Drink an Extra Glass of Water Each Week and Save $20,000

drink water to save moneyWhen you’re out to lunch or dinner, do you buy a drink with your meal?

Personally, I’ve been sticking to water.  As I wrote in a post on drinking tap water to save money, it’s likely a healthier and cost-efficient option than most other alternatives.  Having given up drinking soda – and not having had one in almost 1.5 years – I can see how a meal outside can be a lot cheaper when just having water.

But when you think about it, the amount saved can really add up.  I was at a place recently where the cost of a beverage was $2.19.  Now, I’m not talking about the grown-up type of drink, but rather just a regular fountain-type of drink.   I recall a time when such drinks were around $0.50, which most assuredly seems like this price increase has outpaced inflation.

Anyway, at $2.19 you do get the honor of getting unlimited refills.  You know, in case you have a real urge to erode your teeth in the spirit of getting the most of your money.  Good deal?

But let’s look at the $2.19 figure again.  If you go out to eat even just one time per week, and spend a drink when you do, you’re talking about $113.88 over the course of a year.  It wouldn’t be too tough to drink one glass of water each week instead, right?

So let’s say we invest that $113.88 and earn a straight up 10% rate of return, after all expenses.  Not a sure thing, but let’s run with this figure.

Then, let’s say that we make this a habit and do it for the next 30 years.  Again, just substitute 1 glass of water for a beverage when dining out, 1 time per week.  Save and invest the difference, and let it compound.  That’s it.

After 30 years, this comes out to nearly $20,000.  All for developing a simple, healthy habit and sticking with it.  Just one extra glass of water per week is all it would take.

To me, this is but one of many examples of how we can make small, incremental changes that can eventually have a big impact on our savings.  It’s easy to think of ways that we could save here and there, particularly by changing our habits.  Perhaps this can even be applied to instances where we’re making money too?  Just a little extra income can really add up over time.

Oh, and it could save on dental expenses and avoid actual pain too, which I experienced enough of in the past.  Try saving and investing those types of expenses and watch what happens!

My Questions for You

Do you order beverages when dining out, or do you stick to just water?

Do you have any other examples of how smaller expenses can really add up over time?

The “Would You Want it Publicized” Rule for Frugality

extreme_frugalityFrugality can be a funny thing.  Sometimes we think we’re frugal since we pinch pennies in certain areas of our life, but we spend quite a bit in others.  In other cases, what we consider to be frugal might pass as overspending to others.  Clearly, sometimes frugality has some gray areas.

This can also extend to the ethical side of frugality.  It seems like sometimes we have rules for what we consider to be right and wrong behavior, but occasionally might let it slide by when it comes to saving a few bucks (or pennies).  Rationalized behavior abounds!

There have been some cases of extreme frugality that I’ve witnessed.  In a few cases, I’ve done a few unconventional things to save money.  Case in point:  my approach to saving money on coffee at the drive-thru.  Yes, it wasn’t my finest moment (and it was a few years ago), but I’m cool with admitting it.  I wouldn’t do it again.

There have been other cases where I’ve actually witnessed others going too far to save a few bucks.  I’ve written quite a few posts about these instances in the Squirreling Gone Wild series.  Check out that category to read those posts about extreme frugality, some of them were quite eye-opening in my view anyway.

All that being said, when trying to save a little bit of money, I follow what I call the “would you want it publicized” rule.  It simply involves asking yourself this question:

Would you feel okay with this frugal behavior being publicized?

In other words, would you be cool with your entire network of friends, family, and even co-workers knowing about your approach to saving money on something?  That is, feeling okay with them knowing the frugal approach you took in a given circumstance?

If we don’t want others to know, or we would be ashamed to broadcast it, then it’s probably not something we should be doing in the first place.

