabic cultures don’t allow outside guests in their homes and having an unmarried/unrelated male or female in your house is totally forbidden. To some people, a person who travels alone and is unmarried is seen as loose or slutty. Also remember that some cultures haven’t caught up with the women’s liberation movement and¬†by accepting an invitation to stay. you just might be getting more than you bargained for!
  • Before agreeing to stay with someone, you really need to sit down with them and come up with a plan. Some hosts will expect you to be with them 24/7, and others will hand you the keys and walk away. You really need to be on the same page as far as what’s expected or it can cause a lot of animosity and unmet expectations. Communication is king. Let people know of your plans and find someone who is on the same page.
  • Some people are just unreliable and don’t care about anyone else’s situation. They will cancel the day you arrive, leave you standed at the airport or train station, come up with a million excuses for their behavior and there is nothing you can do about it. You are not paying for a room and there is no contract or obligation to carry out the intended¬†agreement. If you are like me and expect to have an itinerary and a place to stay when you arrive, have a plan B. Urgh! Being stuck in a foreign country with nobody you know and nowhere to stay makes me want to cringe!

 

So this has been my experience with couch Surfing so far. A good option for some, a not so good option for others. I would love to hear your experiences and if I have left any points out, please feel free to add them below. ūüôā

Hotel Vs. RV Rental – The Road Trip Accommodation Showdown

Hotel Vs. RV Rental – The Road Trip Accommodation Showdown

RV Vs Hotel - Hit the Path

To RV or not to RV….As an avid outdoors woman and traveler, it’s always been a dream of mine to hire an RV and take a road trip off the beaten path. Unfortunately it hasn’t been an option so far, but I really envy those who own or rent one and create their own vacations. RV ownership is very expensive and it’s more of a lifestyle choice then anything else, so I will just be including the rental options in this comparison. The cheapest option by far is to sleep in a tent, but for most people comfort is a major priority.¬†Let’s examine the average weekly cost and some pros and cons of RV rental, and see which is a better option for your needs. This isn’t an attempt to turn you off, but to inform you of all the options available.

 

Average Cost of Renting An RV for One Week (off-peak times in mid-October):

Standard RV: $875

Mileage charge for 1,400 miles: $490

Taxes: $129

Fuel Costs (100 gallons @ 3.00 a gallon): $300

Provisioning rental (kitchen stuff, bedding): $225

Campground Fees ($10 to $50 a night): $300 (Plus national park entrance fees)

Total Average Weekly Cost: $2,319. (or $331 a day)

 

Average Cost Of Hiring A Car + Hotel For The Week (for the same time period):

Standard Rental Car: $278

Fuel cost: $132

Hotel costs ($70 a night): $490

Total Average Weekly Cost: $900. (or $128 a day)

 

 

RV Pros.

  • It’s comfortable and you have your own space.¬†This is probably the number 1 reason many people choose to rent an RV. It’s your own space and you¬†know where you will be sleeping every night and it’s reasonably clean, which can’t be said for some hotels.
  • It’s a good option for children and pets¬†Having areas for kids to stretch out and nap in is great, as is having a toilet on board. ¬†It’s also a good for pets and some companies allow animals. It’s far less stressful then moving around to a different hotel every night
  • Stay in areas with no hotels close by¬†I remember my last trip to Yellowstone and staying in a hotel that was 90 minutes away from the park. Although the scenery was beautiful, it was a pain driving in and out every day. You can also pull over and nap in rest areas.
  • great for national parks¬†It really is the best way to see the national parks. Speed is not a concern when touring around so you can travel at your own leisure, stop when you want and sleep at the designated camping grounds.
  • can sleep 5-7+ people¬†It really is a great option for families to disconnect and spend time together exploring the country.
  • Have your own kitchen¬†This is a HUGE advantage over hotels, especially in remote areas. It’s so great to be able to cook yourself a hot meal and save money on eating out three times a day.
  • Privacy¬†An RV is your own private home and living space on wheels. You don’t have to deal with loud people in the room next door, and if you don’t like your neighbors you can pick up and move.
  • On your own time¬†Hotels have a set check out time, but not RV’s. You can wake up whenever you like, have breakfast and take your time getting ready for the day.
  • Good for events and high tourist areas/times¬†It would be such an awesome thing to drive an RV up to Sturgis and party all week. RV’s are great for attending events and you can go wherever the party is.
  • Good option for visiting family and friends and not invading their house¬†Its a great option for visiting family and not wanting to inconvenience them by staying in their house. Park and live in their yard National Lampoons Christmas Vacation Style!

Yellowstone RV Vs Hotel - Hit the Path

RV Cons

  • It’s expensive¬†Yea…look above. It is not a budget friendly¬†ground travel alternative. You could stay in a top-notch hotel each night for the price of the RV rental and gas.
  • Mileage is not unlimited And it’s expensive. You are charged per mile and usually in an estimated package
  • Slow, bulky and cumbersome¬†Ask any long-haul trucker and you will soon find out just how exhausting driving a large vehicle really is.
  • Camping and hook up fees getting higher¬†RV parks or campsites are not that cheap anymore. You may be lucky to find one for $10 in undesirable areas, but typically a campsite with hookups/utilities from what I’ve seen, runs $20-something on up (I’ve seen well over $50+) per night.
  • have to pay extra for pots, pans and bedding¬†If you are from overseas, interstate, or just don’t want to bring all of your own conveniences, expect to pay an extra $225 per family to rent there from the RV company
  • Winter travel is not advised¬†Some companies do allow it on the understanding that you will winterize the vehicle when not in use. This involves draining water to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting and using LP gas to heat it. Not only will it be cold, driving an RV in bad weather is not advisable.line-up RV Vs Hotel - Hit the Path
  • Depending on size may be difficult to get into restaurants and fueling stations¬†Most places are designed for cars and depending on the size of your rig, pre-planning has to be done to ensure you have room to fuel up or park.
  • Getting into RV parks can be a nightmare¬†My weekend cabin in the mountains is near an RV park. On public holidays there is a line all the way down the street to get in and vehicles don’t move for hours.
  • Showering can be a problem¬†If you and your family enjoy long hot showers forget about RV’ing, or learn to adapt accordingly.
  • Mobility is limited.¬†You can’t just nip off to the shops real quick if you run out of bread and milk. You have to pack up and take the whole fam-damily. This is why RV owners often tow a small car behind their rig.

 

List of popular American RV Rental companies:   cruise-america

Cruise America: https://www.cruiseamerica.com/

El Monte RV: https://www.elmonterv.com/

Road Bear: http://www.roadbearrv.com/

 

 

 

Tips For Hiring A Rental Car

Tips For Hiring A Rental Car

Thinking of hiring a rental car for your next road trip, vacation or work travel? Check out these tips to get the best value for money, and make a wise choice for your personal needs.

rental car

Why hire a rental car?

