Budget-Smart Blog

Creative ideas on a Creative Budget

Saving money with Staycations

June 19th, 2014

When Staying in Town for Vacation Makes Sense

Recently, a trend towards “stay-cations” (when you take time off of work and spend money at home – doing things locally instead of traveling) has helped thousands of families to find money for things they love. This blog is dedicated to helping you find great ways to building equity instead of “renting” a place for a few days in a far away land.

It Might Not be Sexy

It’s always fun and exciting to hit the road – or the skies to go on vacation. And it’s sexy to tell co-workers that you went somewhere exotic. But what if you shifted your paradigm and invested money somewhere else. What if you made some purchases during a “staycation” that come from your vacation budget? Learn some of the top recommendations for an overall improved lifestyle year after year that will stretch your vacation budget far beyond a week in Cabo.

These guys are hilarious:

I will be presenting you with some ideas in the next few weeks / months that have increased my yearly enjoyment of my vacation spend and built a new kind of equity – the kind that helps my family enjoy life just a little bit more each day instead of only for a few weeks of the year. Oh, and ya you can still take your vacation time off and enjoy time well-spent without spending all your money. Stay tuned ;) – Janice

Vacationing during Storm Season: Choosing Wisely

November 22nd, 2014

For my honeymoon, we went to Cancun, Mexico on June 12th. This is right in the middle of the “hurricane season” and right in the middle of “hurricane alley.” Many people like to travel during these months of the year, from June until November. It’s usually a good idea to go somewhere that at least has some sort of evacuation plan in place, just in case the worst happens.

As we were there in Cancun, there were reports that there was a hurricane coming and was still a few hundred miles away from the shoreline. We didn’t have to evacuate because the hurricane was not to reach landfall until after we left.

Here’s the hurricane footage that destroyed our resort at El Capitan Lafytte:

We took off on the appointed day about a week after we got there and watched the news to see what had happened. As it turns out, our entire resort that we stayed at was totally wiped out. It was a really great spot on the beach too! But we could have been in a way worse way if we had been around for the hurricane. I didn’t hear of any tragic deaths, but there was an awful lot of property damage and loss.

What to Look For in a Good Vacation Spot during Storm Season

You want to be sure the spot you are looking for has a good storm protection plan and a good evacuation plan. Ask the folks who work there what the plan is in case of an emergency.

You need to be sure there is some sort of insurance on the property in case you lose your car or other possessions. Be sure to ask around before you book to see what is included in their vacationer insurance policies.

Check the local weather before traveling to ensure you aren’t flying directly into an eminent storm – this is most avoidable.

Be sure there is a lightning rod or some sort of lightning protection system in place just in case you have any electronics you’ll be plugging in to the wall.

Get your own gear into your suite case. Pack a poncho, umbrella, extra dry food and perhaps some bottled water in case of such an emergency. Also .. ahem, how about packing a knife in your check-in luggage, just in case it gets too crazy with the local looting etc… (just a thought, take it or leave it).

Also, don’t forget your favorite flashlight and other emergency gear like matches, a radio and be sure to have a battery charger for your cell phone in case you run out of electrical power for a few days.

I hope this advice spares you from a horrible vacation some day!

Vacation Rentals in Luxury and On a Budget

October 28th, 2014

When you do end up deciding on where to head out of the state or country for vacation, what amenities are you looking for at your hotel or nearby? Many people don’t realize that most hotels these days have gotten rid of regular bath tubs and replaced them with either large showers or step in tubs which are great, but only suitable for one person (only upsetting if you want to bathe with a partner ;), but they give you the awesome feeling that you’re at an expensive spa. This, for many is a deal breaker – or deal maker (lots of news stories on this right now).

The Spa Treatment Out of the Country

envy walk in tubWe went to Mexico 3 years ago and stayed at a great spot in Cabo San Lucas. They had all the amenities of a 5 star resort including massages, buffet with delicious food, live music and so much more. But the thing we both enjoyed the most was the massage table down the beach in a little tent, right on the beach. For $20 we each got a one-hour massage, making the entire day seem relaxing and like we were actually on vacation. But when we went back to our hotel room we both thought it would be nice to take a soak in a bathtub but our room only had a shower. I realize this is a total “first world problem” but for a lot of folks, especially older folks, bathing is a luxury that they would love to have included in their experience.

Spa-like Bathrooms, Massages, Great food. How did we get it for only $199?

