Since I am working on paying off debt and increasing my net worth, I have been looking for summer vacation ideas that don’t really require me to leave home. I used to make fun of the “staycation” term, while I was putting vacations I could not afford on credit cards. So, I’ve managed to come up with a few ideas that you might be able to do in your town or city. I’ve got ideas for people who live near a body of water and those who don’t. Hopefully, you’ll end up having a pretty great summer with some of these activities – I know that I’m already having a blast and I’ve spent hardly any money!

Outdoor patio games

When I was growing up, we had a badminton net out in the backyard that was a lot of fun. But now that I am living in Phoenix, I don’t want to be running around and working up a sweat when it is over 100 degrees outside. But at the same time, I want to be outside. The solution? Outdoor gaming tables! Sure, they have kind of high price tags to begin with, but you can get a lot of years of use out them, so it ends up pretty cheap for the lifetime use cost. I’m talking about outdoor ping pong tables like these and outdoor foosball tables like these. Pretty nifty, huh?

Visit a local water park or theme park

Most places in the U.S. have a water park or theme park not too far from them. When I lived in Dallas, there was a Six Flags in the city and a water park, so that was pretty cool. And out in Vegas there is also a park. So whether you live some place super hot like Phoenix or more mild, you can still have fun at a theme park or water park. And often these places have discounts for local residents or watch for when the soda cans have the discount coupon on them.

Check out local museums

I know what you’re thinking – groan, right? Well, hear me out for a moment. Museums are usually cheap and take a few hours to go through. Plus, some of them are really fun, like science museums. Depending on where you live, the local museums may also offer a discount for locals. Another thing to look into is getting a membership to the museum if you really like it. This way you can  go back as many times as you want in the next 12 months and it will be so cheap per visit.

Hit the water

Not all of us are lucky enough to live by the beach, but you don’t need a beach to have fun on the water. If there are local pools, then you can get a membership and spend a lot of time cooling off there. If there is a nice lake or river nearby, then you could do some fishing if that interests you, or buy yourself a cheap inflatable kayak or inflatable stand up paddle board so that the only cost will be driving to the lake or river. Plus, if you do something like paddle boarding or kayaking, you will get in some free exercise.

Those are my top ideas for fun summer staycation activities. Hope you enjoy!

This past week I have had some of my favorite customer service experiences.

First, we have the cashier at the grocery store that is too busy text messaging to ring up my purchases. I actually experience this problem all the time. From cashiers to grocery baggers – they are all too busy text messaging to do their job. When this happens I stop and wonder how these people keep their jobs. I mean, I am certain that there are people that would like to have their jobs, so how do they keep them? And what is so important that it cannot wait until they are done ringing up my purchases or bagging my groceries?

Then there was the guy at Kinko’s that helped the person in line behind me because that person wanted to pay for some copies and I was there to FedEx a package. I have had this sort of thing happen in retail stores before when I have been making a return as well. The idiot at the register wants to help the person that is easiest for them first. What do they think will happen – that I will disappear just because they skipped me? No. It doesn’t work that way. It just makes me mad and then I get rude. The person in line behind me can wait. I waited to get to the front of the line too. And the time of the person behind me is not worth any more than mine.

And finally, the cashier at order pickup desk at Best Buy that stopped helping me to answer the phone and help that person. I never understand this when it happens. Guess what, I am right in front of you. Why would you leave the person in front of you waiting to help someone that didn’t even have the motivation to come into the store. Obviously I am a more valuable customer since I am in the store making a purchase instead of calling you about something. It’s just like the scenario above – all you are accomplishing is making me mad because you are forcing me to wait. Sure, I get that a ringing phone is annoying. Here’s an idea – answer it and immediately ask them to hold. When I call a store for something I expect them to be busy with customers. I don’t get mad when they put me on hold.

Clearly I have some issues with being impatient, but I also have expectations for customer service. Is it too much to ask for these days to get good customer service?

One of the most interesting things I learned in a previous art class was the way that different colors affect your moods. The art class was a little art mixed in with a little splash of psychology.

