I turned 53 on Tuesday. My daughter made me breakfast. My husband gave me roses. AARP sent me another membership solicitation. It all adds up to one thing: senior discounts.
Like many, when the AARP pitch arrives in the mail, I ditch it. I'M NOT OLD, I say to anyone who is listening (usually just the dog). Just this season on the Netflix series Frankie and Grace, one of the characters — who is in her 70s — noted that she refused to join AARP because it means admitting she was all done. “There's an article in the newsletter on how to get over that,” another character rebuts.
I mean, what is old? I have some decent longevity in my genetic pool, so let's figure I make it to 90. That would have made me middle-aged at 45! I appeal that decision! And honestly at 53, I feel pretty good. It's hard for me to remember how old I am, except for when I see photos of my 25-year-old self and I remember that skin.
I spend days psyching myself up to make the calls. My targets include the very companies that make dialing the number possible: communications providers. Why am I connecting with these connectors who give us access to wireless phone, email, entertainment and internet? To cut that very expensive cord.
This is no trivial matter. According to a survey by eMarketer, the average U.S. adult is expected to spend 5 hours and 45 minutes each day on devices in 2016, including mobile, laptop, desktop and tablet. Add television on top of that and we sit in front of multiple devices throughout each day. As “The Internet of Things” matures, the cost of communications will command a bigger portion of our household budgets. On the horizon: advancements in home and health monitoring, wearable tech and mobile-everything.
It also costs a ton. Cable, internet and phone can easily top out at $250/month. Here's how I tackled the problem:
If you need tips to spend less money, you've come to the right judgment-free zone. I feel like I should introduce myself. “Hello. My name is Elissa, and I am an unconscious spender.”
“I give myself a $200 allowance every two weeks, but when the cash is gone, I use the credit card or hit the ATM. A hundred here, a hundred there. I feel like that Fast Cash $60 button is a slot machine in a casino!”
Were you imagining a thermos of hot coffee, maybe even a sleeping bag or tent to protect you from the elements as you camp out for hot Black Friday deals?
Maybe you enjoy the mad rush of adrenaline you get when you spot and lunge for the last remaining iPad that's on sale at an improbable price.
Or maybe, just maybe, you actually prefer to avoid all that frenzy and sit at home in peace and quiet while your fingers do some serious shopping on Cyber Monday.
Student discounts are an interesting topic. They don't typically give you a discount for anything on campus, because those amenities are paid for by your tuition and "miscellaneous registration fees" -- though lots of student groups on campus offer free food in exchange for your attendance and involvement at their events.
No, student discounts are actually given at the discretion of retailers and service providers. And often, they are not advertised.
So how do you find out about and take advantage of these opportunities? The simple answer is to ask.
Are there seasons in your life where you're more likely to swing through the drive-thru because you're tired, stressed, or overwhelmed?
Fall is like that for me. My friends start talking boots and flannel. Pumpkin Spice Lattes start showing up in my Instagram feed. And the corn mazes and pumpkin farms open for business.
And me? While I love colorful leaves and impossibly blue autumn skies as much as the next person, I cringe when fall arrives.
According to the U.S. government, all citizens should have enough supplies to survive for at least three days in an emergency. Depending on where you live, "emergency" could mean tornado, earthquake, blackout, flood, wildfire, hurricane, ice storm or zombie apocalypse.
How ready do you feel?
It is possible to put together an emergency kit without breaking the bank. In fact, you may already have some (or much) of what you need already.
There's no such thing as a free puppy. Or kitten. Or hamster, lizard, fish or rabbit. Even if someone hands you a critter outright, you can expect to spend between $580 to $875 a year for basic expenses, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Oh, and that doesn't count things like purchase price/adoption fees, collar, leash, crate, spaying/neutering and other "capital costs." Or for any of the myriad (and sometimes silly) ways we profess love for our animals. The American Pet Products Association says that U.S. pet owners spent a little over $58 billion last year on our critters; this year the estimate is $60.59 billion.
Who says you can't put a price on love? But keep in mind that:
According to a recent blog by the Wall Street Journal, Americans leave $52.4 billion on the table each year in unused paid time off (not including sick or personal leave). This lowers employee productivity and can lead to burnout and retention issues. It is also quite expensive for companies themselves, since the time and money associated with PTO are liabilities on their balance sheets.
Sometimes, though, it is just not feasible to get away, even if you follow these tips to save money on a family vacation. However, even if you're not able to get away to an exotic (to you) locale, that doesn't mean you should let your vacation days go to waste. Here are some ideas for a fun and productive staycation.
1. Complete a Home-Based Project You've Been Putting Off
Is there a project you've been hoping to complete that's too big to accomplish in a weekend? It may just be the perfect candidate for a staycation! Ideally, you want to take enough time off to finish what you have in mind -- with a day or two left to relax and admire your creation, whatever it is.
It's been a long time since my wife and I had the luxury of thinking in terms of vacation. When we came to America more than 30 years ago, we also discovered two things:
People in America work very hard, probably harder than anywhere else in the world. Two weeks' vacation seems to be the norm here, while in Europe and the rest of the world anything less than a month is inhuman, insane, or both. (I am not convinced they're wrong, by the way.)
With all our family on other continents, we needed to spend those two precious little weeks every year with them. That led to employing all manner of strategies and devices -- like accumulating as much vacation time as we could and squeaking out an advance on the coming year -- so we could spend two whole weeks with our family and another week just for travel, there and back.