Saving Money While on a Road Trip

There’s no better way to explore a country than through a road trip. Cities come alive, and landscapes feel different when you have the freedom to go anywhere, anytime, in your own car. With the windows rolled down, the company of friends, and some good tunes in the car stereo, you can go for miles and gather memories to cherish for a lifetime.

A road trip doesn’t have to be expensive, however. By making judicious selections and following these five tips, you can save a lot of money on your next road trip:

1. Get a Fuel-Efficient Car
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised how few people actually follow this simple tip. Don’t take your SUV unless you have a lot of stuff to ferry around. Instead, get a fuel-efficient car like a Honda to cut your fuel costs in half.

2. Find Cheap Petrol
Petrol prices are seldom the same within the city, and different states levy different duties on petrol. This means you can often save a lot of money over a long road-trip by planning ahead of time and buying petrol from only the cheapest sources. Keep in mind also that stop-start city driving is more expensive than uninterrupted freeway driving; you can factor that into your road-trip plans as well!

3. Skip Expensive City Hotels
When you want to just crash for the night before hitting the road again, spending a hundred dollars on a hotel room might be excessive. Instead, find cheap motels in the city outskirts. Better yet, camp out under the stars and live like a true pioneer, while saving thousands of dollars on hotel costs!

4. Save on Food
Food is one of the biggest expenses on a road trip. Avoid drive-through restaurants as they usually serve overpriced, low-quality food. Also avoid snacks as they can cost a pretty penny and actually leave you feeling hungrier. Instead, patronise local restaurants and resist the urge to snack.

5. Keep Your Car in Top Condition
One of the easiest ways to cut costs on a road trip is to make sure that your car is kept in top shape. A poorly maintained car will consume more petrol, break down more often and be more of a general nuisance than a car in good condition. Make sure that the tires are inflated properly, there’s enough oil in the engine, and everything else is working as it should be.

Work for Yourself Headgames

I am a freelance writer. I am a freelance writer. My real estate license has expired, I no longer have access to real estate data bases, and can no more tell you about Flint real estate than Branson real estate. Why? Because I am a freelance writer!

I have to keep saying it because I don’t believe it and I think it sounds silly sometimes. When I was younger all I wanted was to be a writer. I dreamed of having a pen name and a byline. I think what makes it tough to wrap my brain around is that it never really “happened.” Knowwhatimean? It’s like – no one ever said, ‘”Ok you’re hired. Fill out this paperwork, choose a pen name and get to work.” I knew without question I was a video store clerk because I had a name tag that said so. I completed paperwork, got my hand shaken, and was told “You’re hired, Welcome aboard,” when I started selling eyeglasses and managing the optical office. People came in looking for the frame buyer and they were directed to me. I had no identity crisis issues. But being a freelancer happened so gradually. My pen name just evolved and one day I found myself not just dabbling writing web content for fun, but receiving regular payments into my PayPal account – for stuff I had written.

When did this happen? Who hired me? Where’s my paperwork? My “welcome?” My name tag?

Duh! Every time I do work for a new client, I fill out paperwork. I get many greetings, welcomes, and thank yous. I guess I could make myself a name tag if I’m so unimaginative that I cannot process the fact otherwise. But that shouldn’t be the case. Creativity and imagination are prerequisites for my job. That’s why I hired me.

Whooooah. I hired me. I’m my boss. The trouble I’m having wrapping my brain about my new awesome situation is probably only 50% accepting the fact that I have achieved a major life goal, and another 50% dealing with being my own boss. I believed hard core in my 20s that the only way to really be appreciated and rewarded for the good work you do comes from working for yourself. Being an entrepreneur. I lost track of that in my late 30s when I became a parent, gave up my consulting business and all my conscious thoughts and efforts went into parenthood. But apparently I had embedded that pretty deep in my subconscious and it kept plugging away, even when I was distracted for a bit. So now here I am, in possession of what I always wanted – and there’s nobody to blame but me. If the money’s not right it’s not because I didn’t get the raise I deserved, it is because as the employee I didn’t do the work or as the boss I didn’t manage the business right.

The more time that passes away from real estate, the less I identify with it and all my other jobs – and the more comfortable I am saying “I’m a freelance writer.” I suppose more confidence will come when my income comes more in par with previous earnings at other jobs, but that’s not going to reach its full potential until I handle these other issues. I’ve been having little epiphanies for the last month or so about acknowledging my successes and taking myself seriously as a business. I wonder if anybody else has experienced this or can identify with the phases I’m facing? Who ever imagined that achieving big life goals would be so difficult to accept?

