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.


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.


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 - 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!


 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.

 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 - 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


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!