How to Save Money During the Holidays

How to Save Money this Holiday Season

Saving money during the holidays

Happy Holidays from Owen Your Future! With Thanksgiving past, and Christmas quickly approaching, Alli and I wanted to wish you all merry holidays! We couldn't consider ourselves much of financial bloggers if we didn't offer you some ways to help save some money this holiday season! We are going to talk about a few ideas, some on how to save some money on the gifts you might want or need to get. But also how to open the discussion with your loved ones on to moving away from gifts and products for Christmas!

Saving Money on your gifts! P.S. some of these links may be affiliates, this means we get a small commission if you choose to sign up. The price remains the same for you though!

Gift Cards - Everyone probably has someone on their Christmas list that they are planning to get a gift card this year. Maybe your entire Christmas list? Its no wonder, let the people get what they want! It’s the most foolproof strategy to ensure there are no unwanted gifts this season. If you want to get the people on your list gift cards you can use one of several discount sites that save you 10-15% off the regular price which is really a no-brainer vs buying them at the Walmart checkout line. These services have either negotiated a discount directly with the issuing merchant or they are a marketplace where people can sell their personal gift cards. (You might be buying someone else's Birthday gift card at a discount so maybe its not 100% foolproof as a gift but Its Still cheaper than Cash!)

Raise - LINK

CardPool - LINK

GiftCard Granny - LINK

Watch this video if you'd rather hear us talk than read 🙂

CashBack - Cash Back sites are all over the place but some that I use frequently to save some money are Checkout51, Ibotta, and Earny. Checkout51 and Ibotta are cash back apps that give you money back on your groceries. The reason I listed both of them is you can often get different rebates from each or occasionally they have the same cash back and you can double down on both of them! These are great if you are hosting this holiday season and need to take the edge off that extra supple grocery bill. Earny is an awesome site that we use year round. You link it to your amazon accounts and your credit cards and it will automatically apply for your credit cards "purchase protection" benefit. Basically it scours the internet for a cheaper price on any of your amazon purchases and if it finds it fills out the paperwork and asks your credit card company for the difference.

Ibotta - LINK

Checkout51 - LINK

Earny - LINK

Deals - Everyone wants to get the best deal when they buy something, regardless of if it's for a present or not. The beauty of these sites is that you'll use them for your own personal shopping too. I like to use Slickdeals and CamelCamelCamel. Slickdeals is great of all kinds of stuff but I particularly like it for electronics. It’s a forum based platform where people post whatever deals they find and the community upvotes the best deals. If you want something specific you can look in a category and set up alerts for when a new deal is added. It's good if you know you want a "laptop" not if you know you want a specific model with a specific specification. For that I like Camelcamelcamel. As we mentioned above we love Amazon. And it does frequently have some of the best deals. CCC will let you check the historical price of any item on Amazon so you know how low it's been in the past and if you don't need it right away you can decide to wait for it to drop to its lowest price again. You'd be surprised how often the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals aren't even as low as it was in March of last year for whatever reason.

SlickDeals - LINK

CamelCamelCamel - LINK

How to talk with your family about skipping gifts

Some might recoil at the thought of brining this up to their family. I know… we all have crazy families. I'll tell you more about my experience with this but first let's think about the point of Christmas. It’s a time that frequently re-unites family after time apart. Where we get to spend time with loved ones. That’s what should take center stage in the holidays and not the materialistic side of us that just wants the newest iPhone. Society is good at convincing us that we need to show our love through buying stuff (after all advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry) Its really just a construct of our society and I can tell you that personally, my holidays have become richer and more fulfilling after skipping the gifts with my family.

My family recently decided to do this just a few years ago. All three members of my family were living all over the country and we were flying home to Colorado to have Christmas at my mom's house each year. After we did this once or twice we decided that it would be best to focus on what we wanted to do as a family together than just return home to participate in some commercialism. We really valued our time together. It was almost the only time that we were able to get together all year because of our different schedules. We opted to skip the gifts and allocate the money we would have spent there to taking a trip somewhere new together. We all are very adventurous and we found that spending time together in new places really brought us together.

