Category Archives: Money Saving

A few words can be worth a fortune in the long run.

3 minutes a day to improve your skills in negotiation, which will help you earn more money.
Learn to improve your self-confidence and your negotiation skills in just 3 minutes a day.

(The following is a guest post for 3minpro.com, which is negotiation training tool endorsed and used by The Broke Dad @  www.TheBrokeDadBlog.com.  This post contains affiliate links. Thank you. The Broke Dad.)

Each and every one of us is a negotiator, whether we do it by profession or not. We negotiate our job offers, our healthcare plans, our insurance, we negotiate when we sell our car or when we purchase that brand new shiny one.

When we analyze where our money goes, learning to negotiate is ultimately a far bigger factor to saving, than let say avoiding the temptation of that Mars bar at the supermarket or refraining from buying a new dress at the mall or the latest uber-cool gadget on uber-cool-gadgets.com.

At 3MinPro.com we identified that most of us negotiate without the slightest idea on how it should be done and so we inadvertently neglect this huge piece of the pie – that which represents where our money goes.

Most of us wouldn’t go straight to a driving exam without taking driving lessons first. Why?  Because if we did so lacking the needed skills we would fail over and over again and our money would go to waste.

On the other hand we negotiate on a daily basis, without any knowledge, while giving up the opportunity to save or make more money.

It just doesn’t add up.

In the days of everything-instant we hardly have time for the most important things in life – our significant others, our children, our jobs, and well, maybe a few minutes for Angry Birds.

How can we expect to have time for less important things like learning new skills especially when the long-term benefits from doing so aren’t always apparent?

3MinPro.com makes learning new skills easy by realizing that most of us don’t have the time or patience to sit through hours of instructional videos or read through various books.

3MinPro.com cuts the long-winded theories and brings you the bottom line in only 3 minutes a day – it’s designed for busy people like you.

The content is based on over 30 years of experience which has aided over 100,000 professionals and is backed by the latest industry research.

3MinPro.com offers excellent negotiation training that consists of 17 capsules (that’s short lessons for you) of about 3 minutes each – It’s so short you can take it on your coffee break.

Learn negotiation skills that will help you earn more money and in turn help you save more money in places you never realized you could save.

Try it today by following this link www.3minpro.com.

Explainer Video

How to Enjoy the Minnesota State Fair (or any fair) on a Budget

Enjoy the Minnesota State Fair on a budget.
Enjoy the Minnesota State Fair on a budget.

I have been going to the Minnesota State Fair since I was a kid. I love the state fair.  I look forward to going every year.  However if you look forward in partaking in the food, beverages, and entertainment  that is offered at the fair which is kind of the whole point of going to the fair it can add up to a very large expense in a hurry.

It is possible though to go to the fair and do it without breaking the bank. I will share some of the tricks I have learned over the years of how to enjoy the fair even if you don’t have the disposable income or just don’t want to spend that much of your savings in hope that it can helps others do the same.  Please keep in mind that the facts I have used to write this post are all from my experiences at the Minnesota State Fair, I am sure all state fairs are a bit different on costs but they are all probably very similar.

First things first.  Getting through the front gate.  There is admission to pay.  If you pay at the gate you will need to pay full price which is $13 per adult and $11 per child, so for my family just to get through the front gate would cost me $48.  That is a lot of dough.  Never pay the full price at the gate, there are so many different ways to avoid that.  Here are a few that I have discovered:

1. Buy your tickets in advance.

Tickets can be purchased over the Internet or at a local venue (many are set up to sell State Fair tickets in advance) I can purchase State Fair tickets right now for $8 to $10 each.  Which brings the cost for my family down to $36.

