Monday, January 11, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Here are some tips to cut down un-necessary costs when flying to a destination and staying in a hotel:
- Research, research, research. Before purchasing tickets and reserving a hotel, make sure you have plenty of time to scope out the options. I started researching prices for a Las Vegas trip three weeks before I planned on booking it. I searched on many different online trip engines to make sure I was getting the best price. Some things to look for during this period:
-Search all surrounding airports since fares can differ significantly from one airport to another. This is not always the case, but it can mean big savings depending on where you are flying. We searched 4 different airports in our area (a 115 mile radius) and discovered that we could save $170 per ticket if we drove an hour away. This is significant savings and made a huge impact on our trip cost.
-Choose a non-direct flight. Non-stop and direct flights are often more expensive than flights with a layover. If you don't mind the added traveling time, this can be a real moneysaver.
-Search different days. Some times of the year are more expensive to fly and/or stay at a hotel. If there is a major local even going on, hotels will hike up their rates. Avoid these times if at all possible. We discovered that if we went during the week, rather than on the weekend, we would save almost $300 on our trip! By going during the week, we ending up paying $50 a night for a four star hotel rather than $120-200. (AVOID- Holidays, springbreak, "on-season", weekends, superbowl week).
-Look up the airline baggage information before you book the flight. Many times, this information is only found at the airline website and is NOT included in the total trip cost paid with the online trip booking site. Some airlines do not charge fees, but most impose a $15-25 fee for a checked bag ONE-WAY. If you are traveling for only a couple days, consider bringing only a carryon and packing lighter rather than checking a large suitcase. This is what my husband and I plan on doing to save ourselves $100.
-Look up the hotel fine print. This is normally found in the information section for that particular hotel on booking sites. Some hotels charge daily cleaning fees, parking fees, resort fees, cash or credit daily desposits and other misc. fees. Make sure to add these fees into the total cost of your trip, since the online booking site will not do it for you. These fees are paid upon checkin at the hotel. We saved an average of $50-80 by choosing a hotel in Las Vegas that did not charge fees.
- Do not check luggage if there is a fee. This is a frugal flying tip that many people are using these days. Most airlines allow one carryon plus one personal item. Pack smart- wear larger items of clothing to save space. We plan on wearing our hiking boots rather than packing them since this will save on weight (if we have to check a bag) and space on the carryon. Pack light- bring outfits that can be cordinated with each other easily. It is cheaper to go to the laundry mat once than to pay for a checked bag. Dress in layers- if you are traveling to a colder climate, wear multiple shirts on the flight (this will be more comfortable too since tempertures inside a plane change often). For women- do not bring your own hairdryer since many hotels provide this. Do not bring large toiletry items since most hotels provide these as well. Avoid the urge to bring more than two pairs of shoes, expecially if they will only be worn once.
- Eat breakfast or lunch in your hotel room. Once you arrive at your destination, pay a visit to the local grocery store or supercenter. Buy items for breakfast like donuts (hey, you're on vacation, right?!), juice, coffee and bagels. Try to get items that do not need refrigeration since some hotels do not provide a mini-fridge. Buy snacks and lunch options as well (such as a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and jelly). Doing this will save you tons of money, since eating out can easily be one of the biggest expenses on a vacation. If you need to refrigerate something, make sure to bring a small lunch box cooler with you to fill with ice, or use the ice-bucket the hotel provides. Enjoy dinner at a modest resturaunt nearby.
- Purchase the Entertainment Book for your destination. You can look up the coupons in each book online to determine if it will save you money or not. For our destination, Las Vegas, it would not be worth it to purchase that book. However, we did stumble across another coupon book for casinos, which was packed with BOGO entree deals and BOGO show deals. We paid $15 for The American Casino Guide and will likely get our money's worth using just 2 of these coupons. Also, scope out the coupons available at your hotel checkin area and visitor's bereau for discounts on attractions.
- Research the FREE entertainment options for your destination. Rather than shell out $15 each for admission to a museum or attraction, check out which ones are free and visit them instead. Some of the funnest things in life are free! We plan on only paying for ONE show while in Las Vegas (with a BOGO coupon of course) and doing free things the remainder of the time. Simply walking down the strip provides an abundance of entertainment as one can check out all the themed hotels free of charge. One day, we are taking an excursion outside the city to hike in a National Recreation Area, take nature photographs and visit the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade. Get creative and think outside the box. By planning a loose itenerary, you'll never run out of things to do. (Also remember to make a list of LOW COST attractions and activities to fall back on if necessary).
Thursday, December 31, 2009
The end of the year is the perfect time to sit down and review your family's financial goals. Even if you didn't meet the goals you wanted to in 2009, it's still important to set new ones for the upcoming year. These goals not only inspire and motivate you, but they keep you accountable too. Below are some of our family's financial goals for 2010:
-Save $1000 for Baby expenses by May 31st
-Pay off $10,000 in student loans by December 31st ($15,000 would be ideal)
-Save $5000 for a 2nd car by August 31st
We have a big year for us financially. Not only will (God-willing) our income increase drastically with a full-time job, but we'll be welcoming a new member into our family in June. With the job will likely come a move as well.
We currently are following Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball plan to work our way out of nearly $50,000 in student loan debt. Our hope is to have all of that paid off within 2 1/2 years. It will be hard work, but we want to live like no one else now so we can live like no one else later!
What are some of your 2010 financial goals?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Christmas is almost synonymous with large credit card bills in January. But with the hikes in rates this past year, and new hidden fees popping up every day, using a credit card to pay for Christmas is no longer a wise or safe move financially. Do yourself a favor this season and vow to pay for Christmas in cash. Start a Christmas savings fund and contribute as much as possible to it during the month of November. Here are some easy ideas to help get you started and seeing some instant buildup:
- Eat every meal at home for the month. The average family spends hundreds of dollars on eating out, of which could be going to a Christmas fund.
- Cut back on luxury frills such as the movie theater and excessive driving. Instead, look for ways to entertain for free at home by watching movies you already own or playing cards or board games. This is will bring your family closer together too!
- Avoid major purchases until after January, if at all possible. A large piece of furniture or household appliance that does not require immediate attention should be put off for a couple months. Think of creative ways to get by until you are able to afford it.
- Buy used if you need something. This includes clothing, appliances and other items. Not only will you save a bundle for Christmas, but you will be helping the environment by being resourceful.
- Trim the phone bill. This is an easy area that many people can save on. Take a good look at your monthly phone bill- are you using all the features and minutes that you pay for? If not, downgrade, at least temporarily. You can also upgrade your plan after the holidays if necessary. Instant savings. Do this for all your utility bills, and you will have a large lump of cash available for the holidays.