20 Tips for an Amazing Thanksgiving on a Budget

Thanksgiving On a Budget

Being generous at Thanksgiving is good. But spending way more than you need to? Not so much.

Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on what you’re grateful for, spending time with family, and wondering how you’ll possibly afford this meal and all of your holiday shopping without squeezing your budget and dipping into your savings fund!

You have a lot to be thankful for, but that doesn’t mean you have a bank account the size of a massive turkey leg. It might look more like a chicken leg. Or even a pheasant.

But never fear! It’s possible to have an incredible, unforgettable Thanksgiving without spending all of your gravy.

Is gravy normally used as slang for money? Who cares? It’s Thanksgiving! The holiday where gravy can be used as slang for whatever you want!

Read on to get all the gravy on how you can make your Thanksgiving into a Thanksaving!


1) Buy in season.

As great as it would be to have a literal cornucopia on your table overflowing with every kind of vegetable you can imagine, you’re better off sticking to what’s in season. Sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin should be more affordable, and they’re pretty much as autumn as you can get. Brussel sprouts should also be in season, and despite what cartoons told you, they can actually be quite good.

2) Don’t be afraid to think inside the can.

Fresh sounds better, but it can be much more expensive. And when it comes to something like pumpkin pie, how many people will really be able to tell whether the filling originally came from a fresh pumpkin? You can even get the cranberry sauce from a can. We won’t tell. Just make sure you smush it up so it isn’t still shaped like the can before you bring it to the table.

3) Also don’t be afraid of frozen vegetables.

Pretty much everything we just said, but for frozen vegetables. Most of them are flash frozen shortly after they’re picked, so it’s cheaper and likely holds up much better than if you had purchased them fresh and frozen them yourself.

4) Collect those deals.

Why shop harder when you can shop smarter?

“My number one recommendation for a more affordable Thanksgiving is to shop strategically by collecting or looking up online all of the Thanksgiving grocery store circulars the week before Thanksgiving,” Katie Moseman, food blogger at Recipe For Perfection (@RecipeForPerfec), advised us.  “You’ll be able to compare prices between stores on all the items you need, then make a shopping plan to pick up everything at the most affordable price.

5) Get your phone in on the action.

There’s something to be said for the lost of art of manually clipping out coupons from those pamphlets that get left on your front stoop. But we also have technology your grandmother’s coupon drawer could only dream of, and there’s nothing wrong with using it. In fact, we have a whole section of our app directory just for finding the best deals. Consider checking them out so you can get the best savings on all of you Turkey Day provisions.

6) Recipe for success.

No doubt you already have a whole collection of classic Thanksgiving recipes, but it doesn’t hurt to learn some more. There are many budget-friendly recipes online just waiting to be found. Moseman even shared two that she created that shouldn’t hurt your Thanksgiving bank too badly: Southern Style Squash Casserole and Foolproof Boneless Turkey Breast. Try them out and tell us how much the whole family like them!

7) Don’t be afraid to get potlucky.

You’re hosting the dinner and presumably preparing most of the food. There’s nothing wrong with asking the guests to do their part.

In fact, Andrea Correale (@AndreaCorreale), founder and CEO of Elegant Affairs Catering, suggested just that very thing: “Delegate, delegate and delegate. Ask your guests to contribute to the feast! Let them know what it is you have covered and ask them to bring the rest. Make a list of who is bringing what so you can be sure each person who contributes is bringing something different. Again, it is all about sharing in a delicious meal, the less you have to make yourself the more time you will have time to chat, laugh, and make memories!!”

You’ll save money too!

8) Skip unnecessary serving stuff.

If you’re having more people than you’ve had in your home before, you may think you’ll need to invest in lots of additional serving utensils.

But according to Correale, that may not be the case!

“It’s fun to present the food in an ‘oven to table’ fashion and serve the food right from the vessels they were cooked in and eliminate the mess and space it takes to transfer the food into decorative bowls. I like to place little blackboard menu signs that I purchase at the craft store next to each dish to add a special touch.

9) Sometimes, more is too much.

There’s a tendency to go overboard on the food when it comes to Thanksgiving. But making too many different dishes can not only cut into the budget, it may lessen the enjoyment of the later dishes. Here’s what Correale had to say: “Don’t overstuff your guests with a lot of appetizers. Not only do they take up room in your tiny space, but in your guests’ stomachs as well. We want them nice and hungry for dinner so they enjoy the fruits of our labor.

10) Take good stock of what you already have.

Got any old cans in the back of your cabinet that you totally forgot were there? What about frozen vegetables way in the back of your freezer? Before you get started on your shopping, see what you can make with what you’ve already got lying around. Unless you have a spare turkey you forgot about, you’ll probably still have to do quite a bit of shopping, but may as well cut out expenses where you can.

11) Buy in bulk.

Not only will you be making a lot of food for Thanksgiving, but you’ll probably be planning to eat again someday. Buying in bulk saves money, and we’re sure you’ll find a way to use any leftover ingredients.

12) If you’re traveling, make travel plans way, way, way in advance.

Seriously, everyone tries to travel for Thanksgiving, so the price of any kind of ticket goes way, way up. Unless you’re driving, you want to book as early as you possibly can. It can be difficult to know whether you’ll be able to get time off for Thanksgiving, so look into which airline or bus tickets will let you get a full refund, just in case. We wrote a whole blog post on how to travel for less, so check it out to see which tips might be applicable for your Thanksgiving travel situation.

13) If you’re serving alcohol, keep the options limited.

It might impress your guests to have a fully stocked bar, but if there’s something they really want, they can bring it themselves. If you’re serving the hard stuff, don’t be afraid to go for the cheap option and just get some bottles of juice or soda to mix it with. A few hours in, who’s really going to be noticing anyway?

14) Figure out your turkey needs and do a little math.

Does it make sense to buy a whole bird, or could you settle for some breasts, thighs, and/or drumsticks? Those will also be a lot faster to cook. Or… maybe… just maybe… you don’t need a turkey. We know, we know, that’s bordering on blasphemy, but if you have family or friends who prefer chicken anyway, it could be the cheaper option.

15) Make your own stale bread.

You’re not going to buy stale bread, or as they try to call it, “croutons,” from the store, are you? That’s a sucker’s game! Just save up your bread for a week or so before Thanksgiving and use that for the stuffing. Just make sure it doesn’t get moldy! Store it in the fridge if you have to.

16) Change up recipes as need be.

We already mentioned looking for budget recipes, but you can also turn most recipes into budget recipes. It might take some experimentation, but since most recipes aren’t necessarily written for the budget conscious, there are likely all sorts of ways you can cut corners and costs. Just find the cheaper substitutions.

17) Minimize the meat.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, this was probably a given, but meat can be expensive. You might not be able to get away with skipping the turkey, but there are more than enough appetizers and sides you can make without spending extra money on meat.

18) Go for dried beans.

We already mentioned that canned can be cheaper than fresh, but when it comes to beans, dried is usually cheaper than canned. Soak ‘em up or use a slow cooker if you’ve got one. Beans are cheap and filling, and you can have them as a side dish or add them to rice or stuffing.

19) Make your own condiments.

Thousand Island dressing? We know you know that’s ketchup and mayo. You can easily make your own Italian dressing too. Don’t get trapped under the heel of Big Condiment!

20) It’s about friends and family.

Remember that whether you’re having a big turkey or a series of small turkey sandwiches, Thanksgiving is about being with friends and family and appreciating them. And that’s priceless.


With these tips, you’ll turn your Turkey Day, into a Turkey Yay! Happy Thanksgiving, from us to you!

What tricks or methods do you and your family use to save on Thanksgiving? We want to know!You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Contributors
Andrea Correale CroppedAndrea Correale (@AndreaCorreale) is the founder and CEO of Elegant Affairs based in Glen Cove, serving NYC, the Hamptons and the Gold Coast of Long Island. Andrea has catered for some of the most discerning A-List taste buds including Brooke Shields, Mariah Carey, Russell Simmons, P. Diddy, Jimmy Fallon and Liam Neeson – to name a few!
Katie Moseman - Writer, Photographer, Recipe DeveloperKatie Moseman is a freelance writer, photographer, and recipe developer whose work can be found on her blogs, Recipe for Perfection (@RecipeForPerfec) and Magnolia Days, as well as in numerous national publications. She lives in Florida with her family.

Style on a Budget: Get Trendy Clothes Without a Payday Loan

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They say you should dress for the job you want, but unless the job you’re looking for is “professional schlub” you won’t be able to get by with cheap sweatpants and t-shirts. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, trying to afford the clothes you need for the job you want that will allow you to afford the clothes you need for… well, you get it.

