Top Tips For Saving Money On Summer Road Trips

Summer road trips can be a great way to get out of town and onto the open road for some summer fun. If you can’t afford that luxury vacation there are ways to still take a mini-break and refuel your soul. Vacations are so important to balancing life, your job, your personal life, and your well-being in general. Why not roll the windows down and get some fresh air!? You don’t have to go very far, many states have cool road trips that will take you camping, to a B&B, or a cool natural wildlife spot just a few hours outside of town. Here are some great money saving tips for your next summer road trip.

Check Out Sweet Road Maps

The most important thing to do is to map out your summer road trip. While you might be up for being spontaneous, you don’t want to get lost and waste gas. Pick a cool place and check out some seriously amazing stuff along the way. If you choose a destination you can be slightly spontaneous in where you stop along the way. www.cars.com actually has some really cool summer road trip maps in their blog section.

Once you choose your road trip destination, you should download your directions and get map friendly with your destination. Some GPS devices simply don’t have the capacity to keep up with rural maps or areas, or the area on say Google Maps isn’t updated. It’s best to be really knowledgeable before you take off and get lost on your road trip.

Take A Fuel Efficient Car

Fuel efficiency is crucial when saving money on a summer road trip. The more fuel efficient, the less money you will spend. It’s just that simple. A great way to ensure optimum fuel efficiency, is to do some routine maintenance before you hit the open road. Check fluids and top up where needed. Make sure your air and oil filters are clean and in good shape. Check your brakes, as rapid braking can really cost you gas mileage.

Grab Supplies

Food on the road can be super expensive, but if you utilize your local grocery store and a cooler you’ll save a bundle. Get savvy and bring a bunch of snacks and non-perishable meals. Pack a cooler with plenty of water, as you’ll want to stay hydrated on your drive in the summer sun. Make sure you put a roadside emergency kit in the trunk of your car with extra oil and a charger just in case you break down and don’t have any battery life after all those road selfies.

Be Mindful When Driving

Watching your speed and acceleration can make all the difference when it comes to saving on gas. Just like rapid braking, driving erratically can cause you to lose money and waste gas. Be very mindful of your surroundings. You might be an excellent driver, but others in areas you’ve never visited can drive differently. Roads can be different, or change and are not updated on the GPS. Another great reason to research where you’re headed on your summer road trip. Also, driving over 60 mph can really hike up the fuel price for you. The average driver will spend 20 cents less per gallon if they keep their car at a sweet pace under 60 mph. So consider driving like your Dad is behind you, and you’ll save even more this summer on your next road trip.

My Quarter-Life Mini Guide to Adulting!

My Quarter-Life Mini Guide to Adulting!

Ugh. Growing up. Something we all have to do and it’s something we don’t always want to do. As I reach the end of my 20s, I really do think that age is just a number, but nonetheless, your 20s are such a defining decade in your life. Think about it: you finish school, you get your first real jobs, you start building the life that you truly want to live. This quarter-life segment of our life gives us so much to consider or try for the first time. Between 20 and 30 there is so much “adulting” still to learn!

