Archive for March, 2013

The REAL cost of Travel

March 31, 2013 Travel on the Cheap

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The joy of watching loved ones light up while opening their holiday presents was once a priceless moment. Unfortunately, standardized baggage fees imposed by airlines have made traveling with too many packages and luggage a damper on holiday spirits and a blow to travel savings.

The Bureau of Transportation found that major U.S. airlines pulled in an incredible $792 million in baggage fees in the fourth quarter of 2011 alone. Almost all domestic air carriers, with the exception of Southwest and JetBlue, charge passengers a per-bag fee for any checked item.

“Airlines are charging more because they can,” says Mark Drusch, chief supplier relations officer for CheapOair. “Travelers have proven with their purchasing behavior that they are willing to pay for checked bags at the current rates, however, this elasticity may be reaching its maximum based on a flattening of revenues generated by the airlines for checked baggage in the last few quarters.”

Some Americans may have caught on to how to save money on baggage rates, but with the month of September being a critical time to capitalize on the best airfare rates in time for the holiday season, travelers need to arm themselves with ways to avoid unnecessary travel fees that add up. With a few easy planning strategies, travelers can not only arrive to the family holiday reunion with goodies in tow, but can also save hundreds of dollars along the way when traveling on a budget.

1. Apply for Co-Branded Airline Credit Cards

If you’re considering applying for a new credit card and anticipate a need to fly regularly in the near future, a co-branded airline credit card can bring free checked bag benefits in addition to added purchasing power.

Drusch recommends looking into the United Chase Card or the Delta Amex credit card for ways to save money on extra fees. Perks for travelers with co-branded credit cards include free checked luggage and a free meal from the respective airline’s lounge.

2. Join Free Loyalty Programs

The dread of getting too carried away with a brand new line of credit is understandable. Fortunately, airlines are still competing for your business and offer no-charge loyalty programs.

Programs like Virgin America Elevate and Delta SkyMiles offer savings as passengers accumulate points or air mileage toward their next trip. In addition to earning points by booking a flight, customers can also earn points by shopping the airline’s partner store online. Upon reaching a higher program level, members receive free upgrades, and yes—even free checked baggage.

Renowned comedian Dan Nainan frequently flies when touring and claims that staying loyal to one airline has saved him from paying baggage fees: “I am smart enough to stick with one airline instead of flying 10 different airlines to find the cheapest fare. I am now Diamond Medallion on Delta, and never, ever, have to pay a bag fee!”

3. Invest in a Vest

Enlisting the use of a utility vest can work wonders when you’re looking for ways to save money during holiday travel. Sure, you already stashed your cell phone, boarding pass, and ID card in your jacket, but what if you could add a full-size laptop to that list or even a jacket within a jacket?

That is exactly what Michael McColl, travel writer and author of The Worldwide Guide to Cheap Airfares, has accomplished with his vest prototype. The cargo vest lets him carry up to 25 lbs. cost-free.

“A full laptop and a jacket fit in the back pocket. The vest, plus a carry-on and a book bag, is the totality of what I take on most trips,” shares McColl. Since the vest is worn on the body, it isn’t considered luggage, but in reality it acts as just that.

4. Don’t Bring Liquids

OK, for those who are unnaturally attached to a particular face wash or conditioner (I’m just as guilty), traveling sans liquid items may be impossible. But even cutting down on the amount of liquid goods you bring on your trip can be one of the best ways to save money on baggage fees.

Against my better judgment, I checked a bag for this very reason. My boyfriend and I each wanted to pack a standard backpack for our short weekend getaway to San Francisco. However, we stubbornly wanted to bring our own toiletries from home, so we buckled and ended up paying $50 on round-trip baggage fees—just for these liquid products.

It wasn’t until we arrived at our hotel that we realized we could have easily purchased $1 travel toiletries at the Walgreen’s down the street.

5. Ship Gifts Ahead of Time

Instead of trying to cram gifts into a checked luggage bag and risk either damage in transit or loss, ship gifts directly to your destination, if possible. During the holiday season, many retailers offer free shipping within the United States. Why waste that deal by shipping it to your own home, only to haul it with you on an airplane for another location?

Not only will the travel experience be considerably less cumbersome, but you’ll save at least $50, if not more, just by avoiding checking in gift packages.