Unless you have an older reliable car that’s super cheap to run and fix, I highly recommend hiring a rental for your next trip. ¬†According to AAA. the average cost of running a vehicle (including gas, maintenance, insurance, depreciation, registration and tires), is $8,558 a year or 57c a mile, and goes up exponentially with the size and make of your vehicle. ¬†This is just a basic figure and doesn’t account for anything that can and does happen when driving for long periods of time. ¬†Hiring a rental car takes all the stress and worry out of car travel, and for $20-40 a day, it really is worth having piece of mind.

 

 

Search and compare on all rental car and travel sites.

 

First thing is first before you seriously start searching, clear your cookies folder. ¬†This goes for ALL travel related searches. ¬†As soon as these websites know that you have looked at something a few times they’ll jack up the prices. ¬†I learned that the hard way last time I went to Dubai, I just thought it was because it was getting closer to the weekend but nope, they were scamming me through my previous search history.

Look on all rental car and travel websites and keep a note of the prices and what’s available. ¬†Websites you wouldn’t normally look at for car rentals (like Priceline), actually do the price comparisons for you and offer reasonable prices.

 

 

Sign up at rental car websites

OK so this is¬†an obrental car alamovious one but it really is worth while. ¬†I always create a fake junk email account (mail.com is good because they don’t ask for a telephone number or any personal verification information), and I use that to sign up for as many travel service mailing lists as I can. ¬†As long as you are not signing up for a credit card service, getting sent these emails is free and the coupons are worth it. Everything from hotels to car rentals, airport parking and flights can be couponed and discounted and you’d be silly not to take advantage of it. ¬†Scan though the emails once a week and keep the ones that are of interest to you.

 

 

My favorite game

I’m sure I invented this but I probably didn’t, and it’s a sneaky thing to do, but print off 2 rental car coupons that say “Free Vehicle Upgrade”.¬†Go inside and pay for your rental car with one coupon, then when you go outside and pick your vehicle, show the attendant your second coupon and tell them that you are eligible for a free upgrade, then walk over to the luxury grade vehicles. ¬†This doesn’t work every time and it depends who’s working on the lot, but I have seriously gotten some awesome vehicles doing this including a V8 Camaro, a convertible mustang and a Cadillac. Take note of the attendants name and when you pull up to the gate to leave, tell them “such and such” said you could take this one. Haha! It really does work sometimes so give it a try!

 

Time of the year matters!

It really does suck that there is a HUGE price discrepancy between peak and off-peak times. ¬†Iv’e gotten a car for under $100 a week in winter and in between seasonal times, and then had to pay $400 a week during school vacation times….Welcome to the travel industry…

Make note of all high peak and popular times and if you can avoid them or hold off your trip, then you’ll be much better for it. ¬†Not only will attractions and roads be less congested, but you will save a bunch of money.

rental car mustang

Inspect your vehicle

I cannot stress this enough and once again, I learned the hard way. I was running late for a meeting and grabbed the first car in my category and took off. Little did I know that it had a huge dent in the passenger side door and when I went to return the vehicle, they said they had no record of it and I got lumped paying for repairs. ¬†My insurance company was involved and I had to pay a $500 deductible. Now i don’t care how late i am, I go over that paintwork with a fine toothed comb.

 

 

Other useful tips:

-Don’t return late. ¬†You will be charged a full 24 hours not part there of.

-Rent though budget brands.  I always do and never had a problem with good old Thrifty and Dollar. Alamo is awesome too.

-Don’t pay for extra insurance if your policy already covers rental cars.rental car gas pump

– Look at renting further out and organizing a pick up. Airports have surcharges.

– Always¬†pump your own gas and return it full. Don’t trust them to add extra charges

– Don’t rent a GPS. It’s $10 a day extra and It’s always a good idea to bring your own or navigate using your smartphone.

– Pre-pay. This is hassle free and some companies also offer percentage discounts.

– Pay by the week even if you don’t really need all that time. ¬†They often have cheaper rates for longer bookings. Do your research and change dates.

 

Yay! Now you know how to book a car, save money and get the most out of your Rentals. Enjoy your trip! ūüôā

 

 

 

The Importance of Supporting Local Business And Why You Should Do it

The Importance of Supporting Local Business And Why You Should Do it

support local business

Supporting local business is something I am very passionate about, and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to voice my opinions on a topic we are all familiar with. ¬†I never realized the importance of ‘Think local, act global’ until I started traveling on a regular basis. They say traveling is an eye opener and it sure was for me. Driving through local communities and seeing abandoned buildings that were once thriving businesses is extremely unnerving. Sure you could argue that it’s just the natural course of competing in a Global Economy, and casualties are going to happen regardless of the current economic or political sphere, but statistics on unemployment and national wage averages suggest something far more sinister. Things aren’t the same as they used to be. The disappearing middle class and thousands of jobs moving overseas means a very bleak future for a children unless we do something to change, and a small step you can do to help today is supporting a local business.

 

Help Somebody live their dream

Imagine owning your own small business.,..Wow! How awesome would that be!support local business dreams

Most of us lack the discipline to ‘Live the American dream’. ¬†It takes extreme dedication and devotion to develop a skill set, come up with a business plan, save for a down payment, apply for a loan, scout a location, purchase equipment, hire the right staff, develop a customer
base and consistently deliver top quality products and services. Those who do make it a reality are far from living the perfect life and it’s definitely not a ‘get rich quick scheme. Getting up at the crack of dawn every single day to clean and prepare, working 90+ hours a week on your feet, and it’s literally years before you can take a small break or a vacation, if at all. ¬†Most consider themselves lucky just to be able to support their families and it¬†is better than working for someone else, but only marginally.

What can we do as members of the community to help? Simply go in to a local small business and buy a meal, or get your hair done, or your car serviced, or purchase an appliance. It really is that simple!

 

Reduce the power of multinationals and monopolies.

We all know the story of the David and Goliath’s. Huge multinational organizations creeping into the community, pushing out local businesses with their vast product range and cheap prices and small business really doesn’t stand a hope in hell of competing. ¬†It’s true that these huge companies did start out as local shops, but these days, they are so far removed from their roots they are not even in the same ballpark.

They import huge amounts of products from overseas developing nations taking manufacturing jobs out of America, they push out local competition closing local businesses in America and in return they offer a few cashier positions and fill our landfills with cheap garbage. ¬†This degrades¬†our society and takes away our sense of local identity. This country was built on American intelligence, ingenuity and invention and the buck should stop here, but instead we give our power and money away to overseas nations which leaves us weak and vulnerable. ¬†This is a bad situation now, and it’s going to be A LOT worse for future generations to come.

