destinations, film, resources, saving money, travel tips

Couponing for Mary Poppins Returns (and a Visit to Her Hometown!)

London skyline and pigeons
Despite the song from the original movie, please don’t feed the birds. I heard a Parisian tour guide describe the overpopulation of human-dependent pigeons as “winged rats”.

I may be a little late to the game, but yesterday I finally got to see Mary Poppins Returns.

With all the adventures Mary Poppins has with the kids, it got me thinking about my own travels. Especially about London.

But wait, I haven’t been to London yet!

However, England is on the itinerary for my next international trip. (The other potential destination on this trek includes Germany.) Consider this my official announcement! Now that the word is out, here are the two questions I know I’m going to be asked:

  1. When are you going?
  2. How can you afford it?

The answer to number one isn’t set yet, as it mostly depends on the answer to number two. And that brings me to the point of this post…

But First Let’s Return to Mary Poppins Returns

Movie Ticket and Popcorn
The ticket says it was $5.25, but it wasn’t really.

Although I saw the movie during my theater’s “Discount Tuesday”, I still didn’t want to pay that price. I noticed that Fandango had an offer for this particular movie. If I bought $8 worth of Ivory soap, I could get up to an $8 discount to see Mary Poppins Returns. Although I didn’t really need the soap, I decided to buy it anyway and try to find something useful to do with it. (I ended up selling it all for the same price I bought it.) I uploaded my receipt to Fandango, and they gave me a promo code. Even with Fandango’s reservation fee, the total of the ticket was still just under $8, so I got to see the movie for free.

But wait! That’s not all! Last month, there was a similar Fandango promotion with Chex cereal. For buying three boxes of cereal, I could either see The Grinch or get a $5 concession credit. There was no minimum spend for this deal, so I found some valuable coupons that made each box of Chex just over a dollar each. Since I’d already seen The Grinch with another free ticket promotion (disclosure: I’ve found discounts or free tickets for the last several movies I’ve been to), I decided to get the concession credit, which I finally used yesterday. I was disappointed to find out that there was a small price increase in concessions since I last went to Tinseltown, but I decided to still buy the junior popcorn. The posted price was $5.40, but I used my $5 off coupon.

I didn’t even pay for gas. I live just over a mile away from the closest movie theater. By choosing an afternoon movie time, I was able to safely walk there and back during daylight hours.

My grand total for this complete movie theater experience? Forty cents!

And since Mary Poppins Returns is a Disney movie, I’ll be uploading a picture of my ticket to Disney Movie Rewards. There I’ll get a small rebate that I can use toward a variety of Disney merchandise, tickets, and more. I also scanned my Cinemark Connections so I earned points for future movie-related discounts. And the forty cents was paid with my rewards credit card for cash back. Once these three rebates are used, I will have made money from this excursion!

So What Will I Do With the Savings?

As I just demonstrated, seeing a movie like Mary Poppins Returns in theaters doesn’t have to be expensive. Going to the real London doesn’t have to be either, although I guarantee that it will cost much more than even a full-price movie ticket! Starting at the beginning of 2019, every discount I score will be logged onto an Excel spreadsheet titled “2019 Couponing to Europe”. Although I’ve couponed before, I’ve never couponed with the goal to save for a trip!

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I have seven different categories for coupons and deals:

Swagbucks: This is my main online way to save and earn. Since doing things like taking surveys and watching videos takes time kind of like work does, I’m only counting rebates and discounts on this spreadsheet to make things simpler. Check out the “Shopping” and “Discover” sections of the website to find good deals- so will even give you a bigger rebate than what you initially spent!

GiftCardGranny: This is my other go-to online savings place. It’s a search engine specifically for finding discount gift cards. Over the past year, I’ve already saved lots of money by buying gift cards to places I normally shop anyway. Although I still have several of those gift cards waiting to be used up, I look forward to refreshing my gift card stockpile this year. By having an account, I also earn “Granny Points” that I’ll eventually redeem for free gift cards!

Other Online: This covers any online deals I found that aren’t through Swagbucks or GiftCardGranny. The one item I have in this category so far is an Amazon gift card I received through a nonprofit I helped to sponsor.

Fred Meyer: This is where I typically shop in town. (For U.S. residents outside of the Northwest, this store is called Kroger in your region.) Most weeks they offer a “Freebie Friday” deal, where anyone with a free shoppers card can download a coupon for a completely free item. Fred Meyer also accepts manufacturer’s coupons, which I’ve already taken advantage of. In addition, I use their gas station because I’ve found ways to get discounts on Kroger gas, too.

Other In-Store: This is the category my movie deals went into. It’s basically the catch-all for any coupons or discounts not mentioned above unless it’s related to my trip or my bank.

Travel-Specific: Over three years ago when I went to Europe on my Mediterranean Trek, I got two free nights in a Venice hotel since I’d made so many other bookings on HostelsClub. I still have some credit on that site, which I plan to use. While researching for my trip, if I find any discounts or free hours for attractions I was planning to visit, that goes in this column. Any freebies or specials for food, lodging, airfare, and transit will go here too.

