Hey Wanderlusters, Bethany here! I recently met Katie when I was interviewed on her podcast, Chain of Wealth. I have loved getting to know her since and following her journey to financial freedom. We recently had a podcast episode of The Money Millhouse where we touched on the importance of planning for a pet, and Katie expanded on the topic in a super awesome guest post. When it comes to travel and living frugally, planning is always the key, especially when it comes to our fur-babies. Enjoy this awesome guest post from Katie Welsh!
THE COMMON QUESTION:
With super cute Instagram dog pictures and everyone else seeming to take on some kind of new responsibility, it is totally normal to start wondering the big question…
Here is a quick reminder on the continuing journey of saving money: watch out for those subscriptions! It seems like you can pretty much get anything you could ever possibly want or need through subscriptions these days—music, razors, socks, makeup, snacks, full blown meals, and basically everything else. You guys—monthly memberships can add up FAST. I am constantly evaluating the things I am signed up for and making those calls to customer service to cancel. Let’s take an long hard look at all these subscriptions and evaluate if they are thus deemed worthy to be a part of our budgets, and redirect that money to fun funds like travel. Or retirement.
IPhones are sneaky. When you sign up for a subscription via the iTunes store (so basically any time you have purchased something through an app), it could renew your subscription without you even knowing it (even if you have canceled that account!). There is a quick way to see if you are being charged for things you don’t want to. Go into the Settings on your phone. Scroll down to the iTunes and & App Store. Click on your Apple ID and press “View Apple ID”. Press manage subscriptions, and toggle on or off the subscriptions you want to keep, or even evaluate the kind of subscription you have. Often, subscriptions are in bundles. If you use that app all the time and you feel it is worth the subscription, consider upgrading to a longer subscription for a better value. However, if you aren’t using it at all, consider unsubscribing or subscribing for a lesser time.
Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Redbox Instant:
There are pros and cons to each of these services. If you pay for some sort of TV streaming service, are these services really necessary? My parents don’t have any sort of TV service, so they find these to be beneficial to keep up with all their favorite shows. My husband and I, on the other hand, chose to have an AT&T bundle that has both TV and Internet, so we don’t pay for any online streaming. If you do decide to go the online streaming route, how many of those do you actually need? Do you really need Amazon Prime AND Hulu AND Netflix AND Feeln AND Vudo AND fill-in-the-blank-whatever-video-streaming-service is out there. You might as well just pay for TV. Take time to add them up and see if you are spending too much.
Spotify is pretty much my jam. Literally. I listen to it every single day. I totally think it is worth the $10 I pay a month for it. My dad loves his iTunes subscription and uses it all the time. This is the way we get our music. But I only pay for one service at a time. I am not going to pay for Pandora, iTunes, Spotify, etc. all at the same time. Rule of thumb—paying for one is enough. But I should add that I also don’t buy music anymore. Why would I when I can listen to it through my subscription service? I think that is the point. But still, if you can get away with listening to ads, that’s an extra 10 bucks a month.
I know you have seen them out there—monthly “box” subscriptions. Birtchbox, NatureBox, Ipsy, PopSugar’s Must Have Box—like every kind of box imaginable. There are boxes for your dogs, for you kids, for your socks (yes, really). Sometimes these subscriptions can be lucrative and money-saving, like the Dollar Shave club. Let’s face it, we all pretty much buy razors, so why not have them sent to you for $4 a month? Win. But sometimes, they are not saving you money and they aren’t things you really need. I used to be subscribed to Ipsy, a makeup subscription that came in a cute little makeup bag every month. I eventually stopped it because: 1. That is $120 a year on makeup I ended up throwing away or not using, 2. I had a MILLION Ipsy bags everywhere, and 3. I really didn’t need a service that I didn’t use! Reevaluate those box subscriptions.
When you buy items from online stores like JustFab, Fabletics, JewelMint, you have to pay attention to the policy agreements. Often, you have to manually “skip” buying an item each month, or you will be automatically charged. I didn’t realize one of these sites worked this way when I bought an item. Three months later, I realized they had charged my credit card 3 times! I called customer service and had them remove the charges and then canceled my account. Be smarter than those sites and cancel before they charge you a small fortune.
Watch Out for the “Free” Subscriptions:
Often, sites will allow you to have a free trial of their services. Sometimes I forget I even signed up for this until I am charged. When you notice a charge on your credit card, call their customer service right away. They are often very helpful and are able to reimburse your card. When I was a student, I got a free trial of Amazon Prime. When time came to pay, I couldn’t afford the fee when the time came to pay up. I completely forgot about this until they charged my card a hefty little sum. I called customer service right away and they reimbursed the entire amount since I hadn’t used the service since my card was charged.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind:
What is usually a temptation to buy are email subscriptions. Is your inbox flooded with pesky emails reminding you to spend money? What I have found helpful is to Roll them Up. unroll.me is a great way to clean up your inbox. When you sign up you are able to unsubscribe from emails you end up deleting anyway, or you are able to put all your emails into one email they will send you each day. I put in things that I like to look at every once in a while (DSW, Fabletics, JustFab,TravelZoo, Apple, RetailMeNot). This way, I am not tempted to look at the email and buy something.
