MONEY Travel

Spring Ski Lift Pass Deals Offer the Best Value on Snow

150305_EM_Ski_1
John W Banagan/Getty Images

Ski resorts around the country—and in New England in particular—have rolled out new springtime deals that promise tons of skiing for a relative pittance.

Walk up to the ticket window this weekend at Killington, the East Coast’s largest ski resort, and a one-day adult lift pass will cost a cool $92. For a little more than double that, however, the 1,509-acre Vermont resort is selling a special spring season pass that provides unlimited skiing for two months, or perhaps even more. Killington is known to stay open until June, depending on conditions, and the pass, dubbed the “Nor’Beaster” and priced at $199, grants lift access from March 14 until whenever the season ends.

Killington isn’t the only mountain with springtime lift ticket deals featuring seemingly screwy pricing. Okemo, just south of Killington, offers a Spring Skiesta Card for $99, allowing unlimited lift tickets from March 20 through the end of the season. Further south still, the $119 Spring Loaded pass at Bromley provides four days of skiing any day now through December 18, 2015. Considering that the walkup price for lift tickets at Okemo and Bromley go as high as $92 and $71, it’s easy to see how these passes can pay off in as little as two days.

How could it make sense for mountains to offer multi-day passes at rates that seem phenomenally cheap compared with the regular walkup price? Especially given that it’s been an absolutely amazing winter for skiing in the Northeast, and it sure looks like the record snowfall is leading right into a terrific, long spring ski season?

One explanation is that resorts are trying to eke out every last dollar from customers during a time of year when—regardless of how much snow is still on the ground—attention shifts away from winter sports toward golf, baseball, or pretty much anything that doesn’t involve snow and cold.

On the one hand, these resorts are theoretically losing money from guests who would have paid full price for several days’ worth of lift tickets during the spring season. On the other, the mountains are potentially cashing in from guests who are nudged into the upsell of a pricier pass, which they might not even use for more than a single day. As for those skiers and riders who do get the most bang out of their spring passes, they’re likely eating, drinking, getting tune-ups, booking hotels, and otherwise spending money that the resort probably wouldn’t otherwise see had the deals not been so tempting. If they get you to come back one more weekend than you planned on, that’s a win for the resort.

At some point, resorts are also simply compelled to offer super cheap spring promotions because that’s what the competition is doing. The mountains that don’t enter the game will lose the battle to woo a pool of skiers that shrinks smaller and smaller as the season comes to a close.

While cheap, end-of-season passes have grown particularly popular in the Northeast, there are plenty of deals out West as well. Oregon’s Timberline, for instance, is selling a spring pass with unlimited skiing and riding now through May 25 for just $99. Steamboat in Colorado, meanwhile, offers a “Springalicious” pass good for any three days from April 5 to 12, as well as a Double Dip Pass valid for unlimited skiing from April 5 at Steamboat and Winter Park/Mary Jane, starting at $169.

Multi-day passes are hardly the only kinds of deals waved in front of skiers to keep them coming back to the mountains in springtime. A common marketing strategy to get customers to pay up for season passes early is to let them ski for free in the spring on a pass that’s valid for the following winter. There are also wacky one-day deals aimed at attracting skiers for one last spring hurrah, like Patriot’s Day at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, when a lift ticket purchased on April 20 not only costs just $17.76, it comes with a voucher good for a second day early next season.

Let’s also not forget that the vast majority of ski mountains now utilize dynamic pricing sites like Liftopia and GetSkiTickets.com to sell discounted tickets at whatever price the laws of supply and demand dictate. It goes without saying that prices at these discount sites are substantially cheaper in the spring than they are during peak winter weeks.

It also goes without saying that there’s rarely any reason to pay the full walkup price for lift tickets anywhere, no matter what time of year.

MONEY freebies

How to Get Free Pancakes on Tuesday, Courtesy of IHOP

Maple syrup runs down the side of a short stack of three pancakes at the International House of Pancakes.
Torin Halsey—AP These handsome fellows can be all yours on March 3 for the extremely reasonable price of free.

National Pancake Day, yet another made-up food holiday, is Tuesday, March 3. That means IHOP customers get a free short stack of pancakes.

Tuesday marks the tenth anniversary of National Pancake Day, an annual event in which IHOP customers get free pancakes and millions of dollars are raised for charity. This magic combo easily makes Pancake Day one of our favorite fake holidays of the year.

Getting free pancakes is simple enough. All you have to do is head to a participating IHOP—the vast majority play along—and ask for a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. Easy as that.

