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Road Trippin’ in Search of Our Next Home!

by J. Money on Friday, December 14, 2012

welcome to north carolina

[UPDATE: See the results of our trips here!]

After all our talking and wondering about how cool it may be to live in a new area sometime soon (particularly Wilmington, NC), we decided to finally make a weekend of it and head out on a fun road trip :) Where I’m probably in the middle of as you’re reading this right now – woo!

You  might remember that moving to a new place is one of our top 3 goals by next Summer, but the last few months have really made us feel antsier and antsier and ready to go. Probably because we weren’t  *acting* on any of these desires and only thinking about them. But now that we’ve got a handle on baby stuff and the holidays are drawing near (more fun to explore before Christmas than after! :)), it’s time to get out there and see what’s up!

Will Wilmington be the next place for us? Or maybe Durham, which we’re gonna try and hit on the way down too? I don’t know, but we’re gonna find out more in a few hours :) From my understanding Wilmington’s like a small Charleston, SC which I absolutely LOVED during our bachelor party earlier this year – esp that old-town feel next to the water. And our friends say Durham has grown into a much more younger and “hipper” town too over the years, so we’re really looking forward to seeing what they offer. As much as we can on a quick weekend trip, anyways.

Then we also still have Nashville, Phily, and maybe L.A. on the list too, though something tells me moving across country with a baby won’t fly so well with the grandparents ;) But we’re not ruling them out quite yet!

And as far as finances go, it’ll all cost us a pretty penny after all the trips are completed. Albeit pennies that are worth spending ;) Here’s how our trip this weekend will probably add up:

  • $150 for Car SUV Rental. We were initially gonna just take our small Toyota on the road, but after our last fiasco during beach week (where it took like 3 hours to pack!) we decided to upgrade to an SUV instead so we can not only save on the wear and tear of our main family car, but ALSO do some good test-driving while we’re at it too ;) Hopefully with a Jeep Grand Cherokee or similar, which we’ll get to in a minute…
  • $200-$250 for gas. A lot more than the $100-$150 it would have cost w/ the Toyota, but if you’re gonna do it right then you gotta get a good feel for how gas would cost us too in the future w/ an SUV, haha… so it’ll be money well spent/learned ;) And still cheaper than flying in the end.
  • $100 for random stuff. I like to have a random category like this because without fail we WILL spend more money than we think on all kinds of stuff. Lunches out, snacks, souvenirs, rental down payments? ;) It’s also nice to give yourself some slack on vacations like this too and not try and account for every single penny – one of the benefits of rocking it throughout the rest of the year!
  • $0.00 for hotel. The best part! A family friend of ours is opening up her home to us so we can save hundreds of dollars on our adventure! Which also prompted us to just “do it’ as Nike says. Gotta take advantage of the opportunities when they come up! (Also, even cooler is that our friend lives a little ways OUT from Wilmington which means we get to explore another area by default :))

So a grand total of around $500 for the next 3 days on the road… Not the best in the world, but also not the worst – especially since we got those accommodations on the cheap free. And we hit 3 birds with one stone too! Adventure, future-home exploring, and test-driving. Or maybe even 4 if you count testing our sanity with a baby on board for 400+ miles, haha… that should be interesting ;)

Two other things here as well:

1. When we decide to move, wherever it is, we’re going to rent

A) Because it will give us time to acclimate and see if we really do enjoy the area we decided to try out, and B) there’s no way I’m having TWO house payments, bleh. We’d have to rent out our main house since it’s still too underwater to sell, so we’d basically be trading one rental for another and hopefully saving money in the process.

We believe we can get around $1,800 in rent for our house now, so moving anywhere that’s not DC or NYC or LA should mean we save more ;) Our target rate right now is $1,500/mo, though we’d be willing to spend more if it was a nice walking distance to some cafes and shops. Or if it was just an awesome freakin’ place.

2. I’m gonna try and work a little magic with our car rental :)

Anyone who uses Enterprise will know exactly what I’m talking about. Here’s the trick: When you know what type of car you’re looking for (like, say, in our case a mid-size SUV like a Cherokee), you make a reservation for the one right below it. Which of course will be much cheaper, especially the longer out you rent the car for. If we were to lock in a mid-size SUV for the next 3 days, it would cost us a little over $200. But if we did the next level down – the “intermediate”aka entry-level size SUV – it’s only $150. Saving us 25% right out the gate! And this is where the magic happens. Usually…

One of the reasons I love Enterprise so much besides the fact they pick you up from your house and they have killer customer service (which reminds me a LOT actually of USAA in that regard), is their constant upgrading for free. Two out of three times I’ll get asked if I want to upgrade to the next level as a courtesy – either because I’m really really charming (hah!) or ‘cuz they do it for everyone as a way to better earn your loyalty ;) Which is fine by me either way!

