Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, it pays to do a little bit of research in advance to get the best deals. Although there are often last minute deals or discount coupons available for hotel rooms, it can be a bit trickier to avoid hidden charges and get a fair price on a rental car. It’s not uncommon to agree to a quoted price only to turn up at the rental counter and be presented with a far larger bill than you were anticipating. The following are a few handy tips to avoid sticker shock and get the best possible car for your money.
Image Source: Mary and Angus Hogg/Geograph.org.uk
Don’t rely solely on comparison websites.
When booking flights and hotels, you probably use aggregators like Kayak.com or booking sites like Travelocity or Booking.com. There’s a wealth of comparison sites and search engines to help you narrow down your choices and find the best deal. However, it’s important to just use these as a guide when you’re looking at rental cars. Car rental comparison sites tend to only focus on the biggest companies, overlooking local operators who might be able to give you a bigger deal. Get a feel for your options with these comparisons, but don’t neglect the small, local companies.
Look at cars before booking.
The type of car you choose will influence your price, but this doesn’t always mean that you have to choose a sensible, medium-sized hatchback. Pricing models will vary between companies, so while one may charge you more for an SUV another would charge you the same price as a family sedan. Part of the fun of renting a car is driving a vehicle that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to. Splash out on that sports car if the price isn’t much higher than a basic model! You can click here for more inspiration in that department. Just be sure that you know what the price is before you agree to an upgrade.
Buy your own insurance.
One of the biggest unexpected costs of renting a car is the insurance. Car hire firms offer a range of extra policies to choose from, including personal insurance, theft waiver, and collision damage waiver. All of these can cost an arm and a leg, so it’s better to take out your own stand-alone policy rather than buying insurance from the car rental company. Your travel insurance may also cover third-party liability claims or theft, so be sure that you’re not paying twice for the same benefit.
Search for discount codes and coupons.
Social media accounts, online coupon sites, and services like Groupon are all worth checking before you make a booking. You may be able to find a discount code to shave more money off of your car rental.
Make a booking directly from the rental company.
Just as smaller, localized companies may offer you a better deal than the big names, you can also save money by booking directly from the car rental company’s website. Use aggregators and search engines to research your options, pick up a discount code, and head over to the car rental company’s own reservations system to get the very best price. Be sure that your rate quote includes costs such as insurance, sales tax, and airport concession fees or you could be looking at a nasty surprise when you go to pick it up!
Always read the fine print and shop around before you get a rental car, and you’ll be able to choose the best fit at the right price.
In welcoming the second half of 2014, I’m going to shed my Moderator skin and try behaving like an Abstainer for the rest of the year in a bid to max out my 401K and pay for CB’s private school tuition at the same time.
That means that from July to December 2014, I am refraining from less-than-necessary purchases. What are necessary purchases, you ask? Well, I’ve expanded my definition to things that might not be considered truly necessary for survival but that I think are reasonable for me to acquire:
I can spend money on:
- Bed – I’ll be moving into a new place and although I will not die sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor, I think a bed ranks high enough on the “necessary” list that I can get one.
- Desk and chair – see above.
- Sunscreen, cleanser, and moisturizer if/when they run out.
- Groceries – d’uh
- $25 worth of happy hours & meals out with coworkers and friends per week – I still want to be social and go out.
- Barre/pilates classes if I can get the classes down to below $10/class – Groupon and Amazon Local deals will be my friends.
- 1 flight a month to visit CB and a flight home either during Thanksgiving or Christmas.
- Covered parking at home and work (if I am not traveling for work).
- Hangers – I think if I max out my 401k for 2014, I’d like to get myself a set of petite-sized hangers to celebrate.
I will not spend money on:
- Bedding – I have enough comforters, sheets, and pillows. I may want a new duvet set, but I do not need them.
- Makeup – again, I have more than enough foundations, lipstick, and eyeshadows to last me through 2014.
- Clothes and shoes – I really want a pair of nude wedges, but I’m delaying that purchase until 2015. Also, no clothes means no new dresses for the plethora of weddings I have to attend this year. I do not need a new dress for every wedding, because I have ENOUGH! Must repeat to self as necessary.
- Restaurant meals/takeout/drinks/lattes when I’m by myself – meals out should be a social activity.
- eBooks – the library (and Project Gutenberg) are my friends.
