friends en-US 6 Ways to Be a Better Friend Without Any Effort <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/6-ways-to-be-a-better-friend-without-any-effort" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="friends talking" title="friends talking" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Friendship is one of the best and purest pleasures of life. There's nothing quite like having a good friend who walks beside you through the thick and thin, who knows you inside and out, and who helps make your life richer and more meaningful.</p> <p>But&hellip; that takes a lot of work. When you're run down, exhausted, sick, or otherwise unable to put the energy and effort into your friendships in the ways you want to or the ways you've done before, it's easy to start to wonder if your friends will all run away. (See also: <a href="">50 Fun, Free Ways to Have a Great Time With Friends</a>)</p> <p>While a true friend won't leave you when you're in distress, even if you have absolutely nothing to give to them or the relationship, it can ease your anxiety to know that there are some easy, effortless things you can do that make you a better friend. These can make both you and your friend feel better about your relationship, even when things are hard.</p> <h2>1. Be Yourself</h2> <p>It's easy to feel like your friends want you to be a certain person or act a certain way. However, real friends just want you to be you. And, honestly, what could be easier? To be a good friend, stop worrying. Stop worrying about how you're coming across, about what they might be thinking, and about whether they might rather be with someone else.</p> <p>Instead, give them the gift of you. Stop making the whole thing harder than it is. Offer yourself, and you may find that your friends are freed to do the same, which makes any relationship stronger.</p> <h2>2. Ask Them How They Feel</h2> <p>We have all heard about how empathy is important and how it makes relationships stronger, and most of us have experienced it with some friend, at some time. However, empathy often takes so much energy! Fortunately, <a href="">it's easy to show empathy</a> even when you're not feeling it or you don't know how to start.</p> <p>When a friend is sharing something that they're struggling with, ask them how they feel about it. After they've shared how they're feeling, tell them, &quot;That sounds like a rough place to be,&quot; or, &quot;It sounds like this is difficult for you.&quot; This helps them feel heard, with little effort on your part.</p> <p>While you shouldn't fake empathy when you really don't value it, these phrases can help you seem empathic even when you're tired, stressed, or otherwise too drained. It takes almost no effort to say these phrases, and you can decide later if you really have the energy to listen well, or if your friend just needs permission to vent.</p> <h2>3. Stop Giving Advice</h2> <p>We want to help our friends, and we feel like we should. However, we will help more by simply listening, which frees us from the burden of figuring out all of their problems.</p> <p>Giving advice can feel good in a friendship, but it takes quite a bit of energy to think up solutions for their problems that might actually work. And, in fact, this is not your job. Most people are perfectly capable of managing their own lives, when they're given the chance to do so. When you stop giving advice, you won't expend as much energy owning their problems, and they will find that they have the power and ability to solve things on their own.</p> <p>Quitting advice can also save your friendships from becoming unbalanced. If you give all the advice and they always receive it, it's hard to have a real friendship. You become a counselor, and they may feel like they don't have much to offer you. When you quit giving advice, you not only save your energy but you might salvage a relationship, too.</p> <h2>4. Tell Them You Enjoy Their Presence</h2> <p>When you're tired, it's easy to act and feel down in general, and your friends may not know that this has nothing to do with them. Reassure them by telling them that you enjoy them, that your life is better because they are there, or that their friendship makes a hard time better.</p> <p>Doing this will make you a better friend even when you're not tired, and it never takes much effort. Friendship can be confusing and difficult to navigate even in the best of times, and it's always better to tell people exactly where they stand, especially when doing so will help them relax in your presence.</p> <h2>5. Smile</h2> <p><a href="">Smiling is contagious</a>. When you see someone smile, your brain wants to do the same in return. So you smile. And when you smile, all sorts of good things happen in your body and your brain. You release endorphins, which make you feel better, and you look more attractive to others.</p> <p>Guess what? When your friends smile, they experience the same effects. Thus, offering your friend a smile (which their body almost forces them to return), does them a huge favor and probably makes them feel better about their relationship with you, even if they aren't sure why.</p> <h2>6. Say &quot;Please&quot; And &quot;Thank You&quot;</h2> <p>It's perfectly acceptable to ask your friends for help. In fact, it might even be <a href="">good for you</a>. When you do ask for help, though, be sure to use &quot;please&quot; and &quot;thank you.&quot;</p> <p>These words are more than just polite niceties. When used with a genuine tone of voice, they <a href="">show your friends that they are important to you</a>. &quot;Please&quot; shows that you value your friend and his or her resources &mdash; time, energy, money, etc. &mdash; that you are asking for, and that you understand they will have to give of themselves to meet your request.</p> <p>&quot;Thank you&quot; indicates similar things. Saying these words means that you accept the gift your friend has just given you, whatever it is, and that you appreciate it and are grateful, both for the gift and for them.</p> <p><em>How do you show your friends you care when you're worn out? Have you ever had a friend do something that was effortless for them but meant a lot to you?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="6 Ways to Be a Better Friend Without Any Effort" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Sarah Winfrey</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> General Tips Personal Development friends friendship relationships Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:00:08 +0000 Sarah Winfrey 1211248 at 12 Things You Need to Stop Doing Today to Be a Better Friend <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/12-things-you-need-to-stop-doing-today-to-be-a-better-friend" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="best friends cafe" title="best friends cafe" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Sometimes true friendships seem to be born out of a mysterious, intangible energy that pulls two people together. Keeping friendships strong and thriving is a far less mysterious affair, though. (See also: <a href="">6 Time-Tested Ways to Make a Relationship Work</a>)</p> <p>Part art, part science, and part common sense, being a better friend takes a lot of effort, and maybe the kicking of a bad habit or two. Or a dozen. So here are 12 things you need to stop doing now in order to be a better friend.</p> <h2>1. Shopping for Better Social Offers</h2> <p>Psst&hellip; you're not fooling anyone when you're consistently non-committal about plans. Your friends probably know you're holding out for a better offer. We get it &mdash; your time is a rare and valuable commodity. But as tempting as &quot;social shopping&quot; might be from time-to-time, consider the long-term effects it can have on the relationships your hold most dear. <em>Commit</em>, participate, and stop wondering what's behind curtain number three.</p> <h2>2. Going AWOL When You're Dating</h2> <p>Are you the type of friend that disappears the moment a romantic relationship gets serious? Or worse, do you reconnect with old friends once it's time to pick up the pieces after a breakup? If so, it may be time to reevaluate how you balance the relationships in your life. Solid friendships are built on consistency and mutual respect; don't go MIA the moment you fall head over heels.</p> <h2>3. Texting, Tweeting, Calling, Clicking, Snapping, and Chatting</h2> <p>It's difficult to listen when we're surrounded by mobile devices that are never silenced or sidelined. Make face time (and by <em>face time</em>, I mean face-to-face time, not the Apple product), electronics-free. You'll <a href="">become more fully present</a>, your friends will thank you for it, and you'll begin to appreciate the unplugged moments of life.</p> <h2>4. Being Late</h2> <p>Sometimes it's unavoidable. But if you're terminally tardy, you're implying that your friends' time isn't as valuable as yours. Honor the people you care about by <a href="">learning how to be punctual.</a></p> <h2>5. Listening Just to Respond</h2> <p>The art of conversation is built on active listening, but many people cut their listening time short in order to formulate a reply. Instead of worrying about how you're going to respond (if a response is even necessary), listen to learn. What is your friend really saying? And just as importantly, what's <em>not</em> being said?</p> <h2>6. Avoiding the Truth</h2> <p>John Lennon said it best: &quot;Being honest may not get you a lot of friends, but it'll always get you the right ones.&quot; Good friends are kind to each other, but rigorously honest about the things that matter. Work to make your closest friendships &quot;no BS zones&quot; where you can be open about the ups and downs of life, love, career, and money. It'll help create a refuge where each of you can give and receive honest feedback.</p> <h2>7. Forgetting Important Dates</h2> <p>Birthdays, anniversaries, significant events at work &mdash; remembering these details shows that you're listening and that you're tuned into another person's world. Acknowledging the major and minor moments of our friends' lives promotes trust, connection, and appreciation.</p> <h2>8. Imposing Time Limits</h2> <p>Aren't we all on the clock too much as it is? I don't know about you, but the last thing I need is a friend who can't put down his mental stopwatch. Sure, sometimes it's just fine to sneak a quick cup of coffee in between meetings, but a chronic I've-got-to-run attitude is doesn't allow room for friendships to meander, grow, and deepen.</p> <h2>9. Over-Planning Everything</h2> <p>Doesn't it seem like the best moments in life are the unplanned ones? As much as a good plan can benefit a Friday night or a weekend getaway, it's important to know when to scrap the schedule and just wing it.</p> <h2>10. Being Predictable</h2> <p>Sometimes small gestures of kindness, surprising moments, and a spontaneous spirit can breathe new life into a friendship between two people who know each other frontward and backward. Keep your friendships fresh by showing appreciation and nurturing a bit of the unexpected. Running low on inspiration, explore new and inexpensive <a href="">ways to have fun with friends</a>.</p> <h2>11. Holding Grudges</h2> <p>Every relationship has its highs and lows. But friendships are investments that two people make in each other; don't let hurt feelings or an argument wipe out what you've built.</p> <h2>12. Dodging the Truly Terrible Times</h2> <p>It's inevitable &mdash; when two people are friends for a long enough period of time, they'll witness life-altering events in each other's lives. The death of a parent, a messy divorce, or loss of a job are just a few examples of moments when good friendships are forged by fire and become something far more profound. Don't dodge the down times because you don't know the right thing to do or say. Realize the comfort your shared history can provide and rise to the occasion.