International travel: Is it time to dust off the passport?

I’ve been laying low the last five months, my passport safely tucked into my desk drawer awaiting the world’s re-opening.

Like you, I’ve missed travel. Especially as summer winds down, and the sun sets a few minutes later every night, I’ve found myself daydreaming of returning to the proverbial road.

Sure, I’ve been road tripping, camping and entertaining myself domestically as far as my imagination can take me over these months. But there’s nothing that feeds my soul quite like crossing a border.

While most borders across the world are still closed to U.S. passport holders, I’ve not only started to seriously think about when an international trip might be right for me, but I also did something a little crazy this week.

I booked a trip to Mexico for September.

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What is and isn’t possible

Let’s be honest, Mexico was never high on my list of places to travel for 2020. Before COVID-19, my wandering sights were set on exploring much more exotic destinations this year like Uzbekistan, Guyana and the Apulia region of Italy, from which my family migrated.

In a world without a pandemic, my autumn travel plan was to spend late September in the Marquesas islands of French Polynesia, celebrating a big 50th birthday of one of my dearest friends and fellow points collectors.

As things have begun to slowly open up over the last months, my friend and I have had a million conversations discussing if there might be somewhere other than a Zoom birthday party where we could safely celebrate half a century. As you might remember, I have high expectations for celebrating milestone birthdays.

As we’ve contemplated if it’s safe and smart to actually think about international birthday travel right now, we set a few guidelines on our planning:

  • Places far away where we wouldn’t want to get stuck are off limits.
  • Any plans we make have to be fully cancelable.
  • There must be sunshine and water at the destination.
  • We must be able to pay with points.
  • Destinations with a 14-day arrival quarantine won’t work.
  • The Caribbean isn’t an option (if your birthday falls in the middle of an extremely active hurricane season).

With the big birthday getting closer each week, I’ve been paying more attention to possibilities as well as all the deals that keep filling up my inbox. Then, when Hyatt announced their new Work from Hyatt deal this week, it got me thinking: let’s plan a trip to Cabo.

See related: Can we safely return to sleeping in hotels?

How we’ll get there

From Portland, Oregon (my COVID-19 home base), Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is an easy flight. There is plenty of sun and a lot of options to plan a refundable trip on points.

A large percentage of Cabo’s resorts have reopened since June, both requiring mask-wearing in public areas and limiting occupancy to 30%. And while the ban for land crossings at the Mexico-U.S. border has been extended to Sept. 21, air travel between the two countries is not (and has never been) restricted.

The birthday trip is still a month away – and in 2020, almost anything could happen in the next four weeks – but here’s what we’ve got planned:

  • One beautiful week looking at the Pacific Ocean from an oceanfront room at The Cape (a Thompson Hotel).
  • Flights to and from Portland’s PDX to Cabo San Lucas’ SJD (one way on American Airlines miles and one way on Alaska Airlines, using a cash credit from a different trip canceled due to coronavirus).

We picked The Cape because it’s a small boutique resort known for its secluded location, ocean views and amazing copper-plated freestanding tubs in the majority of its rooms. (OK, this wasn’t actually a deciding factor, but I do get very excited about a room with a good bath tub since resort spas are still closed.).

While not a Hyatt property, Thompson Hotels is an independent brand affiliated with Hyatt, meaning you can use your World of Hyatt points for a stay in a smaller, upscale property.

At 25,000 points per night, the five-night reservation came to a total of 125,000 points earned on my World of Hyatt Credit Card. In non-pandemic times I would likely consider that to be a ton of points for a single trip to Mexico, but since I haven’t used a Hyatt point in months (besides for one quick hotel experiment) and because it’s a big birthday celebration, it seems a reasonable redemption. The reservation is also refundable up to 24 hours before arrival.

American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest and United are all currently operating flights into SJD. From Portland’s PDX, I found a good redemption via Phoenix (PHX) on American for 17,500 points and $31 in taxes. As an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite member, I can cancel this award ticket at any time without penalty or fee, so booking it now was pretty risk-free.

Taxes flying out of Mexico back to the U.S. are considerably higher (to the tune of $100-plus), so on this end I opted to book a paid Alaska Airlines flight via San Jose using the balance from this year’s travel refunds. Alaska Airlines has also extended its travel waiver, allowing you to cancel any ticket booked before Sept. 8 for a full credit. Again, I felt like I had nothing to lose.

See related: How to change your travel plans when you booked with rewards

Final thoughts

Am I certain it will be safe to travel to Cabo San Lucas in September? I honestly have no idea. I have, however, future-proofed my plan from the outset, and I know that even if Icho ose to cancel this big birthday booking the day before, I have very little to lose.

I’ll be keeping my eyes on the news in Cabo and make a final decision if I feel comfortable to travel closer to departure. For now, I’m excited to at least have a plan to use my passport again and hope for some September sunshine and horizons.

Source: creditcards.com

My True Travel Insurance Story – A Broken Leg & Surgery in the Dominican Republic

Today, I have a great article written by my sister-in-law and editor, Ariel Gardner. She is sharing her travel insurance review story, and goes in-depth on the travel insurance process. I asked her to write about this because I feel like it’s not really discussed, yet there is a lot to learn! You may have seen her here before talking about taking her side hustle full-time, living in a small house, real life frugality, and more.

Earlier this year, I was enjoying myself on a relaxing Caribbean cruise with one of my best friends.

I had breakfast delivered to my room every morning, drank fancy cocktails in the evening, and barely thought about the travel insurance policy I bought just in case.