- Any personal technology items – I have a smartphone, a laptop, an iPad mini, and a netbook. I really truly do not need any more personal technology.
Multi-generational living on the rise despite historical stigma
The US has a thing about living alone: moving out of your parents’ home and living without roommates has been long deemed a sign that you have achieved adulthood. I come from a culture where it’s normal, even expected, for folks to live with their parents until they get married – and even then, it’s viewed as a sign of financial maturity to keep living with family until you have saved enough for a down payment on your first home. That’s why my ears perk up every time I see articles about the “boomerang” generation (twenty- and thirty-somethings who move back home) and multi-generational living. I think multigenerational living will be, by necessity and maybe even desire, become a much more common way of life in the years forward.
A new AARP Magazine article on the “changing faces of American families” highlights the Hua-Puiches, a family of four who has moved in to the same house as the wife’s mother. This move doesn’t seem to be driven by finances – one spouse works in software and the other is a writer – but a desire to be close to family and allow the kids to get to know their grandmother. (Vanessa, the mother, also writes a lovely blog called Three Under One that I’m having so much fun reading). I think that idea is grand. Where did we get in our heads that the only way to be successful and “adult” is to stake out our own piece of land? Isn’t there something wonderful and precious in pooling resources and spending time with each other?
Living at home for practical and sentimental reasons
A New York Times Magazine article on Boomerang kids is full of comments by folks who can’t understand why people move home, and who see the move as nothing but utter failure instead of the pragmatism that it can be. If a young person finds job opportunities near their parents and live in an expensive part of the country – i.e. not one of these cities where it’s easy for Millennials to “make it”, why shouldn’t they live at home as long as the parents are OK with that arrangement? Far from being something to be ashamed of, or even something to be merely tolerated, I say multi-generational living should be celebrated and embraced, both for their financial benefits and for the closeness it can encourage within families and communities.
A 2010 Pew Research study shows that multigenerational living is at its highest point since the 1940s, driven both by a weak economy and by demographic changes. It’s no surprise that a household with multiple wage-earners are better able to weather economic downturns and achieve a higher degree of financial resiliency. Furthermore, in families that put three generations under one roof, grandparents may be able to provide emergency childcare (if not full-time care) and kids will get the benefit of knowing their grandparents more closely.
Some cities are fully embracing the trend: Portland, Oregon has made it easy for folks to build a “granny or in-law unit” on a main property so that homeowners can move relatives in or rent out the unit for additional income. That’s an easy way to have a smaller environmental footprint and lower your housing costs, for all involved.
I would live at home in a heartbeat
As I’ve gotten older, my feelings on living with family has evolved from “must be avoided at all cost” to “I guess it’s financially smart” to “I want to buy a complex for my parents and myself and be able to eat my mom’s fried rice every day and live happily ever after!” Right now, I am living on my own because I’m several states away from family. But I have decided to live with a roommate to keep down the costs and to have some companionship. In addition, CB and I have decided that if he were to find a job in a part of California where we have family, we’ll be living with those family while we save for a down payment. It’s the smart thing to do for us, and in the meantime we’ll be enjoying the company of parents and relatives as well as gaining financial security. I have several friends in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, who are living with family right now. When I hear that, I think, “good for them!” and even feel a tinge of envy. I would love to live at home, not even for the financial benefits, but so I am able to see my parents more often.
When I’m older, I hope to participate in multigenerational living of my own (by choice, not because anyone will be out on the streets). While CB and I are still unsure on the questions of kids, I do know that I want to move my parents closer to where I’m at – I envision a duplex or townhouse where we live side-by-side, or house big enough to accommodate all of us.
Do you think multigenerational living is here to stay? And would you want to have all three generations under one roof?
I have very mixed feelings about retirement calculators. Perhaps that’s why although I’ve been saving for retirement since my early twenties, I almost never run retirement calculators. (I think the last time I did it was in 2010, with the Pudding Index). And when I do, I don’t really pay attention to those numbers.
It’s just way too early. I’m almost 30, so at normal/early-ish retirement age I am still 30 years away from calling it quits from the workforce. My goal in terms of retirement savings, ever since I first started as a junior in college, was simply to max out the Roth IRA and then save as much as I can in the 401K.
