Cheapskate Travel Tips

new new cruise with text

Ideas to help you plan a vacation that you think that you can’t afford to take

I need to switch gears for a bit but before I do, this blog is about saving money on travel and I just found a Groupon that allows for the purchase of a night in a Fernie,  BC lodge plus 2 chairlift tickets for  as low as $69.00 per night.  There are 5 other options if you want different days or more than one night.  https://www.groupon.com/deals/ga-fernie-slopeside-lodge-6

My last writings have been about how to deal with the immediate needs that arise as a result of income or job loss. While blogging about surviving income loss is a passion, so is travel.  Summer is here, and while I usually don’t do a lot of summer travel because I can live with the summer temperatures here, I do like to get away in the winter.

I once was is in a restaurant where the lady serving us could hardly wait for her shift to end because she was going on vacation.  Her vacation was a trip to a small city an hour and a half drive away, with a 2 night stay at a hotel with a waterslide.  It didn’t seem like much of a vacation to me, more like a getaway, but for her, it was a full on vacation and I shared her excitement of her anticipation of this trip. On the other hand I have friends that both have very good jobs that expressed that they would love to go to Hawaii some day but just couldn’t afford to go.   Eventually they did take their trip and they told me that they paid $600.00 per night for their lodging on Maui for a two week stay.  This answered my wondering about why they felt that they could not afford to go to Hawaii. That is $8400.00 for lodging alone.  When I went to Hawaii a couple of years ago I paid $800.00 for my airfare for 2 and $1100.00 for my hotel for a week.   The point here is that everyone has a different definition of what comprises a vacation and what they need in order to make the trip enjoyable.

Flights:  I do use travel reward points from credit card purchases to pay for the majority of the flights that I take.  I have 2 credit cards that I use extensively.  I put every purchase over $20.00 on a card and then go home and pay off the purchase via online banking.

The banks are quite freely handing out credit cards and will use enticements of 15,000 – 20,000 points or miles to get you to sign up.  This is enough for a shorthaul return trip for example from Calgary to Vancouver .   I use my Alaska Airmiles mastercard that  I have had for over 10 years at Costco and No Frills, and my other Visa for other purchases.  Many cards offer companion air provisions for one flight per year, although these are better used for long haul flights as the cost of the ticket may be as high as $150.00 plus taxes which is no deal on a short haul flight. Alaska Air offers good priced flights for US travel, but travel usually routes through Seattle unless the flight is booked through partner airline.  When flying to the US I find that the taxes are lower if I fly out of Canada on a US carrier as opposed to on a domestic carrier.

These websites offer some insight into how Canadian travel rewards cards stack up:

 http://rewardscanada.ca/topcc2015/
http://www.greedyrates.ca/blog/best-travel-credit-card-canada/#.V25_IPmU3IU

Cross border travel:  We don’t usually consider this to be an option in Alberta is not particularly if you live in Northern Alberta.  If, however you live in Southern Alberta,  and if you don’t mind driving to Great Falls Montana,  Allegiant Air offers very inexpensive flights from Great Falls to Las Vegas and to Phoenix.  It is a  5  hour drive from Calgary to Great Falls.

As an example I made this price comparison:

Dates I checked are for a hypothetical return trip to Phoenix, Arizona for Nov 6-10, 2016, Prices in Canadian Dollars for 4 adult travellers

Allegiant Air Great Falls to Phoenix return:    C$1102.48 or C$275.62/person
Westjet  Calgary to Phoenix return:  C$1704. 16  or C$426.04/person

Car Rentals: I checked Enterprise to see how much it would cost to rent an economy carin Phoenix  for these same dates and was quoted a US $385.89 for a Toyota Yaris or similar.  A check ofhttps://www.carrentals.com/ came back with a price of US $224.16 for the same vehicle.  Check with your credit card and your auto insurer to see if you need to purchase the rental car company’s insurance.  Often your own insurance will render the additional purchase of a insurance as redundant and unnecessary. It is also usually cheaper to rent from offsite from the airport.  You may have to take a cab or public transit to get to the office, but it may be worth it to save on the daily rental fee.

Food: If you are going on a trip and want to go to some nice places for dinner,  go to the Groupon website for the city that you are visiting.  You often can find some very nice restaurants wherein you can get 2 dinners for the price of 1. Part of the beauty of this is that you have already paid for the meal before you even get to the restaurant.  We did this a couple of years a go in Miami and enjoyed several meals in very popular ocean front restaurants.

Hotels and lodging:  Companies such Homestay, VRBO and AirBnB have really opened up alternatives to the conventional hotel stay. I love to stay at a nice hotel where there are all kinds of amenities and daily maid service, but these other options are ideal for longer stays or stays wherein several people are staying together in one place.  My hotel budget can usually be served well by Hotels.com and if I am going to pay for hotels I may as well stay somewhere that will reward me with a credit toward a free nights stay after I have stayed 10 times.  They have a good choice of hotels that will suit most budgets.

