Spruce Up Your Home for Spring

It’s Springtime! Dark decor and heavy curtains can really put a damper on your springtime happiness. Here are a few ideas to spruce up your decor without breaking the bank.

Wreaths aren’t just for Christmas. Before your flowers bloom and before we are free from the dangers of frost, start with a wreath for your door. Brightly colored flowers will help you adjust your mood before walking through your front door. Better yet, make your own. Stores like Michaels have blanks wreaths and lots of ideas and accessories.

Grocery store flower bunches can be bought for $5 at Stop & Shop! Small bunches of roses and tulips, or any greenery give life and freshness to any space. Save money by getting tiny vases and putting a single flower in each. Line them up or spread them about your home. Keeping flowers on your kitchen island will also remind you to keep it uncluttered, because nothing ruins the effect of fresh flowers like mails, keyfobs, empty dishes and other random objects that adorn your counter. It’s also a great time to shop for indoor plants, if you’re not ready to garden outside. You’ll have them for winter and any greenery in the home is improvement to your health. Faux flowers and grass work, too! You won’t get increased amounts of oxygen, but bright colors are always a good idea.

Open the curtains. Get curtain ties–they don’t even to match. Pattern mixing is very trendy right now. Another way to do this is to buy a wide ribbon (burlap is a great choice to help bring the outside in!). Pin them to your wall if you can stomach the holes.

Change your throw pillows. This is so easy, especially when Walmart or Target has such inexpensive options. Brighten up with colorful or patterned pillows. Do the same with throw blankets! Put away the heavy ones and opt for lightweight fabrics in neutral colors (like white and creme).

Change your photos. Make sure your frames are filled with fun, colorful photos. Landscape photos are a great idea, if just for the time being. Think of last year’s vacation pictures to remind you what fun in the sun feels like!

Make a bowl of fruit, like all oranges, or all lemons as a centerpiece. It’s bright and functional.

Spring cocktails are your friend. Ditch the red wine and create a signature spring cocktail. For ingredients, think cucumbers, orange slices, fruit juices and pink lemonade! Check out Martha Stewart’s awesome ideas!

How to Save Money on Your Next Move

movingMoving is one of the most stressful life events we have to deal with.  It’s also an expensive one.  But you can cut costs and stress levels with a few of these veteran tips:

 

Start Packing Early

When you start to pack early, great things happen.  The first is that you won’t be rushing around at the last minute, trying to get weeks worth of work done in a few days.  The second is that as you take the time to slowly pack up all of your belongings, you’ll inevitably find things that you don’t need in your life anymore.  Because you started early, you’ll have enough time to list these things on Craigslist or take them to a consignment store, making you money to offset your moving costs, and saving valuable room on the truck.

 

Get Boxes For Free

Grocery stores generally have a surplus of boxes.  They throw them in a compactor just to dispose of them.  Because they’re built to carry large amounts of food, they’re normally very sturdy and a decent size.  Most of the time, the boxes get compacted over the night shift, so talk to the people working this shift beforehand and ask if they’d be willing to set a few aside for you.

 

Use Towels To Pack Fragiles

Want to kill two birds with one stone?  Substitute your towels for bubble wrap.  By using them to wrap fragile items, you’ll be saving on buying extra supplies, and packing two things at once.  If you run out of towels, another free option is to use newspaper or circular ads you already receive in the mail.

 

Enlist Help

Ask for family and friends to help with the move.  Most people may not be initially thrilled, but if you offer pizza and beer to sweeten the deal you should be able to assemble and enthusiastic moving team.  Pizza and beer is a whole lot cheaper than paying a company to do the job for you.  Plus, it will be one final hurrah for your old place.

 

If you are making a long-distance move and don’t know anyone at the other end, reach out to groups that you will be joining.  Do you have a church you are planning on attending in your new neighborhood?  Is there a softball team at your new office?  While reaching out and asking for help right off the bat may feel a bit awkward at first, it can be a great way to bond quickly.  Just be ready and willing to return the favor someday.

 

Shop for the Best Deal and the Least Stress

If you have enough people to help you on either end of your move, it’s going to be cheaper to rent, load, and unload your own moving truck.  If you’re doing everything on your own, paying a little extra to have someone do all of that for you may be worth it.  You can either rent your own truck and have movers do the labor, or hire a company to do both.  Each option gets more and more expensive, but never underestimate the value of your sanity.  If two days of solo labor is worth the added cost, don’t feel guilty about splurging to pay someone else to take the burden off your shoulders.

 

Avoid the Upsell

Wherever you shop for your moving needs, salesmen or computer interfaces will be trying to upsell you.  While a dolly might be a good thing to have while moving, it may be something you can source from one of the people helping you rather than paying an additional fee for it.  Special wrapping for frames can be a good idea, but odds are towels or newspapers will do you just fine anyways.  Keep in mind that those little add-ons add up quickly, and that you may not actually “need” any of them when all is said and done.

