Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How to Invest With Little Money

by Jackie Lam, January 2, 2018 in Saving Money

When I was in my 20s, I thought I needed a good chunk of money before I could get my feet wet with investing. But after poking around the internet, I stumbled upon an article on investing with just $100 a month,  alternating between various index funds to get a diverse mix of investments. This simple strategy helped me get over this misconception that I needed thousands of dollars to be an investor.
Fast forward to the present. With the financial tech boom, there are plenty of products, services and apps to help you invest with very little money. If you don’t have a whole lot to invest, here are some strategies to help you get started investing in stocks.

Try a Micro-Investing App

There are a handful of micro-investing apps such as Stash Invest and Acorns that you can get started with for as little as five dollars. Acorns rounds up the transactions from your bank account and invests your spare change, and Stash Invest has featured portfolios so you can invest in causes or companies you care about. Plus, the monthly fee for such micro-investing apps is only around a dollar a month.
Another type of micro-investing service is Stockpile, where you can buy fractional, or partial, shares of stocks. You only need five dollars to open an account, and there are thousands of stocks to choose from. It costs 99 cents per trade, plus a three percent fee if you pay with a debit or credit card.

Make It a Part of Your Budget

Pay yourself first and create a monthly investment plan of $25, $50 or $100, recommends Larry Ludwig, founder and editor-in-chief of Investor Junkie. “Treat it like a bill,” says Ludwig. “But instead of paying something off, you’re sending it to your brokerage account.”
It doesn’t really matter how much you set aside, as long as you’re saving something. If you’re saving a small amount, such as $20 a month, you can make a single investment every few months.  

Put Your Pay Raises Toward Investing

For every raise you get at work, put aside an amount (e.g., 50 percent) toward investing, like an employee-sponsored 401(k) plan, suggests Ludwig. “Not only are you saving more with every paycheck, you also have some reward for the increased salary.” Plus that pay increase won’t go toward something willy-nilly, or cause lifestyle inflation.
You can also make a commitment to put aside a set amount on a consistent basis, recommends Laura D. Adams, personal finance author and host of the Money Girl PodcastFor instance, if you’re already investing, make a goal to increase your contribution by at least one percent per year. “You’ll build wealth faster and have a comfortable retirement to look forward to,” says Adams.

Invest in Your Company’s 401(k)

Take advantage of your employer-sponsored retirement fund, whether it’s a 401(k), 403(b), or 457, recommends Adams. “I recommend making it your go-to investment choice because it’s convenient, cuts taxes, and may come with free matching funds from your employer,” says Adams. “You typically choose mutual funds, index funds, or exchange-traded funds from an investment menu.”
Even if you only have $50 or a month to invest, don’t be ashamed to participate in a retirement plan, says Adams. Remember: There’s no minimum amount you must invest each year, and you can increase or decrease your contribution amount at any time.
If you’re not making contributions to an employer-sponsored fund that offers a match, you’ll be leaving money on the table. Try to contribute at least enough to get the full match. If you have questions, reach out to your human resources department or your plan representative.

Invest in Low-Cost Funds

When you’re investing, you’ll want to be aware of all the fees involved, such as expense ratios, which is a percentage of your investment, a fee to open and close accounts, transfer funds, front-load and back-load fees, and the costs per trade.
You’ll always want to be mindful of the fees involved when you invest, but this especially rings true when are investing with smaller amounts. Consider investing in low-cost index funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs), recommends Stephen Rischall, a financial advisor and founding partner at 1080 Financial Group. “By investing in a fund, you can diversify your holdings and spread the risk across many different companies,” says Rischall.
Some major online brokerages don’t charge any transaction costs, and investing platforms such as Robinhood don’t charge fees. (However, there are separate FINRA and U.S. SEC fees.)

