Category Archives: Travel

A Weekend in Vegas…Not on a Budget!

Vegas is a notorious party city and bachelorette party playground that is not easily conquered on a budget. I recently attended a fabulous bachelorette party in Vegas…not necessarily on a budget. My budget ALLOWED me to plan ahead and enjoy a financially guilt-free weekend.

3 ways my budget allowed me to let loose in Vegas:

  • I was able to plan ahead and save for a frivolous weekend.
  • I felt stress-free knowing I actually HAD the money that I was spending.
  • Bringing cash stopped me from overspending while allowing me spend guilt-free on activities of my choice.

When you go on a weekend trip with a large group of people, you have to be flexible. If 9 out of 10 people want to go to a buffet, you canNOT skip out or make a fuss about spending too much at the buffet. Just go with it, spend the money, and enjoy!

Vegas Chart

$1,000 is A LOT of money to spend it one weekend, but celebrating a great friend’s upcoming wedding (to her boyfriend of 10 years!) is totally worth it! Sometimes you can’t do everything “on a budget”, but your budget can allow you to enjoy those times when you want to splurge a little…and a bachelorette party is a great excuse!

 Here’s how to make an expensive weekend trip “affordable”:

Pre-plan:

  • Figure out how much you need to save. Make an estimate a little bit higher than what you think you’ll actually spend to make sure you have enough money.
  • Use your written budget to decide how much extra you’ll realistically be able to set a aside each month to reach your trip budget while continuing to meet your debt snowball goals.

For example:  If you can save an extra $200/month, you’ll need to save for 5 months.

  • Work hard for a few months to save extra toward your trip and enjoy a stress-free, super-fun trip!

Post-plan: Not only is financially planning important prior to a trip, it’s also important after. Over the next month, I’ll have to really watch my spending and sacrifice a little to make sure I get back on track to my original debt snowball amount or savings goals.

VegasPics

Tip: Rent the Runway is a great website that allows you to rent gorgeous dresses for a fraction of the cost. We went to the rent the runway store to try on and rent dresses. I spent $30 for a 48 hour rental!

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Sam

10 Thrifty Tips to being the Hostess with the Most-est

When you live far away from most of the important people in your life, you should feel very lucky if they decide to come visit you. While I realize that sunshine and 80 degree temperatures might play a large role in motivating them to fly south and visit me during the winter, I am still happy they come :) Because I am so thrilled to have good company, I am dedicated to making sure they have the best time possible—and as always, I am looking for ways to do this without breaking the bank.

Once people arrive at their travel destination, they spend the majority of their money on accommodations, food, and entertainment. My goal as a hostess is to incorporate the needs of my guests into my everyday life (budget included) so that while they are in town they can spend less and enjoy their stay without wasting an ounce of their vacation mojo on money worries or guilt trips.

10 Thrifty Tips to being the Hostess with the Most-est

Room and Board

Open your home, and make sure they feel comfortable in it – Hotels can cost upwards of $100 a night. That means if someone you love is coming to visit you for 3 days, they will spend more than $300 on a hotel room alone.  Saving money on a hotel room—that your guests hopefully aren’t spending much time in anyway—will help them save a substantial amount of money and cost you nothing! Plus, you get to see them more, and there is less fuss about coordinating schedules and transportation because you are all located in one place.

Conveniently be doing a load of laundry while they are in town – Chances are you probably do your laundry at least once a week anyway, why not help them out a little by doing it while they are in town? If they are flying, you should tell them ahead of time so they have the opportunity to save on baggage fees—no extra work for you and they might save up to 40 bucks!

It's easy to throw in a few extra pieces of clothing into a load of laundry, and it will help out your guests!

It’s easy to throw in a few extra pieces of clothing into a load of laundry, and it will help out your guests!

 Food

Stock your fridge with a variety of snacks you know they like  Do this before they get to your house so that they don’t feel like you are making extra trips to the store or spending extra money to meet their needs.  Use the money from your predetermined grocery spending allotment to buy the food everyone will like. Zero extra spending for everyone and an increased level of comfort for your guests!

Because we have a sweet tooth due to arrive in a couple of days, Joe picked these up while he was at the grocery store :)

Because we have a sweet tooth due to arrive in a couple of days, Joe picked these up while he was at the grocery store :)

Stockpile coupons for your favorite restaurants – Look for ads online or scan the weekly newspaper for coupons to your favorite restaurants. Save the best ones to use when your guests are in town. This will eliminate awkward battles at the end of the meal once then bill lands on the table.