All it takes to skirt excessive fees is a little ingenuity, whether that means sidestepping overweight baggage fees by wearing your heaviest items on your person or using credit cards as a ways to earn airline incentives. In any case, finding ways to save money is a must for the holiday season.

Recharge your girl power

March 4, 2013 Ideas for Cheap Fun

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Women tend to have close friendships with their girlfriends, and spending quality time together is one way the batteries stay charged in those relationships. Unfortunately, going out to dinner or clubs tends to be the easy, go-to get-together, but that can get pricey. Keeping in touch doesn’t have to mean a dwindling bank balance, however. If you’re looking for some new, fresh ideas that won’t break the bank, try being a kid again. Do you remember how some of the best times you spent with friends when you were a child didn’t have to cost a lot of money? Go retro, and do some of those things again. It might take a little convincing to get some of the ladies to go along for the ride, but once you re-connect with your inner child, you’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have!

Do you remember the time-honored tradition of the slumber party? Those were some of the best times a girl could have! Granted, there are some things you probably DON’T want to do again—we’ve outgrown prank phone calls and freezing each other’s bras (hopefully), but a lot of the other fun passes the test of time. The best part? No one has to spend a lot of time fussing with getting ready—comfy jimmies and sweat pants are the required attire for this event! It doesn’t matter if the women actually stay the night—the best part of slumber parties were the things that happened well before anyone slept! Your best bets for slumber party entertainment? Rent some movies and pop some popcorn (or cheaper yet—have everyone bring their favorite DVDs), break out the Ouji board, take turns doing each other’s nails, play Truth or Dare. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to let loose and be silly!

Did you and your friends spend many weekend hours at the local skating rink? This is another fantastic idea that lets everyone let their hair down. It doesn’t matter if you’re a skating pro or a novice—the idea is to get together and have a good time. Whether you’re rollerblading or ice skating, this is a great to be a kid again. The added bonus? It’s also a great workout AND an amazing stress reliever! You may feel a little awkward being on skates again, but so does everyone else. You’re all in it together, and that’s a great bonding experience.

In most neighborhoods, many summer afternoons were spent playing such time honored games as kick-the-can, Red Rover, and hide-and-seek. Large corporations spend big money to come up with activities that break down barriers and promote team-building. Many of these activities are no sillier than any of these. Get the ladies together and play away! Once everyone gets over their initial reserve, this can be a great time.

How about a good, old-fashioned tea party? Once upon a time, nearly every little girl sat around her play table with her play tea set and dress-up clothes and had a tea party. Doing the grown-up version is a great excuse to get over-the-top dressed up and chat the afternoon away! If anyone has a great, funky hat, this is the time to wear it. Flashy costume jewelry, feather boas, satin gloves—all are great accessories for your grown-up version of a child’s tea party. It’s also the perfect opportunity to break out the “good” dishes—so many of us pack them away and only use them at holiday time. If you feel the need to decorate, bringing in wildflowers from outside and putting them in whatever mismatched vases you have on hand is a nice touch. Brew some tea, make some cute little cucumber sandwiches, and you’re ready to go.

Another fun gathering is a board game party. Don’t limit this to just traditional Monopoly. If anyone has classic favorites like Hi-Ho Cherry-O or Candyland, these can be a hoot to play with other adults. This party is even better if everyone’s children are older—when the kids are young, you may spend too much time playing these games as it is. Once the kids have moved on or moved out, these games often get packed away in a basement or attic and collect dust. Pull them out, blow off the dust, and act like a bunch of kids!

In this often overly fast-paced, high pressure world, getting back to the child you are at heart can be the perfect “re-boot.” Share the experience with friends and remember what fabulous girls you are at heart!

 

Old Fashion Ebay

March 4, 2013 Money Making Ideas

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One way to rake in some extra cash is to sell your items you no longer want or need. You COULD list each item individually on an e-site or in the classifieds. A better option may be to have prospective buyers come to you, leave you with cash and tote off your excess items.

Call it what you want—tag sale, garage sale, rummage sale, yard sale—but whatever you call it, a successful sale can leave you with a pocket full of cash. Don’t be misled, however—you can’t have a successful sale just be throwing everything out in the yard or garage. Preparation is key in holding a lucrative sale. It can make the difference between cleaning up monetarily and having to clean up, and no one wants to have to lug all of that stuff back in the house!