On the fourth day of our cruise, we docked in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and disembarked to explore the city. Our group ended up at Fortaleza Ozama, a Spanish fort built in 1502.

We walked up four or five flights of stairs to get a view from the top, and on the first step back down, I fell and broke my leg.

It wasn’t a major fall.

But I twisted my leg in just the right way to end up with a spiral fracture that broke several bones in my ankle, my tibia, and fibula. 

There was so much chaos as we figured out how to handle everything, from whether or not to have surgery in the Dominican Republic and how to fly my husband down.

On top of everything, this was at the beginning of March 2020, just as the U.S. and many other countries were shutting their borders down because of COVID-19.

The impressive Fortaleza Ozama. 

My travel insurance policy went from an afterthought to a necessity as I racked up more than $10,000 of out-of-pocket medical costs and unexpected travel expenses in just a couple of days.

Eight months after this whole ordeal began, I’ve finally got closure. My travel insurance claims are paid, and I had my last visit with the surgeon who fixed my leg with a metal rod and seven screws.

I learned so much about the travel insurance process over these past few months, and I was excited when Michelle asked me to share my experience. 

My biggest takeaway from it all? I will always buy travel insurance when traveling out of the country, and I’m about to explain why.

Related content:

  • How To Travel On A Budget And Still Have The Time Of Your Life
  • How To Take A 10 Day Trip To Hawaii For $22.40
  • Want To Be A Full-Time Traveler? 13 Ways To Make It Happen

My True Travel Insurance Review Story & Why You Should Consider Travel Insurance

 

The cost and details of my travel insurance plan

You can expect travel insurance to cost 5%-10% of your total trip cost. The cost largely depends on what kind of coverage you want, where you’re traveling, length and cost of trip, and your age. 

I decided to purchase a travel insurance plan through Generali Global Assistance because they had high ratings and offered the kind of plan I wanted. 

For $142.68 my trip would be covered under Generali’s Preferred Plan, which offered the following coverage limits:

  • Trip cancellation: 100% of trip cost
  • Trip interruption: 150% of trip cost
  • Travel delay: $1,000 per person
  • Baggage loss: $1,500 per person
  • Sporting equipment: $1,500 per person
  • Sporting equipment delay: $300 per person
  • Missed connection: $750 per person
  • Medical & dental: $150,000 per person
  • Emergency assistance & transportation: $500,000 per person
  • Accidental death & dismemberment (air flight accident): $75,000 per person/$150,000 per plan
  • Accidental death & dismemberment (travel accident): $25,000 per person/$50,000 per plan

There were a few aspects of this plan that I was really concerned about, including trip cancellation and interruption. I was leaving for a cruise as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting the U.S., and there was a real possibility something might happen to my travel plans.

Cruising at the start of a global pandemic wasn’t an awesome idea, but luckily no one on our ship showed signs or tested positive for COVID-19 after getting back to the states.

My plan offered “cancel for any reason” coverage for trip cancellation and interruption. This is the most comprehensive kind of coverage – you’re reimbursed for a portion of your costs no matter what your reasons are – but it’s a little more expensive. 

Medical coverage wasn’t a huge priority to me because I assumed the chances of getting hurt were pretty slim. This is laughable now.

Despite feeling like medical coverage wasn’t necessary, the reason I got travel insurance (with higher medical coverage) was because of a story an acquaintance told me a few years earlier.

This woman had gone on a 10-day cruise in the Mediterranean, and her esophagus spontaneously ruptured a few days into the cruise. This is an incredibly serious condition that will result in death if it’s not immediately treated.

When the cruise ship doctor realized what was happening, they ordered a helicopter to medivac her to the closest hospital. I can’t remember which country she ended up in, but between surgery, complications, and recovery, she ended up in the hospital for two months.

She paid $450 for a premium travel insurance plan, and it covered all of the $1,000,000+ expenses she incurred. From health care, medivac, trip interruption costs, and flights back and forth for her husband.

With that story stuck in my head, my worst-case-scenario mindset kicked in and told me to buy travel insurance for my cruise.

 

What my travel insurance actually covered

I’ve broken my ankle before and the treatment is pretty straightforward and easy. Slap a boot on your leg and be on your way. This break was worse, and being in a foreign country complicated things.

First of all, I sustained an open fracture. That means my tibia bone broke through my skin, which puts you at risk of infection. Had it been a closed break, maybe I could have gotten back on the cruise ship, had the onboard doctor set my leg, and cruise back on painkillers until I got home.

Open fractures need to be treated with surgery as soon as possible so the wound can be cleaned out. Surgery meant that I would not be getting back on the cruise ship. 

There was a lot of debate about where to take me – the Dominican Republic has a very different health system. It was decided that the best care would come from a private clinic. 

The clinic required a deposit of 80,000 Dominican Pesos (DOP) before I could be treated. The exchange rate varies day-to-day, but this equals $1,369 at the time of writing.

I was put on an IV drip for antibiotics, given IV painkillers, was x-rayed, had an electrocardiogram, and was prepped for surgery. The surgery to clean out the wound was quick, but it still required anesthesia. 

The surgeon said I also needed an ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) to fix my leg. This is where they fix your break with a rod and screws. It’s not a complicated surgery, but after talking with some people back home, and with a doctor friend who was traveling in our group, we decided it was best to wait until I was back in the U.S. for the ORIF surgery. 

After the surgery to clean out the wound, the surgeon ordered me to stay in the clinic for two days before it was safe for me to fly home. I spent that visit on more IV antibiotics and painkillers. After the deposit was applied to the total, my stay was another 357,000 DOP or $6,110.

