Last year I made (saved) $120 by spending 3 minutes on the telephone. All I did was call Sheraton Hotel in Seattle and say “I’d like to convert my reservation to the internet rate“. A couple of minutes later it was done. No fuss about it. I then paid $30 less per night during our 4 night stay, saving me $120 plus whatever the taxes would have been on the extra $120, so probably more like $150. That paid for all of mine and Sylvia’s dining out.
Why didn’t I make the original reservation with the internet rate? Because the “internet rate” is non-refundable and is charged to the credit card immediately. The “normal” reservation is refundable and you don’t pay until you stay. A lot can happen in the two or three months between a hotel reservation and an arrival, so paying in full months in advance, and having it be non-refundable, just isn’t the best way to manage your travel expenses. The smart-money thing to do is make a fully refundable hotel reservation and convert it just prior to your arrival, thereby receiving the benefits of a refundable reservation at the discounted non-refundable price.
I use this example because so much of our modern money management efforts require knowing stuff and doing something extra as a result of what you know. Prices that seem “cheaper” are often not, especially in the airline and hotel industry when you factor in the risk value of up front non-refundable charges. And they gloss over that small detail that when you make the reservation (and/or you don’t read the fine print). You have to know about it, or learn about it the unfortunate way, when life circumstances force the cancellation of a trip.
I bring up this topic because so many real estate consumers get bogged down in the infinitesimally small cost factors of buying and owning a home, as if the homes we live in are the only source of expenses and savings in life. And, as American consumers, we often remain blissfully unaware of the multitude of simple things that can be done daily to, as Clark Howard puts it, save more, spend less, and avoid being ripped off.