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Elle Martinez

The Best Couple Money Posts of 2014

couple money 2014 top posts

With 2014 coming to end in a couple of weeks, I wanted to take a minute to say thank you so much for your support. Your comments and stories have been so encouraging and motivating to me as we reached our fifth anniversary this year. I truly couldn’t have reached this point without you.

In case you’re a new reader (welcome!) I want to share some of the most popular posts from Couple Money this year.

Family and Finances

Money is simply a tool for us to use and one major goal is to take care of our loved ones. With a toddler and another one one the way, we try to keep our family expenses steady so when things come up (part of life) we can tap into our buffer.

We also look for ways to draw closer with our finances – yes it’s possible. There are some wonderful services and companies that can simplify the essentials.

We’re looking forward to making 2015 an even better year by finally getting rid of our student loan.

Saving and Making Some Cash

Part of building a buffer with your budget is making sure you grow your income and cut back on needless expenses. Easier said than done, right?

That’s why I enjoy writing about both here on Couple Money – so the two of you can find a way to each your financial goals sooner rather than later.

How do you make some more cash on the side?

Money Questions

One of the biggest joys I have writing on Couple Money is hearing from you here on the site, through email, or on social media. Here are just a few questions I received (and some I had myself) about money.

Let me know if you have a question you want me to answer so you can reach your money goals in 2015.

Couple Money Podcast

Before wrapping up my review I have to mention that one of the biggest changes with Couple Money has been the launch of podcast.

Real couples, real stories – that’s my favorite part of the podcast right now.

It’s my hope that the podcast will help you two reach financial freedom together. If you haven’t caught an episode, please download a few or subscribe.

What topics and money questions do you want to see covered on the show? What stories do you want us to cover?

Your Couple Money Favorites in 2014

Thank you again for a fantastic year! Reviewing what I’ve written this year was so much fun. Now, though, I’d love to hear from you – which are your favorite Couple Money posts from 2014? Why? Any topics you’d like to see tackled here in 2015?

Finding Great Deals on Hotels

save on beach vacation hotels

Today’s post is based on a recent Couple Money Podcast episode on Travel Hacks for Your Next Vacation.

One of the biggest hurdles people have with taking a trip or vacation is the costs.  Depending on where you go, the biggest expense can be your lodging. The good news is it doesn’t have to be. There are several ways you can find the perfect spot for you.

Three of my favorite ones include:

I’ll go over each of them so you can decide which options work best for you and your traveling circumstances.

Be Willing to Be Flexible

Besides where you go another huge factor in price is when you go.  Two of the best times to go somewhere is during the off and shoulder seasons.

Off season travel doesn’t mean you have to go when the weather is miserable. Few of my friends travel to Ireland during the winter and loved it.

An alternative that may be more appealing to you is traveling during shoulder season. It’s that in between time between off and peak seasons when the weather is more cooperative and tourists are relatively manageable.
You probably won’t save as much, but it’s still better deal than visiting during the popular seasons.

Decide between yourselves if either works best for your budget and travel temperaments.

Be on Top of Your Hotel Bids

Just like with flights and car rentals, you can bid on your hotel stay. Some people are hesitant about signing-up because they don’t know which hotel they will be getting until the booking is made, but there are ways to make sure you get a great hotel at a fraction of the advertised price.

First off, with Priceline, you have some control as you break down certain locations and cities by zone. That allows you to hone in on areas that you want be within walking distance of, saving you on car rental.

You can also let Priceline know what hotel quality you’re searching for. I find that having a minimum of 3 1/2 stars gives us plenty of options and still be happy with the bid taker.
to help you increase getting the deal and hotel that you want is utilizing sites like Better Bidding. There is a ton of information on which hotels are in what areas and lots of reviews.

Beyond the Big Sites

Finally if you want to maximize your savings and perhaps get a more local feel with your stay, you should explore different rooming arrangements. My sister, who loves to travel outside the country, is always on the hunt for deals. There are some wonderful places that aren’t listed on the popular travel sites.

There are several lesser known ones including Eurocheapo.com and Wimdu. You can also look for bed and breakfast spots and local rentals. Besides the money you can save, you can be living like a native – making your trip even more memorable.  Sites like Airbnb, All The Rooms, and HomeAway can help with that.

Thoughts on Hotel Deals

If you have any questions, please tweet me or send me an email. I hope you have the vacation of your dreams and you enjoy your stay.

Retirement and Credit Cards for Couples

couple money interviews

This week Couple Money has been featured on two sites with interviews about getting a retirement plan set up as a couple and whether the two of you should open joint credit cards as newlyweds. I’ve included excepts in case you want to get an idea of what was covered.

Discussing Retirement Goals

When should couples sit down to discuss their retirement goals and strategy? How often do you think they should revisit this discussion?

The sooner, the better. If the two of you haven’t already, set aside time this week and have a money chat. You don’t have to do everything in one day.

Start off by talking about what each of you picture for retirement. You may be surprised at what comes out.

  • Where do you want to live (location and home – how big or small)?
  • What do you want to do in your “free time” (volunteer, start a second career)?
  • Do you plan on staying in one location or traveling around?

From there, figure out about how much you need to have and work backwards.