2. Go to the fair on a special deals day.

This year the deal days are:

  • Thrifty Thursday: (Aug. 25) Adults $11 Kids: $8
  • Seniors and Kids Day (Aug. 29 & Sept. 1) Adults: $13 Seniors: $8 Kids: $8
  • Military Appreciation Day (Aug. 30) Adults: $8* Seniors: $8* Kids: $8*
    * Discount applies to active military, spouses and kids; retired military and spouses; and military veterans and spouses when they purchase a ticket at the gate and present valid documentation of military service.
  • Read & Ride Day (Aug. 31) Adults: $11** Seniors: $8** Kids: $8**
    ** Discount applies to public library cardholders who purchase a ticket at the gate and present a valid library card (one discount per card).
  • Kids Day (Monday, Sept. 5) Adults: $13 Seniors: $11 Kids: $8

3. Volunteer.

If you volunteer at one of the many booths at the fair on any given day you get free admission to the fair for that day.  We volunteered last year at the Celiac Awareness booth in the health building for four hours in the evening and were able to spend the entire day at the fair for free.  When you volunteer you get to meet so many wonderful people and help out a good cause as well.  The four hours went by so fast that it did not feel like any time at all because we were so busy the whole time.  Plus another bonus is that a lot of the time when you volunteer for events like this you usually get a shirt to wear and then keep, snacks, drinks, and sometimes even a meal depending on the event.

5. Work at the Fair.

If you have the time and ambition or just love to work extra jobs the state fair hires tons of people each year to work the fair.  Not only does that come with free admission but it also comes with a paycheck.  I have not done this one yet, though is on my bucket list after I retire.  You can follow this link for more information about working at the Minnesota State Fair (This is not an affiliate link, I am not receiving any type of payment or kickback for providing this information, I am just providing it to help those who are interested in the information).

You can find just about anything on a stick at the State Fair.
You can find just about anything on a stick at the State Fair.

 

Eating and drinking at the Minnesota State Fair is probably the single biggest expense when attending the great Minnesota get together.  There is so much food, I can’t even begin to describe the immense selection of food options the fair has to offer.  If you ever wanted to have some food item on a stick you should be able to find it here, everything from corn dogs to ice-cream on a stick, yes ice-cream on a stick, I did not try that one yet so I am unsure how they pulled that off.

Even the most disciplined of person would have a hard time not being tempted by all the food there is at the fair, everywhere you look is food, everyone you pass has some type of treat they are trying, you can`t go anywhere at the fair that does not have something to offer in the form of food.

If you are anything like me you will have the urge to try everything at least once.  Of course you would fail if you tried, even if you were to spend a week at the fair you could never try everything there is though no matter how many times I visit the fair I always want to give it shot.  So how do you avoid spending next months grocery money on food and drink at the fair? Here are a few tips to help you enjoy enough food to feed an army without spending your life savings doing so:

1. The Blue Ribbon Bargain Book (state fairs other than Minnesota’s may have similar offerings)

This is probably the best way to save money on food, short of not buying any fair food at all.  The blue book is a coupon book with somewhere around 150 coupons in it for various vendors at the fair.  Not all vendors participate but enough do that you can eat nothing but things that are offered at a discount out of the Blue Book.  I know this because I have been doing it every year since I discovered the Blue Book.

It is a bit of a game for me.  I try to eat nothing but what I have coupons for, I did it two years ago without wavering but last year I was overcome by temptation when I came across a booth selling bacon wrapped and double fried corn dogs, it was a marvelous defeat as that was the best corn dog I have ever ate in my life.

I have loosely kept tract of how much money I would have spent on food at the fair had I not used the Blue Book.  Last year I would have spent close to $200 without the Blue Book, using the Blue Book though I spent $75 on food and drinks.  So the $5 price for the book more than pays for itself.  The Blue Books can be purchased online ahead of time or right at the fair at specially marked booths.

2. Bring your own food and drinks.

Treats and drinks of all kinds.
Treats and drinks of all kinds.

There are no rules I know of against bringing your own food and drink with you to the fair.  To help offset some of the costs of food and drink I pack snacks in my backpack to bring along.  Trail mix, fruit, fruit snacks you name it.  Things similar to what you would pack in your lunch and that you don’t have to worry about spoiling if they are not refrigerated.  I would caution against packing anything that could melt as well, like candy bars or chocolate because you can be out in the sun at the fair a lot and some days that sun can be very hot, a candy bar would be a mess quickly.

