On Track With Our Travel Budget

Every evening Brett writes down in a small journal what we did that day and what we spent that day as well. He brought along a roll of tape, and fastens each receipt received into the journal (he took this idea from the Senior Nomads). Finally, he enters the amount for the day into his travel spreadsheet and averages our daily spending to make sure we’re staying at or under budget.

As the first full month of travel for the two of us comes to an end it’s gratifying to see that we have been able to stay under the budget we gave ourselves of $50/day. We were able to keep our daily average to under $40/day in South America, but Paris (and Normandy somewhat) turned out to be more expensive than we imagined. In both of those places, whether it was admission fees, tips for tour guides, a meal out at a restaurant, filling the gas tank (very expensive here compared to American prices, over $6/gallon), everything cost more. Our Paris expenses also included the (totally worth it) taxi ride from the airport to our apartment in Montmartre, and our trip out to Mont Saint-Michel also turned out to be more expensive than usual (but again, worth it). However, with everything averaged we are still ending up the month under $50/day. Strasbourg is proving to be far more affordable – we’re back to around $40/day. We’ll end this month with a daily spending average of $47.92/day.

Our main savings come from eating “at home” versus going out to eat, although we haven’t denied ourselves that experience.  We don’t consider ourselves to be “on vacation” and just as we did in the past, eating out is an exception and planned in advance. The first thing we do when we arrive at a new location is find a nearby grocery store (and a bakery) and buy provisions for several days. Although I imagined it might be otherwise, I’m just not interested in cooking even though all the kitchens in the homes where we’ve stayed have for the most part had decent cooking equipment. We keep our meals simple but healthy, although sometimes I think we could be eating more vegetables. Breakfast is typically yogurt with granola (or muesli) and fruit, or a pastry with coffee and orange juice. We often skip lunch but then maybe have coffee or another small treat in the afternoon. We enjoy drinking a glass of wine every evening, and usually have cheese, salami, sausage or paté, fruit or vegetables, and maybe nuts along with crackers or sliced baguette. If we feel hungry later in the evening we have a bowl of vegetable soup. We’re currently trying out some ready-made main dishes from the Whole Foods-like store that’s close by. The meals are large enough provide servings for at least two nights, and so far they’ve been delicious (and also full of vegetables!).

Fifty dollars a day might seem like a lot for two people who are eating at home, but that amount goes far beyond providing food – it covers everything we might spend during the day beyond food. Those things have included but are not limited to transportation costs, admission fees, laundry, paid toilets now and again, a sandwich or pastry at a train station, an ice cream cone or a bottle of water on a hot day, or a small treat like a few macarons from a bakery. It all adds up, and quite quickly sometimes. Our daily spending while we were in Paris topped $70/day, so we’re thankful for the lower prices here in Strasbourg.

I can’t imagine trying at this point trying include in our budget the costs of getting from city to city or upcoming lodgings – my hat’s off to the Senior Nomads for managing that for almost five years. I’m grateful that we were able to save and take care of most of those expenses before we set out on this adventure so the rest of our monthly income is available for upcoming or unexpected expenses, such as the balance on our India tour which is coming due next month. Starting out with only two monthly bills (my student loan and our phone bill) and arranging for both to be paid automatically each month has also made life on the road much simpler, and our budget much easier to manage.

This is just one month out of fifteen though, but it’s been good to see how we handled expenses, and learn which things we can get better at, which things we don’t need, and where we can loosen up a bit.

Family, Money, Travel: Part II

My own frugal ways were self-taught. Because of the mixed messages I had received about money growing up, I went through many trials and plenty of errors before I figured out how to manage money, and more importantly, how to budget and live within or under my/our means. Brett’s income while he was in the navy forced me to quickly learn how to live on a (very) small income. When our son was born, after our bills were paid (rent, utilities, a washer & dryer payment, and payment towards the debt Brett’s previous wife had accumulated in his name), we had just $18 a week for groceries, including baby formula and baby food. I’m still not quite sure how we did it, but we never went hungry. I made bread from scratch and we ate lots of beans and pancake suppers, and little to no meat, but our bills were always paid on time. Although it took real effort we were able to get out of debt in less than two years, before heading off to our first tour in Japan.

