Tag: Travel


How to Plan the Perfect Staycation: 6 Tips for Affordable Relaxation

It’s no secret that travel can be expensive even if you’re able to take advantage of hacks to lower the costs.

In fact, according to one study, the average family of four spends $4,580 on a vacation. And, many of these families expect to put at least $1,000 of their travel costs on a credit card.

Yet, there is a way to take time off without leaving your hometown and spending oodles of cash: Take a staycation.

What is a staycation?

A staycation is just like a vacation only you stay home. This means you don’t have to spend money on travel and lodging. You’ll still take time off and seek out new experiences, but you’ll be spending time near your home exploring your own town or taking day trips.

You can save a lot of money with a staycation and still bond and make memories with your loved ones.

Here are 6 tips to help you plan the perfect staycation.

1. Explore your city

A staycation can be just as fun as a vacation because you’ll have the opportunity to explore your city like never before. To start, think about whether there are there restaurants or attractions you’ve never been to.

Perhaps you can visit a new neighborhood eatery or attend a local festival. Maybe you can swap out your online shopping to check out some local shops and support the businesses in your area. Or, visit local museums and wander through the exhibits.

If you live near a metropolitan city, you may be able to take advantage of tourist attraction passes that allow you to visit several landmarks or attractions for one flat fee. You usually have a few days to visit all the places included in the pass. This is also a great way to experience the best of what your city has to offer – on a budget.

For example, CityPASS offers a low-priced pass in many cities, including Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Seattle and New York City. For a $64 adult Boston CityPASS ($52 for kids), you get access to five major attractions, including the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science and Boston Harbor Cruises. You’ve got nine days to visit the attractions and your pass also gets you expedited entry into all sites. Not so shabby.

2. Play Catch Up

A staycation is a great way to catch up on errands, set up appointments, and organize different aspects of your life. Dentist appointment anyone?

Yes, this may sound like work, but you can schedule tasks on your own terms and check off a few things on your list, leaving you feeling refreshed.

Just think: You can accomplish things that have been on your to-do list for weeks, like getting routine maintenance checks on your car, going to a doctor’s appointment, and decluttering and organizing your home.

In true staycation fashion, you can even treat yourself to a nice lunch after you finish errands or visit a day spa for the afternoon.

3. Embrace the Outdoors

Ready to embrace the outdoors? Use your staycation to explore local trails. You can also plan an outdoor picnic with family, visit a park, go swimming if the weather permits, or ride a bike along a scenic path. If there’s a nearby state or national park, you can even take a day trip to feel as if you’re getting out of dodge.

Another option to consider: Take a trip to the local zoo. There are several free or low-cost zoos across the country. Most will even allow you to bring in your own food and snacks, cutting down on your costs even more.

4. Take on a New Hobby or Learn a New Skill

Part of the thrill of going on vacation involves going someplace new. Yet, you can still experience something new without traveling far from home. A good place to start: Try out a new hobby.

Think of something you’ve always wanted to do and plan to hone that new skill or passion during your staycation. Whether you want to start playing a new instrument, learn photography, fix cars, start sewing, or practice cake decorating, this is a great opportunity to give it a whirl. Perhaps you can even take a class in the area or check out free resources online. Skillshare, for example, is an online community that allows people to learn new things.

If you’re stumped for a new idea, try a paint and wine outing with friends. These are typically budget-friendly and you don’t need a lot of artistic skills.

5. Make Time For Friends

Take the initiative to reach out to friends you haven’t seen in a while and plan a get-together.

You can simply have a lunch date, invite your friends over, or go somewhere fun. To stay on budget, look for Groupon deals. For example, maybe you can check out a new coffee shop or restaurant in town.

You can also use your staycation as an opportunity to meet new friends. Sites like Meetup have tons of local groups that are designed to facilitate meetings of like-minded folks. There are groups for runners, parents, couples, board game lovers, creatives, pet owners, and more.

6. Relax, Just Do It

Staycations are perfect for relaxing.

Sleep in, take naps in the middle of the day, catch up on your Netflix shows, and take long walks. Before you staycation, you can deep clean your home and organize your space as if you were leaving town.

You can even plan your meals and prep dinners in advance – then freeze them so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Decide on which days you’ll dine out and which days you’ll pull a ready-made meal from the freezer.

If there are any beaches by your home, plan to spend a day there relaxing and swimming. Or, if you have a sauna or pool at your gym, this is the week to make use of it.

Determine how you want to relax during your staycation and make it happen!

Save Money and Refresh With a Staycation

A staycation can not only be a huge money-saver, but it can help you relax, enjoy time with friends and family, and return back to reality feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Most importantly, you don’t have to save up a ton of money to have a successful staycation. And, you also won’t spend as much as you would if you travel far away. Just think: These staycation ideas will help you have a memorable experience without airline fees, hotel costs, and high restaurant charges.

Are you ready to plan a staycation?


How to Prepare for Holiday Travels

If you’re like me, any mention of the holidays in September is likely to make you cringe. “Too soon!” your mind screams.

But tell that to your wallet. And your bank account. The holidays may seem far away but you know how time works in adult years…basically the season of visiting your relatives will be here tomorrow.

