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Stop Underselling!

The article title "stop underselling" is layered over an old-fashioned clay piggy bank.

Side hustles are all the rage right now: MLMs, ride share, selling your old clothes and furniture via online marketplaces, “donating” plasma. You’ve got to do whatever it takes to make the rent, or just the extra spending money, short of dancing the pole or working the sidewalk corner. I get it; I live it.

My whole life is side hustles right now. I drive Uber and Lyft, sell for SeneGence, and occasionally declutter my closet on Facebook marketplace or Let Go or whatever is vogue for the month. In some ways, I love it: I can set my own hours, work as much or as little as I want, I don’t have to answer to a boss, and there are no annoying coworkers. But it’s incredibly stressful sometimes, especially when everyone wants a cheaper price.

For example: I was trying to sell a Blue Tooth Speaker that I’ve had for a few years but haven’t used once in the past six months. It was a declutter no-brainer. The speaker is in great shape–no dents or scrapes or malfunctions–and is a top-quality speaker that normally goes for about $200. Considering that it is a few years old and used, I listed it at $75, knowing in my head that I’d accept $65.

Holy cow, people were trying to haggle with me for as low as $40! What!? That’s almost half of my asking price!!

I get it: people are buying used because they want to save money. And I know that the asking price is always a bit higher than the actual price (hence why I set it higher), but asking for a 50% discount is just plain rude!!

If you’re in small/personal business or hustling on the side, OR if you’re a shopper of side hustles, please read my rant:

A sketchbook is open to a large dollar-sign drawing. The artist's hands are in the photo field, along with some decor such as a plant and pink coffee mug.

Haggle Respectfully

Asking for a few dollars off here and there is understandable. Expected, even! When I listed my car on Craigslist, I listed it for $500 more than what I needed, knowing that people would try to haggle; it made accepting an offer for $400 off my asking price easy and friendly. But my favorite kind of shoppers are the ones that just pay the asking price.

If you’re going to do a low-ball haggle (say you offer $55 on a $75 price tag), immediately offer something to make that price cut a bit more appealing, like going to the seller rather than the seller coming to you. Saying “Would you accept $55? I can meet you wherever is convenient today so that you won’t have to go out of your way” is more well received than “I can give you $55”.

Also, if you’re going to offer a lower price, be able to pick up and pay that day, preferably within a few hours. As a seller, I don’t want to accept a lower price that can’t be carried out for another two days, because someone might offer the asking price between now and then!

Remember: the reason someone is selling instead of donating is because they need the cash. You’re trying to save a buck, they’re trying to save a buck: try to meet somewhere in the middle so that you both win. Essentially: haggle the way you’d want someone to haggle with you.

Related Reading: When It’s Been a Long Week and It’s Only Monday

Stop Asking Your Friends For A Discount

I see this all the time: friends asking friends for discounted services just because they’re friends. If your BFF is trying to make it in the world as a photographer and you ask her for engagement photos at a quarter of the price, you’re not actually supporting her business: you’re hurting it! People gotta pay bills, y’all, and your request for special treatment isn’t going to help keep the lights on.

Now, I myself do offer a friends and family discount because I want to, and because I’m terrible at business practices, but whatever. That’s something that I chose to do, and I’m okay with it, but I don’t like feeling pressured to offer more and essentially just give things away. The same goes for if I/your friend works at a store or restaurant and you ask for a discount: newsflash, unless I/your friend is the manager, we have zero control over discounts. As much as we’d like to help you out, we literally can’t, so stop making us feel bad for just doing our jobs.

Related Reading: 7 Ways to Maximize Your Budget

Propped up against infrastructure rails along a sidewalk is a cardboard sign. Written on it is "Need some used books; $ helps". A plastic cup for coin collection, a water bottle, and a book are laid next to the sign. Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Don’t Try to Undersell Your Competition

If you’re just starting out selling your own product or service, you might feel the itch to sell at a lower price than your competitors to draw customers to you. But this is actually a really really bad idea.

One: if you undersell, you’re trapped at a selling price that doesn’t bring in the big bucks and you won’t make a profit. A few weeks or months down the road, you won’t be able to grow and that means you’ll eventually fizzle out and die.

Two: if you undersell, they’ll undersell. Then you’ll have to undersell again. And again. Next thing you know, you’re selling at cost with zero profit. Not good.

