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No Trick, But a Treat at Taco Bell this Halloween

Kevin Herald Blog As I was watching television, as I do, I noticed a commercial from Taco Bell announcing a special Halloween Day tie-in to their new Black Jack taco. Apparently, if you come into your local store today after dark--from 6 pm to midnight--you get a FREE Black Jack Taco. I've considered getting one before just to try it, but never really felt committed enough to go to get one. But heck, if it's free, why not? I may even buy a chalupa to go with it. That's still a thing, right? Chalupas?

Anyway, check out the Taco Bell Web site for an official announcement. And get to your local eatery for some free deliciousness.



Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 05:22 PM on October 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

I Fought The Law, and...yea...

Amanda Bar

This weekend myself and a bunch of friends traveled up to Disney World for the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween parade (think Halloween Horror Nights, but not scary in the least).  Unfortunately my foot was a little over-excited to get us up to Orlando, and I was pulled over by the Florida Highway Patrol doing 79 in a 70 MPH zone!

Some of you might know that I work for the Pembroke Pines Police Department, but this particular lieutenant was having none of it.  Despite my smiles and the batting of my eyelashes I received my first ever speeding ticket!  Perhaps it was because of the festive mood but the aftermath of this event didn't quite reach my brain until we were settled in our hotel room at Disney.  The cost of the ticket alone is $131, not to mention whatever additional fees I'd have to pay for a drivers school to remove points from my otherwise impeccable record.

Luckily I know a little something about the procedures needed to clear up a ticket, and as soon as I came home on Monday I looked up a recommended online drivers school & took my exam.  The course cost $9.99, with an additional $5 shipping charge for my certificate.  In total my lead foot is costing me $146, on top of the money I already planned on spending during my Disney vacation (my ticket, hotel room, food, etc.).  However, because of this citation, I made an effort to curtail my souvenir spending sprees.  I ended up only getting two or three items during the entire trip - a huge difference when compared to my previous Disney excursions!  It's just unfortunate that this prudence had to come on the heels of a traffic ticket...

Side-note: Happy Halloween, everybody!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:59 PM on October 30, 2009 in Vacations | Permalink | Comments (4)

Deal or no deal?

Name bar Do you troll the web for coupons? Follow super savers on Twitter? Clip furiously out of the Sunday paper? Hold on to every direct mail deal you get? Sign up for e-mails from stores where you actually shop, in the hopes of a sales pitch or discount?

It seems like there's a confusing array of ways to get info about the best deals out there. I'm looking for your ideas on how you do it.

I haven't posted many of the deals and coupons that have come through my inbox here because I want to tell you about the ways I'm saving. I can't vouch for all of those deals if I don't use them. But if that would make you take a peek at the blog a little more often, I'd be curious what kind of deals you want to know about -- and which ones really made a difference in your budget. I just found out today that a major pharmacy chain (with a large presence in South Florida) will give you $1 to spend in their stores if you buy one of their reusable shopping bags -- every fourth visit.

Is that a good deal? If you go there all the time anyway, maybe. But they don't give you cash -- the money goes right back to them, and you have to spend about $1 to buy one of the reusable bags in the first place.

Please share your tried-and-true savings measures and tell me if you want me to share all of the deals, good or not so good, here at the No Spend Zone.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 11:56 AM on October 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Debt to Disney

Amanda Bar
My big, yearly Disney trip is coming up this weekend, and I've already spent massive amounts of money in preparation for this trip.  I'm the designated driver for this adventure, and I spent $898 having various things replaced and repaired in my car.  (Little known fact: apparently vehicle water pumps are made out of solid gold.  I mean, why else would it cost me over $600 for the replacement part & installation?)

I also handed over a small fortune to Jo-Ann Fabrics and Michael's during my quest to construct the perfect Ursula (as in The Little Mermaid) outfit for this year's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween event.  The final cost to create my outfit is a figure lost in obscurity at this point, but know that the fabric alone was $70 and the dress I'm using was purchased for $60; this is not including the additional clothing items, jewelry, sewing necessities, etc...but feel free to assume that whatever budget I had going into this project has well since been blown.

