Recession Mama

{July 31, 2009}   Bigger Is Better, Right?

–By Carla

On any given day, odds are that something totally ridiculous is clogging up my brain, taking up space where other, more useful stuff should go. Clogging up my brain right now, for instance (and in no particular order): I’d like to find a way to cover the jetted garden tub in the master bath and use that space for storage; how dangerous is chlorinated pool water?; where do June bugs go the rest of the year?; and currently topping my list: to buy a bigger house or not.

Yes, getting laid off and losing more than 50% of the household income normally would put a damper on buying a bigger house, but the way I see it, small is the new big right now and I’m more than 100% sure that we would make money on the sale AND be able to buy a bigger house for perhaps less money than we spent on this tiny little thing. I say “tiny” when I know that for others, it’s really not. It’s an 1,800 square foot home with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, but the real rub is the fact that the BIGGEST room in the house is the formal dining room, which we NEVER use for dining and which I’m currently using as a craft center.

Please pay no attention to the yoga ball in the corner. Thank you.

Please pay no attention to the yoga ball in the corner. Thank you.

Great, I’m using my grandmother’s glorious antique furniture to hold Toddler Boy’s construction paper and my various “things that need to be done” projects.

The other BIG deal for me is the fact that we do not have a guest bedroom. I’m quite honestly a little ashamed of that fact. I mean, who doesn’t have a guest bedroom?

As best as I can tell, we never intended to stay here this long (going on 6 years now), but the housing market fell apart just as our 5 year goal approached. I’m not saying I want a gigantic home just to keep up with the others around us (we own the smallest home in our subdivision), I only want 1) a larger family area and 2) an extra bedroom. That’s it. It’s not a huge request, but because so many people were so very reckless with their money and greedy in their wants, we may be stuck here for a while.

Don’t even get me started on that school bus driver and her construction worker husband who bought an $800,000 home, then whined when it went into foreclosure. The fact that they were ever  approved for a loan that size boggles the mind and is a glimpse into just what was going on before the cards started to fall. Owning a home is not a right, it is a privilege, but somewhere along the way we started thinking and believing that we were owed a home and that part of the American dream included home ownership.

We could afford a larger home for around the same amount of money. Plus it’s a buyer’s market out there right now. (I’m the only one in the house who likes that idea, let’s say, so there are no plans at the moment)

But there is a part of me that wants to buck the conventional thinking about being in a bigger home. Part of me wants to stay just to make some sort of social commentary about wants versus needs, especially during this recession. The boys each have a bedroom, and no, we’re not running a Super 8, so in that respect, we’re fine.

The other part of me, however, is the part who grew up in a larger home and had relatives with much larger homes and is honestly feeling a little crammed in here at the moment.

And so the inner dialogue continues…what to do…? Go ahead…let me have it…


–by Carla


I’m not exactly sure what Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters are talking about in “My Hero”, but I love looking at him and I love me some Foo Fighters, oh and I do love the part of that song that goes: 

There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary

A couple of ordinary heroes popped into my life recently and took some extraordinary steps to help me out. Two really unassuming people made my week and probably don’t even know it. I’ll tell you about my run-ins with Vanessa and Chris in a second, but why am I rambling about this and how in the world is it recession-related? I firmly believe that we’ve had a serious customer service issue in this country for a very long time. Gone are the days where the person at the check-out politely said to the customer, “Thank you for shopping with us…please come back to see us”, or something remotely close to that. Sure it still happens, but not at all like it used to when I was a kid and it hacks me off. If I’m spending my hard-earned money in your store, please acknowledge that fact and I’ll come back to see you. It’s not just the check-out, it’s those incredibly frustrating customer service calls with the recorded chick…you know the ones…they make us press 1 for English (um…why?) and 8 for this and 22 for who-knows-what…and by the time that damn recorded lady is done rattling off choices, I want to throw the phone out the window. And once you DO get someone, good luck. I will never forget the time I called to pay my XM bill over the phone and the kind gentleman with the thick Indian accent (he really was so sweet) told me that my total was “78-point-35”. “Point”? Seriously?


