Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MetroPCS Is The Best Phone Plan For 2 People

A week or so ago, my mom came over to visit.  And since she lives out in the boonies, of course she had errands she wanted to run in the "city", one of which being she wanted to look at a new phone plan/carrier.  As I was helping her research, I realized that there may be better options for my husband and myself as well.  So after she was done (she settled on Cricket btw which has great deals as well and on an awesome network), I got to work looking up for myself.

Now if you've been reading a lot of my posts, you'll know I posted a while ago about a cell phone carrier that I've been with for a few years that I love, Ting (red my blog article on it here).  They are consistently rated the highest in customer service and that is part of why it is hard for me to leave them but there are a few negatives: 1.) You have to pay full price for your phone (unless you can find an amazing deal online somewhere).  At first this wasn't an issue, you save so much each month it made up for it.  But now phones are basically computers and they cost about $500-$600 new.  My husband and I were waiting to save up money for a new phone (not even the newest!), while our current phones were driving us crazy with how slow they are!  2.) Speaking of slow, unfortunately most of Ting's phones are on Sprint's network which, apparently, is the slowest of them all.  And 3.) For the amount of data we were using, there were actually cheaper plans out there for the two of us.  With all that being said, I still love Ting, and their idea is awesome, I just recommend it more for people who use very little to no data and don't need a newer phone.

At the time I had settled on Ting a few years ago, I had never had a smartphone before, so I didn't know how much data I'd be using and, therefore, how much I would need in a plan.  I liked that Ting was a no contract, and that you only paid for what you used.  Plus, there weren't as many options then for cheaper and no contract phone plans.  THINGS HAVE CHANGED.  This is a consumer's market.  With the internet, people are able to do more research, find the best options, and make complaints/suggestions, especially publicly, which has forced companies to change their plans.

MetroPCS
So down to my findings: the cheapest and best plan for two people is MetroPCS's 2 for $50 plan.  It comes with unlimited text and talk and up to 1GB of data for each line at 4GLTE speeds, and unlimited at slower speeds.  My husband and I generally used about 1GB between the two of us, so we should be fine.  They use tMobile's network which isn't the best, but it's better than what we were on.  They do offer discounts on newer phones as well and the best part was: they were giving away a $50 discount to new customers that had their old account number and pin on the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime which is at a $49.99 discounted price.  Meaning, we got our phones for free!  Oh and all their plans are no contract :)

So do some research.  Find the best plan for you.  There are so many companies out there now offering customizable or unlimited plans for much cheaper than the main companies.  Plus you're not locked into a contract or only able to update every so often.  That's so 10 years ago! ;)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Join Amazon Student

This week, from October 7th to 9th 2015, shop exclusive deals for Amazon Student members on electronics, tech, study supplies, and more.  Not an Amazon Student member?  Join here and try it for free for 6 months!  After the 6 month trial, upgrade to Amazon Prime at 50% off!!

Amazon Student is a great way to to get free 2 day shipping from Amazon plus all the other perks of Amazon Prime: music and video streaming plus kindle books, for much cheaper!  I utilize this all the time as I do a lot of shopping on Amazon, it saves time by not having to go to a store and if you have free shipping then it's no extra cost!  Plus the movie and tv selection is different than Netflix so you get more streaming options.

Right now they are also doing giveaways like gift cards and games!  So join now!

Amazon Student

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Trader Joe's: It's Cheaper Than You Think

So it's been a little over a year since my husband and I got married and we moved in together.  As with any new location, scouting out what grocery store you are going to frequent can be difficult.  For most of this year, I'd been going to Safeway to do most of our shopping because of all the deals they offer on their member card.  But lately I had gotten tired of getting the same things we usually get and thought I would shake it up a bit and go to Trader Joe's.

For some reason, for a long time, I had always assumed that since Trader Joe's is healthier, it is more expensive.  It wasn't until I moved to San Francisco and had one right across the street from my apartment that I realized this wasn't the case.  But after years away from it again, the old assumption had crept back into my mind.

For those of you that may think that too . . . don't!  Trader Joe's has great selection with great prices that even rival national supermarket chains.

So eat healthier and save money!  Click here to learn more about what's new at Trader Joe's and their prices.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

hitRECORD: How Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Paying Artists Around the World

So for those of you who don't know, I'm a performing artist.  I do musical theatre primarily which means I act, sing, and dance and currently my job is teaching theatre and dance as well as performing when I have the opportunity.  My parents were professional musicians, my grandparents on my mom's side were musicians, let's just say I know exactly what an artist's life is like.  All art forms go greatly unappreciated in this country.  Because many people assume it is a hobby, they are reluctant to pay people for these jobs.  (Yes, they are jobs)  So this is why I am so pleased to write about something today that will help earn artists (and art appreciators) money for their work!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
While looking for a new show for myself to watch on Netflix, I came across a show called Hit RECord on TV!  It had a picture of Joseph Gordon-Levitt with an artistic background and it triggered my memory of a YouTube clip I saw on Facebook of JGL (is that a thing?) doing a musical theatre number and it said it was on his show Hit RECord on TV.  At the time I just watched the clip, enjoyed it, and thought nothing more of it.  But seeing this complete season of his show available on Netflix, I thought I should check it out.

What I was treated to was an amalgamation of different artists' writings, drawings, readings, music in a very unique and fun way.  It was funny because I started it right as my husband was walking back to his gaming station after a bathroom break and he stopped in his tracks to see what I was watching because it was so interesting.  He stayed standing because presumably he was going back to play a game but he ended up watching the whole episode, standing in the middle of the living room.  At the end I said, "Do you want to watch this with me?"  With out a pause he said, let me just save my game and I'll be right there.

So what is this show exactly?  Well I urge you to just check it out because it really is a great show that I think would appeal to just about most people but here's a brief explanation.  Hit RECord on TV is a new kind of variety show.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosts the show which features short films, live performances, music, animation, conversation, and more from an online community, hitRECORD, with each episode focusing on a different theme.  (And by the way, if you just love Joseph Gordon-Levitt you will even more as he continually shows more of his talents as well)

After quickly finishing the first season (the only available on Netflix right now) I thought I would check out the website where they do all these collaborations, hitRECORD.  I was even more impressed with what JGL had put together because, well, he honestly believes in featuring all people's work and the best part . . . he actually wants to compensate you fairly for it!  And who better to explain how it all works than JGL himself?!



I think this idea is so awesome and I'm really trying to be a part of it as much as I can.  And I really encourage everyone to be a part of it, or at least watch the show because it's really fun!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Prius Auxiliary Battery Saver

In my last post, Hybrids . . . Are They Worth the Upfront Cost?, I wrote about purchasing a hybrid car.  Well, only after about a month of owning the car, we had battery failure (the auxiliary not hybrid).  I did a lot of research about how each of the batteries work before deciding what to do.  I found this battery on Amazon:



In the reviews, I read that this is the most recommended auxiliary battery for Priuses.  A common problem is that since the battery needed for a Prius is so different from a normal car, they don't get used as much so auto shops can have them sitting on the shelves for years thus diminishing the quality of the battery.  Many people were saying they were having to have them replaced every year.

