Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Get $50 for Shopping at Safeway

If you've read my post, Sign Up For Those Rewards Programs . . . It Can't Hurt!, you'll know that I like using Safeway's rewards program to shop.  You can add coupons digitally to your account, the coupons are organized by products you frequently by in an easy to use app, and money spent adds up to gas rewards to reduce your gas price at Safeway gas, plus a lot of general savings throughout the store.  Sometimes they have special promotions, like now: the 50 Yard Line.

With this current promotion, after you spend get 100 points on select items from now until 2/7/17, you can get a $50 gift card (or a combination totaling $50) from any of the gift cards they sell in store, which is a lot!  And from what I can read in the terms, this is every 100 spent in that time period, not just a one time thing.  The list of participating items is very large, you can see them all here, and includes large name brands such as Aquafina, 7up, Gatorade, Tostitos, Betty Crocker, Red Bull, Quaker, Oreo, Tide, Pepsi, Nabisco, Dannon, Freschetta, Dr Pepper, Progresso, and Red Baron to name a few.

So go do your shopping and start earning those gift cards!  You do need to be signed up for their rewards and add this reward to your account to qualify.  You can see all the details explained here.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Saving on World Travel

For those of you that read my blog, you know I love traveling, especially to different countries.  But traveling internationally is VERY expensive.  Here's a few ways to make it a little easier.

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!


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!


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!

Most of these options are for complete packages that include flights and hotels and more which is a great option to bundle to save money.  But if you do buy things separately, here's what I recommend:

Check out my previous post, Traveling Cheaply Part 1: Flights.

Where to Stay
Instead of hotels, I recommend hostels and vacation houses.  Check out my previous posts Traveling Cheaply Part 2: Hostels and Traveling Cheaply Part 3: Vacation Houses and also Top 10 Places to Stay on Airbnb for Under $140.

I hope this helps you plan out a fun trip!  Do you have any more helpful information?

Save Money On Your Online Shopping

If you don't use Google Chrome as your browser . . . . do it.  Not only will these tips not apply to you, but it is such an awesome browser!  It's completely customizable.  I love that I have two windows that automatically open, one with my personal Google profile and one with my work profile so I don't have to switch between the two.  There are so many other benefits to Chrome as well, one of them being all the cool extensions you can add to do various things, namely being saving you money.

I LOVE online shopping.  It's so great to purchase everyday items you forgot to buy at the store, presents that can be wrapped and delivered to far away family and friends, deals or unusual items you can't find in stores, or just saving you time.  And here are two awesome extensions you can get for Google Chrome that will help you save money on all this shopping!

Honey's primary purpose it to search the internet for all the coupon codes available and finds you the best savings deal!  A popup will appear at checkout and after clicking "Try Codes!" it will try all the available codes and then applies the one that will save you the most money.  I love it and it's saved me a lot already!

But that's not all.  Honey also detects savings opportunities on Amazon and shows you the best deal price of all the sellers.

And on top of it all, it offers cash back at select sites.  Another popup will appear at checkout with a bonus offer. Each bonus is a randomized amount, anywhere from 1-100% of the commission.  All you have to do is click "Activate Cash Bonus!" before you finish your purchase.

Click here to join. 

Wikibuy checks other retailers for the exact product you’re shopping for on Amazon and notifies you in less than ten seconds if it finds a better price. Rather than forcing you to check out on the other retailer’s site, customers can checkout on Wikibuy with a 100% money back guarantee and awesome customer support. It also automatically finds and applies coupons on hundreds of sites like Target, Expedia, and Macy’s.

I haven't tried it out yet, but it sounds awesome!

Click here to join.

I hope this helps you save money.  Now shop away!  Do you have any other tips or extensions to get to help save money in online shopping?

Monday, August 29, 2016

How I Planned a Trip for 2 to NYC from the West Coast for Under $1,000

I just got back from an amazing trip.  An amazing trip to one of the most expensive places on the planet without totally breaking the bank.  Here's how I planned a trip for two from the west coast to New York City for 6 days/5 nights for under $1,000.  (Yes that's including airfare, room, and things to do).


The two most expensive things about a trip are the flights and the lodging.  Especially since my husband and I were traveling completely across the United States, that flight can be a bit pricey.  But it cost us $0.

Most of you that read my blog know that I love to play the credit card game.  (Using credit card bonuses to my advantage.  See Make Money With Credit Cards)  Up till now I had advised against cards that have an annual fee, which includes most travel rewards cards, but I may be changing my tune on that one.  More on that later.  

