Category Archives: Frugality

Doing Vegas on the Cheap

Earlier this year, I took an almost free Vegas vacation by using credit card bonuses. I still think that is the easiest way to get a cheap or free Vegas vacation, but I recently discovered a couple of new ways to reduce the cost of a Vegas Vacation. A post on the Mr. Money Mustache forum informed me of the MyVegas Rewards and Social Rewards programs that can be used to earn things such as free rooms, free buffets, free show tickets, and more.

MyVegas Rewards is a program set up by MLife which is the rewards program for MGM resorts. The basic idea of MyVegas rewards is that you can earn real comps by playing slots and table games on the MyVegas Facebook page. Playing the games rewards you with loyalty points which can be redeemed for free rooms, free meals, free show tickets and other rewards. After about a month of playing I have about 36,000 loyalty points which I could use for three nights at Circus Circus, two nights at Excalibur, or one night at New York New York or Monte Carlo.

I would suggest you join a group such as MyVegas Friends which will help you earn points faster and has guides on how to optimize your play. You might want to consider setting up a separate Facebook account for playing the game since all of the postings from the game can clutter up your news feed. Setting up a second account for games is a violation of Facebook rules so you will have to decide whether it is worth the risk that Facebook might possibly shut down the new account. Another thing to consider is that you still have to pay resort fees when you redeem for a free night. Excalibur charges about $20 a night in resort fees. Last time I was in Vegas I stayed in a non-casino hotel and paid about $35 a night so a free room is only saving me about $15 a night. I do enjoy playing the MyVegas games though so I think the rewards are a pretty good deal.

Social Rewards is a much simpler program. It is affiliated with TotalRewards which is the rewards program for Caesars Entertainment. Between these two programs you have most of the casinos on the strip covered. You get rewards for this program by sharing information about Caesars resorts and casinos on your social media accounts. You are limited to three shares a day so it is quick and easy to do this program each day. I’ve earned a little over $20 in free rewards since starting to use this program about a month ago.

Another thing to consider that I haven’t tried is legal online gaming while you are in Las Vegas. Some of the Las Vegas casinos now also have legal online casinos. The interesting thing about these casinos is that some offer a bonus for signing up online and making a deposit. The catch here is that you have to be located in New Jersey or Nevada when playing online. I think you would be able to play online while visiting New Jersey or Nevada, but I’m not sure. This is something you might want to explore for yourself.

Although these programs aren’t as great as I first thought they are still a pretty good deal in my opinion. Since IS enjoy playing MyVegas slots and Social Rewards doesn’t take much time I’ll keep using these programs. Rewards from these programs should make my next Vegas vacation very inexpensive.

Are Fuel Rewards Saving a Good Deal?

There are a lot of different fuel rewards programs that can help you save money on gas. These programs are not always a good deal though. It doesn’t make sense to spend dollars more on groceries to save pennies on gas.  Many people do not act rationally when it comes to saving money on gas. For some reason lots of people are more interested in saving money on gas than they are on saving money on other stuff. You need to do the math to determine whether the a fuel reward program is good for your particular situation.  For example, I have a small car with a small gas tank so it only takes about ten gallons to fill my tank which means I don’t get to take full advantage of fuel reward savings.  If I get a reward for ten cents off a gallon then I’m only saving a dollar on that fill up. If I’m only buying things I would buy anyway then this is an okay deal, but it isn’t anything to get excited about and it definitely isn’t enough savings to buy something I don’t need just for the fuel reward.

A grocery chain near me recently had a deal where you received twenty cents off a gallon when you bought a $100 gift card to selected merchants.  That would be a $2 savings for me. The max savings would be $4 since the discount is good for a maximum of twenty gallons. This might seem like a good deal on the surface since you’re paying regular price for the gift cards.  Being a tight fisted miser though, I don’t pay full price for gift cards. Taking a look at GiftCardGranny.com I see that $100 Home Depot gift cards are on sale for as little as $89 , a $100 Sears gift cards can be bought for $92 , and a $100 Olive Garden can be bought for as little as $90.  Depending on where the card is being sold, you can also go through an online cash back portal such as Mr. Rebates, Ebates, or Top Cashback for even more savings. Buying the cards at the grocery store for the fuel rewards would cost you money. A possible exception would be if you had a credit card that paid 5% back on groceries, that is why you have to do the math for your particular situation.

These fuel rewards are also usually only good at certain gas stations. If you do not have one of these gas stations close to you then the fuel rewards become less of a good deal. The IRS estimates the cost of operating a car at 56 cents per mile, at that rate it doesn’t take much extra driving to use up $2 of fuel reward savings.

