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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.

Finding the Perfect Gift for Your Loved One

perfect anniversary gift scotch

I recently did a segment on the Couple Money Podcast on gift shopping and I wanted to share some tips from it

Finding and giving the perfect gift for your loved ones one of the best feelings. However it can sometimes seem really difficult, especially if someone is ‘hard to shop for’. If you’re in this situation, here are four steps to make it more fun and less stressful.

  • Make a list of all the things the person is interested in
  • Drill Down and see if any gifts jump out
  • Choose based on their tastes
  • Have fun presenting it

To (hopefully) make things a little more clearer, I’ll be using my husband’s upcoming anniversary gift as an example.

Usually we take trips for our anniversary, but since travel is a bit limited with me being towards the end the preganancy I’m going with gifts this year.

Make a List of All the Things the Person is Interested In/ Enjoys

You need to remember is that the best gifts reflect the recipient’s interests and personalities. One of the best ways to crack the code and come up with an awesome surprise is brainstorming up a list of the person’s interests and hobbies.

At this point, just write down whatever comes to your mind, no editing. We’ll whittle down later.

I’m going to start off with an easy one – tech. He’s a software developer and he is definitely a gadget guy. He’s also into sci-fi dramas so I might pick up a series on DVD, kind of like a collectors item. While not a hardcore gamer, he does play to unwind  at night (I’m the early bird, so I’m usually asleep by then).

For those who have been following for us for a while, you know that we also homebrew and have made some tasty batches of beer. I could look at some hard to find ones and get some for him. He’s also gotten into scotch in the past couple of years and seems to love it.

As for something different from what we’ve done past anniversaries, I could check out and see if there are any concerts coming up that he’d like to go to.

Drill Down for Gift Ideas

The next step is going over the list and seeing if any gifts jump out at us. I want to give my husband something that he will love and enjoy.

As for tech, he already has a tablet and phone he loves and uses. He mentioned a smart watch, but told me that none of them look good enough so I think tech will be off the list.

With scotch, I’m not really a drinker but I checked the cabinet to see what he has and it looks like he’s started a small collection started. I’m thinking this could be nice – finding a scotch he would love and could drink for special occasions.

As for the DVDs, I’m chucking that because we have a Netflix and Hulu Plus subscription which has plenty of series up there. Plus he doesn’t watch a ton of TV. I don’t think this would get him excited and I want him to be happy.

There hasn’t been a recent game he’s gushed about. He does however love retro games and has a steam account, so I might get him a gift card. ( I know some people think gift cards are tacky, but if it’s for a store or a site that they love, I think it’s a fantastic deal.)

I don’t see any concerts that I know that he would love. We do like discovering new artists and bands, but unless I’m sure that he’s get excited, I don’t want t use this as the anniversary gift.

So looking back at the list I think I’m going with the scotch. I think it would be so much fun to get a great bottle of scotch that he can add to the collection.

Choose Based on Their Tastes

Like I said, I don’t consider myself a scotch drinker so I will be relying on others to help me pick the right one.

First thing, I do is reach out to a friend who loves scotch and we’ve had some with. She’s knowledgeable and hopefully she’ll remember a few of the scotchs my husband really enjoyed tasting at their place.

While I wait for her reply, I go over to Scotch Addict to see if I can add some contenders to the list. As if Jim read my mind, he released a post about Scotchs for special occasions. (http://scotchaddict.com/best-scotch-special-occasion.html)

I hear back from my friend and with her info and what I picked from the site, I have 3 possible contenders:

  • Laphroaig 18 Year
  • Macallan 12 year
  • Glenlivet 15 Year French Oak

(Since our anniversary is not here yet, I won’t reveal what I picked out ;) )

Presenting It

The last step is my favorite – giving it. With a good scotch, you can do something minimal and it would be fine, but for our anniversary I want to have some fun.

We’ll have a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants in town and there will be a scotch tasting included. Once we arrive home, I will then give him his anniversary scotch along with some other items to go with it.

Thoughts on Gift Giving

So there you have it – a system for finding perfect gift for someone special. I hope it helps you. I’d love to hear about your ideas on finding the right gift for your loved ones.

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan