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Saving Money in Las Vegas with Groupon

The cost of travel can add up fast and Mum and I are always on the lookout for ways to save money on the road. In Las Vegas we used Groupon* (combined with Ebates*cash back) for food, drinks, and activities we would never had known about. In no particular order, here’s how our experience broke down:

Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off $28 for one full day, $47 value (2x bought): This was probably the most touristy thing we did the whole week. The buses picked up and dropped off at locations ranging from northern Fremont Street to the welcome sign in the south. The guides on each bus offered their own commentary and color (shout out to Big Bus Bruce!) to the open-top double-decker photo-rich experience.

Sangria Festival $100 value for $30, admission and sangria tastings for two: This ended up being one of the top highlights of our trip.  The festival in nearby Henderson was full of local residents with proceeds going to local charities. There were generous samples of a variety of sangria flavors, beer, and some cocktails along with live music and flamenco dancing.

Hexx Chocolate bean-to-bar education for 2 people, $44 value for $22 : located in front of the Paris hotel and casino, this candy shop is more than meets the eye. The education was a short talk about their own chocolate making process and a tasting of 12 samples by country of cocoa bean origin. In the end we were excited to learn that the cost included 4 bars of chocolate to take home, with a discount on additional purchases.

Banger Brewing $26 for $50 value, beer experience for two : on upper Freemont Street, this brewery was a relaxing treat to the over-stimulus outside. The tasting included a flight of 4 tastes, two full pints, and a 32oz filled growler to take home. The growler was a nice treat a few days later when we had a day relaxing at the condo.

 

 

Hexx kitchen + bar $35 for bottle of wine and cheese plate for 2, $69 value : next to the chocolate shop of the same name at the Paris hotel, we enjoyed this wine and cheese plate as dinner before a show across the street at Ceaser’s Palace. There were three choices for the wine, and we opted for the house red. The cheese plate was quite large and included three varieties plus three meats, fruit, and toasted baguette.

 

SEA: Thai Experience  $46 dinner for two, up to $78 value : located inside Bally’s Casino, we would never have known this restaurant existed. Two appetizers and two dinners were included in the price, with drinks and other ala carte items additional. The food was fresh and flavorful and the setting peaceful and friendly.

 

 

 

La Bella Napoli Pizzaria $15 for $25 worth of food and drinks : tucked away in a shopping center south of the airport, this was definitely a non-tourist establishment. The pizza was cooked to order in their wood fire oven and the scallop gnocchi with saffron sauce was something mum will remember and try to re-create at home.

Vince Niel’s Tatuado $26 for two 44oz Margaritas worth $50 : because a large alcoholic drink in a souvenir cup is a necessity in Las Vegas, we went to this restaurant inside Circus Circus. The drinks were large but contained proportionally little tequila. While we hadn’t originally planned on it, we ended up eating an underwhelming meal here. All in all, this was the one Groupon flop of the trip.

 

Total savings value:  $254

There were a couple of things we learned: in Vegas you still pay sales tax on the item after the Groupon cost has been deducted and as a general rule we ended up spending additional money at a location. Overall we will definitely check Groupon again for possible savings on future travel and for discovering things we might not have known we could do.

*Note: We were not paid by Groupon, Ebates, or any other entity for this post. It is entirely our opinions and experiences.

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How To Fund Travel Without Touching Your Bank Account

In fall of 2014 Mum and I took a trip to Costa Rica. We spent a wonderful week among the beaches and rainforests, and never once used our bank accounts.  You may think it sounds impossible, but it’s not!  Here’s how we did it:

Pre-Determine the Cost – We found a ridiculously good airfare sale and booked the tickets first. With a good guideline for cost, we could then estimate the total needed for our trip. This gave us a goal for our saving and fundraising .

Have a Yard Sale – With an eye on making money for travel, we both did a massive house cleaning and put together a joint yard sale. Its a lot easier to get rid of things when you think “do I want purse number 24 or do I want a Pina Colada by the pool?”  All of those old video games and DVDs were potentially a nice dinner out. We stuck signs on the side of the road, put a notice on the local internet message boards and Facebook, then set our wares on the driveway for a Saturday of making money in the sun.

Consignment Shop – Some of the items we pulled for the yard sale were  brand name and nearly new. For these possibly more lucrative items, the better bet was to use a local consignment shop.  By starting an account with the store, they handled the holding and sale of our goods.  We got a percentage of the final price in our account and cashed the check at the end of the month. Easy-peasy! If you’re in the Atlanta, GA area, check out Finders Keepers.

Craigslist/Ebay/etc – For some of the items weren’t purchased in the yard sale, we listed them through an online sales site. Some smaller or specialty items we choose to list on eBay, while larger size items went on Craigslist for a more local sale. When selling items through Craigslist, I always make arrangements to meet people in a public place during operating hours, giving my contact information only after a time and place have been agreed upon.

Cash in Your Gold Jewelry – Ok, we didn’t actually do this for our Costa Rica trip, but we’ve done it since to help cover other travel costs.  First try for jewelry was the consignment shop, but there were some that were just so out of fashion, or in just fair shape, that they won’t take it. Places the buy gold look at the weight and carat content of your pieces and pay market price per ounce. Those old gifts from ex-boyfriends that you didn’t like to begin with can now become an all-inclusive hotel!

With a lot of purging and a little extra work, we were able to fully fund our trip! I admit, it did help that I had recently down-sized to a small apartment and had a lot of items to sell, but even a little search through a neglected drawer, your old coin collection, or making room in your closet for new fashions could be the answer to funding your next vacation!

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Experiment: Going Car-less to Save Money

There are hundreds of blogs with lists of “Ways to Save Money for Travel.”  These include having garage sales, cutting cable, and limited the amount of times you go out for dinner.  One of suggestions that would make a more intense impact on many people’s day to day life is to get rid of your car.  Imagine: no car payments, no insurance payments, no petrol, no maintenance, and no parking costs!  After my car was totaled, I decided to take the opportunity and give it a go for a year.

img_3039First thing, his option isn’t for everyone. Many communities, especially in the United States, are impossible to navigate without access to a car. I live in a big city with a decent public transit system. Luckily for me there is a train stop within walking distance of both my home and my workplace. Buses could get me to my doctors and to shopping.

ZipCar and similar car sharing services are another option for when you need to go somewhere off the public transit grid.  There’s a yearly subscription rate with the option to rent a variety of vehicles by the hour or by the day. Again, this can be limited based on where you live and isn’t available everywhere. Standard car rentals from one of the major nationwide companies like Enterprise or Budget are another option, but as you don’t have car insurance you really do need to go for the top add-on rate.

Taxis, Uber, or Lyft can help to make up the balance of transit needs.  The ease of just being able to push a few buttons on your smart phone and instantly have a ride somewhere can’t be underestimated. Anyone who’s used one of these knows the big thing to watch out for is “peak” rates where cost is adjusted up based on demand.

hondocarSo after a year without owning  a car, what do I think?  Did it work? Did I save money? Was it worth it? Yes and no.  The lack of a car payment, insurance payment, and monthly parking fee did save me a decent chunk of change. However, as I have no family local I found myself in need of renting a car every other month, which really added up.  I sometimes work night shifts and riding public transit at midnight wasn’t very fun, nor was returning home on a crowded train and having to stumble home half asleep in the rain.  I also greatly missed the option to take a last minute weekend road trip or go hiking at one of the various state parks with my dog. In the end I decided that being car-less wasn’t for me.  I bought another car and we’ve already enjoyed visits to the mountains, Charleston, and a great girls’ weekend in Memphis.

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Just Say Yes to the Time Share Pitch

Just say yes. Not for a moment do I regret taking the time to learn about the opportunity to purchase a time share week in Cabo San Lucas. After the initial quiz questions our welcoming sales dude realized he couldn’t possibly beat the way we’d acquired our first time share week. Nevertheless, he indulged us in the amazing breakfast promised. After all, it was certainly not his fault that the resort had made key mistakes that magnified the difficulty of his sales challenge.

MarinaMistake number one: Schedule the big pitch for our first morning. Before we were captivated by the beauty of the marina and the evening chatter of sea lions. Prior to poolside cocktails. And before we’d seen the spa.

Mistake number two: Divulge too early the options to cash in on our $200 resort credit. For a moment our dreams included a sunset cruise. We then considered the Cabo San Jose Art Walk tour. Lastly, we coveted the “couples massage.”

GallleryBrochSpa time is alone time. Since the offspring is an introvert, we booked it. Confusion ensued until the girls with magic hands realized WE were “the couple.” The dark dungeon below the pool filled with both soothing music and silence as elbows pressed into my less than pliable, burning muscles.

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Sometimes it’s the silence that’s most important. Being in the moment. And being together.

And now, I’m happy to humor you with my twisted math. After spending three hours breakfasting and discussing the unique timeshare opportunity, we indulged in an hour of pamper time together. In my book, $200 divided by four hours of together time is the equivalent of getting paid $50 an hour to team up on free breakfast and a massage.

Just say yes.