In exchange for your free breakfast, IHOP will ask you to consider giving a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or another designated local charity. For the 2015 edition of its National Pancake Day giveaway, IHOP hopes to raise $3.5 million for charity. The flapjack franchise has raised nearly $16 million in Pancake Day-related charitable donations since 2006, when the marketing stunt began.

TIME deals

Visa Replaces American Express as Costco’s Credit Card

A Visa Inc. credit card sits on top of credit and debit cards arranged for a photograph in Washington on Jan. 29, 2014.
Bloomberg/Getty Images A Visa Inc. credit card sits on top of credit and debit cards arranged for a photograph in Washington on Jan. 29, 2014.

Costco announced that the retailer’s credit card network will be handled by Visa next year, an announcement that comes weeks after it sideswiped Visa rival American Express in a move that ended a 16-year relationship with the retailer.

The retailer, 19th on the Fortune 500, said Citigroup would be the exclusive issuer of Costco’s co-branded credit cards while Visa will be replacing American Express as the credit card network for Costco in the U.S. and Puerto Rico beginning April 1, 2016. Costco, known for issuing sparsely worded press releases, provided few details about the deal with Visa.

The Costco business is a big coup for Visa, as Costco is one of the nation’s largest retailers. Shares of American Express dropped last month after the credit card company announced that its exclusivity deal with the wholesale club retailer was set to expire at the end of March in 2016. As WSJ reported previously, the agreement had driven a big chunk of business for American Express. But when the arrangement ends, millions of customers will be forced to use a different credit card when shopping at Costco.

Losing Costco’s business will dent results at American Express, as that business generated about 8% of the company’s worldwide billed business in 2014. Over 70% of the spending on those accounts occurred outside a Costco warehouse, so business was widely spread. American Express said it did try to win the business, but ultimately it was “unable to agree to terms that would have provided attractive returns for our company and our shareholders.” American Express warned it could book a restructuring charge and potentially cut costs if it isn’t able to generate enough business from other products to offset the lost business associated with the Costco co-branded portfolio.

MONEY freebies

Krispy Kreme Is Giving Away 1 Million Free Donuts on Tuesday

Krispy Kreme donut production line
Lightworks Media—Alamy Krispy Kreme donut production line

To celebrate the opening of its 1,000th shop on Tuesday, Krispy Kreme is giving away one glazed donut to the first 1,000 customers in each location.

Tuesday is not the deliciously wonderful fake holiday known as National Donut Day (which takes place in June). But it’s a pretty good runner up. If you’re one of the first 1,000 customers at a participating Krispy Kreme donut shop on Tuesday, you’ll be rewarded with one glazed donut, free of charge.

The promotion is being held to celebrate the opening of a new Krispy Kreme location in Kansas City, which will be the donut chain’s 1,000th location around the globe. The Kansas City location will open at 6 a.m., and there is sure to be quite a long line well before dawn. That’s because the first person in line will get one dozen donuts for free, once a week for a year. The next 99 people in line, meanwhile, receive a dozen free donuts once a month for 12 months. The first 150 folks in line get commemorative T-shirts as well.

Krispy Kreme isn’t limiting the celebration to Kansas City, however. The company has 1,000 locations in 24 countries around the world, and all participating stores are giving away 1,000 donuts to the first 1,000 customers. A thousand locations multiplied by 1,000 donuts equals a Dr. Evil-ish 1 million donuts.

The promotion is not valid in grocery stores, and as the Consumerist pointed out, some locations might decide not to participate because of “stingy or joyless managers who chose to not take part.” But surely most Krispy Kremes will play along, and collectively they’ll give out something close to a cool 1 million donuts. If you want to score your free donut, it’s probably best to hit your nearby Krispy Kreme early on Tuesday morning.

MONEY Saving & Budgeting

3 Ways to Cut the Fat From Your Budget—and Save More

male athlete drinking 100% Mega Wealth fitness shake
Gregory Reid

Nowadays technology makes it easier to whip your spending into shape.

Welcome to Day 6 of MONEY’s 10-day Financial Fitness program. You’ve already seen what shape you’re in and started to track your spending. Today, look for ways to free up cash.

Even if you hit the gym regularly, you can probably still pinch an inch here and there.

Your spending, too, is bound to have a little flab. But here’s the good news: If you haven’t combed through your budget in a while, you may be surprised to discover how new technologies, shifting business models, and other recent developments can help you find more money to save.

1. Join the Sharing Economy

Are there any big-ticket items you could get away with renting rather than buying? For instance, maybe now that the kids are in college or you’ve retired you could do without that second car, which, according to AAA, costs almost $9,000 a year to own and operate. Consultancy Alix-Partners found that by 2020 more than 1 million families will use carsharing services to avoid buying a second ride. In some areas, Zipcar and Enterprise Car Share charge less than $50 a day for fully insured cars with gas, while a one-way car-pooled ride with Uber or Lyft can cost as little as $2.25.