Given that I am a cheapskate and that I love to travel, I would rather find as many ways as I can to travel often by minimizing the costs as much as I can.   Rewards cards let me fly for nearly free a couple of times a year. It means forgoing extravagance and staying in 2-3 star hotels, and sometimes driving a Yaris but it gets me away a couple of times a year.

What do you do when your Unemployment Insurance runs out

Dimes make Dollars How to create an extra month of living expense money on an already severely limited income As an Alberta resident and a veteran survivor  of several economic “recessions&#8…

Source: What do you do when your Unemployment Insurance runs out

What do you do when your Unemployment Insurance runs out

unemployed man with text 2

Dimes make Dollars
How to create an extra month of living expense money on an already severely limited income

As an Alberta resident and a veteran survivor  of several economic “recessions” I was surprised and yet not surprised to see an unfortunate question that came up on one of my Facebook pages recently.  The poster stated that her sister, who was laid off last year, has been unable to find employment since her layoff, and she questioned, “What does she do when her Employment Insurance runs out?”

In the early 90’s I spent a lot of time laid off. I never had any savings and I never got any kind of severance. What I did when I went through these times was hoard away enough money and goods to try to buy me another month of living living expenses to provide a cushion.I did this in several ways. For one thing I  worked temp while on claim. I registered with the temporary employment agencies.  I did administrative assistant office work, and I was not specialized in anything.  The temp agencies would send me to temp jobs and then I would claim the earnings from those jobs weekly on my report.  I was allowed to keep my  earnings although the amount was deducted from my EI cheque,  and my earnings were EI insurable which meant that I was building weeks up that could be applied toward another claim in the future.  When my current claim ran out I was creating enough weeks to initiate another claim.

Being in receipt of EI gives you breathing space or temporary relief but it in a challenging economy it is  wise to plan for a second loss of income that may occur when the benefits run out if no employment has been found.It is the understanding that your full time job and obligation while on claim is to look for for work.  This link explains current EI rules including rules for working while on claim.
http://www.esdc.gc.ca/en/ei/regular_benefit/while_receiving.page

The objective here is to implement a plan to gather together enough money and food to carry you through one month of no income whatsoever if you do run your EI out.  Being unemployed is a tough situation.  I found that it always helped me to have some kind of a concrete, implementable plan B in place to buy me time.
Here are some suggestions to help with that objective:

1.  Sock away staple grocery items for future use.  Use your PC points, download a coupon app like Flipp.   https://app.flipp.com/

2.  Save every bottle and can that you have during your period of unemployment.  If you are accustomed to donating them to the kids that come to the door, hold off on the donations.  The bottles accumulated may be the difference between making a utility payment or not.

3.  Try to save your small change.  It adds up.

4.  This is a passive way of making a few bucks while you are sitting around at night doing nothing but it does result in real cash.  Sign up for Swagbucks or similar survey programs and do a couple of surveys a day.   You can make about $25.oo per month that pay into a Paypal account.  http://www.swagbucks.com/

5.  Download apps like Checkout 51.  This app allows you to get cash back on purchases that you make. You can claim when you have $20.00 in allowable purchase receipts.    https://www.checkout51.com/faq

6. If you have not missed any mortgage payments and you feel that you may not be able to make your mortgage payment after your last cheque comes in contact your bank to see if you have a provision to miss a payment.

7. Borrow money from your whole life insurance policy if you have enough cash value in the policy to borrow from.

8.  When your claim runs out you may qualify for assistance from Social Services (now known in Alberta as Alberta Income Support/Alberta Human Services),  or the “Big W” as we called it.  It was not a pleasant experience, but I count it up as a life experience.  They did give me a bit of money that helped me make my mortgage payment here and there when I needed it for a month or two.  I was a single parent and I hung on to my house with everything that I had and in the end I was able to keep my house.  I paid off the mortgage 3 years early a couple of years ago.  These funds come from tax dollars, so if you worked before you applied for them you helped fund what you are now receiving.

 

 

 

 

 

How to cope with Utility Rate Hikes

19 ways to reduce your heat, hydro and electrical bills

How to deal with Utility Rate Hikes

I live in Alberta, Canada.  In the past few years we have seen the costs that we pay in order to heat our homes and to have water, sewer and electricity services delivered to our homes increase substantially.  The cost of natural gas is going to increase further as a result of provincial legislation recently passed that is designed to combat climate change. I wish the government well in this endeavor, however I have concern regarding how this legislation, implemented in the form of a Carbon Tax to be initiated in 2017 is going to impact the cost of heating my home and the cost of purchasing fuel for my car.