Luckily for you: we’re here with a friendly nudge to get your financial butt in gear and prepare for holiday travels.

What should you consider before booking a flight?

Booking flights for holiday travel should never be a haphazard affair. It requires some thought and research to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Holiday flight prices can be truly scary, so to find the best prices, here’s what you need to consider:

  • What airports are nearby?
  • Are your dates flexible?
  • Will you need extra luggage space for gifts?
  • What is the baggage policy?
  • Do you have credit card points that you can use to cover or offset this trip?

By searching different airports and dates, you may be able to save some serious money. For example, I booked a flight recently and the difference between flying out of Los Angeles compared to Burbank was more than $100. Another pro tip: consider flying out on a red eye or flying on the day of the holiday for better deals. I’ve done both, and while not super fun, I did save money and still arrived in time to celebrate with family.

And, here’s another thing to think about: if you know you’ll need to check your bag(s), research baggage fees ahead of time. This way you’ll know what to expect and can plan for the possible added expense. Lastly, check your credit card to see if you have miles or cash back that can offset this trip. Depending on the card, you may also have other travel perks like access to an airport lounge or waived baggage fees.

How far in advance should you book your flight?

Finding the best flight price can be a little tricky but buying at the last minute during the holiday season is definitely a no-no. So, when exactly should you book your flight for your holiday travels?

According to travel site SkyScanner.com, booking flights for the holidays is cheapest in September. In September, prices are on average, 5 percent cheaper. And, booking 14 weeks before Christmas – the week of September 17 – is the best week to book flights. If booked during this time, you’ll score an average of 7 percent in savings.

To get the best deal, you can also set up a price alert using SkyScanner or Google Flights. CheapAir also has a calendar of some of the best days to fly if you’re traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What time should you book your flight?

According to the Holiday Flight Report created by CheapAir, the best time to buy for Thanksgiving is in August or September. For Christmas – as shown above – the best time is in September.

If you want to go a step further, the best day and time to book your flight may be a Tuesday around 3 p.m., according to FareCompare.com.

How much should you budget for holiday travel?

Holiday flights are always more expensive because the demand is so high. Airlines know people will be traveling during this time and they can charge a premium.

Even buying at the best time can still be fairly expensive. According to The 2018 CheapAir Holiday Flights Report, you can expect to pay around $400-$500 per flight on average.

On top of that, you’ll want to consider your accommodations. Will you have a place to stay or will you need to book a hotel or an AirBnB? You will also want to budget for any activities and entertainment during your time away. And, of course, make sure to budget in the amount you may need to spend on gifts once you arrive at your destination. Indeed, the amount you need to save for your trip will depend on your particular situation.

Regardless, holiday travel is pricey, so start saving up now! Using Chime, you can save easily with our Automatic Savings program. You can also save effortlessly when you spend money with our round up option.

Another tip: set aside a portion of your paycheck for your holiday travels. I have a savings account that I named “Travel Fund” and I set aside money each time I get paid. Having that money in a special account helps minimize stress during the holidays — which let’s face it, on its own is fairly stressful, even without all the extra costs.

Remember: the holidays are all about spending time with family and getting some much-needed down time. You don’t want to add debt to the mix so saving now can help you avoid using credit to pay for something you can’t afford.

Final word

You may think it’s too soon to start thinking about holiday travel plans, but in reality it’s never too early to start saving for the holidays. Being prepared and booking flights early can help you score the best deals and avoid the stress of scrambling at the last minute.

To boot, a little preparation, budgeting, and booking ahead can save you future headaches and allow you to enjoy the holidays — without worrying about money.


Budgeting for Summer Vacation

School bells are ringing for the last time this school year. Kids and their families are looking forward to a great summer season filled with warm weather, fun activities, and maybe even a vacation. But that summer vacation may be more expensive than many can afford.

Recent data from Bankrate shows that nearly one-quarter of Americans will skip a vacation this summer due to financial reasons, while roughly another quarter are skipping out due to a demanding work schedule and other family obligations. If you do want to make a summer vacation a reality, it is important to focus on your budget to make it happen.

The cost of a summer vacation

Vacations are not cheap, but they don’t have to cost so much they are not attainable. If you want to take your family of four on a vacation, you’ll spend around $1,000 to $5,000 depending on your accommodations, travel, meals, and activities. But keep in mind you have a lot of control here.

A summer road trip is one of the cheaper ways to get out of town. If you bring a cooler and plan out meals, camp some of the time, only pick hotels with free breakfast, and stick with lower cost attractions, you can enjoy a trip filled with wonderful memories on a tight budget. Depending on your destination and planning, this could easily come in below a $1,000 total cost.

Taking the family to Hawaii or Europe, on the other hand, is rarely an inexpensive proposition. You can expect expensive airfare, hotels, and food to easily surpass $1,000 per traveler depending on how long you travel and the quality of accommodations.

If you live paycheck to paycheck, coming up with even $100 for a home repair is a struggle, let alone $4,000 to take the family to Europe. But money isn’t the only thing holding people back from vacations.

Competing priorities

The Bankrate data said that among those skipping the summer vacation, half said money is the main factor. But for 25%, family responsibilities were the contributing factor. Another 22% can’t take time off from work.

