Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Caviar Living on Fish Stick Money" by Marilyn Whelan

Caviar Living on Fish Stick Money
by Marilyn Whelan

Caviar Living on Fish Stick Money is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a guest post by the author. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

"Life must be a mixture of frugality and luxury." - Marilyn Whelan
Caviar Living is a hand guide of home-spun lessons from a life well lived. Marilyn Whelan shares her wisdom from how to connect with your community to how to play your mortgage like a game.
With short snappy chapters Whelan gives us tips and tidbits on:
·       Fun ways to teach your kids and grandkids about money
·       How to keep a clutter-free house – and why!
·       Creative ways to get a tax break
·       How to stretch a dollar on everything from real estate to creative vacations
Part budget guide, part spiritual manual, and a whole lotta charm, Caviar Living is a lifetime of lessons wrapped up in this 98-pages of fun.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” - Saint Augustine
Travel is and always will be my passion. My vacations are planned around volunteering, family, adventure, learning and fun. As long as I can be warm, I am willing to go anywhere at any time. I have had the good luck to experience many different types of getaways.
Volunteer Travel
Because my husband was retired military, this allowed us to travel on military cargo planes. We often would sign up for five destinations and take the first one offered. Our main objective was to cross the ocean. We traveled often to Spain, Italy, Germany and England and branched out from there.
We served a tour of duty in the United States Peace Corps. We served in the Philippines, and I still keep up with good friends we made there. Many people do not realize Peace Corps volunteers are drawn mostly from two groups: people fresh out of college and retirees.
There are many wonderful opportunities for volunteer-oriented vacations. Perhaps you’d like to try an archeological dig, or pulling weeds on a mountain trail, or counting turtles on a distant island.
One of my favorite adventures was a month I spent volunteering for the National Park Service at Andersonville, GA. Andersonville was the site of the largest prisoner of war camp in the South for Union soldiers during the Civil War. It is now a national park that includes a museum devoted to POWs from all of America’s wars. I was a greeter in the museum, helping visitors look up their ancestors, and I sometimes helped in the gift shop. My two days off per week were spent touring the area. While I was there, I stayed in a small cottage in the cemetery. I was the only one on the grounds at night. It gave me lots of time to reflect, and I took several projects with me to work on. There was no television reception in the area, nor did I have Internet access.
My second-favorite volunteer location was with Pueblo Ingles. This is a for-profit agency that helps Spanish executives perfect their English.
For the Spaniards, it is a very expensive program paid for by their employers. The program does not accept participants who speak only Spanish, because the goal is for them to totally immerse themselves in English. Once you are accepted into the program as a volunteer, you work with program personnel to select a date. If you’re coming with friends, they work with you to offer a week to your party as a group.
We paid only for airfare. We were met in Madrid the evening before departure for the resort and taken to a banquet and flamenco show with our fellow Anglos. Anglos come from all English-speaking countries, such as the U.S., England, Ireland, Wales and South Africa.
The next day we were taken by bus about 2 1/2 hours from Madrid into the mountains near the Portugal border. The resort was beautiful.
Each of us was assigned with a Spaniard to a casita with a bedroom and bath for the Spaniard upstairs and a bedroom and bath downstairs for the volunteer. We shared a small living room and kitchen area. A chef prepared three  meals a day, with wine accompanying lunch and dinner. It truly was an unforgettable week for a lifetime of memories. You can learn about this program at
Vacations are for fun, excitement and trying something new. Consider participating on a cattle drive. Dryhead Ranch in Montana is a working cattle and guest ranch. One of the most popular activities there is driving the cattle 50 miles on Bad Pass Trail. This is a three-hour drive that gives you to chance to get acquainted with the beautiful Montana country. For more information, go to
Getting a trip off to a great start can be as simple as packing correctly. A list is essential.
It helps to have a master list to start from. On this list are the items you are most likely to need wherever you go, such as an alarm clock, camera, cell phone charger, medication, small flashlight or night light. Give thought to what your days and nights will entail. Think of the things that will bring you comfort and ease.
When planning clothes, select only three colors that will go with each other. Make sure you have both solid and patterned bottoms and tops. Choose items that go with more than one other item. My rule is that each top must go with three things. Roll your clothes. They will take less room and are less likely to wrinkle.
Consider the mood of the vacation when you pack. Will it be an exciting adventure, casual own time, family event? Choose your clothes accordingly. Have a plan. Your trip plan doesn’t have to be written in stone; it can be changed along the way. But have a plan for the things you think you want to do or see. That said, be open to changes in the plan. Be flexible.
When shopping for souvenirs, consider adding a special piece to your wardrobe or buy something for your home you can incorporate into your decorating scheme. Make it authentic – something a craftsman made or a work of art. Let it remind you of the wonderful trip you took. You want to look at it for years and smile. I often carry my purchases on the plane with me.
I feel like I can replace my clothes if lost, but not my special remembrances.
Travel Deals
Vacations do not have to be costly. Thanks to technology, you have more tools than ever to nab the best price for a great getaway. These tips will help you save time and money, both when searching for deals and while you’re actually traveling:
• When purchasing airfare, try to be flexible about your travel days for a lower fare.
• Consider buying early. If you must travel during peak travel times, such as when school is out or over Christmas or Easter vacation, buy as early as possible. Airline ticket prices typically go up in the last two weeks before flying.