Since this was a highly recommended battery, I thought I would buy it.  And even better, when I added it to my cart, Amazon asked if I wanted to have it installed through Amazon Services.  There was an option for a shop in the city next to me for only $15.  So I ended up getting a battery and installed for under $200, hundreds less than if I just took it right away to a shop.  Plus, I can be more sure that this battery is better quality!

So if you have a Prius, keep this in mind for when you start having power issues!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hybrids . . . Are They Worth the Upfront Cost?

When I was trying to think of what to write about this week, I realized I hadn't talked at all about our recent addition.  A few months ago, I took my car in to get the AC checked because it wasn't working.  I figured it just needed a flush as is most cases when the AC doesn't work which isn't that bad.  Of course, with my bad luck of cars in the past few years it ended up being the most expensive part to fix and since I had a VW that part was even more expensive, $900 to be exact.  That is a lot to pay for air conditioning!

Now to give you the full picture, you should know that I only purchased my VW Beetle about a year and a half before then.  Yes it was quite old even then, a '98, but it only had 75,000 miles on it so in car life that's still pretty good.  Little did I realize, this car would give me so many problems, I basically had to take it in every few months.  And I probably ended up spending an extra few thousand on it in that short amount of time.  I really wish I had gone with my feelings when purchasing that car to go with newer and better.

So, this newest $900 quote and a warning that my clutch would be going out soon (also the tires were wearing down) and the fact that it was only two doors, a stick shift which is both annoying at times and my husband didn't even know how to drive, I had had enough.  I would much rather put more money down for a better car than to put more into this one.  So a search began.

This time I did my research.  I had for years wanted a hybrid since the gas mileage was so great.  But last time when I was looking for a car, I realized that better MPG didn't actually save you that much but hybrids were selling for so much more than comparable non hybrids so I didn't actually think it was worth the upfront extra cost.  But my heart still yearned for one (probably just to feel super modern) so I thought I'd look into it again.

I realized that my focus last time, and the focus of many people buying a car that are budget conscious, think too much on mpg, year of the car, and mileage.  What you should be focusing on is . . . maintenance.  Of course!  I had gotten a car that had very low mileage last time and not too bad on gas but the think that was costing lots of money, was the maintenance.

There are two big things to consider when looking for a car:
  1. Reviews: Read reviews from real owners and they'll definitely tell you if the car has issues often or not.
  2. Country of Manufacture: European cars have more expensive parts so even if things do break down, Asian and American parts are generally cheaper to replace as well.
Now that I knew where to focus, I read and read and read all about peoples' opinions of cars.  And I realized that hybrids are not only great on gas but they often require much less maintenance too!  Why is that so?  Well in basic terms (because I don't know that much about cars) since a hybrid doesn't always run off of engine power, there's obviously less wear and tear on the engine (duh!).

But it doesn't just stop there.  There's not as many engine start up problems since the car "turns on" by a battery and the computer then starts the car.  Electronics also help slow down hybrid cars when you release your foot from the gas pedal and even when you start pressing on the brakes so there's less wear on the brakes.  And then I thought more about the mpg and realized that I would almost be doubling my mpg so having to pay half the amount on gas each month DOES add up.

But a lot of people are nervous to buy used hybrids because they hear all about how expensive it is to replace the hybrid battery and if you buy it used, that may need to be replaced soon.  But now that hybrids have been out for over 10 years, there's been a lot more research on it.  Before, there wasn't really an answer because they didn't know for sure how long they would last.  But many people are getting to the 200,000 mile mark without having to replace the battery.  And even then, they realized you don't have to replace the whole thing quite often, you can usually just replace a cell or two which is only a few hundred instead of a few thousand.  It's a fear of the unknown.  As one person pointed out, you take a risk buying any used car.  There are many parts in a standard car that cost a couple thousand to replace that wouldn't be needed in a hybrid.

hybrid car
Anyway, we ended up getting a 2005 Prius with just over 160,000 miles on it.  While the mileage was pretty high, with all the things we know now with the less wear and tear I wasn't too concerned since the previous owner had taken good care of it (and gave us a great deal).  There are many people selling older hybrids to upgrade that still have a good life left and the prices are lowering since there are now so many on the market.

Since I've only had the car about a month, I can't truly say if it's worth it yet.  But it FEELS great!  Plus we took a trip down to Los Angeles (over 300 miles) and while we did fill up because we had stopped for dinner anyway, we wouldn't have had to.  We're averaging 45 mpg in both city and hwy driving which is so awesome!

I'll update later, but for now I think it's totally worth it!


UPDATE:  It's been over 6 months since we've had the car and I still love it!  Now it has just over 180,000 miles on it and it's still running great.  No problems so far (knock on wood) other than the issues with the auxiliary battery early on.  (Read The Prius Auxiliary Battery Saver)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Referral Programs

Today I'm going to talk about referral programs.  These are easy ways to make money or earn rewards for products and companies you already know and love!  If you've read a lot of my blogs, you've probably already seen some links for referrals from the things I really like but I'm going to explain a little more about these and how they can be useful for you.

What are referral programs?  Referral programs are where companies reward you, one of their customers, for bringing in more business to them.  Quite often they also give an incentive for the new customer as well.  It's a win-win-win situation in that case!  With referral programs made much easier with the internet and social media, there have been a lot more popping up within the last few years and much bigger rewards as well.

How do they work?  If a company has a referral program, you will need to be logged into their site under your account.  Then you find the section of their website about referrals and there should be a spot that either lets you directly share your specific link to social media or through emails or a link that you can copy and paste.  It's important that you make sure that you are logged in and get your specific link so they can track who joined because of you and you can get rewarded!

It's as simple as that!

Here's a list of all my favorite companies/products with referral programs by category:

Cell Phone Carriers

cell phone carriers
Ting Wireless - This is an offshoot of Sprint that works on a pay for what you use concept.  My husband and I have a bill together of about $50 - $60 a month for talk, text, and data.  You can read more about Ting in my post: Cut Cell Phone Bill in Half: Switch to Ting

  
Referral Bonus: Offer friends $25 off a new device or as Ting credit. For each successful referral, we'll credit your account $25 to say thanks. 


Credit Cards

Chase Credit Card

Chase Freedom - 1% back on purchase with 5% back on rotating categories.  Read more about it on my post: Make Money With Credit Cards, Part 2: My Favorite Cards

Discover Card
Discover - 1% back on purchase with 5% back on rotating categories.  Read more about it on my post: Make Money With Credit Cards, Part 2: My Favorite Cards

Referral Bonus: Enjoy $50 Cashback Bonus for both if they apply and become cardmembers, and make a purchase in the first 3 months. And it works for up to 10 new cardmembers you refer per year.


