Saturday, 22 February 2014 00:30

Travel | Chic Travel on a Budget

Lifestyle // February 23, 2014

So, you want to plan a trip with friends and family but no one in your entourage is ‘rolling’ yet? If you add up the cost of flights, resort fees, food, activities, and rental cars, trips can get pretty costly.  Oh, and then there are all these destination weddings you are getting invited to this year… I mean come on. The invitation is flattering but, when you get down to it, you have to figure out where you’re going to get $1,000 of disposable income.  If you wait until you’ve stacked up cash, you may never get to spend a fun, relaxing weekend with loved ones. Life is made up of a series of wonderful moments - here are tips to plan a memorable getaway without breaking the aqua bank.

1. Pick a vacation destination central to the majority of your party. Consider where your friends and family are coming from. If you’re lucky, they’re all in the same general area, so picking somewhere convenient to travel to together will be easy. But if you’re like me, they’ll all be spread out. In this case, try selecting a location convenient for the most folks, or for those whose budgets are less flexible. It’s the nice thing to do…

2. Pack light! With the exorbitant fees for checked baggage these days, you can save yourself upwards of $100 by only taking a carry-on. If you are going away for just a weekend you should be able to pull this off… Just say no to that third pair of stilettos!  

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3. Keep an eye on flash deals! One of the keys to cheap and chic travel will be to remain flexible. You never know when deals will become available. I have found fantastic opportunities via resources like Gilt City, Jetsetter, Groupon, Travelzoo and Vacationist. The one caveat is, you have to be ready to pull the trigger. So, if you want to welcome adventure, flash deals could be the right move!

4. Take advantage of the off-season. Some of my best vacations have been during the off-season. Prices are way more reasonable and there are crazy deals. No snow on the slopes? Try Lake Tahoe. A little warmer than usual, check out Miami. This past Fourth of July, some friends and I visited Palm Springs. Sure, it was 107 degrees at its peak, but we spent the majority of the time in the pool or inside our wonderfully air-conditioned house, which brings me to suggestion #5…

5. Find home and vacation rentals. I wanted to get a big group of friends and family together for the 4th of July. We were all on a budget, so it was important that this be a quick, cheap, and easy getaway. Given that we had eight people, I searched for home rentals via:,, Eight people contributing to the rental widened our net. Suddenly, we were able to afford a three bedroom three bathroom house, with a pool and gourmet kitchen (see picture above). I was really nervous about renting through a website. I worried that someone might run away with my money, or that the home wouldn’t be as advertised.* Fortunately, it turned out better than expected! Having a kitchen allowed us to cook for ourselves and save money on dining out. In preparation, I planned out our meals for the two-day stay and got just the right amount of supplies from Costco and Whole Foods. Once there, we happily chilled at the house, swimming, cooking, drinking, talking, and playing games. Our two-day Palm Springs vacay worked out to under $140 per person!

*TIP: Read reviews and customer advice before purchasing. Obviously, the more positive reviews the better, but don’t just look at the number of stars, be sure to read the text. Other vacationers will help you determine if the house will fit your vacation needs.

If you’re jonesing for time away with friends, try something a little non-traditional. Even if it doesn’t turn out like one of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s fabulous vacations, at least it will be an adventure.

Published in Travel

April 9, 2012

We all see them. The graphic images on Pinterest and Facebook like this one. Food porn. They lure you in and trick you into thinking you really can squeeze a gourmet lunch or breakfast everyday into your budget. But when was the last time you actually calculated the cost of your breakfast?  I calculated the cost of mine the other day just out of curiosity and was pleasantly surprised that it was only a whopping $1.96 every day!

Breakfast Breakdown 

  • Bananas- I buy a bunch of bananas every week and usually can get 6 for $1.29, 1 banana = $.215
  • Oatmeal- I eat two individual packets of regular oatmeal, 6 packets to a box, box cost $2.50, 2.50/6= $.42 x 2 packets= $.84
  • Coffee- I buy Starbucks coffee and I brew it at home- One pound cost $9.95 and can last me 14 days = $.71 per day
  • Soymilk- I buy a carton that last about 10 days- one carton cost $1.99= $.199 per day

Grand total= $1.96

Not too bad right?  Great way to start the morning and not bad on my wallet either.

Now if you know me, you will know I am a creature of habit when it comes to food and don’t mind eating the same thing every day.  My breakfast is the same every morning; oatmeal, a banana, and coffee with soy milk. As routine as this may sound, I plan my meals like this mainly because I want to eat something healthy and filling in the morning. Because I stay so busy, I also appreciate not having to think about what to eat every morning– which saves me lots of time and money.

Get Control

When working with clients on their cash flow, I usually see their food costs as the expenses that can really get out of control.  They save and skimp in other areas but often times dining out is the one place where money falls through the cracks.  A lunch here, a dinner there, drinks here… and there– all of these things really add up. Planning ahead and prepping your meals for the week can ultimately become a more cost efficient route. Think of it as portion control for your finances.