Nevertheless, we were glad to be there and we just steamed in the hot shower after a long day of sun, relaxing, margaritas and massages. This was one of the times when we left the kids with grandma and didn’t feel guilty. Now, the key to the entire vacation was that it only cost us $199 for 6 days and 5 nights plus airfare from LAX. How? We had to agree to sit through one of those cool (ahem…) timeshare presentations. That was the only catch to our luxury and spa-like vacation in Cabo Wabo. I didn’t mind the sales presentation too much except for the fact that they kept giving me Coronas – so by the end of the presentation we almost bought a timeshare (whew! glad we didn’t) but didn’t – and ended up finding them for sale on ebay :).

So, be sure you have your travel savvy on when you want to go for the ultimate experience of a 5 star hotel. You get a 5 star dining experience, bathing experience, and sleeping experience all for a 2 star price (or whatever a Marriott next to the airport costs for 5 nights). This was a fantastic voyage for us into the “timeshare” presentation world of vacationing. You usually have to make $50k or more / year, have to be married, need a credit card in your name and have to be over 30yrs old … usually. Just do a search of timeshares in Mexico or wherever else you want to go and they will schedule you with a really sweet deal. Good luck and happy vacationing!

Staying Happy Helps You Make More Money

September 16th, 2014

There has been quite a bit of new research around what is called the “facial feedback hypothesis” – basically stating that your facial expressions are related to your emotions (depression, happiness etc…), which are related to your income potential, believe it or not.

There was a local news story I read on line about a study that involved a San Diego botox doctor who’s patients are reporting an increase in happiness because the look on their face is better than it was before getting a treatment. Now I’m of course no stranger to what a smile can do when I’m on the receiving end from someone who gives me a smile. But I had no idea what the effects might be of me giving a smile – even if nobody sees it – can have on me, myself. It turns out that smiling can actually alter you mood. Try it right now and see if you don’t experience a small amount of joy lifting your soul. I am doing it as I write this blog, can you feel it? :)

Happiness Increases Earning Potential


Since I know you’ve been saving a ton of dough using “staycations” instead of spending a ton on leaving town on an airplane, you could add to those savings and increase your wealth by being happy. Read more about how happiness influences your earning potential here> . It’s pretty exciting to be able to simply smile, or get some wrinkles removed (maybe you could spend your saved money on that botox mentioned above) and ultimately increase your overall earning potential, which compounded over time can have a significant impact on your level of comfort. After all, money doesn’t make you happy, happiness comes from the inside. Money increases your level of comfort. So if it makes no difference as to whether you have it as to whether you’re happy or not, you might as well have it and at least be comfortable. So give a smile not just to a stranger at the store, but to yourself. You deserve it, you awesome person you.

Save Money on Furniture in the Long Run

September 5th, 2014

I recently watched Dave Ramsey give a good talk about saving money to buy furniture. He gave the advice that instead of going in to debt, you should save and pay cash, and the “90 days same as cash” isn’t really same as cash because all stores know that 75% of the people who come in for that deal end up paying interest. It’s not the same as cash because people who walk in to a store to buy a piece of furniture that has a sticker price of $2,500 can barter if they have cash – interesting concept Dave!

Industrial Strength Furniture will Last You a Lifetime

A great point to note is that when you buy well, you will not end up having to buy often. In other words, buying cheap furniture at a place like IKEA usually means that you end up purchasing furniture every year or two, and definitely after each time you move. In the long run, say after 10 years of buying dressers at IKEA, a new one every year and a half or two years, you will end up spending close to $1500. If you flip this around and spend something like $1500 upfront, on a piece that will last you a lifetime, then you are actually making an investment, especially if the piece of furniture grows in its value over time instead of depreciates or falls apart like so many box store items. Check out a cool modern industrial furniture store called combine9.com and get some real authentic vintage industrial or modern industrial furniture that will literally last you a lifetime, and even become something that you will hand down to your children. Instead of throwing money away on throw a way items, you are actually building equity if you buy things that last a lifetime. It’s almost like the difference between renting a home in owning it!

Saving Money While Gaining an Amazing Piece of Vintage or Modern Furniture

Not only will you be saving money in the long run, you will be living in your home with a true piece of useful artwork. If you find a piece that truly matches your personality and style, it will become something that you will not only be proud of , But will become the centerpiece of any room. And when you are proud of something in that room, the chances are, you are going to take better care of everything else in the room, a double money saver!! So perhaps the old adage is true, spend money on the right stuff So you don’t have to spend money on a lot of stuff. That is our budget – smart tip for the week! Find anything worth sharing? Shared here, we love to hear comments. -@Janice  :-)

Keep Your Healthy Habits when you Travel

August 30th, 2014

Juicing while on Vacation Makes the Vacation Worth it!