Entertainment

Amazon free 2 day shipping Amazon Prime - Amazon Prime not only gives you the free shipping, it is a video and music streaming service as well!  You can read more about it on my post: Amazon Prime: A Great Deal!

Referral Bonus: When they join and make a $5 purchase, we'll give you $5 towards your next Amazon purchase.



 

Search Engines

bing search
 Bing - This search engine gives you rewards points for using it that you can redeem for prizes like gift cards.  You can read more about it in my post: Bing Rewards.


Referral Bonus: You’ll get 150 credits for each of your friends who join and reach Silver Status in their first 60 days, up to a maximum of 5 friends.



Shopping

Amazon free 2 day shipping
 Amazon Prime - If you do a lot of shopping online like me, you should look into getting Amazon Prime.  Amazon has basically everything and with Prime you get free 2 day shipping on Amazon sold products.  You can read more about it on my post: Amazon Prime: A Great Deal!

Referral Bonus: When they join and make a $5 purchase, we'll give you $5 towards your next Amazon purchase.


Groupon
Groupon - Great deals on items, restaurants, things to do, etc.

Referral Bonus: You can earn $10 in Groupon Bucks whenever you refer a friend to Groupon and they buy their first deal.



Living Social

Living Social - Just like Groupon.  Great deals on items, restaurants, things to do, etc.

Referral bonus: When someone signs up for LivingSocial using your personal link, they’ll get 10 Deal Bucks to spend on a purchase of $20 or more. And once they do, you’ll get 10 Deal Bucks too!



Travel

travel
 Orbitz - This is my preferred travel search engine.  They offer rewards for using their site and I also have their credit card that I use only for booking vacations through them to make the most of the rewards.

Referral Bonus: When friends join, they'll get a $25 promo code for their first hotel stay.  You'll get $25 in Orbucks once they complete their first hotel stay of $50 or more.



travel
 Airbnb - Another great way to find places to stay when traveling.  I just talked about this in a couple recent posts: Traveling Cheaply, Part 3: Vacation Houses and Top 10 Places to Stay on Airbnb for Under $140.

Referral Bonus: Send a friend $25 Airbnb credit. You'll get $25 when they travel and $75 when they host.


Groupon

Groupon - Find vacation packages on Groupon Getaways, deals on hotels, and activities to do.

Referral Bonus: You can earn $10 in Groupon Bucks whenever you refer a friend to Groupon and they buy their first deal.




Living Social

Living Social - Just like Groupon.  Find vacation packages on Living Social Escapes, deals on hotels, and activities to do.

Referral bonus: When someone signs up for LivingSocial using your personal link, they’ll get 10 Deal Bucks to spend on a purchase of $20 or more. And once they do, you’ll get 10 Deal Bucks too!



Uber Ridesharing
 Uber - Need a ride but a taxi's too expensive?  Try ridesharing!  Read about it on my recent post: Ridesharing.

Referral Bonus: Every new rider who signs up with your code will get their first ride free, and you'll earn a free ride (up to $20) for spreading the word.





Now if any of you signed up through these links, we both get the bonuses!

Are there any companies that you love that have referral programs?





Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Disneyland Hotel Deception

My husband and I will be going to Disneyland on Monday and Tuesday for my birthday!  For those of you that know Disneyland, you know that for hotels there are several surrounding the park that are within walking distance.  This is great because you can just walk into the park and you don't have to pay for parking which, as with all things Disney, is severely overpriced.  So when I was looking for a hotel a few months ago, naturally I wanted one of these.

Since it's the middle of summer, a huge tourist time, all these hotels were marked up.  It is impossible to find one under $100 at this time of year.  Just as I was about to book one, it dawned on me . . . how much is parking and how much are hotels outside the walking range?  If you're getting a hotel room within walking distance just to not pay parking, that better be the cheapest option.

When I expanded the radius from even just 2 to 3 miles away from Disneyland instead of just 1, there was a dramatic price drop.  DUH!  Hotels that are within walking distance hugely mark up their price because of the "convenience" of being so close, claiming you don't have to pay the high parking fee.  This is what I now like to call The Disneyland Hotel Deception.  

Here's the truth.  Parking at Disneyland is $17 a day (yes a day!).  BUT if you look for a place a little farther away in Anaheim, you can get a discount hotel at prices far lower than a $17 difference in price from the closer hotels.  That means even though it sucks paying Disney a crazy amount for parking each day, it's still less than staying in a hotel closer and walking.  And it doesn't have to mean getting up that much earlier as we're only talking about a few miles which just adds about a 15 minute driving time.  Plus it's less walking!  I ended up getting a hotel 7 miles away for $60 a night! 

If you really don't want to park, it could still be cheaper to do one of these hotels and use a ridesharing service (see my post Ridesharing).  We're definitely going to do this at least for the first day since I have two $5 off Lyft rides, and the estimated price was $5 - $10 a ride so at most we would just be paying $10.

I'm going to think of these things more from now on instead of falling for marketing ploys.  I can't believe I hadn't thought of this before!  It had just always been a tradition growing up to get one close and walk.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ridesharing

Since my husband and I got married and moved in with each other almost a year ago, we have been sharing one car.  His work is only a few miles away from our apartment but mine is several, so naturally I'm the one who needs the car more.  When we were figuring out how he can get to and from work when I was using the car, at first we thought that the bus system here would be better than our hometowns.  Not.  The buses don't run very regularly and it would take him an hour, for a trip that takes 10 minutes driving.  And cabs are way too costly.  So for the first few weeks, he would walk.  Which also took an hour but was free.  But we knew this couldn't work forever.  So we went to searching.  And that's when we discovered ridesharing.

Ridesharing is where you use an app to request a ride, a nearby driver of that company will pick you up and take you to your destination.  The cost is much less than a cab and tipping is not expected (and with some not even possible).

It is dominated by two companies: Lyft and Uber.  There are other ones, but these are the biggest and naturally you do want to use a company that has a lot of drivers in your area so the wait time is less.  We used Lyft first, but ran into some issues with the app and found out the customer service isn't the best so we switched to Uber. 

It's a really great option for people that don't have a car, or their car is being worked on, and now I think especially for when you are on vacation.  (Many people also use it as their designated driver so you can go bar hopping and all your friends can drink!)  It's simple to use and what's really great is you don't actually deal with any money with the drivers, it's all paid electronically through the app so it's much faster!

If you're interested, take a look at what ridesharing companies are strong in your area, or the area you are visiting.  But I'd recommend Uber.



 ****Sign up here to get a free ride from Uber!****

ridesharing

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I Have a Twitter Account Now! @ewsmm

So I'm not a huge social network person.  I've had Facebook basically since the beginning and that's about it.  I got an Instagram but I have like 4 pictures on it, same with Pinterest.  I didn't even really understand what exactly a hashtag was until a while ago.  I knew it was for Twitter and that's it.