One of the key things I remember my teacher pointing out was how most restaurants have reds or oranges for their color pattern as those colors should speed you up on getting out of there. And how blues and greens would be in doctor offices as those colors are supposed to relax you.

And I remember thinking – what about IHOP? The colors in there are blue – do they want me relaxed when I’m eating my pancakes?

Oh well, maybe they didn’t get the color memo!

Here is all you need to know on colors and how they affect your moods…


Black is the color of authority and power. It is popular in fashion because it makes people appear thinner. It is also stylish and timeless. Black also implies submission. Priests wear black to signify submission to God. Some fashion experts say a woman wearing black implies submission to men. Black outfits can also be overpowering, or make the wearer seem aloof or evil. Villains, such as Dracula, often wear black.


Brides wear white to symbolize innocence and purity. White reflects light and is considered a summer color. White is popular in decorating and in fashion because it is light, neutral, and goes with everything. However, white shows dirt and is therefore more difficult to keep clean than other colors. Doctors and nurses wear white to imply sterility.


The most emotionally intense color, red stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. It is also the color of love. Red clothing gets noticed and makes the wearer appear heavier. Since it is an extreme color, red clothing might not help people in negotiations or confrontations. Red cars are popular targets for thieves. In decorating, red is usually used as an accent. Decorators say that red furniture should be perfect since it will attract attention.

The most romantic color, pink, is more tranquilizing. Sports teams sometimes paint the locker rooms used by opposing teams bright pink so their opponents will lose energy.


The color of the sky and the ocean, blue is one of the most popular colors. It causes the opposite reaction as red. Peaceful, tranquil blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals, so it is often used in bedrooms. Blue can also be cold and depressing. Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms. Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms.


Currently the most popular decorating color, green symbolizes nature. It is the easiest color on the eye and can improve vision. It is a calming, refreshing color. People waiting to appear on TV sit in “green rooms” to relax. Hospitals often use green because it relaxes patients. Brides in the Middle Ages wore green to symbolize fertility. Dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth. However, seamstresses often refuse to use green thread on the eve of a fashion show for fear it will bring bad luck.


Cheerful sunny yellow is an attention getter. While it is considered an optimistic color, people lose their tempers more often in yellow rooms, and babies will cry more. It is the most difficult color for the eye to take in, so it can be overpowering if overused. Yellow enhances concentration, hence its use for legal pads. It also speeds metabolism.


The color of royalty, purple connotes luxury, wealth, and sophistication. It is also feminine and romantic. However, because it is rare in nature, purple can appear artificial.


Solid, reliable brown is the color of earth and is abundant in nature. Light brown implies genuineness while dark brown is similar to wood or leather. Brown can also be sad and wistful. Men are more apt to say brown is one of their favorite colors.

While blue is one of the most popular colors it is one of the least appetizing. Blue food is rare in nature. Food researchers say that when humans searched for food, they learned to avoid toxic or spoiled objects, which were often blue, black, or purple. When food dyed blue is served to study subjects, they lose their appetite.

Green, brown, and red are the most popular food colors. Red is often used in restaurant decorating schemes because it is an appetite stimulant.

Whether you are trying to cram for classes in college or remember when you placed your car keys, chances are pretty good that you could benefit from some ways to improve your memory.

Sure we have all heard about supplements that you can take to boost your memory and whatnot. I’m not a doctor, so those could work and they might not.

I was reading an article in Shape magazine recently on improving memory. In the article it was mentioned that a study was recently conducted overseas where 4 simple things, that were not supplements, showed a 65% increase in people’s memory. Here are those 4 things…

1.Memory Training Brainteasers – Do some crossword puzzles and memory exercises that stress verbal skills throughout the day. Doing this type of thing throughout the day instead of just at one point during the day yielded better results.

2. Eat a healthy diet –  Try to eat five meals each day, which include foods rich in omega-3 fats, low-glycemic index carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains) and antioxidants. Eating five small meals throughout the day prevents dips in blood glucose levels and glucose is the primary energy source for the brain. And a tired brain means your memory isn’t working to capacity.

