Not Having The Police At A Car Accident Can Cost You

Car crash

As I mentioned in an earlier article, our new car got into an accident on our vacation driving down to Virginia. The weather had recently turned to rain.  We were driving along the highway below the speed limit making sure to keep a safe distance from the car in front.  Suddenly traffic slowed down so we did as well.  Then I saw it coming in the rear-view mirror – BAMM!!  We just got hit from behind. The force was enough to throw us forward.  I moved to avoid the car in front but ended up clipping his fender.  All three cars pulled off to the side of the road.  Thank goodness no one was hurt!  The kids were shaken up (heck, we were all shaken up) but we were OK.  I got out and assessed the damage.  Man I didn’t realize how bad we were hit.  Back door was crunched inward.  At first I couldn’t even open it.  Our front has a small dent as well.  The other two cars – scratches at best.  It was an SUV Oreo and our poor mini van was the creamy middle.

Still a bit frazzled from the accident the other two drivers and I began to exchange automobile insurance information.  The person who hit me was in a rush to leave.  He didn’t think we needed to call the police since no one was hurt and we were exchanging info already.  Something didn’t feel right about this to me.  Thankfully, I listened to my Spidey sense and called the police.  A few minutes later an officer arrived and took all of our information.

What A Police Officer Does At The Accident

  • The officer took all of our pertinent information and heard separate descriptions of what happened from each of us. This was good because the officer gave us each a Driver Information Exchange Report which listed car insurance information, driver’s license #, address, phone number, car description VIN, and more.  After an accident it’s easy for a driver to forget to get a piece of information or write something down incorrectly.  Getting this from a police officer helps to prevent that.
  • I didn’t know it at the time but you could be given a ticket for driving too close and causing an accident (at least where I was). This may have been one of the key reasons the driver who hit me wanted to leave.  It ends up the officer gave him a written warning.  This is very important in that it gives official evidence that the officer felt it was the driver’s fault for causing the accident!  This will help in determining the fault for the insurance companies which will lead to me getting back my car insurance deductible from repairs on my accident claims (my deductible is $1000).
  • The officer filed a police report for the accident. The insurance companies will use this as well in determining the fault.  Without getting a police report you run the risk of a driver changing his story after the fact and it becomes an issue of his word against yours.  Again this will help in getting my deductible back.
  • Having an officer there helps keep everyone’s heads level. Things can get heated when there’s an accident.  I’d rather have the officer do the peace keeping than worry about it myself.  Also, I want to believe in the best in people but I don’t know the person who hit me from Adam.  An officer can confirm that this isn’t a criminal.  A little paranoid?  Yes.  Does it give me additional peace of mind at a stressful moment?  Heck yeah!

As you can see calling the police was important. With the written warning and the police report the automobile insurance company should see that the fault was on the other driver.  This will save me my insurance deductible of $1000.  Had I not called it could possibly cost me that $1000!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mr Wabu

Booking A Hotel Through An Online Travel Site May Not Be Worth It

In planning our recent trip to Virginia Beach I discovered that using an online travel site isn’t always worth it.  In fact they could be ripping you off!

every time we say goodbye

We finally decided on going to Virginia Beach and we wanted to stay as close to the beach as possible.  At the same time we really didn’t know much about the area.  My wife and I scoured the various travel sites such as Expedia, Orbitz,, etc…  Whenever we saw something interesting we checked it in Trip Advisor to see what kind of feedback people who stayed there had.  We tried to find out what we could about the area and what was available.  Because we waited so long to plan our trip many hotels were either booked on certain days or too expensive.  Finally, through one of the sites (I won’t mention which), we found a decent hotel with a rate we were OK with paying.

Here’s where it gets interesting. So we found a good rate for a room.  We discovered that for $10 more a night we could also get a Continental breakfast included.  Ten dollars more a night to get the four of us going in the morning sounded like a good deal!  Before I was able to reserve the room my wife, in her mighty wisdom, told me to check out the hotel’s site and maybe give them a call to see what they charge.  Good thing she told me that.  I checked the hotel site and I found that their rooms were the same price as the online travel site.  Ok, no biggie.  Then I discovered that the Continental breakfast was included in all the reservations!!  The travel site was going to charge me $10 a night for something the hotel gave out for free!  It gets better.  We found that the hotel gives discounts to AAA members.  I plugged in our membership card and was pleased to see that the room would be discounted another $18!

