Archive for June, 2009

Summer Wise: Hometown (or College Town) Touristing

As we pack up to move out of state for med school, one of my biggest regrets is not taking advantage of all the awesome tourist opportunities San Diego–and Southern California–has to offer.

Sure, I visited Disneyland, had famous apple pie in Julian, and ate some amazing New-York style pizza at a hole in the wall in Hillcrest, but that doesn’t even make a dent in my touristing dreams!

A Touristing To-Do List

With the lazy days of summer stretching out before you, now is the perfect time to start making your touristing to-do lists–one for your hometown, and one for your college town. This is going to be your go-to guide when you hit a boring weekend or need a fresh idea for date night.

Where to Start

Start by listing your local hot-spots at home and at school–the ones you’ve always heard about, but never been to. This might be as simple as midnight glow-in-the-dark bowling (a real hit where I grew up), a teeny hamburger joint, or a nearby amusement park. This is going to be your version of 1,001 Places to See.

It doesn’t have to be huge daytrips. In fact, starting simple can be the most fulfilling. (For example, when we touch ground on the east coast, I will be visiting a Dunkin’ Donuts soon afterward–and I’m really excited about it. Haha.)

Wild and Wacky

Once you’ve listed your hometown’s acclaimed “best breakfast burrito” dive, it’s time to move on to the “bigger and better.” One of the best sources for truly strange–and often little-known–tourist attractions is the Weird U.S. book series. (Some states have entire books dedicated to them!)

Another recent (and FREE!) find for wacky tourist spots is RoadsideAmerica.com, a continually updated site devoted to helping you find offbeat tourist attractions in your state. For starters, they have a top-twenty list of weird creatures not far off the beaten path.

Document

Once you’ve got your lists, it’s time to hit the road. Don’t forget to take lots of pics to post and share with your friends (a good tool for recruiting fellow travelers), and as you start marking items off your list, try to add more!

photo by porah

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Add comment June 30th, 2009

What’s Hot at the Pay for College Blog

Our sister site, the Pay for College Blog, is usually meant for parents but there have been several posts recently that I thought you might want to take a look at.

It belongs to college industry expert, Deborah Fox (she’s been featured in all kinds of newspapers and TV news reports as a source for information about how to pay for college), and actually might be a good stop for your ‘rents–so send them over and teach them how to subscribe via RSS!

Meanwhile, here are five of Deborah’s best recent posts for the college-aged crowd:

3 Things Students Should Know About Student Loans. Did you know that your parents are NOT at all liable for your student loan debt, even if they’ve agreed to pay it off for you? Find out what else you didn’t know. Yikes!

Cut Costs By Renting Books. Deborah has a play-by-play of BookRenter.com, a website that lets you rent books instead of buying them. Apparently it costs about half as much! She also shares a discount code for 5% off summer book rentals.

States Cut Financial Aid. While states deliberate their new budgets, student wait to see if they may be getting their aid cut. Some states are even considering to retracting offers of aid they have already made!

Ways for Students to Spend Time Wisely this summer. If you want to get ahead of the game, Deborah has some thoughts about how to use up the time between sleeping in and heading to the beach.

And finally, thoughts about Choosing a College Major. Quite some time ago I wrote an article about choosing your major, but Deborah’s article might be a great tool if you’re having trouble reconciling your major choice with yourself–or your parents. You might be surprised that a college expert–and financial planner–believes that following your passion might actually save you money in the long run! Hear that, mom and dad? 😉

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2 comments June 29th, 2009

I Love the Fair (And Maybe You Will, Too)

It must be summer now, because the San Diego County Fair has just opened up, and I am happy to say I was there on opening day, over-priced tickets and all. And it was just as fun as I remembered it being.

Keep it Cheap

So fair admission this year is a whopping $13, which I frankly find pretty ridiculous. So to keep in line with that little budget conversation we had earlier, I’d suggest that you look around for the deals.

