Halloween Costumes for 2012!

D Sharon Pruitt

Inspired by the recent Halloween research from the National Retail Foundation, we’re back with our annual Halloween nudge. According to the NRF, a record seven in 10 will be celebrating Halloween resulting in a total budge of $8 billion to be spent for this hallowed eve.

$79.82
The average amount Americans will spend on decorations, costumes and candy for Halloween

35.7%
Americans who will look to a retail store for costume ideas

27.1%
Americans who will look for costume ideas via social media sites

Don’t have a costume -don’t fret – we’re here to help!

This year’s trendy picks:

Love it or hate it -Honey Boo Boo is HOT! While we’ve seen a few costumes online – you can basically squeeze yourself into a sequin dress, get dolled up and spill some mustard or jelly down the front (ketchup might look like blood). How about the totally inappropriate teddy bear “Ted” who enjoyed a moment in the spotlight this summer. If you’re heading to a dance party, add a little “Gangnam Style” fun via Korean rapper Psy (short for psycho). Or considering the elections are a few days away – be presidential, these candidate face masks are for sale all over the internet starting at $10.

Since we only have one female costume in this group here are a few pretty simple female inspired options via Pinterest

Still haven’t figured it out? Check out our Halloween costume posts from 2011 and 2010.

Top Travel Reward Credit Cards

Get to the Kona International Airport more often with these travel reward programs.A couple weeks ago we shared our favorite travel apps – today we want to help you find the best credit cards with travel awards. Of course, we advocate paying it off every month – our economy isn’t on life support because credit card companies are giving away money -but if you have a purchase to make – why not earn some travel points. Creditcard.com does an excellent job in rating all of the different types of reward programs tied to credit cards – but these were our favorite

Chase Sapphire Preferred℠ Card –Because of the high points per dollar, flexibility of carriers and hotels you can use your points on– this card tops most of the travel blog/websites.  Other features include 24-hour (real person) customer service and a seven percent bonus on your reward points. The annual fee is pretty steep ($95) but it’s free for the first year. To justify the cost, you can take advantage of the initial bonus of 40,000 points (worth $400 or a flight valued at $500) when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Like we said – if you have a big purchase to make – you might as well get a little back for your travel budget.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card also tops many “best” lists as well. Not only do you get hotel points (Sheraton, St. Regis, Westin) but  points can transfer to the airline miles programs as well. They also offer the usual promtions – 10,000 bonus points after your first purchase and another 15,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months. While the first year is free, the annual fee is $65 a year.

A personal favorite -and not really on any best of lists  is the Hawaiian Air Visa Card. It’s not on a best list because you would make more reward points with a card like the Chase Sapphire or even the Starwood card, which you could then use toward Hawaiian Air. However, considering the huge smile factor involved in putting down your Hawaiian Air Credit Card, we wanted to include it. For mainlanders the card is issued through Bank of America and has a $75 annual fee for the platinum, and $50 for the standard. If you’re interested check for sign on promotions and start dreaming of your next trip to paradise.

Got Gold? Here’s How to Sell It

Gold Hawaiian Charm Bracelet: Value $2,000

With a nod to Micheal Phelp’s gold rush during these summer games, we wanted to help out our readers who might not be in pursuit of gold but in pursuit of cash for their old gold.

First of all – we’re a bit weary of sending in gold by mail for cash -but we’d love to hear from anyone who has had a positive experience with it. Instead, we’ve gone the more traditional route of finding a broker and or jeweler and taking it in ourselves.

A few things to know before you sell your jewelry.

1. The price of gold: This is listed daily on Thebulliondesk.com

2. Find the stamp that tells you the karat of your piece.

3. 24 karat = 100 percent gold. Therefore, divide the karat you have by 24. An 18-karat gold piece is 75 percent gold (18 karat / 24 karat = 0.75 or 75 percent).

4. All experts say unless you absolutely trust your jeweler it’s best to get at least two opinions on the value of your gold before selling.

To get some real numbers we took our gold to Robin McNally at Pacific Precious Metals. First she checks the karats, weighs it and then gave us a rough estimate. If we were serious about selling, she X-rays it to separate the metal alloys to be sure her the stamps are accurate. The lead photo is a charm bracelet of 14k charms, that weighs 88.9 grams which equals a bit over $2,o00.

Necklaces = 45.34 grams of 14k gold, = 1,457 ounces = $1,027

Grandma’s watches and Gucci — ALL gold plated, value = sentimental.

For the serious miners in the crowd … we loved this long instruction from wikihow on how to calculate the value of scrap gold, complete with using an acid test on the gold to make sure it’s real. Believe us -it’s easier just to take it into an expert like Robin. The whole process took less than 10 minutes.

New Favorite Money Site: LearnVest

Alexa von Tobel is one of those girls you wish was in your inner circle. The type of gal you could have cocktails with and discuss the benefits of your company 401k matching plan.

