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Budget Friendly Movie Night!

The following is from another friend from our gaming group, Evan, who has started his own personal finance blog, The Smaller Dollar.  Check out how he stretches his teaching bucks!

On Friday my girlfriend and I combined quite a few budget friendly strategies to make for a wonderful date night that didn’t break the bank.  We decided on movie night and went to a double feature at a local drive-in movie theater!  The experience was well worth the startling low hourly cost of entertainment.

The Deal

The theater had long lines of man made small hills for cars to drive up on so your vehicle would be angled toward the screen while you watched the movie.  The area was on the outskirts of town so it really felt like a time warp into the past to be sitting in the car through a movie with your radio tuned to the audio track.

Showboat Drive-In Theater


What made the evening such a bargain was the combination of a few different deals that persuaded us into giving the theater or business.

1.  The theater made the wise choice to create a Groupon for the double feature that included a large popcorn and soda – all for twelve dollars.  Sold!  Twelve dollar for admission for two to two movies, a popcorn and soda far outclasses any price based competition from larger theaters.

2.  Groupon did a great job by having a one day only 20% off sale on the Groupon of your choice.  This sale did what sales are supposed to do – gently push you past that last little bit of resistance to turn browsing into buying.

This was a perfect situation for all parties involved since Groupon boosted their sales by creating the coupon; they boosted business for their movie theater affiliate by providing the advertising reach that would require a small drive in theater to actually have an advertising budget that they could not afford.  And ultimately it was a fantastic deal for us because we got an absurd amount of value for our entertainment dollar thanks to these intersecting deals.

The Experience

There was a G rated double feature and a grownup double feature on their two screens/lots.  Funnily enough, there was a brief rain shower followed by a rainbow before our viewing of Noah.  That proved to be a little on the bit of a spoiler, but I let it slide.  ;-)


Getting a new customer for your business is incredibly difficult compared to retaining a customer and through their savvy use of Groupon, I will definitely return to that theater in the future.  All parties involved came out on top in that situation – and that is absolutely how it should be.  It’s nice to see a business going out of their way to try and gain your business versus callously throwing away potential customers as so many seem to end up doing these days.

I find it can be a lot of fun, browsing Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Local for entertainment and letting the deals be my compass to fun.  You always get the excitement of something new, and often you will find you enjoy something you would not have tried otherwise.  Even when you have a bad experience, often the sharing of the stories that can arise out of such an experience can salvage some good memories.  If you’ve never let a deals site be your guide to entertainment – give it a try!

Have you ever used a deal like this for an entertainment night?

7 Financial Lessons from “Good Burger”

I hung out with my Little Bro’ from Big Brothers Big Sisters last night and he chose the Netflix movie for our evening - “Good Burger”.  It was a little ironic since we were having fresh pizza, hahaha.  None the less, it was a cute movie and perfect for an 11 year old.  He knew that since he had apparently seen it before.  ;-)

Good Burger

Yep, you can see why I kept hearing laughs from my Little’s side of the room!

On the other hand, I laughed a bit and made a mental list of the financial lessons that either are in the movie or could be derived from the mistakes of the movie…yep, that’s me.  :-D

Financial Take-Aways from “Good Burger”

1.  Take ownership of your mistakes.  It was nice to see a teenager being held accountable, but I thought the damage to those two cars added up to way more than $3300 based on the accident repairs that I’ve always seen.  LOL

2.  Don’t do business in a way you’d regret.  Having Ed pay for at least some of the damages would have been a good idea since he caused the accident by jay-walking/blading.  But the sneaky contract was just a bad idea.

3.  Customer service rules!  Mondo Burger didn’t need to break the law to put Good Burger out of business.  They just needed to have better customer service.

4.  Look at all of your options.  Let’s assume Ed’s secret sauce truly made an amazing difference, then Mondo Burger could have copied it or have gotten close, bought the recipe, or have simply bought out the Good Burger to have more parking.  I know, I know…that would have made an awful movie.  ;-)

5.  Never let teenagers drive a work vehicle.

6.  Assign your employees based on their strengths.  There were several employees at Good Burger that would have annoyed customers less than Ed.

7.  Realize when insurance has you covered (yours or someone else’s).  A teacher’s car was smushed thanks to a giant fake burger.  He was freaking out, but I’d be happy that Mondo Burger would be buying me a new car and then some…

I did stop analyzing the movie long enough to have a an excellent evening.  :-)  But I also made sure to point out what popped through my head to my Little Bro’ – not the subtlest method ever, but he likes me being direct.

Have you seen “Good Burger”?  What other great financial lessons have I missed?

Could You Afford a $430,000 Apartment Right Now?

We were watching Brooklyn Nine Nine (great comedy!) last night and the main character (Detective Jake Peralta) had to face his own financial self.  He’s 33 years old and doesn’t have a penny to his name - six massage chairs and DJ equipment – but no money.  I’d call that the low end of the financial health scale.


