How Smart Travelers Stay Safe

smart traveler

Vacation season is right around the corner!  Getting away is always a fantastic thing, whether you’re backpacking through Europe, making for a romantic getaway to a crystal clear beach, or planning a trip for the entire family to enjoy.  While it’s an exciting thing to plan, there are some steps you should take to secure your safety while you’re on vacation.  They’ll help you make sure you have a good time without coming home with the headache of identity theft.

 

Think Twice Before Purchasing Online

It can seem convenient to purchase tickets and reservations online.  In many cases, it’s perfectly safe, too.  But in order to protect yourself, you want to make 100% sure you’re using a secure website.  On a trip to Mexico, we thought we’d save time and cab fare by purchasing some bus tickets online.  Luckily, we didn’t, as it turns out that the website is known to be insecure, and that there was no guarantee that our tickets would be there waiting for us, nonetheless our identities.  If you have a question about the reputation of a website or business, hold off until you can exchange goods in person, preferably by paying cash.

 

Lockdown Your Wallet

Canadians and Europeans have been using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology on their credit cards for a while, but it’s a relatively new phenomenon in the US.  Instead of swiping the way we are used to, they have a chip that scans quickly and easily.  If you check your wallet, you may already have some of these chipped cards whether you’re aware of it or not.  These cards make check out a breeze, but they also make it really easy for someone with basic technology to scan your information, even through your wallet, and especially in crowded places.  They can swipe passport information the same way: just by standing close to you.  You can protect against this type of theft by carrying your cards in an RFID-blocking wallet.  Some of our favorite styles come from TravelSmith.

 

Carry-On

Traveling with only carry-on luggage isn’t just a budget-cutting measure; it can also protect you against theft.  I’ve had airport employees attempt to steal items out of my carry-ons as they were going through an x-ray machine while I was watching, so you can only imagine what goes on behind-the-scenes when no one is looking.  Packing light and efficiently allows you to keep an eye on your belongings at all times.  If you’re having trouble fitting everything, try rolling your clothes instead of folding them, “packing” eBooks on your device as opposed to lugging around physical tomes, and paring down the number of shoes you’ll need for a one week vacation.

If you must bring additional luggage that needs to be checked, make sure it does not contain anything valuable or irreplaceable.  Important documents are one example, but you should also be wary of checking laptops or other valuable electronics, expensive jewelry, or prescription drugs that are either expensive or essential to your health.

 

The Fine Art of Couponing

Maybe you’re interesting in the sport of extreme couponing, or maybe you’re just interested in saving some money. Either way, we’ve compiled some great money-saving couponing tips to get your started.

1. Get organized. Buy a mini folder with dividers that fits in your purse. You can divide by category (home, food, baby) or by expiration date by month or week. But, you need to have your clipped coupons accessible at all times.

2. Download the app. Many stores have apps that offer exclusive coupon deals. Or, better yet, download the AnyCodes app from PromoPro. If you turn your location on, it reads your location to let you know what coupons are available in your area, or do a quick search for what you need. The store can just scan your coupon right on your phone.

3. Get weekend subscriptions to several papers. The inserts will prove worth it. Always ask friends and family to save their inserts and start your collection. For some people, the clipping is actually relaxing. It provides a sense of routine and and low stimulation activity that keeps you focused on something non-stressful.

4. Self checkouts sometimes allow more than one coupon. For example, if you use the self checkout at BJs (who offers huge coupons, plus manufacturer coupons), you can use two of the SAME coupon before it cuts you off. It used to allow more, but got wise.

Top Couponing Mistakes (by ABC News)

1. Not reading the fine print. It’s true that some stores restrict coupons, but know the store coupon policies and the fine print on the coupon itself. You can sometime argue a store into accepting your coupon, but only i f you know the policy and can make a case for your coupon.

2. Not taking advantage of “stacking.” Don’t assume one coupon is enough! Manufacturers and stores often offer coupons at the same time. More than one discount can be really satisfying!

3. Thinking the sale is the lowest price. Not so. You can still use a coupon. Think of the sale price as a first step in negotiations with the consumer. Little known fact: sale items are more likely to have a coupon because manufacturers are looking to get aggressive to get the item off the shelf.

4. Buying more doesn’t mean saving more. Many coupons say you must buy 2-4 of the item. If you are to use more than one coupon, you’ll have to double it. Suddenly, you find yourself with six bottles of dish detergent. It’s probably not worth it.

5. Using coupons for products you don’t need. If you don’t eat Dorritos, don’t clip the coupon. Coupons on healthy food are rarer than on junk food. You don’t want to inadvertently create an unhealthy lifestyle just because you have coupons.

