How to Save Money on Electrical Products

Over the past few years the prices of electrical goods have bucked inflationary trends and fallen quite significantly relative to other products such as groceries for example. But there are still significant cost savings to be made by shopping for such items as camcorders, laptops, and TVs in the right way:

Buy Old Technology

I’m not suggesting you go and buy a 20 year-old camera that takes a 35mm film, but look to the last year or two’s models and you’ll find some big savings can be made. Sure, you won’t be getting the most up-to-date product, but from year-to-year often the changes will only be cosmetic, or the technological improvements will only be small anyway and unlikely to impact on how effective you find the product. For example, it might be that an iPhone 4S will be more than adequate for everything you need from a phone, rendering the more expensive but newer iPhone 5 a slightly extravagant waste of money.

Buy Refurbished Items

A lot of ‘refurbished’ items are simply those that have been taken back to the store because the person who bought the item couldn’t set it up and/or thought it was broken when in actual fact it was in perfectly good working order. As the item is no longer new in its fresh, un-tampered packaging, however, the retailer then has to sell the item as refurbished even though it’s just like a brand new product. This means that in many cases, therefore, you can get your hands on whatever product you wanted with a nice price reduction of as much as about 30%.

Sure, some refurbished items have had more use for whatever reason, but if you buy from a trusted retailer you can still be confident that you’re not going to end up with something that doesn’t work. Also look for ex-display models. Whilst these may have been sat on the shelf and touched and looked at by other shoppers, they’re not likely to have had any heavy use.

Buy Second Hand

A few weeks ago I mentioned the danger of buying second hand laptops in our post on things you shouldn’t buy used. However, whilst I would definitely advise you to stay away from smaller or handheld electrical items like laptops and phones as they may well have been mistreated, it can still be worthwhile to purchase other second hand electrical products. In particular, this includes simple devices that are left static like TVs and DVD players as they’re less likely to have been worn out in any way by the previous owner. And big savings can be made with items like these when purchased second hand, especially, for example if you’re looking to purchase a big TV where sellers will be willing to accept a very low price if they’re moving house for example and just want a quick sell without the hassle of posting it.

Get Hold of People’s Unwanted Stuff

Following on from the previous point, you might find if someone’s having a clear out or moving house they’ll have anything from a whole number of electrical products – from TVs to dishwashers – that they no longer want/need and are willing to give away if you’re happy to collect it from them. You can find people advertising electrical products (and other large things too, like bicycles) for free on Craigslist or Freecycle for example. Also consider going to your local dump where there may well be a few TVs (often the old, huge CRT type mind you) that are lying around and free to take if you ask one of the attendants.

Don’t Forget Energy Efficiency

Whilst there are clear savings to be made with second hand, refurbished, or old technology, it can sometimes be worthwhile buying up-to-date, new electrical products to reap the longer-term cost-saving benefits of having a more energy efficient version. In particular, this goes for large appliances like washing machines, tumble dryers, and dishwashers that are very energy intensive. And whilst it can be hard to get a good idea of just how much you will save in the long run, there are a number of resources which will help you to realise and work out how much you can save over time.

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Chucking Things Out: How to Overcome the Dilemma of Whether or Not to Keep Something

If you’re moving house, trying to free up some space or just fancy going through and sorting out some old stuff because you’ve got nothing to do and it’s raining outside, you’ll often be faced with the task of getting rid of things (be it to the dump, a charity shop, or even just the kitchen bin). But the act of having a ‘clear out’ and ‘chucking things out’ can (although these phrases suggest the process to be a carefree and somewhat reckless activity) be fraught with emotional, financial and even moral dilemmas over whether or not item x, y or z should be kept or disposed of. I write this article, however, having recently ‘cleared out’ a lot of stuff myself. And after a string of tricky decisions over whether or not item x, y or z deserved to be sent to the dump or consigned to a box in the loft for another 10 years, I came up with a few ways to make the whole process slightly less dilemma-ridden:

Work out the Item’s Actual Use Value to You

This, I found, was probably the best, most simple and most obvious strategy for overcoming any indecision I had. If I had an old t-shirt or an old pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn for the past few years and, realistically had no intention of wearing any time soon, then I came to realise that there was no point in keeping them, even if they were in perfectly good condition and still fitted me. So the trick here is to think about what ‘useable’ really means to you: when an item of clothing still fits you and isn’t worn out then technically, yes, it’s still useable, but if you don’t want to wear it again for whatever reason, then that instantly negates any of its use value rendering it, instead, as an item to be disposed of.

