When To Foot the Food Bill

food billI wholeheartedly believe in generosity, but there are definitely times where I notice that some of my most generous friends, and even myself, have been taken advantage of by others at restaurants. In today’s day and age where etiquette is growing increasingly cloudy, it can be easy to forget who should pay for what and when. Plus, not all of us are raised in the same way with the same rules, so it can be challenging to navigate many of these situations if your friends don’t know or don’t understand these things the way you do.

So, below are some tips of what I have learned growing up and by experiencing awkward situations when it comes to money at restaurants. They are by no means hard and fast rules for etiquette nor do I claim to be an expert on manners. They are just situations that I’ve noticed over the years that could help someone else get out of some of those sticky moments. So without further ado, here’s when you should foot the bill:

1. When You Extend The Invitation

The number one thing that can get each and every one of us out of an awkward situation is to be very clear about our intentions. Many awkward who-grabs-the-check moments can be avoided if the host would extend an invitation like, Do you want to go grab a sandwich with me? My treat!❠Conversely, you can say, Do you want to go try that new restaurant in town? I’d love to treat you but I can’t today. It would be great to have the company though if you can come!❠You can also answer when the waiter asks if the bill is together or separate. If you’re feeling especially generous, you can also put your guest at ease by saying, Order whatever you want! I know I am. It’s my treat.❠The point is that if you are ready to extend the invitation, be ready to pay for your guest’s meal as well.

2. When You’re a Guy On A Date

I sense that I may possibly get comments from those who disagree with me on this. So, I definitely want to reiterate that I am no expert when it comes to modern day etiquette. I just know that when I was dating, I really appreciated it each and every time a man paid for my dinner. I found it to be very sweet and kind. Even today, I always let my husband pay for the bill, even though it comes out of the same bank account. There’s just something about having him take care of me that woos me.   However, I can understand women who insist on paying for their own half of a meal if that is what makes them more comfortable. Either way, I find that it’s always important to offer.

3. When You Want To Honor Your Parents

I believe there comes a point in everyone’s life where they should treat their parents to dinner. I know that mine always pay for everyone’s meal, but as I progress in my career over the next few years, I look forward to taking them out to dinner some time to repay the favor. Resentment can definitely build if you eat with your family and expect someone else to pay every time. Like the situation above, even if your parents or grandparents love to treat everyone, offering to pay for your portion might be a gesture that is appreciated, even if they turn you down.

So there, you have it: three situations where you should foot the bill. I know there are more that I’m not listing, so please leave a comment below and share your take on it.

photo by epsos

5 Ways To Save Money At The Grocery Without Cutting Coupons!

groceryWhere I live in Grenada, food prices are sky high. I’m not sure if it’s because of the tourism or if it’s just pain expensive to import so many things. Either way, I’ve had to figure out a few ways to cut my grocery budget. The catch is that because I live in Caribbean, the store  doesn’t  accept regular coupons. They don’t really do that here as far as I know. So, I’ve found a few ways to save money without having to clip them. I know many of you have very busy lives and might not have time to clip either, so here’s hoping these techniques help you as much as  they’ve  helped me.

1. Buy Off Brand When Possible

Most grocery chains offer their own brand of many items, and they’re usually cheaper than the name brand (especially if you don’t have access to coupons.)   Plus, many grocery chains have contracts with manufacturers and guarantee large quantity purchases in exchange for getting to put their own label on the item.   So, that off brand tomato sauce is likely to be every bit as good as the name brand sitting next to it.

2. Buy In Bulk

If you have the storage space and the price is right, buying in bulk often decreases the price per unit.   For instance, buying dried rice in large quantities often decreases the price per pound.   You get more for your money that way.   Depending what your grocery store offers, rice, beans, meat, cereal, coffee, cooking oils, and nuts can all be good items to buy in bulk.   Pay attention to what you buy most often and see if you can find them in larger quantities.   Spend a minute to do the math though, because not everyone reduces the price the more you buy.   Sometimes they’re banking that you’ll assume bulk is always cheaper. It’s your job to outsmart them. 🙂

3. Avoid the Pre-packaged Kits

I’m just as guilty as the next person for wanting to buy those frozen meals that practically cook themselves. However, I’ve realized that those just aren’t cost effective. I’ve actually found that buying the items separately and prepping them myself saves me money in the long run and never takes as long to make as I’ve envisioned in my head.

