There is no doubt that technology can provide you with tools to improve your finances, and make it easier to access your money than ever before. But does it really matter? Are you really ahead if you use your mobile phone to trade? According to a Fidelity study published in October, those who use mobile financial apps to make trades at least think that they are doing better, thanks to their mobile apps.

Do You Use Financial Apps on Your Smart Phone?

I use financial apps on my own smart phone. I regularly check my bank balances, and even transfer money using my smart phone. Not only that, but I can deposit checks using my cell phone. I can even invoice my freelance clients using the PayPal app on my smart phone. However, I haven’t quite got to the point where I’m making investment trades using my cell phone. In fact, I don’t even have an investment app on my iPhone.

I’m in the minority when it comes to this, though. According to the Fidelity survey, 56 percent of mobile users complete investing tasks using mobile financial apps. Of course, not all of them are trading. Only 41 percent of those actually trade at least once a month. However, many of them conduct research using financial apps on their phones. Keeping track of performance, from fundamental research to charting, from anywhere is one way that investors feel as though they have a leg up when it comes to investing.

It’s worth noting that it makes sense to take these findings with a grain of salt. The Fidelity study probably only provides insight into a specific subset of Americans. The results are still somewhat telling. This access to information no matter where the respondents are located, encourages them to think that they have an advantage over those who don’t use phones in trading. Indeed, reports Fidelity, 69 percent of the respondents who trade using mobile apps feel as though they have an edge.

Better ROI with Mobile Trading?

So, even though those who use smart phones to trade feel as though they have an advantage, it doesn’t mean that they actually do have a leg up. The Fidelity study indicates that 41 percent of frequent users of financial apps saw a ROI that exceeded 20 percent in the past 12 months. This contrasts with the fact that only 22 percent of less frequent users saw those kind of results. So, there is a chance that mobile trading can lead to better ROI.

Having a cell phone can provide you with chances to improve your knowledge, since you are able to access research while on your commute, or even while you are watching TV. Not only that, but you have the ability to take advantage of opportunities almost immediately, thanks to having access to real-time information, and the ability to make trades based on that information.

The downside, though, is that you might get too involved in trading when it’s so easy. Be careful about how you use your smart phone with your finances. Just because you can make more frequent trades with the help of an investment app doesn’t mean that you should. And, if you are wrong about your move, you could wind up losing more than you thought.

Flex-spending accounts, commonly referred to as FSAs, are a great option made available in the last several years that can help you pay for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by your insurance. The tricky thing about FSAs is determining an entire year ahead of time how much of your paycheck to devote to the account. Secondly, until 2012, all FSAs were governed by a ‘use it or lose it’ law. If you didn’t use all of your funds in 2014, you couldn’t have saved it to apply to 2015 medical expenses. Thankfully, employers are now allowed to let their employees either roll over up to $500 of unused funds towards the following year, or be given a two month grace period in which to use up the remaining funds. First of all, if you don’t know already, find out the terms of your FSA so you aren’t giving money away.

With that being said, you may be sitting on a balance in your FSA that you’re not sure how to spend since you don’t have any pressing medical expenses, but don’t want to lose in the next few months. Here are a few ideas you may be able to utilize.

  • Alternative therapy

You may be surprised to know that preventative and recuperative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic care are usually covered under an FSA. Fields of alternative medicine which have stood the test of time and proven effective at treating and preventing physical and mental ailments are considered non-essential but validly medical expenses. If you’ve been considering one of these therapies but weren’t sure if it would be covered by your insurance, check with your FSA guidelines. These treatments are usually weekly, which can add up quickly if you’re paying out-of-pocket, so FSA fund would be put to good use.

  • Vision and Dental Care

If you’re normal insurance doesn’t cover any or all of your vision or dental expenses, consider utilizing your remaining FSA funds to get some necessary but otherwise expensive work done. Many insurances will cover your vision exam but not glasses or contacts, so FSA funds can bridge the gap for these expenses. My husband’s insurance includes an FSA, so we utilize this regularly to purchase my contacts. If you’re interested in LASIK surgery, this is also an expense not usually covered by medical but eligible under an FSA.

If you’ve neglected to get your teeth cleaned this year or need minor non-cosmetic work done, consider doing it with your remaining FSA funds. These expenses are fully eligible and you’re smile will thank you for it.

  • Physicals and Screenings

Some insurance don’t cover annual physicals, cancer screenings, or other preventative and early-detection checkups. What better way to end the year than to get checked out head to toe and be certain of a clean bill of health going into the next year?