Think about the Item’s Future Use Value to Someone Else if you do Dispose of It

This is related to the point above and provides a useful way of overcoming any anxieties about disposing of an item. If you give away an old item of clothing or whatever else to a friend who wants it or to a charity shop where it will end up in the hands of someone who wants it, then you can take comfort in the fact that not only have you got rid of something that was just taking up space, but that someone else will be making better use of it than you would have done had you have kept it.

Distinguish between what you Think is, and what is Actually, a Sentimental Item

You might look at an old toy or an old photograph from your childhood and instantly be filled with happy memories that provide you with a reminder of a past time in your life. But a lot of supposedly sentimental items – say a childhood toy or a photograph from the very same box as the one that fills you with those happy memories – might not have that same effect; in fact, you might not even remember owning the item altogether. So a good strategy when sorting through old items that don’t have any use value as such but may (or may not) have a sentimental value, is to determine which ones do and which one’s don’t give you that good feeling and to keep/dispose accordingly. This stops you from hoarding things just for the sake of it.

See if the Item’s worth any Money

You might look at a DVD, a book or a jacket and think: ‘I can’t possibly throw this out, I bought it for however many dollars only a year ago.’ But if the item has lost its use value (e.g. you’ve read the book and won’t read it again, or you now dislike the jacket and won’t be wearing it again) then it’s pointless just keeping it because you think it has some kind of monetary value. Firstly, it’s pointless because nothing really has any monetary value unless it’s advertised for sale and someone has agreed to pay you for it. And secondly, it’s pointless because unless you know for sure it has a potential monetary value (of worthwhile significance) then you might be keeping the item under a false pretence. So to avoid doing that, check eBay or another appropriate market place to gauge the item’s worth; from my experience, you’ll then probably be shocked at how quickly and how dramatically the item has lost its value, and then you’ll realise that, actually, there’s no point keeping it and that there might not even be any point in trying to sell it.

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10 Things that aren’t Worth Buying Used

A few weeks ago we looked at 10 Things that are Worth Buying Used. That post listed such items as books, tools, and jewellery; these are items that most of the time – when bought used – will be significantly cheaper than their brand-new counterparts yet still perfectly useable. This week, on the other hand, we take a look at 10 items that are not worth buying used. Of course, second hand might not always be a bad option for the items listed below, but we’d argue there’s a high chance you’ll end up with a dodgy item that’ll only cause you more hassle (and maybe expense too) in the long-run.

Laptops

Laptops – given their very nature – are moved around a lot, might be dropped from small (or even big) heights, will be placed on bed sheets where they have little ventilation, and might even have had a drink or two spilt over them. In other words, you really don’t know what you’re buying when you buy a used laptop. Sure, it might still look shiny but you don’t know how worn out it is or how poorly it was looked after. If you’re looking to save money when buying your next laptop, therefore, opt for a basic – but brand new – model rather than a used one.

Soft Baby Toys

In our post about 10 Things that are Worth Buying Used, we mentioned baby toys and clothes as being good ones. And on the basis that clothes and plastic toys can easily be washed and ‘made new’ again we think that’s fair enough. But soft, stuffed toys like teddy bears, on the other hand, are perhaps worth avoiding on the basis that they’re made of a dense material that’s likely to harbour many germs, bacteria, or even head lice.

Food Processors

Food processors are subject to a lot of heavy use and – unlike other kitchen equipment that’s constructed of a few simple and sturdy parts like saucepans – they are made up of lots of little bits that are liable to wear out or be damaged over time. Food processors can also become less powerful as they get older reducing their effectiveness. My advice would therefore be to buy a brand new one that comes with a warranty in case it breaks.

