Feature Friday: My Experience with AirBnB.com

Airbnb bostpm

Every Friday, I feature a fun and budget-friendly option in the Greater Boston area. The “Feature Friday” is typically mentioned on the Cheap Eats list, Free Things to Do in Boston, or Discount Attractions. However, there’s so much budget-friendly ideas on my pages, I thought it would be fun to feature something budget-friendly and different each week. Also, each Feature Friday is something I have personal experience with or took advantage of recently! Enjoy!

Last weekend I attended a wedding a few hours away in a popular summer town. It was a great wedding and location but the only problem was the area is quite popular in the summer with little hotel availability. If there was lodging available it was either 1.) Really expensive or 2.) requires a minimum night stay.

I really didn’t want to pay $400 a night nor did I want to drive 2.5 hours home after the wedding. Have you ever had a similar predicament?

I ended up looking (and booking) at AirBnB.com. If you are unfamiliar, AirBnB.com is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world. You are able to book a shared room, a private room or the entire place. You can also list a room or your entire place if you have extra space and want to make extra money.

We ended up booking a private room 10 minutes away from the wedding site and walking distance to many shops and restaurants. It was a private room with our own bathroom in the room which was a major reason for booking this place. It was $145/a night and didn’t require a minimum night stay, which was so much better than the $400 rooms at proper hotels in the area.

Also, when I signed up with AirBnB.com for the first time, I signed up through a referral link which gave me a free $25 credit to put towards my stay. I also shared my referral link on my blog prior and two wonderful readers signed up so I had an additional $50 credit to use. After the room rate, additional service fee, and credits, I ended up paying $86 out of pocket for the room.

However, even if I didn’t have AirBnB credit, I probably still would have booked because it was still much cheaper than a hotel.

I was pretty nervous about booking and staying with AirBnB because you are booking with an individual and not a hotel management company so experiences can definitely vary. However, I made sure my hosts were verified and had reviews first, which made me feel a little better.

I was really surprised how positive my experience was. Our room was spotless and the overall place was gorgeous. Our hosts were so nice and accommodating and they even gave us a little present as a thank you. We would definitely stay with our hosts again, and we are most likely going to check out AirBnB again, especially when hotel rates are above our price range in certain locations.

If you do check out AirBnB.com, make sure you do your due-diligence because I have read AirBnB horror stories and there are cons regarding AirBnB.

My first experience was great and I’m so thankful I didn’t have to overspend on a hotel room or head home after the wedding.

Have you used AirBnB before either as a guest or a host? What has your experience been like? Do you have any tips to share?

To check out AirBnB, please head here and head here for a free $25 credit when you spend $75 or more (my referral code).

For more Feature Friday posts please head here. To subscribe to Boston On Budget’s nightly newsletter, please enter your e-mail here.

Feature Friday: How I Grocery Shop to Save Money

Grocery Shopping Tips in MA

Every week I feature different aspects of saving money in Boston with something I have done or do regularly. I wanted to highlight how I grocery shop this week for the Feature Friday post.

I probably could write a series or a whole book of how I grocery shop, but that would be pretty boring so I’ll stick to a few main points.

First things first, I do not shop at the same grocery store every week and I do not shop at the cheapest grocery store. However, I try to shop at the cheapest grocery store for me that week, and try to stick to my $40 weekly grocery budget for a family of two and a dog.

Here’s a few grocery tips that I use to stick to my budget:

1. Know how to recognize a good price: This is really important. How can you possibly know if you are getting a good deal if you do not know what the price is at other stores or the regular price?

Make a list of items that you buy regularly and figure out what the price is at different stores and different type of stores. Canned Tomatoes may be on sale from $1.89 to $1 at Shaw’s but if you can get diced tomatoes at .89 at Target for the everyday price than the Shaw’s sales price isn’t a good deal.

Also, just because you live near two grocery stores owned by the same company doesn’t mean they will have the same prices. For example, eggs are almost a dollar more at one grocery store with the same ownership, both roughly the same distance from my house, just opposite direction. However, the store that has more expensive eggs has cheaper milk. However, if I didn’t pay attention to price while I’m shopping, I may have not known these weird price differences.

Pay attention to prices, and even jot down prices of common staple items to help you remember what prices are good and what aren’t.

