Saving Money At Home While Away From Home
It seems like everyone and their grandma has a blog post about saving money while traveling. So I will not bore you with another one of those.
Instead, I wanted to share a few things I do while I am away to save myself a good amount of money - not on travel expenses, but rather on things that I leave behind while traveling.
Cancel, Suspend, or Downgrade Car Insurance
When I left for my round-the-world trip, I knew I will be gone for at least six months. So I was trying to decide whether I should sell my car and ended up keeping it, parking it at my parents place and canceling the insurance on it. That obviously saved me quite a bit of change.
[message type="warning"]A word of caution here - if you have a gap in your car insurance history, some companies may refuse to even quote you a policy when you come back, while others may jack up the rate significantly.[/message]
The keyword here is 'may'. I did experience the former with my previous ensurer. Never mind that I had no claims with them before, "the system" would not even let them give me a quote. Geico was fine insuring me but wanted a significant (~50%) premium. State Farm, on the other hand, was fine with writing me a policy as long as I could provide an itinerary showing that I was, indeed, out of the country all that time.
As a side note, sending my itinerary to Geico and State Farm led to some cool side conversations - the agent I was working with at Geico was actually from Bangkok and knew the area I was couchsurfing at while I spent a few days there! Sure enough, we ended our phone calls with khob-kun-Ka/khob-kun-Krub :)
Now, that I am about to head back to Europe for two months, I emailed my State Farm agent to see if there is a way to put my policy "on hold" while I am gone. Sure enough, there were two options:
- suspend the policy outright (without actually canceling it)
- leave only the "comprehensive" coverage at $12 a month
Going with the second option saves me about $40 a month and still provides protection against the pesky Oklahoma elements while my car is sitting outside.
My only regret is that I did not think about asking for this last fall when I was gone for three months - would of saved myself over $150!
Suspend Cell Phone Service
While all companies offer "international plans", travelers tend to agree that those are total and complete rip offs compared to just buying a local sim card wherever you are going to. So before leaving for my round-the-world trip, I stopped by a Verizon store to see if I could suspend the service (as I did not want to cancel and pay huge contract termination fees).
It turns out that with Verizon it is possible to suspend the service twice a year for up to 90 days (each time)
by paying a small one time fee supposedly they no longer charge a fee for this. They go by calendar year, so I was able to suspend for 90 days at the end of 2011 and then again for another three months at the beginning of 2012. Then again I suspended it when I went to Europe last fall.
I used to have to call them to set this up but now it can be done quickly and painlessly online. See Verizon FAQs (this is the 'without billing' option). Note that your contract will extend by amount of time you suspend the service.
I will suspend it for two months this time around, saving myself about $60 a month.
Suspend Gym Membership
You do have a gym membership (and use it), right?
I do too. And when I was leaving for Europe in the fall, I asked the folks at my Golds Gym if I could somehow suspend it while I am gone. They offered me to "hold it" for $15 a month, which is about half of what I was paying. That didn't make sense to me since I was not on a contract and could cancel at any time for free. Then I would just have to pay a joining fee of $30 to rejoin whenever. I pointed that out and they waived the $15 fee as "one-time" courtesy just so I did not cancel.
Well, this time around they were not as willing. The front desk folks told me that they could only suspend it once a year and since I already used it, they could only offer me $15 a month suspension "deal". When I clearly showed them that it is not in my interest to keep paying $15 a month for four months (two months in Europe and another two months for my awesome road trip) when I could just cancel and then maybe join later for $30. They "saw the light" but were still unwilling to "bend the rules" and suggested I called Corporate.
Which I did. And was recited the $15 suspension deal once again. "Alright, I guess I'll just go ahead and cancel" was all I had to say for them to provide me with another "courtesy" no-fee suspension.
Another $33 a month saved!
Enjoy the Savings!
These three simple things alone will save me $260 while I travel for two months. Not too bad and it gets even better the longer you are gone!
So there you go, you can use that as your excuse - the more you travel, the more you save! :)
Do you have cable? Newspaper/magazine subscription? Other recurring bills? I do not, but if you do, I bet most of these will let you suspend the service rather than lose you as a customer. I also found it helpful to mention that I can provide the itinerary showing my departure and arrival dates - it shows that you aren't just trying to suspend something for no reason.
Have you had luck suspending any of the services I have mentioned or anything else while you are outside of the country? Leave a comment and let everyone know!