Talk priorities - If you reading this blog and others in the Financial Independence space you know that we believe strongly in priorities. Financial independence is just a strategy to get us what we really want (time with family, friends, freedom from a job) and most families can get behind those things. They may not connect the dots initially on why you bought your flights with points or got in at 1am because that flight was half price. Most of society doesn't understand why we do what we do. Make it real to them by talking about what makes you happy and talk priorities like being there to raise your young children or being free to travel the world with your spouse while you are young. When you bring the conversation away from your actions (hard for them to understand) to what you want out of life (easy to understand) I see that people generally start to come around.

Serve - One of the biggest themes of the holidays is Gratitude! I'm a huge proponent of gratitude as there are studies that have shown being grateful literally re-wires our brain. We are happier, more creative, more productive, and more loving. All good things to have during the holiday season and nothing brings a family together like giving back to others. Obviously, you need to take time together but consider serving someone less fortunate on Christmas or the day before to really set the tone with your family and help everyone to appreciate the wonderful Christmas you have together.

We hope these suggestions have been helpful and can help save you some money this holiday season! Have other tools, tips, or tricks for your holiday? Comment below and let us know about them!

Matt & Alli

Is College Right for You?

Is College Right for You? (Spreadsheet Included!)

Sweet life Starter pack image (3)

The ultimate Sweet

Life Starter Pack

Everything you need in one PDF. 14 pages of our biggest lessons, mistakes, and tips on helping you reach the sweet life sooner. It even includes action steps so when you're done with the document, you'll know exactly what you need to do next. Goodbye confusion, hello clarity.

Written by Matt

This article and video talks about:

  • The Costs of American college
  • The sunk cost of going to school and changing jobs
  • Finding your passion prior to college
  • The "Experience" of college
  • Choose Yourself Education - Sales, business, coding etc.

If you Listen to Dave Ramsey you would avoid all debt at all costs. I have nothing against Dave Ramsey, he is the entry point for so many to personal finance, but I think the community in pursuit of Financial Independence is a little bit beyond the simplicities of "Avoid all Debt". Debt is a double edged sword. It can absolutely cut both ways so the key word when dealing with debt is Prudence. I don't know about you but when I think of my 17 and 18 year old self "Prudence" is not the word that comes to mind!

Unfortunately, the education system in the United States does virtually nothing to prepare students and young adults to make wise financial decisions. Particularly, when it comes to going to college, which is one of the largest financial decisions young adults make. One that can saddle them with the negative net worth of 10's of thousands of dollars when exiting school and that can take years or even decades to pay off. That negative net worth has the 8th wonder of the world (compound interest) working against you instead of for you. Those prime years early on in your earning career when you should be putting money into retirement savings (because they literally multiply over time) are spent paying down debt and working to get to zero.

Now I don't just want to paint a negative picture of higher education. I think it has its place and particularly for certain people. After all, I have a college degree and it has served me very well financially.

The problem for kids in today's society is that it doesn't feel like college is optional. Society puts a lot of pressure on high school age kids to figure out what they want to do with their life when they've barely been cognizant of their actions for a 10th of their lifespan. It's insane honestly, and it's no wonder most college graduates don't get it right.  After all Its hard to know what you want to do when you've got so little experience.

Only 62% of college graduates work a job that requires a college degree and a mere 27% work in a job that is closely related to their major!

Personally, I view the main reasons to go to college as an opportunity to advance your knowledge, understanding, and value in a particular field you want to work in or think that will provide financially. Others may say it's to broaden your horizons, explore yourself and experience freedom and self-reliance. I think of school as an investment - You put money in, you want to see money come back out. If you're attending college for other exploratory reasons, you're really on an expensive vacation from the real world, not investing in an asset (yourself). Explore yourself in the real world for a little while and make some money while you do it! I think the statistics above show that many college goers have a less than productive outcome following college or at least mistook what they really wanted to do when they embarked on the road to higher education.

In this persons case, college actually made him poorer.  Download our spreadsheet to see if university will make you richer or poorer!
In this persons case, college actually made him poorer. Download our spreadsheet to see if university will make you richer or poorer!

