The Hippo


Oct 14, 2019








You Can Fly
20 ways to have fun with your tax return


You want to: Shoot a fan film

Try: A 15-minute Star Wars outdoors battle scene.
The experience: According to local filmmaker Bill Millios, the owner of Backlot Films, technology has become so inexpensive in recent years that a very high production value can be obtained at a never-before-seen price tag. Digital cameras get better and cheaper every year and new drone technology can provide stability for tracking shots that would have required elaborate tracks or cranes in the past. For a fan film based on the Star Wars universe, it will be even easier to get screen-ready costumes and props because of the pre-existing base of fans who spend their own money and time building extremely detailed costume sets. The best example of this is the 501st Legion fan club. To be a member, one must first build a 100-percent screen-accurate costume based on the big baddies, the Galactic Empire. The most common costume is the Stormtrooper, which generally costs about $800 to make. You can reach out to the 501st New England Garrison to put out a casting call and see who would be interested in participating in your film. It’s probably best to set your story in the outdoors given the cost required to build screen-ready sets. Also try to get volunteers to save money, but make sure you feed them on filming days.
Cost: Assuming about three days of shooting, volunteer work and a month’s subscription to editing software, the total should run about $2,243. Here’s how it breaks down: Millios says a decent short film can be shot with a $600 Canon DSLR. Audio recorders can go for as low as $168 and you’ll need a shotgun mic and boom pole, which runs for about $150. Don’t forget headphones for $50. Lights and stands will cost about $300 and a DJI Phantom 3 drone costs about $600. If you need video editing software, he says Adobe Premiere can be used through a cloud subscription of about $30 to $50 a month. You should also set aside about $75 for food for your cast and crew.
Leftover cash? Give your cast and crew some money.
You want to: Skydive
Try: Skydive Pepperell (165 Nashua Road, Pepperell, Mass., 978-433-9222, or Skydive Barnstable (1000 Race Lane, Marstons Mills, Mass., 855-988-5548,
The experience: If you want to use your tax return on yourself entirely, the best return on your investment would be to take an Accelerated Free Fall Course. Skydive Pepperell offers such a course, which begins on the ground and proceeds with a number of jumps with trained professionals falling beside you giving pointers. As the training progresses, the trainers give you more space. Certification for solo jumping can be obtained after 25 jumps and a license evaluation jump. If you jump from 12,000 feet, you fall at a rate of 120 miles per hour for one minute. You can also spend your money on a large group of tandem jumpers, where you’re attached to a professional skydiver. 
Cost: For a group of 11 tandem jumpers, it costs $2,420 at Pepperell. About 10 tandem jumpers can be accommodated for about $2,600 at Barnstable. It costs $1,765 to do the first phase of AFF training at Pepperell. Once you get to Phase 2, it costs $145 to jump with a coach or $75 to jump solo. The evaluation jump costs $190.  
Leftover cash? Record your jumps with a professional equipped with digital cameras on his head for an extra $135 at Pepperell.
You want to: tour the state’s wineries
Try: Members of The New Hampshire Winery Association (
The experience: 21 of the state’s 31 wineries are members of the association reaching from The Vineyard at Seven Birches in North Haverhill to Jewell Towne Vineyards in South Hampton. Lewis Eaton, owner of Sweet Baby Vineyard in Hampstead, said the Seacoast has the tightest winery concentration, making it easy to visit four or five in one afternoon, but one can easily cover the state in a weekend. To make it a real adventure, hire a limo and driver to take you through your own self-guided winery tour, stopping for tours and tastings at each spot. Eaton said most wineries offer tours of the grounds and winemaking facility, but you may also be invited to a barrel tasting, offered a cheese plate or even given options for cooking classes, dinners or other events at larger locations like LaBelle Winery and Flag Hill Winery & Distillery.
Cost: Most tours and tastings range from $3 to $10 and the average bottle price is $12. Take this opportunity to start your own wine cellar (or wine cabinet) by taking home a bottle at every stop. Driver rates vary depending on the business and type of vehicle and allow for safe sampling. 
Leftover cash? Take a tour of the state’s distilleries ( or hit the New Hampshire Beer Trail ( for more locally made beverage fun. 
You want to: Have a backyard carnival
Try: New England Party Rentals (758-6868,
The experience: Be the coolest parent on the block or the hero of your social group by bringing a bounce house, water slide, mechanical bull, velcro wall and nacho machine to your backyard. Owner Shawn Rzaca said most backyard parties involve delivery, setup, pickup and a tutorial for those hosting, though they also have staff you can hire to supervise the games and rides for you. Since 85 to 95 percent of the items offered are heavy-duty and durable, adults are welcome to use them. Lately, Rzaca has seen folks hosting a party for the kids during the day and then using the same items for the adults at night.
Cost: Equipment is priced per day, so depending on the type of party you’re going for, many combinations are available to fill a $2,600 budget. The popcorn, sno-kone, cotton candy, hot dog and nacho machines are $45 each and giant Jenga and giant Connect Four are $100 each. Over 50 bounce houses and combo bounces range from $185 to $495, or get a dunk tank ($445) and water slide (from $295 to $795). Higher-end items like the mechanical bull, 25-foot rock climbing wall (each $499 for one hour) and photo booth and trackless train ($499 each) include a staffer to run them and are typically priced per hour.
Leftover cash? Just add on another cool feature like inflatable twister ($195) or sumo suits ($275). The sky’s the limit for what kind of carnival you want to host.
You want to: Finally get organized
Try: Hiring a professional organizer
The experience: You can find professional organizers in the area by visiting, or typing in your zip code at, which will bring you to a network of National Association of Professional Organizers members.
New Hampshire organizer Lorraine Falcone said professional organizers generally offer a wide range of services, including kitchen organizing, closet organizing, paper organizing, computer organizing — the list goes on. Falcone said she’s worked with some clients once a month for eight or nine years, helping run businesses, move or pack up for vacations and coaching people to be more organized and thus more efficient in everyday life.
Cost: For a long-term commitment, hiring someone for three hours a month for 12 months will cost $1,800 to $3,200, though this will vary depending on an organizer’s experience; certified organizers usually charge $50 to $90 per hour in New Hampshire. 
Leftover cash? Buy a planner or calendar, or whatever you’ll end up using.

You want to: vacation in Portsmouth
Try: A well-rounded trip with lodging, dining, live music and sightseeing
The experience: Caitlin Thayer, visitor services coordinator for Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, recommends Wentworth by the Sea for someone looking to splurge in Portsmouth. For a downtown stay, try Sheraton Portsmouth Harbourside Hotel or The Hotel Portsmouth, a 32-room boutique hotel. Explore the culinary aspects of the city with Granite State Growler Tours featuring local breweries and distilleries or walking tasting tours with Portsmouth Eats. For a nice dinner, check out restaurants with James Beard nominated chefs like Moxy and Black Trumpet Bistro. Venues like The Press Room, 3S Artspace and The Music Hall have plenty of live entertainment in the summer along with local theater at the Seacoast Rep and The Players’ Ring. 
Cost: Thayer said folks can definitely stay within a $2,600 budget while filling a weekend with fine dining, live performances and activities like a growler tour.
Leftover cash? Pack a bit more into your weekend by shopping in Market Square, visiting the USS Albacore or taking a cruise with Isles of Shoals Steamship Co., Portsmouth Harbor Cruises or Gundalow Co.
You want to: Get fit
Try: Hiring a personal trainer from FitWise Personal Training (1750 Elm St., Manchester, 626-3978,
The experience: Mary Wiseman, founder of FitWise Personal Training, said the company offers lots of programs for whatever you want to get out of personal training sessions. There are programs for seniors and new moms, and for those who want to lose weight for weddings, vacations or health reasons. Coaches can also help people whose training is to improve at certain sports or occupations. Sessions include fitness and progress measurement, plus workouts that focus on strength and cardiovascular fitness. Many zoom in on full-body movement — burpees, mountain climbers, jumping rope — but clients also participate in workouts that utilize treadmills, rowing machines, arc trainers, bikes, free weights, kettlebells and medicine balls. “Our approach is to make sure people are living the healthiest and happiest lifestyle they can,” Wiseman said via phone.
Cost: Hour-long sessions are $75; if you want to commit to going once a week for 20 weeks, the cost is $1,332.
Leftover cash? Get some new sneakers; good ones normally cost around $100.

You want to: Host A food truck feast
Try: Gabi’s Smoke Shack (459-8446,
The experience: Throw a party for your friends, family or coworkers catered by Gabi’s barbecue trailer. Owner Anthony Martino said they’ll bring the trailer to someone’s house or office parking lot for a group of at least 50 to 75 people. The host will customize the meal from set catering menus like the BBQ combo (two meats and two sides for $14.99 per person), backyard trio (two meats plus smoked chicken and two sides for $16.99 per person) and big backyard BBQ (two meats plus chicken and sausage and three sides for $21.99 per person). 