Do your market research and figure out what the high point, median, and low point is. List your stuff somewhere in that low point if you’re just starting out, or go for the median and maybe offer some introductory discounts to get the ball rolling. But whatever you do, don’t sell a dollar’s work for a dime.

 

I want to hear your thoughts and stories. Did I hit the mark or am I way off? What do you think about discount services like Groupon? Let me know in the comments!

 

April 3, 2018
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When It’s Been a Long Week, and It’s Only Monday…

Posted in Lifestyle by

Monday

It’s really hard for me to get motivated sometimes. I start thinking about things I should do, like clean my bathroom, dust my room and write “thank you” cards from Christmas, but I don’t do them. I have a lot of doubts about myself and my decisions, even if I don’t show or say anything. This weekend got me on a pretty low level. Let me reiterate this first weekend in March for you and tell you how I was built up, torn down, but still standing.

Thursday

I recently joined a company that is essentially a Costco for travelling. If you know what I’m talking about, you already know what it is, and for those of you who don’t, I’m sorry but I can’t explain it here. It’s kind of like me explaining how I liked a movie, but you have to see it to know what I’m talking about. So I joined  a few weeks ago and had invited my friends to check it out. I took one friend who is incredibly smart in business. He owns his own business and has built it all pretty much by himself. He asked a lot of questions, and by the time we were heading back home, he had me thinking a lot about my life; especially my financial decisions. Yes, this group has potential to make residual income, but you have to work hard at it and I think it’s easier to explain to strangers than people who know me well. It really took its toll on me when NONE of my friends were as excited about it as I was.

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So I found myself freaking out, trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. I have been a temp employee at my 9-5 job for 7 months with an hourly rate that isn’t enough to pay my necessary bills each month. I work some weekends with high school kids for hours and make less money in two days than I make in one day at my weekly job. I’ll take babysitting, house-sitting and pet-sitting jobs for extra income. I’ve been looking at different jobs, but with all the debt I have, I don’t have a lot of flexibility to relocate. I have four credit cards I need to pay off on top of my other debt and my car is barely halfway through the lease period. It seems like I have more than I can financially handle. As the saying goes, “I’ve bit off more than I can chew”.

Related Reading: 7 Ways to Maximize Your Budget, The Two Step: A Bilateral Move

Friday

I decided to do some work for the blog during my lunch period at work (posting on social media (if Belle hadn’t already) and trying to figure out IFTTT (IF This Than That), an app that I was recommended but am still figuring out the ins and outs of). I was also trying to budget because I knew my payment dates were coming up soon, because February is really the worst month. First it’s too short, then it makes you realize how single and lonely you are. I’m not a fan of February.

After I got off work, Belle and I headed down to Highlands Ranch to judge a high school speech and debate tournament. We’re paid by round, and each round has 5-6 kids and lasts about an hour usually. I enjoy doing this, but it is exhausting and my hand cramps up after a couple of rounds from writing critiques, but the kids make it worth it.

Instead of driving all the way back home, we stayed with my parents, who live twenty minutes away from the school. It was 8:30 p.m. when we left and I had made $27.

 

Saturday

Belle and I got up at 6:00 a.m. to arrive at the high school at 7:30. From there, we stayed until about 2 p.m (which is a SHORT day, usually we are there to well after 8 p.m.). By the time we were done with that I had earned $54 in total (almost enough to cover my utility bill for the month).

Since we had an early day, I decided to message my ex that lives in Denver (let’s call him Peter). Okay, I know what you’re thinking- but we had barely dated, then were Friends with Benefits, then decided to hang out and grab a drink casually. It’s fine. As much as Belle would disagree… Anyways, Peter wanted to go to REI and get new hiking boots and wanted me to come with. I told him when I could be there, and then he told me he had plans in an hour to meet up with a friend of his that I didn’t like. And Peter knew I didn’t like him and I avoid seeing him because he’s an a**hole. So I texted back saying I’d changed my mind and would just go home.

The reason why Peter and I never dated was because he was so hot and cold. He’d want me to hang out with his friends, but tell me he didn’t want to when I invited him to hang out with mine. He’d spent the night at my house ONCE during the 2 years we’d been doing whatever it is we’re doing, and has given me one compliment to which I cried because it was so unexpected.

