Tag Archives: frugal

Getting Ready for Our “Frugal” Vacation

12 Aug

My husband and I have been looking at co-ops for quite some time and have gone back and forth in terms of what we wanted and how much we were willing to spend. This meant that although we are dying to travel somewhere awesome, we aren’t ready to spend the money for a trip with that kind of price tag. This also means that we will be embarking on our budget-friendly vacation pretty soon—an incredible camping trip throughout an area of our state that we rarely venture to. I have already discussed a few things about making a trip affordable by:

  • Discussing a variety of ways to make your overall trip cheaper here
  • General campsite costs and how to make them cheaper here and here

Now with a few weeks left to go, we are going to start putting our general itinerary together and have a lot of different things to consider. Again, as I’ve discussed previously, you can definitely make camping trips even cheaper than we’re making ours, but these tips are still applicable to you.

Start off with a Budget

We love the outdoors. One might think the outdoors is frugal friendly but the cost of everything you may or may not need adds up really fast! If you’ve never spent any time outdoors before, you might not have any of the equipment that is necessary and that can cost a pretty penny. Budgets will vary quite a bit depending on a a number of factors such as:

  • Cost to travel (i.e. gas, tolls)
  • Cost of food (i.e. eating out and on the road vs. cooking)
  • Cost of campsite rentals (depends upon where you stay, when, for how long, with how many people, etc)
  • Activities you will participate in that cost money (i.e. rowing)
  • Purchases that may be required (i.e. tent(s), supplies)

Unfortunately, my cheaper vacation is adding up very quickly! This actually has to do with a major activity I want to participate in that is very costly but it is what it is. Remember, our trip is nine nights so it’s quite long and involves two people.

Budget: $1300.00

Take Care of Big Ticket Items First

Of course, my budget of $1300 might seem outrageous for a camping trip but remember:

  • There are only two of us splitting various campsite rentals over a period of nine nights. I discussed how to keep this cost down in my other posts. Cost: $209.00 ($23.22/night—extremely cheap if you look at it that way!)
  • Since we are driving quite a bit, we will be using quite a bit of money in terms of gas and tolls. Cost allotted: $300.00 (Though I sure hope it’s less than that!)
  • I have decided to do this because I really want to and I do not want my miserly ways to get in the way of an awesome thing—the hot air balloon ride for $235.00 a person or $470.00

As you can see, there isn’t much money leftover for anything else. This already totals $979.00, meaning I only have $321.00 left to spend!

What Else Do I Need to Consider?

There are still tons of things to think about when you’re camping such as:

Food: We eat a lot and I am a picky eater. Ideally, I would love to cook every day and night but I think there will be days when we want breaks from that. Budgeted: $150.00-$200.00

Additional Purchases and Activities: $121.00-$171.00.

We are extremely lucky that we either have or can borrow most of the things that we need for our trip. Remember: If you plan on going camping regularly, many of the items you may need or plan to use will probably end up being purchases that will last you for many years.  Keep in mind the following items that you may or may not take with you:

  • Tent(s) — make sure it has a rain shield and that you have a tarp for the ground
  • Sleeping bag(s) and pad(s) — you might want something softer to sleep on if you plan on staying long
  • Cooking supplies, food and something to store it in to prevent animals from getting to it
  • First aid and personal hygiene supplies

You can find a simple list here.

If you know you are going camping, it is easier to buy things over time than have to buy them all at once. If you do this, you can also look for sales, especially during the off seasons or holidays, that might allow you to pick-up some great deals. More importantly, if you don’t have the money for it, don’t be afraid to ask around! You may be able to borrow almost everything you need for your camping trip from friends and family.

It’ll Be Here Soon

Our camping trip will be here soon and I am so excited to go on vacation since I haven’t had off in nearly a year!

Have you undertaken a huge camping trip before? What are some ways you saved money on your trip?

Thankful—Because We Didn’t Purchase Something

29 Jul

My husband and I have been looking for our “dream home” for a few months now. To be honest, I have been scouting homes for over a year but we have been seriously looking at homes for the past two months.

