The Fiscal Cliff Explained

The term “fiscal cliff” has certainly been kicked around in the news enough for the last year or so. For most, the term implies a financial doomsday, but there’s a pretty fair amount of misinformation and confusion about what it actually means.

The “fiscal cliff” refers to a series of tax increases and mandatory spending cuts that kicked in on January 1, 2013, when some 90% of Americans saw their taxes go up. At the same time, spending cuts that would affect defense, Social Security, Medicare and many other government benefits were proposed. The term “fiscal cliff” is shorthand for the shock waves that were expected to ripple through the U.S. economy.

To understand how we got to this juncture, in August 2011, Congress raised the country’s debt limit by $2.1 trillion. As part and parcel of that 2011 deal, Congress was to find a more long-term plan; if they failed, the tax increases and spending cuts would automatically start in January of 2013. This harsh medicine was designed to force the government’s hand into more responsible spending and revenue policy. While the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is still lower than most European countries, a more indebted country is still at a disadvantage when it comes to borrowing and responding to the unexpected. In addition, excessive debt can spook investors, giving rise to another financial crisis.

A spike in unemployment is still expected, as well as a drop in the deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio. In addition, the expiration of the current tax cuts may stifle investment and rattle small businesses, contributing to more unemployment and a collapse in consumer confidence.

The only remedy to this situation, according to many experts, is a program of cuts in entitlement and defense spending along with a spike in tax rates. Health care and social security could be hard-hit, with a likely increase in retirement and eligibility age for both programs. The meat of this problem is what bedevils Washington, as there’s little political will to make these tough calls. The members of Congress want to get re-elected; to do that, they need to stay loyal to their contributors (many of whom are defense contractors) and constituents…and therein lies the problem. That’s why many Americans spent New Years’ Even wondering whether or not Republicans and Democrats would lock arms to avoid marching off the fiscal cliff, or if they would fight with each other the entire way, taking the rest of the country with them.


FAQ with Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT: EMDR Therapy

Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT

Thaddeus Heffner is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the greater Nashville, Tennessee area. We recently sat down with Thaddeus Heffner to answer some questions regarding the use of EMDR in dealing with trauma.

A Gathering of Experts: Welcome, Thaddeus Heffner and thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. We have been hearing about a new type of therapy called EMDR. Can you explain exactly what EMDR is?

Thaddeus Heffner: Of course. EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.  It is a quite a mouthful, but put simply it is the utilization of bilateral stimulation to desensitize trauma in a person.

A Gathering of Experts: What do you mean by bilateral stimulation?

Thaddeus Heffner: Bilateral stimulation simply means we get the left hemisphere of the brain to talk to the right hemisphere of the brain by using a basic means of stimulation such as a client following my fingers with his eyes as I move them back and forth horizontally, or by having them hold their hands palm up and then tapping their hands one at a time, left – right – left – right, etc.

A Gathering of Experts: How does bilateral stimulation fit in with helping desensitize trauma in a client?

Thaddeus Heffner: Let me back up a step.  Our senses take in data and that data comes first through the left hemisphere of the brain and then processes over to the right hemisphere of the brain.  This is how the brain talks.  When something traumatic happens, be it simple or complex trauma, the traumatic data comes into the left hemisphere of the brain but then gets stuck in the nervous system.  It never processes over to the right hemisphere.  Later on, when something triggers the trauma, the client can feel as though they are reliving the trauma all over again.

A Gathering of Experts: It sounds as though the person is stuck in a trauma loop?  They continue to repeat the old traumatic story over and over again.  So how does EMDR help desensitize the trauma?

Thaddeus Heffner: In short, after the client recalls a traumatic memory in which even physiological sensations may arise, the therapist would then implement bilateral stimulation.  This helps stimulate the left and right hemispheres of the brain to begin talking. Think of it like priming a pump before starting an engine.  In doing this, trauma becomes “unstuck” from the nervous system and begins to finish processing over to the right hemisphere of the brain.  The intense emotions of fear, anxiety, sadness, etc are finally felt and begin to diminish.  When the disturbance level of the trauma is diminished then we would turn to helping the client increase a positive belief about themselves that would be the antithesis of the original trauma.