Here is another quick tip when it comes to canceling. If you aren’t sure about a service that you may want to cancel, call customer service. Sometimes they will give you incentives to stay with that particular brand. For example, I was thinking of canceling a snack service called NatureBox. When talking to customer service, they offered a free box after pausing my subscription for three months. I ended up taking the free box but still canceling because it was just a stretch too far. This has happened several times in different ways, but it might be a good idea if you are thinking of canceling or not, it could work to your benefit.
I remember booking my very first flight to England. I had never gone anywhere outside North America, and the feeling was enthralling. Granted, I was also packing up my entire life in Chicago into two 50-pound suitcases and moving my life to another continent—so that might have also added to the slightly euphoric feeling. Nonetheless, I was hooked.
I love that feeling of turning dreams into plans, goals into reality, and starting the countdown to the next adventure. I love saying to a friend, “I am going to visit you on the other side of the world,” and actually DOING it.
Wanderlust is contagious.
Flashback to about 2 years ago when my friend/roommate Kristen and I were sitting on a couch in the loft of our rented house searching for an Adventure. My previous roommate from England was working in New Zealand, and I wanted to see her (and trek to Hobbiton). There was a lot of dreaming, researching, planning, and saving. Using all the strategies I outline below, we found a deal that got us to not only New Zealand, but Fiji and Australia as well. It included airfare AND hotel AND travel insurance for less than $1,900 a person. With these strategies I outline below, I bet you could probably get trips around the globe for even less than that.
Today, let’s talk about saving money on airfare. There are a few strategies when booking cheap flights. There is a lot of really good “travel-meat” (aka, a ton of apps and websites) in this post, so here we go:
Dream a Little (or a LOT):
This is a big step in the planning process. Think about where you want to go, what sites you want to see around the world, friends you want to visit in other countries, etc. I have several countries in the back of my mind I want to visit one day, so I keep an eye out for those deals when they come my way. I am subscribed to several different sites/blogs that make me dream about the places I want to go to next. One of my favorites is Conde Nast Traveler. I love pretty much anything they put out travel related. I also follow TravelZoo’s Top 20 to see what is going on around the web.
Fly in the OFF-PEAK or Shoulder Seasons:
People think traveling is expensive because they look at the most convenient times to travel. The only problem with that is that everyone else is ALSO going to travel at that time–i.e. summer vacation, spring break, etc. These are the peak seasons, and also the most expensive time to fly. When it comes to traveling, there are actually 3 seasons: Peak, Shoulder, and Off-Peak. Your life will change when you discover how reasonable prices are during the Shoulder (times close to but not quite yet Peak) and Off-Peak. Here is another great resource outlining the five tips for off-peak travel.
Let’s face it, if you have to fly at a certain time on a certain date with no wiggle room, you’re gonna pay more. When it comes to travel dates, you will get a better price when you are flexible. One of my favorite apps to find the best dates WHEN to buy and WHEN to fly is Hopper. The thing I love about Hopper is it gives you a color coded calendar of the trip you want indicating which are the best days to fly out, and it gives you an option to watch the trip to alert you of the best ticket prices. A couple quick disclaimers about Hopper: there are certain airlines (like Southwest) that only show up on their own website, so be sure to check there, too. Additionally, there is an option to purchase through Hopper, but I actually only use it to find the best dates to fly. I take all that information and go to step four…
Please please PLEASE shop around. I use several sites and apps to compare prices. Once I check Hopper, I look at what their flights are going for, I plug those dates into Skyscanner, Kayak or TravelZoo and see what the best fares actually are. The thing I love about TravelZoo is that there are deals for the whole traveling package airfare, hotel, sometimes a rental car. These are my favorite to book because they are a super great deal and saves me some hassle! When Kristen and I went to Fiji, new Zealand and Australia, TravelZoo was running a sale through TripMasters. They were a great resource and we had a great trip with no hassles!
I also like following Secret Flying or All The Flight Deals to look at spontaneous deals from my area. Sites like these catch error fares or just super cheap tickets to places all round the world. The dates are usually specific, so it helps to be spontaneous during these times. I totally get that not everyone can do this (heck, I can’t drop everything and travel world sometimes either), but it is fun to think, “What if…”.
What are some of your favorite sites or strategies when it comes to flying? Let’s hear them!