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5 Ways To Save Money In Central New York

I know, this is a pretty broad topic. That’s because I’m going to jump around and talk about 5 different types of things, so it’s not all specifically seasonal or food or restaurants or whatever. These are just 5 things I’ve noticed over the years that will help you save a bit of money, some I’ve written about elsewhere, and some I picked up on my own.

1. National Grid is your best buy for utilities

Power transmission linesCreative Commons License Oran Viriyincy via Compfight

This one might sound like a commercial and that I might be getting paid for it. Nope, nada, zip! During the time I was on the road consulting in another city, I kept wondering why my utility bills were so high when neither me or my wife was home, and I had the temperature pretty low. I knew about the polar vortex and such, but it wasn’t an every day occurrence.

Then in June of 2015 I took one of those calls I shouldn’t have, made a decision I immediately regretted, and called National Grid to ask if I could cancel it, even though it wasn’t them that called initially. That’s when I found out that I’d supposedly signed up with another energy company in 2011 and that their rate was 3x when National Grid’s rate was; ouch!

You know what’s happened? My average winter bill dropped from around $515 a month to barely over $200! Sure, I use a kerosene heater to help keep me warm but I’m not running it throughout the entire house. My bill for the month of December this year… $185! Let someone else beat that on a consistent basis. 🙂

2. Bigger isn’t always cheaper

You know how you’ll go to the store and see something that comes in different sizes. The common theory is that you should buy the bigger item because in the long run you’ll save money on it. I’m here to teach you that’s not always true.

You need to look at that little yellow tag underneath all items. The number usually to the furthest left tells you how much you’re paying per unit. If you’re paying attention, sometimes you’ll notice that for the larger items that number is actually higher than if you bought the smaller items.

The reason for that is because items aren’t always priced by volume; sometimes they’re priced by how well they sell in that particular store…. and it can be tricky. Some stores will charge a higher price for the large item because more people buy it, which means they can make a bigger profit off you. Other stores will discount it to encourage you to buy the product because it costs more to store. In either case, it’s something you should look at… including in the large outlet stores locally; I’m not naming names. 🙂

3. Shop around for your pharmaceuticals

Most people have all their prescriptions filled at the same place for convenience. That might work if you have insurance and it pays a big portion of those pharmaceuticals. What should you do if your insurance doesn’t cover enough of it, or even a part of it?

2014/365/307 Eight BottlesCreative Commons License Alan Levine via Compfight

During a period when I didn’t have insurance, I decided to shop around, and found some amazing differences in pricing. For instance, I’m diabetic so I need insulin; did you know that Walmart has their own insulin, two different types, and that the one I use only costs $24.95 a vial? For comparison, many people are paying more than $200 for a box of pens which they sometimes have to buy twice a month. If you’ve been hearing about the price of insulin rising everywhere else, know that this price hasn’t changed in 4 years. Oh yeah; you don’t even need a prescription or insurance for it!

I also need syringes for that insulin. Turns out that Price Chopper offers syringes for free… yeah, I said that, free! Almost everywhere else a box of 100 syringes costs at least $30; no thanks! You do need a prescription but free is free.

One more pharmaceutical I need is called metformin. I get that at Wegmans because it’s only $10 for a 3-month supply. Almost everyone else is charging at least double for the same thing; once again, this is with a prescription and without insurance getting in the way.

4. Breakfast restaurants are affordable; for everyone else, check prices online first

I’m someone who eats out a lot because I like finding new places that serve the type of food I like, as well as going back to places that I feel comfortable at. This is one area I can offer great advice on when it comes to price.

Every traditional breakfast restaurant in the area will serve you a pretty good meal for under $10… many for under $5! Almost no one can ruin eggs or toast, although some have ruined bacon; it happens… If you like going out for a meal here and there but don’t want to spend a lot of money, breakfast should be your choice.

The worst deals I’ve found overall seem to be buffets. Some like Ling Ling’s in North Syracuse might have a lunch buffet that comes in around $8.50 per person, which isn’t too bad because of all the choices they have… and it’s Chinese food! lol Others might have a lot of choices but you have to gauge just how much food you’re going to eat or “should” eat in deciding how much you’re willing to pay for it.

I’ve found that, other than Ling Ling’s, I can’t eat that much food anymore. So paying $20 per person for a buffet anywhere is a major waste of money… even though I’ve done it in the past. I’ve started checking the prices for both buffets and other items online first because it can save both a lot of money and a lot of stress. I’ll pay big money for things I want that I can’t make on my own (like salmon teriyaki) but would rather be a bit more perspicacious when it comes to everything else.

5. The best option for your entertainment spending power is…

This one’s easy; the Hollywood Theater in Mattydale offers movies at around $2 for most tickets, $3.50 for 3D, and that’s even with the upgraded seating. Sure, you’re going to have to wait some time before they’ll be showing any of the top movies but if you’re keen on seeing something and you don’t have to see it immediately, this is the best option in town. Oh yeah; if you go to a regular movie on Tuesdays it’s only $1.50!