Juicing is a great lifestyle choice, as it can improve both the state of your health and your waistline. Like anything, however, there are certain things you need to know. The advice in this article should be helpful to you on your “juicing journey”, whether you are a new or veteran juicer.

If you go on vacation, it’s probably no secret that you’re there to relax and enjoy yourself. But what happens to many folks is that they get out of their rhythm – out of their good habits like daily meditation or prayer, out of working out, and out of a healthy diet in exchange for comfort food and probably plenty of alcohol.

But it doesn’t have to COST you your HEALTH to go on vacation. Read on for some awesome ways to come back from vacation without a guilty feeling.

What to Juice With

Wheat grass is only usable by us when it has been juiced. We physically can’t process the fibers when it is in plant form. And not just any blender will work, you really need a nice Vitamix blender. Learning to enjoy wheat grass will provide your body with benefits from nourishing your kidneys, providing vitalization to your skin and body, and removing toxic metals from your body’s cells.

Keep a fresh stock of cut and washed fruits and vegetables on hand at all times. If you have to run to the store every time you want to make juice, you’ll never use that juicer. By having the fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to use, you will make juicing quick and convenient.

Making healthy juice from vegetables is wonderful, however, do not go overboard with variety. Stick to using 2-3 vegetables in your juice blends and incorporate apple into the mix. You will minimize the amount of flavors you are trying to combine and the apple will add the right amount of sweet to the mix for extra enjoyment.

The Quiet One

If you can’t afford to juice with organic fruit and vegetables, don’t worry about it. It’s nice to have pesticide-free items, but you can only work with what you have available. Wash your produce in a mixture of 8 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide and 3 tablespoons of baking soda to get all the nasty stuff off. Rinse your produce well before using.

When it comes to juicing, one thing that you want to keep in mind is that it is a good idea to stock up on a variety of different fruits and vegetables. This is good to do because it will help to ensure that you do not become tired of a certain taste. It will also make it possible to vary the types of juice you make.

When it comes to juicing, one thing that you want to keep in mind is to be sure that you stay away from certain types of dry or squishy products when buying your ingredients. This is important because certain fruits and vegetables such as bananas and squash are just simply not suited for juicing.

Using wheat-grass in your juice is an excellent way to add a ton of tasty nutrients to the final product. Start with a little bit and increase how much you push through the machine until it’s all fed into the juicer. Follow with a hard fruit or vegetable to clean out the machine.

Juicing fresh fruits and vegetables will be a delight to your taste-buds. Juicing is a great way to try vegetables or fruits that you have never tried. If you are concerned that you might not like vegetable juice or prefer something sweeter, put in some apple or other fruit.

Reading the instruction manual that came with your juicer will help you make the best juice possible. The manual will advise you of which fruits or vegetables that may require the skin to be removed. It will also tell you which produce does not juice well, such as bananas and avocados.

Keep your juicing regime simple. If you make it too complicated you’ll be less likely to stick with it. Instead of using elaborate juicing recipes with several different types of produce, just stick with 2 or 3 vegetables. Apples blend nicely with many different vegetables and lend a bit of sweetness too.

When it comes to juicing, one thing that you want to keep in mind is the fact that you do not need to depend on multivitamins or other supplements as much when using your juicer on a regular basis. This is beneficial because it will help you financially and give you a fun and tasty way to obtain the same nutrients.

In regards to juicing, it is important to consider the fact that the nutrients in many of the ingredients you use, will have a direct impact on your appearance. This is important because you want to look and feel your best and juicing will help you do so because of the natural and cost efficient benefits to your nails, skin and hair.

In regards to juicing, you can simply drink the juice by itself or you can us the juice in either a frozen beverage or smoothie. This will help you to mix it up and keep things interesting and tasty.

Use cranberries! In regards to juicing, it is important to consider the benefits that cranberries can provide! As long as you care for their taste, cranberries will assist with infections of the urinary tract, as well as, the everyday benefit of helping to remove toxins from your body. Also, cranberries provide a great distinct taste that compliment many other foods.

Health Benefits

Not every fruit or vegetable provides less calories than it takes to digest, so research the items you’d like to include in your juice recipes to see which are highly caloric or contain a lot of sugar. These items should be used in moderation, so one per recipe is a good maximum.

A great juicing tip is to not overdo it if you’re relatively new to juicing. Our bodies need time to adjust to changes. If you start drinking super healthy green juices, you might find yourself making several trips to the bathroom every day. Moderation is the key when it comes to juicing.