And if you have bad credit, there’s no reason to risk applying for a payday loan just to get a better wardrobe. No outfit is worth getting yourself trapped in a cycle of debt. Instead, use these tips from our experts to get the clothes you need on a budget that lets you feed (yourself).


Advice from sales experts…

You don’t need us to tell you about retail sales… but we’re going to anyway! Sure, you know sales exist, but are you a sales expert? Because we talked to some sales experts and they have advice for you.

PR executive Amanda Maxwell (@amkmaxwell) told us her approach: “I always try to wait for sales first of all. Depending on what store you are at, almost everything drops to sale after the first three initial weeks of the item being on the rack. I also wait for special promotion days when you can get extra percentages off. Another trick is signing up for an email for a specific store. Most companies offer a 15-30 percent off coupon when you sign up for their emails for the first time! So always look! Or have your friend sign up.”

Rachel D’Ruan a stylist with TRUE Model Management (@TrueModelMgt), offered her own sales advice: “I always advise clients to purchase what they may need when there’s a sale instead of waiting until they need it. My go-to is Chicmi.com because the platform has the most up-to-date list of sample sales as well as fashion events and online fashion sales. Each fashion trend lasts at least three seasons (16 months) and each also makes a come back every few years; thus, when quality products are purchased, they could last a lifetime!”

Know when to shop.

You should always be on the lookout for sales. They can strike at any time—like lightning that saves you money. But there are also more consistent rules you can follow to save money when shopping for clothes. The tides of shopping, rather than the lightning.

“One way that I have found is to buy clothes out of season,” advised Alayna Pehrson, digital marketing strategist for BestCompany.com (@BestCompanyUSA). “Although this may mean that you can’t wear it right after you buy it, you’ll have it to wear for the appropriate season AND you will definitely save money. There is a month-by-month guide that I found to be pretty helpful when trying to figure out which items are cheapest during which month of the year: http://time.com/money/4190173/month-guide-best-time-buy-everything/

And know where to shop.

Every reporter knows the 5 “W”s: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. We’ve already answered the Who, What, When, and Why (you, affordable clothes, off-season, and so you don’t end up with bad credit) so now it’s time to talk about the “Where.”

Maxwell shared some of her favorite affordable options: “There is also the obvious [choice] of shopping at discount stores like Saks Off Fifth or Nordstrom Rack where they offer clothing from their main stores at a discounted price. There’s always a rack of damaged stuff (etc missing a button) that’s AMAZING and totally unnoticeable. You can find amazing deals there and they take an extra 40 percent off usually.

“Another perk I LOVE to use and has become even more amazing over the last few years, is to shop secondhand. There are so many avenues and websites to go now from eBay to Tradsey, to local clothing resale stores. Here in New York we have amazing secondhand shops with stuff that people have never even worn! Marked from $800 to $100! If you buy online from eBay it’s also tax free! Don’t forget this method also applies to you selling your old stuff! This allows you to make some money and save on getting new clothing. It’s a win win!”

You should also check out coupon sites. As Pehrson told us, “Another way to save money when buying clothes is to search for online coupons. Sites like coupons.com, retailmenot, and Groupon are some great places to find online clothing coupons.”

Personal finance expert Kayla Sloan (@kaylarsloan) also has a site she relies on for fashion deals: “My biggest secret for looking great for less is using online thrift stores, like ThredUp.com. I always wait until they offer a coupon code for 10 percent off (or more) or free shipping. I also re-sell my clothes there after I’m finished with them so I can use my store credit to refresh my wardrobe. ThredUp is my favorite way to get brand name clothes for less!”

Some more tips for style on a budget!

We’ve got even more tips for you to use! Need something for a one-time event? “For special occasions, I would recommend renting an outfit (dress, tux, etc),” Pehrson suggested. “This will keep your credit, closet, and conscience clear as you will most likely only use that outfit once.”

She also had another good tip for keeping your spending in check: “A great way to not build up bad credit while shopping for clothes is to only use cash. With cash, there is no temptation to break out the credit card and spend more. Make sure to limit the cash you carry depending on your clothing budget.”

Got a big social media following? D’Ruan says you might be able to use it to your advantage: “If you are an aspiring fashionista, stop by stores like Dreams on Air and Flying Solo. Designers from curated fashion incubators don’t have the budget for top PR services or advertisement so they are more than likely to lend clothes to social influencers (10K+ IG followers) in return for free publicity. I can share more on this approach but it is as simple as filling out a ‘pull’ form, which also asks for credit card info and duration of the pull. As long as the items are returned in their original condition, you can rock clothes off the runway from fashion week for free!”

Looking for affordable stockings? Vienne Cheung, founder of VienneMilano (@VienneMilano) filled us in on her wares: “In a nutshell, the best way to save money and look fashionable is to shop for affordable luxury brands. For example, for women, instead of spending $50-100 for a pair of stockings, hip and young professionals can shop at VienneMilano.com – all of our products are made in Italy. Since VienneMilano is a small business that does not carry extra overhead cost, we can afford to offer fabulous and luxurious products to our customers at an affordable price. Our made in Italy stockings only cost $19.95 for a pair of hosiery, which is significantly less than some of our competitors who sell at $50 for a pair of stockings.”

Finally, Okera Banks (@OkeraBanks), celebrity stylist and founder of OTG Essentials, told us how you can switch things up without having to get a whole new wardrobe: “You can have a hip wardrobe without driving yourself into bad credit or bad debt. I call that living within your means, as you maintain your needs.

“The most important thing to do is first look at your day to day lifestyle and plan out your week. Create a budget that is realistic and include future spending. The idea here is to save, which means you may have to take advantage of discounts, warehouse sales, or outlets stores like Nordstrom’s Rack, who offer great products below market value and even online shopping opportunities.

“I always tell people who are creating a hip wardrobe or who are transitioning into a new look to review your current wardrobe and add cool accent and statement pieces for extra flare without having to completely replace your closet. And purchase items that are interchangeable and transitional, that way they can be worn for business, travel, business casual, fun, or cocktails.

“The idea is being a conservative shopper while being stylish and having a sense of duality with each purchase to accommodate your lifestyle. An essential garment piece is one that can create more than 3 good looks.”

Take all of these tips, and before you know it you’ll have a whole new look and a whole new improved credit score.


Contributors
Okera Banks (@OkeraBanks) is a Los Angeles based designer and celebrity stylist to some of Hollywood’s elite. As a creative designer and owner of Okera Banks OTG Essentials, OTG is the acronym for “On The Go,” her collection caters to today’s swagged out and sophisticated entrepreneur, fashion conscious trend setters and travelers on the go who want comfort and ease with impeccable style.
Vienne Cheung (@VienneMilano) followed her passion for fashion and travel to… fine hosiery. For years, she traveled the world seeking the best fashion and accessories. In Milano, Italy she fell in love with premium hosiery, then unavailable in the US. The rest is history: she left her cushy corporate job, and plunged her soul (and legs!) into VienneMilano.
Rachel D’Ruan (@TrueModelMgt) After half a decade strategizing publicity campaigns for major film studios in Los Angeles, Rachel ventured into fashion and lifestyle PR in New York City. Representing some of the most well-known talents and entrepreneurs in the business has enabled Rachel to obtain a wealth of contacts and diverse experience in image consulting, publicity, marketing and branding. Rachel’s expertise, persistence and tactical approach to her work serves her clients well.
Amanda Maxwell (@amkmaxwell) is a 23 year old PR Senior Executive residing in New York City. She’s mostly known for her contributions in the fashion world, fashion focused social media, and press related contributions. She’s also currently a writer for BossBabe.co sharing tips and tricks on all things Fashion, Life, and Beauty.  With her extensive relationships and industry experience, Amanda has always remained in style.
Alayna Pehrson(@BestCompanyUSA) is a Digital Marketing Strategist and Credit Repair Specialist at BestCompany.com
Kayla Sloan (@kaylarsloan) is a personal finance and small business expert. She has been featured in The Huffington Post, Time, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Kayla is passionate about helping people improve their finances so they can pursue their dreams with her blog at KaylaSloan.com.

 

Try Out These 5 Great Budget Apps

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Have you heard the big news? We here at the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog recently released an app directory to help you find the financial tools that will be a perfect match for your specific needs.

The different app pages are split into categories. We’ll be adding more categories soon, but right now there are four: Budgeting, Money Transfer, Rewards, and Savings. We’ll be taking you through the categories one blog post at time. Today we’ll be giving you a whirlwind tour of the Budgeting apps.

Apps in the Budgeting category help you track how you’re spending your money. Some of these apps track the spending automatically, while others have you input your purchases manually. Which app you choose to try out just depends on your preferences, but given that most of them have at least a free option, you might as well try them all out so you can find your favorite.