I put dream home in quotes because my dream home is not here. Nope. I cannot afford a house here so our “dream home” has really been limited to co-ops and, if we were lucky, a cheap condo. We were pre-approved and one of the first co-ops we saw—well, we loved it. It was a two-bedroom co-op that needed some work here or there but overall, it was nice. It had a terrace, which I was practically dying for and the only catch was that there was no washer/dryer unit on-site. It was at the top of our price range and we both really liked it. But after consulting with a plumber, we decided it was not worth it at all and we sadly let go of our “dream home.”

I would say that a few weeks after that, my perception completely changed. And I am glad we did not pursue that co-op!

Our current rent is probably right on average for what we would pay in our neighborhood. I started thinking to myself, “If I don’t plan on living here forever and these are not places that I absolutely love, why do I intend on paying more every month to live there?” Our rent is somewhere between 26-27% of our net income, which is actually a pretty good number considering a recent article I read talked about how much rent eats up the budget of those who live in my city.

So I thought up a new plan which is as follows:

  1. We began looking at one bedroom places instead of more expensive, two-bedroom places. We also stopped looking at expensive one-bedroom units. This not only saves us money on the down payment and mortgage but it also saves us money on the maintenance.
  2. I decided that our cut-off was now going to be $220,000 instead of the $350,000 we had started at and had been pre-approved for, since we can, in actuality, make those payments every month. I also decided to focus on places where the maintenance was on the lower-end of the scale, which for us is $600 or less.

I am incredibly interested in a place we looked at the other day. It’s listed for $199,000 and the maintenance is $473.55. I am hoping to get that price down by at least $10,000, though I’m not sure yet how negotiable the seller is since he is also willing to rent it out at the same price that I pay for rent now, which is $1,300/month. Doing a little big of math, I figured:

  • Purchasing the property for $190,000 would allow me to put down 25% or $47,500. The mortgage would be $670.09 at a rate of 3.875% (co-ops do not get rates as good as houses.) With the maintenance at $473.55, my total payment every month would be $1143.64, saving me more than $200 every month in rent. At least 50% of the maintenance every month is tax deductible, as well as the mortgage interest.
  • Purchasing the property for $190,000 would allow me to put down 30% or $57,000. The mortgage would be $625.42 at a rate of 3.875%. With the maintenance at $473.55, my total payment every month would be $1098.97, and everything else mentioned above also applies here obviously.

My thinking, for now, is that inevitably, I will get the money back that I used as a down payment when I sell the property in the future. In the meanwhile, I can pay for a mortgage and maintenance that is not only less than my rent but that will provide me with $2500-$3000 per year in tax deductions. In the meanwhile, I can save more money toward something else. Most housing did not experience any depreciation in my neighborhood so that is not of any concern to me.

So overall, this house hunting experience, which has left me largely frustrated, has also allowed me to reevaluate what I really want and what I am willing to settle for at this time. I think that going with a smarter decision, even if we don’t like it as much, will work out better for us in the end.

And really, I should thank the realtor from the first property—she was so obnoxious that she completely turned us off from the property all together!

It’s Time to Lighten Up

16 Jul

Toward the end of last year, I had this whole idea that I needed to make a budget because we didn’t really keep track of where our money was going. We had always saved money but I didn’t actually know how much we were spending on random things here or there. This resulted in the creation of a budget that could be flexible here or there. We have been pretty good at sticking to the budget with the occasional exception here or there.

I became focused. The goal? Purchase a home. We need to put down twenty percent. We have had the twenty percent for months. But I hadn’t been able to let go. Keep saving, I thought. So we have been saving. And saving. All of my paychecks go directly into the savings account, untouched. I kept telling myself I would start an IRA only to find myself putting it off so I could get to the next big number in my savings account.

But what have we been doing?

Basically, nothing.

I realized I started to detest spending money, even on things we needed or that we would enjoy. We needed a new couch for quite some time but I was very reluctant to actually purchase one. I didn’t want to use the state pass I purchased in order to visit the parks because I didn’t want to spend the money on gas to get there. Essentially, we would put off having fun or doing something that might be fun for us because I didn’t want to spend the money.