Vanessa was working as a receptionist at the rheumatologist’s office this week. I’d just popped in for follow-up blood work (you can apparently never be too young or too cool to possibly have rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve come to learn). But this “Just pop in, it’ll take a second” outing, turned into a 30 minute nightmare…while my Mom was home babysitting the boys. Twice I asked another receptionist how much longer she thought it might be, and after being told “Oh, Hun, any second now”, the other one, Vanessa, popped up out of her chair, tugged firmly on her scrubs and said, “I’ll do it. Come with me”. Not 4 minutes later, I had a Hello Kitty band aid on my arm and I was walking out the door. Vanessa had stepped up and gotten ‘er done when everyone else seemed to have passed the buck. 

Chris was my next hero the very next day. He was at a call center at a government agency (and that right there should give anyone the chills), and he stayed with me even after my mini-tantrum, and was able to help me unlike anyone in his office had in the past. He could have passed the buck and transferred me to other people but he didn’t. He stayed on the line with me, made a human connection with me and even shared a laugh or two with me. At the end of that 35 minute phone call, I felt like I’d been talking to an old friend. (It didn’t hurt that he was an old radio jock.)

My point is this: There are a bunch of us out there who need other people to help us get by right now…be it the customer service rep at the credit card company who is helping someone lower their rate or consolidate their debt, or the person on the other end of the phone at the mortgage company who is helping someone on the brink of foreclosure, or the customer service agent at the health insurance company working with a sick person who needs a little help with that massive pile of bills. I can’t think of any other time in our recent history when we have had to rely so much on customer service folks. It’s time for them to step up and shine. And it looks like actual heroes are being born…just like Vanessa and Chris.

And come on, we’re in a recession, if you’re in a position to interact with the buying public, BE NICE, you need our business. 

{July 19, 2009}   Winning the Lottery

By Katy

If I won the lottery...

If I won the lottery...

Do you fantasize about winning the lottery?  Of course you do.  You and everybody else.  I do it a lot when I’m not working.  It’s actually a bit like Prozac to me, and I like to take my anti-depressant with a little game.  Sometimes I give myself an imaginary amount, and I think up all the things I’d like to do with that money.  Sometimes, I just write down everything I would do, if I had money, and the grand total is what I pretend I have won.  I’m sure everyone’s done this, right?  Well, here’s a little insight into what I like to do if I won the lottery (and after the Tax Man has gotten his share):

  • pay off mortgage & any debts I may have

  • pay off my parents’ mortgage and give them a set amount every month

  • buy my dream house

  • give half to my church and charities, maybe start up a scholarship fund at my alma mater – NYU

  • up my insurance (this may be imaginary, but I will still be well protected)

  • pay for my dream wedding (pay to fly people in and set them up at a nice hotel)

  • travel around the world for the honeymoon

  • buy my grandma her own place (or build a great guest house behind my house for her to live in)

  • give my brother a chunk of money to invest (because he’s good at these things)

  • start my own company (so I can employ others and give them job security and satisfaction)

My brother tells me that in business school, a professor told him that buying a lottery ticket is the equivalent of an idiot’s tax.  And we’ve all heard the pitfalls of those people who win the lottery and then end up broke the next year.  I’ve also kept in mind that on the ABC hit drama, “Lost,” Hugo blamed winning the lottery on his bad luck and the plane crash.  Despite the warning, name calling, and TV show reference…I still do want to win the lottery, and I know you do too.  So, what would you do with the money if you won the lottery?

{June 23, 2009}   What’s Going On?

by Katy

I don't really work behind a desk, and I hope I don't look like this man.

I don't really work behind a desk, and I hope I don't look like this man.