2. Shop on sale: Just because that .89 can of Tomatoes is often cheaper than the sale price at Shaw’s, doesn’t mean I will always buy canned tomatoes at Target. I like to buy items when they are at their cheapest possible to help save money. However, if I don’t have tip #1 down, it makes it really hard to recognize a good sales price.

I like to take the weekly ads of Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, Roche Bros, etc. and circle items that I need and have a good sales price. Often you will see Chicken Breast for $1.99/lb or less circled, produce like carrots or mushrooms for $1 circled and much more.

After I go through the ad, I like to go on awesome local blogs like Maven of Savin or Coupon Karma to see if I missed any good deals. The nice thing about Coupon Karma is there’s a Top 10 list so you can quickly see what the best deals are that week. I like to see if I missed anything or if there’s a coupon I can use to combine with a sale item to make it even cheaper. Checking out local blogs and reading weekly matchups are a great way to learn prices and see what is and isn’t a good deal. Also, most of the work is already done, so it’s a really easy way to save money.

3. Make a grocery list and meal plan: After reading coupon blogs and my weekly ad, I make my grocery list and I meal plan. Meal planning is a great way to save money because you know exactly what items you need that week. I create my meals plans weekly based on what is on sale. If mushrooms are on sale, I may make Chicken Marsala or Beef Stronganeff depending on what items I have in my pantry or freezer.

I like to know what exactly I am buying each week, what are the best deals, and what’s for dinner too. (It’s also a lot less stressful mid-week since I already have a rough menu planned.)

4. Plan ahead and Stockpile: If you’ve ever seen TLC’s Extreme Couponing, you may be familiar with the term stockpiling. Basically, you buy items when they are at their absolute cheapest and stock up.

You may be familiar with people buying hundreds of items for .04 and stockpiling in their basement. Although some items are extreme, the concept is really smart. You are not running out for cream of mushroom soup pre Beef Stroganoff prepping because you bought some cans at .12 during a winter stock up sale. I know having key pantry items help me meal plan better because I know I have staple items and all I need are the more expensive items like produce and meat when they go on sale.

I don’t have 100′s of items of anything in my stockpile, but I do have items that I go through quickly that I can get pretty cheap during sales cycles. I often see BBQ sauce for cheap in the summer, but I often poor BBQ sauce over meat in the crock pot in the winter, so I will usually buy a few to last me through another cheap sales cycle. Plus, BBQ sauce has a long expiration date and I tend to go through them more in the winter than summer.

5. Use coupons: I will often use coupons with sale items to pay less. However, I don’t always use coupons and I only use them when it’s a great deal. Stores like Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, and Roche Bros will double coupons up to .99 so if you have a coupon for .50/1, you can save a $1 on that product.

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the store’s coupon policy because every store is a little different with coupon usage. However, if you check out coupon matchups on coupon blogs mentioned in tip #2, they do the majority of the work for you, so it’s pretty easy to use coupons.

Also, check in-store for coupons. The best deal I ever did at a grocery store was one I wasn’t expecting. It was chicken on markdown and it had two store coupons on it. After the store coupon on the meat, I got a pound of boneless chicken breast for .03 total!

6. Shop Around: Make sure to check prices and sales for many different stores before you decide on your few favorite places to shop. I usually only grocery shop at one grocery store per week, unless there’s a major expectation.

However, sometimes I will shop at different type of stores to help save money. For example, I never buy spices for $4.49 and whatnot at the grocery store because they are $1 at Ocean State Job Lot or Christmas Tree Shop in a less fancy bottle. Also, if you can, try to buy items where they are cheaper. For example, if you live near Haymarket, trying buying your produce at Haymarket on Friday or Saturday to save money on produce. I also try to buy milk at the convenience store when I’m getting gas because it’s usually significantly cheaper.

Pay attention to prices and figure out what the best place to buy items are for you and what grocery store works best for you.

Please let me know if you have any specific questions about anything mentioned above. I actually shop more often at the more expensive grocery stores because there deals combined with coupons tend to be cheaper than stores with always low prices (and less busy). Again, I rarely buy items that are not on sale with the exception of a few common items like green peppers, bananas, etc.

Do you have any grocery tips to share?

Feature Friday: $1 Pizzas on Thursday Nights!

McGreevys pizza

Every Friday, I feature a fun and budget-friendly option in the Greater Boston area. The “Feature Friday” is typically mentioned on the Cheap Eats list, Free Things to Do in Boston, or Discount Attractions. However, there’s so much budget-friendly ideas on my pages, I thought it would be fun to feature something budget-friendly and different each week. Also, each Feature Friday is something I have personal experience with or took advantage of recently! Enjoy!

