The mint makes it first, it is up to you to make it last. – Evan Esar
Before you buy a gift card for someone this holiday season take a good look at this posting from Mintlife called The Gift Card Minefield: How to get Your Money’s Worth. As regular readers know I love the visual display of information. These card are money makers, and we spend 87 billion dollars a year on these gift cards many of which will be mislaid and never redeemed. Tread carefully down the gift card trail, there are big pot holes you should avoid.
Okay once you’ve studied that illustration get a grasp of the true size of the African continent—-enjoy.
What you don’t think of yourself as artist? Take time this winter to take on some creative and fun project to use another part of your brain.
Here’s a simple one to start with that will make everyone think you are a crafty clever person. Taking time to gift wrap a gift is part of the present and here’s a way to recycle and make your present stand out from the rest, make a bow using materials that at already close at hand.
Who needs a Dollar Store when you can do some origami projects using a dollar bill? Here are some crafty ways to make a cheap gift that you can say you made yourself, certainly this is one thing that is not plastic and is not made in China! If this inspires you and you are curious what else you can do on the cheap take a look at these sculptures from Stacey Lee Webber made from coins. You may never pass a penny on the sidewalk again. Here are some more intricate uses of our legal tender to get you thinking in new directions.
If you want to be very “old school” and stand out from the crowd nothing is more endangered than decent hand writing. Take an hour to improve your handwriting and you’ll never regret this rarely shown art if you want to get noticed for an unusual talent in today’s computer world.
Teaching an old dog new tricks is what keeps us young and our brains more elastic. Perhaps you thought that you learned how to tie your shoes so long ago there is nothing new about it but here is an alternative way to tie your shoelaces that will likely never come untied when you are walking.
Check out Richard R. Nagy’s Scrabble computer key board and think of the clever things you could do with the materials at hand in our home.
These are all clever little things you can do in less than an hour that will open up new worlds to you and allow you to think about the world around you in a different hue. Go for it!
Ten Tips for Saving Money on a Funeral from the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance
1. Talk about funerals with family members ahead of time so they all will know your wishes and you will know theirs. If your plans are mentioned only in a will, the will may not be read until long after other ar-rangements have been made. If Mom had always said she wanted something “simple” and you aren’t sure what she meant, you may end up purchasing a great deal more than something truly “simple.” Or perhaps Mom told everyone what kind of funeral she wanted, but she had no idea that it would cost far more than anyone could afford.
2. Price shop by phone or in person. Price-shopping can save you thousands of dollars. The funeral home in your neighborhood may be three times as expensive as one across town. Many of these price lists are now available on-line. By law, funeral homes have to give you prices over the phone, or hand you a General Price List (GPL) when you start talking about prices at the funeral home. If the GPL shows that caskets begin at $595, did you ask to see one if it was not on display?
3. Only buy what you want. If you are shopping for a funeral at the time of death take a friend with you, someone who will help you be sure you buy only what you want. Don’t buy more than you intended out of guilt. People often think that how much they spend is a demonstration of how much they love someone. Don’t buy more because of fears of being “different” or “cheap” or worries about “What people will think?” Funeral sales literature today commonly refers to a “traditional” funeral package (meaning elaborate and a good profit margin for the mortician), with one funeral often looking just like the next. Enjoy making your own traditions. A unique and personalized memorial observance is what others will remember. Don’t feel obligated to put on a big “show” when the deceased has been prominent dur-ing his or her lif etime. For the cremation of the author of The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford’s family spent just under $500. Shortly thereafter, they hosted a grand memorial gathering. It was very much in keeping with Jessica’s disdain of lavish funeral merchandise but love of a good party
4. Make your own or buy online. You can find caskets or kits on-line for a fraction of the retail price. It is illegal for a mortuary to charge a “handling fee” for using a casket obtained elsewhere. Or, choose a “minimum container” from the mortuary and drape it with attractive material, a handmade quilt, or a flag. Most people know what’s involved in growing a head of lettuce or a few tomatoes and would think $10 each was an outrageous price; they probably would stop buying them. Few consumers realize that caskets may be marked up 300500% or more. A casket that is listed for $1,295 at the funeral home might wholesale for only $325. That same casket is probably available from a casket retailer for $650. 5.
5. Consider the “direct burial” or “immediate cremation” packages. These plans do not necessitate buying grand caskets, embalming, cosmetic touchups, or funeral services and processions. Cemetery space for cremated remains is generally – but not always – less expensive than the space needed for a body burial. Cremated remains can be buried/scattered almost wherever you choose. Also, if you choose one of these options, you don’t need to use a local funeral home which might cost twice as much as the one in the next town.
6. Plan a memorial service without the body present. In that case, there would be no need for embalming, a fancy casket, or expensive transporting of the body back and forth. Private family visitation and “goodbyes” can occur in the hospital or home, before you call a funeral director. Use a church, park, or community center for the memorial service without attending funeral home staff. Again, with this option, you do not have to use a local funeral home. .
7. Skip embalming. Embalming is not routinely required by law. Some circumstances may precipitate the need for embalming, but in no state is it necessary when burial or cremation is planned within a day or so.
8. Consider body donation to a medical school. In some areas, there may be no cost to the family whatsoever. In other circumstances, the cost of transporting the body may be the only cost. Generally cremated remains are returned to the family within a year or two.
9. Some cemeteries may require a grave liner or vault, but not all. There is no state law that does. If you prefer body burial, ask for a “grave liner” rather than a “coffin vault” at a fraction of the price. And again, be sure to shop around. The “outer burial container” is a way for morticians to increase their income and is an added burden on your funeral finances. With prices as much or more than caskets, remember that it is just a boxforthebox which gets quickly covered by the cemetery lawn.
10. Consider handling all arrangements without using a mortuary. Most people also don’t know that in the majority of states a family or church group may handle a death without the use of a funeral home and many families have found it loving and therapeutic. The book, Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love, gives a great deal of state specific practical information, and the PBS documentary, A Family Undertaking follows the stories of several families. Both are invaluable resources for anyone choosing this meaningful way to say goodbye.
And, a bonus tip: Join your local Funeral Consumers Alliance. Some have contracts with local funeral homes for services at a reduced price for members. Some have done a price survey and have done the priceshopping for you already. Most will refer you to an ethical funeral home. There are reciprocal benefits if you move to or die in another state. Supporting an Alliance will help to keep this consumer information available for future generations, and the membership contribution is modest. Remember: Funeral directors are business people who deserve to be paid for what they do. However, it is your job, as a funeral consumer, to be well educated about your funeral choices, to determine the kind of funeral or memorial service that meets the needs of your family, and to locate an ethically priced facility that will honor your choices with dignity.