Friday, March 15, 2013

Live an Iron Man life on a salary from The Office

You don’t need to be Tony Stark-rich to live Tony Stark-like

By Paula Sirois

Just heard that a new Iron Man is coming out soon, so a re-viewing of the last movie was in order this past weekend. Watching Tony Stark in Iron Man gave me (and you, too, I’m sure) a severe case of “gosh, I wish I was rich like that” envy. He’s so rich that he doesn’t even have to remember his own social security number. Someone else does that for him. Now, if that ‘ain’t rich, I don’t know what is. So, how are we (me, you and all of our friends and family) supposed to walk out of that movie theatre and not feel a tad disappointed in our own boring, blah and flightless lives? Well, fret no more, I have the secrets on how to live a Tony Stark life on a non-Tony Stark salary.

Drink more: Does that sound very politically incorrect? It probably is. I’m not a big drinker. I drink when I go out. I never go out. I have a little stash of this and that alcohol in my house simply for those rare occasions when a real adult shows up and I need to act like I’m a real adult too and offer them real adult beverages. But sitting in my house alone, drinking, well, it’s just not happening. But if you want to live the Tony Stark life, drinking alone and often is a must. So grab a martini glass and some olives and always be seen with a glass in hand. You can easily pick up fancy bar tending materials on eBay or at thrift stores. Mix and match makes them cooler, perhaps?

Wear sunglasses more: Sure we’ve all decided that wearing sunglasses inside is uncool, but Tony changed all that. If you want to be cool like him, you’ll need at least a dozen or more sunglasses and you’ll need to wear them all the time. I mean, all the time. Every time I enter a dollar store, I walk out with a new pair of sunglasses. Why? Well, because they are exactly one dollar and who can resist a one-dollar anything? I keep tons of them on my car dash and have not been forced to squint while driving in years.

Tinker more: Tony is really just a geek at heart who loves to tinker in his basement. He fails quite often and rather elaborately. You can do that, too. Head to Home Depot or the auto parts store or better yet, the junk yard and pick up some stuff. Bring it home, take over the garage and start building. The crazier, the better. Open the garage door, turn up the music and let the creativity and invention begin. You can pick up tinkering materials for cheap on

View more: Remember Tony’s round, ocean view, and penthouse like mansion on the mountaintop in the last movie? Well, if you’re living on a normal income, that view is out of the question naturally. My view is of my neighbor’s trashcans, which aren’t pretty. But for a hundred bucks or so you can get a wall mural from someplace like and before dinner is served you’ll be living it up with a view of the California shoreline or the Eiffel tour in Paris or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Drive more: You’re not about to find a Craigslist deal on the custom Lamborghinis that Tony had in his garage, but the newer model cars that connect your phone play list to the speakers can satisfy your need for speed while offering up a hefty dose of cool factor. Or you can simply trade in your 2002 car for a newer (used) model and drive off with your new-to-you car; Tony likes sunglasses, drink in hand (well, don’t do that), and feel very Iron Man-esque.

So maybe these three ideas won’t make you rich like Tony, but they will make feel cooler and more creative. And in the end, that’s enough.

Paula Sirois is a Florida-based writer who specializes in all things online, frugal living and family life and can be reached at and, a no-holds-barred, live-action, edge of your seat, sweat-inducing, split-second decision making, real time sports gaming app for hockey, basketball, baseball and drafts.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Are you kidding me – it’s Spring Break time again?

Six real-life, real cheap ways to keep the kids busy this year.

By Paula Sirois

Don’t ask me how I managed to forget about spring break. I must have blocked it out, like a bad memory or tragic event. Once again, I was without a plan, without a list of camps on speed-dial and without a clue as to what to do with the kids for a week. Same boat?  Don’t fret - you are now covered with real-life solutions.  All of them are for real people (read: those who are broke and work full time).

Be a tourist: So many of us just never get around to visiting nearby attractions. If you can take a day off, consider this break an opportunity to act like a tourist and check out local sites. Hit the parks, zoo, aquarium, museums, and other unique points of interest. Call or visit the Chamber of Commerce or AAA for some ideas and maps and hit the road!

Action it up:  Do your kids like sports? Instead of letting them just veg out on the couch watching game after game, get them active and involved.  The folks at OneUp have come up with a pretty smart solution that makes the entire family happy.  Log on to and prepare to be on the edge of your seat.  This is a first-of-its-kind mobile app connecting sports fans to the live event through a bingo-type game, and yes the whole family can play.  The app is free and the days of passively watching games are over.  Now you can play in real time with your favorite sports team.  Your team scores, your iPad lights up and you win!   The entire family gets involved and what was once a couple of hours of non-interaction with your kids becomes a live-action family game night.

Have them volunteer: Candi Wingate, president of Nannies4Hire, suggests having your children “adopt” a senior citizen from a local assisted-living home. “Visit that senior citizen often and nurture the relationship. It will teach your kids about giving as well as receiving nurturing. Simultaneously, your children will likely have priceless opportunities to learn about history from people who observed it firsthand.” Similarly themed ideas include signing up the family to help volunteer for a charity in your town or setting up a backyard/neighborhood co-op garden.