A Gathering of Experts: Could you give us an example?

Thaddeus Heffner: Certainly. An example might be that a client who was mugged ten years ago still feels “unsafe.” Once the trauma around feeling unsafe is desensitized we would then work at increasing a positive belief such as, “I am safe” or “I am safe now.”

A Gathering of Experts: Do you utilize EMDR often in your own practice?

Thaddeus Heffner: I do. I find that it is very helpful for many different presenting issues that clients bring to therapy.  Depending on the trauma a person is presenting with, EMDR has shown to have up to an 80 – 90% success rate.

Thaddeus Heffner is a Brentwood, Tennessee-based counselor who owns his own practice. A graduate of Trevecca University in Nashville, Thaddeus Heffner is a member in good standing of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT). For more information about Thaddeus Heffner therapist, visit



Marketing Associates Reveals the Truth about Telecommuting

The people at Marketing Associates are no strangers to telecommuting. We’ve been curious about how working from home works for modern businesses and if any of the myths are true, so we took time to ask Marketing Associates a few questions about this often misunderstood trend. Check out what Marketing Associates had to say.

Q: First, what does Marketing Associates specialize in?

Marketing Associates – We offer marketing services and business plans for small business and startups that are just getting on their feet, to larger businesses that need help reorganizing their structure.

Q: What do you think about employees working from home?

Marketing Associates – At Marketing Associates, we think telecommuting is an amazing innovation that cuts down on expenses for both the employee and the employer. Unfortunately, many people are quick to dismiss it because of their preconceptions.

Q: Do telecommuters work fewer hours than other employees?

Marketing Associates – We have actually found the exact opposite to be true. In our own experience at Marketing Associates, as well as several studies, we’ve found that telecommuters tend to work an extra six or more hours per week.

Q: Why do you think this is?

Marketing Associates – At Marketing Associates, we’ve found that when people work from home, their employers and colleagues may expect them to be reachable at all hours of the day—which means more time answering emails and other work tasks. When an office worker’s day ends at 6 p.m., his or her work is over, but telecommuting employees may continue to receive tasks well into the night—especially if their coworkers are still working.

Q: How does that impact the telecommuters?

Marketing Associates – From our experience at Marketing Associates, telecommuting can make it difficult to draw a distinction between home life and work life, and in many cases, the two blur completely.

Q: Are telecommuters lazier than office workers?

Marketing Associates – Absolutely not. In fact, telecommuters must be extremely disciplined, as they don’t get credit for just showing up. Instead, their work is often scrutinized more heavily than the work of other employees. Plus, telecommuters must work without reinforcement, whether positive or negative, which can sometimes be demoralizing over a long period of time.

Q: How does telecommuting affect office camaraderie?

Marketing Associates – Telecommuting can have an isolating effect on people, so when an entire team telecommutes, individuals may lose a sense of unity and feeling of connection with their colleagues. That’s why we at Marketing Associates think it’s so important for managers and team leaders to schedule conference calls or face to face meetings with their telecommuting employees to strengthen and reinforce team bonds.

Q: What are some unexpected benefits of telecommuting for Marketing Associates?

Marketing Associates – One major benefit is the amount of money that can be saved. Employees no longer have to spend money fueling up their cars for the daily drive to and from work, or buying expensive lunches every day, or spending money in vending machines. Instead, we at Marketing Associates have found that employees can prepare cheap lunches at home, and they may even be able forgo hiring a nanny or childcare service as well—provided they don’t create too many distractions for the telecommuting employee!


Tiffani Von Alvensleben on Staging Properties

Tiffani Von Alvensleben

Tiffani Von Alvensleben

With over 20 years in the real estate business, Tiffani Von Alvensleben knows there’s much more to selling a house than ‘curb appeal.’ Here, Tiffani Von Alvensleben leverages her know-how in interior design and answers a few questions about staging a home for market:

Q: How would you define staging?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Staging a property is the final step in making it more appealing for potential buyers, similar to a model home in a new subdivision.

Q: You have a lot of experience with staging in your real estate investment business?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Yes, after the remodeling crew and cleanup are done.

Q: So Von Vesting focuses on reselling houses, then?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Correct. We buy foreclosed and distressed properties, remodel them and sell them.