In all we saved $28 a night by going directly to the hotel’s site rather than booking through an outside travel site!  Over five nights that’s a savings of $140.

I’m sure there are real great deals out there on these travel sites but this proves that you have to do your homework.  Sometimes the best deals may be from the hotel itself!

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Creative Commons License photo credit: [charlie cravero]

Our Vacation To Virginia Beach And Such

We got back a few days ago from our trip to Virginia Beach. According to Google Maps this was around 380 miles and should take about 7 and 1/2 hours to get there (more on that later).  We drove down on Sunday morning and came back Friday evening.

I was originally going to call this our “staycation” but it seems that staycation really means that you stay home and go to local attractions.  Still, this was our first driving vacation.  In previous years we would fly to our destinations.  Since we just bought a new mini-van we figured it would be a great time to drive and save money on plane fare too!  Virginia Beach seemed close enough to drive to from NYC and we heard a lot of great things about it.

So we packed up our stuff and put the kids in the car and left Sunday morning.  Many, many hours and rest stops later we finally made it to Virginia Beach (we had a major delay at one point but more on that later).  It was basically an all day drive for us, what with stops and all.  One exciting about the drive was going over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which spans 20 miles (on the way back we saw what might have been a a Navy Destroyer passing through the channel section).  It was also interesting to see all of the different towns and landscapes in the different states (four total: New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia).

Virginia Beach is beautiful! Our hotel really was just two quick blocks to the beach!  There was a beautiful boardwalk on the beach to walk along with a separate trail for bikes (we wanted to rent a bike for all of us but we didn’t get a chance).  Within two from the beach are places to eat (the four main  food sources seem to be seafood, ice cream, waffle/pancakes, and pizza), shops, a fun house, a haunted house, lots of ice cream shops, outdoor performance areas, miniature golf, and more!  It was really fun to walk around at night and take in the scenery.  In fact one of the performances we saw was the Edgar Winter Group at a bandstand right off the beach (we caught Frankenstein and Free Ride)!

An interesting thing we discovered was that Virginia Beach is close to a Naval base.  As a result there are military jets flying routes overhead all day.  Living near two airports in Queens, NY I’m used to hearing planes overhead but seeing military jets is different.  The last time I saw a military jet flying was on September 11th over the Empire State Building so it brought back some somber memories.  Once I got used to that though it was pretty awesome seeing the jets flying.  At times we would see three together flying in close formation.  If we ever go back we’ll have to tour the Naval base!

Funny story…One day my daughter wanted to go to the pool rather than go to the beach.  She couldn’t quite grasp that we didn’t drive 400 miles to go to a small hotel pool!  Well the beach won out.  As I was playing with her, jumping waves I saw a fin a little ways off.  I noticed it was a curved fin.  I told I thought I saw a dolphon but wasn’t sure.  She got worried thinking it could be a shark!  A few minutes later I saw for sure two dolphins swim to the surface.  Other people noticed it too.  In all there were about four dolphins swimming around and playing a little ways off from us.  We saw a couple jump out of the water and twist.  We must have watched them swim around on and off for the next hour!  At one point, holding my daughter up to see the dolphins, I asked her if she would have rather stayed at the pool.  Begrudgingly she said no, that it was much more fun at the beach.  Ha!  On a similar note, I had seen dolphin watching boat rides advertised for about $20 a person.  We saved a bundle by just going to the beach instead!

As well as the beach and the local scenery we also went to the Virginia Beach Aquarium and spent a day in Colonial Williamsburg.  The little princess loved seeing all of the old time building and costumes.

Remember how I said Google Maps said the trip should be 7-8 hours?  I’ve discovered that with two kids we have to add at least 30% to the time listed!  Coming home took much longer with stops and traffic entering NYC.