Pool your resources: If you can’t afford to take the time off to hang with your kids, consider enlisting your friends who are stay-at-home moms. They’re probably in the same situation, wondering what to do with the kids every day. They might jump at the chance to get the kids together. Ask if you could drop yours off for the day and be sure to offer to pay for the pizza delivery and/or trip to the ice cream store. While this will buy you one or two days, you’ll still need to fill the rest of the week.

Call on family: Phone your relatives (and Facebook your friends too) and see if any teenagers would be interested in a babysitting job. Offer to pick them up and drive them home and toss in a few bucks and maybe a gift certificate or two to Amazon and you’ll be set for the week.

Camp it: Many schools and churches offer low-cost day camp options for the kids. They can spend the day with arts and crafts, playing sports, and maybe even catching a much-needed nap. Make sure to call soon since they book up quickly.

Spring break comes every year, and like clockwork, I forget every year. But between a day of volunteering, a few days at a friend’s house, and a couple at home with some live-action games and some teenage cousins, my kids will have a fun and creative spring break—and yours can too.

Paula Sirois is a Florida-based writer who specializes in all things online, frugal living and family life and can be reached at

Is it possible to make Monday not stink?

4 totally doable solutions to the Monday blahs

By Paula Sirois

Oh Monday. There aren’t a whole lot of folk who love Mondays. Kids dread going back to school. The nine to fivers dread going back to work. It’s a day of having to pay bills or answer emails you avoided on Friday or sign forms or go to the dentist. When was the last time you heard someone say ‘Yippee, it’s Monday, can’t wait for today!” Never, right? Maybe it’s time we did something about it. Instead of a ho-hum day, followed by a blah dinner and ending with a boring night of nothingness, let’s spice it up a bit.

1.     Monday movie-thon: Why not make Monday’s movie night? You were going to veg in front of the TV anyway.  We can all just pretend it’s an extra weekend day and invite family and friends over for a movie night fest. Everyone gets a turn to own Monday night. They pick the movie, the dinner, the snacks and drinks. Move the couches and chairs around to watch theatre-style, dim the lights, hand out paper bags filled with popcorn and launch the week with style.

2.     Give and get: Make Monday’s volunteer night. There are plenty of organizations in your town that would love your help. Just go online and do a quick search, make a few phone calls (to guarantee that kids can help out too) and put it on your calendar. From working at food banks to visiting the elderly at nursing homes to sorting clothes at the Salvation Army, your family (or friends) will bond, expand your worldview, feel empowered with self-esteem and bonus -help others- at the same time. It’s a great way to spend quality time with one another, instill the value of altruism and start your week off with the warm fuzzies that come from volunteering.

3.     Game time anyone? Sports are a great double whammy (fun and healthy) activity and it doesn’t matter what sport you pick. Maybe have a standing tennis doubles game every Monday at 7pm, or go out on the lawn for some tag football. If you know someone is waiting on you to show up and play, it will help make you get changed and get going. Maybe have a male vs. female Frisbee game or set up a three-hole golf game in your backyard.  Live sports on TV Monday night?  No problem. If you’re up for fast-paced excitement, try your hand at something really different.  Head to  to get a free app that connects sports fans to the live event. So you’re not just sitting on the couch being passive and boring, you’re actually interacting with the game and other players in real time – and when your team wins, you win too! It’s one thing to watch a game on TV, (read: boring), it’s quite another to have your living room full of folk competing against you in real time and making split second decisions or actions that keep everyone on the edge of their seats!

4. Dealers choice: Similar to sports night, dealer’s choice is focused more on the cards. 
Gather up your family and friends for some Poker or 21. Hand out the chips, and shuffle the cards and offer up pizza and snacks and you’re good to go. Make sure everyone gets a chance to deal and pick the game. Be open to learning new games and even print out some rules of ones you’ve never tried before. Dealers choice can be a roving game where you start at your house this Monday and move to your buddies next Monday and so on.  If you want to set the mood, pick up some traditional poker hats, green felt boards and real poker chips. Poker certainly makes Mondays feel more like the weekend and hey, you may even walk away with a few bucks to boot.

Effective immediately, Monday is rescued from its hated status and elevated to a new and exciting home of family, friends and fun.

Paula Sirois is a Florida-based writer who specializes in all things online, frugal living and family life and can be reached at

Monday, May 3, 2010

44 ways to ruin your financial life

It was not until I reached 30 that I started to turn my own financial life around. Unfortunately, by then, the damage was done. In retrospect, I often knew the decisions I was making were not-so-smart, but I did them anyway because I could always “pay it off later” or “just save more money when I’m older.” One of the cruel facts of life is that it gets harder when you get older.

Hopefully, by sharing a few of these bad money moves, it will prevent others from doing the same. And don’t worry, if you are over 30 and still doing these things, it is never too late to start living frugal.

Is Tuition Cheaper at the School of Hard Knocks?

keep reading here at frugal dad

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Think You Could Have A Party For Cheap?

