admin / June 12, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide To Travel Bargains

Right now it seems like we can’t win when it comes to traveling. Gas prices are creeping up to $4 a gallon, which puts a squeeze on both road and air travel. But as Budget Smart Girls know, there’s always a way round high prices. Whether you’re hitting the road or taking to the friendly skies this summer, here are some tips and sights to help your money stretch further.

Airfares
You might have found somewhere cheap to stay, but now it’s getting there on a budget. A couple of sites to check out include www.cheapflights.com and www.cheaptickets.com. Last year I chatted with Marita Hudson Thomas who is part of the CheapTickets Cheap Squad and she offers the following tips-
1. We all know about traveling in the off-season to save money. Did you know each vacation spot has what’s known as a ‘shoulder-season’? Right now that’s places like Mexico and the Caribbean.
2. Don’t be picky about the days you travel. Most people like weekends, but Budget Smart Girls can save big time if they don’t mind traveling on Tuesday, Wednesday, and sometimes Thursdays. And if you can, avoid a Saturday-to-Saturday vacation.
3. Be flexible, if you have no problem with taking an early morning or late night flight, you’ll get the best deals.
4. Opt for an air/hotel package. On average you can save around $200.

Disneyworld
If a trip to see the world’s most famous mouse is in your plans this summer and you’re in a large group or hate hotels, check out this site that offers homes that are available for rent in the Orlando area www.allstarvacationhomes.com One of my cousins, his wife and their two children rented one last year and said it was a great idea. The house had its own swimming pool, the kids had a playroom equipped with toys, they saved a ton of money by cooking their own meals in the kitchen, and they got free car rental included in the price.

New York, New York
Are you thinking about a trip to the Big Apple or surrounding area but worried the price of a hotel room is going to drain your whole budget? The New Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism suggest staying on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Getting back to the New York side is an easy ferry or train ride away. It takes ten minutes and it’s another way to do some sightseeing.

From Home to Home
If you travel to different locations each year, one thing you might want to check out is a membership ($99.95 per year) with Home Exchange where you can swap homes with other vacationers. www.homeexchange.com

Eating Out
Eating out three times a day can quickly drain your vacation budget, but there are a couple of ways around it.
1. Book a hotel room with a kitchen or at least a fridge and/or microwave. Eat breakfast and lunch in your room and save your money for a nice meal out every evening.
2. Stop by a local supermarket and pick up some items for a packed lunch. If you’re traveling by air and don’t want to take a cooler with you, buy one of the cheap Styrofoam coolers you can pick up for less than $5 at supermarkets or drugstores. Then load it up with goodies to take out and about with you. This is a great idea if you’re going to an amusement park. Food there can be double the price. And you can still keep the kids happy by eating homemade sandwiches and then letting them choose a dessert like ice cream from one of the park vendors.
3. Look for a hotel that includes a free breakfast with the price of the room. Some can just be coffee and a pastry, but others include waffles, cereal bars, yogurt and juice.
4. Be an early bird, just like your hometown, many tourist areas have restaurants that offer a reduced price on meals if you eat during their slow time, which is normally 3-5 p.m. It’s the same food, but sometimes $5 cheaper. And eating early means more time for evening sightseeing.
5. Ask the Locals. If you’re looking for cheap places to eat, ask someone who lives there. Most people can direct you to eateries with great food and reasonable prices.
6. Check the local tourist office-this doesn’t just apply to food, but tickets for amusement parks, etc. Most tourist offices have discount coupons and books they hand out.

admin / June 10, 2008

Some Natural Products Worth Checking Out

While I carefully watch how I spend my money, I’m also careful about the products I buy. If I’m able to squeeze a few natural and/or organic items into the budget, so much the better.

Here are four such items I think are worth checking out.

Noble Juices
Noble Juices is a Florida based company that produce fruit juice such as blood orange and tangerine cranberry. The flavors are very intense and what I think is budget friendly about them is you can dilute them or add half sparkling water and make one bottle go even further. I made ice pop treats with them too. And even used the blood orange flavor in a salad dressing. www.noblejuice.com

Hansen’s Natural
I’ve been buying Hansen’s soda for many years. They now have a new line called Hansen’s Sparkling Refreshment. They’re available in regular and sugar free varieties with such flavors as blueberry/pomegranate, cranberry/grapefruit, dragonfruit and Valencia orange.
The regular variety contains just 90 calories per can and all are 100% caffeine, sodium and preservative free. They don’t add high fructose corn syrup and are instead sweetened with real cane sugar. I loved all four of the flavors, and while I’m not a fan of grapefruit, I loved this one. You can really taste the true flavors of all the fruits. I recommend them as a refreshing treat when the temperatures rise.
www.hansens.com

