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Saving Money All Year Long

It’s Christmas time and the deals and savings are everywhere. I love this time of year! I actually save several of my “I want” items to buy them at this time of year every year. Oops! There goes your first tip. Know the difference between the “I wants” and the “I needs”. A winter coat that is too small or has holes in it is an “I need”. A winter coat that fits and still looks good even after 20 years is an “I want”. Got it? The “I wants” can usually wait until a good sale comes along so I keep a list of them and save it for the end of the year sales unless another good sale pops up before then. Occasionally I will splurge sooner when I have a good reason but even then there are ways to save money.

There are websites out there that offer special deals of their own, congregate current available store deals, and provide cash rebates. Retail Me Not does the former while Ebates.com does the latter. I haven’t really used Retail Me Not much yet. I get their emails and have found a current store deal through them. The coupons I find in searching them are often out of date because once a coupon goes up, it never comes down off the site. However, you can usually tell if one may work by checking the comments.  I’m not giving up on them yet though. Now Ebates.com definitely saves money with cash rebates they send to you quarterly. I admit, I have lost a lot of money this year because I am so used to going directly to my favorite websites that I forget to login to Ebates.com first and use their link to get to my favorite sites. My New Year’s resolution this year is to remember and use Ebates.com much more. I did save a nice bit of money this season thanks to them. They have a lot of major retailers in their stable including Amazon and Walmart. Keep in mind that rebates may be targeted to specific departments or items rather than being available on everything at a retailer’s site. You need to pay attention to the details. Also, don’t look at it as just a 1% or just a 3% rebate and skip it. Over the period of a year, those add up to some real cool savings and larger purchases add up even faster.

Now don’t bash me for the next one. Yes, I shop Walmart and make no apologies to anyone. In fact, I am an affiliate of them. They are very handy for RVers, they let me stay overnight free once in a while in their parking lots, they stock some RV specific items, and their pharmacies are usually easy to use with online prescription ordering too. Their Site to Store shipping is free and wonderful for us nomads with no street address to ship to. Their latest program, Savings Catcher, has saved me quite a bit of money by scanning my receipts, comparing them to prices at other local merchants, and giving me cash back for the difference in the form of egift cards. One thing to watch out for with them is the prices shown on their website may not match the in-store prices. For instance, I saw an expensive item I wanted online that was $10 more in the store. Their policy on matching their own online prices is iffy at best. So, the next day I ordered the item with Site to Store Shipping and it was available for pickup within an hour. If it hadn’t been so late at night, I would have ordered the item right there using my smart phone and been able to pick it up before leaving.

If you stay in places for a long time, stay at campgrounds that will accept UPS deliveries, or have a mail service that doesn’t charge for handling packages, Amazon can save tons of money with low or competitive prices and Amazon Prime for unlimited free shipping. It costs $99 a year but you can easily get that covered if you order online a lot and they have so much more to offer like free Kindle books, free movies and TV, no extra charge for 2 day shipping, etc. It really is a great deal! That’s how I do my Christmas shopping when I’m stuck on a gate 24/7 for 4 weeks at a time. They will even disguise the packages if you tell them the items are gifts and will deliver direct to the giftee instead of you. I have also found returning an item to them is very easy. I like them so much that I am an affiliate of Amazon also!

Stay with me now. There are many more ways to save!

For the “I want to do” items like taking in a show, going to a dinner theater, touring an attraction, taking in an RV show, parking somewhere for a cruise, and so on I never do any of those things without visiting their website first. You will often find coupons and special offers right on their websites. Check brochure racks everywhere you go too. I get lots of coupons from attraction brochures. I have managed to score discounts for many things this way. I have never paid full price for an RV show and even if a venue doesn’t offer a discount, they may offer a VIP upgrade free. One year I got into Disneyworld free on my birthday just by checking their website. Another time I got two for one tickets to a dinner theater and free VIP upgrades.