You may have noticed that we’re a bit MIA these days.  Well, I can’t speak for my other Recession Mamas, but for me, LIFE just got really, really busy lately.  I have been finishing up a show, and I’ve worked 12-15 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week.  I missed my cheap dad‘s Father’s Day dinner on Sunday because I had to go to work.  Fortunately, my dad doesn’t think I’m now the world’s worst daughter, but he did joke that I was working so much, I was probably making minimum wage.  Well, I did the math, and I’m not.  But you know what is so different about me today?  I’m not complaining AND no one is commiserating.  Instead, if I even mention that I’m working…everyone just says to me… “well, at least you’re working” or “it’s good to be working.”  And I completely agree.  I’m extremely grateful to have a job in this recession.  I love what I do.  I like the people I am working with and for (I know ending a sentence with a preposition…or dangling participles…or whatever it’s called.  I’m tired…what do you want from me?).  And at the end of the day, I am able to pay my mortgage and put food in my stomach.  Life is good.

{June 1, 2009}   You Should Elope…

By Katy

Recently, on Recession Mama’s facebook page (Yes!  We have one now!), a “fan” wrote this to me:

“$29K? Are you serious? You should elope.”

She also wrote:

“I still don’t understand, that in this economy, someone would shell out that kind of money just to get married. Your site is called Recession Mama… spending an exorbitant amount of money on frivolity just doesn’t seem appropriate, in my opinion. We have to stimulate the economy, yes, but we also have to make sure our needs are met and that our children are taken care of. I have so many friends who have lost their jobs in the past year. It’s incredibly sad to see them struggle. I have a friend in Boston who was a music industry executive. He now sells tour tickets for the trolley. Is there not a better way to spend wisely and save the rest? You, too, can be jobless. I had to let you know how I feel.. it’s been bugging me for a week.”

Here’s what I started to say:

I have had the same thoughts and this is why I wanted to write RM. If you’ve read my earlier blog posts, then you would know that I have struggled with whether I should have a wedding at all in this recession. But if you read my blog posts, you’ll also know that I’ve been really responsible with my money. I have been out of a job, many, many, many times. That’s why I have no debt (except for my mortgage), I have a year’s worth of expenses saved up (most people recommend 3-8 months…I actually have a year’s worth…, I have way more than a year’s worth). And I have postponed this wedding for more than a year now b/c I haven’t been able to justify spending the money.

Now, here’s where I’d like to explain further…

My fiance and I discussed this person’s opinion afterwards, and we really did not understand her calling our wedding “frivolity.”  Is the joining together of two lives frivolous?  We really do not think so.  Although I am really not a romantic and am usually quite cynical about marriage, I’ve definitely taken the idea of getting married to this one person extremely seriously.  We’ve discussed everything…from children to ambitions to finances.  We’ve even gone to pre-marital counseling together to make sure we’re thinking about what we need to think about and really know what we’re getting into.  So the thought of someone actually considering that the idea of getting married and having a wedding to show that union, as “frivolity”…well…let’s just agree to disagree on that one.

Believe me, I have definitely struggled with the idea of having a wedding in a recession.  My fiance and I have discussed what we could do with the money, if we weren’t planning a wedding.  After all, I am extremely practical, financially, and I have a dad who is proud to be called “cheap!”

I do love the idea of eloping.  But for me, eloping or having a wedding doesn’t have anything to do with money.  It’s about joining two people who truly love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives building something together (whatever that may be should be up to the couple).  Whether someone elopes or has a wedding…that’s a choice and shouldn’t be based on what other people want or think.  (Yes, I know some of us don’t even have that choice!)