I don’t know how it is now, but back then the military did not pay for everything when you moved to a new duty station – that turned out to be a myth. Although Brett received a per diem allowance, it was very small and we still always had to come up with a majority of our moving expenses, things like first and last months rent for an apartment while we waited for government housing and all those other hidden costs of moving. Buying a house and settling in anywhere was also out of the question because Brett was transferred to a new duty station (rotating between sea and shore duty) every 2 1/2 to 3 years, and mortgage interest rates were hovering for a while at around 15%-18% back then. Thankfully the navy moved our household goods for us and bought the plane tickets for our flights to Japan and back. Brett always had to take two months advance pay every time we moved to cover all the extra out-of-pocket expenses (almost all of our moves were across country or overseas), causing us to spend the first 24 months at our new duty station paying that back rather than being able to save much of anything for the next move. It was hard to catch up and get ahead but we left the navy with no debt and a good amount of savings. I worked when I could, but with Brett deployed most of the time, we both felt it was more important for me to be home for our son rather than at a full-time job.

During our navy years I learned how to make do with less, how to budget, and the beginnings of how to evaluate the difference between a need and a want. We were always able to pay our bills on time. We ate well, and traveled when we could. However, I still frivolously spent on things – those old feelings that owning the “right” things would make life better continued. We accumulated debt from time to time, and then had to work and scrimp to pay it off, a pattern that continued even after Brett retired to civilian life. When we adopted the girls our financial situation changed dramatically and I finally began to understand some of what it must have been like for my parents. Eight years ago the change in Brett’s employment situation took us to a point where debt threatened to ruin us, and we got serious about paying it off for good and changing how we lived. All those frugal habits I had taught myself and practiced over the years came fully into play, and not only did we pay off our debt, but we were able retire and move to Hawai’i. We happily live a much simpler life now, we’re comfortable and confident about our finances, what we have, and where we’re heading next. The most surprising thing of all has been the realization that some of the frugal choices I make these days mirror some of my parents’ – I apparently did learn a few things from them.

Shasta trailers were famous for the fins on the back. Our family of six camped in one this size one summer for a fun and memorable vacation.

I mentioned in Part I of this post that my family almost always took a vacation every summer. As a teacher, Mom always had the whole summer off from work, and she LOVED to travel so she made it a big part of our lives too. Mom always planned interesting and fun trips for us: one year we went camping up and down the California and Oregon coasts for three weeks, living in a Shasta trailer that my parents rented. Another summer we took a surprise trip by train to the Grand Canyon for a week (still the best vacation ever for me), and one year we did a summer-long driving trip back east to New England and then down the Atlantic coast, visiting cities, historic sites and natural wonders. Twice we moved to our grandparents’ beach house for the summer, where we grew a garden, walked to the beach every day and went beachcombing every evening, checked out books and jigsaw puzzles from the local library. We didn’t have a TV there, just a small transistor radio so Mom could listen to Dodger baseball, and we played lots of croquet on the vacant lot next door which my grandparents also owned. We sometimes took trips over to Tucson, Arizona during the winter so Mom and Dad could visit old friends there and often visited other sites around the state as well. We visited San Francisco, Yosemite and many other southwest national parks. Mom had to take continuing education courses every few years while she was teaching, but she would register for those at out-of-state colleges so she could “get away,” and my siblings and I would stay with friends and family during those weeks. I always chose to stay in Indiana with cousins, and have fond memories of lazy summers filled with all the fresh picked sweet corn and tomatoes I could eat, my grandmother’s yeast biscuits, and my aunts’ delicious fried chicken and gravy (I still dream about that gravy!). On the drive back to California Mom always made sure we did plenty of sightseeing, and we stopped at every historic marker we came across. Our family never traveled overseas or to places like Hawai’i or Alaska though – too expensive – and the only foreign country we ever visited was Canada. I wonder now if those kinds of trips might have been possible if we had lived somewhere other than San Marino.

This motel would have checked all the boxes for us kids: a pool with a diving board AND a slide! The only thing that could have made it better would be beds with the “Magic Fingers” massage option.