</p> <p>In the end, friendships are formed by common interests and complementary senses of humor, but they're maintained and deepened by the shared events &mdash; the comedies and tragedies that shift and shape our lives. Friendships should help us achieve more, worry less, laugh louder, and handle the challenges of life with a little more support. With that in mind, learning to be a better is nearly a sacred pursuit. Put your whole heart into it.</p> <p><em>Do you have a best friend? How did he or she earn that coveted title in your life?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="12 Things You Need to Stop Doing Today to Be a Better Friend" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Family Personal Development friends friendship loyalty relationships Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:00:03 +0000 Kentin Waits 1203541 at 7 Nice Ways to Tell Your Spendy Friends You're Staying on Budget <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-nice-ways-to-tell-your-spendy-friends-youre-staying-on-budget" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="friends disagreement" title="friends disagreement" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Unless you're invited to hang out at a friend's house, social invitations typically require spending money &mdash; going to the movies, grabbing a bite to eat, hitting an amusement park.</p> <p>Ignoring an invite or saying that you're busy can get you off the hook, but friends might get suspicious if you pull the same excuse over and over. (See also: <a href="">Is Peer Pressure Keeping You Poor?</a>)</p> <p>You don't have to justify your reasons for not spending. But if you don't want friends or relatives to get the wrong idea or think that you're avoiding them, a simple explanation goes a long way. Whether you're on a financial fast or have other plans for your money, there are friendly ways to tell someone you don't want to spend money.</p> <h2>1. I'm Saving Up for the Holidays</h2> <p>It doesn't matter if you're buying gifts for family or taking a vacation, planning for the holiday season is a good reason (and good excuse) to scale back on spending. And since many people feel the pinch during the holidays, those in your social circle will likely understand your reasoning, and won't give you a hard time for turning down pricey invitations.</p> <h2>2. I'm Trying to Stick to My Budget</h2> <p>Saying, &quot;I'm on a budget&quot; is one way to say you're broke without actually uttering the word. But even when you have extra money, budgeting can prevent overspending.</p> <p>If you receive an invitation to join friends at a restaurant, or if you're invited to a network marketing sales party, be honest and let the host know that extra spending isn't in the budget right now. This doesn't necessarily suggest that you don't have money, but that you're careful with how you spend your pennies. Your willpower might rub off on others.</p> <h2>3. I Have New Responsibilities</h2> <p>Social invitations can go beyond dinner and a movie, and your friends might plan a vacation together or suggest a shopping trip in the city. A responsible adult counts the cost before any large purchase. And if you have new responsibilities or financial obligations (such as you've started a family or recently purchased a home), now may not be the best time to spend money on an expensive adventure. If you're the first one in your group to have children or buy a house, you might need to kindly remind your friends how these changes impact personal finances. And remember: specifics count here. So if you feel comfortable, feel free to go into detail about said new responsibilities.</p> <h2>4. I've Had Some Unexpected Expenses Arise</h2> <p>Maybe you haven't taken on new responsibilities, yet unexpected costs have zapped your disposable income. You may have some extra money, yet realize it's wiser to put this cash towards getting your finances back on track &mdash; and right now, frivolous spending is out of the question.</p> <h2>5. I'm Planning for My Future</h2> <p>Friends don't need to know the nitty-gritty details about your plan. Whether you're growing your retirement fund, saving up for a house, or planning to buy a vacation property, you'll never reach long-term saving goals unless you're disciplined and willing to turn down a few invitations.</p> <h2>6. Can I Suggest Another Activity?</h2> <p>The fact that you don't want to spend money doesn't mean that you don't want to spend time with friends. Another friendly approach is suggesting an alternate activity &mdash; one that doesn't cost a dime, or an activity that costs very little.</p> <p>For example, if a friend suggests a getaway, but you don't want to spend money on airfare, hotels, and meals in an expensive city, suggest a cheaper option and look for a destination within a one or two-hour drive of your house. Spend the day enjoying the local sights, and drive back the same day. Pack a lunch and snacks and only spend money on gas.</p> <h2>7. Blame a Scapegoat &mdash; if Necessary</h2> <p>Explaining that you're on a budget or saying that you're planning for the future are friendly ways to tell someone that you don't want to spend money. But sometimes, these reasons don't put an end to spending peer pressure, and you might need to use a scapegoat.</p> <p>This suggestion comes from a friend who felt pressured by co-workers to dine out for lunch. Her colleagues ate out just about everyday of the week, spending upwards of $30 to $40 a week on lunch. Although joining the group wouldn't create a hardship, she couldn't justify spending so much on lunch. The pressure didn't stop until she nicely used her husband as a scapegoat, saying he didn't like the idea of her spending $100 a month on lunch. Fair? Maybe. Effective? Yes.</p> <p><em>Can you suggest some other friendly ways to tell someone you don't want to spend money? What excuses have you used in the past? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="7 Nice Ways to Tell Your Spendy Friends You&#039;re Staying on Budget" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance Budgeting friends saving spending Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:00:07 +0000 Mikey Rox 1197955 at The 5 Worst Pieces of Financial Advice Your Friends Give You <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-5-worst-pieces-of-financial-advice-your-friends-give-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="friends" title="friends" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We all love our friends. That's why we keep them around. It's always good to have other voices and perspectives in our lives, letting us know when we're doing well, walking a fine line, or just plain wrong.</p> <p>Sometimes, our friends are a valuable source of wisdom in our life. But let's be honest. Sometimes our friends give bad advice. And I mean really bad advice &mdash; like horrendous, usher-in-the-apocalypse type stuff.</p> <p>If your friends are the opinionated type, you can even expect a never-ending barrage of article quotes and obscure, unverifiable facts backing up their awful counsel. In fact, baseless articles, regurgitated through your friends, are probably the source of the worst financial advice you've ever received. (See also: <a href="">11 Ways Your Friends Can Save You Money</a>)</p> <p>Let's take a look at this poor guidance &mdash; the worst pieces of financial advice your friends give you.</p> <h2>1. You Can Afford It</h2> <p>At some point in our lives, each of us is tempted to keep up with the Joneses. Much of our society operates on a mentality that says, &quot;If I can buy it, I can afford it.&quot;</p> <p>The trouble with this mentality is that it's a poverty mentality. It's like a farmer eating all of his wheat instead of planting enough for next year's crop. Just because you can afford that new car your neighbor bought doesn't mean you should buy it. In 20 years, you won't care about what model vehicle you drove this year. You will care about whether that $20k turned into $0 or $75k.</p> <h2>2. You Need to Take a Long Vacation</h2> <p>Somehow, we've fallen into this mentality where a two-week family vacations are a mandatory part of a every year. Just considering a departure from this trend will illicit correction from our friends and coworkers. &quot;No vacation!?&quot; &quot;Inconceivable!&quot; &quot;You should really put your family first.&quot;</p> <p>Life-work balance is important, but no system works perfectly for everyone. For your family, a week-long vacation might the most stressful week of the year. Why waste all your disposable income to meet a quota? If a few weekend getaways with the spouse and a monthly day-trip with the family make more sense, go with that. (See also: <a href="">14 Affordable Weekend Getaways</a>)</p> <h2>3. School Is Worth the Debt</h2> <p>Education is definitely important, and numerous studies have confirmed that degree-holders make more money in the long run. That being said, there are plenty of low-cost options for acquiring a college degree.</p> <p>Unless you have some sort of highly lucrative job opportunity secured pending graduation from a specific university, taking out $50k+ in student loans makes little sense. There are hundreds of affordable college options. No degree is worth spending the entirety of your twenties in financial shackles.</p> <h2>4. You Need to Save More Money</h2> <p>As Wise Bread readers know, aggressive saving is important to long-term financial wellbeing. Saving tips are a staple on any website dealing with personal finance, and virtually everyone these days has their own personal collection of wallet-sparing tricks.</p> <p>The problem, however, is that saving money doesn't increase wealth. Investment increases wealth, and a simple &quot;You should save more money!&quot; approach will sink your chances at living the life you desire.</p> <p>If you have cut frivolous expenses from your spending habits, the next step is not to find more joys to cut out, but rather, to find positive investments to place that income in. If a tight budget isn't enough to get by, you should be looking at alternative income sources, not attempting to squash all remaining pleasures out of your life. (See also: <a href="">30 Great Side Jobs</a>)</p> <h2>5. Invest in &quot;Can't Miss Super Opportunity, Inc&quot;</h2> <p>As noted above, investment is the key to financial success. If your friends are all millionaires, this article doesn't apply to you, and you're pretty much set for life anyway.</p> <p>For everyone else, just realize your friends would be making ridiculous amounts of money if their investment ideas were worth the time they wasted telling you. Three out of four venture capital backed <a href="">startups fail within the first four years</a>. And it's even worse for bootstrapping startups that don't secure venture capital. Investing in Can't Miss Super Opportunity, Inc based on a random friend's suggestion is essentially gambling... with the additional risk that a loss could cost you a friendship, too.</p> <p><em>What's the worst financial advice you've ever heard from one of your friends? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The 5 Worst Pieces of Financial Advice Your Friends Give You" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Jacob McMillen</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance advice financial advice friends friends and money Tue, 13 May 2014 08:12:24 +0000 Jacob McMillen 1139070 at 5 People You Should Have in Your "Personal Emergency Kit" <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-people-you-should-have-in-your-personal-emergency-kit" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="emergency call" title="emergency call" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>They say it takes a village to raise a kid, but the truth is, it takes a village to get through life in general whether you have kids or not. And to exist in a relatively peaceful village, you have to ensure that you're surrounding yourself with the right people &mdash; especially for emergency situations.