Automate Your Savings 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t start investing if you only have a small amount to put aside, points out Adams. “Even on a tight budget, there are many options to make your money grow,” says Adams. “The best strategy is to automate it.”
“Automation works because it forces you to maintain good savings habits and prevents you from spending money that you shouldn’t,” says Adams. “It’s a barrier you set up that allows you to outsmart yourself so you manage money wisely.”
To start, set up an auto transfer that deposits a set amount from your checking account to you investing account, service or app each month. Be sure to choose a date that coincides with your payday, and keep an eye on it to make sure you aren’t overextending yourself. If you want to be cautious, automate a small amount, and bump it up over time.
As you can see, you don’t need a ton of cash to started with investing. You can get the ball rolling with just five bucks every month. It’ll help you learn the ins and outs of investing, and make it a priority. In turn, your money will grow and help you build wealth.

Monday, December 4, 2017

5 Affordable Ways to Stage Your Home This Fall and Winter

by Jessica Santina, December 1, 2017 in Home Buying/Selling

Selling your home in fall or winter may not be ideal. After all, once daylight saving time ends, home buyers don’t usually enjoy going to look at new homes in the evening, when it’s dark.
But that doesn’t mean you should give these seasons the cold shoulder. You’ll just need to overcome some challenges to show your home in its very best light.
Lori Matzke, a professional home staging expert in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and the owner of HomeStagingExpert.com, says you don’t need to sink a ton of money into staging your home for fall and winter.
“The biggest investment you should make is with elbow grease,” she says.
So, roll up those sleeves! Here are five wallet-friendly staging tips:

Make It Look Sweet from the Street

Start with a good pair of clippers.
“Get rid of old trees and shrubs. That’s a huge factor in curb appeal,” Matzke says. “A lot of people keep overgrown trees and shrubs because they’re emotionally attached to them, but as soon as the house sells, the first thing the owner does is cut that tree anyway.”
Remember that natural light is at a premium in fall and winter. Buyers want to see light coming into a home, so if it appears shadowed by trees and hedges, the home won’t look inviting.
If you’re worried about leaving behind stumps or bald patches in grass, try mulch.
“It’s about $3 a bag, and it makes a huge difference and covers a lot of indiscretions,” Matzke says, adding that big patches of missing lawn may require a few pieces of sod.
Also, consider painting your front door. Paint adds color and a feeling of freshness.
Invest in a nice new doormat. “Avoid those ‘We’re cat people’ mats or anything specific or quirky,” Matzke says. “A simple color or ‘Welcome’ will work.”

Get Rid of Those Trinkets and Extra Furniture

Nothing ruins the illusion of open space like those little knickknacks and collectibles littering every surface. Pack up the doll collection, the little picture frames, the candles and the souvenir paperweights.
“Box up everything that’s smaller than a football and that you don’t absolutely need,” Matzke says. Pack up about two-thirds of your possessions to create an illusion of space, which buyers find appealing.
Matzke even suggests clearing out furniture you plan to take with you, such as buffet cabinets or bookshelves. “It just makes the house so much lighter and more open,” she says. “If you’re not taking it, get rid of it now.”

Lighten and Brighten

Eliminate excess shadows inside your home to maximize the light.
New light fixtures or even just new, clean shades for old lamps make a home seem fresher and brighter.
Remove heavy, dark or dirty blinds and drapes. If you’re concerned about privacy, replace them with sheer drapes to let in light while also preventing others from seeing in.
Also move furniture away from walls and out of corners by about 6 to 8 inches, Matzke advises.
“Don’t fill the corners of rooms,” she says. “Open corners create visual square footage. Buyers like to see at least three full corners of a room, so really edit down what’s taking up space.”