Despite What You May Have Heard, Employment is On the Rise

There is so much conflicting information out there regarding what our government is and is not doing, it’s hard to know what’s really going on.  One of the biggest issues on everyone’s minds is employment. There is always going to be the argument that things could be better but it is good to see that there have been consistent increases over the last year.

According to White House statistics, October 2010 marked ten consecutive months of job growth. Over the last 11 months employment has risen by 1.1million.  Over the last quarter, an average of 122,000 jobs were added each month.  Employment in October rose by 151,000 from September.  I still clearly remember 2 years ago when the job cuts were buzzing out of control and in my own household my husband’s future at Chrysler was bleak – we didn’t know what tomorrow was going to bring. So ten months of employment gain is certainly a ray of sunshine as we continue to rebuild.  And what tops the list of jobs in demand? There are literally not enough graduating RNs to fill all the job openings available for them. A healthcare career is a sure fire bet for anyone needing a career change or fresh start. Jobs in the medical field will always be in demand.

*Employment stats from the WhiteHouse.Gov website.

Finding Wasted Money

I know that I can save a few bucks a month on my satellite bill  if I plug into a phone line.  But what’s $5? I don’t have time to deal with that.  I bet I could trim a couple dollars off my home phone bill, though,  because we don’t use the land line for anything but the occasional fax. It’s kind of a pain to figure out though.  I’ll do it later.  I don’t have an RV why would I need motorhome towing on my insurance policy?  And how did it get there in the first place?  I need to check on that right away.  And while I’m thinking about it… my cell phone bill is awfully high.  I’ll put that on my list to check out too.

The above is my thought process for the last several months.  Every time realization of something wasteful hit me I was busy in the middle of something and thought “it’s only a few bucks.  No biggie.  I’ll get to it.”  Then I one day realized that all of those $5/10/20 savings added up to a lot of money!  So I got to work.

I actually still don’t have a phone line hooked up for our satellite dish because I can’t figure out a convenient patch to take the wire.  But I DID learn that I was being overcharged for an outdated plan that no longer exists AND I realized that I was paying rent on a unit we weren’t even using.  I also  learned I was paying ridiculous amounts on my cell phone bill for information calls, games, ringtones, etc.

No, it was not fun to make all these phone calls and wait on hold and figure everything out.  It was pretty frustrating and I did feel like my head was going to explode at times.  But at a time when milk for the cereal has  sometimes been a luxury lately, I feel pretty stupid that I didn’t do it sooner.  Not many of us have money to throw away these days and every dollar counts so I wanted to let you know that I uncovered almost a hundred dollars per month just reviewing my basic monthly bills and expenditures, and encourage you to do the same.

Why Don’t More Women Invest?

There is a guy I work with who can be found at his computer, online trading, in between his appointments with real estate clients and his shifts at his other job.  So he is working two jobs and making sure that his money has the most value. This is amazing and smart.  And almost exclusive to men.  Why is that?  Financial expert Jean Chatzky says that regardless of how confident we women are in our accomplishments at home, in the workplace, and beyond, when it comes to stock trading, mutual funds, or dealing with investing our money in any way, we  don’t trust ourselves to make the right decisions.  In her book “Make Money Not Excuses” she stresses that “By not investing, you rob yourself of a huge shot at getting rich.”

And apparently there is no reason for us to not trust ourselves. Women who do trade tend to make more money on investments than men.   Here is what we do right…

*Women are less likely than men to hold a losing investment too long.

*Women don’t wait too long to sell winning investments.  Men often do.

*Women are more likely than men to diversify.

*Men trade more often than women so their transaction costs bring down their investment returns.  Women buy and hold to their advantage.

Guess what else?  We make fewer investment mistakes because we tend to learn from and not repeat the ones we do make! So what’s our hold up?!

When I was younger I started to dabble and I’ll be honest, it was just scary.  I was not confident with the math, the language, the people at the bank… it was very overwhelming.  I ended up cashing out almost as quickly as I opened.  Maybe if there had been stock trading services on the internet such as First Trade back then, maybe I would have felt more comfortable being involved with an online broker … feeling more secure and connected with the ability to access my accounts and browse opportunities at my leisure.

The statistics above were provided by two professors at UC-Davis, a top public research university.  Are you surprised to find that despite our initial hesitation to invest that we actually are very good at investing our money?  Do you invest YOUR money?  Why or why not?