</p> <p>I'm sure you can think of plenty of folks in your own life who lend a helping hand when you need it. That's great; keep them around. If you don't have these people, however, it's time you let your guard down and let some new folks in; you never know when you're gonna need them, but when you do, you'll be glad you found each other.</p> <p>To help you evaluate who's missing from your &quot;personal emergency kit,&quot; here are five types of people who can make your life easier in times of crises &mdash; plus a bonus guy who may be the most important of them all. (See also: <a href="">Emergencies to Prepare For</a>)</p> <h2>1. A Neighbor Who Will Alert You When There's Trouble at Your House</h2> <p>&quot;Roseanne&quot; is one of my favorite shows, and I love the episode when Roseanne thinks her uppity neighbor, Kathy Bowman, is giving all her high-end furniture and housewares to charity while Kathy and her family are on vacation. A truck, presumably from a Salvation Army-type establishment, pulls up to Kathy's house and empties it while Roseanne looks on in disbelief at her neighbor's frivolous &quot;goodwill.&quot; Roseanne &mdash; spotting something in transit from house to truck that she deems too good for &quot;charity&quot; &mdash; goes over to the moving guys and pays them $20 for a tacky ceramic dog. Long story short, Kathy returns and tells Roseanne that she's been robbed blind, much to Roseanne's surprise. Excellent episode; that lady still cracks me up 20+ years later.</p> <p>The moral of that anecdote is that good neighbors are hard to come by these days, so when you find one, hang on to them tight. This neighbor will help you rest easier while you're on vacation because you know they're looking over your home well, but they'll also keep a watchful eye even when you're away for just a few hours. This neighbor can collect your mail for you if you're taking an extended vacation, and call the cops if they spot strangers lurking about.</p> <p>If you don't have a neighbor like this, get in one's good graces soon. You don't want to regret it later.</p> <h2>2. Someone Who Can Watch Over Your Kids at Moment's Notice</h2> <p>Those of you with kids know that there are times when you might need to put your kids in the care of someone responsible at a moment's notice to deal with any number of issues. Maybe you need to rush your spouse to the hospital in the middle of the night; maybe you just want to go to the supermarket in peace. Whatever the case, it's not a bad idea to create a relationship &mdash; preferably with another parent so you can trade off and establish an equitable rapport &mdash; who can serve as your go-to lifesaver when you need to pawn off your kids in an instant.</p> <h2>3. A Local Handyperson Friend Who Will Give Your Issue Priority</h2> <p>Picture it: Sicily, 1922.</p> <p>Just kidding. That's the famous catchphrase of the &quot;Golden Girls'&quot; Sophia Petrillo &ndash; I watch <em>a lot</em> of TV Land, you guys.</p> <p>Picture this instead: It's 4 a.m. and your toilet is overflowing, so much that water and other toilet-esque things are seeping into your carpet and hardwood floors, and you need this stopped <em>now</em>. Who ya' gonna call?</p> <p>Hopefully your friendly neighborhood handyperson, whom you've treated very well over the years and sufficiently compensated for his or her time and expertise, will be on the case in a flash. Hopefully.</p> <p>If this person isn't currently in your life, make him or her part of it immediately and be the best friend you can be. Unless, of course, you like the idea of trying to stop the rush of gushing you-know-what with your bare hands in the middle of the night. Diff'rent strokes, I suppose. (See what I did there? Too much TV Land!)</p> <h2>4. That Friend Who Will Drop Everything to Help You Out</h2> <p>You know how when you're moving and you need help carrying those heavy boxes of books up four flights of stairs and everyone on your contact list is suddenly busy? You can still consider those folks friends, I guess (albeit very loosely), but if they can't help you schlep your junk around town just for the heck of it, don't be surprised when they let you down many other times.</p> <p>Instead, keep close that one friend who's there for you no matter what, no matter when you need them. This is the guy or girl who's spending an otherwise lonely Friday night with you; the person whose shoulder you can cry on; the one who will never judge you; who will pick you up on the side of the road when your car breaks down at 2 a.m.; the bestie who will bring you soup when you're sick; the amigo who will, in the same day, trash talk your lousy significant other with you then embrace him with open arms when you inevitably take him back for the fifth time; and above all, this is the confidant who will keep your darkest, dirtiest secrets safe and sound forever and ever &mdash; no matter how much somebody is willing to pay for them.</p> <p>As you know, these kind of friends are hard to find and even harder to keep. You're extremely lucky to have this person in your life &mdash; and don't you soon forget it.</p> <h2>5. A Co-Worker Who Will Cover for You When You Can't Get to the Office</h2> <p>Late for work because you overslept? Can't make it in until noon because your kid accidentally tried to burn down the house this morning? Life happens, and these situations will go over much smoother &mdash; perhaps even under the radar altogether &mdash; if you've made a pact with an influential co-worker to cover each other when one of you can't make it to work on time or at all on a particular day. This person can bring your important documents to you from the office or help you finish up a few things while you're handling your emergency.</p> <h2>Bonus: That Dude Down the Block Who's Building His Apocalyptic Hideaway</h2> <p>You've seen him bringing in large buckets of rice and gallons upon gallons of water, lots of ammunition and firearms, tactical gear, and enough wood and concrete to build a bunker (which he is definitely doing); and you probably think he's crazy. That will all change when the zombie apocalypse comes, <a href="">which just got kind of real</a> by the way, and he's basically your last hope for survival. When that day arrives, he'll probably forget your name and leave you to fend for yourself, but it's not a bad idea to invite this dude over for dinner tonight, get to know him, befriend him, and eventually ask him to legally adopt you so you can have at least a little peace of mind when the ish hits the fan. This impending end-of-the-world scenario is hypothetical of course, but so was space travel at one point. Ponder that.</p> <p><em>Do you have other people that we should have in our &quot;personal emergency kits?&quot; Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="5 People You Should Have in Your &quot;Personal Emergency Kit&quot;" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Life Hacks emergencies friends Help neighbors Thu, 01 May 2014 09:00:26 +0000 Mikey Rox 1137580 at 15 Ways to Stay on Budget — Even With Your Spendy Friends <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/15-ways-to-stay-on-budget-even-with-your-spendy-friends" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="friends" title="friends" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We all love spending time with our friends. But if you find yourself dipping deeper into your pockets than you'd like for get togethers, you might wonder how to cope. I, too, am on tight entertainment funds. In fact, now that I'm a full-fledged adult, I thought it would be prudent to put myself back on an allowance to stay in check. (See also: <a href="">Build Your First Budget in 5 Steps</a>)</p> <p>Thing is, it can feel awkward or even embarrassing when I'm asked to take part in an activity I can't afford or don't want to find room for in my budget. If you find yourself in a similar boat, consider these tips for how to diffuse the situation.</p> <h2>1. Try Honesty</h2> <p>First are foremost, I find it's best to be upfront to avoid uncomfortable situations in the future. If you are close enough with your buddies, they should understand why you want to scrimp and save. Often, you may even discover that they &mdash; too &mdash; would rather find less expensive things to do.</p> <h2>2. Suggest Alternatives</h2> <p>If you don't feel honesty is the best policy, you could also take control by offering up some suggestions within your price range. Some ideas:</p> <ul> <li><a href="">15 Fun Nights Out for $5 Or Less</a><br /> &nbsp;</li> <li><a href="">47 Cheap, Fun Things To Do This Weekend</a><br /> &nbsp;</li> <li><a href="">The Ultimate $5 Fun List</a></li> </ul> <p>You truly can have fun on a dime (or for no money at all).</p> <h2>3. Make Yourself Responsible</h2> <p>There's little reason to decline invitations to go shopping or out to other activities that don't involve a cover or ticket charge. Instead, make yourself the responsible party for keeping your dollars in your pocket. Don't bring your credit card, &quot;forget&quot; cash, or just try old fashioned restraint. You can still enjoy the time together without all the swag.</p> <h2>4. Open Your Home</h2> <p>One of the best ways my husband and I have found to save money going out is to invite people into our own home. Instead of going out for a pricey dinner, we ask friends to all bring a dish to share and enjoy a cheap potluck with bonus game night. (See also: <a href="">Host a Dinner Party for Under $20</a>)</p> <h2>5. Crunch the Numbers</h2> <p>Many people don't realize how the little things add up to something big. In this case, even going out to lunch three days a week could add up to $30 and a staggering $1,500 over the course of a year. Explain you'd rather pack your brown bag now and take that fun vacation later.</p> <h2>6. Blame Your Budget</h2> <p>Along with being honest comes telling friends you are indeed on a budget (shouldn't we all be?). If an invitation catches you at the wrong time socially or financially, you could always just explain that you've maxed out your entertainment funds for the week or month. By doing so, perhaps you'll start a productive conversation on personal finances and inspire your friend to try your saving ways! (See also: <a href="">Should You Talk to Friends About Money?</a>)</p> <h2>7. Share Positivity</h2> <p>You can even go a step beyond bringing up budget to sharing a recent success with paying off credit card bills or other debt through being frugal. Say something like &quot;You know, I can't go this weekend because I've been paying off X bill, and it feels so good to see my balance getting closer to $0!&quot; You might inspire a friend to do the same.</p> <h2>8. Make a Healthy Excuse</h2> <p>Rather than outright lie about another commitment as your excuse to not do something, come up with a healthy reason to skip out. Lies won't work in the long run anyway, and it's easy to get caught in your own game. Consider saying something like &quot;Well, I would love to &mdash; but I just have to get my run in that day. Would you join me?&quot; Or &quot;I've been too sedentary this week, would you like to take a walk instead?&quot;</p> <h2>9. Sell Quality Time</h2> <p>You can also be quite convincing by sharing the benefits of time spent doing nothing at all. Often, going to movies, concerts, loud restaurants, and other costly events mean there's little time to actually connect. Instead, suggest meeting over a warm cup of tea or glass of wine and having a nice, long chat to catch up.</p> <h2>10. Plan Ahead</h2> <p>If you know your pal likes to go to expensive concerts or games, why not get on some forward thinking? Ask your friend if he or she would like to attend one of these events with a date in the future. That way, you could save up your pennies slowly, but avoid that awkward spur-of-the-moment conversation entirely.