Almost 40% of graduates are working a job that they could have gotten without even attending higher education. I think it's pretty clear to say that those 40% clearly missed the mark and would be way ahead financially had they started those same professions just out of high school. Another 35% of college grads work in jobs that are different than their field of study. Now these grads are working jobs that required a college degree so I think statistics will show that they are generally making more than their high school graduating counterparts and likely more than the 40% of graduates who are working jobs that don't require a degree.  However, they aren't doing what they thought they wanted to do when they went to college.

I Imagine many of them are happy where they are and enjoy their new jobs. I generally attribute this to the fact that most of them really didn't know what they wanted in the first place.  So really, they like something that pays them, and that they don't detest too awfully much.  Now I'm not going to pass judgement as one who thinks everyone needs to do a job that lights them on fire inside, but having a job that pays the bills gives you the FREEDOM to explore your "soul on fire" projects.

I think this is the most important and anchoring aspect of FI for me. If suddenly I won the lottery and never had to worry about money again I think we'd all agree that the vast majority of us would hand in our 2-weeks the following day if we even went in at all! Nothing wrong with that, we work to live, not live to work as I like to say. If all you want to do is volunteer at an animal shelter because caring for lost animals is what lights you up then you should do that. However, if you do that from day one you will undoubtedly have a much longer road to financial freedom. If you love your work and you would do it even if you didn’t get paid then that is amazing. Just beware, you are also strapping yourself to the next 40-50 years of working a job for which your enthusiasm may not be as long winded.

So if you haven't picked up on it by now I am big believer in analyzing your options and deciding what is best for you. Nothing is one size fits all in life! That said, It can be difficult to forecast our ideal future because just like those high school seniors we used to be, it's difficult to know exactly what we want to do and what will make us happy. For that reason I think some real world experience can make all the difference in preparing someone to go to school. You can try different careers and I would encourage you to use the apprenticeship model. Work with someone who is doing what you think you might like to do. You'll get a first-hand look at what that job is like and you can decide if you want to invest in yourself to develop the skills that job requires. You'll have a better understanding of what your financial prospects look like upon graduation. Something that many young adults fail to consider when they are determining what their passions are.

At the minimum you MUST run the ROI of your college education. Consider it an investment and consider what you'll make when you get out, what you'll spend while you're studying and the opportunity cost of lost wages. My personal philosophy has been maximize income early on and ride that into retirement. Use my spreadsheet to input your expected college expenses, expected income upon graduation,

College ROI spreadsheet

In the future I think you will see companies moving away from the emphasis on a college education. With the ability to take a class or certification in almost any discipline like coding, business, marketing, sales or any array of other professions which can be learned on Skillshare or GreatCoursesPlus we will start to see more and more specialized workers in the workforce who found something that interested them and went deep on it. I spent a lot of my college learning information that I have not used since the day I left that class and that all seems like lost time and effort to me.

The American Education system hasn't significantly changed in form or structure in decades. Other than the advent of online universities opening up night and remote classes it's been static. I think it will move to an interest-based study system. Instead of forcing kids to cram knowledge into their brain which they could easily just google if they were curious. Allow kids to study the things that make them excited and curious. We all learn better when we care about what we are doing. This is evident from the vast number of entrepreneurs who did horribly in school and ultimately turn out ultra-successful. It's not an uncommon story and I think it just takes someone finding their passion and going deep on that. That’s why I think the school system should be structured to expose kids to a ton of ideas and subjects and help them flourish in the ones they are drawn too.

If you have your future career firmly in sight and know what you want then I think you should go deep on that subject. The world recognizes world class and the only way you get world class is to put in the intentional practice to develop the skills. As the world gets more and more specialized people will be forced to niche down because things get more and more complex which is difficult for the generalist.

So now that I've given you tons to think about, use my Spreadsheet to calculate if college, university, or graduate would even help you on your path to financial independence!

Get your Honeymoon for Cheap

How to Get a Cheap Luxury Honeymoon

How to Get a Cheap Luxury Honeymoon

Get your Honeymoon for Cheap

Welcome to Owen Your Future!