While many employers offer paid time off, a huge number of employees skip taking those days or leave a large number unused. A study from Glassdoor found that half of vacation days go unused and two-thirds of Americans work while on vacation anyway.

For entrepreneurs like us, getting away may be a pipedream. Do as much as possible ahead of time so you can avoid plugging in while away. And putting a vacation auto-away message on can help you avoid the guilt of not responding to emails quickly while away.

Create an automatic vacation savings fund

If you do want to take a vacation but find money is holding you back, consider creating a dedicated vacation savings account. You can put cash in from your direct deposit or a recurring transfer from checking without even thinking about it!

To take it a step further, consider apps like Qapital that can help you put money away on a schedule or based on some fun, automated actions. A few months ago I put $1 into my savings fund every time Donald Trump put out a new message on Twitter, as an example of what is possible for automatic savings.

This can be a simple setup or something more complex. It’s up to you to decide the best path to success.

Don’t forget travel hacking

If you want to supercharge your travel opportunities without going crazy on costs, remember that you can earn valuable miles and points for travel rewards from your credit cards and other sources.

I started travel hacking nearly a decade ago, and it has brought me huge rewards. I’ve been able to visit England, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Canada, Israel, and destinations all over the United States for pennies on the dollar. For example, a few years ago I took my then girlfriend (now wife) to my cousin’s wedding near Tel Aviv. We paid about $150 each round-trip for our flights.

I just booked a July 4th trip to visit my family in Denver, also with miles and points. Flights for three of us plus a lap child cost about $33 out-of-pocket. About two weeks later I’m off on a solo trip to Chicago and Philadelphia for an all-in cash cost of less than $20.

Make your dream vacation a reality

Vacations are an amazing way to see the world and spend time with the people you love most, but don’t let the cost keep you from going or send you into debt. By using smart budgeting, mobile wallets and travel hacking techniques, your affordable vacation may be just around the corner.

This article originally appeared on Due.com.


7 Tips to Save Big While Traveling Abroad

Traveling abroad can be a life-enhancing experience. Exploring other cultures, getting lost in beautiful museums, or just kicking back on the beach takes you out of your routine. But – let’s be real – the joy of that experience is lost if it drains your bank account.

Luckily, saving money on your next big trip abroad isn’t hard. With a little planning, you can see the world without breaking your budget.

Check out these 7 tips to keep costs in check for your next international trip.

Try Alternatives to Expensive Hotels

At this point, we’ve all heard of Airbnb. But have you ever considered a home exchange or house sitting? A home exchange entails swapping houses with someone in another country or location. It allows you both to see new places while avoiding lodging costs. You’ll also be able to save money on food by cooking in a kitchen and eliminate laundry costs as you may have access to a free washing machine and dryer.

My mom has taken advantage of this travel method for over a decade. In fact, for her first home exchange, she swapped two-weeks at our Cape Cod home for two-weeks in a Paris apartment. This created a lifelong friendship. My mother met her exchange family on Home Exchange, a website that allows you to list your home for potential exchange and communicate with those interested in a house swap.

Twelve years later, my mom still travels to France for a few weeks each summer. She now cat sits for the same family in exchange for staying in their home. I’ll let you in on her little secret – cats are pretty self-sufficient.

Use a Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees

Here’s a tip: try not to pay money to spend your money. An easy way to live by this rule is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

These fees can indeed add up as the standard international transaction fee at major banks is three percent, often with additional ATM fees. To avoid these charges, try to get a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees before you take off on your trip.

Even if you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, you should also make sure you have a plan in place to access cash while you’re away. Why? Those beautiful flower markets in Paris or a busy bazaar in Istanbul won’t take your AmEx. So, make sure you carry a debit card with no foreign transaction or ATM fees. Chime Bank, which offers the Chime Visa Debit Card, has no fees at all. Not only this, but you can actually use your Chime card to start saving up for your trip before you leave. By enrolling in Chime’s Automatic Savings program, you’ll save money every time you make a purchase on your debit card. How? Chime rounds up your transactions and transfers the amount directly into your Savings account.

Find Deals to Save Money on Tourist Attractions

Museums and popular sites with high entrance fees aren’t the only way to experience a city. Get out and walk around your new surroundings. Explore small shops, have a picnic in a local park, and people watch.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to use free entertainment guides to find cultural events and free activities. TimeOut, for example, offers up-to-date cultural activities for over 20 cities, including free options, like this tourism guide for London. These guides often include outdoor concerts, parades, or free entrance nights at museums and art shows.

If you also want to visit popular tourist attractions, be sure to look for deals. For example, London Pass, HIPPO Singapore Pass, and I amsterdam City Card offer steep discounts if you plan to see multiple attractions, while still giving you the flexibility to set and change your schedule.

Get Around for Less With Public Transportation

Most tourists choose to take taxis or ride shares around foreign cities. It is the simplest way to get from point A to point B without getting lost. But taxis get expensive fast. Instead, you can save big by familiarizing yourself with a city’s public transportation system before you visit.

