Closing the Books on This Year’s Travel Savings

It’s the end of the year, and we’re getting ready to close out the books in preparation for the new year. This includes totaling up our travel savings for the year.

It turns out we had a very good year! May I have a drumroll please? While our original goal for 2017 was $7000, our total travel savings for the year was . . . $9, 295!

Here’s how that big number breaks down:

  • Regular savings yielded $8913.91, which was made up of a regular monthly allotment to our savings account, all refunds and rebates received throughout the year, my jury duty pay, and the change/$1 savings. The change/$1 bill savings for the year totaled $890.50.
  • The end-of-year cash back reward total from our charge card is $181.09.
  • I earned $500 in Southwest Airlines gift cards from Swagbucks.

We’re splurging on a stay at the Waipouli Beach Resort before we take off on the Big Adventure

We will continue to aggressively save in 2018, following the same path as this year, but will also be selling various household items throughout the year, as well as holding a moving sale before we leave and selling our car. I will also be adding to our savings from my inheritance. Even though we should end up with a nice cushion we have no plans to go more “upscale” as we make reservations and travel. Our only planned splurge is the condo where we will stay for our last few weeks on Kaua’i. We will have enough extra though to consider adding in one or two side trips to Germany and Switzerland that were unaffordable before.

So . . . here’s to saving, and travel in 2018!

Five Frugal Things: 12/15/2017

Our 100+ year-old mizuya (kitchen tansu) will be going to a new home. It’s been a very functional and beautiful storage piece over the years, and we’re so happy it will continue to be useful (and enjoyed) in someone else’s home.

  1. We received a rebate on our car insurance this year of $29.46 (and it went right into our travel savings).
  2. We sold our three antique Japanese tansu, two stainless storage shelves, our dining table and chairs, the girls’ bunk bed set and a few other pieces! We’ll still continue to use them though until the buyers arrive on the island next summer.
  3. Meiling used her savings and purchased a new iPhone 8 at Costco this week saving $50 off the cost of buying it elsewhere. It wasn’t as big of a discount as Brett got over Thanksgiving for his phone, but still better than paying full price, and there were no additional charges for activation, etc. We are now a 100% Apple family!
  4. We added an additional $200 to our monthly food budget to cover holiday meals and the addition of two (big) eaters here at Casa Aloha this month, but we finished our shopping and came in just under our regular budget amount! All we have left to purchase is fresh fruit for our Christmas morning breakfast.
  5. We put $19.43 into the change/$1 bill jar: $2.72 change from Safeway shopping, $4.50 left over from the farmers’ market, $9.76 back from the cable bill, and $2.45 change from our lunch with Meiling at the Ono Charburger on Tuesday.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

Five Frugal Things 12/8/2017

  1. I had a very lucrative month with Swagbucks in November, and earned 1,094 bonus SBs! I also purchased a $25 Zappos gift card this week for 2200 SB versus the regular price of 2,500 (the offer is available just once a month). The Zappos card will go toward another pair of travel shoes for Brett.
  2. I didn’t really think about it earlier, but other than our trips to the farmers’ market, the two weeks before this last one were no-spend. I did buy a couple of things from Amazon, but used some of my Swagbucks-earned gift card balance to pay for those, so there was nothing out-of-pocket.
  3. I purchased round trip tickets from Honolulu to Kaua’i for both Meiling’s and WenYu’s upcoming trips home. I found a lower-than-usual price for Meiling’s tickets, so paid cash for them, but because WenYu is coming home closer to Christmas prices were higher, so I used Hawaiian miles from my stash for her tickets. Both girls are flying Hawaiian over from the mainland this year, and the mileage they earn will replenish most of the miles I used.
  4. I am almost done putting together my travel wardrobe for next year, and have been looking for a long-ish skirt to take along, to wear when visiting cathedrals or participating in other activities where I might need to dress up a bit. This past week I found the three-season knit skirt pictured above on the J. Jill sale page: The regular price was $89, but it was on sale for $34.99 with an additional 30% off. The final price, including shipping, was $30.45.
  5. We put $9.32 into the change/$1 bill jar: $8.32 left over from the gas bill, and $1 left from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

Five Frugal Things 12/1/2017

I’m looking forward to finding out how much we saved in our change/$1 bill jar this year!