But I disagree that I should not have a wedding just because we are in a recession and that other people are not working.  Recession Mama isn’t about being cheap, frugal, or hoarding your money in this recession.  It’s about being able to talk about our finances and share our thoughts about money, no matter what your circumstances are.  I know now why no one likes to talk about money.  It’s because some of us are so quick to judge someone else’s life without really knowing what their lives are like.  I knew I was going to get criticisms from people who didn’t know me when I decided to disclose how much a wedding truly costs in Southern California.  Most of the people I know who have had a wedding here would tell you that $30,000 is really on the cheap side for a decent wedding.  Also, I, too, spent some time not working this year, and if I had any debt…I wouldn’t even dream of having a $30,000 wedding.  But again, I have taken care of my needs.  I have also saved up for this wedding, and I will be paying for it in CASH.   I am not putting myself into debt for a wedding, and I am helping people who are working in the wedding business.  If everyone who had money just hoarded it in this recession, we would really be in trouble.  I never believed in the idea that you had to “settle.”  I am marrying the man of my dreams.  I have a job that many, many people dream of doing, and I work hard for my money so that I can also have the wedding of my dreams.

{May 24, 2009}   Back to the Basics

–by Carla

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today’s guest writer is Lydia, a friend from way back. She was a teacher of mine at the University of North Texas. We always called her “Aunt Lydia” back then, mainly because she was young and cool just like we were. She likes to say, “One of my claims to fame is that I taught Carla everything she knows about studio television…. which may explain why she pursued a career in radio…” Ha! We stayed in touch a bit over the years and reconnected recently. I found out that she is a big fan of saving money (love her!) and is now a big fan of RM (love her more!). So here is “Aunt” Lydia, in her own words:

In Proverbs it says – “The debtor is slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)  Anyone want to stand up and testify?  How many of us have felt like all we do is pay bills and wonder how we’ll do it again next month?  How many of us would like to know we have some money tucked away for a “rainy day”?  How many of you guys and gals have little ones that you’re worried about funding their college education? 

I love the RecessionMommas site, so in the spirit of cost cutting, I’m going to discuss some of the principles I learned from Dave Ramsey – the author of THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER and host of radio and television.  Dave’s advice is going to sound eerily familiar to those who actually listened to their grandparents on occasion. 

1. DON’T SPEND MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE.  Simple and to the point.  It also means we have to be mature (yikes!) enough to save up for something we want, not just run out and charge it.   

2. GET RID OF THE CREDIT CARDS – I know, I know!  For those of us who got our first credit card when we were in college, the thought of living without one sends a chill down our spines!  I have managed to cancel and cut up all but 2 of mine.  (One card gives me points!)  Seeing that when I started the “Dave Plan” I had about 8 cards, I have definitely made progress.  I pay them off each month, but that still goes against “the Dave Plan” because we do tend to spend more $$ when we charge things rather than forking over the cash. 

A side story (ADD kicking in) – I recently called Discover card to cancel my account with them.  They had sent me one of those lovely letters telling me they were raising my interest rate for no reason other than they wanted to.  So, I took the opportunity to sever my ties with them.  

When they transferred me to the correct department, the guy tried to talk me into staying with them.  No prob, it’s his job.  But, he keep warning me that my FICO score was going to drop, that I’d been a customer since 1988, since I pay off my card each month it really didn’t matter what the interest rate was… What finally got me laughing was when he said “We’ve had a very long relationship…”  I told him, “Relationship? It wasn’t like I was going to invite you to my wedding.” Ha! 

I tell you this story not only to amuse you, but to show you that the credit card companies will try to persuade you that the worse thing in the world is to cancel their card.  Always remember, these are the same companies that instantly slap you with late fees and jack up your interest rate if your payment arrives 1 minute after 12pm the day it’s due.  Relationship my big fat, errr, toe! 

  1. MAKE A BUDGET – it’s not as horrible as it sounds!  If you will plan your spending each month, you will spend less.  A quick way to get started (and to figure out where you are bleeding cash) is to write down everything you spend.  It’s shocking how much stopping at Starbucks, or my personal favorite, Dunkin Donuts, a few days a week actually costs!  Buy the coffee at the store and make it at home.  It saves lots of $$!