Traveling was the only time my parents seemed relaxed about money. While we always stayed in cheap motels they made sure there was a pool for us to swim in each evening. There was often nothing but apple juice and pretzels for breakfast (the morning meal was never Mom’s strong suit) and we picnicked on cold cuts, cheese, crackers, and apples for our lunches. However, we stopped every afternoon for pie and coffee (or sundaes for us kids) and we always went to a restaurant for dinner each evening – no fast food. My parents paid for tours and for tickets to visit every historic or important site along the way with no grumbling about the cost. If we were going to go on a long trip, like our summer trip back east, they tried to come up with ways for us to earn a bit extra throughout the year so we had spending money for souvenirs and treats and wouldn’t be bothering them to buy stuff.

Of course, because there was no discussion or conversation about it, I always assumed our vacations and travel was something they just took out their checkbook and paid for. I was an adult before Mom told me that she had always kept a travel savings account and funneled every extra penny into it. She always kept a “penny jar” (sort of like our change/$1 bill jar) on her kitchen window sill and literally saved every penny to put toward those afternoon pie and coffee stops. Although I wasn’t initially aware of it, I was learning valuable lessons about the importance of saving for travel as well as how to travel well on a budget, and ultimately that experiences were more rewarding than things.

It seems to me now that I picked up lots of what I now know about financial matters and money management from the things my parents didn’t do versus what they did.  And while it took me a long while to figure things out, the best lesson I learned by omission was that while you don’t have to reveal everything about your personal finances to your children, it’s important to give them an idea of what’s going on, what your priorities are, and why you make the choices you do. Children should be part of the family “team” when it comes to finances, even at a young age. They deserve and can learn from even a simple explanation when you say “no” to one thing but “yes” to another, or why you choose to spend for one thing versus another. Children can also be taught, with encouragement and support, how to save and make frugal choices with their money – it shouldn’t be assumed that frugality is an innate skill or something that can be learned through observation.

In spite of all the mistakes and stumbles Brett and I have made along the way, we’ve always tried to be open with our kids about our finances while still retaining our privacy, and to help guide them when we can. We’ve tried to model generosity too and work to provide some of their wants as well as meet their needs. When we haven’t been able to afford something, we’ve been honest about why and explained that we would try to provide it later. I’m not sure of how well we did, but all four seem to be good money managers, all have a generous spirit, and they all love to travel as much as we do. It’s exciting and rewarding these days to watch them work toward their dreams, budget for the things they want as well as save for their futures.

I haven’t written about the influence Brett’s family had on him when it comes to finances and money. He grew up in circumstances about as different from mine as possible, yet had a happy childhood. His story is his own to tell, but in spite of the differences we’ve made a good team over the years.

Family, Money, Travel: Part I

Last week in The Frugal Girl, a question was posed: “How did your family of origin affect your financial habits?” As I read through Kristin’s response and the comments from other readers, most said they had been raised in frugal households, and learned their frugal ways there. I was also raised in a frugal home, but didn’t really figure out about living simply and frugally until somewhat later in life. I’ve been thinking about the question the past few days, and it’s brought many memories and deep feelings to the surface. I’ve thought carefully about how things were and how they’ve turned out. This post ended up as something rather long-ish, so I’ve broken it into two pieces – Part II will be up on Thursday.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and both came of age and served during WWII. Neither of their families were poor, but they weren’t well-to-do either, and both my mother and father were raised in homes that practiced frugality even before the Depression arrived. My mother’s father owned an independent insurance agency, and my dad’s father managed the Department of Motor Vehicles in Indiana, and both remained employed during the Depression. My mom grew up in an exclusive suburb of Los Angeles, San Marino, and my dad was raised on a farm in Westfield, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis, where they grew crops for sale as well as their own vegetables, and also raised chickens and cows. My parents met at a sorority-fraternity dance at the University of Arizona following World War II, got married a few months later, and eventually ended up back in San Marino where they raised four children. My mom taught biology and math in the San Marino school district, and my dad became the Los Angeles area credit manager for GMAC. Their two incomes put our family in the middle of the middle class.