Me and Alli wanted to give you a little breakdown on a recent travel hacking experience where we significantly cut the cost of our Honeymoon down to ~30% of the average American honeymoon. We did all that while maintaining a super luxurious stay (way higher end than we would normally do but hey… you only get married once) and want to show you how you can do the same.

We looked up what other couples were spending on their honeymoon and the average in the US is:  7days/6 nights and costs $5,000 per couple.

We did ours for 8days 7 nights for $1,680 including bribing some Mexican federales…

Watch the video below or keep reading if you're more into the reading the words rather than hearing them 😉

Travel Hacking Your Honeymoon
The view from our Ocean View Suite

First we want to explain some basics of "travel hacking" since this is the first post we've discussed this topic, but before we begin, we have to make sure you understand that if you carry a balance on any of your credit cards. Travel hacking is not for you. It is only suited to people who pay their balances in full each month. If you don't pay your balance in full you'll end up paying interest and it won't save you any money, it will cost you money. If You are still working your way out from under some credit card debt definitely check out some of our other posts to see how you can demolish that debt fast!

Most people know credit cards give you points that can be used for travel when you spend money on a credit card. Travel hacking is the art of optimizing those point systems and particularly, the generous sign up bonuses that many cards offer for opening an account. Again, Cards give you these bonuses to get you to do business with them in hopes you'll carry a balance with them… Don't be that person. Another thing to mention is that we don't spend any additional money to hit these bonuses. We just make sure what we are spending, gets spent on those cards. We will talk about more advanced tactics like manufactured spending in other articles if you are interested in how to supercharge your rewards point accumulation!

We signed up for three cards that helped us get this trip for cheap. We will explain which cards and how we used the points at the end. But first we'll go through the breakdown of what we spent.

For our honeymoon, we spent 5 days on the Island of Cozumel and 3 days in Playa del Carmen in Mexico. We stayed in an all Inclusive resort on Cozumel for 5 days which included $1,500 worth of resort credits which could be used for Scuba diving, time in the spa, romantic dinners, or other excursions. We then spent 3 days in Playa del Carmen where we explored the city, visited nearby ruins in Tulum, and went snorkeling in a famous Mexican cenote.

The reason we split the travel is that we had initially intended on getting married in Mexico. We thought we would like a small beach wedding as it seemed very "us". We had booked stays at two hotels we were thinking we might want guests to stay at and planned a trip down there to scope out different venues and get all of the details put together. After we had planned our scouting trip we found out that Allison's Dad's house was going to be an option and opted to take the free venue and make a change of plans. We canceled our southwest flights for free and one of the hotels refunded us. The other would let us move the reservation but didn't allow for refunds so we decided to tie it into our honeymoon travel plans!

honeymoon Iguana
Alli Found a friend in the Jungle

So here is the breakdown of everything we spent!

Cozumel - $1180

Flights - We spent $75 per person on taxes and fees using a Southwest companion pass and southwest points. It took 30,000 points to get us both round trip flights from OKC to Cancun. We spent $33 in food at the airport. (Read more about these cards below!)

Transportation - We paid $34 for two bus tickets from the airport to the ferry, $40 for the ferry to Cozumel and back, and $20 for cab rides while on Cozumel. Totaling $94.

Hotel - Cozumel Palace - almost Free - We booked this through Chase travel portal with chase points which covered the all inclusive room. We paid $100 to upgrade our room to a balcony suite when we arrived.

Food - Free - All inclusive

Entertainment - We spent the majority of our time in Cozumel scuba diving. We spent $600 which included all of our equipment rentals which weren't paid for with resort credits, an extra night dive, tips for the dive masters, and some professional underwater photos. We spent $100 for a stingray experience and $60 for two massages.

Playa Del Carmen - $500

Hotel- We paid $200 for a hotel (not all-inclusive). Hotel Aventuras was a great little hotel we were looking at hosting our wedding guests at!