 

Sticking to Your Vacation Budget

Everyone deserves a vacation. Memories are made and everyone needs time to destress. Even when money is tight, it’s important to try to take a vacation. Vacations don’t have to be expensive cruises, or trips to the Bahamas, but the important thing is to get away. We need a break for our mental and sometimes even physical health, whether you go it alone, with a partner, or with your family. But listen, even planning the vacation on which you will destress is stressful. Hours of scouring for the right prices, comparing prices, appeasing family members, figuring out the budget–it’s can cause the headache you’re trying to get rid of! To help in your planning process, here a few simple tips that we gathered from Time Magazine and Real Simple.

Book way ahead or at the last minute. Plan your vacation either a year ahead of time if possible. You can score the best deals this way, especially on airfare. Conversely, if you plan right at the last minute, you can score on hotel bookings and cruise bookings. Typically, you’re going to pay more for airfare, though, so be sure to weigh all the variables. Another tip on airfare booking to book in the middle of the week, preferably on a Wednesday at around midnight. Check out our blog on booking airfare for even more tips.

Skip the hot spots. While Paris is amazing, there are so many beautiful French cities to visit for much, much less (make Paris the day trip, instead). Instead of Costa Rica, try Nicaragua. Instead of the Greek Isles, try Athens. There is as much charm, beauty and excitement in so many less popular but equally historic and interesting cities.

Avoid Chain Hotels. Instead try boutique hotels, mom and pop bed and breakfasts, or home/apartment rentals. All are generally cheaper than big name hotel chains. Rentals are always cheaper for longer stays, and generally more comfortable.

Put aside a few dollars each week for spending money. There’s nothing worse than being on vacation and realizing that you’re out of money, or being so stressed about your hotel bill that you can’t enjoy a nice dinner out. Open a savings account attached to your checking and transfer $20 per week, or whatever you can afford. It will be nice to have a chunk of change you can spend freely. You can either create a cash allowance per day, or just have a cushion to alleviate some stress.

Of course, look for deals. Don’t check out without a coupon code. Check out Groupon and Living Social for awesome package deals, or PromoPro for coupons for everything from your next cruise, to vacation home rentals.

Save Money on Your Caribbean Vacation by Booking During the Off-Season

Caribbean Vacation

The Caribbean is a heavenly retreat for those of us who are stuck in the cold all winter.  While we’re experiencing snow, freezing temperatures, and ice, the islands and coasts of the Caribbean Sea are warm oases made of tropical dreams.

The Caribbean only has two seasons; rainy season and dry season.  Dry season is when people typically grab a flight south, between November and April.  But rainy season, or the off-season, is the time when you’ll save the most money on your trip.

Rainy season is also known as hurricane season. These natural disasters can be serious, and explain why many would rather travel during the drier months.  But if you travel at the beginning of the rainy season, odds are in your favor that you won’t get hit.  Since 1851, there’s been an average of 0.02 hurricanes per year in May in the Atlantic and 0.2 hurricanes in June according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

While you’re still taking a calculated risk, these odds combined with the lowered prices for off-season make May and June a great time to take off for a tropical vacation.  A couple months out is generally prime time to get savings on flights and hotels, making now a good time book.

Here are some of our favorite Caribbean travel destinations:

 

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun is a great getaway for those who like a little action mixed in with their relaxation.  There are dolphins to swim with, courses to golf, cenotes to explore, and clubs for dancing.  Not to mention beautiful beaches where you can relax, soaking in the beauty of the turquoise waters.

Cancun is also the most common destination for those who want to visit one of the 7 Wonders of the World: Chichen Itza.  About two hours inland from Cancun, it was the hub of Mayan civilization, and its pyramid is the last and largest of all the Mayan temples.  If you do go here in May or June, know that it gets overwhelmingly hot during the day, so morning visits are the most favorable.

 

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

An active vacation in Guanacaste isn’t so much about nightlife and golfing; it’s more about getting outdoors and exploring all nature has to offer.  And Guanacaste has just about everything nature offers.  There are volcanoes, national forests, mountain ranges, and, of course, gorgeous beaches.  Wildlife abounds, as do opportunities to have your own, nature-centric adventure.

 

Negril, Jamaica

Negril is perfect for some R&R.  It has beautiful beaches and a laid back atmosphere.  It’s also home to some iconic cliffs.  Hotels and restaurants are built over them overlooking the surreally blue-green waters.  Snorkelers dive at their bases.  The brave jump off their precipices.

 

Palm Beach, Aruba

Palm Beach is known for its calm waters.  It has many features similar to Cancun, like popping night life and gorgeous views.  If you love to shop, there’s also two malls that offer both entertainment and goods to bring home.  Because of its calm waters, Palm Beach is a great place for those that enjoy actually getting in the water, whether it’s to swim or snorkel.  The waters won’t be quite as calm in May or June as they are during the dry season, but the savings you’ll be racking up by visiting during the off-season are sure to offset any small surf.

 

Where to Stay

If you’re money-savvy and getting ready to book for the beginning of off-season, we’ve got some great deals on hotels for you. Hotel Riu, whose all-inclusive resorts rank 4-5 stars on TripAdvisor over and over again, is offering stellar rates on bookings right now.  The best part?  They’ve got great resorts in all of our favorite locations, and then some.