  • Check local grocery stores–usually at least one chain will have a deal with the fair to sell discounted tickets.
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  • If you’re willing to fight the crowds, check the calendar for discount days. The SD fair had a $2 ticket day today, and you could also get discounted food in smaller portions.
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  • Bring your own lunch and save your spending money for rides or the classic fair-only food. (No need to waste money on a taco you could get across the street for less.)
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  • Check the ticket for a coupon before you toss it. Our fair tickets had an unadvertised deal where they get you an adult movie ticket for the child price. Others allow you to get cheap readmission.


Hit the Highlights

Surprisingly, there is a lot to do beyond just riding the rides. So whether you spend your whole day there or just go for a few hours, make sure you hit the highlights by checking the program.

  • Fair Food. Since I’m usually pretty well-behaved food-wise, I give myself a free pass to eat whatever unhealthy thing I want at the fair. I really want to try a fried Snickers sometime, but apparently the hot item this year is chocolate covered bacon.
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  • Animal Shows. I adore dogs, so we made our trip the day they were doing preliminaries for the Purina Incredible Dog challenge. It was like the dog olympics, and very entertaining. We also watched pig races, which were very cute.
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  • Music. A surprising number of popular artists play at large county fairs, and the price of admission usually includes their concerts. Another reason you should check the calendar before you go.
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  • Fair Competitions. I can’t ride a horse, make jam, or raise chickens, but I really enjoy learning about how other people do it. The fair competition buildings usually have some amazing sewing, baking, and art, all from locals. It’s kind of fun to see if you have a budding Monet living next door.
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  • Vendors. At the San Diego Fair you can buy a full-size spa tub, Hawaiian flowers, and a Sham-Wow, and that is just when you walk in the door of the first building. I love watching the demonstrations of Ginsu knives and getting samples of all kinds of random shampoos and ring cleaners. It’s like living inside an infomercial.
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  • People Watching. Seriously, fairgrounds have an intensely amusing and diverse group of people. Grab a corn dog and watch them go by.

photo by egonsch

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1 comment June 23rd, 2009

PhotoDoc: Fun Ways to Document Your Summer

I know we talk a lot of “grown-up” and “practical” around here, but I don’t want you to forget that college really means the transition years between childhood and adulthood–and what does that mean?

Well, that you need to still be a kid sometimes. And you need to remember how to do it when the grown-up world takes you over.

The college years can be some of the most fun of your life, so here are some fresh, fun, and funky ways to document the good times so you can share and remember:

  • Things We Wore. One of my friends started this great blog entitled Things We Wore. It’s devoted to chronicling the simple fact of what she wore when she went, did, and saw. If you’ve ever looked at (and mocked) your parents’ high school fashion choices, you know this will be fun to look back on.
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  • “What I Did This Summer” Documentary. Our senior year of high school, my friends and I put together a collection of last-chance activities and random pranks to pull on each other, and videoed them. My best friend and I edited together our footage, and we had a “premier” party at the end of the summer, before everyone started college. Looking back, it is both embarrassing and nostalgic–a good combination of both.
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  • Weird Hometown. Have you ever checked out one of those Weird U.S. books? They chronicle the weird and wacky locations around the country, from haunted houses to over-sized dinosaur statues. Why not blog the oddities of your hometown, college town or campus, or summer vacay spot? Make sure you include your favorite local hangouts and what is wonderful or wacky about them.Here’s one of my favorite weird things at my alma mater, UCSD: The grafitti staircase in the Mandeville art building.
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  • Start (and Record) a Band. Sounds are a huge part of memory, so my friends and I tried this too, with hilarious results. We were terrible musicians (of course) but spent a lot of time and effort putting on backyard concerts and recording our music. Now whenever we play an mp3 we remember how ridiculous and fun summer was.

Hope that gave you an idea for a little something different. 😉

photo by johnridley

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Add comment June 19th, 2009

DIY Father’s Day Gift Roundup!