Healthy snacks are also available at the State Fair if you look for them.
Healthy snacks are also available at the State Fair if you look for them.

I stated earlier that the fair can get hot and that leads to sweat, which leads to needing a lot of water.  You don’t want to spend all your money on bottled water so bring a bottle with.  There are several water stations around the fair where you can refill with nice clean ice-cold water for free.  Last year we upgraded our backpacks to the Camelbak type packs that have water packs built right into them, I highly recommended them.

3. Attend Programs.

There are dozens of events and programs going on every day at the fair.  If you are an organized person, like to set a schedule, and enjoy knowing what events you are going to see at what time it would take very little effort for you to schedule in a few presentations during your day at the fair.  If you pick the right ones, usually the ones that have to do with cooking and food crafts you can almost count on free food during or at the end of the presentation.

I am not a good planner, I like to do things on a whim as I go along but I have been lucky to stumble upon a few of these presentations during my travels around the fair.  My favorites are the cooking demonstrations, these vary from a company demonstrating how well their cookware works to a presentation on all the different ways to use a certain type of food.

Whatever the presentation might be there is always food to try during the presentation and after.  The presentations range from in length from like 10 minutes to up to an hour. I have found the longer the presentation the bigger the meal or sample at the end.

4. Camping at the State Fair

Camping at the Fair is a blog post all its own that I plan on writing in the future but as it applies to enjoying the fair on a budget.  Camping at the fair can make a very big difference in your budget.  I am not sure about other state fairs but the Minnesota State Fair offers camping right on the fair grounds.

It takes some planning on the part of the participant as you have to reserve a spot early in the year but if you are lucky enough to score a camping spot the cost is low, like $25 per night and you are free to come and go as you want.

How does this help your budget?  You can eat all your meals at your camper or camping spot.  I have been camping at the fair for years and love it, I have a nice relaxed breakfast in the morning at my camper then enjoy the fair all day and return in time to make a quick dinner at night.

 

Attractions, events, and entertainment at the fair is as abundant as the food.  There is a selection of things to entertain and amaze crowds of all ages.  There is music, talent shows, big time stage productions, demonstrations of all forms, animal shows, live births, carved busts out of butter, ice sculptures, log-rolling, fireworks, and the list goes on.  The best part is that everything I listed are all free shows all you have to do is show up and find a seat.  Here is a small list of my favorites:

1. Births and babies.

The Miracle of Birth Barn is a bustling building full of cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and other critters all pregnant or with babies.  Keep in mind some shows like the live births are unpredictable so you either need to be lucky when you visit the miracle of birth barn or you have to be patient.  I usually visit the barn a few times a day, if you take a walk through at various times you will generally get lucky and see something being born.  If not you can just enjoy all the cute babies.

2. Art, Crafts, and more Art

The 4-H building, the art building, and the crafts building are all on the same street as you walk around the fair and I love visiting them all.  You can spend hours in any one of them just looking at art by artists around Minnesota or checking out the many different projects in the 4-H building.

If you visit at the right times you might get to see a talent show or a fashion show as well in the 4-H building, there seems to always be some kind of competition or show going on throughout the day.  Outside these buildings you will find vendors and a few stages, one of the stages has line dancing shows, tap dancing, or swing dancing shows pretty much all day long as well.  If you pay attention and explore enough you will even find a meditation tent around this area.

3. Animals Galore

State Fair Animals
You can enjoy animals galore at the Minnesota State Fair.

If you like animals you are going to love the fair.  There is a horse barn, a dairy barn, a pig barn, a poultry barn, and even a llama barn.  These buildings are huge and full of horses, cows, pigs, sheep, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and even llamas.