Q: Let’s pretend you’re a consultant for staging homes.

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Okay!

Q: Where would you tell a client to put the emphasis?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: The whole house is important, but bathrooms and kitchens are a special focus for potential buyers.

Q: Where would you say is a good starting point for staging?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Get rid of the clutter. I realize that it’s all “your stuff,” but you want the house to no longer be “your house.” Clutter shrinks a room, so de-clutter.

Q: What about living rooms?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Don’t just shove furniture against the walls to try to maximize space. Regroup furniture into conversation-oriented arrangements. Make it cozy.

Q: What about colors?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Dark colors always shrink a room. Go with warm, neutral colors on the walls, and by neutral I don’t necessarily mean white.

Q: What about little-used rooms?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Try making that formerly spare room into a cozy office or study. Put a little bit of furniture, some décor and some books or records in it to make it more inviting.

Q: Do you have any tips on lighting?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Yes, the rule is 100 watts of lighting for every 50 square feet in a room. Also, remember accent lighting and task lights can make a room seem warmer.

Q: Is staging something that can be done on a budget?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Absolutely. It’s really just cosmetics, and things like fresh paint can help present a house much more positively.

Q: What are some other key elements for staging a home?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: Things like curtains, fabrics, textures, and above all, a clean house.

Q: What would be your advice for a home seller?

Tiffani Von Alvensleben: When you’re to this point of the selling process, staging your home, you need to let go of your emotional connection. Think of it as not even being your house anymore; it’s a home that’s soon going to be someone else’s.

Tiffani Von Alvensleben has a background of over 20 years in the real estate field. Over the years, Tiffani Von Alvensleben’s resumé has included direct sales, property management, real estate investment, marketing and more. Tiffani Von Alvensleben is a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman in the greater Sacramento, California area.

Understanding Pet Insurance with Veterinarian Charles L. Starr III

Charles L. Starr III

Charles L. Starr III

Should I get pet insurance? That’s a question veterinarian Charles L. Starr III is asked weekly. Health care for humans is quite the topic of conversation these days. But according to Charles L. Starr III, when it comes to pets we tend to look the other way. Many times a client tells me, “Our pets are our kids!” shares Charles L. Starr III.  If we truly feel that way, shouldn’t we rethink their coverage?

Health changes over time. Accidents happen. Charles L. Starr III acknowledges when exorbitant bills hit unexpectedly, we’re in shock. Pets can also live a very long time. It’s not uncommon to see pets in the 13 -18 year range, states Charles L. Starr III. One of his patients recently had lost the use of its back legs, and Charles L. Starr III says that x-rays could not locate the problem. It was the CAT scan that discovered a moth-eaten looking tumor on the spine. That procedure allowed the patient the knowledge and confirmation needed to make final decision, explains Charles L. Starr III. While the cost of the treatment was high, their tax refund was used to cover their bill.

Although pet insurance may not be for everyone, Charles L. Starr III offers some basic considerations. First, insurance providers should provide details about limitations and exclusions of routine coverage, wellness, emergency treatments and conditions that require extensive care. Charles L. Starr III encourages asking if premiums will increase as your pet ages or if you place claims. Charles L. Starr III advises to also check for add-on options such as travel insurance or dental care.

In addition, says Charles L. Starr III, ask about pre-existing diseases or conditions. Some providers do not accept specific pets or breeds while others limit the number of insured pets. Inquire about multiple pet discounts, offers Charles L. Starr III. Be sure you fully understand the policy and any limitations. Is it a reimbursement plan? Are you allowed to select the veterinarian? Charles L. Starr III suggests asking about co-pays, deductibles, add-on charges and other fees. Most veterinarians offer payment options, reminds Charles L. Starr III, so ask about these ahead of time in order to prevent last minute stress.

A Minute with Pete Spittler on the Flats East Bank Project

Pete Spittler

Pete Spittler

Pete Spittler and the team at his design firms, GSI Architect, Forum Architects and Forum Architectural Services created Flats East Bank Project, a mixed-use community in downtown Cleveland. We sat down to ask Pete Spittler what makes this community unique and where its design influences came from.

Gathering of Experts: How did you get chosen to help design the Flats East Bank Project?