This is what I’m calling “My Quarter-Life Mini Guide to Adulting!” Enjoy! 🙂

  • Learn how to budget! — To me, this one is simple. I know lots of us have/had Mint accounts, but I’m talking about going back to the basics. Learn how to do one on paper (or a spreadsheet if you are that afraid of the calculator) and see what you can do. Don’t let an app do the work for a while because seeing those numbers in your handwriting makes it so much more tangible for you. Once you’ve accomplished one on paper successfully, go back to your apps and spreadsheets. This is one skill that so many people lack, but it’s crucial for adulting.
  • Learn self care! — As we get in the rat race of employment and commitments, we so easily forget how to take care of ourselves. We forget to find pleasure in the things that we used to enjoy outside of working. Whether that’s a daily run on your own, pedicures, a trip to the movies, or whatever, there’s no shame in finding time for yourself.
  • Cultivate SOMETHING that’s important to you! — I don’t care what this is, but doing this is important for everyone. To you, this might be building new friendships or a new professional network of contacts. For others, this could be starting a blog or a side business that means a lot to you. Maybe it’s getting a certification in becoming a sports referee or even maintaining that First Aid and CPR certification. This could mean involvement with a non-profit and so on – the options are endless as long as the project means something to you. You can even try something that is completely new to you! It’s so easy to get stuck in “work mode” that we forget about the other things that bring us joys as humans.
  • Volunteer your time. — Like I’ve mentioned above with cultivating something that is important to you, I also think it’s important to give your time to something that is important to you or your community. I consider that an opportunity to meet new people, try a new skill, and perhaps find a future job. Plus, it makes you feel good to help out organizations (or people) whenever you can.
  • Invest in a nest egg. — Yes, invest in something that you don’t touch. I don’t care if it’s a liquid savings account, rental property, or a retirement account. Invest your money in something that provides you an income, security, and hopefully some flexibility for choices in your life.
  • Go on at least ONE online date. — This. Is. Everything. I know it sounds absolutely crazy, but do it. You can’t learn about the types of people you want in your life unless you are out and about meeting different people. It’s also a great way to discover the type of people that you don’t want in your life. The online aspect of finding those people can also really help broaden your horizons. Also, it’s another chance to practice small talk and make new connections.
  • Meet with your HR department. — I find this extremely simple to do! Meet up with a representative in your HR department to make sure that you understand all of your benefits. Are you getting a company match on your 401K or HSA? Do you know what health insurance costs should be covered by your plan? Are you aware of any company discounts on travel arrangements or rental cars? What about reciprocal benefits at other related businesses or organizations? Don’t leave any benefits out on the table just because you didn’t know that they were there.
  • Pay off the student loans. — Yes, the big elephant in the room. These things tend to be leeches on us millennial people! I know I still haven’t done this yet, but I continue to make my payments and not accrue any more student loans. This was something that I intended to have done already, but life has happened. I know it’s possible to make major headway on these things if one tries, so if you can, I highly suggest you do. Pay them off and get that elephant off your back to move on with your life!

These are just a few ideas of some things that you can accomplish in this quarter-life segment of our lives! The best part about this list is that it will be different for everyone, so tell me about your list!

What are some things that you believe we should “check off” in our 20s & 30s?

NYC 2016 – A cash vacation success!

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Over a month behind in life, but here is my vacation breakdown post! Each year I’ve gone on vacation since starting this blog, I’ve been able to pay for my weeklong vacation in cash! It’s been a goal every year and one that I’ve consistently hit each year – including last year!

This year was my longest trip yet and, of course, brought some unexpected travel expenses. I succeeded in almost all of my travel goals: museums, food, and obviously some theatre (but I still didn’t win those Hamilton tickets)! Since I went on a longer trip, this turned out to be a longer post, so dig in!

more “NYC 2016 – A cash vacation success!”

Getting a tax refund? What’s YOUR plan?

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(IMAGE SOURCE)

Whether we like it or not, it’s tax time. You might be like me – the person who has everything prepped and ready as soon as the year ends, or you’re scrambling on April 14th to cram them in before midnight. More than likely, you fall somewhere in between. 🙂 Or you might be self-employed and dealing with taxes in smaller increments throughout the year! Regardless, it’s prime money time for Uncle Sam.

Many PF bloggers and financial gurus go on and on about how you should not be getting a refund. Getting a refund is often touted as “giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan” for the year. I blatantly disagree with that statement. I like to say that the IRS is holding onto my money so I don’t do anything stupid with it. I’m one of those people who claims ZERO across all mediums, so I usually get some small refund. I would get more if I only worked one job, but since I’m a tipped employee in one of my side gigs, some of that cash goes back to the IRS.

Since I knew I was getting a refund, I immediately started making plans of what I would do with the money once I got it. Typically, the plan is the same for me from year to year: pay down a small debt and save for my “no credit card” vacation. For 2016, that was exactly the plan. I held a very official 😉 Twitter poll to see what some of my fellow bloggers might be doing with their refunds and I got a few great answers! Some ideas that I received on how people will be spending their tax refunds included:

  • Going directly into savings.
    • This is honestly what I probably should do, as my emergency savings could always be beefed up.
  • Paying off debt only.
    • I could also do this and eliminate my final small bills.
  • Saving for a house/remodeling fund.
    • I have no major house expenses (other than rent), so this wouldn’t be my best choice.
  • Vacation savings.
    • This person shares my ideas! 🙂
  • Donating a portion of the refund.
    • This idea never crossed my mind. I totally would have never thought about this at all. It would be a nice way to get my yearly giving started.

