Dec 29 2016

Getting my D.C. hotel for 96% off!

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Hah! I found a hotel for our upcoming Washington, D.C. trip. I booked five nights at the category-6 hotel for 120,000 Marriott points (well, I don’t yet have the points, but I will before we go, and I’m able to book now).

When booking solely on points at Marriott, you get the 5th night free.

Our hotel is on the Metro line, convenient to attractions we’ll want to see, and we’re saving a ton of money.

With this particular hotel on these particular dates, I had the option of upgrading to concierge level for an extra $10/day. This gives us breakfast included (normally, we’d have to pay $15-18/person/day at this place!). We’ll have hors d’oeurvres, beverages, and dessert at various times of day included. Maybe some other fancy stuff, but either way if we used the perk solely for breakfast, it is still worth $10/day.

Our sleep comfort will require a roll-away bed for one of our kids, and that was $25 for the stay.

Total with the concierge level upgrade, roll-away, and some sort of tax they threw on it: $85 for five days.

Total the same room would be if we had to pay the cash rate: $2,135. !!!

The hotel tax in D.C. is expensive — that alone would be $49/day on this room. When paying on points, this is all included.

So. A decent, conveniently located hotel with food for $85 means I’m essentially saving 96% off the full price of $2,135. Yowza. I don’t know why it is so high, but it’s probably the dates. Maybe there’s a convention going on. On other dates, the cash rate is as low as $75/night, but typically it is in the $150-300/night range, with $450+ as an expensive outlier. Pricing can fluctuate widely, but with Marriott it is the cash rate that varies; the points rate stays the same no matter your dates.

If I’m booking a stay with an unusually cheap cash rate, I would pay that. If it is a crazy-high cash rate and I have the points, I will use points.

Thank you, credit card sign-up bonus!

(Oh, and of course — when I booked, I looked at Ebates and Swagbucks to see about the best reward. At the time, Marriott had a 8% SB rate. That ought to apply to my $85.)


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Dec 28 2016

Saving hundreds with a new dental discount plan

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In the past, our family had a dental discount plan through Careington. We dropped it a few years ago when our provider no longer took it. Since then, we’ve switched to a new dentist and for awhile did the in-office plan. Their plan was a flat fee for adult ($440/year!) and another fee for a child ($210) for the semi-annual cleaning, exams, and yearly x-rays. Any work needed beyond that would be subject to a 20% discount.

It was expensive. Better than nothing, but still steep.

Rather than renew for another year, I priced out various dental insurance and dental discount plans to see my options and actual costs.

Using the same dental codes used in our earlier visits, I saw some serious savings:

  • Adult exam and cleaning: $74, or $148 for two visits in a year. Add x-ray for $42. Total annual basic preventative = $190/adult (I’m saving $250 per adult over the “discount” thing offered by my dentist!)
  • Child exam and cleaning: $122/year. X-ray is $34. Saving $54/year per child.
  • A simple filling needed by my child last year was $232 with the 20% off rate. The same code would be $125 with the Delta plan. (Savings of $107)
  • I had a crown done last year. My total cost for crown plus build-up was $1272. I received 7% off for paying via check in full, rather than credit card. It would have been $930 with Delta, or a savings of $342. I’m going to need a few more crowns eventually; it’s only a matter of time.
  • Adding up the work we’ve needed in the past 2 years plus basic preventative care, and if I had the Delta plan I would have saved more than $1500 and that includes factoring in the Delta annual fee. YUCK. Kicking myself really, really hard! Bruises are happening. Oh, well.

I settled on the Delta Dental Patient Direct, purchased via DentalPlans.com. I called and spoke with a surprisingly helpful representative, and he checked actual costs I can expect from my specific dentist. We looked at the Aetna discount plan first, and then I had him check similar costs via Delta. Delta was cheaper so I went with that option.

This plan costs $172.96 for the year for my family with coupon code. (Here is a 15% off coupon code for you, aff. link). It includes vision and prescription benefits as well.

For my purposes, a discount plan is more cost-effective than a traditional dental insurance plan when I factor in the difference in my yearly outlay and benefits. Dental insurance would run at least $100/m, some plans have 18-month wait requirements for certain work (gee, thanks), will only pay a percentage of the total cost anyway, and have fairly low annual max payouts. Didn’t make sense, cost-wise.

What about you? How do you save on dental care?


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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (8), Vivienne (6) and Amelia (3) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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