Traveling on a Budget

Our family tends to travel a lot. Some of this travel is by choice and some is by necessity. Most of our travels are planned well in advance which allows us plenty of time to save. However this was not the case for our Thanksgiving trip to Michigan. We decided that this was an important trip on November 3rd, two week before we needed to travel. Here are the ways we used to save money on this short notice trip.

1. I spent around 4 hours or more trying to find a hotel on priceline and the other “cheap hotel sites”. I had two huge things working against me, first we were two weeks away from the trip and the second was this is a holiday weekend. I finally decided to call the hotel we usually stay at. I was able to get a room for all five of us and the dog and breakfast for less than $100 a night which is our good price. After having success calling the first hotel, I called the second with the same results. The average price per night was $100! Tip#1- Call the hotel direct and ask for pricing.

2. Gift Cards- We continue to attempt to use Swagbucks on a regular basis. Each month the first gift card is discounted to 2200 or $22 for a $25 card. Starbucks is always a favorite so we try and keep around $50 loaded to it at all times. I also took advantage of some promotions, and this helped our budget a great deal. We had around $150 in gift cards for this trip and even managed to combine with sales to stretch it a bit further. My suggestion is to purchase gift cards ahead of time an keep a stash for trips and other surprises.

3. Pack a Cooler- The average price of a soda is between $1.50 and $2.00. Just by packing drinks and water, we saved at least $100. I also packed sandwich items and frozen burritos in our cooler. We were able to eat breakfast in the hotels and then ate one meal from the cooler or even left-overs so we ended up eating an average of one meal a day out while traveling. Even if we would have eaten fast food for each meal we saved at least $40 a day by bring a cooler.

4. Pack snacks- We like to eat while driving and crunchy snacks help keep you awake. I have a snack bag that stays in each vehicle but for a trip we ended up making individual size bags of chips and popcorn. This worked well and was much easier than trying to carry large bags and eat from them.

5. Check gas prices and make a plan. We discovered that it was cheaper to buy gas ahead of time then waiting to fill when we had to.

Tuesday Thoughts

  • We will be heading to Michigan over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I spent most of Saturday attempting to find hotels that were reasonably priced. I am very happy to say that I was able to locate and book two hotels both including pools and breakfast for around $100 a night including the pet fee!
  • Our plan for meals includes free breakfast, lunch in the room. on the go including pasta, mac and cheese, burritos and sandwiches. We will plan to purchase one meal a day and hope to cover at least 2 of these 7 meals with gift cards.  Definitely need to step up my swag game.
  • The house is finally getting cleaned!  I arrived home from work yesterday and we were able to spend a couple of hours cleaning floors and rearranging furniture.  I have even made a list of extra cleaning I would like to accomplish in the next week.
  • My goal is to be able to set up my snow village this weekend (Veteran’s Day). I am becoming excited and I love the anticipation of this.
  • I am tired, bone weary tired. I am not sure if this is related to the time change, the fact that I am home 3 night in a row and should be for another 2, stress or a combination of all three. But I seriously could go to sleep at 8pm tonight.
  • With our trip coming up, I want to reduce and leave very little in our refrigerators in the house.  We actually ended up eating left overs for 3 full meals this past weekend. I can see a little at the end of the tunnel but also hear some grumbling as we are out of pop tarts, instant oatmeal, shredded cheese and soon grits. I have no intention of replacing these items, Wish me luck!
  • I still LOVE my new job but it has become a lot more work than initially. I have been attending at least one meeting a week but it is still by far much less work and stress than the hospital.
  • Braxton is one month old, he is awesome and growing daily! I LOVE being a grandmother or baba, much easier than I could have imagined.

Saving on Saturday

Check out this doors….

They are the exact color to match the original brown wood paneling in my kitchen. Matt thankful painted that years ago.  These doors have remained as the one thing that was untouched until today.

I have been thinking about and wanting to paint not only the doors but also the door frame around my kitchen pantry for several months.  I discovered a half gallon of gray paint that remained from the new cabinets we installed several years ago.  Today, I finally decided I had the time to tackle this project.

Matt was great about helping remove the doors from the pantry and even helped paint the door frame.  We did hit a small hiccup, when I realized that these doors were not wood but an old plastic. I was so afraid that the paint would not stick and cover them nicely.  I had already resolved myself to spending at least some money on a couple of cans of plastic spray paint and started to paint the frame. After the doors were removed the area felt much more open.    I actually like this area a lot better without the doors, but I definitely need something to cover the pantry?   Then it hit me, we have a storage area in our shower room that I had a shower rod and curtain covering. Or should I say it was suppose to cover but we never pull the shower curtain closed because it is too much work. Perfect solution, Matt moved the shower rod and curtain in to the kitchen pantry door way!

I absolute LOVE the way this turned out!  Total out of pocket ZERO!