At the time I signed up for it, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard had a sign up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles (miles redeemable for American Airlines).  And it just so happens that 50,000 miles is just enough to get two round trip tickets from San Francisco to New York City.  Right now the sign up bonus is only 30,000 miles but those bonuses always fluctuate so keep an eye on it.

Airline credit card bonuses are huge and can quite often get you free tickets to some amazing places!  The annual fee is usually waived the first year and you quite often will get free checked bags (which for 2 people can be a savings of $100 for each trip!).  It is very worth it to sign up for these cards.  As always, make sure to read and understand all the fine print and don't incur interest!  I will write a more detailed post on using travel credit cards later so check back later for more info.


Now the next most expensive thing is lodging.  I would love to say I got this for free, but I didn't.  It is where I spent most of the money.  Hotels in New York are EXPENSIVE, especially if you want to stay in Manhattan (which I did, duh!).  My advice is the same as always: hostels and room sharing are your friends (see Traveling Cheaply, Part 2: Hostels and Traveling Cheaply, Part 3: Vacation Houses).

There are some great hostels in New York that are NICE (and trendy!).  And you can get private rooms and even private bathrooms!  Check out 10 of the Best Hostels in New York.

But if you want private rooms, even the hostels can run you $200/night.  I think the best bet is Airbnb.  If you plan early enough, you can find some amazing apartments in Manhattan for $100/night or less!  (Of course, it does help if you go in the off season).  And having an apartment means you have the ability to cook and save some money on food (if you have the time!).

Here's a list of my favorite NY Airbnb's under $130.  I didn't plan as early as I would have liked to, so we ended up getting a place for $125/night so for 5 nights it was $625.  Still nothing in comparison to most decent hotels.


Of course no visit to New York wouldn't be complete without seeing some of the famous sites!  The first thing I would recommend is getting some kind of city pass that allows you to see multiple sites with one ticket that saves money.  We went with the Explorer Pass because both Living Social and Groupon had them at a discount $68.99 & $69.50 (normally it is $77) so check out those sites for deals.  This allowed us to see 3 attractions out of a list of 61 for that one price.  We chose the Uptown/Downtown Hop On Hop Off Double Decker Bus Tour (a $62 value), the top of the Empire State Building (a $32 value), and the Radio City Stage Door Tour (a $26.95 value) but there are many more options.

***Tip: Don't use passes for museums.  All museums in NY are a suggested donation so you can pay any amount for general admission.***

There are also a number of free walking tours provided by this company: Free Tours by Foot.  But if you don't know when to sign up for one or are busy at their times, they also offer Google Maps to be able to do the tours on your own!  Go here for a list of self guided tours.

TV Tapings

New York has tapings to several great shows like SNL, The Tonight Show, The Late Show, and all of these are free!  We got to do The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and it was so much fun.  This is a great way to see some of your favorite celebrities at no cost and possibly be on TV!  But make sure to get these early as they sell out fast.  Look here for a list of TV tapings in New York.

Broadway Show Tickets

Now my husband and I are actors, so we mainly came to NY to see Broadway shows.  If you buy tickets ahead of time for a Broadway show, ticket prices can range from $30 - thousands depending on the date/time, seat location, and popularity of the show (ahem Hamilton).  Here are some tricks to getting cheap and FREE tickets.

Audience Rewards
Audience Rewards is a program that gives points for seeing shows that allows you to redeem for tickets.  At the time I was planning my trip, the sign up bonus for their new credit card, Audience Rewards American Express Card, was 2 free tickets after any purchase.  I signed both my husband and myself up and together we earned 2 free tickets to two different shows for virtually spending nothing (I made two $1 transactions)!  Unfortunately, they aren't advertising this anymore so I'm not sure if you can get that offer but you can still build up points towards a free show.

Discount Tickets
The discount ticket site I used to purchase tickets to one show was TheatreMania.  There are many sites offering discounts, so shop around.

The cheapest way to get tickets are to do lottery or rush tickets.  But the downside to this is it can only be done the day of the performance you wish to see so you can't guarantee seats ahead of time.  Lottery is exactly what it sounds like, you enter your name into a lottery and a select number of people are chosen.  Many of these are completely digital now (online or mobile) but some still require you to go to the theatre a few hours ahead of the showtime.  Rush tickets are the leftover seats that weren't sold, being sold at a much cheaper rate shortly before the show starts (they don't want empty seats!).  These seats are usually much better than the cheapest seats in the back, they are often in the first few rows in the orchestra, though sometimes with an obstructed view.  We won lottery tickets for The Phantom of the Opera for only $28!  You can find a good list of options for shows currently playing here.

