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.

October in Review

It is one thing to anticipate spending after planning and knowing exactly where you wanted to spend money but quite another for bunch of small “fixes” becoming a very expensive month. In October, we ended up with some MAJOR automotive cost. First we need the oil changed on both vans. Next the silver van needed four new tires and finally the silver van needed a new battery. UGH, we made the choice to leave our emergency fund intact at around $600 and place the new tires on a credit card. Frustrating but not a total budget disaster. The good news is that I anticipate paying off this prior to the beginning of the year!

Financial- Yikes, did you read above. In addition, I have purchased new clothes and shoes for most of us. I am hopefully that we can stop spending and enjoys frugal months prior to Christmas without really noticing a change.
Grocery budget $500- Total spent $700. Yes, that puts us over for the second month in a row. I have pulled out $100 in cash to use for groceries this month. We are stocked up and I really want to eat what we have. The good news is because of losing power in October, we moved everything from the house freezers to the ones in the building. I was able to really organize and we have a great system for pulling up and knowing what food we are going to use. I have already pulled the food we need for the month of November minus Thanksgiving so we are only buying needs and good sales.
Gas- We are currently around $200 over for the month. This does include gas for the generator we ran but about 24 hours as well. I have not figured out exactly how much we are spending but get a better idea in November.
Kid/Summer expenses: We ended up spending another $100 for Lily for theater this month. We spent around $25 on baseball games including some food. Kendall choose to begin gymnastics this month which cost $100 for the first month.
Earned $175- This is a huge improvement from the last year. We have used most of this to purchase Christmas gifts. I also paid for clothing with this money this month.
Personal-
Blogging-12 for the month. I will admit that this has been a struggle but my goal is to make this goal at least for November and December as we have no travelling planned.
Exercise- Zero… no explanation.

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!

Spending Week

This is a totally different post than I usually blog about.   I feel like all I have been doing this week is spending money. I figured at least I am shopping the sale some what so I guess that counts right?

First, I have been using Ebates for the last several months, for my online shopping. I received one check in late September for $8 and have another schedule for November 15th that should be around 15. I will point out  that at least one of my purchases did not credit but overall it has been super easily and I only buy what I would be purchasing anyway so this is definitely free money.

With the sudden change in weather, I realized we needed some new shoes and clothes. I purchased the girls both 2 pair of boots at 40% off last weekend at The Children’s Place . In addition I purchased Lily two pair of pants and Braxton 2 pair of pants for $80.  Old Navy had a great sale on leggings so I purchased 8 pair for myself and 2 pair for Lily. On Sunday, we stopped at Walmart to get Zach a zip up jacket and found Kendall another pair of boots for a total of $40 spent.  Unfortunately, the boots I ordered online, were slightly too big, today Lily and I headed to Hanes Mall to exchange them.  Another shoe sale at 40% off caught me, both the girls ended up with an additional two pair of shoes. Yes, Kendall has received 5 new pairs of shoes in one week. I also purchased Lily a Christmas dress.  I can at least say that everything was on sale.  I don’t see that we will be needing any more shoes or clothing until Spring.

In addition to all this clothing spending, I ordered a new fryer and Roku box from Amazon this week.

On Monday, we had the oil changed in one van and Zach also had a doctor’s appointment with our new copay of $40.

WOW this month has become really expensive. I am hoping to gain a couple of weeks of no or limited spending prior to Thanksgiving.

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!

5 Things Friday

  1. This is the first night we have been home this week with no practice or events. I think this should occur at least 2 more times during the month of October 2018.
  2. My job in Guam is “suppose” to be starting in the next 2 weeks.   I also have received notice that I need to “reapply” for licensure by the end of October. I am so reluctant to even think about this but am leaving an open mind. I do have a call schedule to speak with someone on Tuesday and I am very hopeful that I can get an idea of the scope of the time commitment including when it will start on this call.
  3. My favorite sale of the year is the Food Lion “quarter back” sale. Last week, I even took my mother shopping. We ended up shopping two different Food Lion stores and realized that each store has different prices and sales. The stores are less than a 10 minute drive apart. My favorite deal of the week was free yogurt. The Food Lion brand yogurt was on sale at 4 for $1. Each still qualified for $0.25 back so free yogurt. I still have approximately $40 in my grocery budget remaining but may honestly skip shopping the rest of the month.
  4. Gas and other auto related expenses are continuing to be above the budget amount. My initial plan was that all “mileage expense” money would be “fun money” may have to be rethought.
  5. We are celebrating Amanda’s birthday this weekend!

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.