If you’re looking at sporting events, the best prices for “real sports” (yeah, I said it!) goes to the Syracuse women’s basketball team (you remember, 2016’s finals runner up), which you can get for $10 per seat, or the Syracuse Chiefs baseball team, which runs around $12 (this was 2016’s price; I couldn’t verify a new price for 2017).

Finally, just to throw this in, the ticket prices for this year’s New York State Fair are only $10 per day, which is practically a steal, thus becoming the best priced thing for a short time event (just don’t eat too much at the food vendors lol).

5 Books I Recommend You Check Out

I read and consume a lot of books; I’ve done so over the years. I read books for fun, books for business, motivational books, science books, history books… let’s just say I read often, even listening to books in the car instead of listening to the radio.

When people put together lists like this one, you’ll often get anywhere from 10 to 100 books. Frankly, when I started out with this one I was heading near the 20 book level and thought that was overkill. Just a couple of years ago on a different blog I wrote a post on 10 Influential Books In My History.

Over the years I’ve written book reviews on 26 books; 32 if I count each individual book of the Harry Potter series. This time around, I’m going to recommend 5 books that I’ve never talked about before; if you’re interested in seeing some of the individual books I’ve written about previously You can check out this link or this one. By the way, at this time I don’t have affiliate links to any of these books but if I change that at some point I’ll modify this sentence to indicate it:

1. Get Clients Now by C.J. Hayden

This is one of the first books on marketing that I read when I decided to go into business for myself and it’s been very helpful over the years. The major selling point of this book is the actual program that you put together for yourself via the worksheets in the book.

It helps you plan, categorize importance of, then follow through on all of the projects you have in mind for your business for a 28 day period, though you could decide to do it in smaller chunks if you wished. It even gives you weekends off to relax and do whatever you want to do, without having to think about what you’re going to do on the following Monday because you’ve already written out your goals ahead of time. You also grade yourself throughout the day on what you’ve done and how you feel, which helps to hold you accountable.

You begin by using her worksheet to write out all the things you’d like to accomplish. Then you move items to the main worksheet, which first allows you to denote how you feel when you wake up on a 10-point scale. Then you list three or four items that are long term goals that you want to work on. Then you list a bunch of items of things you want to do every single day, or every week.

It can work wonders in helping you stay the course for business purposes, but you can use it for other things as well. I recreated the worksheet as an Excel program so I could either print out a new sheet every month or just copy it into a new page in Excel and change the date. Very helpful indeed.

2. Pimpology by Pimpin’ Ken

This is something different, yet quite illuminating. He’s a real life pimp, big time if you’ve never known pimps could be big time (y’all have heard of Ice-T, right?). He’s been named Mack of the Year several times (these are national awards for pimps, where they vote on their own and have a yearly ball celebrating different categories of pimps), has been in music videos, hung with some of the top rap and R&B musicians in America, and was even on stage at the BET Awards along with one rapper, helping him accept an award. He’s been in Milwaukee, New York City, and Atlanta, among other places. His father, known as Johnny Slick, was also a pimp, and many of his friends come from a line of pimps also. Talk about lineage!

It’s always been accepted that street knowledge translates well into a business model. Though he says some graphic things in the book, every “law” basically starts out with a story, and when he gets to the eventual point it’s almost exactly like what you’d see in any other business motivation book; that’s where this book is in the bookstore.

For instance, his take on pimps (person in charge) and hoes (prostitutes or, in this case, the worker) makes sense when he extrapolates it. If you’re a pimp, all the money and accolades are coming your way. If you’re a ho, you’re doing all this work for someone else’s benefit, and they throw you a bone, so to speak, to keep you coming back for more. In the long run you’re lining someone else’s pockets more than your own.

It’s a different take on business yet it jibes well with other books I’ve read on the subject. There’s a lot of bad language in it, but what would you expect from someone with his background?

3. Before You Quit Your Job by Robert Kiyosaki

Kiyosaki is best known for his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, but I consider this one much more important. It might not be not as captivating at the original, probably because this time he’s not telling stories as much as detailing the thought process people should be ready for before deciding to start working for themselves. Still, I wish I’d been able to read it before I went out on my own.

There’s a lot of truth in this book, and he covers the reality people should explore before thinking about self employment (what they’re going to lose), what to think about if you’re hoping to become rich, and what people should do before they actually decide to leave their jobs and become independent. I’m going to share those 10 tips here:

* Check your attitude * Get as much experience as possible on five levels of the B-a Triangle (explained in the book) * Always remember that Sales = Income * Be optimistic as well as brutally honest with yourself * How are you at spending money? * Start a business to practice on * Be willing to ask for help * Find a mentor * Join an entrepreneur’s network * Be faithful to the process

4. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D

To some people this might feel like the “dryest” book to read of all the books I’m going to talk about. In reality, it’s probably one of the most important books to read because it’s not speculation about what makes rich people. Instead, it’s well researched and gives some insight as to the types of people who become millionaires, and many of these people aren’t what you’d expect.