In London, for example, Taxi Fare Finder estimates it would cost you $20.17 to take a taxi from Big Ben to The Tower of London. Yet, it would cost only about $3.30 if you took the Underground.

You can even save more on public transportation by adding a transport pass to a city tourism package, like the ones mentioned above. Barcelona’s City Pass from Turbopass, for example, costs $97 for two days and includes an unlimited public transportation pass that would cost $24 if purchased separately. This is a great deal as your transport pass is paired with free admission to more than 20 tourist sites with skip-the-line entry, a pass for the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour, transportation from the airport, maps, and more.

Check Out Restaurants Locals Recommend

Restaurants in major tourist destinations often jack up prices and fill menus with Americanized options. This may be best for business, but it isn’t great for your wallet or taste buds. Instead, wander outside of tourist areas and look for local hot spots.

Not sure where to start? Check out reviews on Yelp! or TripAdvisor. Or, strike up a conversation with a local and ask for dining out tips.

Save on Cell Phone Costs

Failing to prepare to use your cell phone while overseas can lead to sticker shock when your next bill comes in.

To plan ahead, ask your cell phone provider for information on global plans. You may be able to add this service for just a month. Another option is to have your cell phone unlocked. A locked phone can only work with one carrier, but an unlocked phone can pick up signals from other carriers. This means you may be able to purchase a SIM card for a local cell service provider for $10 to $50 on Amazon, depending on where you are traveling.

If you can’t unlock your phone or add a global plan, be sure to lean on text and voice apps using free Wi-Fi, such as WhatsApp and Facebook messaging.

Set (and Keep!) a Budget

Whenever you’re preparing to travel, be sure to create a budget. Incorporate spending money for transportation, food, lodging, experiences, and souvenirs. Then check in on your travel savings account regularly as you plan your activities. This will ensure that you stay on track.

With a little planning, the confidence to stay away from tourist traps, and a no-fee bank account, you can make room for foreign travel in your budget. Bon Voyage!


Top Hacks to Save Money on Holiday Travel

‘Tis the season—to go broke. If the stress and inherent hustle-bustle of traveling during the holidays weren’t enough to pull your hair out, factor in the costs. Not-so-fun fact: Americans spent an average of $1,003 on holiday-related costs in 2016. Yikes.

Whether you’re traveling to visit family or to enjoy an end-of-year getaway, here are our tips to avoid getting sucker-punched with holiday debt hangover (hey, it happens to the best of us). Take a look at our top holiday traveling hacks:

Book early

Just like there are last-minute gift shoppers, there are last-minute travel bookers, says Ben Luthi, travel enthusiast and money writer for Student Loan Hero. As the demand increases for holiday travel, so will the prices. “Of course, booking early won’t mean you’ll get screaming deals,” says Luthi. “Holiday travel is usually more expensive than average regardless of when you book.” But the sooner you do it, the less of a premium you’ll have to pay.

Be flexible

Flexibility is key when it comes to snagging the best travel deals. For example, if you’re flying for the holidays, be willing to potentially fly in early and stay a bit longer to miss the rush, says Luthi. Here’s another tip: the least busy travel days are often Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to personal finance and travel writer Robyn Parets. In addition, you’ll often find a bargain airfare if you’re willing to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday rather than on other days during the week. These two days, along with New Year’s Eve, tend to be the lowest priced days to travel during the holiday season, says Parets.    

Road trip it

If you can spare the time and your destination isn’t too far away, consider driving, taking a bus, or traveling by train – instead of flying, suggests Luthi. For example, Luthi and his wife are driving from Utah to Portland for a two-fold purpose this holiday season: to attend his sister-in-law’s wedding and to spend time with the family over New Year’s. While Luthi originally booked a flight, it was ridiculously expensive, so he canceled it and plans to drive instead.

Hold off on holiday shopping

Instead of hauling gifts on a flight or shipping them, wait to buy gifts when you reach your destination, suggests Jessica Garbarino of Every Single Dollar. “It makes your travel less stressful and saves money,” says Garbarino.

Here’s a solid reason why traveling with wrapped gifts can cause anxiety and cost you money: if a TSA agent decides to inspect your bags, he may decide to unwrap your presents to see the contents. This will not only hold you up and stress you out, but you’ll spend money on more wrapping paper to re-wrap those gifts when you arrive at your destination, says Parets.

Another tip: avoid traveling with gifts altogether and buy your present online. This way you can take advantage of free shipping deals or have them directly shipped to your destination via Amazon Prime.

Consider flying out of another airport

If you find flights are outrageously priced from your home airport, try considering alternatives, suggests Holly Johnson, personal finance and travel writer at Club Thrifty. For instance, while the Johnsons live in Indianapolis, they frequently drive to Chicago for better airfare deals. It’s occasionally $300 to $400 less per person per flight, which nets a grand total savings of up to $1,600 for the family of four. Johnson says the savings make up for the three-hour drive to the airport.

Use your reward points and travel on a budget airline

If you’ve racked up a significant number of reward points on a credit card, consider redeeming them for airline travel, suggests Ruby Escalona of A Journey We Love. Some travel credit cards also let you redeem points for buses and trains too. Just make sure that, if your credit card comes with an annual fee, you gain enough in travel perks to offset that cost.