Cost: Martino recently catered a birthday party for $1,200 and said the total price varies based on headcount and menu selections. Along with the combos, you can substitute a meat for ribs for $3, add ribs for $4, add a side or a drink for $2 or dessert for $2.50, each per person. A nine-percent meals tax and 18-percent service charge are added on, as well as a destination charge for anything over 50 miles out of Hudson.
Leftover cash? Make it a food festival by adding on another truck like Clyde’s Cupcakes or Kona Ice.
You want to: Have a spa weekend
Try: Spending it at the Omni Mount Washington Resort (310 Mount Washington Road, Bretton Woods, 278-1000,
The experience: Located between New Hampshire’s tallest mountains, the Mount Washington Hotel was built from 1900 to 1902 by 250 Italian craftsmen, according to the website. The inside boasts old-fashioned grandeur, the outside mountainous views. Stay Friday and Saturday night with a package that includes breakfast and dinner, and spend your day primping and relaxing. There are many packages and options, but with $2,600 to spend, you can go for them all — a signature manicure, pedicure, shampoo, cut and blow dry, 75-minute deep tissue massage and 75-minute Mount Washington customized facial. 
Cost: $1,305 ($370 for two nights with dinner and breakfast, $140 for manicure and pedicure, $65 for hair, $190 for massage, $170 for facial). There are different packages available at different times of the year; this is what it might cost the second weekend in April. If you want to stretch your tax return dollar, prices are less during weekdays.
Leftover cash? In the spring and summer, you can spend money on golf or nearby ziplining tours, or treat yourself at the outlets down the street.
You want to: Take a college class
Try: University of New Hampshire at Manchester (88 Commercial St., Manchester, 641-4101, The Summer 2016 term begins Monday, May 23. On-campus and online classes are available. 
The experience: As a non-degree student at UNH, you can take up to 11 credits’ worth of classes per term as long as the classes don’t have prerequisites. You can pay to receive credits for the class, which can be put toward starting or completing a degree and are transferable to other colleges, or you can audit the class, meaning you just sit in and learn without receiving a grade or credit. Some of the classes open to non-degree students this summer are Philosophy and the Arts, Nutrition in Health and Wellbeing, Propaganda and Persuasion, First Year Writing and Elements of Weather.   
Cost: Most classes offer four credits. For-credit classes for New Hampshire residents cost $426 per credit (a four-credit class would be $1,704). Auditing a class costs $100 per credit. You’ll also need textbooks, which vary in price depending on what class they’re for and whether you rent them or buy them new or used.
Leftover cash: Continue your study in the Fall 2016 term, which begins the week of Aug. 29. See the website for a list of classes. 
You want to: Become a ski bum
Try: Buying a season’s pass for the 2016-2017 ski season
The experience: Okay, so it’s hard to guess whether a ski pass will really be worth it, but if next winter ends up being like the 2014-2015 season, you can more than get your money’s worth. With the passes, you can skip the ticket lines and zoom in and out of the ski resort. If conditions aren’t great, you can go back the next day or the next weekend. Be sure to look at what’s included with each pass; some have black-out dates, which makes certain high-peak times unavailable (during most school vacations and popular weekends). 
Cost: Visit for information on ski pass deals and see which ones cater best to what you want. 
Depending on the mountain, they range from $300 to $1,000. Some passes, like the New England pass or the Superpass, include direct-to-lift access to multiple mountains (New England includes Loon Mountain, Sunday River and Sugarloaf; the Superpass includes Waterville Valley, Bretton Woods, Cannon and Cranmore.)
Leftover cash? Get some new ski gear! Skis can cost $100 to $1,000 depending on the quality you’re looking for.
You want to: Get a tattoo
Try: A local tattoo parlor. Hippo readers’ favorites include Spider-Bite Tattoo & Body Piercing (179 Elm St., Manchester, 645-1449,, Arrows & Embers Tattoo (7 Pleasant St. Ext., Concord, 988-6067,, Tattoo Angus (1279 S. Willow St., Manchester, 935-9398, and Precision Body Arts (3 Elm St., Nashua, 889-5788,
The experience: Sarah Maillet, who co-owns Codex, a new speakeasy bar in Nashua, is a tattoo model, with art on her arms, back and legs. Her advice to first-time tattoo-getters? “It’s a lifelong commitment. Be smart about it. Don’t rush it. Shop for the right artist, an artist you can connect with, that will best convey your vision,” she said. “Do your research. You won’t be sorry for doing a little extra leg work.”
