This year, ST and I have decided to save money for our future casa by keeping our trips domestic. As much as we love to travel internationally (especially for our anniversary), we need to buckle down and save. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be stuck in Brooklyn all year.
Melody decided that the only proper way to celebrate turning a quarter-century is Vegas. So, we’re headed to Las Vegas in March! ST and I have never been to Sin City and we’re really looking forward to it. Like my dad, I want to visit all 50 states someday.
Since Mel’s birthday is around Spring break, flights to any party destination is pricey. We wanted to join in the festivities and pay for her trip (it is her birthday, after all) so I had to get creative. My goal was to keep our hotel and airfare for a four-night trip under $500 per person.
I’m psyched that I came in way under budget. Here’s how:
1. Travel during the week if you can. No matter where you go and how you get there, traveling during the week costs you less in cash and stress.
2. Plan EARLY. I cannot emphasize this enough. We began planning this trip in October! Prices were very low then (under $500 for airfare and hotel for a four-night stay at the MGM) but Kim’s work schedule prevented us from pulling the trigger that early. So while we waited, I looked up fares on Kayak, Expedia, Travel Zoo three to four times per week. This familiarizes you with high and low prices so you know when you find a good deal.
Since I’d been keeping watch on the prices for a few weeks, I knew this was as low as prices would go.
3. Hacker fares are cheaper. Most people believe that round trip airfare from the same airline is cheaper than two one-way flights from different carriers. Not so. One can save a load of cash with hacker fares (two one-way flights). Since ST and I have the Southwest Visa, we usually earn enough points per year for two round trip flights per year (we LOVE this card). So, we used our points to book one leg of our trip, which cost a whopping $10 in fees for both of us.
Alternatively, Kayak offers hacker fares too. This is convenient if you don’t have time to finagle airline miles and credit card points.
One-way flights from Vegas to NYC were around $200, which I thought was a bit high. So I continued to wait until one glorious day when Jet Blue was having a sale and we booked two non-stop flights for $169 each. So we paid $348 for two round trip flights. Huzzah to the max.
4. Groupon to the rescue, again. Since none of us have been to Vegas, I’ve been trolling the Internets for things to do. I was delighted when I found out that we can catch Tony and Tina’s Wedding while we’re there! I’ve always wanted to go to this cheesy and interactive big fat Italian wedding. General admission tickets are $100 on their website and $73 here. However, I read somewhere that Groupon offers tickets for $45. After digging around the site for 15 minutes, they were mine! (I clicked on “See All” and then I had to click “See 30 More Deals” a bunch of times to find it).
I think the rest of our five-day trip will be filled with clubbing (its her 25th birthday, after all), eating (we are hitting up pretty much every buffet there), swimming, and shopping. I might be able to persuade my comrades to partake in the corny Tournament of Kings show at the Excalibur, just so I can pretend I’m in Game of Thrones.
Oh, right – the final tally. We split the cost of Melody’s hotel room amongst us + our airfare + hotel + Tony and Tina tickets, so our total cost for five days in Vegas is… $802! Or $401 per person.
What are your best money-saving travel tips? Please share!
Although we mulled the decision over for nine months, the Tacos have officially canceled cable!
We finally bit the bullet this weekend. Saturday afternoon, ST purchased a TV antenna from Best Buy and this afternoon, after a pretty painless twenty-five minute phone call with customer service, we were officially free.
I’d expected Optimum to make us wait for hours and jump through hoops to cancel but we decided to keep our Internet services, which probably made them be nicer to us. The guy who was handling our phone call actually asked, “Well… what are you guys going to do for entertainment from now on?” He seemed genuinely concerned. Too cute. We were like that once. But now we’re not and it feels awesome.
We shrank our bill from $95 (these last two months were $117 due to our obsession with Kelsey Grammar on Starz) to $50 for just Internet. Technically, its $25 per month because we share our Internet with our upstairs neighbors. The only additional cost we’ll pay is $8 per month to stream Netflix on our Roku because we stream Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and Showtime for free by sharing with generous family and friends.
We considered buying a second antenna and Roku for our TV in the bedroom but we decided to wait for Boxee TV to come out on November 1. Boxee will cost $99 but it will have a built-in antenna to get local channels (a $30 value, huzzah!) and will come pre-loaded with Netflix, Youtube, and other entertainment apps. Sounds pretty sweet to us. Read more about it here.