3. Exercise –  Even something as minor as brisk walks each day and some stretching exercises is better than nothing.

4. Reduce stress – You can use stretching and relaxation exercises to manage your stress. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which plays an important role in memory preservation. Cortisol has been found to shrink the memory centers in the brain, which results in impaired memory.

For more tips on improving your memory, check out How to Improve Your Memory from WikiHow.

As I have mentioned before I have some credit card debt that I am trying to give the smackdown to and I have recently found myself unemployed. When you put those two things together, what do you get? Me getting rid of junk around my apartment by selling it on eBay.

Okay, so it is not exactly junk but more stuff that I do not need. And it is mostly stuff that I charged on those credit cards.

Anyways, I  really hate selling things on eBay. I tend to go through an eBay cycle that goes a little something like this…

  • I put a bunch of stuff on eBay
  • People email me with stupid questions about my listings
  • I grumble about people’s stupidity as I answer their questions
  • People buy my stuff
  • I am then bombarded with even more stupid questions
  • I grumble
  • I ship people their stuff
  • They get their stuff and send me more stupid questions because apparently they never looked at the photos on the auction or read the info on the auction
  • People want their money back because they couldn’t read
  • I get angry and vow to never use eBay again
  • Months pass and I forget why I stopped selling stuff on eBay
  • grumble and repeat above steps

So, I put a couple of things up on eBay last week. Amazingly there were no stupid questions during the auction period. The auctions ended over the weekend. That is when the real fun began.

One of the auctions was won by someone in Norway that doesn’t realize that it is not cheap to ship something that weighs a little over a pound from the US to Norway.  No, this person wants to pay around $5 instead of the $20-ish it will cost.

The other auction was paid for almost immediately by the winning bidder – at 6pm on Saturday. Yesterday I get an angry ALL CAPS email from this person wanting to know why I have not sent them their tracking number. They suggest that I am scamming them and so on. This is humorous for two reasons.

  1. My feedback is 98.7% positive with a rating of almost 500.
  2. Clearly the post office was closed when he paid. It was closed yesterday and it is closed today.

When I get emails like this from winning bidders it takes a lot of restraint to not write back an email that begins “Dear idiot…” Then my other half reminds me that there is no reasoning with stupid people. And I suddenly remember why I stopped selling things on eBay.

Only the stupid people find my auctions on eBay!

Criticizing people is something that we all have do it. It can be at work or at home or even with friends. Thing about criticizing people though is that it has to be done carefully because people’s feelings get hurt. I do not think that there is any real way to avoid that as it is just part of human nature to get hurt when we get criticized. The key though is to criticize in a manner that does not leave the other person angry at you. You expect them to feel a bit hurt but you definitely do not want to get them mad at you!

If you can criticize effectively then you will not need to worry about someone getting mad.

A good thing to remember is to always to to bookend your criticism with compliments. That way you will not be thought of as a bringer of negativity.

Also remember what you are criticizing and direct your thoughts to that and not to the person. Remember you are criticizing an action, or inaction, and not the person.

Do not be rude when you are delivering your criticism. If you do so in a condescending or a snarky type of tone then you are going to get nowhere fast. And the person you are talking to is going to get really angry really fast.

Do not be vague. Instead of saying “I don’t like how you have been acting lately” make some specific observation such as “I don’t like how you have been so rude and snippy with your co-workers.” And be even more specific than that if you can!

You do not need an audience. If you have a criticism for one person but are in a group with that person it is best to wait. There is no need to share the criticisms of one person with people that are not directly involved. It will just make that person feel even worse.

Don’t place blame. Choose your words carefully to avoid placing blame. Offer to help if you can.

Don’t rush into criticism. You don’t want it to seem like an attack, so when you feel the overwhelming urge to criticize – wait. Let your thoughts marinate. Then you will avoid an emotional explosion.

I hate getting hit up for money at work.

I have only been at this job for about a month. My first week there I was hit up for money for United Way. If I want to wear jeans at work I have to pay $1.00 per day for that “privilege” and the money is for United Way. Screw that I say.

