road trip, saving money, travel tips

How I Get Discounted (Or FREE!) Gas Every Time

How would you like to pay less than the posted gas prices every single time you visit the pump? Better yet, how would you like to get some road trip snacks and even the gas for FREE? Yes it’s possible. I would know; I haven’t paid the price that the gas station sign has indicated for a long time! Whether you want to make a road trip less expensive or want to save up for your next goal during your day-to-day commute, here’s how to do it:

Subaru Forester

Note: I typically use Kroger-brand gas stations (known regionally as Fred Meyer, Turkey Hill, etc.) because it turns out to be the cheapest for me locally. If your Kroger gas is for some reason expensive or you don’t live near one of their pumps, don’t worry. You can still apply most of these tips to get a good deal on gas near you!

Look Up Prices

Go to GasBuddy.com or open the GasBuddy app before you decide where you’re going to fill up. This service lists up-to-date gas prices at stations near you. When I’m at home, the cheapest place is typically either Fred Meyer or Costco, which are the only two gas stations I ever use! If you’re on a road trip, it’s helpful to know where you should fill up.

Now that you know where the cheapest pumps are, let’s knock some more money off that gas price…

Become a Member

Go to the customer service desk of Fred Meyer, King Soopers, Ralph’s, Baker’s, or any other store under the Kroger umbrella and ask to get a shopper rewards card. This is free to get and automatically gets you three cents off per gallon at most Kroger-owned gas stations. You can also sign up for a credit card that has a few more perks, but I think that the rewards card is a safer way to go, and if you follow the tips below, could ultimately give you more savings.

The rewards card isn’t just for three cents off. Every grocery store purchase earns you fuel rewards points. If you spend enough at the grocery store (and earn at least 100 points), you can get anywhere between ten cents and a dollar off at the pump! You can also download store coupons right onto this card.

I’m not as familiar with rewards policies for other gas stations, but it’s worth checking out as you can get some great deals. Sometimes, my Costco gas station is cheaper than my Fred Meyer gas station even after the three-cent discount. Since you have to show your membership card to get Costco fuel, that certainly has been worth it!

Use Your Receipt

Almost every Friday, Kroger-owned stores have a “Freebie Friday” coupon that you can download from the digital coupon section of their website. Even if you normally use a different grocery store, make sure to put this on your card and take advantage of the free item (you have three weeks to pick the item up from the store before the coupon expires). You don’t have to buy anything else to get this deal. Just scan the free item, scan your rewards card, and grab your receipt.

Make sure to take a good look at that grocery receipt because it can lead to even more gas savings. My receipt often says that if I go online and fill out a survey about my shopping experience, I will get 50 fuel rewards points. So after just two receipt surveys, I’m getting 10 cents off per gallon, and I didn’t have to pay a cent to do it! You can earn fuel points up to once a week, so get your weekly freebie and fill out its receipt survey to enjoy 20 cents off per gallon.

After following the above steps, you’ll really start to see some savings in your gas budget. For a while, these steps were all I did. But we’re just getting started!

Buy Gift Cards

I recently got involved with buying discounted gift cards online. My favorite website to go for this is Gift Card Granny. It’s basically a search engine for gift cards that shows you where you can get the biggest discount. I can usually get a 2-4% discount on grocery and gas cards. (For more frivolous stores, such as movie theaters and restaurants, the discount is usually more like 10-20% off!)

I normally buy my gas at Fred Meyer stations, but since Fred Meyer is owned by Kroger, I look up other Kroger-owned stores on GiftCardGranny to see what currently has the biggest discount. If you’re using another gas station, find out what other gift cards may also work there. (For example, if you buy gas at Safeway, also look up gift cards for Vons.) Once you receive your gift card, just make sure to use both your gift card and rewards card at every gas station visit.

Special! If you’ve never used Cardpool before, then use this link to get a bonus $5 off your first purchase!

Just in case you’re wondering, most discount gift cards sites verify the cards they sell and have a guarantee for all your purchases. I’ve never had a problem buying discount gift cards.

Once you add this tip to your routine, you should save several bucks on each fill-up. Are you ready to do one more thing to get FREE gas?

Use Your Computer or Smartphone To Make It FREE

If you read money-saving blogs, you’ve probably heard this before. But ever since I started to seriously use Swagbucks, my gasoline budget has become non-existent!

After signing up for Swagbucks, install a couple things onto your browser’s task bar. First, make Swagbucks your primary search engine. You’ll get paid for every few web searches. Also make sure to install the Swagbutton. If your shopping online, the Swagbutton will notify you about any coupon codes or rebates that your purchase qualifies for. These are the best ways to easily earn Swagbucks that won’t affect your daily routine, but if you’re interested, you can also fill out surveys, watch videos, play games, and more to earn Swagbucks!

