January 2012

Cool Tech Tricks to Save Money for Vacation

Save Money on Vacation
Jan 16, 2012

Saving money for vacation really consists of two parts: saving money prior to travel and saving money while you travel. Obviously, you need cash before you can hit the road or take to the skies. But if you’re able to cut costs at your destination and during transit, acquiring the necessary funds will be a much swifter process. We’ll give you the first half of the equation and direct you to some neat tech tools for saving money at home.

Mobile finance apps: Phones get a little more versatile every day. And with advancements in NFC and mobile payment options, they’re steadily usurping the contents of our wallets. In addition to convenience, the merger of cash and tech means smarter spending. Not only can your phone pay for purchases, but it can advise financial decisions. There are a few cool apps smartphone users should be sure to check out:

  • PageOnce provides a comprehensive summary and analysis of your accounts, debts and investments. By providing a breakdown of your purchases and deposits, it’s easy to see where your money is going. PageOnce allows you to track and pay bills anywhere at any time. It can track frequent flyer miles, rewards and mobile minutes, texts and data usage. 
  • Debt Dog is a simple, but useful, interest calculator and credit card payment planner. You plug in your APR and purchase total, and Debt Dog calculates your minimum monthly payment, how long it will take to pay off and the total amount you’ll end up spending. If you want to pay more than the minimum each month, you can add additional dollars and recalculate your plan. Debt Dog is a good quick-reference tool for big purchases that might take some time to pay off.
  • iWallet creates budgets with intuitive graphic displays of your spending. You set spending categories will specified limits, and iWallet shows how well you’re sticking to your budget. Budgeting is vital for folks trying to save money, but keeping track of every purchase takes diligence and constant calculations. iWallet does the work for you, providing instant access to all the relevant information wherever, whenever.

SmartyPig.com
If you’re saving up, a piggybank can be an invaluable tool. But leaving large amounts of cash sitting around (no matter how well hidden) isn’t always prudent. SmartyPig.com is an online piggybank for saving for specific purchases (your wedding, a new television, your next vacation etc.). It’s like a bank-less savings account with a lot of neat perks and extra features.

With no membership or withdrawal fees, SmartyPig is completely cost-free. In fact, they give you money to utilize their services. You earn cash back at a 0.70% APR. There are also features in place like the SmartyPig Cash Rewards Card to give you an added boost. You set up automatic deposits from your savings or checking account and let your piggy fill up. If you so choose, you can share your savings plans with friends and family on social media sites and give them the option to make contributions.

NerdWallet discounts tool
Online rewards malls can save you big money on just about anything you could possibly purchase. Basically, retailers partner with rewards programs, providing accelerated rewards rates when you shop with those retailers. For example, if you use a Chase rewards credit card, you have access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall. When you access the mall, you earn 3 points per dollar at Wal-Mart, 6 points per dollar at Barnes & Noble and 10 points per dollar at Macy’s. These rates get to be pretty staggering, reaching earnings of up to 20%. Not too shabby, considering most rewards programs have a base rewards rate of 1%.

The NerdWallet Discounts Tool is a database of rewards malls and their corresponding retailers. You can browse stores to see which program yields the highest rewards, or you can browse rewards malls to see rates at each eligible retailer. (ShopDiscover is easily the best mall, offering high return rates in the form of cash back.) So before you go shopping, see if you can earn a little extra cash by staying home and shopping online.

Travel credit cards

Obtaining a travel credit card is one of the smartest moves you can make if you need cash for airfare. They generally come with signup bonuses (up to 50,000 miles with the Chase Sapphire Preferred) that can give you an immediate access to free flights. As you use your card, you’ll accumulate points or miles that can be redeemed for travel purchases. Make sure you nab a card that has both a nice signing bonus and a substantial ongoing rewards rate. If you’re traveling internationally, look for something with no foreign transaction fee. Otherwise, you’ll pay 3% extra for every out-of-country purchase.

A lot of airlines have their own credit cards, but you should avoid limiting yourself to these programs unless you regularly fly with a certain airline. Otherwise, they won’t do you much good. A more general card that doesn’t limit your choices will be of greater value to most travelers.

How to Snag the Cheapest Rental Deal

vacation rental deals
Jan 03, 2012

With so many destinations, and so many vacation rentals, how can you find the best deals of the batch? If you're looking to save a whole lot of money on your next vacation, Vacation Rentals.com is a great place to start. While rental deals are plentiful on the site, scouring through them can be a task. Here's an easy guide to finding the best vacation rental deal for your upcoming getaway.

1. Browse Current Deals

We make it easy to find deals, by aggregating all of them right here. You can check these deals out in different ways. Maybe you want to see the deals expiring soon (sort by "days left"), or check out the deals offering up the most value (sort by "value"), or view deals by "location." You can of course search for deals in any destination on the site, too! If you're open minded about your destination, though, this is a fun way to see what your different money-saving options are!

2. Check out the Deals Map

Are you a visual learner? Then don't overlook our Deals Map. You can see deals that are about to expire pop up on our map!

3. Sort by "Rates"

Just because a vacation rental isn't offering up a deal or special offer, doesn't mean it's not incredibly affordable. Some of the best "deals" are not really deals at all, but are affordable year-round. The best way to spot a deal like this is to browse rentals in a particular city and then sort by "rates," so the cheapest rentals rise to the top.

4. More Tips

Besides booking a deal through Vacation Rentals.com, there are other tips that can help you save on accommodations.

  • Visit a destination during its off season (for example, Florida in the fall versus summer)
  • Don't pay for optional amenities like house cleaning
  • Visit an obscurer destination (avoid big ski resorts like Winter Park and head to lesser known Estes Park)
  • Take advantage of a last minute cancellation special, or vice versa, plan well in advance so you can negotiate a good rate
  • Book a rental right outside the major attractions