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The way he reacted to me backing out was incredibly frustrating. He told me that it was f***ed up I made him wait on me and that I was being dramatic- “typical Elena”. I couldn’t understand why he would still want to be friends with me after saying all these horrible things that I’d done to him. He had bailed on my birthday because he had “s*** going on” that I wouldn’t understand, he told me he liked having sex with me and he missed me, but not like that- as a friend hanging out, and claimed that I always thought people (meaning him) are screwing me over, when it’s probably me that’s to blame… So I told him it’d be better if we weren’t friends. He took that well by telling me to “stop being so dramatic and you may find someone who you can have a relationship with” and unfriending me from Facebook. Really regretting my decision on breaking ties with this guy…

Related Reading: My Toxic Relationship, The Things He Said, Dating 101: 7 Red Flags You Shouldn’t Ignore 

Sunday

I made plans to meet up with one of my closest friends. I expected it to have the same kind of conversation we usually have: how the guy she’d been off and on for for years was still treating her like s***, how we wished we could vacation and had loads of money to spend, etc. But this time was different. I told her about what had happened the day before with Peter. She then proceeded to tell me how Peter had reached out to her begging her to go on a date with him and he would talk to me about it to make sure it was okay… So not only had he EVER asked me if he could date one of my best friends, he was just going for it, meanwhile texting me to come over at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night and calling me a “dramatic” person. “I’ll buy your Uber, just come over.” Sweet bro.

 

By the time Monday rolled around…

So here I was completely humiliated and disappointed in myself and my poor decisions. I was struggling financially and felt like I was back to square one. I had gone back to the same guy who treated me like garbage, and my friend had to awkwardly tell me how he had been pushy with her and that she had felt awkward and never replied. I felt like a complete failure. A part of me thought Peter was right, that maybe I was a s*** friend and that’s why so many of my “friends” had run away when I told them about an idea I was really excited about. I felt inconsiderate, not good enough, not successful and not pretty.

So I sat on my floor and cried.

Then I got a message from my friend with a motivational video saying how I was good enough. Peter had unfriended me on social media, so I wouldn’t be able to see what he was up to anymore, which was good for me. I went to a wedding shower and won a contest matching Disney songs to the movies (obviously with 100%). I went to dinner with my friend, who I hadn’t seen in years, and his fiance and had a really good time. My parents called me to see how I was doing and my sister had bought the K-Cups I liked for the Kureg for the morning. There were good things happening, I just needed to acknowledge the worst, react to it and get past it.

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No matter how low you may feel in this life, there will always be more good than bad. Don’t let the turkeys get ya down, because you are beautiful and good enough, no matter what anybody says.

 

Related Reading: Cherish: A Story of Silver Linings, Share the Love, 6 Mantras to Live by in 2018

March 5, 2018
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Studying Abroad in College: Planning for theTrip

Posted in Lifestyle, Travel by

studying abroad

 

My parent’s told me as long as I had good grades, they would financially support me through college. Therefore, I chose where I went to school, what my major would be and everything I did. The best part about what my parents had told me, was that it was so vague. So as part of our agreement, I researched, prepped and spent the spring of my junior year in Sydney, Australia.

My sister had studied abroad the year before I had in Capetown, South Africa with a couple of close friends. I’d like to say she was a great resource for my study abroad experience, but truthfully, I did a lot of work on my own. I’m going to share with you the steps I took to make studying abroad a reality.

 

Where do I want to go?

I went to Colorado State University, so they had a lot of options for studying abroad, but I knew I wanted to go to Australia, and likely stay near Sydney. I did this because I wanted to get a great cultural experience, but I also wanted to choose a good university where I could take courses that applied to my major (it also helped that English was their primary language).

The best way to go about this was to look on my college’s website and see what countries they were affiliated with (the bigger the university, the more options there are). Many schools usually have an office for studying abroad which I visited frequently. I started my research online and then made my way to the office once I knew what part of Australia I wanted to go to. That way I could move to the next step, which is figuring out a program.

 

Choosing a program

A friend in one of my classes was studying abroad from Sydney. He joked about me attending his university, but in the end, it turned out to be the one that was perfect for my study abroad needs. The university was 20 minutes outside the city and  had classes that would apply to my degree. It was called Macquarie (Mah-core-ee) University and was located in North Ryde. I looked into a few different programs my school supported, but in the end chose to go through an affiliate called GlobaLinks. They were the best decision I could’ve made: great reviews, organized website and they had checklists for my trip that I could refer back to!

