Cancun – Money Exchange Decisions

-the money exchange decision-

CANCUN for the WEEKEND: PART 1

img_0536-1


WHERE

> I needed to get away from the cold and I had been dreaming of taking a trip by myself (more on that soon!) I did some flight research and found a ticket from Denver to Cancun for $250 round trip through Spirit. Actually, I found the flight through SkyScanner.com and I will share my methods of finding cheap flights in an upcoming post.  I definitely could have found a better ticket price to go somewhere closer, like Las Vegas, Los Angeles or even Miami, but I had never been to Mexico and I found a great place to stay that had a private beach for $43 a night (through Booking.com.)
This is Part One of the Mexico for the Weekend series! Here we focus on the MOST important part of your trip – having money that works!


CURRENCY EXCHANGE

 A great way to lose a lot of money without getting any benefit is to get a bad exchange rate. I specifically talk about Mexican Pesos and Euros in this post, but the principles apply wherever you go!


EXCHANGE AT HOME?

> You can get Mexican Pesos (MXN) before you get to Mexico, but I find that you will not get the best deals this way. Some banks (in large cities) keep foreign currencies in their vaults. Other banks keep foreign currencies at one central location in the country and it has to be overnighted to your city. Call around to banks in your area to see what each bank’s process is.

FEES VS EXCHANGE RATES

> When you exchange money in the U.S. you will be charged a fee through the bank or currency exchange office you go through. Businesses that exchange at airports tend to have the worst rates, because you are paying for their convenience.

Some banks also charge you a set fee per transaction if you are not a customer. The exchange specialist may not tell you that they roll additional fees into the exchange rate that they give you. The rate that they are quoting you is not the ACTUAL exchange rate. They are adding in their own costs. If you must get your currency exchanged before you go, call around to all of the banks in your area in order to find the best rate possible.


WHY TO NOT GET MONEY BEFORE YOU GO

> Example: Currently the USD to EURO exchange rate is almost the best it has ever been at around $.94 USD to one EURO (see Bloomberg.) However, when you call banks, they will quote you at a rate somewhere in the $.83 – $.87 USD to EURO. If you exchange $1000, suddenly you’re losing about $170 US to fees instead of the $60 that you would lose if you were getting a true exchange without the built in fees. Keep in mind, rates fluctuate daily.


img_0510ATMs – EXCHANGE METHOD OF CHOICE

> The best way to change your money is by using an ATM in your destination city. Rule number one: take out large sums. ATMs will charge a per transaction fee. That means if you take out $50 today and $50 tomorrow you’ll get docked twice as much money as if you had just gone and taken out the $100 you need in one transaction.

 

Example: I recently took $400 euros out of an ATM in Spain. My account reflected that I took out $430 USD. That is a 93% exchange rate! This is almost the actual exchange rate. Perfect.

WHICH ATM TO USE

> If you can use an ATM that has your bank’s branding on it you’ll be spared some fees that banks charge for using another bank’s money. Even if you don’t see your bank name on the ATM, do some research online before you go to see what the other ‘partner banks’ or ATMs your bank will recognize. Many banks are part of a network.

TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS

I can’t talk about foreign money spending without mentioning travel credit cards! NerdWallet is an amazing money-resource and you should definitely check out one of their newer posts about the best travel credit cards to use in 2017 HERE. There is so much money to be made by spending this way. You can skip foreign fees and get direct currency exchange rates as you swipe. Also, you can get bonus points for spending overseas, and tons of money back if you meet certain spending criteria. Words to the wise, read all the fine print when signing up for credit cards. It would be a shame to quality for a card, earn hundreds back in cash and prizes and then not pay your card off — negating all that free money PLUS reducing your credit score.


WORRIES ABOUT TAKING OUT A LOT OF CASH

img_0528> Travelers worry about theft and carrying large sums of cash. Follow these two rules: don’t walk around with thousands, AND carry your money wisely. A few hundred dollars in local currency will go a long way in many foreign countries. It is smart to keep a sum stashed in your backpack or luggage and then some of the money in your pocket for easy access. Pockets with zippers on clothing that is close to your body is the BEST way to carry your money and passport while traveling. Invest in some good clothes with this in mind before your trip.

I’ve never worn a money belt, but that is an option too! They can be worn discreetly and close to your body. Find some great ones here on Amazon.com.
Traveler satchels and any kind of purses are asking for trouble. They are easy to spot and advertise that you might be an easy target for quick cash. Even if you are not going to be in an area that is known for pickpockets, better to develop good travel habits and be safe. Basically, TRY not to stand out or look like a tourist when you’re traveling.