Now normally it doesn’t matter all too much whether I get that upgrade or not, as it usually just becomes a “surprise” perk, but in cases like these when we WANT the bigger car to begin with, it becomes way more important. ‘Cuz while in theory you could still upgrade anyways and just pay the $50 or whatever for it like normal people, it doesn’t necessarily *guarantee* that the car you truly want will be on the lot :( Since, after all, you never made a reservation for it! Not that that actually matters all the time anyways, haha… remember that hilarious Seinfeld episode? ;)

All that said though, we gave it a shot and we may or may not be riding in our bigger cheaper car right now, haha… I’m actually writing this last night in a rush to get everything done before our trip tomorrow (today?), and I’m grabbing the car early in the morning :) But I’ll let y’all know if it worked out as soon as I’m back on the computer! Wish us luck!!

Anyone know of other awesome places we should check out? Or maybe you want to pitch us YOURS? :) Just think – we could become neighbors and talk about money face-to-face over coffees! Or beers! Or both! Hah… If you know of any other car rental tricks too, I’d love to hear those as well… Maybe one that works *all* the time and not just when the odds are in your favor ;)

Happy Weekend all!

[UPDATE: See the results of our trips here!]

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[Photo by Shoshanah. Doodles by J$]


{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen G. December 14, 2012 at 7:00 am

I lived in Durham during and after grad school. I really recommend it! Plus, you’d be close enough to Wilmington for an easy day trip to the beach, while still being close enough to the mountains and DC for weekend — or even day — trips!

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2 Stephen Harris December 14, 2012 at 7:30 am

Currently living in Raleigh, NC. Durham has improved over recent years, if you are a foodie then there are tons of great restaurants. I like Raleigh for being a smaller ‘big city’ in NC, but being in the middle of Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill and Raleigh means you are never too far from something going on!

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3 Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies December 14, 2012 at 8:16 am

Florida’s pretty awesome – and we don’t have any state income taxes! Not to mention there are still some pretty good deals real estate wise in different parts of the state.

On Enterprise, though – do you sign up for their email list? We have and they are always sending out coupon codes for discounts on rentals. We haven’t paid full price for a rental in years since I always just reserve it with the most recent (and best!) discount code in my emails.

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4 Ginna December 14, 2012 at 8:41 am

I must be out of touch because I didn’t realize you guys were thinking about moving to NC!! How exciting! First of all — it’s the best state in the nation. Seriously, the best. Beach, mountains, city, country… LOVE IT. Secondly, Wilmington is nice, but it’s no Charleston, sorry to disappoint. It definitely has its run-down areas, but the downtown area by the river is very lovely and certainly has its charm.

I live in Raleigh (but like a mile from Durham) and work in Durham, so I know the area pretty well. It took a few months to adjust living here from DC (although not too long since I’m from Greensboro), but I’ve really grown to love it. The motto here is “Durham: It’s not for everyone” because it definitely is a little rough around the edges, but that’s kind of why I like it. Not as cookie-cutter suburban as other spots in this area. There are some great restaurants, super cheap real estate (esp coming from DC), and lots of parks and free things to do downtown. We are most likely going to buy a house in Durham in the next year, so email me any questions about where to live, which hoods to avoid, etc. if you’re really considering it.

So excited for you guys! Maybe we can start up a PF Blogging community in this area… or am I getting ahead of myself? :)

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5 Jennifer December 14, 2012 at 8:42 am

We have our eye on Raleigh as well – I’ve heard so many great things from other young families there, and my husband and I could both find jobs in our field fairly easily. Have a great trip – can’t wait to hear all about it!

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6 Emily December 14, 2012 at 8:46 am

YAY NC! I grew up in Raleigh, and miss it dearly. I really hope you love it. As previous commenters have said, North Carolina has the best of everything – beaches, remote islands where they have their own dialect (OBX!), mountains, farmlands, big cities, small towns… I love NC so much.

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7 Brad Chaffee December 14, 2012 at 8:52 am

Good luck my friend! Remember NOT to rule out Charlottesville yo. Haha!

