Archive for the ‘ Saving Money ’ Category

Disney Tips (prior) to Trip

We just got back from an amazing (and possibly only) Disney trip so I made sure that we “did it all”. While I’m a big fan of those teary eyed SURPRISE Disney commercials, we told our kids (Cullen 12 ½, Sadie 7 ) as I wanted their input. I didn’t want this post to be 10 pages long so this first part (of 2, or 3…) will be what helped me before we walked out the door.

  • We used the (no annual fee) Chase Disney credit card so most of our trip was FREE. Room, dining plan, park passes were all covered by points that we had accrued over the last 4 ½ years.  We went through AAA to get even better deals than I found online and saved out of our monthly budget to cover our flights.
  • We chose to take kids out of school for a few days and go at an unpopular time of year. I’m not good with heat or crowds so mid-January worked perfectly well for us. There were a few rides closed for repairs or refurbishments but nothing major.
  • I’d read that pin trading was big at the parks so I went online prior to the trip and bought / bid on $1 Disney lanyards plus one ‘lot’ of 26 Disney pins ($25)  so the kids had pins to trade with cast members (employees) from the minute they walked into the parks. In the parks, this would have sent me back well over $150 and they kids really got into it. Instead of asking for things when we went into shops, they were finding employees to trade with.
  • Going online and getting a few ‘gently loved’ goodies before the trip (my son loves Stitch and my daughter Tinkerbell) can save you tons in the long run on t-shirts, backpacks, ears (got these new & personalized for 50% off-free shipping by watching Disney.com/ store), etc. A family member gave each child a $25 Disney gift card for Christmas so we were actually able to get out of the parks with out spending anything ourselves. I did a countdown of “The 12 Days of Disney” before we left and each child got a pin every morning and then I surprised them with a t-shirt and backpack on the day we left.
  • I’d recommend two web sites (if you want to pay) to join for an incredible amount of information on all things Disney – tourguidemike.com or touringplans.com. They each have different positives depending on your needs but I’d suggest at least one as it helps to guide you to the least crowded parks on which days, sample touring plans, reviews on everything and more tips and hints than you would ever need.
  • When they say make your dining reservations 180 days in advance, they aren’t kidding even in ‘low crowd’ times and especially if you want to do something special like a character meal or signature dining. You can reserve online or over the phone. There are various dining plans but we chose the Deluxe Dining Plan because of some of the specialty meals we reserved and we also wanted to sit down and eat 2/day and not be elbowing our way through counter service restaurants for chicken nuggets. While this added cost would have been over what points we had accrued, Disney offered a special for a FREE basic dining plan during January which our travel agent caught & that saved us close to $500 which put us back into our allotted points.
  • We chose to stay onsite at The Contemporary Hotel (my favorite from childhood) which allowed us to walk to The Magic Kingdom and has the monorail that comes right through the hotel, pretty cool.
  • Last but not least, read books (Peter and the Starcatchers, Swiss Family Robinson, Alice in Wonderland or rent a few Disney movies to get in the magical mood.

While all this may seem a bit overboard, saving money & having a plan were my 2 biggest priorities and all this led to a wonderfully spectacular trip. To be continued…

 

 

Do you like me – I mean really “Like” me?

If you’re anything like me, you may follow different people or companies through a variety of avenues-  twitter,  RSSfeed, direct email or facebook. In case your main way of connecting with Life Simplified is something other than facebook, I wanted to share a few links with you that I had recently posted ‘over there’ as I’d hate for you to miss any great shortcuts, suggestions or solutions.

I’m Going to Walt Disney World!

Such is the exclamation after every BIG win in sports and various other celebratory occasions. Our family will join the ranks of countless others as we will finally make the kid’s first trek in January – and it’s not costing us a dime. WHAT?!?!

A few years ago we started using the Chase Disney credit card and have finally accumulated enough points to head to Disney next year. There was no annual fee and ‘cashing out’ the points couldn’t have been any easier.

Nerd Wallet is a great site if you would like to review and compare various credit reward cards in categories such as cash back, gas or travel. While Dave Ramsey would wholeheartedly disagree with my endorsements of credit cards, if you’re able to pay off your balance every month, we’ve found it a great way to offset travel costs.

Regretting that Groupon purchase?

As I’ve previously posted, I’m a BIG fan of the ‘daily deal’ sites that are cropping up everywhere. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve either allowed a deadline to sneak past me (was I really going to start Pilates) or stressed myself out / spent more than necessary making sure I used it no matter what!

Deals Go Round is a new site that allows those of us suffering from buyer’s remorse a chance to unload that coupon that you’re never going to use. USA Today reports that if a coupon is popular enough, sellers may even be able to fetch a small profit. Because daily deal sites offer such steep discounts, sellers can list their coupons for more than they paid and still offer a bargain. For buyers, resale sites offer access to deals that are no longer available.

In other cases, sellers may have to ask for less than they paid. This usually happens when a coupon’s expiration date is fast approaching or if the retailer or service is too obscure.

The worst case scenario is that sellers never find a buyer; DealsGoRound says that happens with about a third of its listings.

It’s worth noting that technically, Groupon’s terms of use prohibit the unauthorized resale of its coupons. The fine print on LivingSocial’s site also prohibits the sale of its vouchers. But DealsGoRound, Read the rest of this entry

Daily Deals – are you missing out?