Dave Ramsey says to spend your money on paper before you spend it for real.  For those of us “free spirit” “creative” types, that can be a little hard to do.  Try drawing doodles in the margins to illustrate all the money you’re going to save by doing your budget. J 

4.  BECOME A WISE SAVER AND INVESTOR.  We all need an “emergency fund” in a savings account where we can get our hands on it.  You must be wise about your definition of an “emergency”.  Sorry ya’ll, but Nordstrom’s shoe sale IS NOT an emergency…. 

Investing can be a bit intimidating, at least it was for me…  I kept thinking, “If I screw this up, I’ll be eating dog food in my old age!”  However, we can’t let fear keep us from educating ourselves and just doing it.  Our biggest asset is TIME.  The younger we are when we start investing, the longer the magic of compound interest works for us.  For those of us who aren’t quite so young, it means we need to be even more intense. 

Ok, this is enough for now.  I will leave you with the SEVEN BABY STEPS that Dave Ramsey teaches – 

BABY STEP 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund

BABY STEP 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball (see website for details)

BABY STEP 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings

BABY STEP 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement

BABY STEP 5 – College funding for children

BABY STEP 6 – Pay off home early

BABY STEP 7 – Build wealth and give!  Invest in mutual funds and real estate. 

For more info on Dave Ramsey, see 

BIG thanks to Lydia for being our guest writer today!

{May 16, 2009}   A Wedding Update

By Katy

I want to have my cake and eat it too!

I want to have my cake and eat it too!

A lot of my conversations, these days, go something like this:

Other person: “So…when are you getting married?”

Me: “Umm…sometime next year, I think.”

Other person: “Yeah, I would think so…it’s too late for this year.”

Me: “Yeah, I suppose. But not really.”

Other person: “So..have you set a date yet?”

Me: “No.”

So that’s my update. I have officially postponed my wedding until next year. SUMMER 2010 – the blockbuster union! Or the official beginnings of AntKat!! If you ask me again, I might just refer you to my blog. And yes, the reasons are financial. But it’s not what you think. Well, it actually might be. I’m only pretending to know what you’re thinking.

I still do not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on one night, and I do not think the recession will get better by next year. I think it might actually fluctuate quite a bit before things get better. So I want to be prepared for the worst. I’m hoping for the best though, so don’t think I’m in the basement stocking up on canned goods. Well, not just yet. If I didn’t have a mortgage, I do think I would’ve gotten married this year. Having to think about paying that mortgage and not knowing whether or not I will continuously work can be a bit stressful. But I don’t like to stress about stuff, and that’s why I want to be prepared. I want an emergency savings fund of a year’s worth of expenses, AND I want the beautiful wedding. Yes, I want my wedding cake and be able to eat it, too. Is there anything wrong with that? On Monday, I start addressing locations. Follow me, as I document my LONG trip down the aisle.

{April 13, 2009}   Recession Re-invention
The view from the roof of my loft

The view from the roof of my loft

Since Heather, Carla, and I launched this blog, officially, a week ago, I’ve gotten some questions and concerns about my work status. (Even my own mother has said she didn’t realize how many times I’ve been laid off and how incredibly depressing it is!) Well, let me assure everyone that I am working on a show, and I am not here to depress anyone. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m hoping to help and get help with living WELL in this recession.

I want to first explain that I have only been laid off (fo realz) once (the news job in D.C). But I’ve had to look for a new job about 11 times in the last five years. That’s because TV shows end. If I’m lucky, I’ll work on a show for an entire season or two because that show is doing well and has gotten picked up for an extra season . If I’m not lucky, or if I’m just working on a pilot, that show will end in a month or two. Believe it or not, even though I’ve had to look for work 11 times, I’ve only been out of work for only 3 or 4 months in the last five years.