For vacations, how about trying a home-swapping service such as Intervac or HomeExchange.com to chop that hefty hotel bill? Then there’s the pricey item you need only once or twice. Rent that fancy camera from BorrowLenses.com or see if your area has a tool-lending library where you can borrow a rototiller or other item for free.

2. Take a “Financial Health” Day

To cut regular expenses such as cable, phone, or insurance bills, set aside a few hours to compare rates from different firms or to ask your current provider for a discount, says Joe Ridout of advocacy group Consumer Action: “A lot of companies rely on your inertia to keep business they no longer deserve.”

To really dig in, take a day off to devote to haggling with insurers, banks, and more. Robert Brokamp, a financial planner and writer for Motley Fool, persuaded his firm to set aside a day for employees to deal with finances. “A lot of these things have to be done during work hours,” he says.

3. Tap Technology

Sites and apps that monitor your spending are great for catching expenses that could fall through the cracks. BillGuard, for one, flags mistaken or duplicate charges and allows you to challenge them right from the app.

Technology can also help rein in impulse purchases and find deals on the things you do buy. These top shopping apps and browser add-ons help you pay the lowest price every time you shop online. To avoid the daily deluge of online shopping temptations, use Unroll.me to pull all retailer emails into a single message. Out in the real world, try the GroceryIQ app before you hit the market. Create a shopping list using the app and it will search for coupons for those specific items. Finally, gas may be cheap, but don’t just fuel up willy-nilly; use an app like GasBuddy to get the best price possible.

Previous:

Next:

  • Day 7: Find Ways to Save More
  • Day 8: Boost Your Earning Power
  • Day 9: Learn How Better Health Can Help Your Finances
  • Day 10: Shore Up Your Safety Net

 

MONEY deals

$2 Margaritas on the Menu This Weekend for National Margarita Day

Margarita with lime garnish
Bob Muschitz—Getty Images

This weekend, you can happily waste away in margaritaville without wasting a ton of money.

Plenty of fake holidays concocted by marketers come and go without much fanfare. February 20, for instance, is supposedly “celebrated” as National Cherry Pie Day and National Love Your Pet Day. But something tells us that people who ate cherry pie on Thursday weren’t doing so because of some random made-up holiday. And presumably, pet owners loved their pets just as much on days other than Love Your Pet Day.

At least National Margarita Day, celebrated February 22, comes with great deals on margaritas, bringing some excitement and savings to what would otherwise probably be another uneventful winter weekend. Individual bars and restaurants in cities such as Chicago, Dallas, and Phoenix are hosting specials like two-for-one margaritas and all-you-can-eat tacos in honor of National Margarita Day, so look for deal listings in your neck of the woods.

Three national restaurant chains have also posted Margarita Day specials, and in two of the cases, you don’t have to wait until National Margarita Day on Sunday to take advantage.

On the Border: 12 oz. margaritas that normally run $4.50 apiece are on the menu for $2 all day on Saturday and Sunday this weekend at the Mexican restaurant chain.

Cheeseburger in Paradise: All day on Sunday, February 22, classic margaritas are priced at $2.22 each at the restaurant chain named for a Jimmy Buffett song other than “Margaritaville.”

Tony Roma’s: Through Saturday, February 21, this rib-and-steak specialty chain is selling classic Romaritas (house margaritas) for $4, before dropping the price down to $2.22 to celebrate National Margarita Day on Sunday.

MONEY freebies

5 Great Food Freebies for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

IHOP Restaurants celebrate National Pancake Day with free buttermilk pancakes on March 3!
IHOP IHOP Restaurants celebrate National Pancake Day with free buttermilk pancakes on March 3!

The celebrations start today.

Mark your calendar: Free burritos, free pancakes, and even free babysitting for a child-free parents’ dinner are available this weekend and in the near future.

Free Chips & Nutella: February 12

California Tortilla, which has dozens of locations in the Mid-Atlantic region (but none in California or the West), is hosting an early Valentine’s special two days before the actual holiday. On Thursday, February 12, with any purchase, customers also get a free order of “Love Chips”—tortilla chips dusted with cinnamon and sugar—with some Nutella for dipping.

Free Burrito: February 14
The Mexican restaurant chain Qdoba has a buy-one-get-one-free smothered burrito deal to celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14, though only once a certain romantic—or perhaps icky—requirement is met. To take advantage of the deal, you must kiss someone at the time the order is placed. Could be your spouse, could be a first date, could be a total stranger, but the rule is: No kiss, no free burrito.