Consultations, she said, are a good idea; some tattoos take multiple sessions, and some artists specialize in certain kinds of art. Maillet said one of her many tattoos required four sessions, four hours per session.
Her tattoos tell stories, provide identity and remind her of memories.
“I believe that some stories or chapters aren’t meant to be dictated but illustrated,” she said. 
Cost: In Maillet’s experience, some tattoo artists charge by the hour (usually around $150), some by the piece. It all depends on the size, difficulty and time involved. 
Leftover cash? Attend the 10th Annual Live Free or Die Tattoo Expo at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester July 22 through July 24 this summer. Day passes cost $15. Visit

You want to: Drive a race car
Try: NASCAR Racing Experience at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1122 Route 106 North, Loudon, 783-4931, This year’s dates are Fridays and Saturdays, June 3 and June 4, and Aug. 19 and Aug. 20. Book online at
The experience: After training and instruction, you’ll get to drive an authentic NASCAR race car on the speedway by yourself in a timed racing session, with one-on-one feedback from a spotter via in-car radio communications. There is no pace car to follow and you can pass other drivers just like in a real race. Eight different packages are available, including ones with five, eight, 16, 24, 32, 40 and 48 minutes of solo driving time and a three-lap passenger ride with a professional racing instructor for those who want the experience without driving. Drivers will receive a graduate certificate with their name, date and top speed.
Cost: Ranges from $129.99 to $3,034.99, depending on the package
Leftover cash: Attend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301 race on Sunday, July 17, at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Tickets range from $30 to $135 for adults, $15 to $67.50 for kids age 12 and under. 
You want to: Build a boat
Try: The New Hampshire Boat Museum’s Adult/Family Boat Building classes (399 Center St., Wolfeboro Falls, 569-4554, or make a backyard play boat. 
The experience: At the museum, the boat building classes are an opportunity for the older and younger generations to work together on a project and leave with an actual wooden boat. Classes are every weekend from Saturday, July 9, through Sunday, July 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 
If you want to create a make-believe wooden structure for kids to play in, consider a play boat as a cheaper alternative to a treehouse. Making a small boat for the backyard or driveway can provide endless hours of fun for kids even if it’s not seaworthy. 
Cost: For a Bevin’s Skiff or a paddleboard, it costs $1,195 to build. Less expensive options include an optimist sailboat dinghy for $1,395, a one-person kayak for $995 or a plywood canoe for $695. It also costs $60 for those who are not museum members to register ($30 for members). With the help of building materials expert Bobby Ellis at Manchester’s Home Depot, we figured the basic building supplies would cost about $962.90 for 32 sheets of plywood and about 30 2x4s for support beams needed to build a 24-foot-long ship with a wheel cabin.
Leftover cash? Buy an outboard motor for the skiff. They can range in price from $250 to $950. You can also buy paddles for between $25 and $186 from retailers like REI. If you still have cash left over, buy some fishing gear.
You want to: Pay someone to work for you
Try: Outsourcing through sites like and or just hire a person you know.
The experience: Paying someone to do your job is not always permitted. There’s a story of a high-level programmer named Bob (not his real name) who earned six figures working at Verizon until executives grew wise to his scheme of outsourcing his job to a Chinese firm for a fifth of his salary. Each day, the Chinese programmer would log in and do his work while Bob watched cat videos and browsed eBay. Needless to say, he was fired. But there are some jobs that you might get away with outsourcing, mainly if you own your own business. If yours is not that kind of job, you can still outsource extra work that would make yours better, like proofreading a report or doing chores that would otherwise cut into your work time. Domystuff is better for the local work like cleaning windows, while Fiverr is virtually all digital work.  
Cost: Based on the median household income of the United States, you could spend roughly the whole $2,600 tax return for about a month of full-time work. Most work outsourced through Fiverr costs between $5 (hence the name) and $15, though some jobs can get as high as $995. Members of Fiverr can do more creative work like making songs, writing press releases, creating graphic designs or marketing strategies, editing videos and much more, according to spokesman Sam Katzen. If all you do is buy $5 jobs, you can get about 520 jobs done for you.
Leftover cash? Tip a little extra.
You want to: Record your own album
Try: NH Tunes (250 Commercial St., Suite 2017, Manchester, 660-2208,, an 1,800+-square-foot recording studio.
The experience: Take your shower-singing to the next level at the NH Tunes recording studio, where you can record your own album. You’ll have access to high-quality equipment as well as two vocal/acoustic rooms, a baby grand piano, a drum kit and other instruments to use while you’re there. An audio engineer will coach you through the recording process and mix and master the songs to create a professional-sounding CD.