Transportation- We decided to rent a car to be able to drive to Tulum and nearby ruins. We spent $86 renting a car for 3 days. On our way to the airport to come home, the Mexican policia pulled us over for "speeding," in which the officer applied a pretty loose understanding of physics. The locals were flying passed me with guys in truck beds as we headed to the airport at 6am. After a few tense moments of trying to argue our way out of the ticket, we paid the man $100 in cash to cover the ticket and he let us go. We would have loved to continue the argument at the police station but it was miss our flight or bribe a cop… We opted for the bribe. That cheap rental car wasn't so cheap after all!

Food- We had one fancy rooftop dinner where we got sushi and drinks for $72, but everywhere else we mainly ate tacos and beer or margaritas. Our food costs totaled $143 (including the fancy dinner)

Activities- We paid an entrance fee to the ruins for $8 and rented snorkeling gear and a tour guide for $20 at the day did.

Travel Hacked ScubaDiving
This is how we spent the majority of our time on Cozumel

All in all, our 8 day, 7 night luxury honeymoon cost $1680, much less than the average $5,000.

And anyone can do this… Here's how we did it.

We strategically used 3 credit cards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, Southwest Premiere, and Southwest Plus cards. We signed up for the two southwest cards at the very beginning of 2016. Southwest will give you a companion pass if you get 110,000 points in any calendar year which will let you bring someone with you on any flight for free for the rest of that year and the following year. So we got both of these cards which each gave us 60,000 points as a signup bonus after we spent $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Pro Tip - Make sure you time this right! Since you get the bonus for your reward year and the following year make sure you earn the pass in Jan/Feb and not in Dec!

We have used this perk for the last two years and saved a ton on travel. All of the weddings we have attended have been covered with points. I paid for our photographer's flight to our wedding with points. I don't think we paid for a flight for the entire last two years and we travel quite a bit! The SW Companion Pass is definitely one of my highest recommendations for travel hacking. If you fly mostly in the US you pay ~$12 for taxes and fees per person so for you and your companion it's $22 for a flight anywhere in the county. As we mentioned above its more to go international (~$75 in fees) but still a great deal considering you get another ticket for free! If you were to ever run out of points you could also buy tickets and receive the same companion benefit. So each $300 ticket you get another $300 ticket free! Points are also transferable from Chase so you can stock up you SW points if they ever get low from your Chase ultimate rewards!

We had ~130,000 points after our signup bonuses and the points for other money we spent on the cards. We usually spent 20-30k points on a round trip ticket in the US and even to Mexico. So we got a lot of travel for free just from these two cards alone!

The Chase sapphire reserve is a great travel card which I got at the very end of 2016. It had a 100,000 point sign up bonus as well as giving us $300 travel credit each year and access to airport lounges around the world with a Priority pass. This card does have a steep $450 annual fee but seeing as you get the $300 credited to your statement its really ~$150. We have discussed if we will keep this card open when our annual fee comes back up but haven't quite decided. If you travel a lot and can take advantage of the lounges to avoid eating in the airport this card can be a great addition to your wallet.

We used the 100,000 points from the sapphire card to book the Cozumel Palace which was 98,000 points for the 5 day stay. We used 30k of or southwest points to book the flights. The palace was normally $400 per night so we saved $1600 on the room and $1,500 on the activities. Overall saving over $3,000 on our trip vs paying for everything out of pocket. The flights would have been ~$800 for both of us round trip but thanks to our CP we only spent $150 saving another $600.

We didn't travel hack anything on our 3 day stay in Playa other than putting all our travel costs on the Sapphire reserve card which gave us 3% back in points on all travel spend. It also doesn't have any foreign transaction fees and gives you other good protections from luggage to rental car insurance. We are generally pretty frugal when we travel and we really try to live like a local as much as possible. Since this was a honeymoon we went a little above and beyond to treat our selves which after planning and hosting a wedding was well deserved in our book!

I hope you enjoyed this post and learned a little bit about how we set up our vacation to save over 60% of the costs! It wasn't particularly difficult and only took a bit of planning but it does require knowing what options are out there! Hopefully this article helped you see what posibilities are out there to capitalize on travel rewards.

Please post below and let us know what you thought and if you have any other pro tips for us to use when booking your travel-hacked vacations!