• Consider buying late. This is major risk, but sometimes airlines have open seats at the last minute and offer them in newsletters to their loyal flyers. A simple online search will help you find the cheapest days to fly.
• Shop around. Always, always check as many prices as time permits. Never book the first price you see. A small sampling of sites to check includes,,, flights,, and These sites will help you figure out which airlines fly to your destination. Next, you can go to the website of the airline with the lowest fare and check it directly. Maybe that airline will offer a special sale or promotion, or maybe you can just hit the site at the right time.
• Be flexible. If you live near more than one airport, check out fares from all the airports near you. Many online faresearching engines will ask you if you are willing to depart from or arrive in alternative cities.
• You’ll usually find the lowest fares for travel if you look on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Also try to fly midweek, which is less costly. Prices on the Internet are lower for car rentals, hotels and flights. You can compare prices among Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz.
• Peak seasons are tricky. Often flying the week before or the week after a peak season can make a huge difference. I remember once taking a cruise to Alaska the last week of the peak season. It turned out to be the warmest week of that season.
• When renting a car, can tell you when a good deal comes along. Check for coupons and specials. This site will track your reservation and alert you when a special deal is offered.
• When buying travel insurance, try a multi-insurance site such as Don’t buy insurance from a tour operator, travel agency or cruise line. They work with only one agency and may use the one that offers them the highest commission rather than the one that best meets your needs.
• For booking a hotel room last-minute, download an app called Hotel Tonight. It not only gives you up to 70 percent off, but you can check availability a week in advance.
• Have an RV? For a $35 annual fee, you can park free overnight at one of 351 farms or wineries. Find out more at For free or nearly free RV campgrounds, try
• Satisfied with only a place to lay your head? Consider a Pod Hotel. Arabella Bowen, executive director for Fodor’s travel likens the pods to cruise cabins. After all, most travelers do not spend a lot of time in their rooms, but consider the hotel a place to be comfortable at night. Pod Hotels can be found in many foreign countries and also airports such as Atlanta and Heathrow. One example is Tubo Hotel in Tepoztlan, Mexico, where you sleep in a recycled drainage pipe. All rooms have a queen-size bed, light, fan and Wi-Fi. There is a swimming pool on the grounds. A package plan is offered for cooking lessons with fabulous celebrity chef, Ana Garcia, the Mexican Rachel Ray. Check it out at
• Italy’s newest high-speed trains, Italo, advertise larger windows, wider seats, more elbow room, smoke-free and air conditioned cars, and Wi-Fi. Find out more at
• When planning a trip, check online for free activities. Many regions and cities offer free concerts in the park, lectures in the library and ranger-led walks, just to name a few. While online, check for discounted tickets and special deals. Look on for discounts on meals.
• Military families, both active duty and retired, can fly “space available” to foreign countries. They can stay on bases in short-term housing in the U.S. and abroad. Most bases have a ticket and tour office where discounted tickets are available. I recently went with several friends to the Naval Base in Key West where we had a reservation for a three-bedroom house for four days. It was wonderful, complete with a fully equipped kitchen and all linens.
Tax Advantages
While my goal is not to give tax advice, you can often take advantage of having Uncle Sam pay for part of your trip. Suppose you want to buy a boat and “sail the ocean blue.” In addition to your home mortgage taxes and interest, you may be able to deduct a second home mortgage taxes and interest. If the boat of your dreams has sleeping and cooking quarters and a bathroom, it could qualify as a second home. This also holds true for a travel trailer or motor home.
If you are traveling to an exotic location for a volunteer experience with an accredited organization, you may be able to deduct the cost of your travel expenses, as long as the volunteer work is the primary reason for your expense.
One such trip I found recently is offered by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. It could be considered both a service and a learning vacation. The committee is partnering with BorderLinks. BorderLinks is a binational, nonprofit educational organization at the U.S.-Mexico border. The organization focuses on cross-border relationship-building opportunities, immigration issues, community formation and development, and social justice in the borderlands between Mexico, the United States, and beyond.
BorderLinks has extensive experience designing programs, and nearly 1,000 individuals participate annually in BorderLinks learning opportunities. Volunteers have the opportunity to meet with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, go on a desert walk, and participate in a discussion with a public defender.
Other ideas are provided below. Many of these organizations charge a fee, but others are free:
• Want to learn to speak a foreign language? Your course may be offset by the lifetime learning tax credit worth up to $2,000.
• One-day cooking classes in Europe can be found at
• Many foreign countries have English speaking volunteer greeters who belong to the Global Greeter Network. Find it at The greeters are not trained guides, but will spend a few hours with you introducing you to native haunts.
• Dublin is known as the City of a Thousand Welcomes. It matches first-time visitors with volunteers for a cup of tea or a pint. Find information at
• The folks at organize dinners in private homes in Paris.
• Find which takes you to a facebook application whereby you can join and stay with locals instead of at hotels.
Flexibility and Resourcefulness
You don’t always get everything you desire in accommodations. When I scheduled three weeks in the Berkshires with a friend, we had a great timeshare with two bedrooms and two baths. The operators obviously did not want visitors to do a lot of cooking, because the kitchen had only a small refrigerator, a very small microwave and a sink. It was a bit of a shock, since we had not counted on eating three meals a day in restaurants for three weeks. We went to a local Kmart and purchased an electric hot plate and a set of three pans. We shopped local farmers’ markets for produce. By being flexible and resourceful, we ended up preparing meals that were gourmet quality.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” - Mark Twain