It wasn't until Facebook started using hashtags that I thought I'd try clicking on one to see what it did.  Of course, it brought me to a page that had all the posts of people that used that hashtag.  Ohhhhhhh so it groups like things together.  Genius!  #imanidiot

Well that's cool.  I still didn't really use it.  Then last night, right before I was going to go to bed, it dawned on me . . . I could use hashtags to amp up views on my blog!  #duh

I went and reshared some of my favorite posts on Facebook and, mostly, Google + (cause I didn't want to inundate my actual personal Facebook page with posts) with added hashtags.

There were a lot more views on my pages this morning.  But seeing where they were coming from, I didn't think it seemed right.  So I realized the best way to use hashtags is still with Twitter.  So I signed up for one just to promote this blog.  That's it . . . for now.

So go follow me @ewsmm, I guess ;)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Top 10 Places to Stay on Airbnb for Under $140

Yesterday I wrote about my new discovery, Aibnb, a website (and app) that lets you search for all types of places to stay at amazing rates.  I am now literally obsessed with finding cool places on this website so I wanted to share a few of my favorites.  (Sign up here to get a $25 credit!)


Irish Castle

I wanted to start with Ireland because this is where I went on my honeymoon last year and we stayed in a "castle".  I put quotations because it was more like a manor and boy did we fork out the money.  I wish I had known about this website when I had planned our honeymoon but oh well.  This is more of what I was imagining.

Ballintotis Castle, East Cork in Castlemartyr

Castle in Castlemartyr, Ireland. Writers Spartan 16th Century Castle- Join Yeats and Jung above it all in a tower. 1 small double four poster bed, one single bed and camp beds available (bring your own sleeping bags). Electricity, bath and wood burner. Four story 16th century ... View all listings in Castlemartyr

Italy Coast View

Capri is the most beautiful place in the world that I have visited.  I can't believe you can get this view and traditional Italian charm for such a price!

Your home on the roof - of Capri in Anacapri

Bed & Breakfast in Anacapri, Italy. You need to get up high to get the best views. Views like those awaiting guests from the terraces of B&B Monte Solaro, on the slopes of Capri's mountain. A welcoming little B&B with just 3 bedrooms and marvelous views of the Bay of Naples and the... View all listings in Anacapri

  

Costa Rica Tree House

How cool does this look?!

Rainforest Tree House w Hot Springs in Cooper

Treehouse in Cooper, Costa Rica. The Tree House Is charming, new and handcrafted at our 35 acre Bio Thermales rainforest reserve with natural hot and cool springs pools in the north-central Costa Rican heartland. This is authentic Costa Rica: clean, comfortable and close to natur... View all listings in Cooper

Eiffel Tower Boathouse

I can't believe you can't get this view for this price!

Houseboat/péniche Eiffel Tower in Paris

Boat in Paris, France. LISTED AIRBNB TOP 40 ALL OVER THE WORLD ! Private studio (11sqm) on a 100yrs old houseboat right under the Eiffel Tower, on an outstanding pedestrian pier (Port de Suffren, World Heritage of Unesco). Central, yet very quiet and safe. The owners... View all listings in Paris
 

New York Brownstone

I mean, who hasn't wanted to live in one of these?!

Authentic UWS 1BR Brownstone in New York

Apartment in New York, United States. Perfectly located near Central Park two floor apartment with 1br, 1.5bath, kitchen and queen bed. The apartment has lots of old NYC character with brick wall, fireplace and spiral staircase to bedroom. The perfect place to call home for NYC vacati... View all listings in New York


German House

Can you get any more German than this?!

House in Bad Sooden-Allendorf in Bad Sooden-Allendorf

Bed & Breakfast in Bad Sooden-Allendorf, Germany. A house in the district Sooden. The house has fully renovated rooms, shared services and located on the Kurpurk. In just a few minutes walk to a bakery, a butcher, Edeka supermarket and a (website hidden) Alice decorated apartment with 3 bedrooms,... View all listings in Bad Sooden-Allendorf

 

Colorado Igloo

This looks so beautiful!

Spacious igloo with mountain views! in Monument

Igloo in Monument, United States. Not available for the time being as vandals destroyed the igloo. This is a private igloo in a beautiful forest. It is quite spacious, warm, and even has candles in the walls. Can fit five or six comfortably. This is a one-of-a-kind mountain lodg... View all listings in Monument

Bali Paradise

I don't need to say anything about this one

Eco luxury lofts near secret beach in South Kuta

Cabin in South Kuta, Indonesia. Eco friendly bungalow lofts by the seaside. Enjoy luxury amenities and comfort in an eco-resort by peaceful Balangan beach. Swim in the infinity edge pool facing the ocean, get a massage at the spa, or dine in our thatched cafe with ocean views. ... View all listings in South Kuta

Classic Greek Island

Another one of my favorite places!

Studio 2 persons Oia Amazing view!! in Oia

Apartment in Oia, Greece. Our cool and comfortable studio with traditional greek style has a true good vibration! it comfortably fits two and it is centrally located at the heart of the most famous village of Santorini. Blue Sky villa is located in the middle of the tradi... View all listings in Oia




What places or types of lodging would you like to go?

Make sure you sign up here to get a $25 credit!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Traveling Cheaply, Part 3: Vacation Houses

I have been so excited to write about this ever since I discovered it a few weeks ago!  I LOVE traveling, but I hate the expenses that make it difficult so I always love finding good deals to be able to explore as much as possible!  One of the easiest ways to save money on traveling is by finding cheaper lodging.  This is a great option because it is a necessity that eats up a large portion of a budget but I feel you can have a slightly lower quality to save money because, if you're like me and you like to spend the whole day doing activities (which you should!), then you won't be spending much time there anyway.  One of my first recommendations was hostels which you can read about in my post Traveling Cheaply, Part 2: Hostels.

travelAnyway, next month my husband and I will be heading to our friend's wedding in San Diego.  When I looked at the price of hotels in San Diego, I was flabbergasted.  It is hard to find one for under $200/night, and I'm talking about ANYTHING without having to go an hour away.  (The wedding is by the zoo so it's a huge touristy area).  So I got this great idea.  Since I knew a lot of people around where we live would be invited, originally I thought it might be great to get a large group of people going to carpool to save some money on travel expenses.  Then it hit me, a vacation home!  If we had enough people, we could all chip in to rent a home for a week and it would significantly lower the price, which we could then afford to spend more time and actually do some sightseeing instead of driving 9 hours just to go to a wedding and coming right back. 

Well I did some searching and found out lots of people own homes in high tourist areas just to rent out short term for vacations!  And the best thing was, I was finding very cute homes in a safe neighborhood (even walking distance to the zoo!) that sleep up to 6 people for about the same price as one hotel room would cost!  I couldn't believe the price differences.