Get a co-branded airline credit card

When traveling during the holidays, airplanes are more packed than usual, which makes it more challenging to find overhead bin space. To save on checked luggage fees, consider carrying the co-branded credit card of your preferred airline, says Lee Huffman, a travel blogger at Bald Thoughts.

This helps in two ways, says Huffman. First: most airlines don’t charge you to check bags when you book a flight on its credit card. Second: if you prefer to travel with a carry-on-bag, these cards often offer priority boarding. This means you’ll enjoy earlier access to overhead bin space.

Search for online deals for food and fun

Want to have fun on a dime when you arrive at your travel destination? Scour deal sites to find deals on food and entertainment using apps like Groupon and Goldstar before you leave home, suggests Huffman. You should also always carry your membership cards like AAA and AARP to secure discounts at participating locations. In addition, sometimes public transit may offer discounts to nearby attractions and restaurants. For instance, in Los Angeles, you can score “destination discounts” with a Metro transit card.

Seek gourmet food halls

To save on food when traveling, be on the hunt for gourmet food halls, suggests Amy Rutherford of Go With Less. “Think mall food court with ambiance and inexpensive, delicious options,” says Rutherford.” They’re popping up everywhere!” Some gourmet food halls include the Time Out Market in Lisbon, Chelsea Market in New York City, Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, and Mercado Roma in Mexico City.

Ready, set, go

While holiday travel can get expensive, keeping these travel hacks in mind can help you save big bucks while avoiding serious debt hangover in the new year. Your pocketbook and budget for 2018 will thank you.


How to Save Money During Wedding Season

Wedding invitations are piling up on your desk and all you can think is: “How will I ever afford this?” You want to support your friends and celebrate love. But let’s face it, wedding season can wreak havoc on your wallet — especially if you’re attending multiple weddings in the span of a few months.

According to data from the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, wedding guests in 2016 were expected to spend $703 — per wedding. Even worse, millennials spent about 27 percent more, or an expected $893 for every nuptial. With Americans slated to attend an average of three weddings per year, the costs of being a wedding guest can easily surpass the $2k mark.

So what can you do to save money during wedding season? Read on to learn more.

Save money on airfare

Traveling costs to get to the wedding can take the biggest chunk out of your budget, especially if it’s a destination wedding. To save money on flights, timing is everything.

Based on research from CheapAir.com, the best time to book travel is between one and three and a half months prior to the wedding. You can also use Yapta and Hopper to track prices so you can be sure you’re getting the best deal.

Lower costs on lodging

Do you have other friends attending the wedding as well? If so, share an Airbnb and split the cost. If you’re flying solo, see if you have any friends in the area that are willing to host you or let you stay at their place. You may be in luck. Last year I attended a wedding and stayed at my friend’s place while he was out of town. It worked out perfectly.

You can also use sites like Orbitz, Hotwire, Trivago, and Travelzoo to look for the best deals. If you’re willing to wing it, you can always use the Hotel Tonight app, which offers discounts on unsold rooms booked at the last-minute. For those looking to seriously save on lodging, consider splitting up the cost of a hotel room with friends with the help of money transfer apps.

How to gift on a budget

Wedding gifts are a big part of the wedding process.  But if you don’t play your cards right, you could be paying the price — literally.

Many wedding registries have tiered-prices — some low priced gifts, moderately priced gifts, and higher priced gifts. Guess which ones go first? If you don’t want to get priced out of affordable gifts from the registry, purchase a gift early on!

If you don’t act fast, you could also give cold hard cash and choose an amount you can afford. Based on the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, cash came in second place for wedding gift preferences, behind gifts from the registry.

If neither a registry gift or cash fits your budget, you can always make a gift yourself. In the digital age, a printed photo and frame can go a long way. Check out more DIY wedding gifts for a boost of inspiration.

Dress for less

If you’re attending several weddings in a short period of time, the last thing you want to do is to be caught on the ‘Gram or Facebook wearing the same outfit again and again. But if buying several dresses or suits is just not an option, what can you do?

For starters, consider buying a staple like a black dress which you can accessorize with different cardigans, shawls, jewelry or shoes to give it a new look. An affordable place to shop is actually Amazon. Sure, you can’t try on outfits but in most cases, you can return clothing within 30 days.

To save even more money, see if you can get a little help from your friends. Your friends might have clothes in a similar size that you can borrow. I did this a few years ago with no problem. I didn’t have to spend any money and I borrowed a dress that was sitting in my friend’s closet.

Looking for something a little higher end? You can also check out Rent the Runway to get serious discounts on designer wear. This way you can rent a different dress for each wedding.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out your local thrift shop where you might find some hidden gems.

Just say no

With wedding season in full swing, you may feel pressured to say “yes” to every invitation. But if you’re struggling to conquer debt or save money, consider politely declining. This is especially true if attending the wedding may send you into debt. Yeah, it’s not fun or ideal to sit out, but sometimes saying “no” is the best thing you can do for your finances. Here are some tips from The Knot on how to send your regrets.

Bottom line

Attending multiple weddings can add up fast. But with a little planning and creativity, you can lower costs as a wedding guest. By doing so, you can celebrate the nuptials of your closest friends, while keeping your financial life in good standing.