Update Colors and Fabrics

Tattered fabrics and upholstery. Dated cabinetry. Radical paint colors. These things keep buyers from connecting with your space. In cold-weather months, people want a home to feel cozy and inviting, so if your home’s decor looks unkempt or old-fashioned, they won’t want to spend any more time there.
Paint is a small way to make big changes. First, neutralize.
“Get rid of all those different colors,” Matzke says. “Lots of colors make a space look small and boxed-in. Create a nice flow by painting in neutral colors; it makes a home look 10 times bigger.”
Update cabinetry with hardware and apply new stain, varnish or paint. Tighten up loose hinges and buy an inexpensive bottle of orange oil cleaner to bring back shine and luster on old wooden cabinets.
And don’t forget bedding. “Often, people have these really nice homes but their bedding is old, dated and mismatched,” Matzke says. “If you don’t want to invest in all-new bedding, maybe flip the old ones over or just use a neutral-colored blanket.”
The same goes for couches and other upholstered items. If your couch or chair cushions are dirty, try flipping them over. Or, for a modest investment, new slipcovers give dated-looking furniture a contemporary look that’s more inviting.
“The new slipcovers they make now look great. They have elastic and fit like a glove,” Matzke says.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

If your floors are dirty or worn, consider buying new ones. Now might be a great time to look around for retail promotions and sales.
“A lot of carpeting and flooring stores do one year of interest-free financing with no payments for six months or more. Especially around the holidays,” Matzke says. “When the house sells, you can pay it off right away. But buyers can’t see past bad flooring. And you might get a better price on your house if you update the floors.”
Finally, Matzke offers this advice: “Find a real estate agent who has a good eye for staging. That can be a big help and they’ll usually do it for free, or at least a consultation to offer specific suggestions.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

How to Know You’re Getting a Good Deal

by Ashley C., September 12, 2017 in Saving Money

Have you ever purchased an item and then a week later it goes on sale? You want to kick yourself for not being patient and waiting for the sale. You work hard for your money and you want to make it goes as far as possible. Paying your mortgage, car payment, car insurance and other miscellaneous expenses can consume a significant part of your budget. It’s important to find ways to make each dollar count.

There are many tools to help you navigate the web and find the best available deals. It’s also important to develop positive spending habits that can help ensure you are confident in the prices you pay for your purchases.

Shop in the Comforts of Your Own Home

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a personal shopper that could help you find the best deals? DealNews.com keeps their eyes on millions of products and finds the best deals possible. Their deal hunters update the site about 200 times a day with bargains they find from across all of the most popular retail sites.

The other great thing about this site is it takes you directly to the sale they reference. You can also customize a newsletter that sends you deals from retailers and items you are interested in. Just sign up and shop away.

Brad’s Deals shops 3,800 web retailers daily for the best rebates, sale prices, store rewards and coupons. You can easily navigate this website and set up a buyer profile with all of your favorite items. It makes finding a deal simple.

If you have found a deal you are excited about, make sure to check out RetailMeNot.com  for coupon codes before completing your purchase. Every retail site has a promo code input, a lot of times you can find a code to use on this site. You can also subscribe and they will send you deals and promo codes for retailers you are interested in.

Ever searched online for a specific item? Do you notice that search engines like Google aggregate multiple sites with different prices for similar items? This is a feature called Google Shopping. If you are looking for a specific product and want the best price, this is a great place to start. It compares various websites to yield the best price offered.

Another great tool that allows you to compare prices is FreePriceAlerts. This is a plug-in you can add to your browser. When you are shopping on your favorite retail sites, this tool will automatically send you price comparisons from different sites. You do not have to register to use the tool but if you do, you can set a price you would like an item to reach.

Find Deals On the Go

Shopping may not be a priority. If you are in the market for a specific item, you can download several apps that will help you compare sites and find the best deal for the items you want.

One of the leading retail sites in the world has an app that may change the way you shop. Amazon has a feature that alerts you with price notifications. You can set up the app to watch a certain item and send you notifications when there is a change in its price. You live a busy life, it’s nice to have Amazon do the work for you.

ShopSavvy empowers shoppers to purchase wisely. Tell the app what items you’re searching and it will keep an eye out for the best price and major sales for your favorite stores. Scan the barcode of any product and you will instantly see several sites that are selling it online or locally.

If you want to try out another barcode scanner, RedLaser can be of service. Quickly scan any barcode and your item will appear with a range of prices from multiple sites. Within seconds you can find a price that fits your budget.

Adjust Toxic Shopping Habits

Beyond these countless tools, it’s also important to have positive shopping habits. There’s no point to using these tools if you have toxic shopping habits. Here are a few habits you may want to give up to make sure you don’t bust your budget.