Honestly, I think the options of what to do with your refund (if you get one) are limitless. Use it as a lump sum or sprinkle out in smaller amounts for whatever you choose to do. Save it, spend it, gift it, use it for whatever makes YOU happy. Don’t worry about whatever everyone else says to do with it, but use it on something that you value.

In the comments, tell me what you’re going to do with your refund – if you’re getting one!

Still need to do your taxes? I highly recommend TaxSlayer.com! I really enjoy their program. It’s very easy to use, retains information from year to year, and they offer complementary services aside from taxes only.

Be back later this week with more goodies!

 

In debt and owning a 529 plan

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(Photo Credit: The Public Domain Digital Collection of the New York Public Library)

I call myself a professional aunt. As someone who loves the children that belong to other people, I’m more than ok with spoiling my nephew on any and all occasions. Gifts? Of course! Ice cream dates? Often! Things he needs? Whenever I can. With that, I own my nephew’s 529 account.

One of the best things I think I can do for my nephew is contribute regularly towards his education. Saving for his college education is not a priority for either of his parents and it hurts my heart because he is SO smart. He’s the little guy who gets jazzed about building robots and machines and I truly believe he’ll do something really cool once he grows up. I know all too well what happens when there’s no planning for funding a college education (I mean, look at my Debt Payoff page) and I want to avoid that for my nephew. I know how far my student loans have put me into the black hole of debt, but I think I can still alleviate that for my nephew on whatever educational path he chooses to take.

I know that my goals mostly focus on PAYING OFF debt, but saving for my nephew’s education has been a goal of mine for the past three years. By no means do I intend to pay for the entirety of his education, but I can help make a dent. Rather than give him a gift for each little holiday (Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc.), I opt to just move a little cash into the 529 account. His birthday is also super close to Christmas, so I don’t want to shower him with too much stuff either! Even though I have student loans, I know that making a few small contributions will continue to add up over time! Plus, it’s important to me to help out as I am able.

With help from his parents, I was able to obtain all of the necessary information to open the account. It seriously took all of five minutes!I’ve also made it possible so that his grandparents and great-grandparents can contribute to the account as well. Our state’s plan seems to fall in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to overall returns, but I’m not terribly worried about that. Here’s the basic plan of what I’ve done each year:

[Age] x [Months/year] = Amount added each year. 

  • Age 1: 1 x 12 = $12
  • Age 2: 2 x 12 = $24
  • Age 3: 3 x 12 = $36
  • Age 4: 4 x 12 = $48
  • Age 5: 5 x 12 = $60
  • …and so on and so forth…

If I continue to do it this way, it’s not breaking my budget in any way as my income continues to grow each year. Most of the time, the monthly amount is hardly noticeable as it comes out of my account. I’m hoping that the account continues to get it’s approximate 3% return over the next several years. If it does, my nephew will have a little tiny nest egg of college money.

Don’t worry, I’m continuing to meet all of my debt payments AND save for retirement. I’m hoping my nephew continues to love his school and that he maintains his curiosity throughout his life. I’m glad that I can be a part of the little man’s educational path.

How do you save for college? Do you contribute to accounts for kids other than your own? Tell me your college savings and 529 tips & tricks!

Disease Called Debt

Fun Money Mom

Where I’ve Been!

Break's Over!

Hello there blogosphere!

