Welcome to Tip Tuesday. A how to series where I give you quick tips to make your life easier. For all Tip Tuesday features, click here.
You know how some websites can be just huge and nearly impossible to navigate? Organizations, universities, large companies, and more often have so much information that what you need can feel like it’s incredibly buried, and often their own search engines just aren’t as powerful as a good Google can be. Well, you can actually make Google search within just one website from within that website itself. Here’s how.
First, go to the website you want to search within. I’m going to use the WHO as an example.
Second, click up into the url. Move your cursor to the very beginning of it. Type in search terms for what you’re looking for then put in “site:” right before the url. I’ll pretend I’m looking for zika for my example.
Third, hit enter. You will be brought to a Google search results page where all of the results come from within your website.
You can do this on any website, but you do need to have Google set as your preferred search engine on your browser.
Thanks for joining me for Tip Tuesday!
Welcome to Tip Tuesday. A how to series where I give you quick tips to make your life easier. For all Tip Tuesday features, click here.
A new year often brings with it an interest in donating to charities, either for the first time or to new ones entirely. But how do you know a charity is a good one? There’s a quick and easy free resource that can help you out: Charity Navigator.
Charity Navigator rates charities on a star scale of 1 to 4 based on how well they are run, not on what cause they support. They give them an overall score, as well as scores for finances and accountability and transparency. They also tell you exactly where they get their money from and how they spend it, both in charts and in easy to understand visualized graphs. If you register for a free account, you can also see the charity’s tax forms.
If you scroll down to the bottom of the charity’s page, Charity Navigator also tells you similar charities. Do you like this charity’s cause but not their rating? Easily find another one.
What I look for when I select a charity is that it has a 4 star rating and spends a minimum of 75% of its income on programs.
Here’s a quick example of a charity that’s been in the news a lot lately. The ACLU has a 4 star rating on Charity Navigator. They spend 84.5% of their income on programs and 99.5% of their income is from contributions, gifts, and grants.
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The average wedding in the United States costs $26,444 (source). Depending on your region of the country, that average may be higher or lower. In Massachusetts, the average is higher than that. When my husband and I sat down to plan our wedding, we knew the average cost, but we also knew that our personal value system didn’t align with spending that much on one day. We set a budget of $5,000, and I am happy to report that we came in under that by about $500.
I immediately sat down to research and discovered that the three biggest chunks of the wedding budget go to:
- The Venue
- The Photographer
- The Food and Drink
These are followed closely by:
- The bride’s outfit
- The wedding rings
I thus set my sights on these five things to help us come under budget.
There are a lot of sites out there that talk about general tips for how to save money on your wedding. Here then I’m only going to talk about tricks that we actually used for our own real wedding that worked. There are more tips than this, but we didn’t choose to use them.
Tips From Amanda and Phil on How to Have a Budget Wedding:
- Keep it small. Under 100 will save you a lot.
Every single guest you invite (and their plus ones) will cost you more money. For every guest, you need to send a save-the-date and an invitation. You also need to feed them, give them drinks, and probably give them some sort of party favors. In Massachusetts, if you have 100 people or more, you also need to pay to provide a crowd control officer. This is a law. My husband was on the fence about having a smaller wedding until we found out about the crowd control officer. We then agreed to invite under 100 people. After we made this decision, we discovered that many vendors also up the price starting at 100 or more. Inviting fewer guests gave us a trickle-down money-saving effect. It also made us focus on who really mattered the most to us. Who we most wanted at our wedding. It led to our wedding having a very intimate and personal feeling, which we both really enjoyed on the day of our wedding.
- Seek out venues that might be a good wedding venue but don’t know it themselves yet OR look for non-profits that need to make money in the off-season.