I decided that I need to stop being so tightfisted because it was having an impact on my life. I don’t really spend much on activities—so why can’t I let go once in awhile? What’s the point in having a little extra money in the bank if I’m a lot less happy for it. We aren’t anywhere near struggling financially so why am I keeping myself from taking a day trip to the lake? It seems so ridiculous.

I think every once in awhile you need to take a step back and reevaluate your goals in life. Once your needs have been covered, it’s time to establish your wants. What do you want?

I want to enjoy my time doing things with the people I love.

And that is what I plan to do this day forward.

Creating & Assessing a Budget

6 Jun

Toward the end of last year, I decided to make a budget for our tiny household.

You see, my husband and I were always decent with money. We have both worked since we have graduated from college and managed to somehow save money even when we weren’t paying attention to our finances. However, once we had to pay for our wedding in its entirety, I started to think we should draw-up a budget.

Budget

My budget, for the most part, is somewhat flexible and somewhat rigid. I am going to share my budget here with you and include the analysis I did via my six-month mark:

Regular Expenses – Regular expenses are those that are generally a fixed amount every month.

  • Rent: $1300.00
  • Phone Bill: $130.50 (+/- $1.00)
  • Auto Insurance: $91.42 (This has occasionally gone up or down but seems set for now.)
  • Internet: $39.95
  • Student Loan Deduction: $50.00
  • Netflix: $8.00
  • Gym: $10.00

Variable Expenses – These are expenses I have budgeted for every month but are in no way fixed.

  • Home Care: $50.00 – Current six-month analysis says my average spending in this category is between $20-$25/month, including some months in which the amount is zero.
  • Groceries: $300.00 – Only had one month where we went over budget; otherwise, a six-month analysis puts our average spending at approximately $222/month.
  • Dining Out: $250.00 – I am the first one to admit that eating out is a money pit and this is the only place I lack restraint. The thing is, I rarely spend my money on things I enjoy and this just happens to be something I love. This includes any fast food, coffee stops, etc. I have gone over budget three out of the six months and my average spending is approximately $238/month. Ouch.
  • Car Gas: $125.00 – I actually had this at $100/month but I changed my budget around because I realized I hadn’t budgeted enough for gasoline. This especially holds true if we are taking day trips and considering the constant increases in gas prices. Six-month analysis has us spending a little over $100.00/month but I know that will increase.
  • Haircuts: $20.00 – In actuality, my husband only gets his hair cut about once every two months and I almost never get my haircut because I grow it out and donate it. Thus our average spending has us at slightly under $5/month. I also do not do anything to my hair—no dyes, no treatments—and I’m lucky to have nice hair.
  • Electric+Gas: $125.00 – This is actually an overstatement for most months. Considering we use very little in terms of electricity when it is not summer, our current average is around $71.00. When we are running the air conditioner, however, it is incredibly easy to go over the $125.00 mark so that is why I budgeted for so much.
  • Misc: $200.00 – This is for anything we want to buy that is extraneous, such as a new video game, a park pass, etc. I cannot really analyze this area except to say it can be easy for us to stay under it; however, we have made some very large purchases that I put into here (such as a $3500.00 couch) which completely throw off the numbers.
  • Transit Card: $25.00 – I actually had this at around $50.00 for when I was trying to take a class but then I took over $25.00 and moved it to the gasoline. I actually haven’t purchased anything for mass transit in months because I no longer take the class and I am lucky enough to walk to work most days.
  • Clothes: $50.00 – We actually don’t shop very often so we have averaged out at around $30.91 per month for clothing purchases. This may change in the future though because my husband has recently ripped a ton of clothing.

Irregular Expenses – These are expenses I have listed in my budget but vary so much that I have them in a separate category. I do have a budget set-up for them and hope not to exceed it.

  • Car Maintenance: So far I have really only had to buy new brakes this year. Note: I am incredibly lucky in this category because my dad is a mechanic so I don’t pay for labor or oil changes.
  • Medical Costs: This year I have obtained incredible insurance which allows me office visits, generic prescriptions, etc at no cost. My husband has not-so-great insurance and pays $25 for PCP visits and $40 for specialty visits.
  • Medicine: Generics cost him $15 and he has two-ongoing prescriptions for things. I used to pay $15/month for my prescription but not anymore!
  • Gifts: This one gets pretty crazy depending on the month. December is a hot mess because of Christmas and we end up spending well-over $500 for gifts because there are so many people we have to buy gifts for so I’m not a fan of December. Certain months are also killers for us — May included three birthdays and Mother’s Day!