I’ve missed all of this so much! I’m super excited to get back to some more regular postings! I’ve had a super jam-packed summer and I’ve barely stopped moving! Yeah, busy! Yeah, yeah, yeah…

I’ve knocked A LOT of things off of my life to-do list over the past few weeks, so I’m not calling it a total loss. 🙂

I’ve survived (or accomplished):

  • One of the busiest seasons ever at my full-time job.
  • My domain name renewal! 😉
  • An eleven day non-stop theatre gig (extra $$$).
  • Babysitting gigs.
  • Some much needed nephew time!
  • A full on head/sinus surgery which was entirely successful (I’m creating a cost breakdown post once all of the bills arrive!).
  • Getting some quality rest time – away from technology & that was very important to me.
  • Decluttering MANY things in my apartment and posting them on Yerdle.
  • Catching up on all of my annual doctor’s appointments.
  • Watched a fair amount of Netflix – Wet Hot American Summer First Day of Camp, anyone?
  • Worked through some more numbers with my CFP! Look at my Debt Payoff page over the coming days, you’ll notice some numbers dropping off!

So, my month-longish sabbatical from blogging is over! I’ve got a few more posts in the pipeline for this week!

Tell me what I’ve missed! I’m dying to get things caught back up!

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and Saving Scotts*

Three Amazing First-Date Ideas That Are Free

This is a guest post from Jason at dealspotr.com! Check out the post I wrote for them!

Few events in life are as nerve-racking as a first date. You want to leave a good impression so there can be a second date, but you also don’t want to come off as desperate.

Planning a first date is often a very stressful exercise, especially if you are low on funds. It doesn’t have to be, though. There are several was you can orchestrate a successful first date without having to spend a dime.

We’ve listed three amazing first-date ideas below that are free.

Check it out!

A Surprise Picnic in the Park

Taking a casual stroll through the park as the sun slowly comes down can be very romantic. Throw a surprise picnic into the mix and you’ve got yourself a real winner. You’ll be able to avoid that pricey restaurant meal and show your date that you are both creative and bold.

The logistics can be a bit challenging, but we suggest finding a beautiful area that isn’t too crowded and is near the parking lot. That way you can store a couple of chairs, a small table and a cooler into the trunk. When your date thinks you are leaving the park, ask her kindly to stay put and bring out dinner.

Inside the cooler you can have your drink of choice and a pre-prepared meal best served cold like ceviche or Greek salad. If you are especially pressed for cash and really need the date to be 100 percent free, then you can always just bring along a blanket to eat on or find a public picnic table in the area. You can use a water fountain to get water for the drink and you can forage for nuts and berries.

Visit a Free Museum or Gallery

Most cities have museums or galleries that are either free or have certain free days. Museums can be ideal first date destinations because they provide an obvious conversation starter, they are casual enough that there isn’t the pressure of people staring at you, they are crowded enough you won’t have people asking questions of you and they are quiet enough you can have a discussion without yelling.

Another major plus for museums and galleries is that they typically contain a few outstanding photo opportunities. If all goes well and the first date ultimately leads to a relationship, you and your partner will always have a picture to remember your first date by. For those that are able to spend a couple bucks, buying a souvenir at the gift shop is a nice touch.

Attend a Free Street Festival

Most communities offer some sort of free street festival, block party or fair. These can be outstanding locations for a first date. They are generally a lot of fun and provide a perfect relaxed atmosphere for getting to know one another. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowds also adds a little juice in case the date starts off a bit slow.

One thing to remember about these types of events is that they are often a logistical challenge. You’ll want to make sure you’ve planned everything ahead so you don’t wind up forcing your date to walk a mile to get there, or worse yet, aren’t even able to enter.

(Photo Credit: Fede Racchi)

Jason Feller is the Senior Marketing Manager for Dealspotr.com and writes about a variety of topics related to saving money and couponing.

My 3 Frugal & Fun Hacks for Your Summer Road Trip!

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Guys! It’s summer now! I can totally feel it! The humidity is high and the sun is shining! That means it’s time for one of my favorite summer pastimes…ROAD TRIPS!

Check this out!  I’m really excited to be creating some content for dealspotr.com now and hopefully into the future! You can now read up on some of my favorite hacks for a road trip this summer in my first guest post that’s live at dealspotr!

Now, I’m disappearing. Orange is the New Black is now live on Netflix!

My Trip to NYC Without Breaking the Bank!

 

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If you’ve been following me for a bit, you might know that I just took my weeklong vacation/birthday trip to NYC! I had an amazing time and I even met one of my 2015 Money Goals while I was there – paying for the entire trip in cash! No credit cards allowed!  I kept my Facebook loaded with daily pictures of my activities (sorry, it’s not linked to this blog) and I’m excited to share the financial details with all of you! Let’s dig in, shall we?

