Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Children's Place Monster Sale

Up to 80% off at The Children's Place Monster Sale. Awesome deals on super cute and stylish kid's clothes!

I love how they put together whole outfits based on "kid type" like "styln' beach boy" or "seaside sweetie" - so cute! Not sure when this sale ends...it just says "get 'em while they last!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Best Frugal Cars: Hatchbacks

I'm continuing my best frugal cars blog series with a list of my favorite frugal hatchbacks. Hatchbacks are a great choice for frugal car buyers. They are practical, good for occasionally transporting stuff, get good gas mileage, and many are priced around $20K or under.

However, the more powerful hatchbacks get comparable gas mileage to compact SUV's like the Toyota Rav4 or Honda CRV both of which have much more room, additional safety features, and comfort. My 2 cents...a compact SUV may be the best choice if you have a family or need the room while a hatchback may be the best choice for city dwellers and single folks.

Here's a list of my favorite frugal hatchbacks:

Mazda 3: My Favorite "Performance" Frugal Hatchback

Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! You will understand Mazda's jingle when you get behind the wheel of this beauty. It's a blast to drive with lots of...you got it...zoom. No other frugal hatchback turns heads like the Mazda3 with its great styling and gorgeous interior. It has excellent reviews from pros and my hubby and I absolutely fell in love with it. The cons? It has "zoom" due to it's larger 2.5L 167hp engine which gets 22/29 mpg...about the same as smaller SUVs. It starts around $21K but we found Mazda dealerships often had 0% financing and were eager to give deep discounts (ie. one offered us the top-of-the-line '09 Touring with leather and all options for ~$19K!)

Runner Ups:
  • Toyota Matrix - This is a good car and comes in several options starting at $16-21K. It's 132hp engine is ok but doesn't have the power and performance of the Mazda3. I also don't like its interior dash and small backwindows.
  • Honda Fit - This is a great car for people who don't need a lot of power. Its 117hp engine was fine for normal driving but lags going up hills and merging on the freeway. With less power, however, comes excellent gas mileage of 28/35 mpg! All in all, I think it handles nicely, is very spacious with large windows, comfy seats, and has some neat interior features. Starting at ~$16K is an excellent frugal hatchback.
  • Nissan Versa - This, like the Honda, doesn't have a very powerful engine but also gets good gas mileage of 24/32 mpg. This is the least expensive of the bunch starting at ~$14K but, as the price suggests, is more of an economy car.
Photo Credits: Mazda website

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Free Weekends At National Parks

Now that spring is here I can't wait to get outside and hike off those winter pounds. I was excited to hear that The National Park Service is offering three fee-free weekends this summer:
  • June 20-21, 2009 (Father’s Day weekend)
  • July 18-19, 2009
  • August 15-16, 2009
Find out more:
Image credit: National Park Service

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Best Frugal Cars: Honda CRV

see also: Toyota Rav4 – My favorite “Performance” Frugal SUV
Honda CRV : My Second Favorite Frugal SUV

The Honda CRV is another great choice for a frugal SUV. Many car reviews place the CRV and Rav4 neck-to-neck as I've done here. While I personally chose the Rav4 I think the CRV is still a great car and a excellent choice depending on your needs. In terms of handling and ride, it is more comparable to the Rav4 Base or Limited models with less aggressive yet excellent "car-like" handling and a cushy smooth ride. Its 4-cylinder 2.4-liter engine has 5-speeds versus the 4-speed in the 4cyl Rav4 engine which is nice. However, the CRV's 166-hp engine has less horsepower and torque than the Rav4's 179-hp engine and we could feel the difference in our test drives. The CRV just didn't seem to have the same power and pick up as the Rav4 and we could feel a more substantial drag in the CRV even when going up small hills. In terms of mileage the Rav4 actually gets better mileage 22 city/28 highway for the 4cyl 2WD compared with the CRV's 20 city/27 highway for the 4cyl 2WD .