Here’s some info on the current Budgeting category options.

Money Lover

Money Lover (@moneyloverapp) is a very popular budget app that allows you to manually but quickly input your transactions across multiple platforms. Then the app will create clean, pretty charts to show you where your money has been going.

The app uses ads, but you can pay a small fee to have them removed. We spoke to To Thanh Cong, head of business development, to find out how Money Lover got started:

“Huy, the founder, created the app by himself when he was in university and used it for his own personal needs. When Money Lover went live on the Google Play Store, he was shocked to find that a lot of people were downloading it and leaving positive feedback. In the next three years, he assembled a team of 15 people to work on Money Lover full-time.

“Now, Money Lover is offering native applications on Android, iOS, Windows and the Web, which helps users access it anytime and from any device.”

You can read more of his description, as well as other details about the app, on our app page for Money Lover.

You Need a Budget

Do you want to train yourself to be a better budgeter? Well You Need A Budget (@ynab) may be what you… need. It follows four rules to teach you how to manage your budget better.

The first rule is that every dollar should have a “job.” This means that as soon as you get paid, you pre-assign a certain portion of that money to saving, food, etc.

For the next rule, you have to “embrace your true expense.” That requires looking ahead at the big expenses you realize you might have in the coming months and putting money aside for those instead of spending it on things you don’t need right now.

Rule three is “rolling with the punches,” so you can be prepared to adjust whenever a surprise requires it.

The final step is to “let your money age” so you don’t spend it too quickly. If you wait two months to spend any specific dollar, you’ll always have money set aside.

You Need a Budget does cost $50 per year, but if it really helps you, you’ll be saving money in the end. Find out more here.

Goodbudget

Have you heard of the envelope budgeting system? It’s what Goodbudget (@goodbudget) is based on. You have different “envelopes” for your expenses, and you fill up each necessary envelope every time you get paid. That way you’ll make sure all your essentials (and some savings) are handled each month.

As far as cost, there are free options, but you can pay more if you’d like more “envelopes” to manage. Check it out.

Mint

Mint (@Mint) has been a budget app standard for a while now, and it’s understandable why. It connects directly to your bank account and automatically tracks your spending, then puts it all together in a nice chart so you can see exactly where all your money has been going.

We interviewed Kevin Kirn, head of product for Mint, to tell us some of the benefits Mint can offer:

“From sticky notes to spreadsheets, calendar reminders, and online banking, there’s no one way to manage finances. And while few people enjoy managing their money, it’s something everyone needs to do. So, whether people start by creating a budget or paying bills, Mint makes it easy to connect with more than 20,000 financial institutions across North America to see everything all in one place. No more toggling from the cable bill to your expense spreadsheet and back to your bank, it’s right there via the Web and mobile – whichever experience makes the most sense.

And when it comes time to save for life’s moments – big and small – Mint provides insights to make those goals a reality with customized alerts and reminders to keep your spending on track each month and throughout the year.”

See the rest of the interview here. 

Everydollar

Everydollar (@EveryDollar) has both free and premium plans. It makes the process of starting up your budget quick and easy, so if you want to start budgeting as soon as possible and don’t need that many extra features, find out more and try it right here.

That’s just a taste of the useful financial tools you’ll find in the app directory. Keep an eye out as we continue adding all the apps you could ever ask for!


Contributors
To Tanh Cong (@moneyloverapp) is the Chief Operating Officer at Money Lover.
Kevin Kirn (@Mint) is the Head of Product for Mint, the leading personal finance app from Intuit Inc. Kevin is responsible for product management for Mint including web, mobile, platform and bill pay. Kevin’s passion for helping consumers and small businesses improve their financial lives brought him to intuit six years ago. Kevin joined Mint in early 2016 after five years leading the reinvention of QuickBooks Online, Intuit’s flagship small business product. Prior to Intuit, Kevin held several product leadership roles at Microsoft, financed startups with a venture capital firm and advised business leaders with McKinsey.

How to Throw a Cheap Pool Party (That’s Still Awesome)!
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Whether you’re lucky enough to have a pool, know someone with a pool, or are planning to jump a fence in the middle of the night, there’s no party like a pool party! But you don’t want to wash away all your savings on one fun evening.
Which is why we’ve talked to only the chillest of pool party professors to get you the tips you need for affordable fun in the sun.

Don’t go overboard on decorations.

Depending what kind of party planner you are, you might not even want decorations. You might just set the ambiance with a jammin’ pool party playlist, but if you want a treat for the eyes as well as the ears, there are decoration options you can choose that are cheaper than hanging streamers of dollar bills around the backyard.

Natasha Rachel Smith, head of global communications at TopCashBack (@TopCashBackUSA), advises you to say “no” to expensive decorations: “Everyone aims to have an Instagram-worthy party, but that doesn’t come cheap. Shop around for pool games and floats and decorations at discount stores such as Walmart and FiveBelow. Instead of paying from $20 to $100 per item, you can snag goodies for a little as five bucks.”

David Bakke (@YourFinances101), a financial expert at MoneyCrashers.com (@MoneyCrashers), offered another cheap option, “For any decorations for the party, get them at the dollar store. You’ll likely just discard them afterward anyways.”

Wait thirty minutes.

Any great party needs food, and the pool variety is no exception. Whether you’re a grill master, a snack supplier, some combination of those two, or an option we haven’t even considered, there’s no reason you have to overspend on your party food.

Smith suggests focusing on a few options: “While you might want to please everyone’s palates, don’t go overboard with the menu. Stick to simple items such as sandwiches, grilled food, and beverages. Consider buying items in bulk to help save money, since you’ll most likely use them again this summer. Don’t be afraid to buy hot dogs or hamburgers in large quantities with the intention to freeze any unused food for subsequent events. If you live in a household with a lot of mouths to feed, I often recommend purchasing wholesale store memberships as they tend to pay for themselves in the first few months. Make all big quantity purchases at wholesale stores such as Costco or BJs to take advantage of their notorious buy-in-bulk offers. You’ll earn up to three percent cashback by doing so through TopCashback.com.”

Bakke also recommended using coupon options, as well as shopping smart and limiting your guest list: “For the grocery shopping, be sure to use coupons. There are plenty of mobile apps that have digital coupons and they’re in the newspaper as well. You could probably get away with a few generics or store brands as well on your food and supply purchases, the quality is usually equal. If serving alcohol, stick with just beer and wine, and ask your liquor store if they offer a discount for buying in bulk or paying in cash. You may want to limit the guest list as well—the fewer attendees, the less you have to buy. You could also make the party of a potluck variety, where each guest brings a drink, dessert, or side dish. That’s an excellent way to cut costs. Check your credit cards for the best cash back program to use for your general purchasing as well.”

Obviously, you can’t force guests to bring stuff, but if you’re the one providing access to a pool, it’s really the least they can do. Put a big BYOB at the bottom of the invitation. And speaking of invitations…

Invitation to the future.

Paper invitations might seem classic, but it isn’t Victorian times anymore, and aside from the trees you’ll save, there’s no reason to spend money on paper invites. These days, all the coolest invitations are happening online.

Jennifer Skarakis, founder of Sendomatic Invitations (@Sendomatic), told us how her online invites can be a great party option:

“Electronic invitations are drastically less expensive than paper invites. Some are free and some services charge a minimal fee.

“Here are some of our free Pool Party email invitations.

“There many benefits from using digital invitations including RSVP management, calendaring, ticket sales and guest communication. We have found that party throwers also use polling to collect even more information about guests.

“Since 1999, we have seen a steady increase of digital invitations usage for all sorts of summer parties and events: BBQs, Reunions, Father’s Day, Weddings and 4th of July. Email invitations have become increasingly more popular and easy to use. Some including even sound and animation! Email and text message invitations are easy to set up and a great way to invite friends and family to events.”

Smith also recommended getting on the electronic invite train, saying, “Pool parties should be merry, stress-free and simple, so don’t complicate it by overspending on fancy invitations. Using Evite or creating a Facebook event page is a great way to showcase the anticipated fun in the sun to your guests. Both offer free services or you could opt for Evite’s premium designs. Paying for them via TopCashback will cut more than a third (35 percent) off the cost.”

Party box!

Too busy to do the work of planning a party? Asher Weinstein, marketing manager at Birthday in a Box (@BirthdayInABox) and Costume SuperCenter (@CostumeSC), suggested pool party planners try out Birthday in a Box and offered some additional planning tips:

“We created a great resource of pool party ideas that you can find here.

“Some ideas include:

  • Create a summer pool party music playlist
  • Have a photo booth for your guests to capture all of the fun moments. Include silly props.
  • Play games like Marco Polo, limbo, and sharks and minnows
  • Fun desserts to keep things cool!”

