Timothy Moore - The Penny Hoarder

My partner Nick and I have been together long enough that our idea of a perfect date night is having some whiskey at home, playing a board game and falling asleep watching Bob’s Burgers with the dogs in bed. But seeing as we’re new to the artsy and music-filled city of Nashville, we’ve made it a point to actually leave the house now and then for some dates.

In a big city like Nashville, it’s easy to drop money fast, especially if you live in the suburbs and want to park or Uber downtown. Given that Nick and I are frugal people — and the fact that we lost most of our belongings in a fire during our recent move — it was really important for us to find affordable ways to enjoy Nashville. Here are our top recommendations for cheap date.

Explore Centennial Park

[caption id="attachment_63868" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]The Parthenon Pavilion housing the Athena statue in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee. Getty Images/iStockphoto[/caption]

While it’s nowhere near as big as New York’s Central Park, Centennial Park is a great place to spend a sunny day outside. Nick and I have taken our dogs there to walk around the pond (and to play with so many other people’s dogs), and we’ve also spent afternoons together people-watching from the swings placed throughout the fields. You can usually watch or join in a game of frisbee near the Parthenon; we even once saw a group playing Quidditch.

The Parthenon itself is a reason to visit Centennial Park. Built in 1897, the structure is a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece, and inside there is a full-scale replica of the famous Athena statue. For just $6 a ticket for adults, you and your date can explore the basement of the Parthenon, which has been turned into an art museum, as well as the top level, where the Athena statue is. (If you and your date enjoy fine art, there are several other affordable museum experiences throughout the city, like the Frist Center for Visual Arts.) Bring a picnic from home to enjoy in the grass, and you’ve got a relatively cheap day out.

Total Cost: $12

Hike the Volunteer Trail

[caption id="attachment_63863" align="aligncenter" width="1199"]Timothy Moore poses with his partner Nick in front of a lake. Photo courtesy Timothy Moore[/caption]

Nick and I are definitely outdoorsmen who somehow wound up in the big city. Luckily, Nashville is next to the giant, 42-mile-long Percy Priest Lake, home to plenty of outdoor activities like boating, kayaking, biking, and — our favorite — hiking.

I recommend the Volunteer Trail in Long Hunter State Park on the east side of the lake. The trail offers several options, including the four-mile Day Loop or the longer hike to the campground; the latter is a there-and-back trail with a total distance of 11 miles.

Nick and I like this trail for the scenic, cliffside views of the lake and the ample opportunities to actually go into the water. The beach areas are great for the dogs to stay hydrated but are also wonderful and relatively clean swimming areas.

And when we don’t have the dogs, we can take a short drive around the lake after a long hike and reward ourselves with some beers and live music at our favorite lakeside bar, Shipwreck Cove. It has reasonably priced drinks, great bands on the weekends and the city’s best catfish.

Total Cost: $0 to $40

Bar Hop Downtown

If you’re after a more conventional date night in the city, you can certainly hit up several bars for delicious drinks and live music. Doing this on a budget, however, is not as simple. Uber and taxi prices are outrageous compared to our hometown of Dayton, Ohio, and drinks do not come cheap either.

Our strategy instead is to park my car in the garage I use for work (it’s paid for anyway) and then have a few drinks at one bar and enjoy the live music.

Then we tend to visit one or two more bars and stick to cheaper drinks — beers or soda for the designated driver — that we sip on very slowly. We still get to enjoy the Nashville nightlife and good live music, but it’s considerably cheaper.

To get the true Nashville experience, I definitely recommend visiting either Tin Roof for the best live music downtown or the George Jones rooftop bar for the incredible view (and the misting fans).

Total Cost: $30 to $60

Visit Downtown Franklin

[caption id="attachment_63867" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Historic Franklin, Tennessee Town Square. Historic Franklin, Tennessee Town Square. mavdesign/Getty Images[/caption]

A little more than 20 miles south of Nashville is historic downtown Franklin. Nick and I enjoy spending the day there walking around, visiting the antique shops and getting lost in literature at Landmark Booksellers.

My recommendation is to visit McCreary’s Irish Pub on a warm day during happy hour and to order a $5 pint (they’re buy one, get one free). After enjoying your pints on the (admittedly small) patio out front, roam the city and explore the shops. The best part? Parking is absolutely free.