 

College Students: Don’t Pay Sticker Price for Textbooks

textbooks

Whether you’re going to school for the first time straight out of high school, or coming back as a non-traditional student for your graduate degree, you’re going to need books.  The price of college has skyrocketed in recent years, and book prices are no exception.  They can easily make or break your collegiate budget, and they’re an added cost on top of what your school bills you for tuition and fees.

The prices are likely going to be worst at your school bookstore, which is of course the first place you look and experience sticker shock.  There are multiple ways to save money, but most of them require that you get a head start on the book-buying process.  The first step, then, is to contact your professor before the semester starts to see if they truly require or use the textbook in class.  Nothing is worse than paying hundreds of dollars for text  you won’t use.  Even if they say yes, they may be compelled to do so by the school, so try to get in touch with students who have recently taken the same course from the same professor for a better picture.

If the answer is yes, implement one of these money-saving options to get your hands on your books for less.

 

Shop Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are probably the most common place to pick up those textbooks at a discount.  Generally they will be gently- to well-used, but the savings is worth the dog-eared pages.  Out of a long list of online marketplaces, we recommend buying on Amazon because of their superior return policy should a seller attempt to scam you, or if they mistakenly list the wrong edition of the same book.

 

Go Electronic

Etextbooks are a relatively new thing.  While generally electronic books are cheaper than their paper counterparts, the price difference hasn’t spread as dramatically to etextbooks.  However, if you are able to find a good sale or use promo codes when you purchase you can save a bundle.  Another thing to consider when purchasing electronically is that not all professors have accepted them as a viable text option.  If you have an open book test, you may run into issues as your professor may not allow you to use your iPad, Kindle, or other handheld device because it also provides you access to the internet.

 

Check Bulletin Boards

Bulletin boards at your school may just be your best friend.  There are students there that have recently taken the same courses as you, and now that they’re done they’re looking to unload their books at a discounted price.  They can usually get more back by selling to other students directly than they would by selling back to the bookstore, and their prices are usually better for you than buying used from the bookstore, as well.  Make sure you have the right edition, but buying off of a physical bulletin board, or one that your school hosts online is a great way to save some cash.

 

When All Else Fails, Head to the Bookstore

Sometimes your school or professor can put you in a tight situation.  Some schools publish their own editions of textbooks, making them impossible to find on online marketplaces.  You may still be able to purchase them off of other students, but the supply and demand is going to be much higher since everyone else will be trying to go the same route.  For some courses you may be able to use another edition if it varies only slightly.  But for courses like math where slight differences will make a big impact on the outcome of your homework, you may have to buckle down and buy from the bookstore.  Prices will be inflated, but if you buy early you should be able to get your hands on one of their used copies for a lower price.

 

Your next big purchase–buy it or rent it?

Renting clothes and accessories is not necessarily a new idea. The first Sex and the City film taught us, among many things, like that it’s okay to wear gladiator pumps with knee socks, that renting Louis Vuitton bags is a thing. The most popular website for bags is BagBorrowOrSteal.com. You can rent in one month increments, actually buy a second hand bag, or sell your own goods. But, buyer beware–your monthly rental can be as  much as a car payment. The average high end bag (Burberry for example), will run you $200 a month. If you’re SUPER fashion savvy and you don’t generally use a bag for more than a month at a time, or you want something very season-specific, this site could work for you. If you’re into trendy looks, this site is also a great idea–it’s rather convenient not to end up with a bin full of past season bags. With the borrow method, you use it and you send it back. No fuss, no muss.

 

You can get a posh bag for $50 a month, too. The site has options. But, if you’re attending an event and you need something for one night only, try RentTheRunway.com. Here, you’ll find your dress, jewelry, shoes and bag all in one shot. You still might spend a few hundred, but if you need to shop from the ground up, it can definitely save you some cash. Here’s the skinny on RTR:

1.Pick your price point and ONLY search in your price point! There are styles available from $35 all the way up to $300. You can get everything from BCBG to Balenciaga.

2. Pick personal choices like color, style, or event type.

3. Do your research. There are tons of user reviews and many of them post pics of themselves in the dress, plus measurements. You need to get the clearest idea as to whether this will fit your body type (and flatter it). Warning: this could take hours. Bonus–many longer styles come in short and tall.

Check to see if you can actually find the dress out there now in internet-land. Some are past season and are for sale at discounts. Then, is it really worth it to rent?  Most looks come with suggested jewelry, shoes and bags. Hit your closet first, but if you need the total look, it couldn’t be more convenient.

What if you hate it? RTR is known for customer service. Since you have to reserve your order to ship close to your event (you only get a week for your rental, and two for extra $$$), they will overnight you a new look free of charge. Another common issue is being unhappy with quality. Remember, some of these dresses have been worn dozens of times. The reviewers often comment on quality, so be sure to read the fine print.

Bonus:  BBorS and RTR offer new shopper discounts. Happy Shopping! Check out this coupon for an additional 20% off at RTR!