Saving a Little Money on your Family Vacation

This is our off year as far as big vacations go.  We went to Universal Studios last year so this year’s summer itinerary will consist of closer to home, more budget friendly activities.  Such would likely be the case even if it was not our off year.  Less families are able to take the big vacations this year thanks to our tightened belts and empty wallets, many instead opting for the STAYcation.  But if your summer plans are big enough to include a hotel room and maybe even airfare, I have some money saving vacation tips for you.

The best of our Orlando Vacations was a fluke.  We splurged, didn’t plan, and had the best time of our lives.  It was also the cheapest.  We didn’t realize how much money our “splurge” actually saved us until each year after when our vacation spending seemed to more than double.

THE KITCHENETTE

The secret vacation saver for us is the hotel room.  We have found that by spending the extra money on accommodations with a kitchenette we save a ton of money on food.  It might be hard to see the savings up front when you are planning because your original investment will be higher.  But, especially when you have kids, you are nickel and dimed all day and night for a week on park food that is outrageously priced and most times not satisfying.  In the end, the amount of money spent on your vacation turns out to be much higher, for much less.

A room with some sort of kitchen offers not only the opportunity to save money, but more personalized choices and a better feeling tummy at the end of the day.  I’m not talking about cooking big dinners, necessarily, but having juice, milk, sandwiches, and snacks on hand to feed your elevated appetites and keep your body satisfied and fueled for long days of non stop activity.

GROCERY SERVICE

In addition to the kitchenette, we try to find a hotel with a shopping service.  We leave a grocery list at the front desk on our way out and when we come back the fridge and cupboards are filled.  The shoppers use the local grocery store, not a convenience store, and even search for the best prices and favorite brands for you.  The groceries are billed to your room and the service is free.

FREE BREAKFAST

Different hotels offer different incentives.  Our favorite freebie is breakfast, for a couple of reasons.

  • Obvious is the savings.  Think about how much money you spend at IHOP every  morning when you’re on vacation.  At a free breakfast buffet you will find all kinds of eggs, breakfast meat, bread and pastries, oatmeal, cereal, fruit, and specialty items.
  • the bonus is the timing. I don’t know about you, but we all wake up at different times and we’re usually starving.  It is so nice just to run downstairs and meet up for the breakfast buffet in our jammies, rather than having to wait until we’re all up and showered and ready for the day before we get to eat.

So while planning your vacation and considering your budget, think about the food available to you at the parks.  OVERPRICED pretzels, corn dogs, hamburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, and chicken dinners.  Pizza delivered or ordered from the hotel is very costly, too.  Now think about a kitchen stocked with bread, lunch meat, pb&j, fruits, nuts, milk, cereal, and snacks.  You can come back to the room for lunch and a nap or pack snacks to nibble when you’re out for the day. And when you get home late at night, famished from swimming all day you have all the goodies you need to avoid overspending at the convenience store or room service.   It will be easier on your wallet and your tummy.

How do you save money on vacation?

Silly Mom Learns How Easy it is to Fix Her Ailing Computer

Here’s a Saturday extra.  A little something from the technical files.  :-)  I don’t usually post on Saturdays, I try to keep them lazy… reading, studying, planning posts with paper & pencil, and technical stuff.  My computer has been killing me lately.  It really isn’t old enough to need replacement but it’s performance is far beyond its 5 years.  Or maybe 5 years old is older than I think, I don’t know.  I just know my work is pretty light duty and the old girl shouldn’t be so sluggish and spazzy.  So I’m cleaning and scanning and researching and tuning up today.   To the best of my capabilities anyway.  I’m not much of a techie, sadly. Anyway, I am told there are ways to get my laptop up and running again without spending a lot of money.  So I’m on a mission to figure it out.

Can you believe that I did not know how much memory my computer has?  Before I was a mom I was so much smarter, proactive, technologically competent, and detail oriented.  Now I’m scatter brained and an expert at putting out fires.  :-)  I looked it up.  512 MB.  That’s embarrassing.  I can add 1G for under $60 probably and that would improve my performance.

Part of the reason I am so motivated today to get cleaned up, other than my writing production has been cut in half, is because I was asked to tell you about this QIF file extension website.  The problem is, as mentioned above, I am not very computer savvy and don’t really know anything about a QIF file extension.  I understand that it has to do with reading and writing financial information but that is not very inspiring as far as my blog goes, you know?  But then I found something.