On the one hand, retirement calculators can provide some guideline answers into the questions: “Am I saving enough?” “Am I on track to retire at age XYZ?” “How much will I have when I stop working?” On the other hand, these calculators are only as good as their assumptions, and when calculators tell me I’m “over-saving” I think, “no such thing!” and when they say I’ll have to eat cat food in my dotage I think “well… still can’t save more!” (Gotta balance retirement savings with shorter term goals).
A lot can happen in 30 years, and given all the assumptions that have to be made to make those retirement calculator projections, I know the numbers from calculators won’t change my behavior today – they won’t make me feel better about saving less, and I can’t/am not willing to save more than I am already, at least not at my current projected income level and anticipated expenses.
To me, retirement calculators (or any personal finance calculator, actually) have two purposes: information and motivation. Bottom-line: my timeline is too long and the assumptions to uncertain for me to count on the information, and I’m not motivated either positively or negatively, by the results I get from the calculators. So I don’t pay much attention to those retirement calculators. I just save as much as I can, try to keep a solid asset allocation, and cross my fingers and hope for the best. It’s a leap of faith, you might say.
However, if you do like retirement calculators, here are the ones that I have the most fun with:
- Fidelity MyPlan – I love the narrator’s voice, for some reason.
- Flexible Retirement Planner – Runs Monte Carlo simulations and gives you probabilities of a portfolio outlasting your life instead of a specific number. This calculator requires Java to run.
- Pudding Index – Fast and simple. Plus, who doesn’t love pudding?
- AARP Retirement – Great because it takes into account your spouse’s retirement savings and expected Social Security as well as your own.
Do you use / pay attention to retirement calculators?
A lot of people say you shouldn’t borrow money from family, or that you should draw up complicated documents or have really in-depth conversations about it. I realized that in my family, this isn’t really the way things go. Siblings lend/borrow from each other to take advantage of real estate opportunities or help out the kids (my generation)’s education. My aunts have borrowed from my mom and my mom has borrowed from my aunts, and my grandmother had lent money to all her children. So far, everyone is still talking to each other.
So with that as the background, I approached my mom about potentially borrowing $10,000 to cover CB’s fall quarter tuition/expenses. I plan to cash flow the rest of his grad school tuition once I start work in August, but as the fall tuition is due in August, there’s a wee bit of a cash timing issue. Fortunately, my mom understood, took a look at her checkbooks, and agreed to lend us the $10,000. In fact, mom has a similar arrangement with my aunt, and she views it as a win-win situation – the lender is helping out family and getting a higher interest than he/she would in the open market, while the borrower is enjoying a lower interest rate than the market demands.
This means a lot, because taking out this family loan will save us money and time. A $10,000 family loan only costs 4% interest with 0% origination fee (and no application required). In August 2015 I’ll repay my mom $10,400. On the other hand, if CB were to borrow the same amount from Stafford loans, we’d have to pay 1.072% origination fee and 6.21% interest. So, I’m very grateful that Mom is helping out our cash crunch. The hope is that CB can also graduate debt-free and then we’ll both greet 2016 without any graduate school loans. At that point, we’ll probably still have ~$10,000 extremely low-interest college loans, but I plan to take our sweet time in repaying those.
My month-long no shampoo experiment started by accident. I finished using my bottle of shampoo a few days before graduation, and I didn’t want to buy another bottle before I had to move. I have also read a little bit about this “no-poo” movement online, and thought it couldn’t hurt to go without shampoo for a week or so.
Then I went on vacation with my parents and forgot to bring any hair products. I don’t like the brand my mom uses, so I just skipped shampoo for that whole trip as well. Then I just kept going, and now here I am, one month after putting nothing in my hair except water.
Here are some things after my one month:
- The first week, my scalp was so oily I almost gave up. I have thick, coarse, wavy hair that is prone to oily roots, and that’s probably the only thing that will cause me to go back to shampoo.
- I almost never blow dry my hair (once a year, if that) and I do not color or highlight my hair either – if I did either of those things, I think it’d be harder for me to do no-poo.
- I never have that ‘squeaky clean’ feeling I’d get after shampooing. I miss that feeling. When I run my fingers through my hair, the strands feel oilier. My hair looks, however, better than it feels.
- My hair doesn’t smell bad. It just smells like hair.