I have watched cattle auctions and enjoyed horse shows at the Coliseum. I have seen sheep being sheered and have watched a live operation on a horse.  You could plan out your entire day at the farm just around the animal barns and never run out of things to do and it is all free.  If you explore enough you will even find a hidden convenience store in the animal area that sells just about anything you might need.

4. Music and Entertainment

If you like music, concerts, and talent shows you will have no problem at all finding things to keep you busy at the Minnesota State Fair.  There are over 10 different stages at the fair and they all have

A variety of musical performances can be found all day and night at the State Fair.
A variety of musical performances can be found all day and night at the State Fair.

different bands and shows playing all day long.  Some of the shows are very laid back and others are standing room only due to the crowds they draw.  The best part is they are all free except the main headliners in the Grandstand each night which can range anywhere from $20 to $65 per ticket depending on the show.

5. Parades and Fireworks

Every day during the fair there is a parade that goes down the main streets of the fair that is a big draw and fun to watch.  Every evening before closing there is a fireworks show to celebrate that day of the fair.

Those are my 5 top free or inexpensive things that you can do at the Minnesota State Fair.  There are many other things as well that require money to do.  Everything from butterfly experiences to the Mighty Midway.

The Mighty Midway at the State Fair.
The Mighty Midway at the State Fair.

There is so much to do at the fair each year you can easily spend several days walking around and exploring and still never do everything there is to do.  I have talked to many people who go to the fair everyday for a week and still say they never get to do everything there is to do.

I hope you have found this post informative and it helps you enjoy the fair even if you are on a tight budget.  Take my word from it if you really want to do it and you have the willpower to resist all those yummy treats on a stick you certainly can make it happen.

Please feel free to contact me with any question you may have.

Thank you,

The Broke Dad

My Stash (StashInvest.com) Experience

review and guide of stashinvest.com
A guide to StashInvest.com investing app. Guide and review by The Broke Dad

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through pins on the Pinterest app and there was an article about ways to get free money and one of the ideas that was offered was to join a site called Stash. It went on to explain that Stash is an app you can download onto your phone or tablet and through it you can invest your money in the stock market in any amount you would like, I believe as low as $5 at a time.  I filed this information away as something that I might want to look into at some point when I had a little extra money.

Well today I am on Twitter, which I am just discovering, I have never Tweeted before until this week. I was never a big fan of the whole idea and honestly it confused me why it was such a popular app. Well I have been using it for like four or five days now and I am really enjoying it, but I digress…I am on Twitter reading Tweets and I see one about Stash, @Stash, and I read it and in the Tweet there is a nice orange-colored button to push in order to install the app and get the free $5 I read about a few weeks ago. So I did it, I installed Stash and joined.

Installation was simple.  I use a Samsung phone and downloaded Stash from the Google Play Store.  I read some reviews while I waited for it to install and saw some reviewers complaining that the app kept crashing on them once they started to enter in their information during sign up. I saw other reviews that had noting but high praise for the app and the ease of use. I generally don’t let reviews keep me from trying something out at least once as I have always liked to form my own opinions on things so I moved on and opened the app as it had finished downloading.

The app is an investment app so they require you to furnish some personal information as required by law and they explain this all to you right from the start. It is very easy to follow along and the instructions are simple and well done. I entered in all the relevant information and after that is done you need to link a checking account to the app as this is how you make the money transfers in order to get the money from you to them. Simple enough to do. You need to have a bank account and a routing number and your name. Then they explain to you the next step is to confirm your bank account and this can take up to 3 days as it requires Stash to make a few deposits to your account which you then check and share the information with Stash after it is done. I have not yet done this part as I only just joined last night so I am currently waiting for that step to happen.

While you wait for your account to get confirmed you are able to make some decisions in the app on what type of investing you would like to do. This is again set up in a very easy to understand way and by the looks of it you can keep it simple by choosing from three options which are low risk investments, moderate risk investments, or high risk investments.

