Bellwether's Blog on life and money
How to be cost efficient and still enjoy your summer
For most New Englanders, summer is a time to venture outside, enjoy the warm weather, and stay active before the snow comes back. Even on a budget, there are ways to make the most out of your summer without an elaborate vacation.
Check out this link to Visit NH and you’ll find that New Hampshire is a great state to explore because it offers coastline, mountains, arts and culture.
Venture to the White Mountains
If you enjoy the great outdoors, the White Mountains are the perfect spot for a summer getaway! State parks usually also have low admission fees. I'd suggest the following as activities in the White Mountains that won’t break your budget:
- Camping - A fun activity for the whole family. Check out this great list of campgrounds from the NH State Parks website. Most are near lakes so you can enjoy an afternoon of swimming or boating, and another plus, a number of campgrounds are also pet-friendly.
- Hiking - The Granite State is full of trails and mountains available to the public. Check out this list from Hike-NH. You’ll have fun, and enjoy a good workout!
- Sightseeing - Only have a day to travel? Discover everything New Hampshire has to offer by taking a scenic drive! Visit the National Scenic Byways Program to discover the most scenic routes! If you prefer to take a train ride, the White Mountains have several stations that offer both scenic rides and dinner trains.
Enjoy the Seacoast
If you enjoy the beach, visit the coastline in the southern part of the state. New Hampshire is home to 5 State Park beaches along the beautiful Northeast seacoast. The beach can be a free activity if you try the following tips to avoid added costs.
- Street parking - Arrive early to find spots that don’t require feeding a meter or paying a lot fee.
- Pack your own lunch - Bring a cooler, sandwiches, snacks, and drinks instead of paying high prices at a concession stand.
- Bring your own gear - Pack your own sunscreen, towels, floats, and toys rather than buying them when you get there.
Discover Arts & Culture
Find live music events, museums, fairs, and community activities. These are all great places to bring the whole family without breaking the bank. Be as frugal as possible and look for:
- Free child admission
- Discount days
- Group deals
Every little bit counts! Don’t miss out on all that NH offers.
Appreciate at Home Fun
Back yard barbeques are great for a friends-and-family get together. To create added entertainment and save money, US News outlines the following recommendations:
- Shop for foods at your local farmers market
- Create recipes for themed meals.
- Take turns hosting
Remember, you don’t have to miss out on a fun, enjoyable summer just because you’re living on a budget. Use these tips and track your spending to have a fun, safe, and more affordable summer season!
A few weeks ago I attended a local Young Professionals Scavenger Hunt – it was part race, part contest, part bar-crawl (minus the alcohol), but largely a ton of fun with my friends and meeting other people. The object was to complete all the tasks in the least amount of time, with a 5-hour time limit. There were approximately 12 teams, ranging from groups of 2 to 8 adventure-seeking professionals of all ages. Once our team checked in, we received our bibs (just like you’d get at a road race), a sealed manila envelope, and food tickets. After a brief overview of the rules and expectations, the clock started and we were on our way.
Planning our attack.
We immediately opened our envelope and discovered we had 12 “clues” related to locations around the town and a map of the city. The first 4 clues were actual photos of the specific locations that we needed to first, locate, then recreate the photo with all of our team members in it. We then had to submit these clues by email to get full credit. We skimmed thru the list to determine which clues we already knew and mark that clue number on the map. Once we had determined the majority, we were off and running.
Collecting the Goods.
As we reached each location there was either a photo to take or prize to obtain. Most of the clues were pretty challenging, and we learned the hard way that we needed to read the clues carefully. Specifically, one of the clues actually told us that a specific location didn’t open until 3pm, so when we arrived at 1pm we were greatly disappointed. We collected all the items: butterfly wings, princess crown, koozies & tent card, as well as took all the required photos, with some help from local people and other teams!
Crossing the Finish Line.
With about an hour to spare, we arrived at the final location, sadly, we weren’t the first ones. Maybe it was because no one on our team was actually from that city (we all live over an hour away) or when we submitted 2 incorrect photo clues. But we finished 3rd out of 12 teams and received special recognition for being the 1st team to complete one of the photo clues. We were rewarded with t-shirts, glassware and other fun prizes. Then, we got to enjoy some delicious food while we watched a slideshow of all the team photos that were submitted.
This event was a great way to get to know the city, get some exercise outside, and spend time with your friends. Are you looking for something fun to do around your town? Or maybe find a way to make some new friends? Look into your local Chamber of Commerce or Young Professionals Network; they are a great resource for local events.2 Comment(s)
Whether you are a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional, business networking is important for the growth of your career. Take the time to consider who you know and who they know. You’ll soon realize you have more connections than you thought you did. Why not take advantage of these relationships? Statistics show that 95% of people network for building relationships.
Fast Company outlines the following “3 Best Practices for Effective Business Networking.”
- Leave every event with at least one person to follow-up with
- Obligate time to build your social networks
- Concentrate on building 5-10 strong relationships
This advice sounds easy, but the thought of networking scares some people. If you are a person that is afraid of business networking, check out: 3 Ways to overcome your Networking Fears, from “The Fast Track.”
When an event comes up, use these tips from Entrepreneur, to increase your chances of meeting someone new:
Tip #1 Arrive Early
- Arrive early. Start a discussion with people not already talking to someone else.
