Alissa Fleck's Articles

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Oh, how I wish I could go back and talk some sense into my free-spending teenaged self

by Alissa Fleck on September 01, 2014

As a teenager, I looked forward to growing up and leaving home so I could eat all the junk food I wanted.

But now that I’ve done that, my perspective has changed. I avoid junk food at all costs.

I’ve matured a lot when it comes to money, too.

As a kid I dedicated every weekend to blowing through every dollar in my purse. Oh how I wish I could share everything I’ve learned – often the hard way — with my teenage self.

If I could go back in time, the first thing I would tell myself is to start saving earlier.

All those impressive waitressing tips are now long gone, but if I could communicate with then-Alissa, I would tell her to set them aside, to even consider investing some of that cash.
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Go to the movies? At these prices it’s got to be a great flick to get me off the couch

by Alissa Fleck on July 14, 2014

If you decide to spend a night out at the movies, you better be certain you’re going to love that film.

In my opinion, movie-going has become too expensive to be a casual pastime anymore.

The theater industry says the average ticket costs right around $8, but that has to include discounted prices for kids and seniors.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I paid anything like $8 to get into a movie. So I went online to see how much the typical adult ticket cost.

I found theaters charging $13.75 in New York City and $12 in San Francisco. Prices were somewhat lower at suburban Boston ($11) and Minneapolis ($10.75) and a big college town like Austin ($10).

But $8? Not until I checked a theater in Grinnell, Iowa (population 9,100). There I found an $8 adult ticket.

If you want to see that blockbuster action flick in 3-D or IMAX, expect a $3 to $5 surcharge added onto every ticket.
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Mobile finance apps have reduced my spending…And I don’t even use them

by Alissa Fleck on June 23, 2014

Do you want to change your spending, saving and budgeting habits, but keep putting off downloading a financial app because that would make it all just too real?

Well, I have found a solution to this problem — or at the very least, a step in the right direction.

This solution is relatively stress-free and doesn’t require you to do much at all, because it involves a psychological trick you play on yourself. (I do wonder—will this work now that I’ve exposed it?)

I’ve downloaded a number of finance apps, but have never been able to use them with any degree of consistency.

Some I delete, some are too painful to look at, some I just choose to ignore. Most recently, I downloaded an app that reminds me at 7 p.m. to upload my expenses and income for that day.

I haven’t entered anything in ages, and yet, for some reason, I continue to allow the app to notify me every day, rather than simply deleting it. (The notifications often pop up right about when I’m in the process of spending too much money on dinner).

Despite my decision to accept these nagging requests as a mere annoyance in my life (I have to actively cancel out of them), I have found myself undergoing some new, personal changes.
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Blindly chasing any and every job isn’t a smart way to launch your career…Here’s how to do better

by Alissa Fleck on April 07, 2014

I think we can all agree that time = money. But, when it comes to job hunting, that may not be the only equation worth considering.

I’m in my mid-twenties, and since graduating college, I have always been told to apply for jobs, as many as I can, even those that seem far out of my league. I think this is advice that permeates an entire generation. We can “have it all.” That is a great notion and I fully support the idea of challenging oneself and pushing the boundaries of our respective comfort zones.

But, many people like me (a full-time freelance journalist) wind up spending massive amounts of time applying for jobs we will never get under the misconception that we can land that dream job if we just keep trying. Some of us will! But most won’t.

Fortunately, I think there are ways to job hunt that need not waste our precious time. (Of course this advice is not applicable to everyone — recent grads, and others, from all walks of life, often just need to find something to keep them afloat.)

If you have a little wiggle room though, you should be looking hard for jobs you could realistically perform and wantto do.
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What can you do with a busted smart phone?

by Alissa Fleck on March 10, 2014

Well, that really depends on your phone’s make and model and how broken we’re talking.

Let’s say you trip and drop your smart phone down a flight of stairs or accidentally fling it into a toilet and find that some critical function has been lost. It will no longer text or tweet, or has stopped playing You Tube and Candy Crush.

What do you do? Maybe you exchange it for a refurbished phone, sell it for its parts or simply drop it off at a recycling center. Maybe you do absolutely nothing.

But you are not the average consumer! No, you are the savvy, DIY type always down to save a buck. So what are some things you can do with a broken phone that still maintains some measure of functionality?

1. Busted smartphones can be a goldmine for new parents. You could spend up to $300 on a brand new baby monitor system, or you could just rig up your own with an otherwise unusable iPhone. (This method, however, does require the use of one functional iPhone.) Assuming your broken phone still has some audio/camera capabilities, you can stream both from the broken phone to the usable one. Do yourself a favor though and leave the busted one with baby! (I’m not a professional in the childcare field and would strongly recommend consulting one before using this method.)

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Can you really heat a room for 15 cents a day worth of tea lights?

by Alissa Fleck on February 03, 2014

Flowerpot heater materialsThere’s a video making the rounds on social media about a “hack” for home heating that seems like it should be huge news to cheapskates the world over, especially given the hellacious polar vortex that’s covered much of the United States in snow and ice this winter.

In the video, which was actually published in fall of 2012, a British man named Dylan Winter, who runs a YouTube channel devoted largely to boating, demonstrates how he uses simple household materials — a bread tin, two flowerpots of varying sizes and some tea lights — to build a heater that cheaply keeps a small room warm. The video is really popular, with 5,349,262 views as of this writing.

I hail from the arctic tundra known as Minnesota, and, because we have had some record-breaking low temperatures this winter (when don’t we?), I thought it would be as good a time as any to give building my own flowerpot heater a whirl.
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Concierge medicine provides options ahead of Obamacare deadline

by Alissa Fleck on January 29, 2014

Concierge medicine may help young people get more bang for their buckThere are just over 2 months to go until the March 31 deadline to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare, and not everyone is sold on purchasing the kind of comprehensive and often pricey plans offered in the insurance exchanges set up under the law.

One alternative that may hold some appeal, especially for those under 30, is concierge medicine. With concierge medicine, you pay a regular retainer monthly or annually for the right to have a doctor manage your health care and perform basic procedures such as checkups and tests.

Paired with a high-deductible health insurance plan, it can meet a broad variety of health care needs without having to do the messy insurance dance for most of your medical care. Certain concierge practices, including AtlasMD, even offer house calls as a membership benefit.
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Employers hope healthier habits are among your New Year’s resolutions, may fine you if they aren’t

by Alissa Fleck on December 30, 2013

Employee wellness programs set to pack a bigger punch in 2014You may not think your health is any of your employer’s business. But when it comes to employee wellness programs, you’d be wrong.

Lots of companies — nearly 90 percent, according to a 2013 survey by Fidelity Investments — are looking to cut their health insurance costs through “wellness programs,” many of which incorporate both financial rewards and penalties.

For employees, that can mean failing to do things like lose weight or stop smoking could mean you end up paying much more for health insurance than coworkers deemed healthier. How much more depends on the company, but employers’ ability to reward healthy workers may be getting a big boost in 2014.
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