</p> <h2>11. Set Schedules</h2> <p>For everyday invitations to lunches out, for example, take control by setting a specific day of the week or month to indulge. Remember, you can still treat yourself on occasion and still stay on point for your financial goals. If you have a friend who is routinely asking you to go out and splurge, go back to honesty.</p> <h2>12. Just Say &quot;No&quot;</h2> <p>You don't necessarily have to give an excuse or reason for why you can't do something. A simple, but polite &quot;no&quot; should do well to decline an invitation. If you're pressed for details, you can always just say you're busy (saving money!). (See also: <a href="">5 Ways to Say &quot;No&quot;</a>)</p> <h2>13. Play the Busy Card</h2> <p>However, if your &quot;busy&quot; ploy is falling flat, write up a to-do list and make it legitimate. The next time you're asked to do something out of your budget, say you're busy. Then go item by item on your list and get productive with your time. Can't go to that five star restaurant? Finish painting your bedroom. That weekend away too extravagant right now? Clean your house from top to bottom.</p> <h2>14. Reevaluate</h2> <p>If you're continually feeling the pressure to keep up with the Joneses, you might alleviate your stress by taking a step back. True friends should truly understand the value of your friendship versus flashy purchases or a fine restaurant bucket list.</p> <h2>15. Reciprocate</h2> <p>On the flip side, if you're in good standing with your budget and find yourself to be the one making all the invitations, be understanding. We all cycle through different periods in our lives and with our money and goals. Before you ask your buddies to do something extravagant, consider if there's a thrifty alternative that isn't going to exclude anyone in your circle.</p> <p><em>How do you tell friends you can't (or won't) spend money?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="15 Ways to Stay on Budget — Even With Your Spendy Friends" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living budgeting friends friends and money frugality Wed, 23 Apr 2014 09:24:48 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1136585 at 25 Easy Ways to Make Someone Happy Today <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/25-easy-ways-to-make-someone-happy-today" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="family" title="family" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We live in an &quot;all about me&quot; world these days, and it's easy to get caught up in ourselves without any regard for those around us. Let's change that. Do something for somebody else today that makes them happy &mdash; even for a moment. Here are 25 ideas to get you started. In the comments below, add your own ideas on how to bring someone happiness &mdash; however big or small. (See also: <a href="">Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Happier</a>)</p> <h2>1. Send a Thank-You Card</h2> <p>When somebody does something nice for you, it's important to say thanks. Whether it's a passing gesture of politeness or a special gift for a special occasion, let your appreciation be known. Most of us say thank you in the moment, but it matters more when you do it again later, too. Sit down, write a quick note of gratitude, and pop it in the mail. The recipient will know that you're sincere in your thanks and that their gesture or gift was truly appreciated; and they'll inevitably hold you in higher esteem because you went out of your way to let them know how much they mean to you.</p> <h2>2. Bake Your Neighbor Something Sweet</h2> <p>Who doesn't like a big plate of freshly baked cookies or brownies? If you have a neighbor you're particularly fond of &mdash; or even better, one with whom you haven't necessarily gotten along with in the past &mdash; hit the kitchen and whip up a delicious treat. Package them nicely on a plate or in a pastry box and deliver with a kind note and a smile. (See also: <a href="">Delicious Gifts You Can Bake</a>)</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 605px; height: 303px;" /></p> <h2>3. Make Your Partner Breakfast in Bed</h2> <p>What a surprise it is to have breakfast served in bed &mdash; especially when it's just an ordinary day. The next time you're up before your partner and you have time to crack a few eggs and butter some toast, surprise him or her with a meal that they don't have to move an inch to enjoy.</p> <h2>4. Send Your Mom Flowers</h2> <p>Moms are special people who don't always get the recognition they deserve &mdash; aside from that one day of the year, of course. Outside of Mother's Day, send your mom a small bouquet of flowers that tell her how much you love her and appreciate all the things she's done for you throughout your life. As flowers can be expensive, I try to wait until I receive a deal via e-mail from popular flower-delivery services and pair that with an additional coupon or free shipping code that I've found online.</p> <h2>5. Take the Neighbor's Dog for a Walk</h2> <p>Taking care of a small errand like walking the dog can really help out, and it shows that you care about both your neighbor and the dog. After all, dogs appreciate nice gestures, too. Bring a bowl and a water bottle so they don't get dehydrated, and be sure to pack their favorite ball for playing fetch. (See also: <a href="">Why It's Good to Know Your Neighbors</a>)</p> <h2>6. Take Your Assistant to Lunch</h2> <p>Let's be honest &mdash; your assistant does all the work you don't want to do. Mine does, at least. Which is why I take him to lunch once a month to let him know that I appreciate all his hard work. If you have an assistant, allot time in your schedule to take him or her out to eat or order in lunch every now and then. You'll not only be able to express your gratitude for what they do for you, but it'll give you one-on-one time to get to know each other better, resulting in an improved professional and even personal relationship.</p> <h2>7. Call Your Grandmother Just to Say Hi</h2> <p>Before the grandmother to whom I was closest passed away, I would often call her out of the blue &mdash; and she loved it. I genuinely enjoyed talking to my grandmother, too. To make your grandmother smile today, pick up the phone just to say hello. She'll appreciate it, and you will too since all of our time on this planet is limited. By the way, this works for grandfathers as well; let's not forget them.</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 605px; height: 303px;" /></p> <h2>8. Invite Your Bestie Over for Pizza and a Movie</h2> <p>You two are best friends for a reason &mdash; you get each other when nobody else does. Let your main man or sister from another mister know they're your number one by planning a movie marathon pizza party where you can kick back, relax, and remember why you're so close in the first place. (See also: <a href="">10 Ways to Have a Cheaper Evening With Friends</a>)</p> <h2>9. Send Your Boss an Appreciative E-mail</h2> <p>Not all bosses are created equal &mdash; I've had my fair share of jerks in charge of my employment &mdash; but there are bosses out there who genuinely care for their employees. If you're one of the lucky ones to have a boss like this, let them know that you're happy with their performance and guidance by sending a short and professional email saying so.</p> <h2>10. Post Something Uplifting and Funny to Facebook</h2> <p>I love posting funny, sweet, or heartfelt videos to Facebook because it always, without fail, makes somebody on my friends list happy. How do I know? Every single time I post something like that, they respond with how much it made their day. Mission accomplished. (See also: <a href="">10 Ways to Make Facebook Productive</a>)</p> <h2>11. Pay for the Toll Fare for the Car Behind You</h2> <p>When I was kid, my dad used to pay the toll for the car behind us on occasion on our way to the beach. This was the 1980s and 1990s, of course, when tolls were much cheaper, but there are still small fare tolls around that you can handle financially on someone else's behalf. Thus, take your cue from my dad and pay for the toll behind you. Who knows &mdash; you might just start a trend like <a href="">one customer did at a Connecticut Starbucks recently</a>; more than 1,000 continued to pay for the person behind them. Now that's a beautiful day in America. (See also: <a href="">Frugal Ways to Pay It Forward</a>)</p> <h2>12. Clean the House &mdash; or at Least One Room</h2> <p>Are you the one who makes the most mess around the house while your partner or roommate is always cleaning it up? Muster up the courtesy &mdash; and courage &mdash; to tackle the house (or at least a room) so your default and unpaid &quot;maid&quot; doesn't have to.</p> <h2>13. Shovel Your Neighbor's Snow</h2> <p>Just a few weeks ago my neighbor shoveled snow off the sidewalk at my house. My husband and I recently moved in, and we neglected to buy shovels. I really appreciated his kindness, especially because it meant that we didn't have to brave the elements to pick up shovels of our own. We have, of course, bought shovels since then so we're prepared for next time, and our neighbor received a nice, freshly baked treat as thanks.</p> <h2>14. Listen &mdash; Just Listen</h2> <p>Listening is harder than it sounds (no pun intended). Often we think we're listening, but we're not. Next time somebody wants to be heard, really listen, engage in the conversation, and let the speaker know that you care about what they're saying. Trust me when I tell you that it will make a world of difference, especially if the situation is an argument.</p> <h2>15. Give a Stranger a Compliment</h2> <p>If you like what somebody's wearing or how they've done their hair today, let them know. They obviously took some time and care putting themselves together, and it feels nice to be recognized for it. Remember, too, that they might not get that compliment even from the people to whom they're the closest, which makes a stranger's compliment all the more meaningful.</p> <h2>16. Tip Your Server a Little Extra for Exceptional Service</h2> <p>Did your server do a great job bringing you everything you needed to have an excellent meal out? Show your appreciation by tipping a little extra and add a little note that points out what he or she did right to make your outing a success.</p> <h2>17. Play With Your Niece or Nephew</h2> <p>When your niece or nephew wants to play, play. They won't be young forever &mdash; which means that you'll regret it later if you don't play with them &mdash; and you need to keep your status as favorite auntie or uncle, anyway. Plus, it never hurt anybody to act like a kid again for a bit. (See also: <a href="">Free Ways to Entertain Kids</a>)</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 605px; height: 303px;" /></p> <h2>18. Give Somebody Important to You a Hug</h2> <p>One little hug can go a long way. You have no idea what others are going through, and this simple gesture can make all the difference in the world. Hug somebody &mdash; for you and for them.</p> <h2>19. Cuddle Your Partner When They Least Expect It</h2> <p>There are very few things that make me happier than when my husband cuddles up to me without provocation. It's even more appreciated when I wake up in the middle of the night only to realize that he's already cuddling me. Like I mentioned earlier, our time on this planet is limited, so we should make the best of it &mdash; and as far as I'm concerned, cuddling is the best of it.</p> <h2>20. Donate Clothing or Non-Perishable Food to a Shelter</h2> <p>Granted, you won't get to experience the happiness you'll bring to someone by donating food or clothing to a shelter, but rest assured that the recipients will appreciate it. If you don't need it, let someone else have it; it'll make their day. (See also: <a href="">Local Shelters That Need Your Stuff</a>)</p> <h2>21. Sign Up for a Volunteer Organization</h2> <p>There are many organizations at which you can volunteer, but I personally recommend giving your time to Big Brothers Big Sisters. If you're accepted into the program, you'll bring happiness to your &quot;little&quot; on a regular basis by spending time with them, listening to them, and letting them know that someone &mdash; even someone they least expected &mdash; truly cares about them. If we all did this, the world would be a brilliant place.