Banking: I used to use a credit card that gave me 1% back on all my purchases. I recently got a new credit card where I get 1.5% back, plus a $200 bonus for spending $1000 in the first three months. I’ve transferred all my expenses to this credit card except for my rent, which I pay in cash. All of my credit rewards will be saved for travel, plus all of the interest I earn from my savings account. I also recently opened up a new account at a credit union that is separate from my bank where I’ll be depositing the sum of all my travel savings each month. (It currently has a little more than what I’ve saved so far since I wanted to start earning dividends as soon as possible!)

What Are the Caveats?

The problem with couponing and other discounts is that you can get caught up in such a good deal it is, you forget that it’s not even something you would normally buy. I am trying to be very conscious with only couponing if it falls into one of these three categories:

  1. It’s a discount on something I would normally buy anyway
  2. It’s something I would like for free
  3. It’s a deal that will end up making me money (this is the best kind!)

I’ve also already run into some situations where I wasn’t sure if something actually counted as a discount. For example, I made two returns to stores this year. I wasn’t sure if I should put them on my spreadsheet since that would open the door to “hacking” by just buying and returning purchases. But both of these purchases were things that I thought I truly needed at the time but the course of events changed that. I am trying to buy only what I absolutely need for the time being, so this shouldn’t be much of an issue in the future. However, I plan to start selling some of my old belongings soon, and I can’t decide if that is something that should count on my couponing spreadsheet.

Am I Saving in Other Ways?

Of course! My couponing goal is $2000, which I’m hoping covers the overseas plane ticket and most of my time in London. In Germany, I plan to spend one week volunteering, so I won’t have any expenses during that time. For other Germany expenses, possible England side-trips, and pre-trip costs (I need a new passport, etc.), here are some things I’m doing:

  • I’m currently doing an eat-out-of-the-pantry challenge to see how long I can make meals using only food I already have (or things I get for free with couponing). Since I also get free meals at work, I imagine that my pantry will last me awhile.
  • I’m taking on extra work when it’s offered for hourly or per-project pay. I currently work several jobs, which is great because I typically don’t spend money while I’m working. So more work means more pay AND less spending!
  • My spending’s on a diet. For the final three weeks of January, I’m not spending any money unless it’s my regular charity donations or I get a rebate that’s greater than my purchase price. After that, I know I’ll be more conscious about my spending and saving habits.
  • I’m finding other ways to earn through Swagbucks.
  • I’m walking a lot more, whether to run errands or just for recreation. This is partially to save money on vehicle expenses, and partially to get my “backpacker body” back!
  • $2000 isn’t the cap for couponing. If I find ways to save even more before I leave, that means even more money for fun!

With just a spoonful of sugar, saving for England and beyond can be a fun challenge!

Couponing to London.jpg

Note: This post utilizes affiliate links.

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travel tips

5 Reasons To Let Go And Travel

How many times do you stare out of the office window and wish you were out there and just living? No schlep to work, no ties with people, just you and the outdoors and total exploration of this glorious planet that we are all fortunate enough to inhabit. Many people are in this position, and it’s one of the biggest reasons that there is such a push for remote working. If you have an internet connection and a computer, you can work anywhere, doing anything you want and being the person that you’ve always wanted to be.

Deciding to travel usually starts with a shopping trip at Forest River RVs to get the best vehicle for the job – especially if you plan to work on the road. Travelling should be something that you do for the soul, but that doesn’t mean that you stop working – you need to fund yourself somehow, right? There are plenty of reasons to get out there and let go of all the stress, and here are five of those reasons.

Birds Flying Over Body Of Water During Golden HourImage Source

  1. You deserve it. It’s really very simple: this is your life. How do you want to live it? Do you want to be hemmed in and unable to move, or do you want to be free and get in touch with nature? The decision is really up to you, but making this choice will change your future. You deserve change.
  2. Life is for living. 9-5 is boring. Let’s be honest! Even if you love your job and what you do, commuting either side of your working hours is long, and working in the office is rubbish; you spend more time staring out of the window at other people’s beautiful RVs and wishing you’d done what they’re doing. Stop wishing. Life is for living.
  3. The adventure is real. A road trip is an adventure. Seeing the different terrains, sites, historical landmarks, sunsets, sunrises,foods – it’s all the biggest adventure that you will ever go on, and you need to go on it. Time is limited, and you need to maximize every minute. We don’t get those back.
  4. You’ll make memories. One day, you’re going to sit down in your lounge with your grandchildren. You can tell them to work hard and have everything by being in a stuffy office. Or, you could tell them to find a job that gives them wings and tell them all your stories that you created during your traveling adventures. Do you want to get to that point in your life with any regrets? No, I didn’t think so.
  5. It’s worth every second. Saying no to the suffocating rules that society lives by is freeing. It’s stopping yourself from being limited and it’s enjoying the time that you have while you have it. Shedding the skin expected of you, jumping behind the wheel of an RV that you’ve saved hard for and just getting out there? It’s going to change you for the better.

