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Blog Roundup (11-16-12)

I always love sharing my favorite blogs with people, so each week I’ll be giving you guys a roundup of the posts I’ve really enjoyed reading.

If you like them, make sure to subscribe and follow these great bloggers on Twitter and Facebook to share the love!

~Heart,

Em

  • Even if you think your finances are basically in order, check out iVillage’s 30 Ways, 30 Days to Organized Finances. I found a few things I could stand to do better on, and I bet you could, too!

 

Are there any great posts you came across recently? Share them with us in the comments!

Inexpensive but fun (and sometimes a little weird) date ideas

In addition to eating out on the cheap, The Hubby and I also like to think up fun ways to spend our date nights (which are actually often date days) with activities we can do before we eat. It keeps things fun, and we have a blast brainstorming ways to entertain ourselves without adding too much to the “entertainment” category on our budget.

Here are some of the ideas we’ve come up with so far:

Bar games. I know, it’s not really glamorous (none of these ideas really are!), but the point is finding cheap entertainment and then having a great meal thanks to our savings skills. Before our nice dinner out, sometimes we’ll “pre-game” with some fun at the bar around the corner. A beer or two there is still cheaper than a martini at a nice restaurant, and we love playing each other at the dart board and the pool table. (We’re very competitive against each other and like to make bets like “loser has to do the dishes this week” to up the ante.)

Outdoor activities. Rollerblading in the park or riding bikes down by the water in the summer…apple picking in the fall…sledding in the winter. There are all sorts of ways to have fun outside that are free or very cheap, plus you get the bonus of getting some exercise and getting out into nature after all those hours crammed in an office during the week.

Art galleries. We’re lucky enough that our local art gallery has Free Fridays, but you can also find inexpensive (or free) showings at places like local colleges or independent galleries. The Hubby actually enjoys art, of all kinds. I’m the sort that only really likes art I can understand…most modern art escapes me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still have fun pretending I know what I’m talking about. Sometimes it drives The Hubby a little crazy, sometimes he joins in and we pretend we’re snobby art critics who really “get” what the artist is trying to say.

Garage saleing. During garage sale season, grab some change and hit up all the garage sales around your neighborhood. Sometimes we make rules like “you’re allowed to buy whatever you want with your money, no matter how tacky the other person thinks it is” or “use your money to buy a surprise gift for the other person.” It can be hilarious seeing some of the things people own, and you never know…you might even snag a bargain or two! (P.S. Estate sales are the jackpot, if you can find them.)

Open houses. This is one The Hubby agrees to largely to make me happy, although he does get a kick out of it once we’re doing it. I’m obsessed with HGTV and home décor, and there’s just something about seeing how other people decorate their houses. (Especially houses in your own neighborhood that are similar to yours. We live on a cookie cutter street, so all the houses are laid out the same on the inside.) You have to have a little guts for this one, especially if you’re snooping around a neighbor’s house, but it can also be kind of fun to pretend you’re home shopping and make comments like “I don’t know, honey; I’d really prefer a double sink in the bathroom…” Or maybe we’re just weird. Probably we’re just weird.  :)

Date night in. Sometimes there’s nothing like not going out…especially after a week that’s been really crazy. We love to get into our PJs at 6:00 and snuggle in with some great takeout and a few Redbox movies. Now that the weather’s starting to turn, this can be especially cozy. I love cuddling down under a throw blanket and watching a movie while the snow blows around the house outside.

What cheap but great ideas have you come up with for dates?

 

~Heart,

Em

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photo credit:  Wendy Nelson Photography

Tips For Avoiding Ticket Scams

[This is a guest post by Jake Masters. Think you've got what it takes to be a guest poster? Contact Em at em [at] blondeandbalanced [dot] com to learn more about becoming a guest poster yourself!]

Over the years, as tickets to important events have increased in cost, many ticket scams have sprung up across the country to take advantage of the unwary.  There is nothing worse than paying a lot of money for tickets to an event you really want to see, waiting weeks for the event to occur, and then being turned away at the door because your tickets are fake or invalid.