Here’s the traditional DIY gift roundup. I wish I could say my Dad was getting one of these cool, crafty, and thoughtful things, but I’m afraid I opted for the DVD route this year. But that doesn’t mean you have to.

Remember, if you want to make this stuff for cheap, don’t forget that thrift stores are a great source for fabric, cookware, etc. DIY can get expensive if you don’t use all your resources!

Also… I know ties are a traditional Father’s Day thing… But do they really want to get ties every year? Poll your dads, the public wants to know.

Let Him Eat Cake

Does your dad like cake? Apparently there are a plethora of dads out there who do, because I came across a myriad of Dad-related cake ideas!

Customize It

If you must give Dad a shirt or tie, at least make it unique.

  • Custom Handmade Tie. Dad has enough paisley–find a funky fabric or something vintage to cut up and recreate into a brand new… tie.
  • Custom Screenprinted T-Shirt. Hey. You could screenprint a tie on it! But please don’t.
  • Knit a Necktie. I’m not sure whose dad would want this, but I bet you know if your pop is a knitted tie kind of guy.

Digital Age

  • Neoprene Laptop Bag. This suggests using an old wetsuit. If you don’t have one yourself, you could try thrifting, ebaying, or even just asking around. But make sure you clean it well, please.
  • DIY Digital Picture Frame. Though not exactly cheap, this is still pretty cool, and probably cheaper than buying one.
  • Star Wars Wii Case Mod. This is because my dad loves Star Wars so much. Here’s to you, Dad!

Don’t forget to give your dad a nice big hug. Or at least pass him the remote. 😉

photo by What’s Cooking America

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Add comment June 19th, 2009

Summer Wise: Save and Spend

It seems like almost everyone is hurting for a little extra money this summer, and with the economy still slouching around like a lazy little brother, it could be that way for a little while. That’s why its time to start thinking a little harder about how you save (and spend) your hard-earned summer funds.

Vacation Temptation

Summer is probably the time of year college students make the most money–and there also happens to be much more temptation to spend it. After all, there is more free time, more freedom, and no homework–what are you supposed to do, sit at home?

Definitely not! But you also have to consider one thing:

Is buying a Slurpee and a new pair of Lucky jeans worth giving up money you could have during the social weekends of a monotonous school year?

Probably not. (Especially the Slurpee part.)

A Penny Saved is a Penny… What?

You may have heard your parents say, “A penny saved is a penny earned!” That particular idiom has never made sense to me, but the basic gist is of it is that if you waste your money now, you (obviously) won’t have it later, when you need it. Here is my advice:

  • Put Some Money (and Time) Towards College. If you’re footing your own bills for school, add some of your summer funds to your college savings. Paying now instead taking out loans literally costs less, because you won’t have to pay off the interest. If you aren’t earning much at your summer job, invest some time in searching for and and applying to scholarships as well!
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  • Stash Some Cash for Fun During School. It is really sad to have to skip a good movie after a week of studying for finals because your debit card has no savings to debit from. Saving some money now for playtime later will help keep you from feeling deprived during the year.
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  • Learn How to Budget. Learning to budget during summer will be both easy (because you have time to track) and hard (because you’ll want to spend so much more during summer!), but it will really help you out when school starts and the text book costs start piling up. Here’s an article on starting your first budget, complete with worksheet.
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  • Consider (and Reconsider) Every Purchase. Ever since I started paying my own way I’ve started asking myself “Do I really need that?” before I buy anything from a pack of gum to a new computer. It is sort of an echo of my mom’s voice in my head, but it has saved me a lot of money over the past couple of years. For expensive purchases, I also usually give myself a month to think it over. If I still really want whatever it is–and I can afford it–at the end of a month, I usually take the plunge.

And that, my friends, concludes my budget advice for today. Happy Summer. 🙂

photo by gravityx9

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5 comments June 17th, 2009

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