Monday, December 14, 2009

Staycation: Destination NYC

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The increase in travel fees, limited vacation time, and more conservative budgets can sometimes get in the way of a much desired vacation. However, oftentimes a simple change in scenery can provide the temporary escape that you may need.

Infected by the travel bug, I seize any and every opportunity for a new adventure. In this time when we have to be more creative with our time and finances, the “staycation” has quickly become popular. I’d like to share how you can give yourself the joy of a vacay within the boundaries of your hometown (and your budget).

Those of us in New York are fortunate enough to have an endless plethora of things to explore. However, in NY it is also easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the daily commute and the stress of the workday, not to mention overwhelmed by the daily demands of your personal life. With that hectic lifestyle one seldom takes advantage of the opportunity to admire the intricacy of the city that so many others come to witness.

I encourage you, for one whole day, to take a spectator’s perspective on a City Sights NY tour* **. For less than what you would spend on a roundtrip flight, you can view NYC from air (in a helicopter), water (on a Circle Line boat), and land (on a double-decker bus), granting you three unique views. Although you may already be familiar with the city, these tours open your eyes to things you may have never seen before, share information you may have never known, or simply just allow you a whole new perspective and appreciation for where you are.

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This would be great for a family outing, a girls’ day out, when hosting out-of-towners, or as a solo adventure. This is also highly recommended for anyone visiting the Big Apple. It is nearly impossible to see NY in a short visit, but these tours do a great job of giving you a broad idea of what this city has to offer.

*City Sights NY offers a variety of tours, any of which are sure to be a great experience.

**If you are only interested in the helicopter tours, go directly to Liberty Tours to save $15.

Monday, December 7, 2009

'Tis the season to be... Broke?!: 6 Smart Saving Tips for the Holiday Season

Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the season, came and went. Many people brag about how much money they saved in exchange for waking up early and waiting in the cold on long lines. But what’s the point of “saving” all that money on Black Friday, just to go into debt a month later shopping for Christmas gifts?

I’m sure we all don’t mean to spend as much as we do, but this year let’s try to turn intention into action. Here are 6 simple tips on how to make this Christmas more jolly and less stressful on you and your bank account.

1. Try to limit your gift giving to family and closest friends. If you’re a gift-giver like me it might be tough to limit the amount of people you shop for, but you should use the recession to your advantage. It won’t be around for long! Categorize your gift giving to those people who absolutely desire store bought gifts (ie: toys for kids), those who can appreciate homemade gifts, and those who will cherish the thoughtful nature of a personalized card.

2. Make a shopping list and don’t depart from it! Identifying what you’re going to buy ahead of time (ideally before you enter the store) saves the last-minute pressure of buying because you need “something” to give.

3. Once you have a list and ideal budget, make a commitment to it!
There’s no excuse for not taking a couple of minutes to sit down with pen and paper and estimating the amount of money you feel comfortable spending this holiday season. Count on the money you already make and have in your account, instead of any bonuses or credit limit you’re hoping to increase.

4. Carry cash instead of debit or credit cards.
It’s a sure way to keep from spending more than what you’ve allotted for your Christmas budget. If you have a hard time disciplining yourself, this is a great way to make sure you don’t have access to money you shouldn’t be spending. Some people believe that psychologically, the plastic “tricks us into forgetting we are deducting money from our account,” so this year use paper instead of plastic.

5. Do not open store cards.
According to Accion USA, “Many people find that their credit score goes down in January, and the dip in the score is usually due to two reasons:
1. High balances on their credit cards (from used credit and unpaid balances)
2. The amount of inquiries in their reports is relatively high (don’t be deceived- 10% off your first purchase is not worth the drop in your credit score when opening several new cards in a short period of time)."

6. Remember, Christmas is just one day- Is it financially sound to go into the New Year in debt over gifts? Can some of those on your “store bought” list wait 2 days after Christmas to get their gifts? If so, why don’t you wait to catch those after-Christmas sales? Think about the bigger picture instead of whoever might be upset at you and “de-friend” you on FaceBook because you sent them an e-card instead of the generic soap and lotion set you usually send them. Focus on beginning 2010 in good financial standing, let positive spending habits spill over into the New Year.

To a happy and financially healthy holiday season,

Her Journey Team

Tracey Calvo Clarke, 24, enjoys stumbling upon great writing, food, and travel deals. Her ideal job gives her the freedom to write about travel experiences, personal enhacement and entertainment events. She has been a member of Her Journey's Support Team for about 6 months and looks forward to seeing what's in store for the magazine