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05/04/17 Sharing Economy , Travel # , ,

How We’re Saving $4,000 on Summer Vacation With a Home Swap

How We’re Saving $4,000 on Summer Vacation With a Home Swap

The three main costs of a vacation — transportation, lodging and food — can be so high that affording a getaway can be difficult. Eliminating one of those costs with a home swap, however, can make it affordable — especially during the high season of summer vacation when more people take time off.

There are free ways to fly (credit card rewards points for free flights) and you can find cheap food anywhere. But you still have to come up with some cash to eat and to earn the rewards points.

Lodging can be trickier. There are cheap options such as renting a room in someone’s house or staying for free at a relative’s or friend’s home. But wouldn’t it be better to have a home to yourself for a relaxing vacation?

A home swap can do that for free.

A month in Europe

This summer my family is going to Europe for free for almost an entire month. We’re visiting Paris and Brussels for a week and staying in hotels — at a discount with a travel package through an airline — and then staying in a home in the Netherlands for almost three for free by exchanging our home in the Bay Area with a Dutch family.

We made the swap through HomeExchange.com, a service that has more than 65,000 homes in 150 countries. You just search for homes in areas you want to visit, then email the homeowners to see if they want to do a swap.

At about $200 a night for a hotel room, I’m estimating we’re saving about $4,000 by exchanging homes. Continue reading

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03/22/17 Saving , Travel #

5 Ways to Save on a Short Vacation

5 Ways to Save on a Short Vacation

I went to spring training in Arizona recently with some friends, and while it’s difficult to call four days away from home a real vacation, the short vacation still felt like a worthwhile one.

Four days off in a row is basically a long weekend, and it can be hard to justify the expense of a flight, hotel, rental car, meals, souvenirs and other expenses that often come with a vacation.

I’m a big baseball fan and a trip to spring training is worth the expense, but spending a lot of cash for four days of fun is still hard to justify. For example, spending $1,000 over four days is a lot more expensive per day — $250 — instead of over a week, though extra time will add to your cost. But my thought is if you’ve already spent the money on a flight somewhere, you might as well enjoy being there for more than a few days.

With some planning and the generous help of friends, I made the visit to Arizona an inexpensive trip. The financial tactics I used can be used for any trip, short or not, but can be especially helpful on a budget for a short trip.

Here are five ways to save on a short vacation:

Go where friends and relatives live

short vacationI have family and friends living in Arizona, and while I didn’t impose on them during this trip for a bed to crash on, some have invited my wife and I to stay in their homes if we’re ever in the area.

You never know if those invitations are sincere or not, but if they are, then three nights is probably the most amount of time you’d want to spend there for the sake of everyone. You want to be a good guest, and after three nights it can get difficult.

The high school friend who hosted us during this trip is an incredibly nice guy and has offered to let me stay at his house. On this trip I was traveling with two other friends, so there wasn’t room for all of us.

Still, he was nice enough to drive us around, and offered to let us use his family’s second car — which we declined. Luckily, we found a place to stay that was a short drive from his house. And that’s another area to see if a friend or family member who lives in the area you’re visiting can help you out in — transportation. Many people have second cars that sit idle all day, or you could use Lyft, Uber and public transportation. Continue reading

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03/14/17 Travel # ,

A Local’s Guide to Visiting San Francisco

A Local’s Guide to Visiting San Francisco

 

Any first visit to a major metropolitan area can be fun and stressful at the same time. Visiting San Francisco, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, can be difficult for new visitors but I think it’s still a lot easier than other big cities because it’s relatively small.

I’ve lived in the Bay Area almost all of my life. I live in a suburb that’s about 30 miles east of San Francisco, and we can get to the City, as it’s sometimes called, in about 45 minutes or less by car or subway.

I’m not an expert on all that is happening in San Francisco, but there are some areas I like to regularly visit and events I like to go to every once in awhile. What follows isn’t a comprehensive guide to visiting San Francisco, but are some insider tips on getting around, what to do and what to avoid.

It doesn’t include every tourist attraction in San Francisco. Not that those aren’t worth a visit. I’ve just found the ones listed here are more interesting than driving down a crooked street.

How to get around

visiting San FranciscoTo get to San Francisco, and many places in the Bay Area, the easiest method is riding BART. The Bay Area Rapid Transit District is more costly to use than other mass transit systems, and the trains don’t run as often as they do in other cities (Europe), but the seats are comfortable and it’s a lot easier than driving.

The map at left shows how far BART goes. Taking it from San Francisco International Airport to Concord takes 1 hour and 13 minutes. That trip costs $11.30 one way for an adult and $4.20 for a youth or senior.

A roundtrip ticket from the Concord station, near where I live, to the Powell Street station in San Francisco is $11.60 roundtrip for an adult and $4.30 for a youth or senior.

Each rider must have their own ticket. If you’re going to ride BART more than once during your trip, I’d recommend putting as much money as you think you’ll need for your trips on one ticket. The fare will be deducted each time you exit a station. Otherwise, add only enough money to cover a round-trip ticket. Continue reading

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11/04/16 Travel , Work # ,

How I Side Hustled Across the Country on Fulfilled by Amazon

Amazon

This guest post about making money on Amazon is by Tyler Philbrook, a personal finance blogger at I Am the Future Me who I met at FinCon16 in San Diego in late September. I also wrote a post on his site, so after you read his story here about how he made money to attend FinCon, go over to his site to read my post about what got me to get going on starting an emergency fund.

A little over a year ago I got the opportunity I had been waiting for. I was GIVEN a ticket to FinCon16, a financial blogger conference that I wouldn’t be able to go to.

When given the ticket I became sick to my stomach. I should have been excited, but I knew I was going to have to turn it down.

I have a lot of credit card debt, and didn’t want to go further into debt to travel across the country.

Instead, I committed myself to getting there no matter the cost, no matter the sacrifices I would have to make I would come up with the money.

One of the MANY side hustles I did was sell on Amazon with FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon). Continue reading

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08/22/16 Children , Travel , Work # ,

Money Lessons from a Summer Off

Money Lessons from a Summer Off

 

School is back in session in many areas of the country, giving parents everywhere a reason to celebrate the end of summer.

As a freelancer who works from home, I’m about as ecstatic as you can get that my daughter is going back to school — though probably not as much as this guy:

I’m not doing cartwheels yet, or even rolling around on a shopping cart, but not having a child burst into my home office and ask to watch TV, play with the iPod, say how bored she is, or fix herself a sugary snack in the kitchen is enough of a time reward that I can get back to writing for my websites.

I did manage to get some work done for my clients — I tried to work from 9 a.m. to noon on most weekdays during the summer — but now I’m looking forward to writing for my websites after giving them most of the summer off.

It was a fun 10 weeks. We took a few in-state vacations, and I learned a few money lessons along the way: Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.