  • Miscellaneous Medical Expenses

You might be surprised by what else your FSA covers, so become familiar with it and take as much advantage of it as possible. For instance, if you regularly purchase medically-related supplies such as particular supplements you doctor recommends, you can submit them to your flex spending. This is why it’s important to keep all receipts related to health needs for particular events over the year, as well as routine purchases. While some expenses may not qualify, it doesn’t hurt to ask or just submit them.

Whatever you end up using your FSA for, don’t let it go to waste. Even if you’re in good health, there are plenty of qualifying uses for these funds that will put you in better health and prevent bigger problems. Finally, evaluate what you spent this year and keep it in mind when you determine next year’s FSA amount to keep it as close as possible to what you plan on spending.

The smart phone is rarely thought of as part of a frugal lifestyle. After all, many smart phone plans are expensive. But what if you could pay for your smart phone by using your smart phone carefully? If you want to take advantage of that, and make a little money to boot, here are four free apps that can help you make a little cash on the side with your smart phone.

1. PerkTV

If you want to earn points that can be redeemed for cool things, you can download PerkTV. You can watch video on your smart phone, and earn points no matter where you are. The points can then be redeemed for gift cards and different retailers, from restaurants to clothing stores. You can even get gift cards to popular online shopping sites like Overstock.

2. mPoints

There are literally a ton of different apps that run the mPoints system. Each app is a little different, but they all reward you for doing certain actions. One, Nexercise, give you mPoints for doing exercises such as playing tennis. Others, like the Dictionary app, will reward you just for looking up definitions of words. Then you can use these points to redeem gift cards.

3. ibotta

One of the hottest free apps for your smart phone is ibotta. Not only can you find great deals and discounts with ibotta, and scan items to find the best prices, but you can also earn cash. In fact, ibotta is great for rebates on every day purchases. You can easily manage your rebates with the help of ibotta, including redeeming them immediately, as long as you can snap a picture of your receipt. Not only that, but you can get better rebates just for completing other fun tasks. It takes mobile shopping to the next level, providing you with a quick and easy way to get cash back. And ibotta deals in cash. You can have your earnings transferred to PayPal or Venmo when you reach a $10 level, or you can choose from gift cards.

4. shopkick

If you want to earn a little extra cash just for walking into a store, you can download the shopkick app to your phone. You can use shopkick to find good deals and discounts when you come into a store, and it can also be used to help you earn rewards points that you can use for gift cards. You get points when you go into a store, and you also receive points when you scan items, and when you purchase them. As a result, you can end up with points that can allow you to get great gift cards.

All of these apps reward you for using the apps. If you plan things right with your smart phone, you could recoup the monthly cost of your smart phone just with these apps.

I don’t always feel the need to point out that I work in retail, but there are many times the experiences and perspectives of this aspect of the seller/consumer relationship provide insight into events such as Black Friday and the launch of the holiday shopping season. One of the major things I noticed yesterday was the various attitudes and personas of the shoppers I encountered. I had substantial opportunity to simply observe people in the shopping environment, in addition to my interactions with them directly. Here are a few of the insights I had, and how they apply to your end of the spectrum as a consumer and shopper, especially during the biggest shopping season of the year.

The Strategic Shopper
I was quietly amused by my observations of people’s Black Friday ‘shopping game plan.’  While many people dashed around haphazardly with no apparent plan or real strategy for saving time, energy, or money, there were many whose calculated and deliberate actions were akin to a military effort. Divide and conquer techniques were a popular strategy for those who had brought reinforcements of family members (even children). While sales started at 6pm, many of these shoppers were in the stores many hours before, scoping out the layout and making a mental (or even literal, I imagine) map of the items they wanted to snag. These shoppers carried sales ads with them and were not afraid to stop and ask questions of where lines started, what times sales prices activated, and whether their logistical plans were valid. These shoppers carried a look of determination, but because they had a plan, were considerably less rushed and flustered than the people who didn’t. I think this type of shopper is to be both admired and emulated. Getting the best deals in the most efficient manner is a skill that takes patience and planning. As long as strategic shoppers maintain courtesy towards other shoppers, this is the best approach.