  1. A new phone for Brett has been high on our list of needed things (his old one was six-plus years old and on its last legs). We had not intended to do any shopping over Black Friday weekend except for a few local items on sale at Costco, but we ended up taking advantage of a special offer while we were there and purchased Brett a new iPhone7. T-Mobile at Costco had the phone on sale for $499 with an additional $50 off last Friday, Saturday and Sunday (the regular price for the phone is $649). Because T-Mobile (finally) has a presence on the island, the changeover from his old phone was easy and there were no additional fees (i.e. activation, etc.) so our monthly bill will remain the same. We also purchased a case and glass screen protector at Costco for less than we would have paid from Amazon or Walmart.
  2. The price for the pork tenderloin roasts at Costco had gone up a bit this year from last, and there were only a few left when we shopped last Saturday, but I found one 8.68# roast and with $8 off the total price was $10.88 ($1.25  vs. $2.18 per pound). We now have three two-pound roasts waiting for us in the freezer (I made balsamic pork roast with the fourth one this past week).
  3. I redeemed some of my Swagbucks earnings for another $250 Southwest Airlines gift card last Wednesday.
  4. Our case of Scott recycled, 2-ply toilet paper arrived from Amazon this past week. At 59¢ per roll, it’s the best deal around.
  5. We put $2.50 into the change/$1 bill jar this week, our leftover from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have this past week?

Five Frugal Things 11/24/2017

A melange of roasted vegetables: cauliflower, butternut squash, zucchini, red pepper and onion.

  1. We had no food waste this week. I used up all sorts of vegetable odds and ends that were hanging out in the fridge by making a big pan of mixed roasted vegetables – yum!
  2. YaYu is the queen of fundraising to help reduce her school and/or club expenses, and this past week she asked her school’s foundation if they could help support the 15 students signed up to attend the state Key Club convention in Honolulu. The foundation donated $1500 to help cover costs, $100 per person to reduce their cost for the trip!
  3. This past week was our quarterly propane fill-up. As with other utilities, we’ve worked at reducing our gas usage (we have a gas range, gas dryer, and an on-demand gas water heater), and our bill was $43 dollars less than the last fill-up.
  4. It’s Black Friday today and we are not buying anything. Nor will we buy anything on Cyber Monday. However, we are going to Costco tomorrow to pick up four items including local favorites that will be on sale: POG (passionfruit, orange and guava juice) – buy one gallon get one free; Kaua’i-made Anahola granola – $2 off a 1.5 pound bag; a box of Japanese sweet cakes (imagawayaki) – $2.50 off; and a pork tenderloin roast – $8 off. Last year we got an 8-lb roast for just $6. The girls love POG, and along with some champagne it makes a very tasty mimosa.
  5. We put $5.00 in the change/$1 bill jar this week, left over from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have?

Six Frugal Things 11/17/2017

We’re going to India!

Two weeks of savings!

  1. We put a deposit on our India tour! We saved $456 off the regular tour price by reserving our spots now. We also booked our Perth-to-Sydney Australian train journey, taking advantage of an early booking discount. We didn’t realize at first that the prices were in Australian versus U.S. dollars, and the cost for our tickets ended up being $907.62 less than what we thought we would be paying!
  2. We did our monthly Big Shop this week, and stuck to our shopping list. Costco has several items  we normally buy for the holidays on sale this month which saved us $31.50.
  3. I cancelled a magazine subscription a couple of weeks ago, and last week received a $12.50 refund for the months that were remaining but that we wouldn’t be reading. This is the first time I’ve ever received a refund from a subscription cancellation, and it went right into the travel fund.
  4. I have a small amount set aside for “traveling clothes” for next year’s adventure, and used some of it last week to buy two knit tops from my favorite store, J. Jill, that I can wear fall through spring. One item was already on sale, but I received an additional 30% off the sale price. And, I found a coupon online for an additional 25% off the entire order. I love J. Jill’s clothing not only for their style, but because they’re well made and they last. I also bought one more pair of L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants and received a 25% discount, saving another $10.

    Our frugally wrapped Christmas presents look pretty nice! We bought some reusable ribbon the next year from a thrift store.