First, I am not paying just to be able to wear what I am most comfortable in. If a company is too stupid to realize that I would get more done if I was more comfortable then it is their loss. Second, why would I want to give money to my company so that they can donate it in their name and then get heralded as such a giver to the community for their generous contribution to United Way? Third, why don’t I get to choose who the money goes to? Even better, let’s knock out the middleman and let me just bring you in a receipt of where I gave money to my charity of choice.

And then when you don’t give your money away you have your co-workers and such treating you like crap because they think you are just a stingy wanker about it all. Or they do something to try to make you feel like crap like letting everyone that contributed have a pizza party …. or they get to wear jeans. The point is that it becomes obvious who did and who did not give, and then you get the people that did give doing that whole “holier than thou” routine to the people that did not give.

Anyways, last week I was hit up for money at work. On Wednesday I arrived at work to see a present on my desk and all of my co-workers. My boss had given everyone $25 restaurant gift cards for Christmas. That afternoon one of my co-workers goes around telling everyone that money is being taken up and on Friday they are going to buy a gift card for the boss for Christmas. Clearly, there was no intention here of buying the boss anything at all until the boss gave them something. Guess they didn’t want it to be in bad taste if they did not turn around and give her something. And I won’t even go into how annoyed I was that they just assumed that I celebrated Christmas.

So, as you know from my mentioning how I make free iced tea at work with the hot tea station and the ice machine, then you probably know that I was not too interested in giving money for the boss. First, I am so totally focused on debt reduction it is almost crazy. Second, I am not really all that fond of the boss. Remember, she held me hostage last week for mucho hours of work. Third, if I wanted to give the boss a present then I would go out and get something myself. And I wasn’t going to give just because reciprocal gifting has become expected the societal norm.

I give when I want to and I don’t wait for a holiday as an excuse to give. When I see something that makes me think of someone else – that is when I give. I feel like it has more meaning than just “oh, it’s Christmas, here is your annual gift from me.”

On Friday, the gift money collection calvary started making their rounds in my department around 10 am. They get to my desk and tell me that they are taking up money for the gift card for the boss — here is the best part — and she actually said to me, “everyone has been giving $15 to $20, so how much do you want me to put you down for?” I almost choked on my gum. See, I try to put a $20 cap on gifts for people that I actually love and care about. So, I decided to secure my place as the office leper.

“I’ll have to pass this time,” is what I told her.

Well, you would have thought that I had spit in her face.  And the rest of the afternoon involved everyone playing their part in the “holier than thou” production that was going on in my department.

I am a big fan of the holidays.

Big feasts, time with family and friends, time off from work, less rush hour traffic due to people taking time off work – what is there not to love about the holidays?  And let us not forget the presents.

Getting presents from people is always a fun time, but I find that I have more fun trying to pick out something for someone else instead of getting gifts from that person.

One of the things that I hate about the holiday season is gift giving. It’s not that I hate giving people gifts, but that I hate the reason that a lot of people give gifts.

I was talking to my mother on the phone yesterday and she was on her way out to the mall. She told me how one of her co-workers had given her a gift and that now she had to go to the mall to pick up something for said co-worker.

Giving someone a gift just because they gave you one is not the reason to give a gift. Unfortunately a lot of people see it as that.

My mother told me that it would look bad and “be in bad taste” to not show up with a gift for the co-worker after being given a gift by said co-worker. Personally, I think it is in bad taste that her only motivation to gift this person with anything at all was because of being given something.

Then my mother went on to tell me how she had gotten her mother (my granny) a gift card but was only going to give it to her if she showed up at the house on Christmas day. What is that?!? She had enough motivation and initiative to buy something but does not want to make any real effort to give it away? Clearly this is another of those “in bad taste” moments.

On a side note, do you ever look at your parents and wonder, “How did I come from that?” and “How can I be so different from them?”

If there is one thing I hate it is paying taxes! I am sure pretty much everyone agrees with me on this one though. I really hate the idea of having to send the IRS peeps money come tax day, so I have been looking for ways to lower my tax liability for this year.