Impulse buying –hopefully using these sites will eliminate the urge to impulse buy. Take your time to find a deal that will fit your budget. Online shopping makes impulse shopping simple. Take your time and make sure you really need the item you are looking for.
Buying just to buy – spending hours online shopping can fill your head with items you would never have considered buying. Just because it’s a great deal doesn’t mean it’s something you need to add to your household. It’s not a great deal if you don’t need it.
Using credit – it sometimes makes sense to use a credit card instead of your debit card. However, this could get you into trouble if you aren’t careful. Make sure your purchases are planned and fit within your budget. Also, be cautious about store credit cards.

Word of Caution

If you are surfing the web for the best deal, you want to ensure your information is protected. Check for security settings and make sure when you check out that you see a green lock, which indicates the site is secure. You also want to ensure that you completely understand each retailer’s return and exchange policies. You don’t want to get stuck with an item that is not up to your standards or is damaged when you receive it.

Now you have the tools you need in order to be a champion shopper. Now go find the items of your dreams!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Selling Your Home? Here Are 9 Things to Keep in Mind

by Krystal Beers Miller, June 6, 2017 in Home Buying/Selling

Currently, we’re right in the middle of a seller’s market. With so many potential buyers looking to make offers, how do you know which one is best when they start rolling in? I reached out to some experts for advice on what to look for, what to avoid and how to prepare when selling your home.

Avoid the Finicky Buyer

Personal finance and household blogger Jeff Campbell has bought and sold several homes. When it comes to selling your home, Campbell suggests to beware the nit-picky buyer. “If someone is asking for a lot of nit-picky things in their initial offer, it could indicate a potentially high-maintenance buyer, which in a seller’s market could be more trouble than it’s worth,” says Campbell.

Laurie M. sold her house in Michigan last year. She says she is all too familiar with the finicky buyer. “One woman who came through wrote in her offer that she would like to keep our T.V. stand, rack and speakers,” she says. “She wasn’t too happy when we told her that we weren’t going to part with them.”

Don’t Focus on the Highest Bidder

“When offers start coming in, don’t focus on the highest bidder,” says Pennsylvania REALTOR® and Real Estate Investment Educator Denise Supplee.

She suggests looking at all of the information, including:

  • When is the settlement date?
  • How many inspections are they looking to have?
  • Is there a seller concession?
  • What other inclusions are being asked for?
  • What type of financing?

“Once you do this and compare all of these nuances, then you would decide to
pick the one that is best,” says Supplee. “You can either choose to let them all know there are other bidders, and for them all to come in with their best and highest,
or go to the deal that seems most fitting and counter at a higher price.”

Check Out the Homes in Your Area

When evaluating potential offers, you’re going to want to check out what homes are selling for in your area.

“Comparable homes should be similar in size, layout, features, age and any other factors that buyers care about,” says John Liston, manager of the online home service site All Set. “Find as many as you can that have sold in the last 3-9 months, using a site like Zillow, and compare the average sale price (median if there are large outliers) to the offer you receive.”

Liston also suggests comparing the average price increase of home sold in the area. “By comparing the increase in your home’s price to the increase in similar houses over similar time periods, you gain an extra layer of comfort that your house increased in value in line with the rest of your neighborhood,” he says.

Consider Listing on a Thursday or Friday

“The best position for a seller to be in is a multiple bid situation,” says Doug Gartley, Associate Broker at In-House Realty. “Be strategic when you’re selling your home,” he says. “Homes that are listed on a Thursday evening or Friday tend to get more offers than homes listed earlier in the week like Monday or Tuesday.”

Be Careful When Bartering

There’s always a chance that a good buyer with a good offer will walk away from the deal. “Never barter over a few thousand dollars,” says Supplee. “I have seen good deals fall through because of an ‘I want to win’ syndrome.”

