Thrifty Tips

Repair Local!

The situation was: I had a laptop where the “S”, “D”, “F”, and “T” key weren’t working anymore because something got spilled, somehow on the laptop.  I dragged my husband with me and stood in line for 30 minutes at our local Big Box electronics store only to be told that they would have to do a full diagnostic test, send the computer to their processing center and then provide me with an estimate that would probably be somewhere near $200 unless something other than the keyboard was not working properly and then it could be more.  Being so close to the holiday season, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  It would only be $45 to buy a keyboard and a mouse and turn my laptop into a desktop, so that would have to be a solution for now.

A couple of days went by and I decided to do a search for a second opinion.  I came across a link for ALB Tech on Main Street and gave them a call.  They said, bring it in, we will take a look and do a free diagnostic test if needed.  I walked in, the tech said, “ok we can order a new keyboard and it should be $20 and $10 to install.  You can keep your computer until the part comes in and we will call you.”  I was so excited!  It took a couple weeks for the part to come in, but they switched out the keyboard in less than 10 minutes while I sat there.  All fixed for $31 including tax.

The moral to this story is: Don’t get taken advantage of by the Big Box, get your repairs from a local repair business and save up to $169 (not to mention, your sanity).

Plan the Perfect Date Night

Don’t find yourself stuck in the dinner and a movie routine.  Not only is that a lame excuse for a date night, but it can also cost a fortune.  Whether you are trying to make a good impression on someone you just started dating, or you want to plan a special night for the old ball and chain, there are plenty of great things to do in Richmond that won’t break the bank and still be a date to remember.  Here are a few suggestions that will spice up your dating life without emptying your pockets.

Learn something together:  Taking a class can be a great way to spend and evening and give you plenty to talk about.  Whole Foods in Short Pump offers a variety of FREE classes that would be a great start to a perfect date night.  They have classes like Wine 101, Cheese 101 and Healthy cooking classes.  Pair your dinner restaurant with the class you plan on taking.  After Wine 101, head over to The Wine Loft to test your new found knowledge.  Take the healthy cooking class and then have a guilt free sushi dinner at Kona Grill.

See the City:  I know that many locals think that site seeing seems like a tourist thing to do, but why not learn more about the great city where you live and have fun doing it.  Segway of Richmond is a really fun activity that makes for a great day-time date.  Take the tour of Church Hill to see the original 32-blocks of Richmond, St. John’s Church, and the Main Street Station.  If you don’t have all day, you can take a micro-tour that is only 1 ½ hours long.  Segway of Richmond always has deals and discounts. Keep your eye on Groupon and follow them on twitter to be the first one to find out about ½ priced tours.   

Night at the Museum:  We are so lucky to have one of the best museums in the country right in our backyard.  The VMFA is the perfect place for a romantic evening.  The museum stays open until 9pm on Thursday and Fridays.  And did I mention that entry is FREE.  Thursday night is Jazz Night in the Best Café from 6-9, Friday evenings they play classic films starting at 6:30pm for $7 per person and First Fridays they have various events scheduled every month.  You don’t have to come for a specific event to have a great evening. You can pick an exhibit ahead of time, tour, and have dinner all in the museum.

Take advantage of date night menus:  Many restaurants in the city have great prix-fixe menu options for date nights during the week.  Why not take advantage of a dining deal?  Last year, Karri Peifer of put together a list of the best date night places that she had compiled from years of searching out the best restaurant deals.  I consider this post a go-to for anyone looking for an affordable date night.  Some of the restaurants offering a three course pre-fixed menu are Acacia (also one of Richmond Magazines best restaurants in 2010)  at $23 per person, Avenue 805 at $35 per couple including a bottle of house wine,  Sensi at $50 per couple, Patrick Henry ‘s Pub and Grill at $40 per couple including a bottle of wine.

Dinner, Drinks and Dessert:  If you want to spend time talking about your feelings, you can always plan the classic dinner and drinks date night.  Something that might spruce that up a bit is to plan to hit a couple different places in one night.  Sound expensive?  It can be if you don’t plan ahead.  Here is my Tuesday night recommendation.  Start your night at Secco Wine Bar with a drink and selection of cheeses.  Wine by the glass starts at just $5 and a selection of 3 cheeses costs $13.  Then head to The Water Grill for Lobster Night, where a 1 ¼ pound lobster with two sides is just $18.95.  To finish the evening, walk over to Can Can Brasserie and split a romantic dessert for $10 or less.  Including tips, you will spend and estimated $85 for drinks, appetizer, a lobster dinner, shared dessert and a night to remember.  If you don’t want to spend that much, cancel the dessert or choose a different dinner spot.

Movie Night on a Budget:  If you are a movie buff and just can not imagine going on a date without seeing a movie, then at least try out a different venue and be thrifty about it.  The Byrd Theatre regularly schedules pre-released movies for just $1.99 per ticket.  Bowtie Cinemas has a few discounted movie ticket options.  If you are interested in seeing classic films on the big screen, Saturday and Sundays at 11am, they host movies and mimosas where tickets are just $5.50 and Friday and Saturday nights at 11:30pm is Insomnia Theatre.  On Tuesdays (if you become a Criterion Club Member for free) regular release movie tickets are just $6 and a large popcorn is only $5.

What ever your plans are for date nights, this year, my best advice is to try to something you haven’t done before in the great city of Richmond.  Discovering something new together can be all you need to create a great memory and the perfect date.

Exchange Your Email for Deals – On your terms!

My key chain is turning into a branding rolodex of the stores I shop in.  I have the CVS savings card, Bubbles Salon Client Card, My Panera Card, Godiva Rewards card and more.  They all call them different things, but almost every chain store, salon and restaurant has a loyalty program these days.  All they want in exchange for discounts and free-bees is your email address.  Never before have we been able to trade our personal information for deals.  So, how do you take advantage without your inbox filling up with junk?  Give them your spam email address!

What is a spam email address, you ask?  It is an email address you set up for yourself that you use for all these loyalty programs, online shopping and even your post office address change contact.  I have been using a free yahoo mail account for exactly this purpose for years.  Anytime I am asked for my contact information to sign up for a deal, I give them my spam email address.  I check it a couple times a week to see if there is anything good and then delete the inbox and spam box to keep it cleaned out.

It is important that you don’t ever make the mistake of using your personal email address when signing up for anything online.  I let my husband complete the change of address form for us the last time we moved.  He used my personal email address and checked the box that says we would like to receive the Crate and Barrel catalog.  Wouldn’t you know, the very next day I was receiving ads from them in my personal inbox.

Let’s face it.  These companies can get to your personal information anyway.  As soon as you swipe that credit card, they have your information and market research firms purchase your mailing address and email address from those credit card companies.  Wouldn’t you rather get the deals if you are going to get the spam?