Tailgating on a Budget

Football season has arrived and with that comes the all-important tailgate. The cost of food and drinks can add up quickly, so here are a few tips to party without paying too much.

Search for sales
Now that summer’s technically over you may be able to find great deals on products like grills and camping furniture. Stores are trying to get rid of summer merchandise to make room for fall items. Don’t forget about virtual deals too. You can often find incredible savings by shopping online.

 Planning is everything
The first step to a successful and affordable tailgate is planning. Get a head count of all your guests and then decide on your menu. Check your local grocery store’s weekly ad and find budget friendly recipes online. Create a list of ingredients and items you’ll need so you can stay on task while wandering the aisles. Select the store brand instead of the expensive one; it can help save dollars in the long run. Also, it may be helpful to plan your snacks around sales.

Buy in bulk
If you’re feeding a large crowd, stop by a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club. You’ll find many of your essentials at a lower cost when you buy in bulk.

If you’re providing all the food, why not ask your guests to bring their own drinks or everyone can bring a snack? Send out an email or set up a Facebook group asking everyone to bring their favorite summer beer, cocktail or nonalcoholic beverage. Create a list so everyone knows who is bringing what.

Serve it up for less
Stop by your local dollar store to find cutlery, plates, cups and everything else you’ll need to serve up your delicious dishes. You can also find inexpensive decorations, such as balloons and streamers to create a festive atmosphere.

Now that you have a few tips for tailgating on a budget we’d love to hear from you. Do you have secrets to a great tailgate party? Share them in the comments.

Is Unlimited Cell Phone Data Worth It?

Cell phones have become a staple in our lives – we don’t leave home without them. We watch videos, scroll through social media and read articles all on our devices. With so much activity, do you ever think about how much data you’re using? Has the thought of an unlimited data plan ever crossed your mind? If so, here’s some information to help you decide if switching to an unlimited plan is right for you.

Q: I’m shopping for a phone plan for my family. Is an unlimited data plan a good option?

A: Unlimited data sounds like a great deal, because who wants overage charges? There’s also something about the word “unlimited” that makes the plan seem more attractive.

Cell phone companies are taking advantage of that word’s power. T-Mobile was first with an unlimited data plan. AT&T and Verizon soon followed. Whichever carrier you use, you’ll likely have the option of signing up for unlimited data. Unfortunately, unlimited data plans aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Before locking yourself into an expensive year-long contract, ask yourself these questions:

1) How much data do I actually use?

The average smartphone user needs between two and three gigabytes of data each month. There’s no need to estimate; simply look through your old bills and calculate an average data use per month. That will take into account your habits and the habits of your family.

If you’re an average user, a 3-4 gigabyte plan is sufficient. These plans are usually 30% cheaper than unlimited plans. You only see savings with unlimited plans if you use more than 10 gigabytes per month.

For a family plan, take everyone’s data usage into account. The average family of four consumes 12 gigabytes each month. That might make the unlimited plan worthwhile.

2) Can I change my data usage?

If you regularly exceed your monthly data allotment, consider changing your habits before changing your plan.

If you’re a regular Spotify user, download your playlist to your phone using wifi and listen data-free. Lower your video streaming quality, especially if you use an app for music. Set your phone to only download system and app updates when connected to wifi.

3) Can I rely on smartphone data exclusively?

Some people can’t kick the data habit. You might use your smartphone extensively for business, or live in an area that doesn’t get high speed internet. In that case, there are other cord-cutting strategies to help reduce your total monthly expenses.

If you don’t use the internet much at home but need data on the go, consider cutting your household internet and relying exclusively on mobile data. Wireless hotspot devices that broadcast a wifi signal and use your mobile data subscription are approximately $50. Check with your internet provider for specific pricing.

Remember: No company is really unlimited. Expect to see slow-downs in service after you’ve used 20 gigabytes in a month. If there’s lots of internet use in your household, you’ll go through that cap quickly.

Whether an unlimited data plan is right for you depends on how much data you use, and whether that data use can be curtailed. If you need an unlimited data plan, make sure you get the most out of your service. Monthly fees add up quickly, so think before you upgrade!