We knew we wanted to have a campground wedding. When I started googling, I discovered that campgrounds that had discovered this wedding trend had wedding packages that were…..more than our entire budget. What I ended up looking for instead was campgrounds that rented out to events but didn’t necessarily specify weddings (or had only one or two weddings there previously). I also looked for nonprofits and charities that had a significant off-season during which they needed to make money. One important thing to know about venues is most of them will not post their pricing online. However, a lot of the venues that don’t market themselves as wedding venues will post event prices. This is a good sign. Once you have a list of potential venues, even ones that post their prices online, contact them via email (you want this in writing). Fill them in a bit on the vision for your wedding, ask for their price points, and ask your top 3 questions for your venue. For us, we needed to be able to serve alcohol, have guests stay overnight, and have access to a kitchen. Figure out your top three. You should be able to get those. It is unlikely you will be able to get everything on your extensive list. Once I had responses from the top 6 venues, I ranked them by cost. We scheduled and went and visited the two cheapest first. I think this was a key part of our planning process. It was impossible for me to be swept away by the most expensive because I hadn’t even gone and seen it yet. We saw the two cheapest and then consulted with each other on if we liked either of them well enough to book it. We did, and we booked it. We ended up going with Clara Barton Camp in North Oxford. They hadn’t done many weddings before but were very enthusiastic about starting to. They also are a camp for girls with diabetes, so we felt good about our venue money going to a good cause.
- Ask your friends and family if they would be willing to gift you services or items you would normally need a vendor for as your wedding present.
My husband’s sister Olivia is a professional photographer. Knowing that she had just graduated, we knew she was still working on building a portfolio and also might not have tons of cash around for a wedding present. We approached her and asked her if she would be willing to gift us wedding photography as our wedding present. She was all for it, plus it will help build out her portfolio. I have a friend who got married recently who has an aunt who is a baker, and she asked her to bake her wedding cake as her wedding present. Both of these gifts saved us money and also made our weddings more intimate. Phil and I never had to worry about building a rapport with our photographer, because we already had one since she’s family. The key here is, think through the talents of your friends and family, and then ASK them. Many people won’t offer because they don’t want to seem like they’re impinging upon your dream wedding. But they will be excited to do it if you ask. Just be sure to be clear that it is in lieu of a wedding gift or you might be asking too much of people.
- Buy your alcohol yourself.
You will pay far less if you buy alcohol and supply it than if you do so through the venue. Find out from the store you buy it from if they will accept unopened alcohol returns. Many stores do. We wound up just giving away some of the alcohol as party favors and keeping the small amount that was left for our own future use. I also want to mention that we had an open bar and bought a relatively conservative amount of alcohol, and we still had lots left over. Both of my friends’ weddings also had alcohol left over. You will probably need less alcohol than you think you will.
- Use thumbtack.com to find vendors.
Our venue required us to hire a bartender. When I first googled, I kept coming up with expensive, high-class bartenders, which is great but we were having a campground wedding! That’s when I found thumbtack.com. Thumbtack lets you basically list a job ad. You put in precisely what you are looking for (location, hours, special things to note, etc…) and then vendors have 24 hours to submit a bid to you. You then can contact them and talk more to get a feel for them and either accept one or reject all of them. This was such a time-saver! I literally just plugged in what we were looking for and then let the bids come to me, and they came in far cheaper than I was expecting. A lot of the people who use thumbtacks are small family businesses who might struggle to afford to pay for big advertisements or SEO. This helps you find each other. We were extremely happy with our bartending service, and it was quite reasonably priced.
- Find out if any of your favorite restaurants will do pick-up catering.
We were really struggling with how to feed people. Traditional catering was incredibly expensive, and I was personally uncomfortable with asking people to potluck. (Many of our guests were from out-of-town). Finally one day I remembered reading about pick-up catering orders. I checked out a couple of our favorite restaurants, and they did indeed offer this option. One of them even provided all of the serving ware. So we placed pick-up catering orders and assigned wedding party members to pick up the catering the day of the wedding. Phil’s mom organized the food as it arrived and set it up in a buffet. No one had to cook, and it was extremely reasonably priced compared to traditional caterers. Plus, our out-of-town family and friends got to try our favorite two restaurants.
- Buy your wedding outfits from non-wedding companies.
Don’t search for “wedding dress.” Search for “white dress.” Once the word wedding is added to anything, the price gets jacked up. Now, I didn’t want a traditional wedding dress, so I was helped out some by that. But if you do want one, search for a white prom dress. It’s practically the same style but much cheaper because it’s for prom. What I ended up doing was selecting a few stores that I love but that cost more money than I am willing to spend on average everyday wear. I then searched them for a “white dress.” I ordered the top three, tried them on, and returned the other two. My dress still feels special because I normally would never buy something for myself from that store, but it also was only $348. Because it was not a wedding dress. Similarly, my husband just found clothes he likes and put together an outfit in the color scheme and vibe of our wedding. He found his shoes thrift shopping, his blazer on Amazon, and he got his jeans from a jean company he really loves (my husband really loves jeans). If you are assembling your outfit from multiple non-wedding stores, it helps to sit down with your future spouse and lay out guidelines for colors and fashion sense. Our rough guide was red and orange 60s mod biker, and it worked.
