Living on a Budget
How to survive the tough time without sacrificing your quality of life
Published Thursday, 05-Feb-2009 in issue 1102
Desperate times don’t necessarily call for desperate measures. Sure, in tough economic times, we’re all forced to tighten our belts a bit. But, with a little research, a buck will go a long way. The Gay & Lesbian Times has compiled a few tips for you to save around the house and around town.
Get your club card
Club cards may clutter your wallet and your keychain, but they’re also a free, easy way to save on your grocery bill each month – and, many of them (including Ralph’s) offer rewards programs nowadays. When club card members use their cards, they receive points that translate to more asavings – $10 off coupons, and savings on a number of food products and household items.
It also helps to shop around. Compare prices and club card savings, and don’t be afraid to stray from the beaten path. Fresh & Easy, Henry’s and Whole Foods generally have the best deals on produce, but you may find other items cheaper elsewhere.
Conserve energy
Many state and local governments as well as utility companies offer incentives for energy efficiency and use of renewable or green energy sources.
In the past, the hard part has been finding these programs, as there wasn’t a consolidated area with pointers to which programs were offered.
North Carolina State University, together with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and the North Carolina Solar Center, have created a huge database of incentives.
This database is called The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency or DSIRE. The database is organized by state, allowing you to quickly see what programs are available in your area.
The database shows energy incentives that range from incentives that discount your electric bill, to rebates on energy-efficient appliances, and even loans for items like solar panels.
See the database at, or visit for more information on local rebates or programs to help you cut costs – and conserve energy.
Also, a home energy audit can identify ways to save up to hundreds of dollars a year on home heating (and air conditioning). Ask your electric or gas utility if they audit homes for free or for a reasonable charge. If they do not, ask them to refer you to a qualified professional.
Find free checking
You can save more than $100 a year in fees by selecting a free checking account or one with no minimum balance requirement. Request a complete list of fees that are charged on these accounts, including ATM and debit card fees. See if you can get free or lower cost checking through direct deposit or agreeing to ATM only use. Be aware of charges for using an ATM not associated with your financial institution.
Online bill pay
Online bill pay can help you manage your money a bit better and automate your payments to avoid late fees (not to mention the money saved on stamps and paper checks). Ask your bank about its free online bill pay options, and set your accounts up to pay automatically each month.
Consolidate student loans and know your options
Consolidating your federal or personal student loans is one option to save you money month to month.
Look into the various student loan consolidation packages – even a 1 percent reduction on a $10,000 loan saves you $100 a year – and your loan is probably bigger than that (and the rate cut you could get is probably bigger). Consolidating your student loans can help you avoid defaulting your loan as well as allowing you to make your monthly payments to the loan a lot more manageable for yourself. Just about every type of loan you can take out as a student can be allowed to be consolidated according to the higher education act.
There are many more options for repaying student loans, including income-sensitive repayment options and military deferments.
For more details on federal student loans, contact the U.S. Department of Education at 800-872-5327 or
Clip coupons
Clipping coupons is one of the fastest, easiest ways of trimming your grocery bill, your restaurant tab, or the price of a luxury item or service.
The Sunday paper isn’t the only resource for cost-saving coupons. Visit for savings on food, retail and luxury items.
Currently, Jack’s Barbecue, Apertivo Italian Tapas & Wine Bar, Caffe Carpe Diem and Med Grill San Diego offer coupons. You can take 20 percent off your bill at Caffe Carpe Diem with the purchase of an entrée, or $5 off your $25 purchase at Jack’s Barbecue. Med Grill offers a free lunch or dinner entrée with the purchase of another entrée and two beverages, and Apertivo offers one free menu item with the purchase of another menu item of equal or lesser value. Also, Pizza Fusion offers 15 percent off your bill if you present your receipt from a previous visit – so save that receipt!
Art of Framing, Ageless and Beautiful, Cal Coast Bicycles, Sunshine Dentistry, Creative Futons and Furniture, Asia Overstock, Perfection Auto Body, Uni.K.Wax Center, Canine Lodge and Barnett Avenue Adult Superstore also offer savings on gifts, beauty services, maintenance, luxury items and pet lodging.
Happy Hour
Nearly every bar and most restaurants host a daily, Monday through Friday happy hour that discounts well drinks or bottled beers and select appetizers. Typically, a happy hour menu runs anywhere from 3 p.m. or opening until 7 p.m., and some bars host a late-night happy hour after 11 p.m.
Baja Betty’s hosts one of the best happy hours in town with $3 house margaritas, well drinks, bottled beers and sangria, and $3 appetizers and quesadillas from 2-6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Not a fan of well drinks? Martinis Above Fourth offers $2 off its specialty cocktails from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 4-7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. On Thursdays, the popular martini bar hosts Svedka Thursdays, with $7 Svedka martinis throughout the night.
Make a point to visit Bourbon Street for its $5.95 all you can eat buffet Monday through Friday from 5-7 p.m. Bourbon Street’s happy hour also features $3 pitchers and $2 domestic drafts.
The Caliph, The Eagle, Flicks, Hula’s, The Loft, #1 Fifth Ave., Pecs, Redwing and Urban Mo’s also host happy hours. For more information, see the Gay & Lesbian Times clubbing section on page 54 for daily special offers.
Wine tasting
Most wine shops feature free promotional wine-tasting events, a perfect (and educational) date!