The Tentative Shopper
It could be argued that tentative shoppers aren’t that concerned with getting the best deals, but as one of these myself, I would counter that the fear of becoming obnoxious is greater than the desire to snag a deal. At the end of the day, we’ll get what we want and go home. I we don’t, it’s not the end of the world! The tentative shopper is not necessarily lacking in a strategy (although not as developed in strategy as the true strategic shopper), just not as rigidly committed to it if delayed or counteracted in some way. I saw tentative shoppers looming a few steps away from displays, calmly observing the crazy people who nearly laid their entire bodies over the desired merchandise before the sales started. These, by far, were the most pleasant people to deal with, and the ones I was most willing and interested in helping. Although they are the most pleasant type of customer for retailers to encounter, their lack of tenacity and ability to speak up for themselves often means the sacrifice of the best deals or the desired items. The final type, the aggressive shopper, is usually the obstacle between the tentative shopper and shopping success.

The Aggressive Shopper
The most notorious type of shopper on Black Friday is the aggressive shopper. These types figuratively and literally walk over other customers to get what they want. They may or may not also be strategic shoppers. You can be both haphazard and aggressive! These are the nightmare of retail workers — arguing, pushing, causing fights, and doing whatever they can to get what they want, whether or not they are entitled to it. While these shoppers do many times snag the best deals and end up with the most financial savings, you have to ask the question…at what cost? I would advise anyone who feels themselves getting too keyed up about shopping to reevaluate what’s really important in life — treating people courteously, or getting stuff?

The concluding question is simple: which type of holiday shopper are you? Regardless of your strategy or style, are you courteous? Next time you shop, consider these observations from someone on the other side of the counter.

In the years immediately following the financial crisis of 2008, many consumers cut back their spending. It became fashionable to be frugal, and many people began changing their financial habits in order to reduce their spending. There was a lot of focus on becoming less of a consumerist society.

Now, though, six years on, a lot of that is wearing off. Many consumers used to be wary of credit cards and credit card spending, but that isn’t so much the case anymore. According to a recent survey from TransUnion, 82 percent of credit card holders in America plan to spend as much or more on holiday gifts this season as compared to last year.

How Do You Spend on Holiday Gifts?

In years past, consumers said that they planned to cut back on spending. There was emphasis on frugal gift-giving, including homemade gifts. Now, though, it appears that credit card holders are ready to move forward with spending, and even ramp it up a little bit. The TransUnion survey finds, too, that 80 percent of credit card holders in the United States plan to use their credit cards as they spend money this holiday season.

This interesting trend is one that you should consider for yourself. What are your holiday spending plans? Do you think that you will spend as much money as you did last year? Are you planning on spending more money this year? I know that I’ll be spending a little bit more this year. I have a new nephew added to the family, so spending will be on the rise, at least for my part. But I won’t be spending more on a per-person basis than last year.

Of course, as my extended family grows, my siblings are starting to consider new ways of managing holiday gift-giving. With more children being added, we’re starting to talk about drawing names out of hats, or giving family gifts rather than individual gifts. These measures would make the holidays more affordable for everyone, and it would likely reduce what we spend on holiday gift in the future.

Could Your Holiday Shopping Impact Your Credit?

One of the issues that the TransUnion survey looks at is the fact that few consumers think about how their credit card spending during the holidays will impact their credit. Indeed, 60 percent of credit card holders don’t think about how their holiday credit card spending could cause credit problems down the road.

The biggest thing that shoppers have to worry about is the fact that increased spending during the holidays could lead to problems with credit utilization. Holiday spending could push your credit card balances closer to your limits, and that could mean long-term issues for your credit. It makes sense to consider your situation, and then make it a point to be careful about how you spend. This is especially true if you know that you will be carrying a balance. When you carry a balance closer to your limit, it can pull down your credit score. As a result, it makes sense to try to pay off your holiday shopping as quickly as possible.

It’s November, which means Thanksgiving and Black Friday are around the corner. Every year since I can remember, Black Friday has been a big deal for both retailers and consumers. For consumers, it’s a chance to experience a little excitement by getting up crazy early and joining long lines for a chance at the latest, rock-bottom-priced gadget (or infamous 500 thread-count sheets) and kick-starting their holiday shopping. And, as one of the single-highest grossing sales events of the year,  it’s termed “Black Friday” for a reason: retailers are ‘in the black.’  For many families, it’s a yearly tradition of bonding following a day of Thanksgiving; for businesses, it’s a yearly event into which tremendous planning and strategy is invested with the hope of a profit and besting the competition.

