Beware of the Disappearing Dollar Sign

10084_dollar_sign_mascot_cartoon_character_waving_and_pointingWARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

Do we have your attention? Good, because restaurants are trying to sneak things in under the radar on us…

Researchers at the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University recently conducted a study to try and help restaurants  ($) figure out how to squeeze some extra dough out of customers eating at their establishments. What they found was that by eliminating the dollar sign ($$$$$$$$$$$$$) in front of the price items ($) on their menu, customers subconsciously spent more at their restaurants! Not only that, but writing out the price of the meal rather than using numbers also caused patrons to ($) spend more. The research concludes that, “”[W]e saw a significant spending difference for menus that presented prices as numerals only.”

This subconscious tactic ($) for getting us to pay more at restaurants must be thwarted. As prices are rising and portions are shrinking, restaurant chains are doing everything to keep their businesses going. While I’m all for taking one or two days a week to eat out ($) and keep my favorite local restaurants running, I’m not about to get tricked into spending more by the elimination of a squiggly little sign ($) in front of some numbers.

So now you know! Beware of subconscious tricks companies ($) will play on you to get you to consume more. Go into the meal ($) with a budget in mind and stick to it. And look out for the disappearance of that dollar sign ($), because ‘knowing is half the battle’!

P.S. by randoming placing dollar signs throughout this post, HackALife is training you to be on the lookout for the dollar sign and its endangered disappearance!

Familys Meals Under $10 for a Family of Four

Everyone is cutting back and food seems to be where we cut back the most. With the food prices rising and the economy falling apart, we all need to make some sacrifices. But you don’t always have to skimp on the good food either. I have compiled some recipes for a family of four that are all under $10.

Fresh From The Oven has an awesome homemade hainanese chicken rice recipe and she explains how she came to purchase everything for under $10.

The Bargainist also offers 3 scrumptious recipes, including Chili Cornbread Pie, Homemade Pizza and Turkey Meatball Gyros.

Who’s The Boss on Feb 25, 2009, wrote an article; 4 Meals Under $10. She has four suggestions and dont forget to check out the comments, they are full of more suggestions on how to save money and cook on the cheap.

Rachel Ray has a section on her website marked meals $10 and Under. You can even sign up to receive the Budget Friendly Meals email every Monday.

In the recent issue of Everyday Food they have 5 Great Meals for Under $10. I couldnt find the article on their website but if you have the magazine around or you can borrow it from a friend, you should check out the great recipes in their.

Have Fun Cooking At Home

Did you know that, “Generation Y Americans, those age 16 to 27, eat out 24 times a month on average Generation Xers, age 28 to 39, still dine out 21 times a month, while baby boomers age 40 to 58 make an average of 19 restaurant visits monthly. And the so-called swing generation, those 59 to 71 years old, dine out 16 times a month on average” according to an article at Market Watch?

With the recent turn down in the economy, more and more people are realizing that eating at home can save you a lot of money. Eating at home can be boring and a lot of work, or, with the right attitude, it can become a whole lot of fun. Cooking for the family can be an event that everyone gets involved in extending your family time from not only eating the meal together, but cooking it together as well (and hopefully cleaning it). Put off your favorite TV shows and your other evening hobbies for a few extra minutes and seek to find the joy that can be found in cooking a meal together. It is amazing what the right attitude can do.

Here’s a simple recipe for one of those party favorites, guacamole dip. But what I like about this video is the fun that these guys have with it. So if you’re in the mood for a little kitchen and cooking fun, check this out…

The Guacamole Song

7 Ways to Save on Valentines Day

Most people think “Debt” when they think Valentines Day; flowers, chocolates, dinner out, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With the economy how it is today, we can’t afford to do the things we used to. Lets explore some ways you can celebrate Valentines Day with little or no expense.

1. Cards – First off, I have posted in the recent past about homemade valentines cards, it doesn’t take much, some paper and a few hearts and that”s it. If a store bought card is a must, try Hallmarks .99 cent cards. They offer a great variety.