Between just having surgery and the fact that my broken leg wasn’t fully fixed, I couldn’t just fly home by myself. The surgeon in the Dominican Republic said I needed a travel companion to help me fly home, so my husband booked a flight and came out the day after my surgery. His flight was $400.

The surgeon ordered two things to fly home safely: an ambulance to transfer me to the hospital and first-class flights home to give me enough room for my bandaged leg. Side note: this was the first time I’ve ever flown first class, and I’d love to do it again when I can appreciate it. At least my husband got to enjoy the complimentary Bloody Marys.

Those tickets weren’t cheap. Not only was it first class, it was a last minute, one-way flight at the start of a global pandemic. We paid $1,275 for each ticket.

The ambulance ride to the airport was 7,600 DOP or $130. We paid the drivers in cash plus a tip. They were amazing, by the way. Neither of them spoke English and we don’t speak Spanish, so we spent the 30 minute drive communicating via Google Translate.

Because I was wheelchair-bound at this point, we would need more time in the airport, and our ambulance ride was going slower than expected. The driver knew we were pressed for time and drove over the grassy median into oncoming traffic to get us to the airport in time. Probably not the safest move, but it worked.

They were so sweet and even wanted to take a picture with us because, as they said, “You’ll want to remember this day!” 

Omg, the compression sock and three-day old outfit is a look. What you can’t see is that I was also traveling with a catheter in because I was completely immobilized. Definitely won’t forget that day!

Between my husband’s flight to the Dominican Republic, our first-class tickets home, and the ambulance ride, that was an additional $3,080.

Here’s what travel insurance covered from those costs:

  • $1,369 deposit for the clinic
  • $6,110 for surgery and hospital stay
  • $2,550 for two flights home to the U.S.

=$10,029 total costs reimbursed

Travel insurance didn’t cover my husband’s $400 flight to the Dominican Republic – they said it wasn’t part of emergency assistance and transportation. Their reasoning was that someone already in the Dominican Republic could have flown home with me.

We also claimed $200 for the flight I would have taken home from Florida after the cruise, and this was denied too because I paid for it with credit card points. Some travel insurance offers reimbursements for points, but Generali’s plan didn’t. We tried to claim it knowing they might deny it.

The other cost travel insurance denied was the $130 ambulance ride from the clinic to the airport. The problem was that the receipt wasn’t dated. 

That’s $730 that I wasn’t reimbursed for.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the cost of the cruise and getting reimbursed for the part of the trip I wasn’t able to take. Long story short, my friend was part of the cruise’s entertainment and the organizers covered my ticket because I was going as her guest. 

The cruise organizers have their own insurance to deal with that claim. Had I paid for the cruise, then I would have submitted that loss to my travel insurance company. Make sense?

All in all, my $142.68 travel insurance policy saved me more than $10,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

 

Will my health insurance cover medical costs when I travel?

It’s unlikely that your domestic health insurance plan will cover medical care outside of the U.S. If your plan does cover anything, it will only be for very, very emergent situations. 

For example, my broken leg was a serious enough injury that I needed emergency surgery in a foreign country. I had to leave my friends and my belongings on the cruise ship and stay in a hospital for two days.

My health insurance company (Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield) did not consider this an emergency situation – it was only deemed urgent. 

This is how my insurance company describes emergency care: if the injury is severe enough that it places “the Member’s physical and or mental health in serious jeopardy; serious impairment to bodily functions; or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.”

I recommend calling your health insurance company and asking about their policy on international travel, but realize that it probably won’t offer the kind of coverage you’re looking for.

 

What about the travel protections offered by my credit card?

Not all credit cards come with travel protections, but some of the more popular travel cards (like the Chase Sapphire cards and American Express Platinum card) do offer it. Important point: you will have to book your trip using that card to qualify for coverage.

The other thing about the coverage that comes with your credit card is that it’s fairly limited when you compare it to third-party travel insurance. 

The most common kind of coverage through your credit card is for baggage delays, trip delays, trip interruption, emergency trip cancellation, accidental death and dismemberment, and auto rental collision damage cover.

But you probably won’t get the kind of coverage you need if you, say, break your leg in the Dominican Republic.

I have three credit cards that are considered travel cards, and none of them would have covered what my travel insurance did.

The Points Guy has a really good article that explains more: When to Buy Travel Insurance vs. When to Rely on Credit Card Protections.

 

What about flight insurance?

Most airlines offer a limited form of travel insurance, and limited is key.

I’m sure you’ve seen the pop up when you enter your payment information for your flights. Something like, “Do you want to spend $25 on coverage to protect your flight from cancellation or delays?” 

Seems like a good deal, and I’ve bought it before when I didn’t understand what it covers. The coverage airlines offer does not include medical care, lost luggage, and it’s not “cancel for any reason” coverage. 

 

When should you buy travel insurance?

You now know that you can’t rely on your health insurance in a foreign country, your credit card doesn’t offer comprehensive coverage, and flight insurance is meh

That’s why I highly recommend travel insurance if you’re traveling out of the United States. Experts will offer the same advice for these reasons:

1.You’re concerned about medical expenses

Travel medical insurance is similar to your domestic health insurance, and it’s honestly the main reason experts recommend travel insurance. Without it, a medical emergency in a foreign country could devastate your finances. Most policies have limitations for pre-existing conditions, but you can shop around and find coverage for pre-existing conditions.

2. You want coverage for your baggage and personal belongings

It’s not uncommon to travel with some pretty expensive stuff. It adds up quickly when you think about the combined value of your laptop, tablet, cell phone, camera, jewelry, etc. 