  • Low risk investments are the safest choice and have the lowest risk of failure, meaning lowest risk of losing your investment. However this choice will also have the lowest return from the investment as well if I understood it correctly. I think of this as the mason jar of cash buried in the back yard option, safe but years down the road when you dig that jar up your investment is not going to have grown much. I think if I was investing hundreds of thousands of dollars this would be the option I would pick.

    low return low risk investing option
    A jar of cash buried in the back yard method.
  • Moderate risk investments are the middle of the road investments. They have moderate risk and moderate gains. There is risk here that you could lose money but you may also gain a good return as well. I think of this option as the putting my money in a bank that’s not insured but offers a nice interest rate. I know that when it is time to take my money out my investment will have grown nicely, but there is that chance the bank could get robbed or burn down and you in turn lost your cash.

    Moderate investment options
    The bank account method, medium risk with a chance for a higher return.
  • High risk investments was the third choice. High risk obviously of losing your investment but if things work out you have a chance of really making a lot of money. I think of this option as my Las Vegas option. I walk into a casino with all my savings, find a roulette table and bet it all on black. I am either walking out of there with bags of cash or I am walking out with nothing.

    High risk investing options available on Stash
    High risk investing options. The bet it all on black method. High risk for possible highest returns.

Once you choose your level of investing you can then set your investment. I set mine at $5 to start and put it in the moderate risk investments. You then get to set it up to automatically invest $5 just this once, once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month. There is an explanation with this that states that even if you set up an automatic investment you can still make additional investments whenever you would like and you can change the automatic investment anytime you like as well or stop it all together. I opted to just make the investment once and I will come back each week on my own and make my choice that way.

There is then another series of questions that allow you to tweak your investing style even more. You can choose what types of companies you would like your money to go to, what your interests are, and what you believe in. This way you have some control over where your money is being invested.

You can also choose to have your money invested in a certain type of company all together rather than picking from the original three levels I explained earlier. I have not explored this yet so I will have to write more on that in an update after I have tried it out. One last thing to be aware of is that there is a $1 a month fee for using Stash and if your account gets to be over $5000.00 then there is a .025% fee they charge. This to be seems like a fair fee and did not dissuade me from using the app.

Overall I feel like Stash is a great way to try out investing in the stock market if you don’t have a large amount of residual income to invest with. I figure I can come up with $5 a month for sure to invest and I am going to try to go for at least $5 a week to start. That is basically a couple of cups of coffee from the coffee shop I can cut out of my diet in hopes of someday having enough extra money invested that I can drink all the coffee I want without worrying about how much it costs.

Invest in the stock market for the cost of a cup of coffee.
Stash allows investing without requiring large sums of money to do so.

I am not investment expert. I do have retirement accounts and things like that but those are all mostly hands off, I just pick how much out of each paycheck I want invested and my employer does the rest. Even so I have done some research and when investing in mutual funds which is what I believe Stash is basically doing the best thing a person can do is leave their investments alone once they set them up, meaning don’t make withdraws or transfers, adding more money is always okay. Long term investing is the key to success, even if things start to go sour you should fight the urge to take your money out. Does this method work? It has for me. I have seen some losses over the years but overall my investments have grown.

thebrokedadblog.com
Invest and succeed The Broke Dad way.

Hope this post was informative to anyone who has been interested in Stash or just interested investing at all, I would love to have some comments from anyone who has had more experience then I using Stash and what you think of it. If anyone else has any questions for me please post them and I will answer them as best I can. I will also be updating this post as time goes on to let everyone know how things are going with my investments in Stash and if I do in fact get that free $5.

Update:  My first transaction with the Stash app has successfully gone through with no problems at all and I did get the $5 free. If you would like to try Stash and get $5 free as well click here and visit this link. You will get $5 and for trying it out from my link I will also get $5. Thanks for your support and for reading about my experience with stashinvest.com.

The Broke Dad

Stash App featured image for my review on the investing app.
Stash App featured image for my review on the investing app.

Rummage Sales – A Simple Step to Saving Money

Saving money the simple way. A guide to rummage sales, yard sales, and garage sales.
Saving Money The Broke Dad Way.