Overall, I think the budget has been all right. Considering that we made a large purchase this year (the couch), we have saved a good amount of money. I think if I could change one thing it would be the eating out portion of it but I love food too much. 🙂 Does anyone else have a budget? Do you think mine is crazy in some areas?

The “Nicer” Vacation

22 May

I have been posting about my big camping adventure that is set for September. However, I am also in the midst of planning our October vacation.

In 2010, we embarked on a seven-night cruise. I really enjoyed it but felt as though I was done with cruising for another five or ten years. This year, however, the thought crossed my mind—cruises can be ridiculously cheap if you allow them to be, especially if you’re lucky enough to live on the coastal United States where you can leave directly from a port without having to travel to it first. Then I found myself considering an all-inclusive vacation but found the cost of flights to be prohibitively expensive. Ultimately, I decided that in October I would like to stay somewhere warm and perhaps even obtain some type of color, preferably something tan not red. Let the planning for Florida begin!

I have only flown a few times in my life and three of the four times I have flown have been to Florida. While it’s unfortunate that I won’t be going anywhere new this year, I am just happy to be able to go somewhere.

How to Try to “Cheapen” the Trip – The Beginning

The first thing I did, once I decided upon Florida, was to consider the locations I planned to visit. I knew that I did not want to be on the Gulf since that is where we traveled last time and as beautiful as it is, a beach without waves makes this girl sad. I also decided that I wasn’t interested in Northern Florida, the Orlando area or the Southern most areas of Florida. From this, I compiled a list of beaches that seemed reasonable and began my research.

After looking around online, I noticed some beaches were definitely more expensive than others. I started my search by just going through general travel sites, such as Expedia, to get a general idea of what the rates might be. This alone allowed me to narrow down my search. Other things helped me narrow down my search and that you should also consider:

  • Is there anyone nearby I want to visit?
  • Are there other activities besides keeping my body on the beach all day?
  • Is there an airport nearby?
  • Is it easy to get around?
  • Do I have to rent a car? If so, how much will it cost?

I’ve Decided on a Location – Now What?

I decided to narrow my focus to a few different areas that I was looking into — Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and anything else nearby. I looked through Expedia some more to get a general sense of the costs of different hotels. I also decided to pay attention to the following because these things can be huge additional costs that people do not take into account:

  • Do I have to pay for parking? When I do, I find this to usually be somewhere between $12-$20/day.
  • Do I have to pay for daily resort fees? These can vary greatly and depend on how many people are going on your trip. In addition to resort fees, do I have to pay additionally for beach rentals?
  • What is the difference in price between an oceanfront, a room with an ocean view and a city view?
  • Does the place include any extras — free breakfast? Discounts on activities? Credits to the room?
  • Does the place charge automatic gratuities and service fees for everything?

Don’t Forget to Look on Other Sites

Sites like Expedia, Travelocity and their various incarnations are great and all but they can be quite limiting. One of the best places I have ever stayed in was no where on any of those sites—it was a gorgeous B&B that I found on TripAdvisor. I find using a website like TripAdvisor to find places to stay is generally my best bet. Not only will you find very in-depth reviews about lodging but you will also find reviews for everything else in the vicinity. You will always find complainers but I have found that most people review things quite honestly.

Using TripAdvisor is a good place to find smaller motels and inns that might be in the area but don’t charge exorbitant rates. They are usually smaller, family-owned joints that might be right off the beach, just a block or so away, that offer the basics. Remember: You can always choose to stay at multiple places, although sometimes you will find certain places at certain times require you to stay a minimum amount of days. When we went up North for a vacation, we spent one night in a very, very nice hotel and spent the other night at a much cheaper motel.

Are You Getting Ready to Book Your Trip?