Pete Spittler:GSI Architects, Inc., was actually chosen through a design competition. We presented a total of five mockups that met the established goals for the neighborhood.

Gathering of Experts: How did those mockups turn into the finalized plan for the buildings?

Pete Spittler:We merged strongest elements from several design solutions to create the final product.

Gathering of Experts: What principles were those mockups based on?

Pete Spittler:The elements we wanted to work with included a strong urban design, a proven commercial design, a varied architectural flair, and a developer’s intuition for how the project can come to fruition.

Gathering of Experts:Does combining all of those elements help the process?

Pete Spittler:It does. When you bring in multiple elements into the design process, you’re forced to make tough decisions that ultimately make a positive impact.

Gathering of Experts: How does it feel to create a new community from the ground up?

Pete Spittler:It’s a rare experience that architects like me cherish, because you really get to leave your mark on the city. Building a community like this is like putting your signature on an entire city.

Gathering of Experts: How does this project differ from other community planning projects?

Pete Spittler:Many mixed-use communities are built in preexisting areas, whereas Flats East Bank became a clean slate as a result of it being a brownfield remediation site.

Gathering of Experts: What was your inspiration for the visual design of the buildings?

Pete Spittler:We really wanted to incorporate the visual style of the nearby Warehouse District. We wanted the buildings to look iconic and historic, but also visually striking and modern.

Gathering of Experts: How was the overall community aspect taken into account of the design?

Pete Spittler:We created a system of streets, alleys, and passageways to promote foot traffic and pedestrian scaled blocks that encourage a sense of community and a tight-knit feel for the residents.

Gathering of Experts: Did you sample any local neighborhoods for design inspiration?

Pete Spittler:We did! We took a look at some of Cleveland’s iconic neighborhoods, including Little Italy, Shaker Square, and Coventry.

Gathering of Experts: How many residential units are available?

Pete Spittler:There are 245 residential units for rent, and there will be luxury condos that range in size from 1,500 to 2,800 square feet.

Gathering of Experts: What is the ultimate goal of this project?

Pete Spittler: We want to promote it as a destination for young professionals to live, work, eat, and play. We also want it to open up the waterfront area and serve as a gateway to the city.


Pete Spittler is a graduate of the architecture program at Kent State University. He has had a varied professional career, and much of his life has been spent in the fields of real estate, architecture, and urban development. Pete Spittler is the president and founder of GSI Architects, Inc.

Delectable Dangers for Dogs and How to Keep Them Safe

Even the most ardent dog lover has to admit that when it comes to our beloved canine companions, they think more with their stomachs than their heads. So if you have guests coming over who don’t know your dog’s routine, it’s vitally important to keep an eye on pups of all ages.

During special dinners, people tend to serve richer foods, and that food may tempt a pet to the point of obsession. It wants to eat that entire ham, turkey or chicken. So, keep main dishes up high where dogs can’t get a hold of them. And inform guests that feeding dogs under the table isn’t a great idea, too. If a dog eats too much fatty food it can get ill. Signs of pancreatitis are vomiting, diarrhea along with abdominal pain.

Also, don’t let anyone give a dog a leftover bone. Bones can splinter and puncture the stomach or intestine because they become brittle when they cook. They also pose a chocking hazard for dogs. The only bones that dogs should be offered as treats are the big and meaty bones from a butcher – not something from the dining room table.

Chocolate also poses a potential health threat for pups. Chocolate toxicity can occur within a day, and it can be very serious. The darker the chocolate, the more danger, especially in relation to the dog’s weight. So, make sure the kids (and adults) consume chocolate away from dogs. It’s not a bad idea to place the leftover wrapper as far down in the trash as possible to keep dogs from smelling the chocolate. Also many chocolates come wrapped in foil, which cannot only be a potential choking hazard – it can also get stuck in a dog’s intestines.

Another thing to watch out for is bread dough. Dough will expand in a dog’s stomach and can make it very ill. Also, the gas that it will produce in the digestive system could even potentially rupture a dog’s stomach or intestines. So when baking, it’s important to keep dough far out of a dog’s reach. Instead of letting it rise on a cutting board, it may not be a bad idea to put it on top of a shelf. (Bonus: it will probably be warmer the higher it is in the kitchen, which will make it rise faster!)