  5. Brett and I wrapped some of the girls’ Christmas gifts yesterday. We don’t buy Christmas paper any more, and use paper bags, newspaper, shopping bags and reusable gift boxes.
  6. We put $47.91 in to the change/$1 bill jar over the past two weeks: $1.10 change from the post office, $13.00 returned from YaYu (money she had borrowed from us), $9.54 back from the dentist’s bill, $11.85 from the farmers’ market, $9.76 change from our cable bill, and $2.66 from recycling.

What frugal wins did you have?

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Five Frugal Things 11/3/2017

One nice, clean car, courtesy of the weather

  1. Brett ordered new glasses at Costco this past weekend. Total cost, including frames, blended progressive and Transition lenses: $255.18. The price the optometrist quoted him for the same features and similar frames: $800+. We love our optometrist, but there’s a reason we don’t buy our glasses from him!
  2. We were able to decrease our energy usage last month, a good thing because electric rates increased again and energy credits were reduced. As a result, instead of a higher bill, ours ended up 7¢ less than the previous month’s.
  3. My October bonus from Swagbucks was 820 SB, and I’m now about halfway towards earning another $250 Southwest Airlines gift card. I also purchased another $25 Amazon gift card ‘on sale’ for just 2200 Swagbucks versus the regular price of 2500.
  4. This past Tuesday and Wednesday it poured rain all day (torrentially at times) so rather than run up our water bill Brett set the car out in the driveway Tuesday morning and by late afternoon all he had to do was wipe it off and voilà! Clean car! The rain almost ruined Halloween, but it let up long enough in the evening for us to have several groups of kids come to the house. We were ready with candy YaYu didn’t want from her stash (Snickers, Peanut M&Ms, and Almond Joys). No money was spent and nothing was wasted.
  5. We put just $6 in the change/$1 bill jar this week, our leftover from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have?

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And Just How Are We Paying For All This Travel?

We’ve known from the start that our Big Adventure was going to cost A LOT, and that we had to have a good, solid financial plan to make it happen.

Before deciding to go ahead with the Big Adventure, Brett and I crunched a whole lot of numbers many, many times, made several changes to the itinerary, and finally came up with a realistic plan for covering the costs of continual travel on a fixed income, and without incurring any debt.

Our goal is to cover one year’s around-the world travel combining travel savings with our regular monthly income. We’ve been putting away as much as possible this year, and plan to finish this December with at least $8500 in our travel account. Next year our goal will be to bring our total amount saved to somewhere around $28,000 – $30,000 by the time we leave Kaua’i at the end of August.

Here’s how and what we’re saving next year:

  • We’ll be putting a minimum of $800 a month into our travel savings account for the eight months before we depart Hawai’i.
  • We’ll be using our credit card to pay upfront for some travel expenses (see below), but will pay the card in full each month and put the rewards toward travels expenses.
  • Income tax and other refunds, gifts or windfalls will go into savings, and we’ll continue with our change/$1 bill savings. The monthly increases in Brett’s military retirement and our Social Security will go into our travel savings – we weren’t expecting any increase this year since we haven’t had one in four years, and view it as a windfall.
  • We will sell our car as well as the furniture and household items we’re not going to store here before leaving Kaua’i.
  • The savings total will include approximately $1500 in Southwest Airlines gift cards – most will be earned through Swagbucks.

We will use the savings to pay upfront for:

  • All our Airbnb lodging expenses except for Sydney and New Zealand – those will be booked further along in our travels (Airbnb requires payment when we reserve a home). We have given ourselves a strict upper limit for how much we can spend per night.
  • Normandy B&B
  • India tour
  • Train trip across Australia
  • One-way airfare for two to Buenos Aires from Houston, TX.
  • One-way airfare for two from Buenos Aires to Paris.
  • One-way airfare for two from Lisbon back to the mainland.
  • Additional travel insurance – our military insurance covers all medical expenses everywhere in the world, but we’d like to have evacuation coverage and a couple of other features
  • A rental car for approximately one month before we leave Kaua’i (how long we’ll actually need it will depend on how quickly we sell our car).
  • Three week’s to one month’s vacation rental on Kaua’i before we leave (we plan to move out of our house at the end of next July)
  • One year’s worth of storage fees
  • Flights on the mainland with Southwest Airlines, paid with gift cards

The rest of our expenses, including meals, local travel expenses, travel between most countries, and incidentals will come from our regular monthly income. We’ll have just three fixed expenses when we leave Kaua’i: my student loan payment, our phone plan and non-owner car insurance, which together will total less than $500/month. We’re keeping our T-Mobile plan because it gives us free data and texting in all the countries we’re visiting, and the girls are on the plan until they graduate from college. Without having to cover all our current expenses we’ll have a solid amount to live on as well as continue to save while we travel.