While reviewing the website I found that they have a free driver scan. Of course it’s free because they want you to buy the program that fixes your errors, but still… I know my laptop is full of errors and conflicts so any information I can find is good.  I ran it and 17 errors came up.  The scan tells me which drivers are outdated, possibly affecting my laptop’s performance, so I am going to go in and try and find the updates myself.  Yay!  Although I can’t diagnose too many problems myself, I can usually fix them once I have some direction.  If not, I know where to find the program to take care of it for me.

While I was digging around in my computer I found a program that scans my system, internet usage, clutter, RAM, etc. and then cleans it up.  I am running better already!  You might have a similar program yourself.  After doing a “lite” tune-up I have already gone from 11% free memory to 30%.  I say “lite” tune-up because I was very conservative with uninstalling and deleting programs and software.  I didn’t have time to take the time to investigate them all.  30% is still not much free space but my laptop is suddenly running like a champ so I am thrilled.

I mention all this because I have been complaining about my ‘puter to you a lot lately and wanted to let you know that I am back in business.  Also wanted to share how easy it is to get your computer back up and running when it starts getting slow.  If I can do it anybody can. :-)

Prices Down, Customer Service Up?

The housing market is not the only place we are seeing prices slashed.  With consumer’s purse strings so tight and competition for our money so thick, businesses are being forced to find ways to stand out from the crowd.

We recently went vehicle shopping.  I got my super duper Jeep Cherokee for a song in December.  It was a 2008 model and had all kinds of rebates on top of Hubby’s Chrysler employee discount.  But with Hubby’s truck lease ending in March we were starting to sweat.  If you have shopped for a truck lately you will know that prices and payments are HIGH!  We were having sticker shock going from lease pricing to purchase pricing to begin with, but with everything compatible to what Hubs had before being priced at $40,000 and higher we just did not see how we could buy another Big Ram so my dear hunting/gathering/hauling husband was preparing for life with what he could afford, a car instead of a truck.

But guess what!  March is TRUCK month at Chrysler! We just got that same $40,000 truck for $27,000.  How amazing is that?  I will tell you how amazing it is… the payment is almost HALF of what we were quoted in January!  Hot diggety!  Why?  There is a lot of competition out there so car manufacturers have to be competitive.  So if a Big Ram is your cup of tea, NOW is the time to buy!

Not car shopping?  How about eating?  Last week we went to our neighborhood Applebees.  We have been there a zillion times.  But the service this time was on a whole different level.  Not that it was bad before, but our server and the manager were so attentive and made sure we had whatever we needed at all times.  Our iced tea never went dry.  Our chips never ran out.  We felt like VIPs.  I would think it’s more difficult to cut prices at a restaurant and compete that way, so I have to think that Applebees, and anyone else who is smart, knows that customer service is the way to win people over right now so that they see additional value in spending their money on dinner out.

We also just changed our insurance policies.  When is the last time you shopped around for term life insurance rates?  Or car insurance?  Cutting back on luxuries and clipping coupons is a good place to start finding extra money in your wallet, but with a few phone calls or internet browsing you might find better prices on everything from insurance to phone service.

Dropping prices in this economy is not any big shocker, but the positive change in customer service is a nice treat.  Has anyone else noticed receiving better treatment at the businesses they frequent?  And how much of an effect does service have on your decision where to spend your hard earned money?

Learning from Recession

I always try to find the silver lining in things and our current economic crisis is no exception.  When I take a minute to stop dwelling on the sacrifices and think about what we have accomplished and what I have learned, I find that there is, in fact, value to be found in recession.

I have always been irresponsible in my attitude against shopping for bargains.  “My time spent shopping for a deal is worth more than the money saved” I have often said.

Once I became a parent I scaled back on what I bought for myself, my house and my hubby so that I could buy more things for the kids.  That was my first taste of enjoying finding a bargain.  Every penny that I saved on myself was more that I could spend on the kids.

Then this recession got us in its grips and suddenly we had to scale back just to meet our basic needs.  I had to find the best prices on milk, bread, cereal, and all the staples in order to maintain them in the pantry.  I am actually being counseled by my very organized and moneywise friend on how to most effectively use coupons and store programs.  It is actually a lot of fun but I am just shocked over how much money I have wasted over the years.

I do a lot of shopping online for bigger items and have recently found value in sites like Overstock.com and Buy.com.  The prices are good and the items are often better quality than what I have bought around town.  Black Friday deals can be found all year long if you take the time to shop for them.

I cannot say I am glad that our country has hit hard times, but I am glad for the different perspective I have developed and the recession tips, tricks and tools I have learned that will serve me even better when the economy turns around and my job becomes lucrative again.

What have you learned during these troubling times?  What money saving changes have you made?