Hosting guests can be a happy and hectic time. But it’s important to keep an eye out for the furry members of the household, so that they stay safe, too.

Carmack Moving and Storage | Properly Planned Moves

Carmack Moving and Storage

Carmack Moving and Storage

Planning – it’s the most time consuming part of a move, says Carmack Moving and Storage.  Whether you are moving a home, apartment, or entire office building, Carmack Moving and Storage explain that a properly planned move will make the entire process easier.

Local Moves

While many people think that moving down the street doesn’t require a great deal of foresight, the team at Carmack Moving and Storage knows otherwise. All moves create some level of stress, says Rob Carmack of Carmack Moving and Storage. He explains that the key to having a worry free experience is all in the preparation. The following are a few things to remember when planning a local move:

  • Pick a reliable moving company. Carmack Moving and Storage says this can eliminate the apprehension of driving a large and unfamiliar truck as well as provides insurance against achy backs later on.
  • Get organized and clear clutter. Basically, if you’ve forgotten about it, donate it to charity. Carmack Moving and Storage points out that there is no reason to pay to move items you don’t need. This way, your new home will start out with less mess.
  • Arrange for a pet sitter. The last thing you need on moving day is for Mittens or Spike to run out the front door and disappear. Carmack Moving and Storage points out that many local veterinary offices offer boarding.
  • Forward your mail. Visit the Post Office to make arrangements to continue receiving mail after your move.
  • Know your new space and have a plan ready. Carmack Moving and Storage says that it won’t help your stress levels if you get your sofa moved into your living room only to find it doesn’t fit. Measure your new space before you get there and have an idea of where you want your furniture. Carmack Moving and Storage warns that excessive time spent rearranging can add up the costs of moving.
  • Take expensive personal belongings out of drawers. Most of the time it’s fine to leave you clothes in the dressers but it’s recommended to transport your jewelry and other small valuables yourself, says Carmack Moving and Storage.

Distance Moves

Carmack Moving and Storage specializes in long distance relocations. There is a lot of similar prep work as with a local move, says Carmack Moving and Storage ’s Rob Carmack. However, he goes on to state that there are some key differences.

According to Carmack Moving and Storage, a long-distance move requires a bit more coordination on your part. For a move of greater than 100 miles, decluttering is especially important. Moves requiring interstate travel are billed per pound, which is why it is best to clear out what you don’t need well before the quote, explains Carmack Moving and Storage. It’s also critical to know your moving company and trust them completely before shipping Grandma’s fine China. Additional extra steps to take are:

  • Contact schools. Carmack Moving and Storage says to contact both school districts (your child’s old one and the new one) to make arrangements.
  • Have your mover’s telephone number. Since you likely won’t be driving right behind the moving truck, Carmack Moving and Storage says it will help to quell fears if you can call for a status update during transit.

Commercial Moves

Carmack Moving and Storage says these can be the most stressful moves as they often involve a disruption to business. There are several steps you can take before the big day to make it a little less nerve-wrecking:

  • Plan your technology migration. Your IT department will be your best friend during a major office move, says the team at Carmack Moving and Storage. Make sure the new location is wired and ready for installation well ahead of the move. If possible, move computer systems overnight to minimize interference with daily operations.
  • Change your marketing materials to reflect your new address. Do this well in advance and don’t forget your website and business cards, reminds Carmack Moving and Storage.
  • Have keys made. Don’t start your first morning off with employees waiting nervously in the parking lot, points out the team at Carmack Moving and Storage. Make sure all key-holding personnel have access to the new building.
  • Assign duties and checklist. According to Carmack Moving and Storage, one of the benefits of moving a business is that there are usually plenty of people around to help micromanage different areas when you cannot.

While the moving process can be daunting, if you allow yourself ample time to prepare, it can also be a positive experience. Don’t go it alone and trust the professionals at Carmack Moving and Storage to get you there and get you ready to go.

Carmack Moving and Storage began in 1985, when Rob Carmack saw a need for reliable movers in his hometown of Centreville, Virginia. Today, the company offers packing, moving, and home staging services as well as climate controlled storage. For more information or to contact Carmack Moving and Storage, dial 703.378.1616 or toll free 866.627.4420.