Total Cost: $0 to $10

Join the Artcrawl

If you and your date appreciate fine art, join in Nashville’s First Saturday Art Crawl on the first Saturday of every month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. More than 20 galleries open their doors to the public for free to showcase new and classic artwork.

Participating galleries span 5th Avenue of the Arts and the Historic Arcade. Nick and I had a blast talking about the art together, and we ate dinner at home beforehand to avoid restaurant costs downtown.

Most of the galleries even offer free wine and other refreshments if you’re feeling thirsty. While Nick and I parked at my work and made our way on foot, you can find several discount parking opportunities and make use of the Grey Line Trolley to get around.

Total Cost: $0

Enjoy Some Shakespeare

For more than three decades, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival has attracted new audiences and lifelong fans of Shakespeare’s classic works to a completely free event at Centennial Park.

Held in August and early September every year, Shakespeare in the Park not only hosts a live outdoor show on Thursday through Sunday evenings but also includes food and drink vendors and guest speakers. There is a $10 suggested donation.

Nick and I have been counting down the days until this year’s festival begins. If Shakespeare isn’t your thing, however, you can also look for the Nashville Film Festivals’ free Movies in the Park every June or catch a flick at Belcourt Theatre ($10 general admission or $7 for members), which shows the year’s biggest blockbusters and lesser known indie and foreign films.

Total Cost: $10 to $30

Music City has a lot to offer. While much of it can be expensive, you can get creative with your date nights and really explore Nashville and its surrounding areas without dipping too much into your entertainment budget.

Timothy Moore is a full-time editor and doggy daddy, but he likes to devote time when he can to writing — whether it’s for his own novel or online. He is new to the Nashville area and is excited to explore the city with his partner. Go Preds!

Meal preparation, or meal prep, is a popular cooking trend that is equal parts health- and money-conscious.

The core idea of meal prep is to plan for a set number of days (typically a week) by buying ingredients, cooking your meals or prepping your ingredients, and storing them appropriately in your kitchen for easy access. In doing so, you can save time throughout the week, limit yourself to a set amount of food/calories and stay within your food budget.

Meal Prep Can Save You Money

If you’re looking to save money — and time — in the kitchen, meal prep is the way to go. Here are just a few ways you’ll save money by meal prepping:

You can avoid going out to dinner at expensive restaurants when you’re feeling too lazy to cook. Even $8 trips to Chipotle or fast-food drive-thrus add up; you could use the $8 you spend on one meal to buy protein, like chicken breasts, for half a week of meals.

You won’t have to buy a ton of varied ingredients for different meals each night. Forget lasagna on Monday, tacos on Tuesday and steak on Wednesday. By meal prepping, you can focus on one or two meal types per week using different spices and side combos to keep your taste buds engaged all week long. You also won’t risk your ingredients or your leftovers going bad.

You’ll find yourself running your dishwasher less frequently. Rather than dirtying pots, pans, cutting boards and utensils up to three times a day, you’ll just have major dish duty once a week. The rest of the week, you’ll only have to worry about rinsing your meal prep containers and small eating utensils. Not only will this reduce your water bill, but it’ll also make an impact — small, but still important — on the environment.

Meal Prep Can Be Healthy Too

Many people choose to meal prep so they can monitor their food intake. Whether you count calories or just want to keep a food journal, meal prepping makes analyzing your diet easy and helps you maintain a healthy meal plan.

Sticking to a meal-planning calendar also means you can avoid the temptation to go out to eat during work or have impromptu ice cream for dessert.

How to Get Started with Meal Prep

If you’re new to meal prepping, there are a few things you can do to guarantee success.

Start Small

The most important thing you can do when starting any new regimen — whether it is exercising regularly, reading more or changing your diet — is to start small to avoid burnout.

Consider focusing on just one meal each day, like prepping your lunch for work all week. Alternatively, try to tackle three days’ worth of prep rather than an entire week’s worth. You can work up to your ultimate meal prep goals over time.

