Monthly Archives: September 2015

Discover the Joy of Limited Service

Less is more.  At least that’s my opinion when it comes to hotels.

When you think of hotels, it’s easy to see visions of room service and fluffy robes and valet parking and bell hops and expensive mini bars.  But when I travel I prefer something known as a limited service hotel.

With a full service hotel you get all the bells and whistles.  Valet parking.  Bell staff to take your luggage to your room.  Room service. A couple of restaurants/bars in the hotel.  And all of these things cost more.  Not just a higher cost for the room, but additional fees and tips.


The limited service hotel is a growing trend in this country, and it’s my favorite way to go.  When I travel, the amenities I seek are free wi-fi, free parking, free breakfast, and a small fitness center.  I don’t really need more than that and a clean place to lay my head.  And these things are exactly what I get in a limited service hotel.  And I get everything I need for about half the cost of a full-service hotel.  Yes….I park my own car.  I carry my own luggage to my room.  Breakfast is serve-yourself.  The fitness center is usually only two treadmills and an elliptical machine (which is not a problem when you like to run at 5:45 am like I do).  There is no in-hotel restaurant, but there’s usually one only a short walk away.  There’s no mini-bar in the room, but there’s usually a mini-fridge (for storing your leftovers from the restaurant a short walk away, or the soda you picked up at the nearby grocery).  But what you do find is a comfortable bed and a clean bathroom.  And this is really what staying in a hotel is all about.

Do you need luxury when you travel?  Probably not.  Less is more.  Consider a limited service hotel next time you travel.

Be Prepared! It can save you money.

Last weekend I was at a music festival that experienced a very wide range of weather.  We had sun.  We had rain.  We had wind.  It was hot.  It was cold.  It was muddy.  Something for everyone.  And watching how the people around me dealt with the fluctuation was a lesson in economics.

The people who had checked the weather forecast in advance were fine.  There’s really no such thing as bad weather…just inappropriate clothing for that weather.  The prepared folks had appropriate clothing.  Rain gear.  Mud boots.  Layers that could be added as the sun went down.  And even more layers that could be added when the wind kicked up.

And then there were the people who were not prepared.  Shorts and t-shirts in 50 degree weather.  Flip flops in deep mud.  Lack of sunscreen on the one very hot and sunny day.  No layers to add.  I looked around and saw a lot of foolish, unprepared people.

But there was another crowd of folks who were delighted by the unprepared.  The merchandise vendors.  They were prepared with sweaters, sweatshirts, blankets, and even rubber galoshes.  And they were more than happy to sell these items at a premium price to the shivering crowd.  It’s quite likely that all of these unprepared people had the appropriate clothing already…probably left behind at home.  Because they didn’t check the weather.  So they dropped $60 for a sweatshirt here and $100 for a blanket there.  It’s a pretty expensive way to make up for failure to plan.

With most things in life you can save a lot of money by doing some advance research and going in prepared, whether it be a music festival, a PSU football game, or even something as simple as packing your own snacks for a short road trip.  What was that Boy Scout motto?  Be prepared!  It can save you a lot of money.

Similar Experiences: Very Different Prices

I spent much of my summer (weekends and a few random times when I was away from the office) attending concerts and music festivals.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead, and I agreed to indulge my boyfriend (Nick) with as much Grateful Dead related music as we could afford to attend.

What I learned throughout this journey is that there are many different price points on very similar experiences.  For example, Nick and I went to Chicago for the Grateful Dead reunion Fare Thee Well concerts July 4 weekend.  We bought cheap seat tickets (behind the stage in the upper deck) for face value on Ticketmaster.  We drove my Prius straight through (ten hours), so transportation was cheap.  We stayed on a friend’s futon in Chicago, so lodging was free.  So in total, we spent only the cost of tickets and food on this amazing experience.  At the same time, however, many other Dead Heads were blowing the bank on the same concerts.  Airplanes.  Hotels.  After market tickets at inflated prices.  VIP packages.  What cost us only hundreds in total cost others thousands per person.  And we all saw the same concerts.


I’ve found the same thing with music festivals.  You can choose a small local festival with mostly lesser known bands and one or two big headliners for a very low price.  Or you can go to a bigger festival with a killer line-up and pay a lot more money.  Or you can go to that same bigger festival and buy VIP or Super VIP tickets and pay even more money.  The variety in price points for these things amazes me.

Personally I love music festivals.  (I’m at one right now!!!)  I find it’s the best way to get the most bang for your buck in the live music world.  You can see several days of music for the same price as one or two individual concert tickets.  But I prefer to do my festivals on the cheap.  I limit myself to one big (relatively expensive) festival per year, but squeeze in as many smaller (much less expensive) fests as I can.  I camp in a tent.  I avoid vendor food as much as possible and cook at my camp.  I buy my tickets early (when prices are cheapest).  And the music that I get to enjoy is exactly the same music that is being heard by folks who spent thousands more on the experience.  Very different price point.  Very similar experience.

Entertainment and relaxation is important.  But it doesn’t have to cost a fortune for a wonderful experience.  Be smart.  Do it on the cheap!

One Bite at a Time

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  It’s a great way to look at a giant goal and realize that you have to break it down into much smaller chunks.

Many of you followed my progress last semester as I went from Couch to 5K.  Once I finished that program I set a goal for myself to run at least one 5K race per month for the rest of the year.  And I’ve been doing that (with the exception of August due to scheduling challenges), with my most recent race being this past Sunday.  And Sunday’s race was a game changer for me.  It’s the first 5K race that I’ve run the whole way through.  No walking breaks.  Just slow and steady jogging from start to finish.  That’s been a goal for me all summer.  I feel like I just finished a chunk of my elephant.  And now I can move forward to the next goal of increasing my distance so I can move on to a 10K next year.  (And yes…my elephant is a 26.2 mile marathon.  Someday.)

Many financial goals seem monumental at first.  Repaying student loans.  Repaying a car loan.  Paying off a credit card debt.  Saving up enough money for a down payment on a house.  Saving for retirement.  These are all really big goals.  Elephant size.  So it makes sense to break them down into smaller chunks.  Set your sights on an intermediate goal, such as “I will pay off $1,000 of my credit card debt this year.”  It’s not the whole elephant.  But it’s a significant chunk.  And when you achieve that intermediate goal, you feel good about yourself and want to work harder toward the next intermediate goal.

One bite at a time.  Slow and steady.  It’s the only way to get there.