It ended up that most people couldn't come down earlier so if we did want to spend extra time, we'd have to figure it out for ourselves.  I thought we'd have to fork out for the hotel but I realized that there weren't just large homes listed on these sites, there were grandma cottages, studio apartments, all types of housing that fit any number of people.  Heck, some people even had just a room for rent!

What we ended up getting is a "detached granny pad" as he called it for $60/night.  That's a third of the cost of a hotel room in the area!  Super cute, take a look!




So my new favorite tools for vacation planning: vacation home rentals!

Here are the two websites that I found I really liked:

vacation home rentals

Rent unique accommodations from local hosts in 190+ countries. Feel at home anywhere you go in the world with Airbnb.

This is the website where I ended up finding the place we will be staying.  There's also an app.  And by signing up through this blog, you get a $25 credit!







Find great deals on vacation home rentals, whether you're looking for a beach house in Florida, a condo in Hawaii, or a cabin in Colorado.


This is the site I originally found the house I wanted to get for the large group.





Hope this helps in your future vacation planning!  I could see how it could be really beneficial for families to be able to have separate rooms for your kids while not being totally separated and to have a kitchen at your disposal.  I also think you might be able to better immerse yourself in a city.  I'm curious to see what places like NYC might yield.  Let me know what you think about these options!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Saving Money For College

It's graduation time and that means in a few months lots of people will be heading to college so I thought I'd do a post about saving money for college.  I'd say I'm well versed on the nuances of college funding; I spent my junior and senior years of high school researching and applying for scholarships, I ended up attending 5 different colleges (two community colleges, two public universities -- in state and out of state, and one private university) over my 5 year span of undergrad, and I received various sources of funding (529 plan from an inheritance, government funding, school and private scholarships).  I also helped my husband (boyfriend at the time) apply for loans when he transferred to a university.  So I hope this little article can help on people being able to better afford college.

Types of Funding for College

First, lets clear up all the different kinds of funding you can get for college.

saving money for collegeScholarships and Grants
This is money you do not have to pay back, the best kind!  These can be from the government, from the school, and from many private companies or organizations.

Loans
Obviously this is a loan which means you have to pay it back.  But student loans are some of the cheapest loan options.  You do not incur any interest while you are still in school (some do require a full time status so make sure you meet all requirements for this) and there's even a grace period after you graduate, usually 6 months, before you have to start paying anything back.  Interest rates are some of the lowest types of loan rates.

Work Study
Work study is a program where you work jobs at the school to help earn money to pay for your education.  These can be better options than trying to find a job outside of the school because it is easy to get to, they work around your schedule, and even can be in your field of interest.

529 Savings Plan
Since this is a savings plan, it really needs to be implemented years before you plan to attend school so it's not the best option if you don't have any to invest or don't have the time.  More on this later. 


You can have any combination of funding and as much as you want.  Just because you get a full ride scholarship doesn't mean you can't apply for private scholarships or do work study as well (unless stated in the rules of you scholarship).  While your tuition might be paid, there are so many other expenses that goes into higher education.  Schools' and companies' policies on imbursement vary.  Some might pay directly to you but most are given to the school.  But some schools pay you any leftover amounts after deducting all tuition and fees.  There can be a grey area then on taxes whether that is taxable income or not, but especially if you are not living on campus, usually you can say that it was used for higher education because living expenses are included in that.

 
How to Get Funding

Step 1: Fill out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA) is a form you fill out online for government and school funding.  It is a requirement at most schools anyway, but it's also the best way to get funding.  It is how the school will determine what financial aid they will offer you, what the government will offer you and federal loans.  You need to fill it out every year that you will be in college.  Here's their website: https://fafsa.ed.gov/

**Tip: Fill it out early!  You need your current tax info (and your parents' if you're a dependent) so fill out your taxes as soon as you can and then do the FAFSA.  They give out money on a first come first served basis so the earlier you fill it out, the more money you can potentially get!**


Step 2: Apply for Scholarships

High School Seniors:
This is the best time to apply for scholarships.  Most scholarships are for high school seniors only.  There are a wide range of scholarships based on academics, activities and interests, heritage, and your major to name a few.  Apply for everything you are eligible for, you never know!  Sign up for FastWeb which is an online scholarship search.

Everyone Else:
While most scholarships are reserved for high school seniors only, don't let that stop you from searching!  There are a lot of scholarships offered through your school's departments that aren't as widely advertised.  Sometimes these are the reverse and are actually reserved for upper division only.  I once got a scholarship from the Performing Arts Department because I was the only one that applied.  Search online or go to the dean's office.


Step 3: Sign up for Upromise
Upromise is a rewards program where you get cash back for using your cards at certain stores and shopping online through their website.  You can sign up for your children (or yourself if you're over 18) and you can even add family and friends' as well.  You're supposed to use the money you earn for college, though I don't know how they regulate that since they just send you a check.  This is great for parents to start early on in their child's life, but it can be started anytime.  Every dollar helps!  Sign up here: http://www.upromise.com/



California Military Dependents
There is an awesome program called The College Tuition Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents.  It covers all tuition and fees at any California Community College, California State University, or University of California campus.  This can be renewed every year until you are 27.  The requirements are really easy to meet since the disability just has to be 0% or more.  For more information click here.


529 Savings Plan
If you are a parent trying to save money for your child's future education, this is probably one of the best ways.  This is a savings plan specifically for higher education.  There are several investment options to choose from though usually in a mutual funds.  The savings and interest are non-taxable, even when funds are taken out, as long as they are used to pay for education.  As with any savings, a long term investment will give you the most rewards.  There are many different companies that offer these plans, so do your research.


I hope this helped clear up ideas about funding for college!  Let me know if you have any questions.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

I Just Made Dinner for 2 for $3

Second post of the day?  What?!  I just HAD to share this.  Last night I made dinner for myself and my husband for $3!  And it was tasty and filling too!

This is what we had:

Dollar Tree FoodDollar Tree Food




















I got each of these at the Dollar Tree.  My husband loved the biscuits, I thought they were okay, and the soup was really tasty (though I did add some shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream).

Thanks Dollar Tree!  See my post, First Tip: THE DOLLAR STORE!!!, for more things to buy and save at the dollar store. 

Last Post of the Wedding Series: Wedding Debt

This will be my last post on the little wedding series I created.  It has been so much fun to write about saving money on your wedding and I hope this has helped many brides to be (or grooms to be)!  :)

This post I'm going to talk about what happens after the wedding and honeymoon . . .  wedding debt.  If you're lucky, you'll either have somebody else paying for your entire wedding, have saved enough, or are able to pay it off in a timely fashion.  But for many, that is not the case and I am very sad to say that it is true for my husband and myself.

As you know, I am a huge proponent of using credit cards by using them wisely (See Make Money With Credit Cards).  This means never accruing debt by always spending within your means and paying off the bill each month in full.  Obviously this is quite hard to do when paying for a huge expense like a wedding so in my post, Using Credit Cards to Pay For Your Wedding and Honeymoon, I recommended opening a new card or two with a promotional 0% interest period to use to pay for your wedding and then paying off that card within the promotional period (therefor not paying any interest on the charges).  Well my year is almost up for the 0% interest on my cards and I am nowhere near to paying it off.

