Easy Ways to Save on Labor Day Weekend! Tuesday, Aug 30 2011 

“If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.” – Doug Larson

Yup, this fast-moving summer is winding down and another autumn is right around the corner – it’s time to take that one day out of the year to celebrate our labors with a day built just for us. With gas prices finally coming down a bit, more Americans are looking a bit further away on the map for a fun destination to create some Labor Day memories. Wherever you wind up, always remember: there’s no better way to pay homage to Labor Day than to find a way to enjoy it without spending a lot of money! Read on for some fabulously frugal Labor Day activities that will help you enjoy the weekend without breaking the bank.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #1: CAMPING! Keep it easy and inexpensive by renting a camper or tent from a reputable source (better yet, borrow one from a friend!) and spend some time away from all of the trappings of labor this Labor Day. And need I say it: Leave the laptop at home! It simply does not compute compared to the gorgeous solitude of a beautiful campsite. Leave the computer games at home and instead try a sharpened stick filled with marshmallows roasted over the first campfire of the season to relax.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #2: Labor Day weekend means a three-day break for many, so take advantage of it with activities you wouldn’t think to try on a regular two-day weekend. Take one full day to enjoy a local art museum, take a long hike at a nearby trail, hit a local winery for a tour, linger thru a fabulous festival, or host your own full-day barbeque. The sky is the limit!

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #3: Apple picking at your local orchard. It’s harvest time at many local orchards, and regardless of weather, the vast majority of local growers are offering great deals during Labor Day weekend to entice families to come out and relieve them of their extra produce, often at tremendous discounts! So grab your biggest apple picking bags, load up, and bring them on home to create every single apple dish you’ve ever loved. Pies, Strudels, compotes, sauces, side dishes, you name it, it tastes all the sweeter when the apples you use in it are easily 75% off the price of retail.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #4: Yes, I’m saying it – you have permission to eat out. Now, those who know me rarely hear me endorsing the idea of eating out. However, national holidays over long three-day weekends have their own special rules, especially when there are specials galore at restaurants everywhere this holiday weekend. Half price deals, BOGO’s, family specials, the deals are everywhere – check out newspaper ads, online coupons and more. Take a look at your favorite restaurants first and choose the deals that will suit your family best.

Above all else, remember that Labor Day weekend is about relaxing, kicking back, and forgetting about work for a while. The less you spend, the less actual labor you’ll have to expend to make up for it. Keep with the spirit of the holiday by enjoying the weekend in a way that will keep the fruits of your labors right in your pocket, where they belong. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Advertisements

Minimizing the Effects of the Downgrade Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

Minimizing the Effects of the Downgrade
Okay, so unless you’ve been under a rock for the last week, you’re aware that U.S. debt has been downgraded. Yes, it’s unprecedented, it’s unnerving, it is also eventually reversible down the road if we truly get our act together, and in the meantime, it’s survivable. The key to minimal financial headaches in the meantime is to familiarize yourself on the ripple effects of the downgrade, and how you can protect yourself and your household.

As a result of the downgrade, American debt will be more risky for our creditors, and as a result, it will cost more for the United States Government to borrow money. As a result, it will cost you more to borrow money as well. Ripple effect: higher interest rates on credit cards, car loans, home loans, etc. Prepare yourself now, and you can respond with a focused financial strategy.

Credit Cards: When it comes to your personal plastic, start paying the balances down NOW. Do whatever it takes, shop at the discount groceries regularly from now on, you’ll save thousands that you can then put onto your credit card balances. Looking for clothes, gifts, housewares? Shop at the thrift stores and save another bundle. If it’s feasible, go out one less day every week to save on gas. It all adds up huge, and those savings need to be used to pay down any outstanding credit. You will soon be paying more for your borrowing (sound familiar?), so reduce your debt spending, show Washington an outstanding example, and prevent your own debt from being “downgraded” by your lenders.

Stock Market Holdings: Worldwide stock markets have been all over the map with uncertainty in this past week. On one channel you hear an expert saying the uncertainty has panned out and you should buy-buy-buy the bargains, switch to another channel and another so-called expert is shrieking to sell-sell-sell and save yourselves. If you have sizable holdings in the stock market, for the sake of clarity and sanity, have a talk with a reputable financial advisor for straight talk on where they think the market (and your particular portfolio) could be better protected so as to ride out the bumps with a minimum of Tylenol.

Higher taxes – Independent of the downgrade, we’ve known for some time that tax loopholes are going to close and cap tax expenditures. Have a talk with your accountant, see how these changes might affect your household, and see how you can invest your money in ways that will minimize your (possibly) increasing tax burden.

Car loans – If you’re in the market for a car, do yourself a favor. Save your money and buy a used car with cash, rather than going for a car loan with (higher than expected) interest rates.

Home loans – If interest rates go up, you’re looking at higher costs on home loans. If there is any “silver lining” in this, it’s that home prices may come down a bit more in response to the higher interest rates. Rotten news if you’re looking to sell, but somewhat helpful if you’re looking to buy. There has never been a better time to invest in real estate. The bigger the down payment, the better.

Bottom line: The best thing you can do for your financial sanity? Take a deep breath. This latest lunacy too shall pass. In the meantime, protect yourself, your household, your portfolio, and your bank account by thinking frugally on all of your purchases, living within your means, and generating a sizable nest egg for emergencies. Then, run for office (you’ll get my vote!), and show the folks in Washington how it CAN be done.