I have enough miles in my Hawaiian account to cover flights for four of us back to the mainland at no cost, and we will use the Southwest gift cards to cover airfares when we or the girls are flying inside the U.S. mainland.

Brett will be manning the spreadsheets to keep track of our expenses and spending, and like our heroes and retirement role models, Michael and Debbie Campbell (The Senior Nomads), we will be keeping a daily log as we travel, and tracking every expense down to the penny (or euro or yen or whatever).

Meanwhile, in the coming year we’ll continue saving, saving, saving as well as using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without as we get ready to go!

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Five Frugal Things 10/27/2017

Colby College (in Maine) is one of the schools waiving YaYu’s application fee.

  1. The second $10 L.L. Bean gift card I received earlier in the month from an order was due to expire this coming weekend, so I applied it toward the purchase of a pair of Perfect Fit Pants (my all-time favorite travel pants), regularly priced at $39.95. Shipping from L.L. Bean is free, and there was no tax. As an added bonus, I am now able to order the pants in size small again!
  2. Even though she was not chosen as a Questbridge finalist, YaYu heard from several of their partner colleges this past week letting her know they will waive their application fee (regularly $60 per school) for regular admission if she still wants to apply (she does), saving us approximately $360.
  3. We’ve been working at lowering our monthly utility costs, and after a huge water bill last month due to a plumbing issue (that’s been resolved, thank goodness), this month’s water bill was down by more than $100, and was actually $18 less than our normal average monthly charge.
  4. Brett needed some screws to repair our mailbox after someone accidentally backed into it, and went to Ace Hardware on Tuesday to take advantage of their senior discount day. As a military retiree, he also received a 10% discount from Home Depot last weekend when he bought light bulbs and a couple of other items – he just had to show his ID card.
  5. We put $13.95 in to the change/$1 bill jar this week: $5.45 in change from Home Depot, and $8.50 from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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Five Frugal Things 10/20/2017

Traveling shoes from Sketchers!

  1. I found a great pair of traveling shoes on Zappos, exactly the color and look I have been wanting. The Zappos sale price was $57, and with tax the order came to $59.37 (shipping is free). My one concern was that Zappos only had them in medium width, and I have more of a wide foot. Later that day though I was canoodling around on the internet and found the same shoes on sale at Overstock.com, for just $44.21! Even with shipping the total came to just $49.16, ten dollars less than Zappos. And, best of all, the shoes from Overstock are wides – score!
  2. Thanks to some low-hanging, moist clouds that didn’t want to move, last weekend was particularly humid, and after our early evening walk on Saturday I really didn’t feel like cooking. Anything. We decided to get take-out, but then checked the fridge once more and decided we could eat leftovers after all, saving us $$.
  3. Brett and I went up to Hanalei for a planned lunch date on Tuesday, and although there is something like a zillion shops in town, most of them are geared toward tourists so we only spent our $$ on lunch, coffee, and a biscotti for Brett. Our meal provided leftovers that we brought home and Brett and YaYu enjoyed for lunch the next day.
  4. We don’t use coupons, but because we primarily shop at Costco we pay close attention to their monthly sale flyers and always find things on our list among their offerings (although we won’t buy something just because it’s on sale). This week we saved $3 on (another) bag of LingLing potstickers – they are eaten regularly here, and we’ll need plenty at Christmas when all the girls are home – and we also got  $3 off Brett’s favorite Dare crackers. We also saved $8 on a box of Brita filters for our water pitcher.  We signed up in the store to receive alerts on recalls, and received a $2 off coupon on any fruit we bought that day (pears!). YaYu is almost out of vitamins, but rather than buy them this week, we’ll do it next week when they go on sale, saving an additional $3.50 on those. It’s not a huge amount of savings, but every bit helps.
  5. We put $31.20 in the change/$1 bill jar this week: $1.73 change from the electric bill, $2.60 from recycling, $2.00 from the farmers’ market, $24.56 left over from the Big Shop, and we found 31¢ on the ground.

What frugal  wins did you have this week?

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