4. Use That Membership Card

I know it seems obvious, but this is an easy one to forget. How many times have you dropped into the store to grab something quickly and left your card at home or in the car? Those missed opportunities can add up to a lot at the end of the year, so be sure to have it on you to get the perks.

5. Substitute When You Can

Lastly, if you base your grocery shopping off the recipes you plan to make each week, consider making cheaper substitutions when applicable.   Need cake flour?   Use a little less all-purpose flour than what the recipe calls for.   Does your recipe call for a fancy cooking wine?   Use fruit juice.   Dried herbs are also a great substitution for buying fresh herbs each week.   Even chicken thighs are often cheaper than chicken breasts.   Get creative and look around when you’re at the grocery store; you’ll likely see similar but cheaper options that can add just as much flavor, creaminess, etc. to your meal.

I hope these suggestions help you to cut down those grocery bills just a little bit. I know that it’s often difficult to find the time to plan, cut coupons, and remember those grocery cards, but even changing your habits slightly can add up to big bucks saved over the course of a year. Good luck!

photo by qmnonic

Controlling Expenses From the Top Down

top downIn an attempt to get control over finances, we’ll usually start with an assault on the smallest expenses; because they’re the smallest, cutting them will produce the least amount of disruption in our lifestyles. But it’s equally true that cutting small expenses also produces the lowest savings. No amount of coupon clipping, turning out unused lights or canceling subscriptions will offset a crippling house payment or an outsized car payment.

If we’re serious about controlling our financesâ”and I mean really serious–nothing will have greater impact than lowering expenses from the top down, meaning the Big Stuff. I’m talking about four expenses in particularâ”housing, cars, health insurance and entertainment.

Let’s consider each and the impact it has on our finances. At the end, we’ll discuss why this is even more important for a Christian.


Many or even most other expenses in your budget will be determined by how much you spend on housing. A house is the single biggest driver of lifestyle inflation! Where you live and the size of the home affects what you pay for utilities, repairs and maintenance, furniture, insurance and even entertainment and the car you park in your driveway. It’s never just about being able to afford a particular house payment–bigger houses seem to demand higher outlays for everything else.

For this reason it’s critical to be conservative in your choice of housing. For decades we were told to buy the biggest house we could afford, and our finances would grow into it; do we believe that anymore? Should we?

Here’s something else: once you close on your home and sign the mortgage papers there’s no way to lower your monthly house payment should it become necessary! This is especially true today since the ability to refinance is no longer assured. And while the principal and interest portion of your payment will be stable for the life of your loan (on a fixed rate), taxes and insurance can and usually do rise over time.

Consider these facts when buying a home, or even if you’re currently struggling to maintain your payment. It’s better to buy beneath your means when it comes to housing.


High car expense isn’t nearly as long term in scope as housing, but it can still do a lot of damage in the short run. Much like housing, other expenses tend to rise the more you pay for a car. Like housing, there’s a strong argument for buying less car than you can afford.

If you’re struggling with an uncomfortably high house payment you may want to consider buying no more car than you can afford to pay cash for. A car payment on top of a large house payment can be the tripwire into financial oblivionâ”most of us can afford to carry some debt but we can’t have it coming at us from all directions.

Health insurance

There’s a strong case to be made that this is quite possibly the most important expense we have in the modern world, but even if that’s true it still has limits. Many people want their health insurance plan to cover as much as possibleâ”the fewer checks they have to write the better. The problem with this goal, from a financial standpoint, is that it’s also very expensive.

A substantial part of the cost of health insurance is coverage over first dollar expenses. What this means is that the lower your co-payments, deductibles and co-insurance provisions, the more you’ll pay for your premiums.