Granted, the government promises small cash rebates to assist those families that qualify in order to help defray the increased costs, however, these rebates are only available to those who fall under a defined income threshold. Although we have only passed the first day of summer, it is prudent to examine some of the options that we can take in order to minimize the unnecessary use of  gigajoules of natural gas.  If the snowsuits are on sale for kids at Costco (and they are), then it is not too early to make an assessment of how you can reduce your gas and other other utility bills before winter sets in.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Remember to turn off the heat or AC unless you are using it or get a Nest or smart thermostat.
  2. Use a crockpot, toaster oven, microwave or bbq, when you can instead of using your stove or oven. microwave http://www.toasterovenguide.com/how-oven-toaster-can-save-energy-money/
  3. When doing laundry, prior to drying the load, remove and hang jeans and heavy items. The rest of your load will dry faster. Throw the dry, stiff jeans the next day in the dryer for 5 minutes and they will come out no different than if you had dried them completely in the dryer.
  4. Don’t run the dry cycle on the dishwasher, open the door and let the dishes to air dry.
  5.  Don’t leave the water running while you brush teeth or when your are working at cleaning up in  the kitchen or bathroom.
  6. Unplug unnecessary items like chargers, lamps and other electric appliances not in active use (energy vampires). http://energy.gov/articles/are-energy-vampires-sucking-you-dry
  7. Turn your lights off when not in use, or install dimmers or timers.
  8. If your house is often cold or you live in a cold climate and have a fireplace in your living room or family room, consider reducing the thermostat for the rest of the home and have your fireplace provide heat for the room that most of the family is spending time in.  I can heat the whole main floor of my home using my gas fireplace.  I have a blower fan but I rarely even use that.  A wood stove is a good heat source as well.
  9. Check and replace worn weatherstripping.
  10. Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees.
  11. Change furnace and AC filters and check to see if you can purchase reusable ones
  12. If you are replacing your toilets, choose low flow.  Currently as long as toilets are purchased prior to August of 2016, the City of Calgary is offering a  $50.00 rebate for low flow toilet purchases.  http://www.cityofcalgaryrebate.com/calgary/house.aspx
  13. Check for leaky toilets using dye.  http://www.conserveh2o.org/water-lost-toilet-leaks
  14. if you have to run your tap to get hot water, fill a jug and put it in the fridge for cold drinking water or fill containers for watering plants
  15. Do your laundry in cold water and only do full loads, or ensure that the cycle setting is appropriate for the size of the load.
  16. Create a cash envelope for utilities payments.  Insert the amount of money that you used for you last payment.  Use the money in this envelope to pay your next month bill, and refill the envelope monthly as part of your budgeting plan.  If there is a surplus of money in the envelope keep it and to use toward payments in winter months when the bill is likely to be higher.
  17. Call your utilities suppliers to see if there are rates that will work better for you.  There are different plans offered by different utility suppliers and the plan that you are on may not be optimal for you.
  18. If you have a hot tub ensure that you have an insulated heat retaining cover, a floating thermal blanket, and a fence or windbreak that will prevent wind from reducing the temperature of the water.  Also a reduction of the temperature of the tub may not be noticeable but will save money. http://www.spadepot.com/energy-conservation.htm
  19. And finally if for nothing more than a bit of levity, there is always this method for saving water: http://www.providencejournal.com/zz/shareable/20160621/math-does-peeing-in-shower-save-water

 

 

Free Appetizers at Popular Restaurants

Loyalty programs = Free Appetizers

restaurant with text

 

In a tight economy, restaurants want your business. If you are going out to dinner and want to add a free appetizer to your meal here are links to the websites of  10 Canadian restaurants where you can get a free coupon for an appetizer and other free goodies just for signing up for their loyalty program.   I read that some people have been able  print off and use these coupons more than once.  I have an email account that I use for this purpose so that I can keep free offer in an inbox separate from my main e-mail address.

Montanas Appetizer and free birthday dinner
club http://montanas.ca/sign_up.php

Applebees
http://www.applebeescanada.com/contact-us/email-signup?result=success

Red Lobster (Fresh Catch club), appetizers
https://www.redlobster.ca/fresh-catch-club#/sign-up

Swiss Chalet, Rotisserie Mail   also you can redeem points from your Scene card
https://www.swisschalet.com/

Boston Pizza , Free appetizer for signing up, Free dessert on your birthday Free individual two-topping pizza for your first anniversary
https://bostonpizza.com/en/mybp/signin

White Spot Restaurant,   a coupon for $5 off your next dinner purchase just for signing up.
https://www.whitespot.ca/news

Olive Garden, Free appetizer:
http://www.olivegarden.ca/home

The Pickle Barrel
http://www.picklebarrel.ca/restaurant/

Chili’s: Chilis’ works on a point system, you get 60 points just for signing up, this is enough for a free item from the menu, a free dessert on your birthday and more.
https://www.chilistogo.com/Pages/MyRewards.aspx

