Subscriptions: Knowing When to Quit

4b6a008e-2a80-4048-9683-70bd5b6422edHere 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.

App Subscriptions: 

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.

Music:

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.

Box Subscriptions:

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.

Automatic 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.

BONUS:

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.

Until next time friends, happy savings!

Bethany

Five Strategies to Booking an Inexpensive Flight

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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.

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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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Be Flexible:

    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…

  4. Research:

    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!

  5. Be Spontaneous:

    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!

Until next time Adventurers,

Bethany

 

Are you a Hobbit or a Dwarf?

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My coffee this morning.

If you know me or have read my first blog, you may have noticed I am a low-key nerd. I think I might even call myself a highly functioning nerd. I have an R2D2 Suitcase that travels the world with me, and I was drinking from an R2D2 french press I actually requested for Christmas. I am so much a nerd, I convinced my husband, Travis, to let us walk down the aisle to the Star Wars theme once we were announced husband and wife. He is a good husband, everyone laughed, my nerd heart soared as we set off onto one of our greatest life adventures yet.

View More: http://photos.pass.us/bayless-wedding-camarillo-ranch-2016-04
My wonderful husband and I walking down the aisle to the Star Wars theme.

I attribute a lot of my nerd-dom to growing up with four brothers and a Star Wars/Tron loving fighter pilot dad. I still remember when my mom found us a bunch of old keyboards at a thrift store. We took whiteout to the keys and made our own Star Trek stations and we would pretend to be on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. My oldest brother, Daniel, was the captain. My baby brother, Joshua, was the expendable crewman.

I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series for the first time when I was in middle school. I read them again when I was in high school freshman English, and a third time when I took a course in college on LOTR taught by an actual wizard.

When I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in theaters for the first time, I cried.

Don’t judge me.

It was at the part where Bilbo came back at the end to help the band of dwarves go onto Misty Mountain to reclaim their homeland. He says,

“I know you doubt me, I know you always have, and you’re right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my arm chair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong; that’s home, and that’s why I came, cause you don’t have one… a home. It was taken from you, but I will help you take it back, if I can.”

I had tears streaming down my face at that point thinking, “I am a dwarf! I am a DWARF!”

And at that time, I was indeed a dwarf (metaphorically speaking).

I have moved about 17 times in my life, lived in 9 different states and 2 different countries, and in too many houses, apartments, and flats to remember. For a long time, I was a wanderer—and I loved it. I thrived on it. It made my heart beat stronger, and my blood pump faster.

Now I am in a different time in my life. I am part Hobbit and part Dwarf. My wandering days are gone, I actually live in a house with a husband and possibly a dog soon (PLEASE TRAVIS!!). And like Bilbo, I have my arm chair, and I have my books, and I have my home. I don’t have to wander to find it. Sometimes I feel as though I lead a double life—content to be at home, yet yearning for adventure.

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I know we are all at different spots in our lives. Some of you are dwarves, still finding that place to call home. Some of you are certifiable Hobbits, possibly looking for an adventure. Everyone is welcome at this table. I think it is time we have a little DTR (define the relationship), just so we are all on the same page as we explore this beautiful world together.

These are things you can expect from me:

  1. 

Coffee-fueled, wanderlust-loving blogs about saving money and traveling this globe.
  2. Zero discrimination. Not only in the things all humans should know, but I don’t travel-discriminate. If you haven’t traveled but want to, no problem! If you have packed up your life and travel full time, dude—awesome. Again, we are all Hobbits and Dwarves and we can find common ground no matter what, cuz we all live in Middle Earth… you get what I am saying.
  3. I have the right to refuse service to anyone—meaning I want to promote healthy and edifying conversation about saving money and blogging. If I feel like you are not on the same page, I will exercise my right to eliminate you from the conversation. Cool? Cool.
  4. A wise woman once said to me: “Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you can’t do something.” I love those words of wisdom and refer to them often when I look at my budget, or traveling, or saving money. I don’t expect you all to be financially perfect because I certainly am not, but we are all doing something to work our way towards financial health. This may even mean not taking that trip until things are sorted. It may not, the choice is yours.
  5. Just like the saying above, I will take it further and say, “Just because you know something, doesn’t mean you know everything.” I know a lot of things, but I don’t know everything. We are all just trekking together, so let me know if you have ideas or tricks up your sleeve. I love hearing all of them!

Glad we are all on the same page living long and prospering.

Until next time, friend.

Bethany, Resident Adventuring Hobbit at Bayless End

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From the inside of a Hobbit hole in Hobbiton, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. If you are into podcasts and awesome things like Star Wars or other mythical epics, I just listened to an incredibly inspiring episode of The Ted Radio Hour called The Heroes Journey. It explores the reasons behind why we follow heroes and what we can learn about ourselves in the process. It also gives massive shout outs to my beloved Star Wars, as well as other great talks/fandoms. Seriously, SO good.

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