When I think about the messages and lessons I received about money growing up, the best I can say now is that they were mixed. We always had enough to eat (although always the cheapest of everything – I didn’t know until I was in my teens that there was a cut of beef other than chuck), decent enough clothes to wear, and we took a vacation or traveled almost every summer. We had good health and dental care. We lived close enough to Disneyland that we visited somewhat often (usually depending on who came to visit), and my grandparents owned a beach house in San Clemente that our family used frequently because we were just a little over an hour and a half’s drive away.

However, money or finances was never a topic for conversation at our house unless it was to tell us we couldn’t have or do something. My siblings may have different memories, but I have no recollection of any positive financial discussions on any topic, ever. I’m not sure why that was – either my parents thought it unseemly or that family finances was one of those things children didn’t need to know. They never talked about why they chose to live so frugally or about the lessons they had learned growing up in the Depression (except about the hardships), or what they were saving for or why.  Neither my siblings nor I ever received an allowance or any instruction on money management. Although my parents provided for us, we were also expected to figure out how to earn our own money for the things that they considered “extras.” I began babysitting when I was 11 or 12 years old (for 25¢ an hour), and saved my money to buy many of my clothes, or at least the fabric and notions to make them – I bought or made most of my own clothes beginning in middle school and all through high school. Christmas was miserable for me, and I always dreaded going back to school to hear about all the wonderful times my friends had had and the gifts they received, or see the new clothes they were wearing. My mom set up a Christmas Club savings account every year but it always felt like my parents begrudged having to spend anything on Christmas, and the gifts my mom purchased for us were for the most part cheap, often with little to no thought put into them. My dad always gave us a little money before Christmas so we could shop, but it was usually barely enough to buy everyone a bar of soap.

I understand now that besides raising four kids my parents were also saving to be able to put each of us through college (no student loans or grants back then), and have funds for emergencies when they arose (and they did). They did not use credit cards or borrow beyond their mortgage, but that was more something I sensed then rather than heard from them. The result though was that their frugality came across as stingy, cheap, and uncaring – frugality was never a positive. One of my strongest memories of my parents was when I think I was 13 or 14, and they bought our family a color TV. It was meant to be a surprise, and the day it was delivered my sister and I were home from school, but we sent the delivery man away, not because it wasn’t safe to let him in the house but because we knew that even in our wildest imaginations there was no way our parents would ever spend their money on a new, let alone a color, TV and he must have gotten the name mixed up with someone else.

Of all the factors that affected my early views on money, probably the most influential was my parents’ choice to settle in San Marino. To this day I don’t understand why we lived there, and I didn’t understand it at the time either. I know my mom wanted to live in San Marino because her parents** did, because the neighborhoods were close-knit, and because it was a beautiful city with amazing schools, but the cost of living there was well out of my parents’ league in spite of their two incomes (the city was also lily white at the time, and I’m ashamed to admit that aspect must have appealed to my parents as well). San Marino was (and still is) a very expensive place to live and it was often difficult and discouraging for me to live in a place where everyone else seemed to have not just everything but so much of it, and where it felt like money never seemed to be an object except for our family. We certainly weren’t destitute, but I know now we could have lived just as close to our grandparents and had an easier time of things financially if my parents had chosen to live in South Pasadena, San Gabriel, Arcadia, Pasadena or any number of other neighboring cities. We would have gotten a good education too.

In hindsight though, things might not have been as different as I imagine. Later in life, when my mom had a solid amount in savings and a steady income, she was still always moaning about being “broke” and not having enough money, the same complaint I heard all the time growing up. I wonder if us living less expensive location would have or could have changed those perceptions. Both of my parents were good savers but they never seemed to have figured how to invest, or make their money work for them so that they could someday follow their dreams. For years my dad, who had been a navigation officer in the navy and loved being out on the ocean, talked about buying a “tuna boat” and taking us around the world, but he never did anything to make his dream or anything resembling it a reality. He slogged along in a 9-5 environment his whole career, never rising very high up the chain and becoming more bitter and resentful as he went along. His bitterness and failure to go after his dream deeply affected me and my later views about money and dreams.