Q&A with NCAA Official Frankie Bordeaux

Frankie Bordeaux

Frankie Bordeaux

Frankie Bordeaux is an NCAA basketball official with fifteen years of experience and more than 400 games under his belt. Also a businessman and youth advocate, Frankie Bordeaux is proud of the impact that his job has on the lives of young people. Recently, A Gathering of Experts sat down with Frankie Bordeaux to ask him about the life of a referee.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of being a referee?

Frankie Bordeaux: It’s the attention to detail. You have to focus on the game 100% of the time, because if you lose focus for even a split second, you can miss a big call and significantly impact the game.

Q: Is it stressful to know that you have the power to decide the outcome of the game?

Frankie Bordeaux: It is stressful at times, but I’m confident in my ability to make the right calls and enforce the rules of the game of basketball.

Q: Have you ever made any calls that you wish you could take back?

Frankie Bordeaux: I think all referees have experienced that in their careers. We’re human–just like everyone else. When it happens, we go back later, review the call, and learn from it.

Q: Is it difficult to stay neutral in games?

Frankie Bordeaux: No, it’s not difficult to remain neutral in games.  That’s a big part of being a referee—I can’t choose sides! Games can definitely get heated, but it’s a part of my job as a professional to stay completely neutral and call the game as I see it happening in front of me.

Q: How does it feel to make a difficult call?

Frankie Bordeaux: It can be hard. There’s sometimes pressure to take a hands off approach, but as a referee, my job is to make sure everyone plays by the rules—and that can mean making difficult decisions that can influence the game.

Q: Do you feel pressure from the fans, coaches, and players?

Frankie Bordeaux: Of course! They are passionate about their team and they want to win, and if they don’t like a call, I hear about it all night. But at the end of the day, they respect the rules just as much as I do. It’s part of the game.

Q: Do you get to interact with the players during the game?

Frankie Bordeaux: I do. As an advocate for young people, I try to use it as an opportunity to calm them down and get them to refocus on the game. I’m not there to distract them—I want to encourage them to play good basketball and set good examples.

Q: What’s the greatest reward in officiating the games?

Frankie Bordeaux: For me, it’s making a difference in these young people’s lives. I like to know that I was a small part of helping them accomplish their dreams in some way. It’s very rewarding.

Q: When did you become a referee?

Frankie Bordeaux: I officiated my first game in 1988.

Q: How many games have you officiated?

Frankie Bordeaux: I’ve presided over more than 400 games in 27 states since I became a referee.

Frankie Bordeaux is a loving father and husband. Frankie and Faye Bordeaux have five children.  Frankie and Faye, enjoy spending quality time with their family and friends as well as with their church.




A Gathering of Experts Suggests Travel as a New Year’s Resolution

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, some people use them as the proverbial stick instead of the carrot. For many, January starts with things like unrealistic weight loss goals, learning a second language by the end of the month or “never eating candy again.” We think there’s a much better way to self-improve in the new year, and that plan comes wrapped in glossy brochure. Why not make traveling the “carrot” to achieve some of your goals?

Being exposed to sights, cultures and new experiences is a fantastic way to shape awareness of the world – and oneself. It’s also a fun way to learn a second language and to work off some holiday calories.

When traveling, it’s a good idea to have at least the basics of the language. Even if it’s only a few phrases, being able to communicate with the local community is a huge advantage when traveling. People tend to be more hospitable to tourists who are respectful enough to try to speak the language, instead of gesturing wildly.

Traveling to a foreign country is also a great way to self-motivate when it comes to working out. Hitting the pool at the gym is much more fun when it’s an incentive to become a stronger swimmer for learning how to surf or go snorkeling.

And traveling is also an incentive to hit the books. Going to Italy? Now’s a great time to read up on wine or to bone up on art history. Traveling to Mexico? Why not learn about the Aztecs before getting there. Traveling is much more rewarding when a visitor knows some of the history of a country or region.

Many airlines offer winter discounts, so traveling outside of the U.S. doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive. There are even websites that send out alerts for last minute travel deals. So, start that passport application and plan to do a little traveling in 2013.