Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How a Trip to South Padre Island for Two /4 Nights Cost about $550.00

My husband and I just got back from a great trip to South Padre Island! It was great fun and the whole thing from start to finish cost about $550.00! That includes airfare, hotel, car rental, attractions and food. 

The airfare was $0.00. We have an airline miles card that we use for buying all throughout the year and we make sure to pay it off every month so we don't get socked with fees of any kind. It is a Capital One Venture Card. When it was time to plan a trip, I chose the destination based on the amount of airline miles we had to spend. Some places take more miles and some less and so South Padre Island fit all the criteria! It is warm! That was the most important criteria! And we had enough miles! And so, I bought the tickets. 

Second step, I bought a hotel on Priceline. I usually have a good result from Priceline. However, this time, I wished I had chosen Expedia. I asked for a 2 star hotel. We like chains and try to stay away from the Mom and Pop type hotels (even though we would like to support the local economy, they can be scary). Priceline gave me a hotel for $205.00 for four nights. Sounded pretty good until I saw that other places like Expedia had it for cheaper AND it looked like a one star hotel. I wrangled with Priceline and they refunded me $26.32 for the difference on what I could have gotten it elsewhere, but they would not change my hotel even though I insisted this definitely looked like a one star. It seems to me that in popular destinations, Expedia may be the way to go as you can choose your own hotel and they seem comparable in price to Priceline's Match My Price, where you do not get to choose your own hotel. Anyway, when it was all said and done, I paid $172.12 for the hotel. The hotel was okay, but not real nice. It did have a microwave and refrigerator which was nice. Since we had a frig and microwave, we went to Walmart and bought the food below!

Walmart was having a great markdown sale on frozen food and the breakfast Eggo's were only .75 for a box of four and the Chili's were only .50 a box. The mashed potatoes were .10! So all this above was $23.32 and then we bought a banana, some water and some yogurt later for $1.69. We ate breakfast in except for the first day and we ate some other meals in too. 

 This was the beautiful beach! We made the mistake of paying to get in ($5.00) when you didn't have to pay everywhere. We learned that after the first day, so after the first day, seeing this was free! There were plenty of beautiful things to see driving along or getting out and walking which we did every day including a drive to Brownsville TX and a walk across the Mexican Border.

Here was our first major meal. This also had a salad with it. We found a 20% off coupon for The Shrimp Haus and ordered this meal and split it. It was HUGE! We also split the huge deep fried ice cream below
. We were stuffed when we left. All told this cost $27.58 plus tips.

 We went to this Birding Center and it was really nice. They had boardwalks where you could see a lot of different birds. We also saw an alligator with babies! You can see the little baby in the photo. This was $10.00 total.

 We took a sunset cruise on a boat and saw this Pirate ship along the way! The cruise was 2 hours and cost $32.00 for two but I googled Retail Me Not for a coupon code and got $5.00 off when I signed up online.

This lighthouse was free to visit. You could only walk around outside though at this date. But it was still fun. We also walked around to a few shops.

This was another meal we ate out. It was also huge and we split it as well. I was disappointed because I thought the coconut shrimp would not be fried but it was. I tire of fried very fast and only ate some of the blackened fish. Anyway, this cost $24.36 plus tips. The fresh fish and shrimp in SPI is phenomenal!
We rented a car for this trip. It was a Nissan Note. It was a cute car and cost us $131.68 with a full tank of gas.

We paid for parking for the car we own and that was $61.92. We have a frequent parker pass that is full now and we can also sign up online for a free day so next time we park there we should get two days free.

The rest of what we spent was on a little ice cream, McDonalds and a couple local eateries where we experienced some very local Mexican food. Some good, some bad, but local.

So all told this trip was around $550.00 total for the two of us or $275.00 each. Not bad for all that!

Happy Savings!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Save Money on Clothing

There are so many ways to save money and a lot of what you do depends on your own personal circumstances and how much money you have to play with. When my kids were younger, we had less money than we do now. Every year, at the end of the season, I would buy the next year's clothing the next size up on clearance and put it in their closet. Then, when that next season came around, my kids always had what they needed. This always worked for me. I never had a problem with the sizes being too small when I needed them. I also shopped at thrift sales and stores. Generally the clothing they had for around home like pajamas or clothes to just run around in, I bought used. I wanted them to have brand new clothing for the beginning of the school year though, so I would wait until the clearance sales got way down and then I would buy.

You may worry about how your kids will feel about this. All I can say is that my son never cared a lick where his clothes came from and my daughter, although she cares more, thinks I have a great thing going and feels I taught her well. She too, likes clothing and usually buys hers at the thrift store. Then, she comes home and brags to me about what a great deal she got. :) A girl after my own heart. I think you need to consider the values you are passing on to your kids about money. Do you use your money to your advantage or simply to impress others with what you can buy? The kids will watch and notice.

If you really just have no money to play with, thrift sales and thrift stores are the place to go in my opinion. Thrift stores often have half off days. If you limit yourself to the items with half off tags, you can do pretty well. If you pay full price, you could get it brand new on clearance sometimes for a similar price.