How to Save Money at Music Festivals

Music festivals are a great excuse to round up a group of your best friends, see your favorite artists and hang out with thousands of other music lovers in a beautiful location.

Unfortunately, these events – often held over several days – can be expensive. Not only that, but the recent Fyre Festival disaster elevated the term “buyer beware” to a whole new level. In the case of Fyre, festival-goers paid $1,200 for tickets to what they thought would be a luxury music experience in the Bahamas. They arrived to find sparse unassembled tents, cheese sandwiches, and canceled bands. If these festival-goers learned anything, it was this: Do your research and choose a festival with an excellent reputation and track record. You can start your search on a site like The Festival Guy, which offers up information on a variety of festivals and performers. It’s also a good idea to check reviews on sites like Consequence of Sound (COS) and of course, ask your friends which festivals they like the best.

Once you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to plan an affordable trip to a music festival. Before you do this, however, here’s a dose of reality: The $1,200 ticket price to Fyre isn’t that much higher than a frugal Coachella experience, which will run you about $1,006, according to Time Magazine. But, if you’re mindful of your money and follow these 7 steps, you can still get the VIP festival experience on a budget. Take a look:

Step #1: Decide on A Budget

As a first step, decide how much you’re willing to spend on the festival. Maybe this is your big splurge of the year and you want to go all out, or maybe this is merely the first of a summer filled with music festivals. Once you’ve come up with your max number, you can then decide how much you want to spend. If you don’t want to cut back on any festivals or travel costs, all is not lost. Perhaps you can work a side hustle for a few months beforehand to cover the extra expenses.

Step #2: Plan Ahead to Save on Ticket Prices

One of the biggest expenses associated with music festivals is the admission ticket. In fact, Coachella 2017’s general admission ticket was $399, while the VIP ticket was $899. Yet, with a bit of planning, you may be able to avoid paying for tickets altogether. Here’s how: Festivals run on volunteers. By volunteering, you get free admission. In return, you help check people in, clean up after performances, or work in another capacity. The trick is to apply months ahead of time as volunteer spots fill up fast.

As a volunteer, the perks are plentiful. For starters, you get access to areas and events that the average ticket holder doesn’t. Sure, you might be at the Kendrick Lamar private party because you’re there to pick up empty bottles. But, at least you’re at the Kendrick Lamar private party!

If volunteering is not an option, planning ahead can still save you money as some festivals offer early bird discounts for tickets purchased months in advance. At the very least, buying early means you can snag general admission tickets, which are often hundreds of dollars cheaper than VIP packages. For example, ACL General Admission tickets are $255, whereas the VIP passes are $1,100. General admission tickets often sell out in the first few days of sales, so acting fast saves you big time.

Step #3: Skip Festival Food and Drinks

Everyone knows festival food tent prices are inflated and generally not so healthy either.

So, why not skip eating the food sold there altogether? You can do this by brown-bagging it. Although some festivals may not allow you to bring in your own food, you can often get away with this by putting small snacks in your pockets, like granola bars and fruit. Also, if you plan ahead, you can eat before arriving at the festival. This way you won’t crave the tent food and spend money unnecessarily.

If you’re camping at the festival, you can certainly bring your own food and this makes perfect sense. You can cook what you want and save money. If you drove to the festival, you can even shop ahead of time at low-priced grocery stores so that you can avoid shopping at more expensive convenient stores near the festival grounds.

Step #4: Plan Your Travel Wisely

Depending on how far away you live from the festival, transportation costs can vary widely. If you have to fly, be sure to research flight prices on comparison sites like Kayak or Priceline. Southwest Airlines is not part of third party flight aggregator sites so be sure to check Southwest flight deals separately.

If you can avoid purchasing airline tickets, explore bus fares and train ticket costs. You’re best bet: carpooling. Getting four friends in a car together means you can split parking and gas costs.

Step #5: Fashion on a budget

Let’s face it: music festivals are an Instagram free-for-all. You’ll want to frame the perfect shot and load it up with the perfect hashtags.

In order to get that perfect shot, you might think you need to spend a ton of cash on clothes and photo tools. Yes, a shot of you in a Free People top, paired with your Ray-Bans, might score a lot of likes. It can also wipe out your budget. To save money on the clothes you’ll be rocking to concerts during the day, skip the name brands. Festivals are a no rules playground. Pick up your threads at a thrift store, or borrow from a friend. Better yet, pair clothes you already own together in new ways to make your outfits feel fresh.

By saving money on your fashion-forward clothes, you can spend a bit extra on important outerwear that you may need, especially if you’re camping. For deals on outerwear, be sure to check out sales at stores like REI and L.L,Bean. This way you may be able to score some high-quality outdoorsy clothes that last for several music festivals.

Step #6: Where to Stay

If possible, camping at a music festival will give you the VIP experience. Tent camping at Coachella, for example, costs $113/night. You might think of camping as roughing it, but you’ll be on festival grounds 24/7. That means any pop-up parties, shows, or random dance parties will be yours for the taking.