The trip was a lot of fun and I would definitely consider going back to Virginia Beach but it seems for us every silver cloud has a lead lining.  While driving down there we got into a car accident.  We got rear ended on the highway.  Our brand new car now has a dent in the front and a smashed in rear door.  No one was hurt and the car runs but it really hurts to have a new car get beat up like that.  The accident was the other person’s fault and insurance should cover the repairs but it did put an ill feeling over the trip.  We even considered going back home after the accident but we’re glad we went through with the trip.

In all I think we saved money by not flying off someplace.  We certainly spent money but it was less than we would have flying to a Caribbean locale.

Accident aside, we had fun and I think we have more driving trips in our future. As you can see from the Frugal Things To Do series there’s so much to see and do in this country!  Even a couple of days before the big trip we went out to Sesame Place and a couple of weeks earlier we went to the Bronx Zoo.

We Did It, We Bought A New Car


We did it!  We broke down and decided it was time for a new car.

We bought a brand new 2008 Honda Odyssey EX.  We picked it up last week and we love it so far!  I feel a little guilty saying that since hey, a new car costs money, but I think we did it as cost-saving as we could.

See, we could have stuck with our 2004 Toyota Corolla, which was a great car.  It had a relatively good number of miles on it and it ran well.  Thing is, it was getting too small for our family.  We’ve been getting by finding ways to fit everything into the trunk of the car on various outings.

Shopping at BJ’s was always fun since we had to get things like diaper and wipes boxes into the trunk as well as the stroller (remember, we have two kids one of which is a toddler).  On some days we got real close to not fitting everything.

The other things was we really couldn’t fit any more people than the four of us.  Maybe we could squeeze a friend of my daughter’s in but that was it.  We wanted to be able to transport more people if we wanted (and hey, there’s always the possibility of more little ones too).

Let me show you what we did to keep costs down:

We traded in our Corolla

We considered keeping it but we didn’t need two cars.  We were better off putting the car toward the cost of the Odyssey.

We researched and then researched some more and then shopped around

We checked Consumer Reports,, the official Honda site, the Official Toyota site…We looked everywhere we could to make sure we understood what the dealer costs were and what prices we could expect to get for both the new car and our old car.  With this information we shopped around until we found the best price from a dealer.  In the end, after an odyssey of our own, we received a price that we were happy with (much less than MSRP and lower than dealer invoice).

We added some luxury but not the works

I wanted power side doors which put us up higher than the base model.  After that we didn’t go for any other options.  As much as we would have liked them we didn’t get the navigation system, the DVD player, the leather seats, etc…  We looked at what we knew we needed and wanted and stuck with that.

We got a great financing deal

I know, buying a 2-3 year old car and paying for it in cash is what a lot of experts say is the best thing to do.  We’ve had bad experiences with older cars already and we know we are going to use this car for as long as we are able (many, many years we hope!).  We considered a used car but in the end we wanted new.  One thing that helped decide was the fact that Honda is offering 0.9% financing right now (Toyota was offering 0% but we preferred the Honda overall).  Financing for 0.9% is real close to free money (a great reason to make sure your credit score is good).

So you know, we have enough put away that we could have paid the car off entirely but since the rate is so low we can keep the money in our Capital One 360 Savings account and let it earn interest while we pay the fianancing.  I did some quick calculations and our financing is costing us less than $300 while we could earn around $1,800 keeping the money in our savings.  For a used car the fianncing would have been much higher.

Our insurance will be lower

As an added bonus I found out that our auto insurance premiums will be lower since the Odyssey is considered a safer car.

Our vacation will be more local

We were undecided on what to do for vacation this year.  We were strongly considering flying off somewhere that has Caribbean water.  But now that we have a new car with more storage space we’re going to do a driving vacation and travel within a day or two’s distance and check out the sites.  Yes gas is expensive now, but we’ll still be saving more than if we flew somewhere.


We have a little bit of buyer’s remorse knowing that we have a debt to pay off but we’re really happy to have gotten the car!  We’ve already taken a couple of small trips and we plan to do some more (there’s a frugal list of things to do somewhere out there isn’t there?).