In terms of looks, the CRV has a curvy and streamlined appearance. All in all, I really like the CRV's exterior which I think looks like a less expensive version of many Lexus SUV's. I especially like the back end which opens upward and doesn't have the spare tire like the Rav4. The only thing that I really don't like is the thick black underside of the bumper which comes up in the front and back. I think this looks cheap and clashes with the rest of the streamlined look of the CRV.

The interior of the CRV was beautiful for the most part but had some major drawbacks for us in comparison to the Rav4. The dash was nice and I loved the steering wheel which I found very comfortable to hold. The front seats where also very supportive and comfy. Another plus was the cargo space which has a slide out shelf which splits the cargo area into two spaces for more organized storage.

There were several drawbacks to the CRV interior for our needs. The most major drawback for us was the lack of a sufficient arm rest for the front seats. This was a big issue for my hubby who drives with one hand and rests his right arm on the center armrest. The Rav4 has a permanent center console with storage and a comfortable armrest. In comparison, the CRV has a fold-up console with drink holders and a very small fold-down armrest which is not comfortable for long journeys. If you don't use the center armrest when driving, this may not be a big deal for you and the positive point to this design is that you can fold up the center console for pass through (say if you have a long item in back or want to reach the front seats from the back.) A second negative we found were the back seats which we felt were overly firm and bench like in the non-leather models. Lastly, it may seem like a small complaint but I hated the interior door handles. I liked most of the CRV's interior and though it looked classy but thought the door handles looked too modern - like something out of Star Trek - and were made of cheap looking plastic. Check them out in the picture - they look even worse in person and I feel clash with the rest of the interior.

That said, many of the drawbacks we found to the CRV were based on matters of personal opinion and our needs. The CRV is an excellent SUV for many people especially if you want a smoother ride, good handling, and more streamlined appearance. With a starting price of only $21,500 it is an excellent frugal car choice.

Photo Credits: Honda website

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Best Frugal Cars : Toyota Rav4

Toyota Rav4 – My favorite “Performance” Frugal SUV

I’m breaking up my favorite frugal SUV review into two parts because I have a tie between the Toyota Rav4 and the Honda CRV both of which are great cars with excellent reviews but have different pluses and minuses.

The Toyota Rav4 is my personal favorite and the one we purchased. I call it my favorite "performance" frugal SUV because its 4cyl 179hp engine has more torque and, in my opinion, is noticeably peppier and sportier to drive than the 166hp CRV. For true performance you can also get the Rav4 with a V6 269hp engine (the CRV only comes in 4cyl). This V6 version is one of the fastest cars Toyota makes with excellent reviews for performance, speed, and gas mileage.

I think the Rav4 has a sportier more masculine look than the curvaceous CRV. As shown in the picture above, the Rav4 has a more traditional SUV exterior with some sleek curves and an exterior spare tire. I'm actually not a fan of the spare tire or side opening back door but love the rest of the Rav4's exterior. I also like the curves of the CRV but the hubby thinks it looks like an “egg” or “mommy mobile."

The Rav4 comes in 3 models – Base, Sport, and Limited. The Base model is the most frugal starting at ~$21K (you should be able to get it for ~$19K). This is a great deal if you don’t need a moonroof or other fancy options.

The Rav4 Sport model starting at ~$24K is my favorite for performance and good looks. The Sport model’s sport suspension makes this baby really fun to drive and great at cornering. It feels less like an SUV and more like a sports sedan. Really, it’s so fun to drive I seriously get disappointed every time I have to park and turn it off! It also has an exclusive Sport interior I love with a dark charcoal console and sporty black fabric. With a moonroof, 6 CD changer, and other options not found on the Base, it is a great choice for a little bit of luxury and performance.

The Rav4 Limited model, starting at $25K and going up to $31K with all the bells and whistles, pushes the frugal envelope. Personally, I prefer the interior and performance of the cheaper Sport model but if you like leather and a cushier ride (the Sport’s suspension makes it a tad bumpier) then check out the Rav4 Limited.

Photo Credits: Toyota website