Every Thursday night McGreevy’s Boston offers “Make Your Own Pizza” for $1 from 4-11pm. Cheese Pizza is $1 and then $1 for every additional topping. The Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper pizza pictured above was $3.

McGreevy’s also does half-priced appetizers from 4-7pm on weekdays.

My husband and I decided to throw in half-priced nachos to our pizza order at the last minute. We decided to do two pizzas, one for each of us with our own topping choices. It was a little too much food with the nachos. I wish we only did one pizza and the nachos since we weren’t able to box up the pizzas to go.

Have you done the $1 pizzas (or $1 burgers on Tuesdays) at McGreevy’s before?

For more information about McGreevy’s food deals, please head here.

For more Feature Friday posts please head here. To subscribe to Boston On Budget’s nightly newsletter, please enter your e-mail here.

Feature Friday: Letterboxing in Boston

Letterboxing

Every Friday, I feature a fun and budget-friendly option in the Greater Boston area. The “Feature Friday” is typically mentioned on the Cheap Eats list, Free Things to Do in Boston, or Discount Attractions. However, there’s so much budget-friendly ideas on my pages, I thought it would be fun to feature something budget-friendly and different each week. Also, each Feature Friday is something I have personal experience with or took advantage of recently! Enjoy!

Today’s Feature Friday post is a guest post by Alec:

Looking for a fun way to spend a summer afternoon in Boston or even just an excuse to explore a part of town with which you’re unfamiliar? Letterboxing is a free, family-friendly activity that anyone can participate in– the only requirement is a little sense of adventure!

Letterboxing is essentially a public treasure hunt, a bit like geocaching, in which anyone can hide a small box in a public place and then provide clues for its location on a number of online databases. Box-makers often put some time into their creations and the box’s contents, crafting homemade stamps for ink-dried proof hunters can collect in their own notebooks, or putting together personalized, homemade log books hunters can sign.

While not only an opportunity to don your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker for some urban sleuthing, letterbox hunts are a great way to explore scenic, interesting, unfamiliar, or out-of-the-way neighborhoods, parks, or towns. Since anyone can participate in both treasure hunt creation and location, the quality of the clues can vary – but this is often part of the fun.

Getting a little lost in a neighborhood you rarely visit can lead to the discovery of your new favorite cafe, boutique, or park. While there are dozens of letterboxes currently listed in Boston on Letterboxing North America – one of the primary clue databases – there are many more throughout the Metro-West region in parks and forests, back-streets and hidden corners.

Often boxes will lead to an interesting, but tucked away, attraction: a view of the city from the top of Prospect Hill, a miniature train set hidden along a wooded walking path, or an overlooked mural on a faded brick wall.

No registration is required to become a letterbox hunter, though you’ll have to create a (free) account to post clues on most letterboxing sites.

For more information, you can visit either Atlas Quest or Letterboxing North America. Hope to catch you on the trail!

Thanks Alec for sharing your experience with Boston on Budget! Learn more here about submitting a budget-friendly activity or tip in Boston! 

For more Feature Friday posts please head here. To subscribe to Boston On Budget’s nightly newsletter, please enter your e-mail here.

Feature Friday: Free Admission at the ICA on Thursday Nights!

ICA Free Thursday Nights

Every Friday, I feature a fun and budget-friendly option in the Greater Boston area. The “Feature Friday” is typically mentioned on the Cheap Eats list, Free Things to Do in Boston, or Discount Attractions. However, there’s so much budget-friendly ideas on my pages, I thought it would be fun to feature something budget-friendly and different each week. Also, each Feature Friday is something I have personal experience with or took advantage of recently! Enjoy!

Every Thursday night the Institute of Contemporary Art is free from 5-9pm.

I went a few Thursday nights ago and it was really fun and easy to take advantage of. I did need to check in at the ticket desk; however, there was no line and you just receive a pin thing for your shirt. Unlike the MFA on Wednesday nights, you won’t be asked if you would like to make a donation, or at least I wasn’t asked.

It was definitely a fun and different experience exploring the ICA. It also helped that it was entirely free!

Also, on Thursday nights in the summer at the ICA is Harborwalk Sounds. This is a great way to enjoy free music and free art at the same time!