Good Communication Is Key

“If your agent is a poor communicator with you, they’ll be worse with potential buyers,” says Campbell. “Have a good, clear line of communication with your real estate agent and make sure they’re responding and following up quickly, so good offers aren’t slipping through your fingers.”

Don’t Take It Personally

“One of the hardest things for sellers to do is to take the emotion out of the negotiating process,” says Chief Development Officer of Help-U-Sell, John Powell. “To the seller, the house is an extension of them, and sometimes ego gets in the way of logic,” he says. “This is where a good agent provides counsel on what constitutes a good offer and what is negotiable.” (sm)

Avoid “Love Letters”

While a letter from a potential buyer may seem heartfelt and thoughtful, Emile L’Eplattenier, Real Estate Marketing and Sales Analyst at Fit Small Business, says to avoid them altogether. “In bidding wars some buyers’ agents may try to send love letters, quick biographical letters with personal information about their clients, in an attempt to sway your decision,” says L’Eplattenier. “You need to instruct your agent to ignore these letters entirely,” he says. “Not only will they potentially cloud your judgement, but they might put you in danger of violating fair housing laws as well.” He adds that “letters that reveal information about race, religion or other protected classes may lead to bias complaints depending on which offer you choose.”

Don’t Rush the Process

While it may seem like it’s in your best interest to sell your home as fast as possible, “don’t rush the process,” says Gartley. “Many people will try and sell their home within a 24-hour period.” He suggests you leave your home on the market for a couple days to allow for full market exposure before accepting an offer.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Best Finance Apps to Help You Manage Your Financial Goals

by Danielle Forshay, July 12, 2017 in Saving Money

Wouldn’t it be nice if our finances would manage themselves? We may not be quite there yet, but with some of the apps currently available, we’re getting pretty close. No matter what your financial goals are, there are apps out there that can help you meet them.

To develop our list of the best financial apps, we spoke with financial experts about their favorite apps for specific goals. They gave us the lowdown on the apps that get the most use and some of their coolest features. Here are their picks.

The Best App for Saving Money: Qapital

Trying to save up for that big vacation and just can’t seem to make any headway? We’ve all been there. Kevin Han of Financial Panther recommends Qapital, an app that gives you a boost with a variety of “rules” that you can set to streamline your savings.

Kevin’s favorite feature is Qapital’s round-up rule. As he explains, “Qapital will monitor all of your credit card transactions and round up each transaction to the nearest dollar, and save the difference for you.”

Users can also automate their accounts to save a certain amount of money on a daily basis (the “set and forget rule”) or even link it to an event, such as saving $5 every time your favorite football team hits the field. The “guilty pleasure rule” allows you to “charge” yourself (i.e., deposit a certain amount into your savings account) whenever you indulge a guilty pleasure spending habit.

The Best App for Managing Investments: Personal Capital

When it comes to managing your investments, things can get complicated.

Brandon Yahn, founder of Student Loans Guy recommends the Personal Capital app. Its user-friendly interface allows you to add and track all of your investments. He enjoys the ease with which the app allows you to link all of your accounts and keep track of spending and investments.

Personal Capital allows you to track your investment numbers by account, asset class or individual security. It will also show you how your portfolio compares to major market benchmarks so you can keep on track to meet your personal investment goals. The app can also connect you to investment experts who can advise you on your portfolio.

The Best App for Making Payments: Prism

If you’re the owner of multiple credit cards, then you know that keeping on top of all those bill due dates can be tough! But there’s no need to live in constant fear of missing a deadline. When asked about the best app for making payments, Kevin Han promptly said, “Definitely Prism. It’s an app that not a lot of people know about, but it is my most used financial app.”

The beauty of Prism is that it links all of your billing accounts, paychecks and available funds so that you can easily visualize the movement of your finances. Once you connect all of your billing accounts, all your bills and account balances are synced to the app. It keeps track of your bill due dates and makes sure you never miss one. With a function even allowing you to pay those bills directly from the app, the process of managing bills could not be easier.