Turn to juicing to help lower your cholesterol levels in a safe, medicine-free manner. Make sure to be tested regularly and stay under the care of a medical professional while attempting this as treatment. Produce to use are apples, blueberries, garlic, kale, or kiwi, which all have nutrients which will reduce bad cholesterol in the blood.

Drinking fresh, homemade juice can help you lose weight and deal with a myriad of health issues. With the tips from this article, you are now ready to get started with this great diet change. Go buy some fresh produce or grow your own. Enjoy your “juicing journey!”

Save Money by Getting Your Credit Score Restored

August 12th, 2014

Steps To A Better Credit Score

With the current economy, many people are in need of credit restoration. Whether you need a complete overhaul of your credit rating or just some tweaking here and there, this article suggests some ways to get the credit repair process started.

Get a copy of your credit report prior to doing anything else. There are many sites where you can pay for this and at least one that is completely free for one report a year. Get your credit report, study it, and then figure out how you are going to go about getting it to a healthy place.

Contact your creditors directly for information on your account. When armed with this information, you’ll be better able to decide which accounts get top priority for payment. Dealing with these critical accounts before others can help save you a lot of money in the long run. In order to take some of the pressure off of you, attempt to set up payment plans for your accounts.

Anything that is negative on your credit report should be documented. It is important to document each bad thing on your report. Remember that some of the negative information may be a mistake, and challenging it could instantly improve your credit. After identifying mistaken information on your report, have it corrected by working with the business or organization that made the claim.

It is important that you know what your rights are when it comes to collection agencies. Collection agencies cannot legally threaten you with the prospect of jail time to force you to pay a debt. You should know your state’s laws regarding debt collection. Debt collectors have no right to threaten or verbally assault you.

Get Out of Debt

You should aim for the balance of your credit cards to be around 30% or less of your limit. Keeping your balance below 30% makes the payments easier to make every month. Exceeding 30 percent hurts you financially.

Try to negotiate a payment plan for any bills that have entered collection. You can even do this before your outstanding debts are turned over to collections. Not taking the call of a debt collector can exacerbate the problem. They can help you out, but you have to talk to them to figure out the best way to pay them. Let them know you are doing your best, but circumstances are not working in your favor. It may also be possible to reach an agreement to lower your amount owed, or set up a payment plan that you are capable of meeting the payment requirements. Once your creditors realize that you are serious about paying off your debt, they will often find ways to make it easier for you to do so.

Using the suggestions in this article will allow you to maintain a good credit score. There have been a lot of tips discussed that you can implement right now to restore your credit.

Ireland and Scotland Vacation in Luxury

August 10th, 2014

If you’ve ever been to Europe, then I hope you were able to book a tour to Ireland or Scotland with Ireland and Scotland Luxury Tours. We heard about the lush beauty of Ireland and Scotland but traveling there never became a real option because of our budget but we saved up by taking a few “staycations” instead of traveling locally and it really paid off. Above all other European destinations where language can be a barrier, Ireland was the most amazing and rapturing historical and nostalgic trip we could have imagined. As a childhood fan of the Disney castles, the wonder never left me as I anticipated in great hope what it might be like to see a real life castle up front.

Irish Castle Vacation

My husband and I were able to visit the castles of Ireland at a truly amazing place called Kylemore Abbey. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be to take a nice castle tour of Ireland, then this is the trip for you. You can get on board with a chauffeur who will drive you through the countryside either in a personal tour or a group tour (we did group, less expensive option). The cool thing about traveling with an agency is that you get the in-house experts who know the land as locals and will take you on excursions around the areas that are less-traveled by foreigners. They can even turn you on to nightlife in Ireland if you’re interested in that. If you’re more in to something like a good coach tour, then perhaps a bus ride through another of our favorite highlights, the Blarney Stone to the Cliffs of Moher tour. It was truly one of the most unforgettable tours we have ever been on, including the amazing stateside tours of our national monuments.

Scotland Luxury and Leisure Tour

If you’re in Ireland, then you might as well plan on visiting Scotland. Don’t make the mistake of doing one without the other. We wrapped up our European tour with some much needed leisure in Scotland. On our last Saturday, my husband played golf at the St Andrews Links and I went on to the Glasgow School of Art for a nice slow day. We finished that evening with some great Scotch whiskey tasting and a wonderful salmon dinner. I don’t think we could have found a nicer hotel to stay in, it was probably a four star in Edinburgh (Scotland’s capital). Everyone there was super helpful with ideas of where to go to shop, sight seeing and the great restaurants around the area.

So if you can, get yourself on a plane to and take a tour of Ireland and Scotland in luxury – start saving your money today and you might be able to go next summer!