If you have decided on where you are going to go, keep these other money saving tips in mind:

  • Always check for discounts that may apply to you, such as a AAA membership. You never know—you might end up with a better deal.
  • Look around at different sites—some may offer extras, deals or even slight price variations.
  • Check to see if bundling will save you money—what would be the price difference if you booked a hotel with the flight?
  • See what the difference would be for weekday versus weekend reservations. The prices can vary a lot especially in the summer. Avoid taking trips around holidays or when big events will be taking place, such as conventions, in the area you’re interested in visiting.

Any other tips you have in mind? Feel free to share. Happy planning!

Why I Don’t Pay for Magazines (Anymore)

21 May

I used to subscribe to various magazines throughout my lifetime.

When I was a teenager, I probably subscribed to something like Seventeen or one of its relatives. When I was in my early twenties, which sounds awful considering I’m going to enter my late twenties this year, I subscribed to science magazines, such as Discover and Science News. I had entered a stage in my life, however, where I seemed to have completely stopped reading anything beyond a few hundred words. Thus, I didn’t want to find myself purchasing magazines.

Approximately a year ago I started to read blogs and decided to mostly stick to one in terms of freebies and deals called Money Saving Mom. I chose this one because it was easy to remember and because she seemed to list tons of deals via other bloggers as well. I began to notice that she even posted ways to get free magazine subscriptions as well.

If you’re looking to score some free subscriptions, keep the following in mind:

1. Beggars can’t be choosers: You will find that you cannot get every magazine for free. Some magazines will never offer free subscriptions while others only offer heavily discounted deals. Generally, I have found that very well-known magazines are more likely to offer free issues as opposed to very specific, smaller magazines. I have noticed that certain bloggers like Crystal at Money Saving Mom will post deals for these niche magazines that make a subscription substantially cheaper. Do not always expect to receive a subscription forever either—I have found that many of the issues I have received have been anywhere from 3-6 months, though they can be for up to 12 months.

2. Check on your deals regularly: If you’re following a blog or partaking in a forum, make sure to check on the deals you’re interested in regularly. Many of these free subscriptions are only available for a certain period of time or for a certain number of people.

3. Always check for terms: Generally, I have found that the frugal bloggers are pretty good about avoiding scams or things with specific terms and agreements. That being said, you should always double-check and see what you are signing up for when you find a free magazine subscription. Never provide a site with your credit card number or bank information. Generally, when a company has you do that, they will send you some issues for free and then bill you for an additional six months to a year. For all of the subscriptions I have received for free, I have never once provided anything other than my name and address.

What magazines have I received for free over the past six months?

  • Woman’s Day
  • Newsweek
  • Forbes
  • Bloomberg Business Week
  • Smart Money
  • Outdoor Life

You can easily ascertain that I’ve received quite the variety in terms of magazines!

Budgeting for Budget Travel

16 Apr

I have ten days of vacation at my current place of employment.

We have already decided what we are doing one of the weeks—an extensive camping trip in a few regions of the state. It looks like we will be hitting up four different state parks over a period of nine nights.

Because of the holiday that occurs right when I start my vacation, I decided I needed to reserve those sites early. We wanted to be able to choose “good” sites—shaded, not directly next to bathrooms, more spaced out and away from people. So far:

-Two nights @ 34.00+9.00 reservation fee online=$43.00

-Three nights @ 63.00+9.00 reservation fee online=$72.00

The latter is more expensive because it is around the holiday.

$115.00 for five nights. We are borrowing a tent and now only have to book four more nights of our trip. Thus, we will be sleeping in the luxurious woods for nine nights at just over $200. The only way to really make this trip any cheaper would be to fill-up the campsite (you’re allowed to have up to six people per site) and then divide your cost six ways. Then you’d really be saving!

What will make my trip expensive?

If I cave and get that hot air balloon ride—at a cost of $235/person, that one hour for both of us will cost more than the rest of our trip combined!

Anyone going camping this year?

The Cost of Being Cheap

10 Apr

My husband and I have been painstakingly saving money for a couple of years for a down payment on some type of home. The only thing we could even remotely afford is a co-op in this area. Condos are too pricey for us. And, as you could easily ascertain, a house is way, way too pricey for us.