If you prefer to stay off-site and camping isn’t your style, check out nearby options on  Airbnb. You and your friends might be able to score an affordable house rental and split the cost or perhaps you can split up and rent a couple of rooms with local Airbnb hosts.

Step #7: Festival Insurance

If you’re concerned about protecting your investment in your music festival experience, you might want to consider purchasing travel insurance. Yes, it’s an added expense, but it’s also a good way to ensure that you won’t lose your money if you get sick and can’t attend. Or, if the festival is canceled or a complete mess, like Fyre, you can file a claim with your travel insurance company to try to get your cash back. To shop for affordable travel insurance, check out InsureMyTrip.com and Smartmouth.com.


How to Save Money While Traveling Abroad

Planning a trip abroad is both an exciting and time-consuming process. However, if you’re willing to put in a few extra hours to find ways to create a budget and save money on your trip, you may be able to make your dream vacation a reality.

A budget, for example, will not only make your trip more affordable but also more memorable. Why? If you overspend on your trip, you may be faced with huge credit card bills when you get home – overshadowing your favorite trip memories. You may also feel guilty if you spent too much. With a budget in place, however, you’ll hopefully think back on only the good times and all the ways you managed to score great deals.

Once you’ve got a budget in place, here are some examples of how you can plan and save money on your best trip yet:

Travel During Off-Peak Times

Although it might be easier for you to travel during the summer or over Christmas, these are usually peak travel times and prices are generally higher. So, you might want to try traveling during off-peak times when crowds are thinner and prices dip down. You’ll save on hotels, plane tickets and even excursions. Plus, if you have available airline points, you’ll be able to find fares for fewer points, hopefully leaving you with leftover air miles for your next trip. To start your airfare research, check out this great resource.

Location, location, location

Although finding a great deal on a hotel room is important, you also want to take the location into consideration. Remember, even if you find a nice hotel that seems like a bargain, it might not be worth it if you have to rent a car, take public transportation or even take a taxi to get around. You might be surprised that staying in accommodations that are slightly more expensive might actually save you money in the long run if they are walkable to popular tourist destinations and sites.

When looking for accommodations in a walkable location, it’s a good idea to research all of the available options, include hotels, bed and breakfasts, and rentals on Airbnb and HomeAway. To start your research, go to Trivago, where you can compare hotels from 200 plus booking sites. You can also click around on Google Maps as this syncs with Google to show you hotels in your preferred area. When you zoom in and click on a hotel, the hotel’s website and room prices will typically pop up on the sidebar.

Also, be sure to read reviews before you book anything so you can see what other tourists think about the various accommodations you’re considering. My go-to website to read travel reviews and view actual pictures of accommodations (vs. the pretty ones by professional photographers) is TripAdvisor.

Exchange Your Cash Currency At Home

Many people exchange currency at the airport when they arrive at their destination, but this will usually mean you’ll spend more money on higher exchange rates than you’d get at your bank at home. To avoid this, consider getting currency before you travel at a local bank. If you’re crunched for time, you can still avoid exchanging money upon arrival overseas by using an ATM to get cash in local currency.

Use a Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees

One of the easiest ways to spend money while traveling is by using your credit card. It’s not only more convenient, but you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your cash. However, not every debit or credit card waives foreign transaction fees, and these fees can add up. To avoid this, use a card that does not charge foreign transaction fees, even if it means getting a new card before you depart.

If you prefer using a debit card, Chime is one of the few banks that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees (they actually don’t charge any fees at all.) This makes it easy for you to use your card for most purchases abroad without extra charges.

Figure Out Cell Phone Expenses and Options

One thing that still perplexes many travelers, even tech-savvy millennials, is how to use a cell phone abroad without getting charged exorbitant fees. Again, it’s better to be proactive than to be stuck with a big cell phone bill.

The best thing to do is talk to your cell phone provider ahead of time. Most cell phone companies now have global plans and you might be able to get onto a plan that will save you money abroad. You’ll also want to be aware of roaming charges or any other fees that might arise if you use your phone while traveling.

Another option is to get a cheap phone abroad or order a foreign SIM card ahead of time. This will enable you to make local calls while you’re traveling. Also, keep in mind that your smartphone should work on WiFi and depending on where you go, WiFi may be readily available as you roam about. If you need a bit more WiFi reliability, you might want to consider renting a portable wireless device. I traveled abroad for a month last May and used the company Tep Wireless so I could blog on the go.

Protect Your Investments

There is nothing that will derail a trip faster than losing your passport, wallet or something else that’s important. Trust me, you don’t want to waste a whole day of your trip sitting at an embassy getting an emergency passport. You also don’t want to go through the hassle of contesting credit card purchases or dealing with identity theft. This, above anything else, can cost you big bucks.

It’s important to keep your passport on you at all times and not leave it in your hotel room. You can also wear a money belt, which is sort of like a fanny pack but more discreet and less awkward. For more options, a quick search of “portable safe” on Amazon will show you a variety of items that may suit your travel needs, from small hard safes to backpacks that double as secure safes.

