Friday, September 30, 2011

Linkfest: Loooo-ooooong Edition

I didn't realize until today that my Linkfest from last week never got posted, so lucky you - here's two weeks of great content.

I recently found Mutant Supermom's blog, and this post about 27.5 reasons she coupons is one of the reasons I'm enjoying reading her.

I LOVE this post's How to Be Prettier, although I consider it a How to Be Smarter AND  How to Be Less Awkward tip.

Lifehacker has the 10 dishes and drinks everyone should be able to make at home. I can do about half. Which ones can you do?

A PF book club! Want, want, want!! Peanut and I have actually talked about starting a PF book club in real life, but we couldn't find anyone else who was interested. :( So I am ALL OVER THIS! First book: Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What to Do About It. First meeting: November 1. Hashtag: #pfbookclub. Be there or don't be in our book club. :)

I'm definitely a self-curator - that's effectively what this blog is, especially these link round-ups! There's simply so much information out there now that we can't even process it all, much less remember and re-use it.

I found this neat little tool - Typealyzer. It analyzes your blog and tells you what kind of Myers-Briggs personality you're displaying. Here's mine: ESFP - The Performers.

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.
In reality, that is the complete opposite of me. No, seriously - I've been tested several times and I am way-at-the-opposite-end INTJ. So, is the test wrong? Do I come off online totally differently than I do in real life? Is blogging an attempt to reconcile two divides senses of self?

I have no idea, but I thought it was neat.

I love this best kept secret for frugal living! It's so true - it's simple, but not easy.

An emergency kit (for school, car, work, or home) is a great idea - and not just for kids. In New York, I always kept flats and some other items in my desk (a 14-flight evacuation taught me that!) but I haven't made the same arrangements here.

Things truly have changed in the workforce in the last twenty or thirty years, and I agree - you do now have to act like you're a consultant rather than an employee. The tips in that post will help you hone the skills that allow you to do so.

I love this! 13 pieces make 31 outfits - amazing! I've been feeling the "woe is me, I've got nothing to wear"s lately, but I might need to take a closer look because I've definitely got more than 13 pieces, so I can probably make enough outfits to last until Thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tips for Budget-Conscious Travelers

This is a guest post. Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and recent graduate of Elon University. She is currently a resident blogger at Online Degrees, where recently she's been researching different Online Business Administration Programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

With the rising cost of fuel and the overall stagnation of wages and jobs, it's easy to see why many might want to cut back on their travel plans. Even short weekend trips can start to add up when you factor in the cost of gas or airfare, lodging, and attractions. Fortunately, there are options for budget-conscious travelers that don't have to include pouring sand all over your living room and propping your feet up under a tanning lamp. The beach – and many other destinations – are accessible and affordable for most budgets with a little planning. Here are a few tips:

Book a Package

Businesses like it when we buy in bulk – and they encourage us to do it by offering some savings. The more you buy, the more they make, even if you buy it at a slightly lower rate. The same is true for travel. When you package your airfare with lodging and other add-ons like land travel or attractions, you are adding to their profit statement. To encourage you to do so, many travel companies will offer deals on packages that will save you much more money than if you booked each item separately. You can try online vendors like Expedia or Travelocity, or you can contact a travel agent.

If you don't want the full package, you can apply the same savings principle to your accommodations by booking an all-inclusive resort. Located in most popular tourist destinations, all-inclusive resorts provide lodging, many if not all of your meals, some entertainment, and some land travel. You can often book these for less than the price of a traditional hotel.

Be Flexible with Lodging

Traditional hotels and inns aren't your only option for accommodations. There are many budget-friendly options that you can find in a variety of destinations. Hostels are especially popular amongst backpackers and the college crowd, and they are very inexpensive. For as little as $10 a night, you can book a room – which you will share with up to 8 other people. If you're traveling alone, that means 8 other strangers. You also have to share a bathroom with the rest of the floor. Hostels are a great way to save money, but if you prefer your privacy, they aren't the best option.

Some other non-traditional options offer you free lodging. Room shares and house swaps are growing in popularity. You browse listings in the city that you intend to visit and find someone with a spare room or a house to let out or trade. (If you opt for a trade, you'll have to be willing to let someone stay in your home.)

Don't Eat Out

For many of us, the idea of vacation is synonymous with indulgence and fine dining. However, if you want to trim your budget, there are many ways you can do so by not eating out at restaurants. If you can find affordable lodging with a kitchen – such as a hostel – you can shop locally and prepare your own meals at the hotel/hostel. Staying at bed and breakfasts or hotels that serve some meals (usually breakfast) will also help you save. Other options include packing non-perishable snacks and light meals and shopping for prepared foods at local grocery stores.