Travel insurance may cover these things if they’re lost or damaged. I say “may” because most policies expect that you’re not being reckless with your belongings. For example, you’re not leaving your laptop unattended in the hotel lobby. 

You should ask about high-value things like your wedding rings because there will be some limitations to the coverage. Better yet, leave your expensive jewelry at home.

Some policies have additional coverage for things like golf clubs, ski equipment, and hunting or fishing gear. They might even offer coverage if you miss days for skiing or golfing, or even pay for rental gear if yours is lost or delayed in transit.

3. You’re an adventurous traveler

There are risks with all kinds of travel – my husband cut off the tip of his finger during a relaxing beach vacation in the Bahamas, and he was only chopping green onions. But there are some kinds of vacations where you’ll encounter more risks.

Hiking through the jungle, ziplining, parasailing, surfing, caving, etc., those are all things that can increase your chances of getting hurt. World Nomads is one of a few travel insurance companies that covers extreme sports.

4. You want to be able to cancel your trip for any reason

Things come up. Maybe you didn’t apply for your passport soon enough, your pet gets sick, you have a financial emergency, you’re traveling during a global pandemic, etc. If you want the option to cancel your trip for any reason, travel insurance can help. 

I’ve said this already, but not all policies are considered “cancel for any reason” or CFAR. Most CFAR policies don’t cover 100% of your prepaid and nonrefundable travel expenses – it’s more like 50% to 75%. 

These policies are more expensive and cover less than people expect, so do your research. Most companies offer CFAR as an add-on, but they’re expensive and cover less than people expect. 

5. You might need to come home early

A friend of mine had to leave his honeymoon early because his new father-in-law landed in the hospital with a life threatening illness. It’s a good thing they came home because the father-in-law passed away a few days after they got back. Travel insurance reimbursed him for the rest of his honeymoon and their last-minute plane tickets.

All in all, travel insurance is peace of mind. You can’t control what happens, but you can reduce a lot of the financial stress associated with emergency scenarios.

 

Traveling with travel insurance

Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have your travel insurance policy printed and stored somewhere you can easily access. It should stay on you when you’re away from your hotel, cruise ship, etc.

Because I didn’t have my policy on me, someone had to go back to the cruise ship, find it, and bring it back. 

It’s also not a bad idea to send a copy of your policy plus your itinerary to someone back home. They can quickly hop on the claims process without needing to get login information or policy numbers from you.

 

What to expect when you file a travel insurance claim

I won’t lie, dealing with the claims process was extremely frustrating. My husband was super stressed waiting for us to be reimbursed for our out-of-pocket expenses. He called and emailed every couple of weeks to make sure things were still moving forward.

We had to re-submit paperwork twice, our entire claim was denied the first time (I will explain why in a minute), and it took a full seven months before our claim was paid.

What I didn’t realize is that what we went through is more common than you would expect. Travel insurance companies are very specific with how they accept paperwork and the process for filing claims. 

Here’s what you need to know about the claims process:

  • File your claim ASAP. This gets the ball rolling, you’ll be fresh on the details, and most companies require you to submit claims within a 90-day window.
  • Everything needs to be submitted electronically. You’ll have to take pictures of your receipts or scan them. Pictures need to be crystal clear (this is why I had to resubmit paperwork). 
  • Medical claims need to go to your health insurance company first. Because your health insurance might cover the expenses, you’ll need to submit it to them first. My travel insurance claim was denied at first because we didn’t have an official denial from my health insurance company.
  • Keep any document related to your travel costs or emergency expenses. Even if it seems redundant or useless, keep it. A handwritten note in broken English is why insurance covered our expensive flights home, and we almost didn’t submit it.
  • Your claim will take longer than you expect to process. It can take a minimum of three months for your claim to be processed, and this feels like forever if you’re waiting to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs.

I know it’s hard, but be patient. You can always email your claims agent if you have questions or want to be reassured that they’re working on your claim.

 

Should you buy travel insurance?

Moving forward, I will always be buying travel insurance when I leave the country. It’s an extra expense we’ll have to budget for and build into the total cost of our vacations. 

What I went through is pretty small, but the majority of our cash savings would have been wiped out without travel insurance. 

It was really scary being injured in a foreign country where I didn’t know the language. You can’t put a price on this, but believing that the majority of my expenses would be covered helped me get through those couple of days until I got home. Okay, painkillers really helped too.

But the point is, travel insurance is peace of mind. Buying it is a choice, but I hope you realize what a beneficial choice it can be in the long run.

Do you usually buy travel insurance? Do you have anything that you’d like me to add to this travel insurance review?

The post My True Travel Insurance Story – A Broken Leg & Surgery in the Dominican Republic appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

The Less You Own, The Less That Owns You

The less you own, the less that owns you. Minimalist living has changed my life for the better. If you are interested in having a minimalist house and life, then you must read this!I haven’t always been a minimalist, nor have I always been interested in minimalist living. I used to purchase crazy amounts of clothing, random items for my home, wasn’t interested in becoming a minimalist, and so on.

I hoarded lots of items, hoping that one day I would find a use for them. I often thought that I needed things, so I would purchase crazy amounts of them even though I should have put my money to better use.

Then, around two years ago, I realized that I had too much stuff and that I had an unhealthy relationship with material things.

Over the past two years, I have donated or given away the majority of my belongings. I now pretty much only have the things I need to get me through the day or week ahead. There is no extra, and before I purchase anything, I always think about what use I’ll get out of it.

