As a finance professional I spend a lot of time thinking about money. Where it comes from, where it goes, how to earn it, what to do with what you earn, etc, etc.
With all the time I spend thinking about money and what to do with it I don’t get to spend as much time talking about what I really like about money: How to keep more of it. Everyday I talk to people who want more money through higher returns, higher salaries or some sort of windfall like a lottery, inheritance or discovering a Stradivarius in the attic. The huge opportunity missed by nearly everyone I talk to is the opportunity to save more of the money they have and therefore have more money!
This blog will be a journal of my attempts to do just that and in the process help as many people as possible do the same.
What is the best save I have found lately? How about and Olympic sized saving of over $600.00 on a hotel room?
How I did it starts our journey demonstrating how with a little work you can save a lot more of the money your have.
I am among the lucky ( If you consider it lucky to have your children and grandchildren pay off billions in debt for a two week party ) residents of British Columbia who recently had the Olympic games in our backyard. Despite my concerns about the money spent to host the games I gave in to the urge to go. Yet giving in to the urge didn’t mean I was going to add to my personal debt load to enjoy these games.
Now the question became how to make this trip without breaking the bank and not feeling like we were the poor relations come for a visit.
The 3 main costs of this trip were
1) Accommodation – Rooms, if available, were going for between $500 – $1000 for Saturday night for regular 3 to 4 star rooms. I snagged an $800 per night two bedroom suite for $200.00 even with Priceline.com and skoosh.com telling me there was nothing available.
2) Transportation – Living on an Island the fastest and most expensive way to get to Vancouver would have been to fly. Not in the cards as there is no way I am paying $200 per person for a 13 minute flight each way. The fastest and most time consuming would be to go as walk on passengers on the Ferry and take public transit. We took the middle ground boarding the ferry as foot passenger and by Tour Bus tickets once on the Ferry to get us into Downtown Vancouver.
3) Food – This can easily destroy and semblance of a holiday budget when even eating at a fast food restaurant runs a family of 4 about $30.
I initially thought our options on this one very limited. We tried contacting family but mysteriously no one got back to us. We looked at regular hotel rooms but the “best” deal we could find was $330.00 per night for a less than stellar motel in the suburbs that normally charged $70 per night! As much as I wanted to stay overnight to get an extra day of olympic fever in I would sleep on the bus depot floor before paying that much for a budget motel room. I thought we were coming home on the midnight ferry until I remembered VRBO.COM
VRBO.COM stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner. People who have timeshares to rent, vacation homes not being currently used or even suites built into there homes post their available rentals on this site. Prices on this stie ranged from $350.00 per night to $1000s with a limited selection available for the last night of the Olympic Games. Having exhausted opportunities at Priceline.com and Skoosh.com I decided to make my own deal. Completely ignoring asking prices I sent out 40 emails ( I only stopped at 40 because I got a positive response ) saying that I was local, coming over with my family for the night and willing to pay $150.00 for the night.
I received 39 polite to enraged responses of “No” but got one “If you’re willing to pay $200.00 for the night we would love to have you”. My excitement in getting this email was tempered by the fact that I had sent queries about some bachelor suites and thought this is what I was getting. Turns out it was a 2 bedroom suite in a great neighborhood right on the edge of Downtown Vancouver. Not just 2 bedrooms also a full kitchen with dishwasher, a living room with satellite TV and fireplace and a 2 minute walk to a supermarket, wine merchant, restaurants and a main transit route.
Summary: A little elbow grease can have big benefits. Having the willingness to negotiate saved me $600.00 off the advertised price and I now have a great place I can stay when in Vancouver. Would this be possible at a chain hotel? No way! Always try to buy from someone who has the ability and desire to give you the best deal possible. In this case the owner could take my $200.00 or their rental sat empty. Of course she was wiling to take my money but do you think the service staff at your local Hilton or the call centre for Delta Hotels is that motivated to fill a room?
That’s enough for today, tomorrow we get in to transportation, Friday we will deal with food and then Saturday will be a “vacations on the cheap part ii” or “how cost effectiveness got me stuck in the wilderness for 2 hours” all depends on how my 6:15 AM flight to Toronto goes on Friday.