I took measures to ensure the classes I was interested in would transfer back either as elective credits or ones that would apply to my major. I met with my adviser with twice the amount of credits in a semester for a full time student (each class will differ in credits) so that I would have options when it came to registration and made sure all those courses would transfer back. In order for anything to transfer over, I had to get a grade of a C or higher. To be a full-time student, I had to take at least 12 credits, even abroad.  I took exactly this many credits so that I would be full-time, but wouldn’t overload myself with school work.

 

travel abroad

Passport

The biggest thing people don’t know about getting a passport is that it takes months to be issued one. The easiest part is filling out the paperwork and getting your picture taken. From there it needs to go through all sorts of background checks and processes before it will be approved, issued and mailed out. I went into the clerks office in my home town with my mom and we got ours together about eight months before my trip. Once I had my passport issued, I could apply for my student visa.

 

Student Visa

Most countries will require a visa stating residency status and what you’re there for. I can’t quite recall how long the application was, but I gave myself an uninterrupted 2 hours just in case.  I would only be there for a semester, so my residency was 4-6 months. After that time period, the Australian government had the right to tax me, strip me of my rights, and ship me back to the States. Something best avoided. The program I chose prepared me well for my trip and how to plan, so really at this point I was just making my way down a checklist.

 

International Student Identification Card (ISIC)

My program made this a requirement for me to have. It offered discounts for transportation, tours, travel insurance and many other things. You can look into more detail on ISIC’s website. Essentially this was my ID card while I traveled. It had medical, emergency and basic information about me in case something were to happen. It was essentially an extra precaution, but not a bad idea.

 

Travel Insurance

Not every country will require travel insurance but many will. I probably invested in this just because of all the perks it had to offer. Plus, I was traveling solo internationally, so I took many precautions. Travel insurance covers many areas: theft, medical needs, etc. Australia also required me to have international medical coverage, which I purchased through my program.

 

Research

I don’t have any specific reason why I chose Sydney, I just knew I had to go to Australia, it was in my gut. But I didn’t know anything about Australia, other than the fact that they have the most deadliest animals in the world hiding out in the Outback. Therefore, I took the time to research the geography, the culture and the places of interest I’d want to see. I looked online a lot, but I also reached out to my friend to ask him all the questions I couldn’t find online: what’s the nightlife like? what’s the hot spot around campus? what are some laws I’ll need to know? is there a medical center on campus? That way, I could prepare myself through reading articles and such as well as have that second hand source with the dirt on what college life was really like there.

Some things that I had to look into was: currency, public transportation, language, and appearance. Many people will witness “culture shock” and find themselves in a mild panic. The first 3 days of my trip were already planned though my program, which included cultural classes, so I knew that even if I felt unprepared, I would still learn more once I was there.

 

Scholarships

Look into what your school or the program you chose may have for offering in international study aid. I had a few friends who had some sort of scholarship while there; even a couple hundred or thousand will go a long ways!

 

 

travel abroad prepare

Finances

Once I was familiar with the currency and exchange rate, I was able to calculate how much money I would need on my journey and during my stay. I looked into credit card companies and researched which would exchange my current countries’ currency over to Australian dollars at a low rate. Eventually, I found a card through the help of my bank at home and set it so I could access my account as well as allow my parents to transfer me funds. I found this article to be very helpful, especially if you are looking for something soon-ish: 11 Top Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees for 2017.

I had to keep in mind all of the expenses I would have along the way too, like: airport fees (baggage), meals, drinks etc. Everywhere I read said to always carry CASH, since many of the ATM’s will charge a fee to withdraw money, and the U.S. dollar is commonly accepted around the world, especially in international airports. However, if this was not the case, I would still have my credit card. If I was running low on the local currency, I would ask if they accepted U.S. dollars and the answer was almost always yes. Besides, half of my journey was in the U.S. getting from Denver to L.A., so I would need those U.S. dollars anyways. If I didn’t use all that cash, I would also have some upon my return.