PRO TIP

img_0449> Never swipe your debit or bank card in a foreign country. You will get docked a foreign transaction fee every single time.  This is a set fee, so it doesn’t matter if you’re paying hundreds for a hotel or just a couple bucks for coffee. Pay cash, or pay online.
Paying for lodging online is ideal. It is your greatest expense and you can bypass the foreign transaction fees and exchange fees completely. If you use Booking.com, make sure you know whether you are paying for the property when you book or when you get there. Many times the hotels stipulate that you pay at the hotel when you get there. Know ahead of time so that you can bring cash if needed.
You can also pay for tours and museum or cathedral visits online. This has an additional benefit besides saving money on fees. To see some international landmarks, like the Cathedral in Sevilla or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, you may have to wait in a VERY long line if you try to walk up and get in on the day of. Paying in advance online will help you skip you to the front of the line. Many times when purchasing your tickets online you will be asked to choose a time that you want to go. Then you can get there at that time and go right in!


WARNING

> Be fore warned: you may still have problems arise with money while you’re travelling abroad. Sometimes ATMs aren’t working! Sometimes they are not even there anymore! You may have done all the research to find the right ATM before you leave for you trip, and then get there to find that it is out of money.

Know your tolerance for dealing with situations like this and plan accordingly. If having some cash before you go, or swiping your card everywhere you purchase, is your preference, that is fine. Just know that you are losing some of your hard earned money. Losing few bucks per transaction can really add up if you are eating out three times a day, buying souvenirs and taking day trips for your entire trip.

I cannot stress this next point enough: OFFLINE DOWNLOAD the city you are going to on Google Maps. Even if you are going to get a SIM card for your phone in the new country so that you can have service wherever you go, you will never be sorry you have a working map. Google Maps does not use data or cellular service to locate you, rather it uses GPS, which is always accessible, even if you don’t have service. By having the area downloaded, you can search ATMs (and whatever else you need) in your area without cell phone data service. MUCH more on the value of Google Maps while traveling coming soon!


175x175bbBONUS PRO TIP

Using a new currency is really confusing! Even if you know the exchange rate in your head, it can be difficult calculating what things are actually costing on the spot. I use the My Currency Converter – Exchange Rates Converter app with great ease and success.

 


 

img_0535


I’d love to hear about your currency exchange experiences.
Send me a message on instagram! Happy travels, love!

INSTAGRAM: @lovelyminimalist


 

just for u = more money for me

EXCUSES

> Not excited about having to download another app on your phone?
Sorry, make room, this one is worth it. Don’t have time to wheel-n-deal & coupon?
Me neither. This app is amazing…

saveGROCERY STORE CARDS vs COUPONING

> Everyone has grocery store cards. If you don’t, how are you living your life? save2
NUMBER ONE: It is just crazy to buy grocery store things at regular price.  

If you’re like me, you don’t ever carry grocery store cards, gym cards, coffee shop punch cards (geeze why so many cards people?) so you can just have your grocery store card linked to your phone number.  I’ve tried a bunch of couponing apps like Ibotta, which is awesome. It just hasn’t stuck with me yet…maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I’d love your comments on this!

HOWEVER, I find that the “just for u” app more than pays for the gigabytes of space that it takes up on my phone. Grocery stores are always having sales and most stores just ask that you have a card to receive the benefits. Safeway has one-upped their commitment level from you by asking you to download their app. They make it worth the effort! Promise. The crazy good deals they offer to only ‘just for u’ appers (is that a word?) on things you actually buy, like eggs, cheese, cereal, breakfast bars, veggies, everything is real money.


FREE

> Wait, actual free stuff? YES!!!! Occasionally there are FREE items. Yes, totally free. All you have to do is add it to your account (by tapping the item in the app) and then as you check out (under your phone number) when you scan the item, it just comes right off. I got a whole box of FiberOne bars ($4) for free. Thanks for the free breakfast last week Safeway! 


PARTNER STORES

save3Not in Colorado, no Safeway? NO worries. They have sister stores everywhere.
Vons and Albertsons also have Just for U. Even when I travel, like to California, I can just open the “Nearby Stores” function on the app and see what stores in my current area are offering deals. Yay for travel saving!!!

DOWNLOAD >>>

Safeway App
Albertsons
Vons

 


MORAL

> But the point of this article is not just to get you to download this particular app; it’s to foster an awareness of deals. Even if you’re a MAXI-minimalist, you still have to buy food, so finding hacks and ways to get deals on groceries is so helpful. Try some apps out for yourself! It can’t hurt to download a few, try them out and see what happens! If it doesn’t end up saving you, you can always delete it. More great saving apps coming soon! 


GAS SAVINGS

> Drive? Then save money on gas. Even if you don’t buy items on sale, ever dollar you spend at the store goes toward saving you real money at the pump. 

 


GIFT CARDSsave4


> Get really crafty and buy gift cards on the app.
If you see a gift card for a store you regularly shop at, or you know you need to buy as a gift for someone, tap it on the app.  Not only is it free money back in your pocket, but it’ll go towards your gas rewards! 