</p> <h2>22. Help Someone Reach a Goal</h2> <p>Whether it's donating a few bucks to a friend's 5K fundraising campaign or being your buddy's gym partner as he tries to lose weight, helping someone reach a goal will make them happy &mdash; and even happier that it was you that helped them.</p> <h2>23. Tell Your Child That You're Proud of Them</h2> <p>I don't have kids, so I can't get too righteous here. But I do hear a lot of reprimanding and yelling and chastising of children by their parents whenever I'm out. Most of it's probably necessary, but you can't be negative all day long. Step back for a minute and recognize the good things your kid has done and verbally express how proud you are of them. Then follow it with a hug. A hug helps. See above.</p> <h2>24. Acknowledge Your Mail Carrier</h2> <p>Most of us don't see our mail carriers that often, but when we do we should acknowledge them and show our appreciation for the hard work they do. I remember my mom offering our mail carrier a cold glass of water when he or she was delivering the mail in extreme heat during the summer months. That gesture has stayed with me my whole life, and it's something I continue myself to this day. You don't have to do what we do, but rather show you mail carrier your gratitude however you feel is appropriate.</p> <h2>25. Say You're Sorry</h2> <p>Real talk: A simple &quot;I'm sorry&quot; will make many problems go away in an instant. But those words must be accompanied by a genuine attitude of regret &mdash; and a promise of change. If those two things are in place, you'll both walk away happy. For today, at least, but that's all that matters when you're living in the now.</p> <p><em>Do you have other ways to make people happy today? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="25 Easy Ways to Make Someone Happy Today" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Life Hacks friendliness friends happiness joy smiles Tue, 11 Feb 2014 10:48:38 +0000 Mikey Rox 1124321 at 10 Ways to Have a Cheaper Evening Hanging Out With Friends <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-ways-to-have-a-cheaper-evening-hanging-out-with-friends" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="friends cooking" title="friends cooking" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The fact that you don&rsquo;t have a lot of money doesn&rsquo;t mean spending your evenings at home, alone. For some, hanging out with friends is an excuse to blow all their extra cash on drinks and food. But having fun isn&rsquo;t about how much you can spend &mdash; it&rsquo;s about the quality time you share with those close to you. (See also: <a href="">Free Ways to Show You Care</a>)</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re looking for cheap fun on the weekends or after work, here are 10 ways to hang out without going broke.</p> <h2>1. Go to a Cheap Movie</h2> <p>If you want to see a movie, but don&rsquo;t want to pay $10 to $15 for a single movie ticket, head to a second-run theater. These ticket prices are far cheaper than normal theaters, averaging $1.50 to $5. You can save more by skipping popcorn and soda. But even if you decide to purchase snacks, what you spend on the entire night may still be cheaper than a single regular ticket.</p> <h2>2. Hit the Bowling Alley</h2> <p>Maybe the movie theater is too quiet, and you need a bit more excitement. Bowling is another fun, cheap way to spend your evening. You&rsquo;ll pay about $2 or $2.50 for the shoe rental and around $4.50 per game. Play two games, eat before you arrive, and purchase no more than two drinks; and you can enjoy the entire night for under $20.</p> <h2>3. Sing Karaoke</h2> <p>It doesn&rsquo;t matter how bad you sing, a night of karaoke creates memories. Go to a local restaurant or other nightspot, split an appetizer with your friends, and prepare to have the time of your life. And if one of your friends has a karaoke machine at his or her house &mdash; even better. For a cheap night, bring your own drink and share the cost of pizza and wings.</p> <h2>4. Lounge at a Sports Bar</h2> <p>Whether it&rsquo;s football, basketball, or any other sporting season, get off the couch and take the fun to a local sports bar. You can watch the game while catching up with friends. To keep costs to a minimum, choose sports bars with evening deals like half off appetizers or alcohol.</p> <h2>5. Watch Seasons of a Television Show</h2> <p>Do you have a subscription to Netflix or HuluPlus? If so, get with some friends, pick a television show that none of you have seen, and watch the entire series beginning with season one. Take turns at each other&rsquo;s houses watching three or four episodes at a time over popcorn, pizza, and drinks. (See also: <a href="">8 Alternatives to Cable TV</a>)</p> <h2>6. Free Wine Tasting</h2> <p>Search online or check the newspaper for free wine tasting events in your area. This is an entertaining and inexpensive way to sample a variety of wines, and there&rsquo;s usually no obligation to make a wine purchase. Events are normally held at restaurants, wine stores, and wineries. The perfect choice if you&rsquo;re looking for a change of pace &mdash; just make sure there&rsquo;s a designated driver.</p> <h2>7. Trivia Night</h2> <p>Most big cities have a handful of bars and restaurants that host weekly trivia nights. Grab four or five friends, and test your knowledge at some of the most wacky, random questions. The fun typically starts around 8 or 9 p.m., and prizes can range from free appetizers to cash. And since many establishments have food and drink specials on trivia nights, you don&rsquo;t have to worry about breaking your budget on eats.</p> <h2>8. Cook Together</h2> <p>Maybe you&rsquo;re in the mood for a gourmet meal, but you don&rsquo;t have a gourmet bank account. A cheaper evening with friends doesn&rsquo;t always mean pizza and wings. You may not be able to afford a night on the town, but who says you can&rsquo;t prepare a fabulous meal at home? Get with your friends, plan a nice menu, and split the cost of ingredients. (See also: <a href="">10 Recipes for Kitchen Newbies</a>)</p> <h2>9. Go for Dessert</h2> <p>Some of the best evenings can be spent simply talking with friends. But don&rsquo;t sit around your living room. If you&rsquo;ve already eaten and want to hit the town for a couple hours, call up your friends and go to a nearby frozen yogurt bar. Pile your bowl with the tastiest toppings, grab an outdoor table, and enjoy a few laughs. If frozen yogurt isn&rsquo;t your thing, split a dessert at a restaurant.</p> <h2>10. Take a Class</h2> <p>Are you ready to try your hand at something new? Spice it up and take a one-time class with friends. Check with your local community center or lifestyle center for upcoming classes. You may stumble upon a variety of pay-as-you-go classes costing as little as $10 per session. Dancing, cooking, fitness, pottery &mdash; take your pick and have fun! (See also: <a href="">10 Classes That Pay for Themselves</a>)</p> <p><em>How do you hang out with your friends without spending much?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Ways to Have a Cheaper Evening Hanging Out With Friends" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Entertainment cheap dates entertaining friends Tue, 22 Oct 2013 10:24:04 +0000 Mikey Rox 1041946 at Being Frugal Without Giving Up Your Social Life <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/being-frugal-without-giving-up-your-social-life" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="outside dinner" title="outside dinner" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Whenever I write a frugality post, I get comments asking some version of, &quot;That's fine if you're happy being a hermit in your cheap apartment, but what about people who have friends?&quot; (See also: <a href="" target="_blank">Not Driving Your Less Frugal Friends Crazy</a>)</p> <p>I think there are three general strategies for dealing with the issues around having a social life while still being frugal.</p> <h3>1. Consider That Extreme Frugality Doesn't Have to Be Total Frugality</h3> <p>Part of the answer is just to go ahead and budget some money for socializing with friends who do stuff that costs money.</p> <p>You won't want to eat out every meal, but you could join them occasionally &mdash; when it fits into your budget. Similarly, you can go to an occasional movie or an occasional concert or an occasional night out drinking. In fact, you could take a once-in-a-lifetime cruise, if it's what you want to do, and if spending your money that way is aligned with your values.</p> <p>The whole point, after all, is to align your spending with your values. Doing things with your friends almost certainly aligns with your values &mdash; at some level of spending. That level of spending may be much lower than what they spend, but it's probably above zero.</p> <h3>2. Consider That Even Friends Who Usually Spend Money Appreciate Variation</h3> <p>Another part is to gradually and subtly educate your friends on the attractions of frugal entertainments.</p> <p>If your friends always meet at a coffee shop, invite them over for coffee instead. If you keep coffee on hand anyway, you can probably make coffee for six or eight friends for no more than you'd spend on just your own drink at a coffee shop. The upshot is that you spend less and all your friends spend zero. (A pleasant zero-cost hour over great coffee is just the sort of thing that can open a friend's eyes about the advantages of choosing frugal alternatives.)</p> <p>Having them over for coffee only makes sense if you're a coffee drinker, of course. If you drink tea, have them over for tea &mdash; again, for the cost of one mug of tea at a tea house you can make tea for a whole crowd of friends. You can even, if your friends socialize by going out drinking, invite them over for cocktails &mdash; more expensive than coffee, but still cheaper than drinks at a bar.</p> <p>There are cheap alternatives for all sorts of otherwise expensive outings &mdash; watch a DVD at home (popcorn is cheap), play board games, go to a free event at the library or the park. (Wise Bread has a big collection of posts of <a href="" target="_blank">free and cheap things to do</a> in cities and towns all over the U.S. and here and there in a few other countries as well.)</p> <p>Don't present any of these as &quot;cheap&quot; alternatives that you'd rather do to save money. Instead, present them as &quot;more interesting&quot; alternatives.</p> <p>Better yet, present them as &quot;superior&quot; alternatives. If you're a serious coffee drinker who buys locally roasted coffee and <a href="">brews it in a French press</a>, there's every reason to expect that your coffee is <em>better</em> than they'd get at the coffee shop. Ditto for tea. If you keep up with the local music scene, you can identify the bands that are national quality just before they get too famous to do free concerts in the park. A documentary shown at the library with the filmmaker in attendance to lead a discussion after may be better than the third remake of some action-adventure blockbuster.</p> <h3>3. Consider That It's Also Good to Make New Friends</h3> <p>Finally, remember that your stock of friends isn't fixed.</p> <p>You don't have to drop your old friends &mdash; you may have <em>great</em> friends whose <em>only flaw</em> is that they don't know how to have fun without spending money. Just make some new ones who appreciate getting together for the company more than for spending money.