Praise for the Book
"This book was very well written. After reading it I was very inspired. I felt like I could accomplish anything." ~ Ivy Dahl
"Want to make dreams come true? The advice here will help you achieve those dreams." ~ Madelaine L.
"Quick easy read, with lots of great ideas to help you stretch your money & enjoy life to the fullest." ~ Amazon Customer

Guest Post by the Author
Ten Things You Didn't Know About Marilyn Whelan
1)  I understand how The Law of Attraction works and use the law on a daily basis to enrich my life style. I believe it is easy to put into effect and available to all.
2) I have a knack for finding unique, amazing deals. Some say I can make one dollar do the work of ten. Some examples are:
     I visited Costa Rica and Tica Airlines actually provided a small plane to transport me and four of my friends cross country for the same price as a ticket on the large jet.  
     I purchased a Time Share condo for $200 which I have used as a basis for more than 20 vacations in different locations.
     I spent a week in a beautiful Spanish Resort all meals and entertainment included for the cost of airfare alone.
3) I started a Mystery Shopping Company in my sunroom which is now the largest on the east coast.
4) My book Caviar Living on Fish Stick Money was my very first book.  The thrill of seeing it in print will never go away.
5) Although I know absolutely nothing about boating, I captained a canal book through the canals of England with two friends.  It was a true miracle that we and the boat made it without major mishap.
6) I always say I want to die with something on my bucket list not yet accomplished. That is because when something is crossed off, I immediately establish a new goal.
7) I made a spur of the moment decision to sell my home and move to Clearwater, Florida. My home sold in six days and I moved in 30 days. I love my home and my community. I live On Top Of The World and no kidding that is the name of the community.
8) My passion is travel. I am Vice president of my community travel club and head the trip team. We are responsible for planning many of our community trips.  Our trip last week was to Plains, GA. where we attended a Sunday School Class taught by President Carter. We had our photo taken with President and Mrs. Carter and were hosted Ms. Jan Williams who was Amy Carter's teacher.
9) Among my top five blessings, I count my friendships.  Old friends are gold and new ones silver. I have friends of all ages and every one of them enrich my life to the extreme. It is wonderful to share the good and the bad with those you love. Each brings something different to the table as they say.
10) I am mother to three, grandmother to seven and great grandmother to three.

About the Author
Marilyn Whelan has worked as a reporter, a district supervisor in a first time youthful offenders program, and President of Shoppers Critique International. Her want is to die with something remaining on her bucket list, because when something is crossed off, something else is added.
Marilyn currently lives in Clearwater, Florida, where she is Granny to seven, and Great Granny to three. She loves to travel and plays Mah Jongg twice a week.