 

Prices really are reasonable

There is a common misconception out there that going to a non fast-food restaurant to eat is expensive, but¬†it really doesn’t have to be. ¬†I’m not talking about these ‘organic, vegan, luxury, gourmet specialty places that you need to sell your car¬†just to buy lunch, unless of course it’s for a special treat, I’m talking about local diners, deli’s, bars and restaurants that rely predominately on local traffic to pay the bills. ¬†Most of these places offer lunch and dinner specials and work out to be the same or cheaper than fast food. I normally go and buy a sandwich for $3.00 and a drink and it’s great. You’d be hard pressed to find a fast food meal for under that price.

It’s not just food either, you if look around you will find a myriad of local products and services with extremely competitive pricing. Don’t just take the easy way out because it’s more convenient. Spend the extra few minutes to get better products and services and help out your local neighbors.

 

support local business

Healthier food options

It’s no secret that fast food is just nasty, notoriously bad for you and chock full of preservatives. ¬†It’s also a known fact that people who consume a high amount of preservatives and pass away, don’t have the same rate of normal human decomposition. Gaaa! You are what you eat and if you eat preservatives you become preserved yourself.¬†How weird and gross is that!

Instead of opting for chemical junk, east something made by hand at a local eatery. Your body will thank you, in this life and the next ūüėČ

 

 

Small business, big pride, better quality

Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten have been at these cheap hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon diners littered around the country and that’s no lie. ¬†Think about it like this, you have somebody who is constantly told by family and friends that their food is fantastic and they should open a restaurant AND they do AND now you get to eat it! yummy yumm!

Business ownership brings with it a huge sense of pride and self worth and it truly does shine through in the end product. These are the people who get up at 5am in the morning and prepare everything by hand for the day, they are not pulling frozen junk off the back of a truck, and some even source produce locally so it’s a double win for everyone.

Local business owners also tend to care more about the little guy.  There has been occasions where my car has broken down and a local mechanic has worked with me after hours to get the issue resolved quickly and cheaply. Good luck getting that kind of service at the dealership!

support local business

Try something new

Because small businesses don’t have set menus and don’t have to answer to franchisers or ‘higher-up’s’, they are more willing to experiment, listen to public opinion and deliver. ¬†They offer specials every day so you can try a new meal with little risk, are more open to take substitution requests and genuinely want to please.

They take the time to research the local demographics personally and cater to you specifically. It’s one of the few last strong holds wh
ere creativity can flow undeterred. Caramel Lavender Latte and rose water cake? hmm try it, you may love it! ūüôā

 

Meet new people

This is a worthwhile part of supporting local businesses, you get to know and even become friends with business owners. ¬†It’s so reassuring to know that if something breaks down you know someone personally, who will come and help. ¬†As a single person this is extremely valuable to me. ¬†When i first moved to this community i took the time to go around and introduce myself to local businesses i knew i would need assistance from and it’s paid off extremely well.

I also enjoy meeting business owners when I’m on the road. ¬†They are invested in their communities and usually know the history well and offer good suggestions for things to see and do in and around the local area.

 

 

Feel good about helping the community

I’m all for capitalism and free market economy, but I’ve never been a greedy person. I believe that we need to once again give room for the little guys to compete in a fair and open marketplace and our communities AND country will be much better for it. How do we do this?¬†By supporting locally made products and local businesses.

Know that when you support local businesses you can feel good inside. You are helping grow and develop somebody’s dream, and allowing them to support their families and communities.¬†¬†In turn ¬†they are providing you with a great meal, a well maintained car, personalized services, and a reasonably priced commodity. Whatever your needs are please look at local businesses first, for your community, your nation and the future of our children.

Thank you for reading ūüôā

support local business handshake

 

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 6 – Saving Money On Bills!

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 6 – Saving Money On Bills!

Bills!! Welcome to the last and final installment of the ‘How to afford a vacation’ series, and here are more providers that expect a chunk out of our paycheck every month and how to save on them.

 

ELECTRICITY –afford your electricity bill

Here is an industry that sees many changes happening now and in the near future with solar and wind energy becoming more popular. Some argue that it means steeper electricity costs for those of us who still rely on the grid, because somebody has to pay for the maintenance and upkeep on the lines and power stations, but I don’t know. ¬†Here in Southern California we get a green energy rebate twice a year which virtually makes my bill only $8-10. Ha! I wish it was like that all the time! For those months that we have to pay through the nose, here are some budget friendly tips.

In Extreme Temperatures:

Try and suck it up. I know it’s so hard. I hate being uncomfortable too, but resist the urge to take the easy way out. Using climate control is like eating at a restaurant. At the time you’re all for it and want everything on the menu, then when its over you regret having to pay the bill.

In winter wear as many clothes as you can, this is the cheapest option by far. If you have a fireplace shop around and purchaseafford your electricity bill a cord of wood. ¬†It might cost a couple hundred bucks upfront but is much cheaper than electric options. I normally do this for the really cold days and for the rest of the time I make do with an electric blanket and I sit upstairs in bed working and watching TV. It’s certainly a lot cheaper to warm one room compared to the whole house.

Last winter I was up in my wood cabin 6,700 feet up and a tree fell on the power lines. I was without all electricity for 3 days and it was extremely tough. I had to cook food on an open fire like a cave woman and I kept myself blissfully warm and unaware by being drunk most of the time trying to warm my stomach with brandy. You don’t realize how much you appreciate modern conveniences until your neighbors tree takes them away. It did teach me that I can survive and so can you.

 

In Summer wear minimal clothes and keep your house well ventilated. Purchase a water spray bottle from the dollar shop and keep spraying your body with water when needed. It really cools you off and it’s essentially free. ¬†You can also fill it with rose water, Aloe Vera juice or cucumbers to make it therapeutic. ¬†Air conditioning is super expensive and only use it if really needed. Try keeping it on for only a few minuafford your electricity billtes at a time to take the heat out of the air and switch it off.

As an Australian I think I’m a pretty good authority on extreme heat. I remember days when the roads were so hot they would take the skin off your feet and it was hotter in the swimming pool than it was outside. ¬†We would also turn everything into a Popsicle. fruit and drinks were kept in the freezer and eaten frozen (grapes and juice boxes were my favorite). My grandmother would also load us in the car and take us down to the shopping mall….Why pay for electricity when you can use somebody else’s. ¬†Keep spraying yourself and if it’s impossible to sleep at night strip off and keep a fan on low circulating the air.

Other power usage tips:

Do a walk though before bed every night. Make sure everything is turned off and unplug things you are not using regularly. ¬†Remember everything that’s plugged in is receiving a small current. This goes for computers, kitchen appliances and personal care products. ¬†When going away on vacation unplug everything. If its for an extended period of time switch your power off at the mains.