- Ask what brought them to the event. It opens the floor for further discussion.
Tip #2 It’s not all about you
- Smile to show other people that you are approachable.
- Allow the conversation to flow naturally. Don’t force it by selling your product or service
- Actively listen to what the other person has to say.
- Once the opportunity presents itself, be able to express what you love so much about your company, product, or service.
- Have business cards with you to easily exchange contact information.
Tip #3 Follow-Up
- Follow-up in a timely manner, and reference something you discussed to remind the person of who you are. (This is where listening comes in.)
- A simple email is fine, or sending the person an invitation to connect on LinkedIn works as well
Still think business networking isn’t important? The truth is business networking is beneficial for everyone. Even if you aren’t looking you may discover opportunities to grow within your field, opportunities to recommend someone you know, or opportunities for your employer as a whole; all things that are very important to a successful long term career.0 Comment(s)
For some people saving money seems easy. For others, it's hard work. Our culture celebrates shopping, not saving for a rainy day. Still, saving is important and makes a very real difference in your financial future. Financial icon Dave Ramsey advocates accumulating a $1,000 emergency fund as the first step towards financial security.
Having trouble putting away as much money as you’d like? Try some tips I’ve learned to making saving easier.
Pay Yourself First
It's a common savings rule - “Pay Yourself First.” It means setting aside funds for your personal savings —before you pay your bills, shop for groceries or enjoy a night out. It’s hard to save money after bills and other expenses are paid. Savings needs to be a priority and paying yourself first makes sure it gets done.
Make it a Habit
Treat savings like any other “bill” to get into the "savings mindset." Put savings on autopilot by having your paycheck or a portion of it direct deposited, or set up an automatic transfer in Online banking each time you get paid. Out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t see it, you won’t think about spending it.
Set a Goal
Many of us do better when we have goals. Start by breaking your end goal into achievable, smaller goals, and then celebrate those smaller goals. For example, your ultimate goal may be saving $2,500. Go out for ice cream or treat yourself to that Venti specialty coffee from your favorite barista for every $250 you accumulate. Because those are the kinds of things you cut back on when you're trying to start a new savings habit. (Make certain your splurge doesn't use your hard won savings)!
Make it Painful to Touch It
Once you see savings accumulate, your old spending habits may come back. Something will break down, the kids will need money for a field trip, or you’ll see an amazing outfit on sale. Make it a challenge to get at your savings. Consider opening a separate account without debit or check access, or put your savings into a certificate with a penalty for early withdrawal. Find a way to put a “lock” on your savings until you've built the habit of not touching those funds for other than the intended plan. Some people even put all their credit cards into a container filled with water, and put it in the freezer. Gives you plenty of time to rethink that purchase while you're waiting for your cards to thaw!
Stop the Madness
The final component to successful savings is to change your spending habits. In the past, I saved money, but spent the same amount (or more) with plastic. Using plastic can be a tough habit to break. However, savings is a good habit to get into. Once your savings build, you’ll begin to view spending from that perspective: that jacket is a “weeks' worth of savings” or that trip is equal to “two months’ worth of savings.” It makes you think when you know how hard you worked to build that savings. Best of all, over time, you'll view savings in the same way you used to view spending, something to be happy about. Especially when those savings help you achieve other big goals.
For most of us, saving money doesn't come naturally. Just remember:
- Don’t get discouraged
- Don't give up
You too can be on the way to sound savings habits!0 Comment(s)
Living in New England, we have access to some amazing walking trails. Looking to get healthy? Try a local trail to get your family, pets and yourself on the trail to a healthier life.
I've joined gyms in the past, signed up for weight loss programs, and have more than a dozen work-out DVDs at home. But for me, the least expensive and most effective health program I've used is walking. This month I'm getting myself back into shape after a very long and snowy winter on the couch. My first walk of 2014 brought me to the Dunstable Rural Land Trust, right off exit 1 in Nashua and the Nashua River Rail Trail. A great 400-acre park with trails, and a beautiful pond for dogs and kids to splash around in!
For me, if it isn't easy to get there, I won't go. I can't complain with Dunstable since it's about a 10 minute drive. A walk along the blue trail to the pond and back is a good 3 miles for me, and a game of fetch or a bit of swimming in the pond keeps my Jack Russell terrier mix happy and exercised for free! No need for a dog park membership or a treadmill.
The parking area at the Gregg Road/Main Street entrance (it's Gregg Road in NH, Main Street in MA) is small; probably only big enough for six cars. Arrive before 9 AM to beat the crowds. Print out a map beforehand since there are no maps at the park.
A gym membership or weight loss program usually includes the opportunity to buy snacks, water, and other items; maybe even childcare and a locker to store your valuables. Walking doesn't provide these perks, but you're saving money so spend a little on things you'll need:
- Bug spray
- Sun screen
- Zip lock baggies (great for taking out trash and packing wet clothing or sneakers)
Set Your Sights!
Enjoy walking? Set up a calendar of trails to explore in your area. Most are dog friendly, great for walking with younger children, and all provide an easy and inexpensive workout and other activity options. A few of my favorites in the Southern NH area include:
I love being outside, enjoying the sunshine, and finding new places. For me, walking is one of the best ways to enjoy all three and get healthy at the same time.0 Comment(s)