Financial Plot Points

Jake’s apartment was going co-op.  So all of the tenants had to show that they were approved for loans or have enough cash on hand to buy their $430,000 apartments by a certain date.  Well, Detective Peralta spends more than he makes and definitely doesn’t have enough money to buy his apartment.  But his coworker and childhood friend, Gina, lived cheap for years and had enough to buy the apartment and even offered to rent it to him.

He realizes in the end that it’s not a good situation when the admin at the police station is doing better than him.  In the end, she buys the apartment and lives in it (Jake’s suggestion), and Jake sublets her current, cheaper place.  It’s a win-win for everybody.

What Could We Afford?

This episode got me and Mr. BFS talking.  If the place we loved had to be bought all of the sudden for $430,000, could we do it?

A quick look at our assets will tell you that we are betting on a long future.  A bunch of our net worth is tied up with our two homes.  The rental income from the first one is an ongoing “passive” income source (as you may know, rentals aren’t really very passive).  Then we have a large percentage of our savings socked away in retirement accounts like Roth IRA’s and my old 401k, so we can access it at 59 1/2 to live off of or use it to buy an annuity like Annuity Buyer if we felt like we wanted a monthly allowance instead.

So, what we’d be left with is our cash on hand and what’s invested in individual high dividend yield stocks.  If we sold our current home for the equity cash and used all of our cash and stocks on hand, we would be able to put enough down to get approved for the loan for the rest of the $430,000.

That’s a little odd for me to think about.  I think we are doing amazing, but we could sell, trade-in, and cash in everything we have and still not have $430,000.  $430,000 is a lot of money.

In the big scheme of things, my husband and I are financially healthy and on track for financial independence eventually.  This makes me truly feel for anybody that is trying to do the same around $430,000 basic apartments.

What do you think?

Purpose is All That Matters

My husband and I found Downton Abbey through Netflix and jumped in about a week ago.  It’s general plot follows along with an Earl’s family in Britain in the early 20th century.  The character development is enticing to me and the historical and political intrigues keep it from feeling like a simple soap opera.  But as the personal finance geek that I truly am, I just couldn’t help zeroing in on the money aspect of it all.  It’s showing that all of the money in the world doesn’t give a life purpose.

Got Purpose?


During World War I in Downton Abbey, everyone assisted in whatever ways they could.  But after the war was over, that purpose seemed to vanish for a few of the main characters.  This family has true wealth and power, but the end result is still that everyone is just looking for their life’s purpose.  Money provides options.  Money provides comforts.  But money doesn’t provide a person with the meaning of life.  That is up to us.

So for today, I’m putting aside my conversation about my consistent pursuit of financial stability.  Let’s talk about what drives us…

Helping Each Other

So, how do we all find our purpose(s)?

I don’t have the answers.  I try to follow my gut.  Generally, helping others makes me feel “right”, so I make sure to make it a part of my life.  This blog gives me a place to talk with you all and a way for some of you to reach out to me, so I consider it a priority.  Laughing with friends and cuddling with Mr. Pug also feels right.  So the purposes I strive on may not seem grand, but they can lead to sustainable contentment.  That’s my main goal.

What’s yours?

I seem to write out my thoughts for the day, hit publish, and then reply to those of you who add your 2 cents.  But let’s really help each other out.  For today, please feel free to chime in below to each other.  Let’s really look into ourselves and share.  If you have something to say to another commenter, reply.  If we all bounce ideas off of each other, maybe someone who feels lost can be supported.  If we can all use this space to simply help, maybe this can be a refuge of sorts to find ourselves.  Or at least to make a human connection, which can be tricky occasionally.

Have you found your purpose(s)?  Still searching?  Any advice to the rest of us?


Our Free Valentine’s Day Ideas

My husband and I actually like Valentine’s Day.  Yeah, it may be a “Hallmark holiday”, but we like the reminder to just spend some time spoiling each other.  And you aren’t forced to make it Hallmarky…

Our Free Valentine’s Day

Since Valentine’s this year is landing on a Friday, we are not even leaving the house.  Too nutballs out there.  We’ve decided to go cheap and stress-free.

First, we’ll be going to a sit-down restaurant on Thursday instead of Friday, and we’ll use the gift cards we still have leftover from Christmas.  So we’ll be going to Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, or Papadeaux.  We have enough on the gift cards to cover the entire meal.  We usually end up catching each other up on how we’re feeling and joking around at restaurants, so that seems like a good goal.  :-)

Then we’ll head home and throw in the next two DVD’s of Downton Abbey that we’ll have from Netflix.  We’re using a one-month free subscription to their 2-at-a-time DVD plan for all of February.  Even though we used to have their DVD plan before it separated from the streaming-only plan, they are still letting us take advantage of trying it for free again.  Check it out!

As for our selection of show, neither of us had seen Downton Abbey before…it never sounded that great to us.  BUT, we started it last week and are both hooked.  He likes the politics of it all and I’m rooting for my favorite staff in the house to be happy.  Who would have known that a fake, British, wealthy family in the 1900′s could be so interesting?  :-)

We’re going to end the evening by trading off massages before bed.  Yep, can’t go wrong with absolutely free time together just connecting.