- Many folks swear by the baking soda / apple cider vinegar mix to rinse their scalp and an oil treatment for the ends of their hair. I haven’t tried any of those methods (mostly due to laziness), but I probably will if I keep up with no-poo.
- Based on my completely unscientific powers of observation, I think my hair grew faster than normal during the month of no-poo.
- I want to buy a boar bristle brush as I think that will help distribute the oils in my hair more evenly (i.e. away from my scalp and closer to the ends).
- There were a few days when I thought my hair looked really great, and there were days when I hated the way my hair felt and fell. To be honest, I think my hair looks best the 2nd day after shampoo. I’ve read a lot of posts where people raved that their hair has NEVER LOOKED BETTER and they are never going back to shampoo again. That hasn’t been my experience, but it hasn’t been so bad that I’ve gone back to shampoo.
- I wash my hair once every 2-3 days. I’m hoping to be able to end up in a place where I can wash my hair twice a week.
- During this month I put my hair up in French braids a lot – there’s nothing like a good French braid to keep greasy hair looking presentable.
I’m satisfied enough with Month One that I’m willing to continue no-poo for a while longer, maybe incorporating the vinegar rinse and boar bristle brush. I’m not so satisfied with no-poo that I’ll swear to forsake shampoo forever.
Sometimes, a conversation is better with structure.
CB and I usually talk late at night, when we are both pretty tired from the day, and our conservation isn’t the most scintillating. Then I remembered an idea I read about – the “highlight, lowlight, surprise” structure, where we’ll go over the highlight of our day, the lowlight of our day, and something that surprised us or was unexpected. This has to be an improvement over our typical – “how was your day.” “It’s OK. I’m (insert one: tired, busy, stressed, hungry) or fine”) .
When I brought this idea up with CB, I was afraid it’d sound a little cheesy. But I’m really happy with the results so far. I like the structure that this gives our conversation – it’s much easier for both of us to share something unique/interesting/meaningful with this framework, and it only takes 4-5 minutes. We can go into the details or talk about something else if we have time or we feel like talking. Often times, the highlight/lowlight/surprise will lead to tangents about other topics or food for thought, but even if our call is just for 5 minutes, I still feel great.
This is mine for yesterday:
- Highlight: leaving my barre class (the first in a while) feeling relaxed and optimistic. Exercise endorphins… they are real!
- (Second higlight, just because): finding some 10-year+ photos of my mom and I, looking really happy
- Lowlight: stupid tiff with my dad over drinking glasses
- Surprise: there’s apparently drama among a texting group of Mom’s friends. These people are 60!! I guess drama in texting knows no age limits.
I’m curious to hear yours. (Also, does anyone else use this framework with their friends/significant others?)
I spent the weekend in the iconic City by the Bay, and guys, I think I have a problem. I am falling more and more in love with San Francisco and the entire Bay Area. This is worrisome because I am not, oh, a multi-millionaire AND I’d like to not spend 50% of my income on housing AND I’d like to eventually buy a house someday (and retire).
There are many stories out there about how crazy San Francisco real estate / rental market is. I’m here to tell you – it’s ALL TRUE.
Case in point #1: a friend said she got her apartment in the Lower Haight neighborhood by overbidding on rent. As in, the landlord asked for $x,xxx and she said, please, let me pay you $x,xxx + however much more so you will give me this apartment.
Case in point #2: another friend said she went to every appointment showing with copies of her pay stubs, credit report, previous landlord references, friend references, bank statements, and a checkbook. So she can move quickly before the next guy can even think about whether he wants the place or not.
Case in point #3: a friend who was looking to sublet a room in his apartment had prospective tenants bring him wine, beer, ice cream, and snacks in an attempt to secure the room.
Case in point #4: a friend is paying $1,200 for a small dining room-converted-into-a-bedroom in the Mission district. The room that can never heats up right and she shares 1 bathroom with two other roommates, but she considers it a bargain because it’s rent-controlled. Market rate is at least $1,700, she says.
Case in point #5: CB and I wandered into a couple of open houses in Noe Valley, an especially sunny and pricey part of San Francisco. The asking price for single family homes (3-bedrooms, ~2,000 sq. ft) is $2 million in that area. And, during one open house I overhead another person who looks to be in his 20s or early 30s say “the down is $400K, I have that but I’d have to dig into my savings.” Cue MASSIVE jealousy and despondency, which we then attempted to cure with a jaunt to a chocolate shop.