If you’re in generally good health, it can be more cost effective to trade higher co-payments, deductibles and coinsurance provisions for lower monthly premiums. You can also offset these by maintaining an emergency fund balance large enough to cover your maximum deductible and coinsurance provision in any one year. You’ll be covered in the event the worst happens, and if it doesn’t you’ll be ahead through lower monthly premiums.


Not so long ago entertainment was a fringe expense, something we paid for with what was left after all the bills were paid and some money was socked away in the bank. No longer. Today entertainment has a far stronger claim on our first fruits, so much so that many go into debt to be able to afford it.

The problem with this lifestyle is that it’s expensive! Theme parks, travel, restaurant meals and professional sporting events are expensive, and even old stand-by’s, like movie theaters, are no longer cheap. If you’re entertaining yourself with these on a regular basis it’s a solid bet that entertainment is eating up a much larger slice of your finances than you might assume.

I have a theoryâ”stay with me for a momentâ”I think formal entertainment has grown with the decline of families and communities. The less interaction we have with people, the more we’re willing to pay to find recreation and contentment in more formal venues.

Spend more time with peopleâ”they’re more fun than formal entertainment, and a lot less expensive. Be purposeful about getting together with family and friends on simple activities like potluck suppers, outings or at home movie nights.

If boredom is an issue, try volunteering to help the less fortunate, exercising to improve your health or starting a side business to earn extra money.

What’s the payoff?

I’m of the opinion that as Christians we need to travel light❠in life. That starts with keeping control of the biggest expenses. By doing so we have more money free for other purposes; some examples:

Mobility. God sometimes calls us to stop what we’re doing and to go in a different direction. Mission work is an example; a career or geographic move are a couple of others. It’s not so easy to heed such a call when we’re weighed down with expensive possessions, large debts or a high cost lifestyle. We need to be ready because we can never know when such a call might come.

Peace of mind. Possessions have a way of controlling our thinking. The more possessions we have, and the more money we have tied up in them, the more we obsess on them. While we’re obsessing, we’re stressing, to at least some degree, and almost certainly neglecting other pursuits we’re charged with, including prayer and Bible study, fellowship and volunteering.

Liquidity. I believe that as Christians, we have an implied command to stay liquidâ”that is to have money, time and resources to contribute to our churches and to help others. Having income available and at least some discretionary savings will enable us to either deal with a personal crisis, or to help others with theirs. None of that can happen if our income and savings are maxed out in possessions or a lifestyle that’s at or just beyond our reach.

Giving. The less money we spend on our basic cost of livingâ”in other words, the money we spend on usâ”the more we’ll have to store up treasures in heaven❠( Matthew 6:20) by helping others.

Time. It’s become almost axiomatic in our culture that we never have enough time; how much of this owes to the fact that we strive to acquire and maintain a certain lifestyle? Time is probably a more valuable commodity than money because it represents our very lives, and not just our money. The more of it that we have that’s free, the more we have to do everything else we should be doing as followers of Jesus Christ. Our witnesses are driven more by how we use our time than by how we use our money. But in the Catch-22 that life can be, how we use our money has a major effect on how we use our time as well.

We can free up both our money and time for Kingdom purposes by controlling all kinds of expenses. But by tackling the biggest onesâ”by controlling our expenses from the top downâ”we can do even more!

Interview with J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy

j. money


I have a very special treat for my readers this Monday evening.  One of the most  successful  personal finance bloggers over at BudgetsAreSexy.com allowed me to interview him.  His name is J. Money and has a passion for personal finance but likes to spice things up a bit at the same time.  So, please enjoy the following interview and head over to his blog if you haven’t already!

1- J. Money, thanks for this awesome interview opportunity. You’re known for running a pretty great blog over at Budgets are Sexy. How did you get started in personal finance blogging?

