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


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!****


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.

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:

**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:

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.