We fell for Alexa in a recent Marie Claire interview, in which she made a bold statement about women and money: “The fact is, women don’t like to talk about money, let alone deal with it. Though we’re killing it at work, earning more than ever, running our households, and making big-ticket decisions, too many women still worry they’ll be judged by what they earn and how they spend it. So instead of asking for help, they try not to think about it, treating their finances the same way they did back in college — spending it when it’s there, freaking out when it’s not.” Eek…but probably true for some of us.

That notion is one of the reasons Alexa founded LearnVest. The site is dedicated to helping women take control of their finances and offers free and easy tools for how to save and spend your money.

The site helps you create a budget (that’s actually livable!), shows you how to get out from under your student loans and how to create a financial plan (thank you!) — and it’s free! Plus, it’s got a pretty cool user interface that makes budgeting, actually fun…

 

 

 

What’s the Difference Between a Roth IRA and an IRA?

You know you should be saving for retirement but we get it, sometimes the savings-options just get a bit overwhelming, which is why we’ve created an easy cheat sheet on the differences between two retirement options: Roth IRA and IRA.

First the main difference is just when you pay income taxes on the money you put in each.

Traditional IRA: You pay when you take the money out in retirement.

Roth IRA: You pay taxes on the front end, so when you take it out you won’t be taxed.

In both options your money will grow tax free while in the account.

Other differences:

There are income limits for a Roth IRA.

Roth IRA’s can be a bit more flexible if you need to take out money early.

With a traditional IRA, you have to start taking out money by the time you are 70 1/2 (with a Roth you can leave it in to grow).

Still not sure which to choose? Our favorite finance guru Suze Orman has advice here.
Photo courtesy of Bokeh Burger.

Pop the Champagne! Study Shows Those Who Drink Earn More

Just what we needed for a long work week—a study reporting the positive effects of our weekend consumption. Reason Foundation—a public policy think tank—reports in the Journal of Labor Research drinkers earn 10 to 14 percent more money at their jobs than nondrinkers!

“Social drinking builds social capital,” said Edward Stringham, Ph.D., an economics professor at San Jose State University. “Social drinkers are networking, building relationships, and adding contacts to their Blackberries that result in bigger paychecks.”

If you are going to imbibe do it in moderation. Alcohol packs calories, in fact one Long Island Ice Tea has the same number of calories as a Big Mac! Instead, choose calorie-conscious drinks like a glass of Champagne, at only 91 calories per glass it’s a tasty choice!

Travel Tips for the First Day of Summer!

Hammock at the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort

As we welcome the first day of summer, we wanted to share a post we were just wrote for the Marin Magazine travel newsletter … great deals as well as our top three travel apps. Enjoy!

Courtyard of North Block Hotel in Yountville

Deal! To celebrate the rebranding of North Block Hotel (formerly Hotel Luca), the hotel is offering the North Block VIP Wine Package, through June 31. This includes a room upgrade, welcome bottle of wine and VIP wine tasting at Girard Winery. General manager, Ty Accornero describes the 20-room hotel, as “Melrose Place meets Dynasty” and for those who weren’t watching primetime television in the 80s, this means the setting is in one of the most famous gastronomically impressive, wine country zip codes combined with all the rooms and decks facing the courtyard, and a lively community pool. Starting at $315, northblockhotel.com

Family  June 15th marked the reopening of Disney California Adventure Park and the opening of Cars Land. In this re-creation of Radiator Springs (set of the movie Cars) guests can take a stroll through this imaginary town in Route 66 with the Luigi’s Casa Della Tires and Flo’s V8 Café and shadowed by Cadillac Mountain Range in Ornament Valley. The rides are very popular – as in five hour waits –  so use the fast pass option available to everyone. disneyland.disney.go.com

Luxe The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, along the shores of Riviera Nayarit, has just announced their new summer offerings, including the Gourmet Pass Package, available until October 31, 2012. The package includes guaranteed upgrade to a deluxe ocean view, complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner, in addition to a free domestic bar from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Additionally, one child twelve years of age or younger per room eats and drinks for free. But wait there’s more … the resort is also offering culinary classes for the whole family, from kids cooking classes with Pastry Chef Mikael Fournier, to “Cooking and Dining in Pairs,” where couples prepare dinner together with Chef Sylvain Desbois, who is recognized as one of the most talented chefs of Mexico. Packages start at $550. stregis.com/puntamita

And then the apps – Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know..

1 Postagram Postcards with Edge

The app is free; just provide the mailing address and for 99 cents, Postagram will print and send your travel photo to friends and family through the U.S. mail.

2 iFly Layover Info

Looking for a healthy meal, a massage, ground delay updates or local hotel listings? Comprehensive info on iFly includes amenities, departure times at more than 700 airports, and downloadable maps for your phone so you don’t have to pay international roaming charges when checking your location.

3 TripIt Manage Your Miles

Besides itinerary management, TripIt has a few extras including frequent flier and loyalty point trackers and the ability to share your itinerary with iCal or Google Calendar.