A car is a great big expense.  But I think we purchased ours in a way that’s financially responsible.

Do You Have Frugal Tips For Your City?

If you’ve been keeping up on things then you know the Money Life Network has just finished our series “Frugal Things To Do In…” where we listed out great things to do in each of the cities we live in.  Check out the great map showing all of our locations!

Things is though, there’s only seven of us in the Money Life Network and that barely puts a dent in the map.  We need your help to fill the map up!  If you have a blog then write about frugal things to do in your city , link back to us and contact us and we’ll add you to our map.

Check out the Money Life Network cities:

Now let’s fill up that map!

Frugal And Free Things To Do And See In New York City


New York City.  The city so nice they named it twice!

Before I show you frugal, cheap, and free things to do and see in New York City let’s look at the first paragraph from Wikipedia:

New York City (officially The City of New York) is the largest city in the United States, with its metropolitan area ranking among the largest urban areas in the world. Founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1625, it served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, and has been the nation’s largest city since 1790. Located on one of the world’s finest natural harbors, New York is one of the world’s major centers of commerce and finance. New York also exerts global influence in media, education, entertainment, arts, fashion and advertising.  The city is also a major center for international affairs, hosting the headquarters of the United Nations.

Pretty cool, huh?

NYC is made up of five boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island – though many people mean Manhattan when they say NYC.  All but the Bronx are islands.  I tried to spread the love around the entire city as much as I could but don’t be offended if I don’t give every borough equal weight.

So here are Frugal And Free Things To Do And See In New York City (in no particular order):

Statue of Liberty

Statue of LibertyDedicated to the US by the people of France in 1886 to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty stands on Liberty Island to greet visitors to the US and NYC (immigrants to the US would first pass through nearby Ellis Island before entering the US).  The ferry fee to visit is $12 and $10 for kids under 13.  Nowadays you can only enter the statue up to the pedestal (You used to be able to visit up the statue itself and I remember a time when you could go all the way up to the torch!).  If you ask me $12 is a lot!  A frugal way to get up close is to take the Staten Island Ferry from the Whitehall Terminal in lower Manhattan near Battery Park City.  Fare for the SI ferry – FREE! The SI ferry runs between Manhattan and Staten Island and passes close to the Statue of Liberty.  It’s a beautiful ride across the New York harbor with additional views of Ellis Island, NYC skyscrapers, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (One time the longest suspension bridge in the world and also the start of the NYC marathon).

Wall Street/Financial District

This area, located in lower Manhattan, is home to the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, City Hall Park, Federal Hall National Memorial (where George Washington was sworn in) and is close to Battery Park and the South Street Seaport.  To walk around this area is to truly take in the early history and continuing legacy of NYC!

Brooklyn Bridge

NYC is home to well over thirty bridges!  But in my opinion the Brooklyn Bridge, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, is the most beautiful.  Warm Having just celebrated it’s 125th birthday, the bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first steel wire suspension bridge when it opened in 1883.  What makes this bridge truly special is the pedestrian/bike pathway in the center of the bridge above the vehicle lanes.  The Manhattan entrance to the bridge is located close to City Hall.  Walk across and see the bridge up close as well as see an amazing view of the East River and NYC!  Feeling adventurous?  Sign up for the NYC Century Bike Tour which crosses the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the 100 mile ride (I’ve done three of them and they are a great way to see NYC!).

Empire State Building

It’s hard to think of NYC without imagining the 102 story Empire State Empire State Building HDR Building (located at Fifth Ave and 34th st).  Completed in 1931,  it was the world’s tallest building for more than forty years until the completion of the World Trade Center’s North tower.  The building can be seen from all around, from New Jersey to Queens!  The building has an observatory on the 82nd floor ($17.61 fro adults) you can visit as well as one on the 102nd floor (an additional $15).  I can’t say it’s cheap but the panoramic views of NYC are spectacular (even King Kong had to see the top)!  Other notable buildings to see: Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church, Woolworth Building

The High Line

So what do you do with an old train freight line that sits above-ground in Manhattan’s west side?