2. Flowers – If you must you can buy some flowers but check the local farmers markets or grocery store, you can find beautiful flowers for around $10 instead of spending $40-50 on roses. If you want to get crafty, you can design your own flowers out of tissue paper or card stock. Stampndaly.com and Flying-Pig.co.uk both have some examples of paper flowers.

3. Chocolates – You don’t have to buy a huge box of chocolates, and your receiver may thank you for not buying a huge box, especially if they are on a diet. Try buying a box of four truffles or even one very pretty one. This will keep your cost down. If you are a baker, than making your own special Valentines gift would be appreciated more than any you could buy.

4. Dinner out – Instead of the restaurants with $$$ dollar signs, try a quaint little diner or out of the way cafe to share with your loved one. You will be amazed at the cute little hole in the walls with great food that are out there when you start looking for them. Some are very romantic and the money you save will help keep your mind on your date and not the amount of money you are spending.

5. Movies – Skip the movie and check out the new releases at the redbox, you will only spend .99 cents and if you get it early in the day Saturday you will have a lot to choose from. You can also get online and reserve a movie and pick it up when you are ready. A night in front of the tv with the one you love is better than sitting in a movie theater with a bunch of other people.

6. Dessert – If you are like me, dessert is the best part of any meal. You could skip dinner and just make reservations for dessert. Dessert can end up being a bit expensive so your best bet is to make it at home and you can enjoy it with a glass of wine or while watching a romantic movie together. Joy the baker has some great Valentine recipes.

7. Wine – If at all possible try to Skip it at the restaurant, the price they charge is way more expensive than if you buy a good bottle at the store. Check out the Best Chardonnays under $20 for some guidance.

Try these and see how much you save!

How to Slash Your Monthly Grocery Bill

Plan meat-free meals at least once a week – Leaving meat out of a meal once or twice a week can really cut down on the amount of money spent. VegCooking.com has a lot of recipes, shopping guide, blog, dining out and they have a guide that will take the guesswork out of vegan cooking. Also Allrecipes.com has an expansive vegetarian section.

Shop at warehouses every few months -Don’t head to the local warehouse every week or you will spend too much and not have much from your trips. Try to stick to making those trips every other month or every third month and only purchase the items that are better deals than the grocery store, such as cheese, meat and milk products.

Pick recipes based on what’s on sale – Before heading to the grocery store, check on-line to see whats on sale and what store is offering the best deals. Then Plan your meals by whats on sale.

Buy meat in bulk – Meat companies rarely offer coupons, buy in bulk when you can and if you find a great deal on meat, buy a few packages and freeze them. The general rule of thumb is that meat can be kept in the freezer for up to a year.

Pressure Cooker: Save Money While Getting Dinner on the Table Fast

There never seems to be enough time in the day to get food on the table in a timely manner with all the after school activities and practices. It seems we run from one event to the next without a chance to slow down. And the way that most parents deal with this pressure is to run through a fast food restaurant for their next families meal. And although that may be the fast way to deal with it, its not the cheapest nor is it healthy for you.

My friend was telling me about their latest purchase: The Pressure Cooker.

I have never used one but what she said was that their daughter had practice to be at and she was crunching the numbers in her head and didn’t know how she was going to make dinner and feed her daughter a healthy meal and get her out the door in a little over a half hour. So she grabbed the Pressure Cooker she had bought at Christmas time and got out some turkey she had in the freezer and thawed it for a minute or two while she was browning some veggies and than stuck the turkey and veggies in the pressure cooker for about 20 and it came out perfect and her daughter ate and made it to school on time. She did say their was a trick to it, you had to make sure you put the right amount of water in it, but that if you followed the instructions that come with it, you would be fine.