In other news related to public displays of affection being used to get free food, McDonald’s announced plans to run its “Pay With Lovin'” promotion, which was popularized during its Super Bowl commercial, in select locations around the country on February 14. If selected, McDonald’s customers will be allowed to use “lovin'” in the form of a hug, fist bump, a phone call to mom, or some other demonstration of love, to cover their bill. A representative for McDonald’s said that the company anticipates that more than 1 million customers will be asked to “perform an act of lovin’ as payment in restaurants” on Saturday. [UPDATE: An earlier version of this story stated that the “Pay With Lovin'” promotion was only taking place in Pittsburgh, when in fact the promotion is occurring at select McDonald’s restaurants all over the country.]

Free Babysitting: February 20
On Friday, February 20, participating Olive Garden restaurants are hosting “Parents Night Out” evenings. Couples can drop children off at partner My Gym locations, where staff will lead kids in games, songs, and gymnastics. After dinner, parents who present a receipt from Olive Garden get their gym deposit refunded.

Free Pancakes: March 3
Tuesday, March 3, 2015, is when the 10th anniversary of IHOP National Pancake Day will be celebrated. As is always the case, IHOP marks the event by giving away one short stack of buttermilk pancakes free of charge to each customer. In lieu of a bill for the pancakes, customers are asked to consider making a donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or another charity.

Free Breakfast, Dessert, Shopping Bag: March 7
IKEA somehow decided that Saturday, March 7, should be BYOF (Bring Your Own Friends) Day. We’re not sure what that really means. In any event, there’s no need to bring a friend to take advantage of the freebies offered that day: With a printout from the link above, anyone visiting a participating IKEA can get a free breakfast platter with scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, and home fries until 11 a.m., a free reusable IKEA blue shopping bag all day long, and a free dessert with each dessert purchased from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

MONEY Travel

10 Destinations That Got a Lot Cheaper to Visit in 2015

Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia
Amos Chapple—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

International hotel rates have dropped. Pick the right country, and that could mean big savings on your next vacation.

Maybe it’s time to book that trip abroad. A new report from TripAdvisor found that international hotel rates on the site dropped 7% from 2014 to 2015. The average nightly rate at an international hotel is now $115, down from $123 last year. For comparison, the typical U.S. hotel comes in at $127.

But where, exactly, are the best deals? Here are the ten countries that saw the biggest year-over-year decreases:

1. Russia: average rate $80, down 45%

2. Ukraine: $71, down 38%

3. Sweden: $151, down 19%

4. Norway: $173, down 17%

5. Poland: $67, down %16

6. Romania: $65, down $16

7. Bulgaria: $64, down 14%

8. France: $109, down 13%

9. Morocco: $106, down 12%

10. Uruguay: $131, down 12%

In some cases, these rate dips are likely due to countries’ economic or political problems. (You might have noticed, for instance, that #2 Ukraine has been the subject of unwanted attention from #1 Russia, not to mention a number of travel warnings from the Department of State.) Currency fluctuations, on the other hand, have given American travelers a leg up in Europe and other regions.

Looking to escape, ASAP? The report also noted the cheapest months to travel to various countries. Europe tends to be chilly this time of year, but if you’re willing to brave cool temps, you’ll find deals. The Continent is at its most affordable (average $111) this month and stays low in March, too. Asia and South America are at their cheapest in March ($78 and $116, respectively). The Caribbean, on the other hand, is the priciest region in February ($317) and March ($300).

 

 

 

MONEY gifts

5 Valentine’s Day Gifts If You Want Her to Break Up With You

Vermont Fifty Shades of Grey Teddy Bear
John Goodman Vermont Fifty Shades of Grey Teddy Bear

These five gift ideas could be exactly what your very special someone wants for Valentine's Day. More likely, however, is that they'll come across as creepy, tacky, or otherwise ill-advised.

We’ve seen all of the ideas below promoted in earnestness as good gift options for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day this year. And sure, for the right recipient, these gifts could be seen as hilarious, romantic, charming, and perhaps even deeply thoughtful. But you better be 100% sure you know your significant other well enough to foresee her reaction, because these oddball ideas also come with the serous risk of misfiring, to put it mildly.

S&M Teddy Bear
Falling somewhere along the spectrum of amusing to downright creepy, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company is selling a bear with “smoldering gray eyes, a suit and satin tie, mask – even mini handcuffs,” based on the erotic novel and movie Fifty Shades of Grey. “She can’t help but submit to loving him,” gushed the company’s description of the limited-edition bear, which retails for $89.99.