Brown Bag Your Lunch and Save for Designer Shoes

While the thought of bringing your lunch to work might be depressing, you’ve got to admit it is cheaper than hitting up the local cute-as-can-be cafe each day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service found that in 2008, nearly half of every American food dollar, or $565 billion went towards food purchased away from home. Don’t fall into that trap! With so many great local farmers markets (great opportunity to socialize) and lunch boxes ranging from classic REI Gore-tex to shiny, pretty stacked bento boxes, bringing your meals and snacks can be fun. Besides the health benefits of making your own lunches (no hidden salt, sugar or fat), this is your time to show off your culinary creativity.

shutterstock_32929120

The “fabulous” Frugal Frump did her math and figured out that when spending $10 a day on lunch, (and that doesn’t get you much) you’ll be spending a whopping $2,475 a year. This is subtracting assumed vacation, holiday and sick days one would take. Bring your own lunch each day to work — which costs on average about $3, and you’ll save $1,924 a year. That extra cash could be a quick trip to Hawaii, five pairs of designer shoes, a labradoodle puppy or a big dent in that credit card. You decide.

Not feeling creative?  Here are some websites with fun and interesting brown bag options.

Sheknows.com has created a round up of tasty “Recessionista Lunches” Choose from pita sandwiches to warm winter salads.

San Francisco, foodie and writer who goes by the name “Biggie” discovered the wonders of packed lunches during her tenure in Japan. Her website, Lunch in a Box is dedicated to tasty, and aesthetically pleasing lunch items, while they seem to be directed at mom’s making lunches for kids –we think grown-ups would like them too.

And then for a variety of choices ranging from soups, salads and sides, check out FabulousFoods.com

Have we missed any of your favorites? Let us know at misscontact@gmail.com

Must Read List: Budget Bloggers

For us, pay day is still 12 days away, so we couldn’t resist posting introductions to some of our favorite budget-focused female bloggers! Did we miss your favorite? Drop us a note!

The Frugal Girl: Blogger Kristen is on a goal to inspire others to live life on less! We love her creative posts that teach us to “do-something” with a rogue left-over sweet potato and kiddie cheap-o craft projects.

Poor Girl Eats Well: Besides its very clever title, this blog is full of original (and almost always healthy) recipes for gals on a tight budget. Our favorite section is the $25 shopping cart with inspiring images of just how much you can get (and what to make) on less than a $25 grocery budget.

 

Budget Girl Blog budget-girl.com

Budget Girl: “Look Great and Live Well Without Spending a Fortune” — yep, that’s a blog tagline we like to hear! Blogger Robin has been honing her bargain hunting skills since grad school. We love the posts on upcoming and current not-to-be-missed sales and the introductions to wallet-friendly cosmetics.

Live Like a Rich Girl (on Less)

Image by sushi♥ina via Flickr.

If I was a rich girl. Na-na – na-na-na-na-na – na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na , Say I’d have all the money in the world…

OK, we’re sorry in advance if that song gets stuck in your head, but now that we have your attention, take stock of these four tips to keep you living like you’re a rich girl even if you’re on an intern’s paycheck.

1. Take Stock of What You Have

Once you realize where your money goes each month you’ll feel on top of things. Sign up for one of the free money tracker website’s like mint.com — it’s easy, you’ll just enter information from all your accounts (loans, credit cards, debit card, etc) and the site will automatically update with every transaction you make. It’s like a personal assistant-secretary without having to actually pay someone to do it.

2. Live on a Budget

Setting a budget is easy, sticking to it — not so much. But it’s simple (trust us) just download one of the cheap apps that will keep your spending in check. One of our favorites? Spend — at .99 cents the price is right and it’s actually useful. After you set budgets for various categories (think food, clothing, vacation) the app displays what you can literally spend for the day, week, or month in each category. As soon as you spend in a category, the app deducts the amount and you’re updated with a current view of your budget.

3. Maximize Your Pay

Does your company offer FSA (Flexible Spending Account) — most large corporations and smaller companies with external HR groups do. If you’ve got access to one take advantage! With FSA you’ll put pretax dollars from your salary into the account and then you’ll use it to pay for health related products or services like a doctors appointment, contact lenses or even acupuncture. For example, a woman making $50,000 a year who puts $2,500 in her FSA could get a tax savings of $625. You’re using the FSA money for stuff you would have already had to purchase or pay for — so basically you’re getting $625 that you wouldn’t have had before!

4. Pay Your Bills

Sounds easy, right? But so many people fall victim to late fees and end up with bad credit because a simple phone bill goes unnoticed. If your bank account doesn’t offer bill pay reminders, create an e-mail account with calendar alerts three days before the bill is due — with a free service like Gmail – for electronic bill-delivery.

How does your financial outlook compare to other U.S. Women? Take a look at these figures from Marie Claire of ladies ages 18 to 34:

2.3 credit cards per woman

43% have credit-card debt of $10,000 or more

23% saved up at least three months’ expenses (compared with 34% of men)

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