So we went from $1,150 per year to $420 per year for virtually the same thing – Internet, DVR, and a ton of channels. I can’t believe it took us so long to do this!
The next big bill we’re tackling is our iPhone bill. Si se puede!
Let’s talk boots. I’ve been on a quest for the perfect boots for the longest time. For me, “perfect” means:
Previously, I purchased the leather Kasia boots from Target in cognac and black. I wore them all winter and they still look nice. However, they have begun to slouch a bit and that, combined with the flat bottoms, make me look sloppy. Plus, they do nothing for my short legs.
This year, I decided to give heeled boots a try. I’ve always shied away from heels because I’m allergic to discomfort. But go heavy or go home, right? Since I’m so short, they add to my stature and, in my opinion, make outfits look more put together and professional.
Because I wanted to get a head start on boot season (I am obsessed with getting a head start on everything), I convinced ST to take me boot shopping. I like me some Staten Island shopping. I find that Staten Island stores have lots more in stock and are never chaotic or crowded like in Brooklyn. Even though summer was in full swing, I decided to browse the clearance section in DSW. Because, why not?
Jackpot. B.O.C. brown leather boots. Perfect heel height, calf circumference, color, and of course… price. Originally $119, marked down to $36. Done and done. They’re comfortable enough to wear for an entire work day but probably not for a long walk.
Riding on the high of that victory, I thought the perfect ankle boots were going to just fall into my lap.
WRONG. My ankle boot story is fraught with heartache. Dramatic but true.
First of all, even though ankle boots are less than half the size of normal boots, they are EXPENSIVE. The other day, I was browsing H&M and I found these PVC booties for $50! They were cute, but for me, nothing special.
Trying to find something that fit my criteria was almost impossible. The cheapest option I could find were these Ecote suede ankle boots at Urban Outfitters. Since they’re currently on sale for $49, my size is sold out everywhere. Additionally, the ankle openings are too big and they feel cheapy. I really like Urban Outfitters but sometimes I forget their clothes are primarily for college students.
After hours upon hours of futile Internet search, I found them. The prettiest, most affordable suede ankle boots with just enough of a sassy western vibe for me to be like, “Yeah, I married a Texan.”
I present to you the Call it Spring Antall.
Aren’t they pretty? And the best part was that they were on sale at Zappos for $58! They have since sold out of black, but cognac can be purchased for $65. They were actually cheaper at 6pm (sold out also) at $48 but I made the rare decision to spend more because I know that buying shoes online can be disastrous and Zappos has an amazing customer service reputation.
Well, I didn’t get the boots but I’m so glad I went with Zappos.
So here’s what happened. My order was delivered and I was stoked. Since I was away at a conference and they were delivered to our workplace, I made ST open the box and send me pictures. They looked a bit big to be 6.5 but I ignored that and was practically bursting with excitement when I got home. Feel free to mock me now.
Well, they were too big. They were size 9. I was pretty disappointed and immediately called Zappos to whine about it. Luckily, the customer service representative was the sweetest girl ever and we had the most pleasant conversation. Not only did she get an exchange for me, she refunded all my money – giving me a five finger discount! – and upgraded me to VIP status! This means I get one-day shipping for free! (remember when that was standard?)
So I waited another few days for the UPS man to deliver me my precious Antalls. As soon as ST brought the box in, I ripped it open only to find… size 8. Whomp, whomp. I was seriously crestfallen at this point. Like, I almost teared. Another call to Zappos got me a $25 gift certificate and the promise of being contacted by a Zappos warehouse representative.
After a few days, I was sent a very cute and apologetic email. They ran out of my boots and to make it right, they gave me a $60 gift certificate. I couldn’t believe Zappos had given me the best customer service of my life AND and $85 gift certificate just for being a customer. Mind blown.
Oh, but wait. This story has a happy ending. I got my boots!
During one of our long walks, Helene and I ended up at Atlantic Terminal. We wandered into my favorite store: Marshall’s. For those of you who don’t have Marshall’s – I’m so sorry. It was like ankle boot clearance day over there. Within five minutes, I’d loaded my cart with five pairs – all leather, all under $60.
May I present to you the Vince Camuto Belta in black leather.
Leather, perfect ankle openings, goes well with skirts and pants, and they are so cute. I actually like them even better than the Antalls.
Moral of the story: Paying a few extra bucks for stellar customer service is a worthy investment. Also, good things come to those who wait.