Make freezer meals ahead of time – The great thing about this tip is that you can make meals like enchiladas or baked spaghetti WHENEVER YOU HAVE TIME and pop it in the freezer until you want to bake it. If your guests are jet-lagged or worn out from a busy day, you can offer to throw it into the oven and give them a nice comforting meal at home, but because the meal is frozen and it won’t “go bad”, there are no awkward refusals if they prefer to go out. These meals are created using money from your regular grocery spending allotment for the month, which means nobody spends extra!

I use these ingredients with the addition of chicken and MORE CHEESE to create enchilda casserole - recipe found at http://pinchofyum.com/chicken-enchilada-casserole

I use these ingredients with the addition of chicken and MORE CHEESE to create enchilada casserole – click on the picture for the full recipe found at www.pinchofyum.com

Get up in the morning and brew their coffee while you make breakfast for the entire household – Breakfast is often taken for granted, but it is an easy way to sneak in some hospitality. There are no arguments about who pays when everyone is still in their PJ’s :)

Entertainment

Be knowledgeable about free fun in your area – Many fun activities (especially if you are an outdoorsy type of person) are FREE! Take advantage of these—biking, hiking, parks, museums, or camping—while your guests are in town. Everybody wins, nobody pays!!

Free hikes are one of my family's favorite vacation activities

Free hikes are one of my family’s favorite vacation activities

Research special events that will be happening while your guests are in town – Once you find events you think they might like—Google promo codes to see if you can get a better deal. For example, I live in Arizona, so spring training is in full swing right now –and so are the promotional deals. Why wouldn’t I offer a picnic in the ballpark as an option for my guests?!?

Provide transportation – Last year, my fiancé and I took a trip to visit his sister and aunt in San Francisco, and one of the things that made our trip so amazing was that his sister drove us ALL OVER the city—showing us ALL of the places we wanted to see. The best part was that she didn’t complain one single time (at least to us, haha, but that’s really all that matters)!! Without her kindness, our trip wouldn’t have been the same.  Since then, I’ve promised myself to pay that favor forward to all of my guests as well.

Joe's sister took us all over San Francisco without making us feel guilty or like we were an annoyance for her. Transporting your guests to the places they want to go is priceless!

Joe’s sister took us all over San Francisco without making us feel guilty or like we were an annoyance for her. Transporting your guests to the places they want to go is priceless!

Find out what THEY want to do and do that – Planning ahead will help all parties involved save money and put your guests at ease, but be sure you are taking their interest to heart. It’s their vacation—Give the people what they want!!

We want to know: What tricks do you use to make your guests feel at home when you are playing hostess? What are the key components of a stress-free, cost efficient vacation if you are playing the role of guest?

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 Brittany

 

How to Turn a Long Weekend into 3-Day Cross Country Vacay on a Reasonable Budget

President’s Day weekend was extra special because I got to travel to Phoenix, AZ and visit my BFF and blog partner, Brittany! I was able to visit her AND cross the country for less than $400. Traveling can seem impossible when you’re on a budget and working to meet long term financial goals, but it can be done and done well :) Here is how I left the freezing temperatures and snow covered ground of the Midwest to spend my holiday weekend basking in the desert sun for just $330.00.

president's day

 AZ weekend mountain viewIncredible view from the top of Camelback Mountain.

AZ weekend poolAZ weekend tagged pic

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Sam

Airborne

Everyone knows that flying is expensive.  First you have to buy a flight, then pay for parking, then pay to check a bag, and THEN pay to have a coffee, meal, or snack.  It adds up to a lot more than you think!  I recently took a trip back home and found some ways to cut out some expensive costs.

Airborne Chart

The Flight Solution:  Rewards cards.  I was opposed to opening a credit card just to earn points to fly.  As you know, our philosophy is to pay with cash and not have any credit cards (debt).  I was flying so much and not getting anything in return that I just couldn’t help it!

What I did: Opened a Southwest Credit Card during a promotional period that will give me 2 free round trip flights when I spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.  It sounds like a lot of money to spend in 3 months.  See below to see what I did.

Smart Spending on a Credit Card: Put your living expenses (utilities, insurance, etc.) on your credit card.  These are items that are already budgeted, so you might as well get something for it!  I still use cash for groceries and spending money, but I’m putting everything else on my credit card so I earn points on money that I already have budgeted. I also have to buy 2 or 3 more flights between now and December…one of them will be FREE!

What NOT to do with your Rewards Credit Card:  Put your budgeted expenses on your card PLUS your shopping sprees…and whatever else you feel like buying.  Act like this card is your debit card and if you over spend, you’ll risk over drafting, not having enough money for next pay period’s expenses, or falling off your target pace to pay off loans.