Surya Brasil Organic Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer
Call me obsessed with keeping germs at bay, but I always carry a bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse. I was thrilled to hear about this organic variety. It contains no parabens or petrochemicals and is gentle on sensitive skin.
It smells wonderful too. Your hands don’t smell like rubbing alcohol after you’ve used it. And another plus is this one doesn’t burn or sting if you have a cut on your fingers. And best of all it doesn’t make your hands feel sticky after you’ve used it. It’s available in two sizes. One is ideal for your purse, the other, either your car or even to pop into the picnic cooler this summer. 2.02 fl. Oz. $4.99, 6.76 fl oz. $14.99
www.suryacosmetics.com

Natural Dentist
If you read my blog about an ounce of prevention, you’ll know one way to save money on dental bills is to take good care of your teeth. Here’s a line of products from a company called Natural Dentist that might help you do just that. They offer both toothpaste and mouthwashes. No petroleum by products and no artificial dyes.
www.thenaturaldentist.com

admin / June 9, 2008

The Blog-An Ounce of Prevention

Last week I forced myself to do something I hate…visit the dentist for my six-month cleaning and check up. Like many people, I’m petrified to even step through the door of a dentist’s office. My fear started when I was two years old and Mom took me along to sit with her while she had a cavity filled. Her theory was if I saw first hand that there was nothing to be afraid of, then I’d have no fear getting my teeth checked out. A sound theory, but that day something went horribly wrong. The dentist let the drill slip in mom’s mouth. I was quickly thrown out of the room and I remember my mom going around with a badly bruised face and being in lots of pain. After that, I associated the dentist’s office with a place I’d rather not visit. For years they’d have to literally drag me in there, my feet scraping the ground so they couldn’t pull me inside. That was until a few years ago when I broke a tooth and ended up with a $1,200 bill for a crown. The dentist said something that made perfect sense. If you go for regular check ups it might just be a filling you need, if you leave it longer, it could be a crown, and if you really neglect your teeth, it’s a root canal, and the price just keeps going up and up. Since then I’ve been going for my six-month check up and last week was happy to say I left the dentist’s office with no work to be done. The moral here, a little money spent up front for cleaning and the check up and proper maintenance at home, yes, flossing, brushing after every meal, can save you big bucks down the road. And it’s amazing how you can get over your fear of something when the reward to saving money.

Last week I also found another way to save some money. For years I’ve been using a toner after I wash my face. After all, wasn’t that what we were always told to do? The toner cleans away the residence from the cleanser and prepares your skin for the moisturizer? Seems like that’s not always the case. I was reading an article by a skin care expert and she said that’s where most of us waste our money. In fact, people with dry or sensitive skin, like me, can actually be doing more harm than good. And even eye cream isn’t an essential part of a skin care line up. That’s two items I can now cross off my list when I go shopping. Only wish I’d known about that sooner.

So here’s something to think about this week, are you using something that you don’t really need? I bet we can all come up with at least one product or even service.

admin / June 5, 2008

Portion Control-One Way To Be Budget Smart

A couple of things got me thinking about one easy way to make your food dollar stretch even further, eating less. I don’t mean starving yourself to save money, but simply cutting back on the portion sizes. There’s been lots of media coverage about this topic. Most of us eat more calories than we actually need, and hence, pack on the pounds. And restaurants serve us portion sizes that could easily feed two people.
The two things that got me thinking about this topic were, one, I was sent this very interesting article ‘Lose Weight and Eat Well on $6 a Day’. And the second thing was that last weekend we went out for a bike ride and decided to stop at a local restaurant for lunch. It was a casual eat in or take out venue that serves stir frys, rice bowls etc. All very healthful stuff, but the portion sizes were enormous. I ordered the teriyaki bowl and was already full half way through the meal.
So here’s something to try. For a week, cut down on the portion sizes you serve. You might be hungry at first because your body and yes, your eyes and brain have to get used to seeing less food on your plate. I’m taking a guess that after a month of this new way of eating that food will actually go further and you might lose a pound or two ready for swimsuit season.
If you’re eating out, plan to share one meal with your dinner guest. Or make a conscious decision to eat only half the food in the restaurant and to take away the other half for another meal.
And another trick is to eat more slowly. A couple of years ago I had some dental work done which forced me to eat at a slower pace. One thing I quickly discovered was I actually ate less and hence dropped a few pounds.
If you’re not sure what the ideal portion size is, here’s one of my favorite food related sites that explains it really well, www.mealsmatter.org/eatingforhealth/topics/article.aspx?articleID=52
And here’s the article I was sent. It was written by Michael Ozner, MD, who is a nationally known cardiologist and author of The Miami Mediterranean Diet: Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease. You can visit his Web site at www.cardiacoz.com.
While some of the recipe suggestions are tried in with his book, it will give you some idea of just how well you can eat for just $6 a day. And if you don’t have the book you could try substituting your own recipes. I like the idea that he focuses on lots of fresh produce and other low cost items, like rice pudding and baked apples that can be turned into a tasty meal.

