Monday, June 15, 2009

Creative Financing Challenge!

This could be you!

I think the economy has gotten all of us down in many different ways. I won't complain...but it has gotten me thinking. There are the usual cutbacks we can all make... pack a lunch, re-use, stop with the lattes, etc. BUT, what are some ways we can alter our lives to save more, yet still have a bit of adventure, a little bit of luxury? If you have any creative ideas outside the ordinary that you've done to save money...please let me know this week through e-mail, or by commenting, and I'll post the ideas on Friday so that we can all benefit from the suggestions! Let's start cutting back, and STILL have fun!

Here is the story of one of the most amazing things I did to save money AND have an adventure...
Four years ago, I decided I really REALLY wanted to go to Monaco and explore the surrounding area. I had been there on a quick trip a few years prior, and it whetted my appetite. These are the things I knew I wanted:
1. To go for more than a week.
2. To rent a car and drive around and explore neighboring towns
3. To stay IN Monaco
4. Have a friend or two to join me on this adventure.

I started calling hotels, and discovered that they were incredibly expensive and/or booked. So, I got creative. I had heard of home exchange services, and had had some friends who had a very positive experience with exchanges. I was living in a one bedroom apartment on the upper westside of Manhattan at the time...a very desirable area for travelers. With some trepidation, I decided to list my apartment on a home exchange service called HomeLink and see what would happen. I checked apartments available in Monaco, and miraculously found a man who was willing to exchange his second apartment in Monaco for 10 days, for my (much more humble) abode for four. After several exchanges through e-mail, and a couple reference checks, I felt confident that this would be ok.

I persuaded my friend Ruth to come. It was NOT a financially "good" time for her, but with much convincing and promises of an unforgettable experience, she agreed. When we arrived in Monaco to our beautiful apartment OVERLOOKING MONACO HARBOR WITH A BALCONY, I could NOT believe our good fortune! It was truly amazing. Our main splurge was on a convertible car which we had a blast in. We drove to surrounding towns (Eze, St. Paul de Vence, Antibes, and Grasse), hide-away beaches on the Cote d'Azure, wined, dined and had an amazing time. (Oh! Did I mention I had enough frequent flier miles for almost free airfare?) One of the nicest benefits of this exchange, is that I've become friends with the family whose apartment I exchanged...their son attended our wedding!

I used the Homelink exchange service again last year when I was in the process of selling my apartment. My tenant had moved out, and it was vacant, but furnished for 6 weeks. "Why not" I said. "WHY????", my husband said! "Let's just see what happens!" I replied.

Sure enough, we now have the opportunity to travel to this (see below) amazing apartment on the ocean in Puerta Vallarta sometime when we can imagine traveling that far with Jake!

So, take the challenge, and let's see collectively, and creatively we can come up with!

P.S. for those of your who are (rightfully) nervous about swapping your own home...this exchange works well with people who have second homes that are vacant much of the year. The first time I swapped my apartment, I was single, and didn't have everything I owned in my apartment, so it involved moving a few of my more personal items. The second time I swapped the apartment, it was vacant except for furniture, and if something happened to it, I didn't care all that much! I know many people who have had very positive exchange can check references, and don't do anything unless your comfortable with it!


paula said...

what! This is a brilliant idea!

Struggler said...

A handful more travel suggestions:

First, if you're going on your own and are somewhat flexible about where you end up, check out any options for flying as a courier.

And a fairly new website, Air Bed and Breakfast, helps you find someone's guest room (or couch!) in the city you're traveling too. I've no idea how you verify the safety of this, but the site seems to be doing pretty well.

Finally, for reasonable accommodation in large (expensive) cities, if you're traveling in summer be sure to look into University residences. They do some great deals in brilliantly central locations, once the students have left town.

Looking forward to the round-up!


What a great apartment Heather- and brilliant idea! I loved Monaco too on a very brief visit quite a few years ago. and thanks for keeping in touch with treeaware.

jacqueline said...

This is such a cool idea!! Thank you for sharing this with us! Have a lovely merry happy week and love to you!

annechovie said...

I have always wondered about how well this works....sounds like you had a great experience. Thanks for the tips!

PS~Erin said...

Wow... Monaco! Sounds amazing! I passed through on my way to nice 10 years ago and have since wanted to go experience it. Sounds like you did just that. Incredible!

My tips for saving money are simple... Stay out of the stores... use cash at the grocery store, eating out, and entertainment... turn off the tv service... sell things using consignment... stop spending on the little things here and there (magazines, coffee, etc). These are all things we are doing right now to try to make it through my hubby's layoff. I'm looking forward to hearing more tips!

Carolyne said...

That sounds like a really great idea! I bet you had an awesome time!

pve design said...

I love it! My in-laws live in Monaco and I love that you went is indeed a magical place. Thanks for sharing your trips and the exchange of travel info!

mamaloves said...

I have always wanted to do this but never felt I had much to offer. But now that I have kids maybe I could look at exchanging with a family. I no longer live in the hip cool parts of Toronto.

About 6 years ago my husband and I saved all our coins (in Canada our dollar and two dollar are coins as well-so it's easier to do here) for about a year. We managed to save $1000. His parents gave us their time share in the Bahamas, bought our tickets on points, made all our meals and we had a great inexpensive trip. Thank goodness for good in-laws.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I'm ready to go back! Thanks for rekindling all those great memories!

becoming-mom said...

Thanks for sharing this link with me Heather. If there isn't already a home exchange sites that specializes in families with babies there should be (think of it, a place that also has a crib, and a changing table!)