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I am a new vegan and just starting to write a blog about my journey thus far. http://griffinwolf2008.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 9, 2012

The 5 easiest ways to save money this Holiday season

So the holidays are right around the corner, and you wanted to save a few dollars wherever and whenever you possibly can. You can be frantic trying to figure out how to do so, but it’s not as difficult as you may think.

Tip #1 - Make Your Own Decorations.
There are thousands of site out there that have tutorials on how to make your own holiday decorations. There are simple crafts to the most elaborate you can think of.
There are many sites that also show you how to use what you probably already have lying around your home. It can be really simple to spend little to no money, as well as being able to get the kids involved. The joy you share in doing something together can make strong bonding memories and teach them valuable lessons in regards to what the holiday’s mean to your family.

Tip #2 - Make Your Own Gifts.
Whoever said that you had to buy everything? Why not make your own gifts? If you have a bit of a crafty hand, you can make gifts at home and these gifts will mean so much more to people that something you just grabbed off the clearance rack. These gifts can also be passed down from generation to generation, such as scrapbooks, mittens, scarves and baby blankets. You can also bake some cookies or a cake for someone as well. Just use your imagination!

Tip #3 - Plan Ahead With A Holiday Planner.
This is something many people don’t think about, and it tends to get tossed out the window with the birds. Think about what you want to get people in advance and write them out. Do some research to see who has the best deals and when these items go on sale. This also goes for Holiday feasts as well. You will find you won’t be running around like a hamster in a wheel, searching at the last minute to find something for someone you forgot. We all know know how difficult it is to think things out when we are rushed. This is also a great tool year round, not just for the holidays.

Tip #4 - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Use this as an excuse to go through your closet or attic to get rid of stuff. If you find something that is in perfectly good condition, and you think Aunt Martha will enjoy it, then it’s perfectly acceptable to give it to Aunt Martha. It’s a win win situation. Or, if you have some unused kitchen gadgets lying around that are brand new, give it to the family member that is just starting out on their own. It will be greatly appreciated. Is there an old heirloom that you hate but your brother loves? Give it to him. By clearing things out, you may find things you bought for Uncle Joe 5 years ago but lost in the abyss. So may a little “winter cleaning” can be a blessing.

Tip #5 - Budget.
This piece of advice isn’t exactly original and may seem like a cliché, but there is truth in every cliché. Creating a budget and sticking to it can make a world of difference when your bills come rolling in the following month. You need to figure who you are buying for and how much you can spend on each person.
Notice I didn’t say how much you WANT to spend; It’s how much you have to spend. You’ll get in trouble if you follow your wants.. Once you have set your budget, stick to it and don’t veer from it.

Even though the holidays are supposed to be an enjoyable time of year, it can be the most stressful time of year. By following some simple guidelines, it can reduce a lot of stress for anyone. There’s no reason for you to end up in the poor house come January.
Emily Griffin is 23 years old and a recent college graduate from State college of Florida. She is a personal finance writer for Save1.com; the new coupon startup that feeds kids each time a coupon or deal is used. 

How to travel affordably last minute

So you have a week off from work coming up, but you still haven’t organized travel plans, and you are on a bit of a tight budget? Well, you are in the right place! Here are 5 tips on how to affordably travel last minute!