Or you can always the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center for live Jazz and ever-changing selection of wines, cheeses and cocktails. Featured wines are available as a complete flight for $7, by the half-glass for $3.50-$5, or whole glass for $6-$10. Cheese boards showcase some of the finest domestic and imported cheeses available. The event takes place from 6-9 p.m. The San Diego Wine & Culinary Center is located at 200 Harbor Drive, Suite 120. For more information, call 619-231-6400, or visit
Additionally, for those familiar with the Wine Smarties events, the group is now offering economic stimulus deals for the chocolate and wine pair events.
Single or attached, eitherway you’ll want to join the group for the legendary chocolate and wine pairing with San Diego’s Finest chocolatier: Michael Von Euw of Von Euw chocolates! The group will be tasting Passion fruit, blackcurrant, Rocher, against red and desert wines amongst some other highly creative and exciting combinations! This is definitely an event designed to get you in the mood for the day of love. This time, you will be able to purchase the chocolates, so you can actually pre-taste, then buy just in time for V-day!
The Wine Smarties event will take place at Wine Steals Thursday, Feb. 12, from 6:30-8 p.m. Costs is $35 and while this is not exclusive to only couples, but there is an economic stimulus discount offered fand you can buy two tickets for $30 each. Wine Steals is located at 2970 Truxton Road, in Point Loma. For more information, visit
Take advantage e-mail and text message offers
A number of bars and nightclubs clubs offer no cover or discounted cover for members of their listserv, or active-duty military. Some even offer no cover or discounted cover for clubgoers who show their gym membership card at the door for special events.
Bacchus House, Bourbon Street, The Brass Rail, The Flame, Numbers, Rich’s and Universal offer special discounts and offers to members of their e-mail lists, or members who sign up to receive text message blasts. You can receive free drinks, no-cover specials or front-of-the-line entry just for signing up. You don’t have to scale back on going out – you just have to get smart.
Tue$ Nite Out
Tue$ Nite Out is a Hillcrest tradition around the neighborhood with restaurants, bars and retailers offering what they have — for less — every Tuesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. Participating establishments place a “Tue$ Nite Out” sign in their window to make your quest for all things good and cheap easy to spot. City Deli, Urban Mo’s, Babette Schwartz, Corvette Diner, Sushi Itto, Crest Café, California Cuisine and Lalo’s are just a few options to check out. Several shops that offer rewards card, such as Yog-Art, Fiji Yogurt and Golden Spoons, participate in Tue$ Nite Out by offering double stamps on Tuesdays. For more information, call 619-299-3330.
Cost-cutting culture
Free admission Tuesdays: Most art galleries or museums that normally charge entry fees, usually have at least one “free night” a week. Take advantage of Free admission Tuesdays at several museums in Balboa Park. This second Tuesday includes the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego History Museum and the Veterans Museum and Memorial Centerb.
The Museum of Photographic Arts and the San Diego History Museum are open until 5 p.m., while the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center is open until 3 p.m.
On the third Tuesday of the month free museums include, the Japanese Friendship Garden, Mengei International Museum, San Diego Art Institute, San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Man.
The fourth Tuesday includes the Aerospace Museum and the Auto Museum Hall of Champions and International Cottages. The Aerospace Museum is open until 4:30 p.m., while the Automotive Museum is open until 5 p.m.
The Timken Museum of Art is always free.
For more information, call 619-239-0512.
The Sky Tonight: On the first Wednesday of every month, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center planetarium presents “The Sky Tonight” at 7 p.m. The show is geared towards backyard astronomers, children and anyone who wants to impress their date while stargazing. There will be free telescope viewing after the show, hosted by the San Diego Astronomy Association, weather permitting. Tickets are $6.75 for adults and $5.50 for children. 619-238-1233.
Plug into The Center
The San Diego LGBT Community Center’s community calendar is a great way to get plugged in to a number of free or low-cost events for men, women and families. The Center hosts game nights, movie nights, arts and crafts sessions and a number of interesting guest speakers.
Find a great deal out of the neighborhood
Who ever said fondue can’t be frugal?
The Melting Pot in La Jolla offers class and style to meet almost anyone’s budget. Get started by joining The Melting Pot’s Club Fondue!
Club Fondue offers fantastic fondue features, including wine tastings, food samplings, invitations to special events and advanced holiday reservation privileges. As a member of the Club, you’ll receive a free Chocolate Fondue for two when you sign up. Join Club Fondue by visiting The Melting Pot Web Site before you go.
San Diego’s premier nightspot for fondue! Whether it is a romantic dinner for two, a happy hour party of friends, or a family gathering in our party room celebrating a special day, The Melting Pot delivers outstanding cheese fondue, salads, entrée fondue, and a decadent variety of chocolate fondues.
Military Night Mondays offers 20 percent off of food only with a military ID and on Wine Wednesdays you can enjoy half-offf bottles of wine under $100. Thursday is Ladies Night, allowing a night out on the town for the girls to enjoy cheese fondue, salad and chocolate fondue for $20 per person!
Even better, at the bar and on the front patio, The Melting Pot San Diego features Half-off Happy Hour, every day until 7 p.m.! This is a wonderful way to dip into savings and try out the variety of cheese fondues, signature salads, sinfully delicious chocolate fondues, excellent wines, domestic and imported beers, tasty cocktails and specialty martinis that The Melting Pot has to offer at a fraction of the price.
The Melting Pot is located at the Aventine in the La Jolla/UTC area of San Diego, right across from the Hyatt. For more information, call 858-638-1700 or visit

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