A Breakdown of Costs

Flights: 2 roundtrip tickets from SFO to LGA                        $0
Lodging: Airbnb apartment for 5 nights                                  $625
     2 Explorer Passes from Living Social                                 $138
     2 tickets to Statue of Liberty                                               $36
     2 tickets to Museum of Natural History                              $30
     2 tickets to taping of the Late Show w/Stephen Colbert     $0
     2 tickets to The Lion King on Broadway                            $0
     2 tickets to An American in Paris on Broadway                 $100
     2 tickets to Something Rotten on Broadway                       $0
     2 tickets to The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway          $56   
Total                                                                                          $985

Other Things to Consider when in New York

Getting Around

The fastest and cheapest way to get around NYC is the subway.  If you're going to be staying for more than a few days, it's best to get a week long unlimited Metro card.  This costs $32 but you will make up the cost easily!


This can also get a bit pricey but as I said, if you get an apartment on Airbnb, you can grocery shop and make your own food.  But if you're like my husband and I and your days are so full packed you don't have time, don't worry, there are lots of good cheap eats in NY!  Actually some of the best food is at the food carts.  These carts are everywhere so no matter where you are or what time of day, you should be able to get something.  Forget just the hot dog stands you're used to seeing on TV and film, there are carts with a wide variety of food.
Another great tool is  Here you can buy vouchers for discounts at certain restaurants.  They are always having sales for $1 or $2 for $10 or $25 so I always have a few up for grabs.  This is a great way to have a very nice meal at half price!

Just in general, stay away from eating in Times Square.  Those restaurants have jacked the prices way up because it's such a tourist spot and most of them are chains that you can eat at your hometown anyway.  Use the Yelp app to search for good food in the area and you can limit it to cheap food too!

I hope this has helped you in case you were thinking that a trip to New York was out of your price range.  Do you have anything to add?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Uber Sign Up Bonus Now $1,000!!!!!

Many of you know, I recently started driving for Uber and I really enjoy it (See My One Day Experience Driving for Uber).  Well they recently upped the sign up bonus to $1,000 after completing 100 trips!  Take advantage of this offer and sign up today!  It's an easy and fun ways to make money.

Make sure to use code carmenl419ue  to get the bonus!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Make an Easy $100

I just signed up for a Wells Fargo Checking account.  Why?  Because they are offering a $100 bonus to do so.

I've done a few of these offers before (See Checking Account Bonus Awards).  I just follow the steps to get the bonus, then I empty the account and close it.  It does take specific steps to get the bonus, some more than others, but I've outlined what to do and look out for here!
Wells Fargo Checking Account
Go to to sign up today for your account to get your bonus!  All you need is $25 to open it.

Important steps you must follow to get the bonus:

  • Open with $25 ($50 if you open in person) before 2/22/16
  • Make 10 debit card purchases or set up direct deposit for at least $500/monthly in the first 60 days
That's it!

I will just do the 10 debit card purchases.  I'll just go to the Dollar Store and grab a candy bar or something 10 different times.  So technically you'll only get $90 since you'll have to spend about $10 this way, but it's still free money.

****Watch out because there is a monthly $10 account fee unless you make 10 debit card purchases or have a balance of $1,500.  So get the 10 purchases done as soon as possible, and once the bonus has been deposited, close that account as soon as possible.  The bonus is supposed to be deposited within 45 days so it may go into another month with the account which means you'd have to make another 10 debit purchases.  This lowers the bonus to $80 in a sense but again, it's still easy free money.****

I'm going to sign my husband up too so if you have a significant other, you can double the money!

Hurry up, this offer ends in a few days!!!!!!  Enjoy your money!

Friday, January 1, 2016

My One Day Experience Driving for Uber

So most of you know, my husband has been using Uber extensively to get to and from work when I have the car and it's great!  (See my article, Ridesharing)  So over the summer, my schedule was quite strange: I'd work really long hours for one week, and then have a couple weeks off.  I'd work three days for a few hours in the middle of the day, and then have a few off.  Although I was still making good money, I had a lot of time open that could have been filled with another job.  But it's hard to find a job when you have weird hours, and schedules that fluctuate, and something only for the summer.  So I thought I'd look into driving for Uber.