Do you have crazy real estate stories to share about San Francisco / Bay area? Let’s hear ’em!
Since my last post I have packed and shipped all my stuff, finished grad school, and went on an AWESOME and not-at-all-frugal vacation with my parents to New York City, Boston, Montreal, and Quebec City. It was their first time to the East Coast and to Canada. I’ve been to Boston and New York City before, but what struck me the most was the picturesqueness of Vieux Quebec, the walled old city. That place is probably as close to a real-life Disney set as there ever is. My parents both loved Quebec City, and seeing my mom’s face light up is my most treasured memory of this trip.
The other thing I realized is that I LOVE being a tourist. I’ve read some bloggers who make a distinction between “travelers” and “tourists” (usually with the implication that travelers are more authentic), but well, being a tourist is pretty great. Apparently, I love doing unabashedly touristy things such as going to see the most significant sights, taking tons of photos, and doing walking tours with people who dress in costumes. My whole family does!
We ate out every night at places and got desserts almost every meal. Speaking of food, we had many great meals, especially in Boston at my favorite place, the Courtyard Cafe at the Boston Public Library, and Montreal. We strolled and walked and took the subway when convenient but also splurged on taxis when we got tired. We sat in the Orchestra section of a Broadway show, and did not stand in line for day-of tickets at the TKTS discount booth in Times Square. We went up to The Top of the Rock observation deck. I hired a private guide to lead us around Lower Manhattan. We took trains when flights would have been cheaper (but less comfortable). My parents bought souvenirs, a few landscape drawings by a street artist from Quebec City and a book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
It was a great trip – a bit hurried as we covered 4 cities in 12 days, but I’m glad we went to the cities that we did. I’m glad we didn’t cut out Montreal as I was considering at the beginning. I was impressed with Montreal – it seems very affordable (our 1-bedroom AirBnB in the center of Le Plateau was less than $100 a night), extremely clean, and the boulevards are beautifully lined with trees, restaurants, and boutiques. Unfortunately I will never live in Montreal because 1. The winters. The winters!, and 2. je ne parle pas français. If only the whole year has May weather – I would be motivated to learn French in that case.
All in all, I calculated that this trip cost a total of ~$7,500-$8,000 for this family of tourists, or an average of $220 per person per day. On the one hand, the trip wasn’t extravagant, or at least, it didn’t feel extravagant in the way that a 5-star hotel suite or limos or first-class flights would feel extravagant. On the other hand, I – and my parents – almost NEVER spend money without calculating fairly detailed budget, and on this trip, while I kept an eye on menu prices and we had breakfast inside our apartments many times for convenience as well as cost, we didn’t count the pennies. Or even the dollars. So that was extravagant for my parents, as this type of spending is probably 4 standard deviations away from how they normally spend. My parents paid while I offered to cover our accommodations ($2,400-$2,500). My dad has always liked to see places, but now I think my mom has caught the bug as well. She has already said she wants to do a family vacation to Europe in 2015.
This is the night view from our balcony in the Condado district of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was somewhat of a spur of the moment trip – a good girlfriend wanted to go somewhere to celebrate the impending end of our graduate school journey, but she had visa issues that precluded traveling outside of the U.S. So Puerto Rico was the perfect solution. It didn’t hurt that we found roundtrip tickets for $250 and that our lagoon-side accommodation, with a balcony, was only $120/night. Neither of us have been to Puerto Rico before, so this is a chance to just relax, recharge, and lounge!
Isn’t it beautiful?
In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be on my way to Boston where I’m meeting up with Mom & Dad for our first ever family vacation to the East Coast. It will be great because I will be done with finals!! and I will get to go on vacation with Mom and Dad.
When I was growing up, our family never took big family vacations. My mom was too frugal for that, and my parents would use all their vacation days to visit my grandparents in Asia. So no money + no vacation days = no big family vacations for us. The only trips I remember were a trip with my aunt and cousins to Canada, to Stanley Park, and a combined family trip to Yosemite National Park in California in the late 1990s.
