Category Archives: Money

The Best Times To Ask Your Boss For Vacation

Just about everyone with a normal 9-5 job looks forward to their precious weekends and vacation days. It’s not that we hate our jobs, but we have a work hard, play hard mentality. We want to spent time with friends and family, so we work hard all week to have those opportunities.

While we usually have weekends all to ourselves, planning vacations is a bit more difficult. Asking for a day or two off is fairly easy as it doesn’t disrupt projects and short periods of time out of work should not cause big issues. There’s the guilt aspect of asking for vacation, too: your coworkers will have to cover for you.

Asking for a week or more of vacation time, however, can be much more problematic. You have to compete with project deadlines and coworkers schedules to find a time that’s convenient for you. It’s often very stressful asking for more than a few days of vacation at once because getting turned down can feel like a big letdown. Here are some of the best times to ask your boss for vacation.

Ask About Planned Vacations Before You Accept The Job

If you’re planning a vacation before you begin a new job, this can be the best time to ask about pre-planned vacations. Yes, you may want the job desperately, but employers also want you and understand that we’ve made commitments prior to getting an offer. Once they offer you a job, you can bring up commitments you’ve already made and ask if they can accomodate you. If they think you may not take the job if they say no (and they want to start off the relationship on a strong foot the same way you do), they have more to lose than to gain.

Ask For Vacation After A Successful Project

If your performance has been solid and you’ve gotten positive feedback about it, you’re more likely get your vacation request approved. It will be in the front of your boss’ mind just know how valuable you are to the team, and he or she will be more likely to accommodate your request.

Make It Easy For Your Boss To Say Yes

There are a few things you can do to give you the best chance for your boss to accept your vacation proposal. If you have been slacking off or your work hasn’t been up to snuff, put off asking until you’re in good standing. Ask far in advance, before your coworkers get a chance so there are no other competitors for your preferred vacation dates. And offer to work during popular vacation times, like Christmas week, and you coworkers will be more willing to pick up the slack when you’re out of the office.

Lauren and I are taking a big vacation starting this week, and I let my employer know before I even started. After being offered the job, I asked if they could accommodate the vacations I had already planned. One had already been booked, while the other I was still planning, and tried to find a time that worked well for everyone. They graciously allowed us to go, and we scheduled it partly during Thanksgiving so I won’t miss as many days.

How to Radically Lower Your Grocery Budget

Do you want radically lower your grocery budget but the idea of shopping only sales and using coupons doesn’t sit right with you? Well, you’re in luck.

I’ve been able to substantially lower my grocery budget without touching a coupon or glancing at a sales flier. That’s because really saving money on groceries comes down to three basic principles.

If you follow these I guarantee you’ll see dramatic savings.

Ready to get started?

Make a Meal Plan

Let’s start by talking about what a meal plan isn’t. A meal plan is not an elaborately laid out calendar style form that details every single thing you’ll be eating over the next month. It doesn’t have to be fancy or detailed. (Unless you want it to be.)

All a meal plan is a list of meals you plan on making or eating over the next week or so. A meal plan is simple, but flexible and is a tool that allows you to plan ahead instead of having to run through a drive through for dinner.

Here’s a dinner meal plan sample:

  • Monday – Grilled Chicken, green beans
  • Tuesday – Crockpot Roast Beef, carrots, potatoes,
  • Wednesday – Lasagna
  • Thursday – Tacos
  • Friday – Leftovers

When you take the time to write out a simple meal plan like this you can take a quick glance and know what you need to layout for the next day. It’s also flexible. Just because you wrote down a certain meal for a certain day of the week doesn’t mean you can’t switch it.

When you take ten minutes out of your week to make a meal plan based upon the food you already have in your house you’ll save money.

Too many people shy away from meal plans thinking they need to be elaborate. That’s not true. In my experience the simpler the better.