I think you should check in with one another about your progress at least every few months, even if it’s just to talk out dreams. Those conversations can be great motivation to stay the course and grow closer.

Co-sign on Loans

Mortgages and auto loans are more complicated than credit cards. For one thing, they’re often for large amounts of money and are paid off over many years. For another, one spouse with poor credit can derail the chances of getting the best interest rate, resulting in thousands more paid over the loan’s duration. Just look at the estimated APRs for a 30-year fixed mortgage, based on FICO score range, to the right.

So should the spouse with good credit apply alone?

Martinez says no.

One person carrying entire credit load can lead to resentment, she says. Plus, one spouse’s low credit score should give the couple pause before they embark on huge credit commitments.

“Get both of your credit situations under control before you start talking about loans,” Martinez says. “If you have a partner who has a problem with keeping up with credit obligations, a loan is going to add more headaches. Just the process of going for a mortgage will require both people to be on top of things.”

Thoughts on Managing Finances as a Couple

Please check the posts out and let me know what you think? How dod the two of you handle retirement contributions? If you two use credit cards, how are they set up?

Credit Cards and Airline Miles – Can You Really Get Free Flights?

travel hack credit cards

I’ve heard about it from friends who travel often for work, about how they were accumulating points from their favorite airlines to get some free flights. However it wasn’t until I discovered Chris Guillbeau from the Art of Non-Conformity that I saw it as a possible way to save significant amounts of money.

He was someone who mastered the system and used it extensively to literally travel the world. It sounds too good to be true, right?

Actually it’s not, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

How Travel Hacking Works

Before you jump into these deals, it helps to understand how the process actually works so you can decide if it’s really the best option for you.

You sign for the card and many times there is an initial bonus along with a limited time offer of extra rewards if you use their card. Sometimes, you can get a huge amount like 50,000 points plus double your earnings the first three to six months.

Why are banks, credit cards issuers, and travel companies so generous with these bonuses? Simple. It’s because they expect to make money from the majority of the customers they acquire from the deals so be aware of that when you sign up.

However if you’re looking to beat the pack and can navigate the rules they have in place, you can get a lot of fantastic deals and free travel.

Benefits and Traps of Hacking Frequent Flier Miles

Is this system for everybody? No, but it can be a huge pay off for those who use it systematically and for the sole purpose of maximizing their travel rewards.

Most definitely I would NOT recommend it to someone who currently has credit card debt. Being a master with credit card rewards takes self-discipline and some amount of organization. If you’re struggling with paying off your cards every month, you will only be hurting yourself. Instead, I suggest paying off all of your high interest debt and see if you can stay on top of things afterwards for at least 6 months.

From there you can test out and try travel hacking. I don’t want you to put your finances in jeopardy.

Maximize Your Travel Hacking with a Communitycredit cards travel hacks

If you think you want to try it out, there are plenty of places you can try out. I tend to browse through Four Howur Work Week and The Art of Non-Conformity since Tim and Chris have traveled all around the world and are familiar with different deals.

If you’re looking at simply getting better deals on bidding there are some online forums to help you out like BetterBidding, RateDrop and Hotel Deals Revealed.

Finally if you’re someone who is looking at traveling much more and want to drastically reduce costs and have the time to stay on top of things you may want to join a travel hack community. Chris actually has some of the most popular guides and groups, each with a specific focus.

Thoughts on Travel Hacking

If you’re new to this, I would try out the free forums first to see how you much you gain from them. Once you’re comfortable, go ahead and branch out from there.

For those who love to travel, please share your tips and stories in the comments below!

Avoid Checking Fees and Earn a $100 Bonus

save money on medical and hospital bills

For those looking at getting a better deal with their checking and savings account,  you may want to check out Capital One 360.

Capital One 360  is giving  big bonuses when you open up a new account with them from now through December 1st 11:59pm ET.

Earn $100 Bonus with Fee-Free Checking

How it works:

  • Open a fee-free 360 Checking Account between Nov. 28thand Dec. 1st
  • Make an initial deposit of at least $250
  • Complete 5 Debit Card purchases, deposit checks from anywhere with CheckMate or any combo of both within 45 days
  • Snag your $100 bonus on day 50

The nitty gritty:

  • This has to be your (or your joint account holder’s) first 360Checking Account (including Electric Orange checking)
  • The 5 Debit Card purchases can either be signature or PIN-based
  • Your $100 bonus will be automatically deposited into your account on day 50

If you want to open a checking account with Capital One 360, simply click here to get started.

360 Savings®: Start your Savings Journey with a 360 Savings Account (and a $100 bonus)

How it works:

  • Open a no-free 360 Savings Account between Nov. 28th and Dec. 1st with an initial deposit of $1,000 or more
  • Snag a bonus of $100
  • Enjoy the gift of saving

The nitty gritty:

  • This has to be your (or your joint account holder’s) first 360Savings Account (including Orange savings Accounts)
  • The bonus starts earning interest on day 1, but you can’t take it our for at least 30 days
  • This account must be funded from a source outside of CapitalOne 360, In other words, your initial deposit can not be transferred from an existing Capital One 360 account.

If you want to open a savings account with Capital One 360, simply click here to get started.