That’s right, you turn it into an awesome walkway and garden!

The High Line runs from West 30th street down along the old line to Ganesvoort Street in the Meatpacking District.  It runs through Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton through West Chelsea, and into the Meatpacking District (don’t worry, those neighborhoods aren’t as scary as they sound!).

Along the way expect to see wonderful gardens, included big lawns to hang out on, art installations, as well as incredible views of NYC, its architecture,  and the areas around it (you can see the Statue of Liberty from one spot).  There is a water spot for the kids to run in barefoot as well as a picture window that hangs over the street to look eastward over the city.

The High Line truly a remarkable place to see when you consider it was all train tracks in the past!

Zoos, Gardens, and Aquarium

NYC is home to the world famous Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Free; check out the cherry trees from late March to mid-May), Central Park Zoo ($8 for adults), Prospect Park Zoo ($6/adult), Queens Zoo ($6/adult), New York Aquarium ($13/adult), Staten Island Zoo ($7/adults), New York Botanical Garden ($6/adults, extra for special events), Queens Botanical Garden (Free), and Staten Island Botanical Garden (Free).


Are you a museum person?  Do you like American history or do you prefer modern art?  Whatever your tastes there’s a museum for you in NYC!  Check out the admission rates if you plan to go to one of the following.  Many are private museums and may be pricier while others may have suggested donations. There also may be free or discounted days at many of the museums. American Museum of Natural History (you remember Night At The Museum, right?, American Museum of the Moving Image, Anne Frank Center, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Center For Jewish History, El Museo Del BarrioGuggenheim Museum (the building itself is art), Louis Armstrong House & Archives, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York Hall of Science (fun for the kids), Skyscaper Museum, Transit Museum.  There are so many museums in NYC that it’s hard to list them all!  Personally I love the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.  The New York Hall of Science is fun too (and it’s not far from the Queens zoo and also a great park for the kids)!


How do you get around to all of these places in NYCSubwayDriving is an option but you have to listen to the traffic reports and know the parking situation where you’re going.  You can find taxi cabs all over Manhattan, and that could be good for a short trip, but they can get expensive quickly and they aren’t as easy to find in the outer boroughs (not Manhattan).  Another option is to use the city’s own transit system, the MTA.  There are tons of buses and trains that can bring you all over NYC.  The out the MTA Trip Planner site.  You put in where you want to go and where you’re coming from and it will suggest ways to get there via bus and train!  Oh, the bus or train is only $2.50 (more if you take an express bus)!


With the millions of people that are in NYC you might think there’s no room for parks.  Unisphere That would be a wrong assumption!  There are tons of parks in NYC!!  Here are some you might want to check out: Central Park – A biggie, located in Manhattan and home to the Central Park Zoo, Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art and much more; Bryant Park – another Manhattan park, much smaller than Central Park but home to the HBO Summer Film Festival (free movies on the lawn) and Good Morning America Summer Concert Series (free concerts); Flushing Meadows Corona Park – a huge park in Queens which is home to the New York Hall of Science, the US Open, the Mets (Citi Field), Queens Museum of Art, 1,255 acres of athletic fields, and includes many sculptures and building (such as the Unisphere) built for two World’s Fairs; Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve; Prospect Park; and many smaller neighborhood parks!


NYC has built over 100 miles of greenway trails for walking, running, skating and bicycling across the five boroughs.  These are great trails to get out and exercise on!  As well as the greenways NYC also has two mountain bike trails, one each in Highbridge Park, Manhattan and Cunningham Park, Queens.


NYC is home the the Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, US Open, NYC Marathon, Brooklyn Cyclones, Giants and Jets (though they play in New Jersey, go figure), Liberty, and the Staten Island Yankees.

For more frugal tickets in a smaller stadium check out the Cyclones and the SI Yankees which are minor league baseball teams.  You can find less expensive tickets for the other teams, just watch out for expenses like food and souvenirs at the stadiums!