Cost: Packages range from $90 to $300 and include two-, three- and four-hour recording sessions and packages specifically for recording voice, audition tapes and five-song band EPs. Online mixing is an additional $40 to $50 per song, and online mastering is an additional $35 per song.
Leftover cash: Advance your musical skills with some lessons. NH Tunes offers private 30-minute lessons for $25 per lesson in piano, guitar, voice, ukulele, saxophone, flute and trumpet, plus a group ukulele club for $40 per month. A four-week voiceover course costs $199; audio engineering and mixing essentials courses are $175 each.
You want to: Get the V.I.P. treatment
Try: A membership at Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St., Concord, 225-1111,
The experience: For 12 months, you’ll never have to squint or crane your neck to see what’s going on onstage at the Capitol Center for the Arts’ music, theater, comedy, dance and opera shows. The venue offers six levels of membership that come with all kinds of V.I.P.-status perks, such as exclusive access to the best seats; a members-only 24-hour presale for tickets to newly announced shows; invitation to private special events, including meet-the-artist events and receptions; vouchers for complimentary drinks (non-alcoholic) at the venue concessions; and personal ticketing assistance. 
Cost: Ranges from $50 to $4,999, depending on the membership level
Leftover cash: Purchase a membership at another entertainment venue you frequent. Memberships featuring ticket pre-sales, artist meet-and-greets, complimentary drinks and more are offered at Tupelo Music Hall (2 Young Road, Londonderry,; $250), Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St., Manchester,; $40 to $4,000+), The Music Hall (28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth,; $50 to $5,000+) and The Colonial Theatre (95 Main St., Keene,; $50 to $10,000+).
You want to: Make a Lego sculpture
Try: Buying Lego bricks and thinking big.
The experience: Lego artist Nathan Sawaya proved to the world that Lego building can be an art form. He’s best known for his large statues of the human figure, including a recent project called Hugman, a life-size Lego man hugging a tree in a public park. Wired magazine reports the average Lego brick sold in sets costs about 10 cents. Sawaya’s human statues range in size from about 10,000 individual bricks to about 30,000 bricks. One of his largest works, a Tyrannosaurus rex, has more than 80,000 bricks. For $2,600, you can buy 26,000 bricks, in theory. If you’re new to Lego sculpting — and I don’t think you’re alone there — we suggest downloading Lego’s Digital Designer software to come up with a plan before you start the painstaking work of attaching tiny brick to tiny brick. The software is free to download at
Cost: $2,600
Leftover cash? Maybe look into therapy?
You want to: Own a piece of history
Try: An Apollo 11 launch viewing pass signed by the crew, currently up for auction by RR Auction (5 Route 101A, Suite 5, Amherst, 732-4280, ends Wednesday, April 13. All bidding is done online; in-person previews are by appointment.
The experience: You’ll be the envy of all your friends when you own an official NASA Kennedy Space Center launch viewing pass for Apollo 11, the first space mission to land humans on the moon. The blue 5x3 card granted someone V.I.P. access to an area where they could watch the 1969 launch. It features the mission insignia and is signed on the front by each member of the Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.  
Cost: The estimated value is $2,000 to $3,000. After 16 bids, the item is at $1,685.
Leftover cash: Build your collection. The Apollo 11 launch viewing pass is one of 837 items currently up for bid in RR Auction’s Fine Autographs and Artifacts auction, which is held monthly. Other items include signed memorabilia by U.S. presidents and other famous historical figures, authors and artists, film actors and musicians. RR Auction also has more specialized auctions; up next are Space and Aviation, which opens Thursday, April 14 (preview currently available online), and Marvels of Modern Music, which opens Thursday, May 12.
You want to:Hire a personal chef
Try: Anastasia’s Table Personal Chef Service, based in Londonderry (818-9991,
The experience: If making meals during the week stresses you out, chef Patti Anastasia will pick up groceries, come to your house and make dinner for you. She does weekly, bi-weekly and monthly visits for fresh meals or ones to keep in the freezer. She’ll even come to a client’s house and cook hot dinners for them seven days a week if they want. Each menu is customized, taking into account preferences and diet requirements, plus packaging and labeling and heating instructions. 
Cost: Pricing is based on number of meals plus cost of groceries. Five full-service meals (includes entrees and sides, six servings each) costs $315 plus grocery and packaging costs and five entrees (six servings each) costs $285 plus grocery and packaging costs. She estimates $1,500 would cover a small family for a month.
Leftover cash? Opt for meals with higher-end groceries like seafood or add on a couple more weeks of home-cooked meals.

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