Start using energy efficient light bulbs. We don’t really think about it but we use lights for hours and hours every night and it can add up. Also clean/replace your air filters and if you are not a complete transient like me, think of upgrading your fridge and washer/dryer to a newer more energy efficient model. It will pay for itself in savings before too long and it also pays to only use dishwashers/washers and dryers when you have full loads to do.

 

WATER –

 

when I first came to the states I was completely shocked at how much water was being used. everything from households to landscaping. I remember seeing¬†lush green grass over here for the first time in many many years. I took off my shoes and reveled in feeling it between¬†my toes for hours. While it’s all fun and nice to look at it’s incredibly wasteful of one of our precious resources, one that we all need to survive. I’m using to living in the depths droughts and after a while it becomes second nature to turn taps off and only use exactly what you need.

I also don’t like wasting money on bottled drinking water, what a scam that is! I brought a Brita¬†filter jug
and use a recycled bottle to drink out of. It tastes better and cleaner than most commercial brands anyway.afford your water bill

 

Landscaping: If I owned a house I would definitely get fake grass. It costs a bit to purchase but saves so much money and time. no watering, no mowing, no hassle, its awesome!

Also plant dafford your water billrought resistant plants and succulents. I know they might look boring but some of them flower and offer great design characteristics. Experiment and have fun, you could also grow medicinal plants like aloe or edibles like prickly pares.  If you can turn your landscaping into something you can eat or utilize, all the better!

 

 

 

Toilets:¬†Not many people in this country make use of low-flow toilets. They really are helpful and make complete sense! Not every trip to the throne requires a full flush. If you don’t want to or can’t invest in a new toilet, then fill up and cap off a half gallon bottle of water and put it in the cistern. This will trick your toilet into using much less and then thinking it’s full.

showers:¬†I’ll tell you a secret. I really don’t like bathing or being clean and only shower 2-3 times per week and less in the winter. It might be my English blood, but I’m like a puppy that stands there with my head down whimpering and crying the whole time. I just have soo many things to wash and clean and shave, it’s so tiring. I pretty much have it down to a science now, get in, get it done and get out. Time yourself if you must but really, there is no reason to be in there for more than a couple minutes. ¬†You can also keep a bucket in the shower with you and use it to water your plants.

 

BANKING AND FINANCE –afford your credit card bills

Examine your statements: This is the time to really sit down and look at all of your monthly expenditures. ¬†My neighbors recently looked over their finances and discovered they are still paying hundreds per month in online services and subscriptions they haven’t used in years. ¬†Granted these people aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but you’d be surprised at how many things can slip through the cracks when you aren’t paying attention to them, and these companies are certainly going to keep taking as long as you let them, especially the ones who use automatic billing in their fine print upon signing up. ¬†This is basically a license to steal money from those who don’t keep an eye on the bottom line and banks are also guilty of taking hidden fees and services out of your accounts.

The good thing about online banking is the transparency aspect. ¬†You have instant access to view all of your transactions for the month anytime you want and make full use of it. ¬†Check it every few days to make sure no one is drawing on it that shouldn’t, and if you do see unusual behavior then contest it immediately.

Credit: ¬†Yup we love using credit and it’s so easy to forget that this money DOES have to be paid back. Please don’t feel bad if you have been caught up in credit card debit at one time or another in life. ¬†It’s happened to me and it’s happened to many good people and some of the situations behind it, like being laid off or having an unforeseen health problem or emergency, are understandable. ¬†Of course other people are just irresponsible, but no matter what, try and avoid getting caught up in it at all costs. My mother always said “If you cant afford it, chances are you don’t need it”, And she’s right. Most things in life we can live without. ¬†If you are in debt call around and try and get a consolidation. ¬†It might not save a huge amount of money, but only having to pay back one bill helps and stops the urge to ‘Take from Peter to pay Paul’. Credit card interest charges are HUGE and¬†Pay it off as soon as you can and stop using it until you are well in the clear again. ¬†If you can’t learn how to use credit responsibly then simply don’t have it.

Have a good look at what cards you do have, what are costing the most money and what ones your really don’t need. ¬†It’s flattering to get offered a new credit card, but if you don’t need it don’t accept it. Look at what services you need in your life and what you don’t. For example, if you travel a lot, look for a credit card that not only offers good rates, but also frequent flyer miles and hotel discounts. ¬†You may as well be getting some perks out of it.

 

afford your credit card bills

Debit:¬†I have a friend who is a compulsive gambler. ¬†She wont come directly out and admit it, but after years of being yelled at by friends and family, and finally realizing she could have paid off her house, brought a new car and gone on several vacations by now, she’s starting to finally see the error in her ways. ¬†She now takes action to curb her spending habits whilst still enjoying her vices. ¬†One of these ways is leaving her debit and credit cards at home. ¬†This is an excellent tip. If you are going out and you know you will be in a place of temptation, or consuming alcohol, take a set amount of cash with you and leave everything else at home. ¬†That way you are not using more than you’ve allowed yourself and not putting on financial strains that you will later later regret. ¬†Just make sure you have enough money to get home.

 

I hope you have enjoyed the 6 part ‘How to afford a vacation’ series and can get plenty of ideas and practice use out of it. Remember you and only you are responsible for your finances and if you don’t keep on top of your money, nobody else will. Make being responsible and conservative a part of your daily life and be sure to teach your children the value of a dollar and how to save for their future. It’s a very unstable world and who knows what will happen in times to come. Making small steps to hold on to what you do have now is rewarding in itself, and will help towards having a happier, more comfortable and more stable home life. ¬†Save now, enjoy your vacations, and here’s to¬†a great future.

cheers and thanks for reading! ūüôā

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION -PART 5- Saving Money On Transportation

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION -PART 5- Saving Money On Transportation

Saving money on transportation

Hmmm transport. We all need it, and it all costs us money one way or another. Some of the best days of my life were back in 2003. I was attending Sydney University and I lived in a cheap flat 2 minutes off the subway line and 10 minutes from downtown. While the apartment would not be my choice of living standards these days,  not having to need a vehicle was a very freeing and cost effective way to live. I would buy a weekly student pass for the Sydney transportation system and walk everywhere. I was super fit and had access to the whole city for a few cents per day. It was only ever a problem for grocery shopping, so I would have to go to the shops a couple of times a week.

As much as I love America, the public transport system is not one of it’s greatest achievements. Unless you live in the north east, chances are you need a vehicle to get around. These days like most of you I am weighed under by the huge expense and responsibility of car ownership. Ha I know it’s funny, writing a road trip blog and secretly hating my vehicle but it’s true, I long for the days to be free of this burden again.

