A Budget Ski Trip To Colorado? It Can Be Done.

As Seth Kugel proves in the Times, it is possible to plan a cheap but good weekend trip to Colorado’s prime ski areas during the late fall – early winter season.

As he learns, this year has been atypical weather-wise, meaning no snow. But he still manages to have a good time eating and drinking his way through Breckenridge and Vail with an occasional run down the mountain on man-made snow.

His secrets involve staying in a B&B with a shared bath, reserving ski equipment in advance, finding inexpensive food away from the resorts, and seeking out the places that locals go for drinks and dinner.

The total cost with airfare, food, lodging, and rental car? Just $821.96.

Way to go, Seth! Show everyone how it’s done.


SIMPLE Tries To Put Banking Fully Online

Have you heard about Simple?

It’s a new service that provides you with a Visa debit card and an iPhone app that together allow you to manage virtually all your banking activities online.

They also have a simple approach to banking fees – they hardly charge anything. This is especially nice if you’re coming from one of the large banks that seem to have a fee for everything.

ATM withdrawals in their network are free (although ATM owners might charge a fee), there are usually no monthly fees, and no fees for online bill pay or for making deposits, which are done by taking a picture of the check with your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.  An Android-compatible app is coming soon.

You can start with as little as $100, and the Visa debit card is linked to your account. There are no checkbooks provided with Simple, but you can pay people by making an ACH deposit into their account, or the online bill pay service will mail them a paper check.

One nice feature of Simple’s service gives users a running balance of just how much money is available in theaccount, based on checks that were written but not yet cleared. This should help people avoid overdrawing their accounts.

The service is still in Beta but is just starting to accept new users.  You can sign up for an invitation on their website.


Cutthroat Price Competition Leaves Online Customers Confused

If you’ve ever gone back to look up an item for a second time on Amazon and the pricing has changed, that is no accident. Amazon, along with Walmart and Target has been adjusting prices on the most popular toys and gifts as competitor’s prices change. On some particularly hot items it seems the prices have been changing hourly.

Games like Mario Kart DS, Dance Central 3, and the LeapPad1 Explorer were some of the hot items whose prices were a moving target during the week after Thanksgiving. It was even documented that Amazon raised prices on some items just before Thanksgiving, so they could show larger percentage off drops off the previous pricing on Cyber Monday.

Amazon has also been known to show people different prices on the same items, depending on whether someone was logged into the service or not.  An Amazon spokesperson said the site was “working hard to meet or beat the lowest prices out there.”

So if there’s something that you really want this year, keep checking prices on all three sites each day until you get to the price that you want. Or check with a service like Decide.com that tracks the selling price of major retailers, and can tell you the best time to buy.

Groupon & LivingSocial Suffering From ‘Deals Fatigue’

The leading companies in the daily deals space, Groupon and LivingSocial, have been suffering from a serious attack of the blahs lately.

Groupon’s stock has collapsed, while LivingSocial has just announced major staff layoffs.

Rumors have been floated that Groupon’s CEO was about to be replaced, something that has not yet happened.

“The field is going through some growing pains,” says Unaiz Kabani, data product manager at research company Yipit, which follows the online deals category. “A lot of it is people realizing how expensive it is to enter and to do well. It’s easy to make a website, but not so easy to get people to visit it.”

“Groupon has headed more into selling actual goods,” Kabani added, “while LivingSocial has been focusing more on local, like live events and concerts.”




Renting Out Your Place on Airbnb Not Such a Good Idea

Airbnb’s host ‘guarantee’ may not help you if city authorities come knocking.

Looking to make some extra money by renting out that extra room to travelers? Many people are renting out rooms or their apartments with online services like Airbnb. But what’s good for your wallet might actually be illegal in your town.

The NY Times reports on the story of Nigel Warren, who was hit with a $40,000 fine after listing his apartment on Airbnb. He ended up spending hundreds of dollars on legal fees to fight the charges of running an illegal rooming house. He won in the end, but his landlord was not happy about being targeted by city authorities.

The reporter asked Airbnb why they don’t notify their hosts that offering their homes to paying guests might be illegal. The response from the company wasn’t particularly enlightening.

And as the articles point out, landlords who find their tenants renting out rooms on Airbnb and similar services are usually not too happy about it. And that could lead to an eviction notice from your landlord. So it’s a good idea to check local laws and with your landlord (if you rent) before listing your place on sites like Airbnb.

Save Money on Nail Polish By Renting It

This is a very interesting concept. High end nail polishes can cost $30 or more a bottle, and you don’t need the entire bottle to do your nails one time. So why not rent instead of buying?

That is the idea behind Lacquerous, a startup company that sends members several bottles of expensive nail polish each month. Try it, then return the bottles and they will send out more.

The service costs $18 per month, but for those who like premium nail polishes, it’s still cheaper then buying their own bottles outright. The founders say that sharing polish is hygienic and they will police the users to make sure nobody replaces the nail polish with really bad stuff.

Cyber Monday Blows The Doors Off Online Shopping

IBM reported that sales were up 30.3 percent on Cyber Monday, making it the biggest online shopping day ever.  Amazon also reported a record sales day for their Kindle e-readers, although as Gizmodo points out, they might have only sold 8 of them.

Online sales on Black Friday were up more than 36 percent this year. On Monday,  online shopping peaked at 11:25 a.m, suggesting that most people were surfing for bargains from work.

This year more than 18 percent of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, an increase of 70% from last year. The percentage of sales coming from mobile devices almost doubled this year to 13%.

After Cyber Monday Comes #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.

More than 2,000 recognized #GivingTuesday™ partners have come from all 50 states of the United States, and are either registered charities with a specific #GivingTuesday initiative, or they are for-profit businesses, schools, religious or community groups who have committed to spearhead a project that will benefit at least one charity.

#GivingTuesday is  an umbrella under which many projects will take place.  It is not a funding organization and each partner organization is responsible for their own initiative.