Before I left, I had to be sure to notify my bank that I was leaving the country. This way, they would know where I was and could accurately file fraud claims on my account. They asked me where I would be flying to and from and the dates so they knew when I would be back.

Housing

Since I was leaving half way through my junior year, I needed to let my landlord know that I was planning on leaving. This gave me access to sign over my lease with either a small fee or none at all. I had 3 roommates, and I had to collaborate with all of them before I left. When we decided to be roommates that fall, I already knew I’d be leaving in February of the following year, so they had plenty of time to find a replacement for my room. Since I was staying half the year too, this meant I got last dibs on bedrooms, which was fine since I would only be there 5 months anyway. I was sure to make my room squeaky clean and get my deposit back before my flight. I would be wanting that $400 on my trip (skydiving here we come)!

 

 

study abroad

Meet all medical needs

I looked up all the vaccinations I would need before leaving. This needs to be done months in advance because it can take months for vaccinations to take effect.  I was sure to meet with my doctor so I could stock up on prescriptions so I had them all on hand as well as get a physical, since my program required me to send my medical records. I also had to make sure I had enough contacts and some spares, and saved my glasses for the long flight so I wouldn’t dry my eyes out.

 

Book your flight(s)

I booked a one-way flight out to Australia. The flights were expensive either way, so I decided to just do the one-way and see where I was at later on. This worked out in my favor, since I ended my study abroad experience on vacation in Bali, Indonesia and flew back to the States from there (which was $400 cheaper than Sydney). I did my research and got the most competitive price between these sites: Expedia, Travelocity , Skyscanner and Travel Zoo.

Cell Phone

I had the option to purchase an international plan on my phone, but I knew that would be extremely expensive and I could just get a basic phone when I got there to contact local people. I knew there would be Wi-Fi (which was invented in Australia, I’ll have you know) at my apartment and on campus, so I could skype my family. When I got there, I purchased a basic phone for about $50 and used it for calling and messaging my friends for $20/month. I used my Kindle Fire, iPhone and laptop for any internet needs. I had to let my carrier know that I was traveling abroad, so I wouldn’t be charged extra fees, but also so I would know how to turn off my cellular data and roaming and have them freeze my number on my account.

 

study abroad

Power converter

This is a huge thing I needed to look into! The U.S. believes in making a lot of things their own (the metric system in schools, American Football, ‘Fall’ instead of Autumn, etc.) including outlets and voltage. I went out and bought a Universal Travel Adapter. I had to look up the difference between an adapter and converter (an adapter is just a change of plug type and the converter changes the voltage) after I broke my adapter when I plugged in a hair straightener.

 

Double check everything

That week I was constantly checking online to make sure I had my ticket and the right time for my flight.  I made sure I sent everything off that I needed to (medical insurance, transcripts, checks etc.) and made hard and digital copies of everything, just in case. I checked my luggage a hundred times, I was so excited to leave!

Packing

I was leaving for a semester, so I needed enough clothes and shoes to get me through that time span. It was summer transitioning to autumn when I would be there. I was sure to back clothes for the beach, for school, the club and professional clothing for presentations or what-not.

Australian cosmetics were outrageously expensive, and I was so grateful I packed all of mine generously. About halfway through the semester, I had my mom send me a care package of mascara and tampons because it was nearly $18 (Australian dollars) for a box of 12 tampons. I was sure to pack everything as a travel size on my way out and keep it in my carry on in case something happened with my check bag. This way I could go to the airport bathroom and brush my teeth or wash my face or change outfits. The flight from L.A. to Sydney was 14 hours, so I was going to need some time to freshen up with only my backpack at the ready.

For more ideas and a checklist for what to pack, you can refer to The College Tourist or Study Abroad 360.

 

study abroad

Finally, I was ready to take off! I made sure to keep my wallet, passport and phone in a safe location with easy access to get you through security quickly. I dressed comfortably and brought entertainment for during the flight: a book, tablet, neck pillow for sleeping etc. My flight was a red-eye, so I planned on sleeping, but should’ve taken something to help me (Tylonol or Advil P.M.). I watched several movies and slept for maybe a total of 4 of the 14 hours sleeping because I was just too excited (and there’s an 18 hour time difference). The worst was over, now I just had to anticipate my semester.

