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Social Spending PDF Print E-mail
By Melissa Tosetti
Going out with friends can potentially be a money draining situation.  If you aren’t careful, one evening can blow your spending money for the month.
This can be a tricky area, as your friends may be in a different financial situation. As financial expert Suze Orman suggests, be honest with your friends about your intention of being careful with your finances. Suggesting less expensive alternatives or saying no if you don’t want to go may be your best bet.
While it may be tempting, don’t lie to your friends about your situation. There is no shame in saving money to spend on the things that are important to you. In fact, it is empowering. You're taking control of your finances instead of letting your friends influence your spending.
Mikey Rox of Wisebread wrote a great article on the subject of social spending titled, 7 Nice Ways To Tell Your Spendy Friends You're Staying On A Budget
One thing to keep in mind - The majority of clients I've worked with who decided to suggest alternative entertainment ideas to their friends were surprised at how their friends jumped at the suggestions.  Your friends may want to spend less on entertainment as well, but are afraid to approach you about it. 
Making Your Travel Points Matter PDF Print E-mail
By Jake Redman
There are plenty of ways to make the travel points you've collected matter to you, your family, or even someone you don't know. Whether it's a trip to Disneyworld to reward the kids for a great report card, a romantic getaway to celebrate an anniversary, or a gift for your favorite charity, those points you've worked hard to collect might go further than you imagine.
Here, we explore a few ideas for making those miles matter from the common to the less obvious:
Flights In Coach
Using points and miles for flights is increasingly difficult with airlines changing (or, as they like to call it, "enhancing") their redemption rules. That doesn’t mean there aren't ways to work out a good deal. For example, if you're sitting on less than the minimum number of miles for a hard-to-find round-trip domestic flight, both American Airlines and United Airlines allow one-way redemptions for as low as 12,500 miles.
You can use the one-way award and simply pay for the return or split the trip between airlines (United there, American on the way back). Whether it's a one-way ticket or a standard round trip, try to book six to ten months in advance for the best results. If you're a procrastinator, don't worry. Airlines often open up unsold seats as award space in the days leading up to the flight, so it can be worth it to check just a week or so before you want to go.

Flights In First
This is the certainly the most luxurious way —and, arguably, a sensible way—to use your miles. If you're planning the trip of a lifetime and have the miles, booking a seat in business or first class can be a ridiculously great value. Finding the flights you want can be tough, though.
If you're a hardcore do-it-yourselfer, you can try using flight tools at sites like itasoftware.com and expertflyer.com to sort out routing and availability. These require some time and patience...neither of which most people have. We, at ModHop.com, leave the tough work of finding the best premium award availability and the routes we want to paid services, like those offered by PointsPros.com and CrankyConcierge.com. However you plan and book, you'll be in for a special flight in a cabin that's typically a lot less affordable when paying cash.
Hotel Rooms:
Points that are directly connected to a hotel often offer more practical award redemptions. One of our favorites remains the Starwood (Hotels) Preferred Guest program. Starwood—like a few other major programs—allow you to transfer miles to partners, but the best deals are usually at their hotels. Use your points to book a room or combine a smaller number of points with a fraction of the entire price of the room using a "cash and points" option when available. However you book it, a hotel room is often a smarter redemption than a domestic coach flight.

Doing something that matters with your miles is no longer limited to what you can do for the good of your own family. Increasingly, points and miles can be used to give to people who need to be transported for medical care, for families traveling to be with relatives who are sick, and other very worthy causes. The major U.S. airlines all have charity partners and dedicated donation pages that make it easy to transfer your miles. These donations aren't typically tax deductible.
Whatever award means most to you is, ultimately, the most valuable, so take time to plan and strategize before booking. A quick flight to see a long lost relative a few states away, a luxurious seat or hotel room on the trip of a lifetime, or helping a family in need spend time together...There's no wrong way to use miles if the result is meaningful to you.
Jake Redman is the founder and host of ModHop. In addition to producing and hosting shows on SiriusXM Radio, he travels, spending his time in airports, lounges, and hotels. He shares his findings on ModHop.com to help others determine whether travel upgrades are truly worth the extra cost.  Follow Jake Redman on Twitter @ModHop and Facebook.

Home Entertainment Without the Cable Bill PDF Print E-mail

Have you been thinking about canceling your cable subscription, but don't want to resort to watching "TV" on your computer monitor?

If so, check out this article by Lisa Gerstner of Kiplinger to learn 8 Ways to Stream from the Web to Your TV.

Make Your Weekends Longer PDF Print E-mail
By Melissa Tosetti
What are your plans for this weekend?  Do you have a big project to do on the house?  Are you going to spend the weekend baking in the kitchen?  Are you planning a movie marathon? 
Weekends are a precious time to relax, rejuvenate and do the things we want.  Why not give yourself even more time to enjoy being away from work?  Instead of waiting until Saturday morning to go to the video store and rent your movies, do it on your way home from work on Friday.  You just added an extra 30 minutes to your weekend!
That big baking project?  Pick up what you need during the week so you can immediately roll up your sleeves and start baking on Saturday morning instead of having to trek to the grocery store first.  By the time you get home from the store you'll be tired from fighting the crowds and will likely need to relax for awhile before you get in the kitchen.
The last place anyone wants to be on a weekend is at the home improvement store because EVERYONE is there.  Pick up what you need during the week so you can focus your time, energy and effort on actually doing your project.
In addition to saving time, by planning what you need for your weekend in advance, you will also be able to do a little research to find the best price for your supplies. 
More Ways to Save for That Vacation PDF Print E-mail

By Melissa Tosetti 

There are many different ways to pull together or earmark money for vacations and other fun stuff. One of the most powerful tools is to create a savings account specifically for vacations.   Capital One 360 allows you to create multiple savings accounts so you can earmark your funds for a certain cause, i.e. vacations.  
One of the things I especially love about Capital One 360 is that they also offer a checking account with a debit card. When Paul and I are ready to go on vacation, we transfer the money from our vacation savings to our Capital One 360 checking account.   We then use that debit card throughout our vacation. The money stays separate from our day-to-day checking account and we are able to spend as we please because we know we are only spending our "vacation" money. There is something very freeing about this practice.
If vacations are a big part of your life, start automatically depositing money into your vacation savings account. Even small amounts will begin adding up and will keep you moving toward your goal.
One of my favorite habits for "finding" vacation money is to save the money you save. For example, our grocery store is Safeway and we have a Safeway Club Card that offers additional savings for being a member (membership is free). When I use my card, the amount of money I saved is at the bottom of the receipt. When I get home from the grocery store, I automatically go to my computer and transfer that amount from my day-to-day checking to my vacation account.
Through savvy grocery shopping, I save an average of $75 - $150 per month for our vacations. Also, the money saved by savvy shopping is used for a specific purpose instead of vanishing into thin air.
Other ideas to save include:
  • As you receive gift money, consider putting it into your vacation savings account. 
  • Do you get overtime? Instead of letting that money get absorbed into your checking account, immediately transfer it to your vacation savings account. 
  • Another option is to transfer any leftover money at the end of the pay period into your vacation fund. As you continue this process, you will be surprised at how quickly that money adds up.


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