And as if that wasn't enough, my father is throwing an added monkey wrench into the mix by telling me to purchase a seasonal pass for Disney ($249) instead of a 3-Day Park Hopper ($160).  I guess that he'd like me to accompany the family on future Disney trips, but my budget wasn't really anticipating any additional expenditures (not to mention my work schedule might not allow for such trips).  However, taking into account that I plan on going to Disney World next October (2010) for the Halloween event...it may be worth it in the long run, but my wallet sure doesn't seem to think it's a good idea.

So what should I do?  Plan (and spend) for possible future savings, or hold-out for what's monetarily efficient for me now?

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2009 in Entertainment , Savings , Vacations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free cookies

Name bar Don't get too excited. I don't have any to give away. (Or do I? Keep reading to find out.) But I made some that didn't cost me a thing the other night. Or so it seemed.

Every once in a while, I get a real hankering to bake something. Some of my friends are far more expert at this than I am, and my mother used to make these fantastic fancy cakes for my sister and me growing up. I don't even own a muffin pan. But give me a simple recipe and I'm in.

On a recent Friday night, with the significant other at his high school reunion, I got one of those hankerings. But I did not want to go to the store, even though I live about two miles from a host of shops.

Digging through my fridge, I came up with an unopened box of unsweetened chocolate, found some butter in the freezer and had a decent supply of sugar and flour. I don't always have eggs, but this night, I got lucky.

I looked around online for a recipe. There are a plentiful supply of websites that let you enter the ingredients you have on hand, and then the site will spit out a recipe to match. Nothing was quite the right fit -- and I wasn't in the mood to do anything that involved using a piping bag, making a separate topping or involved a pound of chocolate on top of what I had on hand.

So I turned over the box of chocolate.

I found a fairly straightforward recipe that didn't require me to leave the house. It had a glaze component which I ignored (in part because I don't keep Cool Whip in the house; in part because the idea of heating up Cool Whip seems like a bad idea.)

A little while later, I was in baker's heaven.

I challenge you to bake yourself something today without going to the store. Or just try to make three meals in one day without a shopping trip. If you really can't, your cupboard might be understocked, and you're buying meals out because you have no choice. Here's one idea of what must-haves are in the pantry.

Or you're lacking in creativity. Which I know you really aren't.

Be sure to tell me what you come up with. And maybe I'll bake you some cookies.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 07:26 PM on October 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Family Versus Finances

Kevin Herald Blog

For those in the know, my friends Amanda and Bridget went to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween at Disney World in Orlando a few years ago dressed as characters from Alice in Wonderland. The next year, they graciously extended the invite to myself, my sister and some other friends and since then we've turned it into a bit of an annual tradition, where we now plan on making the trip each year around October and spending a few days in the park for the usual Food & Wine Festival and the Halloween adventure.

This year, my sister Melissa planned on coming with us the entire weekend. Previously, she only came on Halloween night, but as she finally turned 21 this past September, she wanted to come along for the whole weekend and partake in the Food & Wine extravaganza. She was really excited about it, up until about a month ago when she realized her finances, like pretty much everyone in my family, were lacking. First, she cut down and said she could probably only come for Halloween day. As time went on, she began to think she might not even be able to go to that. Tickets to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween cost around $56. A costume--Maleficent for her as we're all going as Disney villains this year--runs around $44. Last year she made her own costume, but considering Maleficent's headdress my sister knew she needed to make a purchase this time around. Then there's the hotel room, which thankfully would only be $15 per person, and whatever other expenses she managed to find while in the park.

Suddenly I found myself in quite the quagmire. On one hand my sister was really looking forward to this trip. She had a great time last year and with all the stress she's getting from school, she could really use a nice break to relax and have fun with some friends. On the other hand, money is tight. But really, the decision wasn't tough. I offered to pay for Melissa's Halloween ticket. She'd have to buy the costume and pay for the hotel room and such, but eliminating the ticket cut her cost in half. After much discussion, she agreed and now she's able to join us for at least Halloween night. Despite my own financial situation, this was my sister. And sometimes, making your little sister happy is worth the sacrifice.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 03:02 PM on October 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Cost of Culture

Amanda Bar
A week ago it came to my attention that The Phantom of the Opera stage show was coming to the Broward Center of the Performing Arts.  I have seen it twice in the past (the second time being while I was still in college, so fairly recently), but I have a few friends who I've been wanting to take along.  I made a few calls and sorted out that my father, my sister, my roommate Bridget, and fellow No-Spend Zone blogger Kevin, will all be coming with me.  This is all well and good, but then we come to the seating arrangements.