1. Hotels Have Deals Galore.
A majority of hotels and hostels will have some sort of deal going on at one point or another. Often times these deals can go on for several weeks or even the entire season, so you really don’t need to worry until you have found cheap airfare first.  
There are also a good number of hotels that have some sort of membership loyalty program or an  association with AAA or AARP that offer discounts.  With larger hotel chains, look for deals on both main and local property sites and do not be afraid to call specific locations to see if there are any unadvertised offers available. Many hotel managers are willing to make last minute deals just to fill an empty room for the night.
Hostels are also an inexpensive way to go. There is all night security, a curfew of some sort (if you share a room with about 4-8 others), and you get to meet new people from all over the world.
You can also sign up with a website such as www.couchsurfing.org where people offer their homes and allow travelers to stay for a few nights, most of the time for free. Although it cannot hurt to buy your host dinner one night, all you need to do after your visit with them is leave some feedback.
2. Plan ahead.
Although it may sound like a contradiction, especially considering that this article is based on making travel plans last minute, I can assure you that it is not. Many savvy travelers tend to stick to last minute vacations, but they’ve still planned ahead.
These same savvy travelers sign up for email offers, deals, e-newsletters and email blasts from various travel sites, credit card companies, airlines and hotel companies. They consistently research deals during peak seasons and major events, when prices of hotels and airlines tend to go through the roof. Again, AAA and AARP can be your best friend. If it helps you, set up a separate email account just for travel alert emails just to stay organized.
3. Move Fast, but Pay Attention.
If you see a great deal, book it as soon as you see it, because it can be gone faster than you can bat an eye. But don’t rush too quickly. Make sure you read the fine print and understand everything. You need to know what you are and are not getting for your money. You need to be cautious and read between the lines.
4. Being Flexible Is Better.
There will always be last-minute deals that will come up when hotels and airlines need to fill rooms and seats. It is considerably easier to find good deals when you do not have any particular travel destination in mind or specific time frame.
In all honesty, it might mean that you will need to travel on weekdays, fly out incredibly early or very late on either direct or indirect flight. It is also cheaper to be on standby as well.
If you get the chance to volunteer your seat, do it, because you will be offered a flight voucher towards another flight in the future. While you are at it, try to negotiate for a higher voucher ticket as well.
5. Start with Last-Minute Vacation Websites
There is several good, one stop shopping sites such as LastMinute.com that can easily save you approximately 70% on airfare and hotel rooms. Travelzoo.com goes through hundreds and hundreds of travel website and newsletter deals.  VacationstoGo.com is good for booking a cruise last minute.
There will be many deals which really won’t interest you. An offer from New York to London will not help if you are trying to get to Paris. When you know exactly where you want to go, check out AirfareWatchdog.com. Airfare Watch Dog looks at the seasonal trends for the best price available to you. All you need to do is enter your departure and arrival airports as well as the dates you intend to travel for a list of the most inexpensive flights available. It is also a good idea to look at all the available airports in your area, because it may be cheaper to fly out of an airport 2 hours away instead of the one 15 minutes away.
Fly.com is a sister site to TravelZoo.com and allows you do most of the same types of tracking.
You will also want to check out AAA, AARP, Travelocity, kayak and other common travel websites to see if you can find other deals as well!
Emily Griffin is 23 years old and a recent college graduate from State college of Florida. She is a personal finance writer for Save1.com; the new coupon startup that feeds kids each time a coupon or deal is used. 

10 ways to make college students dollar stretch

As a college student, you need to learn how to save as much money as possible. Although it can be a lot of work, it can really be helpful in the long run.
1. Finish college on time! You need to plan on finishing school in four years. Every extra semester you take will cost you more money that you do not need to spend.
2. Take on a full load. Take a full load each semester. Full time students take 14-21 credit hours a semester and can complete a 120-hour degree in four years with no problem. There are some programs that will require more hours than others. If you relax and take less than 12 credit hours a semester, you will not be able to graduate in four years and will end up spending considerably more money for the same major. You also want to try and take classes during the summer. Some school’s will allow you to take on extra classes beyond their credit limit if you only have a couple semesters left and it will most likely not cost any extra to take the class.
3. Set a budget for fun activities. For many young adults in college, the social scene is a huge part of any college experience, and it doesn’t need to be overly priced by any means. You will want to plan a budget for the following:
  • Clothing – Some people like to keep up with the trends, and campus fashion may be different than your current wardrobe. Look in clearance sections of any store first, to keep your costs down.
  • Fun – Movies, plays, concerts and other events. Don’t forget your student ID so you can  ask for a student discount.
  • Food – Although your meal plan should cover the basics, budget some extra money for “extra” food. Take advantage of coupons and sale items, and plan your food purchases around the sales.
4. Don’t change your major after your junior year. Your first 2 years of college are the best time to explore different courses that you really find interesting, but by the time you hit your junior year, you really need to declare a major and stick to that for the remainder of your college career. If you change your major after that point, it’s nearly impossible to graduate within the 4 year mark.
5. Rent, Rent, Rent your books!!!!!!!  A majority of classes you will take require you to have a textbook, but you don’t need to get a new one if you can avoid it. Do some research on Amazon, eBay and other websites to see who has the best rental deal for your area. Some universities have textbooks in the library as well. Unless you like to keep your books for their future sentimental value, renting is your best option.
6. Sororities and fraternities are more expensive than the dorm. Beyond the base costs, you need to factor in formal wear for formals events, tickets for different events, as well as many other extras. Do some research so you can estimate the costs. Joining a sorority or fraternity can be fun, but if you are on a budget, your dollars will go further if you choose dorm life.
7. Community  college’s are your best friend. They can keep your costs for your first two years of college down, especially since you can often remain at home and save on room and board. Community college’s can be a great place to start, especially if you want to start taking classes while you’re still in high school, but ask before you enroll in a university program. Make sure the universities you want to apply to will take the requirements you’ve already completed. Otherwise it will be money wasted.
8. Going home for breaks can be costly. How often do you plan on visiting home? It’s a good idea to limit your visits home if it’s out of state. The fewer trips, the more you save.
9. Beware of “retail therapy.” Your Freshman year in college is the most stressful year as a college student as you learn to adjust to an entirely different environment. Many people try to distract themselves with retail therapy of some sort, whether it be beer, clothes, video games concert tickets or meals out. Beware of this.
10. Look for grants and scholarships. Not all grants and scholarships are based upon economic need or athletic prowess. Some are based upon potential within a career track. There are work study programs that can help to cover college costs.
College expenses include books, housing, food, travel, living expenses, and entertainment.  Can you afford tuition, room and board at the university you want to go to? It’s unrealistic to think that you won’t have any other expenses while you’re there, so don’t put so much weight on the name of the university. You may be able to save money by choosing a different school. If you demonstrate excellence in your school work, it won’t matter which college you graduated from. Your reputation will help you find a job when you complete your degree.
While it’s a great thing to go for what you really want, you can’t look at a college without considering the cost. Paying for college needs to be a discussion you and your family has together while you are in the process of looking for a school. Try to find scholarships and grants as well.
Emily Griffin is 23 years old and a recent college graduate from State college of Florida. She is a personal finance writer for Save1.com; the new coupon startup that feeds kids each time a coupon or deal is used. 