My second installment in my simple ways to save money series has to do with rummage sales, garage sales, and estate sales.

My method works with any of the three above and has helped me equip my work shop, furnish my house, and even outfit my camper with quality items at a fraction of the cost of new.

Hopefully most of you are still reading after that introduction and that the idea of going to rummage sales, garage sales, yard sales, or estate sales was not such a turn off you did not even open my post.

I hope this because I have found over the years that these sales are the places to find the best deals on things that can improve your home, your shop, and your life without breaking the bank or requiring you to take out a second mortgage on your home.

There is a bit of skill and a little bit of luck involved in finding the best deals. This is what I have learned over the years.

1. Research

Watch your local newspapers, community postings online, my favorite Craigslist, and even in print in local magazines and brochures.   Generally people who are serious about selling their stuff will start advertising in these publications up to a month or more in advance.

Many communities even have yearly events where whole neighborhoods at a time participate in garage/rummage sales, these are events you want to put on your must do list as they are planned well ahead of time, they are organized, and you can visit numerous sales all within a very short distance from each other.

2. Go Early

When doing your research on when and where the sales are going to be for the upcoming week pay special attention to the starting times. Being one of the first ones to the sales in the morning will assure that you have your pick of the best stuff. One extra trick to this is to watch for the sales that have a “sneak peek” hours listed. This is most common with the sales that are held during neighborhood events and some open as early as a Thursday evening for a few hours generally from 5p to 8p or something along those lines. Getting to these is the best for finding items that have yet to be picked over by others.

3. Know what you need

I have found it most useful to know what it is I need before I go to any garage, rummage, yard sale. This way I can get in and out and to the next one faster and it also focuses me so I don’t end up buying things I don’t need. Saving me money. You can make a mental list or an actual written list, whichever works for you. If you are going with friends and family share with them what it is you are looking for so they can help you search for it, this can be fun for the kids as it makes it a game. First one to find what we are looking for wins a gift. 9 times out of 10 my kids find what I am looking for even before I do. I have found over the years that estate sales are the best for planning ahead as many of them if being put on by a company that specializes in these types of sales will post a list of a lot of the things being sold ahead of time. This way you know if you want to go to that sale or not and then you also know what you want is going to be there. The drawback of estate sales is that they end to draw large crowds and you have to get there extra early. I have been to some that have been so crowded that you had to actually draw a number and wait your turn to even get into the house.

4. Set a budget

Have a set amount you plan on spending that day when you go out. This will help avoid overspending. Once you get to shopping it can be so much fun that you easily lose track of how much you spent. Especially if you don’t follow step 3 and have a list of what you are looking for you are going to want to set a budget so you know when to stop buying things. This to can be a fun learning opportunity for the kids. I like to give each of my kids between $5 and $10 to shop with and let them know that once it is spent it is spent. It is a joy to watch them haggle and deal with the people selling things in order to get the best deal they can. Which leads me into tip 5.

5. Haggle

If you find an item from your list that you want and it is marked a bit higher in price then you want to spend…haggle. Remember the people putting on the sale ultimately want to get rid of the things they are selling and generally will come down in price if you ask nicely. You have to be a bit tactful on this in order for you to get the best deal. Lets say you have found an item you had on your list for a price that is a bit to high and your wife/husband/friend/kid has found something from their list that is priced low, bring both items up at the same time and ask if you can buy both for a price that is in the middle. Usually the people will gladly agree. This is just one example, there are many ways to haggle and plan on writing a post to cover that on another day.

6. Have fun

I personally enjoy going to rummage/garage sales. It is an enjoyable way for the family or friends to spend a Friday evening or a Saturday morning. It gives you a low cost reason to get out of the house, meet new people, and explore your local area.

Happy shopping and saving money The Broke Dad Way.

Free stuff is also sometimes worth taking a look at.
Free stuff is also sometimes worth taking a look at.

 

Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of my post. I love to hear from my readers.

The Broke Dad