Lately I’ve gotten a few questions from friends about sites that are similar to Groupon as I don’t show up anywhere for anything without a coupon anymore. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  1. Groupon – The first one on the scene to offer great deals – sign up for other cities if you are traveling. Great app.
  2. Living Social – You can get a family or escape edition of deals in addition to their daily ones. Great app.
  3. Eversave – My latest find & I’m loving their daily deals.
  4. City Steal – Great local steals.
  5. Scout Mob – The coupon is free. If you see an offer you like, just click a button to receive the coupon via text message or e-mail. You’ll only pay when you show up – only in a few cities right now but growing!
  6. St. Louis Daily Fix – Outstanding deals at local restaurants, salons, spas and more in St. Louis.
  7. Care 2 Daily Deals – Organic, green, good-for-you, good-for-the-planet products at up to 70% off.
  8. 8 Coupons – Lists all the deals from the top sites (including Groupon, Tippr, BuyWithMe and others) & lets you search via map or zip code.
  9. Buy With Me – Like many other sites, if 3 friends buy from your referral, yours is free.
  10. Daily Candy Deals – Offers limited number of coupons so you’re not fighting with hundreds of other purchasers, but limited cities currently.
  11. Spa Finder – Only in NYC, LA, Boston, Philly & Miami

Others I’m missing? Let me know!

Take Me Away!

After months of dreary winter and now storms that make Dorothy’s tornado look almost cute, I’m putting my mind towards sunshine & some upcoming travel in my future. I’ve always considered myself a savvy shopper when it comes to traveling but I’ve got to admit, Priceline and Hotwire have always intimidated me. I’ve heard all the stories from folks who’ve stayed in fabulous hotels for a fraction of the cost so I’ve decided that it’s time for me to get in on this blind bidding.

Clark Howard, money guru, is one of the biggest proponents of travel bidding and he recommends checking out Bidding for Travel if you are going to work with Priceline and Better Bidding if you are going to try your hand with Hotwire. Both are great forums where travelers help each other and share knowledge — including tips on how to bid multiple times a day.

Now if you want to bypass some of the research but still glean many of the same benefits, check out The Bidding Traveler! Read the rest of this entry

Would you like to purchase the Extended Warranty?

Ugh, this question gets me every time no matter where I am & no matter what I am buying. The very nice salesperson does his/her best to make me feel like an idiot if I don’t purchase it but my head tells me that I’m not supposed to – right?

Since I’m admittedly no expert, here’s what I’ve found from others who are more knowledgeable than me in this area. Mark Huffman from ConsumerAffairs.com offers the 5 Reasons NOT to Buy An Extended Warranty:

  1. They Usually Cost More Than They’re Worth.
  2. Warranty Work May Be Unreliable.
  3. The Warranty May Not Cover What You Think It Does.
  4. Warranty Underwriter May Go Out Of Business.
  5. The Extended Warranty May Overlap the Manufacturer’s Warranty.

Gary Altunian from About.com poses the following questions about electronics & their extended warranties.

  1. Does the Product have Moving Parts or is Delicate?
  2. Is the Product Based on New, Unproven Technology?
  3. Is In-Home Service Provided?

Specifically for auto extended warranties, there’s a considerable amount of research online, and Stacy Johnson from WiseBread had pulled together a great article that puts it all in one place. Overall it seems like a gamble and by buying an extended warranty you are essentially betting that your item is going to break & the companies are betting that it won’t. Who’s got more stacked in their favor?

Outrageous Offermatic!

I had never heard of offermatic until last week when my sister, Nancy, sent me an email about it and all I can say is – WHERE THE HECK HAVE I BEEN? Michael Arrington describes it best, “offermatic is the freak love child of Mint, Groupon & Blippy“.  Here’s how it works: You register your credit cards with Offermatic via the Yodlee back end (which is secure). Offermatic then downloads your individual credit card purchases and matches offers from advertisers relevant to your purchase history. If you buy something at Home Depot, for example, you may get a $30 off coupon from Lowes. You’ve spent money on textbooks and you get a special offer from Chegg. Etc. All offers will be 40% – 90% off normal retail, says Offermatic.

Within 5 minutes of registering my main credit card, I received a FREE $25 gift certificate from Restaurant.com and $5 off coupons for Walgreens & Macy’s. Check it out!

Nature’s Air Freshener

This is my daughter, Sadie, reading to our plants and this explains why we have plants that thrive now as opposed to all those that I sent to an early grave before my daughter came along. But honestly, anyone can care for indoor plants and all they really need is light, water, air and soil according to Emily of Life Renewed and then let nature take its course.

Emily recently posted a simple, straight forward article called “Creating A Healthy Home with Houseplants” on green your way. The benefits include:

  1. Plants provide life & energy – Bringing plants into your home can help you to feel happier and more calm. Plants in office spaces help people to be more creative and productive.
  2. Plants increase humidity levels – Plants help to increase humidity levels and refresh the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.
  3. Plants improve indoor air quality – A NASA study showed that houseplants can remove toxins (formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, ammonia, benzene, xylene, and chloroform from the air) in the air by up to 87% in just 24 hours.

Some of the best plants to grow are Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm, Peace Lily, Rubber Plant & Boston Fern. My advice is to toss all those “plug ins” from your walls and freshen up your space naturally. (And if you have kids, put them in charge of the watering – and reading!)

Got a gift card that you’ll never use?

Are you the recipient of a gift card for a store that  doesn’t interest you? Head on over to plastic jungle where you can sell, exchange or buy gift cards.

Plastic jungle offers up to 92% with the following payout choices:

  • Amazon gift card
  • Paypal
  • Cashiers Check
  • Donate to Charity

A much better solution than letting those cards gather dust or buying something you didn’t really want…or need.