Hosting a dinner party is always fun, but right now I need my get-togethers to be budget-friendly as well. Remember when I made crab cakes? That was for a group of 5 or 6 friends. The crab cakes were delicious and everyone loved them, but, crabs are expensive! Two pounds of crabs cost $20 out the door. Add in the other food and ingredients and I’m looking at $40 that night. I love to entertain and I want to do it often, but I can’t spend $20 on one dish more than once in a while.

That’s where a budget dinner party comes in. When I decided to host another dinner last night, I decided to look to a humble ingredient – the potato. I also had a few pescatarians and vegetarians in my party, so I decided to serve a scalloped potatoes (without bacon bits) as the main dish. It’s perfect for a chilly night: filling, tasty, and easy on the wallet.

Here’s how you can host dinner parties on a budget, and keep your stress level low:

1. Serve a main dish that uses low-cost ingredients (eggs, potatoes, flour, etc.). This strategy will help keep costs down. After all, if you are serving lobster tails with truffle butter, your costs will not be low no matter what you do (but oh, will your dinner be scrumptious!). Using inexpensive ingredients also mean that if you somehow mess up during the course of cooking and have to use more material, it’ll be okay. Even if you drop a whole carton of eggs, you’ll only be out $2 or $3. Unlike, say, if you drop a bowl of crab on the floor. That will be $10 down the drain.

2. Skip the decorations but fire up the ambiance with candles or mood lighting. A dinner party doesn’t need fancy decorations to be fun. After all, laughter is free! Most of the time, I don’t bother with theme or decor or all that jazz! Some candles (tea lights are $1.99 a package at IKEA) will do the trick nicely.

3. Ask your guests to bring wine / dessert / side dish. If your guests are as great as mine, they will ask you what they can bring. Don’t be shy to let them know that beverages or side dishes would be appreciated. I always say, “if you can bring something, wine or dessert would be great!” And my guests usually all bring a little something to share with the group. This cuts down on your costs, but most importantly it minimizes the time you spend preparing and cooking so you have more time to spend with your guests.

What are your best tips for hosting a dinner party on a budget?


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How to live a life of luxury on a dime


You know that movie with Nicholas Cage where he’s a wealthy jerk who wakes up one morning married to his college girlfriend and living a middle class lifestyle? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all wake up tomorrow morning living a wealthy life? So, we’re not rich. So what? That doesn’t mean we all can’t fake it. There are ways to live a glamorous life without spending a fortune.

1. Smoke & Mirrors: If you’ve ever been to a play, you know the value of setting the scene. One small table covered in red and white check tablecloths, a bottle of wine and some music, and suddenly you’re in Italy. It doesn’t take much to do the same thing in your own home. Spend a weekend trolling yard sales or thrift stores and $25 or less later you’ll come home with a host of props to change the entire look of your home, well at least one room. You only need a few choice pieces to change the entire feeling. The impact of a gallon of paint should not be underestimated – a new coat of color on your walls, in addition to a bold color tablecloth or curtain, oversized throw pillows, a dramatic throw rug and a five dollar piece of artwork will make your living room brand new.

2. Small indulgences: The dollar store is a magical place. Think “spa” next time you’re there and load up on nail polish, scented sachets, candles, bubble baths, soaps and lotions. Spend ten bucks and walk out with ten new spa goodies. Go home, dig out grandma’s silver trays and bowls and use them. Display your finds in any unique containers that you have around the house. Roll up some face towels and fill a bowl with lemons you picked up 10 for a dollar at the farmers market. Top off a champagne glass with some cooled herbal tea and head to your deluxe bathroom spa. Be sure to hang a handmade “do not disturb” sign on the doorknob.

3. It’s a mind game: You are what you think. Go to the bank and take out a brand new, crisp one hundred dollar bill. Warning: this idea is really only for the most will powered of us out there. Put that hundred in your wallet and trust me, something amazing happens…suddenly you feel richer, you feel less depressed, and you feel empowered. You’re not going to spend that hundred. You’re just going to carry it around, knowing that if you wanted to buy something, you could…because you have the money. It changes your mind set from one of lack to one of abundance. Just knowing it’s there changes things. Try it, watch what happens.

Just because you’re not rich doesn’t mean you’re not living a rich life. In fact, I bet if you look around, you’ll find you have everything you need right now. What’s the saying about wanting what you have? Maybe we should all give that a try for awhile.

Paula Sirois is a Florida based writer who writes about divorce, single parenting and frugal living. scours the Internet for the very best deals, sales, close-outs, freebies, rebates, and exclusive coupons.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

5 Real Ways To Get On Your Feet....Financially

Finances: Five Tips for Women to Get Back on their Financial Feet after Divorce


Consider these numbers: After a divorce, 45 percent of women see their standard of living drop by 27 percent. So take charge of your finances when you're divorcing. Here's how:

1. Get to know your money.
Be aware of the investments you and your soon-to-be ex made. Read your financial statements and make copies of them. Put those documents in a safe place.

Keep reading here