So, as I mentioned, this week-and-a-half family vacation is our first big family vacation ever, and I am so so so excited. This will be my parents’ first time to Canada, and my first time to Eastern Canada. I want to make sure they have a good time so I researched the heck out of AirBnB locations, emailed many friends and fellow bloggers for their tips on location and sights, and dug deep into bank account to the tune of $2,700 to pay for all of our lodging for this trip. I love to give “vacations’ / “experiences” as gifts, and I’m glad that we’ll have the money, the time, and the health to all go together.
I really hope my parents have a good time, and that I’ll be able to take them to other destinations before too long. My dream is to do an European river cruise with them in the next couple of years, and make sure we hit some big travel highlights (London, Paris, etc.) while they are still healthy enough to travel.
The other thing I realized is that as I get older, my desire to be closer to my parents – physically – has gotten much stronger. So funny. When I was growing up, it’s all I can do just to leave the nest and FLY AWAY. And now I realize that there’s something really great about hanging out with family. I hope that family vacations will become regularly scheduled programming and I’ll get to experience many new places with my parents.
The above picture probably makes it quite clear how moving makes me feel about furniture, clothes, decorative items, necessary items, i.e. all of the stuff that I own. My room is looking extremely empty right now, thanks to a frenzied bout of Craigslisting in preparation for my move after graduation. This situation is akin to a trial run for minimalist living – will I miss all the stuff I’ve sold / donated / consigned? Will I realize that I will never be as minimalist to go without a bed? (I just sold my bed, and so I’ll be spending the next few weeks sleeping on a makeshift futon. I hope I don’t live to regret this decision.)
This will be my fifth move in 7 years. I’ve schlepped my stuff and packed up my suitcases in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and now, 2014… and every time I move I swear to myself that I will never have so much stuff again. I’ve mostly kept that promise in that I have progressively whittled down my number of possessions, but I know I’ve purchased more things than I needed, or things that I wanted in the moment but when the moving time comes I wonder why the heck!? The hardest thing for me will be to step back from the pretty/useful/quirky home decor items (a la a cheeseboard from the Oakland Museum of California, these soapstone horse bookends from Novica, and anything from Uncommon Goods). But with at least one more move – likely more – in the next couple of years, I need to remind myself that fewer stuff = fewer stuff to MOVE.
How do you feel about stuff when you are moving? Has moving around frequently encouraged you to scale down on the type of possessions?
So says a new Time Magazine article that concludes “Millennials are scary smart with their money”. After I read the article, I wouldn’t go so far as to say “scary smart”, but it seems that more Millennials understand the importance of saving than other generations. In fact, financial security may be one of THE most important priorities for some Millennials, over having kids, exercise, and fun (?!?! Is this smart or sad?)
A survey by the Principal Financial Group Knowledge Center found that…
84% of Millennials describe themselves as passionate about creating financial security—more than are passionate about raising well-rounded kids (60%), having fun (66%), making a difference (49%) and exercise (44%).
As an almost 30-something, I’m definitely closer to 34 than to 18. And as an older Millennial I’ve lived through the 2008 financial crisis / economic implosion. I’ve lived through a bout of unemployment. I’ve seen relatives get laid off. I’ve seen friends get laid off. Through all this I think I’ve grown to appreciate, even more, the importance of building a financially secure future. I wouldn’t say I’m fantastic with money, but I do think I have the basics down pretty well – I know I should save money, I make a consistent effort to save money, and I invest said money in funds appropriate for my risk tolerance and future needs. (And I don’t even need to photo-age my picture to get the motivation to save!)
Are you a Millennial (loosely defined as people between the ages of 18 to 34), and are you good with money?
One of the benefits of having blogged as long as I have is the the clearly noted purchases of years past. Going through my archives, I found many, many things that I’ve purchased and in retrospect, really shouldn’t, or I could’ve gone without. As I’m evaluating future purchases, I try to keep those shopping mishaps in mind.
Shopping Mishap #1 $300 Lela Rose dress
I wavered quite a bit on whether or not to snap up this beauty on sale, and ultimately did make the purchase. I still really like the dress and think it’s lovely, however, I would not have paid $300 for it again. I just don’t have that many occasions to wear it, and I believe in the past 3.5 years I’ve only worn it twice.
Shopping Mishap #2 $140 Kate Spade Tote
This Kate Spade Quinn tote is still one of my favorite purses in terms of style and color, but it just doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I am too afraid of spoiling the light-colored leather, and the open top makes it easy for things to fall out. So the result is I’ve carried this bag out the door at most 7 or 8 times in the past two years that I’ve owned it. If you think it’ll fit your life better, I’m selling it for $90 + shipping.