Here are few things I’ll own up to doing:

  • Taking a couple of extra napkins from a quick-serve restaurant.  I have no problem saying that I’ve done this on occasion.  Never hurts to have a few in the car, just in case.
  • Sneaking candy or snacks into a movie theatre.  Yes, I’ve done this before too.   I’ll admit it, though I’ll also say that I don’t do this anymore.
  • Picking up pennies outside a drive-thru.  Okay, I’ve done this too, as discussed above :)  Again, I’ll own up to it despite refraining from such behavior (and avoiding drive-thrus) these days.

These are, to me, gray area moves.  But that’s as far as I’ll go.

Going further than this would be actions such as taking silverware from a restaurant, towels from a hotel room, and so on.  To me, that crosses the line and I absolutely would not do such things.  Yet some people quietly do such things even though they wouldn’t broadcast it.  There’s a good post on Making Sense of Cents on which I commented, which includes some related discussion.

If we wouldn’t want anyone else to know about something we’re doing to save money, then there’s probably a reason:  we shouldn’t be doing it in the first place!

I’m actually at a coffee shop now typing this.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have a couple of recycled napkins to grab….

My Questions for You

What do you think about the “Would You Want it Publicized” rule for frugality?

How do you determine what’s going too far when it comes to efforts to save money?

Do you have any examples of others (or yourself) going too far crossing the line to save?

8 Ways to Save on Air Travel

save on air travelTraveling can be a lot of fun, especially if it involves doing so for a vacation or to see family and friends.  While I have kids and don’t have the flexibility to travel on a moment’s notice, it doesn’t mean that I don’t remember the times that I did.  And, it doesn’t mean that in the future I won’t pick right back up and travel!

The thing about air travel is that it can be really expensive.  With the cost of flights what they are, it can worth asking ourselves the question: should I fly or drive?  Or take the train or bus, for that matter.

If we make the decision to fly, there are ways that we can cut costs.  Here are 8 such ways to save:

Travel on off-peak days

If you fly during popular times, such as major holiday weekends, prices can often be higher than during off-season times.  For example, traveling from a cold weather locale to somewhere warm can be expensive around the winter holidays or spring break.  Travel in September, for example, and you might pay a good deal less.

Use alternate airports

Here in the Chicago area, we have two major airports.  However, there is an airport north of here – Milwaukee – that provides another option.  What I like is that it costs a lot less to park there, which adds up.  Yes, this is an indirect cost of air travel!  Also, depending on where you live, you might be able to score cheaper fares at different airports from your primary one.

Use miles

The last time I flew, I used miles.  It was nice to spend nothing on airfare!  The card I primarily use does offer miles, and I actually make sure not to consider it at all when making purchases.  As in, I don’t make any purchases based on the hope of accumulating more miles.  If you obtain them through your normal course of spending, it’s a nice bonus.

Take a red-eye flight

Okay, this is one that I will not do.  I’ve written about this before, but I think that sleep and wealth go together.  As in, getting a full night of sleep is not only good or your health but will also keep you energized and ready to be productive.  Even if you don’t plan to be overly productive on vacation, it’s nice to be able to awake enough and not sluggish when you arrive.  HOWEVER, it can be a great way to save money on a cheaper flight!

Compare fares

Shop around!  It doesn’t take much time to search different sites to compare fares.  Not every airline will be priced exactly equal all the time.  Sure, the flight times might be slightly different.  But if you have a bit of flexibility, and are willing to do just a little bit of work looking online, you can optimize your purchase.

Pack your food

Do you want to pay a pricey sum for an in-flight snack box?  Or, perhaps worse, spend an arm and a leg for a meal in the food court?  I once spent over $12 for a sub sandwich at airport, which seemed to be twice as much as one might pay elsewhere.  Airport food is expensive, and packing your own food can be good way to save money at the airport.  It’s another indirect cost of air travel!

Get bumped from a flight

If the flight is overbooked, someone may have to be bumped.  Often times, this can be an unwelcome event for a traveler, and I’ve known of a time when someone decided to turn down a free flight.  However, if it doesn’t matter to you if you take a later flight, you might be able to get some consideration for your willingness to be bumped.