Drill team girl (what surprises me in this picture is not that I was ever this young and thin, but that you can see the mountains in the background – usually they were completely obscured by smog)

It also always seemed in our family that boys were more valued than girls when it came to how our family’s money was allocated. The favoritism could be blatantly overt at times too. For example, my parents bought all of my older brother’s clothing from a top men’s shop in Pasadena, and his expensive shoes from a high-end local store. The clothes my parents bought for my sister and me, on the other hand, came from cheap discount stores (and we didn’t get any more clothes than my brother), and I sometimes had to use my babysitting earnings to buy shoes when I got to high school. Both my brothers also played hockey for years, and new skates and other equipment was purchased without complaint or question for them every year, sometimes more than once a year if they grew out of things. My parents also spent time and $$$$ driving them to games and practices around L.A. County or to send them to exclusive hockey camps. I had two years of private clarinet lessons, and got my teeth straightened, but my sister and I were often refused things we asked to do, told they were too expensive or my parents didn’t have the time. I earned a place on the high school’s school drill team in my sophomore year, but instead of receiving congratulations the first thing my dad did was yell at me about having to buy the uniform (which cost the same as a pair of hockey skates).

Anyway, at age 18 I headed off to college not knowing the first thing about money or how to manage it, or if as a female I was even worthy of managing it. I just dreamed of having it. I was not afraid to work, and knew how to save for things I wanted in the short term, but I was pretty much a confirmed spender at that point in my life, always desiring, and buying the things my friends or others had, believing that when I had those things life would be better. I was considered a goofy, immature, frivolous person by my family, and if I’m honest, when it came to my finances back then I lived up to that reputation.

My grandparents’ house (on the right) was a very special place for me. My grandmother planted the (now very big) ginko tree in front when I was a little girl.

**My grandparents were also solidly middle middle-class, but they were able to buy a beautiful Mediterranean-style house in San Marino in 1925 at a bargain basement price when the builder went broke and couldn’t pay my grandfather his insurance premiums. My grandparents were always very frugal, and they were careful, dedicated savers who invested in property throughout Southern California whenever possible (they even owned an orange grove at one time). They always took good care of their home and possessions. My mom once said her parents were actually quite stingy, but they were always very generous to me and my siblings. I think my grandmother (my grandfather died when I was seven) turned out to be a stronger positive role model, financial and otherwise, than my parents ever were.

Money Matters

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that we’ve been saving like crazy for over a year to pay upfront for most of our big travel adventure. We set up and have been feeding our dedicated savings account with a regular monthly allotment along with every extra spare penny we’ve gotten along the way.

We’re at a stage right now though where, for the first time in a long, long while, we are carrying a balance on our credit card; that is, we’ve overspent our savings in order to make upfront reservations for the trip. We knew this was going to be the situation for a few months, but it’s still a bit uncomfortable for us, to put it mildly. We could take funds out of our regular savings and pay it off, but the plan has always been to pay for our travels using only dedicated travel savings and proceeds from the sale of our household goods and car. We’ll chip away at the balance for the next couple of months and have it gone by the time we depart in August, if not before.

While we travel we’ll live on our regular monthly income, and plan to put the amount we’re currently paying for rent into a separate savings account to build a sort of secondary emergency fund, if you will. This savings should also give us a nice cushion to land on when our adventure ends. When we leave Kaua’i we’ll have just two monthly payments – my student loan and our phone bill – and they’re already set up on auto-pay. Otherwise we’ll have no other bills – no rent, no utilities, no gas, no cable, no car or rental insurance, etc. – our income after putting away savings should be more than enough to cover food, inter-country transportation, side trips and other daily expenses each month.

We plan to travel and live as frugally as possible along the way. The Senior Nomads recently said they shoot for two no-spend days each week and we think that’s a worthy goal for us too. Not only will this help us to stay within our budget, but also require us to get out more and explore our surroundings rather than depend on tours, tickets, etc. to entertain us. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll be able to go without gelato for two days when we’re in Italy, or avoid stopping into the patisseries or boulangeries for two days when we’re in France – we’ll have to see about that. We may need to set up a separate gelato or bakery fund that we can dip into.

I’ve always been a firm believer that by setting realistic goals, financial or otherwise, and supporting them with careful, well-thought out, long-term plans dreams really can come true and be sustainable. We’re about to once again test those beliefs in a big way!

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?