Get a 300SB bonus when you sign up for Swagbucks here!

You can exchange your Swagbucks for a variety of gift cards. Swagbucks has gift cards to some gas stations, like Safeway, Sunoco, and Chevron. That’s an easy way to get free gas. However, I usually redeem my SB for a $25 or $50 prepaid Visa card. I then go back to GiftCardGranny and pay for my discount gift card with my free prepaid Visa card. You can also do the same thing by cashing out your SB into PayPal, but prepaid Visa cards usually give you more bang for your Swagbucks.

Other Ways to Save Even More On Gas

  • When shopping for a new car, look for one that has better gas mileage than your old vehicle.
  • Coast whenever you go downhill, need to slow down, or approach a stop sign. Basically, the less your foot is on the gas pedal, the better.
  • Can you limit your drives to work by doing something like working double shifts or working partly from home? Last December I changed my commute from 10 miles to one mile by moving closer!
  • Walk or bike when you can. As a bonus, you’ll exercise, get fresh air, and better enjoy the beauty of the route.
  • Try not to drive for just one thing. Combine your trips.5+ Ways to

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Accommodations, culture, destinations, Foodie, Hawaii, hike, resources, saving money, souvenir, Things to Do, tour, travel tips, Walk

How to Vacation in Maui on the Cheap

Hawaii is known as an expensive vacation destination, and the island of Maui is no exception. However, my sister and I recently returned from eight nights on this tropical paradise, and we did it on a budget! If you’d like to see Maui, Hawaii without the typical price tag, take a few of our tips.

(Note: Although we did get good deals on our flights, airline tickets involve too many factors, such as season, origin, and personal resources. I’ve decided that, because all the variables that went into our flights probably can’t transfer to yours, to leave this expense out. If you want to save money on flights, there are plenty of articles out there dedicated to just that!)

Some links are affiliates. All links are personally recommended by me!

Gear

For the most part, I just used what I already owned to pack my bag. In Hawaii, you can wear shorts and swimsuits year-round, but I also packed a rain jacket for the unpredictable weather changes as well as leggings and a long-sleeve because I wanted to hike Haleakala with its cold summit. Since most of the clothes were compact, it was easy to fit everything into carry-on luggage and not have to pay for a checked bag.

One thing I did need to buy was razors. I ordered a starter pack from Dollar Shave Club, which included a handle, four blades, and some travel-sized toiletries, all for $5. Better yet, I took advantage of a Dollar Shave Club deal on Swagbucks, so I was paid back in rebates.

One item I knew I’d need, but didn’t have was a snorkel. I decided to just rent one in Hawaii. However, before going to the snorkel rental shop, we stopped at a grocery store. There I found snorkels for the same price as a one-day rental. Since my sister and I both knew we’d be snorkeling multiple days, we bought these and made our money back with our first swim. I snorkeled a total of three days and saw some incredible sea life, making it a worthwhile purchase.

Accommodation

We rented dorm beds at Maui’s Banana Bungalow Hostel. This was by far our biggest expense on the island, and one of the most expensive hostels I’ve ever stayed at. But the $51.40 per night was much more reasonable than any Maui resort or vacation home. I suppose the only cheaper option would be camping, but that is only available in remote areas, and I wanted to be close to the action. Plus, the hostel offered more than just a bed to sleep on. Banana Bungalow provided other money-saving measures that I’ll explain through the rest of this post.

Transportation

While most Maui vacationers rent a car, here’s our big money-saving secret: we didn’t drive at all! The main reason I chose to stay at Banana Bungalow was because they offer different tours to different parts of the island each day of the week. I ended up going with them to several famous beaches, Haleakala National Park, and even the Road to Hana. Of course, the drivers/guides work for tips, but these tours were worth more than pricey commercial tours.

Since Banana Bungalow is near downtown Wailuku, we simply walked to town to eat good food and see some incredible sites. Iao Valley is in the rainforest about three miles outside of the city, so we hiked there one day. For other excursions that we took on our own, we utilized Uber and Lyft. As it was our first time using these rideshare apps, we got registration bonuses, and I also used my Swagbucks to get a free $25 Uber gift card. We would just compare prices between Uber and Lyft and go with whatever was cheapest for our situation. (Use Uber promo code jessical42262ue to get a $15 Uber ride for free! For Lyft, use promo code LIPPE15551 for a special discount.)