Games Consoles

Second hand games consoles are similar to laptops in that you can’t really judge their condition before you purchase them. Although, unlike laptops, you can be fairly confident that they wouldn’t have been dropped given that they usually sit on the owner’s desk/TV cabinet without being moved around much, the previous owner might have, however, had a habit of burdensome six hour-long gaming-sessions that won’t have done the console’s inner-components any good. Certain batches of games consoles, like many other electrical products, have also had technical faults with them in the past, and if you’re picking one up at a garage sale you’ll have no way of knowing if the console you’re buying was from a faulty batch.

Video Games

Dishonest sellers will sometimes sell video games that aren’t working properly. And whilst this isn’t the norm, obviously, you’ll soon find the 20% saving wasn’t worth it when certain aspects of the game don’t work. I’ve found in the past that in pre-owned video games shops where the staff presumably only do a quick, partial test of the games before they buy them from people trading them in, that although the game will load up fine, there will be little glitches and errors that make the game unplayable.

Helmets

Just because a helmet isn’t in pieces or doesn’t have a gaping crack down the middle of it, that doesn’t mean to say it’s safe to use. A series of minor bumps or a crash that ruptured the overall strength of the helmet without leaving any major visible signs could mean you are fooled into buying something that’s unsafe to use. Brand new bicycle and motorbike helmets are, therefore, always the better option.

Car Tires

Used car tires are rather like used helmets in that by buying them you could be jeopardising you’re safety. I would, however, say that part-worn (used) tyres can still be a good purchase providing they have been sold through a trusted retailer where they have been checked for their condition. Just make sure you’re not buying any used car tyres with sizeable cuts or bulges – these aren’t a good buy.

Shoes

Used shoes – like used car tires – are another item that in some respects deserve a place in this list but in other ways don’t. A lot of used shoes might be sold in like-new condition on eBay for example, and you’ll be able to fetch a nice discount that way without sacrificing anything. But an old pair of walking boots, for example, with tiny little cracks in and worn out fabric that no longer make them ‘waterproof’ might not be a good purchase. Also, let’s face it, shoes don’t smell too pleasant when they’ve been worn for a long time either, and you’d rather that smell be from your feet than from someone else’s.

Mattresses

Unlike buying a used wooden table or desk chair where you can clearly see what you’re getting, assessing the quality of a used mattress can be a little trickier. Not only will it be impossible to wash in the same way you can wipe down and dust off a wooden bedside table, it might also be riddled with bed lice. You might also find that when you get your used mattress home, it’s a bit springier and worn out than you deemed it to be when you bought it.

Underwear

A used jumper or pair of jeans? Fair enough. But underwear might be taking it one step too far. Not only is the thought of wearing second hand underwear a little bit off-putting, you also need to consider the fact that underwear can harbour bacteria even after it’s been put through a wash.

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How to Look First Date Ready on a Budget

With a first date on the horizon, many women feel intense pressure to look their very best.  Unfortunately, this can mean that they rush out to the shops and spend an inordinate amount of money on a new outfit, new makeup or something extra that they really don’t need to make themselves feel ‘pretty’.  They argue that if they feel confident, they will enjoy themselves more on the date. And whilst there is nothing wrong with wanting to make a first impression that leaves your date’s jaw on the floor, you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money to look your best. Not to mention, if you go on more than one first date a week as many online daters do, things can add up to be quite expensive! So, to prevent you from dating your way into debt, here are some ways to look first date ready on a budget.

Invest in Wardrobe Staples

Once a year or every couple of years, invest in quality wardrobe staples that highlight your assets.  A little black dress, jeans that hug you in all the right places or a sturdy pair of heels that will last the test of time are all great choices.  Don’t concern yourself with the latest fashion trends, not only will you appear sophisticated and timeless, but you won’t constantly be spending cash on pieces of clothing that will be outdated after one wear. This will also make getting ready for a date a much easier, streamlined process.

