We’re Thinking About Buying A Camper!

We’ve been giving serious consideration into the idea of buying a camper.

My wife grew up going camping regularly.  I never experienced camping until she took me for the first time.  I really enjoyed it and we’ve since gone a number of times, both just the two of us and with Little Boy Beagle.  We didn’t make it out his past summer as Baby Girl Beagle was just too little.

Every time we’ve gone we have gone tent camping, but looking at making it a regular family experience, tents simply won’t do.  Which brings the idea of a camper into play.
the campfire wasn't only a nice attraction...

We’ve looked at the idea of renting, but we know we like camping, and so we’ve actually leaned more towards buying, as we would at least own the value of the camper versus paying someone else for something that we don’t have.

I was curious if any readers have had experiences when it comes to buying a camper.

We’ve narrowed it down to either a pop-up or a trailer.  The SUV we have is more than capable of handling either.

We’ve done some research and we have a rough ballpark of what costs would be associated.  We would have the camper itself, taxes and registration fees, and then ongoing fees for insurance and storage.  We also know that there would be an upfront cost in getting anything we needed for it (things like bedsheets, etc.)

The biggest pro is that it gives us a built-in opportunity for family vacations.  We enjoy traveling and make a habit of going somewhere at least once per year.  There would still be costs involved with camping, but the campsite rental and travel costs would likely work out to much lower than renting a place or getting a hotel room, and potential airfare that would come with any out-of-state travel.

The biggest con is cost.  It’s obviously a significant outlay of cash to put out there.  I’m pretty much of the opinion that I don’t want to take out a loan (no new debt!) so we would carefully have to make sure that we could afford both the outlay and the ongoing expenses.  We’ve been doing our homework, going to camper shows, doing online research, checking out prices, and looking at online price guides that have given us a good idea on what to expect.

Any advice from anybody out there who has had experience with owning or looking to own a camper?

Editors Note: I wrote this post a couple weeks back and scheduled it for the ‘future’.  We’ve had some updates that will require a follow-up post, but I’ll wait until everything shakes out before providing an update.  Just be aware that there is one coming 🙂

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10 Tips To A Cheap Cruise Vacation

Hello, readers! I am Julianne, one of  Money Beagle’s college friends and I have been asked to write a little ditty about my frugality – particularly how it pertains to my recent vacation.

We were on a cruise last week, and I think our total spent was $172 out of pocket (not including our airfare). Some people do that extreme coupon clipping stuff where they get 100 bottles of ketchup for free and, well, I am a fan of vacationing for cheap. Back in the olden days, before cruising, I would get us to Vegas cheaply. Cruising is a different animal altogether.

Here are a few tips on how to get a cheap cruise vacation:
Cruise Ships

  1. Cruises are cheapest during certain times of the year. Particularly, during hurricane season (September and October) and during times when kids are in school. A good time in particular is the first couple weeks of December as people are spending a ton of disposable income on the holidays or they are wiped out from Thanksgiving.
  2. Conversely, cruises are much more expensive during holidays and times when kids are on breaks from school. Most expensive is the week between Christmas and New Years. This makes sense, right? Well, fares drop when they need to fill up those rooms on the boats. In fact, if you go over to Priceline or Travelocity or even the cruise line’s site, you can sort based on things like the number of days and the lowest to highest price for a particular sailing.
  3. Book early. Remember how I mentioned that the boats need to get those rooms filled? They want to fill them up as soon as possible. You can book a year out and get a great rate. If plans change, you can just move your deposit over to another sailing. Or, if you cancel within 75 days of the sail date, you can usually get 100% of your deposit back. Oh, and if you are a senior or a military member, you might qualify for an additional discount!
  4. Book often. When you use the same cruise line all the time, you start accumulating free stuff and frequent cruiser perks. On our cruise last week, we received a little booklet with coupons for things like a buy one/get one beer at an on board bar or half off of a coffee from the premium coffee place. We also got invited to special members only receptions that involved free alcohol. There are special embarkation lines for past guests, too. If you have cruise with a line before, they will let you know they appreciated you and will acknowledge it all week long. You might even get some free gifts in your stateroom when you board like a bottle of champagne on ice or flowers.
  5. Use credit card points. As long as you pay off your balance every month, there are several different cards that let you accumulate dollars towards your cruise payments or on board credit. Some of them even provide you with free cruises or free companion fares. A few of them will even give you merchandise like bath robes or golf shirts with the cruise line logo on it. Also, when you sign up for the card, many companies will give you about $100 of on board credit after you make your first purchase.
  6. Book on board. In fact, booking on board usually nets you $100 on board credit towards your next sailing. You can book a cruise and then when you get home you can even move it to a different week or a different itinerary. The deposit will move, too. They have special “future cruise consultants” that are more than happy to talk to you about different itineraries or room categories.
  7. Book excursions through reputable companies instead of through the cruise line.  You can avoid potential mark-ups by booking direct with an excursion company.  I’d recommend heading over to cruisecritic.com and read about different excursions that you can take. Cruise Critic is a very comprehensive website where you can learn about ports, cruise lines, different sailings, different ships, etc.  Keep in mind, though, that if you’re not just getting started or are in a potentially unsafe area, you may want to consider using the excursions planned out by the cruise company, as they will have checked out the company to make sure they are reputable for you. Plus, since these companies work with the cruise lines, you’ll be safe in knowing that the ship won’t leave without you in the event your bus breaks down or the excursion runs late.
  8. Don’t be afraid of an inside room. Of course, a balcony or a suite are fabulous. But, we have found that we can go on twice as many cruises if we get an inside room. There is a bed, a desk, a bathroom, a television — what more do you need? Also, it is dark inside so you can sleep in easily. As a side note, pay attention to where your room is located on the ship. As long as you aren’t taking a gamble and getting your room cheaper doing a “guaranteed” room where they may place you anywhere, you can pick which room you want in the category you have selected. I prefer to be “sandwiched” between floors that contain other staterooms. This makes for a much quieter experience. Don’t pick a room above the jazz club or below the scraping chairs of the buffet tables. Sometimes, if you wait until a week before the ship sails, you cn get a cheap upgrade to a better room. It can’t hurt to call!
  9. When you go to the ports, you can usually haggle with the vendors. If they don’t want to haggle, walk away. You will usually find the same t-shirt priced 10 different ways. You can get cheap jewelry, cheap liquor, cheap prescription drugs… just look! Even the gift shops on board will run specials through the week. Ask the people working in the shops if they think something will go on sale and/or if you can get refunded the difference if it does.
  10. Lastly, take advantage of the activities on board. Every night when your room is cleaned, you will get a little newspaper delivered that tells you what the activities will be for the following day. Bring a highlighter pen with you and highlight what you would like to do. There are countless fun things like trivia contests, Vegas style shows, water aerobics, kids activities, karaoke, seminars about cooking or wines, belly flop contests, etc. Some ships even have surfing simulators, rock climbing walls, and ice skating rinks!