Buy Meal Prep Supplies

If this foray into meal prep marks a new you in the kitchen, you may need to stock up on more than just groceries. Invest in quality kitchen supplies now, knowing that you’ll earn back that money in saved expenses over time.

For example, if you will be cutting a lot of veggies, buy quality knives. Not sure where to start? GoodHouseKeeping.com has a few knife recommendations to consider.

More importantly, invest in good meal prep storage containers. Typically, glass containers are better than plastic in terms of longevity, especially if you’ll be microwaving. Buy BPA-free products, and consider things like food separation, size and airtightness, as well as whether they can go in the freezer, dishwasher and microwave. TheSweetHome.com tested several types and brands of meal prep containers to determine the best choice for serious meal preppers.

Save Money at the Grocery Store

Use our meal prep grocery store hacks to save big when buying food for meal prep.

Always make a list. Before you set foot in a grocery store, research what meals you will be prepping that week. Ask friends for meal prep ideas, or research online for popular meal prep recipes. Take stock of what you already have at home, and add anything you need to your list — and abide by it.

Don’t go hungry. Shopping with a full belly goes hand in hand with making a list. If you’re armed with a list of what you need and a satisfied belly, you won’t be tempted to grab that bag of frozen Tater Tots.

Leave the plastic at home — and use a calculator. Strand yourself at the store with just the amount of cash you are willing to spend. Make sure to use the calculator on your phone to calculate sales tax as you go. This will ensure you always stay within your meal prep budget.

Buy generic and in bulk. There is no shame in buying the generic brand for most foods. In fact, take pride in knowing you are a savvy shopper when you buy generic. Likewise, if you have enough storage at home, buy food items that don’t expire quickly in bulk. This goes for paper products, cleaning supplies and frequently used spices.

How to Store Your Meal Prep

If you have mastered the planning and the cooking portions of meal prep, you’ll now need to store your foods successfully. MyBodyMyKitchen.com offers the following tips:

Refrigerate for no more than a few days. When refrigerating, use airtight containers and consider adding fresh veggies to your refrigerated meals when you heat them up.

Freeze food you want to store for more than four days. Just remember to pull a meal out of the freezer and place it in the fridge the night before you intend to eat it — that way, it will have thawed out by grub time.

However, remember that not all foods can be stored in the freezer. Foods to avoid freezing include eggs, dairy products and cooked pasta.

Make space in your cabinets for foods that do not need to be kept cold. Consider having a dedicated and organized pantry solely for meal prep, where you can store items like protein bars, homemade trail mixes and bags of munchies.

More Meal Prep Tips

The most important thing to remember when meal prepping is to plan ahead. Research meal prep recipes that make sense for your diet and means, buy the necessary ingredients, and set aside the time to make those meals.

Many expert meal preppers set aside a few hours one day each week. MealPrepHaven.com notes that Sunday and Wednesday are the most popular days for meal prep.

Sunday meal prep could potentially get you through the whole week, but if you like to prep for just a few days at a time, you can prep the first half of the week on Sunday and use Wednesday meal prep to take you into the weekend. It’s also possible to do a little meal prep each morning or evening.

Keep in mind, meal prepping doesn’t mean you have to cook everything all at once. Set aside time to wash and cut up all the fruits and veggies you’ll be using that week and bake your proteins; then, on the day you’ll be eating that meal, you can put the ingredients together or cook up the veggies as desired.

Likewise, you can simply set aside food items in known locations (like that dedicated pantry) to make them easier to access when it comes time to cook — for example, setting aside two slices of bread in separate containers for each day of the week will give you easy access to make toast in the mornings.

When determining what you’ll eat for each meal, EatThis.com recommends abiding by the 1+1+1 rule: one protein, one starchy carb and one fresh produce item.

Need some digital support? Explore a number of helpful meal prep apps for your phone, including MealPlan Meal and Grocery Planner, a useful tool for getting organized.

Meal prepping may seem overwhelming at first, but once you’ve found a successful routine, you’ll find that it saves you time and money — and helps you reach a healthier version of yourself — in no time.

Timothy Moore is a full-time editor and doggy daddy, but he likes to devote time when he can to writing — whether it’s for his own novel or online. He is new to the Nashville area and is excited to explore the city with his partner: Go Preds!

It can’t happen to you — until it does.