Another great way that I currently save on gas is with my Chase Freedom card  (referral link) which is offering 5% back on gas purchases this quarter.  All of that being said, I do use fuel reward savings programs. I just make sure that I don’t spend extra or go out of my way to do so.

Save on Airfare with the Southwest Hidden City Trick

The hidden city trick to save on airfare has been around a long time and it works especially well on Southwest Airlines.  The idea behind the hidden city trick is that sometimes it is cheaper to book a flight from City A to City C with a stopover in City B then it is to book a direct flight from City A to City B. For example, in June I traveled from Kansas City to Las Vegas.  It was cheaper for me to book a flight from Kansas City to Salt Lake City that changed planes in Las Vegas and just stay in Las Vegas then it was to book a flight (including the same flight that went on to SLC) direct from Kansas City to Las Vegas.  I saved a couple thousand points by booking the flight this way.  When the flight landed in Vegas I just told the gate agent at the new gate that I wasn’t going to get on the flight.  The agent was fine with that, the airline employees do like to know when you are not going to get on a flight since they have to do a passenger count.   Some airlines don’t like hidden city ticketing and have rules against it.  If you violate their rules there is a chance they could suspend your frequent flyer account or impose other penalties. Southwest used to explicitly allow hidden city ticketing.  Although they no longer explicitly allow hidden city ticketing they don’t have a rule against it and don’t seem to mind it being used.

If you do use the hidden city trick you need to make sure you carry on your luggage since otherwise your luggage will end up in City C while you are in City B.  Also, it is best to book two one-way fares rather than a round-trip when using the hidden city trick since some airlines will cancel your return flight if you don’t complete the outgoing flight.  You should always book one-way flights on Southwest anyway since their round-trip fares are just a combination of two one-way fares. By booking two one-way flights you have more flexibility if you need to rebook your flight.  For example, if you see that the return fare has gone down you could cancel and rebook just the return fare to save money. If you had a round-trip fare you would have to cancel and rebook both the outgoing and return fare which doesn’t always work since the outgoing fare may have gone up in price.  By booking two one-ways if either of the legs of the trip go down in price you can save money by canceling and rebooking.  This doesn’t work on most airlines, but it does on Southwest which is why the hidden city trick works especially well on Southwest.  There are lots of other tricks to saving money on airfare.  What are some of your tips and tricks for saving on airfare?

Vegas Vacation Recap

Welcome_to_fabulous_las_vegas_sign Last week I had a five-day vacation in Las Vegas. Although I lost money gambling, the total cost of the vacation ended up being very little. I got the flight, hotel room, and rental car for free. I did not note how much cash I had before starting but I think I had roughly $85 in cash with me and had $9 left at the end of the trip. So the trip cost me approximately $80 since I didn’t take out any cash and any credit card purchases were reimbursed.

The flight was free because I have the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Card. The card has a sign up bonus of 50,000 points which is good for at least two round trip flights. I think I’ll end up getting two round trip flights plus a one-way for my points since I got some cheaper flights. One drawback to this card is that they don’t waive the annual fee for the first year. If you would like to sign up for this card you can leave a comment and I’ll send you a referral link. If you sign up through the referral link you will get the 50,000 point bonus offer and I’ll get 5000 points for referring you. If you don’t want to sign up through my referral link it is easy to find the same offer on the web.

The hotel and rental car were free because I used points from my Capital One Venture card. This card gave me 50,000 points worth $500 in travel when I signed up. This card does waive the annual fee for the first year. The link to the Cap 1 card is not an affiliate link and the bonus is smaller at this time.  I also recommend the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard® which pays an effective $440 bonus.

We didn’t spend any money on visiting any attractions. It was my girlfriend’s first time to Vegas so there was plenty to see. We toured a lot of the casinos and watched the light show at Bellagio and the volcano at the Mirage, but there was still a lot more we didn’t have time to see. I didn’t count money spent on food as a trip expense since it was about the same as it would have been if I were at home.  I did eat at In-N-Out Burger a couple of times which I considered to be special meals, but other than that I just had ordinary food. Since I covered the expense of the hotel and rental car my girlfriend covered the $20 in gas for the rental car and the $35 for airport parking.

Overall, I managed to spend four nights and five days in Las Vegas and only spent about $80. I consider that a bargain.  My next trip will probably be more expensive, but I’m hoping I’ll have enough credit card points and SW miles to keep it cheap.