We went to a Cyclones game and had a blast!  We started off with a walk along the boardwalk in Coney Island before we went to the game.  That day’s game was bat giveaway day.  My son was quite happy to get a full sized Cyclones bat as a souvenir (they have a lot of souvenir nights).  At the game we got to meet two of the Cyclones mascots.  Our littlest even got a autograph on her hat!  Something goes on in between every inning to get the crowd involved, be it a silly race, food eating contest, or launching shirts into the stands.  Really, minor league game is a lot of fun for the family and it costs a fraction of a major league game.

Food and Shopping

Seriously, if you can’t find the food or shopping you want in NYC then you really aren’t trying at all!  You can find virtually anything you want here!  To dine we have everything from five star restaurants to hot dog carts on the corner.  You can shop for the top designers or check out neighborhood flea markets.

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NYC Neighborhoods

NYC has many great areas that you should check out.  Among them: Times Square, Coney Island, Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Park Slope, SoHo, Flushing, and many, many more!

Other Events

There’s always something happening somewhere in NYC, it’s hard to keep up with it all!  The site lists a good number of events going on. Resources – Here are a few places to further investigate frugal things to see and do in New York City: Time Out New York,, NYC Dept of Parks and Recreation, Village Voice, NY Times,

If you are traveling to NYC, having a great travel rewards credit card can help you maximize what spending you need to make and potentially give you benefits like free hotels and more.  The key, or course, is to make sure your card is paid off in full every month, otherwise your benefits probably won’t exceed the interest you will be paying.

This has got to easily be one of the longest articles I’ve written. I thought it would be easy since there’s so much to do in NYCbut it’s really tough trying to pick out the best stuff for you!  To say I left out a lot would be a major understatement.  Truth is there is just too much going on to put it all down in one article.  You can easily spend thousands, if not more, in this city but there’s also plenty to do for free!

Enjoy!  Let me know what I left out in the comments!

This article is part of the “Frugal Things To Do In…” series by the Money Life Network.  Check out the rest of the cities featured!

photo credit: wwarby Statue of Liberty, photo credit: lohit Wall Street Bull, photo credit: racreations Brooklyn Bridge, photo credit: ajagendorf25 Empire State Building, photo credit: Stig Nygaard Subway, photo credit: Flushing Meadow Park, photo credit: pwbaker NYC Skyline.

There May Be Unclaimed Money Or Property Waiting For You

Don't Let The Emperor Keep Your Unclaimed Property!!

Did you know that you might have property or money waiting for you to be claimed?

I had heard about it but didn’t really understand what it was.  Well, I recently came across the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.  They provide a list of state department sites where you can find your state and check for unclaimed property.  They also provide a link to which is a database of state unclaimed property records. ( I suggest you check both!).

“There’s no way any of that money is mine” you may be saying.  You’d be surprised!

Here is a list of accounts that may have unclaimed money (from the NYS Office of the State Comptroller):

  • Savings Accounts
  • Checking Accounts
  • Uncashed Checks
  • Telephone/Utility Deposits
  • Rental Security Deposits
  • Wages
  • Insurance Benefits/Policies
  • Safe Deposit Box Contents
  • Mortgage Insurance Refunds
  • Stocks and Dividends
  • Mutual Funds
  • Certificates of Deposit
  • Trust Funds
  • Estate Proceed
Have you moved, opened an account and forgot about it, change utility providers and forget about the deposit, forget to cash a dividend check?
All of these are reasons money can go unclaimed.  State laws require unclaimed funds to be turned over to the state after a set period of time (varies by state).  This money sits with the state waiting to be claimed.

I was skeptical so I tried it out.
Ends up I have unclaimed funds for dividends I never cashed.  Long ago my Grandmother bought us all a share of stock in our name.  The dividend checks were never that big so I probably misplaced or lost it.  I’ve since moved a number of times so the checks never caught up with me.  The NYS site provides a form that needs to be notarized and sent back to claim the money.  Check your state for exact details on claiming property.

So what are you waiting for?  Go check to see if there’s money waiting out there for you!

photo credit: Gaetan Lee

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