Remember that it’s Only a First Date

Instead of spending your hard earned money on new clothes to impress a first date, remember one thing: you might not even like them all that much! It’s a huge let down when you come home after a disappointing first date only to check your bank account online and be reminded of how much you spent. Save the special outfits and extra effort for a date with someone you are developing a relationship with or, at the very least, someone you’ve met before!

Purchase Something Small

Sometimes a woman will throw open her closet door and declare that she has absolutely nothing to wear.  Maybe everything feels old or boring, or she’s worn it a hundred times or, worse, it reminds her of a past romance!  Resist the urge to take your credit card on a spree and select one small thing you could buy that will take your first date look from bland to fabulous.  Set an honest budget for yourself, whether it’s ten or fifteen dollars and stick to it.  Grab yourself a new lipstick, or a scarf. This will boost your confidence without giving you a raging case of buyers’ remorse.

Swap with a Friend

If you’re still in desperate need of a new head to toe look, reach out to friends with similar body shapes and styles to you.  Most women have no trouble lending an item of clothing to one of their friends if it makes them feel better about themselves on a first date. Offer to let your friend borrow anything in your closet too! Make it fun! Some groups of women even host clothing swap parties on a monthly basis. Not only do you get to catch up with the girls, but you walk away with new first date ready looks!

This is a guest post provided by We Love Dates. We Love Dates is a worldwide online dating site that also has a blog which provides dating tips and advice.

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Five Ways to Teach Children Basic Financial Lessons

The relationship between children and money is a sensitive one that’s fraught with often uneasy decisions to be made and questions to answer: Is it fair that they get a smaller allowance than their best friend? Am I spoiling my child? Is it good or bad parenting if I pay them for doing chores?  Should they get a bigger allowance now they’re a year older? The list could go on and on. And it’s also fair to say that – perhaps more so than many other areas in personal finance – there’s often no right or wrong answer to these types of questions. I would, however, argue the following rules and ideas are all good ways of making sure children get to grips with a few personal finance basics early on in their lives.

1. Don’t Give Them an Allowance for Nothing

This is something that not everyone will agree with, and that’s fair enough. But I would argue it’s a bad idea to let your children feel as if they are entitled to something for nothing, even if it’s only five bucks a week. And don’t get me wrong here. I’m not suggesting you turn your kids into round-the-clock housekeepers, but think about giving them at least a small job or two to earn their weekly allowance – even if it’s purely tokenistic.

2. Make Them Give Some Money Away

I think making a child give some money away – whether it’s to a younger sibling who doesn’t get an allowance yet or a charity for example – is a great thing to do. It will hopefully instil a bit of selflessness into them, and teach them that often in life we have to spend money on others before ourselves.

3. If They Run out of Money, don’t Give Them Anymore

If you’ve given them $20 for the month and they’ve spent it all after two weeks and end up without the cash to pay for that trip to the movies they had planned with their friends, then don’t give in and offer them some more. Planning ahead, budgeting, and making sure you don’t blow all your money at once are basic financial lessons that are best learnt sooner rather than later in life.

4. Encourage Them To Save

You can do this in a range of ways. If they want to make a big purchase then teach them about the importance of setting financial goals and having strategies to achieve them. This strategy might involve having two pots – one for money to spend now and one for money to spend in the future. Or, it might involve having some of their allowance given in cash and some transferred into a savings account. The other benefit of setting them up a savings account is that it gives you the chance to tell them about such things as interest rates and the different types and purposes of bank accounts.

5. Give Them Some Freedom

This runs contrary to the above advice, but it’s also a good idea to not place too many restrictions on how kids manage their money. Not only is making bad financial decisions an inevitable part of life, but by giving them a bit of freedom you are allowing them to learn about finance and money the best way – through their own mistakes. So if they want to spend all of their allowance on a toy which you know full well they’ll be bored of a week later, sometimes it’s best to let them go ahead and make that mistake.