See, when I was getting unemployment the amount was so meager that I did not have taxes taken out of it. That means come tax time I have to pay taxes on that unemployment income. I will also have to pay taxes on the online income from places like Associated Content. And when you add in the salary increase that I got with my new job, I am fairly certain I have to look forward to writing a check to the friendly peeps at the IRS  😀

I really do not want to do that. And I bet you do not want to either. So here are some things you can do to hopefully avoid that come tax time!

  • Contribute the max to retirement accounts. (I believe you have until tax day to fill up the IRA!)
  • See if you can pay some of next year’s expenses in December
  • Let’s not forget about charitable giving
  • If you are self-employed, stock up on supplies and equipment before the end of the year
  • Gift away up to $12,000 to your kids or other relatives

Those are some of the things I have discovered. However I am not a tax person, so please check with a professional if you are unclear on something before taking my advice.

And if you have any tips for me, feel free to share!


As you may remember from last week, I found myself unemployed after asking for my salary to be increased to be more in line with that of my coworkers. That means it is time to begin looking for a job. I recently finished reading “What Color is Your Parachute” and find myself drawn back to the chapter that discussed the various ways that people look for jobs versus how employers hire candidates. I was reading a copy from the library, so unfortunately I cannot refer to it for accuracy, but it went a little something like this: The order of importance that we give the various methods of getting a job are directly opposite that of employers.

With that in mind, I know that too much time spend on Monster or CareerBuilder will be rather worthless.  First things first, I signed up for unemployment. There is a one week waiting period, which is interesting to me since so many Americans are supposed to be only one paycheck away from financial Armageddon. Hopefully I will find out my benefit amount by early next week.

Next up on the to-do list is updating my resume. Since I already had my then current job on there all I had to do was adjust the end date. Then I put it up on CareerBuilder and Monster but did not look for any jobs there as of yet.

If I remember correctly, the ways that employers find candidates to fill open positions are as follows:

  1. Internal candidates
  2. Candidates referred by someone at the company
  3. Unsolicited direct applications
  4. Applications on the company website
  5. newspaper/internet ads

Clearly I cannot utilize #1 as I am not employed. I have asked around and found one person that has an accountant opening at their job. I submitted my resume for that. I also looked up some local companies to see if they had any jobs listed on their websites and then applied to those.  And thus far I have not looked at any newspaper or internet ads.

Guess what? I have two interview lined up.  Each company came across my resume on CareerBuilder. I never contacted either place on my own. The exciting thing about these opportunities is that they are direct hire jobs, as opposed to staffing agencies. I really despise staffing agencies and would rather work two jobs in fast food than work for a temp agency.

Landing an interview presents its own problems though. References. In my mind, I would think it is not such a good idea to use the place that just let me go as a reference. However, an article on CareerJournal says to not assume that a boss that fired you would give you a bad reference. I think that is quite a big risk so I will not be trying it.

Here are my tips for preparing for finding and obtaining a new job:

  1. Tweak the resume. It was already mostly updated and just involved a little tweaking.  The important thing to remember here is that it is a tool. Once I get an interview I can go into loads more detail about what I did and why I’m so awesome.
  2. Put out your feelers. I asked around in my network and found out that someone I knew had an open position at their office. They were able to hand deliver my resume, which may give me a bit of an advantage over other candidates.
  3. Get your resume out there. While you do not want to waste your time searching on Monster immediately, it can’t hurt to have a resume out for everyone to see. I got two interviews that way!
  4. Work on a snazzy cover letter. If there is one thing I have learned over the past few years it is that cover letters make all the difference. Since you are trying to keep your resume to a page a lot gets left out. That is where the cover letter comes in handy. I usually do a search online for examples and then combine the best elements of all of them into one kickass cover letter.
  5. Prepare for the interview. Practice how you will sell yourself. I have found that being able to tell short little stories is helpful for me. It’s also a good idea to think of how you will answer those lame questions that almost every interviewer asks….”Can you tell me about your weaknesses?” “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
  6. Research salary and prepare to negotiate.  You want to make sure you are getting paid what you are worth, so look up salary information for the job you are interviewing for. Then use that information to your advantage when you are negotiating salary. And remember, the first person to name a dollar amount usually ends up the loser of the negotiation.