Why, then, with how securely it seems to be rooted into our culture and economy, do I think it will soon be a thing of the past?

The Rise of ‘Black Thursday’
In the last two years, major retailers have given into what they report as pressure from consumers to open their doors earlier than 5am on Black Friday. Last year, many doors opened at 6, 8, or 10pm on Thanksgiving Day. Their reasoning was that families, full from their turkey dinner, would appreciate the opportunity to shop in the evening instead of early morning (targeting night owls instead of the notorious Black Friday early birds).  In spite of a minor boycott movement which protested the encroachment of  consumerism on a ‘sacred’ American holiday, thousands across the country showed up for Thanksgiving sales just as eagerly as they did for Black Friday, proving that market research was right on. Another reason for the ‘staged’ release of sales over several hours is an increased emphasis on customer safety after a fatal trampling in New York a few years back. Staging sales events thins out customer traffic and keeps it moving smoothly, decreasing the dangers of crowding or fights.

Again this year, ‘Black Thursday’ has launched some people into throws of protest and many into throws of ecstasy at being able to eat their turkey and shop, too. But what does this mean for Black Friday?

A Skeleton of Its Former Self
While most retailers still incorporate Black Friday deals into a massive two-day event, Friday sales aren’t likely to be as spectacular or as sought-after as Thursday ones. What, in previous years, was sold in the ‘day after Black Friday’ event is now being featured on Black Friday.  Consumers who prefer not to shop on Thursday in favor of the traditional Black Friday experience may discover the deals to be surprisingly lack-luster. It’s easy, from the trend of the last two years, to assume that Black Friday might be phasing out in favor of Thanksgiving sales. But wait — it doesn’t stop there.

Pre-Black Friday Events
What is the next logical step in the progression of increasingly competitive and impatient retailers/consumers? Pre-Black Friday. While its beginnings appear humble, it wouldn’t surprise me if this trend becomes the compromise between those who protest ‘Black Thursday’ and the demand for a one-day major sale tradition. My prediction is that with the increase of competition among retailers, soon there will no recognizable Black Friday event, but a series of spaced-out sales.

Cyber Monday and Online Shopping
Cyber Monday is a more recent phenomenon than Black Friday that has caught on as many consumers trend to shopping more online than in stores. Not only aren’t there long lines online; you can be more certain of getting exactly the item/size/quantity you want without making a trip out into the cold. Most Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day deals are also fully available online, with the understanding that time limits apply just as in stores. For those who don’t enjoy the crowds, online holiday shopping can save money by decreasing impulse buys and eliminating travel expenses. Personally, this is how I plan to do most of my shopping this holiday season. What about you?

Jewelry is an investment, regardless of your accessory-buying budget. Whether you buy fashionable costume jewelry to coordinate with your wardrobe or invest in timeless pieces of fine jewelry, your dollars should be spent with ample consideration. No matter your jewelry preferences or financial circumstances it’s best to buy pieces that serve their purpose well, get worn regularly and look great on you. Otherwise, no matter how much you pay, it’s money wasted.

General Jewelry-Buying Guidelines

When purchasing jewelry, regardless of price point, consider:

Your jewelry as a “wardrobe” – Think of your jewelry collection as a, “work in progress.” Begin with basic, classic pieces in plain metals, neutrals and colors you wear often. Build your wardrobe over time, gradually adding pieces to fill in the gaps. It’s better to have something, “plain,” yet appropriate, for a variety of occasions than to have only one “mood” represented.

Quality over quantity – Even when you buy costume jewelry, buy the best quality you can afford. Look for construction details that demonstrate that the piece will be durable and retain its attractiveness.

Versatility – Look for pieces that can be worn in casual as well as more formal situations. Pieces that are all one or the other will sit, unworn, for long periods of time.

Your lifestyle – Choose jewelry that fits your lifestyle. Dainty, fragile pieces may be unsuitable if you live a very active, physical lifestyle.

Pieces that fit you as you are:

  • Coloring- Determine whether you look best in gold- or silver-toned jewelry, based upon your skin tone.
  • Face shape – To accentuate the shape of your face, match the shape of your jewelry to it. To detract from your face shape, wear jewelry that’s opposite your face shape.
  • Accentuate your assets – Wear bright and/or light-colored jewelry on those areas to which you want attention (and eyes) drawn.
  • Scale – Match the size of your jewelry to the scale of your body. Large pieces will dwarf a small frame; petite pieces will be lost on a larger one.