Don’t check a bag

In other words, pack lightly! Checked bag fees can really add up.  Travel with a normal carry-on, and you can avoid some annoying fees.  Remember, that fee you don’t like would have to be paid on the return trip too!  Now, I did inadvertently discover a baggage fee loophole on a flight a few years ago, though I don’t recommend it J

My Questions for You

Which of these money-saving strategies have you employed?

Do you have any other tips?

The Car Payment That Can Be a Smart Move

car sinking fund

My car is not as flashy as this garage

Okay, up front I have to say that I do not like car payments.

The idea of taking out a loan for a vehicle someone really loves, versus just driving something that’s safe and good enough, is something that doesn’t resonate with me.  I know that many probably don’t agree with me on that, and that’s totally fine.

I’ve written a number of posts on cars, how much to spend, and how long to drive them.  One example of such a post is this one, where I describe driving decidedly non-glamorous car until it piled on a ton of miles.  Another example is a conversation I with someone who was actually cutting my hair at the time, telling me all about her amazing new SUV for which she took out a long-term loan.

So it might surprise you to see a post title on Squirrelers that has “car payment” and “smart” in it together!

Let me explain my thought process on this one:

The typical scenario that I suspect ends up playing out for a lot of people is that they try to buy the most desirable (as defined by them) car they can, as long as they’re able to somehow swing the monthly loan payments.  They really want a nice ride, see others they know driving nice cars, and they want that lifestyle too.  The car is not just a mode of transportation, but also a status symbol based on brand or something they just love because it’s cool.

I think it’s better to just buy a good enough car that doesn’t necessarily have to be new.  Used can be more than fine.

When buying such a car, we can still make payments.  However, the payments would work this way:

  1. Figure out the price of your favorite “good enough” safe and practical car that doesn’t cost much, and is preferably used.  Do this 3 years in advance of your purchase.
  2. Divide the price by 36.
  3. Each month, for 3 years, set aside 1/36 of the total price into a car sinking fun.  Make this a unique account, separated from your general checking account.
  4. When it’s time to buy the car, withdraw money from this fund and pay in cash
  5. Enjoy your car without the burden of taking out a loan.  Having taken out a loan for a car and paying cash for another, I would choose the latter!

Now, once you have the car, the saving doesn’t have to stop.  You can still set aside money for your next car, even a modest amount will help.  Hopefully, this car you just bought will last many years so your car sinking fund won’t need to be raided for quite a while.  When the time comes, you’ll be more than ready for your next stress-free car-buying experience.

So in effect, you’re still making a car payment.  But it’s a car payment that’s smart, since you’re only paying for what you need and you’re not actually taking out a loan.  It’s essentially the same thing as having targeted savings.

What it comes down to is that with realistic standards, and some basic planning, we can avoid taking on unnecessary debt like a car loan.  That money could be better used for retirement and financial freedom, which sounds a lot better that continuing the cycle of overspending and working forever.  At least to me it does.

My Questions for You

Do you think a car loan should be considered a totally normal expense in day-to-day life, or something that should be strongly avoided?

Do you see a car as something that’s a fun part of life that reflects your personality, or more along the lines of something that’s a functional necessity to get you where you need to go?

Can you see yourself paying cash for your next vehicle?

It’s Expensive to Impress Other People!

cost of impressing others

Do you think this guy spends to impress?

Honestly, who would impress you more as someone who has his or her act together:

  • A person driving a new upscale brand name car, or one driving an older average car?
  • A family living in a tony neighborhood, or one living in a solidly middle class one?
  • Someone who travels the world each year for a cool international vacation, or someone who stays domestic for a budget-oriented trip?

A person driving a sporty or luxury car, living in nice home in an upscale neighborhood, who travels to far-flung corners of the globe each year seems like an interesting person!  Wouldn’t it be more fun to hang out with someone like that, rather than the person driving an old car, living in some ordinary middle class home in a plain neighborhood, who doesn’t travel to exotic places regularly?

“Yes” would probably be the answer for many if not most people, I would guess.  No scientific data here, but I think that the average person out there would be more impressed by the first option in each of the 3 questions above.