 

Get out of your rut and get on the road. Let go.

travel tips

Seven Reasons To Make Carlsbad Your Next Vacation Spot

On the scenic north shore of San Diego is a small town named Carlsbad. You may never have heard of it before, but by the end of reading this post, you’ll be searching how to get there. It’s known as being The Village by the Sea, bragging an impressive seven miles of beaches and perfect weather all year around – well, almost!

 

The activities and adventures that are on offer in Carlsbad provide the tranquility that adults crave mixed with the excitement the children want, and it’s a place you could choose to spend a few days or a few weeks – there is that much to do. Finding a picturesque location that suits the entire family is not an easy thing to do when trying to balance the needs of everyone for a vacation. However, Carlsbad is the hidden gem that San Diego should be boasting more about.

 

There are so many things to see and do in Carlsbad that you’re never short on options, and the Carlsbad tourism rates are starting to rise as people discover this little town. With that in mind, we’d like to give you some insight on the top reasons you should be making Carlsbad your next vacation spot – and you won’t regret your booking by the time you finish reading!

Ocean View during Daylight

Image Source

 

 

This is a spot definitely for the families among you, because while it’s a spa resort, it caters perfectly for children, too. When you’ve spent time travelling to find the perfect vacation area, you want to really unwind and relax. When you first walk into the resort and spa, you are greeted warmly by the staff. There’s nothing quite like a welcome when you arrive as a guest somewhere new, and this resort has undergone a 50 million dollar renovation just to impress you. Families and golf enthusiasts will feel at home here, and there is a sports lounge, elegant rooms and amazing food on offer.

 

 

  • LEGOLAND California

 

The main children’s attraction is LEGOLAND California, and it sits in Carlsbad. Well, I say children, but it offers you the perfect family day out, with roller coasters and rides that look like they have been built directly from LEGO. The children can participate in workshop and activities and you can even tour entire cityscapes of US cities in perfect LEGO miniature. You can even head to their own waterpark in the summer, making it a cool place for everyone to visit.

 

 

  • The Beach

 

You cannot go on vacation and not head to a beach, and as Carlsbad is known as “The Village by the Sea”, you can’t miss it. The State Beach is one of the most popular because it’s ideal for families to visit. With swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing and beach combing. There is a paved 4-mile path that follows the state beach which is perfect for the whole family to walk, jog and cycle right on the seafront. Terramar offers something a little quieter, so those who want away from the hustle and bustle of State Beach have somewhere to go. It’s also perfect for surfers!

Selective Photography of Table Setting

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  • The Food

 

It doesn’t matter what you’re into or what your budget may be, Carlsbad has it. There are fine dining restaurants that have won awards and there are street food carts that win taste tests every day, and there are so many options for the kids that there are never going to be any complaints. There are farm to table selections for the freshest meat and produce, and you can enjoy a seasonal menu experience wherever you happen to be.

 

 

  • The Great Outdoors

 

While Carlsbad is known for its beaches, it’s not the only place to go. There are tons of outdoor activities for you all to explore. Aviara Trails and the Veterans Park Trails are a must for those who love to hike and if you are interested, the Buena Vista Lagoon is the only freshwater lagoon in California and yep – it’s right here in Carlsbad. You can go one better with the Batiquitos Lagoon, too, which is a coastal salt marsh that is an exciting location for birdwatchers. The Spring months have the Flower Fields open and only for 6-8 weeks!

 

 

  • The Museums

 

Everyone loves the traditional museums, but Carlsbad offers something a little quirkier than the norm. The Museum of Making Music is a must, sharing music history and vintage collections of unusual and interactive instruments. Music lovers will enjoy digging into the history here, and if you want something sparklier, head over to the Gemological Institute of America, which showcases some of the rarest jewels in the world. Oceanside hosts the history of surfing and surf culture in California, so head there to learn all about it.

 

 

  • Festivals

 

For a small town, Carlsbad does very well when it comes to hosting something fun. There are more than enough fun festivals and activities throughout the year to be enjoyed and the most famous of all is the 3 day music festival by the beach at the end of the summer months. There is a farmers market in the village every week from 3-6pm and you can really see the effort the town puts in over the holidays, particularly Christmas and Halloween.

 

Carlsbad has so much more going for it than you think and while this coastal town is small, it is also mighty. Most of the attractions are within walking distance of one another and you can really get on your feet and leave the car behind for a few days while you’re there. You can reach downtown San Diego from here on the public transport system, and if you go on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, you can be there the scenic way. Heading out on vacation is fun, but knowing that you are going somewhere that’s really going to give you the best time is even better. Ditch the city next summer and head for The Village by the Sea – you won’t regret it.