When we first moved in together, I had this idea that I would buy “nice” furniture because I thought that we would be able to move out with the future and already have the “nice” furniture for our eventual home. I would look at furniture online and my friends, looking over my shoulder, would make comments, wondering how we were able to buy “nice” furniture at that point in our lives. Now, you might have noticed that I have annoyingly been putting the word nice in quotes and that’s because I have come to realize something in hindsight: the furniture I thought was nice was, in fact, not.

Maybe some people have better luck than I do but anything that I have purchased in terms of furniture that was “cheap” or that I thought I was getting a good price on was actually quite a piece of shit. I know there are other people who have 349-year old couches that get passed down through their families and they are still in great condition or people who buy a cheap futon that decays at the rate of a diamond but this does not happen with me. Let us review my examples of what I have deemed my lessons regarding the cost of being cheap.

The Couch

We moved into our apartment without a couch and spent approximately one month sitting on the floor. We searched. We didn’t have a lot of money because my guy had only been earning a somewhat decent salary for a short period of time and I just started working my first full-time real job a month or two before that. Jennifer Convertibles? Nice but it would take too long to get to us. Raymour & Flanigan? Ouch—too expensive for us at the time. Random furniture store on a major avenue? Okay, I guess so. We happened upon a really gorgeous sectional that was a leather blend. For $1,000, I was happy with the price. Eventually we got the couch. For two years, I was enamored. The couch was super comfortable. I could nap on it at any time. As far as I was concerned, my couch was better than yours.

And then one day I noticed pieces of my couch coming off.

Since then, the entire couch has completely been peeling off. If you lay on the couch, you will end up with 695 pieces of the material on you. You know where someone walked because you will find trails of the couch from the living room to wherever they end up. And because of the way the couch is built, you cannot put something on it to cover it—the only thing we could really try to do was staple a sheet onto the back and it never stays in place. To further fuel my ire, the couch is built in such a way that a baby could fall through and be trapped. There is a Nintendo DS case stuck in the couch and we have no idea where it is—we have even cut a piece of the couch open only to not be able to find it. Why do I own the Bermuda Triangle of couches?

The Bed & Dresser

I guess I should know better than to depend on the prices of Ikea but really, they know how to suck you in—they appeal to small spaces, city living and your first time being out there on your own. When you can’t afford much, you end up at Ikea, finding yourself walking into their model rooms, picturing the furniture in your own home. This bed was actually purchased way before we moved into the apartment but it traveled with us; the matching dresser was a later addition.

So imagine my “shock” when one day, a day where I am actually cleaning no less, I am leaning on the end of the bed and BOOM, I fall straight down with the end of the bed. I take a look at the bed—we had been sleeping for who knows how long with my side of the bed barely being held together. Great. I am all set on purchasing a new bed when, after looking around and getting annoyed, we decide that my dad can, for the time being, reinforce the bed and shove additional screws in there.

The dresser? I don’t know what the bottom drawer has against me but this thing is always misaligned, doesn’t like to close and randomly drops down. My husband has better luck than I do so his dresser, also a matching dresser but slightly bigger, has no problem with him. Again, it’s all me.

Back to Bad Living Room Choices

We purchased an entertainment center. It’s a decent size. I think my favorite parts about it is that we could never get the top on quite right, pieces came off as we screwed parts of it in and that the entire top shelf dips down in the center. I love having a shelf I can barely use because I am terrified that it will break and fall onto my flat screen television.

I also eventually purchased a coffee table and matching end tables. I think the thing I like best about the coffee table is how it wobbles from the slightest touch. I honestly don’t want to even bother attempting to fix it because I kind of want to see when it just all falls down.

I Will Not Leave Out the Kitchen

I have to say I think I learned my lesson in terms of purchasing Ikea products for the kitchen as well. Salad bowl I barely used? The entire bottom fell off. Wok? Fell apart. Other frying pans? Gone. Why do you hate me Ikea?

Result?