I’m going to highlight the costs for certain aspects of my trip as a whole – accommodations, food, theatre, souvenirs, etc. – and give you all some tips on how I didn’t drain my entire savings account. List runs from lowest expense to highest expense. My primary goal this trip was to cover friends, theatre, museum, and food! I think I accomplished that! 😉

Accommodations: FREE! – I’m lucky to crash with friends whenever I visit the city. Now I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but it certainly gives me the most bang for my buck when I go to NYC. I know some of my friends have had EXCELLENT luck using Airbnb when they are staying for a week or longer. I’d almost rather stay out of the hustle and bustle of the touristy areas, but some people aren’t so sure! You might not have room service or housekeeping at your whims, but I think it’s better on the wallet. I was staying in Washington Heights and had great access (thanks to public transit!) to everything I wanted to do while I was in the city.

Non-Theatre Entertainment: FREE! – There’s so much to see in NYC that’s free to just look at. I couldn’t even begin to list everything. So much of what we did was free! DID YOU KNOW that Jimmy Fallon tickets are free? You just have to be online to reserve them about a month in advance. They also go really quickly, but my friends and I got some rehearsal tickets and had a blast in the NBC Studio and seeing Jimmy Fallon for the whopping price of $0! Peruse the big stores – all of the stores in Times Square, Uniqlo, FAO Schwartz, Toys ‘R Us, inside Rockefeller Center, and so on – that’s free and you can take some outstanding pictures to bring home! Great people watching also! You can also check out the big hotels – Hello there, Plaza & Waldorf Astoria! It’s free to check out the buildings and lobbies most of the time! Head on over to Grand Central Station too! It’s free to explore in there and you can even get some food! On this note, every museum we went to was free for me to visit (thanks to my professional affiliations) and that is reflected here.

Random Items: $17.47 – This was for a random trip to Duane Reade. I needed drugs/toiletries – minor packing error on my part. Whoops.

Transit: $37.00 – That was for unlimited rides on the MTA during a 7 day period. The actual pass was $32, but I had to add an extra $5 because my pass had expired one day before I left. Public transit is your friend in NYC. The trains are mostly reliable (in my experience, at least) and taxis ADD UP FAST. NYC also has Uber, which my friends chose to utilize for one of our excursions. They told me the price was pretty fair. I don’t know, this wasn’t something they allowed me to pay for.

Souvenirs: $111.98 – I really wasn’t going to NYC to collect ‘stuff.’ I did buy a few small things to bring home for myself – journal, stuff from Crabtree & Evelyn, posters, and some awesome spices from a street fair. I also got something for my nephew and one of my co-workers who has never been to the city before. A GREAT TRIP TO NYC DOES NOT REQUIRE A LOT OF SOUVENIRS. Repeat that to yourself. Seriously. Use that camera! Nonetheless, this was not a huge spending highlight for this trip. My priorities were elsewhere. Also, I’m not keen on lugging 1000 pounds in my suitcase on the way home.

Airfare: $241.20 – This was the cheapest flight I could find on the day I purchased. My friend and I stalked prices for a couple of weeks and then I just decided to buy because I didn’t notice a huge price shift; there was maybe a $5 difference from one week to the next. Shoutout to Southwest for having the lowest fare of all the major carriers here. Even though their planes sometimes get a little cramped, the cost has always been worth it. Also, free checked bags (within specifications, obviously)?! PLEASE and THANKS!

Food: $381.84 – Yep, the second biggest investment of my trip here. I know there are times when we certainly could have eaten cheaper food, but we chose to enjoy everything and go to a lot of places that were new to us. Some of my favorite spots included Cafe Luxembourg (we saw famous people there), Le Train Bleu (in Bloomingdale’s), Butter Lane Cupcakes (sugar hiiiiiiiiiiigh), and Bocco di Bacco for the most amazing Italian food I’ve ever had. That also included a few coffee breaks and gelato, because…gelato.