Of course, in money circles the answers might be different, but us personal finance junkies are probably outliers that way :)

To be fair, many people can rightfully afford those nice things.  However, my guess is that there are far too many people who simply can’t afford to live such lives, but feel like that’s the standard they want to live up to.  They just couldn’t imagine having a life with “average” cars, homes, and vacations (among other things).  They feel like they’re deserving of something better than average.

Moreover, many people just don’t want to appear average or give off an impression that they’re not successful.  It’s Big Hat, No Cattle Syndrome at work. This can really kick in when your peer group around you has nicer things.

Again, I probably see things differently than the typical non-personal finance enthusiast, but it just doesn’t matter to me if I have things that aren’t as nice as others who I know.  Our cars, our home, and vacations are all pretty average-looking in my opinion.  Is it bad that they aren’t different?

I wasn’t always this way.  Literally, when younger, I wouldn’t wear anything to work unless it was from Nordstrom.  I took some great vacations, having visited all but 3 states in the US while also visiting Europe multiple times, China, India, and a few other locales.   Real estate dreams became an obsession of mine!

I even remember a guy I worked with, older and higher up the organizational chart than me, driving an older most car.  How lame, I thought! What a boring dude!

Yeah, that was an immature view.  He was actually smart, though I didn’t realize it then.

These days, it’s more about my kids and financial freedom.  Or, more accurately, the quest for financial freedom.   This is because I realize that time is precious, and is more important than spending hard-earned money to look successful, cool, or whatever.

It’s not that I don’t care at all about nicer things.  That would be disingenuous to say.  Rather, it’s just that they’re not as important now, and I can suppress the still-present interest in such things because other things mean more.

Case Study

Thinking in terms of time and money, let’s consider a few alternatives for each of those 3 options above.

Car:  A nice upscale car costing $40,000, or an ordinary used car costing $10,000.  Difference = $30,000.

Home: A beautiful new “McMansion” costing $500,000, or a nice but older-looking home costing $300,000.  Difference = $200,000.

Vacation: 3 years of deluxe international trips costing $25,000, or 3 years of modest domestic trips costing $5,000.  Difference = $20,000.

So, someone wanting to look good and be cool might be tempted to spend an extra $250,000 for that more “impressive” lifestyle.  Just how much time does someone have to work to spend an extra $250,000?

Let’s assume that a person has a solid salary of $100,000 pre-tax.  After taxes, how about saying this person has $70,000 in income? If the person has annual expenses of $50,000, that means that $20,000 is saved annually.

If that same person wants to upgrade to a better life, it would take 12.5 years worth of savings in order to finance the good-looking options.  There are probably a number of other ways one could do such calculations, but a quick calculation like this makes the point:  it can be very expensive to live up to a certain image.

So why do it?

It’s fascinating how so many people would probably disagree with my view, and think I’m being cheap.  Perhaps, but it’s actually more intended to put great value on time and peace of mind, instead of letting image and status control me.

Admittedly, it’s not the material things that I get jealous of; rather, it can be others achieving more success with the same level of effort that can get me envious at times in certain situations. That’s another post another post for another day.

But material things?  No, they don’t matter too much in terms of competitiveness.  Too time-intensive!  Financial security and future freedom mean more, at least to me.  That’s the intoxicating goal, rather than possession of nice things.

What Do You Think?

Do you ever get caught up in spending to impress? It’s okay to admit it if you do :)

Do you consider the time it takes in order to afford certain things?

Do you know anyone who has certain lifestyle standards that he or she just won’t compromise?


The Most Important Black Friday Shopping Tip

black_friday_turkeyWell, another year, and another Black Friday is upon us.  This is a day that has become a critical one for many businesses, and a day that is marked on the calendar for many shoppers in the U.S.

Let’s be real, shopping in general is almost like a sport to a large number of people.  There are plenty of people that simply love to shop.  For such people (not me), Black Friday is pretty much like the big game, the championship day where they play to win.  Or so they think.