I recently had my life turned upside down during a move from Ohio to Tennessee. I packed up everything I owned into a trailer, only to wake up a day later to a phone call notifying me that the trailer had caught fire during the trip. I lost almost everything.

[caption id="attachment_59943" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]What to do after a house fire Photo courtesy Timothy Moore[/caption]

If you haven’t lost your belongings and/or home to a fire and are just reading to stay prepared, kudos to you. Count your blessings. There are a few steps you can take now for the “just in case” security that will ensure you’re in good financial standing should disaster strike.

If you have recently lost everything to a fire, don’t stress. Once you’ve started to recover emotionally, you can begin considering how you’re going to recover financially from this disaster.

If It Hasn’t Happened to You

When it comes to maintaining your family’s financial security, there is no such thing as being overprepared. Take the following steps to ensure you’ll be able to bounce back should you lose your home and/or your belongings to a fire.

Get Insurance, Now

I was fortunate enough to be required to carry renters insurance, which will cover some of my losses. Others in this situation aren’t so lucky.

I was not, however, as prepared as I should have been. I carried the minimum coverage my landlord required and didn’t think twice about how much I should really be covered for. My advice? Don’t settle for minimum coverage.

Spend some time considering what your possessions are really worth — and not just big-ticket items like furniture and electronics. Here are some items I didn’t even consider until I’d lost them:

  • Clothes — Think about how much money you’ve invested in your work attire, your shoes, your pajamas, your gym clothes, and throw in those towels, pillows and blankets while you’re at it.
  • Entertainment items — Consider your movie collection, your video and board games, your $35 copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
  • Toiletries — Make a list of all your expensive lotions and shampoos, your electric razor and your medicines, prescription contacts and retainers. You’ll really get a feel for how much money you’ve got inside your bathroom drawers.
  • Decorative items — Don’t forget about any expensive (or inexpensive — money’s money, right?) art pieces, decorative items, wall hangings, clocks and lamps.
  • Cooking utensils — Add up the price of your plates and bowls, pots and pans, toaster and coffee maker, and think about how much money in groceries you typically have in your cabinets and fridge.

Once you’ve calculated how much your possessions are worth (and, if you own your home, how much coverage you’ll need for your house as well), pick a plan that will cover those costs.

My other advice? Read the policy details before signing. You’ll want to know what is actually covered under your policy. The big mistake I made was not knowing the difference between replacement cost value (RCV) and actual cash value (ACV).

RCV means the insurance company will give you what it actually costs to replace your refrigerator; ACV means it will only shell out what your 4-year-old fridge is worth now. Guess which one I had.

[caption id="attachment_59945" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]What to do after a house fire Photo courtesy Timothy Moore[/caption]

Start Your Emergency Fund, Also Now

In today’s world, it can be difficult to put aside money for anything. With IRAs, 529 plans and regular savings, who has the change to spare for an emergency fund?

Don’t neglect building your emergency fund. You never know when you’ll need it.

But how much should you save? It depends on your personal situation. Forbes breaks it down into simple terms:

  • If you’re single and rent your home, put away three months of take-home pay.
  • If you’re married, own your home and have a kid or two, put away six months of take-home pay.

Your emergency fund doesn’t have to happen overnight, but it is definitely something you should be saving toward. It’s not as glamorous as saving for a trip to Ireland or a new car, but it could make or break you in the event of a fire or another natural disaster.

If It Has Happened to You

Unfortunately, a fire department responds to a house fire every 23 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you’re the recent victim of a fire, take the time you need to recover emotionally, but stay disciplined so that you can quickly begin to rebuild financially.

Contact Your Insurance, ASAP

If you have renters or homeowners insurance, contact your agent immediately. The Red Cross has a good list of to-dos to make sure you receive as much money back as you can:

  • Put together a list of all the items you lost, including their value, where you bought them and their age.
  • Keep all items until an insurance adjustor has assessed the damage and taken photographs.
  • Take your own pictures and videos for your records, and provide those to your insurance company, even if they aren’t requested.
  • File away all receipts related to the fire, including temporary lodging, the cost of bulk trash removal and the cost of repairs, whether it’s trips to the laundromat or total home reconstruction.