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10 Things that are Worth Buying Used

Shopping for second hand stuff isn’t always a good way to try and save money; you might find the DVD you bought from a yard sale doesn’t work beyond presenting the menu screen or, equally, you might end up buying a used refrigerator that only functions for a couple of weeks by the time you’ve lumbered it home from the thrift store. The short story is that some things are worth buying used and other things aren’t. Of course, this isn’t to say that there’s a 100 percent clear cut distinction though; you might be the lucky one who picks up a laptop for half the price in fine working order or, on the other hand, you might be the unfortunate soul who falls victim to the dishonest seller who failed to mention the glass of wine they spilt on its keyboard a week ago. The list below, however, provides a list of things that (most of the time at least) you can buy used knowing that you’ll be saving a few, or even many, bucks without sacrificing on quality and usability.

Books

As much as the crisp feeling and strangely satisfying scent of a freshly printed, brand new book is one of life’s little pleasures, it’s also something that comes with an often prohibitively expensive price tag. Even though the author may well have spent months or even years producing the literary masterpiece that sits on the shelf of a book shop, $10 or so for 300 bits of paper bounded together doesn’t scream good value for money. One dollar or less (all you will have to pay for many used and perfectly readable books) is, however, far better value.

Cars

New cars – like new books – can also smell peculiarly pleasant. But the rate at which the value of your shiny new car will depreciate happens, however, to be eye-wateringly hideous. That’s right, by the time you’ve driven your $30,000 car of the garage forecourt you’ll have – metaphorically speaking – thrown hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars out of the car window in the mile-long journey back to your house.  So don’t be tempted into buying a new car even if the repayment plan looks surprisingly friendly – by used instead.

Bicycles

Staying with the vehicular theme, whilst you won’t make the same savings by buying a second hand bicycle as you would with a car, you can still save a lot whilst sacrificing little in terms of functionality. Many bicycles are bought with great intentions only to be used once, or twice, placed into the garden shed for a year, or ten, and then sold for half or so the price in a hasty rush later down the line. The benefit of this is that you’ll be able to pick up plenty of bicycles in great condition that – whilst they may not have this year’s paint job and decals – will save you a wad of cash.

Tools

The very nature of their use means tools are built to last with sturdiness and durability in mind: how many faulty or worn out hammers have you come across in your life time? Probably very few, so buy any tools you need second hand even if they’ve lost their original shine.

Exercise Equipment

Exercise equipment is an ideal thing to buy used for two reasons. Firstly, like bicycles, it will have often been purchased with good intentions only to have been left untouched collecting dust. Secondly, like tools, it’s generally all very hard-wearing and durable – especially things like weights and dumbbells meaning you’re unlikely to end up with some half-working equipment.

Kitchenware

New pots and pans can often be very costly – especially when they’ve had the name of a celebrity chef plastered all over them. So if you think you need some new kitchenware then think used instead. Glasses may smash and crockery may crack but most kitchenware – like tools – lasts for years.

Jewellery

Brand new rings, necklaces, earrings and whatever other items of jewellery you might purchase will invariably not be the cheapest item on one’s shopping list. And the benefit of buying used jewellery – aside from the huge cost savings to be made – is that you can pick up many second-hand items in as-good-as-new condition.

Baby/Kids Toys and Clothes

In our early years we grow very quickly, and get too old for (or bored of) our toys very quickly too. This places a huge onus on parents to buy new shoes, clothes, and toys throughout the year but it also means that there’s plenty of second-hand stuff for the frugal minded parents to purchase.

Clothes

This is obviously a very subjective one with many people unable to even bear the thought of wearing something that’s sat next to the skin of an unknown person in its previous life. But clothes can be found at rock-bottom prices in second hand and charity stores. Indeed, many ‘used’ clothes might have been worn only a few times – or not even once – so you can often save a lot of money without sacrificing too much ‘newness’ when it comes to second-hand clothes shopping.

Furniture

If you look around your house you’ll realise that most furniture doesn’t really get worn out or broken; sure, you might have a wooden chair with a wobbly leg but things like wardrobes and coffee tables will serve their purpose year after year. You can pick up second hand furniture for very low prices on Craigslist, in second-hand shops, or in yard sales and you might even find you can buy more stylish and high-quality furnishings second hand than you can new.