 

save money on transportation

Repairs –
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was buying a fancy European car. Just driving into the dealership, I know right away I’m going to be out of pocket at least $800 for any minor problem and I have to have savings in reserve specifically for this. Boy I wish I had known this rule a couple years ago but my number one advice to anyone is buy American made, or at least a good quality car that’s very popular with cheap parts and super cheap to fix. Here are 8 examples to look at. You will thank me when you only have to pay $200 instead instead of $1200 in parts and labor. Here are some more tips when faced with a broken down vehicle.

– Ask friends and colleagues who have a similar car, who they go to and who they trust to fix their car for a fair and reasonable price. Word of mouth is ¬† so important and mechanics take pride in their referral rates. ¬†If you’re not happy, chances are they will cop flack from your friend as well.
– stay away from the dealership unless u are under warranty or there is a specific problem needed to be fixed by them specifically.
– Go and get a second or third opinion if something doesn’t seem right.
– Just like my hair salon tip, go to a not so trendy area. You might find a gem of a mechanic out in the burbs, as he doesn’t want to pay high rent costs ¬† ¬† ¬† in the city.
– If you need to replace a specific part, ask your mechanic how much it would be to buy the part yourself (new or second hand), and then just pay for the labor to install it.

 

Insurance –
Another necessary evil. I pay my insurance fees twice yearly and it’s by far the most dreaded bill. I absolute dread it because it’s so expensive and It feels like it’s just money down the drain. Of course it’s handy when we need it, but when we don’t it feels like a total waste. There are a few ways to ensure that we only pay the bare minimum, and cover our butts enough to show Mr policeman we are good responsible members of society.

– Consider only paying for liability. The general rule of thumb is: if you car is worth $4000 or under, then it’s perfectly asave money on transportation and insurancecceptable (and significantly cheaper) to only do 3rd party coverage.¬† This will virtually cut your bill in half, but remember, if you have an accident and it’s your fault, your vehicle is not covered. Who knows though, this might encourage you to be a better driver ūüėČ
– If you do have a newer vehicle and opt for fully comprehensive coverage, consider raising your deductible. Sure it’s nice to only be out a few dollars in the event of an accident, but again, the odds of you specifically causing an accident are very low if you are diligent and responsible. think about increasing your deductible to $500 or $750 to save on your yearly insurance costs.
– If you are a good driver, call up your insurance agency and remind them that you have been accident free for over 3 years, you are the only driver, you don’t drive much and whatever other reduction you can get. It’s important to keep on top of this and have an individual policy tailored just for you.
– Shop around. This can be a real pain as most companies want to know the ins and outs of a ducks ass just to give you a quote. They will ask for your name, address, email, phone, vehicle age and brand at the least. If you want to get quotes¬† anonymously set up a new email, give your neighbors address, don’t use your real name but give the right vehicle information. Haha. Also, if you find a better deal but like your insurance broker, call your agent and tell them about the quotes you have and ask if they will match it in order to keep your business.

 

Lease Vs Loan Vs Own –¬†

Lease –

I remember when I first came to this country. I was so excited to be part of American consumerist culture I raced out and got a lease on a brand new Subaru WRX.  It was an awesome car and I thoroughly enjoyed it, only problem was the lease cost $360 a month plus a sizable signing payment. I diligently kept up the payments and after three years I had to hand it back and had absolutely nothing to show for it.  All that money spend for nothing.  I had the option to purchase the car for $15,000, but i was so upset with the whole process i walked away. It was a fun time, but I would never do it again, and I would never recommend others doing it, unless of course your employer is making the payments.

If you do decide to lease a vehicle, here are some other things to bear in mind.

  • There is a mileage limit. If you drive a lot this is not a viable option
  • Any minor scratches or wear-and tear-charges can be added at the end of the lease period.
  • If for any reason you can no longer continue with the lease, it can be very expensive to get out of.

 

Loan –

Loans are typically more expensive than leases and it just adds another humongous bill to your life. Its not uncommon to pay over $500 a month for a commodity that is depreciating by the day. You can use the same saving money tactics as you would with a mortgage. Pay it off as quick as you can, refinance, make extra payments etc. I don’t recommend loans but I understand it’s some people’s only option. At least it’s ‘yours’ at the end of the day and you are free to sell it whenever you want. Just be smart¬†and sensible about it.

 

buy –

This is by far the best, smartest and cheapest option out there. A Mechanical Engineer friend of mine recommends buying the newest car you can afford as this cuts down the likelihood of potential mechanical problems. Buy a good quality second-hand vehicle for cash and you’re done! ¬†These days car dealers are ready and willing to negotiate and you can pick up a really good deal. ¬†If at all you are not happy with the quality or treatment you receive from a dealer then just walk away. Plenty more options out there and it’s important to have a good relationship with these people for any problems that may arise.

I paid cash for my car, and despite the mistakes I made with the make and model, I’m super happy I don’t have an extra bill to pay every month!

 

 

Remember at the end of you day, you and only you have to be happy with your choices. ¬†Don’t buy a car to impress other people, that just attracts superficials you don’t want in your life anyway, and don’t fall for fancy marketing and sales techniques. ¬†These people are employed to sell vehicles, and they don’t particularly care who you are as long as they make a sale. ¬†You are the one who is responsible for purchasing, insuring and maintaining your car. ¬†It’s a harsh world and bad things happen to good people. ¬†You couldsave money on transportation be the nicest guy or girl ever, but miss a couple of payments due to being laid off, sickness, or any other unforeseen event and all of a sudden you are deemed irresponsible, unreliable and undesirable. This reputation will follow you for YEARS and will be extremely hard to shake off, and who cares? Nobody. These companies really expect you to pull money our of thin air! It’s really scary and reinforces the fact that you need to do your research, plan accordingly and live within or below your means. ¬†The smallest drum beats the loudest. ¬†Some of the most well-known billionaires drive an old car and live in a regular family home. Save your money, work on being an amazing person, and let other people do the boasting for you!

Happy driving!

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION -PART 4- Saving Money On Accommodation

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION -PART 4- Saving Money On Accommodation

Accommodation is the largest drain on our salaries, and changing in order to save money is something very personal and totally dependent on where you’re at in life. Some find it extremely easy to make sacrifices and give up a bit of privacy and convenience, and some figure they work hard and deserve a certain standard of living. If you have a spouse, children or pets, your choices are more limited And these factors have to be considered when choosing a balance between saving money and living a reasonable quality of life.

My number one rule (and I have a 800 credit score), is to always live WELL BELOW YOUR MEANS. And yes, I’m yelling! Honestly who needs the stress of owing money in their life? Not me!
Being able to easily make your payments, taking pride in what you DO have, and the ability to squirrel away savings creates a huge sense of satisfaction and mental well-being. Having financial resources creates freedom and takes away one of life’s great stresses.

Let’s examine some money saving tips for our biggest burden. Not everything is going to suite your personal situation, but if I can help you lower your expenditures and reduce your stress then that I call that a great success! Oooh, that rhymes.