Dip Into Your Emergency Fund

If you’ve been saving for an emergency, now is the time to make a withdrawal. If all goes well, you’ll be able to replenish some of those savings with insurance money down the road. Just be prepared to wait a few months, because the reimbursement process can be lengthy.

Swallow Your Pride: Say Yes to Help

I’m not the type who is comfortable asking for or taking money from friends and family, but a real crisis like a fire can change your perspective. I am immensely grateful to the friends, family, co-workers, and strangers who donated money through GoFundMe or just by sending checks and gift cards, who held bake sales and fundraisers, and who donated their furniture or even just their time.

Whatever someone is offering, don’t be ashamed to say yes if you need it. Just don’t forget to say thank you — and be ready to pay it forward to someone else in need once you’re back on your feet.

A fire or another unexpected disaster can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to ruin you financially. Start preparing for the worst now — and if the worst has already happened, step into action mode and begin rebuilding your finances today.

Timothy Moore is a full-time editor and doggy daddy, but he likes to devote time when he can to writing — whether it’s for his own novel or online. He is new to the Nashville area and is excited to explore the city with his partner. Go Preds!

For most of us, dogs aren’t just family pets but instead part of the family. They exercise with us, play alongside our children and even sleep in our beds. But the one thing most dogs can’t do? Go to work with us.

When my situation suddenly changed a couple years ago, my dog Greyson was suddenly faced with being left home alone for nine hours a day. I looked into doggy day care to decide if it was within my budget.

If you work a job with long hours or go to school for most of the day, with no time to go home and visit your pooch, chances are good you’ve probably considered paying a professional to watch your dog.

But doggy day care rates can be expensive. Before moving forward, make sure you can fit the cost into your budget and that the service is worth the price..

What Does Doggy Day Care Include?

[caption id="attachment_59134" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Doggy day care Employee Arringtom Carter interacts with the dogs in her care as they enjoy some outside play time at TyVy Pet Hotel in Tampa, Fla., on June 12, 2017. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Before shelling out for doggy day care, research what a particular business actually offers. Here’s what a good doggy day care will typically offer.

Playtime

Playtime for your pup is important, so make sure your pet’s day care facility offers time with other dogs or one-on-one with a staff member. You should expect indoor and outdoor play areas with non-slippery surfaces; these play areas should be large enough for dogs to run and maneuver without issue, with designated potty areas.

The facility should also separate larger dogs from smaller dogs for safety and include some climate-controlled areas in case temperatures soar or sink below freezing.

Appropriate Feedings

Choose a location that offers feedings, especially if you plan to leave your four-legged friend all day. You’ll need to provide your own food and of course alert the staff to any food allergies your dog might have.

For example, Greyson has a very negative reaction to poultry, so if I ever board him, I have to be perfectly clear that neither his food nor any treats can contain any chicken, duck or turkey.

Walks

Make sure your dog is given multiple opportunities for “potty walks” throughout the day. Older dogs like Greyson sometimes require more potty breaks throughout the day; inquire to make sure the facility will accommodate.

Always bring your leash from home for these walks; in fact, facilities will generally require dogs to enter and leave the facility on leash. Make sure to ask where specifically your dog will be walked -- on the premises or off grounds.

Plenty of Rest

Playtime can get tiring! A good doggy day care will provide ample time and places for your dog to rest comfortably. Some day care centers, particularly ones that board overnight, will allow you to bring a blanket or bed for your dog. Be sure to ask ahead of time if you plan to send your pet with anything from home.

Safe Toys

Just like your toddler’s day care, a doggy day care should offer valuable mental stimulation for your dog. Be on the lookout, however, for toys that are known dangers to your dog, such as rawhides. When in doubt, consult the Humane Society’s list of approved toys and pass on any facilities that allow dogs to play with toys that pose a threat.  