Now that summer is in full swing, use these tip to get your pool fun on for less!

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Contributors

David Bakke (@YourFinances101) is a finance expert who started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called ““Don’t Be A Mule…” Since then he has been a regular contributor at Money Crashers.
Natasha Rachel Smith (@topcashbackusa) is head of global communications at TopCashback.com. Natasha’s background is in retail, banking, personal finance and consumer empowerment; ranging from sales to journalism, marketing, public relations and spokesperson work during a 17-year career period. She’s originally from London, UK, but moved to Montclair, New Jersey, USA, several years ago to launch and run the American arm of the British-owned TopCashback brand; a global consumer empowerment and money-saving portal company.
Jennifer Skarakis (@Sendomatic), an accomplished Brand & Graphic Designer, has built a name for herself and her company Sendo Invitations in the Event Planning & Management industry. This successful entrepreneur and mother of three continues to grow her company while hosting community events with her husband Chris in their refurbished barn. Jennifer has a BA in Graphic Design and Interior Architecture from UC Davis.
Asher Weinstein is the marketing manager at Birthday In A Box (@BirthdayInABox) and their sister site, Costume SuperCenter (@CostumeSC). There isn’t a birthday party supplies website on the internet that can help you plan a party as quickly and easily as Birthday in a Box. Our site offers a ton of party ideas, themes and low priced party supplies for any birthday or event.

Staycation Nation: Spend Less for a Great Vacation at Home!

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As images of your friends living it up down in Cabo start to take over your Facebook feed, you might think about taking a nice, long, no-expenses-spared vacation for Spring Break. After all, you work hard for the money (so hard for the money). If anything, you’re the one who deserves to really cut loose.
But then you think about the “no expenses spared” part of that vacation plan and you remember: oh yeah, you literally do not have any money to spare. Looks like Cabo will have to wait. This year, you’re going to be taking a “staycation” instead.
Luckily, there are still tons of ways to make that spring break staycation just as fun and relaxing as any trip—and for only a fraction of the cost.  The key to any great staycation is to be creative, so here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Create your own driving tour in 3 steps

Consumer and savings expert Josh Elledge (@joshelledge), founder of SavingsAngel.com (@savingsangel), has a three-step process he recommends:

“First,” says Elledge, “create a ‘day-driving circle’ around your hometown of about 1.5 to 2 hours of drive time. Where can you go and come back in the same day? Within that drive time, find areas of interest, activities, sight-seeing, historical places, festivals happening… whatever catches your interest.”

“Second, comb the internet for deals—like Groupon or the ones that often partner with local radio stations and see what you can save on activities and food. These sites often also help you learn about activities or points of interest you didn’t even know about. Don’t forget your own hometown!

Third, figure out a daily itinerary that minimizes driving and has both variety and downtime. Spring Break should be both fun and refreshing—so don’t feel you need to fill every minute.”

Lastly, Elledge suggest that you “use Swagbucks to earn points towards free gift cards while you’re already doing research for your vacation. Purchase free and discounted gift cards from them for places you know you’ll stop while out and about.”

2. Unplug from the world

The pace of information in 2017—whether it comes from the national news or from your friends’ facebook updates—is completely exhausting. As a part of your staycation, try turning your phone off, or at least leaving it in another room so you’re not constantly fiddling with it. Close your laptop, put away the tablet (though if you’re using it to read a book, that’s fine) and try to just be present. You’ll be surprised how relaxing some true, screen-free downtime can be.

3. Clear out your Netflix queue

Then again, there are certain kinds of screen time that are 100% staycation approved. If you have Netflix, Amazon Prime, another streaming service, or even just a really full DVR, you can take your time off and finally binge watch that show all your friends are talking about.

4. Check for discounts—especially through memberships

In their blog post Cheap Travel: Enjoy A Staycation and Save Big Money, frugal living bloggers The Thrifty Couple (@thriftycouple) suggest using local memberships to get discounts in your area:

“Be sure to check any memberships you have to local attractions for any additional venues,” they write. “We have memberships to a local children’s museum that we visit regularly, but our membership card gives us free or discounted admission to many other attractions in the area that we do not visit normally and are perfect for discounts on the staycation! Check the websites of the attractions and get on the email lists for potential discounts.  And of course utilize your Entertainment Book or other local coupon resources.”

5. Enjoy the great outdoors

Taking a hike or a nature walk in your local area will pretty much cost you nothing but the gas it takes you to get there and the money for some healthy snacks. Check for what kind of hiking opportunities or state parks are available nearby. Be sure to check that you can do the whole thing in one day though. If you are thinking about a camping trip, however, why don’t you…

6. Go camping in the backyard

It’s all the fun of camping with all the convenience of literally having your house, like, 25 feet away. Set up some tents and a fire pit in your backyard and enjoy a night roasting hot dogs and s’mores then sleeping under the stars. It might not beat camping at a real campsite, but it does beat having to use the toilet facilities at a real campsite—so it all evens out.

7. Find free or discounted attractions in your area

Here’s some more great advice from the Thrifty Couple’s post. They write that you should “visit the free attractions like the public buildings we mentioned above or parks you haven’t been to before. Visit your state’s sites and visitor centers for attractions as well as a list of FREE attractions across the country to help you plan your staycation! One day, we went to the visitor’s center in our area and received a free walking-tour map that we were able to do and enjoy!”

8. Go to the movies

If you’re looking to get out of the house as a part of your staycation, why not go to the local multiplex and see a bunch of movies? Just keep these three things in mind… 1. See matinees, they’re cheaper. 2. Sneaking in your own treats and drinks will drastically reduce your expenses. 3. We’re not telling you to theater hop but…

Still not sure what a staycation might look like in practice? No worries! there’s another blog post from the Thrifty Couple that you should check out. It’s called Our Staycation 2012: Farm Animals, Wild Animals and Swedish Food and Play. It gives you a great peek into how a family can have a fun, awesome vacation in the local area all while spending close to nil.

If you have some great staycation ideas of your own, let us know on Twitter and Facebook!

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Contributors

Josh Elledge, is the Founder and Chief Executive Angel of SavingsAngel.com®, which bolsters the buying power of the average U.S. family by combining technology, coupons and smart thinking for extreme savings on household consumables and everyday items.  Josh launched SavingsAngel, Inc. from his Holland, Michigan, home in 2007. Through his work with SavingsAngel.com, Josh has emerged as one of the nation’s leading experts on consumer savings. He has shared his successful couponing and savings expertise with millions of families, both online, in person. All told, Josh has appeared on TV or radio more than 1,500 times.

The Thrifty Couple, Alex & Cassie Michael, are on the cutting edge of creative and intentional living. They are all about saving money and helping others stretch their budget in every area of life! The Thrifty Couple Website offers a refreshing website among financial bloggers that gives a fresh perspective for both male and female readers. After realizing they were over $1OOK in consumer debt, Alex and Cassie paid it off in just over 7.5 years. Their passion is encouraging other families that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that it is possible to live without debt while meeting your financial goals.

20 Affordable Valentine’s Day Gifts

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Chocolate. And flowers. And dinner—and that’s before you even think about getting your significant other a gift. When planning a romantic Valentine’s Day, it’s all too easy to drain your checking account, load up purchases on your credit card, and generally make some spending choices that’ll end up hurting you long-term.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are tons of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day on the cheap. And the same is true for gifts. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 20 awesome Valentine’s gifts that all just so happen to be super affordable too. Enjoy!


 

1. For the Chocoholic With Dietary Restrictions

Get them the gift of spooning chocolate from CocoaCanard.com. It may be gluten and dairy free, but once this pure, non-bitter dark chocolate melts in a cup of hot water, you won’t know the difference. Think of it as the espresso of hot chocolate. Cocoa Canard’s spooning chocolate gift set comes with a canister of spooning chocolate, a spooning mugs, and a personalized linen stationary gift card and envelope, all for only $19.99. You can also check them out on Facebook.

2. For the Romantic Who Just Needs to Find the Right Words

Need a new way to say I love you? Then What I Love About You is the Valentine’s gift you’ve been looking for. This inventive, fill-in-the blank book will help you say “what is in your heart, but may not always be at the tip of your tongue.” It’s chockfull of fun, romantic checklists, short answers, and phrases, that you and your partner can play through together. What I Love About You comes from bestselling journal-creators and husband-wife team Kate (@MarshallBooks) & David Marshall (@DPMars), and is available for only $13.95!