When I shop in the stores I never, ever look at regular priced clothing. I mean, that's actually boring to me. :) What fun is there in paying full price for something? I remember once in my 20's, I bought a dress that was not on sale. It was so memorable that I remember the dress to this day. I just simply never, ever pay full price for clothing and there is no need to. This is the only thing I bought for full price that I remember.

I like nice clothing. But what I like more is someone else paying for it, wearing it once and then me paying a fraction of the price for it.

When I go to the stores, I only shop off season clearance. Winter clothing is starting to clearance in my area. So, every time I go, I look. I will go to the mall for my once or twice a year trip when the clearance prices bottom out for the year and hopefully I will find a few things.

I got the shoes in the photo above today. These were regularly $22.97 and are now $5.00. I don't need a pair of tennis shoes. The last couple pair I got I got at garage sales, new looking, for a dollar or two. So, I hesitated about buying these. Sure they're a great deal, but they are 5 times what I paid for my last pair. :) But they are cute and so I will put them in my closet for when my other pairs wear out. Hopefully I wont' regret it.

Happy Savings!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Using Coupon Books to Save Money

Every year, I try to find one of these types of coupon books. They are often sold as fundraisers for youth groups or other organizations,so the first good thing about buying a coupon book is you are helping a worthwhile organization! This year, I was having trouble finding one so I put out an ad on our local Facebook page where things are bought and sold and asked if anyone was selling one. Fortunately for me, a friend of mine saw I was looking for one and one of her daughter's friends was selling one. We met, I gave her $20.00 and voila! Coupon book! Last time I bought a coupon book, they were $10.00. Everything is going up!

This is a thick little booklet. The coupons, in my opinion are very hard to use as a booklet, so I sift through the booklet and take out the coupons that I think I will use during the year. I put them in little packets for areas or restaurants so they are easily accessible. There are freebie coupons, massage coupons, haircut coupons etc etc. I will definitely get more than $20.00 worth of coupons out of this book!

This is a win/win/win. The kids raise money for their groups, the businesses get frequented and I save money. It doesn't get better than that! Happy Savings!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

If You Are Waiting for Someone Else to Fix Your Financial Problems, You Are Going to Wait a Long Time!

This post is going to be somewhat about my philosophy on money, finances and making things work for yourself.

Basically, my philosophy is this: If You Are Waiting for Someone Else to Fix Your Financial Problems, You Are Going to Wait a Long Time!

We live in a society that wants the government to fix everything for them. Many people have lost ingenuity, creativity, the desire to help themselves and in so doing, the self respect that comes from making things work for yourself.

Their philosophy goes something like this: We need to help the poor and needy (I agree this is true). Then they turn that into: The government needs to help the poor and needy (only perhaps, partially true). That then turns into: We all need help. This becomes, we all need a bazillion government programs to help us all and bail us all out etc. etc.

Okay, maybe that's a little exaggerated. But how did this country go from wanting to help the poor and needy to now everyone needs help? How did your needs become my responsibility? How did my needs become yours? Why can a family of immigrants all cram into a tiny apartment, share expenses, work minimum wage jobs and eventually buy a business and climb out of poverty? Could it be something in our thinking?

My thinking is this: when we start with the thinking that we need to help the poor and needy, that is noble. There are some people who truly need help and I am not at all saying we shouldn't help the truly poor and needy. But everyone isn't poor and needy. The philosophy that the government is obligated to do more and more and more...seems to be a philosophy that says maybe we're not all that responsible for ourselves. And if we're not all that responsible for ourselves that maybe when we took out $50,000 in student loans (or whatever the need may be) and are having trouble paying it back, that maybe that is somehow the government's responsibility, which ultimately turns into your neighbor's responsibility, which turns into higher taxes.

I don't know about you but I don't think the government has done that great a job with our money. As a matter of fact, I think it's been pretty abysmal. This means I don't want to give them more of it. I have a base-line that I think government should do. And I think they are in way over that.

Okay, so how does that apply to us, this day at this time and to our own finances? The way it applies is this: you are responsible for your finances. If You Are Waiting for Someone Else to Fix Your Financial Problems, You Are Going to Wait a Long Time! If you have the drive and the want to, you can turn things around.

The first things to do is to look where you can save. Many people believe they can't save in any way any more than they do. They often say this with a Starbucks in their hand. So, look closely at what you are spending on. Remember that rewarding yourself little treats can cost you dearly in the long run. You don't have to deprive yourself. Just make the coffee at home. Say you spend $10.00 a week on coffee treats. That's $40.00 a month. What if you took that $40.00 a month and tacked it onto your smallest payment. Say you owe $300.00 on a credit card. If you tacked that extra $40.00 a month onto a card you could have it paid off in no time. Then, a snowball effect occurs because you no longer have the credit card payment PLUS you have the $40.00 a month on top of that to put on your next bill.

There are so many creative ways to save money. Making your own way gives you such a sense of self-respect and dignity. It lets you know you are somewhat in control of your own destiny (barring a catastrophic thing)!

You can do this! You can change your own life! But only you can do it because If You Are Waiting for Someone Else to Fix Your Financial Problems, You Are Going to Wait a Long Time!

Happy Saving!