Activities

Thankfully, most of Maui’s attractions don’t cost a dime. All beaches are open to the public. Swimming is free. Hammocking is free. Hiking is free. Most parks are free. With the Banana Bungalow tours, we didn’t even have to pay for gas or parking. The only activity expense I had with these tours besides tip money was the national park entry fee into Haleakala.

Since my sister’s birthday was in the middle of our trip, we decided to celebrate at Maui Tropical Plantation. We originally weren’t going to take the tour and instead enjoy the free botanical walking paths and my gift to her would be a meal at the restaurant. But then we changed our minds on the restaurant and decided to eat from the less costly coffee and ice cream shops, so then my birthday gift to her was paying for the tram tour. It was $20 per person and included lots of sights, information, and fruit!

Food

Admittedly, this was the most difficult category to keep on a budget, and I definitely made a few splurges. Most food in Hawaii is expensive, so I didn’t want to be paying exorbitant prices for the same food I eat at home. I also wanted opportunities to taste local cuisine. However, I did pack a variety of snacks so that I didn’t have to buy food in airports, and I used these snacks to supplement a couple of meals in Hawaii as well.

The hostel offered make-your-own pancakes every morning, so breakfast was covered. Often while cooking in the communal kitchen, others would make food and offer leftovers to everyone. There were even free shelves in the fridge and pantry, so that provided a few ingredients.

The tours stopped at grocery stores such as Safeway and Foodland so we could load up on reasonably-priced food. These stores have local, grown-in-Hawaii produce sections, so I focused my shopping there. We also bought fresh fruit at Maui Tropical Plantation’s market and packaged goods at an Asian market down the street from our hostel. We even got food at Costco. The restaurant menu had some different choices from our local Costco, but still had $1.99 pizza and $1.50 hot dogs!

We did go out to eat several times, but not to fancy sit-down restaurants. We happened to be in Wailuku during their First Friday street fair, so we loaded up on all kinds of local cuisine from the various food stands and trucks. We ate at food trucks and stands a couple other times, like on the Road to Hana where we split a roadside meal served on a banana leaf. (We passed on the banana bread when we realized it was from a bakery a block away from our hostel. We walked there the next morning and got the banana bread for a fraction of the price!) We also ate at a few walk-up restaurants. We even ate at McDonald’s, but I only ordered off their unique local menu. Spam and eggs, anyone?

Shopping

I got a few mementos from this trip, mostly free. I wrote in my journal every day. I pressed a flower in its pages. I brought my National Parks passport so I could add a Haleakala stamp. And of course I took lots of pictures!

Toward the end of our trip we went to Lahaina, which was a good place for shopping. There were fairly good prices at ABC Stores, where I got chocolate covered macadamia nuts and a bracelet. Out of respect for preserving the natural beauty on Maui, I did not smuggle out any coral, sand, or rocks.

Maui did end up costing more than my typical frugal trips, but we were able to have a good time without breaking the bank. I hope you’ll be able to enjoy Maui on a budget, too!

How to Vacation in Maui on the Cheap

How do you lower the price of an expensive destination? Let me know in the comments!

saving money

Being Money-Smart And Efficient: Things To Consider

They say “More money, more problems”, but not having money at all is much more of a problem compared to the alternative. Sure money isn’t everything, but it doesn’t stop it from being something, and in the kind of society we live in, and the way things run, let’s just say a lack of money will not be doing you any favors. There’s no need to tell you this though, if you are over the age of 5 and reading this, you probably know that. The world is brutal in its current form, and unless someone comes and overhauls how everything works in its entirety, this is the kind of thing we have to deal with. So, without further ado, let’s look at some ways  in which you could improve your money management, and make the most of your money and savings.


Image source: Pexels

Always prepare for the worst

As you already know, life is full of twists and turns, working in funny ways and more often than not, throwing several curveballs at you when you least expect it. While living in constant fear of the worst is not the healthiest way of going about life, you should at least be mentally prepared for the worst-case scenario. Living from paycheck to paycheck can only take you so far, and in case some unexpected expenses happen to come your way, you might just find yourself in a rather unfortunate situation. Nothing wrong with splashing out some cash every now and again, without it, the average working person would probably fall into a state of deep depression, but try and leave some money as backup in case anything ever goes wrong. Could be some sudden car repairs, maybe hospital fees, or even a rent increase. You never really know, and spreading your savings thin can prove to be your shortcoming.