 


PRO TIPS

save6> Go through the app before you walk into the grocery store. Even if you only take a second, sitting in your car when you park. This is really helpful for so many reasons. By pre-selecting items on the app you are planning and not spontaneously buying. Spontaneous purchasing is one of the biggest killers of saving money. Don’t buy something just because it is on sale. You won’t end up using or liking it.

Sometimes phone service in the store is slow. I’ve had three different carriers and for some reason I always have slow data in grocery stores! Sometimes your phone battery is low and your phone will die as you’re walking around trying to get deals (talk about frustrating!) Finally, don’t be the person walking around the store staring at your phone getting in everyone’s way (ugh, move over!)

 

safeIf you see an item in the store with the special “just for u” savings tag on it, and you aren’t sure you have it added to your account, don’t worry! You can scan it! Yes, pull up the home page on the app and find the Scan function on the second row. It’ll pull up a camera which you just hold up to the scew on the item. It’ll find it and add it for you. Ahhhh, so easy.

 



OTHER GREAT APPS

> more on all of these later! Also, I would love if you share your own faves! 

CARTWHEEL – for Target! Similar to “just for u” in that the deals on the app are ONLY available if you have the app and you add them to your account

IBOTTA – my friend swears by this one. I haven’t really made much on it yet, but I’m a casual and sloppy user. 

EBATES – We’ll get to EBATES later…TONS of potential, but my verdict is still out. 

PRIMEAZON – why you should Amazon

img_0308


Amazon Prime Membership $99 per year

img_0310
This hundred dollars per year breaks down to $8.25 a month, which is less than a subscription to Hulu, Netflix, iTunes or Spotify. *They do have a monthly option for $10.99 per month. Get the annual membership (or Free Trial!) because, unless you are positive that you are ONLY going to order items for one month and then never order online again, paying monthly will just end up costing you more in the end.

You can read all about all the benefits you get as a member: amazon_prime_logo

img_0311> I can’t even tell you the amount of money I save in shipping. It WAY more than pays for the $100 investment. If that is the only feature that you utilize, it will be worth the investment.

>Love the two day shipping. So many times I’ve been able to order something I needed, when I thought of it, and then had it delivered to my front door before I would have had a chance to take a trip to the store where they may not have even had it. Plus, if you’re a smart Amazon shopper you know all of the PRO TIPS to save you even more money and get the highest quality products for the best prices.



img_0312


messages-image3711091825

FREE RETURNS :
Short of re-purchasing an item you already own, ALWAYS buy items that have “Free Returns.” Sometimes the shipping along on sending something back can cost half of the cost of the item itself.


messages-image3442305353

REVIEWS & ANSWERED QUESTIONS :
Always buy the version/brand of whatever product you want that has the most stars. If you haven’t seen the product in person, take a few minutes to read some reviews (good and bad) and look at the photos that customers post in their reviews to get a real life sense of what it’s going to look like. I find this is especially helpful with clothing.


STUDENTS :
You get an even better deal > 50% off ($49/year) so, no excuses.


messages-image1038316546

WAREHOUSE DEALS:
If an item offers a “Warehouse Deal” this LIKELY means that the product is unused, brand new and the box is a little banged up. Totally worth the savings you get for buying a ‘used’ product. If it is available, it’ll be just off to the right, by where you can add the item to your cart.



img_0317

= buying a $20 item with only a few reviews, getting it, not liking it, then finding out that returning it will cost you $7 to ship back. Don’t get stuck with something you don’t actually want, because isn’t worth the money to ship it back. ^ Follow all of the Pro Tips to avoid this!


img_0318 > We all buy stuff, but maybe more stuff than we would like to admit. Luckily there is a huge movement right now towards more intentional and minialistic living. I like to think of this not only in terms of what I buy, but also in terms of how I spend my time. Please watch the “Minimalism” documentary. Here is the trailer:
http://www.theminimalists.com/

Another really encouraging and inspiring resources is  “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

51mf3u-jpal-_sx348_bo1204203200_

Once you watch/read this material you may feel some internal conflict.

I came home from work to four Amazon boxes the night that I sat down to watch “Minimalism.” Talk about feeling conflicted…

‘I should send all of these packages back right away…shouln’t I?
But I actually am going to use these things and if I sent them back,
I would still need to re-order or go out to the store and purchase them.’

Following the tips and tricks I mentioned in this article help me to feel less guilty about purchasing things that I want. PLUS they save me enough money to buy, or sometimes do (minimalist travel tips coming soon) the things that I’m really excited about.

Couple the ideals of being a more efficient consumer with the desire to enjoy your life to the fullest. Being a minimalist can start with tiny changes. I’m not a minimalist yet, but I’m on my way.

I’d love to chat with you and share ideas!  

instagram: @lovelyminimalist