After all, I travel full-time and there’s only so much I can carry. Plus, getting rid of the majority of my belongings has been hard, stressful, and tiring, and I definitely don’t want to experience that ever again!

I know that not everyone wants to be a minimalist. And, I’m not pushing it on anyone. I know that buying stuff isn’t all bad, and there are many material things that make life easier and better.

Instead, I want to introduce people to the idea of minimalist living, especially since the average person has lots of extra stuff in their lives that they don’t need. This can lead to debt, buying things just to impress others, wasting time, and so on.

Plus, being a minimalist has changed my life for the better, and I believe that it can help others as well.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking the things I bought and spending all of my money on new things, but I am far from that now.

It’s easy to get lost in the idea of spending money on things to fill your life, and the average home size has changed to make it only easier to feel like you have to buy more than you need. Consider this, the average home size in 1950 was less than 1,000 square feet. Fast forward to 2013, the average home size has increased to nearly 2,600 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Clearly, we used to make due with less, and there are still many reasons for minimalist living:

  • Minimalist living can help you save more money. Minimalist living most likely means that you’ll be buying less stuff. Instead, you’ll only buy what you want and what you truly need.
  • Minimalist living means less clutter. Clutter can take over a person’s life. You may feel stressed out, tired, like your things are taking over your life, and more.
  • Minimalist living can give you more time. By living with less stuff, you can spend less time on cleaning, maintenance, and repairs. The more things you have, the more things that you’ll need to clean, maintain, and repair. Just think about what you could do with all of that extra time!

Here is how minimalist living has changed my life:

 

Clothing doesn’t define me.

By being a minimalist, I’ve definitely realized that I don’t need much in order to be happy. Before, I thought that I needed all the clothing in the world in order to be happy, but now I know that I really don’t need much.

In fact, I hardly ever purchase clothing, and I’ve been wearing nearly the same things for several years.

For me, it’s all about buying things that are more “classic,” won’t go out of style, things that I actually like instead of what’s trendy for that month, and so on.

It feels great when you realize that you don’t need all of that extra stuff in your life.

Instead, purchase what you want and need, rather than thinking about keeping up with others all the time or thinking that emotional spending is something that will help you.

 

Minimalist living gives me more time.

Minimalist living allows me to have more time to spend on other things.

Just think about it: The more things you have, then the more time you have to spend on using it, maintaining it, repairing it, cleaning it, and so on.

I would much rather live with less than think about all of the things that I own that need work done to them!

Related blog posts about minimalist living:

  • What I Learned By Donating And Giving Away Nearly All Of My Stuff
  • Downsizing Your Home? Here’s How I Went From A 2,000 Square Foot House To An RV
  • Minimalism 101: One Thing a Day
  • Maintaining a Minimalist Wardrobe
  • How I Live in a 400 Sq. Ft. House – My Minimalist Home
  • How I Live On A Sailboat
  • Why Paying For A Storage Unit Is A Waste of Money

 

With minimalist living, I’ve realized that I don’t need much.

Before I was a minimalist, I kept a lot of things because I thought I needed them for the future. On a regular basis, I probably only used around 25% of the things I had in my house.

In reality, it was probably even less than the 25% figure that I just said above.

I know I’m not alone, and many people keep items because they think they might need them in the future. You know the feeling– you buy something, don’t use it right away, and years later you find it but just can’t throw it away in case there is some circumstance where you need that exact item.

If this is you, then you should put a timeline of no more than one year on the item. If you don’t use it in that timeframe, then there’s a big chance that you’ll never need it or will even miss it that much.

Instead of buying items that you rarely use, you may want to think about renting or borrowing them from someone else.

When I think about how much stuff we gave away, I honestly can’t even remember half of the things. I realize now how little we really needed, and those things definitely did not make me happy if I can’t even remember them!

 

I save more money by living with less stuff.

Now that we live with less stuff, we are able to save a great deal of money. Instead of thinking that we need everything that exists, we are now much more realistic about our needs and realize that there’s a lot of clutter in the stores that no one really needs at all.

Plus, now that I realize how much money I’ve wasted over the years, I am able to say “no” at the store when debating about whether or not I should purchase a certain item, especially one that might create clutter.

I can also walk into a store and only buy exactly what I need, even if that store is Target!

I have so much more control over my spending and that has saved me a lot of money.

Related:

  • 30+ Ways To Save Money Each Month
  • How To Save Money – My Best Money Saving Tips
  • 8 Things To Sell To Make Money
  • Are You Making Your Life Difficult? 18 Ideas To Simplify Your Life
  • How To Reach Your 2018 Goals

 

I understand now that I don’t need things to make me happy.

Having more things doesn’t make you a happier person. Things don’t make you a better person, they don’t make you more successful than others, or anything else.

In fact, in many circumstances it’s far from that.

I know this because I have less stuff than I have ever had, and I am happier than ever.

Plus, when was the last time you heard someone say “I’m so glad I bought all those pairs of pants 35 years ago!” or “I’m so glad I had all of those things decades ago!”

You should only own something if you truly want or need it. Who cares about what everyone else has!

 

A minimalist house allows me to travel.

Unless I maintain my minimalist lifestyle and house (well, RV), then I wouldn’t be able to travel full-time. It would be quite hard and not nearly as enjoyable if I had a bunch of things holding me back.

I really, really love and enjoy being able to travel full-time, and it is one of the best benefits of living minimally.

Do you think minimalist living could change your life? Why or why not?

