5 Ways to Save in Las Vegas

June 24, 2008

1) Be Entertained and See Cirque du Soleil

Save 35% on Cirque Du Soleil tickets on select shows throughout the summer ending on September 30, 2008. Shows offering this 35% discount are Mystere (Treasure Island), Ka (MGM Grand), and Zumanity (New York New York). I’m watching Ka in July with a couple of family members which yielded a $125 in savings. In order to get the 35% discount, you need to buy the tickets online and cannot purchase over the phone. If you would like better seats, calling the appropriate casino box office will yield better seats for the regular admission price than what is offered online. Be aware that not all days are available and I assume a limited number of tickets are offered at this 35% off regular price.

2) Travel on Slower Days

Traveling to Vegas on Sunday through Thursday will ensure that you get a better bang for your buck when looking for hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. Looking at Excalibur’s hotel prices, rates on Friday and Saturday nights run two to three times the price of any other nights of the week. For the summertime, $111-$121 are the average going rates for Friday/Saturday nights with two queen beds compared to $41-$51 rates from Sunday to Thursday nights. Gas prices are averaging $4.22 in Las Vegas and airline tickets are getting more expensive.  So to offset the rising transportation costs to Vegas finding more affordable living accommodations should do the trick.

3) Find a Hotel off the Strip

If you really must stay in Vegas on a Friday or Saturday night, you can stay on the Las Vegas Strip at Excalibur or Circus Circus (not recommended) for over $110/night or a more classy hotel like at Wynn Casino Resort for over $310/night. Or…you can stay in the downtown Las Vegas area a few miles away from the Las Vegas Strip where you can find affordable and comfy hotels even on the weekends. The California Hotel will run you only $50-$60 on the peak nights and as low as $40 on the middle of the week days. You likely shouldn’t be sleeping too much while you’re in Sin City so take advantage of a comfortable room in the downtown Las Vegas area at dirt cheap prices.

4) Free Things for the Entire Family

Instead of doing things for cheap, why not do them for free as mentioned in a CNBC article? Some free activities include strolling the streets of Paris, viewing the dancing fountains at Bellagio, or visiting the wildlife habitat at Flamingo Las Vegas.

5) Cheap Eats

If you can’t afford the $25 buffets or the fancy restaurants that Las Vegas offers (and there are plenty of them), you can always settle for some truly cheap eats. Get ideas for cheap buffets, deli food, late night specials, or sit down style meals. Hopefully some of these places will fit into your itinerary and you can save some money and shift that extra cash to gamble away or pay for gas to get back home.

Have happy times in Las Vegas, save in style, and try to act like oil isn’t $130 per barrel.


Saving Money: Buying a Car

June 23, 2008

Buying a car is like walking across a field of land mines. Every step you take could blow you pieces. At first I laughed off the opening of the fool’s article on buying a car, which states “Don’t Do It”. A car is a heavily depreciating asset much like a computer. The computer actually helps you create value, but a car is simply a means of transportation. People want luxuries, which add to the cost of the car. Do you really want to be spending all your time in your car? I’d much prefer digging a hole for a koi pond or taking a hike to shoot wildlife than driving behind someone on the freeway for long periods of time. The only time when driving is fun is at the track with track cars, which are stripped down to pure performance like the Lotus Exige or Ariel Atom. Those cars are all about price to performance ratio unlike the Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s that rich boobs buy as status symbols. Before moving up to track cars I recommend that people start with karting. I’d rather spend 30 minutes in discomfort driving a kart than hours in comfort on the freeway getting to a job to help pay for my expensive car. The biggest mistake people make is buying beyond their means.

Car sharing program like CityCarShare and ZipCar are alternatives to buying a car if you don’t drive a lot.

If you’re really set on buying a car, all hope is not lost since there is the Internet to help you. I found carbuyingtips.com to be very helpful.

Remember,

  • Get all the quotes you can
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away
  • Be ever vigilant

Saving Money: Gallons Per Mile

June 20, 2008

There was an interesting article in Science Daily about changing the way we describe fuel economy to help people make better decisions. It’s not about how many miles per gallon a car gets that’s important, but how much total gas it uses.

When I was shopping for a car, I did a comparison between a hybrid vehicle and a normal gasoline vehicle to see if the total amount of money I would save would offset paying more for a hybrid. My conclusion was that I didn’t save money by buying a hybrid because I drive so few miles and the normal gasoline vehicle I use was already fuel efficient. I drive at most 60 miles every two weeks on the freeway, so in a year I drive about 1560 miles a year. Now the two vehicles I will be comparing are the Honda Accord (30-mpg highway) and the Toyota Prius (45-mpg).

Miles Per Gallon Gallons Per Year
15 104
20 78
25 62.4
30 52
35 44.6
40 39.0
45 34.7
50 31.2

The amount of gasoline I save goes down as my car becomes more fuel efficient. The most money is saved by going from a car with really bad fuel economy to a car with slightly better fuel economy. Going from 15-mpg to 20-mpg saves about the same amount of fuel as going from 25 mpg to 45 mpg. The Prius saves 17.3 gallons of gas each year over the Accord.

