Tips From a Cheapskate: Anita Interviews Mr. Frugality
Cheapskate, skinflint, penny
pincher, frugalist? Call him what you will, but to Bob Jones, being
called thrifty is the ultimate badge of honor. Bob is OneTravel.com's resident "frugalist," and pens the weekly column Smart Travelers'
Corner, a guide to economical travel. When I met him, I learned
first hand that he is a guy who truly walks his talk. As he went
fetch me his business card, coupons came spilling out of his
briefcase! And his ways to find deals didn't stop
Intrigued, I asked him, "What are the keys to the
cheapskate kingdom?" Surprisingly, he said that being cheap does not
mean giving up the good life.
According to Bob, finding frugal deals
Bob admits to setting an agenda at the
beginning of each year, which focuses on areas he wishes to travel.
But, if there's an offer he can't refuse, he will take advantage of
it. He terms this "opportunistic travel."
- Watching the Sunday paper,
- Watching the Internet, and
- Keeping your finger on the "pulse of travel" (i.e., news and
opportunity this year has been Europe with the hoof-and-mouth
crisis," he says. While thumbing through the Sunday newspaper, he
stumbled across a four-day, first-class French Rail pass for $129.
Realizing that this was the perfect companion to his discount coupon
on Northwest Airlines—which would allow him to travel from Grand
Rapids to Nice for a mere $329—an itinerary began to take shape. Now
all he had to do was to find a place to stay.
prior to his departure, he checked for Internet hotel deals. He
found great deals at the Le Meridian in Lyon for $60, and the SAS
Radisson in Nice for $79. "Both these properties normally go for
three times the amount I paid," he says. He adds, "You can find
frugal deals just about everywhere. The trick is combining them into
a package you can use."
Membership Has Its
Another trick of the frugal trade is joining a
travel program. Bob joined Northwest's nwa.com Club for $25.
(nwa.com Club is currently closed
to new membership, but you can get on the waiting list). The paltry
sum allowed Bob to shave $400 off a family trip. He was able to take
his wife and two children to Bangkok for one week for around $2,800
(including airfare and a week's stay the J.W. Marriott).
addition, being a platinum member of the Marriott Rewards program
really paid off with an automatic upgrade to the best suite
available. However, the icing on the cake for Bob was what was
earned just by taking the trip. The entire family earned over
120,000 World Perk miles, which means six off-peak, round-trip
tickets in the forty-eight U.S. states (not including Alaska and
Hawaii) and Canada. Bob says, "If you assign a value of just $400
for each of those tickets, they have a value of $2,400, meaning the
trip actually cost us just over $100 each!" Clearly, it pays to be a
Where the Deals Are
"The short answer
to finding the deals is simply keep your ears and eyes open," notes
Bob. So what does a "frugalist" read?
notes, "I tend to watch the foreign newsletters for trends that may
impact the U.S. market." Overall, Bob estimates he reads 45 to 60
newsletters per week to stay on top to give his readers the best
advice and tips.
Bob's Top Money Saving Tips
What are Bob's top tips for saving some money while
The Frugal State of Mind
- His number one tip is "just ask." Ask for upgrades, ask if it
is the best price, and ask if they can do any better. He calls it
being "pleasantly persistent."
- Travel mid-week, with a Saturday night stay. He recommends if
you have to travel midweek from the east coast to the west coast,
and cannot stay a Saturday night, to go through Las Vegas. No
Saturday night stay is required.
- If you have time, he recommends adding a city on your routing,
which will sometimes reduce the cost and also build miles and earn
you free travel faster.
- Stick with one alliance of airlines—use their hotel, car, and
other partners. If you accrue just 25,000 miles per year, you will
attain elite level status, which offers additional miles and
being frugal is a state of mind and a way of living. He says, "I
just hate to spend more than I have to. I work hard to ensure I get
the best price and value for the dollar." He adds, "Frugality
doesn't necessarily mean cheap. I do stay in Marriotts and Westins,
but I know when to stay to get the best value."
staying at great places for less isn't being cheap. However, judging
from the mass quantities of Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and other coupons
that spilled from his briefcase, I guess it's safe to assume the
issue of cheap eats is still on the table for
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