 

The post The Less You Own, The Less That Owns You appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Escape your home for a safe holiday staycation

With the 2020 holidays upon us, it’s likely you’ve spent some time considering how you’ll have a COVID-safe celebration. Should you stay? Should you go? Is travel to your family even an option this year as some states impose new travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine periods?

Perhaps for safety’s sake, you’ve decided to stay put. But you also recognize that being “home for the holidays” doesn’t have the same cozy appeal as it used to when you’ve already been home working from home for months on end. What you might need is a staycation – the getaway for when you can’t get away.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Stephanie a question.

Get away for the holidays without going away

Traditionally, when we think about holiday travel, we’re most likely planning how to get ourselves to a faraway destination – whether that’s to see family across the country, or to flee from some combination of family, holiday hustles and winter weather.

This year, I’ve personally decided I won’t be among the holiday crowds attempting to fly on the busiest travel days of the year. Instead, I’ll be sticking closer to home, celebrating in my own city with a staycation – and testing a theory that there is no place like a Hyatt for the holidays.

If you’re planning to stay close to home like me, here’s some good news: Your credit card points work just as well for living it up in luxury in your hometown as they do when you’re on the road.

Some more good news: You’ll save lots of points and dollars by not flying anywhere this holiday – so go ahead and book the suite!

How to use your credit card points to book a staycation

If you live in or near a city, finding a hotel to tuck into for a few days over the holiday period should be pretty straightforward.

To plan a staycation, I normally start by checking what’s available near me by searching the website for each of the hotel groups in whose loyalty programs I participate.

Here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I found plenty of options at varying price points when I looked up Marriott, IHG, Hilton and Hyatt – the four hotel programs in which I currently have points.

For example, a few weeks ago, I decided to take an early holiday staycation at the Hyatt Centric Downtown Portland. I chose the hotel because of its location right in the middle of the city, and because Hyatt has a 25% points-back offer on award stays and free parking for The World of Hyatt Credit Card holders through the end of the year.

I paid 30,000 World of Hyatt points for a two-night stay, got 7,500 points back, and got upgraded to a suite thanks to my World of Hyatt elite status. Without points, the suite would have cost $355 dollars a night – plus the free valet parking saved me another $47 a day. I was able to get a $804 value for 22,500 rewards points. Even though I was less than two miles from my actual house, I felt a world away.

How to use travel rewards to book a staycation

If you don’t already have a hotel-branded rewards credit card for earning points in a specific hotel program like World of Hyatt, or if you live in a location where there aren’t many chain hotels, you’ll likely have more luck booking a staycation using travel rewards points.

You can book directly through the respective program’s travel planning portal. Flexible bank programs include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points.

Once you find a hotel you want to visit, and before you make the booking, you’ll want to check to make sure the hotel amenities that excite you for your staycation are going to be open and accessible.

Other than being snuggled up in a warm bed that I didn’t make myself, the best part of my staycation weekend at the Hyatt Centric Portland was the food.

Masia, the hotel’s signature restaurant designed by Portland’s award-winning Spanish chef Jose Chesa, was finally open and serving after a long COVID closure. Since I live in a city where indoor dining still hasn’t made a full comeback (and is now taking a pause for the holiday season), it was a rather delightful experience to spend two mornings lingering over a long breakfast.

If you’re booking more than a week in advance, you should also make sure your reservation is flexible or cancelable should your own plans change, or the COVID regulations in your state or county change and require the hotel to amend their offerings.

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Did You Know that Amazon Has a Secret Luxury Site?

Amazon’s best-kept secret is out. VRSNL, (short for “versional”), has been quietly selling luxury fashion items since September 2019. A total of 30 designers are currently on the VRSNL roster, including Alexander McQueen, Balmain, Prada and Jimmy Choo. What distinguishes VRSNL is a section called “The Remix,” which features original editorial content that tells stories behind the brands and designers. The retailer also has an app, which allows today’s trendsetters to shop wherever, whenever.

The post Did You Know that Amazon Has a Secret Luxury Site? first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

Newly Renovated, 1915-Built Townhouse in Park Slope Asks $4.4 Million

A four-bedroom townhouse with park views and tons of charm has recently hit the market, and we’re dying to tell you all about it. The listing, brought to market by Compass’ Michael J. Franco, is right next to Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s second largest park, and has plenty of outdoor space (and a rooftop deck to boot).

The townhouse sits in one of Brooklyn’s trendiest, most desirable neighborhoods — Park Slope — with its leafy streets lined with brick and brownstone townhouses, many of which were built near the turn of the 20th century and have been lovingly updated over the decades by young families migrating from Manhattan. Much like its neighboring properties, the 2,600-square-foot townhome at 15 Prospect Park was originally built more than a century ago in 1915 and retains its old-world charm — but has been carefully updated to meet modern standards of living.

beautiful townhouse in prospect park, Brooklyn
Park Slope townhouse on the market for $4.4 million. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco

With 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a generously sized living room, and a finished basement, the Brooklyn townhouse also comes with a few rare features for a New York home: ample outdoor space and private parking (that includes a private garage and its own driveway).