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Iron Lady Chef 

As tempting as it may be to call up your girl friends for a fancy dinner out, a good way to keep your food costs in control is simply by eating at home. I try to go grocery shopping every weekend to stock up for the week ahead.  Yes, there are occasions where I do eat out during the week (i.e. business meetings, client meetings/events or to celebrate a special occasion), but for the most part I usually eat my prepared, planned out meals and it frees up some time and spending cash.  Get a jump on breakfast this week and cook a batch of these. Your tastes buds and your wallet will thank you. 

One Bite At A Time 

Another tip (one I learned from my parents), is to save money by not buying drinks while eating out. Think about it. You’ll end up drinking more water, saving cash, and possibly losing a few pounds by cutting back on sodas. I still follow this same philosophy today.  If you have to have your diet Coke with dinner maybe skip the appetizers and/or dessert. Life without dessert may seem extreme, but deciding ahead of time what to cut will help you stay in control.

Now, I know what you may be thinking.  Going out to eat is part of what you enjoy most and part of your social life too.  I completely understand this. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, I still see my friends, family, attend networking events and go out for social gatherings all the time and usually do all while sticking to my food budget.  Instead of business lunch meetings, I opt for coffee meetings (saves time and money). Instead of always going out to eat with friends, we opt for potlucks at someone’s house.  We love this idea because everyone can bring their favorite signature dish to share, which is usually a great conversation starter and a less expensive route too.

If you just simply enjoy going out to eat and don’t want to give it up– don’t.  Instead, make sure you adjust your spending plan accordingly to ensure you are still in control of your food costs. Remember, financial planning is not about cutting the fun out of your life.  Rather, it is simply planning how you want to use your money to support your current lifestyle, while being able to save for your future one.

For further information I invite you to check out my blog or email directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895.

Published in Personal Finance

September 26, 2011

Women have always been hunter-gatherers. We like the thrill of the chase. And for the women of today, this just might mean a good shopping binge. Unfortunately, in these tough economic times, buyer’s remorse is easy to come by. If you love bargain hunting and have the urge to shop--but also have a budget in mind--have no fear. You can still get your fix by thrifting the day away.

Some of the greatest finds I’ve scored have been at thrift stores. You never know what you are going to get, but with these prices you have nothing to lose. Think about it, even the most couture-filled closet has to be edited down. Which is why thrifting and vintage shopping are all the rage right now in fashion. If you live in or are willing to drive to an affluent area, you know the thrifting there will be top notch. The high number of resident fashionistas make LA at great place to find awesome secondhand stores. Below are a few you may want to try. I recommend getting up early, having cash ready, and be prepared to scour. You have to work for those savings!

Harper Blue: This space has a reputation for designer duds and cute summer dresses. 2415 East Main Street, at North Evergreen Drive, Ventura, (805-667-8167)

Timeless Treasures: Great displays, prices, and selection. A children’s playroom is also available so moms can do some bargain hunting without boring the kids. The best women’s clothes are in the gold room and many finds are under $25. 9441 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232-2616, (310) 559-8338

United Diabetes Society Thrift Shop: The prices are cheap and everyone is helpful. Rumor has it Saks pieces can be scored for $5 and the turnover is frequent. 4913 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90230, (310) 391-0121

American Way Thrift Store: They have daily specials such as the early bird special on Tuesday and everything half price from 9am to noon on Thursday. Senior Citizens get discounts on Wednesday. Everyone gets 30% off on Saturday and Sunday and if you spend over $20 during the week you get 50 percent off. Good brands, great prices. The space is a bit overwhelming but well organized. They have a great range of sizes as well as housewares and accessories.  3226 Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA, (818) 841-6013

Clare Foundation: This charity supports community living for alcoholics by rehabilitation and education. Great prices. 850 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405,(310) 314-6241

The Address Boutique: This is one of Los Angeles’s best known celebrity resale shops. “In a town where no one likes to be seen in the same dress more than once and no celebrity goes anywhere unless they’re displaying a 'label,' stars are clearing out their wardrobes and many pass them on to me", explains owner Maureen Clavin, because I donate a portion of the sale price to charity.” 1116 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 394-1406

Savers: A favorite in the fashion blogging world, these department stores are huge and carry the occasional designer label. With promotions and special attention to seasonal values, this store is one you’ll definitely want to hit up. 15825 E Imperial Hwy, La Mirada, California   90638, (562) 943-1182

Coalition Thrift: This store is known for its housewares. After all, a deal’s a deal regardless of whether it's on clothes or home accessories. 70 East Main Street, at South Ventura Avenue, Ventura (805-643-4411)

Crossroads Trading: A personal favorite of mine, this gem is part thrift, part resale. The brands and labels are so good. You can get great inexpensive items for under $5 from H&M or you can get designer clothing for a fraction of the cost. The ones in Los Angeles and Newport Beach have the best variety of low to high end goodies. The spaces are huge and color coordinated. You can get menswear and accessories as well.

In this economy, people are flocking less to the runways and rocking more realistically priced finds. The influx of fashion blogging and DIY style has contributed to the popularity of these stores. So follow their lead and next time you are out shopping don’t fight your natural urge to bargain hunt!

Published in Style