Your belongings aren’t the only things you should think about protecting. What about the cost of the trip itself? Perhaps the best way to protect your trip investment is by buying travel insurance. This way, if you have to cancel your trip or your luggage gets lost and you have to buy clothes, you may be able to recoup your costs. And here’s a tip: before buying travel insurance, research and pick the type of coverage you want on sites like InsureMyTrip.com and SquareMouth. If you’re a savvy comparison shopper, you’ll be surprised at how little you’ll spend for peace of mind.

Use Travel Apps to Help You

Lastly, don’t forget to use free travel apps. These will help you find restaurants, tours and other information about your destination. Some good options include Triposo, which can help you plan a trip based on your budget, Yelp, and Healthy Out (for the health conscious.)

Ultimately, if you take the time to research your trip ahead of time, you’re much more likely to save on your travel costs. This, in turn, can help free up spending money on your trip and even help you save up for your next adventure.


Holiday Hacks: 5 Ways to Save Money on Last Minute Travel

“Do I really love my family this much? Is it socially acceptable to Facetime home for the holidays?”

When I wait too long to buy a flight home, I start entertaining some sad questions like this.

If you’re like me and waited until the last minute to buy a flight home for the holidays, you’re certainly in a tougher spot than you were a few weeks or months ago. But you don’t need to completely go into panic mode. Talk yourself off the cliff and act now — there are a few surprisingly easy ways to save a few extra bucks.

Explore all of the things

Google Flights recently got a clutch update that made it unquestionably the best tool to track flights. Plug in your destination cities and Dr. Google will show you a calendar with aggregate prices, featuring the cheapest flight each day. Perhaps best of all is its flight price tracker, which sends you notifications when prices drop. The search engine also draws from historical flight pricing data to give you an idea of the best time to buy.

If you want a true travel hack, try Skiplagged. Their biggest trick is what they call “hidden” flights: say I want to fly from Denver to Chicago but direct flights there are astronomical. Sfbrekiplagged knows that there’s a flight from Denver to Chicago, and after that, the flight is going from Chicago to St. Louis. Often these multi-city trips are much more affordable and all I have to do is get off in Chicago. The catch is that you cannot check a bag for these “hidden” flights, but for a last-minute hack, you can’t get much better than this.

Try an alternate airport

This past year I was in a wedding in Twin Falls, Idaho. It’s kinda hard to get there unless you want to pay big bucks to fly straight into Magic Valley Regional Airport. Your next best option is an expensive flight into Boise followed by a two-hour drive to Twin Falls. I did love my friends enough to bite the bullet on a Boise flight, but with a little digging, I found an even better option.

As it turned out, flights into Salt Lake City were cheap. It added another hour to the drive, but it saved me a heap of dough. Score one for not breaking the bank. Keep in mind that most flight-price-search aggregators may not suggest alternate airport options. If you’re willing to drive a little further to save money, look around for major airports within driving distance of your destination before you book.

Be flexible about when you fly

This is somewhat of an obvious one, but it’s worth serious consideration. Does it really matter that you fly out the day before the holiday celebration? Can you take a red-eye flight instead?

When you travel on the day of a major holiday, you’ll tend to get the most affordable airfare, plus the added benefit of the least traffic in the airport. That lower stress could pay off as you prepare for heated political debates at the dinner table.

Get creative to avoid paying baggage fees

Airlines collect billions annually from baggage fees. To avoid taking on that extra $25–75, consider wearing your bulkiest clothes to the airport. The person next to you might think you’re a nutjob, but the benefits are myriad. It could be the difference between a small carry-on bag and a heavy, pricier suitcase.

You should also, of course, pack as smart as possible. “Overpacking commonly begins with too much clothing,” says the excellent packing resource website OneBag.org. Consider: do I truly need this extra outfit, or can I wear the same one twice and do laundry at my family’s house? Also, try to bring practical shoes that function in both dressy and casual situations.

Eat meals before or after you get to the airport — and pack snacks

Pass the airport security lines and something magical happens the price of every food item doubles! The dollar menus all disappear, too! Fascinating stuff. I know how easy it is to just eat away the stress with a Cinnabon. But why not just avoid airport food altogether? Odds are you’ve already been forced into buying a pricier flight. Don’t let the system game you any further.

Eat a light, healthy meal at home beforehand. Pack some trail mix in your purse or backpack. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it at the drinking fountain. On a round-trip flight, a little restraint can save you a nice chunk of change. And it’ll make a big holiday meal taste that much better.

Bring your own entertainment

Yes, that shiny Michael Crichton book or Cosmo can be an attractive impulse buy at the newsstand. But can a podcast suffice? How about a free classic book on your Kindle? There are many ways to be entertained without spending $7.99 on a glossy magazine that’ll quickly end up in the recycling bin.

Plan ahead for ground transportation

Try to figure out ahead of time how you’ll get to your destination from the airport and you’ll avoid that impromptu taxi ride. Any chance a relative can pick you up from the airport? Play the “family sticks together” card and hitch a ride instead of dropping money on a cab or an Uber. If that fails, roll with public transportation. If you must hire a car, try uberPOOL, Uber’s carpool service, which will take a little longer but save you a few extra bucks.

Knowing a handful of hacks can go a long way to save money on last-minute travel. What are your travel hacks to save during the holidays?

Learn more about how Chime can save you money, automatically.

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