How can someone win on Black Friday?  Well, I don’t think it’s a matter of looking at it in terms of how many great things a person can buy at good discounts.  You just know that in the mental scoreboard of a lot of people, it’s kind of like going hunting and coming back with the best (and most) pelts.  Again, like a sport.

I think that true success on Black Friday can be had by adhering to this one tip:

Buy things you need, but don’t buy things that are great deals but aren’t needs.

For example, we could use a new skillet here.  I could also use a new winter coat.  Those are things that are actually needed, as replacement for items that are way past their useful lives.  Black Friday might be a good time to get deals on those things.

A new computer is something I don’t need.  But what if see this amazing deal on one that looks awesome?  What if it’s at a simply unbelievable discount?  I don’t need another computer, so therefore this is something I shouldn’t buy.  Period.

The same goes for a new TV, shoes, or whatever your shopping vice might be.   Buying something that you don’t need, but seems so cool and it’s at an incredible price is a great way to lose the Black Friday game. For those inclined to look at it as a sport, that is :)

In past years, I’ve talked about how the best way to save money on Black Friday is to not do any shopping whatsoever.  While that’s still probably true, I suppose there’s little harm in getting something you already truly need if it’s at a great price.  It could be a smart move, and a way to win the Black Friday game.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and weekend.

My Questions for You

How are you planning to handle Black Friday this year?

If you read this after Thanksgiving, how did you handle Black Friday this year?

Are you good at discerning wants and need during this time, or do you let loose and shop for fun?

Debate: When to Buy an Expensive Car

nice car for a long commuteWhen you drive a lot, and spend a lot of time in your car, should you spend the money on a nice car?

That’s the debate I had some years ago with a co-worker, as we discussed the cars we had.  He and I both had fairly long commutes, but he drove a nicer car, and I drove one that was once good but was on its way to the 200,000 mile mark.  Frankly, he had a car that at the time I actually liked, and would have preferred to have.  I drove an old Toyota, he drove a new Volvo.

It started with him talking about how he just got a new car, and how they’re so expensive these days.  So, I asked what he bought, and he told me that he got a new Volvo wagon.   First of all, I know that right away some of you reading this might laugh at the notion that 2 people might find this to be a desirable car!  Fair enough, I suppose it’s something that might particularly appeal to people who are new parents.  That’s what I was, and so was that guy.

Anyway, the value of my own car was probably $5,000 or so at the time.  His car, purchased new, was probably over $30,000.  I would have rather had his car than mine if money was no object.  However, money was an object.  Thus, I would rather have the old car with a ton of miles rather than the sparkly new car.

I commented (nicely) that he could have bought a car that wasn’t as nice, but was less expensive and got better mileage.

He paused, smiled, and exclaimed that it wasn’t realistic for him to do that.  His reasoning was that he spent so much time in the car – 1.5 hours each way – that it just made sense to drive something he liked and felt comfortable in.  If he didn’t drive so much, he would drive a lesser car.

That was the opposite of how I approached it.  My thinking is that if you’re spending a lot of time in your car due to a long commute, the most important thing is getting a cost-effective car that gets good mileage.  There are often significant costs when you have a long commute.  Clearly, by the car I was driving, I’m someone who embraces car longevity and how that can save money.  Having a car that’s nice is something that I might think is more appealing if you don’t drive much.  Actually, I wouldn’t even buy one then:)

One thing to add: he said nothing about safety and family when it came to his car choice.  He was focusing on his enjoyment and comfort while driving, though I have to believe those other factors came into play.  My other car, not for commuting, was the safe one.

My Questions for You

If you had a long commute and spent a lot of time in your car, what attributes would you focus on when making a purchase?

Would you be more interested in spending more on comfort and something you like, or being practical and focusing on fuel economy?


Two Big Money Saving Opportunities for Recent College Graduates

new_grads_saving_moneyOne of the most exciting times of life can be upon graduation from college (or university, if you call it that).  You’re actually in a position to have the freedom to create your own life, and follow your own path.  All those years of school can now be put to use, and you can really get moving in whatever career path it is you have chosen.