For more Feature Friday posts please head here. To subscribe to Boston On Budget’s nightly newsletter, please enter your e-mail here.

 

 

Feature Friday: Beer Works VIP Card Program

boston beer works

Every Friday, I feature a fun and budget-friendly option in the Greater Boston area. The “Feature Friday” is typically mentioned on the Cheap Eats list, Free Things to Do in Boston, or Discount Attractions. However, there’s so much budget-friendly ideas on my pages, I thought it would be fun to feature something budget-friendly and different each week. Also, each Feature Friday is something I have personal experience with or took advantage of recently! Enjoy!

This Feature Friday tip is from reader Erin:

Stop into a Boston BeerWorks location to get $10 off your bill every month when you sign up for the Beer Works VIP card and receive an extra $10 during your birthday month.

“We tend to visit the Fenway one in the summer before or after a game, and hit up the one by TD Garden on Canal Street during Bruins/Celtics season. They cap the limit at $10, so if you go out with a friend and your bill is $22 combined, they will take $10 off.  If the combined bill is only $15, you get 50% off, so $7.50″.  

It does appear you do need to sign up in person and the card may take a little bit to activate so you may not get the discount right when you sign up. For more information about Beer Works VIP card, please head here.

Thanks Erin for submitting this tip and congratulations on your $10 gift card! If your budget-friendly tip is featured on an upcoming Feature Friday post, you will also receive a $10 gift card! More info here.

For more Feature Friday posts please head here.  And if you liked this post, you may also be interested in the Free $10 Solas Coupon or Free Appetizer at Bar Louie when you sign up for their e-mail lists.

Feature Friday: Free Fitness Classes from Boston Sweetgreen Passport!

sweetgreen passport boston

Every Friday, I feature a fun and budget-friendly option in the Greater Boston area. The “Feature Friday” is typically mentioned on the Cheap Eats list, Free Things to Do in Boston, or Discount Attractions. However, there’s so much budget-friendly ideas on my pages, I thought it would be fun to feature something budget-friendly and different each week. Also, each Feature Friday is something I have personal experience with or took advantage of recently! Enjoy!

This Feature Friday post and tip is from Danielle at Getting Fit in Massachusetts:

Have you heard of the restaurant Sweetgreen? Well they offer much more than delicious salads! They also have a free passport program that sets up free fitness classes. I highly recommend signing up for the Boston Sweetgreen passport e-mail list.

Once you’re signed up, you’ll get a monthly e-mail listing the fitness opportunities that month and a link to sign up. If you see something you want to attend, RSVP right away because the classes are popular and fill up quickly. (If the classes fill, a waitlist is kept, so you could still get an e-mail asking you to join because someone else had to drop out.)

Some past workouts I’ve attended thanks to the Sweetgreen passport program include Ultimate Bootcamp, Cardio Sport at Healthworks, and Spin at SoulCycle. Fitness classes vary but are always a great workout with a wonderful group of people.

Have you been to a free fitness class sponsored by Sweetgreen?

Thanks Danielle for writing this Feature Friday post and submitting a tip! To submit a budget-friendly tip or activity in Boston please here. For more Feature Friday posts please head here.

Feature Friday: Haymarket Outdoor Market

Haymarket Produce stand in boston

This week I wanted to feature Haymarket in Boston (and we are not talking about the T stop). If you are not familiar, Haymarket is an open air market which sells an array of produce on Fridays and Saturdays year round (except select holidays) from dawn to dusk.

Keep in mind this is not your average Farmers Market in Boston. Prices are much cheaper and are grown (and shipped from) all over the world. Keep in mind Haymarket is more of a surplus market and produce can be on the older side and may not be as fresh as the supermarket. Just make sure if you buy something, you will eat it soon.

However, prices reflect that and are cheaper than the Supermarket. Generally if you go early in the day, the produce will be high quality and later in the day, prices will be cheaper as vendors are trying to get rid of the product. I went first thing on a Friday morning for some produce and found some great deals:

haymarket produce

I got some great deals on produce. For example, I got a bundle of Asparagus and a 3/lb bag of onions for $1 each, and both items tend to sell for $2.99 each or more at my grocery store.

Haymarket is a great way to extend your grocery budget. Keep in mind you can always be creative with leftover produce to make jams, etc. or freeze certain items to get more bang for your buck.

Have you been to Haymarket before? Do you have any tips to share?