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Leisure Spending

Travel and Cars

Europe for less, credit-card bonuses, Web-site bargains, off-lease vehicles

Reap Rewards

I earn points on my Bank of America WorldPoints credit card for every dollar I spend. For a trip I'm planning to Asia, I saw that it would have cost me 85,000 points plus $250 in taxes and fees -- the equivalent of more than $1,000. I wouldn't have earned frequent-flier miles on my flight, and I couldn't find a great one anyway. So I decided to cash out the 100,000 points for $1,000 and buy the ticket myself. While looking for the right flight, I stashed the money in my ING Direct savings account, which earns 4.5%. When I charge the flight to my card, I'll earn points on my card and miles with whichever airline I fly. -- Mim King, Lexington, Ky.

KIP TIP: Visa and MasterCard charge a 1% fee for purchases made in a foreign currency. Most major credit-card issuers pass along that fee, plus an additional 2% when a purchase must be converted into dollars. Capital One's no-fee Platinum Prestige MasterCard (877-304-2066; charges neither fee and has a low, 7.9% variable rate.


Budgeting and Saving




Swap Homes


Our family vacation to Europe proves that being financially astute doesn't necessarily translate into pinching pennies. We used frequent-flier miles and saved about $2,200 on airfare. Then we exchanged homes for a month's stay in Europe. That saved us another $3,200, for a grand total of $5,400. -- Kim Allen, Sarasota, Fla.

KIP TIP: To join a home exchange, check out HomeLink International ($90 per year for a Web-only membership) or Intervac ($79 per year for the Web only). The Caretaker Gazette ($30 per year) has online ads for house-sitting gigs, or you can subscribe to a bimonthly print version for $29.95 a year.

Airfare Bargains

As a young newlywed couple short on cash, my husband and I have saved hundreds of dollars a year by flying from Houston instead of from Austin or San Antonio, both of which are closer to our home. -- Melody and Deonte Thompson, Pflugerville, Tex.


KIP TIP: To find low-cost airfares, go to It will search more than 120 sources for the best fares on flights leaving up to three days before and after your ideal travel date. In a rush? puts together last-minute weekend packages.

'Be My Housemate'

When I go on extended travel, I often sublet my home. I post an ad on saying "Be my housemate for a week and then have the entire home to yourself." By living with the person, I put my mind at ease that he or she is trustworthy, and then I have someone to look after the house. The rent helps offset the cost of my travel. -- Felix Wong, Fort Collins, Colo.

Timeshare travel


I bought a one-bedroom timeshare for $1,500 through an ad in the paper ten years ago. By purchasing a membership with RCI, a timeshare exchange, I can trade the unit for others worldwide. I've gone to Disney World twice, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and tons of other places. I have two small children and would never have been able to afford these vacations otherwise. -- Robin Gonzalez, Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

KIP TIP: To save money on fees when selling a timeshare, use online resale sites, such as the timeshare users' group at, and

Timing Is Everything

By buying at the end of the model year, I was able to save quite a bit on a new car. I did research online at and on the dealerships' Web sites. I found out about a $1,000 dealer incentive on the model I wanted, and I ended up buying a 2006 Acura TSX with a navigation system last December. I got it for $26,300 (the sticker price was about $30,560). -- Paul Chi, Arlington, Va.


KIP TIP: Save on gasoline with the BP Visa (888-312-7427; You get a 5% rebate on all BP purchases, including car washes and convenience-store items, plus 2% back on most travel and dining purchases and 1% on the rest of your spending.

Save on Insurance

With regard to auto expenses, our family uses online evaluation tools to do an annual review of our vehicle insurance rates. A recent switch to less-expensive auto insurance saved us almost $1,000. -- Kim Allen, Sarasota, Fla.

KIP TIP: Compare auto-insurance rates online at, and Or get prices from an independent agent (go to to find one in your area).

Classic Roadster

In 1999 I bought a new BMW Z3. The moment I drove it off the lot, it was worth about $2,000 less. I sold it four years ago and bought another classic European roadster -- a 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider. It had 42,000 miles on it, but I got it for $8,000. Today I could probably sell it for $6,000. With less-expensive insurance, better gas mileage and a lower depreciation rate, I figure it has saved me $10,000 over the Bimmer. -- Felix Wong, Fort Collins, Colo.

KIP TIP: When buying a used car, look for vehicles that have come off-lease. You can expect to save 30% to 50% off the sticker price of luxury models after three years. And pricier makes usually have four-year warranties, so it's likely that the coverage has yet to run out.