Thanks dude 🙂 Oh man, I got started when I bought a house w/ my wife 4 years ago and realized we didn’t know what the heck we were getting into! I started Googling for budget and mortgage help, and kept coming across all these sites that didn’t look like real❠websites, haha⦠After a few months of hanging out on these blogs,❠I realized I could put my own thoughts out there too and maybe add a different perspective to the PF world. So 2 weeks later I launched Budgets Are Sexy (originally titled Savings Are Sexy❠but it was taken!) and wrote my first blog post. Who knew I’d get addicted?


2-What are your favorite personal finance topics to write about?

Pretty much whatever pops into my brain at the time, to be honest with you. I don’t know If I have a favorite❠per se. I like talking about beer and lottery tickets though 😉 Oh! And also Net Worth â“ that would probably be my fave⦠I pretty much stick to anything that’s positive and just FUN to read about. I have major A.D.D. and I get bored easily. So if the topic at hand doesn’t interest me, there’s no way in hell I’ll be able to blog about it (I’m not good at how to❠articles for example, cuz they’re just not exciting to me). I’m very much into the personal❠side of personal finance.


3-How do you manage your time and run your blog? What type of balance do you have in your day to day life?

Very badly. I work about 75% of the day, and I have trouble eating properly and taking breaks 😉 Luckily I LOVE everything there is about blogging, but I definitely haven’t learned how to pace myself or get into a consistent habit yet. Though I’m currently on day #9 of waking up early, and without hitting the snooze button! That hasn’t happened since I was in high school 😉 If anyone wants to get better at it too, I highly recommend this article by Steve Pavlina: How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off.


4-Give us your top two posts you’ve ever written. What were the goals of those articles, and why were they so popular?

1) I got fired. By far my most popular, and favorite (by me). I think it was the first time I really realized the power of words and storytelling. I remember sitting there for 4 straight hours trying to get my thoughts out properly, but it was the first time of my blogging life that I realized I’m a true writer. And I hate writing, so it was a big light bulb moment for me 🙂 I think people related to it cuz I was as raw as I could have been that day, and everyone realized from that point forward I went from side blogger to full-time. That was an amazing time in my life, and I think about it almost every day (it’s only been 8 months now, but I can remember it like yesterday!)

2) Are Protandim Pills a Scam? This is the first post in 3+ years that continue to get comments regularly. I think because there’s such a heated debate about it right now, and people are constantly researching and trying to determine all the time if it’s all really a scam or not. And actually, this is a guest post 😉 Oddly enough most of my most circulated articles are guest posts! I think because the other bloggers research and really teach my audience something I don’t do very well. I applaud all of them for how they do that, and I think that’s what makes our whole niche awesome. There are story tellers on all sides of the equation.


5-What advice would you give to a new blogger?

ALWAYS BE YOURSELF!! I can’t stress that enough. It is SO easy to compare yourself to others out there, or change the way you’re doing things cuz you think it’s the right❠way to do things, but the whole beauty of blogging is that it’s our *personal* views on the subject! That’s very very important, and the reason why your readers come back time and time again. And even for me this is hard sometimes. Every now and then I don’t think I’m doing as well as so-and-so blogger, and I start writing like them or doing something else they’re doing, and I get called out on it fast 😉 People can tell when you stray from your own entity. That’s not to say you can’t test things, or take some risks here and there â“ you HAVE to do that â“ but just that in general it’s always best to be yourself, and remain focused. There are a lot of other tactical things you can do to market yourself, and get picked up by search engines, etc etc, but I don’t think any of that really matters unless you connect w/ an audience. So just keep being YOU!


6-What were some of the best and worst financial decisions you’ve ever made?

Worst: Buying a house. It’s just not for me. Sure I save money not renting, and I have a butt-ton of mortgage interest I can write off every year, but emotionally it’s just not a good fit with me. I feel trapped, and now w/ the economy I can’t easily get out. I think something that people have to really realize is that our emotions play a HUGE role in all our major financial decisions. Just because something makes sense down on paper, or everyone else is doing it (or praising it – The American Dream!â), it doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for YOU. Always do your best to keep that in mind.