Personal Finance Links – Black Friday Edition

I had a great Thanksgiving yesterday and I’m just taking it easy today. A lot of people are out shopping today for Black Friday bargains.  Since buying stuff doesn’t interest and I don’t need much, I’m staying home today.  There probably aren’t a lot of people reading blogs today, but it has been a while since I’ve shared links and I wanted to get one more post written before the end of the month so here it is.

Why WordPress’s Native Comment System Beats Disqus or LiveFyre at U Stand Out.   I really don’t understand why so many bloggers want to replace the WordPress comment system and make it harder for their readers to comment.  I don’t get a lot of comments so I don’t want to make it any harder for my readers to comment.

Capital One 360 Black Friday Sale at Bank Bonuses.  If I didn’t already have these accounts, I would open one to take advantage of these great deals.  If you do decide to open an account through one of my affiliate links to get the $75 or $125 bonus I’ll make a little money too. Thanks.

How Good It Is To Be Me at Dividend Mantra.   I need to remind myself sometimes how good I have it.

Stop Using Cash at See Debt Run.    It is much easier to track debit card or credit card purchases.  Plus, if you are disciplined you can make money from using a credit card.

Essential 4-Step Guide to Escaping the Ordinary at Afford Anything.   The guide is pretty simple, but implementing does take some work. I need to work on the steps.

That is all for now.  How was your Thanksgiving?  Did you do any Black Friday shopping?

Cruise Recap Part 2

cruiseship This is the last of three posts about the cruise I took last month.  The firs post was about the cost of the cruise and the second post was about the room and the food on the cruise.  This post will be about the ship activities and the port excursions.

Ship Activities

There was quite a variety of activities available on the ship.   Many of our fellow passengers favorite activity seemed to be drinking and getting drunk.  I’m not much of a drinker and the drink prices on the ship were ridiculously high so I did not partake of that activity. Since the motion of the ship made me queasy drinking probably wouldn’t have been a good idea.

The main activities we attended were the shows.  There were only two nights where they had what I would consider a real show being performed.  Those were the shows with singing and dancing and actual sets.  I did enjoy those shows although they were somewhat short and seemed like a random collection of musical numbers rather than a cohesive show.

The standup comedians were my favorite entertainment on the boat.  They also only performed two out of the five nights.  The other nights had amateur shows.  These were basically the ship’s entertainment staff performing on stage without any set other than some chairs.  These shows were actually fairly entertaining despite the lack of production value.

We were on ship for Halloween night and a lot of people dressed up and there were some great costumes.  There was a Halloween costume contest that was won by a couple of guys dressed up as KISS.  They did have authentic costumes and could have easily passed as actual members of KISS.  The runner up was a group of guys dressed as the Avengers. The man in the Iron Man costume made the costume himself from metal and spent over $800.  The costume looked great, but I don’t know if it was $800 great.  Our costumes were much cheaper.  We went as Pornstache and a prisoner from the show “Orange Is The New Black.”

pornstache

Not many people knew we were portraying people from a TV show, but they did still like the guard and prisoner costumers.  We were smart enough not to use blackface to make the costume more authentic.

Ports and Excursions

The cruise left and returned from New Orleans.  It would have been nice to add a couple days in New Orleans to the beginning or ending of the cruise, but we didn’t really have time for that and it would have increased the cost of the vacation a fair amount.

The ship stopped in the ports of Progreso and Cozumel during the cruise.  In Progreso we had booked a tour of the ruins at Dzibilchaltun before we embarked.  This allowed us to pay less than half than what the tour would have cost if we had booked through the cruise line.  The guided portion of the tour was only about a half hour and after that we had time to further explore the ruins and/or swim in a nearby cenote(sinkhole) for the remainder of the tour time.  Since it was hot we opted for the swimming.  The total time of the tour including transportation to and from the ruins was a little under about 4 hours.  This was just about right since it gave us a little time to explore Progreso before going on the tour and allowed us plenty of time after the tour to get back on the ship.  There isn’t a lot to see in Progreso so I’d recommend booking a tour for that port.

In Cozumel we didn’t have a tour booked and decided to just wing it.  The tour guide in Progreso suggested that we go to Chankanaab.  Admission was $21 each and basically all we got for that was access to the beach.  I wasn’t impressed with that recommendation.  We still had a good time swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach, but I think we could have done that for less.  If there is a next time, I’ll either book a tour ahead of time or at least do some prior research.

That wraps up the cruise posts.  Going on a cruise was something I’d wanted to do for a long time and I’m glad I did it.  Although I did enjoy this cruise, if I ever go on another cruise it will need to be an even better deal and go somewhere I haven’t been.