7 secrets retailers don't tell you

It may be shocking to some, but retailers have developed a science to attract shoppers. All of their strategies are very logical and easy to navigate, once you learn the ropes. There are many shopping mall stores that hire retail researchers such as Paco Underhill, the author of "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping."

Underhill did a study on a few hundred people and looked at how they shopped. "There is nothing random about how a store is arranged and designed. It is carefully calculated to appeal to you in every possible way," he says.

"The stores have a plan, so you should, too," says best-selling author of "The Total Money Makeover” and host of his own syndicated financial radio talk show, Dave Ramsey .

The ‘magic’ of store display
There is a simple lesson that can be learned. Underhill talks about it in his book using a story about a t-shirt display.

"We buy them in Sri Lanka for $3 each. Then we bring them over here and sew in washing instructions, which are in French and English. Notice we don't say the shirts are made in France. But you can infer that if you like. Then ... we fold them just right on a tasteful tabletop display, and on the wall behind it, we hang a huge, gorgeous photograph of a beautiful woman in an exotic locale wearing the shirt."  

Ramsey’s response? "Write a monthly mall shopping budget and stash cash in an envelope specifically for that purpose. When the envelope is empty, stop spending," Ramsey says. "A written budget makes you think twice when you are tempted by impulse buys."

When BOGO sales are appropriate
Bundled-item promotions such as bogo and 2-fers can successfully lure you into buying something in their store more often and spending more money than any advertisement in a magazine or television advertisement. "You're not saving if you are actually spending more than you planned," says Underhill. These “sales” aren’t always a good deal, especially if you aren’t familiar with the stores merchandise and normal prices. You need to ask yourself, “Do I really need two of the same jeans?”

Don’t turn right when entering the store
Since a majority of the population is right handed, people have a habit of turning right when they enter a store. Since store owners have firsthand knowledge of this, stores will always feature their popular trends to the right hand of the entryway. Next time you walk into a store, pay attention to the attractiveness of displays and music, you will notice that one side is more attractive than the other. Stores also put their most expensive items on the right hand side. Make a list, shop with blinders on and only shop for what you came for.

Why clearance items are in the back
Clearance items are always placed in the back of every store because the stores want you to be tempted with the most expensive items first, . They hope that by the time you get to the clearance section, your hands will be full. When you walk into a store, walk straight to the clearance section first so you won’t be tempted to buy the expensive items. Chances are you can find something that you like for significantly less.

Why the clearance area is messy
There will be many people who will avoid the clearance rack because it’s messy and really frustrating to sift through. Shoppers want to be able to find their size, price and see the item easily and quickly. Retailers take advantage of that by jumbling everything so you give up and go towards the nicely displayed items that are marked at full price.