The Best App for Financial Advice and Overall Financial Management: Mint

When it comes to overall financial management and getting good advice on your spending habits, Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, recommends Mint, a well-known budgeting app. Mint helps you understand how your spending breaks down and can even provide advice based on your spending habits to help you meet your financial goals.

As Deborah remarked, “When you use Mint, you can literally see where the money you’re spending is going. It sends you an alert when you’re about to reach the end of your budget, provides advice on how to save even more money, and offers the ability to view your credit score. This app makes it easy to be mindful of your finances and proactive in the process, taking control to reduce your spending on unnecessary purchases now that you know how those purchases add up.”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Travel Tips and Tricks to Save Time and Money

by Allison Hendricks April 14, 2017 in Recreation

Taking a trip outside your day-to-day environment creates endless opportunities to expand your horizon, learn something new and maybe even gain a new perspective on your surroundings.

However, traveling can be financially difficult and time consuming, which is why most people prefer to stay home.

For those who want to see the sights without breaking the bank, we have travel hacks to help save you time and money.

Tickets: When to Buy, When to Fly and What to Expect

The first and most important concept when planning your trip is deciding when to go.

This affects when you buy your tickets, when you decide to fly and what you should expect when going for the cheaper alternative.

When to Buy and When to Fly

You may be surprised to find out, but the day and time when you purchase tickets can ultimately affect your final bill.

Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum, the first inflatable car booster, is a certified child passenger safety technician and a former travel agent, and she has a few insider secrets on how to save on travel.

Kelly recommends booking flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays around lunchtime, as airlines release sale prices during these days of the week. However, make sure you confirm that the rate includes taxes, as taxes can send your bill skyward, sometimes to the tune of several hundred dollars.

In addition, try to travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, as these days offer lower pricing on connecting flights.

For discounts on flights, check out sites like Kayak, Orbitz and Expedia.

What to Expect

With great savings come layovers, so prepare for a long route. Many discounted flights often include at least one layover, sometimes two, depending on the destination, so it will take longer to get to your end point, and you have to hope there are no delays that could affect whether you’ll make your next flight.

“Many discounted flights are only offered at peak times,” Kelly adds, “departing at a very early hour or late at night.”

In addition, seat assignments are not guaranteed, meaning if you’re traveling with family or friends, your seats might not be together. Most discount carriers operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so try to get to the gate early to find a decent seat next to your travel companions.

Most discounted carriers no longer include meals, so you shouldn’t expect the classic free drink and snack on your flight. Pack snacks to hold you over until your destination, especially if you have a long layover. Remember: You can’t bring liquids through security, so you’ll likely need to purchase a drink near your gate or on your flight.

What to Pack and What to Pitch

First of all, be sure to read the fine print and find out the terms and conditions for your carrier. According to Kelly, there could be charges for checked baggage (typically $25 each way), carry-ons, the dimensions or weight of your baggage, snacks or meals, and more.

“Be prepared ahead of time so you’re not in sticker shock at the airport,” says Kelly. “This is how airlines make up for missing revenue. Try to just travel with a carry-on bag so you don’t have to pay for a checked bag.”

However, Kelly suggests a way to get a checked bag for free – by checking it at the gate. If you have a larger carry-on and later decide you would rather check it, wait until everyone else boards the flight with their carry-ons. Kelly suggests the plane will likely run out of the room for bags and check your carry-on for free.

“Always ask the gate if there is room or if they should check your bag, as they are usually happy to check it,” Kelly advises. “It makes it easier for them to ensure everything else fits in cabin storage.”

Also, print your boarding pass at home, as some airlines charge to print them at the airport. If you have an iPhone, Apple Wallet is a great way to organize your boarding passes for easy access at the airport.

As for outfit options, Kendal Perez, savings expert at Coupon Sherpa, asserted that most people wear the same items repeatedly during trips. Instead of packing many options, Perez suggests packing versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched for different looks.

“This saves you time while packing and reduces the hassle of an overly-heavy bag,” she says.

