Technically this time of year is called fall, but here in Eagle County, it's better described as "cold one day then warm the next until we all wait for the mountain to open." Those of us on the seasonal job schedule are either grateful for the time off or digging through the couch cushions looking for lost pennies in an attempt to pay rent. Those of us who have made it through more than one off-season with style and grace know that there are fun ways to spend that free time without spending too much, if you do it wisely. Here are five tips and tricks to make the most out of your money this fall:Eat for cheap Even during lean times, everyone has to eat. Although some restaurants are closed for autumn, most of the ones that stay open offer deals and discounts. We asked a small sample of local residents what their favorite off-season specials are. Here are some of their picks:• If you're a fish fan, Sushi Oka will give you 40 percent off your entire bill.• For fine dining, La Tour now offers 50 percent off all entrees.• If you like a lot of options, Dish! offers a five-course tasting menu for only $25 and happy hour drinks for $3. • If you're looking to make the most of your night out, the Date Night Special can't be beat: $55 will get you dinner for two at The Dusty Boot plus two tickets to the Underground Sound concert at the Vilar Performing Arts Center (every Sunday until Nov. 4th).Nolvia Griffith is one local resident who tries to take advantage of fall's restaurant discounts. "(The specials) are a great deal for all of us locals," Griffith said. "My husband and I wait anxiously for the slow season so we can try new places and go to places that we love more."Griffith's picks for off-season specials are Billy's Island Grill in Vail, Juniper in Edwards and Nozawa Sushi & Teppanyaki, with locations in Vail and Avon, all of which are offering 50 percent off entrees right now. Griffith said she always checks for the daily deals when deciding where to go."Price is very important to me, but I (also) look for what they're serving as the special," Griffith said. "For me, what it comes down to is getting a great meal at half the price."• Bonus Tip: If you're looking to get lunch, inquire about a locals discount. There are a plethora of places that will give you 10 to 20 percent off with a local ID, but it's often not advertised, so it's best to ask.Save on a local stay-cationIf an exotic vacation isn't in your budget this fall, there are still ways to unwind and relax locally. Many local spas offer discounts during the off-season. Here are some of the highlights:• The Vitality Center (Vail) is offering 35 percent off all spa services. • Aria Spa & Club (Vail) is offering 30 percent off massages, facials and body treatments.• Spa Anjali (Avon) and Allegria Spa (Beaver Creek) are both offering 25 percent off spa services, as is the Sonnenalp Spa (Vail) from Monday through Friday.• If you book your appointment before 2 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch Spa, you'll get $30 off signature massages and facials. • Bonus Tip: If you do plan on going out of town for a short trip, check for deals online before you go. Groupon.com is focused on daily deals, so if you're going to Denver or another big city, log on a day or two before your trip to get restaurant meals and spa services at half-price. Groupon also has deals for activities such as horseback riding and rock climbing. Deals can also be found at livingsocial.com.Shop without droppinga lot (of dough) When your bank account shrinks during the off-season, shopping for warm winter clothes can sometimes feel more like a want than a need. If you've never considered checking out a consignment store, now is a good time to change your mind about the concept."When the economy went bad, (consignment) became really hip and the thing to do, even for wealthier people," said Heather Schultz, co-owner of Holy Toledo in Minturn. "It used to have a stigma attached to it, like smelling like mothballs and used clothes, but everything we take we filter for people so they're not looking through junk."Schultz said one can get one-of-a-kind items at a consignment store they won't find at your typical mall. If you're looking to sell your own clothes, Holy Toledo is now taking clean fall or winter clothing from the past two seasons, including jeans (which are their best seller) and ski and snowboard wear. Those who consign receive 45 percent of the final selling price. Schultz said most people drop off clothes on Monday, so Tuesday is the best day to find those new items on the floor.• Bonus tip: If you're looking for a great gift for yourself or someone else, Karats in Vail is now selling handmade vintage bronze belt buckles for $17 to $30, the same price jeweler Dan Telleen sold them for in the late 1970s when he made them.With 350 different varieties, "it would be hard to find one that you don't like," Telleen said. Spruce up your snow equipment for a steal New winter gear is always fun, but not everyone can afford to upgrade every year. But that doesn't mean there aren't ways to ramp up what you have for the upcoming season. Chuck Craft, co-owner of Transition Sports in Avon, said buying used gear gives you a chance to try a new winter sport without investing all your savings."There's so many activities in the valley, and we want to do everything," Craft said. "But sometimes you have to pick your battles. (Buying used) will give you a chance to try a new sport before dropping $1,000."Craft said the best way to save throughout the season is to learn how to tune your own gear. Most ski shops sell inexpensive tuning kits that include wax and edging tools. If you're new to tuning, Craft said there are a variety of videos on YouTube that will guide you step-by-step.• Bonus tip: When it comes to new gear, typically the only thing that changes from year to year is the graphic, so if you buy last year's model, "you're still on the same snowboard or ski," Craft said.Finesse your ﬁnances Sometimes the Catch-22 of life is that when you have money, you don't have the time, but when you have the time, you don't have the money. But here's another catch: The time you have during off-season can give you a chance to deal with your finances and cut back on your bills.Kevin Brubeck is a financial adviser at Edward Jones in Eagle. Brubeck said one of the biggest problems people have when it comes to dealing with money is not preparing for financial changes in the future."(We) don't prepare for down cycles in the economy," Brubeck said. "When we're having good times, we think that they're going to continue at an exponential rate and we don't stop spending."Here are Brubeck's tips for getting more with the money you currently have:• Look at your car and home insurance to make sure that you're getting a good deal and not paying for things you don't need. Brubeck suggests calling your current insurance provider first, and then calling other insurance providers to compare prices and services.• When it comes to your cable and cell phone plans, if you see a price advertised to new clients that doesn't apply to current subscribers, call and complain."What annoys me is when I see there's a better deal offered to new clients than existing clients," Brubeck said. "I ask to talk to the manager, and that's when we get a chance to negotiate."• There are ways to lower the interest rate on your credit cards, but you have to take the initiative. "(Credit card companies) are waiting for you to contact them," Brubeck said. "They're not going to lower your rate out of the kindness of their own hearts. I usually find that persistence pays. If you don't get the answer you want, call back and try again."• Bonus tip: If you can, forego the phone calls altogether and go directly to the local office of your cable company, mortgage lender, etc."I like the personal contact and the ability to create a relationship," Brubeck said. "They're going to take better care of you if they know you."
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