- Keep your wedding party small.
You have to invite the whole wedding party to rehearsal dinner, and you have to buy them each a gift. Just like with the guest list, the fewer people the fewer you have to do this for. We wound up having a best man, maid of honor, officiant, and two ushers, plus all of their significant others. If we had added even one more person per side, it would have cost us at least $400 more between rehearsal dinner and wedding party gifts.
- Don’t hire a band or a DJ. DJ yourself.
My husband researched and rented speakers (less than $250). We made a playlist together on Spotify for both during food and during dancing. The day of the wedding we had a good friend announce us, but for everything else we took the reigns by grabbing the microphone and informing the crowd of what was up. This meant we kept the exact timeline we wanted, got to hear exactly what songs we wanted, and we still got to be announced to the crowd.
- Buy inexpensive wedding rings.
My husband and I are both active people, as well as people who aren’t super-comfortable with wearing expensive jewelry. We ended up buying two silicone wedding rings. These rings are designed to break off if they get caught on something, which is necessary if you work with machinery or in the outdoors. They also are cushioned so you can lift weights in them, and they stay on when they’re wet, if you enjoy swimming or if you sweat a lot. We talked about it and agreed that we would start saving up scraps of metal to have melted down into fancier wedding bands as a celebration of an anniversary in the future. The band is just a symbol. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to work for yours and your spouse’s lifestyle and own personal fashion sense. Plus, you can always upgrade at a future anniversary if you want to.
As an unofficial final tip, just remember, your wedding is about you and your future spouse. It should include things you enjoy. You should be happy and comfortable. Don’t let yourself get sucked into or guilted by the wedding industry (or the wedding industry mentality of various vendors you may deal with) into having a different wedding from the one you want. It is totally ok to have a small wedding, a casual wedding, a wedding where you serve pie instead of cake, a wedding where you DJ yourself. As long as you and your partner are happy the day of the wedding, that is all that matters. And it’s a lot easier to be happy when you haven’t broken the bank.
Book Review: The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
Guillebeau investigated what makes microbusinesses (small businesses typically run by one person) successful by conducting a multiyear study interviewing more than 100 successful microbusiness entrepreneurs. Here he presents his findings on what makes for a successful microbusiness and offers advice on how you can become a successful microbusiness entrepreneur too.
I found this book in a list of top books for small businesses published in 2012. The title totally intrigued me, since starting up a business with very little funds is quite appealing. I’m so glad I picked it up. This is an awesome small business book. It’s written for entrepreneurs, not MBAs, and it’s easy to understand, concise, engaging, and memorable. Perhaps most importantly, the few tips and tricks I’ve tried out so far have actually worked.
The book is clearly organized with no-nonsense, easy-to-understand chapter titles like “Hustling: The Gentle Art of Self-Promotion” accompanied by memorable, informative illustrations. This organization extends to the content of the chapters. When possible, Guillebeau provides subcategories and lists, putting the information into smaller, more digestible chunks. His writing also captures this no-nonsense, straight-forward style.
Focus relentlessly on the point of convergence between what you love to do and what other people are willing to pay for. (loc 2406)
It’s pretty near impossible to misunderstand any of the points he makes. The chapters also provide graphs, illustrations, references, and guides to further aid you in following the steps laid out.
In spite of laying out steps and guidelines, Guillebeau successfully avoids promoting an unbelievable “one-size fits all” miracle model. He talks about what worked and didn’t work for the successful entrepreneurs he interviewed, but he also points out repeatedly that it’s important that the reader understand herself and her strengths and weaknesses and always remember she knows her potential business and personality the best.