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8 Carrie December 14, 2012 at 9:31 am

Definitely check out Carrboro and Chapel Hill!

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9 Joe @ Retire By 40 December 14, 2012 at 9:33 am

Have a good time. Road trips are tough with a baby, but I guess it’s a good age to go. When they start walking, they can’t sit still for long.

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10 Emily @ evolvingPF December 14, 2012 at 9:41 am

Come to the Dirty D!!!! It’s not as, um, dirty as it used to be…

Seriously though, Durham is kind of awesome. It was a few years into its revitalization when I moved here 4 years ago and it’s really blossomed. I grew up in the DC area and Durham is a wonderful relief from all that TRAFFIC and stress. It’s like, you can get in your car here and actually BE somewhere within 5 minutes! The downtown area is actually quite hip and there is even a foodie culture. I also like that it’s a small suburb – it’s easier to manage getting around and all your friends live reasonably close. But we’re here for grad school so we weren’t really choosing based on the town as much as the university.

If my husband and I wanted to stay on the east coast, we would probably stay in Durham, honestly. We love it.

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11 Lance @ Money Life and More December 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

As Mrs. PoP mentioned, there are no state taxes in Florida. I live in Panama City Beach which is a bit busy in the tourist season but dead in the winters which is nice. I like it but it definitely isn’t anything like DC and isn’t a bigger metro area either. Pros and cons I guess.

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12 slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com December 14, 2012 at 10:09 am

Seems like many of us bloggers in the RTP area. I too have lived in Durham and still live locally. Be sure to utilize all of us that know the area well. Finding the right parts of the triangle that are the best fit for your family can be tricky.

You know how to reach me.

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13 Lyn @ Pretty Frugal December 14, 2012 at 10:23 am

I’m always kind of amazed when people on HGTV straight up buy a new house in an area they’ve never lived in. I guess it’s because I’ve lived in so many apartments in so many neighborhoods, but I just want to shout at my TV, “HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’LL LIKE IT THAT MUCH?!”

That said, I’ve wanted to visit North Carolina for the last few years but I haven’t made it down there. I hear it is lovely!

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14 Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget December 14, 2012 at 10:25 am

My husband and I love an excuse for a weekend road trip… can you really put a price on the feeling that comes from just getting away for a few days?

And good luck with the upgrade!… my experience with Enterprise has been the same!

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15 Budget & the Beach December 14, 2012 at 10:38 am

I’ve always wanted to go to Charleston. That’s one part of the country I haven’t been to yet. Have fun!

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16 Erin @ Aim High Erin December 14, 2012 at 11:03 am

Ugh, go ahead and cross LA off your list.

As for the other places, I totally fell in love with Nashville. We really enjoyed NC after the fact – great living out there!

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17 Emily @ evolvingPF December 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

@Ginna and other RTP bloggers – I’d been down for at least one local meetup, no matter what happens with J$’s move. :) I know of a few other PF bloggers here who I haven’t yet met.

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18 elle December 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

We live in Raleigh and love it! As others mentioned, the Triangle area has a bit of everything. The location means ypu’re a short weekend trip away from the beach or mountains. If you stop by, email me and i’ll show you my part of town and some good eats!

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19 Christopher @ This that and the MBA December 14, 2012 at 11:48 am

Come to upstate NY it really is great….you can be taxed to death and see all industry leaving our area….no really dont come up here…we have snow…

Enjoy your trip to NC…itll be nice to get away for a bit…this your first trip with the baby??

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20 Brian December 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

Personally I would move overseas since the cultural experience for you little guy would be worth it (well you would have to wait until he is a little more aware of the world around him). I don’t know what you are looking for as far as living situations, but I would say Nashville is really pretty nice. I live in Indianapolis, and it is a nice place, but not somewhere I would try to sell on someone to just up and move to.

The good news for you, is that you can do your job from pretty much anywhere with a soilid internet connection.

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21 Jacob @ iheartbudgets December 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

EASTCOAST, WHA, WHA?! Road trips are fun. We took our 7 month old on a 12 hour road trip, but he cried for the last 3 hours, so that was tough. Hope you find a new house! We bought ours on the first day of looking! Closed in 5 weeks.

And hey, when you become a landlord, you can tell us all about it :)

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22 Gillian @ Money After Graduation December 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Canada? hehe, not too many suggestions since I am not a US citizen but I’m sure you’ll find a great place. I bet it’ll be a lot of fun! Good luck with getting an upgrade !!