Accommodation

 

-Rentingsave money on housing

 

Consider sharing –

I know this is a lot to ask and a huge no no for many people, but listen. How much time do you really spend outside of the house? If you work full-time and have have activities away from your living space, then why are u paying full price for a house/apartment that stays vacant most of the time? Sure we all love our own space, but mentally if you can shift from a whole house mentality down to a bedroom then what’s stopping you? Set up your bedroom with a TV, computer and entertainment system. All you have to do in the public space is use the kitchen, and who knows, maybe you will like your new roommate and create a friendship. Just do your research really well first and make sure your lifestyles are compatible.

Negotiate-

Like most financial deals in life, rent can be negotiable. Not so much in high demand areas, but in most places you can come to an agreement with the landlord if you sign a long lease and if you have a good reputable background, you have some bargaining tools in your arsenal.

 

Fight rental increases-

Urgh! I hate when they do this! I flat our refuse to be increased and taken for a ride every lease resigning. If this Happens to you speak to them asap. The sooner the better and tell them it’s unacceptable and it’s not affordable at this time. I’ve always been able to get it taken down to the original monthly price and if not then only a few dollars a month increase. Stand up for your rights and remind them that it costs them money to have an apartment sit empty.
P.s private landlords tend not to do this and are more flexible and understanding.

 

Look on Craigslist –

I know it has a stodgy reputation but I’ve seriously found some great deals using this method. If you have the time or are just looking around and thinking about moving, put a ‘housing wanted’ ad up stating who you are and what you’re looking for. You might get some good offers. ¬†Also use it as a research tool to gauge current prices in the area you are considering moving too. Just please be aware of scams and don’s send money to anyone, or sign any paperwork unless you have seen the place an know for certain it’s legitimate.

 

Consider work/rent exchange-

This is a good option for anyone with trade skills or some free time to act as a caretaker. Approach a landlord of a house/apartment and offer to fix the place up in Exchange for cheap rent. Also look at advertisements for apartment caretakers/managers. This can range from reduced rent, free rent and even a salary depending on how much work is required. Either way it’s a good deal for most people.

 

Move further out-

This is a tough one. What You might be saving in less rent, you will be paying in time and transport but in some cities this is a viable option and can result in a 30-40% reduction in your monthly housing expenses. Research your options and weight the pros and cons.

 

Owning and Mortgages

save money on housing

Owning your own home is a dream and one that i have not had the privilege of. I’m still too much of a transient and as a single gal with no family or ties anywhere, I don’t even know where I will eventually end up. If you are living the American dream, here are some simple ways to save on your mortgage that have helped my friends and family.

 

Assessments –¬†

Get a property valuation done on your house and find out what it’s really worth. This is really helpful especially if you feel that the market has dropped in recent years. ¬†Not only does this give you a better bargaining position, it can also help you reduce yearly property taxes which cost thousands of dollars.

 

Make Extra Payments –

The power of compound interest is wonderful when it’s on your side, and your worst nightmare when its not.¬†Some brokers allow you to do pay off your loan faster in an attempt to reduce interest payments and some don’t. If you are in the market for a new mortgage product, definitely make sure you can do this, but compare the huge benefits of¬†variable length and variable payments with no payout penalty to current interest rates and other factors effecting your loaning options. An extra $1000 a year payment can reduce your loan by an astounding $40,000+ over its lifetime. So worth it!

 

Refinancing –

This can be a HUGE cost saver, especially when there have been dramatic changes with the economy and interest rates, but it does cost money to do it. It’s up to you to do your research and weigh the costs of refinancing with your current mortgage plan over a year AND over the variable length of the loan.

 

AirBnb

This won’t suit everyone, but if you find yourself traveling a lot for work, or spending weekends away with friends and family, consider listing your house or apartment on websites for short term stays. This can be a very profitable way to increase your earnings by a few hundred a save money on housing airbnbweek depending on what you have to offer and if you don’t mind people using your space when you are not there. Just remember to take all valuables out and abide by the listing guidelines. I even know people who rent to AirBnB full time and use that income to fund their extended travels around the world. ¬†Another added perk of home ownership.

 

So there are my tips on how to save money on accommodation. Don’t ever be afraid of change, embrace it and think of it as a new adventure and a page to turn in life. Always talk to people, find out about their living arrangements and what they are doing, ask questions, do research and speak to finance professionals. We are so lucky to have the internet and the wealth of knowledge it brings to our lives…Use it to your advantage and have fun saving! ūüôā

 

 

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION -PART 3- Saving Money On Health, Fitness & Beauty

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION -PART 3- Saving Money On Health, Fitness & Beauty

Ok so I’m not a Dietitian, a Physician, a Beautician, a Clinician or any other kind of ‘Ian’, ¬†but over my 35 years on this earth, I’ve picked up a few tips on how to be attractive and healthy and how to do it all while saving money and living on a budget.

I wish I had started making these slight adjustments to my life a long time ago. I would start out with a whole new routine with gusto, then fail dismally after a few weeks because it was too much all at once and i would soon feel overwhelmed and unmotivated. ¬†The key is to make improvements that are feasible, doable and realistic. If something doesn’t work out for you, change to something that does and if that’s too much, cut back and work it up slowly. Taking care of your body is an ongoing life-long commitment, but if done correctly, it can be almost unnoticeable and just becomes your regular ‘life’.

 

¬†Exercise –

 

Now I understand for some people the gym is something you can’t do without, especially for men who lift heavy weights, but the fact is that most of us can get our weekly exercise requirements absolutely free. ¬†Take me for example. I have lost a total of 50lbs in 1 year by cooking at home and jogging around the block for 30 minutes a day. I was one of those people who brought a year gym membership, went 5 times and never used it again. The gym just felt like work to me. Going into another building after coming out of a building and HAVING to workout. Yuck.

What I do enjoy is hitting thesaving money diet and exercise¬†pavement and being out in the fresh air. ¬†It’s 30 minutes of time just for me where I can clear my head and jam out on my favorite songs. ¬†I come home feeling exhilarated, happier and reward myself afterwards by eating a home cooked dinner, slipping into my jammies and watching my favorite shows on YouTube or Netflix. It’s the perfect way to end a busy and stressful day. ¬†If you want to lose a lot of weight fast or are feeling particularly motivated, then do it morning and night.

For bad weather days and times when you want to work on upper body strength or abs, there are literally thousands of free¬†workout videos on YouTube in all skill and intensity levels, all instructed by the worlds best fitness professionals. Can’t ask for any more than that. Get the whole family involved and get moving!

One of the best things about working on your fitness and weight a little bit everyday is that you are always ready for anything, anytime, anywhere! You no longer have to diet and you’ll be ready for that vacation or event, and instead of saying, ‘I don’t have anything to wear’, which is basically just code word for ‘I don’t feel sexy or confident in anything i own’, you’ll grab whatever is clean, because you know for a fact that you you look wonderful and others will think so too!