</p> <p>As you make new friends, consider introducing them to your old friends. The ones who fit in and hit it off with your old friends will be in a great position to suggest new activities for the new, expanded group &mdash; activities suggested because they'll be fun, that just happen to be frugal. It turns strategy #3 into a variation on strategy #2.</p> <p>Being frugal is not about being a hermit, just like having friends is not about spending money.</p> <p><em>How are you socializing frugally?</em>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Being Frugal Without Giving Up Your Social Life" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Philip Brewer</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living affordable entertaining cheap dates friends Mon, 11 Mar 2013 11:36:31 +0000 Philip Brewer 968270 at A Step-by-Step Guide for When Friends Ask for Help Being Frugal <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/a-step-by-step-guide-for-when-friends-ask-for-help-being-frugal" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="friends talking" title="friends talking" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I don&rsquo;t consider myself a personal-finance expert, but as a writer for a variety of personal finance blogs, my friends think I&rsquo;m a guru of all things money.</p> <p>Because I&rsquo;ve made a mini-career out of doling out money-saving advice, I field lots of queries on how people can cut back on this thing or that. I can offer solutions, sure, but the one concept that many people in need of help don&rsquo;t understand is that being frugal is a lifestyle &mdash; and one that takes a considerable amount of dedication if you want to reap the positive results.</p> <p>So when someone asks my help for being frugal, I start at the beginning &mdash; with their budget &mdash; and work my way through the aspects of their life that are costing them the most. From how much they&rsquo;re spending on eating out to shopping smarter to replacing disposable products with reusable ones, here are my basic rules for being frugal. Take note. (See also: <a href="">Should You Lend to Friends and Family?</a>)</p> <h3>1. Compare Your Income Against Your Expenses</h3> <p>The first step you need to take to make changes to your spending habits is identifying how much you make, how much you spend, which parts of your life cost the most, and how you can cut back. I can almost guarantee that rent and food &mdash; two necessities &mdash; consume a major portion of your paycheck. So many people think there&rsquo;s nothing they can do about that, but they&rsquo;re wrong (and perhaps lazy). If you&rsquo;re struggling to afford rent, you have a few choices, which include <a href=""> bringing in a roommate</a> to offset the cost if you have the extra room or moving to a more affordable home.</p> <p>Then there&rsquo;s food. It always baffles me that the people who complain the most about never having any money are always the ones eating out and ordering in. If you want to save more money, go to the grocery store (with a list; I&rsquo;ll get to that important piece of the frugal pie in a minute) and buy fresh foods that you can make at home. You&rsquo;ll save much more money per meal that you will when you&rsquo;re eating food that you didn&rsquo;t make &mdash; especially because you don&rsquo;t have to tip yourself.</p> <h3>2. Shop With Lists</h3> <p>Whether you&rsquo;re going to the supermarket to buy groceries or to Target to pick up cleaning supplies, arm yourself with a list, and stick to it. Whenever I&rsquo;ve entered any store without a list, I go overboard &mdash; never fails. What was meant to be a $20 trip to Target turns into a $100 trip to Target because I don&rsquo;t have that piece of paper to help keep me in line. It may seem like a silly idea to consider that a Post-it note helps me save money, but not if you believe that willpower is the shaky foundation on which bankruptcy is built. I have no willpower when I go into stores, which is why I&rsquo;ve stopped shopping inside supermarkets all together. I started shopping online &mdash; with my list &mdash; so I&rsquo;m not tempted in the slightest to get sucked in to any of my favorite brands&rsquo; shiny, tasty marketing strategies.</p> <h3>3. Cut Out All Unnecessary Expenses Immediately</h3> <p>Not using that pricey gym membership as much as you&rsquo;d like? Get rid of it. I was paying nearly $90 a month for a gym membership that I used maybe once a month until I finally cut the cord. Now I buy monthly deals to local gyms that I find on daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social for less than $40 a month, and many of them include extras like a free personal-training session or premium fitness class. Go through the rest of your subscriptions and membership and figure out which ones you can live without. If you don&rsquo;t watch <a href="">cable TV</a> on the actual TV anymore, kill it. If you can use free Wi-Fi somewhere nearby and can live without constant access inside your home, get rid of that, too. These are major changes, for sure, but you&rsquo;ll see major savings right away.</p> <h3>4. Replace Your Disposable Items With Reusable Items</h3> <p>I know a lot of people on tight budgets who buy disposable products like they&rsquo;re going out of style. Several guys in my circle, for instance, choose to buy paper plates and plastic utensils to avoid washing dishes. That laziness costs a lot of money month to month (and, not to mention, ruins the environment). Granted, many of us are not dining that way, but very few of us can actually claim that we don&rsquo;t use paper towels on a regular basis. HUGE waste of money there too; you&rsquo;re literally throwing it away. Instead, buy reusable, washable dishtowels to clean up spills and messes. When you&rsquo;re done, toss them in the washer with the rest of the soiled linens and prepare them for round two.</p> <h3>5. Change Your Entertainment Habits</h3> <p>If you worried about not having enough money, then you shouldn&rsquo;t be spending it with abandon. Unfortunately, sacrifices must be made. You&rsquo;ll need to spend less time at the corner bar, <a href="">local movie theater</a>, nearby arcade, golf course, shooting range, pottery class &mdash; the list goes on and on. Whatever you&rsquo;re into must be scaled back. That&rsquo;s not to say that you can&rsquo;t have any fun at all, but it&rsquo;s reasonable expectation that you can&rsquo;t live like royalty if you don&rsquo;t have a royal&rsquo;s bank account. With all that free time on your hands, consider filling those voids with a side gig (that could actually be fun, by the way) to help you earn more money instead of spending it.</p> <p>No one wants to admit they&rsquo;re lazy, but in my experience it&rsquo;s the main reason why the people I know who want to save money but somehow can&rsquo;t, don&rsquo;t. Change is never easy &mdash; and saving money is harder than that &mdash; but if you&rsquo;re serious about turning your financial situation from a negative to a positive, you&rsquo;ll have to spend more time thinking about how to save money and implementing those strategies instead of taking the easy way out, handing over the cash, and inevitably complaining about it later.</p> <p><em>Penny for your thoughts </em><em>&mdash; I&rsquo;d love to hear what you think about this advice on how to help someone be frugal. Let &rsquo;er rip in the comments below. </em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="A Step-by-Step Guide for When Friends Ask for Help Being Frugal" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Budgeting Lifestyle beginning frugality friends talking money with friends Wed, 12 Sep 2012 10:24:41 +0000 Mikey Rox 954441 at Friends and Goals: Don't Let a Blue Falcon Bring You Down <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/friends-and-goals-dont-let-a-blue-falcon-bring-you-down" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Falcon" title="Falcon" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I was in basic training for the Army, everybody hated Blue Falcons. The term Blue Falcon was the PG version used to describe a fellow soldier that was a &quot;Buddy Fudger&quot; (keeping it censored here for the kiddos).</p> <p>What exactly did it mean to be a Blue Falcon? If a soldier talked in formation when he shouldn't have or didn't shine his boots, he was considered a Blue Falcon because we all got &quot;smoked&quot; by our drill sergeants. Getting &quot;smoked&quot; means doing a lot of calisthenics that weren't a lot of fun. Drop and give me twenty. Sound familiar? Blue Falcons always brought us down and were a drag on our platoon building any momentum.</p> <p>Have you ever wanted to make a serious change in your financial life? Like get rid of your student loan debt, <a href="">pay off your credit cards</a>, or just get a grasp on where the heck all your hard earned money is going? (See also: <a href="">How to Save Without Goals</a>)</p> <p>Whenever you want to make a change in your life, or try something new, you may find yourself surrounded by people who not only don't support your endeavors, but actually hinder them. These people can be friends, co-workers, even family members; their main function is to foil whatever plan you are trying to put in place in your life. These people are your Blue Falcons, and you need to find a way to either eliminate them in your life or at least reduce the influence they have over you.&nbsp;</p> <p>Here is a common life example. Say you are trying to lose weight or stick to a strict weight-lifting regimen. You will notice that you have friends who support you (these are called your <a href="">Battle Buddies</a>) &mdash; help you to make good choices at restaurants, avoid interrupting your workout schedule, or ask how your new strategy is working out.</p> <p>You will also have friends who could care less about what you are doing or see that you are trying to make a change but, for some reason, don't want you to be successful. These are the Blue Falcons.</p> <p>Imagine having three close buddies, none of whom work out with any regularity. They might be annoyed when you choose to hit the gym instead of grabbing your usual beer with them. Maybe these &quot;friends&quot; will try to sway you to skip your workout routine and join them at the local bar. They might even consciously interrupt your carved out gym time. Whatever they do, they are trying to influence you to not make the change you have decided to make.</p> <p>How, you may wonder, does this term fit into the context of finances? Maybe you are trying desperately to save money. Perhaps, like millions of Americans, you are working hard to <a href="">get out of debt and stay out of debt</a>. Unfortunately, the Blue Falcons in your life will try to influence you and make it harder for you to reach your financial goals.</p> <p>How do they do this? Just like in the example above, your Blue Falcons might try to get you to go out more often, spend money on trips and movies and golf. They might even ask to <a href="">borrow money</a> &mdash; don't do it!</p> <p>Now, the truth is, they might not know that you are trying to make a big change in your life. If you are a team player, however, then you will have shared your plans with those closest to you. Therefore, all of those nearest and dearest should be on board. If people in your life know what you are trying to do, and still stand between you and your goal, then they are not really your nearest and dearest. Are they?</p> <p>So what do you do? Like a soldier, you need to stand firm, take charge, and go for it! You have nothing to lose (except maybe a Blue Falcon or two) and everything to gain.