Here’s what I’ve learned from constantly changing jobs:

  • I really enjoy it, and it’s not for everyone. I used to be commitment-phobic. Now, when other people (usually guys) say they’re commitment-phobic, they’re usually telling a girl that they’re not that into them. For me, from the ages of 22-30, I couldn’t commit to cities, jobs, OR boyfriends. During those eight years, I moved NINE times, lived in 8 different cities, and had maybe 8 boyfriends (well… I don’t know if I’d quite call them boyfriends but there I go again with not really committing to them). Well, you get the point. Being a freelance producer fits my personality to a tee. I am a super hard worker, but I do get bored easily. As a TV producer, I am never bored. I’m doing something different every single day. TV is perfect for the A.D.D. personality. And… since I am freelance, I always have the option of moving on to the next show. Now, Fiance, if you’re reading this… I am not commitment-phobic anymore. I have lived in Los Angeles for six years now, and I actually do want stability. That’s why I bought a loft a year ago. Having a mortgage is a BIG responsibility and makes me want to have more of a full-time job… but this is also why I’ve saved up a year’s worth of expenses and why I’m thinking of postponing the wedding. It’s also why I’ve paid off my credit card debts awhile ago, which takes me to the second thing I’ve learned…

  • You do need an emergency savings and not rely on credit cards. It’s too difficult to pay off those cards once you’re working again. And c’mon, when you’re working… don’t you want every penny to belong to you and not to some credit card company? The interest on those cards add up pretty quickly. If you charged a burger on a credit card and didn’t pay off that card for a year…you’ll end up paying something like $100 for that burger! Better be the BEST burger in the world, huh? (If you’re trying to get rid of c.c. debt, read my last post or check out Suze Orman’s site. She has a great system that helped me too.)

  • Network. It may seem like an easy thing to say, but since I’ve started working in entertainment, I have never gotten a job without being recommended by someone else. I’ve never just applied for a position and gotten it. I’ve landed a couple of interviews without knowing anyone, but eventually, they seem to just go with someone they know. And just in case you were wondering, networking goes both ways. If someone helps me, I’m more than likely to help them. I also love having mentors, and I love mentoring. But I don’t always know when someone needs a job so it’s important to put it out there. It’s really no shame to be out of work. Work is work. It shouldn’t be who you are. And if you think you’re not good at networking, take another look at how you network. It’s about establishing relationships, not perfecting small talk or winning a popularity contest. I like to network with good people whom I’d like to be friends with anyway, which makes it easy to ask if they want to go to lunch, have a drink, or send a resume to their boss.

  • Re-invention. This recession, for me, is all about re-invention. Madonna is the mother of re-invention, and it’s really the reason why she still sells out stadiums. With my first lay-off as a national radio news anchor, I had to figure out what I really wanted to do. Within the last five years and a dozen jobs later, I’ve had to learn and adapt to new technology and ways of thinking. I am learning all of the time, and reinventing ways of becoming a better, more efficient producer/writer. Now, I have also never understood people who complain about their jobs. I’ve always thought that if you really hated your job, you should quit. If you were laid off from a job you hated anyway, I think this is the perfect opportunity to find what you truly love and what you are truly meant to do with your life. It’s such a cliche by now that it’s always the most fulfilling to have a job that you would do for free…but it’s so true. Think of this lay-off as a blessing. If you have kids, you can now spend more time with them. If you’ve always wanted to be a stained-glass maker, you can learn how! I have a friend who went to massage school when she thought she was getting laid off because it’s something she’d always wanted to do. Several friends applied to law school, and another friend is starting her own business. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do. What do other people tell you you’re really good at? Write down your thoughts, dreams, fears, and goals. Put together a game plan, a business proposal, or just go for it. I’m trying it out, and I believe my dream and yours will all come true.