Once you have a strong jewelry foundation of basics, you can build upon it, incorporating more of your personal style, preferred colors, favorite materials and individualized fashion elements.

Understanding the Terminology of Fine Metals

When considering a piece of jewelry in a fine metal, like gold or silver, it’s important to understand what you’re actually getting:

Gold – Pure gold is 24 karat (k) and is too soft for jewelry-making purposes. It’s mixed with other metals, to strengthen it enough to make jewelry, creating an alloy. When 10k of 24k gold is replaced by other metals, 14k gold is created. A more economical alternative to 14k gold is 10k gold, which contains more metals, making it even more durable and only slightly less brilliant. “White gold” is the same 14k or 10k gold mixed with nickel and zinc and coated in rhodium for a whiter appearance.

Silver – Pure (fine) silver, is soft and easily damaged; it’s usually combined with other metals to make it durable for jewelry-making. “Sterling silver” is commonly used for jewelry, and consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.

Plate – Because precious metals are expensive, a more affordable solution to enjoy their beauty and brilliance is to plate – or coat – common metals with a layer of gold or silver. If cared for properly, plated jewelry can last and retain its beauty for a long time.

By knowing what comprises good quality jewelry and how to choose what suits you best, you’ll be able to build a gorgeous, functional wardrobe of pieces that will enhance your appearance without frivolous or wasteful spending.

I recently read an article written by someone who is self-employed, works at least 60 hours a week, and finds no need to separate “work” and “life,” because he very much feels alive while doing his work. We all dream of this kind of job — one that helps us find what we were meant to do, what makes us click perfectly into place. While this is the ideal, it’s not always possible at certain stages in our lives. After all, starting out in our careers, we may need to do some menial jobs or work our way up the ladder to the position we want. What you may take for granted, however, is how you are compensated. In the traditional 9-5 world that was the status quo previous to this century, the average person worked 40 hours per week for a particular wage per hour, and overtime or time and a half on weekends. Now, the work world has vastly changed, with many people working remotely from their home office instead of in a cubicle, or performing tasks that can’t really be measured in terms of hours or stacks of paperwork. Considering the rapid change in how the world “works,” do you think it’s time to adjust our mentality about the basis for compensation, as well?

For instance, considering the nature of freelance work in many fields, remote access, and flexible work hours around the clock, someone might be able to perform the same amount of work in a day that an on-site, 9-5 worker takes an entire week to complete. This doesn’t mean the on-site worker is slacking; it merely shows the affect of changing work environments. If paid per hour based on work tasks completed, this would be unfair to the person who did the same job but took less time to do it.

Performance-based compensation also has its flaws. The concept of paying people more the more they are able to do or the more money they bring into the company seems like a fair and motivating approach. Unfortunately, human nature eventually comes out, and people find the quickest way to win the prize with the least amount of effort, and certainly don’t go above and beyond what it takes to get the bonus or commission they’re promised. Instead of motivating, it often creates greed, unhealthy competitiveness, cheating, and stifles  creativity and ingenuity (after all, experimenting or taking risks would endanger winning the ‘prize’).

A new approach that is gaining popularity is pay based on commitment level. Since commitment level can seem like an arbitrary term, this is usually spelled out into literal levels, which are each defined based on how much of your income is brought in from the job and what level of priority it is in your daily life.  For instance, you would be at the top level of commitment if your job is your sole source of income and you place commitment to it over obligations to any other side jobs or work commitments.  Ultimately, your boss would have the deciding opinion on which level you represent based on your level of involvement, and determine pay accordingly. In this sense, if a particular job is only part of your total income and you don’t devote much of your time to it, your commitment level is low (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You may have chosen this level of commitment because of other priorities).

After learning about this new method of compensation, what would gauge your current level of commitment to your job? If you were to be paid accordingly, would you be happy? Do you think businesses of the future will eventually go this route to increase productivity, reduce overpaid underperformance, and encourage the type of commitment that ensures people love their job and value the time they put into it?

We’re coming up on the frenzied holiday shopping season, and it’s a good time to stop and reflect on whether or not it makes sense for you to spend money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are worth it for you.

I’m not a big fan of holiday consumerism, and tend to shy away from these types of events. My husband thinks it’s fun to get a deal, so he often sits around with Amazon Lightning Deals and does what he can to snipe the best bargains. However, he doesn’t usually go too overboard, and we don’t end up spending a ton.