I hope some of these tips will be helpful! Happy cruising!!

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How We Saved Money On Our Vacation

As mentioned a couple of days ago, we went on vacation to Florida for a few days.

We had a great time but I’d be remiss if I didn’t go over a few ways that we saved some coin during the trip!

  • Split the cost – We had initially planned our 2010 trip as a week trip where we would rent a lakefront cottage here in Michigan.  When our in-laws said that they were thinking of going to Florida and asked if we’d like to come, we said yes instantly.  Not only did we love Florida, but this meant that we could split the cost with them and save some money all around.  My in-laws are great, but for those of you who couldn’t fathom that idea, think about working with a sibling, a friend, or someone else that could help defray the costs and make for good vacation companions!
  • Eat some meals in – We had a condo with a kitchen as our rental, so we were able to stock our kitchen with some staples that allowed us to eat in for various meals.  Often, we would eat breakfasts and lunches in.  For us, not only did this save us money, but gave us more pool and ocean time!
  • Take your couponsMy wife is awesome!  She has definitely kept pace with me in trying to look for savings.  When packing our stuff, she took our coupon organizer knowing that we’d be going to the grocery store and figuring why not save some money if we could?  I would have never thought of it but she did and it made me break out into the biggest grin as she added it to our items to take.
  • Enjoy free things – Most of our fun time didn’t involve any extra costs.  Why?  Because we spent a majority of it down by the pool or around the ocean.  While there were things like para sailing, riding wave runners, or even a short jaunt to Disney World that could have all been fun, we spent time relaxing by the pool, swimming or walking near the ocean, or sitting outside watching sunsets.  We didn’t feel deprived and we didn’t spend any extra money doing any of these things!
  • Weigh travel options – We looked at flying versus driving.  For us, flying ended up working out to be a cheaper option (the $300 stupid tax that I paid for booking the wrong week notwithstanding), but for our in-laws driving was the better option.  They were able to drive pretty much straight through the 18 hour car ride, whereas we would have had to make more frequent stops and most likely factor in a hotel room since we were traveling with an infant.
  • Look for hidden cost benefits – The fact that our in-laws were driving meant that we could send our luggage down with them, therefore avoiding the ridiculously unfair baggage fees that airlines have imposed.

I’m sure that there were other saving opportunities, but these are a few ways where we were able to save some bucks during our vacation!

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Back From Vacation!

The Beagle family was on vacation last week, so the site was on auto-pilot for a few days.

Thanks to all the people who read and commented, and also to the two guest bloggers who had timely requests for guest posts.

The trip was great.  We were down in Florida along the gulf coast.  We watched the news that showed the massive oil spill plaguing the gulf area, but thankfully none of that had impacted the area where we were.  Hopefully they get this thing figured out and cleaned up quickly.

I worked in the gulf region a few years ago for about six months, and I love the area and the weather and being near the ocean, but I don’t think I would want to live there.  During my six month assignment, the area I was staying at was hit by one of the number of hurricanes that plagued the area that year (2004), and the condo I was renting sustained significant damage, including a damaged roof which led to most of the ceilings collapsing.  Down the coastline things were much worse.

Between everything I’ve seen over the years, I must say that I love the gulf region, but I think I’d rather keep my visits to vacations or temporary assignments. It just seems there is always some major disaster striking or around the corner.  Michigan, as most know, is not in the best shape economically right now, but natural and man-made catastrophic disasters seem to be a lot lower in terms of risk.

Anyways, I’m back from vacation and looking forward to getting back in the swing of things as summer ramps up!

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