The thing is, this is actually a huge transition period in life.  While exciting in many ways, it’s also a time where one’s finances can be impacted in a big way.  There are real world expenses that need to be paid, and for many people this also includes student loan debt.  But beyond that, there are a ton of other things that we find ourselves spending money on.  Some are things we want, and others are things we need.

From a financial point of view, two that stand out are having a place to live, and having reliable form of transportation.  These are needs.  After all, we can’t live out in the wild, and many of us can’t walk everywhere for all our needs!

Along those lines, I think these are two areas where people right out of college or graduate school can make a huge difference in their finances by making wise moves.  Here’s how:

Saving on Living Expenses

  1. Live with parents.  If this isn’t possible due to geography, their refusal, or whatever valid reason, then never mind.  However, if this is actually an option, it could be a massive money saver.  I think this might be the biggest money-saving decision someone could make.  This way, you don’t pay rent.  Or, perhaps you just contribute a small amount each month.  Regardless, a young person on limited income is going to save a lot of money this way.  Perhaps $1,000 to $1,500 per month could easily be saved.
  2. Find roommates.  If you can’t live with parents, then find roommates.  Perhaps this could mean sharing a place with an older sibling and paying rent.  Or, it could be a matter of finding friends or a few people with whom you’re highly compatible, and sharing costs.  A person could save hundreds of dollars per month.
  3. Find an inexpensive place.  Most people I know have a real desire to live in nicer places.  That being said, if you do need to find a place, find a place that’s safe, convenient, but also less expensive than nicer or better furnished places.  When you’re starting out, you just don’t need to waste money on an expensive rental.  This is the path I took, but I lived by myself – thus spending more at the time.  I wish I would have lived with my parents instead.

Saving on Transportation

  1. Use public transportation.  Much like living with parents, this could be a tremendous way to save money.  Of course, if this isn’t an option, then move on.  But if it is, it could be a great way to save money.  Cars cost money, not only to buy but also for gas, insurance, and other expenses.  These costs really add up!
  2. Drive a used car that’s not a premium brand.  If public transportation isn’t viable, then we’ll need a car.  Of course, we want to be sure that the car is reliable.  However, there is no need for a big brand name car.  None whatsoever.  It doesn’t matter how it looks to others, simply pay no attention to what friends are driving.  There is absolutely nothing wrong at all about driving the least impressive car among your peer group; actually, it’s probably the smartest move to make.  I drove a used car, so on this one I actually made the right choice.

Overall, there is a lot that can be gained by saving on these expenses, and simply learning to stop spending money.  By living at home and driving a low-budget car, a person could possibly save quite a bit of money.  Depending on the alternatives, perhaps up to $2,000 per month could be feasible.  Saving $24,000 after-tax dollars annually would be huge.

Think about how doing this for just 2 years could help finish off student loan debt! Or, even better, help to build a strong foundation for one’s financial future.  Taking a lump sum, investing it, and letting compounding work its magic can pay huge dividends later in life.  These are two ways to make that happen!

My Questions for You

What do you think about the idea of living at home right after college?

If you’re a recent college graduate, what have you done in terms of living arrangements and transportation?

If you’re past that stage in life, what did you do – and would have done anything differently knowing what you do now?


Driving vs. Flying: How to Choose

drive_or_flyShould I drive, or should I fly?  This is a question that’s occasionally asked by people who are taking a trip that’s not exactly short, but not cross-country either.   Money and convenience come into play as parts of the equation when trying to make a decision on whether or not to drive or book a flight.

I thought of this question recently, because it applied to me!  Specifically, I had to make a decision on how to get to FinCon – the Financial Blogger Conference.  This edition of FinCon is to be held in St. Louis, which is around 300 miles from where I live in suburban Chicago.  Round trip, we’re talking about just over 600 miles for this journey.  Not exactly local, yet not across the country either.