 

 

Vitamins and Supplements –

 

Vitamins are a $28 billion a year industry and a lot of studies have shown over the years that most of it is completely unnecessary. The fact is that nature has provided us with what we need in the food we eat. ¬†If you eat balanced healthy diet and are a reasonably healthy individual, you don’t need much else. ¬†Now if you can notice a huge improvement and it makes you feel better, then by all means go ahead, but speak to your doctor and find out what you really need, then do some research. Compare prices online and in stores and buy what you need in bulk. If it’s something that you use religiously every month then sign up on Amazon or the numerous vitamin sites for recurring shipments. You can often get a considerable discount

 

Supplements¬†and protein powders used for sports and bodybuilding are also a super profitable industry with a lot of players and competition for the customer base. ¬†That’s good news for us because it means they are willing to make an effort to get your dollars. What does this translate too? free samples! Yay! You can acquire these in several ways. Go to trade shows and load up your goody bag (best time to go is a just before the trade show closes as they will be more willing to unload stock), walk into GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe and ask what products they have to sample, or if you have a specific brand you want, email them specifically and ask. Be professional about it. Introduce yourself, say you are serious about your training, tell them you are currently using a competitors brand and you would be interested in switching to their product but want to try it first. Give your email, street address and name. You will be surprised how generous they will be to get your business. ūüėČ

 

Beauty –

 

Cosmetics¬†are a must have for most of us.¬†Your beauty routine is one of those things that you can spent an absolute fortune on, or you can be smart and just look like a million bucks for minimal money. Luckily today there are a lot of services that cost next to nothing and offer BIG returns. Let me introduce you to the world of….Beauty box Subscriptions!! Ta Da! These are boxes filled with beauty products sent to your door and typically run from $10-20 a month. Some good examples include: IPSY, Allure beauty box, Birchbox, Sephora Play! and BoxyCharm.¬†They offer huge savings and in the case of Ipsy, your $10 a month output will normally net you $40-70 a month of make-up and hair care. Boxycharm consistently delivers over $100 worth for $20 a month. Target and Walmart also offer boxes but they sell out in a few hours so you have to be super quick. With beauty boxes You don’t get a choice what you get but i’m not usually disappointed and it’s so exciting getting a gift in the mail every month. Also, you can sell the products your don’t want on eBAy and make up the cost of the box, essentially getting it for free. Its definitely addicting. ¬†You can view subscription blog reviews and compare products and prices at My Subscription Addiction.

 

Nail Care –

It’s an expesaving money jamberrynsive luxury getting your nails done every 2 weeks, no doubt about it. I used to go through stages where id enjoy it for a while, then get sick of spending money on the upkeep and bite them all off. ¬†Last year i discovered the magical world of Jamberry. Ahhh, I love you Jamberry, you make nail care fun and easy! They are plastic sheets that fit over the nails and in all honesty, it’s the only way I’ve been able to grow my nails as they break and chip easily. You can pick up Jamberry’s half sheets on eBay for $5 and that’s enough to do a full manicure, a pedicure and several other accent nails. Pick up a couple nail files. a pumice stone for your feet and a base coat nail polish and you’ve got an awesome budget friendly mani/pedi. PS. I get at least 2 compliments a day on them every day!

 

 

Hair –


I used to spend a small fortune on my hair. At least $200 every 5 weeks going to the best salons in Sydney and Los Angeles. Throughout my varied degrees of career success I’ve had to downgrade to more humble options and honestly it’s turned out for the better. I now go to a not so glamorous neighborhood and pay $30 and it’s actually better than all the fancy hair salons I’ve been to. ¬†I get my regular stylist ASAP whenever I want and 100% of her time always. If I had dark hair I’d just do it myself with a box color, but as a highlighted chick, I let the experts do it. ALSO, if you want top shelf shampoo like Joico and KMS for half the price, get it at Marshalls.

 

Smoking –

ohhh I love smoking so much. Its been my biggest addiction and crotch in life, but I finally managed to break away. If it was healthy id be a 2 pack a day girl, but after watching my neighbor with lung cancer AND COPD trying to catch enough breath just to speak, I knew I had to quit. We take breathing for granted, but watching someone suffer and struggle just to do this simple life giving activity is disturbing and terrible. ¬†Yup smoking is super expensive (even more so in Australia at over $20 a pack!), but quit smoking aids are just as expensive….Rip-off bastards….

There are a couple things you can do to quit cheaply. Some states will give you fee smoking cessation methods if you email them. Another way is to look on good old eBay.  A lot of people will buy a huge pack of gum, patches or lozenges, quit or take up smoking again, and sell whats left over on ebay.  You can buy or bid on these items for a third of the price of the original. When it arrives make sure the safety seal has not been tampered with and your items are in tact.

The method thasaving money quit smokingt worked for me was the 2mg mint flavored lozenges. I did them for a couple of weeks, then switched to mint sugar-free Altoids as a placebo for a couple weeks, now i’m nicotine free and so much happier for it. Bye cigarettes…P.S i loved you! (by the way, the more intensely you work out the less cravings you will have – double win!).

Interesting fact: Obama has been struggling with quitting smoking and using Nicotine gum since 2009. That’s literally YEARS! He says it’s expensive but he can afford it. I’m glad he can but most of us can’t. Quit and make the break permanently, it’s for your own good!

Also, don’t allow people to smoke in your home or vehicle and don’t be around them when they are smoking. That’s been the hardest lesson for me.

 

 

 

¬†Clothing –

So I’ve pretty much worked out a way to wear clothes for free and it works for Mens clothing too. It’s like a Secret Santa box swap for the broke and fashion deprived. Here’s how it works. People list gently used clothes on eBay for a pittance ($1-8 an item). Some of these items are designer and it great shape. You bid on it, buy it, wear it for as long as you like, then you list it back on eBay with the same ad as it had before. ¬†There you have it, minimal effort, maximumsaving money on clothing results and FREE. ¬†You can do it as often as you like and get a fresh wardrobe every week. I used to purchase my clothes at Marshalls and Ross, but you don’t get as much of a discount as you used to, so its just not worth it anymore. I’d rather wear a gently used item for free and change whenever I want, and the more people who do it, the more variety you have to choose from. ¬†You can also find clothes at the second hand shop (look mainly for designer and unique items), or clean out your existing wardrobe and list them on eBay for extra money. You are Welcome. ūüôā

 

Phew! that was a long post. I hope you enjoyed my tips on how to look and feel amazing on a budget and get some good use from them. Remember we only have one body and one life, so let’s take care of ourselves now and make it count. you’ll regret it later in life if you don’t. Hey I’m just trying to look out for ya!

