Monthly Archives: June 2011

Everyone’s a Little Bi-curious

You don’t have to be a resident of Houston, Los Angeles or Miami to realize most everyone you encounter is bilingual.  Last week I took the leap, broke through my fear and claimed the courage to start learning Spanish.  I found free beginner classes at a local library.  That day I was one of two newcomers to the class of just nine students, most of whom are retirees who work part-time and refuse to stop learning.  I was off to a slow start since my classmates have been students of Miss Nellie for a year, and others for just two weeks.  After the one-hour class some students approached me to offer encouragement to return since I seemed to struggle.  Then we sat and talked for an hour about our housing horror stories, discovered similar interests and planned to meet for cocktails.

So what’s holding you back from at least learning the basics of a language that  has popped up all around you or interests you or would give you an advantage socially or professionally?  Demographic statistics from a 2008 report reveal 34% of the population in America speaks Spanish.  In most demographic reports tracking ethnic cultures, Spanish influence has been on a steady upswing.  But French and Italian can also be fun and useful in your daily routine.  It’s often easier to read about getting started on a new project than actually launching through the start gate.  So for an added nudge here are some tips to help you take the next step to being less bi-curious and actually bilingual:

> Get a friend to enroll with you and be your practice sounding board, and vice versa.  If your friends are reluctant, rest assured you will make new friends in the class who will be eager to be practice pals.

> Set realistic goals like learning the most common greetings, statements and questions asked in public settings.  And don’t rush the process, keep it fun.  Learn at your pace.

>  Ask the librarian at a nearby branch to search their computer database for free community classes.  Also inquire at local community centers.  You may be required to make a copy of a page or two for your use in each session.  The best part is there are no tests to take!

Did you or someone you know just start a language class,  how is it going?  Is this something you have been putting off, why?

Frugal is the New Fierce!

One of the benefits of living in a big metropolis is that there is often a good deal, a better bargain or fab freebie waiting for you to snap it up.  Living with limited income has a host of realities that may take some time to master.  Jean, a new retiree, spends hours scouring the Sunday paper for coupons, that’s fine, but also visit your neighborhood hair salon, bakery, parlor, laundry or diner for dollar-stretching deals.  If the small business that you regularly support does not offer occasional savings for seniors, step up and suggest they start to as a way to appreciate customer loyalty.  Sometimes just one or two voices can trigger change.

Be aware, or just avoid, group deals designed for seniors that require membership dues or cash upfront to earn points in a discount program.  It’s usually a scam.  Some frugal consumers we know sent us their tested and perfected pointers for bargain hunting for those necessities, take a read and feel free to add your own tips:

>  Be mindful, a “SALE” sign doesn’t always mean real savings.  Allison keeps a list of the prices of product(s) and service(s) she uses frequently so when a sale shows up she can judge whether it’s a great deal.  Businesses know that four-letter word attracts eyeballs even if the markdown is only a penny.

>  Craig and his partner Carlos cut their weekly dining expense and save by dining at a restaurant that regularly offers two-for-one Sunday brunch.

>  Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program provides coupons for fresh produce to low-income seniors.  Local area agencies on aging, local chefs, farmers or farmers’ markets associations, and various non-profit groups provide nutrition education to SFMNP recipients to encourage recipients to improve and expand their diet by adding fresh fruits and vegetables bought with SFMNP coupons.  Learn more, click here: eat fresh foods  SFMNP New York Coordinator: Jonathan Thomson via phone: 518-457-7076, email:

>  Roger calls on dental schools at Columbia or NYU that offer specialty and general dentistry services performed by students or dental residents and supervised by licensed faculty.  Medicaid is accepted and financial assistance is available to cover the reasonable fee.  Schools for chiropractors and podiatrists also offer general services.  Learn more, click here: Columbia Dental School 

Please post your ideas for stretching dollars and where you found super deals and bargains for seniors on services and necessities.

GRIOT at Brooklyn Pride Reception