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23 Larissa December 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I live in the Raleigh area also and it is an amazing place to live! I’m from the midwest originally and been here 7 years and plan to stay! Raleigh is centrally located so such great access to mountains and beach. There are lots of little communities around Raleigh that are great– Apex, Cary, Morrisville, etc. as well as Durham and Chapel Hill. It is just a really great place to live with so much to offer in the area! Wilmington is great also if you really like a small beach community feel that’s a good one! Good luck and have fun here in NC!

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24 Becky December 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Hi! I just moved to Wilmington about 5 months ago and am loving it so far. Be sure to visit the downtown area and try to catch a sunset on the river and maybe some oysters since they are in season….if you like them. Also, if you want live music and chill atmostphere, Satellite Bar is a short-short drive from downtown and they are family friendly during the day with dogs roaming around. The later it gets though, the less kid friendly obviously. Airlie Gardens also has a huge Xmas light display you drive through. I’m not sure of the cost but I hear it’s popular with kids. Just a few recommendations but there is a lot more to do. I hope you have a great weekend!

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25 Emily December 14, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I can tell you that Wilmington is no Charleston. Not even close. The Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area has much more to offer (food, athletics, culture, schools etc.) and isn’t far from the coast.

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26 Atlantalee December 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Sounds like you’d like Atlanta. You could easily find a house to rent in the city for under $1500. We have great weather for the majority of the year, lots of trees, a ton of fantastic restaurants, and some of the most friendly people you’ll ever meet.

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27 daveM December 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm

You may find someone who would swap homes with you on a rental basis.

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28 Christa December 14, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Renting when you first move to a new location is brilliant. You can find the best areas for your lifestyle and budget. Some friends of mine did that and found the most charming little farm that’s perfect for them.

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29 Rachel December 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I grew up in Wilmington, NC, went to high school in Durham, went to college in Chapel Hill, lived in Raleigh for a while, now live in the DC area … basically the opposite of your plans! If you have any questions about NC or any of the places above, I’d love to answer them!

Wilmington is a lovely place — nice beach, slower pace of life, but not that much to do! Besides eat at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn — that place is delicious!

Durham has its own identity — People from Durham call themselves “Durhamites.” They are rougher places and better places to live in Durham. The Raleigh area is safer on aggregate and depending on where you are, can have cheaper rent. I rented a 2 bedroom house, 1 bath for 600 dollars a month in Raleigh. Currently paying 1475 to live in a 1 bedroom apartment in Montgomery Cty.

As far as schools though — The Triangle area is heads and tails above Wilmington IF you get in the right school district.

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30 Slackerjo December 15, 2012 at 7:15 am

I used to do tech support for LA and I always had to keep in mind when sending someone to an office to pick up equipment that their commute time was not like a normal city commute but an LA commute. Kind of like converting Celsius into Fahrenheit – double it and add 30.

I think LA would be a wonderful place to VISIT. I bet you’d get a lot of great ideas for posts from a 1-2 week visit. NC sounds quite nice based on the feedback from other readers.

PS I hope you find time to check out some thrift stores in your travels.

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31 Paul @ The Frugal Toad December 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I wanted to relocate to Durham/Raleigh but ended up in Orlando. I’ve heard great things about NC! Props to you J and your wife for doing the responsible thing with your mortgage! Many people would have walked away and let their neighbors and taxpayers pick up the tab!

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32 Cardinal Traveler December 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I live in Wilmington, and I’d recommend it, only because I love it here. I’d definitely recommend it as a “small” Charleston, and it’s continually growing. It’s definitely a slower pace than the RTP area, though, and there isn’t as much to do as in the RTP area, but that doesn’t take anything from Wilmington. We also have some of the best beaches on the east coast.

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33 christina h. December 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Pittsburgh! We have an incredibly low cost of living, beautiful hiking all around, four huge parks within city limits, amazing things for families to do, great night life, and lots o’ jobs. Last week, my husband and I attended MakeNight, a chance for grown ups to get to run wild all over the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. We met awesome people, acid-etched shot glasses (to take home), made jewelry (to take home) and cheese, screen printed and made paper, and there was an all-you-can drink FREE bar as well as lots of amazing food. Cost? $10. No joke.

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34 Rai December 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I was going to suggest Raleigh as well. I’ve spent lots of time visiting family in that area and it really is the perfect blend of southern charm and big city living. The cost of living isn’t bad either.