Ticket prices were going for as low as $30.75 for nosebleed balcony seats, but I know from experience that paying the extra price for orchestra seating is well worth it.  Unfortunately that bumps the price up to $78.75 a ticket, so the total cost of five tickets (plus an insane $50 "processing fee") amounts to $445.95.  I put it all on my credit card to be repaid at a later date (the show itself isn't until early January!), but I can't honestly say that I feel guilty about the price.  Kevin might have something to say about it, as he's more in need of pinching pennies at the moment than I am, but I know it'll be a great experience for everyone. 

So how about you?  Would you hand over the cash for a chance to hear the music of the night?

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:58 PM on October 16, 2009 in Entertainment , Nightlife | Permalink | Comments (0)

Getting credit where credit is due

Name barMy friend and colleague Hannah Sampson is on a worthy mission in the midst of this recession: erasing her debt. So she's leaving no charge on her credit card bill unchallenged.

It's already paying off.

In the midst of a recent bill-scrutinizing session, she found an errant four-month-old charge for $215. The culprit, a Milwaukee hotel, had charged her the day she made a reservation -- and then again when she actually showed up for a friend's wedding about two weeks later.

The person at the other end of the phone was downright pleasant, looked up the charges, and took Hannah's word that she hadn't taken two jaunts from South Florida to Wisconsin in one month. The cash is a tidy sum. As she put it, "$200 is a month of food, a shopping spree, an airline ticket." The next battle is getting her credit card company to repay any finance charges they billed her on the money.

Fresh from a convo with her cellphone company, which netted her a $20 credit, Hannah has rolled up her sleeves for future financial combat.

"I try not to be a pushy person, but at a certain point you just have to fight for your money," she says. "Nobody has been offended with me. People have been kind and even apologetic."

Have you had the same experience? Tell me about it.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 06:18 PM on October 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free Community Spooks

Amanda Bar
All dressed up for Halloween with nowhere to go?  Well, if you happen to be a resident of Pembroke Pines (or just live in the area) you might want to consider attending the Pembroke Pines "Boo-Ville" Halloween family event.  Entrance is free, and activities include a costume contest, Trick-Or-Treat stations, a pumpkin patch, rides, Halloween arts & crafts, and a DJ Dance Party!  Refreshments are available with purchase, but no word on food items.  Did I mention entrance is free??

Boo-Ville begins on Saturday October 31st (lasting from 6pm to 9pm) at the Pines Recreation Center (7400 Pines Blvd).

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 10:37 PM on October 12, 2009 in Entertainment , Nightlife | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fanning the Flames of Needless Spending

Amanda Bar
Since buying my new home I've experienced several occasions where my wallet comes into conflict with my personal taste.  This week is no exception, as I'm searching for ceiling fans for both upstairs bedrooms.  I've already browsed Home Depot and Lowe's, and even though the prices are reasonable (none of the models that I liked cost over $99) I didn't end up finding what I wanted.

My next stop is to Dan's Fan City, a retailer specializing in - you guessed it! - ceiling fans.  The problem that I'm having is that I'm scared (yes, scared) to stumble across something I really like...only to discover a much heftier price-tag than the models I spotted at Home Depot & Lowe's.  I have a bad habit of listening to my impulses whilst ignoring my resources when I come across something I love, and I'm nervous that this instance will only prove my point.  Dan's Fan City offers some pretty elaborate fans, and unfortunately my ultra-modern aesthetic more often than not comes with a not-so-fabulous price-tag.

Hopefully all of this won't be the case, and I may find a fan I love with an equally lovable sales price.  However, I'm dreading the chance that I might have to wage another war between my impulses and my common sense...and all for the sake of a ceiling fan!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 12:19 PM on October 7, 2009 in Home decor , Housing , Impulsive spending , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

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