People who know less about the business than me do not get to make decisions about it. (loc 3296)
This honesty that one-size does not fit all and the clarity with which Guillebeau presents his research grants the book a trustworthy, believable vibe. It instills faith in the reader and brings out her passion for her own ideas. Plus, the fact that this is based on real research and not just Guilleabeau’s own experiences means the tricks and tips are more likely to work. Nothing works perfectly every time, and the market is an unpredictable place, but having this research as a guide can help the reader avoid at least some of the hiccups, bumps, and pitfalls in starting and running a microbusiness.
Overall this is a well-organized, honest book clearly written for the entrepreneur, not an MBA. It is based on market research, not exclusively the author’s own experiences, and offers tips and advice, not a one-size fits all model. Anyone interested in starting their own small business or in what makes small businesses succeed should definitely give this book a read.
5 out of 5 stars
I’ve been a vegetarian for three years. A diet choice that is not particularly popular in the United States but is at least gaining recognition in the general public. I’m not the proselytizing type of vegetarian. I don’t confront people about it unless they bring it up (or they willingly read my blog, hah). The most I do unprovoked is to say that I’m a vegetarian and sometimes further explain what my dietary restrictions are if the person doesn’t know. I choose to be this way, because I’m a libertarian, and I believe that what a person eats is her choice, even if I disagree with it and wish she wouldn’t eat that way. So I keep my mouth shut about all the reasons to be vegetarian unless they ask me, which happens a surprising amount.
Anyway, for the most part my lack of militance is met with a similar lack of confrontation in return. They may get a confused look on their face, but that’s generally about it. In fact, I’m pleased that for the most part, people are genuinely nice about it and express concern in the restaurant or in their house that what I eat isn’t against my morals. I greatly appreciate this. Sometimes though, I have a much more negative experience.
An example of such a situation happened last night. I was out at a pub with four other gals, one of whom is vegetarian like me. A couple of the omni girls were discussing ordering a pizza, when one of them asked if we liked steak, to which the other one responded, “Oh they’re both vegetarian.” Myself and the other veg nodded to which the Questioner responded, “Hahahaha, oh really? I ate a baby cow earlier today, hahahaha.”
Even though this pissed me off, I ignored it. Myself and the other veg turned down pizza, getting fries instead, and the omnis got a steak and potato pizza. After it arrived the Questioner again started gleefully shoving in our faces the fact that she was eating an animal, had earlier that day, and would continue to, repeatedly mentioning baby animals in particular.
It is hard enough for me to smell and see meat. Seriously, it grosses me out, and normally I only am able to maintain my appetite when eating with omnis by just making myself “forget” that they’re eating meat. Like I said earlier. It’s their choice, and I don’t want diet differences to come between me and my friendships.
However, it is just not cool to gleefully wave in a known vegetarian’s face that you’re eating an animal. Imagine if you were eating dinner out with a cannibal who started to gleefully tell you how they’d just eaten a baby’s brains that morning. Would you be able to stomach your own food? Would you be comfortable or happy at all?
And this sort of thing isn’t a random occurrence. It happens with relative regularity. I’ve been taunted by small time farmers who tell me all about how they’re going to slaughter the chickens that day. I’ve had omnis regale me with the sheer animalistic pleasure they feel in ripping meat apart with their teeth. I’ve also been taunted that I look ghostly or gaunt and clearly I must be vitamin deficient. I’ve also been told that I’m slowly starving myself to death.
Well, you know what? Vegetarians get it that you like to eat meat. If you didn’t want to eat meat, you wouldn’t. Ranting to us about how much you love to eat meat reeks either of immaturity or insecurity. Either you enjoy an easy way to make someone uncomfortable in a social situation or our choice makes you feel insecure for whatever reason. Maybe you really do feel guilty for eating meat so you lash out. Maybe you’re worried that suddenly the US will become predominantly vegetarian instead of omnivore. All I know is, you’re not being respectful of other human beings when you act this way.
I know some vegetarians can be militant, but if the vegetarian you’re around right that instant isn’t being militant and all that happened is she stated she’s vegetarian, just nod and say “ok,” and leave it at that. I respect your right to your food choices. You should respect mine.
A twitter conversation this weekend with some would-be vegetarians made me realize that while there is a lot of information out there on why to be vegetarian, there isn’t very much guidance offered for those who have decided they want to make this life change. Thus, this post won’t be a list of the many good reasons to become vegetarian; this post is directed at those who want to not only make the change, but do it in a healthy manner and make it stick.