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Cost-Effective Ways to Improve the Exterior Appearance of Your Home

If you’re looking to sell your house, flat, or apartment, it pays to make sure the outside of it looks smart and tidy; as the saying goes, first impressions count. And when it comes to selling a property, buyers’ first impressions will be based on the exterior, not the interior. Of course, this isn’t to say that the interior of the house isn’t important too – of course it is – in fact it’s probably more important. But who knows, you might find a few carefully positioned hanging baskets and a neatly mowed lawn might make up for the cracked kitchen tiles above the cooker and the spare bedroom you never got round to giving a fresh coat of paint. Also, exterior household improvements needn’t cost a load either. Sure, a newly laid brick drive might look a dam-sight nicer than your worn-out concrete one, but there are other, considerably cheaper, ways to improve the outside appearance of your house too – five of which are listed below.

Flowers and Plants

A hanging basket or two is sure to only add to the exterior appearance of your house. But equally, you could also or instead just get a few pot plants to dot around your front drive or place either side of the door. Just remember to look after them and keep them watered though – a dead plant will look much worse than no plant at all. The other option, of course, is to get a few low-maintenance shrubs which won’t require much attention but will still liven up the appearance of your front drive.

A Smart Front Door

If you’ve got a wooden door then make sure it’s painted – a tired, dull looking front door with paint flaking off it isn’t going to wow anyone. But don’t stop once you’ve applied a new lick of paint. Make sure the door shuts and opens properly without a horrible screeching sound, and replace any tacky, cheap-looking door numbers or knockers with ones that add a touch of quality. These may sound like minor changes but, remember, first impressions count, and they won’t cost much to sort out either.

A Tidy Drive

As mentioned, getting your drive completely replaced to an attractive brick or block paved one isn’t going to be cheap. The cost effective option is therefore to work with what you have and spruce it up. So if you’ve got a patch of grass outside the front of your house then make sure you keep it mowed, and you could even time when you mow it with when you have viewers visiting so that it looks especially smart. Also remember to get rid of any weeds or dead patches; no one wants to see a weed-covered, brown lawn as soon as they walk up to your house. Remember though, looking after your drive is also essential for those with a shingle drive (make sure there aren’t any bear patches) and a paved drive (keep it clean).

Keep Your Windows Clean

Splashing out on new windows when you want to sell your house is a big investment that you might not get a return on. The compromise then, is to make sure you keep your windows clean and free of any smears or muck. If you’ve got wooden window frames also consider painting them. This won’t cost much (even if it is a frustrating job!) and it could make them look years younger.

Keep Junk and Trash Cans Out of Sight

Make sure your front drive doesn’t look like a scrap yard. Any trash cans (especially if they smell a bit dodgy) should be kept out of sight and out of mind; you don’t want any potential buyers to be pegging their noses as they walk up to your front door. Also, make sure you haven’t got any old sheets of wood or other scrap anywhere on your front drive; sure, it might have seemed like a great idea tucking that old pool table up against the bush when you wanted to free up some space in your garage, but it won’t help you sell your house.

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A Frugaal Guide to Family Holidays

Going on holiday alone can be pricey enough, but when you’re going as a whole family the costs – even for a weekend away – can really start to rack up. Cost saving measures can be taken before or whilst on holiday, and although the suggestions below might not suit every family or individual, there’s sure to be at least a few of these tips you can use if you’re looking for a frugal holiday.

Self Cater

Feeding a family every night in restaurants can add a huge amount to the cost of a holiday – especially if you’re going for an extended period of time. Self catering might be the last thing you want to do on holiday so this certainly isn’t for everyone. But buying food from local grocery stores or markets and preparing dishes in self-catering accommodation will cut costs or free up money for spending on other activities. Of course, another benefit of being in self-catering accommodation is that you can still eat out on some nights for a change, but you’ve also got the option to save money and eat in.