3. For the Movie Buff in Your Life

If your significant other is the kind of person whose idea of a good date may or may not include dinner but definitely includes a movie, then why not order them a movie poster from JustMoviePosters.com (@JMPosters)? They have posters from hundreds of different films, most of which range from $8 to $15. And if you want to make the gift a little bit fancier, you can buy an inexpensive frame at your local target or Wal-Mart.

4. For the Person Whose Path to Their Heart Runs Through Their Stomach

Sure, a home-cooked meal can be delicious, but it can also be so much more than that. (Since you can’t see us, please know that we’re suggestively raising our eyebrows.) Author Amy Reilly @forkmespoonme has written critically acclaimed aphrodisiac cookbooks inluding Fork Me, Spoon Me, and Romancing the Stove. Start cooking from these recipes, and you might find that the phrase “let’s just stay in tonight” will take on a whole new meaning. Both books are available for under $20.

5. For the Person Who’s Always Digging Around for Their Keys

If your significant other has to basically mount a search party every time she needs to get her keys out of her purse, then a Finders Key Purse® from the good folks at Isn’t This Clever (@IsntThisClever) might just be the perfect gift. You simply attach your keys to the purse key clip clasp and then keep the key holder hanging over the edge of your bag or over an inside pocket. They have tons of awesome designs to choose from, and the purses only cost $6.95!

6. For the Person Who Appreciates a Woodsy Touch

Normally, just getting your significant other a card for Valentine’s Day would be considered a no-no. But with a beautiful, wood-carved “Bee Mine” card from Indigo Ember (@IndigoEmber), that can be a romantic gift all by itself. You can order a card for only $9.00, and you can add a personalized message to your sweetheart (maximum 120 characters, including spaces) for an additional $400.

7. For the Person Who Appreciates Being Pampered

Nothing says “I love you” like giving the gift of self-care. A massage, a warm, scented bath, a clean smelling bed—these are the ways you can express your love when you get your wife or girlfriend the Love at First Sight™ Romance Gift Set  from The Medical Mommas. The set includes a rollerball, a bath book, massage oil, and linen spray, all for only $24.99! Follow The Medical Mommas here on Facebook.

8. For the Person Who’s Constantly Fighting With Knots in Their Ear Buds

The best gifts are ones that say “I love you” while still being useful in your partner’s day to day life. Enter, the Magneat Big Heart by OnanOff. This simple, stylish accessory helps keep your earbuds untangled at all times, saving you a lot of time and hassle. This particular design comes with a big red heart that serves a nice little daily reminder of the love that you and your partner share.

9. For the Person Who Loves Playing Games

If you want to give your partner the gift of shaking up your everyday routine, this try the Kisses 4 Us box (@Kisses_4Us). This soft-touch laminated box contains 30 Unique Kiss Cards—each of which explains a different type of kiss, plus extra trivia, fun facts, and additional kissing tips. Each box also come with 5 “Create Your Own” Cards; and an Idea Book. You can and your spouse can practice these new kisses once a day, or all at once. The choice is up to you. The Kisses 4 Us Box is only $19.99, or $24.99 if you buy it with a special gift bag.

10. For the Person Who’s Always Turning up the Thermostat

Having trouble staying warm this winter? Then why not give your significant other a gift from Heat Holders (@HeatHolderUSA), the USA’s leading thermal sock brand.  Their Ladies Lounge Socks are perfect for romantic night in, while their men’s Ankle Slipper Socks are great for a fun tromp through a wintery wonderland. And Heat Holders has more than just socks! Their Thermal Oversized Throw blanket might be just the thing for you and your partner to cuddle up under during a long February night.

11. For the Love of Your Life Who Also Needs a Phone Case

Is your significant other the kind of person who has a cute photo of you two as their smart phone lock screen? Well why not give them a smart phone case that’s got an even cuter photo printed on it. With Skinit custom phone cases (@Skinit), you can upload a photo to create a personalized, one of a kind case for your sweetie. The cases are only $35, which is a great price to combine such a sweet romantic gesture with the sturdiness of a good phone case.

12. For the Person Who Loves Homemade Chai Tea.

Chai tea is one of the few drinks that can really hit the spot as your trying to make it through the long, dark winter months. And if your significant other is a real chai-head (that’s totally a thing, we checked) then they will flip for this gift box from Prana Chai. The box includes a 250g Masala Blend Prana Chai Bag, a 14oz Stainless Steel Turkish Teapot, a Stainless Steel Fine Mesh Strainer, a Robert Gordon Chai Mug, and a Prana Chai recipe booklet—a $62 retail value that Prana Chai is offering for only $42. Follow Prana Chai on Facebook.

13. For the Person Who Adores Those Personal Touches

The craft of the handwritten love letter has gone the way of the dinosaur, the dirigible, and the dodo, but that hasn’t stopped the good folks at Punkpost (@Punkpostco) from bringing it back! Here’s how it works: you choose a letter, send them the text, and they turn it into a gorgeous, personalized handwritten card that they mail on your behalf. You can choose a card from their special Valentine’s day collection and send your beloved a handwritten card today, free of charge. That’s right, because your first card through Punkpost is free!

14. For the Person Who Needs a Little Help to Relax

People who are constantly on the go usually have trouble relaxing. And if you don’t have the kind of extra income to spend on regular massages, then it can be especially hard to take care of stress. That’s why the Bodyworks Ball (@BodyworksBJ) is such a perfect gift. It’s a simple massage tool that people can use to get some easy relief. IT’s specially designed to not damage or mark-up walls, meaning that you can use it pretty much anywhere you go! Reasonably priced at only $34.99, this is a gift that will keep on giving.

15. For the Person Who Owns More Crystals Than Pairs of Socks

If your significant other’s chakras are a little out of whack these days, then get them the gift of some good ol’ fashioned crystals from Little Box of Rocks (@littleboxofrox). And if you’re looking for something romantic Valentine’s Day, then the Moonstruck (Romance) box should do you nicely, and it’s only $35.00! From the Little Box of Rocks website:  Infused with the energy of hot, lunar passion, this bouquet was created as an expression of wild and feverish love. Instead of flowers, send a little bit of secret magic to the mesmerizing soul who’s got you Moonstruck and watch your beloved go weak in the knees.

16. For the Person Whose Sweet Tooth Has a Sense of Adventure

Want to get your sweetheart a sweet treat for Valentine’s Day? Well why don’t you skip the chocolates and get them something unique instead? With a lollipop from Lollyphile.com (@Lollyphile)you can give your partner a gift that’s both surprising and delicious. They have lots of different flavors, some more unexpected than others. You ever wanted to try a pizza-flavored lollipop? Well don’t worry, Lollyphile’s got you covered. You can get for lollipops of a single flavor for only $8.00, or get one of their mix packs for only $12.00!

17. For the Health-Conscious Person Who Still Craves Tasty Treats

The flipside of giving your partner a bunch of candy for Valentine’s Day is that, well, candy isn’t actually all that good for you! Or at least, most candy isn’t. The hard candies from Cracked Candy (@CrackedCandy) are sugar-free, vegan and diabetic safe, and they’re even good for your teeth. (If you’re dating a dentist, this is 100 percent the gift for them.) These candies come in four delicious flavors—Cinnamon, Mellow Orange, Zesty Lemon and Peppermint Ice—and you can order an 8-pack for only $37.99.

18. For the Person Whose Lips Are Constantly Dry

Winter can be a nightmare for people with sensitive or dry lips, so why not give your partner the gift of soft, moisturized lips? (Not to mention that it makes them way more kissable). Flask Brands (@FlaskBrands) makes their lip balms using only 5 natural ingredients, including peppermint essential oil for flavor. And here’s the best part: You can order them with individual gift wrapping for only $5.99—shipping included!

19. For Both the Man Who Loves Style and the Man Who Needs Some Style Assistance

Subscribing to monthly gift boxes is all the rage these days. And while these boxes are awesome, they can also represent a monthly expense that folks on a tight budget can’t afford. But with the Styled Man Box (@TheStyledManBox), you can order a one-time box, filled with 4-6 practical men’s goods, gadgets and stylish accessory upgrades, all for only $39.99 And if you do decide to subscribe monthly, your box will be personalized just for you!

20. For When Your Valentine Is Actually Your Pet

For lots of people, their greatest love in life isn’t a person; it’s a furry little friend. (Trust us, we totally get it.) If you want to show your pet how much you appreciate them, then give them the gift of proper identification. These fun, colorful LOVE tag from Twigo Tags (@Twigotags) are not only affordable, but they’re incredibly simple to personalize. Just write your info on the tag, boil it to seal the ink, and then loop it on your pet’s collar. Each tag is only $8.00!

Having a fun, romantic Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to mean heartbreak for your bank account. For other great ways to save, check out our blog with relationship expert Samantha Daniels @matchmakerSD for some great, affordable date ideas. And if you have some awesome ideas of your own, let us know at @OppLoans!