It seemed like a good option because it was easy and I could create my own hours.  So I began the process of signing up.  All you need is a 2000 or newer car with 4 doors with current registration and insurance and a valid driver's license.  They run checks on your driving record and a background check and then you just need to get your car checked out (a general 19 point inspection) and that's it!  (There are instructional videos on their website and onsite people at Uber Activation Centers for help and info)

So I did all the paperwork requirements and once my background check passed, all I had to do was bring my car in for the inspection.  And that's where I dropped the ball.  I did get busy, we had vacations, I may have been a bit lazy (we didn't REALLY need the money), and, to be honest, I'm always nervous about starting something new so I guess I was a bit scared about change and the slight possibility of letting a murderer into my car.

September came around, and school started (I teach an after school program) and my schedule was no longer so open).  I kept getting emails and texts from Uber saying, "You're almost done!  Just get your car checked out and then you can start driving!"  And I'd think, oh I have time next week . . . and that went on and on.

When I originally signed up, I found a code online that offered an extra $100 after you complete your first 10 rides.  Easy enough.  And so when December came, I got another email saying that I only had until the end of the month to still get the $100 bonus.  Well the beginning of December was super busy for me, but I knew I would have some time once school got out.  But then there was Christmas shopping and decorating, meeting up with friends and family, and all that jazz.  Let's just say, I left it until the very last day -- Dec 31 -- to actually try and start this up.

And this is how it went . . . 

I went to an Uber Activation Center to get my car checked, it passed, and a lady gave me some tidbits and I was on my way!  I pulled into the nearest parking lot to get the app started and within a matter of minutes I already got a notification of a rider requesting a ride nearby.  I accepted, and I was on my way.  This ride was short, in town, and actually on my way home!  Perfect, just the kinds of trips I wanted!

After I dropped him off, I headed back towards my apartment.  I thought I'd just wait there and leave when I got more riders.  But as I was almost home I realized, Uber lets the nearest Uber driver know about people.  That means if I'm not in a populated area (unless there were like no Uber drivers on in my city) I wouldn't get very many people where I live.  So I turned around and went towards a shopping center.

Well I drove in a big circle around the whole city and neighboring city hitting all the major shopping centers and not one other ride!  (It was the early afternoon).  Then it hit me, people will be getting off work soon, I should wait at BART (our local transit to and from San Francisco).  I went there, and sat in the parking lot and then only a minute or two later, I got a text from my husband saying he was off work.

So I went offline, picked my husband up, and went home.  We ate, and by this time it was getting to be the early evening.  We had a New Year's party that we wanted to get to, but I still wanted to try and get the $100 bonus.  So I headed back out.

I got a ride pretty quickly.  He ended up going a few cities over. (I still haven't figured out to tell where they want to go before I accept the ride, you only get 15 seconds to accept.  I'm just glad nobody wanted to go really far away since I just wanted to stay local)  Once I dropped him off, I set my destination to home (so I would only pick up people going that direction and not get further away from my area).  Once I hit the somewhat bigger city next to my city, I turned that off and I got another rider.  This one was actually going to my city, score!  But she actually just wanted to pick something up and go back home.  So I ended up back at the neighboring city.

These two rides were good because I made a lot of money off of them ($20 and $16) but I wanted many quick rides so I could get the 10 ride bonus and go to my party!  I did one more short ride, and decided I would just forgo the bonus so I could go to the party and enjoy my day (I was kind of tired of driving too as it had been almost 2 hours).

So for my first day, in just about 2 and a half hours total I made just over $40.  Not bad.  You meet some really interesting people.  The one thing that does get annoying, is the constant backtracking.  Just as you leave an area, you pick a person up that wants to go right where you just came from!  But if you don't mind driving and you have a fuel efficient car (like my Prius!) then it's a really easy way to make a few extra bucks.

Luckily, when I got my account activated, the woman helping me gave me another bonus of $200 after my first 20 rides.  So I will definitely take advantage of that one!  (I think I have 30 days to complete it)  I'm kicking myself for not getting the 10 rides done in those 6 MONTHS that I had to get the bonus since it is so easy, but oh well.  At least I'll have something to do to make some money on my weird bouts of no work.

Sign up with my Uber code: carmenl419ue to get a bonus. For a limited time the bonus is $300 so sign up now!

Limited Time Offer: $300 Extra for New Drivers!

Uber's the fast and easy way to make money driving in your own car and on your own schedule. Sign up to receive your $300 reward. New uberX partners only.