Today’s post is from my friend, Pam. She is super stylish and fun! When she mentioned that this recession was affecting her too, but that she was still able to keep having fun…I needed to hear some of her secrets! But first, a little bit about Pam and her recession story:

It was November 24, 2008-just before Thanksgiving when my boss let me know that due to budget cuts in the department…they no longer had the funds for my position and basically gave me my two-week notice. By then, the “recession” was well underway and all around me and all around the country I’d been hearing stories of layoffs and more layoffs-but like everything else, you just don’t think it will happen to you. I’m no stranger to being out of work. I am a freelance TV producer and usually I work on a project by project basis for a few months at a time-then I’m off to find my next gig. But this particular job was a more permanent position…I had been there for seven months and just days before letting me go, my boss mentioned that I would be eligible for benefits soon. So I really didn’t see the layoff coming. Now, I am lucky in that I am not the only or main breadwinner in my family. I have a fabulous husband who works his tush off in the entertainment industry and makes a very nice living for us. But that is not to say that the income I was pulling in did not help us out to cushion the blow of our substantial mortgage on the house we bought less than 2 years ago. And truthfully, my weekly paycheck certainly made my shopping excursions much more enjoyable, frequent and guilt-free.

So, now it is inching on five months that I’ve been out of work, yikes! And although in the beginning it was nice to have the freedom to lunch with my fellow non-working girlfriends (most of whom have babies) and it felt great to be free of work-related stress, I am now starting to go a little stir crazy. Not to mention, being out of work is expensive…the lunches, the appointments and the endless list of errands start to add up. My shopping for clothes has been replaced by shopping for groceries on an almost daily basis so I can make a nice dinner for us and avoid eating out as much. Plus, it’s getting very difficult to resist spring fever and hitting the stores to replenish my spring/summer wardrobe. And I just can’t escape the looks from my husband that seem to say “ummm, aren’t you going to get a job soon?” I’m trying honey, I’m trying.

Pam on Vacation

Pam on Vacation

So how does a girl who hasn’t been working for five months go on vacation? Well, Pam and I had lunch the other day, and she told me that she’s about to go on vacation for free…or nearly free! I needed to know how she’s doing it, and I think she can explain it better than me, so here it is:

Ever since we’ve been together, my husband and I take a vacation over the spring/summer. We avoid the Christmas rush and choose to sweat it out in paradise during the warmer months. This is both a slower time of year for my hubby at work and since it’s considered the “off season” at many resorts, we usually can get better rates. This year as the time came to plan our yearly getaway, we found ourselves over-extended. Partly because I have been out of a job, partly because we decided to do some work on our house and mostly because thanks to the recession, we have been really trying to “tighten the belt” so to speak. So, a vacation wasn’t exactly a priority, especially since we live in sunny LA. Thankfully however, we had thought ahead. Almost two years ago, we decided to switch our main credit card from one that awarded us points on an airline carrier to Starwood points on American Express. This program awards points towards hotel rooms all over the world and flights on many airlines. We found that every time we went to redeem our airline miles for a flight, there would either be black out dates or we would have to use an exorbitant amount of miles for just one flight. On the urging of a close friend, we decided to try Starwood. I am happy to report that thanks to that switch, we will soon embark on a six day, five night vacation at a gorgeous resort in Punta Mita, Mexico-free of charge. (well the room is free). Even better, we were able to use miles from our original credit card to get free flights! Needless to say, we are very excited for our trip and feel proud of ourselves for pulling off our (almost) free vacation. Let me break it down…what would have been a $449/night room at the resort, we are now paying only the tax and service charge per night. And what would have cost upwards of $350/ticket for the flight…we were able to get using 60,000 miles total plus $168.88 in taxes. The points we earned for this trip was money we were spending on our credit card anyway, now we get a vacation out of it. There are no shortage of credit card programs that reward you for your spending… and I’m sure that many of you already partake in one of your choosing. But if you don’t, there is no better time to do the research and make sure you are getting the most out of the money you spend. Bon Voyage!

Pam — send us photos of your vacation and show us the receipts when you get back! ~Katy

et cetera