Price Per Gallon Cost Difference Per Year
4 69.33
6 140.00
8 138.67
10 173.33
12 208.00

If I look at carsdirect.com for the pricing of an Accord LX-P Automatic Sedan for $21,348 versus a Prius Base 4dr Sedan with Package #2 for $24,11, the price difference is $2,762. Of course the price varies depending on the specific car you choose and when you actually go to the dealer. It’s easier to talk down the Accord price since people are flocking to hybrids because of the rise in fuel costs. Hypothetically if gas was $12 a gallon, I would have to drive the Prius for 13.3 years to break even on the cost differential if I don’t account for the interest in the bank I could gain on the $2,762. The warranty on the battery is about 8 to 10 years, so I would most likely have to replace the battery too in that time at additional costs. The tax credit for hybrid vehicles would help, but it is no longer offered on the Prius. This makes the Accord the better choice over the Prius if I was just considering costs. That’s with gas costing $12 a gallon. I drive a ridiculously low amount of miles since I commute to work on my bicycle, even in the rain. I know it will still be this way for about 4 more years. After the amount of miles I will have to drive may go up, since I drove 7500 miles and spent $1k on gas a few summers ago. That however was an isolated incident, which makes me never want to commute to work ever again.

Your mileage may vary. You should do your own math to see if it makes sense for you to purchase a hybrid. Always do the math, never assume anything.


Review: Garmin Nuvi 200W Portable GPS

June 8, 2008

Just about a month ago, I purchased a Garmin Nuvi 200W 4.3″ widescreen portable GPS system. This GPS system doesn’t have the bells and whistles that a lot of the other Garmin units have, but for basic GPS functionality this unit is a great starter for anybody out there. Some features that this unit doesn’t include: Canada/Mexico maps, bluetooth capability, FM transmitter, mp3 player, and text-to-speech audio. On the other hand, it does come with a nice 4.3″ widescreen and the overall GPS functionality (the basic foundation you need to look for when deciding between a Tom Tom (TOM2.AS), Garmin (GRMN), or Magellan unit) is excellent.

One Minor Flaw

I live in an area that contains many apartment buildings, and when I leave my parking garage, it takes up to 5 minutes for the satellite to acquire. Sometimes I will even drive onto Interstate 5 and it still takes time to acquire signal. This can be troublesome if you don’t know how to start your trip and waiting 5 minutes before being directed in the correct direction can cause problems. The funniest thing is that at times I don’t have signal when I leave my apartment, but when I arrive back from a trip where I’m using the Nuvi 200W, I will have satellite signal around my apartment area.

What Features I Would Pay More For

If I had to purchase another Garmin unit, I would make sure to get the text-to-speech functionality so the portable GPS unit would announce the name of the street to turn on or an exit to turn off from a highway. This is a big upgrade compared to “take a left in .3 miles” or “exit right.” Having the text-to-speech capability allows the driver to keep their focus on the road and not keep shifting their eyes between the streets and the GPS system. At the price I paid for my refurbished unit, it was worth getting the 200W but text-to-speech functionality would be something I would like included in my next GPS unit.

Geocache Add On

By going to the Garmin site, you can load geocaches onto your GPS unit, and you can use your Garmin unit to find objects that other people have hidden in specific locations. All you simply have to do is create a free Garmin account, type in the location you want to look for geocaches, and then just choose what geocaches you want to load into your GPS unit via USB.

Overall Satisfaction: A
Features: B
Signal Quality: A-
Affordability: A


Apple iPhone 2.0

June 6, 2008

We all know the next Apple (AAPL) iPhone 2.0 is coming out soon. Everyone is writing about it and speculating what is the next big thing. Apple’s brand is so strong that people lined up in front of Apple’s flagship store for no apparent reason. It doesn’t matter what the product is, since Apple has not released any details. One can bet that iPhone platform information will be released at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco on June 9, 2008. I’ll add to the speculation and say that the GPS capabilities of the iPhone will eat into the sales of Garmin (GRMN) and Tom Tom (TOM2.AS). GPS units have dropped in price dramatically, almost to commodity prices, so shorting them might be attractive. One may argue that these GPS companies have superior software, but the platform is open to developers, so I forsee excellent GPS software in the works. The internet and GPS will be at your finger tips very soon.

The iPhone will have the same effect on the smartphone market as the iPod had on the mp3 players. The first smartphone was created by Palm (PALM), which still makes them. Palm has had a bumpy ride these past few years, competing with Handspring and eventually buying Handspring back again. Their Treo PDA/phone was popular, but I’ve seen those first adopters switch over to the iPhone. These same first adopters are going to dump their iPhone 1.0s for the iPhone 2.0. The future is mobile internet. Move evidence is the popularity of Asus’ EEE laptop computer and Intel’s development of the Atom processor. Components and devices designed to suit the needs of people on the go. Small, efficient internet-enabled devices are the future. In the past people had simple terminals connected to a mainframe computer. This gave way to personal computers and workstations. Soon it’ll be portable devices connected to the internet.