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The Airport Parking Solution: Ask a family member or friend to drive you to the airport and pick you up when you return.  If you live far from an airport, pay your friend.  It will be cheaper than paying for a parking (if it’s more than a 3 day trip).

The Airport Food Solution:  The biggest and easiest way to save money when flying is to bring your own food and snacks.  As long as you’re not bringing liquid through security (empty water bottles are fine), you can bring pretty much any type of food you want.  I brought salad, fruit snacks, nuts, and cheerios with me.

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Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to SHARE :-)

Sam

How to Move Across the Country without Emptying your Bank Account

Throughout my college and post-college years I have constantly been on the move. Literally.  Over the past eight years I have lived in a dorm/townhouse/house/apt. for one year and then packed my bags and moved into a new abode. I did live in a cute house for two consecutive years (personal record) while I was in grad school, and I’d bet money that was the year my parents loved me most. Up until this past month, moving has been a weekend event filled with sweat, sore muscles, dust, and a well-timed visit from my parents. However, this summer I experienced my first grown up move that required more than a few pickup-filled trips across town—it required a moving truck packed to capacity and a 1375 mile drive across five states. Oh, and it took a little more money too.

Budget Bandwagon from the Midwest to the Southwest

Budget Bandwagon promotes a road trip without worries

I have nothing but love for Kansas City and the people in it, but I also love the challenge that comes with change and the adventure in exploring something new.  I’m lucky enough to have a boyfriend who likes a little adventure too, and early this year we decided to make a big move together once he finished grad school in May.  Flash forward to the present: We have recovered from the amazing road trip that led us to our future and have happily lived in our Southwestern home for almost one month. Now we are getting ready to start our jobs (and payroll) next week.  That’s right we have been living without a steady income during a very expensive transition. We are not broke, we still like each other, and we have been enjoying our life.  How did we do it?

Planning:  We began toying around with the idea of making the move around Christmas, and I began putting away money then. I pushed pause on putting extra money towards my debt, and began saving above my $1000 emergency fund. When jobs were lined up, and moving dates were established, I was able to “do the math” to determine roughly how much money would be needed to make the move comfortably and stress-free. Because we planned so far in advance, I had the option of having my last month in KC be dedicated to packing, cleaning, and spending plenty of time with my family and friends. This was a personal choice, and it was made possible by saving a little bit more each pay period. Often times “planning” gets a bad rap because it is associated with being “boring,” but my plan enabled me to live two stress-free, income-less months this summer and that is NOT boring. That’s awesome.

Planning ahead let us enjoy the present when the present looked like this

Planning ahead let us enjoy the present when the present looked like this

Working Outside the Box: We knew that my last true paycheck would be received June 15, so we found ways to take smaller chunks out of our savings accounts over the summer.  My boyfriend took a part time job working summer school for three weeks in June, and I took up dog-sitting. Obviously, his job made a larger contribution, but every little bit counts. My dog-sitting paydays covered my monthly grocery expenses. That’s $300 I didn’t have to take from savings–$300.00 I will get to put towards my debt when I start getting paid like a big girl again. Small victories are victories!

Patience: We have completed a couple DIY projects and made some purchases for our home, but they have all been within the budget we gave ourselves. I bought some place mats, new bedding (I’ve been saving for this particular purchase for month), cute fabric bins to organize our closet, and some plants—which I have kept alive for over two weeks (personal record). But this sub point is about patience, so it makes sense that I am currently using a plastic storage bin from target as a nightstand, waiting to purchase my favorite photos and buy coordinating frames, and cooking in my hot kitchen instead of firing up a grill. We are upgrading one item at a time which can be hard when you desperately want your new place to feel like your new home, but it is much better to have peace of mind than a nice piece of furniture.

Brittany

 

More Money-Saving Moving Tips:

  • If you move more than 50 miles for work, you can write off some of your relocation costs—so keep track of them!!  Click here for more information and tax forms.
  • Consider your security deposit from your current rental. Generally you know whether or not you can count on it, so incorporate its likelihood into your savings and budgeting plan.
  • Instead of paying money for boxes, I got all of mine for free from stores before they threw them out. The Dollar Store, Target, and the liquor store on my block had great quality boxes, and it seemed like the employees were more than happy to have me take them off their hands.
  • I used old newspaper and wrapping paper to wrap my fragile items.
  • Research moving companies—including prices and reviews. If you aren’t driving your own truck, I would recommend staying in constant contact with your moving company.  We used ABF, and their customer service was excellent.
  • Enlist your friends!! Not only is buying dinner or a case of beer for your friends cheaper than paying someone who works for a moving company, it is much more fun to be around the people you love. There is no way we could have moved as successfully as we did without the help of our best and closest friends.