Becoming vegetarian is a life-style change. It’s hard to change your lifestyle cold turkey. You tend to make a mistake, revert to your old ways, then get discouraged. Most people I know who have tried to make a lifestyle change cold turkey end up failing. It works for some people, but it’s also not the healthiest option when it comes to relearning how to eat. If one day half of your meals are made up of meat, then the next day you suddenly can’t eat meat, you’re prone to make unhealthy choices, such as subsisting on fries and coke. 😉 A vegetarian diet isn’t innately healthy. You can eat nothing but chips, ice cream, and candy and still be considered vegetarian. Thus, the approach I usually recommend is the gradual approach.
First, cut out red meat. It’s the most unhealthy meat for you, and a lot of people can’t eat it for various health reasons. It’s the easiest meat to tell people you don’t eat. At this same stage, limit yourself to meat at one meal a day. This will get you practicing on creating healthy, meat-free meals. Pick up some books on vegetarian recipes. My favorite for new vegetarians is Vegetarian Cooking for Dummies. It explains to you how to make sure you’re eating a balanced, meat-free diet, whether you like to cook or not. If you do like to cook, it has some fun, super-simple recipes to get you started. This stage is the one I like to call the “ah-ha! Meals don’t have to revolve around meat!” stage.
Pre-set an amount of time for yourself to stay at the “no red meat and only one meat meal a day” phase. I did it for six months, but each person knows herself the best. However, whatever amount of time you choose, stick to it!
For the next phase, cut yourself down to only three meat meals a week. I ate three dinners a week, but you can make them whatever meal you want. Keep track of it though, and don’t cheat. I recommend spreading them out over the course of the week. Maybe eat meat Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That gives your body a break between meat days and will leave you craving the meat less. Continue to read up on vegetarian cooking and living. There are books out there for everyone from the person who hates to cook to the person who loves to entertain with gourmet meals. Read what suits you!
Some people like to step down from three meals a week of chicken and/or fish to three meals a week of fish. I was never a huge fan of fish, so I skipped that step, but if you want to, you certainly can. If you go that route, I’d say do three months of both, then three months of just fish.
Finally, you are at the year mark. You are only eating meat at three meals a week. You might surprise yourself and hardly even notice there being no meat in your other meals. Horizons are broadened as you have learned of new foods you can eat, such as tempeh, couscous, wheat gluten, hummus, and more! The final step is upon you: taking that last plunge, cutting out those three meals, being able to proclaim “I am a vegetarian!”
Choose a specific date as the day you become a full-fledged vegetarian. New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday, so I made mine a New Year’s Resolution, but you certainly don’t have to wait for New Year’s! Pick whatever day you want. The week prior to the official day, clear out all the remaining meat from your house. I ate my final meat meal out at a favorite restaurant, but you can cook it for yourself if you prefer. View it as a celebration, not a loss! Maybe even buy yourself a few new pots and pans that you can look upon as your special, vegetarian pans. On that day, wake up and know that you are now a vegetarian!
Since you made the transition gradually, you won’t feel such an immediate, gaping hole. You’ll only need will-power periodically instead of at every meal of the day. Be sure to pick up a Vitamin B12 supplement at this point though, as it is the only vitamin you cannot get from plant food. (You used to be able to, prior to factory farming). I won’t lie to you. You will still get cravings sometimes. About a month in, I almost caved and ate bacon. In fact, most vegetarians I know caved once at some point and ate meat. Every single one of them followed it up by being sick to their stomachs immediately after. Don’t feel bad if you cave once! We are all human! You’ll probably pay for it by being horrendously sick to your stomach anyway, no joke. That’s another element of going gradual: your body gradually adapts so that it prefers the vegetarian diet. It comes to view meat almost as an invader in your intestines.
Don’t be deterred though! Even though you may periodically crave your own favorite bits of meat (for me, this will always be bacon, as there is no good vegetarian substitute), you will have new favorite foods! I fell in love with hummus and tofu. I also discovered the amazing No-Name at my local vegan restaurant The Grasshopper. These are foods you would never have known about if it wasn’t for going vegetarian! No matter what your reasons for going vegetarian, you’ll be healthier. Studies have proven that vegetarians have a lower risk for various cancers, obesity, and heart disease. Vegetarianism isn’t a diet you go on briefly. It’s a new way of life!