For some, it’s really not worth it to spend the time and money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As you consider your shopping options this year, here are some things to take into account:

Do You Need Anything Else?

The first thing to consider is whether or not you need anything else. Spending just to spend on something for the “deal” isn’t really a “savings” type situation. Look at your holiday gift list, and look around your home. If you don’t actually need anything, it doesn’t make sense to get geared up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Your pocket book — and your sanity — might fare better if you skipped out.

Have You Been Looking for a Specific Item?

Sometimes it’s not just about need. It’s nice to buy something because you want it, or you know that you will use and enjoy it — even if it’s not essential to your survival. If you have been saving up for a specific item, or looking for something, such as a TV or a computer, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can offer you some good deals.

Whether you are looking to get a good deal on a new bed for your child, or whether you are hoping for a new blender, it can make sense to shop the deals. You should just have an idea of what you are looking for, and stick to that.

How Much Will You Really Save?

Be sure to run the numbers. Will you really save a lot when you buy on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? The reality is that these days may not actually be the best days for the best deals. Research indicates that you can often get good deals the Sunday before Thanksgiving, or during the week leading up to Christmas.

There’s a lot of hype around Black Friday (and, increasingly, Cyber Monday), and many people just assume that they are getting the best deal. However, this isn’t always the case. You might actually do better by shopping sales year-round, or by waiting until just before Christmas.

Another consideration is how much you spend in addition to your list. Impulse shopping can cost you more than you realize. When you’re in Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping mode, it’s hard to control your impulses and say no. This can lead to spending more than you had planned, and it might wipe out your planned savings.

With careful planning, and a practical approach, it’s possible to find good deals and keep from breaking the bank.

When it’s time to celebrate with a big party, costs can add up quickly. You want your special celebration to be elegant and enjoyable but you don’t want to break the bank to host a phenomenal bash. Whether the occasion is a special birthday, anniversary, engagement, retirement, wedding, holiday, reunion or any other of life’s milestones, the goal of a remarkable party is to bring people together with a certain degree of style and panache. Those exceptional elements that punch up a party from ordinary to extraordinary needn’t be overly expensive. The key is to break it down into parts and decide precisely what elements spell “special occasion” to you, what needs a “professional’s” hand and what can be done yourself – or delegated to friends or family.

Venue is everything
Restaurant banquet rooms may seem to be the obvious place to hold your bash. While they may be convenient, close to food and well-suited for your purposes, you’re obliged to serve food from that restaurant, at their offered price and served by their staff. If you can find a restaurant with the ideal combinations of these elements at a price you like, you’re lucky indeed.

It may be wise to look outside the box for a different venue. A stand-alone banquet facility, the party room at a country club or perhaps a church or municipal social hall are worth consideration. These are more independent venues where you have greater flexibility in who provides your food and services, the overall cost and the particular details of your event. You may even have a bigger choice of date/time availability.

Some details over which you may have more control in an independent facility include:

  • Food – Your menu is the single costliest – and most impactful – element of your celebration. Therefore, it should be as tasty and impressive as possible. Hiring a caterer may well afford you that elegant, personalized touch a truly special occasion deserves. Options offered by a caterer can be wider and vastly more customizable than the food available from a restaurant’s kitchen. An independent venue will also allow you to bring in homemade foods, if desired.
  • Beverages – Another expensive part of a big celebration can be beverages – especially when you want to offer your guests liquor. Restaurant prices on liquor are notoriously high for single-servings. When you consider an independent venue, you can probably bring in your own alcohol which you can purchase at lower prices, avoiding the middle-man’s markup. Purchasing the specific kinds and brands of liquor your guests enjoy is way you can provide an even more custom party experience.
  • Decor/Ambiance/Party Experience – Even a plain banquet room can become “celebration central” with a bit of creativity and the willingness to ask friends and family to share their talents and abilities. Decorations, music, photography and other personalized touches may be only as expensive as an invitation to the party.
  • Serving – There are options to having your party food served to guests by a wait staff. Consider buffet or family-style service as an option. These means of food distribution are less labor-intensive while allowing guests to customize their food choices for themselves.
  • Cleanup – A restaurant will have a cleaning crew to clear the mess after your party is over, of course. Some venues have a maintenance staff to clean the facility after use whose cost is included in your rental fee. Otherwise, you may want to ask for volunteers to help you return the place to the condition in which you found it.

You can enjoy a terrific celebration, made even more terrific because it was uniquely personalized and affordable!