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My Favorite Money Saving Tools

Insights

I love playing around with various tools that claim to save time or money. Unfortunately, most are not worth the hassle. I thought I’d share three sites/tools that I’ve used successfully over the years. Between them, I’ve saved thousands of dollars and had great experiences.

Honey is a free browser plug-in that automatically looks for discount coupons or better prices as you shop online. Honey works with over 30,000 shopping sites. It works especially seamlessly with Amazon. 

Last month, I purchased two Fitbit Fitness Bands on Amazon. As I was about to make my purchase, Honey notified me I could save $10.60 on each band if I used a different vendor. The popup (below) showed me I would have to wait an additional week for shipping to save the cash; since this was not a problem, I saved over $21. Honey often finds lower pricing ($2 to $10) for my book purchases.  I’ve found these small amounts have added up to hundreds in savings over the last year.

In addition to the savings I’ve received on Amazon, Honey will often let me know that coupon codes might be available as I shop on non-Amazon sites. With one click, the tool will try several codes to see which one provides the best discounts. I’ve received discounts ranging from 5% to 15%.

Honey is not always able to save me on my purchases, but in these cases, I find it comforting knowing that I’m not missing something. The plug-in has some other money-saving features; one allows you to see pricing fluctuations on your items and set alerts when items hit your price targets.

I’ve used Hotwire to help book hotel rooms for nearly a decade. Hotwire is a travel website that allows you to find and book hotels, car rentals and flights. I’ve had the best successes when booking hotel rooms in larger cities (Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego). The “catch” is you will not see the exact name of the hotel you are booking until after you have paid for your room. That’s right, you will be booking your room without knowing the exact name or location of the hotel, and there are no refunds if you are unhappy with the result.

It’s always a scary process booking a Hotwire room, but I’ve yet to be disappointed in any of the dozen rooms I’ve booked. Last week, I had to find a room for an educational conference I‘m attending in San Diego. Through Hotwire, I found a room near the conference location, ranked four stars, with a solid TripAdvisor rating for $111/night including taxes and fees. This is a steal compared to comparable rooms. If I booked the same hotel room (a Sheraton) online, I would be paying $628 - my total was $223.

I love Hotwire, but the site must be used with care. When booking rooms, I start my search for options using my favorite travel site and then look to see what Hotwire is offering. If the prices are similar for comparable rooms, I won’t take the chance to book with Hotwire. I won’t use Hotwire if I need/want to be in a very specific hotel/location, if I have specific needs (like a view), or if I might have to cancel my stay. The site requires flexibility and some guts – so far, I’ve always been rewarded.

Long ago, I realized that adventures are way better than things. This is why I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting things to do with my family. Groupon is a digital coupon book that offers deals in several categories including Beauty & Spas, Health & Fitness, Retail, Personal Services, Food & Drink and Home Services. My favorite part of their site is their “Things To Do” category. Poking through this category has led to some unique adventures with the side benefit of getting to do them at discounted rates. What types of adventures? We have done glassblowing classes, ATV rentals, escape rooms, “Arrow Tag”, a falconry experience and several others. 

A quick look of local experiences includes sports fishing, painting and wine evenings, salsa classes, culinary classes, and even skydiving.  (Although, I’m not sure about discounted skydiving.)      

Groupon deals are often good, but I’d recommend scanning the user reviews and reading the fine print before purchasing any offering.

I’m taking my family to Scottsdale, Arizona in January. Groupon offers 873 things to do in the area to add to our adventure list.  Wish me luck!