We are currently looking for a new couch. We almost purchased one last week but then took a step back. I wasn’t quite ready to put the $3,000+ on a new sectional. We plan on only buying real leather because I hate microfiber and do not want any fabric since my husband has some intense allergies. There is also enough cat hair around and don’t need another surface to which cat hair has an extreme affinity to. I am trying to buy  a nice couch that we can take with us, such that I want the sectional to have each of its own individual pieces so we can change the orientation if need be.

I will wait on the other furniture…

Cheap Vacation Mode – Camping Style

2 Apr

I have two weeks for vacation at my current place of employment. My husband has three because he has been at his job for a little longer than I have been at mine. I decided that one of the two weeks we spend together must be on the cheaper-side, so we have elected to go camping. This especially holds true because we are unfortunately buying a new couch and we will probably spend a bit of money on it. And by a bit of money, I mean way too much for my frugal tastes. (Let’s just say I have learned my lesson in terms of buying cheap furniture.)

Ah yes, the great outdoors. This can actually be quite expensive but we plan on making it a bit cheaper for us. I think the most expensive thing for us will be the gas. How will I make it cheaper? Good question.

(1) I already bought the state pass that will allow me to access nearly every state park. I was already planning on purchasing this for our hiking excursions but now that we have it we won’t need to pay the entrance fee to any of the parks we visit. Since I have a list of parks that we want to go to, this will probably pay for itself. Since I plan on visiting the state parks more than eight times over the course of a year, I will end up saving money.

(2) I will use Gas Buddy, a phone app, to find the cheapest gas around. Since we will be driving quite a bit to get to our destinations, this will hopefully be quite helpful.

(3) I will buy food that is on sale. Since most of the time we will be cooking for ourselves in the park, we will bring staples that will easily last such as canned goods that will serve as part of the meal or as a side to the meal. There are a number of large supermarkets throughout the area that we could stop at and try to purchase whatever we can that’s on sale. We will also be saving money by not making constant trips to the general store, which would end up being more expensive, or going out to eat wherever is closest.

(4) We will be exclusively staying at campsites. We will not be renting cabins or anything else. Campsites are only $15/night at most of the places I have looked at; however, since part of the time we are going is around a holiday, it is $4 more/night. That’s fine with me. For two people, we have a place to sleep for under $20/night.

(5) We will be using rentals where we can. I looked at possibly purchasing an inflatable kayak for adventures but then I received a sharp slap in the face when I saw how expensive they were. Given how infrequently we partake in water activities, there is no reason to purchase anything—rentals are usually pretty cheap anyway. There is no reason to make a big purchase if you are going to infrequently use it.

(6) It might not seem like it saves you  money but I recommend buying things in baby steps. Instead of rushing out to buy everything at once, take your time, read reviews and find the best deals. If I know, for example, that I need a new sleeping bag and I have quite a bit of time to find one, I will wait until there is a good sale before I purchase one. Last minute or impulse purchases often result in one spending much more money than they actually need to spend. You may be able to find things at outlet malls as well.

(7) I plan on researching the surrounding area for information on other cheap activities. If you wade your way through websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, you can find recommendations for various activities as well as food options. You will also find out if people found things to be overpriced and if you’re lucky, you can find out what the good deals are in the area. Additionally, you can follow a company’s Facebook page if you’re interested in something they offer, like guided tours, and see if they have any type of deals for you. You can even go as far as to sign-up for Groupon or LivingSocial deals for that area—that way, when the time comes, you might be able to do something awesome on the cheap.

(8) And this is the most important part of my cheap vacation—ask around! We do not currently own a tent but my parents have one so we will be borrowing their tent. We also do not own a cooler so we will be borrowing that too. Try to borrow things whenever you can if you’re not in a place to buy your own.

Of course, when September rolls around, I will let you know how much we spent in its totality. We do plan on doing a couple of things that are ridiculously expensive but that is why the rest of the trip needs to be cheap.

The Unfortunate & Inevitable Laundry Day

26 Mar

There comes a time when one must conquer the laundry. For me, that time can be somewhere between 3-5 AM on a nice, crisp Monday morning. There are a few reasons for this.