Doggy Day Care Must-Haves

[caption id="attachment_59137" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Doggy day care Dogs enjoy some outside play time at TyVy Pet Hotel in Tampa, Fla., on June 12, 2017. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

It’s not just the toys and the play area that make a doggy day care good enough for your best friend. Also look for the following things before choosing a care center for your pet:

  • Proof of vaccination: It may be a pain to dig up your dog’s vaccine records, but by being required to prove your dog’s health, you can rest assured that all other dogs in the facility are also up-to-date on shots.
  • Cleanliness: Tour the facility before signing, checking to make sure it’s kept clean. Watch out for large quantities of feces and/or urine that has not been attended to. You can expect a general dog smell, but a good day care will address messes swiftly.
  • Enough staff: Positively.com recommends finding a facility that has an “adult to dog ratio” of no more than 1:15, in case someone gets hurt, a fight breaks out or a dog starts to feel unwell.
  • An interview: The hallmark of a qualified doggy day care is an interview process to make sure your dog is a good fit. Now is a good time to ask about the staff to dog ratio, special medications or dietary restrictions your dog might have, how the facility handles medical emergencies and any other questions you might have. Remember, the facility should also have questions about your dog’s history as well.

Typical Doggy Day Care Rates

Doggy day care rates can vary tremendously depending on where you live and the types of amenities offered. In general, doggy day cares in big cities or along the west and east coasts tend to be more expensive, in line with the cost of living.

Angie’s List members spent on average $42 a day in 2014, though doggy day care prices ranged from $25 to $50 for members.

CostHelper.com reported lower costs for doggy day care, ranging from $12 to $38 for a full day and from $6 to $25 for half days. As someone who has had friends have poor experiences with cheaper options, I recommend being skeptical of doggy day cares charging on the lower end.

Most doggy day cares will offer monthly rates at a discount, making it the better bet if you plan to leave your dog Monday through Friday each week. CostHelper.com saw those rates range from $240 to $550.

Extra Doggy Day Care Costs

As you’ve probably learned from a lifetime of paying taxes and hidden fees, nothing costs exactly what you think. Doggy day care is no different.

Be prepared to pay some of these additional doggy day care costs:

  • Application fee
  • Late fees (if you miss pick-up time)
  • Transportation costs (if you opt to have your dog picked up and taken home)
  • Emergency vet fees, for which any good doggy day care will require you to sign before leaving your furry friend with them

Doggy Day Care Alternatives

[caption id="attachment_59188" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Doggy day care From left, Christie Post and Rascal, Kelsey Buxton and Lexi, and Kelly Smith and Wrigley do a broadcast about National Pet Day at The Penny Hoarder offices in St Petersburg, Fla., on April 11, 2017. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

If the costs of doggy day care seem a little overwhelming, you’re not alone. There are some alternatives to consider — but at the end of the day, you’ll want to prioritize your pet’s mental and physical health and safety above all else.

Dog Walkers

You can instead opt to have a dog walker visit your house to walk your dog while you are away. Look for a licensed, insured dog walker with positive reviews from several clients, or consider local vet techs looking to make additional money during school. Be aware, however, that the cost of a dog walker can quickly reach the costs of doggy day care.

Friends and Family

If you know someone who would be willing to stop by your house every day to play with your pup, consider offering them a reasonable rate. They will likely do it for a fraction of the cost of doggy day care, and your dog may already be familiar with them.

Work from Home or Bring Your Dog to Work

Companies are increasingly becoming more flexible with telecommuting and providing employee-focused workplaces. Ask your boss if you can work from home or bring your dog into the office. While that might be a stretch, you can at least open the conversation to taking a longer lunch to let your dog out.

Pet Sitter Websites

In the digital age, companies like Rover and Fetch are thriving. They offer services such as dog walking, boarding, house sitting, and daycares. Consider these sites that match you with what you’re looking for, but understand that these options can also be pricey.

In Nashville, a typical 30-minute dog walk through Rover for Greyson (who is 90 lbs) costs between $15 and $20. That same walk in Dayton, Ohio, where I am from originally, ranges from $10 to $15.

Fortunately, I was able to make alternate arrangements with my employer to gain more flexibility to go home and walk Greyson each day, but if you can fit doggy day care costs into your budget, you’ll find that the right facility can be well worth the money. Just be sure to pick a location that both you and your pooch will be happy with.

Timothy Moore is a full-time editor and doggy daddy, but he likes to devote time when he can to writing — whether it’s for his own novel or online. He is new to the Nashville area and is excited to explore the city with his partner: go Preds!