Thursday Thoughts

  • Fall has officially arrived in North Carolina. Monday, the kids wore shorts and t-shirts to school. That afternoon, I heard complaints of how hot it was!  The house temperature was 78.  Today, the kids both are wearing long pants and long sleeves. The house temperature is currently and I am hopefully to avoid the heat til at least Saturday.
  • We will have to dig up sweet potatoes and grab the last of viable veggies from the garden as we are predicted to get our first frost Sunday night.
  • I planted some lettuce bottoms in May and after we ate some they ended up self seeding.  We have really been enjoying this lettuce during September and October. I walked out this afternoon and grabbed enough lettuce for 6 salads! This is probably the third full meal we have gotten and I grab usually a salad a week for my lunch.
  • I am coming to the realization that my job in Guam may never come about. I have already received notice that I need to renew my Guam license by Oct 26th for next year. I have yet to use this license so I am thinking that I will not renew and mark it up to a learning experience. The biggest issue is that I will need to re-do our budget in December and eliminate the need for that income.
  • Dinner this week has been a challenge, as I have had after school meetings 4 out of 5 days.  I am hoping to get a better/easier plan for next Monday and Tuesday. I also have a meeting on Monday evening so we may be ordering pizza after all.
  • I have spent my grocery budget for the month so I am forced to say No to a really good sale at Harris Teeter.
  • Going to end on a positive note, we currently are 1/3 of the way to have our Christmas completely paid for via Swagbucks. I am hopefully that by December we can purchase all large items using this free money!

Sheila’s She-Shed

This adventurer started shortly after my father’s past away unexpectedly.  In the last few years of his life, my dad acquired several building and filled them up.   After his death, we realized that no one had been in the 4 buildings nor realized how full they really were. We decided to empty out as many as we could. It took almost an entire year but we were able to move everything that my mother wanted to keep in one building, including items from under the house and attic as well. It was decided that my brother would inherit one building and I would inherit the second. My brother lives across the street from my mother so he moved his building first.  In September, I paid to have the building moved from my mother’s house to my house.

This could be considered a huge expense but in my opinion it was well worth the money. The company charged $350 and I came home to a perfectly level building and empty building.

The first “free” project was to build steps into the building. We used material from the deck steps that we just replaced. They are not pretty but very functional.

Next we used 2 old door hinges to cut two small opening in the front to allow for air to circulate in the building. Screen was again salvaged from cleaning of the building at my father’s. Inside the building we discovered several pieces of lumber that had been placed up high for storage. There was also an old rake handle and a multiple nails and screws.  We did end up purchasing a fast track storage system at Lowe’s using gift cards from Swagbucks.  The candy canes are hanging on an old broom handle that we found after the shed arrived to my house. My father used it to hold the door open with. The chairs above the candy canes are on the rake head that was previously used to hold shovels.

Beach umbrellas, pool noodles and surf boards are placed on shelves that were already in place in the building.

The caddy in the corner was purchased at Aldi for $4.99 and everything on the back wall is connected to hang from nails and screws that were already in place when the building arrived.

Yesterday, we used the wood found in the building to add this 10 foot very sturdy shelf with storage above and below the shelf. The top shelf was already in place when the shed arrived and had been installed by my father for storage.

Total spent on my new “she shed” including cost of moving is less than $400. I have gained a TON of storage and organizing space! Can you tell how excited I am to finally show off the results?

 

Saving on Saturday

This been a very different week, Amanda had an emergency C-section on Tuesday night and I did not work on Wednesday. Tropical Storm Michael came through on Thursday, we lost power around 8:30pm and I did not work on Friday.  I have always said it is the small things that add up, and this week is the proof. Here are the ways I know we saved money this week:

  1. Using the McDonald’s app. I ate lunch on Wednesday and we all had breakfast on Friday. We saved at least $5 with each use.
  2. Ate lunch at Costco on Friday.  3 slices of pizza, 2 hot dogs and 3 drinks for $11.  At least a savings of $10.
  3. Grilled Hamburgers and ate a huge salad out of the fridge for dinner on Friday. By eating at home and using things we were afraid that would spoil we saved at least $35.
  4. Used my Target debit card to save 5% on baby items.
  5. Purchased new “winter jackets” for both Matt and I at Costco for $19.99 each. I am estimating a saving of $50 each or $100.
  6. Purchased Kendall’s Christmas dress for $18.99. I am going to estimate a saving of $25 but probably more.
  7. Purchased a set of new tires at Costco saving $70.
  8. Washed and hung out to dry all the sheets and comforters today. Saving at least 8 hours of dryer time. Estimate of $2-4 on electricity.
  9. Repurposed some hooks and a basket in the laundry room to hold lunch boxes. Saving $14.95 on the purchase of a crate for this purpose.
  10. Built shelfs out of materials we already have for my she- shed. Estimate a minimum of $50 savings. I plan to share more on this soon!