I really had no idea if we would be able to accomplish it.  I had really hoped so but with so many variables in my husband to be and my own income as well as moving, I didn't know what our budget to live and how much we would be making each month would be and so how much we could pay off each month.  After about 8 months, I know that we can comfortably live off of what we make and still pay a little off our wedding debt, but not enough to pay it off in time.

The safe and frugalness in me wants to be so upset that I didn't accomplish this, but I have to take a different mindset.  Honestly a large wedding and honeymoon is a big life purchase and it's okay to be paying it off over several years just like you would for purchasing a house, going to college, etc.  I'm very happy with the wedding and honeymoon I had and I wouldn't change it for all the money in the world.  And I would be more upset with myself years later if I hadn't gone big.

So now it comes to paying it off.  For my first card that came to the end of the 0% promotion period, it didn't have as much value on it.  I ended up transferring the balance to another card that was offering a 0% interest on balance transfers promotion (and payed a fee of a little more than $100, still less than interest would be).  I figured I could just keep getting new cards that have this offer and transferring the balance.  Wrong.  Not only at this point was I really messing up my credit score by having cards that were over or at the top of the credit limit, but each time you open a new account it lowers your score.  That makes it harder to get the better cards.  Plus, when you first get a new card, the credit line is pretty low.  I had a HUGE balance on my remaining card.

wedding debtI realized it would get way too complicated to keep playing this transfer game.  I had been getting some things in the mail offering great rates on personal loans.  Once I realized this was a huge life expense that was going to take years to pay off, I figured a loan was the best option to consolidate and get the debt off of credit cards!

So I started researching personal loans.  I found out that peer to peer usually have the best rates since they are funded by people just like you and me and not a big corporation that has thousands of employees to pay.  Prosper was said to be one of the best companies.  So I applied.  I did not qualify (probably from all the credit card debt that I was trying to eliminate!).  I tried under my husband.  He did not qualify (Most likely because he has like no credit history.  We're going to work on that).  But they did point him to a different company that offered him a loan for just above the amount we needed to pay off the card in question.

I was filling out all the appropriate fields to accept the offer when it dawned on me, "What is the APR for the credit card once the promotional period ends?"  I went and checked and lo and behold, that rate was lower than the loan rate.  WAY lower.  I know credit card rates fluctuate but I thought at least for now, we might as well wait and just keep it on the card!

So the moral of the story is, pay off your debt within the period if you can but if you can't, just keeping it on the card might be the best option!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Save Money on Your Honeymoon

saving money on your honeymoonSo for the last few months I've been focusing on wedding planning and since that is coming to a close, I thought I'd offer a little help on saving money for that special trip after the wedding . . .  the honeymoon! 

Of course this information can be used to help plan any trip, but I'm going to focus on destinations associated with honeymoons.

Choosing a Location
Obviously the closer you are to a destination, the cheaper it is to travel there.  So think about where you are in relation to where you want to go.  For instance, someone living on the west coast is going to be able to go to Hawaii much cheaper than someone on the East Coast.  Just like someone on the East Coast can get to Europe for less, and those in the Southern region can get to the Caribbean the cheapest.  That extra couple thousand miles to fly across the entire United States can add a couple extra hundred or even thousand dollars.

Searching for Deals
I search around a lot before making any major purchase.  While I have a few sites I often rely on, I still check other places before buying just to make sure I am getting the best deal.  Sometimes another site can be having a sale!  Here are some of my favorites:

General Travel Deals

travel deals 
Most of you have probably heard or even use Groupon to get great local deals, but you can also find deals on vacation packages.  They offer highly discounted complete packages, often with hotel and airfare and even activities!  If they don't have a package for the place you want to go, they also have discounted hotel rates at virtually every major city. 










This is basically the same as Groupon Getaways.  Make sure to check both sites as they can have very different offers at the time!

*Make sure you read the fine print for all these offers, there can be specific dates that you can use it and often the deal is only for specific airports and you will have to pay extra to get to one of those airports.  But the savings can still be worth it!


Caribbean Packages and Cruises

travel deals
This site has great deals for Caribbean resorts and cruises!


Europe

travel deals
This is a fantastic site that I actually ended up using to create my honeymoon to Ireland.  I love that it is totally customizable: you get to chose what cities to go to, you can chose your mode of transportation, you can upgrade hotels, and you can even opt out of their hotels for one or two nights if there's a specific place you want to stay and they don't offer it.  Plus you can buy excursions here too (though do check to see if there are better deals).  And it's all in one place!


Cruises


This site must be run by the same people as Cheap Caribbean because it has a very similar layout.  Look for good deals on cruises!


Paying for Your Honeymoon
Use a new credit card for just your honeymoon expenses.  Find a travel credit card with a nice signup bonus that maybe you can use!  (See my article Using Credit Cards to Pay for Your Wedding and Honeymoon for more information)  This is a good one for travel: BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

Honeymoon Fund
honeymoon fund
Instead of a traditional wedding registry, some couples are now asking for money for their honeymoon.  Honeyfund is a popular website to help this.  I personally think if you are having a regular registry that it's too much to also ask for honeymoon money but that's your choice!

Have Fun!


P.S. Make sure you have your passport if you're traveling internationally (even Mexico & Canada)!  This is an expense too if you don't have one already and it takes a few months, so plan ahead. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

After the Wedding, Making the Money Back

It's been a while since I've done a new post, my life has been crazy busy!  In my last few posts on saving money for your wedding, I want to talk about ways to recuperate the funds invested in such an expense.

For a wedding there were probably a lot of decorations you ended up buying.  Many of these are reusable items but you may not ever have the need to use them again or you bought too many for just a home.  You should consider reselling these items.  I use eBay but you can use craigslist or a similar website or have a garage sale!

Things I'm Reselling From My Wedding:
selling wedding dress
If you're not sentimental about your dress, sell that!  There are many brides looking for a good deal on a great dress and don't mind if it's used and you could make a lot back!

Sell back any and all that you want!  As you know, there are hundreds of brides looking for anything wedding, why not make back some of what you spent on it?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Buying the Wedding Dress, It's Easier Than You Think!

So another big expenditure in weddings is the wedding dress.  You can spend thousands on it, depending on your taste.  If you only want a simpler dress, than you shouldn't need to worry about the price.  But if you want something big or ornate or with a special fabric, you need to put a part of your budget aside for it.
wedding dress shopping

Unfortunately my taste was on the bigger side and I definitely wanted buttons down the back which adds on a lot of money.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get a ballgown, with a train, and the buttons.  I also thought my best bet was to go to a large chain store, thinking they had a much larger choice of cheaper gowns.  Boy was I wrong.