The layout is split on three levels, with the first floor housing a large living room and open dining room — both with distinctive pre-war features like classic moldings and arches — and a renovated kitchen that opens up to a lovely terrace.

inside a beautiful pre-war townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn
Beautiful living space with distinctive pre-war features like arches and moldings. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
dining room of a pre-war townhouse in park slope, Brooklyn
Beautiful living space with distinctive pre-war features like arches and moldings. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
renovated kitchen in Brooklyn townhouse
The renovated kitchen. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
lovely terrace of a pre-war townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn
The Park Slope townhouse has a lovely terrace. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco

The second floor is home to 3 bedrooms and a sizeable landing which is perfect for either a library or a home office, while the third floor is dedicated to the primary bedroom suite and its massive walk-in closet, renovated bath with skylights and soaring ceilings, with a separate sitting area/den. The third level also provides access to the townhouse’s own rooftop deck, which adds more outdoor space and looks like a perfect place to entertain guests.

bedroom of a charming brooklyn townhouse in park slope
Bedroom opens up to Prospect Park views. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
bathroom with skylight in brooklyn townhouse
 Renovated bath with skylights and soaring ceilings. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
roof deck of a brooklyn townhouse in park slope
Rooftop deck of the $4.4 million townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco

The property is listed for $4,400,000 with Compass associate real estate broker Michael J. Franco.

More beautiful New York City homes

This Brooklyn Condo Has a Dreamy Backyard that Will Make You Forget You’re in the City
Trophy Apartment Once Owned by Composer Leonard Bernstein Asks $29.5 Million
These 5 Unique Listings Will Remind You of Everything that Makes NYC Real Estate Special
This $16M NYC Penthouse Has Unobstructed Views of Central Park and the Manhattan Skyline

The post Newly Renovated, 1915-Built Townhouse in Park Slope Asks $4.4 Million appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

8 Money-Saving Tips for Improving Your Bathroom’s Design

I don’t know about you, but for me, a bathroom goes well beyond its practical uses; within the past years, I’ve come to think about it as a sanctuary of sorts, that room of the house that’s dedicated to pampering, relaxing, and deconnecting — a place where I can enjoy some alone time and use that alone time to take care of my skin, hair, body, and mind.

And just like any other space in my house, the more beautiful my bathroom is, the more I can enjoy the time I spend in it. But re-designing a bathroom or remodeling it altogether is quite an investment. That’s why today we’re going to look at a few handy ways in which we can improve our bathroom’s design without having to spend a ton of money in the process. Here are some tips to help you maximize your bathroom’s function and style while saving money — both on the short and long run:

#1 Choose décor materials wisely

When designing your bathroom, one of the most important things to take into consideration is choosing the right materials. And I’m not talking about the tile (which we all know ceramic is the way to go); but rather furniture and appliances. Since this space is expected to be exposed to water, humidity, and moisture, it’s best to use waterproof materials for all furniture, décor items, and appliances.

For example, solid wood or plywood may not be a good choice for furniture, as it will likely warp and crack (and it can even lead to mold). Instead, a way better — and longer-lasting — choice would be PVC, which is extremely durable, completely waterproof and offers a great look and feel as well for bathroom cabinets. When buying blinds for your bathroom windows, choose waterproof blinds because they are stain and mold resistant, as well as fade-free. When picking appliances, make sure to avoid any metal that might rust, and preferably stay away from plastic; some of your best choices are brass, stainless steel, and zinc (or zinc alloys), as they stand the test of time and add a note of style to your bathroom.

Overall, focus on materials that can withstand humidity and water. This way, you don’t have to spend money replacing them and you can rest assured that your bathroom will maintain its clean and brand-new look over the years.

#2 Widen and brighten your space with mirrors

Instead of adding a skylight or a new window to brighten a rather gloomy bathroom (which would call for a pricy renovation), consider using a large mirror, re-painting your walls in a light color, or adding extra light fixtures. These can all help create the illusion of space, making your bathroom look wider and brighter. Obviously, this technique is much more affordable than having to install an additional window to your bathroom space and you’d be surprised at how much of a difference adding a large mirror can make.

If you feel like you don’t have the space to add an additional mirror to your bathroom, consider replacing the mirror above your vanity with a far larger one. Bonus tip: choosing an unusual shape or a unique frame for the vanity mirror (like the one in the image below) can give an impressive look to your bathroom, and act as the centerpiece of the room.

bathroom vanity with large, unique mirror

#3 Update by regrouting

If you’re looking to update your bathroom quickly and on a tight budget, consider replacing the existing tile grout. Regrouting is a two-step manual process by which you first remove the hardened old grout from the seams, or joints, between the tiles in your bathroom, then apply fresh new grout to make it seem like you have just installed your tiles (here’s a full walkthrough of the process). You’d be surprised how big of a difference this fairly simple update can make — especially since tiles rarely show signs of wear and tear, but the grout’s initial color fades away, and often gives a sense that it’s dirty, discolored and old.

This idea works best if the tiles in your space are still in great shape, that is, they don’t have cracks or missing pieces. Although it may take a bit of work, it’s surely faster and cheaper than a major bathroom overhaul. Fresh grout will make the tiled area look brand new, and you can even apply a new grout color to make a more dramatic change to your bathroom. 

pink bathroom tiles

#4 Get creative with designer tiles

Now, if you’re looking to add a splash of sophistication to your shower or bathroom tiles, but don’t have the budget to splurge on designer tiles, there’s a super easy trick you can turn to: use regular, budget friendly tiles across the walls of your bathroom, then add a pop of design and color in a small area using more expensive designer tiles. 

Or, you can keep it simple and use classic tiles, but arrange them in an unusual pattern or install them at an angle to create an eye-catching effect. If you’re looking for the maximum effect, create an accent wall (preferably right where either the shower or bathroom vanity go, to highlight that space), like the one pictured below. It won’t cost as much as replacing all of your bathroom tiles, but will definitely give your space a great, updated look.

bathroom shower tiles

#5 Try to avoid current trends

We all like to think that we’re aligned with the latest trends and fads. But the truth of the matter is, the best way to waste money is to follow fads that in a couple of years will seem so outdated that you’ll feel the need to renovate your bathroom all over again. You can make your design last way longer if you’ll use natural finishes and neutral colors.

