Save tons on a hotel room

Hotel

We recently came home from a week-long trip to Walt Disney World and while we like to have a great time and do things up as much as possible, we also like to stay within a reasonable budget so that we don’t mess up any other goals we may have.

This time when we decided to go, we gave some serious thought to flying so we wouldn’t have to take as many days off of work. However, when we started to price out the tickets, it was really hard to justify spending about $1100 versus the approximate $300 to $400 we spent last time on gas, hotels, and food.

In order to keep the trip down and back at a reasonable cost, we had to stay in hotels as cheaply as possible. I’m the type of person who would prefer to stay at a slightly nicer hotel, but I also don’t want to blow our entire vacation budget on a temporary place to sleep.

The answer is to use hotel discount guides. You can find these at welcome centers and rest stops on the highway. They are free and are usually sitting outside in newspaper stands. The guides are arranged by highway and exits in that state so you can find the discounts for all the hotels at one exit in one place.

The discounts are really good and are lower than what you would get with a AAA card. As an example, we stayed at a Comfort Suites on the way down. I just checked their website and if we were to book it through there, we would have paid about $110 a night (AAA rate is $99) with taxes and everything. With the discount guide, we paid a total of $66.

There are usually some stipulations with the discounts, but they aren’t usually deal-breakers. Some examples are that the discount can only be used for a one night stay or that it only applies to certain room types or for a certain number of people. They may let the last one slide though if you ask nicely.

You can use the discount guides for more than just a road trip. Maybe you can impress a family member by paying for their hotel stay overnight as they’re visiting. (They don’t need to know how much you spend.)

Potential Savings: You can probably expect to save 30-40% off of the normal rate.

Let me know when you might use hotel discount guides to save money on a hotel stay in the comments below. If you’ve got any creative ways to save money on vacation leave those below as well.

Featured Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What are you going to do with your tax refund?

Taxes

According to the IRS, the average tax refund last year was about $2800. That’s a lot of money. Let’s look at that a couple different ways.

$2800 is the same as:

  • $233 a month
  • $116 if you’re paid twice a month
  • $107 if you’re paid bi-weekly
  • $53 if you’re paid weekly

That would be a pretty nice raise if you got that money in each of your paychecks. We’ll talk more about that in a future post. For now, let’s look at some ideas on how to use this year’s tax refund.

It’s always nice to get a big pile of money unexpectedly. It’s sad to find out after a while that it disappeared and you’ve got nothing to show for it. Below are some ideas on how you might use your tax refund this year.

  • Pay off some debt. Since you’re probably paying interest on any debt that you have, paying it off makes your tax refund that much more valuable by saving you interest every month.
  • Start or build an emergency fund. Emergency funds are far from exciting, but on the bright side, once you’ve got one, unexpected events aren’t such a crisis.
  • Put it in an IRA for retirement. You can start the year by cutting your tax bill for the next year by putting your refund right into an IRA. Whatever you contribute to a traditional IRA can be a deduction if you itemize your taxes.
  • Start a 529 college fund for your kids. Depending on where you live and in which state you start a 529 college savings plan, you can get a lot of great benefits that a savings account won’t provide.
  • Buy something big you’ve been looking at. If you’ve been planning to buy something like a new computer, furniture, or something else that isn’t exactly “cheap”, using your tax refund can get you that item that much faster. Plus, if you’ve saved money for that special item you can use it for something else now!
  • Plan a vacation. It may not sound like the most responsible thing to do, but paying cash for a vacation is better than putting it on a credit card.
  • Start a business. I’m sure you didn’t expect to see that on the list. If you’ve ever thought about starting a business but have always used not having the money as an excuse, now’s your chance. It may be the catalyst to make a dream come true.

Don’t let your tax refund (or any unexpected dollars) slip away. Make a plan for it, even if the plan is to spend it frivolously. At least you’ll know where it went.

How do you plan on spending your tax refund? Post your ideas in the comments below.

Featured Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net