Use What You Have

I don’t know why this is hard to do for so many people – but it is. Look in your pantry. How much food is in there? There’s a lot in mine but for some reason I’ll feel like “there’s nothing to eat.”

Before you go grocery shopping to top off an already full pantry start using what you have.

Get creative with your meals and record them on your meal plan. This will help you take less frequent trips to the grocery store.

Don’t Step Into a Store Without a List

To really save money on food you need to shop with a list.

Before you head to the store take inventory of what you already have, come up with some meal ideas, and then create your list.

When you go to the store only buy from the list. This will curb your impulse purchases and ensure that you’re only purchasing items that will actually get used up.

Conclusion

These three strategies can help you radically lower your grocery budget. These are all quick and simple things that you can do that will have a huge impact! And best of all – no coupons required.

How To Save Money By Negotiating When Using Airbnb

Update: The credit for signing up has been increased to $50!

How To Save Money By Negotiating When Using Airbnb

Lauren and I are taking our first big vacation since our honeymoon two years ago. After going through all our options for a November vacation, we settled on a 10-day trip to Italy and Israel. Lauren is about to finish her master’s degree in speech pathology and will start working once all the paperwork goes through, so this is our last chance to go a big vacation before scheduling and vacation time gets even harder.

This trip is not going to be cheap. We knew that going in, but that didn’t stop of from getting the best deals we could. First, we started with flights. We found flights that fit our schedule, and then I tracked them for a few weeks to find the patterns when they were cheapest and most expensive. When I found a price we liked, I pounced. Putting down three thousand dollars on plane tickets alone was a bit nerve-wracking, but knowing that I had 24 hours to cancel if necessary made it a bit easier (if you didn’t know, you have 24 hours to cancel with no fee on all U.S. flights).

Hotels vs. Airbnb

Once we had the flights booked, we moved onto hotels. To put it lightly, hotel rooms in Italy are neither cheap nor large. In most places, the room consists of a bed, which rubs up against a chair and table. If we’ll be traveling for a 10 days, that type of cramped space might not be enough. It would be nice to relax on a couch as we plan out our next day’s activities, and a fridge to store some food would be very convenient. Unfortunately, hotels don’t offer those types of amenities.

Enter Airbnb. For those who are unfamiliar, Airbnb allows people with houses and apartments to rent out their spaces for a price they set. This can be a great way to earn money from an otherwise dormant apartment, and for those looking to travel, can be a cheaper way to find places to stay (and in a more home-like environment in many cases). We have never tried it before, but with a $25 promotion, it made even more sense for us. Plus, we could look for all the amenities that were important to us: free wifi, and a washer and dryer in Florence so that we can pack a little lighter. For everything we were looking for, it was about half as much on Airbnb as it would be to be in hotels. And more comfortable for us!

Negotiating for Even Better Rates

In each city, we picked out our 2-3 favorite apartments that had the amenities we wanted and were in our price range, and I contacted the hosts asking if they could be flexible and offer a slightly lower rate since we’d be staying 3 nights. Some could not discount the rate further, but some were willing to offer a discount for us. In Rome, instead of $364 (including all fees) for 3 nights, we were offered $335 for a very modern 1-bedroom apartment that we are really excited to stay in. Add in the $25 credit we were given being referred, and we paid just $310 for it. What a deal!

In Florence, we went from $358 (including all fees) all the way down to $316. That’s $42 in savings just for asking! Add in the $25 we got because I referred Lauren (and now I have a $25 credit in my account, too!) and we paid just $291 for a really fantastic 2-bedroom apartment.

Lessons Learned

Once again, it never hurts to ask. In this case, we saved $71 just by asking for it. And it feels especially good since we got another $50 off with the referral credits (get $50 off your first stay here). We booked about 7 weeks in advance, so if you are not in a rush like us to book something (the more time the better), I highly recommend not only checking out Airbnb, but also asking for discounts from any properties that you’re considering. There is really no downside, and the upside is tremendous. The longer the trip, the better deal you can get!