Keep tabs on your expenses

If you find yourself broke near the end of the month and without the faintest idea of where your money has disappeared off to, you are probably in the same situation as most of the average working population. It’s easy to suddenly realise that you’ve been spending way more than you should have on minor things like an extra snack for lunch, or just a quick coffee and panini at the coffee shop. At that point, you had some minor comfort food during the month, and not really much else, but you find yourself back at square one on the first of the month, as if you’ve worked the whole month for no reason other than to survive. It might seem somewhat depressing to think about, but if you do not actually gain anything tangible from a working month, that is essentially just a month of your life down the drain. It is a good practice to make yourself a spreadsheet which records all your money coming in and out, showing where your money went. With one of these at your disposal, it is much easier to objectively look at your spendings and see if the random spendings are actually necessary, and if it’s really worth spending over 200 a month on coffee and bagels. Much easier to put things in perspective like that is it not? Look at where most of your money is going, if it’s something which could be considered useless, see if you can cut down on it. If not, go to the next big spender and try the same thing. By the time you go through the whole list, chances are you will have at least a decent chunk of money you know you is actually possible to save next month.


Image source: Pexels

Set goals for yourself

This nicely integrates with the spreadsheet method, making it much easier to find tangible goals to head for. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things you need to do in order to not overstep your budget. Denying yourself all those things during the month just to save a measly few hundred, might seem rather grim, so let’s just try and set some realistic goals at first. Rather than promising yourself that you will “spend no money at all!”, just try and ease yourself into a slightly more money-efficient lifestyle. Instead of buying lunches every day, try to get packed lunches from home. Get smaller coffees from Starbucks rather than the Grande Latte you are used to, it be better for your wallet and your health. Try to eat out less often, instead, spend on grocery shopping and cook at home, cooking at home is probably better for your health as well. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your savings aren’t going to get better overnight either. Have patience.

Try to deflate your bills

Other than just moving somewhere far out of town where everything is cheaper, there are solutions to this, which do not require you to make up the rent difference with costs of your daily commute. You can try and be a bit more money-smart like in the good ol’ days, fix leaky taps which buff up your water bills. Instead of cranking up the heating, put on a sweater or a few more layers just to be safe. Turn off all electronics for the night rather than leaving them in “standby”, yes keeping them powered even if they do nothing at the time still costs money. Do not leave your lights on when unnecessary, remember to turn them off when going out or just when it’s actually bright out. The sun has been doing a pretty good job of providing light to most of the earth so far and you can safely rely on it, at least for now.

Shopping online

Online shopping has taken civilised world by storm with it’s efficiency and availability of items which might just so happen to be out of stock in your local branch of whatever shop you might want to buy from. This is not limited to extensive online clothes shopping or importing things from overseas, but even your daily grocery shopping from the supermarket. By now, probably all of them have an online counterpart with next-day or even same-day delivery, making it a handy and efficient alternative to standing around in queues waiting to be served by someone while the groceries you bought already defrost in your bag. Of course, if you have a local farmer’s market or something along those lines, then no online supermarket is going to replace that. Getting quality produce and veggies which actually have taste to them is a thing that most large markets seem to be lacking for now, so just stick with going to the market if you want to buy some truly quality products.


Image source: Pexels

Ask the internet for help

It might be a bit weird mentioning this since you are already reading this article, but the internet is a seriously powerful source of knowledge on just about every topic in existence. If you want to further expand your knowledge on money-saving tips or maybe just look for inspiration, it is worth taking a look at blogs which publish content on those exact topics. PersonalFinance-Online.com, much like the name might suggest, provides a series of different articles focused on being money-smart, if you are already reading this, chances are you would be interested. If you want to find something on a more specific topic, then there’s is nothing which can hide from a few searches in your search engine of choice. It’s about time to make use of the internet in a productive fashion as opposed to just watching an endless stream of cat videos online. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, no one said the two are mutually exclusive.


Image source: Pexels

Motivate yourself

If you find it hard to meet your monthly saving goals, it might be due to a lack of motivation. Saving money for the sake of saving money can feel very unrewarding in itself, and unless you have something to put that money towards, you might as well not even have it in the first place. Of course, the security of knowing you have something “just in case” is not to be overlooked, but that’s not how the human mind works for the most part. We seek gratification for our efforts on a regular basis and it might be hard to convince yourself that “It’ll all be worth it in 20 years time”. Think about what you want to accomplish, and work towards that goal, be it buying a house, starting a business, having an amazing wedding, or buying the car of your dreams, we all need that carrot on a stick to keep up going through everyday life. Don’t be afraid of dreaming big either, even if something might seem way too far out of your current saving capabilities, no one is to say that you will not end up with a much better and well-paying job within the foreseeable future. When you look back, you will be thankful to your past self for saving, and making your new and updated goals, which more suited towards your new earnings, much easier to achieve.