Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How a 4 Night Trip to Branson MO cost $322.00 vs $850.00/ Get Paid $66.00 an Hour

My husband and I recently returned from Branson MO for a 4 night trip. We had great fun! This trip cost roughly $322.00 for four nights. This included all hotels, food, gas and entertainment. 

The first night, we stayed in Iowa City Iowa as we were driving down. When I saw that Kalona Iowa was nearby, we decided to do a little driving and shopping there as Kalona is the largest Amish settlement west of the Mississippi. This was an awesome bonus! 

We ate at Burger King on the value menu for supper which came to $6.84. I used some gift certificates I got last winter on a buy $20.00/get $5.00 free. For the sake of this article, I just included the whole $6.84 in the figures. 

I didn't do as good a job on this trip taking photos of meals and the like, so I will just be giving numbers of what we spent on what. The first night, we stayed in a hotel I found on Priceline for $40.00/night. With taxes and everything, it came to $49.99. This hotel had a great breakfast, so we didn't have to pay for a meal the next morning. I must say that this hotel was not the nicest hotel, and some might say that that is what you get when you bargain shop. I don't agree with that though as you might get a place you are not too happy with and pay full price too!! Anyway, I would not want to stay there again. Most hotels I have gotten on Priceline have been good, but once in a while you can get one that isn't too great. Anyway, we got on our way. 

We drove until late and paid $25.80 for our dinner meal but had enough leftovers that we were able to use it for another meal later on since our hotel in Branson had a refrigerator. We stayed at the Radisson, which was a very nice hotel. We were signed up for a timeshare presentation and the timeshare people put us up in this hotel. The 3 nights at the Radisson for us were a total of $169.00 and then after doing the timeshare presentation, we were given $75.00 in gift cards for Bass Pro Shops, which my husband will use for hunting gear etc so the hotel was basically $94.00 for three nights vs the $267.00 it would have otherwise been. 

I did a search on free things to do in Branson. We went to Table Rock Dam which was a very interesting free thing to do. 

 We also took the free trolley downtown. This was a fun ride and it was also more convenient than driving. (The driving in Branson can be chaotic!!)

We spent time walking downtown and seeing the sights.

The trees were in bloom and it was beautiful!

Before we left, I did some searches on specials. I found this Groupon special for a concert. It was normally $34.50 per person and I got it for $17.00 each. We had a great time!

We went to Wal-Mart and bought some breakfast items and a couple lunch items. We ate breakfast in every morning and ate lunch in one day. One day for lunch, we had a picnic down by the lake.

We did have to sit through a timeshare presentation. We said no, but we did learn more about timeshares and are seriously considering buying one. If we do buy one, however, it will be on the used market. This is something we are researching. In the meantime, next winter we will be taking the free 4 day cruise that came with this package for our 30th wedding anniversary. We will need to pay the taxes etc for the cruise but the rest is supposed to be free. :)

We traveled about 1500 miles for this trip. I figured our gas cost about $63.00 because my Prius gets about 45 MPG this time of year (50 or more in the summer) vs $126.00 for a car that got about 22.5 MPG. 

On our way home, we were privileged to stay with some friends and do a little sightseeing with them. I haven't included that into these figures and we didn't stay in a hotel on the way home so I cut that out of both the lower and higher cost figures so the dollar figures are just for the Branson part of the trip. 

So, we saved about $528.00 dollars on this trip with some forethought and a willingness to sit through a timeshare presentation. The presentation took about 3 hours (they said 2). I spent about an hour in pre-preparation looking for free things to do and coupons etc. plus a little time to go to Wal-Mart. (But eating in actually took less time so I will say 1/2 hour for the Wal-Mart trip.) So, 6 hours for two for the timeshare, 1 hour for two for Wal-mart and 1 hour for me preparing is 8 hours total spent for a total of about $66.00 /hour we were paid for what we saved on this trip!

Happy Savings!!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Buying Used Furniture

 I recently bought this leather sectional. It has five pieces that connect together so the sectional can be changed around a number of different ways.
It also has recliners on both ends. This was originally a $4000.00 set and I recently saw it on a used site for $500.00. I bought it for $450.00!!

Almost all of the furniture in my house is used. I have been buying used furniture since we first got married, almost 30 years ago now. Things have changed in that time and buying used furniture is easier than ever. In the old days, a person had to scan the classified ads and there were no pictures. Now, with the internet, you can see pictures and there is so much at your fingertips!

I like Craigslist and I am also on a local Facebook page for used items which is where I found this sectional. I also shop garage sales in the summertime.

Some pointers are:

1. If you have a item in mind you are looking for, have some ready cash for these types of purchases. Items go fast and they will get snapped up if you have to wait to go to the bank. A lot of people want cash for these types of purchases and won't take a check.

2. When you see an item that interests you, call immediately. Be ready to drop everything and go look. We were packing for a vacation when I saw this sectional and we dropped everything. This isn't easy but it is the way to get the best items.

3. I always try to remember to ask if it is from a non-smoking home. I don't want to smell smoke every time I sit down.

4. I ask how old the item is, if there are rips or tears. I ask for dimensions so I can measure my area and save a trip if need be.

5. When I look at photos, I look at the area surrounding the piece. If I see a lot of trash, dirty socks laying around etc, I am much less likely to call. Chances are, if they didn't care enough to clean up to take a photo, they also didn't care enough to take care of the item you wish to purchase. Exceptions can be made but they are exceptions.

6. Always offer less than what the seller is asking for. I offered $400.00 for this sectional. The lady said no because she said she had 2 more lookers waiting in line after me. I told her she didn't know if they would show up or buy but I would offer her $450.00 right now and she took it! Afterwards, she said I drove a hard bargain but then laughed and said she would have offered $250.00!

7. When I get the item home, I usually clean it as much as possible because it just makes me feel better knowing I cleaned it!

So, like I said, I can't think of a single piece of furniture in my home that was bought new! We have saved a lot of money buying used over the years. People sell for many reasons and not just because their furniture is old and worn out. They might be moving and not want to take the piece because it won't fit into their new place. There are many like new items for sale. One of the best pointers I have is to be patient. It might take months to find exactly what you want. Be flexible and know that saving money equals freedom in the long run.

Happy Savings!

Monday, March 7, 2016 Coupons $4.25 for a $25.00 Certificate

Right now, has $25.00 coupons for $4.25. These coupon certificates never expire and can be exchanged. A number of years ago, I bought about 20 certificates and my husband and I have been enjoying meals in cities all over the US. If you don't mind following the small print and some other rules, you can have some great meals and meal experiences for very little. We have had a few times where the restaurants were closed or had some other issue, but most times, this has been a winner. Also, their website is very quirky but with persistence you can usually get what you want. 
I don't know how long this deal is going to last. 

Happy Savings!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Stamp Prices to Be Lower in April!!

Yes, you read that right! If you need stamps, buy as few as possible until April 10th when stamp prices will go DOWN for the first time since 1919! The price of stamps will go down .02 a stamp.

See articles here:

That is a savings of $2.00 for a 100 stamp roll!

Happy Savings!!