Your first step is to check with your local municipality regarding any requirements they have for holding a sale. Some cities require a permit, others limit numbers of days you can hold a sale, many limit where you can post signage—you want to know these things first because you don’t want to violate any ordinances or laws.

Your next move is to cull the merchandise you want to sell from your home. This sounds easy enough, but it can be very time consuming, so be sure to do this well before you are ready to hold your sale. Also, make sure anything mechanical is in good working condition or is labeled otherwise—you don’t want to mislead buyers. Clean up your items—launder clothes, hose off lawn equipment, wash old dishes or whatever it is you need to do to make sure your items are going to be attractive to buyers. Clean, fresh-looking items are going to make your sale look more inviting and will bring in more cash than those that look worn and dirty.

Once you have decided what to sell, you need to choose a location. If your home is in a high traffic area with ample parking available, then you have a perfect spot. Otherwise, you may want to consider teaming up with a friend who has a more accessible spot.

Choose a date that doesn’t conflict with other community events. If your area holds city-wide or town-wide sales, you may want to try to piggyback onto that. Not only will you be available on a date when folks will be out and about in your area, ready and willing to spend, you’ll also be available to take advantage of any marketing the municipality is doing for the event.

Speaking of marketing, advertising for your sale is incredibly important. If no one knows about your sale, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your merchandise is or how beautifully it is displayed. If no one sees it, no one can buy it.

Take advantage of all opportunities to get the word out. Post notices on local grocery bulletin boards or the laundromat, put up an ad at your place of employment, post on any free local sites you have available and place an ad in the garage sale section of your local newspaper. When creating your ad, try to begin with an eye-catching headline: “Great Stuff, Even Better Prices,” “20 Years of Accumulation,” “Treasure Sale”—whatever you can think of that accurately describes what you have but will also grab attention is a great headline for your ad. Make sure you include where your sale will be (including days and times), where it will be held (including any pertinent directions or parking information) and a listing of the types of merchandise you have for sale, especially any big ticket or unusual items.

You’ll also want to make sure there are a few things you have on hand before the sale. Dealing in cash is best, so you’ll want to be able to make change. Have plenty of coins and dollar bills at the ready so you aren’t stuck selling something for less or losing a deal because you couldn’t make change. Note how much cash you started out with before the sale so you can determine your profit at the end of the day.

A few hard core garage salers will bring their own sacks or reusable bags, but it’s helpful to have plenty available before the start of your sale. Instead of recycling grocery sacks, hang onto them before your sale so you can bag your customers’ purchases.

Make sure all of your merchandise is labeled clearly. Masking tape and Sharpies are a great combination for making tags. If you have more than one person involved in your sale, using different colored Sharpies on the tags will help keep track of who benefits from each purchase.

Have a ledger available to track the purchases your customers make. Record as each sale is made. This will make divvying up the profits at the end of the day go much more smoothly.

It’s also helpful to run an extension cord to your sale area so any electronic items can be plugged in. If you have items run by batteries, it’s also nice to have batteries available to try in the items to be able to show folks that these items are in working condition.

Display your merchandise as neatly as possible. If you have access to clothing racks, use them to display nicer clothing. Fold and arrange clothing by size so it’s easier for customers to look through. Try to arrange like items together. During down times, straighten up your merchandise.

Be sure any signage you have is easily read from the street. Make letters large and neat so everyone can read them. If your municipality allows, place signs near high-traffic intersections so drivers will notice them while stopped at stop signs and stop lights. Balloons tied to your signs will also help them stand out. Don’t forget to have a large sign in front of your sale so no one misses it! Remember not to post any signs on utility polls—this can pose a danger to you or any utility worker who comes into contact with the poll and is generally not legal. Also, take down signs at the end of the day. Too many times, signage is abandoned after a sale, creating an eyesore and causing confusion.

It’s also a good idea to have at least one other person with you to run the sale. Not only is this a good safety measure, it also helps to have one person who can take care of the exchange of money while another is available to answer questions. It also makes it much easier if you need to take a restroom break!

Last but not least, be prepared to deal! People like a bargain, and they feel like they’ve gotten a real deal if they are able to talk you down from your original price. If you really want to sell your wares, don’t be so attached to them that you aren’t willing to haggle on the price.