Camp

In the same way that self-catering might not be for everyone, spending your precious holiday-time camping might too not be your ideal image of a family holiday. But if you’re on a tight budget, the cost of a tent and camping site space will be a dam sight cheaper than even the lower-end hotels. You can pick up an eight man tent for less than $150 if you hunt around, and that will give you plenty of space for a family of four and all the kit you bring along. Camping can be a very fun activity for the kids too, and you might find it’s a lot more rewarding than just staying in a hotel, even if you don’t have a nice mattress to sleep on!

Hostels

If you don’t want to shell out for expensive hotels, but don’t fancy camping either, then consider using hostels instead. Although hostels do attract a young crowd, you’d be wrong to think that they’re not for older groups and families too; if you look around, you’ll be sure to find a family friendly hostel.

Book Early, or Late

As long as you know you’ve secured the time off work and everyone else in your family is free to go somewhere at a certain time in the year, then booking early can be a great way to save on the initial outlay for accommodation and flights. Having said that, you can still pick up some very cheap deals if you leave booking till late; when there are airliners and hotels that need to be filled with only a few weeks or less to go, you might find you can make huge savings compared to the prices listed a few months before.

Shop Wisely for the Extra Things You’ll need

Going on holiday virtually always means buying some new luggage, swimsuits, sunglasses, goggles, and many other things too. Sometimes it will be cheaper to buy these things abroad when you reach your holiday destination, but other times it won’t. For example, sun tan lotion can often be prohibitively expensive in holiday destinations as local retailers will take advantage of sunburnt holiday makers who have no other option but to pay over the odds. So, have a look at what is worth buying in advance or before of your holiday. Also, remember that you might want to buy (and then donate to the hotel/another family that are just arriving when you leave) some of the kids toys (body boards, inflatable rubber rings etc) when you arrive at your destination purely to save carrying them from and to home.

Look for Low-Cost or Free Activities

Having fun and staying busy on holiday doesn’t have to mean expensive trips to theme parks and the like. You will be able to visit many museums for free or next to nothing, have days out on the beach, go for walks, or just relax by the swimming pool or in a nearby town. If you’re looking for low-cost or free activities on holiday then have a look at where’s best to go and choose accordingly.

Get Your Travel Money at the Right Time and Place

If you’re going to need foreign currency then shopping around for a decent exchange rate is a great way to save money before you’ve even left your house for the airport. If you keep a careful eye on exchange rate trends you might be able to tactically choose the best possible time to exchange your dollars. But equally, making sure you shop around for the best place to exchange your money is also important too; in particular, avoid airports and your hotel as you’re sure to get a bad deal in these places.

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Nine Useful Gifts for College Students

If you want to buy a brother, daughter, grandson or whoever else a gift before or when they’re at college, then this post contains a few simple ideas for every budget.

  1. A laptop case: Often students get a brand-spanking new laptop before they move to college, or get their own laptop or notebook for the first time altogether. Trips between their friends’ dorms, the library, and back home for vacations means their laptop is likely to get moved around a lot, however, so a case is essential to make sure it stays protected.
  2. Gift certificates: If you don’t have any idea what to get them, then a gift certificate for their favourite shop is definitely a safe bet. A few months into their university life when they’ve only enough money for food and drink left they’ll be grateful for a gift certificate to buy extras like clothes and DVDs.
  3. A wok: You can pick up a decent quality wok for less than $30 that will last them at least their whole time at university. The versatility of a wok means they will be able to boil, poach, fry, or steam food with just one pan which will reduce the amount of pans they have to store and transport to and from college.
  4. A basic student cookbook: Forget any books extolling the virtues of French Haute Cuisine, give them a basic student cookbook which will set them on their way to excellence in culinary convenience!
  5. Balls and Frisbees: When the weather’s nice there’s nothing nicer than being sat around in the open spaces of a green college campus. Throwing and kicking about a ball or Frisbee is also a frugal activity for the student themselves. And they’ll no doubt be looking for cheap time-filling activities for large swathes of their undergraduate years!
  6. A bicycle: Most students don’t have a car with them at college so a bicycle makes for a great way to get around and explore without any burdensome running costs. Although at the dearer end of this gift-idea list, the bicycle needn’t be a flash one for short journeys to the shops and library though.
  7. A mini tool kit: Whether it’s a fuse that needs changing or a squeaky dorm door that’s come loose, a small tool kit is likely to come in handy at some point in an undergrad’s life.
  8. A portable hard drive: This is a great gift idea as students are likely to have a large collection of music, videos, photos and – hopefully – essays and reports! Having all these things backed up on a portable hard drive will save any emotional distress and hassle if their laptop gets dropped or has a can of beer spilt over it. If you want to spend a little less though, then a smaller USB memory stick is also an ideal present for any student.
  9. A food hamper: A food hamper is an excellent gift for students as you can tailor its contents so to both appeal to them and to give it a personal or ‘reminder of home’ touch. You could make you own cakes or jams for example, or even just fill up a hamper with a load of candy and crisps – either way, it’s sure to be appreciated and won’t cost you much.