Classics also tend to be considerably less expensive than their trending counterparts, and they’re much more likely to stand the test of time. See below for a marble-themed bathroom that was all the rage a few years back, but that seems a little out of place in the more minimalist-inclined era that we live in today.

marble bathroom with gold fixtures

#6 Use traditional finishes

This goes hand in hand with our last point: using fancy fixtures and embellishments on your faucets and cabinet hardware may seem like a good way to add some personality, but they can turn out to be rather costly without having the desired effect over the years. These kinds of fixtures are pricier than standard ones and their unusual colors, trimmings, and shapes can be more difficult to match with the rest of the décor — and limit any improvements you might decide to make in the near future.

Because of this, you may be forced to buy new coordinating pieces, too. However, if you’ll stick with traditional finishes, it will be simpler for you to create a cohesive look while still sticking to your budget. 

bathroom sink and fixtures

#7 Re-use old furniture to create a unique look

If you have an old desk, table, dresser, or TV stand, consider using it in your bathroom (provided it can withstand humidity and isn’t easily prone to water damage, as we’ve stated above). Repurposing old furniture will give you a chance to show your personality while adding much-needed bathroom storage. Consider doing this as a DIY project, which can help you save money while also being earth-friendly. 

Not sure how to fit old furniture with your bathroom décor? Repurposing doesn’t mean using the piece of furniture in the same way it was intended by its makers; so you can get as creative as you want, by say turning an old desk into a vanity, parts of a table into shelves, an old painting frame into a mirror frame, you name it. See below for a great example of how this stunning bathroom with matching his and hers vanities uses old crates to frame the bathtub.

elegant bathroom with matching his and hers vanities

#8 Refinish rather than replace

Replacing bathroom elements will usually require removing or replacing plumbing fixtures, which comes with additional costs. It can also involve construction changes, demolition work, and new installation. Before deciding on replacing any of these fixtures, determine if they really need replacement. If you’re replacing them for aesthetic reasons, you might have the option to refinish them instead of replacing them altogether. 

For example, you can refinish your old tub with a nice-looking, protective coating instead of completely replacing it. You can also paint your cabinet anew instead of purchasing a new one — and you can even get creative with the color you use. Check out this elegant bathroom below, whose owners chose to refinish the bathtub and paint it in a slight pinkish hue. Isn’t it just lovely?

pink bathtub in elegant bathroom

Final thoughts

The bathroom is one part of the house that needs some upgrading every now and then, and said upgrades can turn out to be quite expensive. However, with some rather small, but well-thought changes, you can spruce up your bathroom design without spending a pretty penny. And if our suggestions are not to your liking, there’s tons of helpful resources out there that can give you some great ideas to get you started.

More interior design tips

Here’s Everything You Need to Set Up a Meditation Corner in Your House
How to Turn Your Kitchen Into Every Coffee Lover’s Dream
Design Trends that Add Extra Flair to Your Fancy Home
How to Add a Touch of Luxury to Your Home without a Costly Renovation

The post 8 Money-Saving Tips for Improving Your Bathroom’s Design appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Luxury Real Estate Trends to Watch in 2020 

What will 2020 bring?  These four trends are expected to impact luxury buying and selling in the new year and decade ahead. 

1. Luxury Housing Holds Steady

This year, expect “guarded optimism” to replace last year’s uncertainty over fears about a global economic slowdown, a U.S.-China trade war and a potential U.S. recession, according to Mansion Global. This is encouraging news for luxury real estate, which has traditionally been tied to global economic growth, yet is generally more insulated from market fluctuations. Many U.S. luxury housing meccas are generally stable, while some high-end hotspots like Los Angeles and Miami could be poised to rise or make a comeback in 2020. 

2. The Rise of the Mid-Sized Luxury Market 

When realtor.com released its annual list of the hottest markets last December, surprise cities like Boise, McAllen, Texas and Tucson topped the list. “The cities that we expect to do best in 2020 are not necessarily big, fancy, coastal cities, but secondary markets where the job market is still pretty good but housing is affordable,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist of realtor.com. Affluent buyers from high-cost cities want a good deal as much as anyone — so we expect to see midsized cities with stable and solid economies and more affordable housing as the top performers in 2020. 

3. Less Square Footage

“Less” is becoming “more” — even in the highest price segments. Consistent with NAHB data that found the average new single-family home size has been trending lower since 2015, realtors in some luxury markets are reporting that a growing number of affluent buyers are willing to “trade space for place.” This is especially true in the luxury condo segment, where buyers are increasingly getting flexible on square footage if a building has amenities or hospitality programs attached to it. 

4. Urbanization of the ‘Burbs, Emergence of ‘Hipsturbias’

People are moving back to the cities, it’s true — but as millennials start families another phenomenon has emerged, according to Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2020, a report released by Urban Land Institute and PwC: “hipsturbias.” Hipsturbias are suburban markets with hip or cool live/work/play environments offering walkability and/or transit access. Brooklyn is a prototype, but hipsturbia examples are beginning to crop up across the U.S. — from New Jersey communities such as Hoboken, Maplewood, and Summit, to New York’s Yonkers and New Rochelle, to Evanston, Illinois and further out west — Santa Clara, California, and Tempe, Arizona. 

Which trend do you see impacting your community?

The post Luxury Real Estate Trends to Watch in 2020  first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com