Take Advantage of Reward Programs

Many credit cards, hotels, and airline companies have reward programs that offer you discounts or free rewards for travel based on your participation. Frequent flyer programs are among the most popular, and they allow travelers to earn miles every time they fly, and those miles can then be traded in for discounts on airfare or other items, or even for free airfare. No matter what program you choose, be sure that it will benefit you by rewarding you for purchasing items that you already intend to purchase. In other words, don't buy a bunch of things you don't need to earn discounts; otherwise, you're just spending more, not saving.

What other tips do you have for budget-conscious travelers? What ways do you save money when booking your travel?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"We are not consumers, and we are not puppets on a string"

The message I like best about this post is "We are not consumers, and we are not puppets on a string, so let's lobby our politicians and the companies we do business with to stop referring to us that way." (from matt about money via the simple dollar)

If you don't call yourself a consumer, what do you call yourself?

I'm not a book consumer, I'm a reader.

I'm not an electronics consumer, I'm a family member who wants to be connected to loved ones.

I'm not an auto consumer, I'm a driver who wants to get to work and to the grocery store.

I'm not a grocery consumer, I'm an adult who wants to eat healthy and delicious food that's made in my own kitchen.

I'm not a clothing consumer, I'm a professional who wants to be clothed appropriately but not ostentatiously.

I'm not a yoga or gym consumer, I'm a person who wants to be fit, strong and flexible.

I'm a dancer.

I'm a wife.

I'm a sister, a daughter, a cousin, an aunt, a niece.

I'm a friend.

I'm a human being who wants to make my stay on the planet as enjoyable as possible - and it turns out, I don't need to buy stuff to make that happen.

Since you're not a consumer, what are YOU?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Junk Mail Woes

I hate junk mail. Instead of immediately recycling it, I take two minutes per piece, call the 1-800 number listed on the mailer, select the option to place an order (which seems to get you to a person faster) and politely ask them to take me off their list. So far, 100% of the time, the person I speak with has been helpful, pleasant, and apologetic, and immediately removes my name. So far, so good!

But last week, Peanut and I got two pieces of junk mail that were so...offensive that we went a step further and actually complained to the Better Business Bureau about the company.

These pieces were not pornographic. They were not salacious. They had no profanity on them or anything else. Instead, they were so outrageously misleading that they probably give slightly less observant people palpitations.

They were from a warranty company, writing to tell us that our manufacturer's warranty was about to expire and that we needed to act quickly to re-instate it. Ok, that's lame, especially considering that we bought our care used and the warranty long-since expired (like three years ago). But what really got me was that they were designed to look like official Department of Motor Vehicle communications, with a seal and that three-sided perforated edge thing you see on checks, and with a threat of a fine and imprisonment for anyone tampering with delivery* printed on the front of it, and a bunch of other things that really made it look like a big deal, maybe a red-light ticket or something like that. But nope. Someone just wanted to "extend our warranty" with no other information than that the title had changed hands (turns out: our REAL DMV sells our information to this company. Lovely.)

Anyway, I was so pissed off about the deceitfulness of the ads that I saved them (we got two on the same day) and showed them to Peanut. Somewhat to my surprise, he agreed with me about how much they appeared to prey on people who would call thinking there was a big problem and then get a heavy sell to sign up for this useless warranty (I wouldn't trust anyone who would give my car a warranty without seeing it as far as I could throw them!).

A quick Google search turned up a lot of complaints about this company and their advertising - in fact, they were sued for it two years ago. They must have lost or settled, since they're still up to it. We filed an advertising complaint with the BBB complaining about the misleading nature of the ads. I don't know if anything will come of it, and in some ways it may seem like a little bit of an extreme reaction, but on the other hand, the only way companies will be stopped from sending out ads like this is if consumers complain and make noise about not liking it. I hate to think about anyone who might have been duped by it, and since we realized what it was before falling for it, I feel an urge to do my part.

Have you complained about advertising? How do you get off junk mail lists? 

* This threat applies to all federal mail, but when was the last time you saw it printed on anything you received?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Apologies to email subscribers!

I don't know WHAT Blogger sent you earlier today, but it was ugly. As you can see, the post went up fine  - it seems something was wrong with the email feed. Many apologies! I'm looking into it so hopefully that doesn't happen again!

Weekly Money Check-Up: First Week of Fall edition

Weekly Money Check-Up is a weekly series on My Pretty Pennies. To see more of this week's check-ups,
visit MPP's weekly money check-up post for this week!

1. The most I've spent this last week was on… student loans, yet again. I feel like I'm going to be paying on them forEVER.

2. Today I am thankful for Peanut! Today is our anniversary - I can't believe it's been a whole year already. It seems like it's just flown by.

3. Money can't buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was Peanut's parents taking us to brunch and a football game. I'd never been to a professional football game before (well, I'd been to a Superbowl, but I was working in the arena, so I didn't get to actually see any of the game).

4. I will consider this week a success if I get the pantry stocked up again - we seem to have become very lax in our grocery shopping lately!

5. A talent I wish I had would be singing. I couldn't carry a tune if it had a handle, and I'd love to not be too embarrassed to participate in karaoke.