A warning at the bottom of the bear’s web page states “Contains small parts. Not suitable for children.” And, well, to state the obvious, the fact that it contains small parts is hardly the only reason this bear, made with “the silkiest fur we can get our paws on,” isn’t a good idea for kids.

Clearance Sale Lingerie
According to a survey conducted on the behalf of Offers.com, the top two items that women DON’T want to receive from their sweethearts are stuffed animals (presumably, especially not stuffed animals that come with handcuffs) and lingerie. In a separate survey, from BeFrugal.com, nearly 90% of women (and 79% of men) said it was OK to look for ways to save on Valentine’s Day gifts.

Still, buying lingerie is a risky proposition for guys, seeing as the recipient could be insulted if the article in question is deemed too slutty, too prudish, or the wrong size. And if the main reason the buyer decided to go with a certain article of lingerie is that it was 80% off, then you’ll certainly give the impression you’re too cheap. So let’s hope the only folks following the advice to buy deeply discounted lingerie for Valentine’s Day are women making the decisions for themselves.

Candle-Lit White Castle
In what has become an annual tradition, the blue-collar mini-burger chain White Castle is welcoming customers to “enjoy a romantic evening with tableside service” at select locations around the country on February 14. Reservations are required. Dozens of Waffle House locations are doing the same, with special Valentine’s Day dinners including normally unheard-of amenities such as candlelight and tablecloths.

On the one hand, with the right dinner partner it could be an absolute hoot to mock-celebrate Valentine’s Day at a down-and-dirty fast food joint, or perhaps a so-called “breastaurant” like Tilted Kilt. On the other, bringing an unsuspecting date expecting a fancy romantic Valentine’s dinner to such an establishment could be a recipe for getting a drink thrown in your face.

Animal Sex Lecture & Dinner
On February 14, the Detroit Zoo is hosting the fourth annual “Love Gone Wild,” a three-and-a-half-hour long adult-only event that includes a champagne welcome drink, passed hors d’oeuvres, a sit-down dinner, a commemorative gift, and, most interestingly, “a candid and entertaining look at how zoo animals do the ‘wild thing,'” according to promotional materials.

Yes, the $85 event’s focus is animal sex at the zoo, which ranges from “prolonged public bouts of coitus to brief clandestine assignations,” a press release explained. And yes, the lecture is quite detailed and graphic. “We not only talk about [sex], we name names, show pictures and critique performance.”

Vacant Lot in Newark, N.J.
Let’s just say it’s probably unwise to buy a vacant lot in Newark and promise to live on the property for five years without consulting your significant other. That goes even if the property is being sold for a mere $1,000, which is the special “lovebirds” Valentine’s Day offer on the table on February 14. Couples who are interested in any of the 1,000 available vacant lots should go to Newark City Hall on Saturday morning with a $500 down payment, as well as proof you and your partner can cover construction costs needed to make the property inhabitable within 18 months of closing.

TIME deals

Staples to Buy Rival Office Depot for $6.3 Billion

Staples Office store
Frank Duenzl—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Shoppers visit a Staples store in San Diego, March 2014.

A merger would help fend off intense competition from online retailers

Staples, the No. 1 U.S. office supplier, said Wednesday it would buy its nearest rival Office Depot Inc in a $6.3 billion cash-and-stock deal.

Staples said it would pay $7.25 per share in cash and 0.2188 of its shares for each Office Depot share.

“This is a transformational acquisition which enables Staples to provide more value to customers, and more effectively compete in a rapidly evolving competitive environment,” Ron Sargent, Staples’ chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“We expect to recognize at least $1 billion of synergies as we aggressively reduce global expenses and optimize our retail footprint,” he added. “These savings will dramatically accelerate our strategic reinvention which is focused on driving growth in our delivery businesses and in categories beyond office supplies.”

The deal is expected to bring about at least $1 billion of synergies, says Staples’ Chairman and CEO Ron Sargent. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported the two companies were in advanced talks to merge. Staples has a market value of about $11 billion, while Office Depot has a market value of about $4.1 billion. Last month, activist investor Starboard Value LP called for the two companies to merge, saying a combined entity would lead to greater savings.

A merger would help fend off intense competition from online retailers such as Amazon.com and big-box chains such as Wal-Mart Stores that sell the same core office supplies, such as paper and ink toner, for less.

The combination of the two would likely get a close look from antitrust regulators, the Journal said.

Regulators nixed Staples’ attempt to buy Office Depot in 1997, citing antitrust concerns.

The FTC approved Office Depot’s $976 million acquisition of OfficeMax in 2013 without the need to close stores, citing increased competition in the office supply industry.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

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