10 Ways to Save This Valentine’s Day

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Need help figuring out a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day that doesn’t involve cashing in your kid’s college fund or taking out a payday loan? Don’t worry. We got you covered. Here are ten great ways that you and your bae can have a romantic Valentine’s Day on the cheap!


1. Give Your Partner a Break From Parenting

Raising kids is a pretty exhausting experience. So why not give your spouse the gift of getting away from their parental duties—if even just for a few short hours?

“For busy parents, romance isn’t always about sex, so skip the negligee and give a gift they can really use,” says Ann Willets (@PRProAnn)from Mommy’s Time Out Wine. As a great gift for moms, she suggests “a coupon for a foot rub or a relaxing day without the kids.”  And for the dads out there, she sat that “it might be a certificate for a day on a fishing boat with friends or taking the kids out so he can watch a game without any interruptions.”

Willets also points outs that any of these gifts would pair well with a bottle of Mommy’s Time Out Delicious Red or Dad’s Day Off Chianti. We couldn’t agree more!

2. Give the Gift of Service!

If you’re looking to have a romantic, heartfelt time with a partner, why not spend time giving back to your community together? Accord to dating and relationship expert Hunt Ethridge (@HuntforAdvice), “One of the things that keeps relationships strong and fresh is creating new memories. And when you can do good things as well, it only adds to the strength.”

Etheridge suggests that couples “go volunteering together. Soup kitchens always need help. Or you can help build a home with Habitat for Humanity if you are good with your hands.” And it doesn’t have to be through an official not-for-profit organization either.

“It can also be something as simple and fun as planting flower seeds all over town,” says Etheridge. “You can’t help but feel good and enjoy yourself after a productive day of helping others.”

3. When it Comes to Babysitters, Be Early or Be Creative

If you’re thinking about getting a babysitter so that you and your spouse can enjoy a romantic night on the town, just remember that everyone else is probably thinking the same thing.

“Don’t wait for the last-minute to arrange a sitter if you’re planning a night out,” says Willets. “They’re in high demand on Valentine’s Day.” Waiting until the last minute could be like trying to catch an Uber during rush hour: you can get one, but you’ll have to pay extra.

If you’re still having trouble finding a babysitter, then Willets suggests you “set up a babysitting cooperative with other parents in your neighborhood. Each couple or parent can volunteer one evening a month to watch the kiddies. This “no cost” option ensures you get at least one night a month to keep the romance alive!

Of course, this does mean that someone is going to get stuck watching the kids on Valentine’s Day itself. But that’s easily taken care of. Just make a V-day shift worth two or three additional shifts from other parents in return. That way, whoever chooses Valentine’s Day duty will get extra kid-free time for their troubles.

4. Act Like Kids Again

“Everyone is into nostalgia these days, imagining a ‘better’ or ‘simpler’ time,” says Ethridge. He suggests that you and your partner “embrace the wistfulness by planning a Saturday morning cartoon date.”

“Grab your favorite sugary cereal (mine used to be Cookie Crisp) and your PJs, and head on over to their house,” he says. “Watch old cartoons and kid shows, whether that’s old Bugs Bunny, Smurfs, My Little Pony, Pokemon or Power Rangers.”

And the date doesn’t have to be just sugar highs and cartoons, either. “Talk about being a kid,” says Ethridge. “What did you want to be when you grew up?  Who was your favorite teacher? Did you have a schoolyard crush on anyone?  For a few hours, you can escape the everyday rat race and revel in the fun that life brings.”

5. Play Spy! 

“Turn a boring walk into daring daylight espionage!” says Ethridge. “Everyone fantasizes about being a spy. So go and try it out!”

Here’s how it works, according to Ethridge:

“Find somebody you don’t know or just pick someone on the street and tail them as close as possible for as long as possible. Make up stories about who this person is and the things they’ve done in their life.  Don’t let the mark see you or you lose the game!”

But that’s not all! Ethridge adds that “once you’ve been spotted or you lose your quarry, eat at the closest food place. Whether it’s a convenience store hot-dog or hole-in-the-wall Chinese joint, it’ll make for a memorable meal.”

(This might be Ethridge’s most out—there idea, but that’s what also makes it our favorite.)

6. Enjoy a Night of Your City’s Freebies

“Most cities offer a multitude of free fun that you may not even know about,” says Justin Lavelle (@Justin_Lavelle_), Chief Communications Officer for PeopleLooker.com. “Do a little research and plan to tap into a few of them.”

Some of the activities he lists include enjoying “a carefree and inexpensive evening of karaoke, darts, pool, or trivia night at your local pub.” He also suggests “challenging each other at Monopoly at a board game cafe, check out a free improv night of up-and-coming talent, take a free yoga class, go to a local jazz club or find a movie or concert in the park!”

These all sound like great Valentine’s Day dates to us!

7. Get the Kids Involved

If you’re unable to get a babysitter, then you may as well celebrate Valentine’s day in a way that the whole family can enjoy.

Willets says, “If you can’t manage a night without the kids, find ways to include them.” They can “help to set a pretty table, make a special treat and create their own cards.”

When you’re a parent, it’s important to make time for your spouse, but modeling good behavior for your kids is also critical. “This is a great time to show the kids how to express their love for each member of the family, as well as to set an example of how mom and dad love and appreciate one another,” says Willets.

8. Take an Architecture Tour

“Those of us that are lucky enough to be in places with old buildings can see the artistry and talent and their attention to detail,” Justin Lavelle says. “Take an architectural tour of your town or one nearby. “Learn the local history of any of the buildings. See if you can find the coolest one in town, and fantasize about what you would do if you lived there.”

Lavelle suggests that you can also try this DIY. “Drop the kids off at grandma’s house, grab a Starbucks, bring along your favorite or romantic music, then treat yourselves to a little tour of your city,” he says. “Drive by historical sights, visit your favorite neighborhoods, find homes you both love, and swing by your childhood home or the spot of your first date (if possible).”

He also mentions that you could “cap off the night with a trip to the ice cream shop or grab a dessert to share at a favorite restaurant.”

9. Relive Your First Date!

This is another great idea from Justin Lavelle. “Whether your first date was a long time ago or just a couple of years, try and recreate your first date from the very beginning,” he says.

“Did he pick you up? If so, have him pick you up for your date even if it’s at your shared home,” says Lavelle. “Did you attend a high school basketball game together? See if you can catch one together at the local high school. They’re either free or only cost a couple of bucks. If your first date was a movie, catch a matinee together—they’re cheaper than evening movies.”

“Maybe you went roller skating? That’s right, pay for your skate rentals and go have a laugh like you haven’t had in a while,” he says, adding “just don’t break anything!”

10. Be a Seat Filler and See Shows for Less

Here’s a great idea for escaping the Valentine’s Day rat race altogether. Give your spouse or partner the gift of an On The List (OTL) Seat Filler Membership.

Network members can get free tickets to shows and plays across your local area (just make sure to check their website to see what areas they cover). For the cost of your very affordable monthly dues, you get invited to attend shows that still have tickets available.

According to Lu Ann Wall from World Wide Seats, a select provider for OTL, “Seat Filler Membership Gifts provide the gift recipient with all-inclusive access to reserve tickets to shows as they pop up. Members also bring their guest(s), as they can reserve 2-4 comp tickets to each event they’re interested in attending.”

“Not only is it fun to see what pops up and be introduced to some new entertainment,” she adds, “but to be able to reserve tickets without paying for them is the icing on the cake!”

Instead of only one date on Valentine’s Day, a Seat Filler Membership would be giving your partner the spouse of many dates to come!

Visit SeatFillerNetwork.com to learn more.

If you have a great date idea of your own, let us know! Hit us up on Twitter at @OppLoans and Facebook with your favorite budget date night activities!

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Google+

 

 

Hunt Ethridge

 

 

OTL

 

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About the Contributors: 

Hunt Ethridge is an award-winning dating and relationship expert with over a decade of experience helping people become the best, most dateable versions of themselves. While the focus of his coaching is on making someone empirically more dateable, the lessons learned translate very easily into personal and professional lives. The emphasis is on confidence building, leadership, image & style, conversation skills, reconnecting with fun and more. To read his advice articles, go to HuntForAdvice.com.

Justin Lavelle is the Chief Communications Officer for PeopleLooker.com. PeopleLooker is a leading source of online background checks and contact information. It helps people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives and can provide peace of mind by offering a fast, easy and affordable way to do background checks. PeopleLooker allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses and property records.