East Side Marios:  Free appetizer when you sign up for their newsletter  http://www.eastsidemarios.com/join-the-family/

If you live in the U.S. there are probably even more options available.  Here is a link that I found that shows 400 places to get free meals on your birthday.
http://urbantastebud.com/restaurants-that-offer-free-birthday-food/

Bon Appetit

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dollar Store Deals

Name Brand or Dollar Store Brand
Facial Cleansing towellettes

We all have things that we consider to be “essentials”.   This is a price comparison of facial towellettes. Arguably, washing your face can accomplished with a facecloth and soap, but many of us have become reliant on pre-packaged towelettes purchased at the drugstore.  They are quick and handy to use  The usual supply is a one month package of about 30 of these wipes. There are many varieties available, mostly offered by well know cosmetic makers and they cost about $8.00 -$13.00 per package.

olay montage

Available at Walmart Olay Regenerist $12.56 for 30 wipes

I have not tried these.  They sell for $12.56 for 30 towellettes.

ks photoshopped

Kirkland Signature $15.99 for 150 wipes

These are great.  There are 5 individual packages in the box for $15.99.  They come from Costco  and they are very good product.  A box of these costs $15.99 and there are 5 packages in the box, for a total of 150 towelettes.  All in all it is a good deal and a good product – if you have $15.99 to spend.

good facewipes

Purchased at Dollarama  for $1.25 for 25 wipes

If you don’t have $15.99 to spend on a bulk purchase the facial cleansing towelettes above $1.25 for a package of 25 and are available at Dollarama. Although they are not as luxurious as the Kirkland,  they are a relatively decent alternative.

badfacewipesnophotoshop

Purchased at a Dollar Store for $1.25 for 30 wipes

The ones pictured above are like sandpaper.  I purchased them at a different Dollar store than the wipes pictured above but they are not the same quality.  I would probably not use them.

The Dollar store, often overlooked, can become one of your new best friends when you are on a tight budget or practicing frugality.   The Kirkland Signature at $15.99 for 150 towellettes  are a good bulk purchase but if you are short on cash or on a tight budget there is a decent product available for $1.25.

Deal or No Deal: Self Pedis and Self haircuts

 

spend save

DIY: Hair Do or Hair Disaster?

I used to binge watch a show that we have in Canada called “Til Debt do us Part”.  Its a reality tv show featuring  Gail Vaz Oxlade, a financial writer, who is very knowledgable about managing money and helps people that are anything but, to learn how to corral their debt and live within their means.  She also did or still does host a show called “Princess” that is about young women (mostly) that rack up all manner of debt living like princesses, usually by means of working low paying jobs, living for free with their parents, bumming money from anyone that will give it to them and piling up debt on their credit cards.

One of the common themes that I noticed in these shows is that many of the  women really feel that a pedicure is not a want,  rather it is a hard limit need.  Asking them to give up the weekly pedi is akin to asking them to sleep in their car for a week.  The suggestion that pedi’s can be given up is often met with extreme reluctance.

I understand that for some people proper footcare is not negotiable.  I am only addressing the cosmetic aspect of footcare.

Because of my overspending during this past month of March, I am back on a Budget of Austerity.  As a result I am doing my own pedi’s.

pedicure

My at home DIY Pedi

This cost me nothing, is quite passable, and to be honest I am not a fan of the pedicure anyway. A tube of Gehwol Med Salve for Cracked Skin costs about $20.00 and lasts me about 2 months.  For me it virtually eliminates rough heel skin so going for a pedicure is a waste of money anyway as the pedicurist has nothing there to file and grate away at. All I really need is a cut, file and a polish change.  A polish change would have cost me about $10.00 at a nail salon.  A regular spa pedicure costs about $28.00 in my area.

Here is the URL wherein you can purchase the Gehwol product. http://www.gehwolcanada.ca/gehwol-med-salve-for-cracked-skin-4-sizes/

As long as I can bend over to reach my feet I am capable of doing my own pedicures.  The only reason for me to go out for one is laziness and because I don’t feel like doing it myself.  If you feel the same way, don’t want to do it yourself, and want to save some money to have it done professionally, there is always Groupon.  I found 7 Groupons for manicure, pedicures or combo packages in my area.

Here is the URL for Groupon https://www.groupon.com/

I did for years cut my own hair, but as soon as was financially possible, I gave that up.

bad hair bird

DIY haircut possible outcome

Unless you are a professional hair dresser or are doing very young childrens hair, I think that it is safe to say that most people should avoid the self haircut route.  A botched pedicure can be safely hidden.  It is much harder to hide a botched haircut.

The verdict
DIY Pedicure:  Good Deal
DIY Haircut:  Bad Deal