Lose Weight and Eat Well on $6 a Day
By Michael Ozner, MD

Government figures show that we’re in the midst of the worst case of food inflation since the 1990s. During these tough economic times, it’s possible to eat delicious home-cooked meals that not only save you a bundle of money, but help you live longer and lose up to 8 pounds a week! It costs a lot less to eat three meals a day at home than to dine out–even at cheap, fast-food restaurants. What’s more, these scrumptious meals are satisfying, help you trim down without trying, and have been shown to prevent a host of illnesses and diseases. What’s not to love?

Here are some daily menu ideas from The Miami Mediterranean Diet, along with an approximate per-serving cost, to show how you can feed yourself all day long for less than one trip to a typical fast-food joint.

4 Breakfast Ideas:
Oatmeal with raisins and almonds, $.25/serving
Wheat toast with chunky peanut butter and honey, $.25/serving
Cheesy Apple Raisin Cinnamon Omelet (p. 123), $.75/serving
Broccoli and Cheese Frittata (p. 128), $.80/serving
Serve any of the above with one fresh fruit (e.g., orange, apple, banana, pear), $.50/each

4 Sample Lunch Ideas:
Savory Mediterranean Chickpea Soup (p. 91), $1.25/serving
Pizza Margherita (p. 109), $1.00/serving
Veggie Wrap (p. 215), $1.10/serving
Smoked Fish and Roasted Pepper Sandwich (p. 221), $1.00/serving
Serve any of the above with a vegetable salad or fruit salad, $.75/serving

4 Sample Dinner Entrees:
Chicken with Pomegranate Sauce (p. 175), $2.25/serving
Shrimp in Spicy Black Bean Sauce (p. 178), $2.50/serving
Pasta with Red Clam Sauce (p. 170), $2.40/serving
Florentine Roasted Pork (p. 174), $2.50/serving

4 Sample Dinner Side Dishes:
Greek Rice (p. 185), $1.35/serving
Broccoli with Fresh Garlic (p. 188), $1.25/serving
Sautéed Vegetables with Fresh Thyme (p. 199), $1.20/serving
Spicy Couscous (p. 198), $.90/serving

4 Sample Desserts
Yogurt Nut Cake (p. 236), $.75/serving
Sweet Mango Mousse (p. 237), $1.35/serving
Sweet Italian Rice Pudding (p. 240), $.85/serving
Crème de Banana Baked Apples (p. 241), $1.00/serving

admin / June 5, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl Guide to One Way To Make Money

Etsy and a Chat with Rachael Ward
If you read my Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Selling Arts and Crafts, you might remember I mentioned an online community called Etsy www.etsy.com. It just so happened that after I wrote that piece I was working on another article, this one was about cosmetics. When I went looking for people to feature I was contacted by Rachael Ward, who by coincidence sells her line of cosmetics on Etsy. As I planned to write about places that Budget Smart Girls can sell homemade items, and Etsy being one of them, I asked Rachael if she’d like to share her experience, what it’s like to sell online, and how it’s helped her grow her business.

As you’ll see by her answers it’s an inexpensive way to launch a business, there’s low risk, low overhead. You can run it as a part time business, and best of all you can connect with, and yes, makes sales from all over the world.

Etsy is the ideal venue if you have homemade goods your want to sell. Visit the site, check out their requirements and see if it’s right for you. And if you want to check out Rachael’s site visit it at www.mixologymakeup.etsy.com
She very kindly sent me samples to try and I love this line of makeup. I’m already hooked on the eye shadow. It’s the first one I’ve ever used that lasts all day and doesn’t form ‘crease lines’ on my eyelids.

Here’s what Rachel had to say about her business and experience with Etsy.

When did you start your makeup business?