I headed to David's Bridal for my first fitting.  It was HORRIBLE.  Don't get me wrong, I think David's Bridal or similar department style wedding stores are great options for your bridal party because they offer a large selection at decent prices and a number of stores throughout the country, in case you have bridal party members out of the area.  But DO NOT go there for your wedding dress.

The mood isn't the dream setting of finding your dress: it's cramped (there was nowhere for my guests to sit, they had to stand for an hour!), you're rushed (my consultant even was helping another person at the same time!), and they don't really listen to your wants.

But the biggest point is, especially for this blog, they actually didn't have that many cheap options.  Well let me rephrase that, they had plenty of "cheap" options.  Meaning, when I asked for lower priced dresses, they gave me that but they were terrible looking -- terrible quality, horrible materials, they looked like prom dresses.  They said for what I wanted, there was no way to get it at a lower price (under $1,000).

I left disheartened, thinking I was not going to be able to get the dress of my dreams.  I scoured the internet for other places.  And decided to go with a local boutique that had great reviews that said they had many options for those not wishing to break the bank.  This is where I ended up finding exactly what I wanted for a price that couldn't be beat!

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I cannot recommend Gesinee's Bridal in Concord enough!  They have a fabulous upstairs boutique for brides only with a huge selection of beautiful dresses all under $2,000!  They spend time and really feel what you want to be able to find you the perfect dress.  While I will say their alterations are a bit pricey, just know that now and you can shop around for a cheaper alterations place. (http://gesineesbridal.com/)

The moral of the story is, don't be pressured to go to a huge store to find a deal on a dress.  There are plenty of local boutiques that have what you want for a price you can afford.  Search the internet (Yelp is your friend as reviews from other brides are priceless!) and try it out.

Where did you find your dress?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wedding Items That Are a Waste of Money


Continuing on my theme of saving money on weddings, I wanted to talk about things that you don't necessarily need or cheaper alternatives.  As I've stated many times before, just being for a wedding, something as simple as a pen gets marked up to insane amounts!

RSVP Cards
Save yourself the extra weight in your invitations and having to buy double the stamps by having your guests RSVP online.  Plus it makes it easier for you to track everything and it's simpler for most guests.  Chances are, you will be creating a wedding website, and most of these already come with a way to have an RSVP section.  My favorite free wedding website was through mywedding.com

Guestbook
Boy, oh boy are these expensive!  They generally start at $30 and go up from there, all for a notebook and pen!  I thought I'd just find a nice looking notebook and pen but, as you'll discover, it's hard to find something white that isn't in the wedding section which makes it more expensive!  A great alternative is to make a customizable guestbook on Shutterfly.  They start at $12.99 and you can add your own pictures to make it really unique.  Plus I got a lot of offers for a free 8x8 by shopping at David's Bridal and registering at Target.  Don't worry about a fancy pen, nobody cares and you end up needing multiples anyway.  Just buy a pack of nice quality ballpoint pens, or get some colored gel ones.

Shutterfly wedding guestbook

DJ
Why pay someone to play a bunch of songs that might not even suit your style?  iPods were made for a reason.  Just using your iPod for music is a great alternative, plus you get to handpick all your songs.  Find a friend or family member that has a great personality to be the announcer and to operate the iPod and you've saved yourself $1,000+!  Just make sure you ask the venue before they book if you can use their sound system and you aren't required to have a DJ (yes some places REQUIRE that!). 

Bridal Toss Bouquet
Flowers can be a huge part of your budget, so anytime you can cut something out that can save you tons.  I had no idea that usually brides get a separate bouquet for the toss (it's not quite as ornate and so you can keep yours).  That seemed insane to me to pay for a bouquet just to get thrown and mangled by some girls which would probably just end up being left or thrown out anyway.  I ended up just asking my bridesmaids if any of them didn't mind that I toss one of theirs which worked out great (and a bridesmaid caught it anyway).  But there are some other fun ideas to make one like a candy bouquet which gives a little prize to the winner!

Limo
I really wanted for my husband and I to be driven away in a fancy antique car.  Then I saw the prices.  Even for just the short time and distance you need it to exit can be hundreds.  Plus I realized it would be dark by the time we left, so nobody would really see it anyway.  To pay to be able to have the car at the location the whole time for guests to see and to take pictures with is astronomical.  Just use your own car, or a regular rental which can just be about $50 for a day (you can specify white or silver to make it look more wedding). 


Favors
Ugh another per person expense that most people could really care less about but you're really expected to do.  DO NOT spend more than $1.00 each on these, it's really not worth it.  My goal was to find something inexpensive that people would actually be able to use.  What we ended up going with was quite fun: plantable wedding favors -- it's a cute thank you note that you can plant in the ground and it will grow flowers!









There are definitely more, but those tend to be quite obvious.  These are just the ones that sort of surprised me.  Are there other things you think should be on the list?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cutting the Guest List: The Plus One Problem

guest list
One of the biggest wedding hassles is creating a guest list.  Not only is the size of your guest list important for location requirements and aesthetic, it is one of the biggest factors in the cost of your wedding.  Almost every cost in a wedding is a per person cost and when you have 100+ person wedding, each dollar per person means $100 more . . . it adds up quickly.  I hated how planning a wedding made me view each person we invited as a number (a big number that added to the number that would become our debt).  But it is a part of it none the less.  Thus comes about the question, how do you keep numbers more manageable while still being able to invite all the friends and family from all walks of life that you want to share your special day with?  The first thing that comes to mind for those with a budget: the plus one.

Weddings have a lot of rules.  Some are very old and outdated, but no matter how you feel, someone is going to be offended if you don't follow the proper "etiquette".  I worked long and hard trying to make sure that everyone was pleased with our choices, where we chose to follow tradition and where we chose to go a little modern.  The plus one debate is one that still goes strong today.

Let me clear things up for you, if you're wondering what I keep meaning about the plus one debate.  Wedding etiquette dictates that whomever the wedding invitation is addressed to, is exactly who is invited.  Meaning, if John Smith is the only name on the invitation, John Smith is the only one invited, even if he is in a relationship (you are supposed to always invite a spouse if the person is married, even if you don't know the spouse).  If you want John to be able to bring someone, you should write John Smith and Guest on the invitation.

This is was the rules state, but most people don't know that.  Most people assume that when you are invited to a wedding, you are allowed to bring someone with you (I blame movies for that).  While this is true at many weddings, as stated, it should say on the invitation.

Now, as you can see, if every person you invite automatically gets to bring someone, that adds a lot of people to your list.  People that fill up slots of other potential friends/family.  Usually plus ones are going to be people you don't know and paying $100+ for someone you don't know is difficult to accept (my per person cost was about $120).  As I said before, I hate how horrible it sounds viewing people as numbers but it's not just the cost.  My husband and I didn't really want people at our wedding that we didn't know.  But then again, we didn't want to offend people by telling them they couldn't bring someone, especially for those that had been dating someone for a while and we just didn't know them.