How it works: From WikipediaPressure cooking is a method of cooking in a sealed vessel that does not permit air or liquids to escape below a preset pressure. Because the boiling point of water increases as the pressure increases, the pressure built up inside the cooker allows the liquid in the pot to rise to a higher temperature before boiling.

Saves Time – Food cooks up to 70% faster in a pressure cooker, making it a wonderful tool for when you come home after work and have to get dinner on the table in a hurry. You can put ingredients in the pressure cooker and by the time you’re finished tidying up the kitchen you can have a wholesome, hearty home cooked meal.
Amazon has a Presto 6-qt. Pressure Cooker.

5 Ways to Help You Save Money

1. Americans, on average, buy 250 cups of espresso from coffee shops per day. With all of that money spent, save a little at least one day a week:  Mcdonalds is offering Free Lattes every Friday from 7am – 11am, no purchase necessary. And they are pretty good. You have the choice between, hot or iced, vanilla, mocha and a few other flavors and whole milk or skim. That will save you a few bucks every week.

2. Make a monthly trip to Walgreens. Each month they have Free After Rebate items. Check out what they have, most of the items are things you will use at one time or another if not daily. Also if you get the rebate in the form of a Walgreens card you get a 10% bonus on top of the rebate. I usually do this and then keep the Walgreens gift card until the next free after rebate items are offered, that way after the initial time of paying, you are only using the gift card. No more out of pocket!

3. Grocery Store Trips: Lately while making my way through the stores, I have seen so many items marked down. I don’t know how long this will last because the store will make adjustments and not order so much due to the fact that customers aren’t buying as much. But while there are steals and deals, take advantage of them. I have found so many items for half price or cheaper due to it being close to date. Also you can still use coupons on these items, making them sometimes free. For meat, if you freeze it right away, it will keep for a couple months.

4. Buy the Sunday newspaper. Every Sunday they put out ads and coupons. I have noticed that more companies are offering coupons due to the economy and they need people to buy their products. Also you can find a ton of coupons on line too. Check out Coupons.com for more help.

5. Check out Gasbuddy.com before you leave. Gas Buddy can help you find the cheapest gas in your city and help you stay away from the most expensive gas prices. If you are planning to travel outside the city, even if its just 40 miles, check to see if there are better prices so that you can stop and fill up on the way. The difference of a quarter a gallon really ads up.

Keep checking back here for more money saving tips.

10 Easy Money Saving Tips for 2009

This last year has been a bit tough in the money department for most of us. Many have made new years resolutions to start saving money and get our bills paid off but how to put that in effect is a bit more difficult. I have put together some simple money saving tips that you can start implementing today and the savings will be noticeable right away.

1. If you have internet, phone and cable with separate companies, try combining them to one company. Usually you will save an average of $25 a month. Making that a savings of $300 over the course of the year. Wave Broadband and Comcast both offer bundle packages.

2. If you have a cell phone and you don’t need a home phone, disconnect your home phone. Average savings about $15.00. Making that a savings of $180 for the year.

3. Turn down the thermostat. Turning down your thermostat at night at least 3 degrees will save you approximately 5-10% on your heating bill.

4. Combine trips, walk, bike or ride the bus. If you can cut your vehicle miles traveled by just 5% through combining trips, walking, biking, or taking public transportation, you can save up to $100 per year on gasoline costs. Walking and biking are good for your health too!

5. Cut back on eating out. Eating out for a family of 4 can put you back about $50 on average. Try to cut back to twice a month.

6. Request a reduction on your interest rate on your credit cards. Credit card companies sometimes are willing to reduce the interest rate. It can’t hurt to ask.

7. Get a library card. Its free! Start picking up books from the library, saving you an average of $8 a book.

8. Take your Lunch to work. Average savings of $6 per day, which can save you about $120 every month.

9. Bring coffee from home. Along with the #8, bringing coffee can save you daily. Try bringing coffee at least 3 days a week to save an average of $9 every week.

10. Buy online when it saves you money. Amazon is a great place to save money on everyday things.