Interested in getting your windshield tinted, buying a Costco membership, going to a local event or concert, dining out, etc.? Try Living Social deals. I scored a new Costco membership this way to check them out. The price of the membership was the same as always but they offered $20 cash back and a book of coupons full of freebies and discounts that brought the price down to almost nothing. They also have an app you can use on smart phones when you are away from your rig. I routinely see local services, restaurants, attractions, weekend getaways, and events in the emails they send me. Many I would love to attend if I didn’t work 24/7. Down here in Texas, they have annual 5K walk/runs at night where the sponsor gives you a T shirt and they have machines set up along the route to spray you with fluorescent paint. Now I’m a big fan of fluorescent paint and doing odd things so I will definitely be doing one of those before I leave and I will pay the entry fee at a discount through Living Social. Hit me baby!

For restaurants as I have mentioned before in another post, there is restaurants.com for discount certificates. I like to try a new restaurant now and again so I buy a certificate for one I might like and keep it in my truck. They never expire! I wait until they have a sale of $3-$4 for $10-$25 certificates and then I buy. Usually you are required to buy more than the certificate will cover so I either take a friend and split the leftover cost or I order 2 meals and have one packaged to take back to my rig or motel for later. What is really cool is if you move on and it looks like you will not be back in an area for a long time, you can exchange your certificates on their website for another restaurant instead at no additional cost. I did that this past summer. I’m not planning to be in Yuma, AZ for quite a while so I exchanged the restaurant there for one just north of my favorite local playground here in Texas. I had a wonderful day touring a museum (with a brochure coupon), river tubing (bring your own tube and they only charge for transportation back), and eating dinner at a delightful Italian restaurant where I ordered two different meals to make the minimum required and had a nice dinner for the next night too very cheap.

Do you belong to AARP, Good Sam, Coast to Coast, or another group? Most offer much more than just membership. They also offer discounts at various places.  AARP offers numerous discounts nationwide. Never pay full price at Denny’s, UPS Store, Consumer Cellular, AT&T, and so many more places you are entitled to a discount by showing your card. Good Sam offers discounts in their member benefits section of their website including prescriptions, RV shows, Pilot/Flying J, UPS Store, Sam’s Club, Hertz, Enterprise, Passport America, Camping World, and Disney tickets.They also offer a free 5,000 accidental death policy with membership (must call to activate). Coast to Coast offers all kinds of coupons for dining, hotels, attractions, and car rentals both on their member website.

An excellent way to save as you travel is by using a credit card with cash back rewards. If you don’t have one, you should get one. I’ll get into that more in my next post as it is a big topic and one RVers should really take time out to address.

For savings on gas, look for special deals at gas stations affiliated with grocery stores. Safeway has always provided a few cents off for swiping their store loyalty card as do many others. At H-E-B in Texas this past summer, the savings were very substantial if you paid with an H-E-B gift card at the pump. While not a grocery store, Pilot/Flying J also has an RVer loyalty card which not only saves you a few cents per gallon at the pump but saves on propane refills as well. You may also want to consider paying for gas with a rewards credit card rather than a debit card. Aside from getting cash back, there are some gas stations that charge a fee to use a debit card at the pump. I have seen them several places in California and the fee is substantial.

Save on ATMs out on the road and other banking fees by changing your bank! Anyone who has used Wells Fargo knows they nickel and dime you to death with fees. They also love to change the rules all the time by adding new fees or changing the method allowed to avoid a fee. There are plenty of other banks out there with better deals. For example, some banks will waive the first overdraft of the month while others like CapitalOne360 create a small overdraft as a very low interest loan within limits or refuse it so you cannot overdraft. Charles Schwab has no ATM fees and will refund any other ATM fees you have to pay. That works well for travelers, especially at places like Quartzsite where many vendors don’t take credit or debit cards. Some banks don’t charge extra for international payments which is good for those who cruise a lot or otherwise travel overseas. One thing I have learned over the years is that banks are like employers. They want your total loyalty but have absolutely none to you no matter how long you have been with them so you should consider changing now and then. If you just don’t want to change your bank but want to avoid ATM fees, then get cash in participating stores when checking out rather than using ATMs on the road. Buy a soda, some milk, whatever and ask for cash back.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to save money both on and off the road. They are not difficult to find and every penny saved means a better RVing lifestyle for you. Two can live as cheaply as one when you use discounts, coupons, smart credit cards, free shipping, and cash back rebates.

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