Don’t get scammed into buying counterfeit or non-existent event tickets.  Here are some ways to protect yourself from getting scammed:

Choose a Reputable Ticket Seller

The best way to avoid ticket scams is to always purchase your tickets from a reputable ticket seller.  Online ticket sellers like StubHub! and many physical ticket retailers have a long history of acceptable service, while fly-by-night operations are simply in the business of taking in as much money as they can without providing anything in return.  Stick to the best in the business and be willing to pay a little more for the guarantees offered by those that have been in the ticket selling business the longest.

Check the Better Business Bureau

In many cases, ticket scammers that do not deliver on their promises have done the same thing to other people before, and they may have been reported to the Better Business Bureau.  Before buying tickets from an unknown company, check out their profile on the Better Business Bureau’s website to see how many complaints have been lodged against the company in the past.  If the company you’re considering purchasing tickets from has a low rating or many complaints, you’d be better off choosing another ticket seller to make your purchase.

Be Wary of Ticket Sold on the Secondary Market

The secondary market includes any ticket broker or seller who did not actually have the authority to issue the ticket.  Many are just resellers of tickets they have purchased themselves.  Tickets sold on the secondary market fuel a multi-billion dollar industry but, unfortunately, not all of it is legitimate.  Remember that once you have paid for the tickets online, you have no way of knowing if you will ever receive them unless you’re dealing with a company that has proven itself in the past.  If you buy your tickets from an online exchange, from a scalper, or from an unauthorized ticket broker, you have no way of knowing whether your tickets are real until you arrive at the event, and then it may be too late to do anything about the situation.

Photo credit:  Lachlan Hardy

The holidays are here! (Yay?)

Well, actually, they were here some time in early October. But most of us managed to ignore them at least until Halloween was over.

Now, though, the holiday sales machine is in full swing. Festive commercials are every, urging us to buy sweaters and jewelry for our loved ones before the first snow has even hit the ground. The Toys ‘R Us “Big Book” of toys was in my inserts the other weekend. (Remember how amazing it was to get that book when you were a kid? I spent hours pouring over it (and circling all the things Santa absolutely HAD to bring me, haha!))

Now, I love bargains, and I LOVE love Christmas, but even for me, this is just too much.

Not to be a grinch, but…

I am the kind of person who will haul all the Christmas decorations down from the attic the day after Thanksgiving and insist we put them all up that day. (I don’t do Black Friday, but that’s a post for another time…a time closer to the actual Black Friday!) I’m one of the few people in the world who actually likes it when the local radio stations start playing 24/7 Christmas carols. I listen to those carols, and I sing along at the top of my merry little lungs.

I am a huge little kid (is that an oxymoron?) when it comes to Christmas. Bring on the eggnog! Bring on the old Claymation holiday specials! Bring on the red Starbucks cups that everyone and their mom is apparently talking about online lately.

But bring them on the day after Thanksgiving.

You know when I knew it was officially Christmas time when I was a kid? When Santa Claus’s sled came out at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That seemed pretty clear-cut, right? The Thanksgiving parade was over, and Santa (the real one, of course) had flown down to NYC from his busy toy shop in the North Pole to announce to the world that it was officially ho ho ho season.

He did not sneak into Target in early October to start setting up the special holiday decorations section. He did not make a special flight down from The Pole to turn all the pumpkin spice lattes into gingerbread lattes a month before anyone had any real pumpkin pie. He didn’t tell the producers when he was shooting that “They are real!” M&M’s commercial (because clearly that was also the real Santa) that it was OK if they started airing it the instant the kids got home from trick or treating.

Because you know what that kind of stuff does?

It makes everyone…even me, who owns no less than 10 pairs of holiday socks and wears them proudly…get sick of the Christmas spirit before the turkey has even hit the Thanksgiving table.  And that’s just sad.

How do you avoid getting tired of Christmas before it’s even Thanksgiving? And when you do think “Christmas” will start next year? (I’m guessing some time around Labor Day.)

 

~Heart,

Em

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photo credit:  Monica Arellano-Ongpin