 

Related Reading: Groupon Travel: Pros and Cons

November 13, 2017
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Groupon Travel: Pros and Cons

Posted in Lifestyle, Travel by
the benefits and downfalls of traveling with groupon
My first ever international trip was to the land-o’-green in 2015. Ever since reading O.R. Melling’s The Hunter’s Moon, I had developed an interest in traveling to Ireland, but it was more of a whisper than a shout. Travel was not on my immediate to-do list; I loved Colorado and couldn’t rationalize spending a lot of money and time to go to a distant country where anything could happen.
 
Oh how wrong I was.
 
On something of a whim, I booked an 8-day trip to Ireland for myself and my then-boyfriend through Groupon. With airfare, hotel, and a rental car all included, it was exactly the push I needed to get out and establish my love of travel.
 
Since then, I’ve lived in Taiwan, spent a week in Bali and Amsterdam each, and a weekend in Hong Kong, all of which I’ve booked and managed myself (minus airfare to and from Taiwan). I am still far from being an expert on travel, but I have picked up on a few things along the way.
 
In this post, I want to focus in on the pros and cons of Groupon travel.
 

Pros:

Package Deal:

When you book your trip through Groupon, you’re likely getting more than a hotel or a tour. Trying to pinpoint the best deal for a flight AND hotel AND activities AND transportation takes a lot of time, a lot of know-how, and a lot of luck. AKA: a huge hassle that sometimes isn’t worth the end result. Groupon packages it all together and keeps everything organized for you. Make sure you read the description closely to see what you get and what you’ll have to fill in on your own, but overall it’s a great way to check multiple things off your list with one click.
 

Trips Worth Taking:

You’re not going to find a roach-infested motel in Romania built by slave children and unreachable by anything other than donkey carts, because that would be ridiculous and no one would buy it, even if it was cheap. The travel deals on Groupon are good. Maybe not 5-star celebrity-status good, but you get the idea. You might find yourself considering new destinations because the price is so “why not?”
 

Affordable:

The reason we shop on Groupon is because of the deals, so this should be a no brainer. Consider it this way: airfare alone from the U.S. to Europe generally costs about $1k, but you can find package deals that include airfare to locations in Europe (think Paris, Rome, Prague…) for less than that. If you book everything separately, you’ll likely end up spending three times as much as booking through Groupon. So duh, check out Groupon the next time you’re itching to travel.

 

Photo of Tanah Lot temple in Bali, Indonesia: a temple built on a small rock island just off the coast, surrounded by water. The picture highlights the sea surf, sand beach, and green trees of the temple.

I solo-planned a trip to Bali and took this amazing picture!

Cons:

Hidden Costs:

It’s important to look at the details carefully for each trip, and to anticipate what might not be included. Unless you live by one of the major airports (e.g. JFK), you’ll likely have to book a flight to reach your flight. If a rental car is included, keep in mind that there will likely be a security deposit required, extra charges if you have extra drivers, and fees for younger or uninsured drivers. And, often, Groupon travel deals are for groups, which means either roping in a few friends to fill the spots with you, or paying a couple hundred bucks to “fill” the spots and travel by yourself.
 

Modify Your Travel Style:

When I went to Ireland, I wanted to visit as many cities and places as I could in the week. I lost a lot of time traveling to and from my included villa. If your goal is to sightsee and bounce around, booking a deal that gives you one or two locations could inhibit you or cost you travel expenses and time. It’s important to know your travel style and whether the deal will end up working in your favor or against you.
 
Also, most deals are going to take place in the off-season. Depending on when you can and can’t take work off, this might not be an issue, or it could be the big red X that makes everything fall apart. Not to mention, a beach vacation might be ruined if the deal is during monsoon season. Do your research and know what you can do and what to expect.
 

Is It The Best Deal?

If you know the ins and outs of travel, know how to find deals and work magic, Groupon might actually be a more expensive option. There are definitely ways to travel on the cheap: hostels, AirBnB, local transportation, flight deals or credit card rewards, couchsurfing, and so on. If you really dig in and do the work, you can likely travel for a fraction of the price of that Groupon deal, but it comes down to luck, experience, and the right search terms
 
Overall, I’m a Groupon fan. I search the site before purchasing just about anything, but I also do my research. Read reviews, reflect on your own needs and wants, and pay attention to the fine print. Remember that the doing is more important than getting the deal!
October 16, 2017
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