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Friends and Goals: Don&#039;t Let a Blue Falcon Bring You Down" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Jeff Rose</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Development Productivity achieving goals friends motivation relationships Fri, 23 Dec 2011 11:24:16 +0000 Jeff Rose 837046 at Paying for a Piece of the Pizza: Techniques for Splitting the Bill <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paying-for-a-piece-of-the-pizza-techniques-for-splitting-the-bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Man paying the bill" title="Man paying the bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Eating out with friends is one of my favorite indulgences. Few things are better than good company combined with delicious food and drink. But these fun evenings often chug to a near standstill when it comes time to pay the bill. Suddenly everyone is reduced to muttering and throwing piles of bills on the table, hoping that someone else will figure out how much we actually need to pay.</p> <p>Yes, realistically, splitting a bill among several friends is not that hard. There are many more difficult things in life, like the LSATs, or training a cat to use the toilet. But that doesn't mean that divvying up the check can't get annoying or cause hurt feelings when one person doesn't pay his fair share.</p> <p>Thus, I present several ways to split the bill among friends. Most of these are pretty straightforward, although there might be a couple of surprises. (See also: <a href="">How to Save Money at Restaurants</a>)</p> <h2>Separate Checks</h2> <p>If the restaurant you're at is willing to provide separate checks, seize the opportunity before you order. Then you don't have to bother with doing the math, being lazy and making that one friend who is good at math do it, or silently seethe about how some jerk in the group only put in for what he ordered and no tip, so you had to cover it because you are a good and righteous person.</p> <h2>Go Halvsies (or Thirdsies, or...)</h2> <p>It's certainly one of the easiest ways to split one check &mdash; everyone pays the same amount. Of course, this gets annoying when one person orders much more than everyone else. One solution to that? Head to fixed-price meals.</p> <h2>Cash and Card</h2> <p>One or more people pay cash, and then the rest gets put on someone's card. The cash can either go directly to the bill, or the person paying with a card can take the cash. It's like a fee-free friend ATM!</p> <h2>Get Change</h2> <p>If there's an excess of cash, ask your waiter or waitress if you can get change for a big bill, and divvy out what people are owed accordingly.</p> <h2>Get Paid Back Later</h2> <p>Sites like <a href="">BillMonk</a> allow you to keep track of what friends and family owe you. If you pay for everything, keep the itemized receipt from the meal, and simply go into BillMonk to enter what people owe you. This is a good technique if you're trying to take advantage of <a href="">credit card rewards</a>.</p> <h2>Take Turns Paying</h2> <p>If you go out with the same people often, you can all take turns paying. A variation of this is to always pay for the meal when you're the one who invites people out (just make sure your friends toss out an invite every now and then as well).</p> <h2>Play Credit Card Roulette</h2> <p>Daniel Packer wrote about <a href="">credit card roulette</a> back in February. Basically, everyone at the meal provides his or her credit card to the waitress. The waitress then picks one card at random, and that person pays for the entire meal. If you like taking your chances, this could be the technique for you. Sure, you might be stuck with the full bill, but you might also get your entire meal for free.</p> <p><em>How do you split the bill?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Paying for a Piece of the Pizza: Techniques for Splitting the Bill" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Meg Favreau</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance Food and Drink friends restaurants splitting the bill Mon, 21 Nov 2011 11:24:10 +0000 Meg Favreau 792184 at 11 Simple Rules of Excellent Houseguest Etiquette <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/11-simple-rules-of-excellent-houseguest-etiquette" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Friends at home" title="Friends at home" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Last week I provided tips on <a href=" ">how to be the best host</a> to overnight guests that you can be. Of course, every great host needs a great houseguest.</p> <p>Think you have what it takes to get invited back again and again? Perhaps you do &mdash; but only if you&rsquo;re following these nonnegotiable rules of houseguest etiquette.</p> <h3>1. Arrive With a Gift</h3> <p>Your hosts have gone out of their way to prepare for your arrival &mdash; cleaning the house, making the beds, hiding their naughtiness &mdash; so the least you can do is arrive with a gift to show your gratitude. A bottle of wine is perfectly fine (and probably preferred), but you should know your audience before gifting booze. It&rsquo;s embarrassing to give a bottle of alcohol to a recovering alcoholic. If you&rsquo;re unsure of the hosts&rsquo; imbibing status, opt for something non-offensive like a basket of pastas and sauces or a sampler of jams. (See also: <a href="">5 Classy&nbsp;Gift Ideas for Any Time of Year</a>)</p> <h3>2. Buy Your Own Groceries</h3> <p>When I&rsquo;m staying with friends or family, I buy my own groceries for two reasons: 1) I&rsquo;m a picky eater, so it&rsquo;s unlikely that they&rsquo;ll have much that I like, and 2) It&rsquo;s rude to eat your guests out of house and home. Once you&rsquo;re settled, ask where the nearest market is. Schedule some time to stop by and pick up your favorite foods and fridge essentials, like bacon, eggs, bread, lunchmeat, etc. Not only will you save money because you won&rsquo;t have to eat out every meal, but your hosts will appreciate the gesture &mdash; especially when you&rsquo;re gone and the leftovers are all theirs.</p> <h3>3. Conserve Linens and Towels</h3> <p>At home, I use only one towel a week. When I&rsquo;m done drying off after a shower, I hang it on the back of the bathroom door so it can dry properly. When I&rsquo;m traveling, I do the same. A good host will provide you with a towel or two, which is plenty, so don&rsquo;t abuse it. If you think you&rsquo;ll need more towels, plan ahead; pack a towel of your own so you can have what you need. As beach towels go, I always pack one from home. I can&rsquo;t be sure that my hosts will have the kind of beach towel I like, so it&rsquo;s best to come prepared.</p> <h3>4. Ask About House Rules</h3> <p>When guests come to my home I have three rules: 1) Don&rsquo;t get locked up, 2) Don&rsquo;t get locked out, and 3) Don&rsquo;t burn the place down. Otherwise, my guests are free to come and go as they please and make themselves at home. However, not every host is as lax as I am. Some don&rsquo;t want you making a frozen pizza at 3 a.m. on a Sunday night when you&rsquo;ve just come home from the bar. To avoid offending your hosts, ask about general policies and rules. Should the door be locked when you leave? Is it OK to put silverware in the dishwasher? Would you like me to let the dog out if you&rsquo;re not home? Most people have certain ways they like and do things, so it&rsquo;s best to ask before you step on any toes.</p> <h3>5. Give the Host Personal Space</h3> <p>While your hosts are happy to see you (hopefully), they don&rsquo;t want to spend every minute of every day with you. Respect that. Ask them all about their lovely city, but plan to do most things by yourself or with whom you&rsquo;re traveling. It&rsquo;s certainly OK to invite your hosts to join you on your excursions, but don&rsquo;t expect it. Chances are they have to work and other obligations to tend to during all or part of your stay &mdash; you&rsquo;re on vacation; they&rsquo;re not &mdash; so don&rsquo;t be bummed out if they&rsquo;re not available. Personally, I enjoy the time alone to explore a new place &mdash; nobody nagging about how much walking they have to do, nobody complaining about how hot it is, and nobody interrupting your afternoon because they MUST find a gym to fit in a midday run. I won&rsquo;t name the person who&rsquo;s guilty of that last one, but I might be married to him.</p> <h3>6. Lend a Hand Where Necessary</h3> <p>Is your host slaving away in the kitchen preparing a delicious feast? Ask if he or she needs a hand. Does the dog need a walk? Volunteer to take the pooch for a stroll. Does somebody need to go on a beer run? Offer your excellent (and sober) driving skills to accomplish the task. Whatever the case, let your guests know that you&rsquo;re happy to help out where you can. They might say no the first or second time out of politeness, but eventually they&rsquo;ll want to pawn off some of their chores on you. And you should be happy about it &mdash; because you could be spending an arm and a leg for a hotel, but you&rsquo;re not.</p> <h3>7. Keep Common Areas Clean</h3> <p>My biggest pet peeve when hosting guests is crumbs on the counter. It drives me bonkers. Mind your Ps and Qs when staying with friends and family. Whatever you would do in your own home, don&rsquo;t do it at your hosts&rsquo; home. Put the toilet seat down. Wash your dishes by hand or put them in the dishwasher. Make the bed. Turn out the lights when you leave a room. There&rsquo;s nothing worse than following guests around the house, picking up after them. Your hosts probably won&rsquo;t say anything to you regarding your messiness or lack of consideration, but you can be sure that you won&rsquo;t be invited back because of it.</p> <h3>8. Treat the Hosts to a Nice Meal</h3> <p>If you&rsquo;re a whiz in the kitchen, prepare your signature dish (and wash the dishes afterward). If you&rsquo;re not so hot at culinary art, ask your hosts what their favorite restaurant is and treat them to a nice meal. This is a time when you can all be at the same place at the same time to catch up. Conflicting schedules considered, this might be the only chance you have.</p> <h3>9. Strip Your Bed Upon Departure</h3> <p>Do your hosts a favor and strip the linens and place everything &mdash; including your dirty towels &mdash; in a pile. It&rsquo;ll save them a few minutes of work when they have to spend an hour or so washing, drying, and remaking the bed. However, I would ask the hosts if they&rsquo;d like you to do this first. Some hosts don&rsquo;t want you removing the linens because they don&rsquo;t want you to see the completely normal and acceptable stains (sweat, urine, etc.) on the mattress and pillows. Because, even though these stains and normal and acceptable (are you going to buy a new mattress every time your dog pees on it? I don&rsquo;t think so.), it may cause the host unnecessary embarrassment &mdash; and you definitely don&rsquo;t want to do that.</p> <h3>10. Leave a Parting Gift</h3> <p>During your stay you should&rsquo;ve gotten a good sense of what your hosts want, like, or need. Use this information to purchase a small parting gift that shows your gratitude and decency as a human being. The last time I stayed with friends, I left a half-dozen freshly baked cookies from a great restaurant in the area. Whether they liked them or not, I don&rsquo;t know &mdash; but it&rsquo;s the thought that counts in this case.</p> <h3>11. Send a Thank-You Note</h3> <p>Once you&rsquo;ve returned home, make it a point to reach out one more time to let your hosts know how much you appreciate their hospitality. They didn&rsquo;t have to host you. They could have made up a million and one excuses why they didn&rsquo;t have room for you. That they opened their home to you says something &mdash; they wanted to host you, and you should make one lasting impression to ensure that they view you the way they should, as a <a href="">thankful</a> and appreciative guest. A quick note that expresses your gratitude will suffice &mdash; if only so you have someplace to call home next time you&rsquo;re in town.</p> <p><em>Have tips on how to be a great houseguest? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="11 Simple Rules of Excellent Houseguest Etiquette" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Travel articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Lifestyle Travel etiquette family friends houseguests visit Fri, 27 May 2011 10:55:07 +0000 Mikey Rox 551132 at How to Reward Friends Who Help You Move <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-reward-friends-who-help-you-move" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="moving furniture" title="moving furniture" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I miss college.</p> <p>I never thought I'd say that &mdash; I'm not a &quot;the best years of my life have gone by&quot; kind of gal. But here's what I miss: owning the right size car and the right amount of stuff so that, whenever it came time to move out of the dorm, I could do it myself. I could carry everything, I could fit everything in my car, and I could get out of town without having to ask anyone for assistance.</p> <p>These days, things are a bit different. I own furniture, AKA &quot;stuff I can't carry by myself.&quot; It's not enough to warrant hiring movers, but it's enough that I need to get a couple of friends to come help me out whenever I'm in transit. (See also: <a href="">5 Unexpected Moving Expenses</a>)</p> <p>Now, every time people I know need help moving, they offer the exact same reward: pizza and beer. I'm not knocking pizza and beer &mdash; I love them dearly. They're both easy to serve and immensely satisfying after a day of hauling stuff around.</p> <p>But recently, I've been planning a move, and I've been thinking how it would be neat to offer something other than the same ol' post-move meal as a way of saying thanks. Thus, here are some ideas for how to treat your hard-working friends. Some of them take a little pre-planning (which can be difficult during a move, I know), but they can be worth it. (See also: <a href="">25 Ways to Say Thanks</a>)</p> <h3>Get Classy with Wine, Cheese, and Bread</h3> <p>Offer a more upscale version of beer and pizza: get a bottle or two of wine, a loaf of good bread, a couple of cheeses, and maybe a veggie plate to round out the mix. It's still classy even if you're drinking the wine out of red Solo cups. Really.</p> <h3>Cook Up Homemade Treats</h3> <p>When I move, I often I find myself with awkward amounts of leftover food: one serving's worth of noodles, a couple of cups of flour, or a cup of frozen pureed pumpkin. If it's not enough to give away or keep and you have a few extra minutes of time, consider making a last-minute batch of cookies or scones, or even something savory, like lasagna, to share.</p> <h3>Zone Out Together</h3> <p>Whenever I'm done moving, I just want to sit in front of the TV and turn my brain off. Keep track of where your TV set and DVD player end up in the move, and sit on the floor together eating snacks while watching sitcoms.</p> <h3>Go Out to Dinner</h3> <p>Being surrounded by your unpacked mess can feel stressful. Take a breather, and bring everyone out for dinner (even if it's just to get beer and pizza).</p> <h3>Buy Their Gas</h3> <p>If your friends are using their own cars to help you move, buy them a tank of gas, or give them a gift certificate for an oil change.</p> <h3>Get Them a Massage</h3> <p>If your friends really go overtime on the heavy lifting, get them a gift certificate for a massage. <a href="">Groupon</a> and similar sites are great places to search for massage deals, or look for a massage school in your area for discounted rub-downs.</p> <h3>Return the Favor</h3> <p>What do you get for friends who refuse everything you try to offer them? Help them out when they need it, whether it's <a href="">moving</a>, babysitting, or picking them up from the airport.</p> <p><em>Do you have any creative ways to thank friends for helping you move? Share them in the comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Reward Friends Who Help You Move" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Meg Favreau</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Home articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Home DIY moving friends thanks Sat, 02 Apr 2011 10:00:05 +0000 Meg Favreau 511262 at 6 Areas Where You Can Eliminate Distractions <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/6-areas-where-you-can-eliminate-distractions" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Woman playing video games" title="Woman playing video games" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="158" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>In that post-New Year's resolution malaise that sets in at the end of January, I'm noticing an obvious thing I didn't think of before &mdash; distractions can break the best intentions. Coupling my distractions with an addictive personality, and I find myself on the brink of task-mastering disaster.</p> <p>Thirty days after my resolution to be more productive <em>and</em> somehow exercise myself down a few sizes at the same time, I'm beginning to notice an awful pattern. Left to my own devices of sloth, it takes me too long to do simple things. Productivity-wise, I'm really no better than a 14-year-old boy staring at a screen of video games for 10 hours who then sits at his school desk Monday morning completely ill-prepared for the week. (See also: <a href="">5 Efficient Ways to Boost Productivity</a>)</p> <p>If admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, then I'm ready to take the first steps. Some people like to start out the year by uncluttering their living spaces or cleaning out their cars. For others, what we really need to do is to make some space in our bodies and minds. What is it we want to do with this year? What would we like to see by the end? What can we cut?&nbsp;</p> <h2>1. Volunteering</h2> <p>Perhaps it's my Catholic upbringing or my overarching sense that when something needs to be done, I'm just the person to do it, but I tend to over-volunteer. Do this with me: Pick one or two things a year you are going to volunteer for. Have strict control over yourself to make sure you don't overextend your time, and for goodness sake, don't volunteer to be in charge. Volunteer for something that has a beginning and an end, but nothing that's not fully defined. A good friend of mine has this nasty habit of thinking that the world will end for our children if we don't volunteer to be coaches, room mothers, advocates, and the like. While yes, we are providing cool things for the kiddies, we're also teaching them that moms should sacrifice themselves on the altars of their kids' childhoods. That's not a good lesson.</p> <h2>2. Social Networking</h2> <p>On my honor, I will try to stay off Facebook and Twitter; how about you? Talk about time wasters! Go delete all those game applications right now. Don't even finish reading this sentence. Stick your mother's voice in your head for a moment: &quot;No, you may not have dessert until you've finished everything that's piled on your desk.&quot; If you can't break the online social networking habit, then at least establish a LinkedIn account instead and be more professional about your online time.</p> <p>If you work from home, the social networking distractions are often traded for in-the-flesh ones. Develop a loner mentality. Writer Ariel Gore talks about this in her great writing manual <em>How to be a Famous Writer Before You're Dead</em>. The writer at home is an easy target for lonely friends and neighbors. Don't fall into the trap that friends set for you. Remind them nicely that just because you're home, it does not mean you can walk their dogs or pick up something from the pharmacy!</p> <h2>3. Dieting and Exercising</h2> <p>I envy thin people; I really do. But those not thin by genetics have to work at it. They have to spend all sorts of time and energy thinking about it. Having spent January dieting, I can tell you that all I did was think about food, which left very little time to think about anything else. And don't get me started on all those fiberous trips to the bathroom.</p> <p>Don't give up on diet and exercise, but be smarter about it. I'm following writer Michael Ventura's advice when he said only do exercise that takes you somewhere. I'm cutting out all <a href="">non-walking, martial arts, and dance-related exercise</a> (physical activities that require no expensive equipment to pull off). Water doesn't cost any time or money if you have a tap and a thermos. The dieting is perplexing, but I'm starting to think that instead of following diet book makers' 101 tantalizing recipes, we who need time might better opt for fewer choices in food options &mdash; wasn't there that guy that ate two Subway sandwiches a day and nothing else? Former California governor Gray Davis was said to eat the same tuna sandwich every day. I had an aunt who made fixings for tacos on Sundays, rice, and beans, and then that was it for the week. Everything was ready-to-go in the fridge in Ziploc bags. There were no surprises, and she expended&nbsp;minimal energy during the week.</p> <h2>4. Working</h2> <p>I teach community college. This semester I've taken advantage of the Internet like never before. Why was I still grading longhand when I could set up quizzes online to grade automatically? Now my students have their results back faster, and I'm not spending Sunday night bleary-eyed. My breaks between classes (I have two hours between) have now become appointment time &mdash; be it student-related or a trip to the doctor.</p> <p>But saving time at work isn't limited to teachers taking advantage of technology &mdash; although there is a big lesson here. Go online and seek out things you normally create for work. Why reinvent the wheel when you don't have to? Teachers can take great advantage of swapping lesson plans and quizzes. When my husband has to implement something at work, he always researches online beforehand to see who is dong something similar to find out what the results are. He also answers all emails at home and on the way to work (he takes the bus), so that when he's there he's not bogged down in communication and is ready to work instead.</p> <h2>5. Communicating</h2> <p>Unless it's your grandmother or for your livelihood, do you really need to talk to the person on the phone? Do you need your phone to be set so you can hear every time someone has left you a message? Probably not. Email the person back instead, and that saves you from long, drawn-out conversations you don't have time for. Turn your email program off when you are working, or turn down the sound so you don't hear the ding of receiving mail. However many times a day you check your mail, cut it in half. I'm down to morning and night. Twice!</p> <h2>6. Running Around</h2> <p>Perhaps my maternal <a href="">grandmother</a> was actually right about something. For 80 years, that woman could not be reached on a Friday morning because she did all of her errands (banking, post office, grocery shopping, etc.) on Fridays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. That's it for the entire week. By dedicating only those hours of time and having everyone in the family know that that's what she'd be doing on Fridays, we've all known not to call. She taught herself to stretch food to the end of the week and plan ahead so nothing runs out. I, of course, do errands whenever I'm in the car. I wonder how much more would be accomplished if I stuck to four hours a week instead of anytime I need something.</p> <p>Join me on these time experiments for March. Let's see if we aren't more productive.</p> <p><em>What are you doing to be smarter about your time?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="6 Areas Where You Can Eliminate Distractions" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Maggie Wells</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Productivity articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Career and Income Productivity declutter distraction efficiency friends social networks Tue, 22 Feb 2011 14:00:17 +0000 Maggie Wells 487127 at