I started “playing” with making makeup in 2005 and my friends kept asking me to make them some makeup too and so in June 2006 I launched it to the public after finalizing the starting products of my line.

Did you launch it on Etsy from day one?

I discovered Etsy about a month later. July 18th 2007 to be exact.

How did you hear about Etsy?

I heard about Etsy through another supplier and I’d never heard of it before and decided to look it up.

What attracted you to selling your products on Etsy?

I like the idea that everything was handmade and seemed very artsy and chic. I looked though other sellers on there and just wanted to be apart of it! I signed up right away and spent the next 14 hours taking photos and building my shop. Needless to say, I was a little cross-eyed by the end.

If someone’s just starting out in business, do you think that Etsy is a good place to be, is it easy to use?

I drive all my friends crazy because I promote Etsy like crazy! I always ask “do you make something? Well, then get it on Etsy!” I firmly believe I would not have the customer base and business I do today if not for Etsy and my great organic makeup. I can do all the local events I want, but I would not have customers in Lithuania, Singapore, Canada, and the UK if not for Etsy. And besides all that, it was incredibly easy to use; setting up your shop is akin to any social networking site, meaning it walks you through the process and it is all cleanly laid out for you.

Any lessons you’ve learned through selling online?

Oh wow, try to be as clear as possible about your policies, shipping, products, etc…. It will save you time in emailing in the end. Always be kind to your customers even if they are half way around the world – they offer the best free advertising you can get! Be creative and take really clean photos because they sell your product.

Do you sell your makeup on any other sites, or through mail order?

Right now I am only on Etsy, it has done more for me than any other avenue so far…. I have listed on similar site just testing and nothing has happened. I do have products in salons, spas, and boutiques and I do live events and that about covers it.

How has Etsy helped your business grow?

In a lot of ways Etsy IS my business. It gives me exposure to thousands of people who otherwise would never hear the words Mixology Makeup. It has also helped me in raising money for Blood:Water Mission because so much traffic comes through and that has been the biggest blessing of all.

Do you have any advice for women who are thinking about starting a business?
Do it! Do it now! You have nothing to lose and you never know until you try… The worst that can happen is no one buys your stuff and you are out a few listing fees ($0.20). Look for something unique to do in your business that will give you an edge and set you apart from the other people who may be doing the same thing. Be honest, simple, but true and love what you make it comes out in your final product. Also, another part of my business plan is to use my business to help others because even a little bit can help. We sponsor Blood:Water Mission, which is putting in clean water wells in Africa, we donate $1 per product sold and $1 can save 1 life in Africa.

admin / June 2, 2008

The Blog-The Four Day Work Week

Seems likes everyone’s talking about a four-day work week. Some companies and schools have already switched to a shorter week hoping it will save gas. Another idea is to allow more employees to become telecommuters. When you’re a telecommuter you not only save money on gas but also food and clothing too. One, you don’t have to dress in expensive attire; jeans and t-shirts are perfectly okay. And if you’re working from home, you’re more likely to eat in and not out. And not to mention there’s no vending machine to wander off to when you get hungry. Another plus, if you work for yourself, you can get lots more done and hence make more money.

Speaking of time is money; I’ve been selling books I no longer want on Half.com. My philosophy is, it might not make me lots of money, but it’s money I wouldn’t have if I’d chosen to just throw them away. Last week I sold two books and went along to the post office to mail them. I’d planned to run some other errands and do some grocery shopping while I was out and about and hoped to be back to my desk around noon. When I stepped through the door at the post office, I realized that I was going to be there longer than I thought. The line was almost to the door and only one clerk was serving. They have a digital clock on one of the walls and it stares straight at you while you wait. The line didn’t seem to be moving and I was thinking about the work I could be doing if I didn’t have to wait in line. Plus, the money I was making selling these books probably didn’t amount to anything really because I was taking extra time away from my desk. It took close to 30 minutes for me to mail the package. Sad thing is it happens most of the time.

Are you wondering just how much food and gas really costs these days? There’s inflation, consumer price index, etc. I get confused just trying to figure it all out, but I found this easy to understand article on Yahoo!, here’s the link http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/105142/sizing-the-uptick

And one way to make money is to win a contest. Information about this one landed in my e-mail box a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d pass along the info to you.

Put a Face on Fun
Balloon Time running a contest through March 15, 2009. Parents with children ages 3-11 are eligible to enter. Grand prize is $1,500 toward your child’s education.
Check out full details at www.putafaceonfun.com

Check out the new Budget Smart Girl Store Dismiss