Shopping Mishap #3 $50 Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette
I bought the famous UD palette to do my makeup for my wedding. While I love the palette and the colors, it’s been almost two years and I’ve barely made a dent. I just don’t wear eyeshadow very much – at most once a week. So again, this was a case of being lured by the “pretties” and not realized what would actually work for my lifestyle. In hindsight, I should have just purchased an individual eyeshadow.
I think I need to reread #5 of Why We Are So Bad At Buying Happiness, and be more careful of getting things that will truly improve my quality of life.
Let me introduce you to the 3rd dress I’ve purchased in 2014: this 3/4 sleeve maxi dress from Old Navy, currently on sale for $25 + 30% off sale. I got it for just $15, and it’s one of the most comfortable dresses I’ve ever worn. I love it because it’s easier than putting on sweatpants and 10x more stylish. More impact, less effort. Sounds like my kind of dressing.
It comes in charcoal, deep red, black, and heather grey. I can probably live in a dress like this, so the challenge is stopping at one and not stocking up on all the colors.
Speaking of comfortable dresses, where do you get yours?
When CB and I were sharing our travel destination dreams, he mentioned that Japan is the one country that he really wants to visit. So… we are visiting the Land of the Rising Sun at the end of June. The whole reason we can afford this trip is because we redeemed our United miles for round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo. $2,600 worth of flights for only $78.80. Now THAT is a win in my book!
We will be spending 10 days and 10 nights in the country – 5 in Tokyo and 5 in Kyoto. Our accommodations are made via AirBnB, looks to be tiny by non-Japan standards, and averages out to $81 per night. I haven’t been back to Japan since 2005, and I’ve never seen Kyoto before, so that’s the part of the trip I’m looking forward to the most. Other than that, I’m excited about ramen, donburi, curry, and tempura! A luxe sushi dinner isn’t in the cards, nor is a stay at a Kyoto ryokan, nor do June/July have the best weather, but whatever… we are going to Japan!
Our budget for Japan:
- Round-trip flights: $78.80 (paid already)
- Hotels for 10 nights: $811 (paid already)
- Food, budgeted at $45/person/day: $900
- Attractions: Free is the way to go. Fortunately, many of the sights and temples do not charge an admissions fee. I may splurge on the 3,000 Yen fee to visit Koke-dera, or Moss Temple in Kyoto (~$60 for the both of us).
- Transportation: $360. This includes round-trip bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto for the both of us, plus local transportation.
The whole trip should come down to $2,300 or $115/person/day.
Do you have tips and recommendations for Japan, particularly Kyoto and Tokyo? I’m all ears!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love tax refunds. This love is exponentially increased when we are experiencing somewhat of a cash crunch and are trying desperately to bridge that gap between my full-time employment in August and the dwindling amounts in our saving accounts.
Last weekend, we stayed up until 2AM crunching the numbers, and it turns out that our Federal + State refunds netted out to $6,000. SIX THOUSAND. That sounds like a small fortune to us. Thank you Lifetime Learning Credit!
Did you get a tax refund? And what are you doing with it?
An almost $300 nylon bag (albeit one that gets RAVE reviews?) – I need you to Tell Me I Should Not.
Here it is, the Lo and Sons’ O.M.G. bag at $275. I’m eyeing the Army Green or the Navy option.
The O.M.G (Overnight & Medium Gym) bag was on sale a few days ago for select colors. I didn’t pounce and now that sale is done. But even on sale a bag was $220-$250, so it’s still a big purchase.
Anyhow, the O.M.G. bag looks like it’d be perfect as a carry-on bag that can double as a work tote, but the price! I got a Briggs & Riley suitcase that normally cost $450+ for $230, and it’s just really hard to swallow that a nylon bag – even a classy, well-designed one such as the O.M.G. – is worth almost $300. On the other hand, I will eventually need something that can hold my laptop, wallet, e-reader, toiletries, and even a change of shoes, and the O.M.G. fits the bill. On the imaginary third hand, again, the price. Plus, again, my not-working-no-income-grad-student status.
Tell me I should not, or at least I should wait. Or, alternatively, if you do have the O.M.G., share your thoughts on the quality and utility.
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