Krystal Rogers-Nelson, travel writer for ASecureLife also has a few packing suggestions, outlined below:

  • Unless you’re going somewhere remote, don’t bring toiletries, as most hotels provide them for free
  • Pack a small backpack or tote bag in your carry-on so you can have a day bag on the plane and during your trip (and without extra baggage fees!)
  • Leave room in your luggage for souvenirs and keepsakes

Transportation: Rent or Ride?

When does it make sense to rent a car versus riding public transportation during your vacation?


Opting for public transportation can save most of your money, suggested Perez, especially in larger and more crowded cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Boston. Don’t waste your time or money with a rental car when you can cost-effectively get around via public transportation.

Rogers-Nelson expands on this concept, adding that you’ll save money on parking fees, as most metropolitan areas require a fee for secure parking. Additionally, public transportation options tend to be reliable and affordable.

Be sure to look into bike rentals or opt for walking if your destinations are close by. This is not only cost-effective but also a good way to get to know your surroundings.

Rental Cars

However, if you are traveling to a more remote location with infrequent public transportation service to your destination, Rogers-Nelson suggested it might be more cost effective to rent a car but avoid upselling attempts by agencies.

“In most cases, the insurance offered by agents is already covered by your personal auto insurance or by the credit card you’re using to book the reservation,” Perez explains.

Also avoid prepaying for fuel, since you won’t be reimbursed for any fuel you have in the tank when you return the vehicle.

Since most rental agencies offer coupon codes for online bookings, you can use sites like Coupon Sherpa to easily find deals, like a certain percentage or dollar amount off your car rental.

A less expensive alternative is a transportation app, such as Uber or Lyft. The rates are pre-calculated, and you can pay over your phone, avoiding cash exchanges.

Food for Thought

Rogers suggests, “A hotel or Airbnb with a kitchen is a little bit more expensive than a standard hotel room, however, you will most likely make up for that in saving on food and drink, as long as you commit to making the majority of your meals yourself.”

If you want to save the most money and have a kitchen where you’re lodging (such as in a condo, apartment, hotel, Airbnb rental or hostel), consider cooking most of your meals with local ingredients and stocking up on snacks and beverages. This will limit the amount of money you spend on food.

You can find coupons in local newspapers or catalogs in the entryway of most grocery stores, giving you an opportunity to save even more on your food.

Find local dining deals by downloading apps that access coupons to local eateries, like Groupon or Coupon Sherpa. Or simply ask the locals where the best bites to eat are located. They’ll usually be able to give you more affordable dining locations.

In addition, limit the number of times you dine out to keep costs down, and rely on snacks and small meals purchased from local markets. When you do dine out, eat local by trying street vendors or sit-down restaurants.

Should you choose to sample a local restaurant, try to go during a happy hour and order house-made wines and local beer to lower your bill. Plus, some happy hours have free or discounted food along with less expensive drinks.

Where to Stay

When it comes to deciding where to stay, you should factor in not only money but also convenience and comfort.


Hotels are nice because you can pick a location close to the airport, with most airports offering free shuttles.

They also offer a more private room experience, compared to Airbnb rentals and hostels.

You should also consider the comfort of hotel amenities, such as pools, workout areas and continental breakfasts, all three of which are often free with the purchase of a room.

Just like with flights, you can find discounts on hotels at Kayak, Orbitz and Expedia. Groupon also has great deals, but they’re sometimes limited by date, so be sure to read the fine print.

Airbnb Rentals and Hostels

If you’re looking to take the stress out of traveling, consider staying at an Airbnb rental or a hostel, a unique traveling experience that may allow you to meet fellow travelers and create a more personalized vacation.

Airbnb allows individuals to rent their homes (or rooms in their homes) to tourists.

Rogers-Nelson suggested Airbnb as a great outlet when you’re working with a budget because you can filter by price, number of people and amenities based on what you’re looking to experience on your trip.

Much like Airbnb, hostels will also offer cheaper pricing on lodging and provide a more custom traveling experience than a hotel.

When you stay at an Airbnb rental or a hostel, you’re often more submerged in the culture that you’re visiting, allowing a more personal and meaningful experience when you travel away from your surroundings.