OTL (On the List), now with 21 U.S. locations and London (13 of them managed by WW Seats and the others by Audience Resources), encourages members to unplug and be social again by introducing them to amazing local entertainment. Despite the online membership and reservation system, a few team members (well… actually 4 out of 5) are self-proclaimed “technophobes” but have acquired and mastered new skills, all in the pursuit of offering fun “offline” activities.

Ann Willets is the PR representative for Mommy’s Time Out Wine, as well as a mother and grandmother.

6 Inexpensive Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

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Want to celebrate Valentine’s Day without having to break up with your paycheck? Relationship expert and professional matchmaker Samantha Daniels has some ideas to keep the romance alive (and under budget) this year!

We know, we know. It’s not even February yet. But Valentine’s Day is going to be here before you know it! Do you and your significant other have a plan to celebrate this year? While there are plenty of very fun, very romantic, and very expensive ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day, those are not the only options out there. It is possible to have a great date night without overspending (or overthinking!).

Samantha Daniels—relationship expert and founder of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking at SamanthasTable.com—provides great ideas for a fun and inexpensive Valentine’s Day date.


Idea #1: Create a Romantic, Citywide Photoshoot.

Samantha says: “If you have been meaning to capture a few photos of you and your significant other, this Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to do so. Skip the costly photographer and pick a few of the most romantic spots in your city for an impromptu photo shoot. Taking cute pictures at the spot where the two of you met or at the restaurant where you made things official will bring back fond memories. Plus, you will have an assortment of sweet snapshots at the end of the day.”

Idea #2: Make a Modern-Day Mix-Tape Together.

Samantha says: “Actual mix-tapes might be a thing of yesteryear, but you still could put together a mix of your favorite tunes on a playlist on iTunes or Spotify.”

Idea #3: Plan a Scavenger Hunt.

Samantha says: “You can plan a hunt in your city to find romantic gifts and create the perfect Valentine’s Day. Turn Valentine’s Day into an adventure with a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Leave your beau with a list of things to do or find in each location. Better yet, turn it into date night prep as you swing by a chocolate shop for a budget-friendly dessert, a liquor store for your favorite vintage, and your local grocery store for ingredients to go. By the time you get home, you will have explored the city and collected everything you need for a romantic evening for two.”

Idea #4: Have a fondue evening together.

Samantha says: “This is romantic and also inexpensive.  Buy a variety of cheese to melt for appetizers and entrees, and then buy different types of chocolates to melt for the desserts. This is fun and romantic all at once.”

Idea #5: Plan a Romantic Evening at Home.

Samantha says: “If you want to keep things low key and avoid the hefty cost of prix fixe restaurant menus on Valentine’s Day, opt for a romantic night of cooking with your favorite music and a bubble bath at home instead. You and your girlfriend can prep your favorite meal together or divide and conquer with dinner and dessert. You will heat things up in the kitchen as you tease each other about cooking skills before enjoying a delicious meal together. Follow it up with a bubble bath surrounded by candles.”

Idea #6: Have a Romantic Movie Night.

Samantha says: “Go ahead and choose a few old classics like ‘An Affair to Remember’ or ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ and hunker down for the evening. Don’t forget to get your favorites flavors of popcorn and some yummy snacks. Make sure you have a bottle of bubbly on hand and a soft blanket to cuddle under.”

So there you go! Next time you’re staring at a $300 dinner reservation or a $250 carriage ride, just remember that romance doesn’t come with a price tag. Try one of these great ideas for an inexpensive date or maybe an idea of your own—and then put some of the money you’ve towards something that will really help your relationship, like paying down credit card debt or starting an emergency fund. If you thought romance and fiscal responsibility couldn’t go hand in hand, then guess again!

 

Samantha Daniels - OppLoans Contributor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Contributor: 

Samantha Daniels is one of the foremost professional matchmakers and dating and relationship commentators in the country. Not only does she own the well-known bicoastal matchmaking service, Samantha’s Table, but she also is a book author and the creator of an exclusive dating app, The Dating Lounge. She is ivy league educated, a former divorce attorney by trade and she has an uncanny ability to know who goes well with whom. She works with high profile people and busy professionals and she has been responsible for thousands finding love. Her app, The Dating Lounge is being coined as the “Dealbreaker app” and is the only exclusive invitation-only dating app created by a real and well-known professional matchmaker (Samantha) where upscale, successful people find real relationships. She used her expertise from her years in the dating industry to tailor-make The Dating Lounge for her high-end clients by giving them exactly what they want in an app-exclusivity, information, accuracy and connections. She is also a frequently relied upon dating expert on TV shows like The Today Show, Good Morning America, Access Hollywood and CNBC and in print media like NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune and USA Today.  She has been a national spokesperson for Petco, Crest, Oral B and Febreze. She was also a creator/producer on the NBC/Darren Star TV show, Miss Match starring Alicia Silverstone; the show was based on her life story. And, she is the author of the book, Matchbook: The Diary of a Modern-Day Matchmaker (Simon & Schuster) and writes for Huffington Post and Thought Catalog. For more information visit SamanthasTable.com.

Managing Money and Relationships with Jessica Moorhouse

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Relationships and money can both be difficult subjects. But when you combine them together? It can be master class in stressing out. So let’s break it down before anyone breaks up!

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, now might be a good time for you and your significant other to take a long hard look at how you deal with money in your relationship. It might not sound sexy (mostly because it’s not), but figuring out your personal finances together could be the thing that ensures that this coming Valentine’s Day together isn’t your last one ever.

If you’re in a serious relationship, there might be a lot of questions the two of you have to answer. Do you keep your finances separate or should you combine them? Does one of you primarily handle all the finances, or is that something you two handle together? Do both of you know how much debt the other one has—or is there some deep, dark financial secret that you have yet to tell them?

To get a better idea of how couples can best manage their co-finances, we spoke to Jessica Moorhouse, a personal finance expert and host of the Mo’ Money podcast.

Communication

“I would say the biggest financial challenge for couples is almost always finding the best way to communicate about money,” says Jessica. “Money is still considered taboo, and most of us tie our own self-worth to how much money we make and how much we have in the bank. That’s why it’s still such a difficult subject for couples to discuss because it’s incredibly personal.”

If you want to thrive as a couple,” she continues, “then you need to be on the same page when it comes to your money.”

That means:

  • Learning how much your partner makes
  • Understanding their debt or outstanding loans
  • Recongnizing their spending and savings habits
  • Understanding their budgeting and financial goals

“Once everything is laid out on the table, and you continue to be honest with each other, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to tackle life as a team,” she says.

Monthly Meetings

If you want to make sure that you and your significant other are always on the same page when it comes to finances, then Jessica says that “constant communication” is key. Yet, while staying in touch as frequently as possible about your finances is a great goal to have, for some people it’s probably just not doable.

That’s why Jessica also suggests that you and your spouse hold “monthly money meetings,” as a way to catch up and check in. She says that couples should “Pick a day and time that works best for both of you, set up some food and drink, then start going through your finances together. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to get through everything, and by the end you’ll have a better sense of where you both are and where you are headed.”

To Combine or Not Combine?

This is a tricky question for a lot of couples. Combining finances is only going to work if there is mutual trust between both people in the relationship. And even then, depending on your particular circumstances, it might just not make sense to join your finances together.

That’s why many couples that do trust each other still end keeping their finances separate. And that’s okay! Being joined together in marriage doesn’t actually mean that you have to combine your bank accounts too.

Jessica says that “It’s not a matter of being married or not. It’s a matter of how you and your partner want to manage your money together.” To demonstrate what she means by that, she shares an example from her own life:

“When my husband and I were dating and living together, we talked about how we wanted to manage our money. I wasn’t comfortable combining any of our finances, let alone having a joint credit card. So we decided to keep our finances separate. When we got married, we decided to change things. We’d just moved our lives to a new city and we felt like it made more sense to us at that point in our lives to get a joint credit card and share a joint checking account. We’ve been married three years now and we’ve talked about combining our finances since we see a lot of other married couples do this. But after talking about it at our regular money meetings, we decided that approach wouldn’t work for us.”

So don’t let your marital status dictate your financial status. Like Jessica suggests, you should simply have a direct talk with your partner, fiancé or spouse and find out what arrangement works best for both of you.

Be Honest

When it comes to relationships, honesty is incredibly important. And while telling your spouse that they look great in those new jeans—even when they don’t—might be acceptable as a “little white lie”, the same isn’t true if you’re fibbing about your credit card balance.

Jessica says, “before getting married or moving in together, couples should absolutely be upfront about what their current financial situation is. If you have $50,000 in student loans, you need to tell your partner, even if you fear their reaction. Being completely honest about where you are financially is the best way to start a new life together.”