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Seven Low-Cost Outdoor Activities to Entertain the Kids this Summer

Whether it’s paying for the latest toys or taking your kids on holiday, entertaining the kids throughout the summer holidays – whatever their age – can soon get expensive. However, that doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t cheaper ways to entertain your kids this summer. This post looks at a few outdoor activities you can entertain the kids with that won’t cost you much and will get them outside and away from the TV.

Have a Treasure Hunt

For this activity, hide little chocolates or sweets around your garden or the local park and set the kids off to find them. The treasure needn’t be chocolate or sweets though; for instance, you could in fact extend the activity by getting them to make pretend jewellery and gold coins from scrap card and felt tip pens beforehand.

Get into the Olympic Spirit

Another possibility includes hosting a mini Olympic Games. A lot of kids might find sitting in front of the TV watching the Olympics a somewhat dull activity, so this is a great way to get them involved and out in the open air at the same time. This activity could take a range of forms: you could have running races, a long jump event and you could even make a high-jump bar out of a few sticks and a piece of rope. But you could also take a less traditional approach and have a more light-hearted egg and spoon race or three legged race. However you decide to organise your mini-Olympic games, you’ll only require a few bits and pieces from around the house to get it underway.

Turn Your Kids into Young Horticulturalists

Introducing your kids to the world of gardening and plants is another great way to get them outside. A simple idea would be to buy them a little plant and let them look after it by watering it each day; this could be done with a tomato plant in the garden for example. Giving them ownership over the task of tending to the plant could also teach them a few disciplines and organisational lessons, irrespective of whether it stays alive or not!

Go on a Nature Walk

Another cheap outdoor activity is to go on a nature walk. You can go into the woods or park finding various different leaves from different plants. Once you’ve got the leaves, the kids can then bring them back home and trace over them with crayons onto paper to create drawings. You could also collect different types of rocks on the nature walk or look for different bird and animal species. Taking a camera and allowing the kids to document their nature walk when they get home is also a great activity which won’t cost much.

Go Fruit Picking

Foraging for berries can be great fun and, if you find enough, you can even use what you’ve found to make a fruit pie which would be another frugal activity in itself! Remember though, berries can stain your clothes so make sure your kids are in old clothes; raspberry plants for example can also be prickly so this might be an activity for those a little older.

Have a Water Fight

As chaotic as this might sound, as long as you don’t let things get out of hand this can be an awesome activity for the kids – especially when the weather’s hot! You needn’t buy expensive water pistols if you don’t have any though – a pack of water balloons costing no more than a dollar or two will be ideal for some summer-soaking action.

Go for a Picnic

Not only is going for a picnic is a low-cost activity, it’s also one which can take up a large chunk of the day so to keep your kids entertained. For a start, you can get the kids to put together some of the picnic. The benefit of this is that unlike baking cakes, making a few sandwiches is going to be a lot easier and less messy for the kids to do on their own (or at least under a watchful eye!). When it comes to finding a picnic location, you could be ultra-frugal with transport costs and go as local as the bottom of the garden, or alternatively you could perhaps go somewhere further afield whether that be the beach or somewhere in the countryside. Either way, pack the bikes, balls and Frisbees or whatever else it will take to keep the kids entertained!

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