Monday Musing 9/24/2018

  • I am sick, not the need to go to the doctor sick but the I feel miserable and need to take medicine sick. I do feel much better today than on Saturday but we have something every night this week so I can’t be too sick. Uggh did I say I am sick.
  • Amanda’s baby shower was Sunday. It was a huge success but did I mention I am sick. I will try and post pictures one day this week.
  • Zach has his first baseball game this week. We are moving up to Kid pitch so it should be interesting to say the least.
  • We were able to get my building moved last week and also purchased a new lawn mower. We mowed the yard on Friday night and I spent several hours in the building on Saturday but I was so miserable that I called it a day with about 50% done.
  • I will receive my second paycheck this week and I am actually really pleased with how our budget is working. I also received the news that I should start my second job in Guam in October.
  • I have started buying Christmas presents and actually am over half way finished!

Did I mention I am sick? So it is off to bed I go!

Six Things on Saturday 9/15/2018

  1. I really wanted to write a post about saving today but a couple of things stopped me. First, we still have at least one major purchase (lawn mower) to make with my retirement money. So that is definitely not saving. Second, our weather here is nasty but just nasty enough for me to not want to go outside. Hurricane Florence is dumping rain on us and wind makes it miserable outside.
  2. I have now officially cooked six meals in a row. Yesterday, I doubled everything. Today the focus was on using up things. This morning we had bacon and eggs. Matt cooked a second pound of bacon for use in lunch and dinner. Lunch was instant pot baked potato soup which everyone loved. We did have enough to make several lunch for the day like today that braces making eating difficult. Dinner is country style steak with potato salad (the last of the potatoes)along with rice and several items I am pulling from the fridge.
  3. The major accomplishment of the day was cleaning all the floors. We (yes everyone pitched in) spent about 2 hours vacuuming and steam mopping. I also washed the living room rugs.
  4. Rugar even got a bath today.
  5. We have ran the dishwasher at least 5 times in the last two days. I think I have lost count.
  6. We are planning to save money tonight by watching “COCOA” on Netflix. It should be a good way to end the day.

Reset Budget

As promised, here is our reset budget that started September 1st. The current plan/ goal is to stick with this budget until next July.  This represents a combination of both Matt and I regular salary in addition to my extra money earned via Tiny Eye. I will share some additional information if you are interested after the budget

offering 580
Mortgage  944.52
water 30
electric 276
Road runner 138.2
Car Payment 344.02
cellphone 306
Groceries 500
Adobe/Computer 75
AAA/Insurance 100
Gifts 298
Gas 300
Piano 120
Clothing/Hair  80
Medical 100
Saving 120
Chores 200
American Express 200
5/3 Card 200
kids/pool 200
Auto 100
total 5211.74

The last four lines American Express, 5/3 Card, Kids/pool and Auto are all based on my expected income from Tiny Eye. I still do not have a start date nor a steady schedule so these are very fluid at the moment. I hope once things settle ( By December) I can post more realistic numbers.

The following categories are cash: Groceries, Gifts, Gas, Piano, Clothing/Hair and Chores.

Currently any “extra money” is being held in our main checking account. In the near future any extra cash will be place either for fun or in the kids/ pool account.

Medical- $83 a month until April of this is being paid for Zach’s braces. The remaining is for doctor’s visits and prescriptions. I was able to stock up on most medication and doctor’s visits prior to changing jobs so I anticipate keeping this fund at the same level but allowing it to grow after April.

Gas- We are closely monitoring this category for the next several months as I am not sure about traveling and how much we will actually spend. I may need to increase by $50 a month just from observation so far in September.

Chore- I have checked local prices and this is most likely less than I would be paying for house cleaning every other week. Money that is not being used will either roll into fun money or may stay in the main account depending on our needs.

Clothing/Hair- this may seem high at first glance but with 5 heads of hair it is probably a little low. This is again a category I will be closely monitoring.

Gifts- 5 children for both Birthday and Christmas. This will also include gifts for parties or other occasions as well.

Thoughts or Questions?

Menu Plan Monday 8/27/2018

We stuck to the plan for most of last week, except we decided to eat Chinese on Friday night as a treat!  The kids really like the pepper steak so it will go on the menu again. I am really liking the ability to head to the building on Sunday night and pull up items for dinner for the week.  I am finding the theme for this week is clean out the small amount of this and that left in the fridge.

Breakfast- Saturday-Pimento cheese and bacon biscuits , Sunday- Left-over gravy and biscuits. Monday- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday- Choice of pop-tarts, breakfast burrito bowl, egg muffins, cereal, eggs. eggos or grits.

Lunch- Saturday-hot dogs at Big Toy Day(see pictures) Sunday- Pasta salad and orange mandarin salad. Kids have lunch packed including lunchables, uncrustables and wraps.  My goal is to only eat out on Friday this week: salad, tuna salad, pimento cheese and crackers and left-overs

Dinner – Saturday-left-overs from Amanda, Sunday- general left-overs , Monday- Bacon cheese burger pasta, Tuesday- steak fatijias , Wednesday-Chicken pot pie and cole slaw, Thursday- Spaghetti and garlic bread and Friday- stuffed green pepper casserole.