Never shop when you are in a crunch for time because it causes you to make rash decisions. You need to set aside time to shop and dig for what you really want and need. Plus, you can get more bang for your buck in the clearance section. You may need to buy something that is intended for fall when it’s in the middle of the winter but you’ll already be prepared for next season!

Beware of the small stuff around the register
When it comes to little inexpensive, cute and pretty items around, the register is calculated to kill a buyer’s budget when it comes to spending. These items such as perfumes, small jewelry items and other “add-on” items just dig you deeper into a hole. Unless one of these items is on your shopping list, resist the urge. If you see an item in the checkout area, take a mental note of it; it’ll probably be there for a while. If it’s still there for your next shopping session, it’s in your budget and you still want it, then you might be able to get it.

Be selective when shopping with friends
When it comes to shopping with others, make sure it’s with like minded shoppers who are trying to achieve the same goal you are. Retailers will take advantage of reckless shoppers who give into every temptation they see. Also, don’t go posting that dress you tried on in the dressing room on Facebook because “friends” will tempt you even more into buying that item. Bring someone who will help you stay on track with what you do and do not need.

Ramsey says that "Alcoholics should stay out of the bars. If you know you have a problem with spending, stay out of the mall.”
If you really need a “shopping kick,” go to a shopping center with someone. Go ahead and put everything in the cart that you like, and when you’re done, just leave the cart without checking out. I have heard of many recovering shop-a-holics who do this, and it has helped them achieve their high while not spending money they don’t have.
Emily Griffin is 23 years old and a recent college graduate from State college of Florida. She is a personal finance writer for Save1.com; the new coupon startup that feeds kids each time a coupon or deal is used. 

3 Simple ways to save on your electric bill this winter!

There are countless articles telling you how to save some money on your electric bill this winter. Most essentially say the same thing. Turn the heat down a few degrees, insulate your attic, use an attic tent, cock any cracks in windows, etc. You do all of that because it is all common sense right?
But what about Christmas lights? What can I do in order to lower my light bill when it comes to my holiday and Christmas decorations? With technology today, there are many great products that are even more beautiful than traditional items but are designed to help you save money in the long run. There are also other items that are not necessarily as pretty but are equally helpful in providing you with significant energy savings in the long run.

1)     LED lights instead of conventional lights
Light-emitting diode (LED) lights are Christmas lights that emit a beautiful, bright, colorful light that uses approximately 80 percent less power than traditional Christmas lights. LED lights also last a lot longer and stay cooler than conventional bulbs because they do not have a filament inside. The intensity of the color in LED lights makes them perfect for indoor and outdoor use.
There are also solar-powered lights as well. Even in the winter weather, it should still be able to save up enough energy by the end of the day to illuminate both the indoor and outdoor lights with little to no electricity.

2)      Energy saving light bulbs
Much like LED lights, energy-saving bulbs use over a quarter of the power of traditional incandescent light bulbs, and they last  twelve times longer than traditional light bulbs. You can find bulbs are sold in a range of fittings, shapes and sizes. You want to look for government and industry-approved energy-saving logos on the package to ensure the best energy-efficient bulb. These light bulbs also come in a variety of colors such as green, red, orange, purple, blue and countless rainbows of other colors.

3)      Outdoor light control timers
Another great thing that will save you a few dollars (as well as time) is to get a timer for your lights, because we all forget to turn off the lights sometimes.                       Implementing a timer, at least for your outdoor lights will be a lifesaver for any forgetful people who intends to turn off the porch light by 10pm, but then wake up at 2am realizing that he or she forgot to turn off the lights. It is very foolproof for sure!

4)      Light sensor with motion sensor fixtures
You may want to have outdoor lights turn on outdoors during the night if a prowler comes around. With motion sensor fixtures, the light will turn on day and night. If you purchase an outdoor light fixture with both motion sensor and light sensor, you don’t have to remember to turn off the light switch during daylight hours. If you install one of the new LED spotlight bulbs, you’ll really cut down on electric costs.
These are only a few of many ways that you can save a few dollars this holiday season when it comes to your electricity bill. Although using LED lights and energy saving light bulbs can be expensive to start with, over time, the overall cost will be considerably lower than conventional bulbs and fixtures.
Emily Griffin is 23 years old and a recent college graduate from State college of Florida. She is a personal finance writer for Save1.com; the new coupon startup that feeds kids each time a coupon or deal is used.