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3 Ways to Get a Great Deal on a Hotel

Here are three ways we’ve gotten great deals on hotels:

Option #1: Go Through a Travel Site

If you’re willing to be adventuresome, you can purchase your hotel “blind” through Hotwire or Expedia and get a great deal. You’ll save at least $15 or $20 — often more! — if you’re willing to purchase the hotel room without knowing what hotel you are staying at. You can search by lowest price and star rating to see what prices are for the area you’ll be traveling to. We are typically able to find a three-star hotel for around $50-$60 per night this way.

Unless you don’t mind staying in rather questionable hotels, I wouldn’t suggest getting anything less than a three-star hotel as we’ve learned the hard way that two-star hotels can be hit and miss and one-star hotels should be avoided altogether. (Ask me to tell you the story of the roaches and the guy trying to break into our room in San Antonio at the one-star hotel we stayed at there if you need further proof. Yikes!)

While you can get some great deals this way, you are taking a risk. Sometimes it pays off well, other times, you end up with a less-than-stellar experience. But the savings have been worth it to us in most cases.

If you’re going to purchase your hotel room online, always go through Ebates to get cashback and check for any applicable coupon codes. Do keep in mind that you usually cannot get a refund on hotels reserved online through Hotwire or Expedia so you’ll want to make sure your travel plans are set in stone before purchasing.

If you want to get to pick your hotel before you purchase or be able to get a refund if your travel plans change, I’d recommend going through Orbitz. They have great deals, they show you the price including fees, and they do not charge you if you cancel your reservation. Usually, their prices are a little higher, but it might be worth it to pay a little to know what hotel you’re reserving ahead of time, and to not be charged if you cancel your reservation.

Option #2: Call and Haggle

Jesse loves to do this. He’ll pick out a few hotels he’s interested in having us stay at and then he’ll call them and ask them for the best rate they can give us. We usually can’t get as great of rates as we can reserving the hotel online, but we almost always are able to get at least a 15-20% discount off the price they initially quote us.

Be sure to ask for any applicable discount that might apply to you (AAA membership, AARP, Military, etc.) and call knowing exactly what you’re willing to pay. If they aren’t willing to do it, call the next hotel on your list.

As always, though, be polite and courteous. There’s no need to get irritated at them if they aren’t willing to go down on the price. Many hotels have specific pricing policies and can’t go lower than a certain price point.

Option #3: Walk In and Ask For a Bargain

This is what we did on our road trip last week. It was our first experience and it actually worked out really well. The advantages were that we were able to scope out the hotels and area ahead of time, instead of just relying upon pictures or information on the internet.

While we didn’t get quite as low of a price as we could have by purchasing through Hotwire, since we had to change our travel plans at the last minute due to the tornado in Joplin, it worked out well that we hadn’t reserved hotel rooms online anyway, as we would likely have been out the money.

We both decided on a price we were willing to pay per night and then picked out a few hotels in the area to go into and ask for a deal. Because we were traveling in the middle of the week, most of the hotels were quite empty and seemed more than willing to work with us to give us a discounted price. If we were going somewhere during a busy season, this approach likely wouldn’t have been as successful.

Coming tomorrow: How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children

What are your best tips for getting a great deal on a hotel? Tell us in the comments!

Yesterday’s Dillon’s Shopping Trip

I went to Dillon’s yesterday and picked up some great bargains:

3 packages of Sister Schubert’s rolls — $1.79 each when you buy 10 participating items, used $0.50/1 coupons (doubled) from the 4/17 SmartSource insert — $0.79 after coupons

4 jars of Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade — $1.25 each, used 4 $0.75/1 coupons (“doubled” to $1 off — there is a limit of one coupon per registration, but you can register multiple family members) — $0.25 per jar after coupons

5 boxes of Green Giant vegetables — $0.99 each when you buy 10 participating items

5 packages of Milano cookies — $1.99 each, used 5 $0.50/1 coupons — $0.99 each

2 Butterfinger bars — $0.50 each — used $1/2 coupon — free after coupon

StoveTop Stuffing — free with a coupon they sent me

Cottonelle — used free coupon

Suave Professionals — used free coupon

Two boxes of Tony’s pizza — used two free coupons they sent me

Total after coupons: $15.42

How We Saved $900 By Fixing Our Washing Machine Instead of Replacing It

Guest post by Shannon from Mrs. Moneysaver

My washing machine hasn’t been working so well lately. When it runs through the spin cycle, it doesn’t spin fast enough and the clothes are still pretty wet when I take them out. This is especially true for loads of towels and jeans. It’s a good thing the weather here has been decent enough for me to use my clothesline or I would have worn out my dryer as well!

So, I contemplated buying a new washer. I’ve seen the front load washers and they look really nice. Plus, they can hold a larger load than what I can put in the machine I have now, which means less laundry time.