Theatre Tickets: $398.58 – This is my favorite area to talk about when it comes to getting deals! This was my total for SEVEN shows. Divide that cash total by seven and that means I was averaging $56.94 per show and none of my tickets were ever for bad (nosebleed) seats – almost always orchestra or front row balcony. We saw A LOT of the big shows that are up for Tony Awards (which was a goal for me) and I’m really pleased with our show choices. We even witnessed a live marriage proposal at the end of the very first show we saw! Some of my friends are very curious about how I managed to snag 7 shows for this overall price. Let me share some of my tricks of the trade:

  • If you know of specific shows you want to see ahead of time, search for a coupon code. We started with Google searches for simply “[Show Name] coupon code.” That works almost every time. That garnered us 40-60% off some shows.
  • Make a list of shows: Must-see shows, Maybe-see shows, and No Way shows. That will help you prioritize your time and make sure you actually get to shows you are interested in seeing.
  • Be willing to go on a weeknight or Wednesday matinee! There’s usually better availability and tickets are cheaper.
    • In that same vein, if you are looking to see a certain performer, follow them on Twitter or Facebook to see if they do weekday matinees or Sunday night shows – some big name performers do not. If that means a lot to you, check in advance. Some ticketing websites also list this information.
  • My new favorite mobile app: TodayTix. Seriously. This app was my jam. I downloaded the app a couple of weeks before my trip to start checking prices for some of the other shows I was interested in. I noticed that they had a referral option where you share your link and if someone buys a ticket through your link, they get $20 off and you get a $20 credit. I started tweeting my link shortly thereafter and by the time I arrived in NYC, I had $300 in referral credits. Yup. That’s right. $300 free for tickets. I couldn’t even believe my luck. I would NOT have been able to do this many shows without this happening. Something I really loved about their system is that you can buy tickets a few days in advance! Some options (rush & TKTS, for example) don’t allow you to do that! We bought our tickets for FUN HOME this way since the show was the most expensive on the app. Also, it was HIGH on my list of priority shows since I’d heard so many good things about it. There was even enough left over for me to get ANOTHER ticket on another day! I’m happy to walk anyone through the TodayTix experience more in depth. I had a phenomenal experience with them!
  • Rush! Check to see if the show you want to see does a student rush or lottery! That may mean getting up very early to be in a line at 8am, but you could score a great ticket deal! Currently, many Broadway shows are running an “Under 30” rush which is perfect for me! 😉 Most of the time the tickets are under $75 depending on how popular it is!
  • TKTS! This is a hotspot in Times Square. I didn’t use them for any shows on this particular trip, but I have in the past. They also have an app to stalk prices and get a better idea of how their system works.
  • BE FLEXIBLE! I think this is my most important tip! Be open to seeing more than one show since tickets do sell out! Be willing to see plays and/or musicals – prices can fluctuate between the two! Make that list that I mentioned above so that you can hopefully still see something you are interested in!

Overall, I’m calling this one successful trip!

This brings the grand total for this journey to a whopping $1,188.07 for the entire week with all of my pre-trip purchases included. The best part about all of this? I didn’t even take my credit card on this trip. All I took was my debit card, a handful of cash, and myself! No debts incurred and everything was completely paid for at the time of purchase! Even with a minor setback earlier in the year, I still managed to save enough money to make this trip happen! I don’t think I could have done it any better! 🙂 I’m still reeling from this vacation! I loved so many things!

Now when can I go on vacation again? Whew! I’m ready!

Where should I go next time I’m in NYC? I’m all ears for new places to check out!

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt*

A 2015 Money Goal ACHIEVED!

2015 Money Goal_

Sorry for the delay between posts! I promise I’m alive! I’ve just been hustling ever since I got back from this trip, but I thought I’d tell you all that I can knock another goal off of my list!

Pay for my spring weeklong vacation in cash (a.k.a. no credit cards allowed) … DONE!

My trip was incredible, I can’t lie! I ate so much food and did so many fun things! I tracked ALL of my expenses while I was on the trip, so I’m hoping to share those with all of you this week! Who tracks their vacation expenses? This girl did! I also will highlight some of the cool tricks I used to score some great deals! 🙂

Other than that, HAPPY TUESDAY! 🙂