Share Responsibility

It makes sense to divide up household chores, right? One of you does the dishes and takes out the trash, while the other one cleans the bathrooms and vacuums the den. Splitting up those responsibilities helps ease the workload for both of you.

So it might seem sensible that one of you handles all the financial stuff, like tracking expenses, putting money aside, and paying the bills. After all, taking care of your finances is just another household chore, right? Why not have one of you handle all of it?

Because it doesn’t really work like that.

“One person should never be responsible for all of the finances,” says Jessica. “It should always be a joint venture. That way both of you will have a clear picture of your financial situation.”

Remember earlier in this post, when we were talking about the importance of communication? Well, sharing responsibility for your household’s finances will ensure that both of you are communicating on regular basis. Even if you and your partner are in a tight spot, money-wise, that’s a burden that the two of you should be sharing together.

Track More Than Just Your Spending

For folks who are new to tracking their finances, it can be easy to confuse the amount you’re earning with your net worth. But they’re actually quite different.

Your net worth measures the dollar value everything you own, including your money in the bank. If you have a house? That contributes to your net worth. If you have a 401K, that contributes to your net worth. If you own an incredibly rare Honus Wagner 1909 baseball card, that really contributes to your net worth.

The amount of money you’re making is a factor in your net worth, too. But that’s all it is. One factor out of many. That’s why Jessica suggests that you “not only track your spending but to also track your net worth.”

Tracking your spending is, of course, still very important, so that “you aren’t ever in the dark about where your money went.” But Jessica says that tracking your net worth on a monthly basis “will give you some much-needed motivation to keep on track with your debt repayment, saving and investment goals.”

Relationships aren’t easy. And neither is dealing with money. But follow these tips, and you’ll find that both your relationship and your finances will both get a little bit easier to handle.

Managing Money and Relationships with Jessica Moorhouse
About the Contributor: 

Jessica Moorhouse is a Millennial money expert, award-winning personal finance blogger and host of the Mo’ Money Podcast. She’s featured frequently as a finance expert in The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post and Lifehacker, and is on a mission to teach millennials that they can take control of their lives by taking control of their money.

9 Cheap Ways to Lower Your Winter Energy Bill

8 Cheap Ways to Lower Your Winter Energy Bill


Now that the holidays are over, you’re probably settling in for the winter. But if you haven’t taken the time to properly winterize your home, then all those hours spent snuggling up on the couch could be driving your energy bill through the roof.

Winterizing your home might sound like an expensive proposition—and it certainly can be. But there are also plenty of ways to cut down on your energy costs without spending a ton of money up front.

1. Conduct Your Own Home Energy Audit

“If you’re winterizing on a budget, you should start by doing your own home energy assessment,” says Sarah Brown, a home safety expert with SafeWise.com (@SafeWise). “You need to find your greatest sources of wasted energy before investing in any winterization projects.”

She says that “finding out if your greatest energy losses come from insulation, lighting, heating and cooling or electronics will help you make a wiser investment.”

2. Lower Your Thermostat

Jim Chilsen, spokesman for the Citizens Utility Board (@cubillinois), says that “you can save up to three percent on your energy bills for every degree you lower your thermostat.”

Jim recommends that you “try setting the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees when you’re at home, and turn it down to 62 degrees or lower at bedtime. Just be careful: Drastically dropping the temperature isn’t good for your health, and anything below 55 degrees can freeze your pipes.”

Oh hey. That reminds us…

3. Insulate Your Pipes

If you’re trying to save money, the absolute last thing you want is for your pipes to freeze and burst. That could end up costing you thousands to repair. And taking proper care of your pipes might mean more than just keeping your thermostat at 55 degrees.

According to Peter Duncanson, director of systems development at ServiceMaster Restore, you can “avoid frozen pipes in unheated areas of your home, like basements and attics, by wrapping uninsulated pipes with foam or self-adhesive insulating tape. Any pipes closer to the exterior walls that are exposed, and any water pipes outside should be covered. A six-inch section of pipe insulation foam can cost as little as three dollars—thousands of dollars less than dealing with a burst pipe.”

Other methods to prevent pipe freeze that Duncanson suggests are to “allow kitchen and bath faucets to run slowly to avoid freezing and to open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so warmer air can circulate around pipes.”

(You can also find ServiceMaster Restore on Facebook.)

4. Winterize Your Windows

Here’s a tip. If you can stand by your window and literally feel the cold breeze coming in from the outside, then your windows definitely need to be winterized. All that expensive warm air is leaking right out of your home, forcing your furnace to work over-time to catch up.

“You can buy a window insulation kit for $15 to $25 online or at your local hardware store. It should come with double-sided tape and plastic film for covering the inside of your windows,” says Jim Chilsen.

But buying the kit is only the first step. Luckily, Chilsen also has step-by-step instructions for how to use it.

  • Clean the window frame with a damp cloth or rubbing alcohol.
  • Apply one layer of double-sided tape to the window frame and remove the back cover.
  • Unfold the plastic film that comes with the insulation kit. Adhere the plastic film to the tape starting at the top, move to the bottom, and then finish at the left and right sides.
  • Grab a hair dryer. Use it to shrink the film to provide a better seal around the window and to work out wrinkles. The heat will seal the plastic and window together. Most insulation kits have multiple sheets of plastic, so you should be able to repeat the process for other windows.
  • Optional: For extra insulation, place bubble wrap over the window, as a first layer, and then put the plastic sheet over that. Use packing tape to connect different pieces of bubble wrap.

5. Lower the Temperature for Your Water Heater

The little details can make a big difference. Take your water heater for instance…

Sarah Brown from SafeWise says, “Set your water heater to 120 degrees. Most manufacturers leave water heaters at 140 degrees. By turning it down your water heater won’t have to work as hard to heat up the cold water which will save you money.”

6. Take Care of Your Furnace

“If there is only one thing you will be doing to prepare a house for the winter, it should be to pay attention to the heating system,” says Jason Roberts (@jasonroberts328) of My Handyman Services.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a professional furnace inspection, Roberts has some pointers:

  • Check and replace the heating filters. Specialists claim it’s best to replace the filters every two to three months. These are not that expensive especially compared to the issues they may cause us if we leave them without proper maintenance. 
  • Spend some time cleaning the vents. Dust and dirt build up over time and this will make your system work inefficiently. 
  • Inspect the ductwork. Look for dirt or streaking that may be a sign of air leaks. These need to be sealed by a professional. 

7. Insulate Your Doors

“The exterior doors in your home may have air leaks,” says Jeffrey Weldler, an Interior Decorating Expert at Vänt Wall Panels (@VantPanels).

“This means your furnace will run long, your HVAC system will be less efficient, and you will have to pay more for your heating bill. Even though this is more commonly found in older homes, it can occur in newer homes as well.”

His solution is to “pick up strip insulation to apply to the bottom of the door, and also push a rug against the door’s bottom to prevent the air from getting in.”

8. Check the Insulation in Your Attic

Hot air rises, right? So it’s probably not surprising that a poorly insulated attic can lead to massive heating loss. Luckily, Jim Chilsen has some solid advice.

“Look across your attic floor,” he says. “If the insulation is even with or below the attic floor joists, it’s time to add more.”

9. Use a Ceiling Fan to Increase Warm Air Flow

Chilsen also points out that you can “circulate the heat in your home with the help of a ceiling fan. In the winter, run the fan clockwise (from your position, looking up at it) to pull warm air down from the ceiling.”

Keeping cozy this winter doesn’t have to cost you a bundle. Follow these tips and stay warm longer for less money. Happy hibernation!

Contributor Sarah Brown - OppLoans

Contributor Jim Chilsen - OppLoans

Contributo Peter Duncanson - OppLoans

Contributor Jason Roberts - OppLoans

Jeffrey Weldler

About the Contributors: 

Sarah Brown is a home and community safety expert for SafeWise.  She loves making the most of her free time by spending it outdoors and with family and friends.

Jim Chilsen is the spokesman for the Citizens Utility Board (@cubillinois), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has been representing the interests of residential utility customers across Illinois since 1984.

Peter Duncanson is the Director of Systems Development for ServiceMaster Restore and Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Peter holds many certifications and his expert knowledge on all things home-related helps readers take simple, yet highly effective steps to safeguard their home and their family.

Jason Roberts is a senior marketing specialist part of My Handyman Services team—a London based home improvement company. He has a degree in marketing from City, University of London.

Jeffrey Weldler is the Marketing Director and Home Design Expert at Vänt Wall Panels. Vänt Wall Panels are the most innovative and user-friendly wall décor system ever created. Vänt is inspiring living at its finest. They’re perfect for every room in the house, from the kitchen and bedroom to the living room and office. Learn more about Vänt by visiting Vänt Wall Panels.