And then I found this deal at Surviving the Stores and would have made the purchase but the price was $450 each when I checked. And, when you buy a new washer, you’ve got to get a new dryer too if you’re getting a great deal, right? But, I missed out on the sale.

So, I started checking Craigslist. There were lots of front load washers in Denver which is about a 4-hour drive from here. But, driving all that way to pick it up? Nope, don’t want to do that.

Then there’s the dilemma of what to do with our old set when we buy the new set. The dryer still works fine and the washer does work — it’s just that spin cycle. It’s still worth something, isn’t it?

That got me wondering: If the washer is good enough to sell at a garage sale, isn’t it still good enough for me? We haven’t had any credit card debt for awhile, did I really want to start that again?

I started doing a little research online. I found out that the spin cycle problem could be one of a few things:

1. The pump isn’t working
2. The motor coupling is worn out (which is common because it works just like a belt)
3. The basket drive/clutch assembly has worn out

I knew the pump was working because it was draining the water out. The spin cycle just wasn’t spinning fast enough. I read that the basket drive/clutch assembly was expensive to replace and I would be better off buying a new washer. But since the motor coupling was only a $10 part, I decided to start with that.

I ordered the part online and it arrived yesterday. My husband (the great DIY’er that he is) replaced the motor coupling last night. It worked!

Just like new. Only $900 less.

Shannon is a wife and mother of six kids. She is also “Mrs Moneysaver” and has a blog sharing coupons, coupon match-ups, freebies, daily deals and money saving strategies.

This Week’s Menu

Green Smoothies

I’ve finally got everything unpacked, the house and van back in order and the laundry almost done after our road trip last week. It was fun to be away as a family but it’s good to be home!

We have another full week with lots of fun things in store — like spending all day tomorrow at Amy’s house with Laura from Heavenly Homemakers (they say we’re doing a joint video blog; that should be interesting!) and then our two-day homeschool convention this Friday and Saturday (any readers going to be there? I’d love meet up, if so!).

Here’s our planned menu:

Cereal, Pick-Me-Up Smoothies
French Toast Casserole (from the freezer), Fruit
Steel Cut Oats with raw sugar and milk
Breakfast Burritos, Fruit
Strawberry-Banana Smoothies, toast
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (recipe coming Thursday), scrambled eggs
Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes (recipe coming Thursday), scrambled eggs

Lunch at Amy’s house (she’s kindly providing lunch for us!)
Apple Peanut Butter sandwiches, carrot sticks
Beans & Rice with cheese, peas, fruit
Lunch at Spangles with Stacie (using our Groupons!)
Cheese Quesadillas, fruit

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Barbecue at extended family’s house
Meatballs, corn on the cob, fruit salad
Burritos, brown rice, steamed veggies, fruit salad
Steak on the grill, frozen veggies, toast
Tilapia, rice, steamed broccoli, fruit salad
Dinner out
Marinated chicken, frozen veggies, fruit, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Brown Rice/Wild Rice

What’s on your menu this week?

How To Pay Cash for a Vacation

1. Set A Goal and Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces

A lot of people want to go on paid-for vacations, but few actually sit down and make a plan to make it happen without debt. Do you want to go on a three-day road trip in six months from now or a week-long cruise in three years from now?

Either way, you need to sit down and figure out how much it is approximately going to cost (I recommend rounding up the amount you think it will cost in order to give you some wiggle room in case it ends up costing more than you’ve planned on.). Once you have a set figure for how much you plan to spend on your vacation, break that down into monthly and weekly savings goals.

Let’s say you want to go on a three-day road trip as a family in December. If you calculate that it will cost you $500 ($250 for hotel, $100 for gas, $150 for food + attractions) and you have around six months to save, than you’ll need to come up with an extra $84 each month or $21 each week.

2. Make a Plan of Action

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, how much it is going to cost and how much you need to save each week, you can devise a plan of action. What specific actions are you going to take to save the money for your vacation?

If you don’t have extra money in your budget to divert to a special vacation savings, think of things you could cut from your budget to free up the necessary money. To take our previous example, if you have a goal to save $21 each week for your three-day December road trip, that could mean giving up dinner out each week or shaving that money off your grocery budget by using coupons or playing the Drugstore Game.

3. Put On Your Thinking Cap

If you feel like there’s no way you can squeeze any extra out of your budget or lower an of your expenses, there are still ways to save money for a vacation, if it’s something that’s really important to you. You could have a garage sale, sell some items you no longer need on Craigslist or eBay, mow lawns, babysit, take on a small cleaning job, start a side freelance business, teach classes… the possibilities are endless. Think about things you are good at or love to do and consider how you could earn extra income by investing a few hours each week into them.

When you set a goal, work hard and finally reach it, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling. And you can enjoy your vacation without having to feel guilty or worry about how you are going to afford to pay for it later!