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35 Tushar @ Everything Finance December 17, 2012 at 12:15 am

Exploring moving to a whole new area is a huge step! I hope you find a place that you like. It’s probably best to rent out your house and rent your living quarters in your new town, but do you think it will be difficult to be a landlord from afar?

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36 J. Money December 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Well guys, we’re back! And it was SOOOOO Fun!!! I’m about to write up a post all about it to hit the stands tomorrow, but wanted to hit some of y’all back first before doing so. Thanks for sharing all your tips and thoughts with us! Who knew NC had such a huge fan base! Freaking awesome :)

Want to take a guess at which city I preferred over the wife, and vice versa? We both fell in love with one but not the other, haha… d’oh.

@Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies – No, but that’s a great idea though! I should totally sign up to their emails, thanks :) And I was born in Florida! But havne’t lived there in yearrrrrs… Wouldn’t mind being back though.
@Ginna – Haha, that would be fun! I’d certainly NEED a pf community wherever I’m going cuz my wife is tired about hearing of it ;) Thanks for the willingness to help out! I may take you up on it later.
@Brad Chaffee – I WANT TO LIVE IN CHARLOTTESVILLE!! But the wife says no :( Booooo….
@Emily @ evolvingPF – Cool! It seems like Dirty D has a TON of hardcore fans! Always good to hear when considering places to move to :) And YES – you should totally get all the PF Bloggers around again there – that’s so fun!
@Lance @ Money Life and More – I think Panama City would most DEF be on my list of places in Florida too – I heard it’s crazy fun there! If you like the bar scene, at least ;)
@slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com – Yeah, it was hard to know where to go and not go while there, but we’ll be back again I’m sure :)
@Lyn @ Pretty Frugal – Haha, right? I guess they just have good feelings or something :)
@Budget & the Beach – I could live there in a heart beat if it weren’t so far away :(
@Christopher @ This that and the MBA – Haha… I’ve only lived in Manhatten before, but I both loved it and hated it ;) The pros and cons there are to the extreme! (And yup – 1st major road trip w/ baby and he did so good!! I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am :))
@Brian – Oh yeah! Believe me, it’s on the list too ;) I’ve already lived overseas and it REALLY helped put things in perspective. Plus, it’s really fun as a kid too. Only thing holding us back all the way is the distance away from friends and family, but if we only left for a year or two? Wouldn’t be that bad.
@Jacob @ iheartbudgets – Oh yeah! That’ll be an adventure all on it’s own, being a landlord :) If we end up loving it, maybe we’ll get into a new venture there!
@Becky – Cool!! We didn’t have enough time to explore too in depth, but I’m digging the sounds of that Satellite Bar and Xmas light display! Both are right up our alley :)
@Emily – I def. see that now :) Though it still reminded me of Charleston to some degree.
@Atlantalee – That sounds good! We were there last year and it was fun :) I’ll run it by the wife!
@daveM – Now THAT is a good idea, man… How easy would that be?
@Rachel – HAH! You are the opposite of me with living, that’s awesome :) And so random, eh? Thanks for all the info! I was reading it out loud to people this weekend ;)
@Slackerjo- I did not :( I had to pass up like 5 antique stores too cuz we were low on time! Haha… I made sure to put up stink about it too ;)
@Paul @ The Frugal Toad – Oh hell no! I signed on that line to borrow that money, so now we owe it! Had it gone the other way we wouldn’t be bailing out, ya know? :)
@christina h. – Ack! I need to go there!!! And oddly enough I was trying to convince my wife of it too on yesterday’s drive home :) Only problem is she can’t STAND the Steelers and I can’t get her past that! Haha… But I’m working on it… I think I’d enjoy it there too from the one time we drove through on our way to Ohio. It had all sorts of cool terrain there!
@Tushar @ Everything Finance – Yeah, it would, but we’re gonna go with a broker company too manage it for us so we don’t have to :) It’ll cost a pretty penny, but it’ll be worth the stress/time/etc. Especially if we’re no longer living around the area!

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37 PK December 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Next time your rent a car, check out USAA – they offer rental car discounts (and other discounts)! Going through USAA has been cheaper than other deals I’ve found online every time I’ve rented a car (or every time except one, I forget).

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38 J. Money December 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Oh, really? I had nooooo idea about that! Man they get awesomer and awesomer over time – love it. I will most def. check that out next time, thx friend! Happy holidays to you and the fam.

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