Here's the solution we came up with, I think it works well and offends the least amount of people:

  • All the people in our bridal party got a plus one
  • Married and engaged couples were both invited regardless of whether we knew them or not
  • Dating couples where we knew both parties got invited
  • Everyone else, did not get a plus one unless they didn't know anyone else at the wedding (we didn't want anyone to be lonely)

Luckily, most of the people we invited were from a large group of family or friends that knew many people at the wedding.  That's why we felt it was okay to not give plus ones to everyone as they would still be able to have a lot of fun with all their friends.  And those that didn't know anyone else (I think there was one or two people that fell into that category) got to bring someone.

To nicely explain to people that plus ones were not allowed, we put on our wedding website where they RSVP'd this nice note:

         "We have worked really hard to create a celebration featuring all of our closest and dearest        family and friends. In order to do this, we kindly request that you do not bring any guests that were not invited. If you have a question about this please contact us. Thanks for understanding."

Now there are going to be some people that just invite someone anyway.  You can decide on a case by case basis what to do and how to handle it.  Welcome to planning a wedding!

I hope this helped you in deciding what to do for the plus one debate.  Just know that it is your wedding and you can invite whoever you want.  Don't worry about people too much, in a month or two they'll forget all about it!

What did you do for your wedding?  Any other suggestions for brides regarding the guest list?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wedding Venues, How They Get You

Happy New Year!

So sorry for the long delay in posts, the holiday season got the best of me!  But I am excited to continue my focus on weddings with another article on venues!  (Shout out to all of you who got engaged in 2014, congrats!  I hope this helps make planning your wedding a little easier and lighter on the wallet!  If you're just starting out, take a look at my first bridal post: Setting a Wedding Budget)

Now that you have chosen your venue (if you haven't, check this post, Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Venue, to get started), you'll soon have your first meeting with the wedding coordinator at the venue.  While you don't need to have all the details set for this first meeting, it is important that you have in mind the general feel and needs for your wedding.  It helps them get an understanding of what you want and most importantly, it can stop them from overselling you too much.  Even the friendliest venues are going to try and get you to upgrade, and believe me, there are upgrades for EVERYTHING!!!

Here's a list of areas that they will try and get you to upgrade and some thoughts about the choices.  As I've stated before, weddings are not a place to skimp on, so having a few upgrades isn't the worst decision but there are definitely ones that are not needed.


Ceremony

Chairs
The lowest of chairs I've seen are those plastic folding chairs (yuk!).  Luckily my venue had a nicer wooden chair as their basic so I didn't need to upgrade.  Upgrades could included padded, wood stains, non folding, etc.  The costs for the upgrade could be from $4 to $10 a chair.  This doesn't sound like much but multiply it by 100 and you'll see it adds up quickly!

Aisle Runner
For most decoration items like these, I always say if you do want it, get it yourself.  It not only allows you to be able to get exactly what you want and to customize it, but it also allows you to shop around for a better price.  Plus, afterwards, it may be something you'd want to use in your home or resell later (I'll have a post about that down the line).

Microphones and Speakers
Some places charge for the use of their electronics.  While I don't think this would be something that would be better to buy yourself, do keep in mind if it's necessary.  Electronics look ugly and can ruin the whole aesthetics of the ceremony, plus you run the risk of technical issues and cord tripping.  Keep in mind the size of the room or if you're in an outdoor space, the natural acoustics; how many guests you'll have and how far back they will be seated; and if you and your fiance can project (especially when you get sentimental).  If you're not sure, test it out!  See how far back you can go while your fiance talks and then switch.  Most trained pastors or officiants shouldn't have a problem.  


Reception

Chairs
The same thing as with the ceremony.  Sometimes places can use the same chairs from the ceremony which can save you money.

Tables
This isn't really an upgrade, but keep in mind the amount of tables.  The more tables you have, the more centerpieces you need.  So maybe opt for the bigger tables if there are different size options.  I actually think it's fun being a guest at a wedding with a lot of people at a table.  Don't worry about it being crowded, it actually saves space to have larger tables with more people than more smaller tables.  They know exactly how many people can fit comfortably at each table.

Linens
A picture of my linens, simple white tablecloth with colored napkins
This covers the tablecloths, overlays (a smaller tablecloth to layer and have two colors), napkins, chair covers, and sashes.  This is where the plethora of options come out.  You have a myriad of choices between material and color.  I'd say stick with the basic material unless your dying for a sheen (which I think usually ends up looking cheap).  The place where you can opt to upgrade is in color.  I actually kept white tablecloths with no overlays and just added color to the napkins.  Sometimes too much color is overwhelming and keeping a lot of white is much more calming and lets your centerpieces stand out.  I made our sweetheart table stand out by having a tablecloth and overlay with our colors.  As far as chair covers and sashes go, I think it's overload.  They're annoying to sit on and usually get messed up throughout the night anyway.  But everything is preference.  Just know that each add on, is another $1 - $5 PER PERSON.  This can easily add on a few hundred dollars.  

Food Service Fees
A lot of places charge a cake cutting fee, usually $1 per person.  Most place charge a corkage fee for wine you bring in yourself which can be $20 per bottle!  Some places even charge corkage fees for their own wine!  Just be aware of all the fees and plan accordingly in your budget.

Electronics
Again, for microphones there can be a charge.  Also, if you want to use their sound system or any TV's or projectors they might have, there can be fees.  These can run from $50 to $500!

Lights and Decorations
They'll show you lost of pretty pictures of how the place can be decorated and often they'll tell you they can provide you with that.  If they don't say it comes with it, make sure and ask how much it is!  Often, this can be easier then decorating yourself, but just know to ask how much it all is! 

Extra Tables
Some places charge for guestbook and present tables (ridiculous!).  If there are any other tables you may want for other crafts or stations, they will probably charge you for those. 


End of Night

Late Fees  
This one is kind of a no-brainer -- if you stay past the allotted time, they'll charge you extra and usually A LOT extra.  Just know how much it all is and try and keep things on schedule!

Cleaning Fees
Make sure you have people scheduled to clean up all the things you are responsible for cleaning.  If things are not left as they were, there can be some steep charges. 


Bonuses

Couple Extras
This is the champagne flutes for you and your fiance and the cake knife and server.  Most people get their own special ones which I just thought was a given.  I didn't realize that most places have their own and they can provide you with these for no extra cost!  Of course you don't get to keep it, but that's something I didn't really care about so bonus!

Cake Stand
Make sure you ask about this.  Again, this was something I assumed that most people provided themselves but there ended up being a nicer one already there for us!       


I think that pretty much sums up everything.  I'm sure some places charge for even more ridiculous things that aren't on this list, maybe try and find that out before booking a place just so you don't get overrun with extra charges!  There are going to be a lot of things you didn't plan on when it comes to financing a wedding no matter how hard you try (believe me!) but hopefully this can help you going into it.  If you think I missed something big, please let me know in the comments below!  Happy planning :)