 

Sarah xxx

 

saving money sarah sorge

 

 

*I have no affiliations with any of the companies mentioned, nor am I receiving any money for recommendations. Opinions are my own and from personal experiences only*

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 1 – Saving Money On TV & Internet

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 1 – Saving Money On TV & Internet

Think you can’t afford a vacation? Think again oh awesome one!

saving for a vacation beach bridge

Saving isn’t just good practice for vacation planning, it’s a great lifelong strategy to implement and when done right, it creates more happiness and satisfaction than the fleeting shopping high you get from a impulsive splurge. Having a few bucks in the bank and something to fall back on creates a security net that will ultimately give you more freedom and options in life. The people who are least affected by recessions and economic downturns are those with more financial reserves and the more you have, the further away you are from living in a tent city.
In today’s world our future economic growth is ambiguous to say the least. We owe trillions in national debt, manufacturing is disappearing, companies are moving overseas, jobs aren’t as readily available and competition for salaries is high when existing in the modern global economy. Many economists suggest keeping 6 months of living expenses on hand for any upcoming emergency, and there is no reason we can’t delve further into frugality and use that extra money to create some awesome vacation experiences.
Now it’s time to create some budgets, which as an economist I find extremely fun! (I know right, I need to get laid!) You will be surprised how much fat you can trim when you examine your spending habits.
The first step I found very useful was to notify family and friends of your new plans and financial constraints to avoid any confusion and worry. Most people will be very supportive and suggest cheaper activities as opposed to expensive entertainment and dining options.
Everyone’s situations are different, and not all options will suit everyone, but see what you can do. Even $100 a month in savings will get you a pretty kick-ass vacation at the end of a year! Let’s examine some basic living expenses, and see what we can do to save some $$$.

 

Entertainment and media:
РCable Television 

saving for a vacation TV

Do you really need cable? That’s a $100 a month in savings right there on most packages. I quit my ties with cable TV companies 2 years ago and I’ve never been happier, and it wasn’t just about the money either. I work from home and was spending far too much time watching it. I wasn’t accomplishing anything and since turning it off I have dramatically increased my IQ and knowledge base, learned Arabic fluently, studied major historic and political events to better understand the world today, and thanks to geographical education websites such as lizardpoint.com, I can now point to and identify every single country and capital city on the map! It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s improved my self-confidence dramatically. I can now speak to anyone from any country and respect them enough to at least know where they are from and a few basic facts. It’s also fueled my travel bug. ¬†Why sit there watching other people having fun, when you can go out and have the fun yourself!

 

I also have a problem with their business practices and ethics. They lock you in for a 2 year contract, but every month it increases by a few cents and a few cents which adds up to several dollars per month over 24 months, and the part I hate the most is calling up after that time and fighting with them tooth and nail for hours to lower the price or put me under a new contract. It’s extremely stressful and a huge waste of time and energy. That energy and money I now put into my own betterment and life enjoyment.

 

I won’t lie, I still miss watching new episodes of my favorite shows, but sometimes people upload them on YouTube and if you really must, u can buy one off or whole seasons online. These days I opt for free and low cost programming and it works for me. I pay the minimal Netflix membership, and run free programs like YouTube and crackle on my PlayStation. I did have Amazon prime, but I don’t order enough to make it worthwhile, and like everything else, that keeps going up in price exponentially.

 

INTERNET –

saving for a vacation google

Now I need a pretty fast internet connection. On any given day I’m trading the stock market, blogging, streaming PornHub and watching re-runs of The Golden Girls all at the same time, but the reality is that most at home internet users don’t need the fastest connection possible. Unless you have a home business that relies on split-second data downloads, think about opting for a smaller usage plan.

 

Here are some simple tips on how to cut Internet and Television costs:

 

  • Buy your own internet router. you can save $120 a year from buying your own as opposed to renting from your cable provider for $10 a month.
  • I know its a pain in the ass but call your provider once in a while. ¬†You’ll be surprised at how many people get upgraded and are paying for extra packages and channels they don’t even want, need or know about. ¬†Ask them to explain everything you are being charged for and opt out for things you don’t want.
  • Look over the TV channels in the packages you signed up for and consider what channels you watch and can do without.
  • Test your band width every month (do a google search, a lot of free scanners available), and make sure you are getting the speed you pay for.
  • Have a look at what other Providers there are in your area and don’t be afraid to threaten to take your business elsewhere if they don’t lower your costs or offer you an affordable plan. Remember knowledge is power so check your figures and do your research.
  • Ask to be put through to the cancellations department. ¬†These people are trained to keep customers and are willing to drop it like its hot to keep you around. Wow, i wish my dating life was like that…..
  • Some providers offer vacation hold for when you are away on your fantastic trips. Don’t pay for a service when you are not physically there using it.
  • Sign into your account on their website. ¬†This way you can keep a close eye on your everything and notice any changes right away. ¬†Remember these companies rely on people not checking their accounts and getting overcharged….Don’t be one of those people, i know you’re smarter than that.

 

Phone –

Ahh the good old money suck. I remember when I was 18 and acquired my first cell phone. I rung up an $800 bill and had no idea how i did it or how i was going to pay it off. It tarnished my record for 5 years and ever since then I’ve been “The queen of careful communication.”

I haven’t had a landline since back in the day, and find it totally unnecessary for my lifestyle, (if you don’t need it either then cut it off). As for the cell phone there are so many ways to cut the costs down. First let’s do some basic maths and examine a typical 24 month plan with one of the

 

big carriers:

phone down payment: $200

24 months @ $100 a month: $2400

 

Total: $2600 for 2 years

saving for a vacation iphone

 

Yea, I’m not paying $100 a month for phone service thank you very much! What I have done for the last 4 years is buy an unlocked iPhone outright for $800 custom. Then I signed up for a pay as you go carrier (H2O wireless) for $25 a month unlimited talk and text. ¬†Yes, I don’t have any internet or data plans but in all honestly I have never found it a disadvantage, even whilst traveling! It requires a little more planning. maps have to be downloaded before leaving for the day and stops have to be made at WiFi hot spots. I’m usually in there taking a leak anyway. The quality of the H2O prepaid plan is great too, it runs off the AT&T network, so the coverage is comparable.

 

My Phone Costs:

phone down payment: $800

24 months @ $25.00 a month: $600

Total: $1400 for 2 years

 

Now I¬†keep my phones for 4 years before upgrading, so that’s:

4 years on a main carrier contract: $5000

4 years on my pay as you go plan: $2000

 

That’s a $3000 saving over 4 years! Imagine the kind of vacation and luxuries that money can buy!

 

As for other entertainment, well… you don’t need me to tell you that you cant go out every weekend and get blind rotten drunk unless someone else is footing the bill….

 

cheers, big ears! ūüėȬ†saving for a vacation partying

 

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