Posts tagged ‘travel spending’

Can you afford free travel?

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Living a frugal lifestyle doesn’t have to be without its perks. One of my favourite things to do is travel.  I know that for the budget wise often the most realistic travel plans involve escaping the kids and pets for a bath, but there are ways to go a little further.

Most of my travel has been through the use of points. I’ve used Aeroplan, Air Miles, Save On More points and points from my bank. I’ve used them for everything from free B.C. ferries trips to a return flight to London that ended up costing me $50. A one way flight from Vancouver to Victoria would have cost me more. I’ve also used air miles for hotel stays and car rentals.
This has been a great way to travel but the question I always get is how to accumulate the points? For Air Miles I watch my local Safeway flyer for bonus points and use their pharmacy for 7 x the points. Thankfully I am in lousy health so those rack up quickly! I watch for the mail outs that include high miles bonuses. The temptation is to buy items that you don’t need because of their high points value. You end up spending much more than you would have if you had just bought a ticket or you end up with enough toilet paper and paper towels to build a replica of the Great Wall of China.
Air Miles also offers the option of reducing your required points by using a sponsor’s credit card. Having the World Mastercard discounts 25% off of the required number of miles. Traveling in low season further reduces the number.
While this helps to build the numbers gradually the quickest way to travel is through the bonus offers from credit cards. They will offer thousands of points if you sign up for their cards. The concern is what this will do to your credit rating.
One of the best sites for finding these deals and answering this question is the Credit Card Fly, It explains the concept and process of credit card churning.
Another site, “The Broke and Beautiful Life” by Stephanie O’Connell has an article on the same subject. FYI she has a great book out also called “The Broke and Beautiful” life.  It mixes useful advice with with humour and warmth.  It is the sort of financial info. that wears adorable shoes rather than a pinstrip suit. She’s one of us.
The caution is that you need to be very organized to use this system without racking up unnecessary card charges. Most of these cards have yearly fees with the first year waived. That is great if you remember to cancel the card before the year is finished. I personally have only applied for cards a few times and made sure I wrote in my calendar the date I needed to cancel. You also need to give yourself enough time before you plan to travel. This doesn’t work if you want to travel on short notice. Some of the deals require you to spend a certain amount within a 1-3 month time period in order to get the deal. This works well if you were planning on getting the house painted or replacing some appliances etc.
Living a frugal lifestyle doesn’t have to mean doing without. It is about choosing and planning and finding creative ways to achieve your goals.  In the meantime I’m heading for a bubble bath with one of my favourite traveling books “The Ex-Pat Harem”.  Time to dream.

Going back into the Closet, the Honest Truth

Fashion trends make my eye twitch.  How can you trust people who repeatedly tell you that the only way you dare leave the house is if you wear neon plaid and then a few months later tell you that you don’t dare leave the house if you wear neon plaid.  These people are unstable, undependable and are in the business of making us continually neurotic about our appearance.

I know this because as an artist I do check on the colour trends that are forecast for upcoming seasons to see if my jewelry designs work with the random insanity.  I then go and work on whatever appeals to me, generally metallics, textures, pieces of metal, sculptural elements  and pieces with a story.  I don’t go to shopping malls, read fashion magazines or have any respect for people that pay the price of a car for a purse. Whether it is $20 or $2000 a pen exploding inside of it will still ruin the lining and a moist cough drop will still sent it to the back of the closet.

OK.  So what has that got to do with anything?  We are talking about saving money. Here is my weakness.  I love to travel.  It is what I save my money for and when I am very careful I spend less traveling than living at home (almost, well sort of.)  I find really good deals on flights, accomodations and food.  So far so good but right now I am packing for a wonderful trip with my mom.  We will spend a week in Istanbul, I’ll be using airmiles Best Western cards for accomodations. Great.  We will then be doing a one week cruise from Istanbul to Athens that included free airfare and the whole thing came out cheaper than airfare (I will be so unimpressed if I find out we are really galley help on a Greek fishing boat). Double great.  I will get a chance to introduce my mom to one of the most important people in my life and many other friends, triple great, and they have all seen all of my clothes before. Oh. Ha!  I don’t care.  I’m sure they don’t remember what I wore, even though they are the same outfits I wore in several of the photos I took on my last few trips.  Yup, that one sparkly camisole, certainly made the rounds (in a nice girl way of course).  Yes I have worn these boots there three times. This coat is starting to look like Indiana Jones’ after the fight scenes.  I’m sure they won’t notice.  People in large European cities aren’t too aware of fashion right?  I don’t care about that sort of thing right?  Why is my suitcase inching away from my choices?  Why is my suitcase looking like it was on the Titanic?

All right this is petty but part of my spending before a trip involved a military campaign of getting the hair cut and coloured, feet done, makeup bought fresh, a few new tops, maybe a dress (or two if it was summer) and a bathing suit.  The bathing suit is always problematic because when I buy them I see myself rising from the waves like a spandex clad Venus on a half shell in glistening splendor.  When the photos get downloaded  I see a German opera singer squished into a salami wrapper.  There is no going back and pretending once the photos see the light of day (which they rarely do).  This year, at this time of reckoning it is time to stop avoiding the closet. As Dorothy learned in Oz, everything I really need is right in my own (closet) backyard.  Part of the fun of a trip is buying new things in the hope of being a brand new me, but until I am completely at ease with the me that didn’t suddenly lose 20 lbs. before the trip, then I’m not decluttering the most cluttered room I have, my own closet of anxieties.  Yes marketing and media have had a hand in that but intentional living gives me the freedom to wear brown if “the” trend is lilac.  I have to face my own ego and fantasy cravings and find satisfaction by returning to the closet. Now where is that neon plaid bathing suit? (Don’t visualize.)