When I Do Laundry & Why: The Cost of Defeat

I live in a very large cooperative building with approximately 100 units. I say approximately because I am not really sure and I am too lazy to figure it out. Just take my word that it is somewhere around there. I like to think my building is nice but sometimes it rears its ugly head in the form of the “laundry room.” Ah yes, the laundry room. For all of the people in my lovely building, we have a whopping four washers and four dryers. When we first moved here, there were only a handful of times I could not get a machine. But as time went on, I found it increasingly difficult to beat out everyone else. But at a decent price ($1.75/wash or dry) and the convenience (short ride down to the basement), I will not be making my way to any other location to do laundry.

I thought I found an awesome time—Saturday morning, approximately 6:25 AM, right after I got home from work. I remember thinking how nice and quiet it was, how nice it was to have the place to myself and even decided it would be my new laundry day. But then, the following week someone got on the elevator with me around 6:30 AM and she had a laundry bag in her hand. We looked each other over.

“How many machines do you need?” She asked, sizing me up.

“I only need two.” (I like to usually limit myself to two because of the passive-aggressive note downstairs about it.)

“Me too. But we’re getting down there late.”

“Late? What does she mean? There was no one down here last week. It is freaking 6:30 on a Saturday morning.”

We walk in and three of the four washers are taken. At this point, I submit to defeat and she asks me if I am sure. Yes, I am sure. I drag my bag back up to the elevator, the sad sack that I am, and give up on doing laundry for the day. Now that I have been paying attention I have come to figure out it is my next door neighbor, getting there slightly before I can since I am coming home from work.

So my friends, this is why I do laundry when I do. Also, because I work nights, I find myself going to bed like a normal person on Sundays only to be completely wrecked on Monday nights. I find that if I get up earlier on Monday morning, super early like 3-4 AM and take a nap at some point during the day, it helps me start to get back on track.

How I am a Cheapskate on Laundry Day

I will be honest—I never did laundry as a child. I had a stay-at-home mom and bless her heart, she did not like other people touching her washing machine. So I really had no idea how annoying it would be to insist that every single pair of my socks be white in color and the same cut. But because we were on the poor side, I did not partake in one obnoxious habit—throwing everything in the laundry as soon as I finished wearing it one time. This was simply because I did not have enough clothing.

I find that I am very cheap when it comes to the amount of money I spend on laundry. I read about other people doing their laundry and I start to think there is something wrong with me. Really.

(1) When we moved into our apartment over three years ago, at some point early on we bought 5 bottles of XTRA detergent for $10. One bottle got crushed and leaked so I had to throw it out. But aside from that, I still have four bottles remaining. One bottle is on its way out but the other three have tons of detergent left. I only put 1/4 of a cup into the washing machine because that is what the washing machine tells me to do. And I do what I am told because I do not want to be that jerk who broke one of the only four washing machines.

I do not even know if this detergent is even that great. I feel clueless. I am just not that domestic. Opinions? Ideas? Should I partake in the Tide black market? (Yes, it’s true. I recently read an article that said Tide detergent is a HUGE black market item nowadays.)

(2) I only do white laundry every six weeks or so. Maybe every two months. We have tons of white socks that last us a long time and except for undershirts, we don’t really have anything else in white. Thus, once it’s time, all of these items don’t even take up an entire machine.

(3) I am a not a clean freak so I can easily wear things over and over again. As long as the clothes do not smell, have stains or look ratty and overly worn, I will keep wearing them. Except…

(4) …underwear. This is how I know it is time to do laundry. I will never use underwear more than once before it finds its way into the hamper. If I am almost out of underwear or wearing the last pair I have, I know it is time.

(5) I try to skimp on the dryers. If I use three washers, I use two dryers. If I am washing a ton of clothes, I usually have to hang-up some of the jeans to finish drying but otherwise, everything else is dry.

And in the End…

Yes, I did write this while I was doing laundry. Yes, I am wondering about other peoples’ habits and if I am a freak for only doing laundry every 4-6 weeks. And yes, I am lazy. But I would rather pile up the clothes, wheel my push cart to the elevator, ride on down, put everything in the washers, come back up, wait thirty-eight minutes, go back down to move everything into to the dryers, come back up, go back down after forty-five minutes to take everything out and fold it and finally come back up than do the dishes.