Other Cheap or Free Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

If you don’t have gift cards or Netflix, here are some other cheap or free Valentine’s Day ideas:

  • Picnics (indoor picnic away from the kitchen if the weather sucks)
  • Board Games or card games
  • Video Games with two controllers
  • Movie night at home.  Either snack on what you already have or splurge $4 on some popcorn at the grocery store.
  • Walk in free parks.  We have a free botanical garden 10 minutes away.
  • Enjoy an activity.  We like Disc Golf and already have discs and there are free courses all over the place.  But you may each enjoy something else like hiking, bike riding, bird watching, star gazing, etc.  Heck, hug your inner child and see if hide-and-seek, freeze tag, or even dodge ball with your friends still seems as amazingly fun as it was before…
  • Make s’mores over a fire
  • Take advantage of your jet tub together (or your hot tub).  Not everyone has one, but people who do sometimes forget to enjoy them…
  • Go to a local karaoke night

Honestly, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to celebrate a relationship.  If you aren’t in a romantic relationship, do some of this stuff with other friends in the same position.  A single’s party for Valentine’s can kick butt if everyone is in the mood for fun.  The overall point is to simply have a great time.  This can be for Valentine’s Day or ANY day.  Just have fun!

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day or just for fun?

Super Bowl 2014 – Back to the In-Laws

We hosted a Super Bowl party last year, but it ended up being a fractured group.  Many of our friends don’t actually watch football, so it ended up being a board gaming party with a little football thrown in.  That’s not exactly what we had in mind.  So this year, we are changing things up again.

Super Bowl 2013

At this time last year, we’d been in our new house for less than 4 months.  We had a brand new media room setup with a projector, 100 inch screen, a couch, two-three chairs, and floor space.  We thought we’d be able to host the best Super Bowl part ever!

But if you don’t have many friends that actually watch football, then you don’t get a group in front of the tv.  Most of our group of 20-30 people played board games and only 5 of us ended up in the media room.  Everybody had a pretty good time.

But as the hosts, we mingled instead of getting to enjoy the Super Bowl experience…you know, laughing at the good commercials, mocking the bad ones, and watching the game while hoping that the end-of-the-quarter score matches one of the squares you claimed on the game board.

Lonely Super Bowl

Super Bowl 2014

Before last year, we had been going to my in-laws for the big game.  They host a classic Super Bowl party – finger foods, dips, desserts, and football!  So we decided to join in their fray of 15-20 people with our closest football-loving friends.  My husband, me, and our 3 friends are carpooling to my in-laws house and the costs will be minimal:

  • $5 per person for the squares game
  • $5-$10 on food.  We’re bringing chicken nuggets like always.

Having a classic Super Bowl party experience for $15 total is a great deal to me.  We could do it for nearly nothing at our house, but we’d only have 5 people instead of a crowd…not sure if that is the ambiance we’re looking for.  :-)

Your Opinion

What do you think?  If you had a media room with a projector but only 3 friends that wanted to watch the game, would you host it at your house or go back to the bigger party that you already knew about?  Do you think the crowd improves the experience?

The Houston Rockets Game was Tons of Fun!

A couple of our friends came by some free tickets to a Houston Rockets NBA game last week and invited Mr. BFS and me.  A double-date sounded fun, so we cleared our Monday night and headed downtown.  It was a blast!

The Rockets and Me

I only followed the Rockets closely way back in 1994 when they went all the way.  I’ve honestly never watched a whole game since then.  Much has changed…

I didn’t recognize anybody on our team, which isn’t much of a surprise 20 years later.  I did notice a bunch of players palming the ball and never being called on it – that was annoying.  But I also watched some really great plays including great shots and superb screening by the Rockets and the Trail Blazers.  The Trail Blazers had been on a 5 game winning streak, but the Rockets didn’t seem to mind the odds at places like  They kept a solid lead throughout and won handily at 126 to 113.

The Evening

Other than nasty traffic on the way to downtown Houston, we had a great night!  Our friends made parking waits fun.  We made super silly remarks about all of the bad drivers, pretended we were looking for a secret entrance to Narnia while searching out the correct parking garage entrance, and even joked around at the amazing wait to leave.

In the stadium, we were like excited children.  The seats were EXCELLENT.  We all could see perfectly and chat during down times.  Even the commercial breaks were fun.  Our host caught a t-shirt from one of those sling-shots that the mascot was using.  I caught our host before he fell over the seats in front of us, lol.  A man at the end of our row made it onto the Dance Cam.  It was just a fun environment!

Houston Rockets

The view from our seats was stellar!

We also grabbed a delicious and healthy meal at a new-to-us cafe on the way home.  The broccoli cheddar quiche I ordered was excellent, but their simple salad really blew me away with some super tasty vinaigrette. Mr. BFS said his turkey burger was almost as good as the ones we make at home – that’s pretty amazing since the ones we make at home taste just like real burgers…

I guess that whole evening was proof that the people you are with matter way more than what you are doing.  Watching the game was fun, but the company was the show stopper.

Have you been to a professional sports game recently?  What do you think?