My first reaction was that I would drive.  Once a person gets out of the massive, sprawling Chicagoland area, it should be a traffic-free drive all the way to St. Louis.  Not too bad!  However, even though you don’t have to buy a plane ticket, there are additional costs to consider.  Let’s use my trip as an example of how a person could consider whether or not to fly or drive.

Cost of Driving


For over 600 miles round trip, I’m looking at about 25 gallons of gas. At current prices, this should be at least $80.  Clearly, it’s not cheap to drive! It’s a good thing to keep in mind even when driving locally – each mile adds up.

Wear and Tear on the Car

Cars generally have a useful life.  They don’t go on forever, as much as we would like them to.  I’m someone who embraces car longevity, having taken a prior car to well over 200,000 miles before selling it.

Let’s say you have a car that would cost $20,000 new.  If it has a useful life of 200,000 miles, it would be worth $0.10 per mile.  Now, I know this is an inexact estimate and absolutely has inherent flaws.  However, just as a ballpark measure of how cars can lose value as they’re driven more, this works well enough.

In my case, this would cause an estimated $60 in depreciation with the 600 miles of driving.  Now, let’s say that I would have driven 100 miles anyway had the trip not been planned.  Okay, so that would bring the incremental miles driven down to 500, which means that we’re looking at $50 in depreciation.

Wear and Tear on the Driver

I’ll be driving alone, with nobody to share driving.  Not that 300 miles each way is a huge deal, but having done long commutes to work before, I can tell you that driving does take a little something out of you.  It’s way easier to be sitting on a plane or even waiting at an airport for a flight, where you can multitask easier.  Or, just veg out.  Plus, driving can take additional time versus flying.

Anyway, while not quantified here, let’s say that there is some value to convenience.

Additional Costs

Sometimes, there could be extras associated with driving.  One which will come up for this trip is parking.  Apparently, it might cost over $80 to park at the actual hotel.  There seem to be other alternatives, but aren’t free anyway and don’t offer the perceived benefit of parking at the actual hotel.  Even if some other alternative was found that cost only $30, it would still be cash outlay!

Cost of Flying

Airline Tickets

Its great to look for bargain fares, and try to focus on getting the best price well ahead of time.  Fares can really vary wildly for the same route, depending on when someone looks.

In the case of my trip, the best fare I found was about $185 round trip.  Not bad!  Unfortunately, I procrastinated and fares went up to $234.  So, that’s the cost of a flight.

Spending Money at the Airport

Okay, this is something people overlook when flying.  However, it can be costly to buy anything at an airport.  I once spent $13 on a sub sandwich and water at an airport!  If one plans ahead and considers ways to save money at airports, it could help curb costs.  In my case, I would make sure to spend nothing!

Transportation to/from Airport

People could rent cars, take taxis, or go on public transportation once they arrive at their destination.  If I took the latter, and spent maybe $10, that wouldn’t be too bad either.

Of course, we can’t forget the cost of getting to the airport before you fly out – and the cost of getting home! If you can get a ride from someone or take public transportation, it would be great.  In my case, it would entail parking at the airport – which would probably be over $40 for the duration of the trip.

Overall – Drive or Fly

Clearly, there are different factors to consider when deciding on which way to go. In the specific example shared above, I estimated the costs of driving to total around $220.  The costs of flying would be around $290.

Of course, money isn’t everything.  If we could save time, that has value too.  After all, time is money – or more important, really. Also, there is some value to convenience and letting someone else do the work.

What did I choose to do?  I chose driving.  If I could have found a lower fare, I would have planned to fly, as I think that the cost of driving clearly goes beyond just fueling up your car.  So while in many cases I would absolutely choose flying, the difference in this case was enough for me to find it worth driving.  While that stretch of driving is not the most exciting, I did stop by my local library to pick up a few audiobooks to make the drive interesting.  Between that, music, and the fall colors, I’ll be fine :)

My Questions for You

Have you ever had to make a decision on whether or not to drive or fly?

If so, what factors did you consider?