For instance, many of the millionaires he interviewed live in small houses in non-assuming neighborhoods. They drive small, non-distinct cars; some drive minivans. They don’t wear fancy clothes, they don’t eat out much, and they don’t travel all the time. Some of them don’t even make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year; they’ve just decided they wanted to learn how to save money, or make money work for them, with dreams of early retirement or living well at any point they decide to retire.

On the second front were some of the types of people who are millionaires that one wouldn’t expect, and I mean multi-millionaires. By profession, auctioneers came out at the top of the list of folks who were likely to be millionaires; I didn’t see that one coming. They were followed by plumbers, electricians, and many other small business owners. Many of them have accumulated more wealth, and are wealthier by far, than physicians who earn $500,000 a year; that was phenomenal to learn. One person in the book actually was able to make it to being a millionaire making $35,000 a year by skimping, saving, and investing well.

The two overriding factors, which I believe is inspiration for all of us, is that these folks don’t live like how we’d expect millionaires to live, so they could be our neighbors without our knowing it, and that all it takes is some perseverance, dedication to a budget, the willingness not to be extravagant and, gasp, being real. How’s that for motivation?

5. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

There are a lot of creative people in the world. The overwhelming majority of them don’t actually create anything new though; what they do is improve on something that already exists. That’s the premise of this book, one that’s just under 50 pages long yet became a New York Times bestseller.

It’s an important book because it teaches all of us that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel; all we have to do is make it stronger, make it prettier, make it last longer, etc. The reason we have Google is because search engines like Alta Vista and Yahoo showed them the way to get started, and all they had to do was improve on the product.

Even though it’s a short book, it had 10 chapters, each a pretty good lesson for all of us who want to be creators of some type, or hope to find the next big thing. They are:

* Steal like an artist * Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things * Write the book you want to read * Use your hands * Side projects are important * Do good work and put it where people can see it * Geography is no longer our master * Be nice * Be boring * Creativity is subtraction

Those aren’t bad are they? For context, trust me, read the book! 😉  

Movie Tavern – That’s How To Watch A Movie!

Yesterday I made my first visit to the Movie Tavern out in Camillus to see the Rogue One movie. I’m not going to lie; I thought it was a lot of stuff and nonsense when I heard about the concept but at this point I’m a true believer.

Movie Tavern Camillus

The first thing to know is that it’s not on Genesee Street; if I hadn’t been riding with some other folks I might have never found it. When we got there a fence had fallen due to the high winds, thus reducing the ride to a short one line road. I’m not sure if there was another way in but I hope that’s something they fix pretty soon.

Parking seems to be a premium also, as in my friend Scott had to drop his daughter and I off so he could find a place to park; that might be something they need to work on if possible. We eventually saw him almost 5 minutes later; luckily he’d already purchased the tickets so we didn’t have to wait in line at the box office.

When you first go inside you immediately notice a sit down restaurant to the left, right across from the box office. That’s for people who don’t want to eat during the movie. Of course that’s the point of going to the Movie Tavern in the first place; ordering food and eating it while the movie is playing… at least that’s what I wanted to experience.

The theater area isn’t overly large as far as the number of seats, and that’s probably because the seats recline… what?!?!? 🙂

http://www.syracusewiki.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Scott-reclining.mp4

I obviously found that pretty amazing! I reclined throughout the movie, though I have to admit that often I reclined my back but wanted my feet on the floor. I might be a little weird in that way but at least I was comfortable.

Just before the previews came on a waitress came around to take our order. They give you both a menu of their special items and their regular menu. There were a lot of choices on both menus, but I wasn’t in the mood for a full meal. I’m not sure there are a lot of restaurants in the Syracuse area that offer both milkshakes and mixed drinks, but this place does. I thought about going for a milkshake, but instead ordered my traditional diet soda… and nachos!

nachos with steak

This was a monster batch, and I asked for them with steak to add to the effect, since I don’t like all the extra fixings many people enjoy. They were tasty, although they had a slight kick, but I didn’t come close to finishing it off. I did eat too many though; I haven’t done that sort of thing in a long time…

Everything else about the movie experience was pretty standard, except that close to the end of the movie the waitress came back to hand us our checks. My nachos and diet soda (free refills), along with 4 chocolate chip cookies (which I shared) came to $23; all in all I didn’t think that was outrageous at all.

The venue can offer up to 14 different showings of movies, with a few of the theaters being 3-D. I think it was a very pleasant experience and if they solve their parking issues I won’t mind going the extra few miles for such a pleasant movie event.  

Copyright 2016