Best: Maxing out my 401(k) every year. I can’t tell you how AWESOME that makes you feel (and how FAST it adds up over time!). Even if you did nothing else at all â“ no more savings, paying off debt, etc etc â“ you’d have thousands â“ and eventually millions â“ of dollars saved up over time. It really is incredible. Yes it’s hard (it comes out to over $1,000 a month!) but if you can pull it off, you’d be sitting pretty for the rest of your lives. And if that’s too much for you, or you don’t have an option to invest in 401(k)s, try going for a maxed out IRA every year which is only $5,000. That’s a great starting point for anyone trying to really rock it. And by the way, back to the 401(k) stuff real quick â“ if your employer matches even just *anything* you’re now getting that free money added in on top of everything your putting in yourself. It’s all rather amazing!


7-If you wish you knew one financial tip when you were 18, what would it be?

That living paycheck to paycheck isn’t smart. I think everyone inherently *knows* that, but usually we don’t accept it until we’re older and/or set in our stubborn ways. The advantage we all have while we’re young is that of TIME. Time to save, compound, invest, pay debt, lower our lifestyle costs, etc etc. The sooner we allow ourselves to do that, the more power we have in the form of time and letting our actions play out. I was always good at zero’ing out my paycheck w/ my expenses, but you can’t live that way forever. Eventually you need to start saving/earning more than you’re spending, and enough to really cover yourself for all emergencies and retirement down the road. A lot easier NOW to realize this, but back when you’re 18 all you really care about are chicks and having fun 😉 I don’t know if anyone could have changed my mindset back thenâ¦


8-What are some of your favorite tools for budgeting and tracking spending patterns.

I track everything via google docs (the excel-like kind), and my USAA account. It’s crazy, and I don’t recommend it for everyone, but I’ve slowly xfered all of my accounts under one main financial roof. I have over 16 accounts w/ USAA now, and it makes it a TON easier to track and manage. I now have 1 main site to check every morning (because I’m addicted and a financial nerd, so I have to see what’s going on in there every day!), and then I only have 1 spot to manually enter my numbers. Most people are fine with Mint.com or other equally as sexy (and free!) budgeting tools, but for me I need to manually do things so it sticks❠more. And really it only takes 15 mins a week for me to update the numbers and track my progress, so it’s not all too bad anyways. My brother used to write everything down on paper every month, which to me is just insane 🙂 But if it works, keep going with it!

(btw, here are my all-time favorite budget templates I’ve collected over the years â“ including the one I use!)


9-If you could teach a college course for one week, what would you teach to the students?

That smart financial planning opens up a TON of opportunities down the road. And that it really is easy as shit. (I’d curse all the time on purpose in my class, so students feel comfortable and know I’m one of themâ). I think kids are just bored to death with this stuff, and really don’t understand (or care) how it affects them down the line. They’ve got friends and parties and who knows what else on their mind, so if you don’t capture their attention and make it INTERESTING to them, it doesn’t matter what you’re teaching. They’ll do enough to get a good grade and move on, but then it’s out their heads and onto another class that excites them more. So I’d teach them about all the things financial freedom can bring: travel, perfect lifestyle, working a job because you CARE instead of for the money, and doing whatever hobbies you want forever because you’ve laid the foundation of a financially sexy game plan. It wouldn’t be easy, but it can be done. (it’s a shame I don’t like public speaking! Hahaâ¦)


10-What is in your wallet?

LOVE this question! I’ll tell you exactly (and I use a money clip, not a wallet):

– Driver’s license
– $31 in cash (3 tens and 1 one. Cash is VERY important to me, you always need to carry some on you just in case!)
– Mastercard #1 â“ For my personal❠stuff – anything non-household related
– Mastercard #2 – For our house❠stuff â“ anything home or family related
– Personal debit card â“ Only used to get cash out of the ATMs (I take out $200 every month for random expenditures)
– Amex – For all business expenses
– Starbucks gold card. Haha⦠yeah⦠ummâ¦. no excuses here 😉 (okay, I lied â“ you get a lot of discounts with that bad boy! I swear!)


Thanks J. Money!